As some of you may know, I’m a bit of a movie geek. I grew up watching old monster movies on TV and spent several years working in video stores. With Halloween quickly approaching, I thought I’d put together a list of 20 essential classic horror films to get you in the mood, along with a brief synopsis for each one.
1) THE BLOB (1958)
35-year-old Steve McQueen dates a teenager and tries to avoid strawberry jam.
2) THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961)
A voluptuous sex-kitten shares a prison cell with a ravenous old goat. Nine months later, Oliver Reed is born.
3) BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)
Frankenstein’s monster moves in with an old, blind hermit. Hilarity ensues.
4) FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (1943)
Frankenstein’s monster finally meets the Wolfman and is immediately shredded to pieces.
5) ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)
Frankenstein’s monster finally meets beloved comedy team Abbott and Costello and is immediately set on fire.
6) SUSPIRIA (1977)
Documentary about German ballet.
7) CHRISTINE (1983)
A young car enthusiast tries to marry a ’58 Plymouth Fury. Hilarity ensues.
8) SON OF DRACULA (1943)
The son of Count Dracula grows a mustache and instantly gains 40 pounds.
9) CUJO (1983)
Cautionary tale about trusting dogs.
10) JAWS (1975)
Cautionary tale about trusting Robert Shaw.
11) THEY LIVE (1988)
Two hobos fight over sunglasses while John Carpenter tunes his guitar.
12) THE EXORCIST (1973)
13) GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)
Four young republicans attempt to overthrow the Environmental Protection Agency but are thwarted by brave ghosts.
14) THE HUNGER (1983)
Stylish biopic of singer David Bowie and his battle with a rare blood disorder.
15) THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)
Obnoxious college kids force rural family to murder them.
16) THE EVIL DEAD (1981)
A crazed, flying movie camera torments Bruce Campbell for at least three films.
17) DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
Four lucky people achieve every American’s dream of living in a late 1970s shopping mall.
18) ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
Mia Farrow has horrifyingly ugly baby.
19) THE MUMMY’S CURSE (1944)
Decrepit, slow-moving corpse somehow easily catches able-bodied victims.
20) POLTERGEIST (1982)
Noble Native American spirits fight back against the tyranny of urban sprawl.
Matt Lauer interviewed embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on the Today Show yesterday. In case you missed it, I’ve provided the transcript below:
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Matt Lauer: Mr. Ford, you’ve admitted doing crack cocaine . . .
Ford: Hold on, Matt. I’ve never said I’ve done crack cocaine.
Matt: But just last week . . .
Ford: Have I tried crack? Yes? Did I enjoy it? Tremendously. Would I do it again? In a Toronto minute. But do I “do” crack? Probably not.
Matt: But isn’t this just a matter of semantics?
Ford: I think YOU’RE just a matter of semantics!
(Ford’s Brother holds him back)
Ford: Look Matt, I’ve already admitted I have problems. I have a weight problem, but I’ve been working with a trainer to improve that. And yes, I’ve smoked crack on occasion, but only after drinking myself into a complete stupor.
Matt: And you think that’s better?
Ford: I’m not perfect. Maybe you’re perfect, Matt, but I’m not. And I have been completely up-front with the people of Toronto and taken full responsibility for my actions. Have I snorted coke off the backside of under-age hookers? Yes. Have I injected heroin into my eyelids to avoid track marks? Of course. But have I also lowered taxes and reduced the budget to an all-tome low? You bet I have.
Matt: (pause) Wait a minute, did you say heroin?
Ford’s brother leans forward to speak.
Brother: If I may, what my brother is trying to say is we’ve all done things we’re not proud of, but the important thing is taking responsibility . . .
Matt: Well, I’ve never injected heroin into my eyelids . . .
Ford: WELL MAYBE YOU SHOULD, MR. PERFECT PRETTY FACE PANTS! Look, some of us have faults. Some of us are human. But I defy you to find another Mayor in all of North America who had done more for his city while smoking angel dust and running naked through the streets firing guns at parked cars.
Matt: . . . (blank stare)
Ford: And I take full responsibility for it, Matt. Have I done drugs while in a drunken stupor? Yes? Have I mainlined formaldehyde while having sex with corpses in the city morgue? Of course I have, but as it says in the Holy Bible, “Let those who haven’t defiled the dead cast the first stone”.
Matt: I think we can all feel pretty safe about throwing stones right now.
Ford: Did I secretly film city workers using the toilet? Yes. Did I break into Area 51 and swallow a jar full of alien embryos? I think we all have in our own way, Matt.
Matt: Okay, I think we’re done here.
Suddenly, Ford starts to scream in agony and go into convulsions.
Brother: Rob! Stay with me buddy!
Matt: Is he okay . . .?
An alien bursts through Ford’s chest and latches onto Matt Lauer’s face. Matt flails around in vain, trying to rip it off. Chaos ensues. A light-hearted “PLEASE STAND BY” sign comes on the screen.
On November 17th 1978, CBS preempted episodes of The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman to show one of the most infamous programs in the history of television, The Star Wars Holiday Special.
I was six years old at the time and I, like most kids in America, was obsessed with Star Wars. I was too young to see it when it came out in theater, so I hadn’t actually watched the movie, but that didn’t stop me from begging for every Star Wars figure I could get my grubby little hands on. Hammerhead. Walrus Man. Snaggletooth. Who the hell were these wonderful weirdos and how could I get more of them? These strange characters were on my mind constantly, and in the days before DVDs and even (for the most part) VHS, there didn’t seem to be any way for me to ever see what this whole Star Wars thing was really all about.
On that November night, my dreams came true. Sort of.
Described by the CBS press release as a “live-animated-musical-pot pourri of pure entertainment complete with astonishing electronic special effects”, the show featured the cast of Star Wars including Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and even Harrison Ford visiting Chewbacca’s family on his home planet to celebrate the Wookie holiday of Life Day. Sounds pretty cool, right? Well . . .
Produced by Smith-Hemion Productions, known mostly for making TV variety shows like The Dorothy Hamill Special and Burt Bacharach in Shangri-La, The Star Wars Holiday Special was an odd mix of awkward jokes and Solid Gold Dancers. Whether it was naiveté or the fact that he hadn’t yet clamped down the rights on all his creations yet, George Lucas and company had nothing to do with the special, and boy does it show. Between the surreal, extended Wookie-language-only opening and watching Maude sing in the cantina, the show is almost unwatchable. And yet, when I was six years old, I loved it.
Sure, the part with Chewbacca’s grandpa ogling Diahann Carroll on his porno goggles was pretty unsettling and Jefferson Starship sucked and the Harvey Korman and Art Carney bits seemed to have been written by sadistic robots hell-bent on destroying the souls of viewers, but so was everything on TV back then.
Whether it was the aftermath of disco or just an overabundance of cocaine, television in the late seventies seemed to be an unrelenting stream of painfully corny musical variety shows, as if the networks were being controlled by the 90-year-old vaudeville mafia. Like other shows of this ilk (see The Brady Bunch Hour, Pink Lady and Jeff, Van Dyke and Company . . .), The Star Wars Holiday Special was an unmitigated galactic disaster, but during that seemingly endless void between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, this steaming pile of Bantha dung was all we had.
The show did have a few redeeming qualities. It introduced several key elements to the George Lucas Universe, including Chewbacca’s home planet Kashyyyk (or Kazook, as it was called in the special), designed by the legendary Ralph McQuarrie. It also featured the debut of one of the most popular characters in science fiction history, Boba Fett.
Boba Fett, the charismatic, masked bounty hunter, appeared in a short animated segment, which was far and away the best part of the program. Produced by a small Canadian animation company, Nelvana (who would go on to make Inspector Gadget and The Care Bears), the stylized, Moebius-inspired piece looked like a Saturday morning version of Heavy Metal. The ten-minute cartoon featured the first meeting of Boba Fett and Luke, Han and Chewie, and probably featured more screen time for Fett than Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi combined.
Of course, after we saw this awesome, trippy cartoon with Boba Fett riding a mutant Loch Ness Monster, we had to return to Chewbacca’s house to see a clearly drugged-out Carrie Fisher close out the show by singing the Star Wars theme (who knew there were lyrics?).
We celebrate a day of peace,
a day of harmony,
a day of joy we all can share together joyously;
a day that takes us through the darkness,
a day that leads us into might,
a day that makes us want to celebrate the light;
a day that brings the promise that one day we’ll be free…
And then, like some half forgotten daydream, it was gone.
The special only aired once. Supposedly, Kenner had designed a whole line of toys to cash in on the show, but after the disastrous reaction, quickly scrapped them and never spoke of it again. In fact, to this day, The Holiday Special is pretty much wiped out of the Star Wars history books (yes, those really exist).
For years after, I thought maybe I had imagined the whole thing. Maybe it was just another urban myth, like the kid whose stomach exploded after swallowing Pop Rocks and Coke.
Then one day I saw it. A faded, VHS bootleg at a comic book convention with the hand-written words “STAR WARS CHRISTMAS” on the front. They may have gotten the title wrong, but I knew what this was: vindication of my childhood.
Supposedly, George Lucas has tried to buy up every existing copy of the Holiday Special over the years to have it destroyed, but apparently at least one person, perhaps a disgruntled TV station employee or a Carrie Fisher completist, got ahold of it and made copies. And copies. And copies.
The tape I got was probably a 10th generation dupe. Despite the scan lines and tracking problems, this was living proof that I had witnessed history. The Star Wars Holiday Special did exist, and it would not be denied.
It’s also a warning to filmmakers and TV producers everywhere that once something is created, it belongs to the world. And if you make something you are deeply ashamed of, someone, somewhere, will find it and sell it to children.
So on this Thanksgiving-ish weekend, the 35th anniversary of this monumental achievement in television history, gather your loved ones and/or vintage Star Wars toys around the YouTube and celebrate freedom by celebrating Life Day with the Chewbacca family and some mid-level, coked-out celebrities and be thankful there are slightly less sadistic robot writers working in television today.
Here’s a little story I wrote for Flip Collective about the time my high school marching band performed at the halftime show of Monday Night Football.
I recently visited the National Comedy Archives in Tarterville, Oklahoma and uncovered a complete transcript of veteran comedian (and longtime assistant manager at Seattle’s Comedy Underground) Carl Warmenhoven’s first stand-up performance. It is reprinted below in its entirety:
So I heard women want the right to vote. What’s next, the Chinese?
HELLO HELLO IS THIS MEGAPHONE ON?
What’s the deal with autogyro food? I wouldn’t feed that stuff to the Kaiser!
Have you heard the new waxed cylinder from Scott Joplin? Ragtime?! More like ON the rag, time! Am I right, ladies?
Just kidding. Ladies aren’t allowed in Humor Clubs.
Woman’s suffrage? These women are causing ME suffrage! In my KNICKERBOCKERS!!
I tell ya, this prohibition is for the birds! I was at a speakeasy with my tomato the other night and they charged me FIVE cents for a cup of hooch! Can you believe this? Extortion, I tells ya! And it tasted like something from Rutherford B. Hayes‘ beard!
So have you seen this new book Mein Kampf? I don’t read German but the author looks like Charlie Chaplin! What a lulu! His face looks like it got run over by a horseless carrage! I’m no Great Gatsby, but compared to this Hitler fella, I get more dames than Fatty Arbuckle!
As you know, the president authorized military force to hunt down and kill a known terrorist this week. Yes, Pancho Villa is finally dead. The president , however, is refusing to release photos of the body because cameras haven’t been invented yet.
On a serious note, Carl recently suffered a stroke and is struggling to pay his medical bills. If you get a chance, please check out the benefit shows going at the Comedy Underground in Seattle or donate online.
From Reagan’s “There he goes again,” to William Jennings Bryan’s famous “Suck it, Taft!” in 1908, presidential elections are often defined by zingers. Those famous statesmen didn’t come up with these delicious comebacks, though. No, each one of these gems was written by a brilliant, hilarious writer who was never heard from again.
As a seasoned comedy writer for such classic TV shows as “Ghost Bonerz” and the PBS hit “Antique Sluts”, I thought I’d offer my considerably expensive skills to the young upstart challenger Mitt Romney. The following are some sure-fire, whammo-blammo, oh shnizz-no-you-didn’ts to unleash on The President Wednesday night:
1) “Obama? More like O-BONER! Am I right?”
2) “Sure, I care about the 47 percent . . . IN MY PANTS!”
3) “Obama . . . what is that, French?”
4) “President Obama has more excuses than my grandfather had sister wives!”
5) “Hope and Change? More like Hope and something derogatory that rhymes with Change! AM I RIGHT, LADIES?”
6) “This economy has gone to the dogs. Which is why we should tie it on the roof and drive it across the country!”
7) “I promise a chicken in every pot and a posthumous baptism for every white person!”
8) “I’ll fix this country like I fixed the outcome of the Olympics!”
9) “Isn’t it time to let a rich white guy be president for once?”
10) “Listen America, do you want less man . . . or MOR-MAN?”
As a writer and performer with the People’s Republic of Komedy, I’ve played a lot of weirdos over the years. One of my favorites was a drunken and deeply perverted old thespian named Sylvester McStain, loosely based on my old drama teacher, Gary Taylor. For comedic effect, I greatly exaggerated his personality, adding a cape, mustache and what I thought were absurd tales of debauchery.
It turns out I may have underestimated the old professor.
Last Friday, Taylor, 71, was arrested for allegedly filming someone with a hidden camera in the dressing room. According to witnesses, he asked a 20-year-old student to try on some different dresses for a photo shoot. While changing, she discovered Taylor’s video camera on a shelf, still rolling.
In this day and age, an old man trying to spy on a woman with a bulky old video camera might seem almost quant, if not a bit pathetic and sad. But now rumors are circulating that this may just be the tip of the iceberg. Former students are saying (anonymously on the internet, of course) that Taylor’s had a long history of stalking his female students during his 40-plus years at Green River Community College.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the story broke. Taylor did seem a bit off back when I had him as a teacher twenty years ago. He’d often stumble into class wearing sunglasses, looking like Rip Torn after an all-night bender. He made a point of telling us he needed to drink plenty of fluids because of his “medication”. There were rumors of him trying to hit on girls in the class, which we’d all laugh off because, even back then, he seemed ancient and harmless, like that strange but lovable old uncle who added a bit of color to the family picnic.
Despite his eccentricities, Taylor was a hell of a teacher. Classically trained with an Ivy-league education, he took acting very seriously, and anyone who felt otherwise would be shown the door. He had a fierce temper and a bellowing baritone voice that scared the shit out of any poor bastard who forgot his lines or dared whisper during his “Art of Film” class. But if you paid attention, he had a lot to offer young actors. After all, not many small-town community college drama teachers offered authentic method-acting training and made Stanislavski and Strasberg required reading.
So what was this guy doing slumming it at Green River?
Taylor was once a promising young actor, staring in dozens of plays around the northwest, becoming a regular at Shakespeare festivals and the old Bathhouse Theatre. While most aspiring actors moved to L.A. as quickly as they could, Taylor hung around in Washington, settling in on a small farm in south King County while supplementing his teaching salary with bit roles in locally filmed projects like “Northern Exposure”, “Homeward Bound” and Sherman Alexie’s “Smoke Signals”.
At some point, though, Taylor seemed to drop off the radar. Unlike most performers, who have multiple “fan pages” on every conceivable social network whether they are famous or not, Taylor is almost invisible on the internet, with only a bare-bones IMDB listing and a short clip from a student film on YouTube.
Was the low profile intentional, or did Taylor just not give a damn? Maybe he’s been perfectly content living the simple life in the easy-going, no-pressure Northwest, without the hassles of a high-end agent and the endless heartbreak of Hollywood. Was this incident with the video camera just a momentary lapse of judgment—a small, sad blot on the career of an otherwise inspirational, “Dead Poet’s Society” teaching career?
If I was any sort of journalist, I’d call him up and ask him these questions myself. The thing is, I’m not sure I want to know the answers.
When my father died a few years ago, a lot of strange stories came to surface. Luckily, none of them involved video cameras and trips to the county pen, but it did make me realize I hardly knew the man.
During a vulnerable, confusing time of my life, Gary Taylor was a huge and mostly positive influence on me. When I ran out of money for school (I was paying for college on a minimum wage movie theater job) he generously gave me a phantom “drama assistant” job that paid my tuition and allowed me to keep acting. He offered theater training far beyond my rural upbringing, taking a pseudo Actor’s Studio approach to realism on stage and pushing me to the limit and, admittedly, sometimes beyond. He encouraged me to smoke real, unfiltered cigarettes for a period piece (“Cigarettes didn’t have filters in the 1930’s!”), had actresses slap me full force in fight scenes (no pussy “stage fighting” here!) and once tried to get me to inject myself with a real syringe on stage (I wimped out. “Pacino would’ve done it,” he growled). While it might sound stupid now, back then I was just glad to be treated like an adult, even an equal at times.
So what the hell happened?
Was this guy always a pervert and I was just too star-struck to notice? Or is this voyeurism charge some sort of late in life, old-age crisis—a feeble attempt at staying young?
Whatever it is, it’s illegal.
While obviously not on the scale of a pedophile priest or the Green River Killer, this is not some harmless, victimless crime. A woman’s privacy was violated by someone she trusted. That alone should be enough to end his career and probably earn some jail time.
Part of me wants to join the lynch mob and string this creep up the nearest sycamore tree. But there’s another part that foolishly hopes this is all a bizarre misunderstanding, or maybe some sort of Alzheimer’s related episode (“I thought I was filming an audition! Where am I?!”). I feel like those Michael Jackson fans who feverishly defended him against the child molestation charges despite piles of evidence against him.
Am I having a hard time coming to grips because I don’t want to soil my precious college memories, or because I’ve made a living (if free beer and pizza can be considered a “living”) playing a twisted, cartoon version of Taylor on stage for years? Or worse, maybe I fear that someday I might end up an old, perverted drama teacher who sets up “private auditions” with young actresses.
In the end, my angst and kvetching won’t really matter. Regardless of the legal outcome, a year from now, most people will have forgotten all about it, and the name “Gary Taylor” will once again drift off the grid and away from the search engines. Maybe that’s what he wants. Who knows? I’m sure as hell not going to ask him.
December 31, 1985
PAUL’S LIST OF NEW YEAR’S THINGS THAT WILL HAPPEN LIST!
(Note from Author – I didn’t know they were called “resolutions” at the time.)
1) Learn all the words to every Prince song and figure out what they mean. (Sex?)
2) Save up for purple leather pants like Brutus Beefcake. I think they would look totally awesome on me. Especially if I covered them up with like A HUNDRED bandanas!
3) If I can’t save up enough for the leather pants, then maybe I’ll get those zipper pants I saw at Mr. Rags. They had zippers all over!
4) Move to that town in Footloose. Dancing is stupid!
5) Form a heavy metal band. Possible band names: Kill Masters, Dragonslay, Beast Warriors, Lords of Awesomewood . . .
6) Join the school wrestling team. Can’t wait to show off my mask and cape! I wonder if I need to bring my own fog machine?
7) Become a stand-up comedian. I’ve already written THREE JOKES! Check it out:
• A-team? More like the GAY TEAM!
• Where’s the beef? More like Where’s MY beef?
• Mikhail Gorbachev? More like “Hello, I have a map on my head!” WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?!” Am I right?! Ladies? HELLO?!
8) Locate brick wall to tell jokes in front of.
9) Send jellybeans to President Ray-Gun! HA-HA-HA! He’s old.
10) Engage in further research on the McDLT to determine what, exactly, keeps the “hot side hot and cool side cool”.
11) Build a time machine like in “Back to the Future” so I can go back to 1980 and stop Culture Club.
12) Prepare for the coming communist invasion by learning karate, collecting weapons and forming a militia. Possible militia names: The Commie Crushers, Chuck Norris Karate Commandos, Lords of Awesomewood . . .
13) Learn Russian, in case the whole militia thing doesn’t work out.
14) Invest all my money I inherited from my Aunt Margaret in this little company I read about called “Micro-soft”. Ha! Just kidding. That’s the stupidest name for a company ever. Plus computers are for NERDS! I’m putting all my money in the X-Treme Laser Tag League. ZAP! You just got LAZERED!
15) Kiss a girl. (Just kidding–that’s gross!)
(Originally published in City Arts Magazine, Jan 2011)
In the past year or so, I’ve become obsessed with the old “Casey Kasem’s American Top 40” shows from the 70’s that they play on KJR every Sunday morning. Sometimes it’s wonderful. Most of the time it’s awful, but it is always entertaining. Here’s an article I wrote about it for Sound Magazine last May:
Taylor Swift. Nickelback. Avril Lavigne.
This will be the soundtrack to my children’s formative years. As much as I try to shelter them from such awfulness, I know someday they will discover that there are other radio stations besides KEXP, and the hipster, little Johnny Cash onesie I gleefully overpaid for might someday be replaced with a (shudder) Jonas Brothers baseball jersey (probably done in some retro-cool 80‘s style that resembles my treasured “Van Halen World Tour ’83” shirt).
Popular music wasn’t this awful when I was a baby, was it? The 70’s had Bowie, Lou Reed, Television, The Ramones, Devo. Music that stood the test of time, not just catchy, disposable tunes that get stuck in your head like gum on your boots. The music of my childhood had to be better than today’s Top 40.
To find out, I tuned in to the local oldies channel (double-shudder) for their weekly encore presentation of “Casey Kasem’s Top 40” from the 1970’s (they’re careful to add “nineteen”, so no one thinks this music is from the future).
This week, the countdown is from March 6, 1971–ten months before I was born. This is the music that was on the radio when I was a baby, and probably shaped who I became as an adult. It must be better than Hannah Montana, right?
The first thirty songs in the countdown are a remarkable mix of genres, reflective of the culture shock hitting America at the time. You’ve got old-timers like Andy Williams and Henry Mancini butting heads with the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, Santana and Rufus Thomas. Just the type of post-Manson free-for-all you’d expect from the early 70’s.
But now we’ve reached the highlight of the countdown–the top ten. These gems would surely prove the superiority of my baby music to that of my children. I mean, these had to be the cream of the crop.
#10 “SWEET MARY” – Wadsworth Mansion
Uh . . . who the hell is Wadworth Mansion? Is that a band, or a dude, or both? This is horrible. Luckily, it’s only number ten.
#9 “MR. BOJANGLES” – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Absolute garbage. This is the worst song ever. (Our music teacher made us sing this in grade school, along with other cheery tunes like “Horse with No Name” and “Knights in White Satin”. Looking back on it, I’m pretty sure she was on Quaaludes.)
The only thing worse than this awful song is the cringe-inducing name of the band. If it were up to me, anyone caught using the words “Nitty” and/or “Gritty” would be shot on sight. But that’s probably not going to happen.
Afterwards, Casey Kasem points out that this song is not about “famous negro dancer Bill Bojangles” as commonly believed. Thanks Casey.
#8 “AMOS MOSES” – Jerry Reed
I have to admit, I loved Jerry Reed in Scooby Doo and Smokey and the Bandit, but I can’t understand a word this cracker is saying. It sounds like he’s got a mouth full of mashed potatoes. Next time, stay on the gator farm, Jerry.
#7 “FOR ALL WE KNOW” – The Carpenters
Why does this woman sound like she wants to kill herself? Oh yeah, because she WAS trying to kill herself! (Sorry, but I’m still not over her being chosen “Drummer of the Year” in 1975 by Playboy Magazine. Had these people never heard of JOHN BONHAM? I hate you Karen Carpenter!)
#6 “SHE’S A LADY” – Tom Jones
Now we’re talking. Say what you will about Tom Jones, but this guy brings it every time. He could be singing the Love Boat theme and he’d still bust a nut trying to hit the high notes. Whew! Thank god we’re past all the crappy songs. I’m sure it’s clear sailing from here . . .
#5 “IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND” – Gordon Lightfoot
GAAHHHHHH!!!!! What the hell?! This song just gave me cancer of the soul!
Remember when I said “Mr. Bojangles” was the worst song of all time? Well, I was wrong. The worst song of all time is EVERY SONG EVER WRITTEN BY GORDON LIGHTFOOT!
#4 “JUST MY IMAGINATION (RUNNING AWAY WITH ME)” – The Temptations
Normally, I love The Temptations, but this song is creepy. It feels like being molested by Smokey Robinson, and he’s not even in the band!
#3 “ME AND BOBBY MCGEE” – Janis Joplin
I know this is a rock and roll classic, but I’ll never understand how “Me and Bobby McGee” became Janis Joplin’s biggest hit. It’s certainly no “Ball and Chain”. (My apologies to Kris Kristofferson–please don’t kick my ass.)
#2 “MAMA’S PEARL” – The Jackson 5
Maybe there was a songwriters strike going on during this time, because here we have another great group doing another luke-warm song. I’m a big Jackson Five fan, and even I’ve never heard of this one. It’s amazing it made it this far.
Well, we’ve got Temptations, Janis Joplin and The Jackson 5 in the top four spots. The top one must be someone really great.
#1 “ONE BAD APPLE” – The Osmonds
Why would a just and kind God permit this kind of atrocity to exist? Answer: because there is no God. If there was, he just shot himself. This song is like a brain aneurism wrapped in the Holocaust.
It’s like the producers said “Gee, I really like the Jackson 5, but wouldn’t it be great if they were white? And really homely?”
If there were any justice in this world, the Osmonds would all be cut into tiny pieces. And then all the pieces would be put into separate rockets and blasted into the far corners of the universe. And then every existing recording of them would also be cut into pieces and shot into space. And then anyone with any knowledge of the Osmonds whatsoever would have their minds erased. And then they would be blasted into space.
But that’s probably not going to happen.
Instead, I am left with sickening fact that my childhood music was just as bad or worse than the popular music of today. Top 40 music has and will forever be horrible. It represents the lowest common denominator. The homogenized lump that is left after you boil the danger out of rock and roll. It is pablum.
And it is stuck in my head.
Timmy’s Trip to the North Pole
by Paul Merrill
It was Christmas Eve, and like most boys and girls around the world, little Timmy Tinkeltoes was dreaming of Santa. There was nothing in the world Timmy loved more than Christmas. Except, perhaps, for eating, but since he was too poor to buy food, and was forced to eat wallpaper to survive, he was pretty much stuck with Christmas.
Little Timmy filled his tiny mind with thoughts of the North Pole and Christmas toys and gingerbread men and roast turkey and gravy and OMIGOD HE WAS SO FUCKING HUNGRY!!!!!
Suddenly, he awoke to a strange sound outside. Did his creepy Uncle Frank return to show him his tattoos again? Timmy peeped out into the night and saw a jolly old man with a white beard all dressed in red, vomiting outside his bedroom window.
“Santa Claus?” Timmy asked.
“BLRRRAAAARRFFFF!” the old man replied.
Fueled by holiday excitement and starvation, Timmy grabbed his tattered robe, brushed off the rats, and ran outside.
“Santa! Santa! I want to know how toys are made! Please show me your workshop!” cried Timmy.
“You want some shit?” Santa replied. “Come with me.”
The pair walked over across the street to Santa’s van. “That’s a funny sled!” laughed Timmy.
“Yeah,” Santa mumbled. “Funny.”
Timmy climbed aboard while Santa fumbled about with his “sack”. Finally, Santa pulled out something that looked like candy. “Oh! I think I read about this in a book!” Timmy exclaimed. “Is that the Magic Marshmallow that will take me to the North Pole?”
“It’ll make you see all sorts of weird shit.” Santa laughed. Timmy greedily popped the “marshmallow” into his mouth.
“Oh shit!” Santa screamed. “Don’t take the whole thing–that’ll kill you, bro!”
But it was too late. Timmy tumbled through space and time. Candy canes and sugarplums floated by, taunting him as they passed.
“Hey starving boy!” they teased. “Bet you wish you could take a bite out of us, huh? Well you can’t, because you’re poor and stupid!”
Timmy thought this was the silliest thing he had ever seen! Well, except for the time he walked in on mommy playing horsey with the landlord. That was hilarious!
Suddenly, Timmy found himself lying in a snow bank. He wiped his eyes and looked around.
“I did it!” Timmy shouted, “I’m at the North Pole!”
A big sign read “WELCOME TO SANTA’S WORKSHOP! ASS, GRASS or CASH–NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE”.
“Silly Santa!” chucked Timmy as he ran toward the workshop.
When he went inside, he couldn’t believe his eyes. There were presents as far as the eye could see. And the place was filled with tiny little people building wonderful new toys!
“Those must be Santa’s Elves!” Timmy exclaimed.
“Elves?” a voice called. “Ho-ho-ho! Those aren’t elves, Timmy. Those are the little boys and girls from my naughty list. They have been magically transformed into tireless work zombies for my toy factory, where they will live a cruel, hellish existence while I get rich off their labor–it’s really a win-win situation for me. But don’t worry, Timmy: you’ll get to help them!”
Without warning, a green glow started to radiate from Timmy’s body. He looked down at his fingers and they began to shrink. He felt his ears start to grow and become pointed. To his horror, Timmy realized he was becoming an elf!
“I don’t want to be at Santa’s workshop anymore!” Timmy cried. “I don’t care how toys are made! I just want to be home safe in my nice rat-infested bed with three square meals of dirt everyday!”
“Stop crying!” Santa yelled. “Your tears are washing away my evil magic! Also, you look really stupid when you cry. Seriously, just look at yourself some time. It’s ridiculous.”
But the tears were already working. Timmy could feel a warm sensation rushing through his body and soon found himself flying through the air.
Timmy awoke and looked around. He was home at last!
Timmy leapt to his feet and ran to his mirror. There were no pointed ears or funny hats–he wasn’t an elf after-all!
There was something different about him, though. When he looked again, he realized he was now, in fact, a 38-year-old writer named Paul Merrill, author of such timeless classics as the Jonas Brothers video game and “Pups: the official guide to Nintendogs”.
“Oh my god,” the author sighed. “I am so fucking hungry.”
Copyright ©2010 – Paul Merrill – www.paulmerrill.com
Hey dummy, it’s Halloween! Don’t have a costume yet? No worries, because I’ve put together a list of dynamite costume ideas you can put together with little or no effort that will make you the envy of everyone at your group home Halloween party tonight.
1) Off-duty firefighter
2) NBA statistician
3) Pet store owner
4) IMDB database supervisor
5) Larry Talbot
6) Group home escapee
7) Out of work magician
8) Porn director
9) Undercover insurance inspector
You’re welcome, and Happy Halloween!
As I was dragging the corpse out of my house, its fat, decomposing midsection got stuck in the doorway.
Our Christmas tree was dead when I bought it. It was half brown sitting on that tree lot, but my son picked it out, and I respected his choice. That was a month ago. Now our proud holiday centerpiece was a large coniferous mummy, and it was time to go. I was trying to sneak it out while my kids were watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas for the 4000th time. They’re children, and they actually enjoy Christmas, so the sight of me dumping the beloved tannenbaum would be too much for their sweet, tiny minds to bear. So instead, I was going to lie and say atheists stole it.
This tree was huge, at least by our humble Ballard standards. When I brought it into the house in December, it was neatly bundled in plastic. Now, about a month past its expiration date, the damn thing wouldn’t fit through the door. Worse, the remaining pine needles were petrified into steel tipped darts, piercing their way through my Dickies Work Jacket into my flesh. With one last, desperate tug I managed to get the tree out onto my porch, sending a shower of deadly, pine-scented projectiles in all directions.
I heaved the dead tree over the railing into the bushes below. Overgrown foliage is a killer’s best friend. Thinking the hard part was over, I headed back inside and, to my horror, saw a deep carpet of brownish-green pine needles all over the front room.
“Oh my god,” I thought “They’ll know. THEY’LL KNOW!”
I quickly regained my wits, grabbed a broom and tried my best to dispose of the gore. I felt like a post-shower scene Norman Bates. Pine needles were everywhere. The more I swept, the more I found. Every time I thought I was done, I’d spin around and see a new batch lodged somewhere. The couch. The curtains. The windowsill.
I finally managed to clean up the crime scene, and just in time, as I heard the pitter-patter of my children rushing from the bedroom. The nightmare was over and soon I would be snuggling with my family on the couch drinking hot chocolate. I went to take off my shoes (NO SHOES IN THE HOUSE!) when a wave of terror came over me—my shoes were completely covered in pine needles. I glanced in a nearby mirror and saw that I was covered from head to toes in Those Goddamned Needles. I looked like a fat green porcupine.
Overcome with panic, I stripped naked as fast as I could, tossed the incriminating clothes into the closet and slammed it shut.
My wife and two young sons stood there, slack-jawed, staring at the hairy, sweaty naked man in their living room.
“Where’s the Christmas Tree?” my youngest son asked.
“The atheists stole it,” I explained. “And my clothes. They were nudist atheists, and they hate Christmas. And clothes. Who wants hot chocolate?”
©2010 Paul Merrill / www.paulmerrill.com
Dead fish in Chesapeake. Hail stones the size of bowling balls. Birds falling from the sky all over the world. Has the world gone bonkers biblical-style? Is the Rapture upon us, ready to whisk Kirk Cameron up to his special space camp? Are those 2012 kooks the only ones who are SANE?!
Stop. Calm down. Breath deeply. Weird weather and unexplained animal deaths have been wrecking havoc on mankind since day one, and most were a lot worse than some dead birds falling from the sky. Don’t believe me? Well, feast your eyes on the ultimate list of SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE that really weren’t.
GREAT BALLS OF FIRE
Well, technically they’re great balls of lightning, but you get the point. Throughout history, there have been numerous accounts of “ball lightning”– fiery spheres of electricity that seem to appear out of nowhere. Also known as a plasma vortex, these lightning balls have even been described as having minds of their own.
According to Science Frontier, one such occurrence with in 1977, when a coast guard officer caught glimpse of a “brilliant, yellow green, transparent ball with a fuzzy outline” the size of a bus that seemed to float down the hillside off the coast of Wales.
While occurrences in nature are still rare, in 2007, scientists in Berlin claimed to have created ball lightning in the lab. Achtung!
Fire rainbows (or “circumhorizon arcs” as the eggheads like to call them) appear when light reflects off of ice crystals in high level cirrus clouds, creating a stunning optical phenomenon in the sky. They usually are spotted midday during the summer solstice. And yes, ICP, “there’s enough miracles here to blow your brains”.
Fire rainbows not terrifying enough for you? Well, how about FIRE TORNADOS?!
That’s right, actual tornados made of fire occasional sprout up, usually after long dry spells and windstorms lead to intense brush fires.
Also known as fire devils or firenados, these whirlwinds of destruction can quickly devastate entire cities. In 1923, the great Kanto earthquake in Japan caused one such fire tornado that killed 38,000 people in fifteen minutes.
THE CANDY MAN COMETH
Not all freaky weather events involve death and destruction. In 1857, Lake County, CA was treated to a sweet storm of falling candy.
According to the History of Napa Valley and Lake Counties, the small frontier town was pelted with sugary crystals over the course of two nights. While no one could explain the bizarre weather, the locals made the best of the situation, with the local women supposedly making syrup from the fallen sugar flakes.
RAINING CATS AND DOGS
We’ve all heard the tired, old expression “It’s raining cats and dogs”. Well, some folks believe this might have actually happened.
Way back in 1999, in the “wild west” days of the internet, a popular e-mail was circulating which purportedly told of Life in the 1550’s. In it, the writer said the phrase originated when cats and dogs would get swept off of rooftops during rainstorms.
The author of the email, of course, fails to explain how the pets got on the roof in the first place. But hey, that’s the internet for you!
While many of these strange weather stories seem to be freak occurrences, one such oddity is said to happen on a more regular basis.
Lluvia de Peces or Rain of Fish is a phenomenon that’s been appearing for more that a century on a yearly basis in Honduras. Residents of Yoro claim that after a large thunderstorm, hundreds of live fish appear on the ground. Every year, the city hosts a festival to celebrate the annual fish-fall, making a feast of the mysterious sealife.
While many scientists believe the event is caused by fish traveling through underground water spouts, some locals call it the “Father Subirana miracle”. because of Father Jose Manuel Subirana, who once prayed for three days and three nights for God to provide food for the poor town. According to legend, the fish have fallen every year since.
Dogs, cats, fish. “But what about frogs?” you ask.
Claims of frogs falling from the sky have popped up everywhere from Minnesota to Greece. England appears to be the king of falling frogs, with reports dating back hundreds of years. The most recent frog storm was in 1995 in Sheffield, England, where local resident Nellie Straw claims to have been driving through a severe storm with her family when her car was suddenly pelted with hundreds of frogs.
No one seems to be sure how or why these incidents occur, although French physicist Andre-Marie Ampere thinks the frogs might have been swept up in strong winds.
Frogs aren’t the only wildlife that have fallen upon the English countryside. According to the London Times, a mass of jellyfish-like creatures rained down on Bath, England in 1871.
London Times, April 24, 1871:
“That, upon the 22nd of April, 1871, a storm of glutinous drops neither jellyfish nor masses of frog spawn, but something of a [line missing here in original text. Ed.] railroad station, at Bath. Many soon developed into a wormlike chrysalis, about an inch in length.”
Okay, maybe it wasn’t jellyfish, but whatever it was sure was gross!
Falling globs of jello may be nasty, but it’s got nothing on the great brain storm of 1851. On February 15th of that year, Simpson County, North Carolina was besieged by one of the most disgusting weather systems of all time.
According to witnesses, pieces of flesh, liver, brains and blood rained down over the area. And you thought it was bad when your picnic got rained out!
London is famous for its fog, but once upon a time it was fatal.
In the late 1800’s, in the midst of the coal-powered industrial revolution, parts of London were engulfed in industrial pollution. In 1880, a thick poisonous fog swept through the city, killing nearly 2000 people. Despite this tragedy, little was done to curb the coal industry’s killer mist. Thousands more died over the years, most recently in 1952, when a mix of fog and coal smoke killed another 4,000, which finally led to anti-polution laws.
And you thought the twin suns of Tatooine were cool. Triple suns, or “dog suns”, have been spotted all over the globe. So why aren’t we all burning up from the extra heat? (Or at least bestowed with some sort of Kryptonian-like powers?)
Well, it’s because the extra suns are just a mirage, the result of sun rays being refracted by hexagonal plate-like ice crystals.
But don’t tell the folks in China that. A recent triple sun there led one newspaper to believe they were being invaded by aliens.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit clouds aren’t the scariest things in the world, but hear me out.
Imagine you were in prehistoric times (or at least pre-History Channel), and giant, swirling masses suddenly appeared in the sky that seemed to be reaching down like giant ghostly fingers. You’d be one freaked out cave-man.
But while your primitive mind might imagine some massive sky-giant was trying to kill you, what you were probably witnessing were Mammatus clouds. These towering cumulonimbus clouds have often been associated with server storms or tornados, but in reality are no more dangerous than your average rain cloud.
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN
Falling frogs and fish may not be your cup of tea, but I’m sure most of us wouldn’t mind a cloud full of money raining down.
Over the years, there have been several reports of just that. In 1940, coins were seen falling on the Meshchera region of Russia. A few years later, pennies and halfpennies supposedly rained on lucky schoolchildren in Hanham, England. And in 1976, 2,000 marks floated down from the skies over Limburg, West Germany.
Just a few years ago, Ajax, Ontario looked like something from a Homer Simpson fantasy.
The entire lakefront was covered in what looked like giant donuts. While they appeared to be some sort of ice sculptures or an elaborate prank, they were, in fact, naturally rolled snowballs caused by the wind. Apparently, the conditions must be just right for this to occur: the temperature must be around freezing with strong gusts of wind in an open area.
While this strange weather pattern is rare, an incident of falling men was documented by Martha Wash and the late Izora Rhodes of The Weather Girls in their 1982 hit “It’s Raining Men”.
Co-written by Paul Jabara (who also wrote “Last Dance” for Donna Summer) and The Late Show’s Paul Shaffer, “It’s Raining Men” has been heard in every male strip club for the past 20 years, making it one of the longest-lasting weather systems in history.