Monday, November 11, 2013

300: Rise of a Sabbatical

Faithful readers, this is my 300th post on Slice of Fried Gold. And it's time for me to take a break.

I started this blog in February of 2008 as a place where I could save and catalog the strange and funny things I found on the internet. For a while there, I posted whenever I saw fit, but then somewhere along the line I decided to hold myself to a weekly post. So, for the past few years, the plan was that I would pick an idea from my email inbox and I would spend the week crafting and polishing a post and then have it ready to go by 12:01 am each and every Monday morning.

But that's not what happened. For the last year or so, as my life got busier (or I got lazier, I can't really decide which one), I found myself doing the Sunday night scramble and ignoring my family and friends as I furiously typed away on the laptop and scoured the interwebs for random stories and YouTube videos to embed into the post -- believe it or not, the hyperlinks were usually the most time consuming part of my blog posts.

Additionally, writing a blog post started to lose some of its luster. This arbitrary weekly deadline I set for myself began to loom over my head and I began to dread Sunday evenings because of it. I struggled to find things I wanted to write about, and a number of times I just posted a YouTube video with very little text, simply because I wanted to get the post out of the way -- and that's not the way it should be. This blog was a way for me to get my creative writing bug out, and now that it's become more of a chore, I decided it might be best for me to back off a bit.

However, I didn't want to leave you, my faithful readers, hanging. It bothers me when TV shows end without giving proper resolution or when radio stations change formats without an explanation. So this is my explanation to you: I won't be posting regularly from now on. I'm taking a sabbatical.

Frankly, it seems to me that the age of the blog has passed. I've seen a number of talented bloggers stop blogging and I believe it's partly because the times have changed. Sure, there are popular mommy blogs and opinion blogs out there, but there's not really room for a blog that posts funny videos and weird stories weekly, when people can get the same thing hourly on Twitter or Facebook. I saw the downward slope of my traffic and choose to believe it's because of the decline of blogs in general and not because of a decline of my sense of humor, but still, my heart just isn't in it anymore.

Yup. These are my actual stats from Blogger.
However, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge some milestones on this, my 300th post:

My Most-viewed Post

Most Comments on a Post
  • The Curse of the Number 3 (26 comments). This post about the third movie in a series usually being the worst of the series got a pretty big boost because it was featured on the front page of IMDb (on the Hit List, which is something they've since discontinued). I was pretty proud of this one. It barely beat out Breaking Silence (25 comments), which surprised me, since Twilight fans are usually pretty defensive and vocal.
Sidenote: I once said that I was going to stop blogging whenever I got three posts in a row with no comments, but that happened far too often. :) 

My Favorite Posts
That's a difficult question. I mean, I have 300 to pick from. It includes all of the ones mentioned above (with the exception of May I Request a Sidebar, Your Honor? - that was a throwaway post), but in addition to those posts already mentioned, I also really enjoyed writing:

Now, this isn't a goodbye. I still plan to post when I have something to say, but I'm not going to be doing it on a weekly basis. My time seems so limited lately, and, to put it in current terms, I'm furloughing non-essential activities. I'm taking my Sundays back, and I'm spending more time with my growing family.

I thank you for being a faithful reader of Slice of Fried Gold.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Take a Bite Out of Fashion

Ok, faithful readers, since the last post was only loosely related to Halloween, I decided it was only fair that I do one more Halloween-related post. So even though all of my Halloween decorations are cleaned up and I've spread the horror movies across my entire queue, instead of stacking them all at the top, let's dance around the theme of scary and unusual one more time, shall we?

This week's post was sent in by, alert reader, Andrea and I'll admit that it disturbed me. I consider my tolerance level for being grossed out pretty high (I changed two poopy diapers today and only gagged twice), but this fashion statement from a British couple named Fantich & Young just seems. . .wrong.

Check it out:

Yup. Just in case you're not wearing your reading glasses right now, there are teeth lining the bottom of those black Oxfords.

1,050 teeth, to be specific. No, they're not real teeth, they're just dentures, but still. Ew.

Just ew. Especially with the gold teeth accents on the front. I don't know why that disturbs me as much as it does, but it does.

But Mariana Fantich and Dominic Young weren't just content with disturbing dress shoes with dentured soles. Oh, no.

That, faithful readers, is a perfectly normal coat with nothing unusual about it.

I'm kidding, of course. Fantich & Young created this monstrosity using a Savile Row suit, dentures (of course), glass eyes and, you're not going to believe this, human hair. Yes, human hair.

And yes, there are matching pants with denture accents, as well.

They really do go well with those shoes, I guess.

And, don't worry ladies, they have some Jimmi Choos for you, as well.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Let's Define "Blackface"



Before I start, I feel that I should inform you that I'm "white." I put that color in quotes because my skin isn't really the color of a cloud or a marshmallow (though its consistency may be like one of those two things -- I need to work out more). My skin is more of a peach-ish, orange-ish, pink-ish hue. However, my race shouldn't be an issue here. After all, if you're going to dismiss my opinion based solely on the color of my skin, that kind of makes you racist, doesn't it?

I bring this up because recently Julianne Hough has been accused of racism because she appeared in "blackface" for her Halloween costume. Here's a picture:

Now, I don't really follow Ms. Hough's career that much (I hear she dances and sings), but I find it interesting that people are considering this costume to be racially offensive. She was just using some makeup to look like one of her favorite characters from a TV show, who happens to be black. Here's a picture of the character she was trying to look like:

Now, I don't really follow Orange is the New Black that much (I hear there's dancing and singing), but if Julianne Hough is dressing up as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren, why shouldn't she try to match the skin tone of the character? If she didn't, Ms. Hough would spend the evening explaining who she was to each person at the party because no one would really get it. After all, Hough is a blond-haired, blue-eyed white girl. She was just trying to match the TV character (played by Uzo Aduba) as much as she possibly could.

Hough has since apologized for her costume, but did she really need to? If I was going as Conan O'Brien for Halloween, for example, I would probably apply some translucent white makeup to lighten my skin and I'd probably also wear an orange wig. I doubt anyone (including the Irish) would call that racist. So why would it be considered racist to darken my skin a little to match that of a character I'm trying to emulate? Furthermore, would it have been considered racist if Hough had worn a "Crazy Eyes" mask instead of using makeup?

To me, Julianne's costume is not blackface. It's just makeup for a costume. It wasn't done with the intent to offend or satirize the African American community, it was done to match a character on TV. It's not a great costume, but it's also not a racist one.

You know what I think blackface is? Here's a picture:

To me, this is a sloppy and, frankly, offensive way of portraying the skin of those with African heritage. Back in the day, actors would slather on the black makeup and then add a white mouth during vaudeville shows and films. Blackface was done as a satirical stereotype of an entire race and was a pretty bad idea in the first place, in my opinion.

Let's jump back to today, shall we?

That picture is from a 2013 Dunkin' Donuts ad in Thailand about a dark chocolate doughnut. Now, I am unable to read the Thai language, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the text doesn't say "I am a generalization of the African people, and I like doughnuts." No, this advertisement shows a chocolate-covered doughnut held by a chocolate-covered person. It has nothing to do with race. And yet some Americans still clamored that this ad was racist. They yelled "BLACKFACE!" and demanded that the ads be taken down because they were so offensive. Unless "Chocolate-covered Doughnut People" is an existing race on the World Census, this should not be considered racism and it should not be considered blackface.

But that's not to say that people don't do blackface in modern times.

That picture is of Ted Danson. For those of you who don't know who Ted Danson is, he was a famous TV star who only really made one successful venture into the movie world with Three Men and a Baby. Anyway, in 1993 he appeared at Whoopi Goldberg's roast, admittedly, in blackface. But for some reason Ms. Goldberg was fine with it (note her approving face in that picture). And when the media got after Mr. Danson, she defended him, saying she had helped write Danson's "comedic" material, and even referred Danson to the makeup artist who painted his face. Danson and Goldberg (which would be a good name for a law firm) also dismissed the accusations by saying that these types of roasts were intended to offend and shock people. This is blackface, but apparently it's an excused example of blackface.

Here's another example I'd like to discuss:

That picture depicts a group of fans painting themselves the color of their favorite sports team, which happens to be black. As far as I can tell, those girls have no racial agenda with that makeup. If fans of the Dallas Cowboys painted their skin silver, would that be considered racist? Perhaps they would be showing racism against the robot race? Should this be considered blackface? No.

Here is one final example of actual blackface, and, I need to warn you, this is offensive on a number of levels:

That is a picture of a guy smearing black makeup on his face, and fake blood on his hoodie to portray Trayvon Martin. He and his buddy apparently chose a "couple's costume" for this Halloween party. The girl is the middle is just clueless. If she realized how offensive and wrong this costume was, she wouldn't be standing between those two idiots and smiling. This is when people should get offended. This is racist. This is wrong. This is blackface.

It doesn't make sense to call that final, terrible, example of blackface "blackface" and call Julianne Hough's costume "blackface" in the same breath. The motives behind and implementations of each costume are completely different. People need to stop crying "BLACKFACE!" when it's not actually blackface. The more you throw around that term, the less power it has when it should actually be used.

So, faithful readers, let's recap what we've learned today:
  1. Using makeup to look like a famous actor/character, or painting yourself your team's colors is not blackface. 
  2. Smearing black paint on your face with the intention to portray a stereotyped caricature of an entire race is blackface.
  3. I need to work out more.
Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Northampton: They All Float Down Here

Faithful readers, can we call just take a moment, be honest with each other and admit that Tim Curry's role of Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King's "It" is the most terrifying thing to ever happen on television? Can we all just admit that that creepy clown has haunted our dreams as children and may even cause feelings of dread in us as adults?

Or is it just me?

I first saw "It" when it was on TV in 1990. Confession: I was probably not quite old enough to be watching something like that. How do I know that I may have been too young? Because I threw up after watching the first half of the miniseries. Now, that could have been because I had eaten too much hamburger gravy, or it could have been that my body was revolting after the terror and stress I had just put it through.

And to this day I still get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I see Pennywise, and sometimes when I just see Tim Curry. So you can imagine my feelings when I found out that someone in Northampton, England (which I believe is just north of Hampton, England) was dressing up as Pennywise the Clown and roaming around the streets.

Apparently the Northampton Clown, as he's called, shows up at a random location and stares at people. He doesn't talk, he doesn't juggle, he doesn't make balloon animals or any of the other terrifying things that clowns normally do -- he just stands there and waves. So people began to be, understandably, creeped out by him, and they did what normal people who are disturbed by something do these days - take a picture and post it online.

Here are a few of them:

Oh I get it!

"They all float down here!"

"Don't you want your balloon?"

Great, a clown and a weeping angel in the same vicinity. *shudder*

The pointing makes this picture especially creepy.
The Northampton Clown first started popping up around September 2013 on Friday the 13th (of course). Since that time, his pictures have appeared on the news, he's started a Facebook page and, just last week, his identity was revealed.

News outlets are now reporting that the Northampton clown is a student named Alex Powell. Alex is a filmmaker who made a mockumentary about a clown in a similar getup a few months before the sightings began. However, even though the media is sure that the Northampton Clown is none other than Alex Powell, the Northampton Clown Facebook page simply states, "Don't worry, my identity is still safe. See you all soon! BEEP BEEP!" so perhaps the Northampton Clown is still out there. . .waiting to be found in the dark night.

 Well, I guess it's back to nightmares and bed-wetting for me.


Monday, October 14, 2013

The Few, The Scared, The Nude

Nestled in between Allentown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is a little town called Sinking Spring. Sinking Spring has a population of a little over 4,000, yet it has caught the eye of the national news lately. Why? Because of their Haunted Scream Park called Shocktoberfest. At first glance, it looks like your standard Halloween haunted attraction fare. You've got a haunted hayride, a couple spook alleys and a midway to keep people fed and entertained while they're waiting. However, they also have a new attraction this year called The Naked and Scared Challenge, which, faithful readers, is exactly what it sounds like.

Yup. Some demented mind in Pennsylvania thought it would be a fun idea to have people go through their haunted house completely nude.

Now, yes, I've had those nightmares when I'm suddenly naked in front of a group of people, and yes, it was terrifying, but that's a completely different type of fear than being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac. Plus, I've witnessed the behind-the-scene antics of a haunted house before. Most of the people "working" there are young volunteers that had nothing better to do that night. So even though they may say "Participants are never in view of minors or non-participating customers," you're still being seen by the people you're with and the actors in the haunt. Plus, October is a cold month, especially in PA.

And apparently the fear was a little too real for a few of the township officials after this event got some national publicity, so Shocktoberfest has been asked to tone it down a bit. They've gotten rid of the nude option and only have the "prude" option, which means you can only go through in your underwear now.


I guess my wife and I will have to cancel that road trip to Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania this Halloween. Oh well. There's always that naked Christmas sleigh ride in Alaska. . .

Monday, October 7, 2013

Screams from Room #209

Ok, faithful readers, I will admit that I've had some difficulty getting into the Halloween spirit this year. But this video, sent in by, alert reader, Dena, definitely gave me the creeps.

Quick Note: This is not one of those sudden jump-out videos. I wouldn't do that to you. . .in this post.

Now, there are a few of reasons why I think this video is fake. First of all, if it was recorded on September 4, 2003, why did it take so long for them to upload it? I mean, people have been uploading videos to YouTube since April 23, 2005 and people have been interested in the paranormal since at least September 10, 1993, so why would they wait until September 4, 2012 to upload it, never mind the fact that it's just getting popular just now in October of 2013. Wow. I think I put too many dates in that paragraph.

Also, why is it that we can hear Amy at the beginning of the audio, but not later on? And why can you hear John's muffled drive-thru speaker speech when he's outside of the room, but not when he's giving the description of what was in the room? Plus, the screams from room #209 come in a bit too clear, if we can't even hear John most of the time.

Furthermore, two seconds pass between the time the unnamed security manager says "John, are you there?" to when John walks back out of the room and is clearly not using his radio. And somehow, in those two seconds he manages to tell the security manager (and us, the audience) that he wants Amy to call the police, that there's no one in the room and that the furniture was all turned over. Then John puts the radio to his lips for one second, and manages to tell the security manager that the carpet was ripped up and the shower was on and, once again, there's nobody in there.

Finally, why didn't John turn on the light when he walked in the room? If I were John, turning on the lights would be the first thing I would do if I were to hear screams in a dark room -- call me crazy. A flashlight is a dark room is just asking for the spooky.

However, even if this video isn't real (which I doubt it is, because Jimmynut22, who uploaded it is also a filmmaker, apparently) (and he uploaded the exact same video with the title "Alien caught on camera" a day later on September 5, 2012), I still think it's effective as a creepy video and a fun way to kick off this Halloween season.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Breaking Bye-Bye

Faithful readers, I wasn't able to watch the Breaking Bad finale Sunday night because I had other priorities. So I had to go on a media fast to avoid spoilers for this show. I didn't get on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Blogger (hey! that's what this blog is on!) for over 24 hours so I could avoid hearing anything about it. It was kind of liberating, actually -- I got a lot of stuff done. And it's surprising how easy it is to not read any spoilers when you just avoid the internet completely.

Anyway, Breaking Bad is dark, depressing and hard to watch, but it was also amazingly creative, absolutely riveting and it's the reason I don't have a real blog post for you. I can't wait for ClearPlay to get a filter for this show so I can actually recommend it to people.

Never fear, I have a whole slew of Halloween-related posts for the month of October.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Vegas Cat

Faithful readers, we've discussed intelligent animals, talking animals and delicious animals on this blog before, but we've never really talked about animals that could make you a few bucks. Check out what Kido the kitty can do.

If he's this good at the shell game, imagine how Kido could do at blackjack or Texas hold 'em!

We could make a fortune, Kido. Join me!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Waffles: A Challenge for the Internet

Oh Internet, you think you're so smart - so witty. You think you can take anything that's seemingly mundane and turn it into something cool that will endlessly entertain people like me and the faithful readers of Slice of Fried Gold.

Well I have a challenge for you, Internet.

Popularize this!

Yup. It's a waffle falling over. That's it. Thanks, Schnooleheletteletto! Not since Man Eats Hamburger has someone uploaded something so unremarkable to YouTube. And you, Internet, now have to find a way to make it into something people will want to share. You must create it into a meme that will be copied and repeated dozens of hundreds of time!

Are you up for it?

Oh. Ok. I guess you are. That was mildly entertaining, I guess. But I'm not that big of a SpongeBob fan, so...

Fine, Internet, you can try and appeal to me with my enjoyment of dubstep music, but I still don't think these waffles are a meme yet. For that you need many, many more-

Ok, those last three are just playing off past Slice of Fried Gold posts! You can't just-

And those are some my favorite TV shows, but still...

How is this possible?? It's just a video of a waffle falling over!

You win, Internet.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Comic Con! Bang a Gong! Comic Con!

Faithful readers, I am officially a geek.

I mean, I've manifested geek tendencies before, and I can hold my own when it comes to geek trivia, but I had a rite of passage this past weekend and I wanted to announce it to the world: I attended my first Comic Con. And I would like to briefly share my experience and thoughts with you.

I've thought about attending the Comic Con in San Diego for some time now, but the tickets are way too expensive and the trip there would only add to the bill. So I just admired other people's pictures. However, Comic Con finally made its way to Salt Lake City and that was much closer to me and much more manageable.

So I went. I was resistant at first (money and time were an issue), but I obtained a Press Pass (never mind how I got it) and I was able to go to the Salt Lake City Comic Con. My first "Con" ever.

My first impression was how many people were there. As I was making my way to the Salt Palace (in the pouring rain), I was amazed by all the people who were walking around the city in costume. It was awesome. But I was confused by the fact that many of the costumed people were walking away from the convention center. As it turns out, Salt Lake Comic Con was sold out. No new tickets were being sold. Luckily, I had that Press Pass, and the event staff let me right in.

Crowds. . .why did it have to be crowds?
Wow. So many people were inside.

I'm not a big fan of crowds, so I was hesitant to wander down in the midst of the horde, but it called to me. I couldn't resist.

I didn't really know where to go or what to do, so I just wandered and looked at costumes. As it turns out, that was my favorite thing. I went to a couple panels and I wandered by the celebrity tables, but I just loved seeing the dedication and creative spirit of the people there. I was wearing my Firefly shirt, so I did put some effort into it, but I kept thinking how fun it would be to have a costume that people wanted to photograph. Maybe next year.

The Hulk is much bigger than I thought he'd be.
Anyway, one thing I learned about Comic Con is that most of the celebrities charge for a picture or an autograph -- I had no idea. It almost seems like highway robbery when you have to pay $40 to use your own camera to take a picture of you standing next to Lou Ferrigno. But I guess these people need to make a buck somehow. Some of the celebrities, like Kevin Murphy don't charge for an autograph or picture. But they will accept donations for a charity. Mr. Murphy mentioned that they had raised $850 for the American Red Cross during his time at the Salt Lake Comic Con. Way to go, Tom Servo!

Also, there are big lines to wait in if you want to shell out the cash to stand next to a celebrity. However, I soon discovered the power of the Press Pass and was able to jump the line to snap a photo using my cell phone. Granted, I wasn't in any of the shots and I didn't actually meet any of the celebrities, but seeing them interacting with their fans was pretty interesting.

This guy does a GREAT Tom Servo impersonation.
I have two regrets in that regard: One, I chickened out on meeting Kevin Murphy. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is my favorite TV show, and I get a little tongue-tied when I'm around people I admire. I had already made a fool around They Might Be Giants a few years back, so I figured I'd sit this one out and just snap a photo and run.

The second regret is that I didn't get to see Nicholas Brendon. I recently convinced my wife to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer in its entirety, and so I'm kind of on a Buffy high. Xander was on a break when I was doing my quick celebrity walk-by pictures, and then he was gone when I got back from attending a panel. Darn. I'll just tell myself that it wasn't Nicholas Brendon. I'll convince myself that it was his identical twin brother, Kelly Donovan.

But that was pretty much it. I was only able to be there for a few hours. I wish I could have been there longer. It seemed strange that they closed down the floor at 7:00, when they still had panels going until 9:00. I don't know why they decided on that. The later panels seemed a little disorganized, too, like the event staff had gone home for the evening.

But I had fun. As I mentioned before, I just loved seeing people walk around in costumes. Plus, even though there were lines and crowds, everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Compliments were given out almost as much as flyers and business cards. Everyone seemed to be enjoying what they were doing. And there was a spirit of camaraderie among all of us geeks there. It was like Burning Man, but with more bathrooms and less nudity.

How many Deadpools can you fit into a TARDIS?

I'm glad I went to the Salt Lake Comic Con, and I hope to go again next year.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Total Eclipse of the Divas

Faithful readers, I don't normally like impressionists. For every one good impersonator out there, there are 4,815,162,342 terrible ones. Bad impressions are like nails on a chalkboard to me. However, every now and then, an impressionist comes along that actually impresses me; an impersonator who goes beyond the clichéd impressions of Jack Nicholson or Gollum. And Christina Bianco is just that impressionist. She takes Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart and makes it her own. . .well. . .kind of.

Check it out:

Not bad, eh? I was initially lukewarm on the Adele impression, but when she hit Bette Midler, Julie Andrews and Celine Dion so spot-on, I was won over. Well done, Ms. Bianco, may your repertoire of impressions continue to grow and grow, and perhaps include a Gollum impersonation -- people love Gollum.

My thanks to, alert reader, Jacob for sending this link in.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Beard Science

I'm normally a clean-shaven fellow. I also don't really like to wear hats,or sunglasses, but that's beside the point. This post is about facial hair. As I previously stated, most days out of the year I don't have any facial hair, but whenever I go up to our family cabin (which is usually once a year), I grow out my beard.

Not shaving while in the woods for about a week allows me to get past the awkward, drunk hobo look and return to the public with decent growth. I usually keep the beard until it gets annoyingly itchy, or until I have to start to trim and maintain it, which is also annoying. Having a beard gives me a chance to try a different look and hide my double chin. Plus, my wife likes me with facial hair, so that's a bonus. Although she called this last beard "distinguished," which means there's gray in it and I'm getting old.

However, every beard's life must come to an end in my house. And when that time comes, I don't quite know how to deal with it. Just shaving it off seems so unceremonious and anti-climatic. In the past I've shaved it off in parts and sported a goatee, an extended mustache and mutton chops for an evening. I should have been thinking bigger. I should have been thinking more grandiose. I should have been more creative, like Ben Garvin and his beard:

Now THAT'S how you shave a beard off! Well done, Mr. Garvin.

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Electric -- Boogie Woogie Woogie!

Live theater is fighting an uphill battle, faithful readers. In a world of special effects, computer-generated imagery and digital 3D, the standard live performance suffers from a lack of pizazz. Although, if you think about it, you can't get much more three-dimensional than watching a live performance.

The producers of live performances are so desperate to pull people's eyes away from the likes of Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimerdinger that they're willing to risk their actors' well-being with shows like Spider-Man: Turn Off the Lights, So There's More Risk Involved. But even that's not enough to get crowds into the theaters to see the performances. So some people in Belfast, Ireland, decided to take their spectacular live show to the crowds instead.

Take a look:

I think that every kid who has seen Return of the Jedi has dreamed of a day when he or she could shoot lightning from his or fingertips. Sure, Emperor Palpatine is a bad guy, but that's still a pretty cool power. And this kind of technology gets us one step closer to Palpatine lightning fingers, which, in turn, puts us one step closer to lightsabers -- and that is always a good thing.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The City So Nice, They Made It Twice

I used to be a great road tripper. In the past, I've taken a couple of extended road trips with my brothers, my father and my friends, and we always prided ourselves on making great time, finding new places to eat and making as few stops as possible.

This is no longer the case.

Much like my waist size, my road trip time has expanded and become more unpleasant since I had children. What used to be a four-hour trip to our family cabin now takes approximately 24,601 hours, or so it feels. If only I could make an exact replica of our vacation destination and put it only 22 minutes (the length of one Phineas and Ferb episode) away from our home. But that's crazy talk, isn't it? No one in their right mind would clone an entire city, right?


Huh. Go figure. Of all the popular cities out there, I wouldn't have guessed that Hallstatt, Austria was a town that merited cloning. Perhaps Hallstatt (Part Deux) in the Huizhou, Guangdong province is just the beginning, or testing ground for the clone city concept. If the experiment goes well, perhaps there will be more clones, like a Paris in Idaho, or a London in Ohio, or maybe even a Hell in Michigan.

Which begs the question, faithful readers, if you could clone any city and move it to a location closer to where you are now, which would it be? And why? And would it have the same charm?

For now, though, I guess when in China, do as the Austrians do.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Heaven is a Place on Earth

Faithful readers, I am currently on vacation. This blog will return to its regularly scheduled (i.e. weekly) posts about unusual, funny and entertaining (to me) things next Monday.


Monday, July 29, 2013

A Concert for Cows

Faithful readers, last week's post was very long and had a lot of words. Therefore, to balance out the universe, this week's post is going to be short and have fewer words.

So, just to recap: Cow concerts = real. Cow tipping = fake.

My thanks to, alert reader, Rob for sending this in.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why I Watch Edited Movies

I love films.

I watch edited movies.

Those two statements are not mutually exclusive.

Contrary to popular belief, you can be a big fan of film and still not be a fan of vulgarity, sexual content, excessive violence and nudity. Much like how you can be a fan of pizza, but not like pineapple on your pizza (or anywhere, for that matter, because pineapple is disgusting). Yet there seems to be this stigma out there that if you're watching edited movies, you're not a real fan of cinema.

I disagree.

So I'm going to take a moment and talk about some of the misconceptions, accusations and general responses that I get whenever I mention that I prefer my movies cleaned up a bit. I want to let you know why I watch edited movies. Before I do, I would like to mention up front that I don't get up on a pedestal and call someone a sinner whenever they mention that they saw an R-rated movie. I reserve that behavior for whenever someone mentions that they voluntarily watched a Tyler Perry movie. But seriously, I don't judge others (vocally) for watching unedited movies, and I hope that you would extend me the same courtesy.

"You watched it edited? Then you didn't really see the movie."

Imagine that you go to visit Paris in the spring. You see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and other famous French landmarks found in The Da Vinci Code. You come back and tell everyone how much you enjoyed Paris and then someone pipes up and says "Well, did you see the sewers of Paris?"

"No. I didn't see the sewers."

"Well, then, you didn't really see Paris."

And that's how those people sound when they tell me I didn't really see a movie when I saw it edited. When I watch an edited movie, I still see the characters, I still am able to watch the plot unfold, I still hear all of the important dialogue (swear words are just unnecessary adjectives and adverbs anyway), so I've seen the movie. Just because I choose not to watch what I consider to be "the crap" doesn't mean I wasn't able to enjoy the movie.

Now yes, some movies may lose a scene here and there, and the plot can get muddled at times, but that rarely happens and, when it does, that's what Wikipedia plot summaries are for.

"How dare you ruin the director's art! You're ruining a piece of art!!"

No. I'm not ruining anyone's art. I'm not driving to Hollywood, walking into a studio and snipping out sections of the original film (or hard drive, in the case of George Lucas). I have my own copy, at home, in my personal collection. Some of these DVDs in my personal collection are physical edited copies that I bought from a place like CleanFlicks. I can edit other copies that I own, or copies that I rent from Netflix, on my ClearPlay player. The keyword there is "copy." Meaning that the original remains intact for anyone who wants to watch it. Once again, to use a simile, it's as if I purchased a replica of Michelangelo's statue of David and dressed him up in Bermuda shorts, fingerless gloves and a beret. The actual statue is still in Florence, Italy and it's still safe and sound (and nude) for everyone to enjoy. However, back in my house, David is still wearing the shorts, but we've now replaced the beret with snorkel gear -- simply because we can. I choose to appreciate the art in my own way, and it doesn't affect anyone else.

"Wow. I bet [insert movie title here] was, like, five minutes long!"

Believe it or not, swearing, nudity, violence and sex make up a very small portion of mainstream movies. There have been a couple times when the run time of the edited movie was drastically different than the original run time (Team America: World Police comes to mind, but the CleanFlicks version I own still runs over an hour), but, for the most part, edited movies only shave off a few minutes, if that.

"Do you watch every movie edited?"

Yes. Every movie. Even Disney cartoons. They can be so vulgar and vile at times.

I'm kidding, of course.

I don't watch every movie edited. I'll usually check out the Parents Guide on IMDb and see what a movie has in it. Then I will determine if I want to wait to see it edited or not. If there's excessive amounts of sex, offensive language or nudity, I'll wait until it comes out on DVD, so I can watch it on my ClearPlay player. There are some R-rated movies, like The Matrix, that I'll watch without editing because, in my opinion, there isn't much to edit. On the other hand, though, there are some PG-13 movies, like Anchorman, that I prefer to watch edited. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings are a good guideline for me, but they're not the rule.

In my opinion, the MPAA does a pretty good job of classifying what is appropriate for what audience, but I do have issues with some of their ratings. For example, I will never understand how a movie like Slumdog Millionaire, which is a beautiful movie with an inspiring message of hope and love, has the exact same rating as Hostel, which is essentially torture porn. In the early 80s they created a new rating (PG-13) to fit the needs of the gap between a movie that was appropriate for most audiences (PG) and a movie that might traumatize children (R). I think it's time for another revamp of the rating system to distinguish between the Slumdogs and the Hostels. Although, I really don't like it when the MPAA retroactively rates a film. Psycho (1960), for instance, is currently listed as rated R. This classic Hitchcock film should not be rated R. It's a tame PG-13, if anything. The R rating wasn't even created until 1968. But I digress. . .

"Why do you watch edited movies?"

Ah. Now there's a good question (and the point of this entire post). Thanks for asking, faithful readers. Basically it comes down to distraction. It's difficult for me to enjoy a movie when I'm distracted and annoyed by cussing or nakedness. I don't enjoy having these in my movie, and so, by taking them out of the picture (literally), I feel like I can better enjoy the film. And I'm grateful for the different editing options I have so I can enjoy movies I normally wouldn't want to watch.

The nice thing about having a ClearPlay player is the fact that I can choose my level of filtering depending on the audience. Each filter has four different settings (no filtering, least filtering, medium filtering and most filtering), so when my kids are watching a movie, I can have all of the filters on high and not worry about them hearing anything that I'm going to have to stop them from repeating. When it's just my wife and I watching a movie, I can put the Vulgarity, Blasphemy, Sex and Nudity filters on medium (which seems to edit out most of the offensive stuff without over-editing), turn off the other filters and enjoy the movie that way. And, since the ClearPlay player doesn't alter the actual DVD in any way, it doesn't even "ruin" any director's precious "art."*
*see above paragraph titled  "How dare you ruin the director's art! You're ruining a piece of art!!"

I also don't understand why filmmakers don't market edited movies to the masses. There is obviously a market for it (when one edited movie store closes, another one always seems to open), so money and demand aren't the problem. I'd wager that movie studios would make a ton of money selling edited versions to the public. Plus, the studios already make an edited version for television broadcasts and use on airlines, so resources and technology aren't the problem. Yet the filmmakers remain stubborn on this issue of selling professionally edited movies.

For the record, I would prefer a studio-created edited version of films. These edits would be less jumpy than ClearPlay or CleanFlicks, and the audio dubbing is less distracting than the muting when it comes to dialogue. As much as I (rightly) mock Avatar, James Cameron actually put an "Optional Family Audio Track" on the DVD and Blu-ray discs that cuts out all the swearing -- and I applaud that decision. I just wish he would have put an "Original Plot" option on those discs for that movie, as well.

In closing, I'd like to state once more that just because I watch a movie edited doesn't mean that I'm not a lover of film. I love movies, I just don't like some of the stuff Hollywood puts in movies -- and I'm not alone. In fact, one of the foremost film experts I personally know (he's a professional cinematographer with a BA in Media Arts who has worked on such films as Napoleon Dynamite and 127 Hours) is another edited film watcher. And I'd like to share with this quote from him from when I asked him why he watches edited movies:

why i watch edited movies is a big question, and one that has shifted somewhat over time. . .generally [I] still hold to the "no R" rule. but, more than that, i try to seek out good media.**

And that's what I'm trying to do, as well -- seek out good media. After all, movies and TV shows can inspire us and educate us as they entertain us. Film is art. Art is subjective. And I choose not to subject myself to those things that I, personally, find offensive in my quest to find compelling stories told in interesting and beautiful ways. That is why I watch edited movies.

**(Note: The above quote has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen and edited for time and content.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

One of Those Weeks

Faithful readers, it's been one of those weeks. You know what I'm talking about? The kind of week when your head feels like it's going to do this:

Maybe that example was a bit graphic. Here's one for the kids:

And here's one more (by the same guy -- Simone Rovellini), just because it made me laugh:

Here's to hoping next week is a bit less stressful.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Maybe She's Born With It

Believe it or not, faithful readers, some of my faithful readers are women. And I want to dedicate this post to all of my female readers out there.

Ladies, I feel your pain. I know how annoying unwanted advances can be -- after all, I was a security officer for five years, and I can't tell you how many women tried to hit on me while I was a man in uniform. And it's just not easy or pleasant to let someone know you're not interested in them when they're obviously interested in you, am I right? Don't you wish there was a way to deter someone from hitting on you when you don't want to be hit on?

Well now there is! Check it out:

Yikes! I probably should have put a warning before that picture, shouldn't have I? No, those are not the legs of the average testosterone-filled male. And no, those are not the legs of a testosterone-filled female, either. Yes, they are female legs, but the hairiness is caused by manufactured leggings, not hormones. This hosiery has hair (it's unclear whether it's real or artificial) woven into the fabric to create the appearance of extreme unshavenness.

These shaggy stockings are all the rage in China, where apparently smooth operators are thwarted by unsmooth limbs. It seems that it would be much easier (not to mention cheaper) to just go without shaving, but perhaps your leg whiskers don't grow in full enough, and you're still turning men's heads instead of their stomachs.

I'm sorry to say that these nylons aren't widely distributed yet, so until they are, we'll just have to dream (or have nightmares) about independent women flaunting these leggings around.

My "thanks" to alert reader, Rob, for sending this in.

Monday, July 1, 2013

And Thus He Was Caught with Guile

Faithful readers, who would you say is the most patriotic video game character?

If you answered Waluigi, Liu Kang or Tails, you're dead wrong. Try again.

If you then answered Mario, Scorpion or Sonic, you've got good taste in video games, but you really need to branch out and try new ones. And you're still wrong.

The answer is, of course, Guile from the Street Fighter series. Aside from being the best character in the game (my brothers could never defeat my Sonic Boom/Flash Kick combo), he also was specifically designed (by Japanese programmers) to be the most All-American video game character ever!

Don't believe me? Look at this picture and tell me it doesn't inspire you to break out in the Star-Spangled Banner.

Sure, that image makes it look like Guile is going to punch our national bird in the face, but that man (created by Japanese programmers) is all-American, baby!

His theme song also inspires patriotic feelings -- so much, in fact, that the internet has decided that Guile's theme song is deserving of it's very own meme. Apparently the Guile theme goes well with any scene it's attached to, and makes that scene 48.15% more epic. So, without further ado here are some examples of the Guile Theme Goes with Everything meme:

And, of course:

Happy Birthday, America!