Friday, December 17, 2010

Batman: The Animated Series

I’ve been putting off writing this entry for almost a year.

This is what happens when I have nothing to write about. Step 1 of this process is struggling with that is appropriate to share or not share that’s going on. Step 2 is accepting that it’s too gross to reveal in the format of the blogosphere without turning away readers and step 3 is the Russian wave of communist resistance. Actually Step 3 is writin
g about Batman the Animated Series; which has nothing to do with communism; except in the sense that if you don’t think it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to superhero cartoon television I think you’re beyond help. Part of the reason I was putting it off is because I have real passion for the subject, not just in the ironic sense.

I think we’re off to a great start with this one. When I was six years old, I spent my school days waiting to come home and sit down in front of Cartoon Network and watch BATMAN: The ANIMATED SERIES. They made a point to emphasize the fact that it’s not just BATMAN…it’s the goddamn batman cartoon. This was the first time Batman had gotten his OWN show in the hand-drawn (or sweatshop collectively drawn) medium. Sure he had a facet of Super Powers in the 70’s and 80’s and these were partially collected on VHS volumes, but Batman the Animated Series singlehandedly solidified the relevance of many of Batman’s major characters we’re familiar with today and kept Batman in the mainstream as a valid cultural icon despite missteps such as the Schumacher films; which interestingly enough drew a lot of their inspiration and character selection FROM the animated series.

Genius-at-large, Bruce Timm, and physically large genius, Paul Dini were the men responsible for Batman: The Animated Series. The show was a branch off from the then-recent Burton films, 89’ and Batman Returns. Many of established bits of context from the movies were kept in the animated series, such as the Penguin being a mutant with long scraggly hair and the Joker having an alias of “Jack Napier”. Obviously Batman takes place in a multitude of timelines (I don’t know if anyone read Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader but it was basically the ultimate mindfuck explaining that Bat-Timelines are skewed and irrelevant) and Batman: the Animated Series sort of takes place in some twilight zone 90’s/1940’s reality. Some of the cars are old and yet the topical terrorist threats are very real. Television sets are sometimes in color and sometimes in black and white. It’s the perfect fantastical mix of Batman being put into a unique reality.

Something can be said for the storylines too. They didn't shy back from much violence, and in some cases, I think characters even DIED. Batman never broke his rule of killing though, but that doesn't mean there weren't some incidentals. There were some really touching moments of the series though such as Batman's relationship with this old woman named Leslie, who cared for him when his parents died. Another really great plotline for an episode was the idea that Batman was inspired by his own superhero as a child, the Grey Ghost. Now the Grey Ghost is just a washed up actor whose being blamed for a string of crimes that follow the plot of an old episode of his show. Of course Batman saves him and tells him "You were my hero as a kid". Never have villains been played up so emotionally either, like Clayface who most people hadn't even heard of prior to BTAS. The Two Face origin presented in BTAS is my favorite and you really feel bad for Harvey in his fall from grace.

Part of the main appeal of the series is the “dark deco” as the term is now called and the angular, simplistic yet totally understandable art style applied to the characters and buildings. Everything is in an exaggerated perspective; but it’s very realistic. While you know you’re watching a cartoon, everything from the facial expressions of beady-eyed civilian characters to the way their suits fit seems extremely relatable to the real world. It’s like if we had rotoscoped (an animation process of tracing over film) the actions and looks of real people using only straight lines. Hard to explain but basically, in a matter of words of less, Batman: The Animated Series taught me how to draw. I owe it one of the greatest workplace distraction tools of my entire life. In fact I don’t know how to draw anything BUT things in the style of BTAS…or more specifically TNBA.

Though admittedly not as iconic or well known as the Batman: Animated Series basic art, the show went through a stylistic revamp on the 4th season when it teamed up on Warner Brothers and Fox in the mornings with Superman for an adventure hour. This is referred to as THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES…or somehow TNBA. Or the new adventures of Batman and Robin? But Batgirl and Nightwing were introduced into the cast this season so it really wasn’t limited to just Robin. I don’t have a clue. I just call it THE NEW ADVENTURES and because it came out at the time I was honing my art style in grade school at the ripe age of 7, I draw everything as simplistically and minimalist as TNBA. The iconic Joker, as voiced to a note of perfection by Mark Hamill now had white dots for eyes set over black beads. Batman himself, ditched the black and yellow classic logo in favor of the one introduced in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller, with a plain black bat over a grey background. Everything was sleek and modernized, including the batmobile. In doing this, the dark deco was refined. Less detail, more sleek and it was now not just a serial cartoon, but a recognizable style of art.

BTAS/TNBA managed to permeate just about every aspect of my life at a young age. I was running around like a fool with a Batman cowl on the sidewalk at age 4 when the early episodes were on and a dog knocked me over and bit me. Rough times…but Batman was there for me. BTAS gave me the promise in my life that no matter what happened, I’d always have the comfort of the Caped Crusader and this rogues gallery to fall back on. Batman Underwear. Batman bubble Baths. Batman fruit snacks. I was, and am presently, unashamed of what became a lifelong obsession with a tortured man who lost his parents and took of crime-fighting. It makes perfect sense to me; and yet in writing this essay and trying to explain it, I’m unable to, much like Harley Quinn can’t really explain her attraction to the Joker.

Speaking of Harley Quinn, she’s proof of how important BTAS is to the comic book lexicon. She was introduced into the show in an episode entitled The Laughing Fish (the only episode to not feature a title card with a distinctive theme song) and become a valid comic book character and Joker-love interest/sidekick afterwards where she remains today having branched off with her own series. BTAS also resurrected characters who were thought to be absolute jokes and brought them into the spotlight and made them relevant again to the point where they would be featured in films. While Arnold played a pretty campy Mr. Freeze, the only reason he was in the movie to begin with was because of the chilling (lol get it?) emmy-winning (seriously. I didn’t make that up) episode Heart of Ice which features a tortured and broken spirited Victor Fries.

BTAS is really the pinnacle of my constitution as a “nerd”. It’s been there for me. An old standby…like grilled cheese. On days that I’ve been sick, BTAS has been there. On various occasions of Christmas and my birthday, BTAS has been there too. On the shelves of my collectibles and merch …it’s been there several times back and forth. I find that I almost instantly make friends with other fans of the show. One of my best friends I’ve met through a shared appreciation of The Dark Knight and the animated series. Another I met the first week of college when he expressed interest in the subject and we remain friends to this day. About a year ago at this time, I was rewatching the Joker-theme/and or Christmas themed episodes with special someone who has an appreciation for the show as well. Here we are a year later and she’s become more prominent in my life than I’d have guessed at the time. Batman brings people together. This is really the root of the fandom for many who grew up in the 90’s and who even grew up in the 80’s. It’s unquestionably solid material, and it continues to leave an impact on modern comics and batman films today. So there you have it. A love letter to BTAS/TNBA.

“I AM VENGEANCE. I AM THE NIGHT. I AM…BATMAN”

And now, I'll be posting some drawings I've done on photoshop that are combinations of the BTAS and New Adventures styles. I like the sleek refined look of TNBA...but I prefer the deco of BTAS. So I did my own.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My very own OFFICIAL HOLIDAY LIST!!! (I'm such a nerd)

I'll admit I've been saving up things to say for this one. It seems like I'm just brimming with my own unique facets of craziness which must be expressed in the form of holiday blogs.


LOOKIT ALL DIS CHRISTMAS SHIT! First it was white out MTN Dew…and now I’ve taken a trip to Dunkin Donuts yielding RED ASS donuts. I don’t know what it is that’s so good about red icing, but it has a certain chalky, tangible consistency that’s rarely found in icing of other colors. I appreciate it. I also appreciate how long and widespread this promotion has been. I’ve found these at MULTIPLE Dunkin locations now, being flanked by the gingerbread donut. The gingerbread flavoring in this one is convincing, though I think the caked on frosting helps. A note about frosting: The more dry and plastic in consistency it is, the better it is. I can’t stand it when shit gets on my hands and when it gets greasy. Even if I do hold my donuts with napkins, It’s just an unpleasant experience smattering your face in donut…grease. Makes you feel hot and sweaty and disgusting. I can’t even talk about this anymore. Let’s talk about something else disgusting…(as I’m coming down from a nauseating “Bolocoma”….
Mcrib is back. El Sabor or something the sign says en espanol. For only 4.50 (Tax included) you can now get the porklet sandwhich, fries, a drank and a FREE apple pie. I imagine, due to the hand printed out signs, that this is not a nation-wide promotion. Either way, I was feeling the Christmas cheer. It’s the season of getting. I don’t know when the Mcrib will actually be gone for good, but I shall not mourn it given the enormously long span of time in which it’s been available to us now. I think I’ve had about 4 of them in this time period though, and they’ve been getting increasingly less impressive.

We actually have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season…and a lot to look forward to. I’m going to now rattle off my official CHRISTMAS LIST! A top ten things I want or ten things I’m looking forward to that are pretty cool stories…bro. I guess this is really a nerdy/trendy Christmas list more than anything, but it’s basically the driving reasons to be alive during the winter months.

1. TRON! Coming out this week is the new super sleek astroglide movie TRON with Jeff Bridges. Hopefully it has nothing to do with the original TRON, which sucks a fat one. It looks like nonsensical fun with visual wonder.

2. THE TOWN on Blu Ray. So apparently, Ben Affleck’s new movie THE TOWN comes out this week on blu ray (to relatively little hype) with an EXTENDED cut that makes the movie half an hour longer. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to see some of that. This was easily one of my favorite movies this year so I’m eager of course, to see more of it.

3. The Tron Soundtrack…by DAFT PUNK. While I already mentioned the hype for TRON itself, I don’t think I mentioned how damn cool the soundtrack is, which was made by the electronica band, DAFT PUNK. One of the tracks (Track 2, the grid) features Jeff Bridges talking over images of lightcycles and crazy shit flying through the computer screens.
4. BATMAN RETURNS-THE EXTENDED SOUNDTRACK. This is something that’s REALLY important to me, possibly more so than most of the things on this list purely because I’ve been waiting so long for it. The simple fact that I have it though, makes it a little harder to be excited for, like the TRON soundtrack. I’ve always believed this to be Danny Elfman’s best score so this is really a treat getting to hear alternate cues and extended tracks from the score that I’ve been familiarizing myself with since the mid 90’s on cassette tape.
5. The Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job Chrimbus Special. Oh I love Tim and Eric. Their sense of ironically lame humor is highly relevant to my interests. Needless to say, the Chrimbus special now on itunes) improves just about every time I watch the damn thing. It’s been a long, difficult summer and fall without Tim and Eric since the final season of the show ended. Hopefully the Chrimbus special will be a yearly thing and is a sign of more lolz to come.

6. Rocky Horror Picture Show Anniversary Blu Ray. Rocky Horror has been a struggle to get on DVD or blu ray of any kind, but now that it’s finally been transferred, and the transsexual movie is finally on shelves at Walmart and Target, it’s much more attainable. I haven’t broke down and bought this one yet, but hopefully someone gets the hint and picks it up for me…EITHER THAT OR I WASTE MY OWN MONEY ON IT.

7. Admiral Ackbar…the action figure. IT’S A TRAP! No…no it’s not. Instead it’s the best toy version of Admiral Ackbar yet. Highly worthy of purchase, especially at the relatively low exchange rate of currency for fishman of $7 at your local retailer. He comes in the traditional 1980’s style packaging as well to boot. But it’d be a crime to leave Admiral Ackbar in the box when there’s so many lolz to be made. I already have mine. WHERES YOURS?
8. Machete on Blu Ray. While this one is more of a New Years present, Machete complete with cooking lessons from Robert Rodriguez, behind the scenes, and all the extras you can shake a blade at, will be out January 3rd. You can bet your ass I’m excited for this release and I’ll be picking it up regardless of circumstance the day it comes out. Hopefully I’m not too broke from dumping money into all the rest of this stuff by the time it comes out.

9. TRUE GRIT. Coen Brothers. Bridges. Johnny Cash. Epic Little girl. Brolin. Damon. Amazing. That’s about all I have to say. We’re less than a week from GODDAMN TRUE GRIT, which is my most anticipated film of the entire year, and it comes out just a couple days before the year ends. What could possibly outrank this in terms of importance you ask?

10. GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN. And a merry christmahanukwanzika to everyone. Are you JUDGING me for not being able to think of ten reasons to be alive? A joyous holiday season to you all. Eat shit and die.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

OH DAMN THATS SOME GOOD SHIT OH DAMN: WINTER MOUNTAIN DEW

Holy shitfuck a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! The first of the season. It’s funny how fate vomits things in your lap at your lowest and most desperate moments of despair. I was literally just in class writing a meaningful blog post about BATMAN: The Animated Series, a subject which I care about in a non-ironic sense. I started to half-heartedly begin my blog by complaining that there’s a lack of topical subjects to write about. I mean after all, it’s the season of CVS raids and good tidings, and I don’t have any sort of holiday themed bullshit to rant about how great it is. Maybe I’m just not feeling it this year. Anyways, there I was taking a trip to the C store to find some kind of drink to placate me in my daily lack of nutrition. I still had some residual Reeses pieces in my backpack (you’re reading first hand an admission of my hedonistic existence) to tied me over from a physical comestible perspective. I found some Lime Crush, which you probably don’t remember me reviewing a couple months back when I was enjoying life. I got to the counter and presented it to the overlord of the C Store when I saw it. It was a white liquid. Blue label. Winter themed. Dues Ex Machina Mtn. Dew. Mountain Dew White Out.

I’m not a fan of the Dew. It’s too caffeinated and it looks like green piss to me. It took some cajones forcing myself to buy some new flavor of mountain dew just because the bottle stated it was indoctrinated as permanent product due to a “Dewmacratic process”. It promised me that sometime last year or so, thousands of people actually bothered to go online and cast a vote for this flavor of Mountain Dew because they believed it was that good of shit. Seriously…how fucking awesome can a food or beverage be that you have to bother to go online and document your experiences with eating it? Oh wait. I guess I’m kind of an exception. But I do it from an ironic perspective. Half of this blog is hyperbole. This my friends, is the first food product written up here that I can officially endorse. As soon as I had my first sip I had formed my decision.

Oh damn. That’s some good shit. Oh damn. I haven’t used this loving phrase in a long time for ANYTHING. Keep in mind this ain’t no colloquialism of mine and I don’t toss it around lightly. Oh Damn That’s some Good Shit (ODTSGS) means that the product I’m referring to is life-changing and mind numbingly fucking awesome. Not only did slurping down this white stuff ramp me up with energy but it also tasted great. Read that sentence back to yourself and see if it makes you giggle.

I like the artic. I like glacial properties. Blue, idealized, fictional summits of ice, where penguins from Mario slide down the tops of cheerful moonlit slopes and party in fountains of youth to Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz all night. Polar Bears are drowning themselves in Coca Cola like Bacchus. The maritime varmit I presently spoke of in my review of the KFC Double Down are emerging from waters gargling with purple frigorific Gatorade flavors. Remember, how people were wary of the turquoise Gatorade before it became racially accepted as part of the mainstream line of Gatorades? It was previously part of Gatorade FROST. I was on cloud 9, huffing Vicks vapo-rub in my bedroom with the air conditioner blasting dust mites into my face against my mom and the surgeon-general’s warnings slurping down some fuckin GATORADE FROST. Now I’m a man. And man has needs. And I need my ferocious thirst quenched in a manly manner with Artic themed shit whored out all over the bottle. Mountain Dew White Out. I shall buy it again and again. Starting tomorrow.
And if you still remain unconvinced, that is a picture of me unable to pull the bottle off my fucking mouth IN journalism class where we are NOT allowed to have food, as so decreed by a sign on the door in fear of spillage on precious equipment that never works up to modern technological standards.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Take a walk on the wild side.

"Events with odds against so astronomical they're effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter... Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold..." -Dr. Manhattan

When I was in 5th or 6th grade I was given a class project to depict a truthful event from my life with some sort of illustration. I can’t recall the other sorts of philistine delineations the other kids in the class came up with and got “A’s” for but what I do specifically remember was being faced with a school district psychologist.

He held up the light brown eco-friendly (which is ironically expensive) paper on which I’d made my manifesto of artistic statement asked me if I was bad. “Do you feel threatened?” he said. A parent/teacher conference occurred slightly afterwards. My mom of course was incredulous as anyone as to why I’d depict a team of zombified surgeons beating a cartoonish doppleganger of myself to pieces for my class project. I'd tried to calmly explain that the year prior I'd fallen and broken my arm and had my first traumatic trip to the hospital. Sister Marie Christine, the high priestess at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy, who had slightly too much facial hair seemed concerned enough to make her aware and then to my horror, open up my desk and go through the contents at an ignominious after-school meeting.

I remember she dropped some of the papers on the floor out of shock. I knew I’d been creating contraband a mile a minute but it was pretty amusing to see the degree to which I’d offended the censors at a young age. Drawings of the killer from scream with a bloody knife. Ironic stick figure cartoons depicting wanton violence. Pretty childish material, but even she couldn’t deny I’d put more detail into my work than the standard issue student. I was pretty proud of myself; and I kept repeating how “good” the drawings were the whole ride home to calm my mother’s tirade. Naturally the nuns came to fear me as a violent psychopath and a pariah until my dad re-framed a crudely painted portrait of Jesus Christ which I assume had gotten bored from the lectures on contraception and leapt from the wall. I don’t think I ever related to the ways of Christ more at my time spent in Catholic School than when I was carrying the enormous, cheaply painted visage of Jesus over my back and bringing it before the overseer of nuns.

Without realizing it, at a young age, I was starting to see art as an expression of pain. In a broader sense; art is a product of affliction and I think I’ve realized how beautiful it is that people are really coming to terms with this more and more in mainstream culture.

Kanye West offended everyone with his infamous “Imma let you finish” bit, but it wasn’t until I saw his frantic, jaunty tweets on an almost daily basis raging about the nature of true fans and his depths of depression that it was possible for me to see why he did it. The man is troubled. Perhaps insane even; but like a phoenix his music takes off from that with a life of its own and gives the world a chance to love him. And he's not the only person out there crying out his ramblings in fancy packaging just so he can get a hug.

Back in the 90’s, the term “the struggle” was often used for the narrative messages depicted in hip hop music. This referred to getting paid and hustling your way through the projects to earn your stripes as a man of true grit. I feel like in the modern scope of creativity now, we’ve reached an appreciation for depression. We come to expect it so that in the quietest corners of our mind, we’re watching tiny movies of ourselves in the shoes of the weary and the famous. It’s leading to something of a renaissance of depression. Releasing the pain through individualistic expression is easing the pain.

I swore when I finished poetry class after my junior year of high school, and three agonizing years of churning out poems with no thought in them that I would never write a poem again. I’d been forced for years to string together words with no meaning to further develop myself as an artist for the censors. I don’t think a single poem I ever created in that span of time really meant something that was original or had any sort of lasting merit that contributed to the creative collective or that could be read in with pride at any sort of hipster coffee and literature gathering. The point is you can’t rush art and you’re usually better at things when you simply give yourself and no one else. This metamorphic process continues to happen spontaneously and beautifully of it’s own accord. Songs and poems and films are full of flaws, but like people they’re flaws that we can appreciate and we can get a better sense of appreciation of the artist behind the screen reading too much into the psychosis. I’m reminded suddenly of a desperate boy holding up a boombox blasting Jefferson Airplane out the window of his sweetheart because he doesn’t know how else to tell her what he’s feeling. These “crazy artists” will gain a sense of worth when the rest of us feed off their depression and relate to it. In celebration of feeling sad, there’s comfort. And this will continue. Good music will continue to be produced. People will sing songs about how they lost each other, or attempt to articulate how much they want to be with each other but they’re too fucking stupid to say it in spoken English. Amazing portraits of amazing people will continue to be created in the wrong color schemes with all the flaws and inaccuracies of the people they represent. Violence will be shown on screens for our amusement and distill the grandeur of real war and the intensity of sliding .44 caliber bullets into a clip in the heat of the moment that ends or begins your life as you know it. I’ve spent my life in worry. Every action that I make is a function of nervosa. Self re-assurance. Self defiance. Self-depreciation. As a child I had to sleep with rubber gloves because when I found out about the concept of germs I washed my hands until they bled anytime I clenched them into a fist. When you're sad, draw me a picture of a house on fire. I'll know what it means and I'll know it's the right time to put my arm around you. Right now taking solace in the artistic movement and the promise of good sights and sounds to come, for a brief moment in my life, however, I’m not worried at all.

Take a walk on the wild side.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

a love letter to Nightmare Before Christmas

This isn't my best work blogging. I'm a big disgruntled today.

I kind of pulled this one out of my ass. When you’re stuck with an unproductive day, what better to fill your time with than blogging? I’ve been deliberating for a while now with changing the title of the blog yet again. I simply haven’t been doing much that celebrates the 90’s (hence 90s rocks). Not that I care much about keeping form (variety is the spice of life after all) but while pouring over pointless google searches trying to wrestle myself from the depths of depression I got in the mood to verbally caress an old childhood favorite. That came out a lot dirtier than I anticipated.

Tim Burton has done a healthy mixture of good and bad, though perhaps my favorite “Burton” film growing up was a little “claymation” movie called The Nightmare Before Christmas. I put Burton’s name in quotes because he didn’t actually direct this movie, Henry Selick did. With the same amount of visual style and pizzazz and the inspiration from a Gaiman book, Selick went on years later to make Coraline, which I loved. Sadly, if Nightmare was made now, the charm and novelty of the stop motion would be lost to a total CGI outing that pixar would never touch and it would most likely fall into the hands of Dreamworks or something. But why even discuss it? This movie would NEVER be made now. Studios have some form of control over Burton at this point when shit piles like Alice in Wonderland rake in the big box office gold. This is something actually for its time, NEW and inspired. There will never be another like it. Anyways, why am I wasting time talking about studios stifling creativity and getting technical about it? This is a movie filled with childlike wonder and creativity that should be given more affectionate terms.

Like every other kid who wasn’t a loser in the 90’s apparently, I grew up with a VHS tape of Nightmare Before Christmas distributed by Touchstone pictures. I’m sure we all remember too well the touch stone animated logo that preceded the opening musical number after the “and now our feature presentation” that most Disney VHS tapes had back in the day. I watched this on a regular basis and sought out toys, Halloween costumes and the assorted, as Jack Skellington calls it, “Brick A brack” to celebrate my undying passion for this movie. Later in life, I realized that I WASN’T the only only person who gave a shit about this movie. Around age 13 or 14 I saw all kinds of goths wearing nightmare crap ranging from tote bags to socks. It had become a cult classic. The cult followers and target audience were kids ranging from age 12 to 18. As we get older, so does Nightmare, and I have a hard time seeing how it can be continued to be spread to future generations with the advent of total CGI films. It’s there for our appreciation. Much like the Toy Story series and Harry Potter…which I feel a personal connection with growing up with them. The main difference is EVERYONE knows Toy Story and Harry Potter. This was MY shit growing up. It was only later that I befriended a bunch of hipsters that I realized a lot of people cared about Nightmare.

So what’s so good about it? If you don’t already know what’s good about Nightmare or if you haven’t found some kind of personal appeal by now, you’re probably not going to. The premise is stupid and I’ll admit that off the bat. It’s pulled off marvelously though, to a point where a child wouldn’t question it for a second. Basically Jack Skellington is an organizer of the holiday of Halloween and he gets bored of doing his job and decides to attempt to recreate Christmas. He fucks it up horribly and the lesson learned is that we should leave Christmas to the professionals, aka Sandy Claws. There’s a lot to love here, from iconic characters to a fantastic musical score provided by Danny Elfman.

Elfman is one of the prime reasons to love Nightmare. The frontman of Oingo Boingo, the 80’s alternative band (and BECAUSE of this film I sought the band out and it became one of my favorite bands of all time) and one of the most well prominent composers of film scores today. The score for this movie is really good, and it’s got some really memorable musical numbers ranging from “This is Halloween” to “What’s This” to the sort of bluesy “Oogie Boogie’s song”. In recent years I’ve come to appreciate two of the less popular tracks in particular, “Poor Jack” and “Jack’s Obsession”. Elfman actually sings the voice of Jack, even though he’s not the speaking voice. If you want something similar to this outside of Oingo Boingo, he uses a similar voice for his character in Corpse Bride for the song “Remains of the Day”.
Nightmare is really a feat in stop motion, and probably the most well known foray into the sub genre of filmmaking. It’s a shame we don’t see too much like this in recent movies, but when we do we’ll complain about it and call it hipster trash. For these reasons, it’s irreplaceable. Now I just need that rubber oogie boogie figure from my childhood that I never got that you can stuff with bugs…
To finish up the entry and prove how passionate I am about the subject I’ll just show off some pics of my Nightmare Merch. Yeah that’s an autograph from the recently passed-away Glenn Shadix, who voiced the mayor.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dunkin Donuts is speaking my language for Halloween

Since it's HALLOWEEN officially today and I'm in the midst of party aftermath (but not hungover) and I'm gearing up for more "fun" tonight, I think it's time to do a final blog on Halloween the day of. I'm planning on some most post-Halloween fallout coverage but for now, enjoy these LIMITED TIEM ONLEH DUNKIN DONUTS:
So not only did Dunkin Donuts have special Halloween Donuts (which isn't too surprising since they have seasonal ones for just about every other holiday) but they had TWO. I did a bit of street-research (it must be the dying journalist in me) and the Dunkin near Government Center had only the "Boston Scream" donut you see on the left hand side. This is essentially a Boston Cream, which is one of the better flavors of donut if you can stomach sucking down the pudding-flavored pastry ejaculate. On top we have an additional squirt of orange icing. Next up is what appeared to be just a regular Sprinkle Donut with orange coloring...but LO AND BEHOLD IT WASN'T!

This donut, the one on the left, is suspiciously known only as the "manager's special" and I found it at the Dunkin Donuts in City Place, though I suspect by the time anyone finds or reads this blog the promotion wll be long over...there's always next year though. This one tasted like Pumpkiny. I was pretty amazed that they had bothered with some kind of enhanced flavoring. I might also add, that the icing was hard and caked and crunchy, which is just how I like it. When I pick up my donuts, I don't like to get shit and grease all over my hands. Glazed donuts are just a travesty for eating and so are the powdered ones. If you eat a glazed jelly donut with chocolate on top, you're going to hell. If you find such a commodity though, please write to me and I'll seek it out for the purpose of torturing myself with a culinary review.

That's about it for now. I will post the results of the Halloween bullshit later tonight. This is the best day of the year kids. Stay safe.

Monday, October 25, 2010

HALLOWEEN POPTARTS EXPLORED

Despite my not-so-excited feelings towards the product, I had to stop myself from consuming the last pop tart in 30 seconds to hurriedly take this picture somewhere in the vicinity of my stove.

The hype machine is screeching to halt. Halloween is inevitable. It’s going to happen. For better or for worse, we will endure it. We will pull through. The loose threads on our costumes will just have to make do or be taped for now. It’s time to go. Halloween is now six days away, and I’ve been waiting only 359 days for this moment…the moment when I’ll bit into a Halloween pop tart and truly uncork the life of the season. Sure there’s FrankenBerry and BooBerry and Count Chocula and those containers at Mcdonalds that I’d feel foolish asking for in the happy meals along with a myriad of other products that are promoting the season, but it’s crunch time, and I must get out the laundry list of Halloween themed blogs I’ve been planning this week. I actually bought the damn pop tarts in September.
My quest for these repulsive things actually began at CVS and Walgreens and the other usual haunts for me at 2 in the morning when I have nothing better to do than shove food in my face. Then a friend of mine in Florida tipped me off to Target getting in shipments of HALLOWEEN poptarts. The location and stage was set. It’s a funny feeling taking the T around 4 minutes and walking nearly a mile through horse manure attempting to buy seasonal poptarts. A friend of mine actually was curious that that sale of such items wasn’t restricted to someone my age. I imagine they’d start carding for poptarts. If you’re old enough to have a license, Halloween pumpkin-flavored, sprinkle-blasted freeze-dried pastry is not for you. Not really for anyone, but much like the Halloween Oreos, it’s orange and therefore better due to Red Dye 40.
So I made it through the entire box of Halloween flavored poptarts in a couple weeks. It wasn’t easy. I usually just grabbed them on the way out in the morning when there was nothing else to eat. They come two per package and the way I butcher packages combined with my inability to touch my food that I eat (due to like OCD or something) there’s no real way to save em. So you HAVE to have two per sitting. At least I have to. By the time I get half way through the second one my mouth is more dry than a whore house in…eh nevermind. Unlike the Cinnamon poptarts, which you have to eat like a thousand of to get sick of, you’re kind of only in this one for the sprinkles and for the hype. Skip it.
In my next Halloween review I’ll be checking out some great products like donuts or something. Either that or I’ll do a recap of my Halloween weekend, though I’m pretty sure it will progress into absolutely disgusting filth and mayhem that I’ll be too embarrassed to recall.

GOOSEBUMPS: THE ARTICLE-BLOG PART 2

It’s been too long since I wrote part 1 of my over analytical entry on the formula of Goosebumps television episodes. But now I’m going to write more because I wasn’t done. This is the natural progression. Seeing as we’ve already cut our way into the narrative, I’m not going to bother recapping the truths I hold to be self evident to Goosebumps from part 1. Here are some things that I’ve noticed about 25 episodes in and the episodes in which I’ve learned these things. Pictures are intermittent:

1. Minorities appear in roughly every third episode.
2. Cats or rabbits serve as fake out scares in every single episode or other small animals.
3. Tensions is cut with editing every time a monster appears and we jump to commercial breaks.
4. Trusted adults or friends always end up as the monster
5. The episodes “Peak” in suspense half way through the episode, which kills any legitimate suspense.
6. Monsters always cackle maniacally.
7. You know the monster is beaten when it blows up.
8. Kids are often grabbed from behind by an adult (not like that you fools!) while investigating some place they shouldn’t be in.

This “blog” has really turned into just a stream of consciousness that I’m unable to organize into coherent thoughts at this point and instead I’ll simply post my reactions to specific episodes in the hope that you’ll take heed and read them to see the ridiculous haircuts and convenient plot devices. So now some notes on specific episodes and screen caps I took highlighting them.

Attack of the jack o lanterns:
-walker is gay as fuck. Whats wrong with his voice
-The proud family. The dad looks like a black Mario
-the bushes are hissing and breathing in just about every shot
-I actually jumped with the jack o lanterns jumped out but they’re giant retards

“MORE HOUSES! YOU MUST TRICK OR TREAT FOREVER!”
they cut from the kids walking away from the pumpkins into 2 more pumpkins. What a great scene transition.
-they fart fire out of their faces, which I didn’t even think I could imagine until watching this
-MOAR HOUSES
-the idea of getting back at people with scaring them on Halloween is identical to haunted mask…but stupider.
-candy fattens you up-Aliens have green dicks for heads


More Monster blood:
80s porn soundtrack on an airplane
“Maybe I’ll be in the same school as you. Even though you’re like five years older than me”
-Fat prick in a hard rock sleeveless jean jacketlook at those fucking goggles.

How to kill a monster:
I don’t think I’d seen this one prior to recently but I could be wrong, either way the house in the book is exactly like the house in the television show. Theres a really crappy Texas Chainsaw massacre vibe about it
-the monster is like king gedorah without the wings
How to kill a monster? Gumbo. Which can be made in a 2 minute montage as you’re keeping a giant monster at bay with a single door lock

How I got my shrunken head:
By season 4 they really got their act together in terms of lighting production value, effects. It really looks like a modern show. Much better intro too. The kids mom is a whore whose low income boyfriends are driven off by her son playing safari. He screams KALI AH similar to mola ram. Sadly the dialogue did not improve.

Shocker on Shock street:
has some of the best creature designs. Solid episode for the most part. Wouldn’t have felt terribly out of place in another horror anthology. Could have been better though because there’s so many changes from the book such as the giant ant and the omission of the graveyard scene. The basic plot structure and good creature designs made for one of the best episodes. Just wish it was truer to the source.

Night of the Living Dummy 2:
probably one of the best remembered and most watched episodes, thanks to the VHS release.
-family night…what the fuck is this? Family show and tell? I hate conservative households
-he filmed his sister in the bathroom?
-this family DESERVES to be destroyed (clearly the best looking family in the show)
-I really wish slappy looked how he did on the book covers.
-Slappy is inheritly creepy, not just dummies in general but the ones in this show. No complex plot is necessary here. We know how this works from the start of the episode. Dummies fuck with family for no apparent reason. No more reasons behind it required. And who wouldn’t fuck with these dumbass families who buy their kids dummies and sing “if you’re happy and you know it” on the guitar on family talent night? These concepts of necessary 90s togetherness make me feel sick. The dummy talking really doesn’t bother the girl too much does it?
-This one is a weak sequel compared to the first one.
-Slappys really not that offensive is he?
-why is slappy afraid of the mom?
- thank god the guitar broke so he cant play shitty music
“I’ve seen better swings on playgrounds”


Fuck it. I don’t care to write about Goosebumps anymore, though I’m sure you’ve enjoyed my reactions to the hideous production quality of this show. I need to review some poptarts. I need a return to sanity.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

GOOSEBUMPS: THE ARTICLE-BLOG. PART 1

So here’s an entry I figured I had to get out there before Halloween that’s been on the backburner for a LONG time. This is like…the Beowulf or Ulysses of my blog entries. Except it’s about trashy kiddie novels adapted for the screen. The truth is I had this one partially written and I’d taken a lot of notes and screen grabs over 4 months ago (this is true, I’m not bullshitting you). I’ve even done a remix of the theme song for you guys to correspond with the write up (though it’s more incidental than actually related…I just like the theme song). Anyways I now present to you my blog post on the Canadian 90’s television series based on the books by R. L. Stine…Goosebumps. But you already knew this judging from the title of the entry.
Stand back kids…I got a lot to say on this one. This might also end up a bit more nuanced, technical and analytical than my usual fare, which might put you to sleep or totally lock your attention.

Unless you lived like…in dead house or the haunted mansion, if you were a kid in the 90’s then you knew about horror pulp in its lowliest incarnation. Goosebumps began circulating in the early 90’s around grocery stores, libraries and the like, making the rounds through the hands of eager 8 year olds with a penchant for being scared. The books were highly recognizable with their textured covers with inset lettering and the unique color scheme applied to just about every book. Though they were devoid of interior illustration and could usually be read on the crapper in about half an hour (I can attest to this personally), Goosebumps provided some cheap thrills and terrifying iconography for a younger, now drug and alcohol ridden generation of the 88-92 born crowd. A lot of little boys in my classes were familiar with the Hamster from Monster Blood, Curly the skeleton (who bafflingly didn’t actually appear in any of the books), the Mummy and of course Slappy the Dummy, who made ventriloquism terrifying forever.
So once Mr. “Stine” had made a name for himself and Goosebumps hit a sort of widespread “fame” amongst kids…merchandise was demanded. Believe me it was few and far between. I think I had some kind of Hamster Ball that you turned inside out, a Horror land themed mini pinball machine, a screaming mummy statue thing and some erasers… lowbrow shit like that. In the years since Goosebumps has gone under I’ve discovered the existence of some action figures in body bags filled with slime and I feel like I really missed something important in my childhood by not owning these. But anyways, the audience for Goosebumps demanded more…and a TV show was delivered to us right out of the depths of Canada.
The show was kind of like Tales from The Crypt or Are You Afraid Of the Dark or something…but lamer. In its lameness, it was easily one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. I enjoyed the thrill of it and waiting to see how scary the adaptations were of my favorite stories that I read on the crapper…I mean read in school. Right. Goosebumps had some kind of ongoing deal with “Scholastic”
(you guys remember those fucking catalogues?)
which ensured that I would be sent Goosebumps books through the school program at least once a month. By the time the TV show premiered with “The Girl Who Cried Monster” I was primed and ready to be jumping out of my couch on Saturday mornings, spilling my cereal all over myself. To be honest after the premiere of the show I wasn’t lucky enough to catch it on TV too often, and actually ended up watching a lot of the episodes on the VHS anthology releases (which were fucking cheap outs putting like two episodes on a VHS). My most rewatched VHS tape featured a creepy green hand on the cover touting “STAY OUT OF THE BASEMENT”. In this story, a girl’s father is actually a plant or something who cultivates plant babies in the basement. This plot was either ripped off by or ripped off from a BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (my favorite show ever) episode titled “Home and Garden” which came out in either 93’ or 94’. While I try my best to be an absolute historian of 90’s animation and pulp horror made for children, I can’t recall EVERY episode of every show’s exact air date. But anyways, this leads me to the amount of Goosebumps I had to sit through to make this “review” er…tribute.

Over the summer I tortured myself watching Goosebumps and attempting to make it through every episode of the short lived series. It started with a couple strong seasons with plenty of episodes laden with cheap props and reused child actors who were never heard from again. The show was a lot scarier actually than when I was 8 years old. Back then I was fighting off hiding behind the covers to keep the monsters away…now I’m hiding behind the covers cringing at the awful filmmaking involved in this shit. But it does have a certain charm associated with it, especially when you’ve taken a few film courses and you’re able to identify the many things wrong with it. I’ve painstakingly taken a bunch of screen caps to illustrate some of the awful masks and clich├ęs within these episodes.

So let’s start with the episode that made me almost wet myself in fucking terror as a child…WEREWOLF SKIN.
This one appeared on one of the VHS tapes I was familiar with, but I distinctly remember seeing this one on TV as well. At the end of part 1, a werewolf jumps through the kids window and it scared the beejesus out of me…though rewatching it this scene was just as poorly done and poorly paced as the rest of the scenes in every episode. One thing that can be said for Goosebumps though is that they knew their audience. So here’s a few things I learned about Werewolf Skin:
Rules of being a good photographer:
1. Take some pictures
2. Don’t leave your camera in the jeep

Yes, within this episode, the main character (which is always a little kid btw) is dropped off at some creepy gas station to meet his extended family in some shit-nothing town which is said to contain werewolves. He wants to photograph said werewolves for his horror magazine’s contest so he can…win…or something. Right away from the first formulaic episode I began watching I began to piece together some things that ring true for just about EVERY episode of Goosebumps. Here is a brief list of notes I jotted down after sitting through like 25 fucking episodes of things that are necessary to include within a Goosebumps episode:
Opening shots and an initial “fake out” scare
Heavy Foreshadowing
Kids approach off limits place
Crazy Encounter Monsters
Kids learn how to overcome monsters by someone who somehow knows everything
Kids quickly overcome monsters using some kind of sudden lame plot device
Kids learn life lesson from their experiences
Cliffhanger ending

But it’s not just limited to plot devices. Character traits are also cookie-cutter within these episodes across the board. Look for the following (but dear god don’t start doing shots or you’ll get alcohol poisoning within EVERY episode of Goosebumps).

Typical character traits:
Talking to themselves
Having incredibly dumb parents
Often being an outsider or a loser
Protagonist characters say “soarey” instead of “sorry”
Often times the protagonist trusts characters that turn out evil
Striped shirts and high sitting pants
Over pronunciation and over acting
Hilarious haircuts
Dads often have comb overs

So we have typical flaws in the writing of the plot, the acting of the kids and the set pieces themselves, but we also have a lot of flaws on a very technical level as well. I realize that outfits and haircuts are not actually character “traits” but more external flaws, but givem the 1 dimensional nature of EVERYONE on this show, these atrocities are some of the only ways to differentiate characters. Here are some filmmaking errors that are commonly found within Goosebumps episodes, though rather than make you laugh, these tend to just make me groan or avoid looking at the screen.

Typical Editing items:
Camera pans down
Shots always held slightly too long showing people doing extraneous things in the background
Scenes of struggle are always cut for commercials because they don’t know how to edit them.
There are ALWAYS point of view shots from the monster sneaking up protagonist
Camera tilts to one side or the other
Musical scores are inconsistent and shut on and off at seemingly random moments

At this point we might as well just call this blog post an article…because I’m just getting fucking started. I’m passionate about Goosebumps. I’m not sure exactly if I like it or not, but I’m more passionate in talking about it because it seems like the sands of time have caused our generation to move on to pot and x box and move away from the finer things in life. Goosebumps is of a simpler time…anyways, here’s some funny quotes I jotted down from Werewolf skin:

“My aunts making pizza waffles and she hates it when I’m late”
“Life is a phase I’m going through”
“I happen to like big meatballs”
(in reference to obsessed) “Oooo big word”

If you haven’t yet caught on yet, this show is great for laughs. Sitting alone in my basement with the lights off (to attempt to achieve at least the allusion of a sense of atmosphere) I really felt like I needed to share this shit with somebody. Pizza Waffles? What kind of heathens are these people? Are the meatballs a sexual metaphor? Fuck it. What follows now (this is a list/note-taking intensive entry) is a list of things I personally learned from Werewolf Skin:
WEREWOLF SKIN FUCKING EXPLODES.

That’s about it. But it also serves to prove a lot of the truths we hold self…stupid…about just about every episode of Goosebumps in addition to the editing, plot related and character flaws I mentioned above. Remember how I talked about the child stars (who I imagine were not paid very much) who were re used in episodes? Let me draw your attention to ANAKIN FUCKING SKYWALKER aka Hayden Christensen who appears actually as ZANE in Night of the Living Dummy 3.

He sure grew up didn’t he? I don’t think so. He’ll always be the little boy I knew back on Tatooine. Everybodys gotta start somewhere though. And to think that Goosebumps spawned the career of the future Darth Vader also gives you an idea of the vicious magnitude of this show. I think I had the Zane episode memorized as a kid though, mostly due to the VHS tapes yet again. It’s credited by many as the scariest episode due to the annoying Dummy, Slappy who terrorizes children when the parents aren’t home one night. It’s actually got a darker tone than most of the episodes, and the stakes are somewhat higher. One thing that’s weird is people knew that this was the best BOOK within the “Dummy” book series by RL Stine so they made this episode before Night of the Living Dummy 2. In an effort to remain accurate (even though they just confused people), they kept the title at NIGHT OF THE LIVING DUMMY 3.

You may remember from the novels, that Slappy had slicked back Brown hair. Kind of like Humphrey Bogart with freckles. There was also a famous fake out within the series where Mr. Wood the dummy was actually the villain of the first Night of the Living Dummy even though it was Slappy pictured on the cover. In the television show, Slappy is just a fucker. He’s obnoxious, has a lot of puns, and what’s creepiest of all is that he doesn’t even appear to be a dummy…more like a midget wearing a helmet who chases kids through the house.

But anyways this episode isn’t half bad. In fact, I think if someone watched this episode first, they’d be given a false idea of what Goosebumps actually is. Check out these notes I took based on my gut reaction to watching this for the first time since the turn of the century:

The gradual tension build up with the dummies is great. The fake out lasts most of the episode too. I just wish it moved a little faster.
The action gets pretty slaptstick towards the end but it’s not so bad. It’s pretty tongue in cheek. How much threat could a dummy really be anyways?
-If you’ve never seen this episode before, the suspense is a lot of fun with the dummies
-Slappy’s death fake out is great. He’s one of the few monsters on this show with a shred of personality.
-killed by single lightning bolt. Plausible?

I’m not going to attempt to organize these thoughts into my “textural narrative” instead I think we’ll just cut the blog here and continue to talk about Goosebumps in PART 2. This is going to get far too lengthy and culturally irrelevant to begin to even expect people to read in one entry. As they say at the end of many a Goosebumps episode…

TO BE CONTINUED


Spoiler alert: Writing this convinced me I'm insane.