Monday, December 26, 2011

Explaining the enduring popularity of those "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" books and movies

Although it is impossible to ruin that which is already AWESOME, this post does contain information about the plots to the three Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" films. So if you don't want to know what happens in those films, don't read this.

This past weekend at the American box office, the number one and number two films each featured stars of the famous Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" films in major roles. And one of the top five films was the American version of the adaptation of the first book in the "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series of novels, which were written by a Swedish author called Steig Larsson. These novels are a worldwide sensation. Their movies and the stars of those movies are literally taking over the box office. So for those reasons I thought I would examine the phenomenon of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," just like it's already been examined about a million times already.

First of all, I should admit that I have not read any of the books. I tried to read one of them, but I got bored and distracted so I stopped. I then watched all of the first, most of the second, and some of the third of the Swedish film adaptations of the novels. They were tawdry and ludicrous, which are the two things that will always make your work popular if you're thinking of trying to make it as an international bestseller author writer. Anyway, now that I know all about them, here is my examination of them.

FIRST OF ALL, WHO IS "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO"?

"The girl with the dragon tattoo" is one of the main characters in the three books about "the girl with the dragon tattoo." Her name is Lisbeth Salander, and she is in her late teens or early twenties, or maybe her thirties or forties, I couldn't always tell. She is a rebellious punk hacker who plays by her own rules, which is why she is a ward of the state, and keeps getting stuck with these foster fathers who keep raping her. In Sweden, if you get sentenced to spend time in psychiatric wards, they let you out and you have to live with a rapist until you're 30 or 40 or something. The reason why Lisbeth got sentenced to live with rapists is because she threw gasoline (or, "petrol," as they call it in Sweden) on her abusive father, and then lit the petrol on fire and burned him up. You don't learn this until the second movie, I think. Anyway, her father it turns out was a big shot from Russia or something, and he defected to Sweden and started doing a bunch of bad stuff, like human trafficking or something, but a secret organization inside the Swedish government was protecting him because he brought a bunch of stuff from Russia, or something, which is why whenever he beat on Lisbeth's mother they never did anything to him. It's sort of like that group of people in the US government who assassinated Osama bin Laden, except instead of being grateful to them for helping keep the citizens of Sweden safe, we're supposed to think of them as villains just because they put Lisbeth in a mental hospital when she was a little kid. But if they were so bad, why did they let her out and put her with all those rapists? Also, Lisbeth sometimes sleeps with women.

WHAT IS "THE DRAGON TATTOO"? WHAT IS IT'S SIGNIFICANCE?

The dragon tattoo is a big tattoo of a dragon on Lisbeth's back. It is supposed to symbolize that she is a rebellious punk hacker who plays by her own rules. Also, she sometimes sleeps with women.

WHO IS THE OLD GUY THAT LISBETH HANGS OUT WITH?

There is an old journalist called Michael Blomkvist, or something like, who is so European that he sits down to pee at a urinal. He smokes cigarettes and drives from one action scene to another in a hybrid, or on a vespa. At the end of the first movie, he doesn't want to kill the Nazi guy who has been raping and murdering young women for about twenty years, because that would make too much sense, which is why Lisbeth has to do it. He is such a careful journalist that when he studies important documents, such as Lisbeth's government file that proves that she was unfairly sent to the mental hospital and to live with rapists by the secret cabal within the government, and that her father is this big Russian guy or something, he just leaves them lying around his apartment so that when someone breaks in to steal the documents, they're laying right there on his desk, out in the open. At the start of the first movie he's been set up by this big businessman, and he publishes a story in his magazine, Millennium, that turns out to be based on information that is no longer available, or something. He goes to prison for libel, or whatever it is they have in Sweden. But he's still a virtuous, strong, virile Swedish journalist, which is why Lisbeth can't help herself, even though she's about twenty years younger than him, she still climbs on top of him for some rub-and-bump (that's what it's called in Sweden) when they're out at that farm investigating the Nazi family that rapes and kills young women. I don't know what is the Swedish equivalent of a "Mary Sue," but that is what Blomkvist is: Lisbeth gets raped a couple of times, has sex with Blomkvist, and has sex with a couple of women. In the movies, at least, her encounter with Blomkvist is her only consensual heterosexual encounter. Unless I  missed something

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" BOOKS?

I don't know for sure. I haven't read them.

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" MOVIES?

That I do know, kind of. Lisbeth's first foster father has a heart attack or something, so she gets a new foster father who rapes her. Lisbeth makes a video of one of the rapes, and then ties the guy up and tattoos something like "I am a rapist pig" on his stomach, and then uses the video to blackmail him into giving her the money that she makes in her job as a hacker or something. Some people hired the company where she works (actually I don't think she works there very much, because I can't remember seeing her work there ever again after the start of the first movie) to investigate Michael Blomkvist, so she hacks into his computer all the time and looks at the stuff on his hard drive. He gets sent to prison on trumped up charges, and when he gets out this wealthy man from a family of Nazis who own a big corporation hires him to investigate the disappearance of his sister or cousin or something, about forty years before. It turns out that this guy's brother or cousin or something was raping his cousin or sister or whatever, and the cousin or sister changed places with the other cousin or something, and then ran away and didn't tell the police or anyone that her cousin or brother was raping and killing young women for forty years. She got away and moved to Australia and worked for a charity or something. Anyway, Lisbeth steals a bunch of money from somebody and goes to the Caribbean, then for some reason she comes back and a bunch of people start dying, and it turns out they're being killed by her half brother, who is this big giant blond guy who can't feel pain because he doesn't have nerves, or something. One of the people who gets killed is the guy who raped Lisbeth on video. She ends up fighting her father and half brother at a farm out in the middle of nowhere, and they kill her and bury her body in the back yard. Only she isn't dead; she digs her way out of the hole and then attacks them. Her father gets an ax in the head and her half brother runs away. Finally, after he's had a good nap and stopped for a few smoke breaks, Michael Blomkvist shows up after everything is already over, and Lisbeth's been shot a bunch of times and smacked around. She goes to the hospital and then the guy who kept her in the mental hospital when she was a child shows up and wants to take her back and put her back in the mental hospital. But he can't be too bad or too smart because why did they let her out in the first place, and why didn't they just kill her long before, if they were so evil and smart and wanted to ensure all these secrets didn't get out? Then this other secret government organization contacts Michael Blomkvist, and they enlist him to help them find out about this other secret government organization, the one that was protecting Lisbeth's father. Lisbeth's father, by the way, gets shot by one of the secret government guys, because they're tired of protecting him, so this guy, after all these years of trying to keep everything so secret and quiet, goes to the hospital with a gun and shoots the guy, then tries to shoot Lisbeth because that won't draw any attention, and then when he can't get to Lisbeth, he shoots himself in the head in the hospital hallway. This is apparently par for the course in Sweden, because hardly anyone bats an eye over this and I don't think it was ever mentioned again. Anyway, Lisbeth ends up being put on trial for I think killing the foster father who raped her, although I can't remember, so they play the video that she made of herself getting raped by the guy and then the guy who runs the mental institution turned out to have written his "I think we should commit Lisbeth to my hospital for life" report BEFORE he'd even officially spoken to her, because he kept that in a word document or something on his hard drive and it had a date stamp. Oh, and he also had a bunch of child pornography on his hard drive. So Lisbeth gets out of prison and she doesn't have to have any more foster fathers.

THERE SURE IS A LOT RAPING GOING ON IN THESE BOOKS, ISN'T THERE?

Like I said, I don't know about the books. But in the movies, yes.

SO, WHY ARE THESE BOOKS SO POPULAR?

Your previous question answers this one, don't you think? From cave drawings to the book of Judges to Moll Flanders to Maggie: A Girl of the Streets to random episodes of CSI to The Time Traveler's Wife to Precious to Winter's Bone, people love to see women get punished for, oh, you know, whatever.

ARE YOU SAYING THAT STEIG LARSSON TAPPED INTO SOME KIND OF PRIMAL INSTINCT THAT HAS EXISTED IN HUMAN BEINGS SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME?

Yep. He was kind of a genius. Also, I'm not sure if I remembered to mention this or not, but, Lisbeth sometimes sleeps with women.

SO, WHAT OTHER INSIGHTS DO YOU HAVE INTO THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" PHENOMENON?

I think I'm done. I have done a brilliant job of examining this worldwide cultural phenomenon, for which you are quite grateful.

She's so fierce.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Briefly Noted with Poodle Bitch: Should Poodle Bitch start listening to P!nk?; the power of Craigslist; Newt Gingrich's magnanimity; infernal cats

Poodle Bitch was deeply touched to read of the generosity displayed by the musical performer P!nk, who paid $5,000 to provide surgery and other medical care to a shockingly mistreated canine.
Sources tell TMZ ... P!nk was surfing the Internet recently, when she stumbled upon a story about a puppy that had been thrown off an L.A. overpass ... and suffered 3 broken legs when it landed in the L.A. river.

We're told the dog was in bad shape ... and required major surgery FAST ... or else.

That's when P!nk sprung into action -- contacting the Ace of Hearts animal rescue organization and offering to pay for any medical expense it took to save the dog's life.

In fact, Poodle Bitch was made dizzy by the whiplash between bizarre, unwarranted cruelty and kindness and decency contained within those few hundred words on TMZ's site. Perhaps it was this dizziness that explains her stumbling upon the following music video by Ms. P!nk:



"So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways."

Poodle Bitch at first thought that this was a song about "just being yourself, no matter what," the type of lesson that used to come from Afterschool Specials so many human years ago. But, a careful examination of the lyrics reveals that in fact this is a paean to P!nk herself, in the guise of a fan recruitment anthem. As long as you are "wrong," in a manner deemed acceptable to P!nk, you may join her. Those of you who are not "wrong" in the "right ways," which is to say, "correct," well, then, P!nk is passing judgment against you.

She, P!nk, makes the judgment for or against you. And if you make the cut, then you are one of her underdogs. And as for those underdogs, they,
will never be, never be anything but loud
And nitty gritty, dirty little freaks

Which obviously leaves out Poodle Bitch. She thinks it is fair to say that she will never be a nitty gritty, dirty little freak. She has, however, been known to get a bit "loud," especially when a certain Deutscher Schäferhund goes strutting down the sidewalk past her home. Poodle Bitch wonders if that would be enough to pass muster with P!nk. She rather hopes not; while she willingly raises a glass in honor of the musical performer's generosity toward a dog in need, she fears she has already heard more than enough of her music.

Poodle Bitch is happy to note that it isn't just composers of self aggrandizing dance music who are capable to showing compassion to canines. A human school teacher in San Antonio, Texas was able to buy a few more days of life for a blind dog named Stevie Oedipus Wonder -- and in that time, his human companion was found:
On Dec. 11, Stevie showed up at Animal Care Services. A collar and tag kept him alive for five days, Jeanne Saadi, the agency's live release coordinator, said. But with outdated information, the agency failed to find his owners and prepared to euthanize him.

That's when Brooke Orr, a high school teacher, saw the agency's ad seeking a home for the blind dog. She agreed to care for Stevie over the holidays, buying him a few more days.
...
"I thought that he must belong to someone. So I went to Craigslist and went to lost and found and I put in 'blind dog,' and there he was," she said.

Poodle Bitch will admit to some confusion after reading the entire story. Firstly, who would mistreat any animal, most especially a dog born without eyes? Poodle Bitch can't imagine what it must be like to be unable to watch certain reality television programs, view great works of art, and to have to rely solely on her sense of hearing and smell to know when a certain Deutscher Schäferhund happens to be walking past. And, of course, she loves to see the faces of her human companions. Such animals should be treated with extra care.

Secondly, why did Ms. Gutierrez's landlord tell her that Mr. Oedipus Wonder was deceased?

Thirdly, why wasn't the information on Mr. Oedipus Wonder's tag correct?



Regardless, Poodle Bitch is gratified that Mr. Oedipus Wonder has been reunited with a family that loves him. And, if she could, Poodle Bitch would sit through at least one of Ms. Orr's classes -- she apparently teaches English as a second language; English is in fact Poodle Bitch's second language.

Poodle Bitch does not follow human politics, for what she believes are reasons so obvious that she will not elucidate them here. Yet it happened that she came across an item about one particular candidate for human president of the United States, a man with the rather bestial-sounding name "Newt." Apparently, this human claims to have softhearted feelings toward animals.
The campaign said today that it will soon launch a “Pets With Newt” site aimed at Gingrich’s love for animals, intended to show a “lighter side” of the candidate. “As speaker I made it possible for people in public housing to keep their pets in 1988. I love pets so we’re going to have an entire project,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich doesn’t have any pets at this time, but he told ABC News today he and his wife Callista want a dog in the White House, and it’s a friendly disagreement between the couple over what kind and size of dog. Callista wants a small dog and Newt wants a large dog, though he says dogs like a Great Dane are a little too large.

Poodle Bitch appreciates the obvious magnanimity that Mr. Gingrich displayed in making it possible for people in public housing to keep their pets. Obviously, such power should be wielded only by the most benignant. Perhaps that is why so many "pets" seem to be "with Newt," at least if the website is to believed. Poodle Bitch wonders if any of those animals knew that, when their companions were taking their photos, they'd end up as campaign propaganda for this human:



Poodle Bitch was reminded of the canine companion-related antics of another presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. Apparently, Mr. Romney once put an animal crate on top of his car and drove some great distance. Poodle Bitch is unclear about the details, but at least one New York Times columnist has the story down, and mentions it at every opportunity:
Gail Collins loves telling the story of how Mitt Romney drove his family to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car -- and telling it, and telling it, and telling it.

The liberal New York Times columnist has mentioned the incident in print 19 times, by our count. She devoted a column to the incident in 2007 when Romney first ran for president. In another column, she suggested John McCain pick Romney for his running mate "so I can repeatedly revisit the time Mitt drove to Canada with the family dog on the station-wagon roof." And when Sarah Palin was picked instead, and Collins opined that "unlike Mitt Romney, she has never gone on vacation with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car."

Poodle Bitch has met plenty of dogs with a "sense of adventure" who might enjoy riding along on the roof of a car. That in itself does not particularly shock or disturb Poodle Bitch-- most especially considering that the alternative to the roof ride is to spend time in a motor vehicle with a politician. However, Poodle Bitch notes that dogs have nonverbal ways of communicating their distress with a situation. Apparently, Mr. Romney's dog did so:
As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.

Poodle Bitch notes that, at best, Seamus required more bathroom breaks than he was being allowed. At worst, he was so nervous about his traveling situation that he could not control his bowels. But at least Mr. Romney got a chance to show his "emotion-free crisis management;" while the animal actually experiencing the crisis got to... ride on the roof the rest of the way to Canada. And then, presumably, back to Boston.

And what does Mr. Romney have to say about this?



"Shrug."

And now Poodle Bitch will go back to ignoring politics. However, she finds it impossible to ignore cats. She has often wondered at the humans who willingly keep these passive aggressive manipulators in their homes, and now she has even more evidence that the creatures are not entirely to be trusted.
Tempted by the playful antics of that adorable kitten in the pet shop? If you've never had a cat before you may want to think again, especially if you have other allergies, researchers warn.

And if you do acquire a feline, keep it out of your bedroom.

While having a cat as a child may protect against future allergies, getting one in adulthood nearly doubles the chances of developing an immune reaction to it -- the first step towards wheezing, sneezing and itchy eyes, a European study found.

The same study, which covered thousands of adults and was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that people with other allergies were at extra high risk of reacting to a new feline in the house.

Poodle Bitch notes that adult humans who are considering getting a cat should instead consider the delightful poodle. She is willing to concede, however, that the reader might consider her to be biased. So instead she will quote from a Mr. Malcolm Dupris at barkbytes.com, who states:
One advantage of the Poodle's coat is it is so dense that hair and dander do not easily fall off of the dog, therefore people with allergies are not as afflicted around Poodles as they would be around some other breeds.

But Poodle Bitch would be doing a disservice to the reader if she did not offer more from Mr. Dupris:
All Poodles are quick learners, are energetic, can be comical, and are natural born performers. Their intelligence is quite remarkable, some owners swear their Poodles are capable of reasoning, and they are very attuned to mood in their environment. The Poodle is also very versatile. This breed of dog has been used for hunting, retrieving, they have performed in circus' and as a war dog.

Poodle Bitch wonders why all humans don't have at least one poodle companion, given their remarkable intelligence. She also believes that "War Dog" is a fine title for a Steven Spielberg film. Or, perhaps, "War Bitch."

Stevie Oedipus Wonder picture source.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Poodle Bitch presents her new Christmas poem: The Merry Caniche de Noël



The Merry Caniche de Noël

She travels for peace and goodwill's sake,
Leaving chicken breast and tomato slices in her wake.
All good boys and girls know so well
That beloved and sweet Caniche de Noël.

One Christmas Eve night I filled up with eggnog,
And attained a warm glowing feeling, my senses agog.
I stumbled out of the pub and into the snow,
With no care for direction, for I'd nowhere to go.
There met my vision so hazy and blurry,
That Merry Caniche de Noël, in her red-fringed surry.

Said I, "What brings you to this questionable boulevard,
Where shamble human detritus who find living so hard?"
At least, I believe that is what I mumbled,
For years of hard drinking had left my head jumbled,
And cold winter wind was biting through my clothes,
So I might have said nothing, for all anyone knows.

Yet the Merry Caniche de Noël understood what I meant,
For she laughed at the earnestness behind my lament.
Then she licked at herself, and shamelessly so,
As my fingers fumbled with a bottle of two week-old bordeaux.
Offended, I shouted, "How dare you come here,
Especially now -- at this awful time of year!"

After one more long draught, my tirade resumed:
"My silly species is wrecked! We're all doomed!
Yet for one too-long night we're forced to pretend
That this one's an ally-- that that one's a friend!
And all the while he keeps hidden from view
The stiletto with which he seeks to skewer you!"

I know not from whence sprang such corny indignation;
When I'm in my cups I am prone to high sensation.
Another human might have seen it as skylarking,
Yet the Merry Caniche de Noël responded by barking.
Although her manner seemed disconcertingly aloof,
Each word that she spoke was a gentle "Woof, woof."

"Every snowflake that falls is a reflection in the air,
Of the human compassion present everywhere.
It's simply so common that most choose not to see
All of the good contained within humanity.
It is possible that you've all been led astray
By the monster you've created in this holiday

"For only a species so simple and abstruse
Would use a yearly celebration as an excuse
To create yet another commercial event
That contradicts its own original intent.
Within you all, even you who stand before me,
Resides great promise and generosity!

"So listen hard," (she concluded), "to my gentle doggerel,
And heed now the message of the Caniche de Noël."
With that, the sweet poodle was off and away,
And I heard another voice from somewhere else say,
"My friend, you've clearly had one to many,
A public street's no place for a drunk to spend a penny."

The policeman was quite rough as he took me to jail,
But I just had to laugh, despite my travail,
For the words of the Caniche still rang in my ears,
And in my fraying old pockets found I two souvenirs:
Fresh tomato slices and pieces of chicken breast
Which I ate on that night I spent as the city's guest.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The politics of Bane's unintelligible dialogue in the upcoming Batman film

A new trailer for the upcoming Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," has just been released to much fanfare and excitement. You thought that was just anticipation over the "holiday season," that you were feeling, but no-- it was the trailer hitting the web on Monday:



That's a bunch of stuff happening in there. Including, apparently, some political stuff. According to a headline in the Los Angeles Times, the film "dons an Occupy costume." You might not have realized this, but a film can wear a costume. An "Occupy costume," which is a reference to Occupy Wall Street. I admit I was unaware that there was an "Occupy costume." Were those people doing the occupying wearing costumes? Anyway, from the Times:
Over a haunting rendition of a child singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" (lest there be any doubt about his national themes), Nolan offers us a peek at his haves-and-have-nots preoccupation when he has Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle whisper in the ear of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne a message from the 99%.

“You think this can last?" she says. "There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. And you and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”
The Times (which is preparing to hide its material behind a paywall) has apparently been able to discern that Christopher Nolan has a "haves-and-have-nots preoccupation," based on this two minute trailer, and the Selina Kyle character is Mr. Nolan's Mary Sue.

And the "Star Spangled Banner," that irritating ode to war -- its use in the trailer is an alert that Mr. Nolan is making a grand political statement about the state of our nation. Then again, because the "Star Spangled Banner" is an irritating ode to war, he might be using it to set up some kind of violent action scene. Without having seen the actual film itself, I can't say. I don't have the same insight into Mr. Nolan's mind that the Times seems to have.

The Wrap has a bit of a roundup of more trailer reactions:
In particular, Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) warning to Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale)... struck some as evidence of distinct Occupy undertones.

“Even if Nolan decided against filming at Zuccotti Park, it seems he may in fact depict Batman as the 1 percent,” Slate's David Haglund wrote.

Asked Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen : "Team Nolan has made it clear that 'The Dark Knight Rises' won't be going gently into the good night of franchise retirement-rebootment. But are you intrigued or alienated by the prospect of a potentially politically charged superhero epic, one that arrives July 20 -- about a month ahead of the Republican and Democratic national conventions?"

Mr. Nolan's previous Batman film, "The Dark Knight," was seen by some commentators as a "War on Terror" allegory:
In 2008, Nolan’s blockbuster and unqualified masterpiece, ”The Dark Knight,” was openly embraced by conservatives who saw the film as a thinly veiled, intelligent, and very welcome allegory sympathetic towards America’s and George W. Bush’s role in the War on Terror.
This of course was not how I saw it. In fact, I saw it as exactly the opposite-- a repudiation of Mr. Bush's -- and the US government's -- role in the "War on Terror."
Toward the end of “The Dark Knight,” it’s revealed that Batman/Bruce Wayne has been working on a secret project that basically turns everyone’s cell phone into sonar images. He can spy on everyone in Gotham City. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but it’s both ultra cool and scary as hell. Batman realizes that one person shouldn’t have this power- he rationalizes using it because he needs to track the Joker, who is undeniably worse than Batman.

This same Batman who, in “Batman Begins,” brought down the entire League of Shadows to save the life of one murderer doesn’t trust himself to only use the spying device once. That’s why he gives Lucius Fox, the head of Wayne Enterprises’ Applied Science Division, the power to destroy it at any time. And he does just that, once Batman has found Joker.

There are a few decent people in the government, but even those decent people can be corrupted, as happened to poor Harvey Dent. A recurring theme throughout the film is that Commissioner Gordon doesn’t know who on the police force he can trust.
Unlike Lucius Fox, the former Constitutional law lecturer, Nobel peace prize winner, and current president of the United States Barack Obama has not destroyed the machinery that Mr. Bush erected in his "War on Terror." In fact, he has done just the opposite, starting more wars, killing thousands of people in Pakistan, and claiming new (super) powers for himself -- including the power to assassinate American citizens without trial.

The repudiation of the government's assumed powers in its "War on Terror" was magnified by the scene in which the convicts throw away the detonator that would have allowed them to blow up the other ferry, therefore saving their own lives (sorry -- um, spoiler alert!). The citizens have the power to handle the situation on their own, making a deeply moral and righteous decision, even if it means risking death. This optimism about humanity is clearly not shared by the political class -- those who make the laws under which they prosecute their "War on Terror." That's why the government considers anyone who travels to be a suspicious character who must be frisked and/or x-rayed before getting on an airplane. Not even gun-shaped purse designs are safe from their purview.

So, it is my contention that "The Dark Knight" was expressing a sentiment that was in fact totally opposed to the official government "War on Terror" line. Obviously, some people didn't see it that way. But art is open to interpretation, so I'm not going to say that my interpretation is the only one, or even the best one, even though clearly my interpretation is both the only and the best one. And I'm certainly not going to speculate about the politics of an upcoming work of art based on a two minute advertisement.

Besides, the whole "Occupy costume" thing isn't even the biggest controversy awaiting this film. The movie might actually have a bit of a Bane problem.
...Warner Bros. is running into an unexpected problem, one which is causing some handwringing among executives and others who are working on the movie.

Some audience members are grumbling that they can’t understand what Bane, the main villain in the final installment of the Christopher Nolan-helmed trilogy, is saying. Bane is a bad guy whose super-strength comes from a drug that he continuously inhales. In the prologue, the character, played by British actor Tom Hardy, is seen with a mask that covers his nose and mouth; his speech is garbled and muffled.
...
Sources close to the movie say Warner Bros. is very aware of the sound issue. One source working on the film says he is “scared to death” about “the Bane problem.”
I for one think that a villain who is slightly unintelligible is even more menacing than one whose thoughts and plans are articulated with crystal clarity. How many times have you found yourself in a situation in which you're speaking to someone you can't completely hear or understand, and you've wanted to ask them to repeat themselves, but you've been afraid to because you felt awkward, or you didn't want to offend the other person?

Now imagine the person you can't quite understand has super strength and could break your back if he wanted to. You wanna ask him to repeat himself? Or are you just gonna nod your head to whatever it was he just said, and hope that he didn't say something like, "Do you mind if I break your back now? Just nod your head if you don't mind."

That is genuinely scary.

Or, perhaps Mr. Nolan is making a political statement with Bane's alleged unintelligibility? Something about misunderstanding the root causes of the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement? Or something?

I won't speculate until I actually see the movie. I'm not the LA Times.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Stumpy Claus film "Play With Me!" available online. The greatest Christmas film of all time? Or the greatest holiday film of all time? It's both!

I have finished a new animated short, just in time for the holiday season. "Play With Me!" features the mysterious and heroic Stumpy Claus in a tale of child selling, cruelty, fear, and healing regression. It also has two songs I wrote. It is the perfect salve for what ails you during this troubling time of year.

Stumpy Claus in Play with Me from Ricky Sprague on Vimeo.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The best Christmas movies ever? You're kidding, right?

Someone at Forbes called Mark Hughes (who writes "about films, especially superhero films, & Hollywood") has produced a list of the "Top Ten Best Christmas Movies of All Time," which based on that tautological headline might be hyperbolic, or possibly tongue in cheek; or maybe the author had nothing to do with the headline and the person who wrote the headline became enthusiastic and wanted to try and ensure that the readers understood that these were in fact the top ten best Christmas movies, and not merely the top ten Christmas movies, or the ten best Christmas movies.

Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about "top best" lists. If you're interested, you can read my post on the top best comic book-based movies here. I have neither the time nor inclination to do the same thing for Christmas movies, so instead I'll repost Mr. Hughes's list:

(10) A Christmas Carol (1951 version)
(9) Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version)
(8) Gremlins
(7) Elf
(6) The Bishop's Wife (1947 version)
(5) A Christmas Story
(4) 1941
(3) The Nightmare Before Christmas
(2) Brazil
(1) Die Hard

It's hard to argue with a list that calls itself the "top ten best," so I won't really, except to note that A Christmas Carol is a terrible story that has been made into several terrible films, I didn't once even crack a smile when I sat through Elf, The Bishop's Wife is dull, 1941 is about twenty minutes too long, and I never made it past the first fifteen minutes or so of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Die Hard is a pretty decent choice for number one. And this list gets credit for not including It's a Wonderful Life, a seriously flawed movie that is almost completely redeemed by James Stewart's amazing performance.

I would add Remember the Night, with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, directed by Preston Sturges. It is the top best film that any of those three people made.

Also missing from this list are the following Christmas classics, directed by the "celebrated" auteur Ricky Sprague (the first one might be a little not safe for work):








I'm currently working on yet another Christmas-themed film, which I hope to have posted by Monday, which will no doubt make it onto my own top best Christmas list, should I ever choose to actually make one.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Disturbing google image search of the day: Paula Deen nude

On Tuesday, someone found my blog by doing a google image search for Food Network celebrity Paula Deen nude. I was so scandalized, I took a screenshot of it from my statcounter:


My blog is about many and varied subjects, so it's not unusual for people to stumble upon it while looking for shall we say esoteric things. But Paula Deen nude?

Of course I am more than happy to give people what they're looking for. To that end, I present the following doctored image of Paula Deen nude:


I hope google is paying attention -- this should get me lots and lots of visitors!

(The image above consists of pieces that can be found here and here. The quote was taken from a video that can be found here.)

Bonus: You can read my Food Network and Hunger Games belittling ebook, The Hungry Game, here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Poodle Bitch is sad to note the passing of Pusuke

Yesterday, Pusuke, described in the Mail Online as a "male cross breed," passed away. Pusuke's passing is notable because the authoritative collector of human "records," the Guinness Book, last December certified him as the oldest living dog on the planet.

Here is how the Mail Online story begins:
The world's oldest living dog has died in Japan at the age of 26 - the equivalent to more than 125 human years.
Poodle Bitch wonders why it is that a canine's age must always be presented so. Are humans so unable to comprehend that 26 is an extraordinarily ripe old age for a dog that they must have it spelled out that the "human equivalent" is, well, a ripe old age for a human?

Poodle Bitch would like for everyone, human and canine alike, to finally once and for all acknowledge that human and canine bodies age differently. Canines mature faster. While human babies are still making (pardon Poodle Bitch's language) "poo" in their diapers, most dogs have already learned to patiently sit by the door and wait for a human to let them out. And very few humans ever learn that the only proper, dignified spot in which to leave one's (again, pardon Poodle Bitch's language) "poo" is outside in a nice, shady spot, far away from the structure in which one dwells.

Poodle Bitch very much appreciates this reporting on the story, at something with the cutesy-poo name "Animal Tracks," in which Pusuke's passing is noted not in human terms, but canine:
Pusuke, who was listed as the oldest living dog in Guinness World Records, died on Dec. 5, 2011 in Sakura, Japan. He reached the ripe old age of 26 years and 9 months.
Unfortunately, the story is three paragraphs in length. The first paragraph, Poodle Bitch has pasted in full above. The second paragraph consists of two sentences noting the previous record holder was an American Beagle who passed away in 2003. The third paragraph is a single sentence containing a link to a "slideshow of the biggest, fastest, longest, weirdest and wackiest record breakers from the 2012 edition of Guinness World Records."

Hardly a dignified notice of the passing of a dedicated companion of more than 26 and a half years. Especially given what Poodle Bitch learned from an article which appeared in Business Insider (Poodle Bitch wonders if Pusuke was involved in business in some way?) back in July 2011:
But Pusuke came close to losing out on the prestigious Guinness title.

In 2008, the dog was run over by a car and several of his organs were crushed during the accident.
Leaving aside for a moment the casual indifference with which this information is presented, Poodle Bitch has to admit she gasped upon reading those words. Pusuke's organs were crushed when he was run over by a car three years ago. Appropriately, a website called A Place to Love Dogs has more:
The spry elder canine still enjoys his role as guard dog, but nearly lost his shot at the Guinness record when he was struck by a car in 2008, rupturing a number of internal organs. Emergency surgery saved the 28 pound wonder dog.
Poodle Bitch concedes that's not much more, but it does tell the reader that Pusuke had surgery. Also, Poodle Bitch can't help but note that while Business Insider (the place for canine-related news?) says that Pusuke's organs were "crushed," which sounds like something humans occasionally do to the delicious tomatoes that Poodle Bitch so loves before placing them in jars, A Place to Love Dogs reveals that Pusuke's organs "ruptured," which sounds much more like a medical term.

But which was it -- were Pusuke's organs "ruptured," or "crushed"?

Poodle Bitch also notes that Ms. Nagai is described by the website as Pusuke's "owner." Perhaps they should call themselves "A Place to Own Dogs"? Regardless, A Place to Love Dogs claims that Pusuke's human companion, Shigeo Nagai, gives him vitamins twice daily, but does not share exactly what vitamins he takes. This is information Poodle Bitch might like to have.

Perhaps the vitamins twice a day lifestyle is the norm in Japan. Poodle Bitch notes that the average human life expectancy in Japan is 82.9 years, which is apparently the longest in the world. Poodle Bitch is curious as to the average life expectancy of dogs worldwide, but was only able to find canine life expectancy information broken down by breed, not nation. So she has no way of knowing for sure if Japanese dogs live longer.

Still, Poodle Bitch has long maintained that is the quality of the years, not the quantity, that most matter to her. She is happy to have found companions in whose presence she feels safe and protected, and she is happy to have gotten plenty of satisfying chicken breast and tomato slices. And a nice place outside the house in which to (one last time, Poodle Bitch apologizes for her language) poo. She hopes that Pusuke could say the same.

She hopes that all dogs can say the same.

Pusuke and his human companion, Shigeo Nagai. Two very lucky individuals.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs," and the baffling chef Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli is an unpleasant, scowling, foul, sour, insulting, annoying, repellent woman who for some reason continues to appear on programs airing on the Food Network. Considering this is the cable channel that has inflicted upon us Guy Fieri, Duff Goldman, Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, Sandra Lee, Robert Irvine, Troy Johnson, and Bobby Flay, you might think it would be difficult to decide just who is the least likable and most irritating human being ever to appear on its airwaves. This, however, is not the case. The owner of that dubious distinction, hands down, is the human equivalent of runny brie smothered in wasabi that is Alex Guarnaschelli.

For reasons that baffle me, this condescending, hectoring, supremely unsavory person has been given at least two of her own shows -- one of which is apparently still on the air (who would watch her? I'd rather eat a plate full of undercooked chicken smothered in raw eggs and possibly poisonous mushrooms than subject myself to watching her make that scowling face that somehow acts as her "smile" while she tells me about her favorite breakfast in bed moment for 30 minutes) -- and she regularly appears as a "judge" on the alleged cooking competition "Chopped." Someone at Food Network has a Chef Guarnaschelli fetish that is as mystifying as Spam wrapped in Fugu.

The only thing that's even remotely remarkable about her is unfathomable ability to get herself on television.

I've often thought that I must be missing something -- she can't possibly be as bad as I think she is, and moreover there can't possibly be some grand conspiracy to force her upon us. But now that Ms. Guarnaschelli is a contestant on the newest season of "The Next Iron Chef," (which is laughably subtitled "Super Chefs" -- what exactly is so "super" about Ms. Guarnaschelli?) I have irrefutable proof that Ms. Guarnaschelli is just as irritating, unpleasant, hateful, vituperative, nasty, and repellent as I've always thought. And that there is a conspiracy to force her upon us, no matter what.

On the episode that aired tonight, November 27, Ms. Guarnaschelli served the judges burned peanut shells in a bag. Literally. That is literally what she served the judges. She told them they were inedible. And she served them. Burned peanut shells in a brown paper bag. I am not exaggerating that.

And she didn't even land in the bottom two.

No, please do not ask me to explain the premise of this ridiculous show. It's bad enough that I actually watch, and it's bad enough that I'm actually blogging about it now. The remaining chefs had to create dishes inspired by New York City landmarks, and then tell stories about their food (shouldn't the food itself tell the story?). Ms. Guarnaschelli's landmark was the Empire State Building, for which she concocted some cockamamie story about smelling burned peanut shells -- it's street food! -- every time she walked past the Empire State Building to get to her first job in a restaurant.

Moreover, as for the edible portion of her dish, at least one of the judges -- Simon Majumdar -- complained that her potatoes were as rancid and hard to take as her personality (I'm paraphrasing). But no, it was Chef Elizabeth Falkner who landed in the bottom two because she allegedly didn't "sell" the story behind her Brooklyn Bridge inspired schnitzel, or something.

Maybe Chef Marcus Samuelsson deserved to land in the bottom two (the whole enterprise is dubious!), but there is no way that either he nor Chef Falkner should have gone home before Ms. Guarnaschelli because you know what? Neither of them served the judges in an Iron Chef "Super" Chefs competition a bag full of burned peanut shells.

A bag full of burned peanut shells!

During the final cook-off between the Chefs Falkner and Samuelsson, the Chef Anne Burrell (who is a cool refreshing drink of Mojito on a hot summer day next to Ms. Guarnaschelli) turned to her and said something to effect of, "I'm worried about that schmear on the bottom of Chef Falkner's pan. But I hope it tastes good." To which the backbiting scold Ms. Guarnaschelli replied, "No you don't."

Ms. Guarnaschelli, you see, wishes villification upon others, and she projects that unpleasant calumny that comes so naturally to her onto everyone else.

And I'm not even going to mention -- I'm too irritated! -- the incident in which she dropped her potatoes into the water and she overstated "There was nowhere in the universe I'd rather not be than in that kitchen at that moment." This woman has absolutely no perspective. Would she have rather been in Iraq at that moment? How about on the other side of Pluto?

Okay, I get it. Reality shows are supposed to have villains. But in a cooking competition, shouldn't the contestants -- even the villains -- actually serve, you know, edible food to the judges? Otherwise we might start to get suspicious.

She thinks that smug, condescending scowl is a smile.

Bonus: You can read my Food Network and Hunger Games belittling book, The Hungry Game, here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home improvement terms from DIY Network and HGTV that sound kind of naughty

Someone famous wrote a book about how you become an expert at something after having spent 10,000 hours doing it. Well, I have watched about 10,000 hours of HGTV and DIY network, so I feel I am an expert on home improvement.

One thing that I've noticed, as I've become a home improvement expert, is that some of the terms that we home improvement experts use sound kind of -- well, "a bit rude," as the Prince Regent put it in the third Black Adder series (having watched at least 10,000 hours of British television, I'm also an expert on British history). Here then is my list of home improvement terms heard on HGTV and DIY network, that sound a bit rude:

Angle-nail

Backer rod

Backsplash

Bottom rail

Buttjoints

Butt hinge

Caulk

Cupping

Curb appeal

Double glazing

Double hung window

Drywall

Easement

Extrusion

Flashing

French door

Furring strips

Girder

Grout

Hardwood

Headboard

Head track

Horizontal slider

Jack studs

King studs

Lag screw

Load-bearing wall

Nail

Nipple

P-trap

Packing nut

Pilot hole

Plenum

Plumb bob

Plumber's putty

Pocket door

Post-and-beam

Rake

Retrofit

Riser

Set screw

Sheathing

Sill cock

Slats

Spackle

Stud finder

Triple glazing

Underlayment

Weep hole

Wet wall

Bonus: Poetry first, then sausage:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why do people question the miracle that is the McRib sandwich?

The McRib is a miracle sandwich. It's something delicious that is made from a bunch of seemingly non-delicious ingredients. This apparently bothers some people.

I'm sure there was someone there to criticize Jesus Christ when he turned water into wine, too.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On Sasha Grey reading to elementary school kids, and the true insidious purpose behind Read Across America

Sasha Grey, a former pornographic film performer and my choice to play Cheetah in any upcoming Wonder Woman film or television adaptation, apparently read to some school kids last week. According to TMZ, some parents complained about this.
Porn legend Sasha Grey says she will NOT back out of a national elementary school reading program -- despite pressure from parents -- claiming she will "not live in fear" of her XXX past.
The "national elementary school reading program" is something called "Read Across America," which is a program apparently aimed at getting school children to, well, read across America. Apparently they think that inviting famous people (the kids probably know Ms. Grey from her appearances -- playing herself -- on the HBO television program "Entourage") to read to children for photo opportunities will somehow encourage them to read for themselves.

Then again, perhaps Ms. Grey's elementary school appearance wasn't part of that program after all:
A spokesperson for Read Across America told ABCNews.com that Gray [sic] was not affiliated with the program.
First of all, who proofreads ABCNews.com? It's Sasha Grey, not "Gray." But that's less important than the fact that Read Across America denies that Ms. Grey is "affiliated with the program."

Since ABCNews.com didn't see fit to post Read Across America's spokesperson's statement, we don't really know what they're denying. Are they claiming that Ms. Grey has never been an employee of Read Across America, or are they claiming that Ms. Grey's reading session was not an officially-sanctioned Read Across America event?

I'd never heard of this program, so I went straight to their website to discover what they're all about. As it turns out, this seemingly altruistic program, with its goal of getting kids to read, has a sinister purpose that has nothing to do with pornography. Here's the first paragraph of the Read Across America website:

NEA Celebrates Reading with the Lorax in 2012

Green is the theme for a very special Read Across America celebration in 2012. NBC/Universal's The Lorax Movie (featuring the voices of Taylor Swift, Zach Efron, Danny Devito and Betty White) opens nationwide March 2, 2012 and Universal, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, and Random House are joining NEA's Read Across America in a special Read Across America campaign featuring new posters, teacher guides, events and activities on the RAA website.
It's a commercial for a piece of corporate entertainment called "The Lorax," complete with a hyperlink to the official NBC/Universal website. Apparently, Read Across America is an exercise in corporatism (will "The Lorax" be on these new posters and teacher guides?) designed to prime public school students for the opening of a new NBC/Universal film in March 2012.

Do the elementary school students have any choice as to whether or not they participate in this program? Do they have to sit there and listen while they're fed NBC/Universal propaganda -- or is this some kind of voluntary, after-school kind of thing, for kids who want to know what kind of corporate entertainment they should consume?

As noble as pornography might be, I don't think that students need to be exposed to a "porn star," ex or otherwise. The parents of a first grader might not want to have to explain to their child who exactly Sasha Grey is. But for crying out loud is that really as bad as using an alleged educational platform as a pretense for selling a piece of corporate entertainment to a group of suggestible public school kids?

And by the way: If in fact Ms. Grey's appearance was not an officially-sanctioned Read Across America event, then how do they explain this doctored screenshot of their website, promoting Ms. Grey's participation?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Poodle Bitch wonders if humans have lost the ability to express true affection

Poodle Bitch has noted with no small amount of concern the rise of ironic detachment in human culture. She sees the ascendancy of post modernism and deconstruction as a way for people to avoid dealing with genuine emotion. The artists of today, those people who are supposed to shine a light upon the human condition and thereby illuminate the experiences which all human beings share, seem instead to be more interested in proving how "cool" they really are. Poodle Bitch isn't particularly interested right now in helping humans overcome this particular deficiency, but she would like to note that no less a pairing of artists than Kanye West and Jay Z agree with her. In their song Otis, they express the sentiment with both eloquence and, appropriately, irony:



"Sounds so soulful, don't you agree?" they ask, in reference to the late, great Mr. Otis Redding, who had no trouble expressing genuine tenderness. These two artists reached back into the past -- the ancient past, the 1960s -- to bring forth an example of unabashed emotional artistry. This in the midst of a song deconstructing modern hip-hop, and of a video deconstructing a Maybach.

Poodle Bitch will let you, the reader, come up with your own examples (here are a few -- posts on the television program "Up All Night," the upcoming "Muppets" film, and the "Toy Story" films -- to get you started). For right now, she wants to illustrate the cumulative deleterious effect this all-pervasive ironic detachment has had on relations between humans and animals. Last week, the gentlemen who created the Awkward Family Photos website (which is dedicated to cataloging the myriad ways in which human beings are losing the ability to express familial piety) released a new bound collection of Awkward Family Pet Photos. This book is full of images of human beings posing with the pets they purport to love. Some samples:







These are companions as props, for the aggrandizement of the humans depicted within. These images are not whimsical. There is nothing humorous about them. They represent a humanity that is losing touch with itself -- an entire species that has been capable of the greatest of emotions losing the ability to communicate those emotions. Poodle Bitch notes that none of these images is spontaneous; the humans involved carefully thought out how they wanted to be depicted alongside their canine companions, and willingly posed in the manner depicted above, while forcing their companions to join in what is in fact a dual humiliation. In the case of the alien abduction themed photo, Poodle Bitch assumes the humans scrolled through the photographer's available backdrops (or, worse, called around to see which photographers had such a backdrop) and found the one that they thought best represented them and the relationship that they have with their nonhuman companion. Poodle Bitch notes the abduction motif is in fact appropriate, although not for the reasons the humans might imagine.

These humans might actually love their inhuman companions; but they are clearly unable to express this affection without first cloaking it in some bizarre, protective veneer.

The most extreme expression of this companions-as-props attitude can be found in this alarming photo:



If Poodle Bitch were slightly more cynical, she might note that the above photo is perhaps the only honest one of the bunch. Here the humans are literally equating their companion animal -- in this case, a bird -- with a tool. A gun. Poodle Bitch wonders which item the humans in that photo find the most important?

Just as the humans depicted in the photos above seem incapable of feeling shame, Poodle Bitch notes that animals are incapable of irony. Their devotion to their human companions is as sincere as it is total, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the story of Duncan, the three year-old Boxer who rescued his human companion from a housefire, and died in the process.
[Human companion Scott] Dunn was asleep Monday night, when he woke at about three in the morning to find smoke "down to the floor" in his home.

It was Duncan, a three-year-old boxer, who woke him in time. "He was just pawing at me. I thought he was trying to go out," recalled Dunn.

Dunn says he grabbed his keys and Duncan by his collar as he attempted to leave the house to get to his car. "The minute I opened the door, it was like the house exploded," said Dunn. "The flames went from one end of the house to the other."

In the confusion Dunn didn't realize that Duncan hadn't made it out of the house.

Poodle Bitch does not have the words to express herself. She is heartbroken over the loss of the heroic, selfless Duncan. She does note that there is nothing "awkward" about the photo below:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Writing a novel in one month is for wimps. I wrote a novel in one day. Actually, I wrote a novel in like 20 minutes

November is, for some reason, National Novel Writing Month, or, if you prefer, nanowrimo for short. The object is to write a novel in one month. Actually, that's not true, if this particular post is to be believed:
The basic premise is that you take 30 days to write a draft of a 50,000 word novel, which averages about 1,667 words per day. You are allowed to outline and plan beforehand, but the actual writing can’t happen until November 1.
You're allowed to outline and plan, but not actually write? Outlining and planning is part of writing a novel. In fact outlining and planning are the most important parts of writing a novel. If you're allowed to start those before "the actual writing" begins, then I guess I don't understand the point of the arbitrary 30 day time constraint.

Anyway. Today, this morning, I endeavored to write a novel in one day-- and I exceeded my goal by about twenty three and one half hours. I was also so efficient that I managed to get my novel written in about 1,500 words or so. Below is my novel, in its entirety. Please enjoy.

Disgusting Life, or, A Wretched Tale, in Two Parts
A complete novel by Ricky Sprague

Part First: How Mr. Sinclair and Madame O came to be married.

So in love was Mr. Sinclair that he did not see the object of his affections, Madame O, as anything other than a sweet, comforting angel. This naturally made him a source of ridicule and scorn in the town, for nothing is so ridiculous nor so loathsome as a man who is too blinded by affection to see how foolish he is being made.

One afternoon, Mr. Sinclair called upon Madame O in her parlor, for sorghum and cornpone, as was a holdover custom of more genteel times. Madame O, seated on a settee and wearing enormous petticoats, did not rise to greet him. “Please forgive me, that I do not rise to greet you,” said she, in a halting voice. “For, you see, my knees are weak and I fear I have a slight case of the vapors.”

“Trouble yourself not,” Mr. Sinclair said, in his sincere yet stilted manner. “For it is a pleasure to my eyes to see you seated upon your settee thus, and if you’d risen in the manner customary in polite society I would have been cheated out of the experience of gazing upon you sitting there.”

He took a seat upon another settee, adjacent to the one on which Madame O’s body now sat, quivering, as Mr. Sinclair only just noticed. “She must be trembling with joy to see me,” he thought.

A servant brought them the tray of sorghum and cornpone, and they each began to eat. “Why do your hands tremble so, when you eat your cornpone and drink your sorghum?” Mr. Sinclair asked, in the openhearted manner with which he ever asked any question.

“’Tis merely that I am trembling with joy to see you,” said Madame O, with a slight shudder.

Mr. Sinclair, himself, gave a shudder at what sounded to his ears to be a verification of his own suspicions. “If only we weren’t enslaved by these traditional customs!” he declared. “If only I could take that dainty, alabaster hand in mine, with its slender fingers—” (for Mr. Sinclair’s fingers were quite slender) “—and press my lips to your perfumed skin! If only polite society did not prevent me being so bold!”

Madame O gasped, a gesture which Mr. Sinclair took as a visceral assent to his importunations. In a trice he was on the settee next to her, his hand clasping hers. “Fie upon convention!” he exclaimed. “I shall declare myself now without fear! I will show you of what I am made!”

Again, Madame O gasped, which Mr. Sinclair took as a positive signal of his own effect upon her. He leaned forward to kiss her hand, and thought he heard, faintly, the sound of muffled laughter. He then noticed something which struck him as even more peculiar: Madame O appeared to have three feet visible from under her petticoats… One of those feet being upside down.

So clouded by the pollutant called love was Mr. Sinclair’s mind that he did not at first understand the implication of what his eyes beheld. “Does Madame O find herself afflicted by a third leg?” he inquired, earnestly.

“A third leg, yes,” she replied, “but ‘tis no affliction!” At that, there emerged from beneath her petticoats a man whose countenance Mr. Sinclair had seen before, in the stocks as punishment of being found guilty of selling his wife’s children for money with which he had purchased a revolver which he then used to rob a group of elderly lepers. He laughed, thanked Madame O for allowing him the pleasure of her body, then spat upon Mr. Sinclair.

“You are a dog, sir!” Mr. Sinclair declared, shocked.

“Aye,” the man said, dryly. “A dog that likes to chase pussy!”

So scandalized was Mr. Sinclair by the tone of the man’s veiled vulgarism that he became emotionally ravaged, and his empurpled body collapsed upon the settee, which itself reverberated with the shocks emanating from his body. Madame O laughed, and sat down beside him. “Oh, dearie. You’re too sensitive,” said she. “Don’t take it so hard.”

At length, Mr. Sinclair again found the ability to articulate. He chose his words carefully: “Madame O, I had planned on letting our courtship run its natural course, yet I can now see that in order to win your affections I must be more demonstrative! I desire now to request a meeting with your father, that I may ask him for your hand in marriage!”

Again, Madame O laughed. “Suit yourself, suitor!” She then called to her father, who stepped out from behind the paper partition that divided the room. Her father, a large man with a face nearly equal in redness to his hair, sat beside Mr. Sinclair, who by then gave the outward appearance of having recovered from his spell.
“I couldn’t help but overhear what just happened,” the father said, “being as I was in the same room with you. I understand you want to speak with me.”

“I wish to ask you for your daughter’s hand in marriage!” Mr. Sinclair said.

Apparently the father found this an uproarious suggestion, for there ejaculated from his mouth a furious staccato of guffaws the likes of which Mr. Sinclair had never before heard. Accompanying the father’s abrasive aural revelry, Mr. Sinclair also heard the sounds of Madame O’s laughter which, it seemed, was somehow less dulcet than usual.

“Forgive my laughter,” said the father, at length, “but your proposition strikes me as hilarious, and when I hear an hilarious proposition, I laugh uproariously. My daughter isn’t likely to be a fit wife, especially to a sensitive type such as yourself.”

“I love her dearly,” said Mr. Sinclair. “And I know that the force of my love will impose upon your daughter the curative of virtue that will ensnare her in the cage of chaste love!”

The father shrugged, then slapped Mr. Sinclair upon the back. “Good luck to you,” said he. Thus, having served his purpose in our narrative, he again took his place behind the partition.

So it came to pass that Madame O and Mr. Sinclair were married. Madame O (despite the marriage, she continued to wear the cognomen “Madame O”) engaged in lewd acts with an usher, Mr. Sinclair’s friend Mr. Rogers – who had served as Mr. Sinclair’s best man – and with one of her own matrons-in-waiting, in the waning moments of their wedding reception. Thus, too tired to fulfill her wifely honeymooning duties, she slept alone in the conjugal bed, while Mr. Sinclair, patiently, slept on the floor beside the bed.

This arrangement continued more or less unabated for two years, for that was how long it took Mr. Sinclair to finally accept what his clouded mind already suspected: That he alone was not the sole beneficiary of his wife’s physical ministrations. He conspired to catch and confront her during her shamefully shameless actions. This was no sooner thought than done, for Madame O made no effort hide her activities. So one night, when he heard the bed begin squeaking, Mr. Sinclair simply rose from his place on the floor and told his wife to stop laying with other men.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Stop laying with other men, like the man with whom you’re laying now.”

The man in question gave each member of the married couple a quizzical look. “I thought this arrangement was agreed upon and acceptable to all parties,” said he.

Ignoring the man who lay atop her, Madame O said, “I see no reason to change my life at this point, simply to accommodate you. Besides that, I have given you two children, as I recall, and that should be more than enough to occupy your obviously troubled mind.”

“One of those children was stillborn,” Mr. Sinclair replied. “The other was of a decidedly swarthy hue, and I am not entirely sure that the child was mine.”

Madame O pursed her lips. “I care not for your tawdry accusations and your insecurities. You’ve ceased to be amusing, and I am leaving this arrangement.”

“I am leaving this arrangement as well!” Mr. Sinclair agreed. The three of them left the house.

Madame O’s and Mr. Sinclair’s one child, Charles Peter, died the following day of starvation, having been forgotten by them both.

Part Second: What happened following the dissolution of their marriage.

Mr. Sinclair spent his nights drinking, and his days sulking. Soon, his days and nights blurred together, and he was intoxicated and miserable all of the time. At his government office, he was unable to perform even the simplest of his duties, such as transcribing lists of possessions of recently deceased clergymen, and he was terminated from his job. He spent his days in destitution, staggering about the streets in desperate search for some respite from the misery that was his constant companion.

He lay in the gutter, moaning her name. “Madame O,” he would moan. “Maaaaaaaadddaaaaaaaammm Oooooooooo,” he would moan.

One day, he was overheard by a lout as he left a public house. “Madame O?” the lout asked, kicking Mr. Sinclair in the ribs. “She’s just about the finest prostitute in all of three counties!”

At this, Mr. Sinclair’s heart skipped. After that regretful night in which Mr. Sinclair had confronted his beloved bride, she’d seemed to disappear completely, despite his best efforts at finding her. Now, as the man placed a muddy shoe against his temple, Mr. Sinclair felt hope. “Tell me where she is,” he demanded.

“She works in a brothel down in Q___,” the man said. And, having thus served his purpose in this narrative, he staggered into the night, while Mr. Sinclair made his way to Q___.

He walked the streets until his tatty shoes were torn to tatters. His clothes hung off a frame that had become nearly skeletal from lack of nutrition. He retraced his steps out of confusion and miscreance, yet finally he located the brothel in which Madame O kept the apartment in which she plied her wares.

So thoroughly loathsome was Mr. Sinclair that Madame O, who was even more robust, voluptuous, and rosy-cheeked than before, thanks to regular exertion and dining afforded her by her steady and frequent employment, did not at first recognize him as the man she’d once regularly cuckolded. “Much as I like my job,” she told the sallow-complected bag of bones she now beheld, “I cannot see my way clear of doing for you.”

“But, I was once your loving husband!” he moaned.

At that, Madame O gave a start, then laughed as uproariously as she’d laughed on that day when he’d asked for her hand in marriage. (A day which Mr. Sinclair remembered with much fondness.) “Why, Mr. Sinclair! Just get a look at you!”

His heart raced to hear the sound of that voice he’d so desperately been longing to again hear. “Please,” he said, “let me just caress you…”

“A caress is twenty-five cents!” Madame O declared, striking the price board which Mr. Sinclair had not before noticed. Listed were the activities in which Madame O was willing to engage, and the price for said services. What he read made his mouth water, and stirred his loins in a way that had only a few months before seemed impossible thanks to drink and malnutrition.

As the door to Madame O’s apartment opened, Mr. Sinclair heard the ringing of the bell, and a man pushed past him. “You’ll have to excuse me now, poor wretch,” said his former wife. “But I’ve work to do.”

“You want me to throw him out?” the man asked.

“No – he’s leaving,” Madame O said, in a stern voice.

Mr. Sinclair did just that, resuming his dazed shambling through the streets. By chance he came upon a small, undernourished boy, walking down the street alone. The boy held in his hand a silver coin, upon which he was gazing with loving attention.

“What have you there, my boy?” Mr. Sinclair gasped, as casually as he could.

“It’s a two-dollar coin,” the boy said, proudly. “I won it in the church lottery, and I’m going to use it to buy my parents fresh bread crumbs. You see, we’re so poor that we can usually only afford stale bread crumbs that have been gnawed by diseased rats.”

“Well, aren’t you a lucky boy,” Mr. Sinclair said, licking his lips at he prospect of what two dollars would buy him in his ex-wife’s apartment. “Why don’t you let me have that coin, and I’ll give you four dollars in return!”

The boy refused, and the two of them had a long discussion during which the child likened Mr. Sinclair to the devil, as in that old chestnut about the child encountering the devil on his way to school, and then Mr. Sinclair picked up a rock and clouted the boy’s skull, spilling gore and brain matter into the street. Mr. Sinclair then took the boy’s coin (he now being dead no longer had use for it) back to Madame O’s apartment. She was surprised to see him, but nevertheless took his money and performed upon his nude, emaciated body two dollars worth of activities she’d never performed upon him when they were married.

“Next time you get any money, come back and see me,” Madame O said, sending him on his way and greeting her next customer, who happened to be the town magistrate, who was taking a break from investigating the murder of the boy who’d won the church lottery. Upon seeing the silver coin in Madame O’s possession, he made a mental note to arrest her once he’d finished engaging her services.

Both Madame O and Mr. Sinclair were arrested, and the two former spouses were hanged the next day in the town square.

The End.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Excerpts from the Zombie Kama Sutra -- Halloween exclusive

In honor of Halloween, below is an excerpt from the Zombie Kama Sutra, which is sort of like the regular Kama Sutra that we living people all know and love, except that it's aimed at the Undead. This excerpt features some highly disturbing and erotic images of zombie sexual positions. Please stop reading if the thought of such matter disturbs you.

IN the beginning, the Lord of Beings created men and women, and prescribed therefore about one million rules by which those men and women must necessarily regulate their living existence. Yet, these rules have not applied to the undead. For too long have these wayward, shambling, unholy creatures attempted to engage the acts of courtship, embracing, unions, seduction, and etc.

Death should not be used as an excuse for chaos.

To that end are written these more than one thousand chapters, intended as a guide to those who have risen from the grave by whatever means, be it metaphysical, mystical, biological, or extraterrestrial. These important "rules to be dead by" shall provide to the zombie the proper knowledge in regards to conducting oneself in all manner of intimate relations.

From Part 1st, Chapter 1st: On Getting Your Kicks When Your Bucket Has Been Kicked.

MAN is divided into three classes, according to the size of his thingambob. UNDEAD man is divided into two classes, depending on whether or not he has retained all his limbs and brains.

WOMAN is also divided into three classes, depending on the depth of her you-know-what. So too is UNDEAD woman divided into two classes, corresponding to the number of remaining limbs and brains also.

The temperament of the undead is based most especially on the proximity to brains. The brain is the most important sexual organ. The undead crave brains. The undead are attracted to the brains of one another.

Whatshisname says, "The undead male will feel a driven desire to slowly and inexorably move forward toward any source of food, but will willingly subsume the desire for food if there is anywhere in his field of vision a willing undead female coital partner. The undead woman is much more sensitive, and is likely to derive a pleasurable sense of contentment from the touch of the undead male, as evidenced by the low, monotonous moan that escapes from her decaying lips following the act of romantic congress. The undead female will expect from her undead romantic partner a reciprocating low, monotonous tone, sometimes known as 'Pillow Moaning.' The undead male, left to his own devices, would rather fall asleep."

Of the various means of congress among the undead, there are many different types. These types are divided into several different categories: The Low, the Lower, the Gruesome, the Despicable, the Loathsome, the I'd-Rather-Not-Even-Think-About-It, and the Not Even if You Paid Me a Million Bucks, Even Though I'm Undead.

Variously are below illustrated a few of the Low types:




















IN the pleasure crypt, it is decorated with incense that disguises the odor of decay. The undead citizen should therein receive the undead woman, who shall give her decrepit, bruised, disgusting body, with its exposed brains and innards so that the undead citizen should freely find love's sustenance. It is in this manner that shall the bodies of the undead be so used until such time as they fall apart against each other, the eroded limbs falling off and the body crumbling to a fine dust, to be ingested, along with dead rose petals and oils, by the next undead couple to engage in the act of congress in the pleasure crypt.

It is the circle of undeath!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Actually, no, profanity is not "making a splash in book titles"

USAToday has fearlessly reported on the alleged use of profanity in book titles. Sort of. Actually, USAToday isn't sure exactly what it's reporting on, since it did one of those the-headline-and-first-paragraph-say-one-thing-which-is-then-directly-contradicted-by-the-very-next-paragraph things that most "journalists" seem to thrive on.

Here is the headline: Profanity is making a splash in book titles. And now, the first paragraph:
Somewhere, Maxwell Perkins is weeping.
Maxwell Perkins, for those of you who aren't as clever as Deirdre Donahue, the author of this USAToday piece, was a very, very famous literary editor. Probably the most famous literary editor ever. He edited F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Tobias Wolfe. He was ahead of his time.
Explains biographer A. Scott Berg, Perkins "sought out authors who were not just 'safe,' conventional in style and bland in content, but who spoke in a new voice about the new values of the postwar world."
Why would Maxwell Perkins (who is, by the way, dead, and therefore not weeping, but decomposing, but let's leave that aside for now) be weeping? One assumes that it's because, as the headline of USAToday's article asserts, that profanity is making a splash in book titles. Meaning that Mr. Perkins, who championed Ernest Hemingway, for crying out loud, must have had some qualms with "profanity," to the point of which the sight of it on a book cover would cause even his very corpse to weep.

And yet:
Fitzgerald introduced Perkins to a young American writer living in Paris named Ernest Hemingway. When Perkins brought Hemingway's work to Charles Scribner (then 72), Scribner was shocked by the subject matter and frequent use of profanity. Perkins convinced Hemingway to tone down the language and Scribner's published The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to great critical acclaim.
So, it was actually Charles Scribner who was shocked by the profanity in Mr. Hemingway's book. Charles Scribner was the publisher. He held the purse strings. He wasn't going to publish a book that "shocked" him, so Mr. Perkins advised Mr. Hemingway to tone down the profanity in order to get the book published.

Wikipedia boils it down to this:
A daring book for the times, Perkins fought for it over objections to Hemingway's profanity raised by traditionalists in the firm.
Mr. Perkins actually fought for the more liberal use of language in American publishing.

Already, one paragraph in, we have reason to suspect that the USAToday author has no idea what she's talking about. But all doubt is soon to be removed, worry not. Back to the article:
Publishing used to be a gentleman's profession. But the trend of using profanity in titles — already common in pop songs and even on Broadway — has now spread to books.

In the past year there have been three songs on Billboard's Hot 100 chart with the f-word in the title. Chris Rock starred in the Broadway play The Mother------ With the Hat. And now publishing is awash with best sellers whose unprintable titles are, for the most part, being coyly disguised by asterisks and other symbols over select vowels on the jackets.
The author claims that "the trend of using profanity in titles" is common in pop songs and on Broadway, and then mentions that there have been a total of three whole songs on Billboard's Hot 100 chart with "the f-word" ("fiddlesticks"?) in the title.

In the past year! That's not just common-- that's practically an epidemic. The author also mentions one whole entire play with the word "Mother------" in it. Apparently, "Mother" followed by six dashes constitutes a profanity.

The author then contradicts the very premise of the article's headline, by stating that in fact the titles of these books don't have profanities in them at all-- they're actually "being coyly disguised by asterisks and other symbols over select vowels."

The headline of this USAToday article should actually read,

Bowdlerization is making a splash in book titles.

Here are the covers of the books mentioned in the article:





Maybe your definition of "profanity" is different from mine, but I count exactly one word in those book titles that could be considered as such. The rest of those titles, as the USAToday author points out, "coyly" bowdlerize the titles so as not to offend the likes of... um...

Maxwell Perkins?

This is the world in which we now find ourselves: So infantilized that the sight of "the f-word" on the outside of a book must be covered up lest some of us go into conniptions, and four whole books are enough to show that publishing is "awash" in "profane" titles. Watch out for the tidal wave.