Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mac vs. PC

It's a debate as old as time itself.  Well, that's not true.  But it's a debate that's at least been raging since the 1980s.  So, I'll rephrase that first sentence: It's a debate as old as me.  Which is better?  Mac or PC?  For me the question is more like, "Which one makes me less want to punch people to death?"  From personal experience I can tell you, it's Mac all the way.

A PC can be set up to run on various operating systems, but most people who own one use Windows.  Just to clarify, my experience with PCs is based on using Windows.  ("PCs" in this post will also be used to refer to laptops that run on Windows.)  Granted, a PC can be the right choice for you depending on what you want to use it for.  If you want to use your computer to type Word documents or play Solitaire, a PC might be fine.  However, if you want to type Word documents and play Solitaire, your PC might explode.

Okay, maybe that last sentence was hyperbole.  (Or maybe it wasn't.  Can you afford to take that chance!?)  At the Pancake household our internet is hooked up through my fiancee's Gateway, and since our wireless router is currently not functioning, I'm stuck using this hunk of scrap whenever I want to use the internet.

I hope you appreciate these blog posts, because sometimes while I'm writing them I want to slam my head off the computer desk until I forget who I am.  I type my articles directly into the interface on Blogger, mostly because if I type them up externally and then copy and paste them, more often than not the spacing gets all weird and I have to spend way too much time fixing that.  But I do like to have a backup, just in case the autosave function on Blogger fails me, so I copy what I'm writing every few minutes and paste it into Notepad.  For some reason minimizing or restoring Notepad while Firefox (internet browser) is open causes Windows to struggle.  Sometimes it gets to the point where the computer starts making the mysterious grinding noise (what the hell is it doing?) and everything freezes up.  These are not complicated programs that require tons of memory to run, so it's beyond me why this would happen.

Let's compare this to my Macbook, which I bought refurbished and is (I'm relatively sure) older than the PC I'm sitting in front of now.  While I'm editing videos on my Mac I often have iMovie (video editing software) open along with Garageband (a music creation program) and a program I use for copying b-movie footage from DVDs.  Having these programs running simultaneously has never caused my Mac to freeze up or crash, even if I had Notepad (!!!) open at the same time!

Speaking of videos, there's a huge difference in the quality I've seen when burning a DVD of my finished products with a PC or a Mac.  Years ago, when I first started editing my own movies, I burned one onto a DVD with the PC I had used to edit the movie (which in itself was ripping-out-my-hair frustrating).  The finished DVD featured a dragging, skipping menu screen.  The video itself played alright once it got started, except in any scene where I had put music into the background.  In these scenes the music would skip every time I had cut to a different shot.  Now this PC I used to create the disc was fairly old, perhaps one of the first generation of them to have a DVD burner built in, but my Macbook is at least 10 years old and the DVDs I burn on that come out flawless.  Not to mention the menus are sleeker and more visually dynamic yet don't sputter and slow down like your Great Uncle Bernie after he gets too animated telling a story.

I suppose most of the people who read the blog don't edit their own moving pictures, but how about watching them on your laptop?  Maybe you like to put one on in your room for background noise during your sexual relations, because we all like to hear Batman fighting villains while we're getting it on.  No?  You don't know what you're missing.  Anyway, certain DVDs are douchebags that think the program that comes bundled on the disc is better to play the movie with than the one you selected as a default and use every damn time.  On my HP laptop that I bought when I started college the default DVD playing program opens up first, and the stupid Sony player that pops up when you put in Breaking Bad starts sometime after the disc is already playing on the default.  Once the Sony player pops up, the DVD starts skipping like crazy until it sounds like a Dubstep remix of Breaking Bad.  Okay, so just minimize the default program and close the Sony player.  Simple, right?  Well, there's the three minute waiting period while the computer grinds and buzzes, but after that it's simple.  If this same thing happens on the Mac I don't notice the second DVD player is open until I'm done watching the movie, because the Mac is able to handle that, apparently.

I could go on and on, but I do try to keep these posts relatively short. (Notice I said "try".)  I would like to point out, for anybody who may find themselves shopping for their next computer soon, that Macs don't generally get infected with viruses and other malware like PCs do.  In the four years I've been using my Macbook I've never had a virus.  On the flip side, the Gateway I currently use for internet access requires a scan for malware at least once a week.  The difference between operating systems and why one is susceptible to computer germs and the other isn't has been explained to me, but I don't understand what I was told well enough to explain it to somebody else.  I'll just make the assumption that Macs are built by magical wizards, and PCs are built by the apprentices of such wizards.  The apprentices are very eager but not fully trained, and their magic computer spells cause problems, and the spells they use to solve the problems cause more problems.

I'm not trying to get every PC user in the world to switch to Apple products.  Personally, it doesn't make a difference to me what you use, unless you're going to ask me to help you with something computer-related, in which case I reserve the right to berate your poor choice of computer.  I do strongly recommend switching to a Mac if using a PC is causing you to suffer from screaming/cursing fits, pulling out your own hair, or smashing your mouse off the desk until it explodes.  A Mac might cost you more money, but in five years it will still be working fine while a five-year-old PC is using oxygen and a walker.

Alright, time to post this and shut down the computer.  Oh, yes!  That reminds me of one more difference that makes me prefer Mac to Windows: when I shut my Macbook down it actually just shuts the fuck down in like 10 seconds, whereas the PC spends about seven or eight minutes contemplating the act of shutting down before it actually does.  That's weird and frustrating, and it's one of the many reasons that any computer I ever own will be adorned with a picture of a little apple with a bite taken out.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Why Pro Wrestling is Better Than Real Life

Wrestling... the word means different things to different people. For some, wrestling means actual amateur-style wrestling. Two sweaty teenage boys in singlets rolling around on a mat in a high school gym is the true meaning of the word to them. Sometimes these teenage boys call wimpy non-wrestling types "fag" in the hallway, which is baffling to me. For more people, whether they're fans or not, wrestling means two (or more) sweaty adult men pounding on each other in the "squared circle" and maybe hitting one another with folding chairs or ladders.  There's a reason more people think of meaning #2: because it's awesome.

Pro wrestling will always have its detractors.  "It's fake!" they'll say, implying that because results are predetermined that the amazing feats the performers are capable of in the ring don't matter.  I'm not sure why this is such a hangup for certain people.  To me, that would be like scoffing at Pulp Fiction, because Uma Thurman didn't really overdose on heroin, and John Travolta didn't really get shot.  That's fake!

It's well known that pro wrestling is "sports entertainment", a combination of real physicality with scripted plots.  And while sometimes the results of this combination can be awkward and hilarious, much of the time it's just fun to watch.  But I'm not here to beat the drum of respect for pro wrestlers.  I'm sure there's already countless websites dedicated to that cause.  Nay, I'm here to point out several ways in which pro wrestling is better than real life.

1. Everything is Settled in the Ring

Imagine if after this year's Superbowl (do I have to legally call it "The Big Game" if I don't have permission from the NFL to type "Superbowl"?) the 49ers decided to get even with the Ravens for their defeat in the parking lot after the game.  Just as the Ravens have all piled into a ludicrously long limousine to head off to Disneyland a monster truck comes thundering through the parking lot and smashes into the limo.  It was a horrific act of aggression that oversteps the boundaries of good sportsmanship by the length of a Canadian football field.  In the real world, the 49ers players responsible would be arrested, and they probably wouldn't get the deposit on the monster truck back.

In pro wrestling, this sort of thing happens way more frequently than you'd expect.  If this happened on WWE's Monday Night Raw, you could expect the victim of the assault to appear on next week's show, microphone in hand, to call out his attacker for such a cowardly act of monster truckism, and a match would be signed for the next pay-per-view event.  Perhaps the match would carry special stipulations to ensure maximum mayhem, such as a hardcore match (in which weapons can be used legally) or winner gets the loser's girlfriend for some reason.

Suppose this parking lot assault really happened after an NFL game, and suppose that the NFL said, "No thanks, legal system.  We'll handle this."  The Ravens player with the sweetest microphone skills would appear on TV to call out the 49ers.  They'd have a Superbowl rematch, but there would be an extra stipulation since the 49ers had already had their chance.  If the Ravens win this time, the 49ers would be kicked out of the NFL for life!  That would be awesome.  So many people would tune in to see that.  But that will never happen, because the NFL is too soft, brother!

2. Forgiveness

Rolling with the comparisons to the NFL, when you hear 'Michael Vick' what do you think of?  His skills as a quarterback or the fact that he used to run a dog fighting/gambling ring responsible for disgusting mistreatment of animals?  Some people felt that he should have been banned from the NFL for his actions, while others felt that after he had served his time and paid his debt to society, that bygones could be bygones.  Regardless of which opinion you held, it was still an opinion based on the dog fighting.

Now, suppose that Vick hadn't just been holding the fights on his property and financing much of the operation, but had gone so far as to make these activities a big part of his public persona.  His 'gimmick' would include gloating to the audience before games about how much money he makes from the dog fights, and kidnapping opposing players' dogs and forcing them to duke it out with other dogs.  Most people would never forgive Vick for this, and rightly so.

In the world of pro wrestling Vick would be equally hated for this sort of behavior, but wrestling fans can, surprisingly, be a very forgiving bunch.  If Vick emerged sometime down the road with a new gimmick as a good guy, told the crowd how much he loved their city, and came to the rescue of other good guys who were receiving a beat down, most likely the fans would be willing to forgive him for his past indiscretions and chant his name.

I don't feel that Vick should be forgiven for what he's done in the past, and I don't really buy his speaking out against animal abuse and being photographed holding cute puppies as anything more than a desperate public relations move, but what if he really has reformed?  Many of us believe in second chances, or at least say we do, so shouldn't he get the chance to prove that he's something more than just the dog fight scumbag?

In wrestling, often times somebody like The Rock can go from being one of the most booed heels (bad guys) ever to being one of the most cheered faces (good guys) simply by switching sides and switching attitudes.  So maybe he did hit your favorite wrestler with a steel chair every night for two years; it doesn't matter, because he's seen the error of his ways, and now he's ready to fight the good fight.  We all make mistakes.  Sometimes we accidentally dick somebody over because we're focusing too much on ourselves, and sometimes we intentionally dick somebody over just because we feel like being a dick (and we hate that the other person thinks Nickelback is a great band).  We often feel bad about our actions at a later time, but sometimes it's just too late.  Your former friend never forgives you for stealing his girlfriend or eating the last of his ravioli.  The bridge is burned, and there's no turning back.  Wouldn't it be nice if life operated by pro wrestling standards, and you could regain the trust of your friend just by changing your t-shirt and sweet talking a crowd of spectators?

Of course, more often than not a wrestler's reform is part of an evil plot to infiltrate the ranks of the good guys and screw them over later, so maybe this isn't the most bulletproof example of how pro wrestling is better than reality.  But this is a post about pro wrestling on a comedic blog, so I'm not expecting it to be dissected by Harvard students.  Or maybe it will... I heard Sarah Palin will be teaching there, so apparently they have no standards whatsoever.

3. Reinvention is Fine

Remember when Madonna was well-respected?  No?  Me either, but I do remember when she was insanely popular.  Part of her appeal was her almost supernatural ability to reinvent herself.  This worked really well for her until the general public started to catch on and ask questions like, "Wait, why is she British now?"  Her strategy fizzled out and stopped working, and for most artists it doesn't work at all.  (Remember when Jewel all of the sudden was a leather-clad dominatrix or whatever for like two seconds?)

In the alternate universe rules that dictate what can happen in pro wrestling, reinvention is not only fine but an almost necessary step toward becoming a household name.  Wrestlers are often able to escape ridiculous gimmicks by trying new ones out, disappearing for a few months before reemerging with a new costume, hoping that this time everything clicks and they become successful.

Let's pretend it's the mid 1990s.  Because having an idiotic gimmick is part of the pro wrestling game at this time, you debut in the WWF as a sadistic dentist that's also a wrestler.  Obviously, this isn't going to last forever.  People will start saying things like, "A dentist character?  And I thought the voodoo guy and the clown with the midget sidekick were bad!"  If you were a pop singer who tried to pull off wearing a dentist's uniform while ironically having horrible teeth, your career might never recover.  You'd forever be shamefully mocked as 'that dentist pop singer'.  But if you were a wrestler, there would be a solution that not only worked but worked extremely well.  You'd put on a mask and become the brother of another wrestler who'd never mentioned you before because he tried to kill you by burning down your childhood home while you were trapped inside.  Bingo!  You've got a new gimmick, and even though pretty much everybody is aware that you used to masquerade as Bad Dentist Wrestler, they're willing to forget this and believe that you're a tortured soul with a horribly scarred face.

Wouldn't it be great if in real life you were free to totally ditch your current persona and try out new ones until you found something that stuck?  I'm not a guy pushing thirty who writes a blog and whose only sources of income are selling plasma and his collections of records and toys.  No, I'm a detective now!  Or maybe a rich, powerful yacht owner.  Or maybe the mysterious masked brother of somebody you know.  The possibilities are endless.

In college I occasionally chose to wear awful clothes strictly because I thought it was funny.  While sitting in class in a Hawaiian shirt, baggy dress pants, and a fedora, I was questioned by a girl I went to high school with.  "Why didn't you dress like that in high school?" she smugly asked.  I didn't have much of a response, but even if I did it would have been no use, because the rest of the class had already let out a collective "Ooooooooh!!"  I had apparently been outed as a 'phony' because I had decided that day that it would be fun to dress like a loose cannon character from a 70s cop show.

But what if I had really hated who I was and how I appeared in high school, and this had been a desperate attempt to distance myself from that?  This bitch, for no particular reason, would have just reminded me of my past.  I would have been shamed in front of all of my classmates, and a real, lasting shame that went beyond "I guess these guys don't think my clothes are funny."  However, whatever the circumstances of my new appearance, in the pro wrestling universe it wouldn't have mattered.  My classmates would have gladly accepted an attempt at reinvention, and the girl would perhaps have been scolded and mocked for not playing along and having fun.

So whether you're a hardcore wrestling fanatic, a casual fan, or somebody who will always think that grown men pretending to punch each other is stupid and pointless, I think you'd have to agree that life would be a lot better if it operated on the same logic as pro wrestling.  The NFL would be more exciting, Madonna would have perhaps had a dentist phase, and you could stop being that person at the office that everyone is pretty sure farts all afternoon and start being something awesome like a former fighter pilot or a ninja.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More Things I Wish Would Disappear From Facebook

Waaaay back in January of this year, I wrote a post about things that I wished would disappear from facebook.  In an example of the social network being put to good use, some of my friends shared the post, and it became mildly popular!  Friends supporting friends on facebook: so easy to do, yet so often not done.  (Thank you to all who shared any of my previous posts!)

While I doubt my blog, which I would consider to still be in its infantile stage, holds much sway over the goings-on we see every day in our feeds, I haven't seen as much of any of the three things I griped about last time.  So, I'm going to go ahead and take credit for that anyway.  You're welcome, facebook users.

Realistically, I'd say I've seen less of the grumpy cat meme (it's still there though) and even less of the "click 'like' if you love your mom" bullshit because they were fads that people got sick of sharing.  And since there haven't been any newsworthy mass shootings or embarrassing scandals for people to use as 'proof' that their political beliefs are solid facts that only idiots would disagree with, I've seen less of that too.  Mostly it's been stuff about meteorites hitting Russia and people who love/hate Valentine's Day expressing how much they love/hate Valentine's Day.

Maybe when super-powered Soviets start happening as a result of the space rock smack-down, that will become the new big thing to overtake my feed, but since that hasn't happened yet (that we know of), today I'll focus on some facebook behavior that has puzzled and bothered me pretty much since I signed up.

1. Pictures of Food

I get it.  We're a culture that loves food almost as much as we love sex and roughly equivalent to the amount we love sports matches.  We all love going out to eat, and we all love home-cooked meals (if they're of higher quality than my mom's infamous lump of meat in flavorless water that she insisted was 'pot roast').  And some of us, as we've gotten older, have realized that the reason it's hard to walk up the steps now is because we've survived mostly on frozen pizza since we moved out of our parents' houses.  Some of us have taken the wonderful initiative to avoid health problems and overly-crowded freezers that require the ice cube trays to be inserted at strange angles by cooking our own meals out of real ingredients.  I approve of this bold life choice, and I encourage anyone who thinks they can't cook to buy a crock pot and learn some simple recipes.

I can understand why people would proudly post pictures of their culinary creations on facebook, especially if they're just starting to explore the world of flavorful meals that don't cause you to poop way too much.  But that doesn't mean I want to see every plateful of every dinner you prepare.  Basically my stance is: if you're not inviting me to eat some of it or bringing some of it to me, I don't give a damn what you're putting in your mouth.

There's a funny thing about food.  Usually it doesn't look as good as it tastes, especially when it's photographed.  That's why there's a whole industry that specializes in airbrushing food or creating fake food to use in advertisements that appear in print and on television.  Perhaps you're snapping pics of your organic eggplant and goat cheese souffle to show off how great it is, but to me it just looks like a plate of different colored mush.  I don't need to see that!

I do, however, find some rare exceptions.  If the food really does look awesome, such as a cake decorated to look like a badass haunted house, then I might click 'like'.  Yesterday a friend posted a picture of a taco dip with peppers arranged on top to look like an 8-bit Super Mario.  Taco dip is awesome.  Super Mario is awesome (even though I'd rather work for his nemesis).  Put those two things together and you deserve the warm feeling you get when people 'like' your posts.  But for the most part, just put the food in your mouth and shut up about it.  I don't need to see it or read about it.

2. Correcting Comments with More Comments

One of my favorite occurrences on facebook is when one of my own or one of my friends' posts leads to a whole slew of funny comments.  These types of threads often make my day, and thankfully they happen quite often since a lot of my close friends are comedians.  Just as often, my friends that have no comedic training throw in their own bits of humor, too, and the original post becomes some kind of comedy patchwork quilt (which sounded way less corny in my head before I typed it.)  Sometimes I regret not saving such threads, but saving even funny conversations might qualify as somewhat creepy.  I'll think about it some more when I'm sitting in my van across the street from your house later.

When people are furiously pounding the keyboard to join in on a funny thread or to express their outrage at a bogus rumor that hasn't been fact-checked, they're bound to make typos from time to time.  Mistakes happen.  We're all human (except the small percentage of friends that I suspect are cyborgs).

What makes no sense to me is that many people choose to correct their mistakes with another comment.  Suppose a person types "LOL! That made me shit my paints with laughter!!!" beneath a picture of a cat making a grumpy face.  This person realizes his/her mistake just a fraction of a second too late, and the typo is now on display on the information superhighway.  Often times the person will correct themselves with a second comment that says "*pants", just in case anybody gets confused and thinks that cans of paint were crapped in as a result of a hilarious cat pic.  This would be a perfectly acceptable solution if facebook didn't have a feature that allows you to edit or delete your own posts.

Yep, that's on there.  And if you didn't know it was on there, here's how to use it:  Hover your mouse anywhere over your comment that you want to edit.  A tiny picture of a pencil (or maybe it's a lipstick?) pops up in the upper right-hand corner of your post.  You can choose to either edit or delete your comment, thus avoid looking silly by having to post a correction comment, or being horrifyingly embarrassed when you make a second error in your correction comment.

I don't use a mobile facebook app on my phone when I'm out of the house, because if I'm out of the house either I have shit to do or I'm with friends that I'd like to engage in human interaction with, so I don't know how the edit/delete function works on your iPhones and Androids.  But if you're bored enough wherever you are that you're scrolling through your facebook feed, see #3...

3. Status Updates Proclaiming That You're Bored

My thoughts on boredom, and people who often claim that they're bored, is best summed up in a quote by Louis C.K.:

"'I'm bored' is a useless thing to say.  I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you've seen none percent of.  Even the inside of your mind is endless.  It goes on forever, inwardly.  Do you understand?  The fact that you're alive is amazing, so you don't get to say 'I'm bored.'"

One of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite comedians expresses my thoughts on boredom in a way that I wouldn't have ever thought to word it.  And this sort of reasoning is why I'll never understand why somebody would be sitting in front of a piece of technology that gives them access to unlimited sources of fascinating information, not to mention millions of sources of entertainment, and choose to spend their time with this technology by telling the world that they're bored.

To that I say, "Horsefeathers!"

If you're bored, read an article on Cracked.com or your favorite blog.  Download some new music (legally, so the artist gets his .00000004 cent royalty payment).  Watch a video for cryin' out loud!  If you're on facebook, you have internet access.  If you have internet access, you shouldn't be bored.  There will never come a day when you've seen everything that's on the internet.  Just the amount of porn alone would probably fill hundreds of lifetimes.  Sexy, sexy lifetimes.

Not only that, but there's tons of stuff to do that doesn't involve being hunched over in front of a computer.  You could read a book.  Watch a movie.  Go outside and breathe the relatively fresh air while we still have that.  And if you don't look like Daniel Craig, then you should be exercising.  (Did I just imply that even women should look like Daniel Craig?  Maybe I did, internet, maybe I did.)

In summary: nobody cares about what you're having for brunch, it's unnecessary to correct comments with more comments, and there's no excuse for announcing that you're bored.  These are three facebook behaviors that can and should go away.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to check out the new images on ChicksWhoLookLikeDanielCraig.com.

Friday, February 15, 2013

B's For Me

In my previous entry, I made a reference to film director of many pseudonyms Godfrey Ho.  I linked to his IMDb page because I figured a lot of people had never heard of him.  If you've ever watched a b-movie (or more accurately a "z-movie") made in Hong Kong that seemed to be cut and pasted together from other films, if the film made no sense, and it was the worst (yet oddly enjoyable) film you've ever seen, you're probably familiar with his work.  Between 1973 and 2000 the man directed over 100 films.  Sometimes he put out over 10 a year!  It's insane, and I admire the hell out of him for it.

Look, I have a problem.  I own hundreds of b-movies.  I collect them, catalog them for footage and music, and use them in my own film projects (since most of them are in the public domain).  It's not really a problem when you just look at the benefits: I enjoy watching cheap schlock (and sometimes you find a lost gem that's actually good), my bride-to-be (bride-to-B?) loves to watch them with me, and I have a unique catalog of stock footage that nobody else has access to (unless they coincidentally watched and cataloged all of the same stuff I have somehow).  Those are some of the good points.

One of the negative aspects is that I occasionally spend a whole night watching footage on fast forward, stopping it as I go to type down a description of some footage that I think I can use.  This aids me later while I'm editing a film, because if I need some images of a UFO landing or some tropical birds I can search for them and find some sources to pull the footage from.  But the day after pouring over movie after movie my eyes are weird and buggy.  It's been pointed out to me before.  It's like they keep rapidly looking around, as if everything in my life was part of one great big b-movie for me to cut apart.  This might make me look crazy to people who don't know me.  The explanation may be just as damning.

Another drawback has to do with a personal pet peeve of mine.  I've always lamented when people ask if I've seen a movie, and when I haven't they respond with "You've NEVER seen My Giant!!!???"  My retort to that, up to a certain point in my life, was usually "Look, dude, there's like forty million movies.  I can't possibly have seen them all."  I'll admit though, as a film-lover there's a lot of classic films that I'm embarrassed to have yet to watch.  The Godfather Trilogy (or at least the first two).  Raging Bull.  Casablanca.  My Giant.

With that in mind, my usual response to the outrage at not having seen a particular film these days is "I haven't gotten around to it yet.  I was busy watching The Galaxy Invader and The Crater Lake Monster."  (That's two films right there, not an awesome buddy comedy.  Though that does give me an idea for an awesome buddy comedy.)  And it's true.  The Galaxy Invader is awful, yet I've watched it at least four times already.  The same goes for Twister's Revenge, which is about a super-intelligent monster truck, and The Manster, in which a man is injected with a serum that makes him grow a second head (as well as act like a roaring douche).

This all started while I was in college.  I was at Border's (a bookstore where I used to go to buy movies, CDs, and sometimes even a book), and I noticed an odd selection of cheapo DVDs with intriguing titles like Eegah! and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.  I was hooked before I'd even finished watching Richard Kiel, dressed as a caveman, chase after a living pompadour in a dune buggy.  By the time I had witnessed the meeting of Jesse James and Frankenstein's Daughter (which is really the mad doctor's granddaughter in the film) it was a full-fledged addiction.

Part of the charm of these movies is that they usually take themselves pretty seriously despite their typically crazy plots.  It's as if the makers of my beloved B's were blissfully unaware that a giant turtle that eats fire and can convert itself into a flying saucer is ludicrous.  This lack of irony in the content may be what really draws me to these films.

The current state of pop culture is something I find myself at odds with.  It has become like a dragon with an extremely long body that, having run out of a food source (food being original ideas in this analogy), has started to eat it's own tail.  So much 'new' art seems to just reference other entities of pop culture.  If I catch an episode of Family Guy I sometimes feel like I should have brought a pop culture handbook with me.  A well-written joke, even if based on a reference, should be able to stand on its own.  Family Guy is capable of accomplishing this, but many times I haven't seen the "hilarious" youtube video the show is referencing, and the writers must have been feeling lazy when they crafted the script, because the joke in that case doesn't seem to be anything other than the fact that they're referencing what some stupid asshole got videotaped doing.  That, in my opinion, is shoddy writing.

And nowadays everything is so damned ironic.  I like this because I don't really like it.  I'm wearing this Bon Jovi t-shirt because I think Bon Jovi is terrible.  This suit is in style because of how out of style it is.  When did society transform into one giant hipster wearing a massive, ironic baseball cap?  Can we go back to digging things just because we actually dig them?

This phenomenon has leaked into Hollywood, where it seems a current trend is sticking zombies or vampires into every possible genre just because it's, like, whaaaa?  Those things don't go together!

We also now have movies that feature once-mighty stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger spouting lines of dialog that reference not only his previous films, but the fact that he hasn't been making films in quite a long time because he was Governor of California.  I'm referring to The Expendables 2, of course, and I know this film series is supposed to be a fun 'throw-back' to older action movies, but the filmmakers have fallen into that same trap of too much tongue-in-cheek, too much referencing other films.  I like the concept of the films, but they should be able to exist and stand up on their own as films without relying on regurgitated nostalgia.  If a kid 20 years from now picks up the film, will he understand why Arnold saying "I'm back!!!" is supposed to be funny?  This is just from the trailer; I haven't seen the film, so could somebody tell me if Arnold then turns to the camera and winks really hard after delivering the line?

Also from the trailer for the same film: Jason Statham is disguised as a priest, and he quips the most painfully awful quip, possibly in the history of quips, "I now pronounce you man and knife!", before producing a knife to kill the groom with.  I'll admit that I laughed at how terribly cheesy the line was when I saw the trailer (made even funnier by his raspy British voice).  It was like something from a McBain movie on The Simpsons, for crying out loud!  But therein lies the problem.  Either the film was made by so many hacks that somebody wrote the line and everybody else thought it was good, or, more likely, the corny line was included on purpose to reference/mock older action movies that were often chock full of bad dialog.  But that begs the question: if Hollywood is purposely making their movies bad (because that makes them ironically good) then why are they spending tens of millions of dollars a piece to make the damn things?

Perhaps worst of all, while we're being inundated with movies that homage but also laugh at films from the not-so-distant past, the new movies rely on the same old assembly line brain garbage techniques of 'satisfying' the audience by not challenging them at all.  The good guy has to succeed and get the girl and make everything explode at the end, or the focus groups won't like the film, and the studio heads won't understand the film.  The film industry seems to be at a point where they're dumbing everything down to the lowest possible denominator to ensure the most profit, forgetting that in 50 years the name of the studio and everybody else involved will still appear on a thoughtless, quick cash-in, horribly dated film that doesn't hold up as time goes on.

The b-movies I love were just as bad 30 or 40 years ago as they are now, and they'll still be bad another 30 or 40 years into the future.  The difference is that they can always be admired, no matter how lame the acting is or how ridiculous the special effects are, because they were made by people like Ed Wood and Ray Dennis Steckler who had a passion to create movies, and they succeeded in at least finishing them by scraping together what little budget they could.  Also, without the shackles of working for a major studio, the filmmakers were free from making the movies with a cliched mold.  The aliens could win in the end, the film could end abruptly with an atomic explosion, or the main characters could escape from a police chase only to randomly drive off a cliff into a river.

All of the preceding reasoning, and adding in that I'm weirdly proud to own movies with titles like Robo Vampire and Escape From Galaxy 3, is why I'll just as often, if not more often, choose a b-movie over a Hollywood hit.

Eventually I'll get around to watching One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.  And My Giant.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We Want Weed!

The blog has gone international!  This is a result of posting my previous entry on the IMDb message board for Batman Returns.  I've garnered hits from Canada, Australia, U.K., Sweden, Iraq, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand!  I've listed all of them because I'm a dork, and these newest hits excite me.  And I do hope at least some of these international readers come back to the blog!

(Begin cheap segue.)  I'm not sure how laws regarding marijuana differ in each these countries, but here in the good ol' US of A marijuana is illegal on a federal level.  The push to make weed an illegal substance began in the late 1800s, when many states began considering it a poison.  Due to the zero annual reported deaths from marijuana use, in conjunction with our healthcare system being dominated by pharmaceutical companies that want to fill you with drugs that cause side effects that must be counteracted by consuming more drugs, the once-legal and natural substance is illegal.  Because things make sense here.

According to Uncle Sam, marijuana is a 'Schedule I' drug with no medical use, and it is not safe to use under medical supervision.  People who disagree with this stance include fucking doctors and fucking soldiers who risked their fucking lives for our country and use the drug to treat PTSD.  A lot of legislation seems to be based on misconception, with a big dose of straight-up hogwash.

You may have been told by a high school health teacher (who was also the driver's ed teacher and maybe the field hockey coach) that marijuana is a "gateway drug".  This means that if you start smoking it, you're more likely to eventually switch to harder drugs like cocaine or heroin.  Maybe you'll even start using 'bath salts'and eating people's faces.  So just don't even try it kids!  The problem with this 'theory' is that there is no conlusive evidence that this is true.  In fact, research has shown that tobacco use is actually a better indicator of an eventual turn to harder substances.  But the government has no problem with regulating and selling that.  I'm not saying the government is run by a bunch of hypocrites who serve the lobbyists that line their pockets rather than serving the public that elects them, but... Oh wait, yes I am.  The government is run by a bunch of hypocrites who serve the lobbyists that line their pockets rather than serving the public that elects them!  (That exclamation point proves it.)

Another bit of rubbish I hear from time to time is that marijuana use can lead to mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  Instead of just believing that because it sort of sounds like maybe it makes sense, we can once again just look at actual statistics.  There is no correlation between use of cannabis and cases of mental health disorders.  Think about it: despite what could be seen as evidence of insanity based on clothing choices, your aunts and uncles are sane enough now to be embarrassed by those old photographs of exposed chest hair and vaguely Indian-looking headbands.  I say your aunts and uncles because your parents never smoked weed!  They've never even seen it!  Now go to your room and don't ask questions anymore, godammit!

I often hear (from people that I'm reasonably sure have never actually tried it) that marijuana is addictive.  Guys, for the sake of this article, I began researching this on my own many years ago.  I can tell you that, yes, it can become a habit.  But then again so can biting your cuticles or collecting Pez dispensers, and so far both of those things are still legal.  I wouldn't use the word addictive to describe weed, though.  If I'm not broke and I can get some, great.  If I can't, which is most often the case, I'm okay without it.  There's no withdrawal.  There's no overpowering cravings.  There's no beating up an old lady in a wheelchair to steal her money so I can get a 'fix'.

So, why does it become a habit then?

Short answer: Because it's awesome.

Longer answer: If you know me as a friend, you might say I'm a person who loves to laugh and have a good time.  That is certainly true when I'm with friends.  But most of the time I'm irritable, grouchy, or downright miserable because I have to be in some stupid public place dealing with stupid public people.  In this scenario, weed has done quite the opposite of causing a mental disorder for me.  It would be safe to say that it may have prevented me from being institionalized on more
than one occasion.

Here's how the same scene can go down in two different ways:  I'm at a fast food restaurant because either I'm broke or have no respect for my bowels that day (or both).  Since society still grapples with simple concepts such as forming a line, I'm standing in a clusterfuck of people jockeying for position to order their McArteryclogs or Super Quadruple Bacon Deluxe with extra bacon.  Or a bacon sundae because we're out of control as a people.  Anyway, some chump walks in after me but takes up that classic stance like he's determined to cut me.  Maybe he's in a hurry, but most likely he's going to sit down and eat there anyway so why do you have to be first, guy?

In version one of this scenario, I am stoned (which is probably why I'm there in the first place).  I think to myself, "Maybe he's in a hurry." or "Who cares? He's just some asshole that I'm never going to see again."  I don't let it bother me.  I might even let him go first just to be the better person.  I go on with my life, get my awful food, and think that it tastes heavenly, duuuude.

In version two, I am stone sober.  Depending on how cranky I am, my thoughts may vary from "What a douchebag!" to "I'm going to get in this guy's face and start biting his nose like Rowdy Roddy Piper!" to "Does this guy think he's better than me?  Like we're in some sort of caste system and he's ranked higher than me?  Fuck this guy.  Fuck society.  I'll blow society up, motherfuckers!  Then you can be first in line to hell, you son of a bitch and a bastard!!"  I go on with my life but keep thinking about the lack of manners and respect in our world, get my awful food, and sit there not enjoying it while I think about how much our civilization sucks.

Which is the scarier of the two?  I know I prefer to be the guy from the first variation of the story.  I'm sure society at large appreciates that version of me, whether they know it or not.

Aside from preventing me from doing something utterly crazy, like building an atomic bomb in my garage, marijuana benefits me on a creative level like nothing else I've ever experienced.  I've always been capable of coming up with lots and lots of ideas, but they're usually scattered and often half-formed.  Ingestion of 'the devil's herb' helps me connect the dots.  This idea and that idea and yet another idea are suddenly part of one big idea that I somehow overlooked, and once I have a solid idea, I can make it a goal to get it done and then actually accomplish my goal.  There is a stereotype of the lazy stoner who spends his days lying on the couch, eating mass quantities of Slim Jims, and playing GoldenEye on the N64 all day.  While I am guilty of all of those things while 'doing pot' sometimes, I'm more often busy furiously scribbling down my ideas or editing a film that just sat there while I was in Sober-Land.

But Uncle Sam is not for this.  Uncle Sam points at me and says "I WANT YOU (to build an atomic bomb in yourgarage)!"  That's not on the actual poster, but it's implied.

There is a saving grace, however.  Many states are bucking the federal laws in favor of being tubular.  The most tubular states are Washington and Colorado, which both legalized possession and sale of cannabis for recreational use.  A handful of other states have decriminalized possession and/or made medical usage legal.  I'm not sure if there's any relation, but sales of Funyuns have skyrocketed in these states.

I live in Pennsylvania, where currently marijuana is illegal but the state controls the sale and taxing of tobacco products and alcohol (both of which are proven to kill their consumers).  Honestly, I thought PA would be one of the last states (actually it's a commonwealth!) to legalize pot, but Senator Daylin Leach (whose parents must have been hippies, I mean, Daylin? What the hell?) has ridden in like a sterling knight on a tie-dyed horse to propose a bill that will legalize cannabis, giving it the same status as cigs and booze.

This makes sense.  Whether you're a pothead, enjoy smoking ocassionally, or don't plan on ever trying it, you will still benefit.  How?  Taxes.  The drug will be regulated and taxed, just like your cognac and your delicious, mild Camel cigarettes.  And since pretty much everybody who wants to smoke weed already knows where to get it, these same people could now do so without running the risk of legal repercussions.  I haven't driven through much of the country, but in Pennsylvania just driving on the highway may result in the need for new shocks or an alignment.  The roads are full of more holes than the plot of a Godfrey Ho movie.  The bridges seem to be held up by a combination of duct tape and wishes.  More tax revenue (that doesn't come from reaming the middle class) would certainly welcome.

How else would you benefit?  I just mentioned legal repercussions in the previous paragraph, and even if you've never been arrested for possession or distribution, you still pay for it.  Think about all the guys you see playing basketball at the prison when you're driving home.  Oh, you don't drive past a prison on your way home like I do?  Take my word for it, there's a lot of guys playing H-O-R-S-E in there.  And there's more of them lifting weights and standing by the baseball diamond but not playing baseball.  I'm sure you already know that the maintenance of their sports equipment, their shelter, their meals, and their cable channels are paid for by you and me with our taxes. 

Considering (according to 2007 Dept. of Justice data) there were nearly two million drug arrests that year, and just about half of them were marijuana-related, that's a lot of sports equipment you're paying to have maintained for some pothead that's probably only playing because Pigfucker Charlie will shank him if he doesn't help his team win.

That's not even the half of it. According to one source, the United States spent about 15 BILLION dollars waging "The War On Drugs" in 2010.  That's 15billion that could have gone to funding education or feeding the poor, which may in the long run prevent a few people from selling drugs to make ends meet or start using drugs because their lives suck and they live in a country where people who sink companies into bankruptcy make millions of dollars but many war veterans live on the street.

So, legalizing marijuana would create more tax revenue for the state and cut down on the amount of money needed to house non-violent criminals and train dogs to bark at hippies.  And if the federal goverment would pull its head out of its ass to take a bong rip, that would in turn create the opportunity to save even more money being spent on "The War On Drugs", which many sensible people have pointed out is an abyssmal failure.

Pennsylvania often becomes an important election state because we stockpile senior citizens but also have lots of hip, young people living in urban areas.  Maybe if our state jumped on the legalization train even more states would be quick to follow.  After all, we are The Keystone State (The Keystoned State, right dudes? Mah hahhhhh!).  It's like the stars have aligned, and they're telling the universe to make something radical happen.  That's great as long as there's nothing to stand in the way for no other apparent reason than "just because".

Er... there might be.  Here's a little story:  Once upon a time a man's pet horse took a huge dump on the front lawn.  Just as a goof, the man put a suit on the manure and affixed a wig (color: politician white) on top.  In a perfect example of a goof-gone-wrong, the pile of horseshit somehow got elected Governor of Pennsylvania. Naturally, the article in which I read about the marijuana bill also included information that Governor Horseshit has already made it known that he will oppose legislation that makes marijuana legal.  (Also, he hates education and will stop at nothing until it is eradicated. That's not in the article, but anybody living in the state knows this.)

I'm hoping that the universe is already in the early stages of enacting a plan to make him change his stance.  Maybe the universe will give him a free bag of weed and a copy of Nilsson Schmilsson, and that will be enough to get the job done.  Or maybe he'll just apply some logical thought to the situation, and he'll decide that more tax revenue for something that people are already buying coupled with less spending for law enforcement and the incarceration of people who smell like patchouli would be a good thing.

Maybe.  Hopefully.  But whatever the case, I gotta get back to GoldenEye.  I'm trying to beat that level where Natalya always runs into the middle of a gunfight and gets killed.  Oh, that's every level she's in.  The one where she works the computer really slowly...

Later, duuuudes!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Batman Returns... to Camp

If you know me personally you're probably just as surprised as I am that a blog titled "Baxter Pancake's Baxter Pancake Blog" hasn't included a post about Batman yet.  Well today I'm going to rectify the shit out of that!

Do you remember 1989?  If not, there's only two things you need to know about it...

One: David Hasselhoff knocked down a wall in Germany, despite attempts by a crusty bitch named Margaret Thatcher to stop him.  She obviously thought she was alcohol (the only thing powerful enough to defeat The Hoff).  Margaret Thatcher is not alcohol.  I did a lot of research to prove it, and I ended up falling into a swimming pool with my clothes on.  It was a hilarious pool party, guys; you shoulda been there!

If you celebrated your fifth birthday in 1989, like me, then you probably only remember...

Two: Batman was effin' HUGE!  Most of my early memories involve Batman.  I remember begging my mom to buy me a VHS copy of Scooby Doo Meets Batman & Robin when I was just a tot.  I remember spending many happy afternoons scribbling in my Batman coloring book and playing with my Batman Colorforms.  And I remember the Spring and early Summer of '89, in which I spent a lot of time reciting dialog and reenacting scenes from the trailer for Batman.  If you were a Batman fan, 1989 was going to be the year that kicked asses so hard (like Batman does!).  If you weren't a Batman fan, 1989 was the year you were to become a Batman fan.  It was awesome.

So what happened from there?  A super-hyped super-hero movie super-scores at the box office.  Of course Warner Bros. (the studio that produced the film, which from what I gather is run by three anthropomorphic dog-looking things, one of which talks like Ringo) is going to want a sequel.  Director of Batman, Tim Burton, didn't want to do a follow-up, but WB convinced him to change his mind with giant sacks of money and the promise that he could make this one more swirly and Tim Burtony.

From there things really went down hill.  Joel Schumacher replaced Burton as director to launch a turd called Batman Forever at the public in 1995.  The public ate it up, like they often-times do with turds, but they wouldn't be fooled again in 1997, when mega-turd Batman & Robin was launched from a slingshot made of bullshit.

Many fans agree that Burton was a major force in changing Batman's public image from Adam West "zockoing" celebrity guests and getting trapped in giant cookbooks by Roddy McDowall into the darker, brooding figure from the comics.  Well, the darker, brooding figure from the comics of the early 70s onward, when Dennis O'Neil steered The Batman away from the supremely-ridiculous incarnation of the hero that had appeared in the comics since well before Adam West and Burt Ward donned the costumes of the caped crusaders.  Denny O'Neil returned Batman to his roots.  He gave him a gritty reboot before gritty reboots were cool.

I agree with this sentiment.  Had it not been for Burton and all of those involved with making the film happen, most people would probably still think of Batman as a farce.  An exploding-sharks-defeated-by-shark-repellent-that-was-kept-in-a-helicopter-for-some-reason farce.

I also agree that Joel Schumacher, when given the reigns, dragged the film series to new lows.  And while I may never forgive him for the "bat nipples" or all of Mr. Freeze's awful, awful puns, I would like to take the opportunity to call "horsefeathers" on a very commonly held belief: that Schumacher 'made Batman campy again'.  Don't get me wrong!  I'm not saying his two films weren't irritatingly campy.  They were, they definitely were.  But let's rewind back to 1992 and see if we can find any elephants in any rooms.  Oh!  There's one!  Batman Returns is horribly campy.

There's a very vocal group of people that hang out on the IMDb forums who swear that Batman Returns is the best Batman film because IT'S SO FREAKIN' DARK, MAN!  These people apparently cherish darkness as the key to a good Batman film over elements like prominent characters from the first film appearing in the second (or at least having their absences explained) or things happening on screen that actually make fucking sense.

In the beginning of the film Pee-Wee Herman and wife are wealthy Gothamites who are cursed with a deformed son.  If you were Pee-Wee or his wife and you were super-rich, you'd maybe try to find a top surgeon to fix your baby's flipper hands to make them appear somewhat normal, or decide to love him as he is, or leave him on the doorstep of an orphanage.  If you exist in the universe that Batman Returns takes place in, naturally you would just hurl the baby into the sewer.  And of course, the baby wouldn't drown, starve to death, or succumb to the horrible sewer-stench.  He would be rescued by penguins that live in the sewer, of course!  This makes sense, because penguins live where it's cold and sewers are... wait a minute!  Aren't sewers warm?  Isn't that why steam comes out of them a lot?  Alright, let's suspend disbelief on that one...

Flash forward a few decades.  Lil' Oswald Cobblepot is all grown up.  He has somehow been taught to speak English by the sewer-penguins, and now that he understands words he also understands that people aren't supposed to be raised by flightless birds that live under a city!  It's time for revenge!  Using the money that he inexplicably earned while living his entire life in a sewer and also using his gang of circus freaks who at some point found a deranged, grotesque Danny DeVito living where everyone's poop goes and decided he would be the best person to lead them into a life of crime, he strikes out at society!  How?  By interrupting Gotham's Christmas tree lighting ceremony with a giant present that bursts open and unleashes his circus thugs on the unsuspecting public!

So in mere moments, we go from the grim Batman mythology that comic book nerds so desperately wanted the general public to acknowledge and accept back to giant props.  Giant props were very prominent when the comics were at their wackiest/corniest/campiest.

Anyway, the police can't handle this because, well, why should they?  There's Batman!  The man in the cape and cowl is summoned via the Bat-Signal.  Cut to Michael Keaton just sitting there in Wayne Manor.  A bunch of mirrors located around the mansion rotate and the signal is beamed directly into the room.  That makes perfect sense in one way: Bruce Wayne will always know when the signal is lit up and as quickly as possible.  The problem is, what if anybody besides Batman is in Wayne Manor when this happens?  What would Bruce's explanation be?  "Uh... I installed those so I'll know when Batman is going to be on the news, so I can watch Batman on the news.  And that's exactly why I'm going to quickly walk out of the room now instead of watching Batman on the news."  (Alfred would then clock the guest over the head with a teapot, douse them in gin, and dump them in the park.)

Okay, I could easily walk through the whole movie bit by bit and point out every instance of camp that Burton and company packed into it.  But to prevent this post from being as long as War and Peace, I'll just rattle off some more that I can think of off the top of my head:

-Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) falls through a trap door into the sewer.  So, Penguin's plan for getting this man into the sewer relies on him fleeing the scene of the giant-Christmas-present attack down a precise alley and stopping to rest in an exact three-foot-wide section of the pavement.

-Penguin rides around in a vehicle that looks like a giant rubber ducky.  Not only this, but the vehicle shows up as a duck-shaped blip on the radar in Batman's boat.

-Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is pushed out a window by Max Shreck, falls about 15 stories to her doom, but is revived by magical cats who rescue her by licking and biting her flesh.  Also, Shreck doesn't bother to have one of his goons scrape up the presumably dead body from in front of his building and therefore doesn't notice that Selina didn't die.

-Selina becomes Catwoman.  But not the awesome, fierce, strong (human) cat-burglar from the comics.  The cat licks and bites seem to endow her with cat-powers.  She's no longer a timid secretary!  Now she's an empowered, psychotic bitch that literally has nine lives and can do seven-hundred back-flips in a row.

-Now that she's Catwoman she teams up with Penguin to beat Batman, because it makes sense for a woman now brimming with more 'girl power' than all five Spice Girls combined to team up with a gross sewer-man who gropes young women's boobies in front of a group who are there for the announcement of his campaign for mayor.  And to ward off Penguin's disgusting sexual advances, she takes his pet bird and puts it in her mouth.  Only when he threatens her cat's life with his umbrella/sword does she open her mouth and let the bird fly free.  (I'm not sure if you should file this one under 'C' for "Campy", or 'J' for "Just fucking retarded, what the fuck?".)

-Putting some cans of spray paint in a microwave won't cause a small explosion that creates a fire that burns down a department store, it will make the whole store explode in a massive fireball.

-Penguin looks like he weighs about 300 pounds, yet can easily go airborne on an umbrella that turns into a flimsy helicopter.

-Penguin's circus gang hacks into the Batmobile, because all circus performers know how to hack into Batmobiles, and Penguin can then control the Batmobile from his own kiddie-ride version of the Batmobile.

I think that's enough.  Just typing those made me feel confused and nauseous.  Oh wait, one more!

-Batman records Penguin shouting "I played this stinkin' city like a harp from hell!" and then he and Alfred use a CD-R and a Bat-themed CD player to blast this over the loudspeakers at Mayoral candidate Cobblepot's latest campaign speech.  They remix and scratch the sound-byte like the CD is a vinyl record.  I've never tried doing this but I'm pretty sure it doesn't work like that.

Of course, colorful over-sized props, ludicrous plot elements, and mind-controlled penguins with rockets strapped to them (oh yeah, that happened too) don't make a movie a camp-fest all by themselves.  The glue that holds these things together is over-the-top, ridiculous dialog.  Dialog so cheesy that even Denny's would pull it off their menu out of concern for the health of their patrons.  We've already got "harp from hell" out of the way, so I'll provide a few more examples:

-Penguin: I was their number one son, and they treated me like number two.

(Penguin made a poopy joke! LOLZ!)

-Catwoman: I am Catwoman. Hear me roar!

(It's like that feminist slogan from the 60s.  'Cause she's a feminist now 'cause she got bit by cats.  Get it?)

-Catwoman: Somebody say fish? I haven't been fed all day!
-Batman: Eat floor! High fiber!

(If the public heard that, they would have turned against Batman way before the Penguin enacted his evil plot to soil the dark knight's image.)

-Penguin (to Catwoman): Just the pussy I've been looking for!

(OMG you guys!  Penguin made a vagina reference!  Double LOLZ!)

And I'll assault you with just one more, saving the best (by best I mean worst) for last.  Penguin is addressing his army of mind-controlled rocket-penguins...

-Penguin: My dear penguins, we stand on a great threshold! It's okay to be scared... Many of you won't be coming back. Thanks to Batman, the time has come to punish ALL God's children! First, second, third, and fourth-born. Why be biased? Male and female! Hell, the sexes are equal with their erogenous zones blown sky high! Forward march! The liberation of Gotham has begun!

Okay. Aside from the speech being completely idiotic (and I think maybe a spoof of an actual historic speech or something... maybe more than one?), what's the point of Penguin even saying all of this out loud?  For one thing, penguins don't understand English, except for maybe one or two super-intelligent ones who taught Penguin to speak English.  Second, if he is using mind-control helmets to make the birds do his bidding, why does he need to motivate them with a speech?

I think I've made my point.  Jeepers cats, if you need any more evidence than that to prove that Batman Returns is a campy chunk of schlock masquerading as a dark and 'gothic' action movie, I'm not sure you can be swayed.  And if you can't be swayed, check your dome for a mind-control helmet. Somebody's playing you... like a harp from hell!

Joel Schumacher's Batman films are cinematic vomit, I think pretty much we can agree on that.  He even apologizes to anyone who may have been disappointed by Batman & Robin (i.e. everyone over the age of six) on the DVD commentary.  But the series had devolved into camp three years before Schumacher had the chance to point a camera at Jim Carrey and say, "Okay, now that you're in your Riddler unitard, just, like, be wacky and Jim Carrey-like the way you do in your other movies!"

Yes, old chums, the man who we should be pointing our fingers at is the very man who made the general movie-going audience aware that Batman was back, and he was brooding.  Just because somebody gets bitten on the nose and spurts blood all over the place doesn't mean the movie is "dark" or "gothic", it just means gross stuff also happens while the campy nonsense is going down.

Mr. Schumacher didn't make Batman campy again, Mr. Burton did.

Consider this blog post a truth-punch. Zocko!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Is King Koopa Hiring?

Don't be fooled by the unemployment rate.  What often isn't mentioned about the number is that it only includes people who are actively filing for unemployment compensation.  And since there's now stricter guidelines to meet to be eligible, that means even more people will be off unemployment, which does not necessarily mean they are working.  It's almost like politicians figured out a way to skew the figures to look more favorable, but they wouldn't do that!  Right?  Of course not.

I need a job.  When I first became unemployed (when my job was outsourced so the CEOs at my company could make more money while delivering an even shoddier product to the public), I took it as an opportunity to accomplish some of the things I wanted to do in the field I hope to work in full time someday: entertainment!  And I did accomplish quite a lot.  With my brother I co-wrote, co-directed, and edited a new web series;  I co-directed and co-starred in a pilot (which was rejected by Comedy Central because it's not South Park); co-starred in another pilot that is currently in post-production; and even started then discontinued a podcast (due to the amount of time it took to edit vs. relative lack of interest).  And now I write this blog, too! All that on top of being part of an award-winning comedy troupe and an award-winning dad (according to a t-shirt I have, I'm #1 at fatherhood).

I've been a busy bee, and much like a bee, I haven't earned any money for all of my hard work.  So now I'm in the position of finding a "real" job in a time where our economy is shabbier than the plot of a Transformers movie, and in my area most of the jobs I'm qualified for have been shipped off to the Philippines or India.  Yay, America!

Well, I'm fed up with this reality.  I'm now seeking employment in The Mushroom Kingdom.  And sure, working alongside Mario and Luigi to rescue Princess Toadstool (a.k.a. Princess Peach... is her full name Peach Toadstool?  This has never been fully explained to me) may be the more honorable thing to do, but screw honor; I need cash!

Why would I apply for a job for which I'd have to risk my neck jumping over holes and potentially getting mortally wounded by piranha plants?  Especially when considering that my only payment will be a kiss on the nose and maybe a cake or something (if I survive).  No, no, no.  I'm going where the careers are.  I'm working for King Koopa.

For starters, there's job security.  Sure "The Koop" has been on a losing streak since the 80s.  But for as many times as Mario defeats him (or Luigi defeats him, yet Mario still gets the credit), the dragon-man-or-whatever-he-is always seems to evade capture.  He always comes back to swoop in and kidnap The Princess, and he always brings plenty of troopas with him.

Those troopas must earn a hefty salary, too.  Think about it.  There's hundreds of coins just laying around all over The Mushroom Kingdom.  Some of them are suspended in the air or hidden in blocks, but they're there, and anybody can grab them.  Mario collects them like there's no tomorrow.  If the Mario Bros. series indulged in the ludicrous stereotyping that Mike Tyson's Punch-Out did, Mario would have been a Jewish accountant instead of an Italian plumber.  But in all the time I've spent hopping and bopping through the games, I've never - not once - seen a Goomba or one of those hammer-throwing assholes reach for a single coin.  Why?  King Koopa actually pays them, and he pays them well.

He also rewards loyalty.  Imagine if you got hired (in our world) to work a security job.  After a few boring weeks on the job there's finally some excitement!  Someone is trying to break into the warehouse you're being paid to protect, and in response you lazily waddle toward the thief and promptly fall down a hole.  It's a safe bet that you wouldn't be employed for very long.  (So now, not only are you unemployed, but you're at the bottom of a hole.)  If King Koopa was a big jerk, like many real-life employers, he would never hire another Koopa Troopa because of their lack of skill.  But you know what?  Every once in a while they actually do succeed.  So Koopa says to himself, "Hell, I'll hire a whole bunch more of them just to be sure.  And I'll even slap some wings on some of the fuckers."  There you have it, the guy rewards loyalty.  So far in his career of unsuccessful kidnappings he has yet to betray the loyalty of his army and start bringing in those seahorse-looking things from Kid Icarus to get the job done.

What about healthcare?  For a lot of people (i.e. anyone who's not a wealthy "job creator") things usually follow a simple pattern: you get a meager fifteen cent raise, and then the cost of your healthcare goes up by about 400 percent.  How would this be handled in The Mushroom Kingdom?  Based on the fact that if you walk away from an area and come back the same exact baddie is there, moving in the same exact pattern, and getting his head stomped in the same exact way, I'm willing to bet that the villains operate with the same very lax concept of death as the Marios do.  They die and come back to die again.  Over and over.  This makes healthcare a non-existent problem.  Got a nasty flu?  Jump down a hole or wait for Luigi to come blasting through with a fire flower.  Your next life will probably be flu-free.

I'll even go so far as to call Koopa a humanitarian.  Or a dragonitarian.  Whatever.  The point is, he's got dozens of kids, but apparently no wife or girlfriend.  Where are all these kids coming from?  He must be adopting them.  Sure, he's then putting them to work fighting older men in his dungeons, but at least he's giving them a purpose in life.  I'm sure those mushroom-headed elitists in The Mushroom Kingdom don't even give the poor little spiky-shelled buggers a second glance when they're at the local orphanage, but King Koopa saves them from lives of lonely poverty.  And he gives them magic wands!!

My reasoning is clear and sound, and my reasoning says that working for Koopa is the way to go.  Aside from the benefits of working for ol' Bowser (I'd like to think I'd get in tight with him and be on a first-name basis), there's also a few things that make working for the "good guys" less appealing...

It's always disappointing when you find out your favorite sports star is a cheater.  One minute you're worshiping a dude for riding a bike with one testicle (which really seems like an advantage if you think about it), the next you're saddened to learn that the dude used more enhancements than a Spider-Man villain.  The fact of the matter is, Mario and Luigi couldn't make it through eight harrowing worlds without enhancing themselves with stars that turn them into one-man raves or raccoon tails that somehow make them fly.  They even use magic whistles to skip over whole worlds.  What happens to the kings of these worlds, Mario?  They stay transformed into various animals, and the Toad who stands by their throne just stays there, hopping up and down in an eternal panic.  Way to go, you lazy, mustachioed bastard.

Also, there's just something slightly odd about Italians doing so much work for the Japanese.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  I'll think it over while I eat this German potato salad...  (Jokes about WWII: surefire way to keep the kids coming back to the blog.)

Look, although I'm a male, I'm a feminist at heart.  A lot of the people I admire the most are women.  (Mostly it's Yoko Ono, but there's other ones.)  Even if I didn't favor women over men, I'd still never say anything as idiotic as "She was asking for it!"  But that doesn't excuse Princess Toadstool from her perpetual inability to protect herself.  King Koopa has thousands of weird creatures willing to help him and his dubious cause, he's got lots of kids (and those kids have magic wands!!), and he's got freakin' flying boats that are outfitted with like six hundred cannons a piece.  What has Princess done to protect herself and her kingdom?

"Eh, I'll just rely on those two skeezy-looking guys from Brooklyn, wherever that is." --Princess Toadstool

And considering that Princess is allowed to mail letters to the plumbers-turned-rescuers, and she encloses those P-wings that let you fly indefinitely, she very easily could escape Koopa's clutches herself.  Yet she doesn't.  She lets herself get kidnapped over and over again, because she wants to be rescued over and over again.  She has some kind of psychological disorder, and she's making Mario and Luigi suffer for her, rather than helping them get back home to their world and hiring an actual goddam army to defend her kingdom with.

And the Mario Bros. fall for this time and time again.  Tsk! Tsk!  Not me.  I want a career.  I want to earn the big coins!  I want an endless supply of hammers to throw!

I'm working for King Koopa.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Poetry? Is He Kidding?

It's no joke, ladies and men.  We had company at the Pancake house, and since we pretty much never have company we spent the last two days cleaning.  After hours of entertaining (and by "entertaining" I mean being attacked by my daughters in front of said company) I am now staring at a mountain of dishes, daring each dirty plate and bowl to wash itself.  So far they haven't budged.  You win this round, dishes.

What I'm getting at is that I'm too tired to do one of my usual rant-type posts.  Since I've sworn an oath to myself (in front of a photograph of myself dressed as a judge) to post every Tuesday and Friday I have an obligation to put at least something up here.

So here's something.  Most people probably didn't know that I sometimes write poetry.  Yep.  I write it.  So now you have to read it!

I won't be offended if you laugh at it or print it out and burn it.  Just don't steal it.  Because there's secret codes hidden in each poem that cause your soul to unravel if you try to pass it off as your own.  I mean it.

Anyway, here goes...

The Egg Thinks About Thinking

Anticipation is my frequency
Purposely elongating menial business
To burn away minutes

Intolerable dispositions
Make my brain like an
egg on a hot sidewalk

Was it Churchill who said it?
I cannot remember
Save it for the educated

Trying to be alone
has become a laughable game
in this over-crowded society

The heat from those
pressed up against themselves
is distracting and embarrassing

I fear I must fail
before I can begin

I fear my jars of sunshine
will reach expiration before
they ever become useful

If you find it in your heart
to reject me
My fears will be dignified
with justification

I fear everything except absorption

Big Nothing

It comes and goes
Sneaks up
Distracts while adding
A common problem
A common denominator
Still a means for humiliation

Poisoning oneself mindlessly
Ignoring unfamiliar resolutions
Embracing the machinations
of a stumbling idea

The world remains at large
While a baby - naked and stupid
Cries for a mother
That never existed

Tangent Police

Stunningly simple pleasure
What's the give-out?
I have no straw
I have no feathers
I have no needles
I have dirt under my fingernails

A top score is numbers
A name is letters
Endless sequences
cascading across a
strange electronic consciousness

When the end comes
Where does it all go?
Does reality have a back up?

Is it futile?

To expect nothing
Surely preemptively
conquers disappointment

Or to expect everything
Offers an equal chance
at all things desirable

Then again
Everything is nothing
Or whatever...