“I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin.”
"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Ana's that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make you think about tuna. On nights like that every tuna party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's tuna. Anything can happen. You can even get salmon when you were expecting tuna."
In L. Ron Hubbard’s vision of the future, Battlefield Earth, a man fights Mr. Snuffleupagus while a woman’s naked breasts fight gravity.
I enjoy living in Hollywood. The climate is generally mild (not this week, but generally), thanks to the onshore flow that caroms off the hills behind us (leaving the Valley to broast in its own sweat), and the neighborhood is walkable, with an abundance of bars, movie theaters, unlicensed food carts, and shops selling knee-high platform boots and acrylic beehive wigs. On the negative side, it's filled with Russians, hipsters, and disappointed tourists, and our end of Hollywood Boulevard is frequently quarantined due to a variety of -- to my mind -- trivial and irritating pretexts: the Academy Awards, the L.A. Marathon, the Latin Grammys, the odd Van Halen reunion concert, and an endless, Human Centipede-like succession of movie premieres. And then there's the Scientologists...
I don't like to harp on the Hubbardites because what's the point? They're so ubiquitous along the Boulevard that it'd be like a guy who works on the kill floor of a slaughterhouse wrinkling his nose as he winches a bloody carcass across the tiles and muttering to his co-workers, "You guys smell that? It always smells weird in here. It's like I'm tasting copper..."
Usually when they swarm me with pamphlets outside the Scientology book store on Hollywood Boulevard, or offer to hook me up to an E-Meter for a free personality test outside the other Scientology book store on Hollywood Boulevard, I just say, "Sorry, but I'm already in a cult and I'm afraid of becoming overscheduled." Because Pick Your Battles, am I right?
Also, I'm afraid of divine retribution from Xenu, assuming he's a divinity and not just a super-villain, because I once pointed out to a currently inoperative, but aspiring Operating Thetan that Xenu is the only character in a major religion's creation story that sounds like a sneeze. But I softened the blow by adding that I didn't mean one of those big vulgar "Ahhh-CHOO!" sneezes where you really wind up and don't cover your mouth in time, and a couple days later notice a meteorite-like booger fused to your computer monitor. No, "Xenu!" is a cute, high-pitched, and dainty sneeze, the kind of thing that would annoy, rather than frighten the cat nesting on your lap.
But sometimes they're unavoidable -- like last week, when the "21st Century Edition" of the world's most 20th Century version of the 30th Century was re-released for some reason:
Yes, Galaxy Press, which is the Church of Scientology's in-house vanity publisher, decided to crash a space ship into the sidewalk outside its relentlessly beige headquarters in order to mark the new edition of Battlefield Earth; and while it was an inconvenience for those of us just trying to get to CVS, I can't argue with the symbolism. Hell, if they'd truly committed to the metaphor and set the building on fire too, I might have even bought the book.
In addition to the smoldering wreckage, two actors playing Johnny "Goodboy" Tyler and his girlfriend Chrissie (who apparently works at some post-apocalyptic strip club) were on hand to act out the plot for people who didn't want to plow through a thousand page book, but still wanted to see busty, half-naked neo-Vikings.
The Battlefield Earth passion play climaxed with a bunch of Braveheart cosplayers putting a Sasquatch deep sea diver in bondage.
(By the way, while looking up the book, I discovered that Sheri and I -- through no fault of our own, I assure you -- are quoted in the Critical Reception section of the Wikipedia page for the Battlefield Earth movie.)
The new edition contains fifty extra pages of stuff even less readable than the novel (Hubbard's handwritten notes, a 34-year old interview with the Rocky Mountain News, and "Original lyrics" which presumably go along with the score Hubbard composed for the novel, entitled Space Jizz Jazz).
However, if you don't have time to wade through all 1072 pages, you'll be pleased to learn that:
The 47½ hour long audiobook features 67 voice actors
None of whom got paid, I'll wager, although they might have received a discount coupon good for 15% off their next Auditing session.
150,000 sound effects
88,000 of which probably consist of uncompensated Scientology initiates making armpit farts, but still...
and three hours of original music
Here's where the production gets expensive, because only Operating Thetan Level IVs have the mental and physical discipline to make their armpits fart out a melody (Level IIIs can sometimes manage an armpit beat box effect). But the amazing thing is the advanced data compression technologies used to bring you this novel of the Future!, for the entire book takes up a mere 44 CDs. At this dizzying rate of miniaturization, we may one day have an ENIAC machine that weighs less than 50 pounds, and is no bigger than a large suitcase!
So anyway, learn from the experts. The next time you publish a bloated re-release of an already swollen novel of the Future!, celebrate by shutting down a major thoroughfare, forcing one of your employees to put on a Wookiee costume, a gas mask, and Gene Simmons' boots from KISS, while other employees are made to dress up like Scotty McTape and attack him with t-shirt guns. It may not sell books, but at least it's more dignified than a Trump rally.
The new Slumgullion has dropped, and it's our special Tenth Episode anniversary extravaganza! Voice actors John Szura and Blanche Ramirez stop by for a live reading from the upcoming audiobook for Better Living Through Bad Movies, so if you'd like to hear two very funny people perform an attack on Attack of the Clones, check it out.
Meanwhile, Jeff sings an original song from his musical-comedy adaptation of the 1972 Ray Milland/Sam Elliot eco-horror movie, Frogs: The Musical. [Note to Hank: This is not, in fact, the big second act climax, Today the Pond, Tomorrow the World!, which Jeff has been promising on previous episodes, but the Sondheim-esque opening number, The Day of the Animals, which crams in references to just about every abnormally enlarged creature in creature feature history, from The Giant Gila Monster to The Night of the Lepus.]
The Unknown Movie Challenge is another jarring change-up, as this week we watch and talk about Mexico Barbero, a 2014 anthology of eight short horror films based on Mexican folklore. Come for the hymen-stealing demons dancing around in adult diapers, stay for the Day of the Dead-themed strip club.
Father's Day is once again upon us, and it's time for this year's list of terrible TV and Movie dads. Last year, I was too appalled by a pair of real-life dads to think of any fictional ones who were worse. That almost happened this year -- it's hard to think of two worse dads than the men who sired the Stanford rapist and the Orlando shooter; their attempts to rationalize their sons' crimes was enough to make anyone lose their lunch.
But I can't skip the column again, so here's this years list.
WORST TV DADS
ARIEL CONROY (Matthew Baynton) on You, Me & the Apocalypse is the show's second most evil character (Sutton, being older, has been evil longer). It's easy to forget he is a father, since the only way we learn this is because Jamie encounters a very angry, very pregnant woman who mistakes him for his twin brother. Ariel abandoned her, took off for America, and completely forgot about her. He was too busy committing cyber terrorism, killing people (including his best friend) and kidnapping 15 year old Spike to blackmail the kid's uncle. Once he returns to England he spends most of his time pursuing his ex-girlfriend-turned-sister-in-law Layla, eventually winning her back by posing as Jamie. When Layla sees through the deception and asks him to track down her six year old daughter Frankie, his response is simply: "We can make a new Frankie. One who's both ours." So he's not much of an stepfather/uncle (Stuncle?) either.
Bonus bad dad: Spike's father (If anyone can identify the actor, I'll be very grateful). With his mother Rhonda fleeing authorities after busting out of jail and his stepfather battling terminal cancer, Spike winds up in the custody of his father, who is a dirtbag moron. He taunts Spike, pushes him around, and tosses Spike's phone into a septic tank, with the result being that Spike never gets Rhonda's message warning him to stay away from Ariel.
MALCOLM MERLYN (John Barrowman) and DAMIEN DARHK (Neal McDonough) both on Arrow. Two villains on the same show juggling the demands of fatherhood with evil plans to take over/destroy the world.
Malcolm has this nasty little habit of trying to destroy the very city his daughter Thea lives in, which isn't the most endearing trait. There's also the fact that he's in the League of Assassins and wants his daughter to join.
"Aw, dad, can't we just join a bowling league instead?"
Of course, that's nothing compared to Damien Dahrk, who actually tried to wipe out the human race. Which would make it really hard to arrange play dates for his daughter.
"C'mon, kiddo. I'll take you to Playground Zero."
WORST MOVIE DADS
OLD NICK (Sean Bridgers) in Room (2015). We don't learn much about him, including his real name. What we do know is that he becomes a father by kidnapping a teenage girl, raping her, and holding her and the son they conceived prisoner in a tiny shed. Which is really all we need to.
JERRY LUNDEGAARD (William H. Macy) in Fargo (1996). His harebrained scheme to have his wife kidnapped (what is it with all the kidnapping? I swear when this was just a coincidence!) leads to the murders of three people (including her), landing him in jail and his son without a mother, a father or a grandfather.
WALTER EBERHART (Peter Masterson) and all the other husbands in The Stepford Wives (1975) The men in the movie are all kinda creepy and gross, which makes sense, as only a creepy, gross man would want a Stepford wife. (It does raise the question of how they landed quality babes like Katherine Ross, Paula Prentiss and Tina Louise in the first place). We all know how badly they treat their wives, but imagine what this means for their kids, especially the girls. I mean, they'd surely sense something was "off" about their mothers, and who knows what will happen if and when they find out the truth?
STANLEY KOWALSKI (Marlon Brando) in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Because Stanley was played by a young Brando, who, in 1951, looked like this...
...it's easy to forget what a monster he is. (In fact, Pauline Kael was so hot and bothered she gave him a pass.) Stanley is manipulative, emotionally infantile, abusive, and a narcissist who needs his ego bolstered constantly. On the night Stella goes into labor, he rapes his mentally unstable sister-in-law Blanche, counting on the fact that no one will believe her. She winds up being committed, and we wonder just what kind of toxic environment the baby is going to grow up in.
GEPPETTO (Christian Rub) in Pinocchio (1940). Why, you might ask, is kindly, lovable Geppetto on this list? Because despite his best intentions, he's utterly clueless. After having his wish for a son granted (sure, he might have included "preferably not made of wood"), he decides to send the boy to school right away. Like, less than a day after getting him. Pinocchio's never seen anything in the outside world. It might have been a good idea to maybe accompany the boy to class, if for no other reason than to spare the other kids and the teacher the freak-out of seeing a walking, talking doll. It's a moot point anyway, because Pinocchio, of course, gets lost along the way, so Geppetto does what any father would do: climbs into a rowboat to search the high seas and get swallowed by a whale. Another thing: once Pinocchio is transformed into a real boy, what happens next? Aren't the people of that tiny village going to be just a teensy bit suspicious when they see an elderly bachelor wandering around town with an 8 year old boy they've never seen before? I'm sure they'll buy his explanation.
Happy Father's Day to all the fathers who didn't kidnap or murder anyone! Sing us out, Baby Jane!
“Christianity split the Germanic barbarian into an upper and a lower half, and enabled him, by repressing the dark side, to domesticate the brighter half and fit it for civilization. But the lower, darker half still awaits redemption and a second spell of domestication. Until then, it will remain associated with the vestiges of the prehistoric age, with the collective unconscious, which is subject to a peculiar and ever-increasing activation. As the Christian view of the world loses its authority, the more menacingly will the “blond beast” be heard prowling about in its underground prison, ready at any moment to burst out with devastating consequences. When this happens in the individual it brings about a psychological revolution, but it can also take a social form."
-- Carl Gustav Jung, "The Role of the Unconscious", 1918 (emphasis mine)
Well, looks like the "blond beast" is back, only this time around it's -- Orange! The hair, the fake tan ... and poor me constantly reaching for the "mute" button on the TV remote.
Now there's a problem with Jung's first sentence above. It appeals to what Jung assumes "everyone knows is true" and a tip-off that the unconscious itself is percolating its way through the argument. Jacques Lacan (OK, I know you're groaning now) imagined the collective unconscious (the "Big Other") as a semantic structure with its own logic and vocabulary. It thinks and speaks. I'll just stop here.
A larger problem lies with The Donald's seizing control of what once was the Republican Party. It is the selection of a suitable vice presidential running mate.
Chris Christie is out, obviously since he's about to be revealed as one of the unindicted conspirators in the "Bridgegate" scandal. Chris will kiss The Donald's ass only if craft services are provided, with lots of chocolate bars and Pringles chips. Marc Rubio is out (he's Mexican? Or what?). Pathetically undiagnosed narcoleptic Benjamin Brainsurgeon is a chocolate person, no dice. Sarah Palin is cool but she always shows up slurred-speech drunk. Also, her wardrobe causes moiré patterns even on hi-def TV, how distracting!
There is only one logical vice presidential candidate suitable for the Trump administration. She happens to be a woman. She also happens to be dead.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I nominate the "Queen" Leona Helmsley?
Nothing could eclipse The Donald's reputation for grift and malfeasance other than a very dead and not terribly distracting former NYC hotelier and real-estate magnate. Oh, wait, Harry Helmsley was the estate genius. Leona took over when Harry became too unwell to notice the process servers arriving with indictments for alleged kick-backs incurred running the properties. But there was always a mint under the pillow at the Helmsley Palace. (Condoms in drawer with KJV.)
This...is the face of a Hero. Gaze upon the majestic splendor of Viking Prince Thorvald in The Norseman (1978), who Lee Majors plays as a perpetually hungover P.E. coach from Kentucky, and then listen to the latest episode of The Slumgullion, where we have an indecent degree of fun with this film:
On Episode 9 of The Slumgullion, Jeff and Scott complain about fan geek entitlement, Jeff goes in depth about why he will NEVER buy another Star Wars book and the Unknown Movie Challenge is 1978's The Norseman, written, produced, and directed by Charles B. Pierce (Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues) and co-starring his half-grown sperm, Chuck, Jr. There's a lot of anger and a surprising amount of laughs in this episode.
For a city founded on crass commercialism and factory-scale entertainment, there's a surprising amount of public art and creative ornamentation in the L.A. subway system. But perhaps unsurprisingly, in a town where every barista tries to slip you his Mr. Robot spec script along with your Iced Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte, even the fine art is trying to sell you an elevator pitch.
This tile, for instance, seems to depict an unnecessary sequel to Washington Irving's classic short story Rip Van Winkle, reimagined for the Millennial horror fan:
"What, again? How long was I asleep this--WHERE'S THE HELL'S MY PENIS?!"