Sunday, February 7, 2016

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "Men Who Stare at Cats While Listening to Podcasts" Edition

MOONDOGGIE: Phew! Finally, a moment to catch my breath. She's been chasing me all over the house, and I was beginning to think I'd never get a--

MOONDOGGIE:  --way...She's behind me, isn't she?

SHADOW: Hey, look! Look! I can do Snoopy doing a vulture! See? You watching? Watch me!

MOONDOGGIE: Pastor Fred says in times of stress I should pray for strength to our dark lord Hello Kitty...

*Title supplied courtesy of Dr. Alice.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Slumgullion: Episode One: The Human Stew

I know I've been hitting you with a lot of aural product the past week and would like to apologize except it's totally Jeff's fault, since he's a font of creative energy and spontaneity, whereas I'm more of a sedimentary crustal layer who specializes in producing material on a geologic time scale. But with today's official launch of The Slumgullion, we'll be moving to our regular schedule, releasing a podcast every two weeks. (Not to say there won't be a mini-sode popping up here and there, depending on if/when Jeff overdoses on caffeine, and/or somebody we like dies...)

The Slumgullion Episode 1 “Shannon Tweed’s Lady Bits”

Starring Jeff Holland and Scott Clevenger 
From the carcass of The All Star Summer Jamboree comes basically the same thing with an equally weird name. In this episode, Jeff and Scott talk about Jessica Jones, Eyes Wide Shut, and soft core porn before settling down for an in depth discussion of the comedy classic Galaxy Quest.
In honor of the still dewy-eyed and youthful 2016, I also present a dramatic reading of the 1980 holiday special, New Years Evil.  You can check it out by clicking the title above (and if you happen to know anyone with a similarly suspect taste in pop culture, please pass on the link, like a game of "Telephone" or a case of bird flu).

And because you've all been so good lately...Cat pictures tomorrow!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Things Are Coming To a Boil!

Another surprise mini-sode (at least, it came as a surprise to me)!  Jeff and Mary have a grief counseling session over the Star Wars Holiday Special, while I play the part of the suicidal (or homicidal) caller to a late night radio talk show.
Wookies and Music and Porn Oh My 
Starring Jeff Holland and Scott and Mary Clevenger 
Another special lead up to Saturday’s premiere of The Slumgullion. Tangents are kept to a surprising minimum as Jeff and Mary deal with a shared childhood trauma known as The Star Wars Holiday Special. Scott has used much medication to remove those horrible memories from 1978, but Mary and Jeff have suffered greatly, and it is time for closure. 
NOTE: Scott may sound a little distant in this particular conversation, but he is speaking through a tin can attached to a string.
Click the link above and hear Mary and Jeff laugh, cry, and try to outgeek each other by naming all the toys and tie-in merchandise they collected. Justin Bieber passes himself off as Diahann Carroll by adding another "n" to the end of his name. Then Bea Arthur shows up and demands that you dream about her.

I dare you not to.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

From Primordial Soup to Nuts

The Slumgullion, episode 1 premieres this Saturday! What the hell is that, and why should you care? Well, as man's wisdom is finite, I'm afraid I can only answer one of those questions: The Slumgullion is the new podcast starring the very funny and very opinionated Jeff Holland, and the very me, Scott Clevenger.

In the meantime, we present a brief featurette in which we preview the new theme song, and explain how we survive things gone mad and girls gone wild, in a world we never made. Also, Jeff has an oddball little theory he'd like to discuss. If you've got a moment, please check it out by clicking here.

(I'll understand if you don't have a moment, because you're spending the day watching old Bob and Ray bits on YouTube.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Missing Box Office Receipts of Benghazi!

I was cleaning out the spam folder today when I came upon an email from my old friend, FedUp PAC, demanding to know if I'd done my patriotic duty and gone to see 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Now, I usually ignore FedUp PAC's communiques, partly because they insist my name is "Tommy S" for some reason, partly because their appeals are invariably composed of equal parts grift and spleen, but mostly because consorting with someone who addresses you by an assumed name and just wants to screw you out of money is exactly what I imagine it feels like to spend time in a shabby motel room with a hooker (note to self: call David Vitter to confirm).

But as it happens, I did see 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (at a pre-release screening), and wondered what F-Up thought of it; and since it bombed at the box office and is presently being pushed out of theaters by Kung Fu Panda 3, there's nobody else I can talk to about it.
The murder of four Americans that should have never happened
Well, sure, but I kind of feel like no murders should happen. Or all murders should not happen.
Tommy S, 
Can you hear me? Can you feel me near you?
As the new movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi opened nationwide this past weekend, Hillary Clinton's enablers in the media attacked it relentlessly.
While moviegoers ignored it assiduously.
Who would you rather believe concerning the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that took the lives of four Americans - Hillary Clinton or the heroes on the scene that horrible night who prevented even greater loss of life?
Or to put it another way, would you rather believe the U.S. Secretary of State, or a bunch of mercenaries who were trying to gin up book sales and a movie deal by writing about what badasses they are? I'm gonna go with None of the Above, because Hillary is a politician and the mercs seem like the kind of guys who would have beaten me up in high school.

But wait! Don't choose yet! What if you had a choice between believing seven congressional investigations that found no wrongdoing on the part of the Administration, or FedUp PAC, a "political action committee" that has made no donations or expenditures, but still somehow run up debts of $282,853, probably by overpaying the guy who spams my email and calls me "Tommy." Now who would you rather believe?

But don't answer yet! Suppose the choice of who to believe is telling the truth about what really happened that night in Benghazi was between Thor and the Hulk, and whoever wins gets to punch Trey Gowdy?
Please go immediately to the National Opinion Survey on the Benghazi Attack to answer that question and others related to events during and after the strike.
Nobody told me there'd be a quiz today.
With the release of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi as the backdrop, this is the perfect opportunity for you to sound out on responsibility for the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens - a story that Republicans in Congress have failed to reveal.
So we should elect Michael Bay to Congress? I gotta admit, he'd probably do less damage that way.  But it's interesting that FedUp PAC is frothing over the demise of Chris Stevens, because in the film the ambassador is portrayed as a smug, ineffectual Beta Male whose failure to defer to men who outrank him in the Greek alphabet practically invited his own death.
FedUp PAC will rush results of the National Opinion Survey on the Benghazi Attack to conservative websites within 48 hours.
Apparently that didn't go quite as planned, because when I googled "National Opinion Survey on the Benghazi Attack" I got one result -- the "National Opinion Survey on the Benghazi Attack" on FedUp PAC's website. So either F-Up forgot to mark the results "RUSH", or they did, and the conservative websites just tossed it, assuming it was a CD of Snakes and Arrows or Vapor Trails.
That way, Survey results will have a wide audience at the same time Americans are turning out to watch the Benghazi movie.
Excellent! Of course, if the Survey has the same wide audience as the Benghazi movie, the respondents will consist of me and an elderly gentleman in a Red Sox cap who fell asleep playing Texas Hold 'Em on his iPhone.
If Hillary Clinton had her way, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi would have never seen the light of day. 
As it was, the audience had their way, and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi not only saw the light of day, it glimpsed its shadow, which means six more weeks of conspiracy theories.
After all, Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State at the time of the Benghazi attack.

She was responsible for the security of Americans at U.S. embassies and consulates on foreign soil.
I never knew the position Secretary of State is basically just a glorified security guard, but now I realize Obama should have appointed Paul Blart, Mall Cop, because he works for $7.25 an hour, plus whatever day-old sticky buns he can scrounge from the Cinnabon.
But when Ambassador Stevens pleaded for better protection of the U.S. diplomatic compound at Benghazi, his urgent requests fell on deaf ears.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi shows what happened next.
But in order to show what happens next, the movie would have to show what you just said it shows first. And it doesn't. In fact, the film makes a point of Stevens rejecting the need for more security, because he wants to appear approachable to the locals. I'm beginning to think F'dUp didn't bother to actually watch 13H:TSSoB, and are just repeating the same old right wing taking points about Benghazi because they assume those mothballs are the plot.

Having sat through the entire 144 minute running time, I can tell you that what happened next is that everyone involved wrote a book blaming everyone else, then one of them won the lottery and it got made into a dull movie by a guy who previously filled the silver screen with giant robot testicles.
Seeing the compound engulfed in flames, the team got ready at once to go to the rescue.

All of a sudden, they got a different order.

It was the CIA base chief for the Benghazi area ordering the commandoes to "stand down."
According to the CIA base chief, he never said "stand down." According to the movie, he did, so who you gonna believe? (Before you answer, I should point out that all the mercenaries had full, manly beards, while the CIA chief could barely manage a weedy Van Dyke, so the movie's thesis appears to be that the bushier a man's facial hair, the more credible he is a witness to History [who would you rather trust -- Grizzly Adams or Snidely Whiplash?], and is also the origin of the phrase "bald-faced liar" I just decided. Remember, as the old saying goes, "Men may twiddle the twinks, but they marry the bears.")
What's more, Hillary Clinton quickly joined in blaming the attack on local Muslims angry about an anti-Muslim video posted to the Internet.
Are we still pretending to talk about what happens in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi?  Because Hillary Clinton is not in the movie.
That bald-faced lie was finally exposed when a private Hillary Clinton e-mail to her daughter Chelsea the very same night came to light admitting she knew that an Islamic terrorist group had carried out the Benghazi attack.
Hillary Clinton does have a bald face, or at most one of those sparse white Grandma Mustaches that you only really notice when she comes in close for a smooch on Thanksgiving.  
Now with the release of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, public attention is refocused on the Benghazi cover up in a way that only big Hollywood movies can do.
Similarly, since the release of the docudrama Fantastic Four, not a single American has been recklessly exposed to cosmic rays and transformed into a hideous orange rock monster that talks like Max from Hart to Hart.

Anyway, this goes on for awhile, with every other paragraph pushing a link to the National Opinion Survey on the Benghazi Attack, so I finally broke down and took it. I only got a C+, but in my defense I hadn't studied and I was nude, so if anyone tells you that dream can't happen, they're bald-faced liars!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Your Ass is Dragon

Eragon is a painfully obvious feat of wish fulfillment, and yet I have to admit that it spoke to my inner teenage boy. Not the part about a young lad destined to fight orcs and woo maidens from the back of his pet dragon; I mean the part about a 15 year old kid who writes a mash-up of all his favorite fantasy books, gets it vanity published by his parents, and winds up selling 35 million copies. Because that was my fantasy when I was a teen. The other kids on my block wanted a light saber or a bat’leth or at least to see Jacqueline Bisset topless, but all I wanted was a royalty check and a lucrative subsidiary rights deal.

I never got around to reading Eragon, because it’s a YA book and I’m an adult, with adult responsibilities (like bitterness and jealousy), so I can’t speak to its quality. But I did see the motion picture, and while the plot and characters are derivative, I can forgive that because it’s based on a book written by a 15 year old boy, and that in itself is an amazing achievement. The movie, however, wasn't made by teenagers. It just seems like it

Eragon (2006)
Directed by Stefen Fangmeier
Written by Peter Buchman
Based on the novel by Christopher Paolini

We're soaring through the clouds as Jeremy Irons informs us that for thousands of years, the land of Allagash (known for its fine selection of Belgian-inspired ales and rich tradition of crappy ideas for movies) was "ruled by men astride mighty dragons" which is pretty impressive, even more so when you learn that some of them liked to do it reverse cowgirl style. "To protect and to serve was their mission," Jeremy tells us. So, a bit like the Los Angeles Police Department, if Adam-12 had featured Martin Milner and Kent McCord cruising Downtown L.A. on a pteranodon.

Unfortunately, one of the dragon cops was John Malkovich, and he went all Darth Vader one night and killed his fellow officers and their scaly rides and declared himself king, which is like if the pilot of the police helicopter suddenly declared himself Sky Marshal of the Universe and began shooting at the KTLA Traffic Copter.

Anyway, that's just the backstory. "Our story starts," Jeremy drones on, when Not-Liv Tyler, who's an ally of The Vardan (some kind of anti-government militia) steals the King’s stone.  Naturally, His Majesty Malkovich is enraged, because it wasn’t easy passing that stone, so it's got a lot of sentimental value.

Meanwhile, humble farm boy Eragon (who at this performance will play the part of the Chosen One), goes out hunting, while Robert Carlyle from The Full Monty tries to retrieve the stone for Malkovich by having a staring contest with the camera.  When that fails, he orders the Poor Man’s Uruk-hai (let’s call them the Urkels) to kill Not-Liv's militiamen, but she foils him by using the Enterprise transporters to beam the King's kidney stone directly to the Chosen One.

Even though it's warm and gross-looking, and came out of John Malkovich's urethra, Eragon falls in love with the stone, because he knows it's going to make him the beloved title character of a blockbuster franchise that will spawn multiple sequels and catapult him to the heights of stardom. So whatever else it is, the stone is obviously not a crystal ball.

Eragon goes home to his uncle's farm, where he and his lookalike cousin, Roran, engage in some horseplay, which, while homoerotic, is brief and unsatisfying, so I'll pause here for a moment to let the fan-fic writers take up the slack.

Anyway, Roran is a draft dodger and promptly leaves, which is a relief because he and Eragon were hard to tell apart, and while I'm tired of the Chosen One Narrative, it's even more irritating when your Chosen One is Multiple Choice.

Anyway, Eragon is bereft that his doppelgänger is departing, and to prove it he does the Sad Luke Skywalker Standing and Gazing at theTwin Suns of Tattoine pose, but with just one sun, and worse posture.

Then he goes inside to mope, just in time to see the royal gallstone. Eragon doesn't recognize the CGI creature that emerges as a dragon, and I can't really blame him, because it looks like a weasel molded from blue Play-Doh and dressed in a Batman costume. But when he touches it, a spark illuminates the screen so brightly that it wakes up all the guest stars and supporting players.  Eragon, however, is knocked out by the spark, and when he comes to his discovers that his right hand has been branded with a strange rune that resembles the Green Bay Packers logo, and the CGI weasel-bat is eating CGI rats, thus protecting the family's store of virtual wheat and ensuring that Eragon will totally dominate that Farmville game.

Full Monty tells Malkovich that the egg has hatched, and the dragon is in the hands of a blond farm boy, but fortunately not the one from The Princess Bride, because he was smart and hard to kill. But Malkovich is worried that his enemies -- "the elves, the dwarves" -- will hear that a Play-Doh weasel-bat has been born, and since they're from better-written franchises, they'll probably laugh at him.

Back at Farmville, the villagers are bitching about their lack of civil liberties, while Jeremy Irons waxes Obi-Wan about the old days, when Allagash was free thanks to the dragon riders, who were the defenders of peace and justice and tasty seasonal ales.

Eragon is thrilled to hear the era of the dragon riders will return, because the Play-Doh poultry-farming era has been kind of a letdown. He repeatedly throws the weasel-bat into the air, forcing the thing to fly; and when it does, it naturally flies away, which surprises Eragon and gives him a sad. But then his Green Bay Packers logo lights up, and the Play-Doh weasel-bat flies through some lightning and turbulence, and when it lands three seconds later it's a giant Play-Doh dragon that speaks fluently, if telepathically, and introduces itself as “Saphira,” which is cool, because that’s my wife’s favorite makeup store, so I’m hoping it can get us a discount.

"You," she says breathily, "Are my rider." It sounds rather sexy, coming, as it does, in the voice of Rachel Weisz, until you remember she's got a cloaca.

Eragon sneaks into Obi-Wan's -- I mean Jeremy's  -- oh hell, let's just call him Jeri-Wan -- home and just happens to stumble upon the ancient DMV Dragon Rider's Handbook. But knowing he's already on the verge of a cease-and-desist letter from Lucasfilms, Jeri-Wan throws him out.

Eragon overhears a peasant ratting him out to some Nazghul, so Saphira gives him a lift back to the Skywalker homestead, but it's too late; Uncle Owen has been killed by stormtroopers. Eragon throws a tantrum and decides to blame it on all on the dragon, sending her to the plot point penalty box. Then Jeri-Wan arrives, sees the Packers logo on Eragon's hand and scowls in confusion. "YOU?" he bellows, no more willing to believe this guy is our hero than we were. But we've had half an hour to get used to the idea, and promise to be his sponsor and help him work through it. I mean, we're not really doing anything else at the moment.

Our default heroes ride to the peak of Mount Exposition, where Jeri-Wan tells the boy that he's being hunted by the King's servant, Full Monty, who has dark mystical powers. He also reveals that Eragon is the rebels' only hope, whereas my only hope is that the kid who wrote this story was content with pilfering from A New Hope and we don't have to deal with a knock-off of Jar Jar Binks.

On their way to the militia compound, Jeri-Wan explains the rules of the game (dragons wait to hatch until their rider is born; if their rider dies, the dragon dies), teaches Eragon how to use a sword, does a little furtive mystical crap, and basically just chugs a pint of Alec Guinness.

At Mos Eisley, Jeri-Wan sends Eragon to buy bread, so the kid goes to a fortune teller, because apparently Eragon's not paying any more attention than we are. The palmist spreads the Chosen One stuff thick and extra chunky: Eragon’s coming has been awaited for thousands of years by hundreds of races, he has powers he hasn't acknowledged yet, there's a girl who calls to him in his dreams, etc. Jeri is upset that Eragon cheated on him by going to someone else for exposition; plus, he's got a low blood sugar headache, so he was really looking forward to that bread. They get attacked by Urkels and are about to die when Eragon decides he can makes his arrowheads turn blue and explosive, and he blows up his enemies like Sylvester Stallone in Rambo II because why not? Pile it on, kid! I’m hoping before this thing is over your hero also harnesses the powers of Captain Planet, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Inspector Gadget.

Eragon passes out and has a dream about Not-Liv, and then wakes up to a boner and more exposition. Jeri-Wan tells Eragon that he has magic, which comes from dragons, but before he casts a spell he must learn the ancient language of the Elves.  Of course he must. So we get a five minute lesson in Conversational Elvish, and while it didn't make me fluent, I'm pretty sure I can now order at the Rivendell Chili's without having to point at the menu.

Then we get a five minute flying lesson so Eragon can master the most important bit of Elvish magic, the one that allows the Rider to see through his Dragon's eyes. He shouts the spell ("Souvlaki Tent!", or something like that), and suddenly we're watching the world through Saphira's point of view. It turns out that dragons' eyes come equipped with zoom lenses and a variety of Instagram filters.

Jeri-Wan is attacked by Urkels, which results in a 90 second action sequence, and ten more minutes of exposition. We learn that Jeri is also a dragon rider, but his dragon was murdered. Or so he says. I think he probably just overfed it one night, found it floating belly-up the next morning, and then hastily flushed it down the toilet.

Later, Full Monty sticks his Lee Press-On nail into Not-Liv's sternum, which causes her to send an alluring Snapchat to Eragon.

He flies to Full Monty's lair, the dark fortress of Dar-Mach-Var-H’rus, which is Elvish for “My Agent is So Fired,” and uses the "Souvlaki Tent" spell to find Not-Liv thanks to his dragon's X-Ray vision.  Full Monty arrives for a magic duel, which mostly involves him throwing things at Eragon., so it’s like Harry Potter if the wizarding world’s sport wasn’t Quidditch but Dodgeball. Then Jeri-Wan suddenly jumps in front of Eragon and takes a spear to the chest. How he got there without a flying dragon is a mystery, but I'm sure the answer can be found in one of the many books or movies this thing rips off.

Jeri-Wan gets a big, meaty, Joseph Campbell-approved death scene, and gives Eragon his magic dragon-killing sword, Xerox.  Then they bury him in a big cubic zirconium so he won't rot.

Well, since we just lost a character, how about we introduce a new one? Meet Montauk, the young archer who would like to grow up to be Christian Slater for some reason, but instead turns into that guy who stunk up Tron: Legacy. Montauk’s family was slaughtered by King Malkovich, so he offers to lead Eragon to the militiamen, who are camped near a secret matte painting. And they better hurry, because Full Monty's Lee Press-On gave Not-Liv’s sternum a bad case of nail fungus.

They find the rebels, who are ruled by the guy from Amistad, and dress like the knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Unfortunately, Eragon and his friends were followed, and the rebels are attacked by a whole army of Urkels.

Prepare for battle! (It involves pouring used motor oil into the koi pond). Saphira and Eragon both dress up in goofy armor, and she proves they're ready for combat by breathing fire for the first time. Mazel tov! Today you are a dragon.

The Urkels attack! Everyone kicks confusing, shaky-cam ass. Saphira napalms the crap out of the enemy like she’s working for Henry Kissinger, while Not-Liv throws batarangs for some reason.  Full Monty rides a giant bat and says to Eragon, "Come taste the blood of your dragon!" which is a terrible offer, and reminds me of those ladies in the grocery store who offer free samples of Hickory Farms Savory Meat Logs.

So it's CGI dragon versus CGI bat, and it's even more dull and pointless than you're imagining. Saphira is mortally wounded, but Eragon risks his life to save her with his healing magic that he somehow has for some reason.

The battle ends suddenly and inconclusively, because there's still three books to go. Not-Liv says, "The rebels already tell stories about you." They're not flattering, but still.

Eragon asks, "When will I see  you again?"  She replies, "Time movies quickly." Unlike this movie. Except for one part: I noticed that if you watch Eragon all the way to the end credits, at some point you will actually feel your will to live leave your body with the force, speed, and sound of explosive diarrhea. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Post-Friday Beast-Blogging: Special Guest Cat Edition!

By Hank Parmer

Tales of the Unexpected: Fred's Snowy Soliloquy

Oh, fer cryin' out -- will you look at this mess?

It's freakin' Nashville, dammit! This isn't supposed to happen. A little dusting … maybe a couple of inches that melt away by midday … sure, that I expect. But this?!?

What a revolting development.

I don't care if we Maine Coon Cats have thick belly fur and all sorts of nifty adaptations for this kinda weather, this isn't Maine and it still sucks dead baby bears – on toast! For one thing, I'll get ice dingleberries on my underside and between my toes!

Maybe if I beseech the Cat Goddess, She'll make it go away. What was that name again? “Vast” or “Blast” … something like that … aw, heck, I'll just make it to “Hello Kitty” and see if that does the trick.

Hmm, nothing so far. Could be She's doing something really important, like scratching around in the Heavenly Litter Box or sharpening Her claws on the Sun God's furniture. Or maybe she got chased up a tree by that jackal-headed guy.

Guess I'll do a little grooming while I wait.

I'm waiting …

If you ask me, these ancient Egyptian goddesses are wildly over-rated. Hell with it. I'm going back inside and bug my incompetent humans.

It's probably all their fault, anyway.