Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Someone once said that the Japanese are not simply weird; they're actually a different species to the rest of us. They are aliens who have descended to this Earth from space without really understanding enough to mimic us properly. This explains their bizarre but unswerving love of Hello Kitty, sadistic game shows and eating lobsters while they're still alive.

In light of this theory, MST3K's offering 'Fugitive Alien' actually makes a lot more sense. It's a documentary, not, as we were all lead to believe, a bad children's TV show from 1978.

Evil alien raiders, who with their whitened faces and permed blonde wigs look like the result of a union betwixt a kabuki actor and Cheryl Ladd, attack Earth and kill all who stand in their way. One of the raiders is Ken, who is a different colour to everyone else and therefore slightly less evil. When he encounters a little boy who shares his name, he finds he just can't shoot him. His partner has no problem with reducing squawking brats to faint scorch marks on the pavement, and tries to do it for him, but Ken turns mutinous and shoots his partner first.

Of course, once that happens, Ken becomes a Fugitive Alien, reviled by his own people and not entirely trusted by anyone else. Eventually he falls in with the crew of the Bacchus III, who have traditional Japanese names like Dan and Rocky, and wear matching tight vinyl jumpsuits in a shade of hot pink rarely used by anyone other than Barbie's decorator. Ken is understandably a little skittish about being trapped in a confined space with a bunch of grown men wearing form-fitting pink vinyl, but somehow they all learn to get along together. Well, except for the whole regrettable incident with Rocky trying to kill him with a forklift. Other than that, they're all super best friends!

And so off they go on adventures. They travel to exotic worlds, run about in exotic abandoned quarries, and get shot at by exotic extras wearing watermelons on their heads and firing talcum powder packets from their guns. Then, in the midst of rescuing an alien soldier, in the hopes of using him to negotiate a peace treaty between two warring planets, the action freezes and the words "To be continued" appear on the screen.

My cry of "What the HELL!?" is probably still echoing around the more reverberative suburbs.

Yep. The producers just knew that everyone would want to see more hot Ken action, so they already had 'Star Force: Fugitive Alien 2' in pre-production (ie being cobbled together by coke-snorting monkeys in an alley behind Sandy Frank's house). The MST3K boys covered it after the screaming caused by the first episode had died down.

Proof, as if it were still needed, that the Japanese are a strange and cruel people, and definitely not of this Earth.


For a while now I've been a little disturbed by Mickey Mouse. You might think that this is a perfectly normal reaction to Satan's Own Rodent, but I'm disturbed not so much by his irritating voice, clumsy design or wussy mannerisms, but by his popularity.

Mickey Mouse appears to be the Paris Hilton of the cartoon world; famous for being famous. We all know about Steamboat Willie in 1928, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice in 1940, and the Mouseketeers in the 1960s and the Wonderful World of Disney appearances in the 1970s, but what has the Mouse actually done in the last quarter century?

He's a character in Disneyland parades, a stylised logo for the Disney Corporation, and a silent, static figure on a billion bits of kitsch, from running shoes to clock radios. But what does he actually do? Millions of toddlers, tweenies and Japanese schoolgirls buy products with his image stamped on them, without ever having seen him move or speak except in ancient newsreels.

Why? Why why why why why?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I've been wondering how to make my garden walls more attractive. If left alone, they look too blank and lifeless. If hung with bits of outdoor art or sculpture, they look too fussy, as if they've been attacked by someone who just can't tolerate having a wall without some crap on it. I needed a middle-ground; something low-key but decorative.

Just recently I came across a stack of old wrought iron panels at the local salvage yard, and I bought all five of them. Each one is different, but they look like they were created by the same person.


Three of them, including the one above, don't seem to mean anything. They're just interesting designs. Either that, or they're ancient, secret, eldritch patterns that at the next full moon will call forth the Legions of the Damned. I'll have to remember to close the curtains that night.


The other two are representational. This one depicts two trees under a sun/moon/alien mothership.

The other representational one depicts, for some reason, a lightning bolt hitting a tree next to a house, with another sun/moon/alien mothership in the sky. It's the size of a picnic blanket so I'm going to need a little more time to work out where to put it.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Over the weekend I went to the viewing for an art auction. One painting immediately caught my attention, and not just because it was three metres long and one high.

Soon by John Firth-Smith

It may not look like much in this photo, but it had a wonderful presence and sense of drama. There's earthiness and harmony, the crude and the sublime. I wanted to wrap myself up in it, which, given its size, was entirely possible.

Of course, when I checked the catalogue, I found that the sale estimate was $40,000. There's the story of my life in a nutshell.

The only painting I liked in my price range was a small ink and gouache in a Sally Morganesque style. It had a delightful, child-like, paradoxical sense of mystery and familiarity in its landscape, and was populated by goofy smiling kangaroos.

Warren River by Leonie Dobrowolski

However, while I like the picture, I don't love it. I've decided that I've got to stop buying things I merely like, and instead hoard my cash and splurge on just one thing I love. So no goofy kangaroos for me.

Unfortunately the paintings I love tend to run well into the quintuple figures. I need to take a leaf out of this person's book and start sleazing onto some artists.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Over the weekend I stopped in at a second-hand book store. I glanced at the big display table just inside the front door, and was confronted by the genre of chick lit in all its pastel-tinted glory.

The dozen or so chick lit books were all various shades of pink, decorated with some level of floral patterns, and prominently featuring images of a) shoes, b) shopping bags or c) shoes and shopping bags. Sweet merciful crap, I thought. Feminism really is dead.

After forty years of women's rights, burning bras, smashing through the glass ceiling and overcoming the oppression of the patriarchal hegemony, it seems that when the average woman sits down to read, she wants a pink, flower-strewn book about shoes and shopping.

I suspect that Gloria Steinem might want a refund on her life's work.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


One of 20th century pulp literature's most enduring characters is Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. He's one of the original tough guys, and more than likely an idealised alter-ego of his author. After all, Mike has the same first name as his creator, as well as the same surname as a certain blunt object used to hit things. Since Mike himself is a blunt object used to hit things, the similarities cannot be coincidental.

On Friday night I watched 1955's film version of 'Kiss Me Deadly', a Mike Hammer adventure in which our hero does a lot of glowering and an awful lot of hitting. He's a punch people in the head, ask questions later kind of man. He doesn't so much solve cases as blunder into them, fists flailing, and causing such a ruckus that the guilty parties become spooked and start turning on each other. Of course, anyone with a cool head can thus use him to acheive their own ends and get rid of the competition, as they do in this particular case.

mike hammer

Mike Hammer suspects that somewhere, just out of earshot, something is going on that he doesn't understand. Possibly involving math.

Mike Hammer is a winner with the ladies, although they tend to be the clingy, co-dependent ladies not overblessed in the looks department.

mike and velda

Mike's secretary and occasional lover Velda, who may be limber, but damn she looks like John Kerry in a wig.

Of course it doesn't help that he treats them with all the gentlemanly grace and good manners of Mike Tyson.

mike and friday

In this scene, Mike asks a broad if she knows how to spell "no". The appropriate response would have been to ask him if he knew how to spell "misogyny".

With his dapper suits and Jaguar sports car, he tries to play the sophisticated man about town, like a free market James Bond, but sadly he's just not smart enough to carry it off. He has a certain level of street cunning, but when it comes to logic and investigation, he's more Katie Holmes than Sherlock Holmes.

mike and lily

"The words she's saying have something to do with that thing she's holding. If only I could work out the connection!"

Still, in the end all of the evil people were dead, so maybe you could say that Mike triumphed. Of course, most of the good characters were dead too, including the Dame In Distress, the Dame in Distress' roommate, Mike's insanely cheerful and overly Greek mechanic, some harmless old guy who worked at the Hollywood Athletic Club, Mike's completely innocent Jaguar convertible, and too many more to mention. And a large part of the Californian coastline was rendered uninhabitable by radiation. But Mike was still alive, so I guess he wins.

mike and velda 2

Mike attempts to walk and chew gum at the same time, with predictable results.


This is an interesting but pretty unexceptional article... except for the line below:

"I am not saying that losing a leg won't change you in profound ways. But it won't lower your day-to-day happiness in the long run."

Other than to turn it into the long hop.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


An Open Letter To Jane Austen

My dear Miss Austen,

I hope you will not think me too forward, or judge me as taking an unforgivable liberty, but I felt that I must write to express my kindest and most sincere regards, in appreciation for your novel, ‘Northanger Abbey’.

As you can plainly see, your writing has the same effect on me as that of the great Bard himself: it causes my writing to follow the patterns of your own. Just as a man walks out of one of Mr Shakespeare’s plays with the language of Elizabethan London in his mind, so yours fixes in the brain the style of Bath at the time of Waterloo.

I found your Miss Morland to be a most agreeable heroine. She may have been naïve and in possession of an over-active imagination, but her sweet heart and gentle disposition made her quite engaging. Although Mr Tilney made some sport of her, his character was proven to be true, and in every respect thoroughly decent. I am glad, too, that his sister Miss Tilney was in every way the best friend Miss Morland could need or desire.

Of course when one writes a novel there must also be less agreeable characters, which one must unfortunately include for the sake of progressing one’s story. Such a character is Miss Isabella Thorpe, as vexing a creature as ever simpered her way across the Pump-room floor. Although I am certain you would be no more direct than to express a desire not to make her acquaintance, in these less refined times we would refer to her as a heinous airheaded slut. While you would limit yourself, at worst, to snubbing her in the street, we would be more likely to smack the bitch, and her odious brother, upside their conceited and duplicitous heads until they were both quite bald from the striking.

Either that, or give them their own reality TV show.

However let us put aside such unpleasant concepts, and focus on more constructive criticism. ‘Northanger Abbey’ is a slight story, pretty and thoroughly agreeable to be sure, but without the grander romantic scope of your more famous works, such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I am hesitant to suggest it, my dear Miss Austen, but in my humble opinion there is but a single element which, if added to the story, would have furnished it with greater delight for the modern reader.

I speak, Miss Austen, as you may have surmised, of zombies.

I pity the man who reads your novel and does not think, “Deuce it all, but these misunderstandings between Miss Morland and Miss Tilney could be resolved with brisk economy if they spent some time together fighting hordes of the undead!” Let the gentler sex be content with talk of muslins and ribbons and making suitable connexions… zombies hungering for the sweet taste of living flesh are all that we gentlemen require for our literary enjoyment.

And let us not forget, Miss Austen, that if that scoundrel Mr Thorpe were to be infected with zombie bloodlust, Mr Tilney (or one of his military relatives) would be well within his rights to splatter the cad’s rotting cerebellum across the Pump-room wall with a volley of rifle fire. How might such a scene appeal to your gentle readers of either sex!

I do hope that you will take my humble suggestion with such regard as it deserves, and I look forward with restless anticipation to your next novel, ‘The Blood-Spattered Walls of Mansfield Park’.

Until then, I remain your humble and obedient etc.

Mr Blandwagon

Friday, May 19, 2006


Nobody can doubt that I am in need of a holiday. My only break last year was a long weekend in Bridgetown, and the year before was a month-long tour of outlet malls in Melbourne and Sydney. It's time to get real and take a proper holiday, preferably one involving passports and new experiences and additions to my snow dome collection.

I've gathered up all of my ideas, and created a balanced list of their pros and cons:

1) Buying a Vespa and scootering the length of Italy, stopping at the many interesting bits.

Upside: The open air! The Italian countryside! The food! The architecture! La dolce vita!

Downside: Italian drivers. They are famous for being homicidal maniacs, and for good reason. I wouldn't get five miles before I fetched a faceful of Fiat.

2) Cycling through Spain, perhaps from Barcelona on the Mediterranean up through Andorra to San Sebastian on the Bay of Biscay.

Upside: Exotic, evocative landscapes, the beauty of Barcelona, endless blue skies and warm sunshine. And plentiful oranges!

Downside: My mental picture is of me, unencumbered by worldly goods, spinning along a quiet, dusty road, stopping at taverns for tapas and a glass of local red. The reality would be me slogging through the rain on a saddlebag-laden bike along the side of a thundering motorway, risking death by juggernaut at every wobble.

Plus I think there's the odd steep hill in that part of the world.

3) The trans-Canadian railway, from Vancouver to Halifax with many points inbetween.

Upside: The mountainous beauty of Canada, from snow-capped peaks to grass-covered plains. Also, English-speakers and fellow Commonwealthians!

Downside: Sitting on a train for two weeks - yee hah! Did I age fifty years overnight?

4) A hiking tour of Tasmania.

Upside: Gorgeous rainforests, impressive history, glorious scenery, mild climate, much opportunity for gourmet snacking.

Downside: Ever seen 'Deliverance'?

5) A journey through Thailand, experiencing one of the nicer parts of South East Asia.

Upside: Beautiful beaches, cheap travel, friendly people, delicious food, exotic culture.

Downside: I'm allergic to coriander.

6) Some sort of tour of New Zealand, perhaps a mixture of driving, cycling and walking.

Upside: Comparatively inexpensive, spectacular and varied landscapes, no language barriers, and they drive on the proper, Australian side of the road.

Downside: It's full of New Zealanders. And Lord of the Rings fanatics.

7) Staying at home and spending the money on a huge leather couch and an even bigger widescreen LCD TV.

Upside: Watching MST3K DVDs until my eyeballs crack like elderly walnuts.

Downside: Having to kill myself for wasting my precious holidays.

Further suggestions would be gratefully, perhaps even desperately, received.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I was reading a heated thread in a sociopolitical blog's comments, and I came across this expression:

"I've read your arguments, and I find them very offensive."

It really struck me. It's a common turn of phrase, but it's very much a creature of the modern world. Contrast it with this sentence:

"I've read your arguments, and I'm offended by them."

You see the difference, don't you? To "find something offensive" is to intellectually recognise its contradiction to one's own ideas or feelings, without any particular effect on one's equanimity. It says, "I'm not actually offended, but this contains all the technical criteria for causing offence." In and of itself it is not offending, in this instance, but it has been deemed offensive. Indeed, it may never give any actual offence to anyone, but it has the power to do so... theoretically.

"Finding (x) offensive" seems to be a grammatical way of claiming a disassociated high ground in a debate, without losing the moral trump card of a deep emotional connection with one's own position. After all, if you were actually offended by something, there's always the possibility that your subsequent arguments could be devalued by the presence of your high emotions. "Finding (x) offensive" registers the potential for high emotions and puts them aside, allowing one to be both a bruised flower and a dispassionate trooper simultaneously.

At best, it's rather disingenuous.

Perhaps this is why we so many people struggle with the concept of "causing offence" these days. Too many people are tagging things as offensive, and too few are actually being offended.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The same friend who invited me to Rockingham to see 'The Woman in Black' back in February invited me to see 'A Month of Sundays' at Fremantle's Harbour Theatre last night. As was the case in the previous outing, the audience was almost entirely made up of the over-60s. Since we were in salubrious Fremantle rather than declasse Rockingham they were a better class of oldster, but oldsters nonetheless. I don't know why this is. Perhaps all of these theatres advertise extensively in bingo halls, prune juice retailers and ABC shops.

In the last outing, the elderly audience had tittered during the tense moments of a thriller. Since this was a comedy, I half-expected them to scream in terror at the jokes. Frankly, given that this play was about nursing home residents succumbing to physical breakdown and dementia, a few shrieks at a depiction of the near future for the majority of audience members might have been entirely justified. But they managed to limit themselves to simple chortling.

The only outbreak of the dreaded High Decibel Whispering Of The Deeply Deaf came towards the end of the play, when one of the characters was giving a bottle of Glenfiddich to another as a gift . As the distinctive bottle changed hands, an octogenarian in a wheelchair down the front recognised it and cooed, "Ooh, that's an expensive one!" to her companion. I'm assuming her companion heard her, since I heard her, every single other member of the audience heard her, and the actors up on stage heard her. They faltered for a split second, waiting to see if she was going to follow her market appraisal with any further commentary. But she seemed content with her contribution, so they ploughed back into the performance.

As for the play itself... well. Hmmm. It occupied that pleasant, well-intentioned area of modern British light comedy; not as formulaically fossilised as 'Keeping Up Appearances', but not as clever or subversive as 'Blackadder'. It was smooth and palatable, with some nice little laughs and a gently progressing plot. In the hands of some really exceptional actors it might have been quite moving, but these actors ranged between competent (with occasional flashes of brilliance) and barely adequate. They might have done better with greater material, and the material might have gone better with greater actors. C'est la vie.


Could any of my American readers suggest a reason why I'm suddenly getting inundated with searches for hot blonde Swiss bikini babe Evelyn Kraft?

I mean, Evelyn's charms have always been obvious, but why so much interest now? It's constituting almost half my traffic, and it's coming from all corners of the US, from San Francisco, California to Duluth, Georgia.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Every time I start to think that I'm taking this whole MST3K thing too seriously, along comes someone who demonstrates the true meaning of obsession.

Monday, May 15, 2006


I spent Friday night at a performance of Harold Pinter's 'The Caretaker' at the grungy Rechobite Theatre on William Street. It was a very interesting work. It takes a certain kind of skill to write a play which consists almost entirely of variations on two dozen lines, chopped and swapped and repeated, but which nevertheless tell a story about three men and their evolving relationships. I gather it's also great fun for the actors, to flex their skills to bring new shades of meaning to a line each time they utter it.

An old tramp is taken in by an odd but generous young man, and given a bed in the one inhabitable room in a derelict house. He is offered, in an ill-defined kind of way, the position of caretaker for the house, which he gleefully accepts. However he soon falls afoul of the young man's brother, who is as loud and aggressive as his brother is quiet and reserved. It soon becomes apparent that both of the brothers are... unstable. But the old man isn't an innocent in this situation; he wheedles and whines and tries to play the brothers off against each other, pushing them in small increments to get what he wants, then pulling back pathetically when he oversteps the mark, and frantically consolidating his gains.

It might be tempting to take a message from the play about greed and hubris, but really it's just a slightly surreal exploration of three marginal people, and the ways in which their relationships ebb and surge like an unpredictable tide.

This was the second play I've seen at the Rechobite, and it was another chance to enjoy this decrepit building. It seems to have been constructed from bricks of depression and planks of despair. The foyer area is dominated by a huge, steep, dark jarrah staircase, which looks at least three times too large for the space. The ticket counter is jammed in next to it on the ground floor, and the bar is squeezed into an alcove above it. The high pressed-tin ceiling is punctured in innumerable places by old light fittings, smoke detectors, and bits of unidentifiable fixtures clinging to it like barnacles. The carpets are worn and seemingly resigned to their ignominious fate. Everything else is overlaid with years of smoke, grime, scratches and scattered, half-hearted attempts at maintenance.

In the main theatre, any colours in the paintwork have been lost under smoke damage. That is, if the paintwork hasn't been physically scorched off the walls, which show evidence of a fire somewhere in the not-terribly-distant past, exposing the raw brickwork and other parts of the building's skeleton.

All in all it's like attending a Hobo Theatre... which is not entirely inappropriate in the case of this particular play.


My friend John B over at Beggar's Choice recalls an Australian TV show called 'Sex/Life', which was a strange, early 90s union twixt very boring information and advice panel show, and dirty dirty late night porn-fest. It was popular for about as long as it was daring, which, given our human ability to adapt to change and our short modern attention spans, was about twenty minutes. It also had the misfortune of arriving just as the internet, replete with far dirtier and more varied porn, was taking off, which rather swiftly made it redundant.

Still, John makes the point that sometimes a TV show can be huge for a moment, but then utterly vanish off the cultural radar, as if its very existence was just some sort of fever dream. References to certain shows, like 'The A-Team' for instance, are still popping up on 'The Simpsons' or 'The Family Guy'. And yet others have simply gone.

I struggled to think of some examples, and the best I could come up with was 'Beauty & The Beast', a late-80s rose-tinted phenomenon created specifically for middle-aged housewives who weren't getting any. It rode high on its baroque, romantic concept for about half a season... before the atrociously stilted dialogue, complete absence of humour and aimless plot caused it to jump the shark and drain into a high-speed deathspiral.

A bit of googling also reminded me of 'The Scarecrow & Mrs King', which was sort of like 'Desperate Housewives' with spies, only nowhere near as interesting as that concept sounds. It revived, and then promptly killed, the career of Bruce Boxleitner, until it was reincarnated by that bastion of televisual last chances, 'Babylon 5'.

Can anyone suggest any other once-popular 80s or 90s TV shows which have vanished without a cultural trace?

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Sheesh, the things we Christians have to put up with. From the letters page of today's 'Australian', a missive from Mr Alexander Holt of Wyoming, New South Wales:

Why is the Christian community so upset about the imminent release of the Da Vinci Code?

I don't know, Al. It may have something to do with the fact that a trashy novel with delusions of grandeur claims that the foundational beliefs of our religion are a lie, and millions are basing their opinions of our religion on that. But, you know, I could be wrong.

The movie's reaction so far has ranged from vicious in-sermon attacks to a proposed boycott of the film.

Yep, you got us there, Al. That's the full range of our reaction. No simple rolled eyes, mutterings of "idiots" or, heaven forfend, interesting discussions on the book's viewpoints for us. It's nothing but vicious attacks, proposing boycotts and burning Dan Brown in effigy. You wouldn't believe how hard it's been to get all the ash and spittle out of the church carpet.

Although I'm moved to wonder; if you're not a Christian, how do you know that there have been vicious in-sermon attacks? Are you lurking in church foyers with your ear pressed to the door? Have you planted bugs under the altars? Er, are you actually stalking us, Al?

The absurdity of such anger towards a work of fiction* notwithstanding...

*ie a work of fiction which claims to be true, as is believed by many gullible sorts to be true.

...the troubling issue here is the film's detractors' baffling ignorance of their own ideals.

Thank goodness you're here to explain our own ideals to us. Please, do tell.

Christians purport to value the ideal of tolerance...

Eight words in and down he goes, trailing acrid smoke. Humanists believe in tolerance, Al. Christians believe in loving one's fellow man. There's a difference.

...but this notion seems to be disregarded in favour of vitriolic attacks on anyone who dares question their beliefs.

I think you'll find that the 'vitriolic attacks' come when you mock our God, Al, not when you question our beliefs. Most Christians are happy to discuss what they believe. But we do not take kindly to glib smears on the dignity and majesty of the Almighty, any more than you would welcome claims that your wife is a pox-infested whore.

And by the way, if you want to see a real vitriolic attack, try writing to Zemblan and using the word 'disregard' when you mean 'discard'.

If this "tolerant" religion only tolerates ideas that it agrees with, it it really tolerating anything at all?

Alexander Holt
Wyoming, NSW

As South Park wise man Mr Garrison once said; "'Tolerate' means you're just putting up with it. You tolerate a crying child sitting next to you on the airplane, or you tolerate a bad cold. It can still piss you off!" We Christians put up with a lot of things that piss us off, in the interests of respecting the separation of church and state, and to maintain open lines of communication with non-Christians. But oddly enough, we don't extend that tolerance to endorsing a book that claims we are all liars or fools. We're kinda funny like that.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Searches By Niche Perverts That Have Lead Them To 'Get On The Blandwagon!'

nude truck drivers

fred daphne velma sex

Melbourne Garden Show 2006 vacuum


Depressed? Moody? Caught in a cyclone downwind of a hairspray factory? Then The Magical Grid of Bad Emo Hair is for you!

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I wanted to stay up last night and see it happen. At 3.02am, if I'd been awake, I would have witnessed the first second of the second minute of the third hour of the fourth day of the fifth month of the sixth year of the millenium.

But bugger that. I needed my sleep.

Instead I went to bed just after midnight, and slept through any number of arbitrarily notable moments in time. I woke at 7.31am, which is notable for being the precise time at which I thought, "Aw crap, another day of getting out of a warm bed to go to bloody work."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


While channel-hopping last night I found myself watching five minutes of Big Brother 6. And now, I'm relieved to say, I must assiduously avoid it for the rest of the season, knowing that it is so vile that anything more than five minutes, cumulatively, will cause my eyeballs to melt.

How exactly do they find people so degraded and abhorrent? The women all have the hard, bitter faces, screeching voices and cheap, tacky wardrobes of low-grade whores, only they somehow found themselves on reality TV rather than on a dimly-lit street corner. And the men are worse; not so much human beings as random intersections of tan, hair product and biceps, so aggressively stupid that it seems more of a lifestyle choice than an unfortunate result in the genetic lottery.

I've gone beyond not wanting to watch Big Brother, and even beyond not wanting it to be on television. Now I actively want all the people involved in it dead. I just don't want the world to be a place where people like that exist.

Is that so wrong?

Monday, May 01, 2006


'Laserblast' is an important episode in the MST3K ouvre. Besides being the last show made for Comedy Central, and also being the final program for lead villain Dr Clayton Forrester, it's one of the few movies in which the title accurately reflects the contents (unlike Future War, Pod People, The Cave Dwellers etc). The laser blasts don't exactly come thick and fast, but they are there, and 'Laserblast' is a punchier title than 'Idiot Slackers Versus the Lumpy-Assed Turtle People', which is the only other title that successfully encapsulates the story.

The movie opens with aliens who look like de-shelled turtles taking out a homicidal green-skinned guy in the middle of the desert. However, these aliens subscribe to a strict philosophy of never finshing what they start, so after they vapourise their attacker, they leave his laser weapon and a mysterious related necklace just lying in the sand.

Enter our sorry excuse for a hero. Billy can best be described as every cliche of blow-dried, infantilised, shiftless, whiny, dim-witted 1970s teenagerhood bundled up into one body; sort of like Luke Skywalker, without the latter's dynamic charisma and winning personality. Buttoning his shirt is apparently beyond him, and he drives a van with Hang Ten feet hand-painted on the side. He is, in short, vile. And he's the protagonist. Saints preserve us all.

Billy finds the laser blaster and the necklace, and when he uses them in conjunction he develops the power to make harmless bits of shubbery explode. Unfortunately he also starts to turn green, develop a stony plate in the middle of his chest, and go all kill-crazy, just like his predecessor. He sets out to murder everyone who ever thwarted him... which is difficult, as he's basically a lazy, self-absorbed brat who's never been significant enough to warrant thwarting. Still, he manages to blow up a high school bully and his nerdy sidekick, a couple of venal pigs (in the police rather than porcine sense), his family doctor, a hippie who gave him a lift in his pickup, innumerable shrubs, and so on and so forth.

Eventually he goes too far, and turns against his anorexic blonde girlfriend, who is one of those dippy 70s codependent chicks who misidentify worthlessness as sensitivity in their men. She's with a mysterious guy who's been appearing thoughout the movie in a huge black Lincoln towncar and a series of horrifying polyester suits. His role is never explained, but he apparently Knows Stuff. Nothing useful, of course - Billy could melt him into a rayon-infused pool of goo and he couldn't do a thing to stop him - but he has a secret briefcase, and that's always a sign of wisdom.

But just as it looks like curtains for the girlfriend and Mr Mysterious, the turtle aliens turn up again and blast Billy into oblivion.

Then they bugger off, once more without collecting either the laser or the necklace. Idiots.

'Laserblast' didn't have a lot going for it. But the episode was a good one, full of killer riffs and some... er... unique host segments. Some people may argue that a TV show about grown men with puppets making fun of bad movies isn't the stuff of quality television, but they're just not seeing the bigger picture. I mean, can any of the 'Law & Order' or 'CSI' franchises boast of having featured Michael J Nelson dressed as Katherine Janeway (complete with a pert and efficient bustline) performing an impromptu rendition of 'Proud Mary'?

mike as janeway

Didn't think so.