Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Holy damn, it's almost Thanksgiving

Hot God. It's almost Thanksgiving. Time flies.

Nothing much new to report. I'm nipple-deep in a new project I'm working on. I alluded to it in Long Beach, CA but now that it's almost done I can't finish it. It's a space-time, teleportation, truck stop kind of private eye novella.

Other than that, I'm working on a whole lot of stuff. Weekly Weird Monthly is getting set to launch Cheryl Couture's debut chapbook, Beauty Pageant. It's going to be a good one, folks.

Austin artist and photographer, Josh Verduzco, approached me about doing my portrait. He said he was going to throw tomatoes at me. I love tomatoes. I couldn't refuse. One good shirt later, my portrait was taken. We made a lot of ketchup and we're currently trying to sell it to Whole Foods to sell as "Organic, Hand Pressed, Tomato Dressing."

Here are the portraits.



Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Werewolf Dentists From Hell

In honor of Halloween and of my root canal horror story, I am posting my story THE WEREWOLF DENTISTS FROM HELL for free. Trick or treat. It was originally published in a Halloween anthology from horrornovelreviews.com.


THE WEREWOLF DENTISTS FROM HELL
by Andrew Hilbert

“Aren’t you a little old to be trick-or-treating?” Carl asked the two masked men at his doorstep.

“Just give us some fucking Tootsie Rolls,” one of the men said. His voice was low and gravely and his eyes were bright red underneath his mask.

“Wh-what are you supposed to be anyways?”

They stood there. Their faces were covered by werewolf masks but they were also wearing scrubs and stethoscopes dangled around their neck.

“Dentists from Hell,” they both said and pushed their way into Carl’s house where his wife sat around the television watching The Simpsons.

“Television rots the brain, moron,” one of the men said.

“It’s a family tradition! The kids go out and get candy and we watch The Simpsons. What’s so wrong about that?”

“Turn off your porch light. You’re done giving candy to kids,” one of the werewolf dentists from Hell said.

Carl, realizing that he had no choice, obeyed.

“And turn off that noise!”

Carl turned to his wife.

“Honey, please turn off the TV. These nice dentists from Hell have something to say.”

Betty turned off the TV.

“H-How can I help you?”

The dentists from Hell looked at each other. Beneath their masks, they smiled.

“You got a La-Z-Boy?”

Carl nodded and pointed to his favorite reclining chair.

“You got some duct tape?”

Carl nodded and pointed to the kitchen.

“You got any Tootsie Rolls?”

Carl shook his head.

“Only Butterfingers and Twix, king sized,” he said.

“Fuck!” one werewolf yelled. “I wanted the Tootsie Rolls.”

“Go get the duct tape, you son of a bitch!” the other said.

Carl could feel a steady stream of piss roll down his leg. It showed through his khakis.

“Hey, look. This tooth killer pissed his pants.”

The werewolf dentists laughed.

“Get the fucking duct tape.”

Carl nodded and waddled to his kitchen. With each stride, he could feel his pant legs sticking and unsticking to the hairs of his legs.

“Kids ‘round the neighborhood must love your house,” one of the dentists said to Betty.

“They do, they sure do. We always give out the good stuff.”

“Heh, the good stuff, she says.”

Carl came back with the duct tape in his hand.

“Wh-what are you planning to do?”

“Sit down and shut up.” The dentists from Hell pointed to the recliner.

Carl nodded and sat down.

One dentist pointed to Betty.

“You,” he said, “What’s your name?”

“Betty.”

“Betty, I’m Pavlovius and this is my partner, Theolonius. Please duct tape your husband’s hands and feet to the La-Z-Boy.”

“Do whatever they ask! Do whatever they ask, sweetheart!”

Betty got up and brushed the popcorn off her sweatshirt. She grabbed the duct tape from Carl’s hand and started to bind him to his beloved recliner.

“Pliers,” one of the dentists asked. The other pulled out some pliers from his trick-or-treat goodie bag.

The pliers were rusted and disgusting.

“Open your mouth or we’ll lengthen your lips.” He pulled out a knife.

“I’ll open! I’ll open!” Carl wriggled as much as he could but Betty had much practice at binding her husband. They were BDSM enthusiasts.

“Say ahhh, motherfucker.”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

The dentist from Hell put the pliers in Carl’s mouth, grabbed his front tooth, and pulled. Blood flowed like the corn syrup surprise inside a Gushers candy.

“You’re rotting children’s teeth,” the dentist from Hell said and plucked another tooth out. “You’re destroying the mouths of babes!”

“You’re giving into the sugar industry like slaves!” the other dentist from Hell said as the pliers continued their work.

Carl screamed as blood sputtered out of his mouth and dribbled all over his shirt and khakis.

In no time, Carl was toothless. His mouth was a gaping wound of blood and spit.

“This is the future of all the kids you’re feeding king sized candy bars,” the dentist with the pliers said as he grabbed a compact mirror and held it up to Carl’s face.

All Carl could see was a mouth bleeding all over itself in the mirror. He couldn’t help but cry.

“But ifn’t prue fhat rotting peefh are your bread and bupper?”

The pliers fell to the ground. The werewolf dentists from Hell looked at each other.

“No, shit,” one said.

“We didn’t even think of that.”

“You’re the guy who gives us business.”

“Shit.”

The werewolf dentists looked at their feet and shook their heads.

“Fuck.”

“We’re really sorry about this.”

“Here’s a business card for a real good oral surgeon. He can fix you up with teeth implants or dentures or whatever you prefer.”

They handed him a card.

“Shit,” one of them said. “We’ll just turn on the porch light on our way out.”

“Again, we can’t apologize enough.”

They backed out of the house and closed the door behind them. The porch light was on.

Carl sat there, still bound, as Betty collected his teeth from the ground.

Their doorbell rang.

“Trick-or-treat!”





Reviews and other such nonsense!

Yo!

I will have you know that I have been keeping up with the Simpsons and there will be reviews and thoughts posted soon but what everyone really should be watching right now is the new season of South Park.



Some friends came into town for a bachelor party. Two friends are getting hitched this year and, luckily for me, they decided to come to Austin to celebrate. I got to catch up with everyone and one of those friends informed me that South Park this season was killing it. He was right. I work in the service industry by day and by night and the Yelp episode is spot on. Do yourself a favor and watch it. 

Anyways, I haven't been posting recently because I'm going through quite an ordeal with my tooth after a root canal on top of getting sick at the end of October every year.



Here's a roundup of more recent reviews and mentions of Death Thing:






You can always purchase a signed copy of any of my work through the Weekly Weird Monthly here. 

If you've read Death Thing, Toilet Stories, or Cat Food, please review them on Goodreads and/or Amazon!



Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Simpsons and How They Embiggened Me: Simpsons Season 27 Premiere

Simpsons, Season 27, Episode 1: Every Man's Dream

If the rest of the season is like this, it's bad news.

Last thing's first. It ends with a referential joke that is mind boggling if you aren't aware of the reference. Early Simpsons episodes referenced and parodied and it wasn't necessary to even know what was being referenced or parodied to laugh. Sure, you might laugh more if you knew the reference but you'd still laugh because the Simpsons was funny.

The Simpsons excelled at referential and self-referential humor because the joke didn't live and die on the reference. The joke was funny regardless of the reference. There's this whole genre of humor that is solely referential. It's not funny on its own. Sorry. Randomly spewing a piece of TV trivia is not funny regardless of how many people put their nose in the air and laugh as their eyes dart around looking for the people who don't get it. There's nothing to get.

I GOT THE REFERENCE, THOUGH! IT WAS ALL A DREAM IN AN EPISODE OF GIRLS AND HANNAH HORVATH SAYS SOMETHING FUNNY ABOUT BROOKLYN.

The episode, surprisingly, started off good. Homer and Marge have had serious marital problems throughout the series. I did not understand the uproar over the episode before it aired because this is a tried-and-true episode formula for the Simpsons. It's not as common as a Sideshow Bob formula but it's still common throughout Simpsons' history.

There's really not too much to say about the episode other than it lacked jokes. Bart was also weirdly psychopathic. He's always been a brat, he's always been vaguely psychopathic, but I don't recall him ever trying to kill his father and have that be played up for laughs. It was bizarre. It was too over the top, even for Bart.

The drug scene wasn't super visually interesting. Homer's already had some great drug episodes (when he meets the coyote voiced by Johnny Cash, when he starts smoking medical marijuana) and this one just seemed to go through the motions. Maybe it was a deeper commentary on millenial culture - we're so boring that even our drugs produce nothing more than minute long filler in a cartoon. I doubt that, though.

The episode was cheap and used an Inception-like series of dream endings to quickly wrap up a story that should have never been unwrapped.

Hopefully this isn't a sign of the rest of the season.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Best of Austin 2015

Holy cow.

I was the critic's pick for Best Author Reading for the Austin Chronicle's Annual Best of Austin awards. 

Francois Pointeau and Owen Egerton also won some literary awards and my former employer, BookPeople, continues their reign as best bookstore in Austin. We got to party for free, got a nice tshirt, drank a lot of Austin Beerworks and ate a lot of Via 313. Sometimes life's just damn good.

I've been in Texas since 2010, though.

The Weekly Weird Monthly Automatons at the Austin Chronicle Party 
Nina, me, Cheryl, and Chris

Austin is losing Francois Pointeau to the road soon. We sent him off at the Whip In at his book release party. It was wildly successful. I had the honor of hosting the whole thing and all I can say is that Austin got a whole lot less French. Get Francois's book by clicking here. 

Francois as a boxed wino. The If Onlys on stage.

Death Thing is continuing to generate positive interest and I'm starting to pursue next steps career-wise. It's overwhelming but it's also necessary to keep forward movement. I think Death Thing is perfect for the screen and I'm talking to a lot of folks on how to get that done. 

I'll be in Long Beach on Sunday, October 4th, at Gatsby Books for a Death Thing release party but I'm also releasing my new chapbook, Cat Food, there. You can get both books here. 


I'm extremely grateful to the city of Austin and Texas in general. I don't know that I'd be writing as much as I am today if it wasn't for a rather sudden move to Texas. Texas revitalized me. It threw me around and sent me to some depths in the beginning, sure, but it was for the best.

I'll be updating this blog more. I'm terrible at internetting. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Death Thing reviews

Howdy, folks.

The Death Thing release from Double Life Press has been a wild and fun ride, for sure. I've done a number of readings and performances in support of Death Thing's release in Austin, TX. There will be many more.

I'm starting to look to the road, though. My good friend, Francois Pointeau, is hitting the road in an RV to do performances and sell his book and, hopefully, make a living. He's braver than I am. I can't live in an RV. I'd rather live across the street from a Whataburger. I may be joining him for some performances. He's heading west first. He's also starting a new podcast called The Rolling Chateau. It should be pretty damn good.

There have been a number of positive Death Thing reviews. Here's the list I have so far:

http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/2015/06/book-review-death-thing.html

http://www.sacredchickens.com/sacred-chickens-blog/and-now-for-a-break-from-the-usual-drivel

http://www.deadendfollies.com/2015/06/book-review-andrew-hilbert-death-thing.html

http://francoispointeau.com/death-thing/

It's been an exciting ride so far.

Tonight I'll be at Opal Divine's for Noir at the Bar. Here's a Q&A I did with BookPeople's MysteryPeople. 

I read Flesh House for the first time ever live at the Whip In for Bastille Day. I'm told there will be a podcast posted of it. I could hear the crowd undulating in disgust. It was magnificent.



Thursday, July 2, 2015

The past couple days and the next few

The release party for Death Thing at Radio Coffee and Beer went incredibly well. Holy War at the Sex Store was the opening band and they played classic standards like, "Stigmata Handjob." Francois Pointeau also acted as a fluffer with a short reading of his poetry. Chris Mattix was the host of the night. The Weekly Weird Monthly was represented by Cheryl Couture at the merch table. One lucky buyer got a can of tuna. It's possible they said, "Fuck tuna," but reports are unsubstantiated.

It was quite a night.

Sold some books, signed some books, drew some silly doodles that I regret. Such is life.

Francois is a local man-about-town. He's a bartender at one of my regular haunts, he's a radio show host, and a poet. I met him at Owen Egerton's One Page Salon at the Whip In almost a year ago now and we became fast friends. I was lucky to have him invite me on his radio show the first time in promotion of my chapbook Toilet Stories From Outer space and he invited me again to promote Death Thing yesterday.

The first time I was on the radio, I was nervous. This time it was a breeze. Francois is good at making things feel like a conversation (albeit without all the cussing).

Anyways, I'm pretty exhausted. I knew I wanted to promote the hell out of Death Thing as much as I could with live performances but I didn't expect to be so damn tired.

The MEV rolls on, though. Next week I'll be performing at the Badlands for the Badlands Blotter. On the 14th, I'll be at the Whip In for Francois's Frenchie Bastille Day Festival and Hoedown. Then to round things out on the 22nd, I'll be at Bookpeople's Noir at the Bar with Brad Parks. 

We're not stopping there, either. I'll be announcing more dates soon.

One big surprise of this past weekend was that my mom and grandma showed up in the humid hellhole of Austin right now to be at the release party. I was pretty nervous about the whole thing but they, as always, kept me near planet Earth. My grandmother is Donna Hilbert, a phenomenal poet who has always been an inspiration to me. She's encouraged me since the day I asked her how to write poetry when I was just a little snot-nosed twerp. She also printed the first edition of the first book I ever wrote, Fat Legs. At 29 I still have the same sense of humor as 5 year old me. That's something.

In other news... Ted Cruz does terrible Simpsons impressions



Ted Cruz astounds me. He managed to do every impression with the same voice.

Now, there are people on my Facebook feed that -I shit you not- refuse to watch the video because they don't want to give Ted Cruz any more legitimacy. I can assure you, watching this video will not add an ounce of credibility or legitimacy to the walking SCOBY that is Ted Cruz.

In fact, it just adds to a narrative of his own delusion.


I finally saw Mad Max...

Nina and I went to the first showing of Mad Max on a Friday. We were the only folks in the theater. I thought it was excellent. It was a lot of fun. It was just a damn good action flick with damn good action and damn good heroes. 

Luckily, Tom Hardy had as many lines as I do fingers on half of my left hand. He only delivered half of those well. The other half sounded like bad impressions of Mel Gibson's Max. Small potatoes there. I didn't go there for lines. 

And in the end, like every good western or samurai movie, the hero walks into the sunset for the next adventure. 

ADIOS. 



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The MEV rolls on

It's been a wild month.

Death Thing was released in May and the reviews are pretty damn excellent so far. I'm carrying around a stress ball for when the first truly negative review goes up.

I know it's bad for authors to even read their own reviews or to check their sales rankings so I try to limit it to fifty times a day.

The craziest thing that happened for the Death Thing release was that my publisher was sent fan art. That blew my mind. Take a look:


Besides that, I've been getting personal messages from readers expressing how much they liked Death Thing and that is honestly the best feeling for an author. 

I've got a few more books coming down the pipeline. My relationship with Double Life Press is great. I couldn't have asked for a better publisher. If they'll keep publishing me, I'll keep sending them stuff. 

The MEV is rolling hard these next few months. Here's the schedule:





Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Death Thing came out on Monday. Get your copy!


Folks, Death Thing is out and I couldn't be any happier.

First of all, Craig McNeely and Emily McNeely are fantastic editors and wonderful people. I couldn't have asked for a better relationship with my publisher. Double Life Press is a small independent press but I get the feeling Double Life will be on the lips of a lot of people. We did an Ask Me Anything style online release party on Facebook and it already feels like Double Life has built a great community.

Will Viharo is class manifest, Danny Gardner is sharp as a razor, Pablo D'Stair is an artist in all forms, and Jessica McHugh is the life of the party. That's not even mentioning the other upcoming Double Life authors. Salvadore Ritchie has a novel concept whose synopsis alone blows my mind. April Hawkes has a novel coming out that I can't wait to read. I can't even remember everybody's name because Craig has so much coming out.

Double Life is going to be huge, folks, and I'm as happy as a pig tastes in bacon form to be a part of it.

I'll soon be transcribing the questions and the answers from the online release party here but I wanted to say hello and do another sales pitch for y'all.

Death Thing is about a man who will not take it anymore. It's a pulpy, grindhouse, horror novella that is full of black comedy.

Dyer Wilk did a wonderful job on the cover. It looks like an 80s horror movie poster or VHS. He does phenomenal work. Maybe there will be a poster version of this because it certainly feels like it should be blown up and hung on a wall.

I was very honored to get a blurb from Adam Cesare, writer of Tribesmen, on the cover: "Sometimes it feels like a book was written just for you. Demented, funny, and way more philosophical than you'd think a novella about a deadbeat booby-trapping his car would be, DEATH THING reads like part-Harold Pinter, part-Roger Corman."

Click here to buy a copy!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A 7-11 Trip for the Books

When we drove into our parking space, I got a real sense that something was up at my local 7-11. There was a lady in the passenger side of the car next to mine eating an ice cream sandwich and staring into the store, waiting for her driver who was presumably getting more ice cream sandwiches. Inside there were three cashiers behind the register, a young lady at the credit card swiper making hand motions as she talked to the uninterested cashiers, and we haven't even gotten out of our car yet.



I turned to Nina and said, "Somebody could do a sociological study on this one 7-11."

There were handwritten signs everywhere. "LEAVE YOUR BACKPACK AT FRONT DESK." "NO LOITERING, IT IS CRIME." It reminded me of the time I lived with a meth addict who went crazy cleaning our apartment and left notes reminding us to clean. "DO YOU WALK ON THIS FLOOR? YOU DO! CLEAN IT ONCE IN AWHILE!" These notes were everywhere. When I walked into the apartment and saw this, I felt like I was walking into some weird serial killer's game. Same way it felt going into that 7-11.

When I got out of the car, a large bearded man was also making exaggerated gestures to two cashiers that looked like they could have been cut from the same cheese curdle. I open the door. The bearded man exits. The store is quiet. Real quiet. There are three cashiers; two young ladies and a young man. Their arms were crossed. It felt like we interrupted them. I could feel their eyes on me as I walked toward the ice cream box.

When we got to the freezers there was a man, literally without any discernible shape with his skin melting out the sides of his shoes. He was covered in flea bites and he smelled the way a trash can smells after it rains and there's nothing but nacho cheese, dog shit, and standing water smell after you lift the lid off.

"I can't do this," I said. I turned around and headed for another part of the 7-11 and waited for the man to leave. He left with two Blue Bell pints and looked happier than I ever have at any point in my life. Good for him. He's gone.

You probably know that Blue Bell pints are criminally overpriced at 7-11, despite the buy one, get one free offer. You might as well go to HEB and get a gallon for the same price. It's much better to get a one off frozen-cream-on-a-stick deal at 7-11. I got the Butterfinger ice cream. Nina got the cookie ice cream sandwich. Solid choices.

When we went to the register, there were only two cashiers there. One was pulling at her lips via lip rings. The other was staring straight ahead in her Houston Rockets ball cap, nodding at whatever was intelligible coming from her compatriot's mouth as she tugged at her bottom lip. That's multitasking, folks.



"She said she was the only one to pass the test and I was like, damn, girl," the Houston Rockets cap girl said.

I have no idea what they were talking about but it went on for awhile.

We paid for our shit and left.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Death Thing is coming

Folks, I've been on a little bit of an internet-fast lately.

But Death Thing is coming.

Death Thing is coming soon.

The wonderful Double Life Press is publishing it. The one and only Dyer Wilk created the cover image. It looks great and I hope you'll enjoy it.

Meanwhile, I've finished the novel I was working on for awhile. It's called Invasion of the Weirdos and I'm currently doing some final edits. I think it's pretty darn good but I'm not sure it will have a home right out of the gate. It's a weird one.

I'm also writing the sequel to Death Thing called Party Bus: Death Thing 2. 

I originally envisioned Party Bus as a standalone but I found a way to tie it to Death Thing and, boy, am I glad I did. It adds a lot of texture to the Death Thing universe but it can be read as a standalone (I think).

I have a whole bunch of ideas bouncing around and I wanted to tell you that I'm not resting on my laurels. I'm back at the writing desk (which is just my couch and a coffee table in near total darkness).


This guy just wagered $5 on a Jeopardy Daily Double because of course he did. 


Give my author page a like on facebook, follow me on twitter, and do the same for Double Life!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Death Thing cover art!


The one and only Dyer Wilk designed this, folks. I'm incredibly happy that Craig McNeely got him to design the cover. Death Thing will come out in April from Double Life Press

Monday, March 9, 2015

NEW YORKER CARTOON CAPTION CONTEST: BURNING CHEETOS EDITION

New Yorker cartoons are the only part of the New Yorker I ever read as a kid. I remember thinking, "Adults read this shit?" Now I know the truth. Adults pretend to read this shit.

Onward!

If we all hide under this table, the boss'll never know we forgot our chairs this morning. 

There's absolutely no reason for me to show you this room except for the fact that you should take notice of the woman being sawed in half. You're in my house. These are my rules. 

He saw my painting, sat on my rock, fucked my wife, and took my club. Now I don't know what I'm going to do. 


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Simpsons and How They Embiggened Me: Season 1, Episode 2

Bart the Genius (7G02)

Martin. He's one of my favorite characters and in this episode he's nearly fully conceived and executed the way he will continue to be for the series. No other character is dropped into life so fully formed on their first appearance. Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa take until the second season to become themselves but Martin is Martin.

He's also one of the best side characters in the series and I have a real-world parallel story to a Martin in my own upbringing.

Before you ever see Martin, though, you get to see the incredibly long opening sequence. According to the commentary, Matt Groening hadn't seen any current TV shows and assumed that long openings were par for the course. They weren't but his little accident gave us one of the most recognizable theme songs of TV. There are little things about the long opening sequence that stand out. Homer doesn't let out a scream when Marge nearly runs him over in the driveway. At the bus stop as Bart rides by a group of people, you notice one guy looks like Bart up to the spiky hair. It'll be interesting to see what season they get rid of that scene and replace those characters with characters from the Simpsons world. But more interesting is that this tells us that the spiky-hair rule hasn't been implemented yet.

At a certain point, the Simpsons' creative team decided that only the Simpsons could have spiky hair. All other characters in Springfield had to have normal hair. Once implemented, the only time I can think of the staff breaking that rule is when Bart and Lisa try to save the Itchy & Scratchy show but are beaten by Lester and Eliza. That's worth breaking the rule over.

Totally worth it.

Let's get back to season 1, episode 2. 

Homer is not yet super dumb at this point but we do get little glimmers of it. In the very first scene, we see Homer agonizing over his nonsense Scrabble tiles: O X I D I Z E. "How can you make a word with these lousy letters?" he says as he puts down Do


In an effort to get out of the game quickly, Bart makes up a word. We've all done this. And I've done this many times playing Scrabble with my great grandma, parents, and brothers. We couldn't ever pass off a fake word on GG. At least you can pronounce KWYJIBO, unlike OXIDIZE.



A few things to notice. The coloring looks awful. The house is a weird, spray painted pink that reminds me of what I thought cartoons looked like in Afghanistan based on my multiple viewings of Super Troopers. It looks kind of half-assed in certain scenes but the DVD contains a note from Matt Groening reminding us that they had no idea what they were doing during season 1.

Then we get our introduction to Martin. My-friggin'-favorite.

Bart Simpson and his gang, Milhouse and two other guys, are tagging the school walls with Principal Skinner saying, "I am a weiner." Martin, in all his glory, tattle-tales to Skinner and then chides Bart on his spelling of wiener. "The preferred spelling of wiener is w-i-e-n-e-r although w-e-i is an acceptable ethnic variant."



Holy cow, I just had a cow man. That line is so perfect. It very well may be the best damn line of the season. I don't know. I'm watching and writing this as I go so I'm sure I'll say that more than a hundred more times. But how many kids did you know like that growing up? It's very easy for me to think of and point at the kids I thought were little Martins but I'm sure, even in my adult life, I come across as a Martin. Martin is a perfect character. He is Comic Book Guy before the reality of life has crushed him.

I knew a Martin in third grade. My third grade teacher was also a lot like Edna Krabappel. I remember the anti-smoking message being drilled into us since we were in kindergarten so it was quite a scandal when Ms. Bledsoe came to school smelling like smoke. Ms. Bledsoe did treat me the same way Krabappel treats Bart in this episode. Bart is constantly in trouble and had to conform to preemptive measures to ensure he didn't cheat. I was a little shit in third grade, no doubt, but I had what I thought was a good friend. He was supposed to be a Milhouse but he ended up a goddamned Martin. He tattled on me constantly and Ms. Bledsoe even enlisted him to keep a tally of how many times I cussed at recess.

Look at me now, Ms. Bledsoe! I'm cussing and nobody gives a shit!

This is why I love Martin so much. He reminds Ms. Krabappel that Bart must face the window so that he's not tempted to cheat. The humiliation! Bart is so overwhelmed by his incompetence that, after a nightmare sequence, he falls out of his chair. Martin is already done with his test so Bart steals it, naturally. 

Homer and Marge are called into Skinner's office to be informed and pay for Bart's vandalism but in the nick of time, the school psychiatrist jumps in and reveals that Bart's IQ test reveals he's a genius. He asks Bart, "Are you bored? Are you frustrated?"

The answers are the same for a genius as they are for miscreant, of course. Bart doesn't even need to lie. Out of pride, Homer kisses Bart. Totally uncharacteristic of what we've come to know Homer to be. I wonder if that's the only onscreen kiss between father and son? We'll have to keep a running tally:

# OF TIMES HOMER HAS KISSED BART: 1

When Bart gets transferred to a new school, the teacher reveals a class full of kids who speak in palindromes and other weird, smarty-pants stuff. The teacher says, "When you're bored, you can read a book!" Bart gets bored and picks out a Radioactive Man comic book. The teacher says, "A comic book? How did this get in there? We used it last week as a prop in a film about illiteracy." Bart is not at home.

Homer's proud of Bart and asks him how his day was. Bart answers, "Os, os." Homer is confused but Bart reveals that it's just "So, so," backwards to which Homer is genuinely impressed. It's almost heartbreaking.

Here's another standout line when Marge reveals they're going to the opera. Homer says, "But I'm not genius! Why should I have to suffer?"

The pacing of this episode is very leisurely. When you juxtapose it to an episode of the Simpsons just two seasons later, it feels like it's totally out of place with what it became. But it's important to remember that nobody had done anything like this before on TV. People always compare the Simpsons to the Flintstones (The Simpsons surely owe the Flintstones a debt) but the Flintstones existed farther outside reality than the Simpsons ever did. The Simpsons was commentary and satire while the Flintstones were animated family hi jinx with a pre-historic backdrop. The realest the Flintstones ever got was when they were selling Winston cigarettes.


Milhouse's character surely evolves from the first season to the next. He's kind of a Bart-lite in these episodes. He's wise cracking and turdlike. He doesn't get established as a shy and goofy nerd just yet. Milhouse is also part of a group of Bart's friends, friends we don't ever see hanging out as often as they do in this episode. As the series progresses, Milhouse becomes Bart's only friend. He is also a foil to Bart whereas in these early episodes he mirrors Bart. 



The softness of Homer reaches its zenith when Homer and Bart play catch. The next day, Bart mixes acids and bases and blows up his chemistry lab getting him kicked out of school. He writes a proposal explaining why he wants to go back to his old school (to observe the normal kids) but gives up halfway through and writes a confession. The school psychiatrist is quick to point out that confession is spelled wrong. 

As Homer bathes Bart in turpentine, Bart reveals it was all a sham. He never was a genius. He just cheated but he hopes that the way their father-son relationship was when Homer thought he was a genius continues. Homer responds the only way we know how he will - with the words, "Why you little!" and a chase.  

Bart benefited in so many ways in his home life as his social life deteriorated. He was an outcast among the other kids but he was celebrated at home whereas he was celebrated as a bad ass at school and punished by his family (and other authority figures) at home. Bart entered bizarro land and found that he liked some of the respect and love that being good engendered. But it just wasn't his bag. 

Bart locks himself in his room as Homer bangs on the wall. Bart laughs as the camera fades. Just as much as he loved the attention his father showered on him, he loves driving him crazy, too. 

This episode marks the first time the chalkboard gag and the couch gag were used. 

Ha.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Simpsons and How They Embiggened Me: Season 1, Episode 1

Read the introduction to this series here.

A good friend of mine came to visit a few months back. He and I had written and collaborated on a lot of things as we grew up. He was a pioneer of the early "blog" days, back when the sites were known as E&N sites (everything and nothing). We got to talking about humor and what makes us laugh. He said the internet informs so much of our generation's humor, which is true, but I'd argue that the Simpsons has much more cultural weight over our senses of humor. I'd say that the Simpsons helped construct what we see as internet humor but I'm not smart enough to write about that shit.

Anyways, episode 1.


Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire, 7G08

The first thing you notice is the super low voice of Homer Simpson. It's still Homer but it's crazy how much his voice has changed since the first season. I've started watching the newer episodes this season and I've found that many characters voices are going through slight changes. I can't put my finger on it but Moe and Mr. Burns's voices are slightly different. The voice actors age, the characters don't.

Why do I like this Simpsons episode so damn much? Why do I hold it up as the standard-bearer of all Christmas episodes?

It's simple. There's a hope against hope theme that pervades all of the early Simpsons and the very first episode displays that in full force.

Bart, with the best intentions, decides to get a tattoo of a heart with the word "Mother" in it. He imagines his mother loving it. He gets to please his mother and look like a tough guy. Every kid's dream. Of course, it doesn't go as planned. That's the first instance of hope against hope. Bart is trying to be his own person yet he knows a tattoo would displease his folks so what does he do? He chooses the least offensive tattoo he can. Not only is it the least offensive but it conveys his love for Marge. It doesn't turn out the way it was supposed to for Bart.



Homer won't be getting a Christmas bonus, Marge has to spend the Christmas money on removing Bart's tattoo, and just like that the Simpson Christmas sucks. Homer gets a job working as a mall Santa after Barney, the town drunk, drunkenly tells Homer they're hiring but they're selective. That's probably the best joke in the whole episode.



La-di-da, time goes on. Homer gets his paycheck after Bart tugs at his beard and discovers his dad is the mall Santa. "You must really love us to sink so low," he says. That's probably the best joke in the whole episode. Homer's paycheck is only $13 after taxes, training, Santa suit, beard rental, and Christmas club. It's over for Homer until Barney invites him to the dog racing track.



Barney wins, Homer loses the bet after going with his gut for the dog named Santa's Little Helper. Bart's declares that TV has misled him in hoping for a Christmas miracle to save Christmas.

This is the scene that gets me and this is the scene that has stayed with me for my whole damn life: Homer and Bart are rummaging through discarded betting receipts in the parking lot in hopes of finding a winner to save Christmas. Pretty damn pathetic.



The racetrack owner then kicks out Santa's Little Helper who runs into Homer's arms. Homer says, "He's a loser. He's pathetic. He's a Simpson." This, my friends, is what it's all about. They are losers, they are pathetic, yet they keep on going. Homer goes home thinking Christmas is ruined but as soon as the dog runs into the house with Bart, everything is all right.

Homer enlisting his son to look for a winning ticket in the parking lot after the race is more touching and more meaningful than George Bailey thinking about killing himself. Homer, knowing damn well nobody's thrown a winning ticket away, still goes through them with his son begging fate for a change of circumstances. He is forcing his son to take part in his display of defeat. The Simpsons is far from the fatalistic world that Matt Groening created with Futurama. The Simpsons fight the inevitable, no matter how pathetic, and still lose by the standards of their own expectations but they gain something greater.

They weren't trying to win the dog, they were trying to win money to buy presents. They never got the money. They failed. In Homer's refusal to see the reality of his failure, he stubbornly looks for a miracle. The miracle appears and he can't even recognize it. Bart has to recognize it for what it is. Bart was the one who said that TV failed him. It wasn't the ending our heroes worked for, it wasn't the ending the audience expected, but it was the ending that saved Christmas.

Looking back, I can't fathom a world in which the Simpsons got as much flack as they did. By today's standards, the Simpsons look downright Leave it to Beaver-y. It's all there, though. This is the first real glimpse of what the Simpsons would become - a realistic portrayal and unflinching satire of American society, pop culture, and family.



Homer is not yet over-the-top dumb. He's sweet, if not a little brusque and dense. It's clear he's not stupid. That stops being clear in glimmers around season 3 and more consistently after season 8.

Does anyone else think the tattoo artist is Comic Book Guy's brother? They look pretty damn similar.


















I guess everyone in the Simpsons look similar enough.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Simpsons and How They Embiggened Me: Introduction

The Simpsons hold an interesting power over my life. While I grew up in a very strict form of Christianity (read: cult), I also had the benefit of having very young parents. Young and hip enough to enjoy and allow the Simpsons in their household but unhip enough to go to church every Saturday for what felt like hours on end.

Before the church service proper, the kids had to go to Bible class and learn how evil every other person we knew was evil. When Halloween came around, it was all about demonizing Halloween. When Christmas came around, it was all about the pagan roots and evil behind Christmas. When Easter came around, same idea. Holidays were lucky enough to be seasonal and only a target for ridicule a few weeks out of the year so my brother and I only felt guilty about celebrating Christmas with our Catholic family for a few days before and after. The Simpsons, though, were on every week on Thursday nights and, just as going to church was a ritual not to be forsook, watching the Simpsons was something that we would never forget.



I remember one Saturday pretty clearly. It was right around Halloween and I was just getting giddy about the Simpsons Halloween Special. They were always, and still are always, the best episodes of any given season. The volunteer Bible teacher said something derogatory about Halloween and then said something about the frivolous joys of the world like the Simpsons. I can't claim to remember his exact words but it was enough to put the fear of a jealous and angry God into me (quite different than the five fingered, football watching Lord of the Simpsons). 

Luckily, my brothers and I were undeterred by bullshit. The Simpsons was a duty. It was a must. Even though I wanted to be a Bart and idolized him, I knew I was more of a Lisa down to the damn saxophone. My brother was a natural Bart. He was an all-boy hell raiser but with a heart of gold.



This is crazy. This is pointless. This is stupid... probably, but this all started out with a semi-drunken conversation on the porch of a friend's house. For those that know me, I like to wade into controversial conversations. I like zero-sum arguments, not because they are right or anything but what is the fun in waddling in shades of grey when you can really irritate people with a position that is firm and unwavering. Now, I always tell my friends to not let me talk about politics. This was one of those nights so I made a statement that I was sure that everyone would agree with: "The first episode of the Simpsons is the best Christmas episode of anything ever."

Some asshole responded, "What about Peanuts?"

"What are you, seventy years old? No, the Simpsons."

"What about It's A Wonderful Life?"

"Good movie but only became popular because it wasn't copyrighted and some television station found they could play it for free over and over again on Christmas eve. Simpsons."

Things got heated. Punches were thrown. Feelings were hurt.

But I left correct. That is a luxury nobody else could walk home with. I also walked home with the burning idea to start buying Simpsons DVDs and reliving my childhood. I started spending too much so I said I'd write about every episode in some capacity for each season before I can buy another.



So, it begins.

Just to clear the air here: I like Peanuts as much as any other nerd, sure. I can appreciate Calvin & Hobbes and its impact on many lives. When I was a kid, though, growing up in a religion where the Simpsons were bad but kids were allowed to enjoy and consume Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes as wholesome alternatives, I created a bias against them. Those were comics for the goodie-goodies. Oh, well. Time has proven me wrong about them, especially about Calvin & Hobbes. Oh, well. Oh, well.