Monday, June 30, 2014

We Need to Talk About Kevin McCallister

On November 20, 1992, America got a second date with Kevin McCallister, a sly little scamp who thrilled audiences by wreaking sadistic violence upon home invasion robbers. Yes, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is fraught with psychosexual suggestion, but that’s another blog post. This post concerns one example of the tie-in merchandise 20th Century Fox tried to throw at the people who loved the first Home Alone: the talking Kevin pull-string toy.

Home Alone 2 talking Kevin doll
“my name is kevin mccallister, and i wasn’t given articulated hands.”
Yikes indeed.

Even in my younger, dumber days, I thought pull-string toys were strange. I mean, I was a Teddy Ruxpin kid. He at least moved his mouth. A blind person could tell that these toys weren’t actually talking. (Blind child asks, “Why does he sound like his drunk? And in a cave? Underwater? Why can he only say a handful of things?”) But I was only given this because at the time the Home Alone moves were released, I looked enough like Macaulay Culkin that it had become a running joke in my family, and this little miniature me seemed like a way to capitalize on that… somehow.

Furthermore, I can only guess that this toy resulted from some Tiger toy exec running out of all other ideas and suggesting off-the-cuff a pull-string doll that spouts little Kevin’s many catchphrases from the movie. Of course, those catchphrases didn’t happen. Come on: Just try and remember his lines from Home Alone 2. You can’t. No, don’t lie. You can’t. (Let me have this.) Regardless, the Kevin doll does speak five lines that are apparently from the movie — six, if you count his trademark screaming, and the Tiger toy execs sure did. I’ve made it possible that I can share them with you now.


The catchprhases are, in order:

“You guys give up?”

“I’d rather kiss a toilet seat.”

“This is it. No turning back.”

“I’m down here, you morons,” even though it sounds like “I can’t hear you morons.”

[horrible demonic screaming]

“I’m up here! Come and get me!”

Like I said, they’re not exactly catchphrases. They’re just lines, really. Someone who hadn’t seen the movie might wonder why he’s constantly taunting people with his location, and even someone who had seen the movie might find “I’d rather kiss a toilet seat” strange, when it’s just randomly volunteered out of the context of a less desirable course of action. Like, “Oh, as a rule, you generally prefer kissing toilet seats? You’re one fucked-up kid, Kevin McCallister. No wonder your parents are trying to get rid of you.”

Home Alone 2 talking Kevin doll

He gives good face, though.

Other things I own for some reason:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Did The Dick Van Dyke Show Make a Semen Joke?

Without even hearing my argument, most people remotely familiar with The Dick Van Dyke Show would answer, “No, of course not, because it’s The Dick Van Dyke Show,” but here I go anyway.

You see, I have this problem with media from before I was born — and before censorship standards on mainstream entertainment got more lax. Sometimes I’ll hear or see something that seems sexually suggestive. Part of me wants to say that this piece of media — a song or a TV show or a movie or whatever — comes from a more innocent time when risque was rare. The other part of me counters that, no, the people who made this thing had the same plumbing as we do today and therefore would have understood the implications.

And in this one instance, I can’t decide which seems more likely.

A little context before the clip: In the episode “The Ballad of the Betty Lou,” Rob and his best friend, Jerry Helper, decided to go halvsies on a sailboat. The idea immediately is vetoed by their wives, Laura and Millie, on grounds that it will tear their friendship apart, but the men proceed with the plan anyway, to Laura and Millie’s dismay. In this scene, Rob and Jerry are talking themselves into why this is a good idea. And during that conversation, the following exchange happens.

Jerry corrects Rob’s nautical terminology: “No, no, Rob. I’ll be the captain and you’ll be the seaman.” Cue laughter. And then Laura and Millie shoot each other a knowing look.

If you assume that The Dick Van Dyke Show was an exceedingly wholesome series that had Rob and Laura sleeping in twin beds, you could interpret the exchange fairly innocently. Laura and Millie’s reaction is simply them already seeing that they were right: Differences in opinion over the boat will ultimately cause a fight between their husbands, just like they predicted.

The person arguing for the more risque reading of the scene, however, would point out that Jerry simply correcting Rob is not very funny, even though there’s a laugh cue immediately after Jerry pronounces the word “seaman.” What about that line should get a laugh other than the fact that “seaman” is pronounced exactly like “semen”? And Millie and Laura don’t just roll their eyes, “Here we go again”-style. In fact, Laura arches her eyebrow.

If actors and comedy writers in 1963 functioned more or less like they do today, I have to think that everyone involved would have realized how close they were coming to making a big, goopy cum joke. (I mean, someone at some point had to make a joke about the show’s name.) But then again, I wonder why a censor didn’t object to the line, if only to avoid the possibility that any puritanical-minded viewer would think that filth was invading primetime TV… unless back then such a joke was so unheard of than no one would have read smut into it, reproductive plumbing notwithstanding.

I’d ask the guy credited with writing the episode, Martin Ragaway, but he died in 1989. What do you think?

And while you ponder that, perhaps also have a think about the time Elizabeth Montgomery was on Password and the secret word ended up being “vibrator.”

EDIT: And if you want to see the joke in the context of the whole episode, here you go. The line comes around the 2:30 mark.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Andrew Wyeth in San Benito County

I realize the lameness in writing a post that essentially says, “Guys, I did a neat thing on Instagram! Go look at it!” But that’s essentially what I’m doing. Instagram may be a place for people to post photos of sandwiches and dogs who think they’re people, but occasionally you see something that’s not Insta-filtered within an inch of its life and not entirely ugly and not pointless. And this may be one of those.

It’s also a different angle on a house that I photographed immediately after receiving a new camera for Christmas in 2003 — and this is a standard camera that didn’t double as a phone, if that dates this story at all. That photo also skews a little Andrew Wyeth, but more Andrew Wyeth by way of The Ring, horse and all.

In fact, to this day, the original posting of the old photo still gets hits from people trying to find Moesko Island.

Photos of places, previously:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sit Down on the Chair / Think About Your Dance Affairs

I make no excuses for being a complicated man whose likes are separated only by a small margin from his dislikes. Today’s example: an obscure ’80s song that sounds not all that different from the one I made fun of just last week.

Pros: Unlike the last song, it’s not about King Kong. Cons: Unlike the last song, it’s not about King Kong.

The band is Scotch. The song is 1984’s “Disco Band.” The genre is italo disco. And the country of origin is Italy. (Yes, that combo did make it somewhat more difficult to Google.) I’ve written about italo disco before, and all those same virtues and failings apply here: “Disco Band” has the trappings of the more familiar ’80s songs I love, but with the added novelties of being something I hadn’t heard a thousand times before as well as being sung in irreparably broken English. (Sample lyrics: “Baby / Baby / You’re my really disco band / I like you.”) Also, it must be said: For a song that opens out with a sample of someone coughing, it builds into something that’s surprisingly not terrible.

I’m not saying this is a good song, exactly. It’s kitsch. But it’s immensely listenable kitsch, unlike the King Kong song, which is something you just have to listen to out of the sheer astonishment that a group of people got together and all agreed that yes, in fact, this is a good, worthwhile thing to which humans will enjoy listening.

Here is that song again, for posterity, so the world may know:

So yeah, my musical choices are basically indefensible.

Italo disco, previously:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I Watched a Terrible Movie Because It Was Filmed in My Old Office

You don’t need a reason to watch bad movies. You could be bored. You could have broken your remote in a way that the TV channel is stuck on TNT. A bookcase could have pinned you to the floor, and bad movies could be the only thing keeping you sane until help arrives. Yesterday, I watched a bad movie for one specific reason: They filmed it in my old office, and I wanted to see if my former desk made a cameo.

It didn’t.

To add insult to the self-incurred injury, the movie — Walk of Shame, which notably was not screened for critics — was unremarkably bad. You’d think a film that starred Mrs. Jack Donaghy and Mr. Liz Lemon would have a vague chance at being funny. Nope. So here, then, are the highlights: screengrabs of the office I used to work in. Yes, it’s about as fun as a walking tour of my office, which would have taken about ten minutes and therefore would have been a better use of everyone’s time.

















And that’s it.

Yes, the movie was lame. Yes, this was the very Elizabeth Banks film that closed down a significant chunk of the 710 during filming, snarling traffic for Los Angeles on Super Bowl weekend. And yes, in spite of it all, it’s still weirdly interesting to see places you know used as backdrops in the movies. I maybe haven’t lived in Los Angeles long enough for that novelty to wear off, and I’m okay with that.

I’ve just go to ask: If my computer wasn’t actually featured in any pivotal scene, did the crew really have to screw with all my settings?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

King Kong Dancing

(Context: Nate is my college roommate and my best friend.)
Hi Nate!

I know you and Ashley have been working on getting the wedding together, and I know you specifically requested that I not make a speech or attempt to influence the creation of the wedding in any way, but I just happened across something that I thought would be good for the ceremony. Don’t you think it would be good if you guys walked down the aisle to this?

I knew you’d like it. Thanks in advance for helping me feel like part of the wedding!



I only listened to 30 seconds of this before I closed the window. What is wrong with you?


Hi Nate!

I think what you should maybe do is listen to the whole song before you make a judgment about it. I know it’s kind of weird at the beginning when the narrator says “New York City, eight-o’-clock news,” because you probably won’t get married in New York, but I think if you ride it out for the full seven and a half minutes, you’ll see it's actually the best song to walk down the aisle to — well, dance down the aisle to, but you probably figured that out.

Here it is again!

Do you need to borrow my gorilla suit?

Thanks again for letting me help. I really feel like this is my day, too.



Why the hell do you think it would take us seven and a half minutes to walk down the aisle? Also, why is the song that long? Also, what is this? Was this a tie-in for the remake of King Kong? It’s terrible. You like terrible things.


Hi Nate!

Well, I guess I figured it would take a while for, like, your parents and grandparents to dance down the aisle. And no, it’s not associated with the Jessica Lange movie, I don’t think. This seems to have come out about a decade later, but I think the fact that it's more of a free-standing work should make you feel more able to use it in the wedding and make it your own, you know?

It's probably worth it to listen to it again, so here you go!

Glad you’ve come around!



Please stop. We’re very busy, and I'm only taking time to write to you now because I want to make sure you know that the King Kong song will not be part of our ceremony.

You will be seated in the back.

Please don't do anything weird.

That songs sucks. Again, just please stop.


Hi Nate!

I think you're maybe overlooking how the song would be good because it can help raise awareness about Africa?

Mull it over.

See, now you have to use it because you feel bad.

Can I get a plus-two for the reception?



Well, now you've done it. You’re not getting an invitation. We’re not even telling you where the ceremony is. Now you’ll never know whether we use your song or not.

You brought this on yourself.


(Context: Jill is my college roommate and my second-best friend.)

Hi Jill!

I know you said you were having a small wedding, but I think I just found a reason for you to invite everyone you know. I'm just going to leave this hear and float the question of how you envisioned yourself walking down the aisle. However awesome it was in your head, prepare to be blown away.

You're welcome!


king king dancing departure album art

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Gods Must Be Chinese Hopping Zombies

Hey, remember the 1980 South African comedy hit The Gods Must Be Crazy?

And its 1990 sequel, The Gods Must Be Crazy II?

But did you feel that the story wasn’t complete? And in fact could benefit from the addition of Chinese hopping zombies?


I have good news for you: There’s an unofficial Hong Kong sequel, The Gods Must Be Crazy III a.k.a. Crazy Safari. It even has Namibian actor N!xau reprising his role from the “real” movies, and you can watch it in full on YouTube.

I know, I know — a few of you may not have a full ninety minutes to spend watching a zombie-centric unofficial sequel to a South African comedy. In that case, just read the Wikipedia plot summary, which is almost as good.

An ancient but still fleshy Chinese corpse is on auction in England. A young businessman (Sam Christopher Chow) purchases the corpse. The corpse is revealed to be the body of his third great-grandfather and he intends to give it a proper burial in Hong Kong. To keep it from becoming an irrepressible vampire, the descendant hires a good-natured Taoist priest (Lam Ching Ying) to maintain control of the cadaver using a yellow talisman. The young descendant and the Taoist priest decide that the best way to get the valued ancestor home is via a direct flight to Hong Kong on a private jet.

During the flight, the plane malfunctions and an altercation breaks out between the ruthless pilot and the two passengers. Luckily, they outsmart the pilot and descend from the troublesome plane by using parachutes. The corpse and the two end up separated during the chaos, and they land in Africa.

The corpse lands in front of Xixo (N!xau), where he and his tribe are being confronted by a rival clan led by two greedy Caucasians. The corpse’s presence scares away the villains. Xixo somehow learns to control the corpse and he takes it to his tribe. Soon he and his family think of it as a gift from God, as it aids them in various matters, such as bringing down fruit from towering trees.

The descendant and the priest land in a vast and dry area miles away from Xixo’s home. Confronting an assortment of African animals, they make their way across the foreign land in search of the corpse and rescue. During this time, the corpse forms a strong bond with the compassionate Xixo and his family. Days later, the descendant and the priest meet Xixo and his family. Not knowing they have the corpse, the two nevertheless stay with them, finding food, water, and shelter. They all abruptly form a solid friendship, despite the language barrier, as they all help out each other when in need.

Days later, the priest figures that the corpse must be nearby, since he connects the strange lack of birds in the area with the ominous close presence of a cadaver. Using magic, he summons the corpse to his hut. Xixo and his family frantically chase the corpse. After the corpse reunites with his descendant, the priest proves to Xixo that it belongs to them, and Xixo eventually agrees. After a few more days of living together, they prepare to part ways with the bushmen and Xixo leads them to the main path to civilization. However, the rival clan is still after what Xixo’s homeland has as a natural abundance: diamonds, as they invade the huts and threaten the residents. The corpse, feeling obligated to aid Xixo and his family, goes back, with the priest and the descendant following. A battle takes place between the villains and Xixo’s people, with the corpse managing to chase away one of the ruthless leaders. The priest even summons the spirit of the late Bruce Lee to aid Xixo, and the villains are finally defeated. The priest uses the radio left in the villains’ Jeep to contact a helicopter. Before boarding, the priest, the descendant, and the corpse bid farewell to Xixo and his family.
  • The term irrepressible vampire just means “jianshi,” but I think it just sounds so cute.
  • Crazy Safari itself got two sequels: Crazy Hong Kong and The Gods Must Be Funny in China, the latter of which sounds like something a racist old person would say.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Super Milli Vanilli Bros.

You think back on the weird little pop culture nothings you experienced as a kid, and you sometimes wonder, “Did that actually happen the way I’m remembering it? Or did my feeble childhood brain and the passage of time distort all that into something far weirder than it actually was?” With me, it’s usually the latter. In this one instance, it’s not.

princess peach milli vanilli

Yes, the Mario Bros. did once meet Milli Vanilli.

I’m not going to say that the Super Mario Bros. Super Show and its various sequel series don’t hold up all these years later, but that’s mostly because I never went back and invested much time in them since they were first on. I did, however, just now rewatch the October 27, 1990, episode “Kootie Pie Rocks” just for the sheer what-the-fuck-in-a-time-capsule factor. It’s just kind of baffling to think that yes, this episode existed.

Here’s the plot:

The princess — and remember, she’s Princess Toadstool at this point, and not Princess Peach — is stoked to visit New York City in “the real world” to watch a concert by her favorite music group, Milli Vanilli. (How Top 40 reaches all the way to the Mushroom Kingdom, we’ll never know.) Here the duo is dancing, per the magic of DIC animation:

milli vanilli super mario bros.

Bowser’s terrible daughter, Kootie Pie, gets word of this and throws a fit. (Another name note: It’s Wendy, but it’s not. For reasons I’ve never had explained to me, the DIC Mario cartoons renamed Bowser’s kids instead of using the rock star-inspired names they have in the games.) To appease Kootie Pie, Bowser beams Milli Vanilli into his airship mid-concert — “Koopnapped,” per Toadstool, even if that doesn’t make sense.

At the Koopa Kastle, Kootie Pie uses her magic wand to turn Rob and Fab into accountants — you know, because then they would be unable to sing their hit songs — but Mario devises a plan to free them: Sneak in dressed as a racially insensitive back-up band and help Milli Vanilli perform. Kootie doesn’t question why a back-up band would inexplicably show up, so she transforms Rob and Fab back and then proceeds to be too stupid to realize that Mario and Luigi’s instrumentation sucks, with the awkward implication being that Milli Vanilli performs poorly when live and unproduced. The group escapes back to New York City. Rob and Fab dedicate “Girl, You Know It’s True” to the princess, which, when you think about the implications, is the greatest slight of all.

Miscellaneous notes:

Kootie Pie sounds like an evil Cyndi Lauper. And yeah, she’s awful.

She also puts on a mini-skirt to go the concert instead of wearing her usual outfit of high heels, Marge Simpson pearls and no clothes whatsoever. 

This is what Milli Vanilli fans looked like, per The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3:

This frame is also awkward:

For what it’s worth, DIC actually acquired the rights to “Blame It on the Rain,” and “Milli Vanilli” actually “sing” it in the episode, though of course it’s weird to think about now how Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus are playing cartoon versions of themselves lip syncing to someone else’s recording of the song. This episode aired just twenty days before the band’s Grammy was revoked.

Rob Pilatus was found dead of a suspected drug and alcohol overdose on April 2, 1998. As long as we’re talking about weird musical connections to make with Super Mario Bros., it’s worth noting that Wendy O. Williams, the Plasmatics lead singer for whom Bowser’s daughter takes her name, committed suicide just four days later.

Since the last time I wrote about my theory about the Koopalings’ names, it turns out that Larry Koopa (Cheatsy in the cartoons) wasn’t named after Larry King but instead after U2 drummer Larry Mullins Jr. I’d guessed Larry King just because Morton Koopa Jr. was named after Morton Downey Jr., the talk show host who had previously worked as a singer-songwriter, and I guessed that if one Koopaling could have a talk show host namesake, so could another. Nope!

The background paintings are actually decent:

If you want to watch the whole episode, Youtube user Unknown Archive has posted it in full on YouTube, in good quality and with a few bits that have been otherwise lost as a result of the fact that all subsequent airings of the episode replace Milli Vanilli’s music with generic filler. The fact that someone bothered to go back in and restore the original audio and deleted scenes for such a shitty moment for television is kind of awesome.

And that is all. Go outside maybe!

Super Mario pop cultural connections, previously: 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

35 Reasons “Bart of Darkness” Might Be the Greatest Episode of The Simpsons

Not long ago my friend Sam Downing put up a gif-heavy post titled “48 Reasons ‘Cape Feare’ Might Be the Greatest Episode of The Simpsons,” and my response was “Hey, I want to do that!” Two problems: for one, I underestimated how long it would take to reduce a half-hour TV show down to gifs and screencaps, and for another, I don’t know what my favorite episode of The Simpsons actually is. I have a lot of favorites, and though “Last Exit to Springfield” just might come out on top, there’s just too much to like in dozens of other episodes.

So then I give you this: a great episode of The Simpsons to kick off the summer. It’s “Bart of Darkness,” a.k.a. the one where they get a pool, a.k.a. the one where Bart breaks his leg, a.k.a. the one where Flanders is maybe a murderer. I will maybe do another one some time, most likely when I forget how long this took to complete.


One: a single example of the many tragedies that befall Hans Moleman.

Two: “And here we have the world-famous Beatles, exactly as they looked performing on The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Three: vicarious punching.

Four: the remarkable ingenuity of Homer Simpson. He got the idea when he realized the refrigerator was cold.

Five: one of the two things Maggie gets to do.

Six: the disappointment of childhood.

Seven: hubris and nemesis.

Eight: People who observed Homer’s parenting style as children may actually employ this tactic today.

Nine: Children who observed Bart and Lisa’s method of persuasion also attempted to employ it back in the day. It was not successful in real life.

Ten: Simpsons puns are better than the puns you make, generally speaking.

Eleven: the other thing Maggie gets to do.

Twelve: The 90s had more Amish jokes than we have now. Why is that?

Thirteen: And this is how you close out a first act.

Fourteen: American healthcare, circa 1994.

Fifteen: Milhouse Van Houten, for once, gets to be the sucky friend.

Sixteen: the Esther Williams spectacular.

Seventeen: “Klassic Krusty.”

Eighteen: Homer learns a lesson in pool hygiene.

Nineteen: Bart grows isolated and weird.

Twenty: So dark as this, in fact.

Twenty-one: It does not go unnoticed.

Twenty-two: a sliding scale for evil.

Twenty-three: “Soon I’ll be queen of summertime!”

Twenty-four: how I learned the word “ribald.”

Twenty-five: a selection from Bart’s isolation-born play that, in retrospect, may have influenced this.

Twenty-six: Schuman Farms.

Twenty-seven: Springfield Rescu-U-Fone, or how I learned what “regicide” meant.

Twenty-eight: the determination of Bartholomew J. Simpson.

Twenty-nine: Hitchcockian terror in Simpsons yellow.

Thirty: resolution of terror.

Thirty-one: probably the best line Maude Flanders ever got.

Thirty-two: a joke The Simpsons has only rarely revisited.

Thirty-three: Dan Castellaneta’s perfect pronunciation of the word “package.”

Thirty four: Martin brings it on himself, again.

Thirty-five: And then despite dumping on poor Martin the whole time, the episode closes in an oddly beautiful way. Martin, bare butt hanging out there for the world to see, looks off wistfully and sings a Sinatra standard. The camera pulls back for a shot of Springfield at sunset. It’s lovely. And to me it represents how good this show was during its best seasons. This is why I love The Simpsons.

The Simpsons, previously: