I’d like a footlong cold cut combo please on wheat
Pepper jack cheese, not toasted
Lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, olives, jalapenos, and banana peppers
Mustard, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper
Chips and a small drink, for here please.
I’d like a footlong cold cut combo please on wheat
Detective Paper held this morning’s issue of The Corralberg Chronicle in his callused hands as he sipped a venti cup of decaf coffee. After battling insomnia for multiple months, Paper’s doctor had recommended he switch to decaf, which he found insipid and bland, much unlike the headline on the front page: “Corralberg Bowling Alley Reports Record Number of Gutterballs.” Corralberg historically had the best bowlers in the entire state of Calpurnia, so how could they manage to achieve so many gutterballs with so much athletic talent? Paper didn’t know, but he sensed a conspiracy and hoped the rest of his detective agency did too.
“Pass me the cream,” said Officer Laura Palmhair, Paper’s partner in criminal investigation with benefits, from across the grungy table. Their mutual friend, Junior Detective Bernard, sat hunched in the corner of the room, content with a cold Pop Tart.
“Sure,” said Paper, sliding the condiment across the table. “Laura, how would you like to investigate the Corralberg gutterballs with me?”
“I don’t know, I remember they weren’t pleased when we attempted to investigate the firebombing of their Little Italy back in June,” said Laura, seasoning her coffee with a few dashes of cream. “They have a very rigid, not to mention religious police force who want no foreign detectives embarking on their soil.”
“They did,” corrected Paper. “Unfortunately for them, the Corralberg killer, Keef Smite, offed their two most intrusive officers, Conner and Dustin last year before being given a lifetime sentence in the Tijuana Jail.”
“How’d he get to Tijuana again?” asked Laura.
“It’s very complicated and confusing. I found a book about it in the library a while back and quit reading after the first twelve pages or so,” said Paper. “Same way everyone gets to Tijuana, I guess. But that’s not important now.”
Bernard finished his Pop Tart and eagerly smiled at his two superiors. “Can I go to Corralberg too?”
“Ask your mother,” joked Paper, neglecting the fact that Bernard was currently in his mid-20’s and long free from his overprotective mother’s clutches. “I don’t see much of a problem with it, as long as you remain completely discreet. No using skinheads’ heads as bowling balls or any monkey business like that.”
“Why would I do that?” asked Bernard. “Just because I’m Jewish, huh?”
“God, boy, it was just a joke,” said Paper. “We like to have fun here in Brixton, much as they do in Corralberg. Or San Narciso. Frankly, everyone everywhere likes to have fun, except you for some reason. I don’t know why that is, and we all have more important things to find out. So are you coming or not?”
“I’m coming,” said Bernard. “I haven’t been to Corralberg since my days of Jewish summer camp high in the Corralberg Hills.”
“You were high?” laughed Paper.
“No, the hills were,” snapped Laura. “C’mon, Paper, no more goofing around. We have a mystery to solve and the next bus to Corralberg leaves in 30 minutes, unless you want to walk 600 miles and end up sleeping in hotels in crap towns like Kling City.”
“I’ve got a cousin in Kling City,” said Bernard.
“Well, Bernard makes a pretty convincing argument for Kling City, but I’ll be danged if I’m not taking the bus,” said Paper, and joined his colleagues on a bus trip to Corralberg.
“Dang good decaf here in Corralberg,” said Paper as he sipped perhaps the best decaf he had ever tasted the next morning in the Corralberg Motel.
“Dang good cherry scone,” said Laura.
“Dang good nut log,” said Bernard. “That nut log lady really knew what she was talking about.”
“So how far is it to the Corralberg Bowling Alley?” asked Paper.
“I just got off the phone with a guy named Dave Warson, who’s a youth bowling instructor there. He said that we can’t get in without lifetime memberships,” said Laura.
“Lifetime memberships? What kind of hogwash is that?” exclaimed Paper. “I’ve probably been to three dozen bowling alleys in my life, and I’ve never paid a single one of them a cent in memberships.”
“Paper, don’t worry about money. I already told you, I got enough from my brother Nick’s inheritance.”
“I feel like that’s dirty money, but what the hey,” said Paper, who had always had disdain for Laura’s brother Nick.
“No, dirty money is what the Corralberg Bowling Alley is probably making, fixing the bowling alleys so that even the most talented of bowlers consistently wind up with gutter balls instead of strikes or even spares. The lifetime membership fee is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Laura.
“Have you ever bowled?” Paper asked Bernard.
“A couple of times in college,” said Bernard. “Didn’t your parents die in a bowling competition?”
“Jeez, talk about insensitive questions,” snapped Paper. “No, they died en route to a bowling competition in the Bermuda Triangle. Can you please never talk to me about that again?”
“I’m sorry, my curiosity got the best of me again,” said Bernard.
“Let’s hope that it doesn’t happen again,” said Paper.
The Farrelly brothers’ darling dimwitted duo of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) are back, and this time the laughs are few and far behind.
When Lloyd, who has spent the past 20 years faking catatonia in a Rhode Island psychiatric institution, is approached by Harry about his own pressing medical concerns—a desperate need for a kidney transplant—Lloyd declines in typical inconsiderate carelessness for the only human being on Earth who even gives him the time of day, so the numbskulls set off to find Harry’s old flame, the intrepidly named Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner), whom they believe to be the mother of Harry’s long-lost daughter Penny (Rachel Melvin), who rivals Lloyd and Harry in her idiocy.
However, in ways which succeed at nothing but mild nostalgia of the first film, the shabby plot soon convolutes into a combination of insipid bathroom humor and both uninspired and ultimately irrelevant villainous threats from bumbling antagonists Adele Pinchlow (Laurie Holden) and Travis Lippencott (Rob Riggle), who plot to put the nitwit pair out of their misery.
Even devotees of the first Dumb and Dumber will likely shake their heads in shame at this shoddy excuse for a sequel, as it easily fails to live up to both its predecessor and subsequent Farrelly brothers efforts such as There’s Something About Mary and Kingpin (the poor man’s Big Lebowski).
While the first film at least featured amusing throwaway dialogue like “the Monkees, they were a major influence on the Beatles” as well as memorably asinine soundtrack material including Green Jelly’s piss-take on “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” the Butthole Surfers’ reverb-heavy caricature of Donovan’s drippy hippie anthem “The Hurdy Gurdy Man,” the sub-Primus bass funk of the Lupins’ “Take,” and even an unexpected appearance by Nick Cave’s sinister epic “Red Right Hand,” audiophiles and audiophobes alike will find little to appreciate here except a brief reprise of Apache Indian’s reggae goof “Boom Shak-A-Lak,” the unofficial theme song of the first film.
Indeed, every flashback to the 1994 film becomes progressively staler, from a tired reference to the infamous “most annoying sound in the world” to a post-credits cameo by retired hockey player Cam Neely as the trashy trucker Sea Bass. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The coffeehouse tonight was a living hell
When the attractive young barista called me a monkey
And I forcefully retreated to the jungle
In pursuit of bananas and cream.
While we may barely glance at some people
Each of them plays a vital role in one of our other lives.
Even though we only meet other week
I find my lost pulse in her
Every conversation brings me back to life
I become the man I used to be
The man people love and miss
With bounce in his step and a smile on his face
And when she leaves me, I start to die again
Wither into nothingness, feel less than a life
Still I do it for her when she’s gone
Because I know she wants me to carry on.
Jennifer wears a leather coat which she received from an abusive old flame
She turned to me for guidance on solving her troubles and I did quite well, I admit
But when the couple came to part, she turned away from me and I stood alone in the cold new mist
Praying to God for a leather coat of my own.
The history of my fascination (if not obsession) with the Fox Network’s prime-time animated sitcom The Simpsons is a long and complicated one, and yet not unlike that of many of my peers’ in the 1990s. I was, for reasons unknown for me throughout my early childhood, forbidden from watching those bug-eyed, jaundiced (or has Homer’s job as a safety inspector at the nuclear power plant affected the pigmentations and phenotypes of even guest stars and other newcomers to Springfield?), often overweight, inept, and inane cartoon freaks until the tender age of 12. However, in what can only be referred to as a slight rebellious phase of mine, I sneaked at least 100 episodes of the series into my consciousness behind my parents’ backs in sixth grade, perspiring fingers nailed to a remote, ready but not eager for the act of stealthily changing the channel to Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network the second I heard a creak of a door. Though retrospectively, such “kiddie fare” as Rocko’s Modern Life or Animaniacs (one of few cartoons my folks tolerated due to its often educational nature) was nearly as subversive and satirical as the edgy hijinks Matt Groening offered, neither series would likely exist without the antics of a blue collar, hairless couch potato and his long-suffering blue-haired wife.
It is important to note that when I refer to The Simpsons, I am only referring to the hundred or so episodes which aired between December 1989 and either the tenth or eleventh season of the show. By 2014, Fox’s star racehorse of a sitcom is now a feeble nag being beaten to death yet again by more relevant animated series such as Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, Regular Show, and Adventure Time (not to mention Groening’s experimental but unconventionally heartfelt science fiction follow-up series Futurama, which was a close contender for the subject of this essay, and earned a well-deserved Annie Award for its heartbreaking second series finale “Meanwhile” despite Comedy Central’s decision to re-cancel the only decent cartoon it had left). But the original nine or ten seasons of The Simpsons are so crucial for understanding (but not always appreciating) western culture and phenomena that they remain a mainstay of the young American consciousness. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to state that nearly everyone under 40 knows who Krusty the Clown, Ralph Wiggum, or Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is despite none of the aforementioned characters being members of the Simpson family. Due to their archetypal nature, the characters are not only engraved in our pop cultural repertoires, but in our real lives as well. We all know a saccharinely cheerful pest like Homer’s next door neighbor Ned Flanders, or have had a bitter, jaded teacher like Edna Krabappel (whose outstanding portrayal left millions of viewers sobbing years after the show went into decline with the death of her voice actress Marcia Wallace in the past months). Those of us who are into the geekier things in life (such as myself, natura-diddly) may recognize Springfield’s hulking Hulk hoarder the Comic Book Guy as uncannily resembling virtually every comic book store owner in America in both girth and snark. And let us not undermine the fact that within America’s Generation X and beyond, there are countless individuals who can drop dozens upon dozens of Simpsons quotes and trivia at the drop of a donut (as well as a somewhat sad but occasionally amusing group of people on the Internet who are seemingly unable to communicate in anything but Simpsons references). I may wish that The Simpsons had been canceled fifteen years ago, but I am more than glad to be a Simpsons fan after all the damage done.
When Seth MacFarlane began collaborating with Neil deGrasse Tyson for his reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, critics and fans alike were flabbergasted that MacFarlane could so comfortably transition from the lowbrow antics of Family Guy and Ted to becoming a titan of the mind. Similarly, his sophomore live-action feature-length effort, the western spoof A Million Ways to Die in the West, is hardly sophomoric, gradually revealing itself to be the closest thing to Blazing Saddles that Generation Y could hope to claim. True, MacFarlane’s penchant for toilet humor can cause one to forget how groundbreaking Mel Brooks’ campfire scene was in 1974, and his Native Americans speak in name-droppings of celebrities and MacFarlane collaborators like Mila Kunis instead of Yiddish slurs, but the unapologetic and uproarious black comedy of A Million Ways to Die in the West causes it to easily live up to—and exceed—its title.
A Million Ways is set in a quaint Arizona town too sleepy to acknowledge that its close-knit population is quickly dying off from everything from incompetent doctors to faulty outhouses, a reality that lowly sheepherder Albert (MacFarlane) is all too eager to point out. Unfortunately for him, Albert possesses few other skills with his inability to organize his sheep or fire a gun respectively, keeping him from moving out of his parents’ house and causing him to lose his girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) to mustachioed dueler Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), the town’s only resident with a dollar to his name. In order to outfight Foy, Albert seeks the assistance of breathtaking town newcomer and gunslinging prodigy Anna (Charlize Theron), whose shooting prowess is only eclipsed by a troubling fact she neglects to inform Albert—that she is married to the deadliest outlaw in the West, Clinch Leatherfoot (Liam Neeson). Rounding out the film’s ensemble cast are Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi as a hypocritically evangelical Christian prostitute and her cuckolded missionary boyfriend.
While MacFarlane’s trademark “cutaway gags” are noticeably absent in lieu of a cohesive plot, A Million Ways features a plethora of pop cultural references, including cameos by Christopher Lloyd and Jamie Foxx reprising a pair of their best-loved roles (hint: they aren’t Uncle Fester and Ray Charles), and moviegoers with a keen ear will pick up on the soundtrack’s teasing of the themes to not only Blazing Saddles but Back to the Future as well.
A Million Ways could have done without a few of its gags, including ex-lax and Alice B. Toklas cookie bits that have been done to death (no pun intended) and an insufferable 10 seconds of Gilbert Gottfried impersonating Abraham Lincoln, but overall its imperfections are few and far between. Its irreverent and sometimes morbid humor may not win over everyone, but like it or not, it’s further proof that Seth MacFarlane’s media empire is here to stay, and I for one welcome this comedic overlord.