Talking Pulp: Mad Men and the Nanny State

*Written in 2010 when I was running a blog about politics and economics.

*This article is pretty much spoiler free. It is also a rebuttal and a different take on the show than the Mises Institute VP Jeffrey A. Tucker’s article “Mad Men and Government Regulations”.

Mad Men is a show I just recently got into. Like most shows, I just didn’t want to start watching it because I didn’t want to find out I really liked it and then be stuck watching it like an obedient and perfectly timed zombie every week. That’s not a knock against the show; in actuality it is a compliment. I hate having to be pulled in at a specific time, on a specific day, week after week because it disrupts my life and other things I could be doing, like writing an article such as this one.

You see, shows I fear that will be too good, I typically avoid until they are over and then I sit down and have a marathon. Why? Well it is because of those damn cliffhangers! This way I avoid a week long, or god forbid a year long wait of tension and suspense dying for answers to what just happened. I have been a regular watcher of Dexter since the beginning and the end of season 4 (I won’t spoil it for you) left me fucking breathless, confused, saddened, puzzled and starving for answers! I had to wait nine damn months! Situations like this are why I waited until Lost was completely over before delving into it. I am glad I did. That show was incredible and there was no way in hell I could’ve gone through that madness weekly and then for months during a prolonged break between seasons and writers’ strikes.

In regards to Mad Men, I had heard so much good stuff about it from a lot of my libertarian leaning friends. Knowing that a new season starts every summer, I decided to finally sit down and watch the first four seasons to prep for the upcoming fifth season. It wasn’t until I finished Season 4 and then went to Wikipedia to see when Season 5 was set to air that I discovered that there were contract disputes and that it would be delayed until March of 2012, a year away! Damn it television demons! It figures that the moment I watched it, some bullshit would happen and the show would be delayed so the broadcasting gods above could laugh at me and my torment! Damn those gods, I defy the crap out of them!

Anyway, this article isn’t about my personal issues with television deities and my inability to be patient from episode to episode, it is actually about the rise of the nanny state, which is very well present in the world of Mad Men. Being that it takes place in the 1960s, we are shown a world that is going through a major metamorphosis. From the Kennedy-Nixon presidential race, through the assassination of JFK, the LBJ-Goldwater race and the Civil Rights movement, we are shown bits and pieces of a state that is slowly slipping into nannyism. Government regulation and intrusion into our lives really took a major turn for the worse in the ’60s and Mad Men does a good job at painting a picture of a world before the nanny state took control and how the world had to adapt as the state’s grip slowly tightened.

Jeffrey A. Tucker, the Vice President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute wrote an article titled Mad Men and Government Regulations. In his article, he claims that the show glorifies the rapid expansion of government regulation and intrusion into our daily lives. I don’t feel that this is the case at all actually. I don’t find that the show glorifies it; I feel that they just display it and the audience is able to make up their own mind.

In my case, I see the regulation and it irritates me and I view the actions of the characters on the show and their distaste for it, as their show of utter resistance. I find it to be more of a heroic critique against the state’s control. Granted no one goes into an uproar over it on the show but that isn’t what the show is about. Many of these references are subtle and much of the defiance against it is wittily wedged into a single lines of dialogue sprinkled into lengthy conversations about old fashioneds, bear claws, Lucky Strikes and titties.

One example Mr. Tucker gave in his article about the glorification of regulation in Mad Men was the incredible overabundance of smoking on the show. He cites that the chain smoking, which is done mostly indoors, is done to creep out the viewer and give them a sense of discomfort. He uses that example to say that it convinces the viewer into feeling a sense of relief over the government’s regulation of the tobacco industry, whether through labels and warnings on the packaging itself to endless laws limiting an American citizen’s right to smoke.

Well, I never took it that way. In fact, I took it just the opposite. While I don’t feel that everyone should just chain smoke an office space into a wood-burning barbecue smoker, I also don’t feel that it is the government’s job to force an office to comply. That should come down to company policy and if people are offended by a smoky workplace, don’t fucking apply.

The actions of the characters on Mad Men are just doing whatever the hell they want to do and no one is saying a damn thing about it because in that day and age, they could grin it and bear it or they could leave. It is their choice to work in that environment. Maybe I am biased however, considering that my day job is being the Senior Creative Director for a major cigar manufacturer and sitting in smoke just comes with the territory. Whenever Don Draper lights up in his office, I see it as a big “fuck you” to the rising nanny state within the confines of the show, as well as a message from the producers to the bureaucrats of our real world.

The issue of daytime office drinking is also used as an example that should raise eyebrows. Sure, pounding down scotches and vodka gimlets before noon while discussing that day’s sales pitch is a bit over the top but many executives in high profile companies have their little display of bottles and rocks glasses in the corner. A sip of some Laphroaig to ease the tension while going over the quarterly numbers isn’t unheard of in the real world today. Hell, it is commonplace.

I guess the issue with Mad Men though is the amount that they drink. Sure, they do push the boundaries further than they should in their office space and in their own livers. However, I don’t take this as a glorification for regulation by the show’s producers; I take it as a glorification of the characters’ self-serving attitudes and their overwhelming desire to ignore the risks and to be the old school badass ad agency execs the show pimps them out as. It’s their bodies, they can do what they want and no one is going to tell them otherwise. I think that they are all freedom loving Americans at heart.

Well, we all know that Bertram Cooper is pretty much a libertarian and/or an Objectivist after he insisted that Don Draper use part of his bonus check to buy Atlas Shrugged.

Tucker also talks about the treatment of women on the show. Granted, as the show begins and then for quite some time, the attitudes of men towards women can be shocking in contrast to the way the world is today: fifty years later. However, as the show progresses, some of these attitudes change and some of the main woman on the show go from being just pretty objects to gaining the respect from the men who initially treated them that way. Once again, this is a sign of the times and a display of how well the show is able to evolve with the quickly changing times of the day.

For an example of this, one has to look no further than the character of Peggy Olson. In the beginning, Peggy is just starting out at Sterling Cooper and is a very timid and shy girl, who is seemingly easily flustered and pushed around by the men in the office. Pete Campbell, who is the meanest to her, also ends up having an affair with her right off the bat, which causes much more turmoil and confusion than she obviously needs. She is a second class citizen in the office but she never gives up in this sexist man factory with impossible odds to succeed apart from putting out and doing “favors”. No, Peggy is the antithesis to what you think she is going to be when you first meet her.

Peggy goes through hell early on in the series but it doesn’t deter her, she nearly gives up but her boss, Don Draper sees something special in her that the other token chauvinists have overlooked. Peggy has talent, she has desire and she has the ability to be one of the biggest assets in the company. Don, being the only one with the foresight to see this, gives her that little shove she needs. By the third season, Peggy has an office next to Don’s, the guy she was the secretary for only a few years prior. In the fourth season, she is literally the creative glue that keeps the company afloat during hard times. Peggy hustles; she hustles better than most of the men on the show and is properly recognized and rewarded for it as time goes on. Peggy shatters the mold.

Joan Holloway also takes a similar path as Peggy Olson. Joan starts out as the token office bitch and mother figure to all the women at Sterling Cooper. She is virtually the madame at the corporate playhouse. When Joan first meets Peggy, she coaches her on how to succeed. She tells her to basically stay out of the way, do what is asked, look pretty and don’t be shy if asked to go that extra mile.

Joan is also Roger Sterling’s mistress at the beginning of the series. Roger is one of the partners of Sterling Cooper.

Joan is pretty much a cookie cutter character in the beginning. There are signs that someone is in there that deserves to be more than Roger’s doormat. By the end of the third season, she gets married to a decent guy, leaves that “do anything to please” shtick behind and her badass work ethic is also greatly recognized. She officially becomes the office manager of the company and oversees the fall of one company and then is an instrumental part in forming and growing a new company. By the end of Season 4, Joan literally runs shit. No she isn’t a partner but she is nearly at that level. Where Peggy owns the creative side, Joan owns the day-to-day and gets mad respect for it.

Does the development of these two characters make me want to thank the heavens for sexual harassment laws and women’s rights? No, not really. Granted I have no real problem with those things. It just makes me appreciate that two women were able to beat the odds and to truly make something great out of themselves. One played the game and one defied the game but in the end, they both persevered on their own, not because some laws helped them and made it more “fair”. These women fucking rock. I’d marry them both.

Also, who can forget Rachel Menken, who in Season 1 took over her father’s huge Manhattan department store? I wouldn’t consider her a victim of male chauvinism. In fact, she held her ground against Don in their first meeting. Eventually her and Don became each other’s side item but in the end, she stood firm and had an incredible impact on Don. Her words steered the course of his character in a new direction. Rachel was able to make Don look inside of himself and question things he otherwise wouldn’t have if she were a pushover and just some sex toy.

Another thing Mr. Tucker made mention of in his article, while describing the theme of “patriarchal domination and savagery” is that housewives were so aloof and stupid that without government labels and regulations, they allowed their kids to do dumb and dangerous things. Well, kids just do that shit anyway, even today. There were times I did real dumb stuff with fireworks and they were covered in warning labels. All the flashy and colorful “DANGER” logos plastering the packaging didn’t stop me from launching multiple bottle rockets from my mouth.

One specific incident Tucker cited in the article is of a scene where one of the kids is wearing a plastic bag over their head. He mentions that because the Consumer Products Safety Commission didn’t yet exist. Betty Draper was too stupid to warn her kids of the possible suffocation that could occur playing their friendly game of “bag head” because a warning label didn’t spell it out for her.

Well, watching the show and knowing the characters so well, when I saw that scene I felt it was meant to show how aloof Betty is. Not housewives in general and definitely not because warning labels weren’t on the bag. You see, over the course of the entire show, Betty is shown to have severe mental issues that make her act and think like a child. Something in her never properly developed and she is a grown woman living a grown woman’s life but with the mind of a child. This is an issue they hint at in the beginning of the series and it continues to grow and expand throughout all four seasons.

Tucker concludes, in his article, that he sees a constant theme that Mad Men is glorifying, that being “the inability of society to improve itself without the helping hand of the master.” The theme I see in Mad Men is that before government regulation was as widespread as it is today in our Diet Orwellian society, the people of the 1960s didn’t need the help of the state. Instead, they lived without that helping hand and did just fine. The social issues would’ve worked themselves out and competent mothers would know what was too dangerous for their children without the labels. I’m sorry, I just don’t see Mad Men as Hollywood’s attempt at force feeding us the paranoid idea that government regulation and control is cool and necessary. I actually see it as the polar opposite of that.

Now I am not knocking Tucker. I love Tucker; he is one of my favorite writers/bloggers out there. I love his book Bourbon for Breakfast and I repost a lot of his articles and lectures on this site. He has given me sound advice on fashion (although I can’t afford a pair of Alden Genuine Shell Cordovans… yet), as well as how to properly utilize my water heater and how to combat “Generation Sloth”. That is why I found it odd to disagree on the subject of Mad Men.

It’s all good though; great minds often times disagree and I actually really appreciate and respect his interpretation of the show, as we all have our own viewpoints. That is what makes us special. Besides, it’s a television show; we’re both probably over thinking it way more than we should. It is a story and it is fiction; I doubt the writers were really tinkering around with anything other than just trying to tell an awesome story.

Talking Pulp: The Enchantress and Asgardian Boners

*Taken from my personal journal, written in 2013.

So I was debating comic book stuff with a friend of mine yesterday and afterwards, reflecting on the debate, Thor and Asgard kept popping into my thoughts.

Then I started over analyzing the sometimes ally but mostly villainous Enchantress. I always liked her character and style and thought that she was a good balance against the cookie cutter “good vs. evil” formula of Thor vs. Loki.

It got me wondering as to when or if she would be in one of the upcoming Marvel movies or, at the very least, in the new S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show that I never watch. Sorry, I’m not a Joss Whedon fanboy but I can admit that he does well working with complex female characters – except for the Black Widow apparently.

Anyway, I really thought about the Enchantress’ power and it is a bit useless really, all things considered. You see, she has the magical ability to seduce men and in many cases Asgardian “gods”. I’m calling bullshit on that power though. I mean, has it ever been tested, really?

The reason why I must call bullshit is because of how the Enchantress looks, acts and carries herself. She is a tall athletic blonde with large yet perfectly proportioned breasts who dresses like a slut on Halloween: every single day. Her looks are considered to be so naturally stunning and mesmerizing that she makes Victoria’s Secret models look like Janice Dickinson does now. This is why I call bullshit on her power. And even if she does have her “seduction” power, she doesn’t really need it.

I’m a pretty strong willed guy and can see through a woman’s bullshit quite well. Men’s bullshit too, let’s be fair, as gay dudes think I’m some sort of magical bear even though I’m not down for peen vaulting.

So yes, I can see through the games and cock foolery. Maybe not as good as Thor, but I’m still pretty astute. Regardless of that, if the Enchantress straddled me like a stripper looking for a Washington, I’d probably be quite powerless. If she was wearing her spandex emerald catsuit with her tippies falling out, I’d probably be a blob of Silly Putty in her sultry hand.

Respectfully, Thor would probably be right behind me. Loki would be the only one who probably wouldn’t give a shit because he could easily lock himself in his own bedroom, shapeshift into the Enchantress and then flick his shapeshifted Asgardian bean all day. I’m not trying to be lewd, that’s just the facts. I’d probably do it too. So would you.

On a side note, maybe Loki should just walk around looking like the Enchantress thus getting everyone to do his bidding with a lot less effort on his part. He could’ve gotten Odin’s throne, considering he wouldn’t mind letting his dad nibble on his faux lady bits while spanking his bare butt. Granted, I may have crossed a line there but I really wouldn’t put that passed Loki. That dude’s got drive and follow through like no other Asgardian, ever.

Okay, those were some weird tangents.

Anyway, in the end, giving the Enchantress the magical ability to seduce is like giving a combat boot the magical ability to crush a snail.

Talking Pulp: We Need More Revival Cinema

The last few months, I have been taking it upon myself to take advantage of the old school movies that have been playing in theaters near me. Unfortunately, I do not live in a big city. If I did, I would have a lot more places to go and a lot more variety in which classics I could see in the theater.

Being born in December of 1978 means that there are a ton of great motion pictures that I never had the opportunity to see on the big screen. Sure, there have been a lot of great films that have come out in my lifetime but, for the most part, you only get to see something on the big screen once. Plus, a lot of the great films that I have seen in the theater, I saw so long ago.

My first experience seeing a film come back to the theaters was in 1997 when George Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy. Granted, these films were special editions littered with new effects but the experience was still unforgettable. Then I saw E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Alien and a few others that came out on their milestone anniversaries. It was a cool trend in the late 1990s and early 2000s but they still came out pretty scarcely.

Recently, some of the theaters around me have started bringing back some of the classics on a regular basis.

One theater near me hosts a program called Flashback Cinema. Every week, they show a different classic film. The showtimes are on Sundays and Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., which gives you four chances to try and make the show. Recently they have shown Citizen KaneThe GodfatherAliensThe NeverEnding StoryLabyrinthYoung FrankensteinRear WindowThe King & IHello DollyThe Ten Commandments and a slew of others. It’s a cool program and I try to take advantage of it as much as I can. Check their website because they list the theaters that host their program.

Fathom Events also does a good job of bringing back classics, as well. Recently I saw North By Northwest and I know that they have The GraduateSmokey and the Bandit, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Bonnie & Clyde and Casablanca on their docket. They don’t do it on a weekly basis like Flashback Cinema but it is still nice to have two alternative sources for classics on the big screen.

As the years pass, movies seem to get worse and worse. Sure, we have good films that come out every year but it seems like less and less are true classics. Look back at all the Oscar winners for best picture since the turn of the decade, how many of those do you truly consider classics?

MoonlightSpotlightBirdman12 Years a SlaveArgoThe ArtistThe King’s SpeechThe Hurt LockerSlumdog MillionaireNo Country for Old Men? Ok, maybe that one. The Departed? Also, maybe this one. CrashMillion Dollar BabyThe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King? The only clear cut classic. ChicagoA Beautiful MindGladiator? For the most part, do any of these really have much value in repeated viewings? A few do, but just a few. I’m not saying that they aren’t good films but there is just something lacking in today’s best pictures compared to the stellar filmmaking artistry of yesteryear.

Frankly, I think it is important to look to the past and to see what was great in the earlier days of film history. It just seems that the competition among peers was stronger and the quality of the films being put out were better.

When we live in a world where Hollywood is mostly concerned with tent pole blockbuster films, milking every proven franchise till their tits chap, less attention is being given to making thought provoking motion pictures. The industry is losing its heart and its unique ability to challenge the social and political climate of the day. Celebrities giving long-winded speeches about how Trump is a Nazi and how guns kill babies and how vaccines create zombie children and how gluten is a registered Republican isn’t the type of social and political message that we need from Hollywood. In fact, that shit makes most people roll their eyes and ignore Hollywood. Well, except for celebrity obsessed ass clowns that will buy tickets for the next 214 Michael Bay Transformers movies. But those people should just be bulldozed into a ditch and buried because they’re why we can’t have nice things.

People need to be reminded of a time when Hollywood was this bad ass place where a filmmaker could get his message across artistically. There was a time when movies changed people’s lives and opened their eyes to things that they might not have experienced or conclusions that they may have never reached on their own.

In places like Los Angeles and New York, there are a lot of revival cinemas. There are these places that show nothing but old movies: many classics but also some lost gems. Sometimes they even show some real diamonds in the rough. Besides, what one person deems a classic, another might deem as trash. To each his own but variety is always a good thing and art is always a voice. Hollywood rarely makes art anymore. At least not at the same speed that they churn out mindless crap.

The world needs more revival cinema. Every town should have a place, a safe haven, where the masses can go, escape the world and the plastic mass produced entertainment of modern times and challenge themselves with something better than what is spoon fed to us today.

If I had Bill Gates money, this would be a priority for me. I’d open up a revival cinema in every town. I’d have a strong preference for 35mm film and old school projection. I’d want to show movies in their original format. Fuck all this digital HD special edition with new special effects crap that we get when things do come back to theaters.

While the likelihood of my dream happening is pretty slim to none, unless I find out that my long lost adoption records point to me being a royal, people can make the effort themselves. Nowadays, just about everything you can imagine is at your fingertips. You can be your own revival cinema. Granted, there is still something magical about seeing movies in a dark theater on a large screen with a gut full of popcorn, butter, salt, Sno-Caps and Diet Coke (gotta save my caloric intake for that butter).

It is nice to know that there are still people in the world that feel the same way; maybe not in my neighborhood but at least the Internet brings us closer.

I hope that other theaters or other organizations can start getting more of the old stuff back on the big screen. Hell, I’d go to the movies just about every night if there was something worthwhile playing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Hitchcock marathon, a giallo triple feature or a spaghetti western night including a pasta dinner.

Sometimes, though, I just wonder what it was like to grow up in an era where there were grindhouse cinemas and old movie houses that ran twelve hour Godzilla marathons just for the hell of it. I never got to experience any of that and frankly, I don’t know why people stopped supporting these things.

I don’t even know where there’s a damn drive-in anymore, either!

Kudos to the real champions… or reel champions out there like New Beverly Cinema and the Alamo Drafthouse. Kudos to Flashback Cinema and Fathom Events for giving us something old and something different.

History is important. Besides, the future doesn’t really look too bright unless you’re just distracted starring at Optimus Prime having butt sex with a supernova because, at this point, what the hell else can they do with a Transformers movie?

Talking Pulp: Joe Bob Briggs – A Texan of Exquisite Taste and a Man Who Influenced a Generation

For those who read my blog Cinespiria, you know that I am a pretty big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It is a show that helped me appreciate my love of film in all its forms, especially that low brow stuff they like to make fun of as the basis of their show. MST3K wasn’t the only influence I had, however. There is a man who came out before that great show; a man that taught me a lot about b-movies and cult films, especially horror flicks with a high level of absolute awesomeness. That man’s name is Joe Bob Briggs.

All men are not created equal and the same should be said about Texans. As far as I’m concerned, Joe Bob Briggs is the greatest Texan ever born. He is certainly the most entertaining and knowledgeable when it comes to the things I love most: motion pictures.

In the early 80s, Joe Bob took offense to the redevelopment of the Times Square area in New York City. 42nd Street was well-known for its multitude of grindhouse theaters that specialized in b-movies with double and triple bills. These theaters typically ran films 24 hours a day. Briggs encouraged a campaign that saw film fans write to city officials, pressuring them to preserve the area. Briggs referred to 42nd Street as “the one place in New York City you could see a decent drive-in movie.” Briggs wanted to preserve a piece of Americana and referred to these theaters as places where “Charles Bronson can be seen thirty feet high, as God intended.”

In the mid 80s, Briggs started a one-man comedy show called An Evening with Joe Bob Briggs. He eventually re-branded the show as Joe Bob Dead in Concert. The show was a bit of a variety piece, showcases Briggs’ many talents. It encompassed comedy, storytelling and music. Joe Bob’s show toured the country and played in over fifty venues within two years.

In 1986, Joe Bob Briggs was hired by cable giant The Movie Channel (the sister network to Showtime) to host a new show called Drive-In Theater. This was the gig that first brought Joe Bob Briggs into my life.

I didn’t discover Drive-In Theater until the summer of 1989 when I was ten years old. I often times spent the night at my cousin’s or my friend’s house and both of them had The Movie Channel. Back then, parents weren’t in helicopter mode like they are now. As long as we didn’t commit atrocious acts out in the world, our parents were pretty lackadaisical about censoring what we watched. Truthfully, they were usually asleep and had no idea what we were watching, as long as we stayed quiet enough. Plus there weren’t all those parental controls on cable boxes and whatnot.

I watched a lot of great flicks, many of them probably way too intense, sexual or scary for a ten year-old mind. Still, I turned out pretty okay and what these weekly experiences did was help me develop my love of film. That love already existed but what Joe Bob Briggs did was he introduced me to films I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. He spoon fed me giant helpings of feature films that the art house snobs and penguins at the Academy would thumb their noses at.

Drive-In Theater was the highest rated show on The Movie Channel and it was nominated twice for a Cable ACE Award. It ran for ten years and I got to see most of it. But when Joe Bob’s run at The Movie Channel came to an end, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, things got even better.

In 1996, Joe Bob Brings joined the TNT network where he would go on to host their spectacular MonsterVision movie show for four years. Now TNT couldn’t show the gratuitous violence and boobies that The Movie Channel could get away with. However, TNT geared a lot of their movies on MonsterVision towards a horror and sci-fi format, hence the name.

Most of MonsterVision‘s offering were 70s and 80s horror and sci-fi classics. It also showed some older films in the genre but the show was at its best when Joe Bob Briggs got to add his commentary and two cents on films like the Friday the 13th series, Return of the Living Dead, PhantasmSwamp Thing, Gremlins, They Live, The WarriorsThe FogMetalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-SynCritters, Logan’s RunDeadly FriendSoylent GreenSalem’s LotThe BeastmasterHalloween III: Season of the Witch, the Poltergeist series, The FunhouseNight of the LepusThe Fearless Vampire KillersThe Fly (1986), Child’s PlaySaturn 3Back to the FutureThe ExorcistThe Wraith, PredatorMad Max 2: The Road WarriorGhoulies, Godzilla vs. MothraThe Last StarfighterNightbreedHighlanderTron, The Black Hole and so many more.

Joe Bob Briggs would often times have guests on the show as well. MonsterVision opened their doors to horror greats and scream queens and allowed them to talk about these films. Briggs was a hilarious and thoughtful interviewer and his appreciation for a lot of the movies he was showcasing was apparent in how he talked about them and how he shot the shit with his guests.

MonsterVision existed in my later teen years and I am glad that it was a part of my life then, as I was growing into a man with a more refined taste and a pretty discriminatory palate in regards to film. It was a major influence on me and it inspired me to scour the mom and pop video stores for more obscure titles in the horror and sci-fi genres. Luckily, the Internet was becoming a big thing by this time and tracking down some hard to find movies was made a little bit easier.

After MonsterVision ended, I went through Job Bob withdrawal. The same thing happened when Mystery Science Theater 3000 left the airwaves too. Unfortunately, both of these shows disappeared around the same time and never has anything else come close to being as genuine in its appreciation of low brow cinematic art as these two shows were. But my love of these things never ceased and I never stopped watching the films that fit the type of ilk as those featured on both shows.

About five years ago or so, I was a political and economic blogger. My site, at that time, was getting about 100,000 hits per month. I sometimes got shares and mentions by famous people on Twitter. Kelsey Grammer once shared a post, as did several political pundit types. However, one day I was taken aback. The Twitter account for my site got a follow from Joe Bob Briggs. He even reposted a link to some story that I had written. Now I don’t know if he actually read my words but it was a pretty cool fucking feeling seeing a guy I looked up to for most of my life, share something that came from out of my head.

I miss Joe Bob Brigg’s presence on television tremendously, even to this day.

Things are starting to look up though, as Mystery Science Theater 3000 is returning in less than a month, after a nearly two decade hiatus. However, I am still waiting for the day that Joe Bob Briggs returns to the small screen, now in widescreen high definition, to grace us with his two cents once again. I don’t know if that will ever happen but damn it, it needs to.

Talking Pulp: What’s Wrong With You People?

id4-nycNo reason to take this too seriously, sometimes I rant when I run out of bourbon.

I was originally going to call this article Tentpoles & Assholes but I thought, “Hmm… that isn’t fair.” Besides, I’d have to include myself as an asshole and really, I’m just a lovely person. That’s what my therapist says, anyway, after I hand her three hundred bucks. She refuses to talk to me, otherwise.

But seriously, what is wrong with you people?

The reason I ask this of you (and myself, really), is because we are constantly bombarded with shit movies. Someone keeps paying to go see all of this crap. Therefore, Hollywood keeps making all this crap. Yes, I am guilty of it but probably on a smaller scale than most people. I, at least, don’t rush out to every big tentpole movie. However, I am sometimes lured in by franchises that once had great films or that are based off of things I have liked in the past – mainly awesome shit from my childhood.

I don’t think we realize how good we had it. Well, people from my generation and the ones before it. Most of you millennials, and this isn’t a diss to your group, don’t really know what it was like to grow up with Star WarsIndiana JonesBack to the Future and Spielberg movies when the guy was making absolute magic throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Sure, you have probably seen those films and love them, but you didn’t truly grow up with them. At least not at the time when they were new and when they were in the theater and taking over pop culture. And sure, you had your Star Wars prequels and that fourth Indiana Jones movie but let’s be honest, they don’t even compare to the original runs of those franchises.

In the 1990s, there was Jurassic Park, a mostly decent film, and Independence Day, an awful movie when you break it down but it still wowed the balls off of people because of the scale of the visuals. Compared to the films today, neither of them are really that big of a deal when it comes to scale or special effects. Sorry to shit on them but they weren’t as magical as the blockbusters before them, they were just decent placeholders while filmgoers were waiting for that next Star Wars experience that never came.

Then you had all those even shittier films: The Mummy, Men In Black, Twister, Armageddon, Titanic, the Batman sequels, Mission: Impossible, Face/Off, Volcano, Anaconda, Deep Impact, the American Godzilla, all those other Nic Cage moviesthe 90s Bond movies, the later Lethal Weapon sequels, Beverly Hills Cop III, Speed, Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Mask, Wild Wild West – all shit.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things I find amusing in several of those movies but ultimately, they aren’t good.

In fact, the only really good stuff to come out of that decade was independent films. The stuff by Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Wes Anderson, Kevin Smith before he totally sucked and a slew of others that clawed through the mess of mediocrity and rose to be unique and different. There was also Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the first Matrix movie, which are impossibly hard to try and knock.

The other good films were the movies that weren’t trying to be tentpole films. The likes of Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Good Will Hunting, The Green Mile and The Silence of the Lambs immediately come to mind.

Americans, and the rest of the world now, just want bigger and louder. CGI has created a way to make that happen much easier than in the past. The entire film industry is now so reliant on it that filmmakers don’t even need to worry about the scale of something, they just do it. They are now locked in this competition to outdo each other. Each new movie gets bigger, louder and cares less about overall plot or even trying to make a lick of sense.

The destruction levels in films these days are incredibly ridiculous. Between the destruction of Metropolis in Man of Steel and a spaceship the size of the Atlantic Ocean in the sequel to Independence Day, filmmakers have become Dr. Frankenstein. They are stitching together monsters and playing God. To paraphrase the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

On one hand, we the people keep paying to see these films. There is just something about seeing this stuff on the big screen. It surprises me though, that fatigue has not set in. As the movies get bigger and louder, they also seem to get dumber and less believable. They’ve become really poorly written cartoons. But maybe people are getting dumber and this is truly what they want. I mean, television has a larger variety of stuff to watch than the movie theater but the most watched shows are the ones that are usually complete dog shit.

On the other hand, maybe we have submitted to the will of our Hollywood masters. Maybe the filmmakers really just don’t care. Hollywood has figured out that they can pump out shit and if all that they pump out is shit, all people can choose from when buying a ticket is shit. Do you want to see robot shit, alien shit, zombie shit, superhero shit or Sparkles the Vamp Boy?

But at least the shit is available in 8D and on screens the size of a large inner city hospital in Ubertechtronic Psychic Surround Sound. What better way to witness the squish of a massive turd by an alien ship crashing into it following its destruction by giant robots that can transform into common household items covered in Pepsi and Verizon logos?

Sure, good films are still made. The problem, is that they aren’t marketed like the shit ones are. Well, unless they get nominated for something but the awards show nomination game is another dragon I’ll have to try and slay at a later date.

But ultimately, if I have to sit through a hundred Suicide Squads or Fantastic Fours to get to one Mad Max: Fury Road or The Dark Knight, the game is still worth playing. I’d just like to live in a world where people care about movies again. But how much do people really care if they are content watching a film in three minute increments from an iPhone screen in the line at Subway?

Talking Pulp: The Near Extinction of Tiki Culture

tiki-roomTiki culture is something that I’ve always loved, going as far back as I can remember.

Maybe it started with staying at Disney’s Polynesian Resort a few times as a child, maybe it was my love of Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, maybe it has been my love of surf rock and 60s surf culture or maybe it has been my palate’s love of Tiki drinks and “Polynesian” cuisine.

Then again, I’ve always associated it with other things from 50s and 60s culture. It seemed comfortable and at home among the popular films of the time: be it the beach movies or the old school horror flicks. It also fit in with tunes of those days, from the aforementioned surf rock or the long lost musical genre exotica.

It is hard to say where it came from but it is something that I’ve always had. An appreciation for an art, culture and style, that despite its overabundance at one time (before my time), is still exotic and unique.

That’s where the sadness comes in. You see, Tiki culture has been disappearing throughout the years and it is almost something that doesn’t even exist in modern times. Sure, one could go to Hawaii or the South Pacific and romp around in those tropical bastions of beauty and magnificence but a taste of the real deal doesn’t necessarily fill the void of the experiences in the once flourishing Tiki culture of post-war era America. The reason being, the Tiki culture that became a big piece of Americana decades ago, was more or less, an American creation and not authentically Polynesian.

American Tiki culture began in 1934 and was birthed by the opening of a restaurant called Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood, CA. The restaurant was opened by Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, who went on to legally change his name to Donn Beach. The establishment was mighty popular and considering its location in the den of American filmmaking, the celebrity effect certainly didn’t hurt business.

Three years later, Victor Bergeron came along and opened up his own restaurant in Oakland, CA called Trader Vic’s. That name might sound familiar, as there are still locations that are open around the world. Granted, they are few and far between but Trader Vic’s made itself into a major brand at one point and even inspired the popular supermarket chain Trader Joe’s.

As more time passed, more restaurants and bars featuring a Tiki theme opened up across America. Tiki culture exploded and the people embraced it. It was such a pop culture hit that its popularity left our borders and infiltrated several other countries. It was on television, in movies, it inspired music and a style of cuisine and drinks that became iconic. Inspired by the South Pacific, America created its own loose homage that became something all its own.

Tiki culture is a part of American history and American culture but today it’s scarce. Somewhere along the way, it slipped out of popularity, it became somewhat played out and was kind of shoved into the closet to collect dust. It’s as if the majority, the “normal people” out there, would rather forget it.

Granted, Tiki culture still exists to some degree. Places like Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas, the Mai-Kai restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale and the still existing Trader Vic’s locations prove that it isn’t completely dead. There was even a bit of a revival in the mid-90’s but nowadays, it is primarily a thing of the past.

These kids today probably don’t even know what the word “Tiki” is and if they do, they probably associate it with some shit hotel bar under a thatched hut that has televisions playing NASCAR and neon signs with the words “Landshark” hanging from its rafters. Those Tiki bars are bullshit, just sayin’. They’re essentially the leftover bastard children of an iconic yet seemingly archaic piece of American pop.

There are groups of people united in an effort to keep Tiki culture alive and well. One can find online communities for those who refer to themselves as “tikiphiles”. I guess I am probably a tikiphile, considering my love for all things Tiki and the time I’ve spent writing this article.

One can also visit the Tiki Central message boards (here) or join the Fraternal Order of Moai (here). There are also big Tiki events such as Tiki Oasis in San Diego and the Hukilau in Ft. Lauderdale.

On a positive note, I know that Tiki culture will never die out. It may be a weird taboo thing to modern people but there are those who still cherish and embrace it. Luckily for those of us who enjoy this segment of pop culture history, there are still places to go and there will always be music to listen to. We’ll also always have Tiki drinks and cuisine, as long as we know how to mix alcohol and juices and know how to cook a few Tiki dishes. Worst-case scenario, you can always find recipes online.

For those of you who have never really experienced Tiki culture, I have to warn you that you may just become an addict. Especially with how welcoming and friendly the people are. I mean, how can you really be upset, depressed or a cantankerous jerk while relaxing in a dimly lit bar with colorful lights, sipping a painkiller to the tunes of Arthur Lyman or Martin Denny?

Talking Pulp: 100 Films That the New MST3K Should Feature

mst3k-2017With Mystery Science Theater 3000 returning this year, I thought that it would be cool to compile a list of films that they should consider riffing. There were many great/bad films that they missed over the course of their eleven years of existence from 1988-to-1999. There are also several films that have come out since the show ended that deserve to be riffed.

The show is returning this year thanks to the fans on Kickstarter and the people who make the big decisions at Netflix – its new home. Hopefully the enthusiasm and excitement gives us several more seasons of the fantastic show.

I certainly don’t expect MST3K to cover all of these one-hundred films in a season, although that would be the most amazing season of any television show ever. I’m assuming it will stick around for awhile, so I wanted to provide a big enough list to give us something to hope for in the long-term.

Also, not all of these are necessarily bad movies, as the show sometimes featured stuff that wasn’t awful. But these are movies that fit the vibe of the show, in some way, while providing a lot of things to poke fun at.

Now before someone pipes up and says something about (insert movie title here) would cost too much to acquire the rights to, just know that this is why I listed so many options. Also, Netflix has a lot of money, so maybe some of those films that MST3K couldn’t afford before, might be more affordable now.

And if someone says (insert movie title here) is too violent or has boobies, well… the show is on Netflix now. So down with those fascists at the FCC and the butt hurt advertisers!

And I did all of this without bringing up Showgirls! Okay, I just did… but that was to make a point. But I don’t even want to sit through a riffed version of that movie.

So without further ado, here are one-hundred films I would like to see featured on MST3K. These are really in no particular order, even though they are numbered. That’s more for a reference point and so that I, the author, don’t miscount.

And please, feel free to discuss in the comments.

1. The Giant Claw (1957)
2. The Room (2003)
3. Troll 2 (1990)
4. Howard the Duck (1986)
5. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
6. Gamera: Super Monster (1980)
7. Starcrash (1979)
8. The Thing With Two Heads (1972)
9. Battlefield Earth (2000)
10. Munchies (1987)
11. Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)
12. Mysterious Island (1961)
13. Kazaam (1996)
14. Hercules In New York (1969)
15. Mac and Me (1988)
16. The Wicker Man (2006)
17. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
18. Captain America (1990)
19. Empire of the Ants (1977)
20. Hanuman and the Five Riders (1975)
21. The Vulture (1966)
22. Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)
23. Mosquito (1995)
24. Critters 3 (1991)
25. Beast From Haunted Cave (1959)
26. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)
27. Creature From the Haunted Sea (1961)
28. Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991)
29. Ape (1976)
30. Deadly Prey (1987)
31. Buffalo Rider (1978)
32. Leonard Part 6 (1987)
33. Steel (1997)
34. The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
35. Fantastic Four (1994)
36. Matango a.k.a. Attack of the Mushroom People (1963)
37. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
38. Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)
39. No Holds Barred (1989)
40. The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)
41. Super Robot Mach Baron (1975)
42. Carnosaur 3: Primal Species (1996)
43. Blood Freak (1972)
44. Orgy of the Dead (1965)
45. Masters of the Universe (1987)
46. Reptilicus (1961)
47. Barb Wire (1996)
48. Konga (1961)
49. Arena (1989)
50. The Demolitionist (1995)
51. Yonggary (1999)
52. Game of Death II (1981)
53. Prison Ship a.k.a. Star Slammer (1986)
54. It’s Pat (1994)
55. The Super Inframan (1975)
56. Yor: The Hunter from the Future (1983)
57. The X From Outer Space (1967)
58. Uncle Sam (1996)
59. Space Warriors 2000 (1985)
60. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)
61. Queen of Outer Space (1958)
62. Saturn 3 (1980)
63. Starship Invasions (1977)
64. Simon Sez (1999)
65. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
66. Son of the Mask (2005)
67. Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)
68. The Bride and the Beast (1958)
69. Tentacles (1977)
70. Sleepwalkers (1992)
71. House II: The Second Story (1987)
72. Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958)
73. Killdozer (1974)
74. Space Rage (1985)
75. Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
76. Maximum Overdrive (1986)
77. The Crippled Masters (1979)
78. Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996)
79. Night of the Lepus (1972)
80. Gymkata (1985)
81. Leprechaun In the Hood (2000)
82. Man’s Best Friend (1993)
83. They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968)
84. Chopping Mall (1986)
85. Curse of Bigfoot a.k.a. Teenagers Battle the Thing (1975)
86. Space Raiders a.k.a. Star Child (1983)
87. Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977)
88. TerrorVision (1986)
89. Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
90. Piñata: Survival Island (2002)
91. The Stuff (1985)
92. Warning From Space (1956)
93. Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1987)
94. Psychomania a.k.a. The Death Wheelers (1973)
95. Zombie Lake (1981)
96. Jaws 3-D (1983)
97. Gappa: The Triphibian Monster (1967)
98. The Wraith (1986)
99. Space-Men a.k.a. Assignment: Outer Space (1960)
100. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever (1991)

50 Honorable Mentions:

-Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)
-Surf Ninjas (1993)
-Frogs (1972)
-The Brain Eaters (1958)
-Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
-Danger on Tiki Island a.k.a. Brides of Blood (1968)
-The Apple (1980)
-Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991)
-Bog (1979)
-Glen or Glenda (1953)
-The Birds II: Land’s End (1994)
-The Magic Sword (1962)
-Night of the Comet (1984)
-C.C. & Company (1970)
-Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)
-Miami Connection (1987)
-The Uncanny (1977)
-If Looks Could Kill (1991)
-The Neanderthal Man (1953)
-Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare (1995)
-Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983)
-Chairman of the Board (1998)
-Wild Guitar (1962)
-Monstroid (1980)
-Switchblade Sisters (1975)
-Heartbeeps (1981)
-Kull the Conqueror (1997)
-Spawn of the Slithis (1978)
-Alligator II: The Mutation (1991)
-The Terror of Tiny Town (1938)
-Never Too Young to Die (1986)
-Tank Girl (1995)
-Robo Vampire (1988)
-Scream and Scream Again (1970)
-Solarbabies (1986)
-Sssssss (1973)
-Samurai Cop (1991)
-Hot to Trot (1988)
-Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977)
-Tarzan the Ape Man (1981)
-Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)
-The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967)
-Die Hard Dracula (1998)
-Return to Horror High (1987)
-The Nasty Rabbit (1964)
-Dream a Little Dream 2 (1995)
-Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1989)
-The 72 Desperate Rebels (1978)
-Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe (1990)
-Mazes and Monsters (1982)