Monday, June 20, 2011

ZOMBY's gotta have it!

I love that cartoon cliche of having a hungry character look at another character and evision that other person as some kind of food item. That's what I was going for here. The IRS guy's head is supposed to be on top of an ice cream cone.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Coming this November: Wayne's second novel! Featuring rock stars, monsters, and more!!

Hello, one and all.

Because of ongoing (and still not totally resolved) technical problems and a heavier-than-usual work schedule, I have not been keeping this blog updated as much as I would like. But I wanted to share some news with you, dear readers.

I am currently in the process of researching my second novel! And for a change, I'm going to actually try to make this one good!

Last November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and actually did manage to finish a 50,000-word novel, an attempted satire about the paper towel industry called Perforated. If you're feeling brave, the whole thing is available FREE right here! I actually chose the subject of the novel on November 1 and improvised the entire thing as I went along. The novel is really a garbage dump of unused comedic ideas that had been percolating in my head for months or years.

This year, I wanted to plan ahead a little. A lot, in fact. My plan is to make my second novel -- still untitled (though I have a few ideas) -- actually readable and entertaining. The subject matter is directly inspired by an episode of the Mail Order Zombie podcast. Not long ago, MOZ's Brother D and Need a Nickname Scott reviewed a low-budget independent zombie movie entitled Buddy Bebop Vs. The Living Dead, which takes characters clearly based on Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley and pits them against the relentless undead hordes. Unfortunately, the movie itself is not terribly good. Neither D nor Scott enjoyed it, and when D generously sent a copy my way, I found it pretty disappointing as well. But I was still quite intrigued with the concept of taking 1950s rockers and placing them in a horror-movie setting.

So that's exactly what I'm going to do. My upcoming book is going to be about a world-class monster-hunting squad consisting of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. Basically, think of it as Ghostbusters but set in 1957 and starring 1950s rockers instead of 1980s comedians. Besides the luminaries mentioned, I am going to try to work in cameos by Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, President Eisenhower, and more.

This is going to take some planning and research. For the last couple of months, I've been reading up on all five of my main protagonists. After that, I'll be working on outlining my plot. I really hope this book turns out well. Either way, though, I'll find a way to share it with anyone who is interested.

Wish me luck!

WHAT is the DEAL with FATHER'S DAY CARDS? Am I right, people?

Today, there would be sarcastic quotes around the "dear" part.

If you wish to meditate upon our society's ambiguous and sometimes troubling attitudes towards fatherhood, you have an EXCITING opportunity to do so this weekend! Yep, just truck on down to your local grocery store, card shop, or pharmacy and spend some time browsing through their selection of Father's Day cards. Prepare to be astonished and possibly horrified by what you find. Now, of course, you can always go the sappy, sentimental route or the religious route. That's true of virtually every holiday or major observance. But if you want to go the "lightly humorous" route, Father's Day offers its own unique challenges. I'm sure I was not the only person who spent many minutes trying to find a card that I would not be completely mortified to send to my father and have him actually read. The card I wound up choosing this year had the following legend on its cover:
You Made Me the Person I Am Today! 
And on the inside, it read:
How Can You Sleep at Night? 
Followed, of course, by the cheerful tagline:
Happy Father's Day!
In retrospect, this seemingly-innocent little witticism is actually quite barbed and nasty. The implication is, "I am a neurotic and messed-up adult, Dad, and I blame you entirely. I am baffled by the fact that you can sleep while in possession of this horrible knowledge. Any creature capable of emotion would be tortured to the point of sleeplessness over this, but you apparently are a bloodless and unfeeling monster. Still in all, I hope you enjoy this holiday dedicated to you and your tyrranical kind." Kind of harsh, right? But believe me, it was the best one I could find. To peruse the Father's Day cards at the local store is to navigate an emotional minefield, I tell you.

The basic themes of "humorous" Father's Day cards are these:
  1. Dad, you are an alcoholic who cherishes beer more than your own children.
  2. You are a repellent and disgusting troll whose primary modes of self-expression are belching and flatulence.
  3. You are also a perverted old lecher who lusts after younger women.
  4. You use golf, television, and home improvement projects as excuses for avoiding contact with your own family.
  5. At home, you are merely a useless figurehead who serves no real purpose. Knowing this, you choose to spend your time parked in a recliner in front of the television.
  6. Your true importance to the family unit is as a provider of income. Money and work define you. In fact, I would like to use this very card as an opportunity to borrow money from you.
It's a pretty bleak picture, I know. But that's the basic message I get from Father's Day cards. I'm not the only one who's picked up on this. Here's a 2008 article from the Grand Rapids Press on the very same topic. I think the underlying issue with these cards is that we really do have an ambiguous attitude towards fatherhood in this country. The post-Industrial-Revolution male has no well-defined role within his own home. Women are still expected to be the ones who do the actual day-to-day raising of children. Maybe as traditional gender roles break down and new paradigms for family life are established, the public's nebulous opinion of this thing called "fatherhood" will evolve. For a check-up on how we're doing as a society on this matter, I'd suggest keeping an eye on the greeting card department.

Friday, June 10, 2011

So... what are YOUR shows?

The cast of Fox's delightful Bob's Burgers.

"What are your shows?"

In this increasingly fragmented entertainment universe, that question may become the new millennium's version of "What's your sign?" After all, what better way to get to a quick fix on a person's personality and interests than by finding out which television shows that person follows on a regular basis?

Now that the 2010-2011 is over, I thought I'd give you a complete inventory of the shows I watch every week. If you want to know the "real" Wayne Kotke, look no further than this list. For your convenience, I've organized it by the night of the week on which it airs. Yes, I'm old fashioned and watch the shows "live," as it were.

Join me after the break, won't you?

This clip deserves to be seen: "I Steal Pets"

Maybe the world thought it didn't need another parody of Rebecca Black, but for some reason "I Steal Pets" by Rachel Bloom has only gotten about 74,000 hits on YouTube instead of the million plus it deserves. It's not a literal parody of "Friday," mind you, more of an homage to the whole Ark Music Factory sound, complete with Autotune abuse. I defy you to get the chorus of this song out of your head once you've heard it.

ZOMBY oughtta be in pictures!

Of course, Brad Pitt would not be terribly convincing as Zomby should he ever become the subject of a major motion picture, but who would be a good casting fit?

Here are some suggestions:

Wallace Shawn

Jon Polito

Danny DeVito

Other opinions are, of course, always welcome.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ZOMBY becomes the first EVER to make a joke about the Kardashians!

Sorry, Kardashians, but your days as sacred cows are over. So far, the comedians (and would-be comedians) of the world have steered clear of criticizing this particular family. BUT NO MORE! For Zomby has fired the opening salvo in what is sure to be...

Wait, hold on a second.

Okay, I've just done a little checking and it seems that everyone in the known world has done a Kardashians joke already. Whoops.

Never mind. Forget I said anything.


Monday, June 6, 2011

How to stop a zombie if that zombie is ZOMBY

"Women are never disarmed by compliments. Men always are. That is the difference between the sexes." - OSCAR WILDE

So am I saying men are basically zombies...? Sort of, yeah.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Mill Creek DVD Inferno: Second Circle - LUST

Italian poet Dante Alighieri reserved the second circle of Hell for those guilty of the sin of lust. If you wind up here, expect your soul to be blown around like that plastic bag in American Beauty. Come to think of it, pretty much the entire cast of that movie is going to wind up in Circle #2. But we're not here to talk about Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey movies, are we? Heck no! We're here to talk about the next four films in Mill Creek's Drive-In Cult Classics: 32 Movie Collection. In this particular circle of the Inferno, we find some flicks which have IMDb ratings ranging from 5.3 to 5.0.

Van Nuys Blvd. (1979)
The Pom Pom Girls (1976)
The Sister-in-Law (1974)
The Teacher (1974)

Yeah, these are all mid-to-late-1970s sexploitation films from Crown International Pictures. But I'm now the proud owner of these films, so let's review them one by one.

Van Nuys Blvd.

Remember when everybody used to do this? No? Me neither.

Clever menus? Widescreen transfer? DVD extras, including a commentary track? On a Mill Creek set...?!? What manner of sorcery is this? Don't get me wrong. I'm happy to have 'em. Van Nuys Blvd. is kind of a fun little time capsule candidate, sort of an extremely-dumbed-down and sexed-up American Graffiti. As you may have surmised already, the film centers around the now-extinct "cruising" scene in LA's Van Nuys Boulevard. The director sadly claims that his film inadvertently helped to kill that very scene. Basically, the kids take to the streets in their cherried-out cars and vans every Wednesday night, and the humorless cops want to crack down on the raunchy fun. The plot centers mainly around the trials and travails of three couples, including the unforgettable "Chooch" and his lusty but pure-at-heart carhop squeeze. A subplot involves a grouchy cop who gets tricked (by the aforementioned carhop) into getting handcuffed to a car door while he's in his underwear and winds up nearly dehydrating and burning up in the warm California sun. The handcuffed-cop story goes off on some weird tangents, including a visit from an unsympathetic biker (played by an actual former Manson Family associate). An agreeable lark, but there are too many missed opportunities for comedy, some very contrived and unbelievable dialogue, and an unforgivably lame disco sequence. I will say, though, that I particularly liked a semi-comedic fight sequence at a gas station. GRADE: B-

Does It Pass the Drive-In Test? Oh heck yes. In fact, I think VNB was something of a hit in its day. There's plenty of nudity, drag racing, crude humor, and anti-authoritarian sentiment to keep the drive-in audience happy. And if you just want to gawk at the cars... well, who's stopping you?

The Pom Pom Girls

Don't be fooled. There's barely any cheerleading in this movie.

Wait, the king of the nerds was once... a jock?!? Yup, Robert Carradine of Revenge of the Nerds plays a high school football player in this one. It covers some of the same ground as Van Nuys Blvd. -- youthful hijinks, bumbling cops, casual sex with carhops, and (above all) vans -- but it does so in a slightly darker, more serious way. The plot here centers around a high school football team and its cheerleading squad, which include lovely-but-tragic cult movie star Rainbeaux Smith in a supporting role. The most interesting thing about this movie is Carradine's character, an impulsive and unpredictable kid who seems like a cross between Groucho and Harpo Marx at times. In fact, Carradine has a lunchroom showdown with bully Bill Adler which escalates in a manner very similar to Harpo's battle with the lemonade vendor in Duck Soup.
Side Note: The very same year this movie was made, both Robert Carradine and Rainbeaux Smith appeared in Massacre at Central High, a fascinating and bizarre cult flick whose title and subject matter now render it unreleasable in this post-Columbine world, and it remains sadly out of print. But in my opinion, the events at Columbine only serve to make the movie more poignant and relevant than ever. Okay, end of rant.
Although the football action in the film is in no way credible, The Pom Pom Girls is still an enjoyable watch. Adler is much more convincing as a villain here than he was as a kind of pseudo-Brando hero in Van Nuys Blvd. I give The Pom Pom Girls a GRADE: B and commend Mill Creek for a crisp and colorful full-screen transfer.

Does It Pass the Drive-In Test? I'd say so. There's not quite as much nudity as you'd want, but there is an agreeable amount of mayhem, including a prank war between two rival high schools and a climactic game of "suicide chicken" between Adler and Carradine. For a film of this genre, the pacing is good. I was not bored, which is saying something.

The Sister-in-Law

No visible panty lines. Impressive!

The most remarkable thing about this film is that one of its young stars, John Savage (some name!), looks just like Chris Pratt from Parks & Recreation. Here's a side-by-side comparison:

John Savage and Chris Pratt: separated at birth?

In fact, Pratt would be my candidate to play the same part in a Wes Anderson-directed remake, should such an eventuality ever occur. I doubt it will. The Sister-in-law starts out like a low-budget Graduate wannabe. Savage plays a directionless young man who moves back in with his parents, enters into an affair with an older and more jaded married woman (in this case, his brother's wife), and then falls in love with a nice young woman his own age (in this case, his brother's mistress). But then The Sister-in-law morphs into another kind of film entirely, as Savage intentionally botches his brother's drug deal and sets up a violent and tragic conclusion. The film starts as a rather clumsy attempt at softcore, but the director's aspirations toward art soon become apparent. (Indeed, this director did go on to make "A" pictures such as Sleeping with the Enemy.) He favors long takes and rather artsy compositions. In fact, his geometric use of architecture and decor (windows, fences, hallways, doors) is what made me think of Wes Anderson's films. But the script for The Sister-in-law isn't quite up to the task. The characters seem to pause a lot because they don't have anything to say. A noble effort, but there are real pacing problems here which prevent me from recommending it. Mill Creek gives us another attractive widescreen transfer, which helps a little. GRADE: C+

Does It Pass the Drive-In Test? Intermittently, yes. There's some highly enjoyable toplessness here from the wife and mistress, and the mafia story does eventually yield some exciting action in the form of car chases and shootouts. But the drive-in audience's patience would be severely tested by the film's deliberate pacing and hackneyed attempts at profundity.

The Teacher

She corrupts the youthful morality of, like, two kids tops.

There are three words which must be said here, and I'll get them out of the way now: Dennis the Menace. Yes, the star of this film is Jay North, who played the title troublemaker in that fondly-remembered (by some) 1950s sitcom. North is one of those disgruntled child actors who never really made the transition to adult roles, and The Teacher was one of his last screen appearances. Truthfully, he's not that good here. He sort of looks like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, but he has no charisma or screen presence and looks uncomfortable and sullen throughout the production. Luckily, his costar is the sultry and buxom Angel Tompkins, who plays the title schoolmarm. I'm starting to notice a pattern in this DVD set. The Babysitter is about a guy who schtups his babysitter... and then gets into trouble with some violent thugs. The Sister-in-law is about a guy who schtups his his sister-in-law... and then gets into trouble with violent thugs. And The Teacher? Well, yes, Dennis the Menace does lose his virginity (!) to Ms. Tompkins, his former teacher, only to find himself being menaced (get it?) by -- you guessed it -- a violent thug. There's just one thug this time, but craggy-faced and wild-eyed Anthony James does the work of ten thugs! James plays a stalker who has been spying on Angel Tompkins (and is therefore jealous of North's affair with her) and who also blames Jay North for the accidental death of his brother. So our young hero has two major strikes against him! Other than Ms. Tompkins' nude scenes, the most interesting thing about The Teacher are the moments when James shows up in his trademark yellow windbreaker to scare the living crap out of Jay North, who seems to suffer from both short-term and long-term memory loss at various times in the story. Like The Sister-in-law, The Teacher has become very dark and downbeat by the end. GRADE: C

Does It Pass the Drive-In Test? Oh, sure, though this film is pretty depressing towards the end. I think the drive-in audience came for Angel Tompkins. Or maybe they were diehard Dennis the Menace superfans. Who knows? And this film brought back a classic Crown International theme: VANS! Jay North spends a good deal of the film either working on his van or talking about working on his van. I think I'll say the word "van" one more time. Van. There. Now I'm done.

COMING UP! We venture into the Third Circle, Gluttony, with four more flickeroos: Blue Money, Pick-up, Best Friends and Pink Angels.

The first new ZOMBY in for, like, ever

Sorry, folks, but I've been working some extra hours lately which has left little time for blogging. But here's a new Zomby!!!, and it's a color Sunday one, too.

Enjoy or don't. Your choice. Freedom!