Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bloggers and Beast Blogging: The Shadows and Reflections Edition

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! I know I do.  And yet, not all reflection is a reason for reflux, and if you're not too busy for a bit of light works-looking this weekend, I would highly recommend the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup "(The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)" for a selection of the half-sunk, shattered visages that lie on the lone and level sands of the blogosphere. 

Once again, Batocchio has done a splendid job of keeping the tradition alive, with contributions from writers both celebrated (Roy Edroso, Actor212, the Rude Pundit, Yastreblyansky, Balloon Juice, Lance Mannion) and obscure (World O' Crap).  I always have difficulty digging up anything I would consider the "best" post of the year, so as usual I just defaulted to the one that pissed me off the most: ("Who can forget Sabrina Corgatelli, the sultry, seductive Idaho accountant who went to Africa, wrapped a dead giraffe around her body like a mink stole, and sang 'Blood Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend'? ")

Check out the list of contributors when you get a chance. It's probably one of the best ways to remember a year most of us would rather forget.

But while looking back and often spitting over our shoulder at the departing year is an old habit around here, to certain recent immigrants who are attempting to assimilate, it's a new and strange custom which may take some practice...


SHADOW:  Okay, end of the year, time to take stock. Pros and cons, plus and minuses. Let's see...On the up side, I've got a new home and I'm no longer living in an abandoned building in East Hollywood. Continuing on a positive note, 33% of the new family has a huge, warm, snuggle-worthy orange ass, and another 33% comprises a nice lady who doesn't take an overly strict inventory of her turkey scraps."

SHADOW:  On the downside, the last 33% consists of the guy who wrote Frankenfish.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Annual Wo'C Crappy Christmas Classic


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

A snowman with a hipster goatee and the voice of Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof buttonholes us and insists we chat about the weather. This already seems less like a holiday classic and more like bad bus shelter small talk, but he assures us that if he "lives to be a hundred" he'll never see a worse storm. Who wants to tell him he won't live till March?

"What's the matter?" he demands, gazing into the camera with his coal eyes, "Never seen a talking snowman before." No, it's not that; I mean, I dropped once or twice in high school.

You know, the thing about a snowman is, he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. And when they come at you, they don't seem to be living. Because they're not, they're just malformed effigies made from clumps of bad weather.

Big Daddy spends a few moments talking up the North Pole real estate market and trying to sell us on time shares in Ice Station Zebra, then he admits the whole place is a Honduran-style oligarchy ruled by the Clause Family.  Cut to the interior of their castle, which like everything else was probably built by slave elf labor (but since the elves look more like garden gnomes and less like Legolas, nobody cares).  Mrs. Claus is attempting to force-feed Santa like a goose, but Santa refuses to eat, because the "food" she's serving him is the same shade of purple as the plate, the table, the floor and the walls, so even if he wanted to eat, how would he even find it? Plus, Santa's no fool, and knows that if he cooperates there's a good chance he'll wake up in a bathtub full of ice with his liver harvested for paté (Mrs. Claus likes to do it up fancy for Christmas dinner).

Back to Big Daddy, who's sliding around the snowy grounds of Schloss Klaus, making a weird whisking noise that sounds like somebody running in tight corduroy shorts, or maybe a dog wiping its butt on a shag carpet. He breaks into a chorus of the theme song, which turns out to be a dark incantation that summons the credits.  It's a catchy tune, but we've all heard it, so let's jump ahead to Rudolph's birth.

Whelped in an icy cave, the infant Rudolph is a hyper-intelligent mutant who can speak within seconds of gnawing off his own umbilical chord, but is defaced by a red nose that seems to collect and discharge electrical energy. I expect Professor X to drop by at any moment to recruit him; instead, another meta-human bald guy, Santa, shows up. Santa breaks into a shamelessly boastful song which anticipates the self-aggrandizing excesses of gangsta rap, but he's forced to cut it short when his lavalier mic starts getting feedback from Rudolph's nose.

Rudolph's dad, Donner, lets the faun know that his love is dependent entirely on whether Rudolph makes Santa's sleigh team, and insists his son conceal his true self. Then he demonstrates by smearing a hoof-full of filth on Rudolph's disfiguring snout. Basically the message seems to be: "Son, my love is conditional. Here's some mud."

Big Daddy says, "Well for the first year, the Donner family did a pretty good job of hiding Rudolph's...non-conformity." Yeah, good luck with the rest of the Sixties, Donners.

Anyway, Donner teaches Rudolph how to "fight off enemies" and how to cower behind snowbanks whenever the "Abominable Snow Monster of the North" (is there one of the South? I should check)  is around, because "he's mean, he's nasty, and he hates everything to do with Christmas!" So even though the Abominable Snowman is white, he's still Bill O'Reilly's worst nightmare.

Cut to the 12 Years an Elf set, where a bunch of identical Fae are manufacturing crap for Mattel and Wham-O. They're all meeting quota, except for one blond, strangely Aryan-looking Elf, Hermey, who would prefer to be a dentist, just like Laurence Olivier's Nazi character, Szell, "the White Angel" in Marathon Man.

The Elf Overseer threatens to fire Hermey, but Hermey ignores this and studies a dental school text instead, because he knows you can't fire a slave, only sell them, and since his sexual organs and potency are nowhere near Mandingo's, it would make for a dull auction.

Cut to the Reindeer Games. No, not that crappy movie with Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck; I mean the ungulate Hunger Games where Santa culls the future sled team members from the future venison. Rudolph, who remains closeted to please his father, meets a buff, blond young buck named Fireball, and they become fast friends. Great! Now we can just sit back, sip our egg nog, and wait for this thing to turn into a nasal-labial Crying Game.

Meanwhile, Hermey makes a break for freedom, and we can only hope he doesn't get caught and have part of his foot hacked off with an axe like Kunte Kinte.

Back at the Reindeer Games, Coach Comet has shown up, with his whistle and his clipboard and all the usual impedimenta of petty tyranny that we all remember from junior high. Or is it just me?  Just me? Okay. Anyway, there's a Coach on the premises, which means there's about to be shame, peer pressure, and homosexual panic.

While Coach Comet makes the bucks try and fail to fly so he can get the verbal abuse started, Rudolph meets the comely doe, Clarice.  As Meet Cutes go, it's a decent example, but since his nose is covered, Rudolph has to speak slowly and deliberately, and when he says "Clarice," he sounds a bit like Hannibal Lector with a bad case if the sniffles.

Clarice declares Rudolph "cute", and apparently testosterone acts like a performance-enhancing drug in reindeer, because he leaps farther than any of his classmates. But when the fake nose comes off, Santa rejects him, his classmates mock and bully him, and his father promptly disowns him.  It's a difficult scene to watch, but I still maintain this is the best stop-motion animated "It Gets Better" video.

Clarice serenades Rudolph with an inspirational ballad to prove that she loves him despite his hideous birth defect, but then her dad forbids her to see him, and he must have promised her a car or something, because she immediately agrees.

Rudolph sits on a snowbank that turns out to contain more than the FDA-allowance of Elf. Hermey introduces himself, informing Rudolph that he's a freelance dentist and "independent." Rudolph wants to be independent too, but they both immediately blow it by becoming co-dependent.
"It's a deal, then! I'll inappropriately touch your deformity, and you give me Lyme disease."

They meet a prospector, Yukon Cornelius, who apparently has the same madness that overtook Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, because he likes to scream about various ores, and lick his pick. A passing Abominable Snowman chases them -- all of them, although Rudolph always has to make it all about himself, and blames the situation on his nose for about the tenth time. The others wisely ignore him, and the trio escapes when Yukon Cornelius sets them adrift on an ice floe because yetis are notoriously non-buoyant.

Meanwhile, Donner regrets disowning his son, because he knows the little bastard is probably writing a tell-all book, and then it'll get turned into some stop-motion Mommy Dearest and he'll come off looking like a jerk.  He resolves to search for Rudolph, but won't let his wife accompany him because, let's face it, he's a jerk.  So Mrs. Donner and Clarice decide to look for Rudolph themselves, because the birth control pill has just been introduced and the resulting sexual revolution is undermining the patriarchy.

The ice floe bumps into an island, where our heroes are challenged by a fey Jack-in-the-Box who immediately goes on a drama queeny tirade about how he was banished to the Island of Misfit Toys because "No child wants play with a Charlie in the box!" Well, maybe they just didn't want to play with a Charles Nelson Reilly in the box.  And he's not the only exile. Apparently the island is crowded with slightly irregular playthings who can't get a lift with Santa. Frankly, this is baffling. Considering the toxic crap from China that old Kris Kringle passes out every year, it's obvious he's not overly concerned about a little lead paint on a choo-choo train, or a teddy bears stuffed with fiberglas insulation.*

Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius evidently suck so bad that even factory second toys don't want them around, but they vow to stick together. Then Rudolph remembers his name is in the title and why the hell should he have to share the screen with these two losers? So he abandons his new-found friends and sneaks off to enjoy a montage and grow some antlers.

Eventually, Rudolph goes home, but discovers his parents moved and didn't leave a forwarding address.  Even worse, there's a huge storming coming and it's only two days till Christmas and he hasn't even started his shopping.

He goes to the cave of the Abominable Snow Monster, because I guess that's always the first place you should look when your parents secretly move away while you're off at summer camp. The Monster has a fistful of Clarice and looks like he's about to eat her, although Donner and his wife don't seem even remotely concerned (maybe he promised them the wishbone). Rudolph charges and pierces the creature in the ass; the Monster retaliates by coldcocking him with a stalactite.

Just then, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius show up. Hermey gets down on all fours and squeals like Ned Beatty, and the suddenly aroused Monster lumbers outside, where Yukon crushes his skull with a boulder. Then Hermey uses ice tongs to forcibly remove all the creature's teeth, as the show -- like most animated holiday specials from that period -- makes a brief foray into body horror.

Yukon takes the opportunity to bully the mutilated beast until he and his dogs fall off a cliff.  The reindeer all go back to Santa's plantation, where Donner, Comet, and rest of the future venison are forced to eat crow. Happily, the Abominable Snowman broke Yukon Cornelius's fall, and in return he gets the yeti a job putting the stars on the top of Christmas trees, which is seasonal work so he'll still probably send the summer on disability.

Meanwhile, the storm has arrived as forecast by the second act, and Santa is forced to "cancel Christmas."  But his sponsors ain't gonna allow that to happen! Hell, Norelco alone owns Santa, and if he shows the slightest concern for worker safety, they'll threaten to pull that lucrative series of commercials where the old geezer snowboards around on an electric shaver

Under pressure from the big eastern syndicate that runs Christmas, Santa agrees to exploit Rudolph's deformity and force the rest of his employees to risk their lives. It's heartwarming, but if this holiday special had been made after 1971, OSHA would've shut this fly-by-night operation down before the first station break.

(By the way, according to the end credits sequence, Santa doesn't come down your chimney into your home, he just flies around while one of his elves shoves toys and dolls off the sleigh so they plunge to earth and hit the ground like sacks of wet cement.  Which is why I never say "Merry Christmas" at this festive time of year, just "Heads Up!")

Okay, I was lying: I do want to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our fellow Crappers. And particularly to Sheri, who must be Commander-in-Chief of the War on Christmas by now, because she never spends the season productively, complaining about the important things like nativity scenes or Starbucks cups, and instead wastes her time like this:
I had to do two previously scheduled kitten adoptions and care for some animals out in the country, so I missed my family Christmas Eve get-together. I tried to spread holiday cheer by giving all the cats extra canned food, and by giving some treats and love to some dogs on the farm that don't get much attention. Then I came home and tried to warm up while reading FB posts from my friends. So, a Christmas Eve just like the one Mary and Joseph spent, in that there were animals, and straw, and substandard housing, and the Internet. Merry Christmas, everyone.
I stole this paragraph from her Facebook page just to remind myself that even if I had nine lives, I'd never be half the person she is (and I bet she's still on her first).

Merry Christmas, guys!

*For more on this scene, and why it makes absolutely no sense, check out Bill S.'s Anatomy of a Plot Hole entry: On the Island of Misfit Toys.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holiday Programming Note

As Sheri once proclaimed, "We have traditions for a reason." Of course, she was talking about our habit of defacing Happy Birthday posts with photos of Ann Coulter, so it might have been less a Fiddler On The Roof-style paean to cultural continuity, and more the kind of rationalization you'd get from a Bond villain. Nevertheless, we do take our customs seriously here, and the Annual Wo'C Crappy Christmas Movie Review should be posted early Christmas morning. This year's selection is a timeless classic known to all, so check your stocking.

In the meantime, here's some more cats snuggling:


Monday, December 21, 2015

Special Pre-Friday Beast Blogging: The Alex Jones Edition

Because the previous photographs were fuzzy and indistinct, some people have claimed that there is no Shadow. That Shadow is a hoax! An imaginary story! A false flag operation designed to take your guns and scratch your couch! But only the last of those is true, since -- after twelve days -- we now have incontrovertible proof of cat-to-cat snuggling!
It's a Christmas miracle!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "Throwing a Hissy Cross-Fit" Edition

Thanks to Hank for the great exegesis of Hitler: Dead or Alive, which I previously thought was just an attempt to prove Schrödinger's famous thought experiment using this cat:
Although I'm still bummed by the discovery that Ward Bond, a guy I've enjoyed in small doses in various films was a member of Sam Wood's Motion Picture Alliance, if only because it reminds me of this strenuous defense of the Blacklist by Ben-Peter (the Twerp) Terpstra, who writes the way Ward Bond processes oxygen into CO2, which is to say, unsuccessfully.

But getting back to good writers: if you're read any of our friend Jim Donahue's film articles (you'll find a couple linked here), you'll know how well he qualifies for that encomium, and will be happy, as I was, to hear he's got a new piece out. From Page to Screen: The Two Faces of Dr. Lao is a fascinating study of how the dark, disturbing, and somewhat racist 1935 novel The Circus of Dr. Lao became the Technicolorful (and somewhat racist) 1964 George Pal pic, The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.  Click on over to The Daily Grindhouse and check it out.

Meanwhile, back at Chez Crap, The Kitten Acclimatization continues, as Shadow tests her limits, both physically and intellectually:
"Okay, so...I have a mouthful of Moondoggie's fur, and I'm not quite sure how to proceed. But in Auntie Mame, Rosalind Russell says 'Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death,' so I guess I should probably eat it."

"Hm...You know what? Rosalind Russell is a damn liar."

But Shadow isn't the only one going through a period of adjustment...Moondoggie has done so much unaccustomed and uncharacteristic running in the past week that it's like somebody digitally inserted Garfield into the training montage from Chariots of Fire.
"How can I get a charley horse if I'm a cat?"

UPDATE:  Kathy asked the Big Questions: "But does Moondoggie wash Shadow's face? Do they shadow-box (oooo- a pun!)" to which I can only respond, "That's what she said," because that is, in fact, what she said. To take the questions in reverse order, however: yes they do, although it's conducted at a speed too fast for my poor camera phone. Shadow's favorite tactic is to slip under the bed and then bat and kick the dust ruffle until Moondoggie can't resist, and starts gingerly smacking it. Then she dives through the curtain and tackles him. The poor dope falls for it every time.

As for face washing, yep, that started the very first day they met:

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Name Is Bond – Ward Bond

By Hank Parmer

Hitler - Dead or Alive (1942)
Story by Sam Neuman. Screenplay by Kurt Brown and Sam Neuman. Directed by Nick Grinde.

I couldn't have been more than five when I first viewed this film, making it one of my earliest movie memories. Not that I remembered any details about it, much less the title, since I only saw it that once. Mostly, what I recalled was that some guys were out to get Hitler, and the hero died by firing squad at the end. It obviously made quite an impression on me back then, to have vaguely stuck with me over so many years after just one viewing. 

So much so that when I recently discovered the title of the film, and found it was in the public domain, I had to watch it again. It soon became apparent that, at five years of age, my appreciation of the finer points of movie-making was not all that highly developed. After reviewing auteur Mark Atkins' inane mashup of Good War cliches and Medieval monsters, P-51 -- Dragon Fighter, I thought it might be instructive to revisit this ripe sample of period cheese.

Especially since fascism seems to be all the rage, this season.

As often happens with cheap-and-quickies of any era, the concept behind Hitler - Dead or Alive seems to have been inspired by two fairly big-budget films of the year before: First, the serio-comedy All Through the Night, which starred Bogart as a New York City gangster who dukes it out with Nazi saboteurs led by Conrad Veidt.  (It was a time when everyone was ready to do their bit, see? Even thugs and mugs, because that louse Schicklgruber -- the biggest mobster of them all -- was muscling in on everybody's racket.)

This movie, and the final scene from the Fritz Lang thriller Man Hunt, when Walter Pidgeon -- playing a former big game hunter who by this point in the film, in addition to all the usual motivations, has a very personal score to settle -- parachutes into Germany on a lone mission to stalk and kill the Führer.

So why not have wisecracking mobsters turned bounty hunters do the same thing? Genius, I tell you!

Quentin Tarantino acknowledged H-DoA as an inspiration for Inglorious Basterds, but don't let that get your hopes up. Just to give you some idea how far down the food chain this production originated, Ward Bond was tapped for the lead.

Bond may be familiar to some of my readers from his leading role as bluff, irascible “Major Seth Adams” in the classic TV Western Wagon Train, or from minor to occasionally supporting character roles in many a film from the 1930s through the 50s, most notably for John Ford and Frank Capra. Just like Fred Thompson was born to play a mush-mouthed pile of deep-fried Southern cornpone, Ward Bond specialized in playing big, beefy guys (often Irish) with a loud voice and a short fuse -- but typically a heart of gold underneath that rough exterior. (In real life, though, he was a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Look up “Ward Bond” and “Motion Picture Alliance” if you want to see what I'm talking about. He was one creepy, Red-baiting, anti-Semitic icehole.)

Speaking of which, one of the striking things about this movie is that even though the majority of the action supposedly takes place at or near Dachau, Jews are never mentioned.


Anyway, on with the show:

As the opening credits run, we're treated to a medley of sprightly patriotic themes: Yankee Doodle ... Stars and Stripes ForeverColumbia - The Gem of the OceanDixie ... oh, wait.

Two newshounds watch a B-24 taxi and take off from a field in sunny CA. They admit to sharing a major man-crush on pilot Johnny Stevens.

The airplane is the first of a million dollars worth of bombers reclusive millionaire Howard Hu -- er, Samuel Thornton is donating to the Army. Their nose for a hot scoop tells them there's a bigger story here, and they're not going to be fobbed off with a mimeographed press release!

They go straight to see Thornton. (Played by Russell Hicks, a tall, distinguished-looking actor who often turns up in films of the time as a sharp character -- for instance, the con man who sells worthless mine stocks to W. C. Fields in The Bank Dick -- or the vaguely phony ally who turns out to be a villain in the last reel.) His secretary isn't inclined to let them bother the boss, but while one of the reporters puts his fist suggestively in his coat pocket (reporters were tough cookies, back in them days) the other claims he's Johnny Stevens'  BFF. Well, why didn't he say so in the first place?

"It'd be a real shame if something happened to that fancy stapler, now wouldn't it, sister?"

Just like everyone else, Thornton's a big fan of Johnny Stevens. So he makes an exception to his no-reporters rule and allows them into his laboratory, where he's been puttering around with his flasks and test tubes and Bunsen burners. Ushered into the presence of the great man, Johnny's "buddy" reveals their unbreakable bond of brotherhood was forged when the reporter met him and had a few words with him, before Johnny climbed into his airplane.

The reporter desperately covers for having played somewhat fast-and-loose with the truth by buttering up the millionaire. Not only did he give a million dollars' worth of bombers to the Army, but a few months ago, he offered the same amount to anyone who could bring in Hitler -- dead or alive. (Not even three minutes on the clock, and you've worked the title in. Good job, Sam and Kurt!)

The reporters demand to hear the story straight from the horse's mouth. Thornton decides he'd best toss these slavering newshounds a meaty story, if he wants to get any work done. He explains he's donating the bombers as "a monument to three men men who undertook to satisfy a bitter and thoughtless hatred" -- Thornton's hatred, he says, of Hitler. He knows better now, and who our real enemy is.

With this, the film dives into a flashback narrated by Thornton: One day, shortly after he put that bounty on Hitler, he was experimenting in the laboratory, dictating notes to his secretary (or so he claims) when three men appeared in the outer office.

Their dialog quickly establishes them as lovable hoods: Joe "The Book" Conway (Paul Fix - the brains of the outfit) begs Steve Maschick (Ward Bond) to forget about it -- there are lots of easier ways of making money. Hans 'Dutch' Haverman (perennial stooge Warren Hymer - muscle and gap-toothed comic relief) knows of a bank they could be knocking off. But Steve -- who makes like he's too tough to need a criminal nickname, yet is deeply hurt because they never gave him one -- reminds them he was never interested in the small-time stuff.

Since they're a fairly polite trio of gangsters, they knock on the door of the laboratory first and wait. The secretary answers, but tries to blow them off by claiming her boss is busy with an experiment. Steve and Dutch are itching to start right in with a little intimidation, but Joe saves the situation by introducing everyone nicely and informing her they're here about the bounty on Der Führer.

While the secretary goes off to clear it with her employer, the boys fondly reminisce about the good times they once had: Penthouses and dames ... diamond-studded swizzle sticks ... all the goniffs they could eat ...

Thornton receives them in his laboratory.

When Steve demands to know if the bounty is the real deal, Thornton explains he's doing it because the Gestapo murdered his brother, an exchange professor in Germany. He's deposited the money in an escrow account, to be paid out to anyone who brings in Hitler or proof that he's dead. Steve declares himself convinced Thornton's for real.

However, Thornton's not so sure about the boys' qualifications for the job.

Joe proudly points to the back pages of today's newspaper: Steve was once a big-time underworld kingpin. He and his two lieutenants have just been released, after eleven years on The Rock. (I bet Dwayne Johnson is mighty relieved.) The article highlights the gang's activities -- heists, rub-outs and assorted mayhem -- providing the boys with a jim-dandy prospectus for this potential client.

Thornton's impressed -- what dynamic businessman wouldn't be? -- but not completely sold. Steve closes the deal by pointing out that Adolf's just another mobster. Steve says he knows all the angles, and when he takes a job, he gets results.

Possibly because he's itching to get back to experimenting with his secretary, Thornton gives in. He promises he'll have the contract drawn up in the morning. But no dice: The Chief of Police has given the boys just 24 hours to clear out of town. Since it appears to be the only way to get rid of these bozos, Thornton calls in his lawyer.

After drawing up the agreement, contingent upon them producing Der Führer or satisfactory proof of his demise, Thornton's lawyer comments that it's probably not enforceable. Joe counters with some blatant nonsense, claiming what they're doing is insuring Hitler for a million dollars, with Steve, Joe and Dutch as his beneficiaries in the event of his death. The lawyer is highly impressed by Joe's legal acumen. He wants to know where “The Book” studied the law.

"Eleven years -- at Alcatraz," grins the bespectacled gangster.

Joe thinks they should make some arrangement about the money, if they manage to off Hitler but don't make it back to collect. Dutch suggests they could have a swell funeral, but Steve isn't worried: With a million bucks waiting for him, he's coming back. But if they don't, he says, build us a monument.

Ah, but the lawyer brings up an important point: How will the boys know they've got the real Hitler? It's a well-known fact he uses doubles.

"Don't you worry your pretty little heads about that," replies Steve. "I'll know him when I get my hands on him."

Well, who could possibly argue with that?

The lawyer suggests they may run into a bit of a problem with the language, but Steve's ready for that one: He and the boys used to run a beer racket in Milwaukee. That means they know how to beat the stuffing out of barkeeps, toss bombs through windows, mow down rivals and hijack their shipments in more than one language. We'll make out fine, he assures Thornton and his lawyer.

With these inconsequential details resolved, the contract is signed and the boys are ready to leave. They plan to do a stick-up for old time's sake, just for a little traveling cash, you understand. But Thornton says he wants them to concentrate on the job at hand. So he forks over an advance.

While heading out the door, Steve has a bright idea: Since we're already gonna be over there, he asks, how much for Mussolini? Greedy … greedy …. get out of here, you nut!

The boys hop a train to Canada and join the RCAF. They're sent to England, where they train as paratroops. One night they're up for a practice jump in a minimalist plane set, and the pilot is -- Johnny Stevens! Admit it: You thought the story had forgotten about him.

The boys are quick to seize their opportunity. They hustle the captain out the exit -- fortunately, he's wearing a parachute -- and inform Johnny at gun-point that this plane has a new destination: Germany! In the first of many hints that Johnny is a bit deficient in the brains department, he doesn't even think to point out that if they shoot him, they won't have anyone to fly the plane. So it's off we go to the Third Reich!

While cruising over Germany, they're attacked by a cheesy stock footage simulation of a Luftwaffe BF-109. (I think it's actually a pre-war Curtiss P-36.) Wedging himself in the door, Steve casually knocks it down with a quick burst from his tommygun.

"Last week I shot down a squadron of Stuka dive-bombers with my Greenie Stick-M cap gun!"

(This hapless pilot, Manfred "Crazy Eyes" von Gestunken, had actually been voted "Most Likely to Get Shot Down in an Utterly Improbable Fashion" by the graduating class at flight school.)

What adds even more to the hilarity of this sequence is watching Steve attempt to simulate the recoil from his non-muzzle-flashing, invisible-shell-casing-spitting Thompson submachine gun by jerking his shoulder. Completely out of sync with the sound effect, of course, because let's face it: the only way one can get any Whiter than Ward Bond is to be born an albino, in rural Ohio. The boy just ain't got rhythm.

With superb timing, their airplane chooses this moment to run out of gas. Everybody bails out.

Friday, December 11, 2015

New Cat. Who Dat?

Not to start things off on a somber note, but it's been a little over a year since we lost Riley (September 11, 2014, to be precise, but who's counting?), and her absence still generates a considerable amount of phantom pain. I've endured the death of a pet before, as I know most of you have, and it always hits hard, but with Riley it still feels like she left us only yesterday. Maybe it's because I'm getting old, and my emotions, like my bones, are fragile and slow to knit; or maybe it's because I just loved that damn cat so much, with her big brain, and her fussy sense of decorum, and her weird, underpants-huffing fetishes.

So I've been kind of a pussy about getting another pussy, and Mary hasn't pushed it either, mostly because of the cost. The first cat I ever adopted, Wild Thing, leaped from behind a dumpster on 10th Street in the East Village and scrambled up my leg during a torrential downpour, and the only expenses I incurred involved a trip to the bodega on Avenue C for a box of Tender Vittles, a bag of Johnny Cat, and a tin of Band-Aids for my punctured shin. So basically, cats are like heroin -- first one's free, kid.  But now it costs a couple yards to bring home a rescue animal, and as we're still paying off Mary's surgery, since some of the bills arrived after we'd lost our insurance, we both agreed that taking on any additional financial burden could and should wait.

Moondoggie, however, changed our minds...

He adored Riley from the first moment he saw her, and made it his life's work to chase her around the apartment like Pepe Le Pew until she would finally, through a combination of sheer exhaustion and pure exasperation, permit him to lay his head on her ass.
And I don't think he's ever gotten over her loss. For one thing, the two of them used to delight in pre-empting my recliner for snuggling purposes, but he hasn't gotten up on it once since she's been gone. And the changes to his personality and habits have only become more pronounced lately. Where once Moondoggie was the cat mostly likely to chill and Netflix, now he's a bundle of anxieties. If it starts to get dark before Mary returns from work, he goes into a mewling, pacing fit of insecurity. If we both leave the apartment at the same time, he becomes convinced we're never returning, and falls into a gran mal episode of drama queeny abandonment issues.

We had to face the fact that he's just no good at lone wolfing it. He needed a friend.

So on Sunday, while trying and failing to track down a kitten Mary saw at an adoption event several weeks ago, we discovered a four-month old black cat living in a plexiglass cage at Petco, and after gingerly extracting her for a test hug, found there was much purring and rejoicing.  Which was followed by an incredibly lengthy application form cum Meyers-Briggs test, and a home visit by two animal social workers to determine if we were fit parents. (I don't mean the social workers were animals, although that would've been incredibly cool; just imagine getting an inspection tour by a dapper, bipedal tiger like Captain Marvel's associate Tawky Tawny).  Anyway, it seems we must have passed, since we now have a new kitty on staff:
Meet Shadow

According to her medical records, "Shadow was found with her mother and siblings in a building being abandoned near Hollywood and Sunset when she was about three weeks old."

We were briefed on all the introduction protocols, how to keep them separate at first, etc., but the instant Mary put the pet taxi on the floor, Moondoggie appointed himself the Welcome Wagon, and flopped down in front of the open cage door.
"Say, you're new in town, aren't you?"

The hilariously karmic element to this story (or what Mary is calling "payback") is that Shadow's reaction to Moondoggie is exactly the same as Moondoggie's reaction to his first glimpse of Riley. She's spellbound.
"Who is that gorgeous hunk of marmalade man?"

I really hope that book title doesn't prove prophetic.  Anyway, despite it being rather a cliche, we decided to keep the name Shadow because that's basically what she does -- shadows Moondoggie all over the apartment like a private dick -- and because the portmanteau couple name, "MoonShadow," is ready made. And comes with it's own theme song. Written by a guy named Cat!

Moondoggie remains, as he has always been, the gentlest of souls, without a mean bone in his body, and has been nothing but welcoming to the new addition (even when she stole his bed -- as seen in yesterday's photo -- he just sighed and stretched out on the floor). But I gotta say, in the last 48 hours, Shadow has run him ragged; and even when she's not chasing his tail, she's staring adoringly at him to the point where he's starting to feel self-conscious.
"Finally, I've got a moment to scratch--"

"--my--"

"Huh."

Of course, one never knows how any relationship will develop over time; but while I'm no cockeyed optimist, there is one thing which gives me hope that it might all work out... 
For the first time in fourteen months, Moondoggie is curled up again on his favorite chair.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pre-Post-Friday Beast Blogging

Over the past year I've gradually abandoned Wo'C's once lively custom of beast blogging, largely because Moondoggie isn't really a solo act, so it would be like mounting a production of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boy. But it feels like it's been too long, and while I hate to recycle photos, I hope you'll forgive me for posting this one, which I took way back in, oh, about two hours ago.


Dun!...Dun!...DUUUUUUUUN! 

More tomorrow.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Happy Birthday, Carl! I Got You a Holiday Holocaust!

Last weekend saw the annual Hollywood Christmas Parade (known in our innocent Southern Californian youths as "The Santa Claus Lane Parade", or "The Most Boring Thing On Channel 11 Besides Those I Love Lucy reruns).  A not terribly beloved and kind of annoying local tradition, it was started in 1928 by the Hollywood merchants association in an attempt to boost retail trade and turn the eponymous Boulevard into a storied shopping destination like New York's Fifth Avenue. The City of Los Angeles pitched in, capping the lamp-posts with faux Christmas trees and even swapping out the regulation street signs for wooden banners that read "Santa Claus Lane", and looked as though they'd been carved by elf slave labor in some polar sweat shop.
Hollywood Boulevard, looking east, 1938. Happily, every building you see still stands. Unhappily, they're all owned by the Church of Scientology.

Sadly, the parade never achieved the cachet and notoriety of its crosstown rival, the Tournament of Roses, and as the Boulevard degenerated into a haven for hookers, porn flicks, and dime bag dealers, the quality of the Grand Marshals also declined, from movie stars to soap stars to former hosts of half-forgotten local kids' shows who retired abruptly under mysterious circumstances.  Still, the tradition continues, and we continue to pay attention to it, for like the frost upon the pumpkin, the Hollywood Christmas Parade is one of the two classic signs that Christmas is nigh. The other, of course, is Carl's birthday, which like Jesus's was also foretold by Persian astrologers, although due to light pollution making it harder to navigate by the stars, they no longer make house calls.

Oh! Wait...There's one other Yuletide omen indigenous to our neighborhood, and that's this teepee-shaped pile of raw lumber, which first showed up in 2012, prompting us to ask the question:

Public art installation, or prefabricated bonfire?

This tangle of two-by-fours has appeared outside our local hipster church for the past three holiday seasons and hasn't burned yet, so I guess that answers the question: it's not a bonfire.

At least, not yet.

This year they flocked the tree -- or at least whitewashed it -- and added lights, which is all well and good...

...until you peek inside and see a jungle of sub-code wiring that just screams "Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire."
Wait...Those aren't power strips just dangling by plugs and extension cords, are they?

Why yes they are. And the metal ladder in the middle of it all is a nice touch too.

I don't think I've seen anyone begging to get electrocuted this bad since the accident that made Kurt Russell a genius in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.  This should make the next rain storm much more interesting...

But I digress. Habitually. Pretty much as a career, in fact; I should probably have it printed up on business cards. What I meant to say was that today is the natal anniversary of our good friend Carl, AKA Actor212, and I feel moved to write something in his honor, because otherwise he'll just keep giving me crap on Facebook about my low productivity. But really it's a pleasure, because Carl is a friend of long standing, a man of many parts, most of them Finnish; a gifted underwater (and over-water) photographer, an eloquent blogger, an unfailingly witty commenter, a doting father to his cat, ThumbPer, and a virile, if virtual ladies man -- at least on Wonkette ("Of course, all Wonkette commenters make vague flirting noises at me — explicit ones, if they’re Actor212").

Mary is struggling with a particularly pukey style of flu at the moment, so I'm going to skip the usual entree and go straight to dessert: Finnish actress Anna Easteden, whose name is just one preposition away from the title of a James Dean movie.


And of course, what postpartum celebration would be complete without the obligatory Sexy Birthday Lizards!
Madagascar Giant Day Geckos courtesy of Animals With Party Hats.

So please join me in wishing the happiest of birthdays to Carl, and if you're coming to our local Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, please wear rubber-soled shoes and bring some marshmallows and a chemical extinguisher.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

On The Island of Misfit Toys

"It's a great part," she tells me. "You'll be playing Aslan!" Then I get to the costume fitting and they stick me with Brian Blessed's wings from Flash Gordon and a crown from Burger King, and I chased that casting director all around the parking lot, snapping at her hamstrings before I finally brought her down with my powerful jaws and feasted on her carcass.

By Bill S.

HERBIE: Hold it now, hold it. You're sentient toys that can sing, dance, and carry on a conversation? Guys, that's way cooler than any of the toys we make at Santa's workshop.

RUDOLPH: Cooler than any toy you can buy in a store, too.

HERBIE: Yeah, I think you were all brought to this island to eliminate competition.

CHARLIE IN THE BOX: So...we're not misfits?

RUDOLPH: I don't think so.

DOLLY: Not even me?


HERBIE: How exactly are you supposed to be a misfit?

DOLLY: It isn't obvious?

HERBIE: Not really.

RUDOLPH: In the 50 years this cartoon's been airing, nobody has every figured that out.

DOLLY: Really? Guys, come on. LOOK at me!

HERBIE: Sorry, drawing a blank.

RUDOPLH: What are we supposed to be looking at?

DOLLY (exasperated sigh): I don't have a nose!

RUDOLPH and HERBIE: Ooooohhhh....

DOLLY: Yeah, "Ooohhh". Kinda puts your problem in perspective, doesn't it? I'd love to have that honker. Or ANY honker.


HERBIE: Eh, it's not so much of a blessing when you're standing downwind of Yukon Cornelius.

RUDOLPH: Especially if he's had chili for lunch.

HERBIE: Especially if you're an elf.