It. Eats. Teeth. For Serious!


Channel Zero: Candle Cove is a freaky show.

No, that’s not quite right.

Candle Cove is a slow-moving story interrupted by moments of brain-bending horror.  In some ways it is a by-the-numbers tale of something bad that happened to a group of children that starts up again later in life.  Stephen King tackled this a few times in his career so far.  In 1988 several missing local children were found murdered.  What makes this even creepier is the fact that the children were all found stuck in a tree with all their teeth missing.  One of the missing children was never found.  That boy happens to be the brother of our main character, a child psychiatrist named Creepy McBadtouch.

Actually, he’s a decent guy.  So far.  But the show needs him to look and seem… off.  And he is.  His real name is Mike Painter. His brother was never found and is presumed dead along with the kids who were found hanging like Charlie Brown’s kite in the limbs of the Eating Tree.   Creepy dreams and suspenseful music drive Mike back to the town of Iron Hill because something is happening.  Something bad.

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Bleak and Savage, The Walking Dead Returns


What a wicked, wearying slog that was. After half a year waiting and speculating, the season premiere of The Walking Dead turned out to be a master class in misery, perhaps like a glimpse inside Dick Cheney’s porn stash where pain and fear are foreplay in an orgy of graphic violence.

The Walking Dead has demonstrated its ability to punctuate long periods of dread with moments of horrifying violence.  It is the struggle of humanity against our primal, savage nature that defines the conflict of this series. Our heroes are not pure souls struggling to retain virtue in a cruel world.  They are flawed characters who have changed much over the past six seasons and done unspeakable things to protect themselves and their tribe.  They have faced monsters like Negan before and prevailed.

But this episode sustains a raw brutality without respite, without mercy or levity to break up the misery or the torture.  If not for commercials with shiny cars going ZOOM and cartoon bears singing the praises of toilet paper, some viewers might have been put on suicide watch by the second break.  It’s a bold move for a television series and for a season opener likely to attract new viewers jumping on from all the hype.  Some viewers (not acquainted with the comics) were, no doubt, expecting a last minute rescue or for the heroes to fight their way out of it.  Perhaps, they suppose, after the killing they could fight back and escape?   No.  It just got worse.  Spoilers ahead.

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Oh My God, They Killed Teddy!


You Bastards!

(No, this isn’t a spoiler.  Teddy dies every damn episode and sometimes many multiple times an episode. It’s a play on…oh never mind.   Spoilers do exist below.  Just warning you now.)

Once upon a time, I fell in love.  We had a relationship for six years and it was wild at first, stimulating in a way I’d never experienced, and frustrating the way all good relationships can be.  About half way through, things started getting weird and the frustrating parts grew more surreal.  While at first my trust remained intact I eventually began questioning the honesty of our relationship and my questions begat more questions with few answers.  This deteriorating relationship didn’t change from about the third year on.  The lies and the secrets piled into a tangle of knots so dense I couldn’t hope to work out one kink before three more appeared.  Eventually, we found ourselves together more out of habit than interest.  Or maybe I stayed just to see how terrible a train wreck the relationship could become before it all ended.

And it ended.  ABC’s Lost wrapped up its complex storyline after six seasons in a total betrayal of the emotional an intellectual investment I put into it.  We’ll still have many amazing memories, but it will always seem like the whole relationship was set up to fail.

This is why I’m reluctant to get too excited by HBO’s Westworld.  By comparison, Lost had 25 episodes in its first season and Westworld only has ten.  Lost had time to ponder the depths of its own narrative belly-button and kept adding new twists and arcs and characters and – as we would discover later – A JJ Abrams trademark he developed from German literature called Hübschescheiße or “Pretty Bullshit.”  Finally, Lost pioneered the modern series-long arc and was a novelty for its time.  Westworld doesn’t have this luxury.  It will live or die by how well it tells its story.  If it is beautiful, yet plodding and elusive like Vinyl, it may die.  If it becomes pretentious and sloppy like Season Two of True Detective, it absolutely will.

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Westworld on Rewatch


Episodes 1 & 2

About two-thirds of the way through the second episode of HBO’s Westworld, we get a speech from Park Director Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) that could have easily come from the show’s writer’s room shutting down a bad idea…

“No, I don’t think so. What is the point of it? You get a couple of cheap thrills, some surprises, but it’s not enough. It’s not about giving the guests what you think they want. That’s simple: titillation, elation, horror, their politics. The guests don’t return for the obvious things we do, the garish things. They come back because of the subtleties, the details. They come back because they discover something they imagine no one had ever noticed before. They’re not looking for a story that tells them who they are. The already know who they are. They’re here because they want a glimpse of who they could be.” – Robert Ford

This may as well describe the kind of films and television that capture our imaginations, the ones that keep us coming back because they challenged us and made us think and we came a way inspired and excited.  Westworld isn’t supposed to be a guided tour through a cheap fun house ride but a complex matrix of interwoven story lines that leave the newcomers satisfied but also craving more.

It’s an ambitious idea that expands a simple film concept into 10 hours of television drama and another “Bad Robot” reboot hoping to cash in on our childhood nostalgia by serving it back up with new layers of meaning and mature themes.

Logan, the veteran traveler to Westworld, tries to keep his friend (okay, coworker) William from falling into the novice “quests” because, as he says on the train, Westworld is far more than an amusement park; it is a way of figuring out who you really are (a line echoed later in the quote above by John Hammond’s cybernetic doppelganger, Robert Ford.

Last post, I floated the idea that these newcomers are in the past, perhaps 30 years in the past around the time of the park’s last big meltdown.  It seemed to fit at the time.  But.  Maybe I am wrong about William and Logan being from the past.  The more I think about it the more I suspect they’re from the future, experiencing the new story line hinted in Episode 2.   The train and the arrival station look different.  Teddy is not on board (what we saw) and it was William who bumped the sinister gunman in the street.  Instead of Maeve, we find Clementine outside the brothel.  Perhaps Teddy and Maeve were decommissioned after their repeated breakdowns?  The group of men mustering for a manhunt are now recruiting for a war.  Initially I thought it might be earlier, representing the Indian battles seen in Maeve’s flashmares, but could it be Sizemore’s new story line edited to suit Robert Ford’s vision?  I’m not totally convinced of either option, but it is a cool storytelling device.


  1. How is it that The Gunslinger could sustain interest in Westworld for 30 years knowing there is absolutely no danger, no risk, just complete fulfillment? He even seems bored with replaying the same “levels” or “chapters” in his adventures but does so because he thinks there is something deeper.  He’s hinted at a kind of Dirk Gently holistic connection between all things leading to some more intriguing mystery in a maze which may be metaphorical or real at this point.  But if we accept that he is a human guest of the park (the park’s head of security called him a “guest” but doesn’t go so far as to confirm his humanity) he’s been at this a long time.  It also suggests that the characters and situations haven’t changed much in 30 years which supports the idea that William and Logan are in the past and that William is the Gunslinger after all.
  2. At the apex of her grief, the android daughter confesses the location of The Maze’s entrance to the Gunfighter. She adds, “The maze is not intended for you.”  Could this mean the Gunfighter is a rogue android and the maze is the down-under repair and management facility?  Or could it just mean the area is off-limits to customers?  Or is it some new, mystic bullshit thrown out by the writer to develop the mythology behind the show?
  3. Who is going to kill Lee Sizemore? What a cartoonish twat-waffle.
  4. Was the little lost boy a young, robotic Robert Ford? They sure went out of their way to suggest it.
  5. Is Ford looking out at the future (meaning present) Westworld at the end, where he talks to his mini-Ford about the “white church” which already stands in town? #4 and #5 are some serious retro-Lost mind games.
  6. Is the web site canon? There are some interesting clues there if so.
  7. I’m still not sure about how the arcs work. From the Hosts’ perspective, if they are “killed” they wake up at the beginning of their story cycle.  How long might that be?  Are there newcomers arriving every day?
  8. Is Teddy really intended to be Dolores’ primary love interest or just a place holder in case a Newcomer doesn’t pick up her canned goods? I know there’s a non-can-related connection between them, but it isn’t consistent.
  9. We’ve seen Teddy drinking alone at the saloon a few times in Maeve’s various reboots. Are these reboots crossing weeks of planned storytelling?  According to the web site, newcomers can only stay 28 days.  Does that mean a cycle lasts that long or that there’s some natural “restart” within that time?

No Room for Objectification in the Entertainment News Industry?

Nancy O’Dell, host of Entertainment Tonight and the subject of one of Donald Trump’s “brags” caught on a hot mic, said something about her experience that I’m trying to work out in my head.

“There is no room for objectification of women, or anyone for that matter, not even in the ‘locker room.’ The conversation has got to change because everybody deserves respect, no matter the gender or setting. And as a mom, I have to add that our kids, especially our young girls, need to know that their hard work, their achievements, their intelligence, their heart are most important, and those things will not go unnoticed.”

I support the idea that everyone should be treated with respect.  My struggle is how these sentiments align with the entertainment news industry’s affair with vanity, youth, and celebrity.  The industry is driven by objectification.  Granted, Entertainment Tonight is not nearly the worst offender.  But you cannot tell me that they haven’t done their share of fluff pieces on the wealth and beauty of the Trump family.   It’s the industry that made Trump into a brand and profiled his feuds with Rosie O’Donnell – the ones where he called her a fat, ugly broad among many other things.  This, my friends, might be our President in three months.

It was good television, wasn’t it, ET?

It’s an industry that highlights celebrities without makeup and compares their 20-something bodies with how they’ve ballooned in their post-celebrity 40s and 50s.  It’s the industry that saw a middle-aged Heather Locklear out in public without make-up looking less than her industry-mandated ‘MILFY bombshell’ standard and speculated she might have cancer.

Tabloid media perpetuates a culture of impossible beauty and perfection that rejects (or a best marginalizes) normal-looking people.  This is an industry that normalizes the behavior of people like Trump by shaming the imperfections that make us unique and dismissing the complexity of our humanity.  Whether it is just promoting a film for Entertainment Tonight or tearing apart the appearance of some rehab survivor on, it is all about objectification.

When the story focuses on WHO you are and not WHAT you did, it’s objectification.

When beauty isn’t enough and we have to Photoshop out every blemish, that’s objectification.

When the media anguishes over a pregnant celebrity’s figure and wonders if she’ll ever get her “fab abs back” – – yeah, you get the idea.

Worse, women are sexualized.  They are only as valuable as they are sexy or attractive.  Even girls are held to some creepy standard of sexuality as they pass through the Disney talent academy.

This is not to say that Nancy O’Dell deserves any of what was said or later speculated.  She is both a victim of Trump’s words and a casualty of the war to destroy him.  She is also part of an industry that puts Billy Bush and Donald Trump on a bus and drives them through a fairy tale of glamour and sexuality, essentially paying them to perpetuate rape culture.

I hope this is the first step for women like O’Dell and other victims of Trump’s toxic personality to begin changing the climate of what is acceptable.  But it won’t be profitable.  For as much as we loathe hearing what Trump and Bush said on a hot mic, so many more Americans are in denial that they are just as guilty of similar thoughts.

No, most aren’t to the level of “I’m going to sexually assault someone because I’m a celebrity and can do things like that” but certainly to the level that they would clearly share their darker fantasies when surrounded by like-minded men.

Is there, really, NO room for objectification?  Even on the red carpet?  Are the Billy Bushes and Mario Lopezes of the world going to start asking the premiere night glitterati, “Who are you reading?” or “What’s your position on Aleppo?”  Is the fashion industry suddenly going to consider personalities before sending models onto the runway?  How about chess matches during beauty pageants?  Will our movies and television shows accept actors and actresses based on the physical standards that existed in the “standard def” world?   Probably not.

IRS Scams. (language)


These calls should be slowing down now that India claims they’ve arrested the “ringleaders” but scams are profitable.  All of the techniques used by the “Dude” below are real.  They have a script so why shouldn’t you?  Warning: Language is salty, but it shows how to manage these fucknuts.  Note the broken English.  IRS agents will never ask you to settle over the phone.  They certainly will never ask you to keep them on the phone while you go to a store for iTunes or other pre-paid cards to pay off your debt.  Hang up when they cross one of these many lines.

(I get a call on my cell phone and the V/M claims I need to call the IRS immediately or the file on their desk will move for legal action or some similar bullshit.  So I call back…)

Dude:  Hello this is IRS speaking. How may I help you?

Me:  Iris?  This is me returning your call.

Dude:  Okay, no problem.  Is this the number from which you received the call?

(Some scammers keep a database of phone numbers and names.  If you call back and they can’t find you, they’ll still try to rope you in. NEVER give them any further information about yourself – not your social security number, credit card info, or other contact phone numbers.)

Me:  Yes.  Hey, Iris is an interesting name for a dude.

Dude:  Pardon me?

Me:  I said that “Iris” is an interesting name for a dude.  Is it a nickname?

Dude:  Nono, sir.  This is I.R.S.: Internal Revenue Service.  My name is Officer David George, Badge number (whatever).  You are Jay Smith?

(They give you a badge number to pretend they are legit.)

Me:  Oh.  You’re with the I.R.S.  That’s nice.  I am he, yes.

(confirm some basic info, even though he was wrong.  Add nothing.  Tell them they should already know.  If they challenge you, hang up.)

Dude:  This call is being monitored as you are the target of an online investigation into taxes not being paid for the years 2006 through 2014 and we are calling to ascertain…

Me:  WHOAH!  EIGHT YEARS?!  Holy fuck-monkeys!  HOLY shit-smoke!  That’s fucking unreal!

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Boy, have we got a vacation for you!


The comparisons between HBO’s Westworld and Jurassic World are obvious just as they were between the 1973 original film and 1993’s Jurassic Park.  Immediately on the surface are issues of man playing God with science for amusement and profit, the idea that “life finds a way” even through impossible conditions, and that things will get ugly for the human visitors when technology and science outwit the people trying to tame them.

The first episode of this brave, new Westworld, of course, attempts to tell a much deeper and spiritual story than the action movie that inspired it.  It is told in ten parts and its characters are much more developed.  Right now, however, these automated “hosts” are little more than the harmless herbivores on display in Jurassic Park.  Even the bad guys are scary but they can’t harm the guests.  (English, Rich, Visionary Genius) John Hammond, is re-imagined as (English, Rich, Visionary Genius) Robert Ford* who has worked on recreating humanity in machines for a long time.  Most recently, he’s been tinkering with upgrades again and his latest module, “reveries” might have put the park beyond the humans’ ability to control.

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Of Policy and Pu$$y


I remember the Bill Clinton years. At the time Republicans told the world they were the moral gold standard for America. They threw Bill under the bus constantly for his relationships with women and maybe they should have. Maybe Hillary IS as evil as they say. Maybe she SHOULD be in prison. But their point THEN, as it is NOW, is that the Clintons are too immoral and sick to hold public office. So. Why doesn’t that same standard apply to Trump?

If we want to discuss logic or integrity of an opinion, it seems to me the only answer the GOP and conservative voters have in this moment is to hit Trump as hard as they would a liberal opponent and prove that their motive is moral rather than political. Because every excuse for Trump that includes something Clinton has done is a sign of hypocrisy. It sounds like someone defending a rapist by saying “YES, rape is horrible. But look who ELSE is a rapist!” It doesn’t excuse EITHER rape that occurred.

But….but…. HILLARY!


Benghazi. It was tragic and perhaps could have been avoided. Maybe Clinton should have been held responsible for her role. (Despite how many investigations, now?) Let’s assume she should for a moment. Then let’s go back to 2001 and ask why no one demanded the head of the Secretary of State who failed to heed the intelligence that predicted 3,000 dead on September 11th. Let’s ask why there wasn’t outrage over the lies or poor intelligence leading to the invasion of Iraq. There were no conservative demands for the resignations of Rice or Powell or Rumsfeld. If they had done their jobs maybe hundreds of thousands of lives could have been spared. The difference, to me, is that you can’t fit all those brave Americans and innocent civilians on a fucking poster to make a political point.

Could you imagine Trump in such a situation? What do you really think Trump will do when Putin tells him to fuck off over Syria? What’s he going to do to this “strong leader” he respects so much? Seriously, he’ll get curb-stomped like a One Direction fan at a Juggalo party.

Trump is a serial adulterer, a thief, a con artist, a showman, a lecherous bully of a man who has prospered on the vision and cash flow of others. He is a brand, a trademarked image who is beholden to Russian, Chinese, Saudi, and other foreign interests for his success and now is his opportunity to pay them back for their support of his career. His mission in life is to do right by himself and his debt-holders. He has never held public office. He has never spoken in specifics about how he would fix any of the problems he mentions and his policy statements are copy/pastes from 20 year-old ALEC memos. His actions will be based on past bargains and future favors.

Yes. Perhaps “just like Hillary.” But shut the fuck up about how he’s so much better. If anything he is more corrupt because he hasn’t had an entire political industry working to imprison him for the past 30 years. Either Hillary Clinton is a god-damn super criminal or there’s a whole lot of smoke that’s actually a conservative fog machine. The difference is that Hillary has been in the spotlight working for this country for 30 fucking years while Trump has been off hymen-testing beauty pageant contestants and suing people who call him names on Twitter. Hillary’s heart might be made of Teflon and concentrated evil but Trump has the heart of every spoiled child ever dragged screaming out of a toy store.

I’m sick of the bullshit coming from desperate voters who would call for Trump’s head if he had decided to run as a Democrat and said such things. I would bet my Barry Goldwater commemorative fountain pen that if we looked into a parallel universe where Trump was the Democratic nominee, this conversation would be all about his horrifying and disgusting life in contrast to the fine upstanding moral compass that is Ted Cruz.

And if you look at his history, the only reason he didn’t is because he had a better shot at beating the carnival sideshow of GOP candidates than the entrenched, corrupt DNC which promised Hillary her shot this time.

In other words, Trump picked the GOP because it was the party that would not only embrace his cult of personality but excuse the exact same behavior they used to impeach Bill Clinton in his second term. So much for their moral high ground and profession of integrity.

I’m not thrilled by the idea of Hillary Clinton in the White House.  I am not a fan of dynasties like the Bushes or Roosevelts.  That said, she’s been a Senator and a Secretary of State and the only other remaining applicant for the job is a man with all the presidential qualities of a 1970s game show host.  And if you waited until now or back at the convention to start thinking about a third option, you’re woefully too late.  You’re to blame because you knew this was an option back when you could have been stumping for third party candidates or holding your parties accountable for the fraud committed on both sides.

Face it. The two-party cartels that run our Republic have been reduced to this. And we fell for it. Want it to change? Stop giving a fuck about the Presidential election so much as your hometown races. Change Congress. Get reasonable people into office. Find the people who give a shit and put them into your school boards, your town councils, your county commissions. Forget about the “R” or the “D” — they are damaged brands. When the Whigs died, it gave birth to a more moderate Republican brand. As it has been, so can it be again. But only if we stop treating these elections like reality shows where our only interaction is to vote someone out each week. Because if we don’t…

It’s the WAR, stupid!


A friend of mine pointed out the IEDs in New York and asked me “NOW do you see the truth behind the ‘Religion of Peace’? How many Americans have to die before you accept Islam is a violent, savage religion? How much longer do we have to live in terror before we take the fight back to them!?” How can my tiny, liberal mind possibly comprehend the evil and hateful nature of Muslims?

Okay, Slappy, listen up.

You do know we are at war, right? Have been for just about fifteen years. Fifteen years at war.

And considering we don’t count civilian bodies on foreign shores we don’t have a firm count of how many Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, or Syrian civilians have been killed.  We have a better idea of how many combatants have been killed and a trophy case full of the militants who really needed to be killed or captured.

And just over 56 thousand American military casualties.

So a few explosions end up making it across the ocean in the last fifteen years. Imagine that. Sadly, it is only the beginning.

We are at war. With a big theater of battle that bleeds across two oceans. And it is a stupid war using a half-assed battle plan resulting from a poorly planned and hastily enacted retaliation for the attacks on 9/11.

We have been at war so long but it hasn’t bothered us here on the home front.

We have been at war so long that the general public cannot distinguish it from peacetime.

This fifteen years at war, the shared responsibility of a two-term President who blundered into it and another two-term president unable to extricate us, a moronic blood-thirsty Congress, and a pathetic American public that converts the sickness of human suffering and death into patriotic songs and stickers.

Yes, Slappy, WE are to blame for this. We let this war go on slow burn for so long without any accountability. Children have grown up on the battlefront knowing ONLY war. And here at home, with what Roger Waters called “the bravery of being out of range” we can cheer on the deaths of anonymous combatants, the taking of another city, and shed a tear for the brave men and women who died or came home irrevocably changed by two, three, or five tours of duty.

Congress and the Military-Industrial Complex know that we will bleat like sheep and feel sad for Gold Star families and stand up when the anthem is played, but we refuse to get ANGRY over the fact that people keep dying and the war is no closer to being won.

Slappy asks what this has to do with the evil Islamic boogeyman setting off pressure cookers in major US cities.

Again – WE. ARE. AT. WAR. Somehow, at some point, people took up the idea that the United States homeland doesn’t have to get its hands bloody in war. We have an entire military underclass we send to do all that while we wrap our yellow ribbons and thank everyone in a uniform for their service. How DARE the combatants bring the war to us? On our soil? No no: we OUTSOURCE war to other countries. Suffering in war is what other, small, savage brown people do. How DARE they interrupt the dance of first world commerce, stall the bus lines, and give the 24/7 news entities a war porn erection? Bombs can go off in a Baghdad market killing enough people to paint the streets red for blocks and no one gets outraged. Risk one American life in wartime and the hometown crowd goes bugfuck.

But it changes nothing. The outrage of a bomb on American soil should wake people up. SOME people should be asking “HEY! When is this war going to end?” Somehow, we’re just happy throwing blame at one another while clearly no one has a clue how to fix it. Shutting the borders, keeping out Muslims, making people take loyalty tests…that’s imbecilic nonsense.

This isn’t about an “-ism”, Slappy. This is about a war making its way to our shores after fifteen years of laying out towns and cities far away.

We are an Eloi society reliant upon a Morlock underclass and willing to go deeper into debt to buy more arms while our infrastructure fails and our veterans get shitty care stateside and we veto 9/11 responder health care, and waste millions in taxpayer money pursuing another Benghazi conspiracy or overturning Obamacare. Our keepers know we aren’t angry enough to actually do anything about anything so long as we can get our new iPhones and Organic produce and have a Starbucks on every fucking corner.

We’re only angry when a man sits down for the national anthem and only because we need to prove how more fucking patriotic we are. Fuck you, football man! YOU don’t love America more than me. I love it so much, JESUS gets jealous! I ejaculate red, white, and blue, citizen.

Want to be a REAL patriot?

Stop the fucking war.

Demand victory or an exit strategy. Bring our kids home.

And none of this “we’re getting out but we’re not getting out” bullshit. Admit it’s a quagmire and come up with a plan. Run the truth about this war past the American people and see how many mothers and sons will be willing to sacrifice for a full-scale war like the ones MacArthur used to make. When bodies are rolling off of planes in Dover by the hundreds and thousands, when we take this bloody war prime time, reinstate the draft, and sweep across the sands to wipe out the enemy all the while asking people to buy bonds and conserve plastic and energy and – GASP – GO WITHOUT to pay for it all.

It’s a war. But it ain’t a Holy War. We can’t afford it and the only way to win a Holy War is to outlaw the faith and kill all who resist you (aka Martyrs). And that’s really against our Constitution. So, fuck it. Figure something else out, Slappy, and stop blaming Islam. Blame the bloodthirsty human bore worms who happen to be Muslim just like the American bomber pilot and soldier who happen to be Christian.

Fifteen years is a slow burn designed to fatten the warmakers and chickenhawks while avoiding Vietnam level body counts and economy-crushing war expenditures. Until we end the war expect more pressure cookers and pipe bombs. Expect more guerilla attacks on American soil that will only service to strip more of our liberties for the illusion of safety.

Stop confusing this with a war about faith and recognize this is a war without purpose, without a plan, and without an end.