Monday, February 29, 2016

An Ode to the Old School "Porky's" Video Games

The amazing thing isn't that, back in the day, somebody thought it was a good idea to make a video game based on a ribald teen sex comedy - it's that somehow, we ended up with TWO of them. 

By: Jimbo X

Pretty much any console released prior to the NES just doesn't get enough love, in my humblest of opinions. Indeed, today's kids have probably never played anything older than the first Super Mario Bros. game, with the possible exception of Galaga or Ms. Pac-Man. Setting them down with a Colecovision is like asking them to operate an old school P.C. sans a mouse or a GUI - it's a piece of archaic hardware they simply can't wrap their minds around. 

Sure, the graphics on the Atari 2600 were, well, primitive, to say the least and the gameplay on the Intellivision was EXTRAORDINARILY limited. Show a middle schooler today the Magnavox Odyssey and they'll likely have no clue what the hell it's used for - and when you tell the PS4-weaned wee-uns that it's for a gaming system, they'll probably laugh their asses off. 

But what those little turds don't understand is that it is PRECISELY that bare bone simplicity that makes the pre-Nintendo consoles so awesome. No online nonsense, no fancy-schmanzy high-resolution visuals and no bombastic audio (although the sound effects on the 2600 were pretty fucking boss if you ask me; just listen to stuff blow up in Yar's Revenge and tell me that ain't some cool shit.) Here, sheer gameplay reigned supreme; it was just you and a glowing cathode ray tube television screen, and the only thing standing  between you and man's eternal battle against machine? A worn and weathered joystick. 

That said, there were still plenty of dubious video game ideas in the pre-Mario market. We all know the really egregious ones - games based on dog food commercials, games based on the Kool-Aid Man, games based on literally raping Native American women, etc. In the big scope of things, I suppose making a video game based on Porky's isn't the WORST idea for an Atari game - did I mention there is a game on the 2600 about raping Indians? - but it' still a downright bewildering license choice. 

Yes, someone indeed made a video game based on the "classic" 1982 teen sex comedy. In fact, they made TWO of them, although mechanically, they are the same offering, just on different platforms. 

The first iteration was released on the Atari 2600 in 1983 by Fox's fledgling video game subsidiary. For what it is worth, it does follow the plot of the movie as well as an Atari game can, I suppose. As the player, you control protagonist Pee Wee, who according to the game's manual, is out to "get some" - revenge against Porky, that is. 

There are four levels, each representing (sometimes abstractly) sequences from the film - the first being a practically unwinnable Frogger variation that segues into weird swamp-themed pole vaulting mini-game. 

There's really no way to describe this thing unless you have the controller in your hands. Even watching videos online, you really can't grasp just how much precision it requires; to the layman, it looks relatively simplistic - if not needlessly repetitive - but I assure you, this shit necessitates a whole lot more manual dexterity than it appears. It's not just as simple as hitting a button when you get to the edge of the pond, you have to pull off the button and swing the joystick up at JUST the right time and JUST the right direction or else you'll fall into the abyss. It took me forever to get the timing down, but when I did, it felt oh-so satisfying on the mechanical level, like finally hitting the right power chord on a guitar or determining just how much jiggling you need to open a door with a worn and rusted key (which, in turn, saves you about $20 on a new lock you would otherwise have to go on down to Home Depot and purchase.) 

From there, we move on to a Donkey Kong-esque platforming sequence in which you have to navigate your way through the girl's locker room (complete with pixel boobies!) before Coach Balbricker gets a hold of you (and if she does, it's back to the swamp level.) There are about a half dozen different items on screen - ranging from a rope to a cowboy hat to one of those over-sized ACME detonators - each time you access the stage. While conventional wisdom suggests these are items that can be used to slow down the she-wildebeest chasing you, you are actually supposed to drop them down the chasm in the bottom of the screen (you'll see why in a minute.) As with the swamp pole vaulting section, precision here is key. You have to align yourself at JUST the right spot in front of the ladders to move up them, and you have to stand at the very edge of the pit and jump or else you won't have enough air to clear the hurdle. But once you do all that, you get to return to that damn Frogger permutation...

...which should actually be  a bit easier, since all of the hustle and bustle stops because the items you dropped down the locker room abyss - for some metaphysical reason - has stopped the traffic dead in its tracks, allowing you to not only squeak across the playing field sans any worries, but make the most incredible bleep-bloop-bleep-bloop sliding sound in the history of video games while you do so. 

Up next is easily one of the most frustrating segments in the history of humanity (yes, even worse than the Year Without a Summer - probably.) Your little avatar guy is supposed to scurry across those scaffolds - as you can see, however, there are 16 access points to escape the stage, and wouldn't you know it, all but four of them result in dead-ends and you sliding down all the way to the bottom (where Porky will abduct you and send you back to the swamp.) The shameless trial and error gameplay is bad enough on its own, but the controls here are very slippery - sometimes, it feels like you are connecting with the poles, but as soon as you latch on, you fall through. And sometimes, you just get stuck on them, vibrating like crazy until you HAVE to drop all the way to the bottom to rinse and repeat. You will hate this sequence with everything you have in your heart, I assure you. 

On the plus side - just like your mama - the game does have a pretty awesome grand finale. Once you finally make your way up the scaffold, you are treated to a sequence in which Pee Wee gets to run across the stage, hop on a detonator and BLOW the shit out of Porky's establishment, complete with some idiosyncratically awesome Atari explosion sounds. Sure, it may not be Gunstar Heroes quality fireworks, but hey - if your heart doesn't flutter just a bit watching your CRT television flash like a Silver Shamrock Halloween mask commercial, you sir, have no business living in my America, buck-o. 

So, all in all, it's a pretty unremarkable game that you can literally finish in 10 minutes once you know how everything works. Alas, would you believe the same fine folks who made this game made an update for the Colecovision, too?

OK, technically, this game never got released, but a finished prototype was manufactured, and by golly, that's good enough for me. As you can see for yourself (and if Stevie Wonder is reading this, I apologize), this iteration is MUCH improved graphics-wise. Really, the visuals here are about as good as the first wave of NES games, which is something that ought to shock the shit out of all you rugrats that didn't think home gaming was worth a toot until Zelda. The sprites are more defined (the people actual look like people instead of hieroglyphics), the landscapes are more detailed and the sound is vastly improved. In terms of sheer aesthetics, the game is unquestionably a quantum leap ahead of the Atari 2600 version.  

Gameplay-wise, it is basically identical to the 2600 version, although a little more cumbersome to control due to that fucking' dial joystick. The Frogger opening from the 2600 game is removed, so you cold open collecting - uh, bullets? Doorknobs? Ladder rungs? - in the swamp. The same pole vaulting mechanics are in play here, but like I said, they are WAY less intuitive. Once you make your way out of that passage, it's off to the girls' locker room, where a much more distinguishable Coach Balbricker ambles after you. As before, if you like, you can push banana peels and other assorted bric-a-brac down the hole in the middle of the screen to slow down traffic, but for some reason, the protector of the glory hole is MUCH slower than in the Atari game. In fact, the controls here are a little about TOO smooth, as you can easily make your way up the three sets of ladders (unlike in the Atari version, you don't have to stand beside them, you only have to stand in front of them and move upward) before the dong-yanker even shows up on screen. 

Now we get to the Frogger homage. This section is way easier than in the 2600 - all you have to do is stand on the right side of the screen, wait for the naked pink chick pulling her hair out to be in the middle of the screen, make sure the blue car is out of the way and your avatar literally floats to safety. I could criticize it for not being challenging enough, but considering what comes next, there is no way in hell I'm chiding the title for being too easy

Yep, it's that sequence again, and it's every bit as frustrating as it was on the Atari. In fact, due to the sloppy controls, I think it's actually WORSE on the Colecovision, which is saying a whole damn lot. Anyhoo, it is the same protocol as before. There are 16 entrance points, but only four of them lead you to freedom. Oh, and if you don't find the right pattern, you find yourself plummeting down the scaffold, and you'll have to go all the way down and repeat the process all over again. So yeah, to reiterate: fuck this part of the game

Adding insult to injury? The big explosion finale once you finally figure out the scaffold labyrinth? Even compared to the Atari, it's pretty lackluster. The screen flashes different colors a few teams and the building just kind of slowly sinks under the screen. When motherfucking 2600 games are outdoing you in the razzle dazzle department, you know somebody fell asleep on the job. 

A video game about committing indecent exposure, stalking and felony invasion of privacy? It'll sell more copies than Pitfall!
Granted, neither of the games are really all that good. However, as products of their time - augmented, of course, by such a bizarre license - they are probably worth experiencing at least once. (And thankfully, you can access both the Atari 2600 version and the unreleased Colecovision iteration over at The Internet Archive any time you see fit.) Even as mediocre offerings however, they display a certain old-school charm, and it is pretty fun to kick back for an hour testing your mettle against the antediluvian titles. With 1980s remakes all the rage, one has to wonder if we're not that far removed from a long-awaited third Porky's video game, be it a home-brew or a $0.99 app. Considering the vast upgrade in technology since we last saw the franchise in interactive form, I'm rather excited at the prospect: I mean, who doesn't want to run around fighting Klan members and driving Corvairs into lakes and having your junk inspected by Bayou prostitutes - especially with today's touchscreen hardware? 

That's right - nobody, that's who. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Propaganda Review: "Pages of Death" (1962)

It's a long-lost anti-porn screed featuring a former Heisman Trophy winner and two dudes doing their best Joe Friday and Bill Gannon impersonations. It's not quite Reefer Madness, but it's still some pretty out there stuff. 

By: Jimbo X

Generally, I tend to feel that we, as a collective, simply don't appreciate the vast access to information the Internet has given us. 

Think about the World Wide Web today, from the perspective of someone living in 1994. Let's say you want to watch a movie. Any movie, in the whole goddamn world. Well, all you have to do is click open your browser and in less than a minute (depending on how fast you can type), you're instantly streaming it. If it's not on Netflix or Amazon Prime, it's probably on YouTube or Dailymotion. And if that doesn't work, you can always hit up the torrents, where not only can you find the obscurest of the obscure media, but sometimes, mainstream, first-run Hollywood productions before they even hit theaters ... for free. 

As for Mr. or Mrs. 1994? Unless that movie is at the local video store, he or she is S.O.L. Missed that brand new episode of The Simpsons last week? Well, too bad, motherfucker, because unless you taped that sumbitch on a VCR, you won't be able to see it again until it's re-aired six months later. Want to watch something REALLY old, like a football game from five years ago? Just forget it, man, just forget it.

In that, the Internet today is nothing less than a miraculous techno-heaven. The very same SNES and Genesis games people paid $80 for 25 years ago can now be played without owing anybody a penny on your phone. Want to hear a song - ANY SONG - from 30 years ago? You probably only need to click your mouse three times, and there it is. Sites like The Internet Archive store literally MILLIONS of pieces of media - from classical literature by Booker T. Washington to the SNK arcade game Beast Busters - and you can access it anywhere, anytime, sans ANY kind of financial cost. 

With so much freedom of information - I still can't get over the fact that I can watch fucking International Guerrillas anytime I see fit - perhaps it is only fitting that today's kids foster a fascination with the unobtainable. Indeed, there are entire wikis dedicated to so-called "lost media," which is basically all the old movies, video games, TV recordings and music that AREN'T available on the Internet, for whatever reason. Whether something old and forgotten is worth experiencing is irrelevant - in a world where everything is so accessible, that which isn't linkable suddenly becomes highly coveted. 

Which brings us to Pages of Death, a 1962 anti-porn propaganda flick that, in all sincerity, should have been LONG forgotten about decades ago. 

At just 27 minutes in length, the film is hardly anything more than an extended commercial for the Citizens for Decent Literature, a Catholic anti-smut group formed by Charles Keating - yes, the very same Charles Keating of the 1989 Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal that only cost U.S. taxpayers a good $3 billion and triggered a mini-recession

Conceptually, the film is very much in line with stuff like Reefer Madness, only with the hysterical anti-weed agenda replaced by a hysterical anti-porn agenda. Long considered lost to the ravages of time, a bunch of archivists in Oregon recently unearthed a fairly in-tact version of the flick, and yes, it is every bit as over-the-top and absurd as you'd hope for. 

Because without that "city dump" sign, I would have had
no idea what that garbage-strewn wasteland was
supposed to be. 
Our narrator is Tom Harmon. Never heard of him? He played college and pro football back in the day (he even won the Heisman Trophy in 1940) but he's probably best known for being the father of actor Mark Harmon. You know, that one guy from NCIS? Not ringing a bell? Ok, how about the guy who played Ted Bundy in that old TV movie The Deliberate Stranger? Still got nothing? All right, he was the teacher in Summer School - yes, that old '80s flick with the two guys who really love Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that black dude who was in the bathroom for three months who still got an A on his final exam. NOW you know who I'm talking about. 

Anyway, Tom is sitting at a desk, showing us a photograph of 11-year-old Karen Fleming. He lets us know that her parents THOUGHT they could keep her safe ... then, she turned 12. 

So, we jump into your stereotypical, post-WWII, pre-Vietnam happy suburban home. Mom is worried Karen isn't home for dinner, but dad, in typical dad fashion, assuages her by saying she's probably hanging out with her school chums or something. 

This leads to a montage of mom and dad making phone calls, as they get more and more distressed. Enter a pair of investigators wearing matching brown jackets, who ask the parents all the usual missing person questions. Mom starts freaking out and the investigators ask for a photograph.

The investigators then pay a visit to Mr. Baker, the proprietor of a drug store who squints a lot and makes a lot of off-handed jokes - so, essentially, he's a prototype for the bicycle shop owner from THAT episode of Diff'rent Strokes. He tells the police detectives the only other kid who was in the store earlier besides Karen was Paul Halliday, who just so happens to be the son of George Halliday, "a big wheel on the city council." In passing, Baker scoffs at the investigators for rallying behind a failed anti-"obscene" literature ordinance. 

As expected, the investigators then visit the Halliday household. Cue this J. Edgar Hoover-tastic quip from one of the detectives: "We asked for a city ordinance to help clean up some of the smut that Baker and those other guys are peddling to the kids, but according to Halliday, we attacked the free enterprise system, we tried to legislate morals, interfere with business and destroy the freedom of the press." And as a result, he continues, "any kid with a quarter and a four cent stamp can order girlie mags in the mail."

Daddy Halliday lights up a smoke and tells the detectives they ought to be out catching criminals instead of trying to turn the city into "A nine o' clock town." Enter Paul, your stereotypical pre-desegregation, squeaky-clean-looking all-American honky teenager. Cops shows him Karen's picture and he tells them he doesn't know who she is. 

The investigators return to the Fleming residence. They tell Karen's parents they really can't do shit at this point. Then the phone rings. The colonel is on the other end of the line, and he informs the investigators that Karen's body has been found in the city dump. And yes, the detectives do indeed travel to the dump themselves to make sure she's dead, and yeah, she's dead as a doornail, all right. 

The investigators visit one of Karen's former teachers. She reads one of Karen's old papers, talking about how her communion was the happiest day of her life and how she was really looking forward to growing up and becoming a teacher and that her home life is great and that she really likes meatloaf and kittens. The teacher says she hopes the investigators find her soon - to which one of the investigators replies "we already have." Unfortunately, it wasn't followed up by a ominous "DUN DUN DUN" sound effect. 

So we return to the Hallidays. Mrs. Halliday says she hopes the cops find the man ... no, THE BEAST ... that killed that poor girl. The investigators then barge into Paul's room, which is adorned with wooden panels, pendants, a globe with a hat on it and, most interestingly, a pair of tar and gravel-matted shoes. His mom remarks that his room has never been this messy before and that for some strange reason, he has just lost any interest whatsoever in doing homework.

The investigators say they need to take a closer look, and apparently, in 1962 you didn't need a warrant to do that. They pop open his drawer, and what do you know, the dude has a treasure trove of porn in there, including publications with such lurid monikers as Scorching Sex Stories, Shows All Tells All, Home of the Stripper and Night of Horrors ... although that last one may actually be called Night of Whores, these actors really aren't the best at enunciating. The detectives continue to root around in Paul's private belongings, uncovering additional film strips and slide. "This is strictly hardcore stuff," one of the investigators remarks. 

In walks daddy Halliday. The cops show the parents all of Paul's spanking off material. Mom and dad remain in denial. "This is the kind of stuff you'd find in skid row," quips the father, because fuck poor people. One of the cops corrects him: "nope, now it's something you can buy ANYWHERE."

I can only imagine the rest of the contraband consisted
primarily of assorted lotions and bathroom tissues
of fluctuating ply and absorbency. 
The cops start grilling Paul. They want to take a look at his car. Then they show him the dirt and gravel caked shoes. At that point, he breaks down and confesses to murdering the young girl. He keeps saying he "didn't mean to," and he doesn't know why. "I think we do, Paul," shouts one of the cops, who then angrily throws down one of smut rags. 

Back to Baker's shop we go. The owners says he is glad Paul was caught, adding you really have to keep an eye on those quiet kids. One of the detectives tells Baker the stuff he is merchandising to kids is too strong for hardened criminals, and all that shit is perverting an entire generation of American youths by convincing them love and lust are the same thing (which, uh, might actually be the film strip's first quasi-valid point.)

"You got your murderer," Baker tells the cops. "Yeah, one of them," the cops riposte. Cue a close-up on another kid with a buzz cut, chewing gum and reading a mag that may or may not prominently feature titties. 

We go back to Harmon, who says THAT kid very well could be the next sex crime murderer in your neighborhood. He says that although Karen is fictitious, the movie is based on a real murder committed by a sex-crazed teenager who had his brain fried by too much porn. And that letter the teacher read earlier? That's an actual composition read by the real-life victim. (Of course, there is no way to prove any of that to be factual, but let's just go ahead and presume it is a bunch of bullshit due to a lack of evidence.) The same tragedy can befall YOUR CHILDREN, he states, citing a statistical rise in sex crimes in tandem with smut mag sales (more on this assertion in just a bit.) Harmon informs us that J. Edgar Hoover - notorious racist, fascist and probable transvestite - recently said that porn is making madmen faster than they can build jails. 

Anywhere from 75 percent to 90 percent of all "obscene" literature ends u with kids, Harmon continues. However, he said the $1 billion a year racket can easily be thwarted by city ordinances, and if you want to stop the masturbatory peril in your community, all you have to do is write a letter to Citizens for Decent Literature, and they'll tell you exactly what you need to do. 

Making things even more hilarious, I'm pretty sure the address today is now home to a medical marijuana dispensary

More of an infomercial than a film, it's pretty easy to see why Pages of Death was so easily forgotten. I'm not quite sure what the print run of the movie was back in 1962, but I can't imagine too many copies of the movie ever getting out there. Indeed, the film more or less disappeared from the face of the Earth for a half century, before being "rediscovered" by the Oregon Historical Society in Jan. '16

As for the organization behind the film, Citizens for Decent Literature, they actually trucked along all the way up until the early 2000s under the name Citizens for Decency Through Law, which according to the Wikipedia, grew to 300 chapters and more than 100,000 members nationwide at its zenith

As something of a precursor to the Moral Majority, the CDL and their ilk were instrumental in goading the Supreme Court of the United States to establish a new definition of what constitutes "obscenity" in the landmark 1973 case Miller vs. California, which revolved around an unfortunate mail order smut peddler who got arrested after sending brochures to a restaurant in Newport Beach that, well, wasn't too keen on all that nudity. 

Interestingly enough, the three-pronged "Miller Test" remains the default definition of what "obscene" material is in the U.S. to this day, despite being an incredibly vague standard prone to a vast amount of subjective interpretation. Just how vague, you ask? Well, to qualify as obscene, something has to nail all of the following criteria: "an average person, applying contemporary community standards" finds the work is designed to provoke sexual excitement, the work itself depicts "sexual conduct or excretory functions" in a "patently offensive way," and taken as a whole, the work is sans any sort of "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." So yeah, it's hardly any better than Potter Stewart's infamous definition of obscenity in 1964's Jacobellis v. Ohio - "I know it when I see it." 

Needless to say, if the Dragnet wannabes from Pages of Death were aghast at all of that ink and paper debauchery in JFK's day, they'd probably blow a gasket after taking one peep at the virtually endless array of easily accessible porn all over the Interwebs. Alas, there's still plenty of debate raging about whether porn viewership makes people more violent and prone to rape, with most of today's hardcore anti-porn crusaders either the last vestiges of the Jerry Falwell/Focus on the Family mega-prude set or, ironically, their political opposites over in the radical feminist contingent

Alas, despite a whole bunch of conjecturin' on their parts, a 2009 literature review revealed that not only was there no correlation between watchin' smut and sex crimes, there actually appears to be an inverse relationship, with high rates of porn consumption syncing up with a lower likelihood of engaging in sexual assault. In fact, since the arrival of the Internet  and with it, that bottomless buffet of free cyber porn, the forcible rape rate has dropped by nearly half in the U.S., declining from a high of 42 rapes per 100,000 people in 1992 to just 26 per 100,000 in 2014. In short, pretty much everything the masterminds behind Pages of Death railed against appears to indeed be the very things that wound up preventing all of the nefarious sexual shenanigans they said would come about if jackin' off material was open and accessible to all. 

Granted, it is pretty easy to look back at the hysterics of the flick and laugh, but behind the apoplectic ranting and raving the film nonetheless represents a still-palpable threat to our First Amendment civil liberties. Remember, folks, there were people GOING TO JAIL and having their lives ruined for publishing nude photos at the time of Pages of Death, and even today, manufacturers of legit, non-CP works like Rob Zicari and Ira Isaacs are still being prosecuted for FEDERAL CRIMES. 

Even staunch free expression proponents tend to shy away from defending pornography, that unabashed vortex of sexism and misogyny and homophobia and machismo and stupidity that it is. Alas, if there right to produce and make money off scat videos and fake-rape simulations is squelched, we all lose in the grander scheme of things

Remember that line earlier where the detective criticized the city councilman for saying that anti-porn ordinances are attempts to "legislate morality?" Well, that's very much going on today, with free speech haters on the right and the left going after everything they don't like (which, strangely, almost always seems to be things that represent counterpoints to their own unquestioned ideology) in the name of family values or political correctness

Citizens for Decent Literature didn't give a shit about free expression, and neither do all those neo-conservative evangelical dingbats and gender-supremacist, man-hating hyper feminists. It's all about getting as much control as they can, to amass as much power behind their own rigid totalitarian dogma so they can force it down the throats of everybody else. 

And porn - that disgraceful, disgusting, degenerate anti-art form -  is a superb place to begin legislating their own group norms and ideals for everybody. After all, who in their right mind is ever going to come out and publicly defend Gang Bang Horse "Pony Sex Game" or 1001 Ways to Eat My Jizz?

As goofy and over-the-top Pages of Death is, it's fascistic, sexuality-shaming mentality still runs rampant today. And sadly, much as we did back in the 1960s, we're totally OK sacrificing a slice of our civil liberties - hinging, no less, on an abstract definition of what's "offensive" - in order to NOT appear sleazy or wrongheaded in front of tyrannical special interests groups. 

And in that, this long-forgotten piece of pre-Hippie agitprop remains a reason for all of us - no matter our political leanings - to be concerned. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Batman (Cereal) v. Superman (Cereal): Dawn of Breakfast

The World's Finest Cereals, or just more pieces of shameless cash grab merchandise (that can also give you diabetes?)

By: Jimbo X

There are two things we know for sure about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. One, it's going to make a bajillion dollars at the box office, and two, the associated merchandise tie-ins are going to generate a shit ton of moolah for Warner Bros. Whether it beats the infantile, hyper-consumerist Star Wars juggernaut remains to be seen - in ticket sales or memorabilia revenue - but BvS certainly has a swinger's chance of outdoing Kylo Ren and them when it comes to domestic gross this March.

As far as the film itself, it's probably going to suck. In fact, considering the director's track record, the poor acting choices, the astounding clusterfuck of a script, the way-too-serious overtones and the simple truth that the film will make money hand over fist regardless of its quality, I think it's a safe bet to assume the film is going to be one of the biggest cinematic train wrecks in quite some time. Alas, since it is Batman fighting Superman - with cameos from Wonder Woman, Doomsday, Aquaman, Cyborg and probably Darkseid, the cash will flow no matter what

As expected with tent pole movies of the like, BvS is being complemented by a veritable tsunami of branded consumer goods, running the gamut from action figures to special edition Dr. Pepper cans to goddamn Justice League-flavored Pop-Tarts. And - as the case with Frozen, Minions and The Avengers, one of those limited-time-only products just so happens to be special-edition Bat-and-Supes cereal.

Before we delve into the products themselves, I believe it is worthwhile to state these cereals are NOT being marketed towards the elementary school set. You know how most kid-centric cereals have a whole bunch of really simple activities on the back of the packaging, like word jumbles and shit? Well, the backs of these Superman-branded cereals contain honest to goodness trivia questions that only relatively-well-read fanboys would be able to answer, like in which issue of what comic did Superman and Batman first team up and when was Batman first depicted on the silver screen. Conversely, the Batman cereals have a sort of tale of the tape, describing why Superman could kick Batman's ass and vice versa. Clearly, this stuff is aiming a little bit higher than the Dora the Explorer demographic. 

Let's start with the he Super cereal, which technically, doesn't have an official name listed on the box. Of course, the facsimile of the Man of Steel's chiseled physique leaves no room for doubts as to who the cereal is in tribute to, and if that wasn't enough? The box itself is textured, so you can actually FEEL Superman's well-toned abdomen, if that strikes your fancy. 

The cereal itself is "caramel crunch" flavored, meaning it kind of tastes like vanilla but if you think hard enough about it, you'll start to detect a faint caramel sensation. The cereal bits I believe are supposed to be replicas of Superman's iconic chest emblem, but in my box, they came out all skewed and misshapen. On the plus side, though, I now know what it is like to eat a bowl of South Carolina for breakfast. 

The Batman cereal has the same hook as the Super-cereal - no official product name, just Batman's ripped physique and a strangely silky embossed bat insignia you can't help but rub like you had OCD or something. 

Obviously, the cereal chunks are supposed to be bat-shaped, but to me, they came out looking more like bow ties and moose heads. Considering this is a product from General Mills - the very same people who manufacture Count fuckin' Chocula - you'd think these people would be able to get down bat-shaped cereal, but noooooo. As for the flavor, it is really fucked up: chocolate is good on its own and strawberry is good on its own, but synthetic choco-berry just tastes unnaturally weird. You might as well be pouring a jug of skim milk over a can of cherry-flavored Skoal if you elect to put this stuff in your stomach. 

Combined, however, I think you somehow wind up with a better collective than either cereals as a standalone offering. Yeah, it makes no sense to me either; vanilla-caramel by itself is bland and chocolate-strawberry by itself is gross, but vanilla-caramel-strawberry-chocolate somehow becomes both unique and actually palatable. Of course, the HUGE oversight here is the utter and complete lack of marshmallows. You mean to tell me you motherfuckers couldn't have given us some puffed up, grape-flavored pieces shaped like Jesse Eisenberg's goofy-ass head? For shame, General Mills, for shame. 

All right, so what's my final verdict on these D.C. cereals? Well, the Superman one is about a 5, and the Batman one is about a 3, but if you put them in the same bowl, you'll probably wind up with like, a 6, or maybe even a 6.5. Seeing as how Dawn of Justice is designed to be the beginning of a massive cinematic universe, it is reasonable to assume these super-hero-breakfast goods are just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. Maybe it's just me, but I can't wait to get my hands on some lime-flavored Lobo Puffs, or some hazelnut-hued Guy Gardener Flakes. Shit, if the movie makes enough money, we might even get ourselves a cinematic Hemo-Goblin some day. Which, naturally, begs the question - what flavor cereal do you give an AIDS-infected vampire engineered by white supremacists?

Don't ask me why, but I just keep thinking "raspberry." 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

This Week in Social Justice Warrior-dom

A fond look back at all the things that had ultra-P.C. jihadists OUTRAGED ... before they forget all about them in just a few days. 

By: Jimbo X

(Pop) Cultural Warfare?

Since the heyday of Sergei Eisenstein, entertainment has been used as a Trojan horse for all sorts of questionable political agendas. Hey, remember watching Captain Planet when you were a kid and all of a sudden being indoctrinated with the values of zero population growth and AIDS acceptance? Well, that's precisely the kind of thing I'm talking about. In many ways, mass media is a greater political force than politics itself, and no modern day phenomenon embodies that better than the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has not only permeated popular music, but virtually saturated it. Just a day before her Super Bowl 50 halftime performance, Beyonce dropped a new music video for her track "Formation" - a twangy ode to regional blackness laden with blunt Hurricane Katrina and Michael Brown iconography, which somehow managed to include both references to BDSM and Red Lobster. Her Super Bowl performance - which included Coldplay looking like the lamest white people who have ever lived - featured Mrs. Jay-Z rocking an MJ-inspired bandoleer (which is not at all hypocritical considering all of those pro-gun control PSAs she participated in a few years back) while flanked by a small platoon of backup dancers clad in Black Panthers regalia (along with a few not subtle nods to covert conservative hero Malcolm X and 1968 Olympians Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos - who, as an aside, were mercilessly criticized by another covert conservative hero, Jesse Owens.) Oh, and backstage Twitter and Instagram candids revealed plenty more politically-tinged photos, including a few dancers holding up signs supporting Mario Woods - a San Fran man shot 20 times by police ... while high as a kite, and refusing to drop a knife after attempting to stab another man to death. Surprisingly, there are some people out there who aren't too fond of Beyonce giving dap to an organization literally founded by a convicted cop killer with subsets that publicly cry out for the mass murder of white people, but for some reason, the media just can't accept the concerns of New York detectives and Tennessee sheriffs who see the grim consequences of black-on-black violence and anti-police bloodlust on a daily basis as valid.  The racially-charged politicking continued just a few days later at the Grammys, where - after opening with a performance from Hamilton, an ironic appropriations-fest in which the founding fathers of America are recast as black rappers - Kendrick Lamar took the stage, dressed as a prisoner, to slang lyrics about how the white man is trying to "terminate my culture" before launching into his trademark song - and de facto #BlackLivesMatter anthem - "Alright," which includes the use of the term "nigga" no less than 19 times and such heartwarming lyrics as "painkillers only put in the twilight, what pretty pussy and Benjamin is the highlight" and "we hate popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure." Of course, the mainstream media eats all of it up, cheerfully celebrating it as the triumph of the marginalized (in the form of multi-million dollar entertainers, at least) sticking it to "the man" while writing off any and all criticisms of the shameless identity politics propaganda as the ravings of unhip - if not secretly prejudiced - white squares. Of course, those same wide-eyed purveyors of racially-conscious identitarianism will mercilessly decry the same thing as white nationalism when enacted by Caucasians and continue to perpetuate the absurd idea that shitty skinhead music made in some dude's basement in West Virginia somehow has a greater ability to alter one's thinking and influence behaviors than the hard-nosed, cop-hating, white person-mistrusting hip hop music Wehrmacht that's broadcast on network TV and played ad nausem at pro sporting events. Naturally, all of this begs the question: uh, what exactly makes promoting minoritarian antipathy any less vulgar, irresponsible and dangerous than celebrating majoritarian antipathy again?

SPLC releases annual "hate group" report

Every year, the Southern Poverty Law Center publishes a recap of miscellaneous (and highly suspicious) findings and data called "The Year in Hate and Extremism." Not at all displaying any sort of underlying political motives, the cover of the 2015 recap features Donald Trump looming large over a hastily designed collage displaying swastikas, Confederate flags, Ann Coulter and that one Muslim woman who helped her husband kill a whole bunch of innocent government workers in southern California last autumn. As hilariously blunt that is, I assure you the contents of this agitprop is even better. Among the publications, ahem, highlights? Citations of Florida gun owners and Texas prison guards' YouTube videos as emblematic of "extremism in the mainstream," an "expose" on how racists are using sock puppet accounts to make their social media presence seem larger than it actually is (which is actually a common tactic for legitimate social justice advocacy groups as well) and of course, a lengthy feature about anti-Muslim sentiments that conveniently shies away from referencing all of the Muslim anti-everybody else violence that went down in 2015 across the globe. Interestingly enough, the SPLC analysis of "hate group" activity all but ignores the nation's vehemently anti-Western extremists and the sole reason they even bother listing black separatist organizations - whose rank almost matches that of purported KKK chapters - is because they are "homophobic" and "anti-Semitic" ... never mind all that delightful chatter about killing honkies, I suppose. The report wraps up with a smattering of "hate crimes" perpetrated from Aug. 2015 to Dec. 2015, listing such nefarious incidents as people finding KKK recruitment fliers in their driveways and Muslims being spit on while completely ignoring all of the lamentable racially-motivated black-on-white crimes perpetrated during the same timeframe. Of course, the SPLC never specifies what the criteria for being a "hate group" actually is, instead appearing to round up everybody who doesn't agree with their own liberal, multicultural, progressive uber allies Tao as "dangerous" people. In their eyes, entrepreneurs in Florida who offer Adolf Hitler themed travel packages and people who publish fundamentalist Christian comic books are no different than neo-nazi militias; thus, the Constitution Party of Oklahoma and the Florida Family Association are considered potential social threats, while eco-terrorists who have blown up buildings and attempted to murder other human beings get a free pass. Summarily, it seems like this alleged "intelligence report" is little more than a McCarthy-ish attempt to demonize anyone who doesn't follow lock-step in agreement with the SPLC's aggressive pro-globalization gospel; which means, irony of ironies, the whole goddamn thing is nothing more than a P.R. smear campaign designed to goad people into hating those who hate whatever the SPLC is telling them they have no choice but to accept as the only socially-permissible opinion.   

Virginia high school subjects students to "white privilege" cartoon

Long-time IIIA readers will recall Glen Allen High School, which made international headlines last year when a student at a pep rally accidentally broadcast, and I quote, "a racist version of the Duck Tales theme song." Well, as part of the school's plans to make amends, administrators forced students to watch a four minute long cartoon entitled "Structural Discrimination: The Unequal Opportunity Race," which features a pair of white runners outpacing two melinated 'toons who are halted at the starting line and bombarded by terms like "genocide," "slavery" and "wealth disparities" only to get drenched in a torrential downpour of "discrimination" and tripped up by "poor schooling." After several more symbols for "underemployment" and "shortened life span" impede the darker runners (which are structural problems that, as we all know, never afflict white people), we reach the literal "message" of the cartoon: "affirmative action helps level the playing field." For those wondering, the cartoon is a joint project of the African American Policy Forum, the Open Society Institute, the Fulfilling the Dream Fund and the "Critical Race Studies" programs at UCLA and Columbia ... so, yeah, no political agendas in play there, whatsoever. Unsurprisingly, people have plenty to say about the video in question - and for the first time in recorded human history, the comment section of a YouTube video is actually worth reading. 

Georgia is once again the best of all possible states

It's that time again, ya'll, to round up all of the wacky, deplorable, disgusting and unnerving happenings going on in the Peach State as of late. Among other hilarious hi-jinks include...

Remember, folks ... if you want to make it to Disney World, you got to go through our neck of the woods first

Your weekly dose of #BLM goodness!

You really can't have This Week in Social Justice without a thorough recap of the latest #BlackLivesMatter adventures, and we've no doubt had some good 'uns recently. So do we begin with Iraq veteran Chris Marquez, who was hospitalized after being senselessly beaten by a group of teenage ruffians who allegedly didn't like his response to their inquiry "do black lives matter?" outside a D.C. McDonalds? Or howzabout a string of vandalisms on the campus of the University of Texas, in which several buildings and monuments were spraypainted with the #BLM mantra? And what about the Smyrna, Georgia city council having to be evacuated from city hall when supporters of Nicholas Thomas - a man killed by police after he attempted to run them over - stormed the chambers? Or that one dude who lied about being black drudging up that one time Peyton Manning teabagged a woman at the University of Tennessee just because he was mad Cam Newton lost the Super Bowl who then started calling actual black people on Twitter who found fault with his assertions "coons,or #BLM leader Marshawn McCarrel II's selfless, group-rights-centric act of committing suicide on the steps of the Ohio state Capitol? They are all fine conversation-starters, if you ask me...

Hebrewin' up trouble!

The "so-called chosen frozen" took a break from earning 40 percent of all Nobel prizes for Economics despite making up barely 0.02 percent of the global population to weigh in on several hot-button issues recently. Writing for Salon, columnist Matthew Rosza penned a flowery spiel about how disgraced Veterans Affair committee chair Bernie Sanders' Judaism makes him an ideal Democratic candidate, although he never really explains how Jews today remain an "oppressed peoples" when their median household income in the U.S. is a good $20,000 or so higher than any other religion. Over at CNN, columnist Benjamin Blech (why is that so many Hebrew surnames sound like onamontopoeias for coughing up a loogie?) makes an argument for banning Mein Kampf from publication in Europe, stating "Hitler's words needed to be publicly condemned as outcasts, pornography unfit for viewing and criminal influence." As expected, the rabbi cites a questionable statistic from the European Jewish Congress demonstrating a 40 percent increase in non-defined "cases of anti-Semitism" over the last few years, although the author pussyfoots around the obvious reason why - if even factual - such would be the case. And in an extremely rare instance of hardcore Hebrews deferring victim status recognition to people outside the tribe of Judah, the Jerusalem Municipality announced that it would redesign the historic downtown Zion Square to honor 16-year-old Shira Banki, who was murdered in the street by religious extremists at a gay pride parade last summer. Oh, and by the way, those "religious extremists" in question? Orthodox Haredi Jews

Even sex criminals are playing the P.C. card nowadays

Remember a few months ago, when there was a bunch of hullabaloo from the religious right about transgender-people having access to men and women's bathrooms, and the pro-LGBT contingent scoffed at their political rivals' fears that it offered a gigantic loophole for perverts to easily gain access to potential victims? Well, in Seattle, the proverbial turd has landed in the metaphorical punch bowl when a man waltzed into a public park women's restroom and started getting naked around the womenfolk. The women - disturbed, naturally - went to the security desk, but when they attempted to remove the man, he cited a recent state law that allows residents the option to choose whichever gender-specific restroom they identify with. Doubly ironic, the episode came just hours after a massive demonstration in Olympia against the new state bathroom policy, in which one sexual assault victim stated - oh-so ominously - "what we do believe is that this code is so poorly written that predators will abuse [it.]" Meanwhile, over in England, 63-year-old Shabir Ahmed said his pending deportation - which he has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights - is the result of an "all white conspiracy." By the way, Ahmed has been in jail since 2012 for being the mastermind of a sex ring that preyed upon victims as young as 13

Slate columnist tackles the insidious scourge of "hipster homophobia"

Scribe Nico Lang took Hollywood to task in a recent Slate piece, in which he went after "problematic" films such as Dirty Grandpa and Get Hard for reinforcing the unthinkable thought-crime that some people may not think all gay people are heroes by default and we shouldn't all celebrate like it was V-J Day every time they show two teenage boys tongue kissing on what used to be called "The Family Channel." That said, Lang said the TV landscape is looking a whole lot better, and since you can now watch men toss each other's salads on network television, we truly have moved into a modern day utopia. Interestingly enough, Lang takes offense to the fact that only 17 percent or so of modern Hollywood offerings feature homosexual characters - although seeing as how the nation's total LGBT population is barely 4 percent of the overall U.S. population, their mass media presence is still a disproportionate over-representation by more than threefold. 

Let's hear it for senseless violence!

Boy, if you had a thing for bizarre mayhem and malice, you had a proverbial field week as of late. Just take a gander at all of the madcap brutality that's transpired all across the globe recently:

By now, we all know how terrified I am of primates (thanks a lot, VHS cover art for Monkey Shines). That last tidbit ought to be a wake-up call, humanity - first, their drinking our rum and chasing us with kitchen appliances, and tomorrow, they'll be riding on horseback and capturing us in nets

In one student newspaper article, Brown University demonstrates literally everything wrong with the Millennial generation

Every now and then, you stumble across something so mind-blowing, you can't help but feel as if you've actually encountered an object from 20 years into the future. Ladies and gentlemen - and ladies who identify as gentlemen, and gentlemen who identify as ladies, and those of you who prefer to identify as something else that only exists in your head - here are the highlights of an astounding story from The Brown Daily Herald titled "Schoolwork, Advocacy Place Strain on Student Activism." 
“There are people breaking down, dropping out of classes and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on,” said David, an undergraduate whose name has been changed to preserve anonymity. Throughout the year, he has worked to confront issues of racism and diversity on campus. His role as a student activist has taken a toll on his mental, physical and emotional health. “My grades dropped dramatically. My health completely changed. I lost weight. I’m on antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills right now. (Counseling and Psychological Services) counselors called me. I had deans calling me to make sure I was okay,” he said. 
Justice Gaines ’16, who uses the pronouns xe, xem and xyr, said student activism efforts on campus are necessary. “I don’t feel okay with seeing students go through hardships without helping and organizing to make things better." In the wake of The Herald's opinion pieces, Gaines felt overwhelmed by emotions flooding across campus. Students were called out of class into organizing meetings and xe felt pressure to help xyr peers cope with what was going on, xe said. Gaines "had a panic attack and couldn't go to class for several days." 
"Sampedro was also on the committee that planned workshops for the Latinx Ivy League Conference, including Paxson's presentation to students following the assault by a DPS officer on a student earlier that weekend. "I remember seeing all the tears in the room - that was traumatizing - and then not being able to focus on my homework," she said. "Homework was the least of my worries." 
 This work is an "important part of the academic learning experience," Ferranti said. She was present at the Brown/RISD Hillel-sponsored lecture that was protested by Students for Justice in Palestine earlier this semester, offering academic and emotional support for the protestors ... students "might be impacted, something might be triggered or they might suddenly remember more at that event they were protesting," she added.

And here I was, thinking a story about drunken monkeys stabbing people would be the weirdest - and most frightening - thing I heard all week!

...and a few headlines that speak for themselves...