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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NOT QUITE THE SAME AULD LANG SYNE


I'm so darn glad he let me try it again 
Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin 
I'm so glad that I know more than I knew then 
Gonna keep on tryin' 
Till I reach my highest ground 


-Stevie Wonder, "Higher Ground"

Dear Vaulties-

Here we are, once again at the turnover of another year, and I for one hope to all fuck that the upcoming annus is a vast improvement over what came just before and, in my specific case, what came before over roughly the past five.

As I write this, I am 48.5 years old and I have done a lot of living in that time, a lot of it good and quite memorable, some of it stuff that if given a chance for a do-over I would have definitely steered clear of. A lot of you out there can probably say the same. Some of you who are at the same stage of life as I have undergone or are undergoing what is commonly referred to as a midlife crisis, and while I'm not sure if what I've been going through for quite some time falls into that exact category, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the past decade has seen me reach a number of epiphanies and endure a number of defining hardships.

Twenty-four years ago, after a year and a half pursuing a fruitless local career in freelance design and illustration, I left home from Westport, Connecticut to make my fortune in New York City as a member of the Mighty Marvel Bullpen, full of youthful optimism and wide-eyed hope for a future doing what I loved. I worked alongside several college buddies who have since become more dear to me than my own biological family, meeting and becoming friends with many of the greats in the comics biz while partying harder than I had any right to and still remain alive, and those times were mostly good (if low-paying). I lived the comics geek's dream until Marvel entered the dire "Marvelution" era of the mid-1990's and Chapter 11 proceedings wrought massive staff layoffs, with myself being among those who got the axe on the day before Halloween of 1998. After that I ended up at Marvel's in-town rival, DC Comics, a more corporate entity that was a subsidiary of Time-Warner, and there I stayed until the spring of 2003, eventually "let go" after what was at the time the fastest advancement in the company's editorial staff. That was followed by just shy of two years as an unemployed freelancer, and then came my now-infamous stint anchoring the kitchen at a certain Brooklyn barbecue joint. After two years of some very crazy adventures, I left that gig for a staff job at a Manhattan design studio in the capacity of copy writer/proofreader/quality control, but what looked at first to be a promising job very quickly revealed itself to be me landing a position on a sinking ship that paid shit and provided little for me to do. (I was there for three years before the inevitable layoff, after which the place slowly whittled down its staff and continued with nothing even resembling a direction until in closed altogether.) Since then I have been unemployed-but-freelancing for nearly four years, and it will likely come as no surprise to tell you that I am sick of applying for jobs and getting nowhere while living hand-to-mouth.

Over those years my romantic endeavors have mostly ended up as disasters, thanks to my propensity for finding myself hooked up with a succession of women who could kindly be described as...a bit "off" in the head, some more so than others. (And I am by no means insinuating that I am without flaws, some of which run deep.)  Some of those ladies have remained close and trusted friends, others have simply returned to the ether from which they came, and some have been relegated to a roster of creatures to be avoided with the fervency with which one would dodge some of the more terror-inducing beasts of classical mythology or stories penned by H.P. Lovecraft. But whatever the case, I remain a man who adores women and someday hopes to find the right companion with whom to settle into something more permanent than some occasional "sexy time," but at the moment I have been going stag for nearly a year and I've gotta say that it's lonely as hell. And there was a time when I wanted nothing more than a family of my own, preferably with three daughters, but now I'm more than content to enjoy influencing the many nieces and nephews I have via my closest friends since high school and college, so at least there's that.

I bring all of this up because 2013 was without question the most shit-tastic year of my life thus far, and during that time I had to contend with a life-avalanche of ongoing unemployment/poverty, another romantic crash-and-burn (though the lady in question was not a villain and we remain friends), the untimely death of a dear old friend, being there to support a few friends who were in deep emotional crisis, an escalating wave of exorbitant medical issues that I had to contend with without medical insurance, and last, but definitely not least, having a stent put into my heart in order to open up some minor blockage that was found there.

To call all of that a rollercoaster would be something of an understatement, so as this crappy year draws to a close, I have opted to sit this New Year's Eve out and instead stay at home by my lonesome, watching Season 5 of SONS OF ANARCHY while contemplating how I can actively work to make 2014 an improvement over the year that immediately preceded it. I wish I had a squeeze for tonight but that didn't happen this time around, and I admit to being  spoiled by having female companionship to help usher in the past three new years, so here's hoping for a return to form from here on in.

Anyway, I'm staring to ramble, so let me just say in closing that may all of us have a better year in 2014 than we did in 2013, and may all our misfortunes and miseries be turned around into joy, prosperity, and lots and lots of "sexy time."

-Yer Bunche

INEVITABLE, THY NAME IS THIS

I'm a big fan of the TV series GAME OF THRONES and also of the series of novels upon which it is based, and so are millions of people worldwide because the entire franchise is a money-making juggernaut. Thus, with that level of popularity in place, it was only a matter of time before some enterprising pornographer lensed a tenderloin version of George R.R. Martin's intrigue-laden tales of the royal families of the land of Westeros. I'm just glad to see that the makers of this uglies-a-bumpin' parody opted for an old school cheesy title and not another instance of prefacing the source title with "This Ain't" or adding a "XXX" at the end. And extra points for the pornification of the Stark family's motto. Come to think of it, will the Stark's be renamed as "Stark-Naked?" And who is that supposed to be, seated upon the Iron Throne? I've read all the books and seen the entire run of the TV series and thus I recognize all of the other characters, so who is she?


Monday, December 30, 2013

Saturday, December 28, 2013

MIRANDA (1948)


The one and only Glynis Johns as Miranda, a lonely mermaid who's out to catch herself a man.

Ever since I was a little boy I have loved and been fascinated by the lore of the mermaid, an interest likely sparked by the adorable Neptina, the tastefully topless half-fish girlfriend of early anime hero Marine Boy. I was one of the rare little boys who never found girls to be "icky," so I was fascinated by the female from Day One, plus I had a deep interest in aquatic lifeforms that led my earliest job aspirations to lean toward marine biology, so the concept of a magical creature that combined my two loves into one was bound to appeal. From the early days of watching Marine Boy and Neptina "fighting evil 'neath the sea," I moved on to reading world mythology and absorbing the many cultural variations on the mermaid, and as I got older I sought out any movies that had to do with them, nearly all of which revolved around mermaids falling in love with men from the surface world. The list of the genuinely good films in this niche category is rather small and until now I held the Daryl Hannah vehicle SPLASH! (1983) as the exemplar of the form, but now that I've seen Britain's 1948 cult classic MIRANDA (based on a stage play by Peter Blackmore), Madison's reign is over and her Cornish predecessor has taken her place in my heart and mind.

Dr. Paul Martin (Griffith Jones) fails to entice his wife, Clare (Googie Withers), into joining him for a fishing trip to Cornwall, so he leaves by himself for a bachelor's holiday. While out angling in a boat, Paul's line is snared by what he presumes to be a very large fish and he is pulled overboard, where he is promptly seized and spirited away to the underwater cave of Miranda Trewella (Glynis Johns), a lonely mermaid who's looking for a man — she'd previously caught other men but threw them back because they were too short — and instantly takes a liking to the married doctor. She makes it very clear that she intends to keep the doctor forever and he is absolutely not immune to her considerable charms while stuck in her hideout (despite his love of his wife, which he immediately tells Miranda about), so, understanding Paul's fidelity (which is fighting a losing battle against her otherworldly allure), Miranda agrees to set him free, provided he takes her back to London with him for a three-week stay. She wants to see and experience all of the things she's read about in books and magazines found mostly on ships, and she would be willing to pretend to be an invalid during her stay, covering her fish tail with long dresses and blankets while riding around in a wheelchair of being carried. Paul agrees to her request and brings the beautiful creature to the London flat that he shares with his wife and their live-in servants, butler/chauffeur Charles (David Tomlinson) and maid Betty (Yvonne Owen), with Miranda playing the role of a patient who needs Paul's care over a specifically-stated period of three weeks. 

During the course of her stay, every male that she meets is completely enthralled with Miranda and not one of them stands a chance against her spell (though Paul puts up the most resistance). She bewitches Charles — who's engaged to Betty — and Nigel (John McCallum), an artist who's betrothed to Clare's best friend, snobbish hat designer Isobel (Sonia Holm), and enters into affairs with both, which of course results in all sorts of romantic mishegoss that postwar British society found scandalous and wholly inappropriate. Yet as all of this extracurricular spit-swapping occurs with the two mesmerized young men — and, to a certain extent, Paul as well — Miranda remains as sweet as honey and it's impossible to hate her for what appears to be simple (albeit powerful) sex appeal, and not even the women whose men she's stealing really hold it against her (their ire is instead directed at their helpless paramours). Especially not Clare, who eventually twigs to Miranda's secret, realizes there's some form of magic involved in all of the seduction going on, and settles back with an amused eye to watch what she knows will be an inevitable emotional train wreck (or as much of an emotional train wreck as the British stiff upper lip of 1948 would allow). It all amounts to a (mostly) one-set sex farce that leads to a rather surprising ending, especially for a film of its vintage and country of origin.

MIRANDA is a delight from start to finish and it wastes absolutely no time in getting the ball rolling, with Miranda coming into the narrative about two minutes after the opening credits. Highlights include:
  • The eerie-but-charming siren song that Miranda sings at night, a strange melody heard by the entire household.
  • The depiction of Clare and her performance by Googie Withers. It would have been easy to portray Clare as a shrewish wife who sought to tear down the invalid Miranda for her obvious effect on Paul, but Clare is both very smart and realistic, gradually realizing there's more going on than her husband's head, and the heads of the other men, being turned by a pretty wheelchair-bound girl. A refreshing change from what's expected in this kind of scenario.
  • Miranda's adventures around London while chauffeured by the increasingly-smitten Charles, especially her argument with a sea lion after she orally catches and swallows a fish meant for it during feeding time, an argument loudly conducted in fluent sea lion, no less.
  • Miranda's prodigious appetite and consumption of raw seafood.
  • Miranda revealing in a throwaway line that she is the bastard daughter of her mermaid mother and a Covent Garden chorus boy named Matthew Trewella.
  • British cinema legend Margaret Rutherford as Nurse Carey, the health care professional whom Paul brings in to attend to Miranda's "special needs" who is ideally suited to the case, thanks to her "eccentric" nature. She believes in mythical creatures, so her reaction to the reveal of Miranda being a living, breathing mermaid is one of utter delight, so it is never in doubt that she will keep Miranda's secret.
  • The early pairing of Glynis Johns and David Tomlinson, some sixteen years before they were cast as Mr. and Mrs. Banks in the Disney classic MARY POPPINS. Seeing a still-gentlemanly Tomlinson overcome with lust for the lovely mermaid and losing his battle with himself is very funny to see.
  • The running gag involving Miranda treating the Martin's well-populated fishbowl as a candy dish. At the beginning of the film there are around ten fish in the bowl. By the end...not so much.
  • As her time on land grows short, Miranda gifts her three men with neck-worn tokens containing locks of her hair, in celebration and remembrance of "a love that might have been."
  • The scandalous notion that Miranda, while owning other undergarments, does not own a single pair of panties, much to the shock of Clare and her maid.
  • "Sea Cow?!!? SHE KNOWS!!! If you think you're going to take a peek at my tail, you're very much mistaken!"
  • Miranda's tail, which looks exceptionally realistic when its seen flopping about in water. The tail is even afforded an onscreen credit for its maker, namely Dunlop.
  • The black and white photography lends the story a dreamlike aesthetic that greatly benefits the proceedings.
One of the things that most fascinates me about this film is that when looked at from the point of view of a rather jaded audience member some 65 years after its release, it's fun to ponder just how risque this movie must have been when it hit the U.K.'s screens during its original release. For one thing, you get a mermaid who's topless when she's seen in the water (though her hair is always strategically placed), and piled on top of that there are several references to fish (and their smell) and wetness that bear intentionally vulgar connotations, and Miranda's sweet-faced, very matter-of-fact sexual aggressiveness, which brings me to the film's ending.

WARNING!!! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!!!

Far from being merely the male sex fantasy adventures of a beautiful horny mermaid on the loose, Miranda's sexual campaign is revealed near the end of the film to be her acting not only on her personal loneliness, but also taking action to ensure the survival of her species. She earlier states that her mother had an affair with a human man, and she also mentions that mermen do exist but their unattractive looks make them unappealing to her — and presumably other females of her species — so she's opted to mate outside of the more obvious choice, and her dalliances with the three men under her thrall are an effort to widen the genetic options. It's never explicitly stated as such, but that's exactly what's going on. And while the goal of conceiving a child out of wedlock via three different men was probably scandalous enough for its era, an aspect that absolutely would never have flown in an American film, it's the film's very last shot that really raises eyebrows. When Miranda escapes back to the sea after Clare subtly calls her out for being a mermaid — and there is no malice about that; Clare is fascinated, but she wants to make the discovery public, which Miranda (and Paul) is not at all thrilled about — we see Miranda swim away, after which there is a flash-forward that shows a very happy Miranda on the shores of Majorca with a mer-baby on her lap. So in a film made by one of the most propriety-obsessed European societies during the postwar/pre-Profumo era, we get a feel-good story about a hot chick who gets knocked up by one of three possible babydaddies and we're happy to see the unashamed result.












How in hell did they get away with that in a 1948 British comedy, and did it ever get an American release? (I'm guessing that it was okay by virtue of Miranda not being a human woman, but even so it's still a bit of a shocker for its time.)

The movie is dominated by the performance of Glynis Johns as Miranda, and I defy you to find any straight guy who wouldn't willingly end up a slave to the character. She's beautiful, dryly funny, has eyes that draw one in like quicksand, has charm to spare, and she's horny as hell in a classy British way. And while Miranda is a natural-born seducer — which may be magically assisted, though it's never explicitly spelled out — and knows full well that's she's messing with men who are all involved in very committed relationships, she doesn't have a malicious bone in her body, so her man-stealing ways are impossible to hate, especially once we get that she's doing what she's doing by way of acting on a biological imperative. In short, she's an ideal fantasy creation who carries equal irresistible appeal for both adults and kids. This movie can be run for kids and not be considered salacious because when viewed through innocent eyes, Miranda's romantic entanglements can be seen as simply kissing and such, the kind of thing that mermaids get up to in even G-rated kiddie flicks, and the scene fades out during the three instances when it's obvious to adult audience members that the Beast with Two Backs is about to be made. (Don't ask me exactly what the logistics of achieving successful intercourse between a human male and a mermaid may be in this specific instance. Unlike Madison in SPLASH!, Miranda does not have the ability to become bipedal below the waist, so I'd say that magic is a definite factor here. That, or a process similar to the fishy mating process involving the female's eggs being fertilized by the male's milt, which when translated to this sort of scenario would amount to bukkake, which is something best not thought about in this movie's charming context.)

MIRANDA proved popular enough to generate a Technicolor sequel, MAD ABOUT MEN (1954), which brought back Glynis Johns and Margaret Rutherford, but it appears to be unavailable on DVD in an official release, either domestically or in a foreign edition. That makes me quite sad because I loved MIRANDA and I've read several reviews that cite MAD ABOUT MEN as being superior to the original, so I'm anxious to see it. Anyway, take my word for it and check out MIRANDA for yourself. It's a rare and unique treasure. I would love to see it rediscovered because it really is a classic deserving of wider recognition on these shores. (Then again, the one possible negative byproduct of MIRANDA getting rediscovered is that some Hollywood douchebag will greenlight an unnecessary remake, replete with modern day raunchy humor and frat gags, so maybe it's better off staying in relative obscurity.)

Poster from the original theatrical release.

NOW THAT CHRISTMAS IS OVER, WATCH THIS AND ENJOY

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE VAULT OF BUNCHENESS!

From yer favorite Bunche. (And Krampus.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

INDEED!


Monday, December 23, 2013

FURTHER REASON TO LOVE LIVING IN NYC

ONCE AGAIN, UNCLE HARLAN SETS US STRAIGHT

Last night I once again watched Walt Disney's utterly delightful movie version of MARY POPPINS (1964), one of my very favorite films — yes, I'm serious — and after seeing it again I began considering seeing the recently-released SAVING MR. BANKS, which is the Disney corporation's bigscreen depiction of Walt Disney wooing Mary Poppins's creator, P.L. Travers, into granting him the rights to make the now-classic movie. I may still see it because I am intrigued, but I also just saw a review of the film by Harlan Ellison, my favorite writer and a man who has been one of my most respected no-bullshit heroes since I was perhaps fifteen. If Harlan has something to say on just about any subject, I listen and I tend to agree with him, so his opinion of SAVING MR. BANKS has given me a bit of pause. (Not that what he says comes as any surprise, since Disney is quite good at embellishing its founder's godlike image.) Anyway, here's what Uncle Harlan had to say on the subject:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

CHRISTMAS ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE

As witnessed early this afternoon at the intersection of 14th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan: As I prepared to cross the street, I saw a wobbly, drunk-looking Santa Claus staggering between corners and was initially filled with a sense of sad revulsion. That is, until I saw him notice an elderly lady struggling to cross the street, at which he sincerely asked her, "Do you need some help, honey?" He turned from his own crossing and returned the way he came, 100% intent on helping the old lady cross the street and keeping her safe. There was no way I wasn't going to capture that faith-in-humanity-restoring moment with a photograph. Once she was safely across the street, I couldn't help yelling, "HEY, SANTA! YOU'RE ALRIGHT!!!" He smiled, waved, and continued on his wobbly way.

THE ROLLING ASYLUM THAT IS THE MTA SUBWAY SYSTEM

My dear friend John Bligh once accurately described me as "a magnet for the crazy," thanks to the unstable/insane being drawn to me on the street or subway, in my romantic misadventures, or just about anywhere you can name. Today on the R train back to Brooklyn, a Top 5 example of this phenomenon just took place and here are the details:

I boarded the train at Union Square and one stop later a handsome young black man of perhaps twenty-five or so took the seat directly across from mine. He was well-groomed, sported matching diamond ear studs, a fancy black leather jacket, nice shoes, and a huge buddhist rosary around his neck. Less than a stop after he boarded, he looked at me and shouted "Did you say 'cut your own head off?'" Startled, I looked up from my book, and said,"What???" to which he again asked "Did you say 'cut your own head off?'" only that time with a venomous edge to his tone. I looked him square in the eye and stated an unequivocal and firm "NO." He looked at me oddly and slowly sat back as the train made its way onto the bridge, where it of course slowed down before sitting unmoving for several minutes. During that time and the time that was left in the journey, the guy fairly radiated escalating levels of hostility and madness, and here is a loose transcript of much of what he had to say, looking directly at me with what appeared to be drug-reddened eyes and vehemently gesturing the whole while, totally ignoring the fact that I was ignoring him while attempting to continue with my reading:

"Yeah, Yolanda...YOU started that shit. I would strongly advise you fix it... Yeah, what all you motherfuckers did to me wasn't right. You wanted to cut a motherfucking piece outta me, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?!!? And I can't do nothin' about it because then you'd put me in the prison for six months and then the psych ward for three months, and I say fuck THAT shit! (stops for about a minute to lean his head between his legs and tightly squeeze the sides of his skull like he was in pain) This shit is all because of Jay-Z and Fitty Cent...They wanted to cut the fucking voices outta my head...But I'm tired. Tired from working to make something outta myself! (reaches into pocket and pulls out what is apparently a homemade rap CD) Stupid, ignorant niggers... I wanna punch some of these white boys in the face but if I did they'd start a racial profiling, then they'd put me in the prison for six months and then the psych ward for three months... (train of thought interrupted by a subway announcement; turns and looks up at the speaker from which the announcement issued) FUCK YOU!!! All these motherfuckers running around like chickens with they heads cut off...Motherfucking Christmas..."

There was more, a LOT more, but that's all I can recall with complete clarity. Then, after what seemed like a short eternity, the train finally pulled into the Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center station, and the young man got off. But before he left entirely, he held the subway car's door open with his foot, pointed right at me and exclaimed, "I was saying all of this to YOU, man!" I pretended not to be paying attention and asked "What?" to which he repeated "I was saying all of this to YOU, man!" And with that, he marched down the platform, there to wait for an approaching D train. When the doors closed and the train took off, a guy who'd been sitting next to me when the rant began but who'd wisely moved further down the car looked at me with a horrified expression on his face, as if to say "Jesus, what a fucking freakshow!" I simply looked at him and said "Dude, it seems to be my karma to forever be a sounding board for the insane." 

This incident was right up there with a weekday afternoon a few years back, when some random Hispanic chick boarded the train, obviously wasted out of her mind on a cocktail of booze and some unknown pharmaceuticals, sat down across from me and stared at me as though she were trying to bore a hole in my head with her gaze. After about three minutes of her staring, she asked me "Are you single?" I responded in the affirmative and she shot back with "If you was my boyfriend, I'D CUT YOUR DICK OFF!!!"

Saturday, December 21, 2013

EL LOCO NEGRO ES AQUI

December 21, 2013: The first recorded sighting of "El Loco Negro."

While finishing this year's Christmas shopping, after over two decades of searching I finally chanced upon a store in NYC that sells lucha libre masks for adult wearers. (They are usually found in kiddie sizes.) After perusing a selection of some sixty masks, I found one that not only fit my large noggin but also jibed with my aesthetic sensibilities. At long last my latest alter ego, "El Loco Negro," can walk the streets in search of wrongs to right, alien invasions to thwart, and monsters to put the boot to. I will also be taking lots of photos of myself in masked form in inappropriate places, only with my glasses on over the mask, so get ready, world!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

EMPOWERED Volume 8 (2013)

The latest volume of Adam Warren's EMPOWERED is out and you can bet your ass that the wait between volumes was once again worth it! I won't give any serious spoilers, other than to say that this volume is firmly centered around Emp and the grieving Sistah Spooky contemplating the now dead Mindfuck having been damned to burn in Hell for all of eternity, and the two enemies teaming up for an impossible rescue attempt. Mindfuck was genuinely kind to the deeply insecure Emp, while the tongueless telepath and Sistah Spooky were passionate lovers on the down-low, so both have plenty of reason for wanting to see Mindfuck freed and back among the living. We also get some serious looks into the intimate past of Sistah Spooky and Mindfuck, along with a truly horrifying flashback regarding exactly how Mindfuck ended up minus her tongue and eyes, plus to say nothing of the book's emotionally-wrenching second half, so if you're a fan of this series and are familiar with Adam Warren's chops as a top-tier crafter of characterization, get ready for an installment that's a moving narrative goldmine. How he's going to follow this one, I have no idea, but I assure you I'll be there with bells on!

THIS POSTER SHOULD BE ON THE WALL OF EVERY ENGLISH CLASSROOM IN THE NATION


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Friday, December 06, 2013

RIFFTRAX LIVE: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964/2013)

Last night I went to the Rifftrax live screening of the classic seasonal bad movie SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964) with three friends, and we had a blast.

For those not in the know, SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS is a cheapjack kiddie movie that played annually for ages on the now defunct kiddie movie matinee circuit, and it was in that context that I saw it several times during my childhood. Even as a wee moppet I knew it was a piece of shit, but I saw it numerous times during those days because it was always part of an all-day movie show where parents could drop off the little ones for three full features and a number of cartoons  and short subjects, giving mom and dad time in which to sleep, fuck, get wasted, have marriage-ending fights without the kids around, or a combination of some or all of the aforementioned activities. As a kid I found it an insult to my intelligence but as I got older and my fascination with bad movies blossomed, it took on a luster that few of the bad kiddie movies I endured could match. Its narrative of a party of Martians kidnapping Santa Claus (and an incidental brother/sister team of kids) in order to bring joy to the listless children of their world is ultra-juvenile, cheaply-made and very cheap-looking, boasts no special effects to speak of — which is a real problem for a movie involving technologically-advanced  space aliens and inter-planetary travel — contains one of the most irritating "comic relief" characters in the entire history of world cinema,  possesses the screen debut of future sleaze-film star Pia Zadora, has robot and polar bear costumes that would not have passed muster in an Ed Wood flick, and features an incredibly annoying theme song that sticks in one's head like napalm while being so terrible that it comes back around to actually become endearing. In short, it's a masterpiece of crap.

The film rests on its laurels among the pantheon of classic bad movies, so it was perhaps inevitable that the crew at MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 would find it perfect fodder for their weekly sarcastic evisceration of terrible cinema. Their version of it is now rightly hailed as one of the all-time greats from the series' ten-season run, so when the guys from Rifftrax — all of whom are alumni of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 and continuing that show's tradition for the 2000's — announced that they'd be doing a live theatrical simulcast of their take on SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, I swore I would be there with bells on and I would drag as many of my friends as possible along with me. Two of the three friends who attended had never seen the movie before (much less with it being snarkily riffed upon by Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett), so they were unprepared for what they got.

Though I enjoy what the guys of Rifftrax do, not all of their efforts result in gems and their treatment of SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, while certainly funny, simply could not hold a candle to the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 version. That was a bit of a disappointment but it was fun nonetheless, largely thanks to an unexpected bonus.

SANTA AND THE FAIRY SNOW QUEEN (1951): a jaw-dropping short of the highest (?) order.

The screening was preceded by the short SANTA AND THE FAIRY SNOW QUEEN (1951), a spectacularly warped kiddie time-waster that felt like it was made in the ERASERHEAD universe. Think "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" if it had been viewed through the effects of a potent cocktail of well tequila, muscle relaxers, and Nyquil. The shit was funny as hell and worth the price of admission. MST3K fans will enjoy it because it is extremely reminiscent of aspects from the legendary MR. B NATURAL. (Those who've seen that one will immediately get what kind of psycho vibe I'm talking about. In tonight's short there's a character named Snoopy who's a magical brownie played by a woman, which brings up all of the confusing androgyny that made MR. B NATURAL an instant classic.) 

Some of the live Rifftrax shows have come out on DVD — BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR and MANOS:  THE HANDS OF FATE being the must-sees — and I'd be willing to bet that we'll be seeing this one available for at-home enjoyment soon enough. I recommend it, but mostly for SANTA AND THE FAIRY SNOW QUEEN. The MST3K version of  SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS is currently available in a two-movie DVD edition that pairs it with MITCHELL, a film considered by many fans to be the series' single funniest entry, so recommend picking that up in the meantime.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

IN HONOR OF THE NOW LATE NELSON MANDELA

Now he's about as free as it gets.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

SOMETHING NICE

Around a year ago the apartment across the hall from me once again turned over and a new resident moved in, this time a nice and clean-cut young man named Preston. When he moved in I introduced myself and filled him in on what he needed to know when living in our sketchy building — how to deal with our utter turd of a landlord, ways to handle the ultra-ghetto thugs who live in the building next door and take over the stoops and street on a daily basis with their loud and obnoxious friends, et cetera — and thus was established a good neighbor relationship. He's a really nice guy and a pleasure to have as a fellow resident.

Anyway, tonight he returned from being away for Thanksgiving and he handed me this, an autographed photo of his dad. A while back he mentioned that his dad was an actor, and it turns out his pop is none other than Ed Neal, the creepy hitchhiker from my favorite horror movie, namely THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974).


Needless to say. I'm quite happy and I immediately put the photo into a place of honor in my big leather binder of autographed pics.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A SERIOUS REALITY CHECK




Folks-

After the recent deluge of material, you may have noticed my absence during the last two weeks or so, so allow to me to explain. 

Long story short, I'd already figured my meds for diabetes and hypertension needed adjusting and I planned on getting that looked into anyway, but a weird feeling of pressure — pressure being the important term here, as opposed to "pain" — in my chest awoke me very early on the morning of Tuesday the 12th, so I checked myself in at Park Slope's Methodist Hospital to see what was the matter. It turned out that my meds of late had failed to properly regulate my conditions and the feeling I'd experienced was my body making note of that fact, so what was intended to be an observational period of perhaps 24 hour ended up stretching out for several days as the doctors did assorted jiggery-pokery in figuring out what was needed to set me right. 

During all of the assorted testing and such, it was discovered that there was some very minor blockage in a portion of my heart that could be handled via medication or I could instead just get a stent inserted and that would keep the passageway clear on a permanent basis (provided I'm more diligent in taking better care of myself, which I will be). I opted for the stent and I had the procedure last night, which was extra-awesome to a FANTASTIC VOYAGE fan like me (it's my all-time favorite science-fiction movie) because I was wide-awake and coherent for the entire procedure — though the insertion point for the manipulator wires and the fiber optic camera was numbed with a local — and I got to watch the whole thing happen live on the video monitor. I was utterly fascinated and I felt no pain whatsoever, so I advise a policy of "no fear" should you ever be confronted with this particular option got heart procedures. And the whole thing was over in about twenty minutes, after which they kept me overnight for observation. Oh, and the doctors (and a close friend who also happens to be a doctor and a damned good one at that) all told me in no uncertain terms that I caught the heart problem very early, so I was smart to head in when I did. 

And, for the record, I feel perfectly fine and spry and though there's a lot more to the whole several-day adventure, but let it suffice to say that if your body tells you there's something "off," listen to it and don't be a macho shithead. Life's too much fun to miss out on and there are a ton of friends/loved ones who would be devastated if you went permanently tits-up for something that could have been taken care of during a hospital stay of a mere few days. (My friends who I consider family came out of the woodwork with support, so much so that I practically had to turn some of them away with a firehose.) Make sure you're around for as long as you can be. No bullshit.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday, November 08, 2013

THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)




Roughly two years after the events of the first Thor film and an unspecified time after THE AVENGERS, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Earth after quelling assorted conflicts on several worlds in the nine realms of Norse myth, a job that has his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), sizing him up as next in line for the throne of Asgard, the home of the gods. Once on Earth, Thor finds that his love interest, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), is inadvertently the host to the Aether, a major-league power source coveted by the dark elf Malekith (Christpher Eccleston), who seeks not only to exact vengeance for Asgard's long ago victory over and near-destruction of his race, but also to destroy all nine realms of existence when they perfectly align for the first time in ages. Needless to say, Thor has to save Jane from the force that has taken up residence in her body and kick Malekith's elven ass once and for all while preventing the complete and utter destruction of everything, but the odds are very much stacked against him and the success of his plan depends on the participation of his imprisoned evil/amoral step-brother and god of mischief, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Will Thor save Jane and the universe, aand will Loki betray his brother or find redemption?

THOR: THE DARK world is a more entertaining followup to the the first Thor flick, largely because the origin minutia and setup is out of the way, and this time around what we get is a pretty-to-look-at spectacle, replete with romance, action, and humor. In short, if you're looking for an exciting piece of light entertainment that pretty much subscribes to the modern formula of a popcorn-muncher, you'll probably dig it. I certainly enjoyed it, but I have to clarify that I enjoyed it as a brain-optional romp where the plot and character development take a backseat to the action and the visual wonders wrought by CGI. And what there is of a plot contains a number of surprises that I won't spoil, but here's the short list of elements worth considering:
  • I saw the film in 3D. The 3D adds absolutely nothing to the proceedings, so save your money and see the regular version instead.
  • The film's director, Alan Taylor, has helmed several episodes of GAME OF THRONES, and it shows. Some of the scenes in Odin's throne room felt like we were in King's Landing rather than  Asgard.
  • Tom Hiddleston once again steals the movie with his indelible portrayal of Loki. In fact, I dare say he's the best thing in the entire film. If you enjoyed his previous outings in the role, you won't be disappointed.
  • Christopher Ecclestion as Malekith certainly wields considerable power and has an army of heavily-armed elven warriors who fly about in massive spaceships and smaller fighters, but he's really not that interesting as a villain. He's simply there to be a powerful threat with little definition of who he is, and his army and their battle scenes are pretty much a rehash of the Chitauri aliens from THE AVENGERS (who weren't that interesting in the first place). The screen time spent on Malekith and his forces would have been better spent on further exploration of Loki's arc.
  • The romance between Thor and Jane continued to fail to arouse any interest from me but the individual viewer's mileage may vary. Jane Foster is a character I've loathed since I was five years old and even her updated/re-imagined iteration for the 2000's leaves me apathetic. I much prefer Asgardian warrior Sif (Jaimie Alexander), but she's once again given rather short shrift. Elaborating on her status as Jane's romantic competition would immeasurably add to the proceedings, especially since all she has to do is wait until the mortal Jane inevitably grows old and croaks, but nothing is made of the rivalry save for Sif cutting Foster a couple of nasty looks.
  • The Warriors Three — Fandral the dashing (Zachary Levi), Volstagg the voluminous (Ray Stevenson), and Hogun the grim (Tadanobu Asano) — are on hand, but Hogun is left to stay with people in Vanaheim early in the story, so Sif more or less takes his place. I do NOT dig splitting up the Warriors Three...
  • The film's final act plays out like a game of Portal taken to ridiculous extremes.
  • The movie brings the larger-than-life superhero action, and at times it was almost like I could feel the blows from Mjolnir.
  • One of the most endearing hallmarks of the Marvel Age of comics was its sense of humor, and the film features strong and very funny lashings of that aspect. There are those who may take issue with it, but I felt the humor fit just perfectly.
  • As per usual for Marvel movies, the viewer is advised to stay all the way through the credits at the end. This time there are two Easter egg sequences, the first of which features an interesting piece of casting for a certain character who makes his live-action debut here, while setting up part of the plot for what I'm predicting will be THE AVENGERS 3...
Bottom line: THOR: THE DARK WORLD is a serviceable entry in the Marvel movie tapestry, but it's more of a snack than  meal. I had fun with it but I won't be running out to see it again anytime soon. And a close friend in England saw it when it opened in the U.K. and immediately wrote me to rant about how he felt it was the worst Marvel movie ever, I love the guy like a brother but we are frequently at odds when it comes to our opinions on movies, so I called bullshit on  his opinion by writing back to ask if it could possibly be worse than DAREDEVIL or either of those appalling Fantastic Four movies. He unequivocally answered "no," so make of that what you will. (NOTE: Since first posting this review, my friend in England wrote in to clarify that he meant he felt the movie was the worst film thus far fro Marvel Studios. DAREDEVIL and the abominations that are the two Fantastic Four flicks were not made by Marvel Studios. Just so we're clear on that point.)

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

ELECTION DAY FUN WITH MY MOM

The latest in Westport assholism, as reported by my mom: She just called to tell me that when she went to vote this morning, a volunteer for one of the candidates approached her and said "Remember to vote for Whitney...Like Whitney Houston!" After she'd cast her vote, my mom pulled the guy aside, intent on not shaming him in front of anyone else, and told him "First of all, don't tell me who to vote for. I vote for who I want. Second, why did you feel the need to use Whitney Houston when trying to guide me to vote for your candidate? I'm obviously a person of color, and as such I find your assumption both patronizing and offensive. DON'T DO THAT TO AGAIN." She said he fell all over himself apologizing, stating he'd previously used Eli Whitney as a reminder touchstone, and he thanked her for her advice. And while telling me of the incident, she wished she'd thought to say to him "I'm not even a Whitney Houston fan," closing the account with "What an asshole!"

PLASTIC (NOT SO) FANTASTIC LOVER: The true and sad chronicle of one man's journey into artificial onanistic shame

WARNING: The following post is definitely NOT safe for viewing at work, in front of the kids, or by those who are offended by reality.

Dear Vaulties-

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I approach the discussion of all manner of topics with a certain raw candor. This time around I'm baring a part of my soul in regard to one of the most personal aspects of an individual's existence, namely the fine art of masturbation. With that caveat and the one found above in red, you have been duly warned about content and you are free to bail if such topics squick you out. As for the more adventurous among you...

Let's keep it real and admit that we all occasionally have the urge to relieve stress by "having one off the wrist" or "relaxing in the gentleman's way," and in recent years the means for guys to facilitate the process of partner-less DNA-spewing have moved well past the usual options of one's hand, folded slabs of beef liver, and the ever-reliable gym sock (which, if left under one's bed unwashed for a length of time, becomes classified as a "bachelor's boomerang"). Women long ago realized the salacious benefits to be had with vibrators, once commonly sold as "massagers" and still coyly marketed as such under names like the "U Touch," the slogan for which is "If you can touch it, you can relieve it" (no one under the age of sixty will be fooled by its TV ads featuring a gaggle of women presenting a bride-to-be with gifts at her bridal shower), and even the common adjustable shower head on a hose has been re-purposed to reportedly spectacular effect when applied to the female genital array. Women's masturbatory explorations are widely accepted as a simple fact of life and even discussed in public forums, while the idea of men enjoying wank toys is still very much stigmatized and seen as rather aberrant, so for the most part men keep the existence of their self-pleasuring secret, despite everyone in the world knowing and understanding that we wring the weasel with abandon when moved to shuffle off some knuckle-children.

When it comes to male masturbation toys, the ne plus ultra of the form would be the Real Doll, and I've discussed that previously. It's pricey (at just pennies shy of seven grand), more or less the Aston-Martin of partner-free relief, and, consequently, the average Joe Sixpack will never experience one. The much more affordable alternative is the Fleshlight, an elementary model of which will set you back by under fifty bucks, and it is about that gewgaw of self-gratification that I tender the following true-life observations.

About two months ago, a former girlfriend with whom I'm still rather close sent me a belated birthday present in the form of a Classic Pink Lady Fleshlight and a sixteen-ounce bottle of water-based lube, accented with a note advising "Think of me when you enjoy this." I admit to being rather flummoxed by the gift, largely because when exposed to assorted odd items for the purpose of male pleasure, I have  been known to observe, "What the hell happened to just plain old jerking off?" but I decided to keep an open mind and eventually get around to giving the disembodied pussy a test drive. It took me a few days to get over the initial trepidation but when I finally took the Pink Lady out of its package and gave it close examination, I was more than a little bit intrigued.


The catalog photo of the no-frills Classic Pink Lady Fleshlight.

Once freed from its packaging, the Fleshlight looks like nothing so much as a large, sturdily-designed coffee thermos, with a narrow end that looks like it could fit comfortably in a car's cup-holder. It features screw-off caps at either end, one to access the faux vagina and another that acts as a carburetor to allow variation in the vaginal canal's level of suction/physical accessibility.

The sealed Pink Lady.

With the top cap unscrewed, the Pink Lady's replicant vulva is exposed and my first impression when gazing into was that it looked like a pussy that was manufactured in a horny mad scientist's lab, with all of the interesting details that make the real item so eternally fascinating reduced to only the most rudimentary and characterless sampler of lips and ridges surrounding a yielding introitus.

The exposed Pink Lady.

The fleshy portion is lent support by the exterior housing (aka "the vaginal Slurpee cup") and is easily removed for cleaning. When taken out of its housing, the flesh sheath is very rubbery/wiggly and very soft to the touch, but it in no way bears tactile resemblance to human flesh in general and the inner recesses of a lady's glorious secret haven of goodness in particular.

The inner flesh sheath, removed from its housing.

It's easily cleaned with mild soap and warm water, and when held in hand it reminded me of the de-shelled conch I handled a long time ago in Martinique. And when it comes to its ability to accommodate the range of sizes of the male member, the sheath's elasticity proves considerable enough to be able to slip over my hand and forearm with ease.

Vaginal flesh sheath, or a conversation-starting fashion accessory? YOU decide!

With the general examination out of the way, it was time to take the Pink Lady for a test drive, so I applied a generous helping of the lube to the sheath's lips and interior, manually stimulated myself to enough tumescence to plug myself into Pink Lady, and had at it.

First of all, the lube was cold, which is not a sensation that the average penis craves. Second, I'm a big fan of actual pussy. A very big fan. Therefore, please trust me when I tell you that the act of carnally connecting with the Pink Lady bears no resemblance whatsoever to the sensation of the irreplaceable real deal. The same can be said of no-frills manual masturbation, but in that case one is not expecting one's hand to yield anything resembling that cherished tactile experience. It's basically shuffle for a while and you're where you need to be. The Fleshlight, meanwhile, requires the lube prepping and a decent amount of fiddling about in order to render its grip comfortable — remember the adjustable carb — so I couldn't help but consider all of the preliminary steps in getting down to the action. But worst of all was the realization during the act that I was more or less fucking a thermos and must have looked quite ridiculous. When I finally crashed the yogurt truck, I felt a profound sense of disappointment (coupled with shame over the thermos epiphany).

After cleaning the Pink Lady and storing it away, I left it alone for two weeks before giving it a second go, this time armed with a clear understanding of exactly what I was getting when I once more plugged myself into it. Again my hand was far superior to the supposed state of the art in affordable equipment for pumping out population paste by one's lonesome, and I'm sad that my friendly ex wasted her money on something that from now on will take up real estate on my shelf with a glass eye stuck in its fleshy pink orifice as a weird piece of ribald/disturbing decoration. I swung by the local Toys in Babeland and priced the item and bottle of lube to see just how much that kind goddess spent on the gift (including the bottle of lube), and the final tally came to just shy of a hundred bucks. Allow me to be very clear on this: NOT WORTH IT. Since retiring my Pink Lady, I've read many online reviews from guys who claim to love the things, but several of them were at least honest enough to admit that they had nothing else to compare the sensation to, so their opinions should probably be discounted. There were a number of negative reviews that more or less matched my own opinion, so trust those.
Bottom line: While I appreciate my friendly ex's very sweet thought, I found the Fleshlight to be considerably less pleasurable than simply taking matters into my own hands, and since a Fleshlight is pretty much just a glorified coffee thermos when you get right down to it, it would also make for one hell of a drinks tumbler at parties. It would also make for a novelty opening to a bong if one stretched the flesh sheath over a bong's inhaler pipe, but it would get really nasty after smoke passed through its lips with regularity. Plus it would probably turn carcinogenic when coupled with the vapor.

Don't puke. I assure you it was thoroughly cleaned long before this photo was taken. Plus, I'm just not that fond of the taste of semen. (Oh, don't be so shocked. What, you never passionately kissed your girlfriend after she gave you some oral kindness? Yeah, right...)

Monday, November 04, 2013

NY COMIC CON 2013 Day 4: The rather mellow final hurrah.

Well, dear Vaulties, we've made it to the final day of the 2013 NY Comic Con. As per usual the last day was much more low-key than those preceding it, but the funhouse reflection from the Geekiverse nonetheless shone brightly.

Mama Fett.


Rocky Balboa.



Brain slug.

Two generations of Catwoman.

DRAGONBALL Z in the house!

The awesome Kitty-Kitty, by far my favorite oddball cosplayer who shows up regularly at the major East Coast cons.

Lola.



The awesomeness of Asian Green Lantern.






An impressive handmade Loki hat.

Gotham gals.

A Dalek and Prince Robot IV.

Party on Wayne and Garth!

I just love it when families get into it.

Maleficent.

More Gothamites, featuring an exemplary Batman.








Madrox, the multiple man.

Paper Man and the object of his desire.


The Falcon.

Melisandre and Stannis Baratheon. (She made their costumes.)


What the hell is that?

It's the Schwarzenegger version of Mister Freeze! Amazing!


With college buddy, Marvel Bullpen brother, and dear friend, Jared "Mountain Man" Osborn.

Marvel Girl and a pair of Rogues.

Wee Sadie: "Who the fuck are all these weirdoes?"

Leela and Raven.

The glow of the Green Lantern.

Jamie Botero, making for a lovely Wonder Woman. (Down, boys! She's only sixteen!)




(L-R) Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Terra, A.C., mirror universe Captain Kirk.






The Mike Deodato Wonder Woman.

A hand-drawn New Gods tee by Paris Cullins.


Here's one for DOCTOR WHO fans. *shudder*

"Wrapped up in books."

The royal couple of Attilan: Black Bolt and Medusa.

The Khaleesi walks among her people.

A Bruce Lee-inspired Iron Man tee.

Batman Beyond.

Surfin' Batman!











Columbia from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

A Wonder Woman booster represents.

The stunning Freya as the Black Canary.


Gotta love her attitude!

Hawkgirl, a character I've always loved and one whose visibility over the past decade-plus was immeasurably aided by television animation.

5pm: The day ends...

...but there's still plenty to document.



Doctor Strange at the coat check..

The Spectre.

Of the countless Gambits I've seen over the years, this guy was hands down the best of the lot.

The gateway back to mundane reality.




An exhausted Princess Mononoke and crew.

As seen while walking up 34th Street to the subway: two zombies wait on line at a packed diner.

THAT'S ALL FOLKS! Hope you enjoyed it!