Krangbang

Shredder!  You lured me from Dimension X

With the promise of conquest and hot Foot Clan sex

Now my Technodrome’s home is in Earth’s molten magma,

And those turtles stay triumphant while I still haven’t shagged a

Single purple robo-ninja, shit, I’m still just a brain!

I wanna get mindfucked, but all you do is complain

Cause you can’t get your turtle soup, and the fights you always lose,

While I sit around here waiting for the secret of your ooze.

 

Shredder!  Build me a body so you can bone it!

I wanna unzip your fly like it was Baxter Stockman

And then I’ll make you crumble like you were one of my rock men

I’ll keep your cock Rocksteady while I Bebop your balls

And gnaw like Rat King on your fat thing in the Technodrome halls

I’ll give you schizophrenia like it was VD

Then we can teabag the Neutrinos and drop deuce on Usagi

So go ninja go ninja go!  Respect what I’m sayin’

Cause you ain’t Tatsu, bitch, and I ain’t goin’ or playin’.

 

Shredder!  Build me a body so you can bone it!

Now is the Splinter of my discontent!

Yeah, I wanted a body, but this is where you went?

Great, you can finally can open my can

But it’s attached to a tubby rubber bald eunuch man!

I’m a galactic fucking warlord, no one’s running because

You dressed me like a go-go dancing punker from Zardoz!

So stop the stomach skullfucking and give me some dread

Or I will toss your fucking salad with the fork on my head

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Beavis and Butt-Head, Vol. 4

 

That Mike Judge has returned to where his bread was first buttered and resurrected Beavis and Butt-Head to self-satirize yet another MTV generation is cause for celebration.  This collection of the show’s first revival season shows that this isn’t a mere retro-humping cash grab; in fact, Judge’s years of work on the more straight-laced King of the Hill has clearly made him a better storyteller, and the evidence is that these new stories of his bastard boys are some of the best Beavis and Butt-Head tales to date.  Beavis and Butt-Head are the same chuckling, hopeless white trash they’ve always been, and their misadventures are no less pointless or destructive as before, but now there’s definitely a much smarter sense of comedic timing in their antics.

Watching Beavis spaz out into his caffeinated alter ego Cornholio and become a cult’s messiah may feel sort of inevitable, but the twist in which he gets bored and unknowingly sets his loser friend Stewart up for hot culty group sex is kind of a nice payoff.  Showing Beavis and Butt-Head as unwitting pawns of the Intelligent Design and anti-Planned Parenthood movements makes for some bizarrely pointed social commentary.  (In the latter, the pair take a Jesus fundie’s assertion that a women’s health clinic is a whorehouse seriously and enthusiastically, with delightfully painful results.)  The episode in which Beavis and Butt-Head confuse a field trip to an old timey tourist village with time travel results in some hilariously dim-witted attempts at causing time paradox.

Yet the best episodes are the same now as before, featuring the idiots rambling around town with no agenda, warping their environments with their askew worldviews.  Nothing in this collection was so delightful as the episode in which Beavis and Butt-Head reacting to a supposed apocalypse by raiding a 7-11, or the one when they simply wandered around the mall like gleeful teenage perverts, or Butt-Head making fun of Beavis for the rest of their lives because an onion made him cry.

If there is a problem with the revival of Beavis and Butt-Head, it’s that everyone is now in on the joke.  Like the metal bands they revere, age has made these two moron savants respectable.  Where once Beavis’ wide-eyed pyromania had to be hushed and up due to a kid supposedly self-immolating in imitation, and the pair’s destructive tendencies had to be preceded by a Don’t Do This At Home disclaimer, our twitchy friends are once more given free reign to smash shit and shout that fire is cool.  (Beavis also makes a few references to being molested, which comes off as disturbingly comedic.)  And today, I doubt that anyone howls that Beavis and Butt-Head is poisoning the youth of America.  People have finally caught on that the show is at its core Looney Tunes in human form, giving it an aura of benign slapstick.

Where this becomes a problem is when Beavis and Butt-Head know they’re cool.  Despite being from a time when MTV had total control over youth pop culture, the old series wasn’t big on name-dropping pop culture to prove its cred.  Instead, they cheered for the awesome videos and verbally mauled everything that didn’t pass their standards of cool.  As such, the show became something of a musical tastemaker in its own right.

Today’s Beavis and Butt-Head are much more with the times and behind the curve.  They riff on Twilight.  They reference Grand Theft Auto.  They know the entire cast of Sex and the City.  (Sure, that knowledge is only used to suggest a mash-up sequel to Sex and the City and The Human Centipede, but still).  Worst of all, they watch a lot of Jersey Shore.

A few blessed music videos show up for Mystery Science Theater-style mockery in Volume 4, but far more often, the modern Beavis and Butt-Head watch a lot of shitty MTV shows.  I know that between the old series and now, MTV all but killed off music videos ‒ which, by the way, isn’t to say that the art form no longer exists ‒ but having Beavis and Butt-head instead make fun of MTV’s post-video programming isn’t an adequate replacement.  No matter how fine the ridicule, it’s not biting or edgy.  It’s redundant advertisement.

Furthermore, flooding this show with clips from those shows ‒ even if it’s to burn them with some pretty genius wit ‒ makes this show secondary to those ones.  The fifth time I heard Beavis and Butt-Head refer to The Jersey Shore’s “Smoosh room,” I began to wonder if I was watching a commercial for those guidos, juiceheads, and gorillas, if the true goal of reviving Beavis and Butt-Head was merely to raise the profile of all of MTV’s other shit.

I watch the old series for the video mockery first and the cartoon episodes second, and in the new series my preferences are somewhat reversed.  Nonetheless, the new series is a much more clever, focused, and polished animal than its wild beast predecessor.  Take that for what it’s worth to you, but there is a great humor in noting that a show once hailed as a sign of pop culture’s apocalypse is now one of pop culture’s best shows.

 

The Designer’s Drugs: Chuck Palahniuk – Damned

 

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Chuch Palahniuk ‒ Damned

 

 

In Chuck Palahniuk’s new world, Hell is Hollywood.  Hell is also Hell, full of the typical wailing, gnashing teeth, and rising lakes of wasted jizz that serve as Hell’s equivalent of global warming.  But if we’re stacking up the hierarchy of the awful, consider this ‒ even Palahniuk’s Satan has a script he’s trying to sell.

Damned promotes itself as The Breakfast Club in Hell, and if Madison, its pudgy, oft-neglected hero, resembles any member of that Saturday morning detention crowd, it’s the Ally Sheedy neurotic girl.  (In discussing that 80s film classic, our girl notes that she howls with terror when the popular cheerleader gives said outcast a condescending makeover.)  Madison’s quite a bit more than that dark, mousy type, however.  In true Palahniuk fashion, this preteen is quick to assert that she knows middle of the road words like gender, excrement, tenacious, and feign ‒ yet in casual moments she nonchalantly drops bigger words and phrases like colonoscopies, biological imperatives, vivandiers, and coals-to-Newcastle.  I have no idea what that last phrase even means.

This newly lost soul spent life as an unloved prop to her vapid Hollywood parents, the sort of people who adopt kids from around the world shortly before shipping them off to boarding school, the sort of people who fly their kids via private jet to ecology retreats.  I get the impression that there’s a healthy portion of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in these absurdly cosmopolitan celebrity caricatures.

After dying from a marijuana overdose, Madison meets up with the requisite Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and Judd Nelson characters, and this infernal Breakfast Club goes traipsing around the hoary netherworld in search of misadventure.  As time goes by, Madison gets kind of awesome.  She preaches the joys of damnation in her telemarketing job, beats up Hitler in grand, hilarious style, and goes on a spew-soaked revenge haunting.

The last book of Chuck’s that I picked up before this one was Snuff, whose porno gangbang setting was the most obvious and inevitable thing an author inclined toward burying his readers in freakshows and trivia could have produced.  That book was so over the top as to become really, really boring.  In contrast, Damned is kind of delightful.  Perhaps the choice of setting absorbs some of that stereotypical shock.  Sure, Palahniuk’s paintbrush colors up a pretty disturbing landscape of the inferno, but it’s Hell, so that’s kind of expected.  With the need to shock sort of canceled out, the story ends up relying on wit and characterization, and Palahniuk, perhaps having no choice, ended up writing a book combining the scope and cleverness of Robert Olen Butler’s Hell with the innocent charm of Judy Blume, right down to beginning each chapter with “Are you there, Satan?  It’s me, Madison.”  Damned seems to be a reworking ‒ if not total subversion ‒ of Chuck Palahniuk’s established formula, and as such, it made me a fan again.

 

Whitney Houston Mourner Gets Her Body of Work Wrong

In case you need help remembering, this is Whitney Houston.


GARY, INDIANA (AP) ‒ Like many other people stunned by Whitney Houston’s sudden death last week, Lavonne Pierce reacted to the singer’s demise with an outpouring of emotion.

“Whitney has meant so much to me over the years,” Pierce said as she fought off tears.  “Her music has touched my life so deeply, I can’t go a single day without it coming through me in some way.  And now she’s gone.  I just don’t know how I’m gonna deal with it.”

When asked about her favorite Whitney moments, Pierce, a grade school substitute teacher in the Gary School District, took a deep breath and composed herself.  After a moment, a wistful, peaceful look came to her face, accompanied with a hint of a smile.

“I suppose my favorite thing of Whitney’s is the same as a lot of people’s,” she answered, “I mean, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ is such an iconic song, it’s hard to name anything better.  Whitney really knocked it out of the park on that one.”

As she continued to discuss the fallen pop icon, it became clear that Lavonne Pierce had confused Whitney Houston with Celene Dion.

This reporter attempted to clarify the error, but Pierce refused to listen.  “No!  Whitney starred in Titanic, and she sang the theme song, too!  Kevin Costner had to save her from an iceberg that was stalking her and sneaking into her ship’s quarters on the Titanic while she was out singing!  Billy Zane tried to shoot her with a gun hidden in a videocamera, the jerk!”

“That rendition of ‘I’m Every Woman’ that Whitney sang with the iceberg, wow!” she added.  “What a scorcher!”

Pierce went on to misremember other highlights in Houston’s career, crediting the achievements of many prominent female singers to her.  “Those pet adoption commercials she made were really heartbreaking, but they really opened my eyes to the suffering of animals.  That song she sang about partying on Friday was a real hoot, too!  And that book she made with Anne Geddes and all those sleeping babies was a Total Cute Overload!”

When asked if she had learned any lessons from Whitney’s troubled times, Pierce nodded solemnly.  “Yeah.  She never should have dated that Lance Armstrong.  He was no good to her.  I don’t care how many times he’s won the Tour de France; if you don’t have love in your heart, it ain’t gonna work out!”

This Friday, Pierce plans to mourn privately with a few girlfriends.  During the gathering she plans to play Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” to commemorate the life of Whitney Houston.  “I know that Elton wrote this song right after Princess Diana died,” Pierce noted, “but it’s so touching and timeless that I don’t think he’ll mind.”

Y Marks the Spot: The Old Man

 

Appropriately enough, the first time I wondered if I had gotten old happened because of MTV, an institution that is barely younger than I am.  On the night and early morning in question, I entered the scene feeling drunk and joyful, connected with the world from the backseat of my roommate’s truck as it wound into the sticks and to an acquaintance’s place.

I followed two of my roommates through a blacked out garage and into a living room that was only blacked out mentally.  While some cool mom hovered around them, a spatter of clearly underage kids splayed on a couch, blankly watching some Jackass-aping prank show on MTV2 featuring hosts who were trying waaaay too hard to act coked out and cool for the camera.  The surge of loathing I felt for the show and its audience was about equal in strength to the frightening question that popped into my head shortly afterwards.  Was I into such stupid crap when I was that age?  The answer is, of course, yes ‒ though I’ve since discovered and loved the MTV self-satire that permeates my beloved Beavis and Butt-head.

Unfortunately, that first question led to another uncomfortable one: had I been a stupid teenager?

This moment in the cool mom’s living room was the first time I remember feeling smarter than another person for no other reason than age, which likely makes it the first time I remember identifying with the people who thought I was an idiot when I was a programmed teen rebel consumer.  That’s kind of a scary moment.  It can lead to zealous, born again past-disowning and delusions of present-tense brilliance.  Gee, I was such a moron back then, but I’m a goddamn Socrates now!

We say these disclaimers in ignorance of the possibility that the versions of us ten years from now could look back and laugh about the so-called stupid people we are right now.

There’s a weird contradiction in this, being that people tend to venerate the past and anticipate the future at the expense of their present tenses.  Man, being sixteen years old was awesome!  Holy crap, I can’t wait until the new Frank Sinatra album comes out and I’m old enough to buy beer!  And yet when the future becomes the now, the anticipation tends not to yield equal parts fulfillment.  If time travel were possible, we’d probably be just as disappointed with a tangible past.  We tend to like living theoretically, but don’t we like to bitch about the actual process of existing.

Back to the cool kids and my old man dilemma.  I reacted to that moment of elderly paranoia well, deciding that the question of me being a stupid teenager was one of degrees, not absolutes.  Sure, I wasn’t as wise as I am now, but it’s not as though I’m complacently fully formed today.  In any event, my age fears became irrelevant when a group of us left the couch kids and cool mom to wander into the neighboring rock quarry and hurl ourselves from the tops of pebble mountains.  Very childish.  Very fun.

Still, this lingering worry that I had in fact gotten old stayed with me for months afterwards, further inflamed due to my living in the dining room of a house without a scrap of privacy and five roommates in their mid-20s.  Half of those people were in a band which practiced often and took the rest of us along whether we wanted to go or not.  Also, most of my roommates’ musical tastes weren’t like mine.  Again, I didn’t have an enclosed room of my own to filter that out.

What ended up happening was that I spent that year flat broke and doing little more than lying around that dining room, getting pissed at the noise of the band and the songs played ad nauseum in between those live practices.  And I began to feel very old.  It felt as though I’d have been more okay with loud noise and contrasting tastes if I was younger.  The phrase “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” swam through my head like a sanctimonious goldfish that year.

Those thoughts, of course, were bullshit.  Since moving into a place of my own and building up my own little sanctuary, I’ve been able to put everything into its proper theoretical, past-tense perspective.  The answer I’ve come up with to that second, uncomfortable question is this: if I am truly old, then I’ve always been old.  I’ve always needed privacy and space like a sanctimonious goldfish needs purified water.  I’ve always needed the ability to filter other people out.  And I’ve never liked the styles of music that my roommates were into, and it’s not as though they didn’t exist when I was a teenager.  Hell, I’ve always been annoyed by teenagers, even ‒ especially! ‒ when I was one.

In contrast, I’m pretty okay with getting older.  Aging has to me been a process of getting over unimportant shit and getting better at being myself.  I used to idealize the irresponsible life I had when I was sixteen; now I’d be hard pressed to take that life back for anything.  Worrying about fitting in?  Being horribly damaged by real and desired romance?  Waking up at 6:30 in the morning, five days a week?  The hell with that.

When I actually do become an old man, I’m going to be amazing.  Unless I’m not.

Two additional points bear mentioning.  The first is that last weekend I went back to my old place, hung out with my old roommates, and enjoyed a night full of loud music and drunken frivolity.  I had a great time.  The ability to leave and not have to clean up, combined with the ability to afford to drink, both helped immensely.

The second thing is this: every time I tell somebody that I’m in my early thirties, they act incredibly surprised.  Apparently people think that I’m five.  Which I am.

Growing up and growing old are two different things.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

This picture pretty much sums up the whole movie.

Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Director: Jack Sholder

Starring: Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Clu Gulager

Written by: David Chaskin

In discussions about the Nightmare on Elm Street series, this gem invariably gets brought up and described as the queer one.  That label is absolutely correct.  Even the creators of the film have gone on record to marvel at how they ended up making a gay Freddy movie.  I don’t know how all the blatant gay innuendo in Freddy’s Revenge got past them, though; there’s so much that the viewer starts seeing such metaphors and subtext that might not exist.  Look!  That clock on the stairway is rather phallic!  The teacher’s giving a lecture on the colon!  There’s a cardboard box in the guy’s closet that says Probe!  Uh huh huh huh huh.

Beyond all those grasping connections, however, is a lot of very real manly subtext.  Our hero Jesse has an awesome dance number to the sultry tune of “Touch Me (All Night Long)” in which he prances about in gold lightning bolt shades, closes a dresser drawer with his swiveling, supple ass, and gyrates around with some wooden popgun thing thrusting from his crotch.  He also ends up shirtless and sweaty a whole lot, with the film offering many loving shots of his bird chest and tighty whities.  He finds his best friend after the other doofus depantses him during a game of baseball and the two roll around the diamond locked in buttcrack mortal combat.

The issue of Jesse being possessed by a mass murdering child killer always seems to be mentioned in the most pervy ways possible.  “Something is trying to get inside my body,” our hero moans to his doofus buddy as he pleads for Doofus to watch over him as he sleeps.  Doofus, being obliviously awesome, responds: “Yeah, and she’s female, and she’s waiting for you in the cabana, and you wanna sleep with me.”  Said female, a Meryl Streep-looking ginger who serves as the film’s real hero, usually comes off as kind of a beard in the midst of all this machismo.

Yet the easiest thing to bring up is the sadistic gym teacher who hangs out at “queer s&m joints downtown” and operates as the Casey Affleck-meets-Mark Hamill-looking hero’s authority figure nemesis.  Oh, and the film makes it pretty clear that Teach plans to rape our hero as well.  Yeah.

He seemed like such a nice guy.

Following one of our hero’s midnight freakouts, he heads to the local queer bar in question ‒ which is really more of a punker bar for freaks of all orientations.  He’s looking for a beer but finds the leather-clad gym teacher, who busts him with an unwholesome gleam in his eye.  Teach drags Jesse to the gym in the dead of night and makes him run laps, after which our hero is pushed into a stack of folding chairs and told to hit the showers.  While Jesse is gamboling around naked and weepy in the dark, steamy shower room, our heroic gym teacher lurks in his office, amassing physical education paraphernalia by which he obviously plans to tie up our hero and have his way with him.

Unfortunately, Teach runs afoul of a Freddy Krueger poltergeist, who hurls all the balls in the office at his face (uh huh huh huh huh).  After this, Teach finds his bondage jump ropes turned against him, and he is dragged into the shower room and tied splaying to a pair of faucets.  After that, he’s stripped naked, and then the Freddy poltergeist grabs a towel and whips that gym teacher’s ass till it’s lobster red.  After all this degradation, the real Freddy emerges from the shower room steam and gives Teach a few razor-claw swipes, but at this point the quick death feels a bit anticlimactic.

Like most of the franchise films which followed the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy’s Revenge runs the risk of losing all its horror cred and becoming a campy, Adam West’s Batman sort of slasher film.  This flick is certainly in the running to be named the main offender of the bunch, but coupled with all the dude on dude silliness are some pretty sweet horror moments.

It’s clear that the creators of this film didn’t quite have the Freddy Krueger formula down yet.  Besides looking like more of a shadowy, melting Hindu instead of the stock bright burned hawk he’d later become, Freddy isn’t his usual wisecracking ghost of the subconscious who murders people in their dreams.  In fact, he doesn’t kill anyone who isn’t fully awake, and he’s not much for quips here.  Instead, he becomes a rampaging real-world monster who has real-world supernatural powers, and when he Caesarian Sections himself out of Jesse and busts up a pool party with claws and fire, he actually gets pretty terrifying.

There was one moment, however, which makes no sense.  Bookending the rest of the film are two scenes featuring Jesse on a haunted schoolbus that goes off the rails.  Watching the film, I blankly accepted these scenes, but my girlfriend saw the flaw in the logic.  “Doesn’t he drive a car?” she asked.  “Why would he be on a bus?”  Why, indeed; our hero drives a beaten up old clunker known as the Deadly Dinosaur, rendering mass transit unnecessary.  Sure, you don’t know that at the beginning of the film, but you do at the end.  Maybe Freddy’s just an idiot.

Valentine’s Day News Hell, 2012

BUY ME.

 

Single Man Refuses to Support Valentine’s Day Industry, Purchases Many Anti-Valentine’s Day Products to Show It

 

A Bangor man, Reggie Hobbes of 713 Cat Food Factory Lane, has had enough of the commercialization of Valentine’s Day ‒ and he has bought the merchandise to let you know it.

“I’m always disgusted at this time of year,” Hobbes, age 43, said.  “The greeting card industry, the out of season flower dealers, and the chocolate robber barons like to turn up the heat on the common man on the 14th of February, telling him that if he doesn’t buy a lot of meaningless crap for his girl, then he’s a failure as a guy.  I’m done with all that.”

To show his contempt, Hobbes has purchased a multitude of banners, clothing, yard decorations, candy, and greeting cards which malign and deride Valentine’s Day.  Wearing a black t-shirt which reads “Love is for Losers,” he showed us around his home, which was festooned with pictures of broken hearts.  He plans to distribute heart-shaped candies to his friends and coworkers which bear such messages as “Get Bent” and “You Suck.”  He plans on sending hateful off-Hallmark greeting cards to all his ex-girlfriends, including one with a front which reads “I miss you…” and an inside featuring a crosshairs and reading “…but my aim is improving.”  There is a paper-maché sculpture of a cherubic Cupid, pincushioned with arrows, dangling from a tree in his front yard.

When asked how much all this cost, Hobbes skirted a direct number, saying only that “The cost was totally worth it.”

What’s strangest about this tale of anti-commercial commercialism is that Reggie Hobbes isn’t some loveless malcontent rebelling against Valentine’s Day out of loneliness.  His wife of 13 years, Marjorie Hobbes, is supportive of his Valentine’s disdain, and their son, 10 year old Marty, helped decorate the house.

“I think hating a holiday based on love has really brought our family together,” Marjorie said.

 

Valentine’s Day ≠ VD, Study Shows

 

Dissenters of the usual Valentine’s Day traditions refer to the romantic holiday by many names, including the Hallmark Holiday and the Night of 1,000,000 Faked Orgasms.  Yet according to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, one name that is inaccurate for these romance critics to use is VD.

This study, designed to measure which holidays saw the most spread of sexually transmitted diseases, collected case data from hundreds of clinics across the country.  “In terms of STD proliferation, Valentine’s Day is surprisingly small potatoes,” noted project lead Byron Torrance.  “You’re actually much more likely to get the clap on Flag Day than on Valentine’s Day.”

While the report lists greater transmission rates during predictable holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Eve, there are other holidays which see a surprisingly greater rate of disease spread as well.  Columbus Day sees 45% more transmission of Chlamydia and 27% more syphilis, President’s Day sees 37% more cases of genital warts, Father’s Day sees 41% more gonorrhea, and Purim sees an astonishing 65% more crabs.

The main offender?  “May Day,” Torrance responded.  “It’s a veritable cesspool of disease.  I wouldn’t touch a doorknob on that day without cleaning my hands with sanitizer afterwards.  It must be something about dancing around a large phallic object that gets the blood up.”

When asked why Valentine’s Day’s rates of STD spread are so low, Torrance was at a loss.  “I can’t declare with any finality,” he said, “but my best guess is that, with all the effort put into the day’s grand romantic gestures, it’s all rehearsal and no show.”

The Designer’s Drugs: Drew Magary – The Postmortal

 

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Drew Magary ‒ The Postmortal

 

 

In keeping with my recent forays into near future dystopian literature comes The Postmortal, a fascinating account of a 21st Century in which humanity has eliminated aging.  This story is all about being careful what you wish for; almost from the moment humanity unleashes nigh-immortality it spends the rest of the story trying to cram it back into Pandora’s Box.  Humanity doesn’t become one iota superior for having shaken off the reaper: immortals keep pumping out kids on autopilot, the new mankind-worshipping religion comes off as equally totalitarian as the afterlife salesmen it supplanted, and the internet trolls have painted themselves green and run out into the real world to maim and murder.  In this world of total overpopulation and self-absorption, it takes no great imagination to predict that the forever business would soon change back to the death business.

The story’s lead, a former estate lawyer named John Farrell, eventually falls into the death business, getting his feet wet as a euthanasia assistant (known in oh so customer service terms as End Specialists).  As the world continues to slide due to people’s stubborn refusals to die and/or stop multiplying, Farrell and the rest of the Kevorkians find themselves upgraded to government-sponsored public hitmen, charged with taking out the elderly and undesirable.

But that’s only the latter half of the story ‒ and honestly, it’s the least compelling half.  Mostly, that’s because the most fun in The Postmortal comes in watching Drew Magary describe the minutiae of the brave new world through Farrell’s journals.  Our hero ponders such ideas as the decline and transformation of marriage in a world where “to death do you part” has no meaning, the end of retirement and Social Security, immortality’s effect on crime and punishment, the fading of personal goals to work towards, and the strong possibility that almost nobody is really prepared to face up to the massive personal responsibilities involved in existing forever.

I like John Farrell as a character, though his narrative is way too full circle as old flames tend to neatly pop out of nowhere to replace new voids in his life.  He’s an intelligently written cipher through which the reader gets to look into a fantastically terrifying future.  That’s said, his philosophies and sociology are much more gripping than his life.  As Magary’s big world-building gives way to the desperate living within that world, a bit of that fascination fades and is replaced by horror.

Within the dystopia lit I’ve read recently, I’ve found that I like the big-picture approach, on display in Albert Brooks’ 2030, over the sort of Player One solipsism seen in Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story.  The Postmortal occupies a strong middle ground between the two, moving from Brooks’ style to Shteyngart’s, from sociology to the surreal.  Beyond my reservations on building a story of immortality around a guy who seems unable to move forward ‒ and maybe that’s the point ‒ this story of the end of the end is really magnificent.

Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Film: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Director: Joseph Zito

Starring: Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover

Written by: Barney Cohen

Of all the Friday the 13th films, this, the fourth and not even close to final chapter in the series, is undoubtedly my favorite.  I get so pumped about the greatness of this film that a friend and I once drunkenly made a joyous theme song to celebrate it.  If you can sing the words “Friday the 13th: Part Four” in C major, then mention the two stars listed above, and then hit repeat for about ten minutes, well, congratulations, you’ve learned and mastered a new song.

This is one of the best horror flicks ever made.  The story’s pretty standard: a group of perved-up teenagers set up shop in a cabin on evil Crystal Lake, and Jason comes looking for blood.  For some reason, there’s a single parent family next door to the party, and the family’s two kids end up being the heroes as the other kids get picked off.  Yet there’s a lot going for this film which sets it apart from the usual hack and slash.

It’s got a brutality that is genuinely disturbing rather than gory slapstick, most notably thanks to the effects work of the great Tom Savini.  It’s infested with hormones like a rat has fleas, but Jason Voorhees’ horny victims are so well fleshed out that the heroic amount of tits and ass in this film doesn’t feel like it’s there to obscure bad acting or a poor story.  My main criteria for judging a horror film’s quality is whether the victims’ deaths leave a void in the film’s world, if there’s a sense of humanity that lessens with each demise.  Part Four easily passes this test.

Three characters in particular stand out.  A very young Corey Feldman serves as the brilliant Lil’ Tom Savini who soon gets unhinged and heroic.  Displaying both adorable glee and seething fury, Feldman is just captivating in every scene he’s in, and it was probably clear at the time that he was gonna be huge.  Feldman’s dog Gordon is also pretty awesome, and he is easily the smartest character in the film.  When the bodies start piling up, this strangely named canine randomly hurls himself through a second story window and is never seen again.  Gordon had clearly had enough of that shit.

However, the very best thing about Part Four, the thing which has earned this film its place in Bizarro film legend, is the performance of Crispin Glover.  He plays the teen group’s awkward dweeb who morphs into a ladykilling dancing machine.  Glover’s biggest moment ‒ perhaps of all time ‒ is his titanic dance scene, set to the dulcet tones of the same hair metal band which wailed out the theme song of the old, cartoon Transformers movie.  Watching Glover move is like watching a majestic (twitching, flailing, avant-garde) eagle soaring on film.  Only Napoleon Dynamite could spazboogie so well.  As the story goes, Glover took no direction here; he simply busted out the same dance moves he was already using in Hollywood clubs.  Crispin Glover, a dancing weirdo genius?  Perish the thought.

The only letdowns to this film and its inevitable, non-final sequels is that Feldman’s character, who ends Part Four as a cracked survivor, doesn’t put on Jason’s hockey mask and unleash his own bloody rampage as was teased.  That, and they didn’t make an entire movie about Crispin Glover tearing up the dance floor.  Nonetheless, Part Four is glorious, worth every drunken song created in its honor.

Y Marks the Spot: It’s Not Always that Simple

 

So here’s a story from my life which has ultimately determined everything else.  It’s a good example of my view that absolute morality does not exist.  The cores of this story are childbirth and abortion, which at their mildest are divisive issues.  I have strong opinions on both; I’m very pro-choice, though my rationale is more based on population issues over women’s rights.  There are now seven billion humans on Earth.  There are now seven billion creatures which devour and shit all over everything in their paths.  My species is an intelligent plague.

My attitude is that if we don’t get control over birth, we’ll soon lose control over how we live and how we die.  We’ll simply drown in each other.  I think birth control should not only be encouraged but mandatory from adolescence until sometime in one’s twenties.  Though I don’t have much good to say about the Chinese government in general, I’m very behind its One Child Policy, especially in the context of a country with over a billion citizens.  Unfortunately, humans think they’re exempt from Bob Barker-style reproductive responsibility, and even in the most civilized, technologically advanced places where manpower is obsolete, people still baby-crap out units with the greatest of autopilot.  In such a world, I view abortion as a very necessary evil.

Still, there’s a problem I’ve come across as an occasional nihilist.  One has to exist in order to believe in the possibilities of nothing.  In that same contradictory vein it’s kind of illogical and self-centered for living people to actively deny a real future person the sort of existence that they enjoy (or at least get to experience).

But in the end, being pro-choice is about ‒ or at least it damn well should be about ‒ subjectivity.  Beyond its immediate social issue, the position should be an acknowledgement that existence is not one size fits all.  That’s why it’s not called pro-abortion.

In that vein, allow me to share my own conflicted, one in a million slice of existential subjectivity that led to me being alive today.

 

I’ve always known, even when I was a baby, that I’m incredibly lucky to be alive.  One of my earliest memories involves the knowledge that my mom was at the hospital getting a big deal doctor’s appointment as a result of my birth.  I may have been around two or so at the time, and for some reason I had the notion that she had always been in that hospital and never left it since I was born.

As a general rule ‒ though there are several huge exceptions that I’d learn about later in life, one of which serves as the focal point of this story ‒ my family has never concealed any knowledge from me.  Some of that, I’m sure, has to do with one of my sisters being ten years older than me and eager to teach me about all the world’s profane secrets.  Thanks to her, I could proficiently swear when I was three years old, and I’m probably one of the few humans who can say that they were a party to car theft while strapped into a car seat.

But it goes further than having a rebellious older sibling.  For example, my parents made sure I knew, very matter-of-fact, that I had another older sister who lived somewhere else with her mother.  I didn’t meet her until I was eighteen ‒ on an Oktoberfest day which ended in a car crash ‒ but I’ve always known she existed.  In fact, I knew about her before she knew about me.

If I had a question about anything, no matter how uncomfortable or gross or weird, my mom would do her best to give me a straightforward answer.  Thus, my family was always pretty up front about the fact that my birth wasn’t something that should have happened.

Without going into the gory details, certain cancerous complications led to the removal of some of my mom’s parts, and the only thing that kept me strapped in and carried to term was a tumor blocking the exit.  I am a tumor baby, the barely born son of a professional gambler.  Both of these facts are pretty goddamn appropriate.

The medical improbability of my birth was better explained to me later on, but even as a little kid I knew that I’d be the last child my mother would have.  After I emerged onto the scene they scraped her out, which ultimately led to an awesome scene in a crowded Christmas movie theater where I loudly asked my mom if Santa was going to bring her a new uterus.

Most times during my crappy adolescence and twenties, times when I was knuckle-deep in terrible jobs, creative frustration, romantic devastation, and many different forms of self-violence, I’d think about the sheer unlikelihood of my existence and wonder why they even bothered.  Like most things, life tends to be least valued by those who have the most of it, even if that person was a miracle baby.  Thankfully, I survived the terrible shit and have become a reasonably functional human being, glad to be alive.

People like to romanticize about living in the past or some sanitized era of predetermined life, but the stone cold fact is that I wouldn’t have even made it to childhood were it not for the medical technology of the 20th century.  Even better, I was born deformed.  My ribs curve inward, giving me the great ability to eat cereal out of my chest.  It’s a generally benign defect, but I can’t help thinking that in any other era ‒ especially in that manly Spartan age so balls-cuppingly praised by noir-redneck Frank Miller in 300 ‒ I’d have been deemed retarded at birth and thrown onto the mountain of baby skulls.  I suppose I owe my life to the fact that I live here and now, in a society which questions the disposal of unwanted babies.

Of course, this isn’t the only side to the story.  As I recently found out, my existence also owes a debt to someone else’s death.

 

My mom and I can talk for hours, and in these rambling, philosophical conversations secrets come out.  The last time this happened was last spring, back when I was still putting my life here in Washington together.  Having no job and nothing better to do, I’d call my mom and kill time lurking on the staircase and ranting about asshole Wisconsin Republicans.

I think the information I’m about to discuss came out because one of my cousins had just gotten pregnant.  (Appropriate to this story of life and death, she ended up giving birth to her son days before my grandma died.)  The talk of new babies led to talk of old babies and my birth, and by the way, says mom, you knew that I had an abortion before I had you, right?

If the fleas in my old run down house were shaped like giant question marks, one of those itchy sons of bitches would have jumped onto my head at exactly that moment.

My parents were married five years before I was born, and I’ve had the vaguest of overviews of their lives in the 70s.  The first thing my single realtor mom saw of my single realtor dad was his crotch in whatever tight disco pants he had on at the time.  Apparently those pants were a hit.  I was recently treated to my tipsy dad bragging that he banged my mom a lot in those early days, one part of a weird conversation in which he also pondered what life would have been like as a gay man.  Good to know, dad.

Mom already had a kid.  Dad had a kid whom he didn’t meet until I graduated college, yet he began to view my mom’s kid as his own.  (This has led to some awkwardness among us neglected biologicals.)  Dad really liked playing poker, so much so that he’d go pro around the time of my birth, and mom accepted it.  So things were going okay, I guess.

After being together for a while, mom and dad discovered that they were going to have a kid together.  The problem was that the same cancerous complications which made my birth so unlikely were entrenched well before I was the gleam.  The pregnancy of my older brother ‒ and when I think about this potential sibling, he’s always my brother, mostly because I’ve never had one ‒ was so malignant that there was a very real chance that my mom would have died if she tried to carry him to term.  So she didn’t.

My dad can’t deal with real problems.  His reaction to my mom’s trauma was to awkwardly joke that at least she wouldn’t lose her figure.  They broke up.  They got back together, obviously, but there was a point where their genetic swords were unlikely to cross again, leaving the potential me out in the void.  That’s another part of the story I like to creep myself out with.

I don’t know what made my fetushood any different.  I haven’t heard that part of the story yet.  Yet somehow I made it out, and I made it up, and I’ve made it to now.  I have no idea why that is.  Fuck it.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m here, and I’m not leaving.

 

As a result of these revelations I’ve developed a weird complex, not quite guilt, but an acknowledgement that someone actively had to die so that I could be born.  I suppose that this is true for anyone who has ever eaten a hamburger, but it feels different than that.  It’s just another case of a human pretending that humanity and one’s own circle are exempt and special, I suppose.  But still.

So yeah.  The moral.  The morality.  The subjectivity.  I owe my unlikely life to one abortion happening and to another one not happening.  But you know what?  I’d rather err on the side of choice.

As an adult I’ve helped an ex-girlfriend who found herself pregnant and unready through the process of abortion, and I’ve supported someone else whom I loved intensely for years through a pregnancy with someone else’s child.  Even now, life offers no easy, consistent, universal answers.

Then again, how many easy answers are worth knowing?

 

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