Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It made me a little afraid of fog after watching it. (The Best Actual Horror Movie Monsters, 1)

It's a MiniBest!

Sweetie and I are going on a date, at 11 a.m. this Saturday, to see what she called a horror movie, "Final Destination 3-D: Final-er Than Ever" or something like that. Sweetie's very excited. I'm not. The Final Destination movies pose a whole bunch of problems for me, which I won't get into at this point other than to say that it makes no sense, frankly, [SPOILER ALERT!] that Ali Larter was able to survive from movie 1 to movie 2 by being in a padded room. If Death can, through a series of Rube Goldbergian contraptions, kill that one teacher as she moved by (ultimately) lighting her on fire and then also stabbing her (Death being a bit of a drama queen prone to overkill, apparently)(Ha! Overkill! Get it? Pun intended), if Death can do that, why couldn't Death just collapse the roof of the asylum and crush Ali Larter?

Plus, did nobody else die during the time that Death was going back and killing those students from the plane? Or did other people die and Death was just putting in overtime to get the students and teacher?

So you can see my problems with that movie. That and they're just not scary. They're not, in my opinion, horror movies. They're more like torture porn movies, along the lines of Saw or Hostel. That's how I break out my supposedly-scary movies:

Torture Porn: Where the killer uses contraptions or just torments the kids, by, say, putting them in a house full of booby traps, or makes them repeatedly listen to Miley Cyrus songs or something.

Slasher Films: Any movie in which a regular human guy, or a regular human guy who happened to be dead at one point and came back but doesn't have any special macabre powers beyond being dead/walking really slowly, tries to kill people using regular human tools that you'd find laying around anyone's house, like a knife or chainsaw or scythe or a giant grinding machine of the kind that exists only in movies, and exists solely for the purpose of having the Slasher try to stuff the cute-but-nerdy girl into it, only to himself get stuffed into it.

Horror Films: Horror films, real horror films, have to have more than booby traps, viruses, and dead guys getting ground up. They've got to have a demon or a giant spider or ghosts or... something. Something supernatural. Even if it's just Michael Keaton listening to static and being scared by it, or Winona Ryder letting the devil take the wheel for a spin around town before the end of the world, if there's not something that can zap you, haunt your dreams, walk through walls or bite your head off in one swoop, it's not a horror movie.

That's the message I try to get across to Sweetie, who insists that things like The Strangers are horror movies when they're not. And Sweetie's not the only person who confuses "horror movies" with other types of movies. Even the experts, like these guys, claim some movies are "horror movies" when they're clearly not. ("Seven?" That is not a horror movie. Neither is The Silence of the Lambs.)

So to drive my point home (by putting it on a blog Sweetie rarely reads) I'm going to, for the next series of MiniBests declare which are The Best ACTUAL Horror Movie Monsters, and why.

Number One, The All-Time Best Horror Movie Monster, is a relative unknown, but one of the freakiest, weirdest, scariest movie monsters, ever. It is, or rather they are:

1. Those Freaky Weird Other-Dimensional Monsters From The Mist.

From the moment a guy yells There's something in The Mist until the very end, when giant weirdly-shaped, somehow-skeletal monsters are being dispatched by the Army, The Mist's monsters will freak... you... out. They rank extremely high on all the required categories of great movie monsters: They came out of nowhere. They have some sort of connection with the military. They have weird powers that we can't cope with. They don't look like they correspond to our laws of nature. They're fast.

And, worst of all, they can't be reasoned with. They're seemingly-intelligent animals that are stronger than us, but they don't talk. They just encase you in some kind of cocoon and then eat you, probably from the inside out. Or worse.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Best Vice Presidents (And What They Did That Makes Chuck Norris Look Like A Girl Scout.)

Anyone who knows me knows that I frequently despair over the state of schools and education. This isn't a new thing for me. I'm not one of those people who says when I was a kid, schools were good and we didn't have any of this "whole language" stuff and they taught us arithmetic, not calculators, and we learned math the old fashioned way, by hating it until we remembered it."

Okay, so I do say that, and have even thought about having it tattooed on my bicep, now that I have a bicep thanks to my patented Baby Workout program.*(*note: not actually patented, but I do have "dibs.") But I'm not really kidding myself when I say that, as I also realize that my own education was perhaps less-than-successful, owing in part to my own inability to pay attention and in part to the fact that my chemistry teacher focused primarily on teaching us about blood grooves in arrows.

I've never stopped learning, or loving learning, though, despite Big Education's best efforts, and I've remained concerned that kids today don't get even the partially-adequate education I got.

I think a big part of the problem with education is that there are so few teachers like Mr. Schaeffer, my 9th Grade English teacher who made learning fun and interesting because he loved reading and literature so much that his enthusiasm just bubbled over into his students. There are few teachers like him, or the rare other teachers I had who made learning fun and interesting and related it to our lives some how.

Another big part of the problem is that the media, and government, and society, confuses "celebrity" with "knowledge" or "importance." This happens all the time; it happens everytime someone asks Brad Pitt what he thinks about anything beyond his own life. Who cares what Brad Pitt thinks about New Orleans, architecture, politics, or anything? Not me.

It's not just Brad Pitt, either. All kinds of celebrities -- that should be "celebrities?"-- get into the act, as was shown recently when Battlestar Galatica's Space President Roslin was asked to work with the United Nations to address global issues. The UN, apparently unaware that Space President Roslin (a) cares little for human rights and (b) died upon founding earth millions or billions of years ago, asked her and Whoopi Goldberg to teach the world how to live in peace, or crib an ending from Douglas Adams, or something.

Why are we listening to actors tell us how to get along, and why are students getting worse and worse at education? Because nobody cares enough to try to actually teach students, in a fun and educational way. Students don't know anything about science or math or history or anything these days, and as a result, they'd rather hear what Space President Roslin has to say about stuff, while making up Chuck Norris jokes.

Chuck Norris jokes, I've noticed, are an increasingly big thing, and I'm not sure why. I was never a big fan of Chuck Norris'. In fact, the only thing I've ever liked about Chuck Norris was that line from Dodgeball when Vince Vaughn says "Thank you, Chuck Norris." But kids today idolize Chuck Norris and make up myths and legends about him, myths and legends that The Boy and his friend can recite from memory.

So I put two-and-two together (something kids are increasingly unable to do without help) and decided: If you can't beat 'em, beat 'em harder. (That's my line, and don't you steal it, Chuck Norris.) I decided to help out educators, and societies, by giving some pointers on how to really teach kids, how to connect with them, and I will do that, using the most boring, least inspiring subject around: US Vice Presidents.

Without further ado, here are

The Best Vice Presidents (And What They Did That Makes Chuck Norris Look Like A Girl Scout.)

Plus, as an added bonus, I've thrown in an inspiring quote that can somehow be related to science fiction -- so that the general public might stop listening to Space President Roslin and start listening to... people who actually have accomplished something in life.

And, just to make things more difficult for me and thus prove something-or-other about something or other, I've picked out Vice Presidents with uncool names. Let's go!

1. Elbridge Gerry. Elbridge (there's a name you don't hear a lot, anymore, but maybe this blog will start a craze and all the kids'll be named Elbridge in coming months) was the fifth Vice President, and the first VP who didn't then run for president. That might mark him as a loser, a man who didn't want to try to be number one but was content as a runner up, but you're judging too quickly; he died in office. So it's not really a big deal that he was the "first VP not to run for president," since he never had a chance to do so. Also, back then, everyone was the first at something. It's easy to be first this-or-that when you've just started keeping track.

What'd Elbridge Gerry Do That Would Make Chuck Norris Say "Uncle?" Elbridge, at the ripe old age of 42, married hottie (presumed) Ann Thompson, who was not only wealthy but also was 21 years younger than him, making him the only guy at the Constitutional Convention with a trophy wife. How hot was she? She had to be pretty hot, because she and Elbridge together ended up having ten kids. Sadly, I couldn't find a picture of Ann, but I assume she looked like this:

Not good enough for you? How about this? In the early days of the Revolutionary War, Gerry and the other Founders were in session at the Continental Congress when British troops approached. While the other important people fled (Continental Congresses being forbidden), Gerry and one other man remained behind in their house, ignoring the British troops, who at one point marched right up to Gerry's house.

True, at that point, Gerry fled in his pajamas and hid in a cornfield for an hour and a half, but up until that moment, he was superbrave.

Did Gerry Ever Say Anything That Could Potentially Apply To A Human-Cylon Conflict, thereby qualifying him to comment on the issues of the day? Sure: Gerry and Space-President Roslin were two peas in a pod when it came to their views on the Power of the People. Here's what Gerry had to say about democracy (which he helped found, remember):

The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.

How doesn't that translate into a Cylon war? An excess of democracy is the root of all evil! And Cylons are evil! Let's get Gerry to the next UN convention. He can sit next to Brad Pitt.

2. Schuyler Colfax: Was there ever a name more designed to get a kid beaten up? Maybe kids were more tolerant back in the 1820s, when Colfax was born. I hope not, because I like to think of some bully-loser sitting around, reading his yellowish newspaper with tiny printing, on the day Colfax got inaugurated as Vice President, and saying to himself "Colfax? I used to beat that nerd up and take his coal money."

Colfax got elected vice president despite his name, and was part of the youngest team of President/VP in history, being surpassed only by Clinton/Gore in the 1990s. Schuyler's career saw him move from being a Whig to a "Know-Nothing" to a Republican, with each step representing a step down the intellectual ladder.

Could Schuyler Colfax have made Chuck Norris cry real tears? Most definitely, and he'd have done it debatin' style. One newspaper reported of his debating skills:

"Mr. Colfax took an active part in the debate, giving and receiving hard blows with all the skill of an old gladiator."

I choose to assume that they were actually boxing. It doesn't, after all, say they were not.

On the off-chance that you are not entertained by the idea of a VP boxing his rivals, I will point out, too, that "Smiler" Colfax (as he was nicknamed) was the genesis of all those stories about how far people walked back in the way olden days (before 2002), as he once had to change trains, and to do so was required to walk three-quarters of a mile outside when the tempertare was -30˚F. He did it without complaining.

And then he died, five minutes later.

What would Colfax have thought about the Human/Cylon War? That's not hard to know. Apparently, Colfax only said one quotable thing in his entire life, and this is it:

“These martyrs of patriotism gave their lives for an idea.”

Luckily, that's a quote that fits perfectly with the Cylon war. The idea the Battlestar martyrs were fighting for was, most likely, the idea that sex with hot cyborgs is okay, but at least they died for something, and Colfax would have approved of that.

3. Hannibal Hamlin: Everyone remembers Lincoln, just because he had that stovepipe hat and won the Civil War (almost) and got shot, but who remembers his vice president, Hannibal Hamlin? Just me, and probably his descendants, it seems, but that's about to change with this blog post. Blog posts can change the world, I tell you!

Would Hannibal Hamlin Beat Chuck Norris In A Fight? I'd bet on Hamlin. Hamlin was born in Maine, which was like the Texas of the original colonies, in that it was out-of-the-way, inhospitable, and possibly part of a different country. That pedigree alone matches Chuck Norris', and it's likely that Hamlin knew whether or not his state was a part of the United States (unlike Chuck, who's a little unclear on that stuff.) Not only was Hamlin smarter, but he also fought in a war, the Aroostook War, fought by Great Britain and the US over what should be the actual border between Maine and Canada. (It was called a "bloodless war" because after realizing that nobody cared, both sides went home without any actual fighting.) Hamlin later died playing cards. Details aren't readily available on how that happened, so I've reconstructed events a little here:

Scene: A tavern in Maine that happens to look like an old-time saloon in Texas. A couple of guys are sitting around a table drinking Maine Sarsaparilla and playing Maine Hold 'Em. One of them is Hannibal Hamlin. Suddenly, in comes a guy in a bushy, kind-of-lame beard wearing jeans and a cowboy hat. Nobody knows what a cowboy is, though.

The Bearded Guy mumbles something about being a "Texas Ranger," and Hamlin leaps to his feet.

"A foreigner!
" he yells. "Forsooth! [or whatever they said in the 1880s in Maine. Maybe, "Lobster!"]. "We must be getting invaded again! The borders must be protected!" Hamlin then tears open the thick wool suit everyone wore all the time in those days, even in bed, and underneath reveals a kick-ass karate suit, made of armor or something. The two have a karate fight, and the bearded guy is beaten, running out with his head hung low in shame. Hannibal turns around, brushes his hands off, and says "Lobsters! That was easy. Now, where were we?"

However, during the distraction, a British double agent at the table took the opportunity to load his musket and has it pointed at Hamlin. "For British Columbia's Borders!" he yells, and shoots Hamlin.

I'm pretty sure that's exactly how it went down.

What Would Hamlin Have Said If He Was Vice President Of A Ragtag Fleet Of Ships Trying To Find Earth? It's hard to say; search as I might (and I spent nearly 30 seconds on it) I couldn't find a single quote from Hannibal Hamlin. But I did find whole pages of quotes from Space-President Roslin, and I thought I'd include them to show you just why her character is such a fountain of wisdom:

Here's the first, said in a debate with a woman known as "Admiral Cain."

"The spirit of the law requires something more here than summary executions."

And here's the second, said to her military commander, about Admiral Cain:

I'm afraid this can only end one way... You've got to kill her.

4. Spiro Agnew. No wrap up of VPs would be complete without my own personal favorite VP ever, Spiro Agnew, the man who tried, resolutely, to bring back old-timey (meaning: funny) names to political office.

Spiro v. Chuck: Who wins? Spiro. Most people think of Spiro Agnew and say... Who? Or they remember that he resigned in scandal and was convicted of bribery. But people forget that years before he took bribes while serving in the second highest office, Spiro manned a tank company in World War II, receiving a bronze star for valor. And that wasn't the only war he fought in -- he was called up for Korea, too, and went to fight there, losing his income and his home while doing so.

Spiro was also taunted so badly by kids growing up that he briefly changed his name to "Ted." If only he'd stuck with that... you can't see a "Ted" getting into trouble and resigning in disgrace, can you? About the worst thing a "Ted" could ever do is maybe get angry that the convenience store raised the price of coffee and boycott it for a week, to make a point. Then he'd go back to the store, though, because it really is convenient.

What'd Spiro Say That Might Help Inspire A Generation Of People, Even Though He's Not On TV Fighting Aliens And Therefore Shouldn't Probably Be Listened To? Spiro was a fount of quotes that are well-known -- the "nattering nabobs of negativism" probably chief among them, but I'm concerned here with quotes that help us understand Human/Cylon relations - - you know, the important things. Here's one of those:

“They have formed their own 4-H club - the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”

Take that, you people who think that fighting Cylons is useless. You're in your own 4-H club. That'll show you.

Spiro, um, also said this, though:

"Three things have been difficult to tame: the oceans, fools and women. We may soon be able to tame the oceans; fools and women will take a little longer.”

I doubt he was very popular with Mrs. Spiro.

I tried to find a picture of Mrs. Spiro, but couldn't. I assume she looked like this:

Monday, August 24, 2009

A reader agrees with me! (The Best Soda, Reader Nomination!)

Not everything on here is superheroes and comic books, you know, and readers who browse around will likely find that I've at some point or another mentioned something that you know and love. Readers like Anonymous, who, the other day, came across my post The Best Soda Ever, and who did the smartest thing anyone can do: he agreed with me. He said, about Stewart's Orange & Cream Soda:

So True. I just got one about 10 minutes ago. It's like drinking heaven.

And he's right. I'm right. He's right about me being right... I'm getting confused, which is easy for me to do.

Like stuff? You know you do: Let me know what it is and you'll see your nomination moved from a mere comment to an actual post! And you might get a free t-shirt or book out of it.

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing. (The Best Comic Book Characters I'm Pretty Sure Only I Remember, 6)

It's a MiniBest!

I may not get many more of these in before the month ends. I don't write these "minibests" on any sort of schedule, really, and any suggestion that there's reason to my rhyme will be adamantly rejected by me. Instead, whenever I think of a comic book character out of the blue, I try to let you, my readers, know about that person, freeing them from my own mind and putting them into yours, an especially necessary endeavor since it appears that there are, in fact, quite a few comic book characters who are disappearing into obscurity, who reside only in my memory anymore, characters like...


Character: Grooella.

What Was The Deal With Grooella: Groo was (is?) the brainchild of Sergio Aragones, who rose to fame (?) doing mostly those little drawings in the margins of Mad Magazine. They were little cartoons, simply drawn, that appeared outside the boundaries of the regular features. They looked like this:

Eventually, Sergio got his own comic book, Groo The Wanderer, about a dim-witted barbarian who traveled around the country, followed by a minstrel who sang funny songs about him, and who had dim-witted but funny adventures that involved, for some reason, repeated references to bowls of cheese dip.

Grooella was Groo's sister. Or, to quote from what appears to be the official Groo site:

Groo's elder sister, she first appeared in issue 18, as a queen! She holds little resemblence to her infamous sibling, other than physically. And that the Groo family luck seems to run strong in her, too. Her hair is quite a mess these days, although it used to be so nice when she was just a Li'l Grooella.

Grooella was a queen, who avoided Groo and who didn't want any of his poverty, bad luck, or cheese dip, but who kept being a victim of Groo's innocent blunders, anyway.

Why I Remember Her: I don't really have any clue why, on the drive into work this morning, I suddenly thought this: I wonder if Groo is still being published? (No, it's not.) Then I thought: I wonder if Grooella was actually Groo in disguise, or if I remember it correctly that Groo had a sister. (No, and yes.)

I did remember, too, that Grooella got her hair from some kind of childhood accident caused by Groo.

My mind is an amazing thing.

Level of Pointlessness Of This Entry: Very, very high. Especially when you consider that I was only in the office like, 3 days last week and I am way behind, and that despite that, I am sitting here, typing this, and trying to remember what the exact plot of the issue was in which Grooella, I'm pretty sure, had Groo help her invade a castle.

I think there was a twist at the end and he ended up invading Grooella's castle. I'll have to work on remembering that a little more. Hold all my calls!

Read other MiniBests.

I also think about SpongeBob now and then.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Best Foods That Should Be Made Into Movies In Which One Actor Plays All The Parts

It's a SemiDaily list!

Like Aladdin, I like to stay one step ahead of the competition (and I do a pretty good job of staying at least 6 days ahead of what others are thinking.) And the "competition" in entertainment nowadays is (a) people making movies inspired by really ridiculous things, and (b) movies about food, and (c) actors proving they are jerks and ruining movies by playing multiple roles in them, and (d) complaining about "summer movies" while writing "summer movies."

On that last one: A week or two ago, "Diablo Cody" made a couple of supposedly-hip/retro throwaway references to the 80s ( drink one) en route to saying most summer movies were a waste of time. Now, she's got a horror movie coming out on September 18th, which according to astronomers (but not me) is still a part of summer. So I was confused. I guess, for her purposes, it's not a "summer movie" for some reason, because if it was a summer movie, then "Diablo Cody" would be trying to convince you not to see it.

Or maybe it's that "Diablo Cody's" summer movie is totally different than other summer movies. After all, her movie is a horror movie, which is totally different than all the summer movies of the past three years. Except for "The Strangers" and "Mirrors" and "The Happening" and "Drag Me To Hell" and "H2" and "Final Destination 3D" and "Bug" and "Hostel Part II" and "Rob Zombie's Halloween," all of which got released in the summer (of 2007, 2008 and 2009).

Hmmm. I guess what "Diablo Cody" is trying to say is that all summer movies are crappy, except that if it's a movie about a high schooler who's some kind of demon and it gets released on September 18, well, that's totally cool and Popsicle-rific and not at all like all those summer movies that she hates.

Or, to put it in Diablo Cody Speak: "Hey, remember "Diff'rent Strokes? Wasn't that totally retro that I said that? Todd Bridges! Before you spaz-a-matic on me, remember to watch all my movies. All two of them. Plus that stupid show I keep plugging."

Anyway, the competition for movie entertainment is fierce these days, as entertainment executives plan movies based on Legos, and as people begin hyping the latest hot trend, movies with some kind of food in them. There is also, as I said, the constant undercurrent of "Actors Who Wreck Movies By Egotistically Playing More Than One Role In Them," the latest installment of which will be, apparently, a whole 'nother version of "A Christmas Carol" this time starring Jim Carrey (is he still a thing?) in multiple roles.

Why do directors and actors do that? Is there a shortage of actors and actresses that has been downplayed in the press for fear of sparking a panic? Is there some need to have performances become less engaging and less believable in the movies, like maybe because if the actors gave good, believable performances we'd all give up on our own families and friends and just sit in the theater trying to interact with the images on the screen?

Having an actor play more than one role in the movie -- even if that role is twins -- is stupid. It's a trick that has no cinematic or storytelling purpose other than to say "Look what I can do!" But in a world where we can have Stop Motion action figures on TV 5 times a week and computers can make it seem like everything in the world has blown up, do we need to know that Jim Carrey can stand in front of a green screen, hold up a cup and say "God Bless Us..." and then they can turn off the cameras quick and Jim Carrey can switch positions and go stand on the right side of the screen, raise his hand, and say "Every..." and then they can turn off the cameras again and he can go back to the other side and say "One!" after which we'll all file out of the theater thinking "Isn't there some other story about Christmas that could be told?"

So having one actor play multiple parts is stupid. And movies "based on" inanimate objects like Legos are stupid. And movies about food, many many of which will be made in the next few months because there has now been one good movie about food, which Hollywood executives will take as a sign that "People want to see movies about food!", movies about food are stupid, too.

All of which means nothing, as Hollywood is stupid, too, as I've learned (and mentioned before.) I'm not even trying to fight it anymore. I'm just trying to cash in, and cash in I will, with The Best Foods That Should Be Made Into Movies In Which One Actor Plays All The Parts.

By the way, every one of these will be released in the summer.

By the way-er, I've decided to throw into each an homage to the Greatest Screenwriter of Our Generation. See if you can catch it!

1. Cadbury Creme Eggs.

The Movie's Plot: The movie opens on a shopping mall in which shoppers mill about somewhat aimlessly and drudgically. (It's a word!) The outfits are nondescript mixtures of 1930s/1950s/modern. The world, we learn, is mired in an economic and political slump, a slump so bad that people have forgotten how to smile and laugh, and, equally as bad, one that has somehow stopped the changing of the seasons, trapping the world in a kind of forever-not-one-season-or-the-other gray era that the people who live in it have taken to calling "Glum." No snow, no sun, no rain... just tedium and sometimes a sort-of-precipitation that resembles leftover egg rolls. All is tedium until a local baker (Jason Priestley) creates a new kind of candy, a chocolate egg with "real-looking" egg nougat in it. Jason makes this candy simply as a treat for his daughter (also Jason Priestley) who loves eggs. (Just go with it, okay?). But to his surprise, when she bites into it, she not only smiles again, but where she goes, grass blooms and flowers appear. Jason begins making more of the eggs and handing them out to people, and the effect begins to spread. That's when Jason learns that Glum has been the secret plan of a cabal of industrialists (all played by Jason Priestley) who have used the resultant malaise to peddle their mediocre TV shows and movies and books, and with the spread of happiness and joy and neat candy and weather, nobody wants to buy their stuff or sit in their houses gloomily staring at TVs anymore: they want to get outside and do stuff as the first spring in decades begins to arrive.

Will small town baker Jason Priestley (and his sideburns) be able to stand up against their machinations and return the world to the kind of quality entertainment they want... and smiles?

The Pitch: Willy Wonka in The Greatest Story Ever Told.

The movie tagline: This Summer, Break Open A Little Smile.

2. Hot Pockets.

The Movie's Plot: Jim (Jim Gaffigan, for obvious reasons) has been down on his luck lately. One day he finds out that developers (Jim Gaffigan) are tearing down his apartment building in Las Vegas to build a new "Las Vegas" themed casino (It'll be a miniature version of Las Vegas and have miniature versions of all the other casinos in it, including a miniature version of New York New York...). That same day, he loses his job at the clothing company where he worked when his boss (Jim Gaffigan) took credit for a project Jim had developed, making it appear as though Jim (the worker) had been doing nothing for years. At least he's got his girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston, in a cameo) to cling to -- but when she dumps him, Jim does the only thing he can do: He steals the pair of pants he developed and goes out for one last night on the town before moving back home to his parent's house, where he plays second fiddle to his stepmother's unexplained love of her dachsunds.

But when he heads out that night, he discovers something about his new/stolen pants: whatever he needs at the moment is right in the pocket, something Jim realizes when he's walking down the street and gets hungry -- only to pull a Dougnut Ham Hamburger out of his pocket (followed by a large soda.) Before long, Jim is off on a hijinks-filled night, pulling roses, magic dice and more from his Hot Pockets (get it?) to score big at the roulette tables and impress the visiting starlet at the next seat. Will Jim's Hot Pockets make him happy? Or will he realize that real happiness comes from deeper within him?

The Pitch: If you liked "The Hangover," and like Hot Pockets, this movie will hit you dead center.

The Tagline: This summer, Jim Has The Whole World In His Pockets... But, Yes, He's Also Happy To See You.

3. Ben & Jerry's Wavy Gravy Ice Cream.

The Movie Plot: A couple of Generation Xers (Gerard Butler; one of him has a shaved head, the other has long hair. Amazing!) sit around their offices reflecting on how they've duped Baby Boomers into buying their ice cream by marketing it as a throwback to the crazy sixties, and how overrated the Sixties really were, and how dumb Baby Boomers are for thinking the Sixties were great even though they didn't have things like hamburger phones. To their surprise, though, as they're driving home their totally-21st-century car to their totally-21st-century homes, they get engulfed in a crazy kind of fog and get lost... only to end up driving into the Sixties! After almost hitting Wavy Gravy (Gerard Butler, now aged! Awesome!), they let him hitch a ride with them to (you guessed it) Woodstock, where they take part in the most glorious three days humanity has ever lived through, three days that had more of an impact on the world than Christianity, World War II and penicillin combined. One of the Gerards, after being invited backstage by Jimi Hendrix (played by Gerard Butler -- it's phenomenal) is inspired by the best music ever recorded, music that is clearly heads and shoulders over all other music ever made by humanity combined, to give up his career in ice cream billionairism, while the other Gerard falls in love with a hippie girl (Gerard Butler again! Wacky!) who makes him promise to give up materialism.

Soon, though, the two Gerards must go back to the present, where their sadness over the loss of that carefree time is tempered by their realization that they can still embody those values they learned from Wavy and the others -- and they do: from then on, the guys show their love and philanthropy and carry the torch for their generation by at their discretion donating up to 7.5% maximum of their pre-tax profits, and by creating a kick-ass CD of sixties' music to sell at their retail locations.

The pitch:
This thing sells itself. Plus, we could have like forty different soundtracks.

The tagline: One summer, the Sixties changed the world. This summer, they'll do it again!

4. Hamburgers.

The Movie Plot: Did you know there's controversy over who invented the hamburger, and when? It's true! And that's exactly what Maxine (Megan Fox, in a totally-girl-empowering role) learns when she struggles to find a way to improve the fortunes of the burger joint started by her great-grandmother (Megan Fox, in flashbacks) when she first emigrated to little Seymour, Wisconsin, from Hamburg, Germany. Maxine decides that she's going to prove her grandmother invented the hamburger and draw attention to her proof by making the world's largest hamburger and setting a new world record. But Maxine struggles to do this on her own, with flop after flop, and so she must, one at a time, bring in others: her fiance (Megan Fox), the town's crazy psychic lady (Megan Fox) and eventually the World's Record Certifier herself (Megan Fox) -- who reveals that she's only helping because she's fallen in love with Megan, leading to the first-ever onscreen girl-kissing-herself- scene. Top that, Hollywood! Oh, and lessons are learned and people are quirky and stuff.

The Pitch: Did you hear me? Megan Fox Kisses Megan Fox!

The Tagline: This Summer, Maxine Likes 'Em Big

Read more Lists!

Here's a real Christmas movie for you. The Best One, in fact.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Welcome another TBOE reader.

Do you suppose that reader/Newsweek writer Mark Hosenball was my 200,000 visitor? After all, I wrote on August 6 about how overrated Woodstock was, then on August 11 or 12 I got my 200,000 hit, then just today, Mark Hosenball posted an article...

... On Newsweek

... about how overrated Woodstock was.

Welcome to the evergrowing ranks of my readers, Mark Hosenball!

P.S. If you were the 200,000 hit, you're entitled to a copy of one of my books. Even if you are a baby boomer.

UPDATE: I got this email from Mr. Hosenball the day after my article appeared:

sorry, but i wasn't even aware of your blog's existence until now, when someone called my attention to your link to my newsweek story about woodstock. so i didn't copy your idea. anyway, i suppose this is just more evidence that great minds think alike.

rgds. mh

I appreciate his explanation. I feel compelled to note that at no point did I accuse Mr. Hosenball of copying my idea; the idea(s) that Woodstock wasn't all that great and that we only keep hearing about the stupid thing because Baby Boomers will simply pay lots of money to anyone who helps them keep remembering their supposedly-inspiring past is not (like the Baby Boomers' creative output itself) particularly new or creative.

What I did say is that I wrote it first and was right.

Click here to see who else reads TBOE.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ooh, la la! (The Best Comic Book Characters I'm Pretty Sure Only I Recall, 5)

It's a MiniBest!

I wonder if anyone will guess, before I get to it, why I remember entry number 5 on this list?

Entry number 5 is Cracked Investigative Reporter Nanny Dickering.

Character: Nanny Dickering.

What Was The Deal With Nanny Dickering? She was an investigative reporter who appeared each month in Cracked magazine back when Cracked was a magazine that I'd buy at the Piggly Wiggly on Main Street in Hartland. The one next to the Hopkins Savings & Loan. All three are no longer with us. Each month, Nanny would interview the "King" of something that was kind of timely or about which someone could make jokes. Sort of like this blog, now that I think about it. So apparently Nanny Dickering had an impact on me in more ways than the obvious.

Why I Remember Her: Not hard to figure out. I was buying Cracked magazine when I was 12 or so. That was before the Internet, before DVD players, before cable TV and Dish networks. Cracked was porn, back then. At least, Nanny Dickering was. Porn that 12 year olds could buy, because Mom disapproved in general of the magazine, but thought of it as just a humor magazine -- she never read through to the last article, Nanny's part.

Given that the last post admitted there was no real point to the whole entry on Syzygy Darklock, is there any point to this post? Not at all. Except maybe to point out that for a long time I thought it was Nancy Dickerson, but it wasn't. I could remember Nanny perfectly, except for her name. Everything else was engraved in my memory, except her name.

Other than to make you, nearly 3 decades later, search for "Nanny Dickering" only you searched for Nancy Dickerson, misremembering the name, until today when for some reason you recalled her real name, did Nanny Dickering have any other lasting effect on you? Hard to say. I don't think so. After all, once I moved on from Cracked magazine, I developed other crushes on other women in pop culture, like on

Samantha Fox


Sarah Michelle Gellar


Lucy Lawless

So, no, I'd say, reading Nanny Dickering in Cracked as a kid had little to no longlasting effect on me whatsoever.

Ever want to strap on some rocket skates? No? What's the matter with you, are you sane or something?

I, in general, am a pretty passive TV watcher. I watch and I laugh or chuckle but rarely do more than that. Sometimes I'll look over at Sweetie or anyone else watching and share the moment with him.

But not everybody in my house is that way. Mr F, in particular, gets really excited by some stuff. We'll be watching a movie or TV show and he'll suddenly laugh so hard he has to get up and run over to his trampoline and start jumping.

Mr Bunches is more like me-- but he talks back to the TV, telling it things like No, no, no, or No don't or Ceranal.

Then there's The Boy. He has the most physical reactions of all. He jumps up, or sits down hard, or crosses his arms, or waves his hands around, or shakes his head. It's like watching an aerobics routine -- albeit an aerobics routine done in a sullen manner.

I bring this up because I broke my own behavioral mold today, thanks to something I guess is called the the truTV effect.

The truTV effect is hard to describe. It's all of these:

It's, I guess, that gut reaction that makes you shake your head or jerk your shoulders or otherwise react viscerally to what you're seeing, and it's cool.

Take the truTV show "Man Vs. Cartoon." That's a show where they recreate things that happened in cartoons. (That's kind of a personal dream of mine.) I found out about this show, and I watch it all the time now, and I can't sit still when I'm watching it. I see them trying rocket powered roller skates or spring-loaded steel plates, or other awesome cartoon tricks, and I have to run and get Sweetie, or shake my head ruefully, or just lean forward and hold my breath and think I can't believe they're actually going to do this. It's the best possible way to spend a Saturday night, and it leaves me feeling a little breathless (and a lot glad I didn't do those things.)

They say all the time on truTV that you oughta watch with caution, and they're right, because the stuff looks incredible, or painful, or incredible and painful, but mostly because everything they show is real and real amazing. Don't take it from me; take it from "World's Wildest Vacation Videos," which is where that guy gets bit on the mouth by a shark.

Check out more
truTV video for yourself, here and on truTV -- but be prepared for your own reaction.


The Best Movie Weapons (And How I'd Use Them In Real Life)

When, from time to time, I get a little down or frustrated or bitter -- as I do every now and again, as I suppose we all do, especially when we realize that in a fit of hopefulness while our father-in-law was visiting last week, we talked our wife into joining one of those warehouse stores, at a cost of $105, but now, in the cold clear light of Tuesday, we've realized that really the savings aren't all that good, and we've realized, too, that 32 pouches of microwave popcorn is a lot of popcorn, when I get a little down about stuff like that, I like to cheer myself back up by thinking this:

Sure, that's annoying, but at least I've got the kind of life where I can spend Tuesday night buying an excessive amount of popcorn, playing with my kids, and then pondering just what movie weapons might make my life even better than it is.

Not many people have that kind of luxury, in this world, the kind of luxury that lets them sit in a house that is chock full o' popcorn and dream about movie props, and not just about movie weapons but how I'd use them in my life. So let's get on with it:

1. The lightsaber. If you're over 30, and male, there is only one obvious choice for number 1 Best Movie Weapon anywhere. (And if you're under 30, I don't care what you think, because you never experienced Star Wars first hand, so go wear flannel or mope or whatever it is young people do.)

Han Solo be damned: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are the stuff of which dreams are made for guys my age; we want an elegant weapon for a more elegant time, or whatever the actual quote is. We want to thumb a button and hear that swerkwarcsh and then wave the saber around and hear it buzz and rumble in the air.

But.. then what? I mean, yeah, it's cool and all, but after the first few minutes of slicing through the couch and shaving the cats and all, what're you going to do then, leave the lightsaber in the closet, alongside the bagpipes Sweetie bought you and the telescope that used to be there until you sold it at a rummage sale and the racquetball racquet?

Doesn't it seem kind of silly to say "racquetball racquet?" It's too much racquet, which is a hard word to type, too -- my fingers don't want to put that c in front of the q. Probably 'cause it's kind of a French word.

Anyway, I know what I would do with the lightsaber, which is good because it means that even though stormtroopers and gundarks are in short supply in Wisconsin, I'd have a use for one if someone gives it to me (hint, hint, Sweetie). And what I'd do with it is:

Trim the grass and hedges.

Seriously. Every single year we have to buy a new weed trimmer, because those have a half-life of about 30 seconds in my hands. One year, I burnt out the engine on one trying to trim the grass near a Yucca plant. Another year I wrecked one trying to whack down weeds near some rocks in the yard. This year's model flung the weed-guard off at me and nearly de-ankled me.

And our hedge trimmer has blades that are too dull to cut the branches of the evergreens and lilacs -- but sharp enough to hack right into the extension cord and nearly electrocute me.

A lightsaber would solve all those problems. No extension cord, no motors, no moving parts. Just thumb the switch, swerkwarcsh, and I'm getting rid of those clumps of grass that grow between the bricks in the path. I can stab it in between the rocks, I can slice down a whole row of lilacs if I want. It'd be perfect.

2. The Terminator: Number two, in terms of sheer usefulness, has to be the original Terminator. Forget the later Terminators -- they all had the fatal flaw of being machines that wanted to kill humans and couldn't learn to love. But the original Terminator wasn't just a cold-hearted machine that existed only to kill. No, Original Terminator (T-1000?) could be programmed to love people (proving the Geekologie writer's fears to be unfounded, at least in part.) And that makes it a great weapon -- and one that is useful in my life, too. Here's how:

I'm not good at discipline. I mean to be good at discipline, and I used to be good at discipline, but I no longer am. There was a time in my life when seeing the ketchup sitting on its side, on the wrong shelf, in the refrigerator, would have set me off on a tirade of lectures and threats and punishments and extra chores. But I've grown softer over the years. Mr F and Mr Bunches have been responsible for most of it, but I've eased up on the older kids, too. The Boy is supposed to be doing extra homework this summer for getting bad grades to finish up last school year -- but sometimes, his homework is blogging about movies he likes. Even he said it's easy.

The Original Terminator, then, could stand in for me. When I go to cook dinner and I open up the cupboard to realize that every single pan and dish and bowl and, improbably, the cups, too, have been stacked into one unwieldy pile on one side of the cabinet and they all come spilling out and I know I should make The Boy or Middle or someone do something about it, but I just sigh and pick it up and go back to making pizza, then Original Terminator could step in and have Original Terminator discipline them for me.

"Original Terminator," I'd say, and send him off on his mission of vengeance, so that he could, say, teleport back in time and dress himself in all that leather and kick in our kitchen door as The Boy is mis-loading the dishes in the dishwasher or not putting the couch cushions back on correctly, and he could fire a few warning shots -- they'd be warning shots because Original Terminator loved humans -- from his shotgun over The Boy's head and say something cool like "Pick up your shoes from the front hall, or I'll BE BACK," and then disappear.

Endlessly useful.

3. That ghost trapping thing from Ghostbusters. I can't for the life of me remember what it was called, but we all know what it was: The backpack that captured ghosts and shot them into a tiny box, and if you crossed the streams you'd... well, you'd restore normalcy to the world, as it turns out, wouldn't you? They said something bad would happen but when they did it, the entire world turned right again.

The Ghost Trapping Thing wouldn't just be useful in movies where there are ghosts and weird naked ladies strutting around; it would be useful in my life, too, namely, for picking up after the Babies!

We buy the Babies! toys. We buy them lots of toys. And movies. And books. And more toys. But the Babies! don't play with any of those things. They tear the pages out of books and throw them at each other, and the cats. They read the DVD covers, and walk around carrying the DVDs. And they play with dust mops, refrigerator magnets, chairs, the computer keyboard, anything they can get their hands on, provided what they can get their hands on is not a toy.

That means that we're constantly picking up after the Babies!, a task that is more futile than it sounds because not only will they make a mess again in 10 minutes, but that mess is as likely to be a mess made of a cereal box, and old battery, one shoe that I no longer wear, and three hickory nuts taken in from the back yard. So I find myself picking up trash, over and over. Or worse, like tonight when Mr F decided it would be amusing to try to stand in the cats' water dish, only to realize he couldn't, and stumble, spilling the water all over and only nanoseconds later, spilling the cat food all over, all of which made a horrendous mess in the kitchen, a mess I had to alternate between sweeping and mopping, trying to mop up the water that was brownishly spreading over the kitchen floor (turning green when it hit the marker-drawn picture that Mr Bunches had helpfully thrown into it) while also trying to sweep up the cat food before more water got into it, making more brown mess, all of which delayed our first- and last-ever trip to the warehouse store to buy 32 pouches of popcorn and then realize that we didn't really need that much.

With the Ghostbuster pack, though, I wouldn't even worry about it. Just flick the switch, point that gun thing, and faster than you can say SHRZZZZZOOOOPP (the sound they made), the mess is sucked into the beam and then directed over to the little box, which is then shut and put away.

Tell me your Roomba is better than that.

4. Those flying saucer things from The Incredibles. Maybe scientists need to get out of their ivory towers and watch some movies once in a while. That's what I think everytime I watch The Incredibles, which I do a lot because sometimes it's the only way to keep the Babies! out of the cat dishes.

If scientists watched The Incredibles, and other movies (like those on this list) they'd quit doing useless things like pretending velociraptors actually existed or making flu vaccines, and instead get around to inventing personal flying saucers like the ones the bad guys had in The Incredibles.

Have you seen these things? They're awesome. One man deals, they fly up, down, forward, backward, and in any direction you'd want, plus their whirling edges cut down any trees that happen to get in your way.

I know what you're thinking: You'd want that to avoid your daily commute, right? But you're wrong. I'm sure that'd come in handy, but that's not why I want it.

I'd want it just to tool around in.

5. The Bubble Tower With The Fan From Willy Wonka's Factory: I'll just say it: I'm not big on houseguests. I don't like people coming over and I really don't like pop-in visitors. But how can I just out and say that? I can't. I should be able to, because it seems wrong that I am considered rude for telling you I don't want you to just drop in whenever you feel like it, but you are not considered rude for just dropping in whenever you feel like it. Who came up with that rule?

The Bubble Tower With Fan gets around all that society and manners and socializing and friends junk. If I had the Bubble Tower With Fan, and you popped in at a time I didn't want visitors (which is, again, pretty much all the time), I'd welcome you in, take your coat, and offer you something to drink, and then I'd say:

"Come on, make yourself at home. Here. Enjoy my bubble tower with fan, while I go get you that beer."

Then I'd hang out long enough to make sure that you took a few bubbles and floated up to the ceiling and were nearly chopped up and then hiccoughed your way back down to safety (I'd ensure that by putting a sign near the top and saying If you can read this, start burping!) and then I'd meet you at the bottom, and give you a disapproving stare, and you'd feel so guilty that you'd just head out anyway -- and I would have nicely turned the societal tables on you, because it was you who broke social courtesies, not me.

And I'd make you give back the everlasting gobstopper.

But I might let you take some microwave popcorn with you. Does that stuff go bad? I don't know where to put it all.

Monday, August 10, 2009

If I had great powers, you can bet I'd use them ALL THE TIME. (The Best Comic Book Characters I'm Pretty Sure Only I Remember, 4)

It's a MiniBest!

People who say that comics are a waste of time ought to read this post, because I will prove that you can learn stuff through comic books, stuff that is useful, so long as by "useful" you mean stuff that you will use exactly three times in your life, and one of those times will be when watching the animated movie Hercules.

The stuff I learned from comic books is this: I learned what a syzygy is.

A syzygy occurs, as I have known for a long time now, when all the planets line up in a row, something that occurs only rarely -- every 6.9 x 1018 years, if you mean that the planets will all be in a straight line out from the sun, but not on the same plane. If you want the planets to all be in a line and on the same plane as each other, that'll only occur every 8.6 x 1046 years, or every



Having posted that, I will now expect someone to begin a syzygy countdown clock. We might as well start it today, but make sure to mark off 14 billion years, because that's how long the universe has been around, according to Paul Simon.

As an aside -- there is, so far as I can tell, no syzygy clock yet, according to this authoritative listing of all the clocks on the Internet.

It's a good thing a syzygy happens only rarely, given that on the day that a syzygy occurs, that day marks the day that Hades is going to free the Titans from their cage and there will be a battle of the gods which will only be won by the good gods if Hercules fights on their side.

I know that from the second of three times I've used syzygy in conversation, the second time being when we watched Hercules with the old
er kids, and reached the point of the movie where Hades talks with the Fates and they spell out that plan, at which point I said to the kids "That's a syzygy," and the kids ignored me.

The other two times I used syzygy in conversation were first, in 8th grade science class, when I asked Mr. Magestro if we'd be studying syzygys in that class at all. He didn't know what it was, and so I had to explain (but didn't tell where I'd learned the word), and, second, a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned to one of the secretaries at work that I'd be better off waiting for a syzygy than the copy machine, given how long it was taking for it to finish a job, and then had to explain to her what a syzygy was.

Which is just proof, to me, that you can learn something from comics -- and if everyone had read Dreadstar, like I did, as a kid, then everyone would have known what
a syzygy was because everyone would have known who "Syzygy Darklock" was and everyone would also have gone to look up syzygy to see what that meant.

And, by now you know that Syzygy Darklock is the 4th Best Comic Book Character I'm Pretty Sure Only I Remember, so let's get to it:

Character: Syzygy Darklock.

What was the deal with
Syzygy Darklock? He was, as I recall, a sorceror who roamed around with Dreadstar and had adventures in space, fighting some kind of alien fleet or something. That's all I remember without going and checking any sources -- that and that Syzygy had only half a face, and that he was very powerful.

Because my memories exist but are hazy, I've gone to the trouble of actually researching it a bit, by googling "Syzygy Darklock." That's how I found out Syzygy has a Twitter page, on which he wrote this:

Estoy conjurando un hechizo para abrir un portal dimensional... pero claro, señor Twitter, eso a usted y a sus seguidores poco les importará.

I translated that using Babel Fish, and it works out, in English, to this:

I can't believe that anyone uses this stupid service. If what you have to say can be said in 140 characters or less, why say it? And if what you have to say can also be said by Ashton Kutcher, shouldn't you be slapped?

So that was unhelpful. Luckily, there's another page that has actual information and doesn't make people sound moronic just by saying it's name, and that page says that Syzygy used an "amulet of white light" to get to the part of reality where the gods store their power, and he then died but through magic and cybernetics was restored to life, fulfilling a plan that had his brother dying so that Syzygy could save the galaxy through accumulating more power than anyone else in the galaxy.

I bet, though, that he rarely uses that power. I've noticed before, wizards with awesome amounts of power almost never use it. Someone (me) should write a book that has a character who has awesome amounts of power and uses it. But nobody, including me, ever does that. Wizards with tons of power in books never use their powers to just decimate everyone. I'm looking at you, Gandalf.

Why I Remember Him: I thought it was because of his wrecked face and because the word syzygy is a fun word, but now that I think of it, maybe I remember him for more mystical reasons. I mean, I first used the word in 8th grade science class -- but then forgot it again until watching Hercules, which was about ... a battle between the gods, and Syzygy Darklock got his power from the gods and he's supposed to save the universe...

So what I'm guessing now is that I remember Syzygy Darklock because the stuff about the Gods and Hercules and him is all true, and I'm about to be swept up in an adventure to save the galaxy, just like that guy in The Last Starfighter, a movie I never saw, but which I read the book of back when 90% of my reading was novelizations of movies I'd never seen. I hope I'm home in time for dinner.

Is there any point to this, at all? Not really.

But syzygy is fun to say.

And also, I'm right about the powers. Here's Syzygy Darklock, "Most Powerful Guy In The Universe" being a wuss about using those powers:

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Don't underestimate Superniceness. (The Best Comic Book Characters I'm Pretty Sure Only I Remember, 3)

I am never really far, maybe, from actually going back and buying more comic books, something I mostly stopped doing around 20. But comics pop into my head all the time, and then I read something like the Entertainment Weekly blurb about a Green Lantern comic that may involve Batman dying, and I think to myself maybe I should buy that comic book, and then I think to myself Maybe I should take The Boy with me to buy that comic book, transforming the idea from:

"40 year old man buys comic book"


"40 year old man introduces younger generation to love of reading and shared experiences with younger generation."

And then I reminisce more about comics, and tear the page out of Entertainment Weekly and tape it to the cupboard door above the coffee pot (next to the note Sweetie put up reminding me to go to the plumber's and get a shower handle and below the handouts the doctors gave us at the Babies! 2-year-checkup, handouts full of suggestions on how to get 2-year-olds to eat, suggestions which are comical in light of the fact that our 2-year-olds exist on whole milk and chocolate chip cookies, and, now, bananas provided that Mommy and Mommy only hold the banana while they eat it), and, having torn the page out and taped it up, I then drive into the office on a Sunday morning to do a little work but instead I continue my reminiscing about comics and find myself suddenly, out of the blue, recalling 'Mazing Man, another of the Best Comic Book Characters I'm Pretty Sure Only I Remember.

Character: 'Mazing Man.

What Was the Deal With 'Mazing Man? He was a little guy -- some say dwarf-- who found a helmet and decided to become a superhero, having not much better to do because he was independently wealthy already. So with his helmet and homemade costume, 'Mazing Man patrolled the streets of Queens, N.Y., preventing kids from eating cigarette butts, helping his friend Denton The Dog Faced Boy, and, once, saving a kid from being run over by a truck.

His power was: Niceness, coupled with eccentricity. And that helmet, which had no powers other than being helmety.

Why I Remember Him: 'Mazing Man's comic book came out near the end of my comic-buying years, and marked, I think, a transition between comics and more adult reading. It had no superpowers, it had no archenemies or villains. Instead, it was a comically-illustrated series of vignettes about life in Queens, punctuated and described by two characters who adamantly didn't fit into real life. Also, it featured a couple named "Brenda and Eddie," and around that time, I also first heard Billy Joel's song Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, which also featured "Brenda and Eddie" (who were the popular steadies and the king and the queen of the prom). I recently added Scenes from an Italian Restaurant to my iPod's collection, and that probably jogged loose the memory of 'Mazing Man, the way that sometimes shaking a pair of pants before they're put in the washer can make the receipt from Wal-Mart fall out.

Are you serious about his powers? Oh, yes: