Sunday, November 23, 2014

Snowpiercer Review -- Craptacular Idiocy or Just Crap?

Sooooooo... Snowpiercer. I've heard it called a great sci-fi flick, but make no mistake, this is pure fantasy. And the worst type -- a ludicrous plot that has no rational explanation other than "we need this to happen." It's decently well-acted, but there seems to be no thought into it other than "this would be cool". Whether or not it's faithful to the original is irrelevant to me, since it's idiotic enough to make the source completely unpalatable to me.

Some thoughts/questions. Most are just snarky ways of asking WTF?

  • A train traveling around the world? Non-stop for 18 years? Riiiiiiight.
  • Wait, seriously? A train?
  • The survivors of the human race on a train don't have a single common language? And they're only white Americans, Brits or Koreans?
  • We're supposed to be horrified that "protein bars" are made of roaches? Because of all the farming/ranching they could be doing... on a train?
  • Underfed, unarmed amateurs can take down trained, armed guards?
  • In the tunnel the proletariats can't attack the glowing red lights of the night vision goggles?
  • Are shitty raves* a cause or effect of a future dystopias?
  • Hey, look, cannibalism!
  • A plane that is gradually uncovered can only be explained by melting snow? They don't have wind on the cold planet?
  • When people go outside the somehow get fur coats that fit them?

* I know, I know, ALL raves are shitty

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

And this is it! The last segment and, in true Fox fashion, it's coming after Halloween!

 Treehouse of Horror VII (Season 8) 4.5 Almost no intro and no framing device? Damn good thing they have one of the all-time greats!
  • The Thing and I - 4 Dr. Hibbert rockin' a fro? Oh, yes!
  • The Genesis Tub - 4.5 The classic "avoid the trope" horror movie is redone, but with fairy tales. I like it.
  • Citizen Kang - 5 This is basically 7 minutes of quotable, perfect hilarity. Kang checking his nametag before he says his name? So money.
"And hillbillies prefer to be called 'sons of the soil' -- but it ain't gonna happen"
"Perhaps we're all a little crazy. I know I am."
"Science has already proven the dangers of smoking, alcohol, and Chinese food, but I can still ruin soft drinks for everyone!" Prescient words, Lisa
"Oh boy, mold -- that's science fair pay dirt!"
"Stop! We have reached the limits of what rectal probing can teach us."
"I am Clin-Ton, as overlord, all will kneel trembling before me and obey my brutal commands. End communication." "That's Slick Willie for you, always with the smooth talk."
"Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!"
"My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball; but tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!"
"It's time to tear those aliens a third cornshoot!"
"Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos."

Treehouse of Horror VIII (Season 9)  3.5 The glory years may be gone, but not a bad showing.!
  • The Homega Man - 4 Hey! Another Twilight Zone parody! I'd forgotten how much I like this one. So quotable!
  • Fly vs. Fly - 3 Is anyone surprised that Homer would risk his genetic integrity to skip a flight of stairs?
  • Easy Bake Coven - 3.5 Not bad, not great..
"Stupid frogs."
"This baby's called the Withstandinator. It can withstand a 6 megaton blast -- no more, no less"
"But Aquaman, you can't marry a woman without gills -- you're from 2 different worlds! Oh, I've wasted my life"
"Oh, Spade, why'd you put Farley in charge of the bees?"
"Go to hell, Cloaky!"
"In the midst of all the killing and skin eating, somehow we forgot the love."
"I sentence you hags to to be burned at the stake until you are deemed fit to reenter society."
"If you are innocent, you will die an honourable Christian death."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Treehouse of Horror Rewatch Day 8

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XII (Season 13)  2 Weak Sauce!
  • Hex and the City - 2.5 The Leprechaun brought this up a full point.
  • House of Whacks - 2.5 George Lazenby?
  • Wiz Kids - 2 Oh Harry, you ass kiss.
"You know what's even better? Jesus. He's like 6 leprechauns"

 Treehouse of Horror XI (Season 12) 3.5 Yeah, the Simpsons joking about Copyright Law not so funny.
  • G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad - 4 Good times.
  • Scary Tales Can Come True - 3 The classic "avoid the trope" horror movie is redone, but with fairy tales. I like it.
  • Night of the Dolphin - 4 It's great that Homer thinks the glory hole was an impressive invention.
"Snakes. Nature's quitters."
"Why are the oafs always the first to go?
"Whoa, whoa. I'm just trying to get in (to heaven). I'm not running for Jesus."
"Mmmm... alcohol and night swimming -- a winning combination"
"Ya gotta hand it to those dolphins -- they just wanted it more."

 Treehouse of Horror X (Season 11) 3.5 OK, nothing to see here, move along..
  • I Know What You Diddily-iddily-Did - 3.5 Marge kills Flanders, 
  • Desperately Xeeking Xena - 4 A full segment of the Comic Book Guy? Yes, please!
  • Life's a Glitch, Then You Die - 3 If only the whole thing had been mocking C-list celebs.
"If you haven't been probed by these two, you haven't been probed!"

Treehouse of Horror IX (Season 10) 4 This is definitely the end of an era.
  • Hell Toupée- 4 When this first came out, it seemed like sci-fi. But now we're all too aware of the horrors of possession by hair transplant.
  • The Terror of Tiny Toon - 4.5 Ever wondered what would happen if Bart and Lisa entered a cartoon?
  • Starship Poopers - 3.5 Jerry Springer. Ugh.
"Hey, Apu, you got a breakfast cereal for people with syphilis?"
"Wow! If your fly weren't open, you'd look just like Roger Moore"
(Newsman Kent Brockton) "Filthy old bartender Moe Syzlak has watered down his last highball"
"Homer, do something! The ceiling's not a safe place for a young baby!"
"Holy Flurking Schnitt!"
"Somebody needs to learn your green ass some responsibility"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Treehouse of Horrors Exhumation Part 7

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XV (Season 16)  4 Not bad, not great.
  • Keepin' It Kodos Intro - 4.5 Kang, Kodos mocking 80s sitcoms? I'm in.
  • The Ned Zone - 4 Call me crazy, but I get all teary-eyed when a Simpson dies.
  • Four Beheadings and a Funeral - 4 Mocking British food and opium dens? Oh, yes.
  • In the Belly of the Boss - 3.5 A weaker final episode, but can you go wrong with a Vagrant Translator?
"Concussion...diddly. Hemorrhage... doodly. Injuries... bodily"
"What'd I die of? Too much happiness? Naked girl avalanche?"
"Lock him up until we find someone darker"
"At last, God-fearing Londoners are free to walk Whore Alley"

 Treehouse of Horror XIV (Season 15) 3.5 Actually, not bad at all.  And I have a feeling I might not've seen this before, so I've got that going for me*
  • Reaper Madness - 4 Music or not, it's not a Benny Hill parody without busty women or bad teeth. But I did like Homer as death. No Mort, but not bad.
  • Frinkenstein - 4 Jerry Lewis AND all the glavens you can make with the shaking of the stick and ohhhhhh!
  • Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off - 3 Actually, not bad. But not good, either.
"Would anyone like to see Mr. Simpson harvest a soul?"
"Mom used to say that we got along like positrons and anti-neutrinos. Glaven!"
"That doesn't make you any less of a man. Except, you don't have a penis"
"I did finish first in the Walk for the Cure... of homosexuality" Oh, Ned.

 Treehouse of Horror XIII (Season 14) 4 Wow! I was surprised by this one.
  • Send in the Clones - 4.5 A Gil sighting! And mocking of the Family Guy and original Homer.  Good times.
  • The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms - 4.5 Finally the liberals at Fox learn that guns are the solution!
  • The Island of Dr. Hibbert - 3.5 Meh. Started strong, finished poorly.
"Now to get me some caveman hookers!"
"He may try to slobber on your crotch." "Meh. I've been around Scotsmen."
"One activity you might enjoy is not asking questions! Heh heh heh."
"All I'm asking is yank the teats and harvest my milk"
Treehouse of Horror VI (season 7): Yet another classic. And the last segment is likely the smartest funny 7 minutes ever on Fox. Or just the smartest.
  • Attack of the 50 ft Eyesores - 5 Oh yes. A cross between giant ads and kaiju? I'll take it
  • Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace - 4.5 The classic horror parody was good, the Loony Tunes parody to start was even better.
  • Homer3 5 AThis was pretty amazing in 1995. It's still cool now, even if my phone could create these graphics. Not me, mind you, but my phone could. Still, name ONE other comedy in the history of television that might have so many math jokes**. Real ones, not the craptacular ones in Big Bang Theory***. Seriously. This may be the episode of network comedy most loaded with semi-advanced math and physics. Which is simultaneously sad and awesome
"I told you, Flanders has it. Or Moe. Go kill Moe."
"Well, OK. If it'll end horror."
"Do not touch Willie. Good advice."
"Do you see towels? If you see towels, you're probably in the linen closet again."
"OW! Watch it, coney!"
"Here is an ordinary square." "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down, egghead."

* Which is nice
** Go to Wolfram alpha and type "1782" in the arithmetic field and auto-correct pulls up the equation from this episode.
*** Which I enjoy

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Treehouse of Horrors Rehash Part 6

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XVII (Season 18)  2.5 Another 1-for-3 outing. These were dark years, indeed.
  • Married to the Blob - 3 Starts ok, but the dark turn doesn't do much. But it is good to hear Dr. Phil mock himself.
  • You Gotta Know When to Golem - 1 Two of my least-favorite comedians in one bit!
  • The Day The Earth Looked Stupid - 4.5 Kang, Kodos, Brain! Woo hoo!
"Look at that -- my blood's a genius. Fancy Roman numerals and everything!"
"No! Today's teens have enough problems without me trying to eat them"
"What did we Germans ever do to deserve this? Oh, right." 
"We have nothing to fear but these aliens and their vastly superior killing technology."
"I'm starting to think that Operation Enduring Occupation was a bad idea."

 Treehouse of Horror XVI (Season 17) 3 A great intro and only one good segment is a mixed bad.
  • Kang and Kodos vs. Baseball - 5 Never has an intro spoken more to me. 
  • BI Bartificial Intelligence - 2 Another movie I haven't seen, another unfunny parody.
  • Survival of the Fattest - 4 Homer resorting to cannibalism in less than a day.
  • I've Grown a Costume on Your Face - 2.5 Meh. Started strong, finished poorly.
"Lisa, the zoo opens up a whole new world for the animals. In the wild they would never experience boredom, obesity, loss of purpose. You know, the American Dream!"

Treehouse of Horror V (season 6): Not a surprise, as this has long been my favorite Treehouse, situated nicely in what is probably my favorite season.  I even did a college project on the efficacy of short-form parody of horror movies. And you wonder why I opted for a liberal arts college.
  • The Shinning - 5 Name one thing wrong with this segment. Can't think of one? Of course you can't. Trivia: this episode is the source of my much-hated wifi password.
  • Time and Punishment - 5 A parody of a classic Ray Bradbury story? Why not? 
  • Nightmare Cafeteria 4.5 A craptacular movie gets a parody that great improves it. And the special effects look more realistic in pastel than in the movie. God, I hated it.
"Hmmm.  That's odd, usually the blood gets off at the second floor."
"You stay here till you're no longer insane. Hmmm. Chili would be good tonight."
"Oh, I wish, I wish I hadn't killed that fish"

Monday, October 27, 2014

Treehouse of Horror Rewatch Part 4

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XIX (Season 20)  2.5 Meh, at best, until the Peanuts mockery. Except for the Mad Men credits, which were also excellent
  • Voting Booth Intro - 3 Short and sweet!
  • Untitled Robot Parody - 1.5 The Transformers movies suck, it's only right that this should, too.
  • How to Get Ahead in Dead-Vertising - 3 The Mad Men intro was a 5, 
  • It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse - 5 In the middle of a dog is a great parody of a childhood favorite. Complete with Marge "speaking" with a trombone
"This doesn't happen in America! Maybe in Ohio, but not in America!"
"Before you kill me, what was the one true religion?" "Eh, it's a mixture of voodoo and Methodist"
"All pumpkins are racist; the difference is I admit it!"
 Treehouse of Horror XVIII (Season 19) 3.5 A lame intro but good segments is definitely a switch from standard late-model Treehouse, but who I am to complain?
  • Annoying Fox Pop-Ups Intro - 4.5 Mocking Fox's craptacular scheduling and overbearing onscreen ads? I'm in.
  • ET, Go Home - 4 Oh Kodos, you scamp.
  • Mr & Mrs. Simpson - 3 Hey! It's the only slightly-exaggerated idea of feeding cows to cows and getting a deadly disease out of it! Ok, that is 100% not exaggerated. But BSE doesn't make fast-zombies... yet.
  • Heck House - 4.5 Hard to go wrong with Flanders showing his brand of goodness and some Bosch-ian* hellscapes!
"Can't anyone just watch the show they're watching?"
To the tune of 'She'll be comin' 'round the mountain' "We'll be killin' every human in 2 days. We'll cook them, we'll eat them, 'cause that's the way to treat them..."
"Marge, I'll be home late tonight. I'm going... to... midnight monkey madness at the zoo." 
"I was just in it for the sin."
"Oh, how I envy the crotchless!"
"All we'll do from now on is pray and fight in wars"

Treehouse of Horror IV (season 5): 5 It shouldn't affect the rating, but I do prefer watching on DVD -- occasionally we get deleted scenes, like this time. And this was the 1st ToH I didn't see "live".
  • The Devil and Homer Simpson - 5 Definitely in the running for top segment. Only downside is that Wiggum's voice isn't right.
  • Terror at 5 1/2 Feet - 4.5 Twilight zone alert! Not as hi-larious as the rest, it's still money.
  • Bart Simpson's Dracula - 5 A craptacular movie gets a parody that great improves it. And the special effects look more realistic in pastel than in the movie. God, I hated it.
(Homer, After reading a note from himself) "Bastard! He's always one step ahead of me!"
"Hmmmm... who's that goat-legged fellow? I like the cut of his jib." That's the Prince of Darkness. He's your 4 o'clock."  
Lionel Hutz! "Mr. Simpson, don't you worry. I watched Matlock in a bar last night. The sound wasn't on, but I think I got the gist of it.
"Aye. My debauchery was my way of compensating"
"My mule wouldn't walk in the mud. I had to put 17 bullets in him."
"I'm doin' all the pullin', ya blouse-wearing poodle-walker!"
"Perhaps spending the rest of your life in a madhouse will teach you some manners"
"Ooh, Dad, this is blood. "Correction: FREE blood."
"Hello Mother. Hello Father. Nothing happened during my unexplained absence."

* Bottom

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Treehouse of Horror Rewatch Part The Third

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XXI (Season 22)  2.5 Soooo... apparently the ToH24 wasn't the first with a super-long pre-credits gag.  My bad. Good stuff, and it still holds up, even "And it'll be Obama's fault." 
  • The Monster Office Intro - 4 As a longtime fan of both Offices, this was a hit for me. Frink somehow managed to not make the laughs with the jokes and the thing. Glaven!
  • War and Pieces - 4 The Jumanji "parody" isn't great, but there are plenty of good lines. I'm an easy sell.
  • Master and Cadaver - 2 A very Meh 1 -- til the twist with Maggie
  • Tweenlight - 1.5 Hey, a Twilight parody! Since I've never read the books or seen the flicks, this one had to stand (or, more accurately, fail) on its own merits. oof.
"Hey! It's gotta be good if Satan put his name on it!"
"There was a bank error in my favor... and I'm spending it all on Oriental Avenue prostitutes!" 
"I just got crushed by a giant horse, Lou, you want to cut me a break?"
"Hey Mr. Positive, shut the hell up!"
"I know, I know... Don't ask him if he knows Frankenstein, it's racist somehow."

Treehouse of Horror XX (Season 21) 3.5 A lame intro but good segments is definitely a switch from standard late-model Treehouse, but who I am to complain?
  • Monsters Night Out Intro - 1.5 Why are the Simpsons the only ones with donuts as party food? This is pretty brilliant. Sadly, the intro isn't -- apart from the werewolf's wife hitting him with a rolled-up newspaper.
  • Dial M For Murder - 4 Twilight? Meh. But Hitchcock? With a chase scene with the "North by Northwest" theme music? The lack of great lines is less important with something so completely in my wheelhouse
  • Don't Have a Cow, Man - 3 Hey! It's the only slightly-exaggerated idea of feeding cows to cows and getting a deadly disease out of it! Ok, that is 100% not exaggerated. But BSE doesn't make fast-zombies... yet.
  • There's No Business Like Moe Business - 4 I also haven't seen Sweeney Todd, but the songs won me over. I do love Simpsons musical numbers!
"Lighten up, ladies, it's not cheating when you're wearing a costume"
Bart: "I've been waiting for you. And trying to find out how girls pee"
"Now, Lisa, you're a vegetarian, but these cows have made a different choice." 
"As a vegetarian, I did not consume any tainted burgers. And as a convenience store clerk, I am armed to the teeth."
"You can apologize in hell!" "I guess I could! (Shoots)"
"I think the better brains is 'are you brains a brains?'"

Treehouse of Horror III (season 4): 5 Yeah, this was never in doubt. The only question is if this will be the best of the lot. As for quotes, the entire damn thing is hilarious, so knock yourself out. This is also one of the last seasons where the episode isn't on the 1st DVD of the season. Thanks a lot, Fox.
  • Clown Without Pity - 5 You're not getting a better mix of parody and straight comedy -- this is Treehouse gold.
  • King Homer - 4 This one has grown on me. A great sendup of the original King Kong, .
  • Dial "Z" For Zombies - 5 Most years, this would be the highlight. But being a VERY close second to a psychotic doll is nothing to be ashamed of -- just ask Walter Mondale.
"That's Not a Bible, that's a book of carpet samples!" "oooh, fuzzy"
"And in environmental news, scientists announced today that Springfield's air is only dangerous to children and the elderly"
"There goes the last lingering thread of my heterosexuality" (This was in 1992 on "network" TV! ) 
"Guess who, fat boy!"
"Marge, Marge, look! The doll is trying to kill me and the toaster has been laughing at me!"
"Yep, here's your problem. Someone set this doll to eeee-vil"
"Homer! I've coughed up scarier stuff than that"
"Grandpa! Why don't you tell us a story? You've led an interesting life." "That's a lie and you know it!"
"I think women and seamen don't mix" "we know what you think, Smithers"
"Martin Prince, report to the principal's office at once - and bring that big, juicy Chess Club brain of yours" 
* Monorail!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Treehouse of Horror Rewatch Part Deux

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XXIII (Season 24) 3.5 Soooo... apparently the ToH24 wasn't the first with a super-long pre-credits gag.  My bad. Good stuff, and it still holds up, even "And it'll be Obama's fault." 
  • Mayan Intro - 4.5 Good stuff all around, and I'll forgive using the Aztec calendar in a Mayan setting. El Castillo at Chichen Itza is pretty well-rendered, too!
  • The Greatest Story Ever Holed - 3.5 The accelerator doesn't find the Higgs Boson, but it does create a black hole. A workmanlike segment, but Zune jokes never get old*!
  • Unnormal Activity - 3.5 As a parody, meh**. On its own? Surprisingly good, saved by the ending threesome with Homer and 2 demons: "What's the safe word?" "Cinnamon"  "There are some things I want to try"... (Demon) "Cinnamon! CINNAMON!"
  • Bart and Homer's Excellent Adventure It's been 30ish years, time for a "Back to the Future" parody! This is one ripe for parody, but the Simpsons started at the wrong time -- a few years earlier and it'd have been a must, but they were too late. Fortunately, they stuck around until nostalgia kicked in.
"Even though you know it's comin', when you see your own beatin' heart, try to act surprised -- it's some kid's first time"
"Hey Marge, I'm setting my watch; what baktun is it?"
"I's rich! I's poor... and schackless"
"It's Homer - before his boobs came in!"
"You're just like Indiana Jones, son -- a role played by Richard Dreyfuss in our universe!"
"Crawl atop me... and meet your doom!" 
"Make Egyptian slave Homer do it!" "It's always me "
"Oh Marge, this is the purest love there is -- patient, supportive, ooooh! cleavage! Ahhhh-uhuh"

Treehouse of Horror XXII (Season 23) 0.5 2011 has made me realize that my standard criticism of The Family Guy is totally on point: it is a show made for YouTube, with lots of great 10-30 sec gags that are BARELY held together by a "plot". This is ok -- for 2-3 minutes. For 20+ week after week? Um, no. Easily the low point so far, and hopefully, overall.

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterball - 1.5 Yeah? Um, no. A few decent gags, but overall craptacular.
  • Dial D for Diddly - 2 Yeah, no. Apu's hot dogs? Telephone poles, killer whales zebras and tires. Mmmmmm... random... A rare segment where the payoff FAR outdoes the setup. This was going to be a 1, but the ending propped it up
  • In The Na'Vi - 0 uch. Not a fan of Avatar, less a fan of this dreck. Of course, you need substance to get a decent parody, so this one is on James Cameron -- and the world's filmgoers.
"Spend less time on your back and more time on your knees!" Flanders' advice to a hooker***
"Knitting one sweater for someone costs 27 Americans their jobs"

"He's got the proportionate strength of a paralyzed spider!"

Treehouse of Horror II (season 3): 3.5 A great start fizzles out badly.  On the bright side, the writers learned from this and stepped up their game considerably the next year

  • Lisa's Nightmare/The Monkey's Paw - 5 You're not getting a better mix of parody and straight comedy -- this is Treehouse gold.
  • Bart's Nightmare/The Bart Zone - 3 A classic Twilight Zone bit, but not bad at all.
  • Homer's Nightmare/If I Only Had A Brain - 2 A fairly lame brain transplant bit, though with some good one-liners.
"Hey! If you don't like it, go to Russia"
"Before I was just bored with their antics and their merchandise. Now I just wish they were dead."
"Behold! The greatest advancement in labor relations since the cat'o'nine tails!"
"Bad corpse! Bad corpse! Stop Scaring Smithers!"
"Ice cream scoop?" "Dammit, Smithers, this isn't rocket science -- it's brain surgery!"
"That fellow at Radio Shack said I was mad -- well, who's mad now? Mwahahahahaha!"

* Seriously, if you haven't heard Ballmer's reaction to the iPhone vs the Zune, you must click on this. "It'll do music, it'll do internet." Heh.
** I haven't actually seen Paranormal Activity. 
*** I'm assuming she's dead, so it's ok

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Your Treehouse of Horror Guide

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! As a huge Simpsons fan and extremely unreliable blogger, I figured I'd put the week before Halloween to good use and watch all 25 episodes. Of course, this wouldn't be legally possible if it weren't for the too-good-to-be-true simpsonsworld -- every episode streaming online*. So, the plan is mix old and new -- starting with the most recent, I'll watch 2 episodes of "new" Treehouse to one of "classic".  And, of course, snark and review. Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XXV (Season 26) Only a week old, this is standard late-model Simpsons Treehouse: a parody of arguable timeliness, with two (fairly) original segments. However, they did make with the laugh laugh, so it's hard to 
  • School is Hell - 4.5 Bart flourishing in a school for demons? An unpromising premise far exceeded by the constant flow of jokes, from low to high brow -- and Homer's donut-eating torture gets a quick cameo!
  • A Clockwork Yellow - 4.5 A timely*** romp through most of Kubrick's oeuvre through the lens of "A Clockwork Orange" -- there's even a callback to "Barry Lyndon".
  • The Others The original Simpsons have returned several times, so this one was a bit weak -- until the ending. Seeing South Park, Miyazaki, Archer and Despicable Me versions redeemed the bit.
"Thank you for choosing the Burns Hellport, a division of Gulf and Western"
"You went to Hell and came back a winner -- just like Jesus!"
"You should not be out lugging, shin-slicing or eye-groining"
"The power of Chrysler compels you!"

Treehouse of Horror XXIV (Season 25) 2013's offering was very up and down -- one spectacular intro, two decent segments and an all-time dog. Here's the intro:  

  • Guillermo del Toro's Opening credits5 Three minutes of insanity referencing classic horror movies, novels, authors, the previous 23 episodes and del Toro's own movies
  • Oh, The Places You'll D'oh! - 4 The Seussian rhymes often do impress, even when the violence goes to excess!
  • Dead and Shoulders - 0.5 Oof. This was a dog. This is exactly the kind of hack-y crap The Simpsons should parody, not produce.
  • Freaks No Geeks Nothing outstanding... until the twist at the end, including the fake newspaper.
"From you I've learned to feel compassion for these disgustos"
"A wedding is no time to worry about threats from the bride's former lover"

The Simpsons Halloween Special (season 2): 3.5 Of all the Treehouses, this one stands out -- the writers clearly weren't sure if they were doing a comedy or a 80s-style mild horror, it's still good, after a very weak first segment.

  • Bad Dream House - 2 Some good bits, but no stand out lines. Like the rest of the episode, this was a bit too indebted to "The Twilight Zone"
  • Hungry Are The Damned - 4.5 The only segment that would be right at home in a later season, it's both a parody of classic sci-fi and funny in its own right.
  • The Raven It's not hilarious, but is there a better version of the Raven than narrated by James Earl Jones with Homer as the protagonist and Bart as the Raven? I'm going with no.
  • Best Non-Poe Line: "Everyone that comes from a race that has mastered intergalactic travel, raise your hand" and "Well, it was written in 1845 -- maybe people were easier to scare back then"

This is exactly the sort of development that would have been fatal to my college career, had they had the internet on computers** back in the early 90s. 
** If you didn't recognize this quote, you desperately need to watch more of The Simpsons.
** 43 years isn't timely?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Disney & Pixar, Click These!

Cool "princesses" throughout history and fiction that are too... something for an animated movie? I'm in. All stories, artwork, coolness and credit to:

Mariya - the badass soviet tank driver who BOUGHT HER OWN TANK to avenge her husband's death at the hands of the NAZIs. That's right -- the fing Nazis.

My favorite, though? Hatshepsut -- badass Egyptian pharaoh:

So, go and check 'em out. They're each awesome in their own way!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Cologne Space Invader Hunt

I've been a big fan of Space Invaders sinceI saw an exhibit in Ljubljana in 2006.  I've searched them out in Paris, London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Ljubljana. But I never found any in Cologne, in spite of living twenty minutes away.  In my defense, I couldn't waste time looking -- if any Kölners found out that a loyal 'dorfer was on their territory, I was at risk of being force-drunk kölsch*. However, Friday was a holiday, and I wasn't traveling.  So I figured I'd go on a hunt. Here's what I found. One I expected was missing -- did The MAN pull it? Or just some asshat civilian? Hard to say. But I'm betting on The Man.

The first was easy -- on the bridge from Deutz to the Hbf:
The next few were tougher, one on a pedestrian bridge:
One at Heumarkt:
Two near the Dom:

Some in the hipster section:

And a few near the tracks:

 * OK, in retrospect, it seems like I should've done this. Repeatedly.

A Tasty Test in Triplicate

I LOVE pulled pork. Juicy, smoky, tasty, it's the pinnacle of porkly arts*. Why, I wondered, don't we see more variations? The basic idea of slow-cooking** a fatty cut so that the flavor of the rub and the pork blend perfectly. But could the traditional cumin/cayenne/garlic/onion/brown sugar mix be expanded? Obviously, yes. My first test? Dried Mexican chilies to go for an almost dry mole flavor.

However, I am my mother's son, so a single test wasn't enough. I had to opt for a secondary cut because of circumstances beyond my control***, so I didn't get the preferred shoulder with a nice fatty layer. To counter this distinct disadvantage, I made two adjustments: 1) After I covered the meat in rub, I wrapped the cut with bacon -- then covered that in rub. 2) I had prepared for a few months by adding a bit of a fatty layer to the cook, too.

With these changes, I threw it into the oven and awaited the results. And this is what I found:

The foreground is the bacon, which is all kinds of tasty. This is definitely going to be added to the rotation.  The meat itself was dry and a bit tough -- definitely a far sight from the shoulder. And the rub? A win. It's a darker flavor, and not as sweet as my standard recipe (taken from here). But the anchos gave it a smoky flavor. It needs a bit of a lighter hand, so I'll try it next time with more cinnamon and some ground coriander. I'd like to get some cilantro in the mix, but I think the ideal will be fresh cilantro garnish and avocado slices on a homemade tortilla. Sadly, this will have to wait until the next batch.

A VERY rough approximation of a recipe:
6 Ancho Chiles
4 New Mexico Chiles
2 Pasilla Chiles
One handful whole cumin seeds
One handful whole black pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

Grind the chiles, cumin and pepper, then mix all together to make the run. Then, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of tastiness!

* OK, fine. It shares its place atop the pork pyramid with bacon.
** If you want to claim that only smoked pulled pork is "real" pulled pork, that's cool. But you won't get any of what I make in the oven.
*** I woke up too late for the farmer's market.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Your UPDATED! Guide to German Unity Day

Today, October 3rd, is German Unity Day. How do you celebrate? SHOULD you even celebrate? Here's your OFFICIAL JTinGermany guide to the holiday -- eight years in the making. If you want a throwback view of the day, check out my 2011 or 2009 guides*.

Do you live in Germany? If so, enjoy the best kind of holiday -- commemorating a (mostly) happy event, but without any annoying requirements. Enjoy coffee on your balcony**, write a snarky blog post***, go for a bike ride****, hit on an Ossi or just wear socks with your sandals. Go wild! But if you live near Munich, you damn well better hurry if you want to get a spot in a tent today!

Do you live in Texas? Continue your Ebola panic! 
Do you live in the rest of the USA? Either ignore/be ignorant of the day (the popular option), bitch about how Germans already get too many holidays & vacation days (if you know me or other Americans living in Germany), or make a joke about how 24 years of unified peace means it's almost time for Germany to start a war the USA will win***** (everyone else).

Do you live in the UK? If anyone mentions Germany Unity Day, reply with "Do they also get VE Day as a holiday? Oh, right, they don't." This should get at least a smile from even your most uptight of colleagues (i.e., your most English of colleagues).

Do you live in Russia? Mark your calendar for the looming new German holiday, "Russian Unity Day" coming in just a few years!******

Do you live in Austria? Have a schnitzel!

Do you live in France? You're probably unemployed or joining ISIS (too soon?), so enjoy your day off. If you're one of the "working" French, sit back with a Ricard and some Gauloises and reflect on how the rest of the world doesn't understand the laughable tragic opera that is life.

Do you live in Poland? Go sign up for a baking class and ignore the sound of tanks coming from the west.

Do you live anywhere else? I got nothin'*******.

Yes, I do make a bunch of the same jokes. Let's see you blog intermittently for 8 years with only new material.
** Done. 
*** Doing now.
**** Will be done after this. 
***** While ignoring the fact that the USA starts armed conflicts with alarming regularity. Unless you're talking to a German, and then you should preempt their pretentious statement of same by making a joke about it. That really chaps their hides.
****** And if you support the illegal invasions of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, fuck right off. And when you get finished? Fuck off again, you jackass.
******* Which could probably have been the answer for the other questions, too. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Eff Tha Police

So we've got NYC police "men" choke-holding a man til he's dead and Missouri cops shooting a teen for, apparently, being black*. To respond, I have to say...

And, if that isn't clear, then...

Monday, July 28, 2014

London Book Benches Bike Binge

So, London has been flooded with book-shaped benches that each celebrate a book that is part of London's literary heritage (except Dickens, and, for some reason, Peter Pan, get two each).  Of course, "literary" is a flexible term, as one of the benches celebrates a... cricket almanac. However, the idea that cricket is a sport is a fiction*, so there's that.

The "Books About Town" event is sponsored by the National Literacy Trust and consists of 50 benches along 4 trails: Bloomsbury (near the Brit Museum), City (around St. Paul's and the Bank of England), Riverside (across the river from the Globe for about half a mile) and Greenwich (in, um, Greenwich). The Greenwich trail is cleverly located outside the range of the Boris Bike system, so you either get to pay some extra fees for keeping the bike too long or walk. Since I was hurting for time**, I opted to bike and then lug it back on the train.

My favorites:
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe:
From London Book Benches 2014

A Brief History of Time:
From London Book Benches 2014

The Diary of Samuel Pepys:
From London Book Benches 2014

Most Disappointing? A tie between The Origin of the Species:
From London Book Benches 2014

and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
From London Book Benches 2014

And a slideshow with each of the benches

* I also think baseball is not a sport, so shut up about "Americans not understanding cricket". I understand it, but any "sport" that has breaks for tea time is a game.
** Also, I am lazy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Screaming Baby Water!

I'm not a big fan of bottled water, but I have noticed that it is almost always packaged with images of nature. Not in Italy -- they love Screaming Baby water!

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Piedmont and Cinque Terre Food Porn

After eating so many great meals in a week, it's been brutally difficult* to upload. But I persevere, so that you may be jealous.
First off, our last meal out in Piedmont, at Wine Bar Barolo Friends. We chose this as it was a) open b) had seats for 8 and c) was air conditioned (it was in the 90s). Unfortunately, mid-90s is not the ideal temp to savor Barolo, so we opted for a refreshing bubbly instead. The food was tasty, but not spectacular. I opted for spaghetti bolognese, since it seemed wrong to go to Italy and not have it. Toothsome noodles, rich sauce, a great dish, if nothing to write home about.

However, the filled pasta were delicious -- rich, but not overwhelming. Definitely a highlight.

After that, it was off to Cinque Terre. We picked a restaurant with a view and one that our host recommended: Il Casello. Unfortunately, we had no reservation so we had to make do with being seated a bit off the patio, but the view was still nice:

Neither Lindsay nor I were big fans of sardines, but we changed our tune after trying the Cinque Terre-style sardines at . As we enjoyed our view of the sea, the rich, meaty sardines in a tomato sauce with fresh olives and garlic. It completely changed my opinion on sardines from "ugh, salty" to "I'm listening..."

Our main was the catch of the day, local sea bass, with roasted potatoes. It was light, tasty and I didn't even feel guilty for eating something overfished since it was local :)

Of course, we couldn't go without trying the local pasta, trofie (basically short, thick pasta that's been slightly twisted -- a little thicker than slivered almonds) al pesto. The pesto was bursting with flavors, the olive oil mixing well with the garlic and basil. Scrumptious!
Of course, there will be more to come.
* For a lazy blogger

Friday, July 04, 2014

Piedmont Food Porn Day 2

After a nice rejuvenating evening, we went our separate ways for the day, then reconvened for a local dinner at Ristorante al Capalletto. The nearest restaurant was busy with a christening dinner, but they managed to find room for us on the terrace. We had to tolerate this view, but we survived:

First up for dinner? Carne crudo, a Piemontese veal version of beef tartare, and vitello tonnato -- sliced roasted veal with a tuna sauce. The vitello tonnato was nice, but it's just not my thing. The carne crudo? Definitely one of the top tartares of my life.
Next was sellerie with ricotta, olive oil and walnuts. One of the vegetarian options, it was quite good. The crunch of the sellerie and olives mixed well with the tang of the ricotta and oil. Not what I expected, but scrumptious.
Next up was an involtini -- basically a crepe gathered into a pouch around a filling.  In this case the filling was asparagus and AWESOME.  I'd never had this before and it was easily a highlight of the trip.
Another primi highlight was the agnolotti al plin -- the pinch. The pinch in question was a very small filled pasta that is made by (wait for it) pinching the filling into a dough covering. The filling in our case was 3 meats: veal, beef and rabbit. Very earthy and very tasty.

 Our last primi? Risotto. You can't stay too long in Italy and resist its charms, because it's awesome. This one was simple with peas, but just toothy enough to have texture and flavor. Even our vegetarians didn't whine about another starch.
 Of course, starch wasn't an issue with secondi - I knew I was going to have the traditional braised beef the following night, so I opted for the rabbit with peppers. While not quite as exquisite as the previous day, it was full-flavored and definitely not dry (a common risk with Bugs's cousins).
 Dessert was a clear choice -- I thought.  Every semifreddo I've had before has been blah. And there was a local chocolate cake. Local! Chocolate! It's foodie entrapment. Fortunately, I had a phenomenally cool (currently unnamed) dinner partner. She opted for the semifreddo:
 It was A-MAZ-ING. Gelato interspersed with crunchiness and a bit of ganache on the side. Decadent but not overwhelming. Of the non-coconut gelatos on the trip, this was tops

 Of course, the local specialty was... great. In fact, had it not been up against the semifreddo, it would've contended for best of the week -- rich and satisfying, with a caramel sauce that didn't overpower. With a nice espresso on the side, it would be hard to go wrong. Unless you were seated next to someone enjoying the semifreddo.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Piedmont Food Porn Day I

One of the many great things about going to Italy is the food. Pasta, fresh veggies, local cheese -- and that's not even getting into the many delicious varieties of pork and veal. If Southern Cali is ground zero for traditional porn, then Italy is definitely fighting for the crown in food porn.

First stop? The weekly local market in Alba.  It had all the tasty produce you expect at the grocery store, except it was local and way better. Big grabs were cherries, caprese-fixin's, local cheese and salumi, and sun-dried tomatoes that so addictive that they tasted like they'd been dipped in cocaine
Next stop? A Slow Food-recommended restaurant in Alba, Osteria dell'Arco. It was quite delightful. First up? Roasted Eggplants layered with tomatoes and topped with fresh cheese and infused olive oil.
Our other appetizer? Anchovies with tomato chutney and maybe the most intense pesto I've ever had. I normally hate anchovies, but these were meaty and tasted more of full-flavored sashimi than the salty old fish I'm used to.

I was one of the few with space for a second (and the obsessive photo compulsion for taking pictures of my food), but the main course of rabbit with roasted zucchini* and potatoes was amazing. The rabbit was juicy by firm, and the accompany sauce was (I think) a light glaze made from pan drippings.

Dessert? I'd been in Italy over 12 hours at this point, and I was nearing a fatal level of gelato-deprivation. There was only 1 solution: 
As (almost) always, I couldn't be swayed from the Coconut-Dark Chocolate (here called Black Chocolate, so, duh) combo. But I should have gone for Pistachio, easily the best I've ever tried.  The local hazelnut was also crazy good, if you're into that sort of thing. Which I am.

 * Courgette if you're French/British