Sunday, February 26, 2017

An Open Letter to the Apolitical

During the Super Bowl this year, Budweiser caused controversy with an advertisement telling the story of a German immigrant who overcomes hardship to come to America to meet a man named Anheuser, forming Anheuser-Busch with a cultural collision and a handshake. It didn't take long for the backlash and Budweiser boycotts to start, the overriding message being: keep your politics out of my beer. First of all, good luck avoiding Budweiser parent company ABInbev/SABMiller's approximately 400 brands and 28% market share: many of the people "boycotting" Budweiser will be turning from one of their products to another. Let them chug in ignorance. 

Regardless of the reasoning behind it, I support everyone's right to boycott any company they want. It amounts to non-violent protest, which is intrinsically democratic. What I can't support is the people with their heads in the sand, just because politics makes them bored or uncomfortable or cynical.

With that said, I would like to respond to the plea to keep politics out of your pint glass, or anything else for that matter:


We just experienced an election in which nearly half the country didn't vote. Let me say that again: almost half of the people in our country either weren't eligible or didn't care enough to cast a ballot in our 2016 primary election. I have sympathy for people working multiple jobs to support their families in a system set up to make them fail: political obfuscation and archaic voting rules have made it hard for many to vote. There are too many politicians that don't want you filling out a ballot. But with the option of early voting, the majority of non-voters don't have a valid excuse. Voter turnout in 2016 reached a 20-year low, and it's not OK.

I have a friend who didn't vote because he thinks of himself as a "conscientious objector," citing our fucked up and self-serving political system and lack of attractive political pundits. I understand the cynicism. I do. But I think his excuse for not voting is a fragile soap box, constructed out of idealism and privilege, and one that will crumple under the weight of reality. Besides the fact that there is more on the ballot than the president, the point needs to be made again and again: your vote does still count for something, and the president does indeed hold a lot of power in our system. Just look at the current president's onslaught of executive orders.

Whether you want to see it or not, your decision to abstain from voting directly influences your life, and the lives of millions of other people. And this is crucial: while your sex and skin color and economic opportunities may allow you to carry on with your day-to-day activities regardless of who holds office, that is not the case for millions of less privileged Americans who are marginalized and threatened by a political system whose current stance toward their existence ranges from apathy to overt aggression. Consider the words of Desmond Tutu: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." Not everyone that supports the current administration is a racist, sexist xenophobe. But the president and his closest advisors are just that - and that can cause just as much damage. Like the monseigneur from Boondock Saints says: "Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil, which we must fear most...and that is the indifference of good men."

Even if you're not one of these marginalized citizens, this affects you whether you want to admit it or not. Go take your dog for a walk or take a few hours to go fishing. These may not feel political but they are. Air and water quality are being threatened by pollution and governmental deregulation. Fish and animal habitats are falling victim to the same forces. Want to ignore the talking heads and eat your dinner in peace while watching Netflix? That dinner may be more and more expensive after a president-approved merger between two of the largest seed and chemical manufacturers on the planet. That escapist show you're watching online will cost you more and buffer longer if the FCC kills net neutrality with the administration's help. You may be sick of politics but I have some hard news for you: it's shaping your life already, and you are just hurting yourself and others by choosing to ignore it. Getting back to your plea for us to keep our politics out of your life: sorry, but the politics are already there. What are you going to do about it?

Jonathan Ross

The Honeycomb Hideout Episode 43: The Color of the Solar System

Alright, 'Combies, as you know, your boys have a tendency to keep things light but we also don't shy away from difficult topics either. So for Black History Month, the boys have decided to get real and going deep. From the origins of the month as Negro History Week to a wide range of social and political issues. The boys are diving deep and they're talking about some real issues and ills, so settle in, 'Combies,and let's get REAL as we swim through the depths of humanity and explore among the color of the solar system.

Download this episode (right click and save)

And for those of you curious about the first female Captain Marvel A.K.A. Spectrum, here's some reference from various artists:

And feel free to hit up your boys on the social media!
Joe: Twitter and Instagram
Drew: Twitter and Instagram
Paul the Engineer: Twitter and Instagram

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Honeycomb Hideout Episode 42: The Drunkcast 1: Can't we all just get along?

The first episode of 2017 is here and the wait is over. THE TIME HAS COME!!! The boys have been talking about it for months now and now they're dousing you with it! That's right, it's the DRUNKCAST!! And what a time for it. With a new president carving out his "legacy" even before he takes office now finally having taken office, there's been a reaction and it will not be ignored. And they're going to drunkenly talk about it (and somehow manage to be poignant too)! With "the Audience" in tow and between the Women's March, the Illuminati, more Marvel fanning out, and Sad John Cena, this particular assembly is definitely a thing to hear! The overall thing to take from this? We're all in this together, y'all. So come on down and pour yourselves a drink because the boys are already ahead of you!

*Disclaimer: All participants in this podcast are over the age of 21 and no driving took place immediately after either. So yeah, always partake responsibly, everybody!

Download this episode (right click and save)

And of course, here be the links!!

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Honeycomb Hideout Episode 41: Doctors, Detours and Dick-sclusions!

Here we are, 'Combies, the last episode of the year and the boys are going out in their typical flair! Come on down as Joe, Paul and Drew review Marvel's latest cinematic daliance, Doctor Strange. The boys give you the rundown on the film but also dive into a rather interesting controversy that spun out of a casting choice made in the film, as well as an in-depth dscussion on media coverage in general. Ready yourselves because this one gets really tangential so keep your head on a swivel because they're going all over the place. Oh and you'll also get to find out what a good sandwich is worth.

Download this episode (right click and save)

For context on the Huffington Post's article surrounding Tilda Swinton's discussion with Margaret Cho, see THIS!

To see Ghost Rider pwn Galactus, watch THIS!!!

And for what they're laughing at in the post-outro segment, that would be THIS and THIS! Yeah, that was basically this episode, y'all.  LOL

Also, feel free to hit up your boys on the social media!
Joe: Twitter and Instagram
Paul the Engineer: Twitter and Instagram
Drew: Twitter and Instagram

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Honeycomb Hideout Episode 40: Back to the Melee: SHUT UP, INTERNET!!!

Well, 'Combies. It's that time again. Of course, it's another episode of the Honeycomb Hideout, but it's more than that. It's a Melee episode! For those uninitiated, a "melee" is a confused scuffle or struggle. That is a pretty accurate description of what these episodes are; they are unplanned, unbridled streams of consciousness of your boys jump from topic to topic. Whether it's politics, fan entitlement, video games, extremely random references... Well... more random references than usual... and so much more! So if you want to get swept up into the melee, come on down and hold on tight, 'cuz it's gonna be a bumpy ride!!

Download this episode (right click and save)

For the video "Couch Commander" featuring President Barack Obama referenced by Paul, watch THIS!

For the interview that the guys inadvertently gape at William Fichtner over, watch THIS!

For the non-butchered original image that Joe is referencing from the Marvel series "Siege", look at THIS!

And because awesomeness, for the Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite teaser, WATCH THIS!

Also, feel free to hit up your boys on the social media!
Joe: Twitter and Instagram
Drew: Twitter and Instagram
Paul the Engineer: Twitter and Instagram

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Honeycomb Hideout Episode 39: Netflix and Coffee then Do-Over

Alright, 'Combies! The boys are welcoming back a veteran to the Hideout, ol' Blackie Jones himself, Mark Dudley! And he's showed up just in time to discuss one of the most anticipated Netflix releases in recent history, Luke Cage! The boys dive in and analyze the show's themes, messages, favorite moments and criticisms. Also, with all the reboots and remakes flying out of Hollywood, the guys try their hand at reinvisioning and/or repackaging some of their favorite properties and seeing what they come up with. It's a bit of an all over the place session this time around so let's see what they get up to!

Download this episode (right click and save)

And of course, there were plenty of memes and videos shared during this episode, so check them out as you listen to see how well you can keep up!
Also, feel free to hit up your boys on the social media!
Joe: Twitter and Instagram
Drew: Twitter and Instagram
Paul the Engineer: Twitter and The Dispenser (Paul's other podcast)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

31 Days of Horror: The Leftovers

31 Days of Horror: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Well, I cheated. I didn't watch every one of these movies in the month of October. Since I've started this tradition there has always been unfinished business that leaks over into the month of November. The final count for horror movies I've watched this season is 22 - not bad. It's not 31, but I'm working up to it. 

There are a few choice selections in this final batch of leftovers, so please don't judge them on their timeliness. Sometimes the leftovers are the best part.

Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Director: Michael Dougherty

The Setup: An anthology format intertwines five different storylines, all taking place on the night of Halloween. Not everyone makes it out alive.

A true holiday movie! I had never seen this minor cult classic so I decided to watch it on the night of Halloween. Very few movies have approached the holiday with the directness of Trick 'r Treat, a movie rather mysteriously buried by Warner Bros before eventually being released straight to DVD in October 2009. All of its intersecting storylines, told as non-chronological vignettes, take place on Halloween and draw from various themes and tropes of horror. It is undeniably silly in a lot of ways, but therein lies the charm: the humor and campiness are not accidental, and they find a happy balance with the blood and horror. If Home Alone and A Christmas Story get replayed every Christmas, then I would justify giving Trick 'r Treat the same treatment on Halloween. 

Availability: Digital Rental on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and YouTube

The Nightmare (2015)
Director: Rodney Ascher

The Setup:  A documentary uses first-hand accounts of sleep paralysis to give vivid and frightening recreations of the strange phenomenon.

For admittedly personal reasons, this movie managed to disturb me in a way that no other movie did this year. I realize not everyone will have this reaction: The Nightmare seems to inspire a range of responses, from boredom to disappointment to an actual sense of fear and anxiety. The criticisms for Rodney Ascher's documentary are not without merit: some of the reenactments are cheesy, and the film doesn't do enough to talk to experts or approach the subject from a scientific standpoint. While most people who experience sleep paralysis don't also suffer the hellish hallucinations that these stories recount, the mere possibility of spending your nights this way is deeply unsettling. I have experienced sleep paralysis once in my life, and it didn't come with any visual or auditory hallucinations. But the nagging thought, however illogical, that I may "catch" sleep paralysis from my exposure to this movie (an idea the movie actually supports through one testimony) made this uniquely unnerving. 

Availability: Streaming Netflix, Digital Rental on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and YouTube

Anatomy (2000)
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky

The Setup: A bright young medical student earns a spot at a prestigious medical school, where she discovers an old and nefarious cult. 

Anatomy is a thankfully forgotten horror mystery that stumbled its way into box office success in Germany when it was released in 2000. It is a tonally confused mess that switches haphazardly from dark comedy to occult thriller to teenage slasher. There is not a likable character in the film except for the lead heroine, played by Franka Potente. All of the men are boorish pigs and her best friend is a vapid slut. It is not bloody enough to be shocking, smart enough to be suspenseful, or funny enough to be charming. Sometimes I watch movies so you don't have to. Bitte!

Availability: Purchase on Amazon

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Director: John McNaughton

The Setup: A sociopathic ex-convict roams the streets of Chicago, coldly murdering at will.

If the setup for the movie sounds simple, it's because it is. There is a remarkably straightforward quality to John McNaughton's violent character study, both visually and narratively. Michael Rooker plays the titular killer in his feature film debut, a role that has probably served to shoehorn him into villainous roles for most of his career. He is chillingly soft-spoken and forceful as Henry, a role he reportedly inhabited for the duration of the shoot, both on and off set. Rooker says of Henry that he can always bring that character back "in a second," and that in a way he's "never said goodbye to Henry." Before you cross the street next time you see Michael Rooker, understand that he said it in regard to Henry's idiosyncrasies and soft-spokenness, and that it reflects poignantly on the nature of method acting. The starkness of style, disquieting scenes of violence and general lack of silver lining makes it believable that this is one of the movies that caused the MPAA to create the NC-17 rating.

Availability: Streaming Shudder, Purchase on Amazon

The Hallow (2015)
Director: Corin Hardy

The Setup: A couple and their infant boy move from London to rural Ireland for the husband's job. Dire warnings from the locals about a threat in the woods soon turn out to be more than mere superstition. 

An important part of The Hallow's plot is directly inspired by cordyceps, a parasitic fungi documented in BBC's Planet Earth series - a truly unsettling genus that puts most horror and sci-fi movies to shame. And on a broader level, there is an environmental message here, although the depth or complexity of the point being made is up for debate. I want to talk more about the conflicted environmental implications of the plot, but this isn't the proper format. The film is rather beautiful, shot on location in Ireland and taking its inspiration from both contemporary "creature features" as well as Irish folklore. Director Corin Hardy says he wanted to place body horror and practical effects in the context of a dark fairy tale setting, and in that sense he was successful. The Hallow may not run very deep (or unpredictably) but its atmosphere, acting and effects make it worth a look.

Availability: Digital Rental on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube and Google Play

Martyrs (2008)
Director: Pascal Laugier


The Setup: A young woman brought into a crime of vengeance by her deeply troubled best friend discovers a sinister society, and a whole new world of pain.

If you read Part 1 of this blog series you know that I mistakenly watched the American remake of this film before seeing this original version, an oversight I regret considering the dark and surprising turns the plot takes. I won't spend much of my energy comparing the two, except to say the remake (while grim and violent in its own right) is fairly toothless compared to Pascal Laugier's ode to pain and suffering. I sat through some harrowing and distasteful cinema this season (I'm looking at you, A Serbian Film), but Martyrs may have been the hardest to watch for sheer endurance of violence and human pain. What I feel I must also mention is that I found it worth my time. It drew me into its horrible world and kept me there even through a sharp change of direction and an ending both bleak and audacious. A film well conceived, shot and acted for those with nerves of steel and stomachs of iron.

Availability: Digital Rental on Amazon, YouTube and Google Play

- Jonathan Ross