The Tale of Three Bad Parents

Part 8: The Tale of Tom Kitten:

True confession time: I always thought that the story of Tom Kitten was that he over ate and bursts out of his clothes.  (In all fairness, Tom Kitten is described as very fat but he's never portrayed as gluttonous or lazy.)

What its lazy is his mother who is more concerned about putting on a good tea when company comes 'round.  In preparation for said company, she gets her kids ready in their good clothes and leaves them to play outside unsupervised so she can get something to eat.

Kids being kids, they play and Tom Kitten, being dressed inappropriately by his mother, loses his clothes.

Then along comes the frankly, rather creepy, adult Puddle-Ducks who, instead of being helpful, tease the kittens, dress up in and then steal Tom Kitten's clothes, leaving him naked.  Weird.

So the kids go home and, naturally, their mother takes no responsibility in her poor choices (A common trait of abusive parenting) and punishes her kids instead of losing face in front of her friends and be able to keep up the appearance that they are a healthy, functioning family.  The kids act up again and the story ends in an unsatisfying way with the promise of more books about the antics of the kittens.

The interesting thing about this book is the coda at the end where the creepy Puddle-Ducks lose the stolen clothes in the pond and Beatrix Potter attempts a little mythology creation, explaining that the Puddle-Ducks are still looking for them and that's why ducks bob their head under water.

Part 9: The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck

Jemima Puddle-Duck is quite possible the most clueless and unlikeable 'hero' that I've ever encountered in a book.  Her outright stupidity is jaw dropping when you consider her dedication to bring and presumably raise a bunch of children all on her own.

So basically, Jemima really wants to have kids but she's got nowhere to lay her eggs.  One day she comes across fox who is a moustache-twirling caricature of a villain.  Jemima not only fails to grasp that this is a villain she is interacting with, she fails to grasp the he's not just a fox but an animal, assuming instead that he's a friendly gentleman.

With the 'gentleman's' help, Jemima is shown a great place to build her nest: In a shed filled with feathers.  This would be like being pregnant and invited over to someones house for a meal and discovering that their dining room is decorated with human hair and skin.  Jemima thinks it's a great place to lay her eggs.

So she lays them and the 'gentleman' suggests that she should bring some ingredients to make a large feast before the dull process of incubating the eggs begins.  He suggests he will make her a tasty omelet if she gathers the correct ingredients for it.  So just to contextualize this: You're pregnant and sitting in the strangers dining room which is decorated with hair and skin and he tells you he's going to serve up fetus stew.  If you were Jemima Puddle-Duck you'd say "Yum yum!  I'll help you cook it."

(In all fairness page thirty-nine contains what must be one of literature's most understated sentences: "Jemima Puddle-Duck was a simpleton.")

During the process of gathering the ingredients, she mentions to a dog what's going on and he, possessing the keen intelligence of a dog, realizes something's up and gathers some buddies.

As the action comes to a head, the fox gets nasty and impatient towards Jemima and, while she checks in on her eggs, the dog posse shows up, chases off the fox and, in an orgy of bloodlust, eats all of Jemima's eggs.

Jemima's escorted back to the farm where she has learned nothing, lays more and only four of the chicks survive.  And they all live happily ever after.

Part 10: The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

Benjamin Bunny is all grown up, married his cousin and has had so many children that they are devoid of individual personalities and the couple has to sponge off the work and generosity of their family members in order to get by.

When they're not able to mooch off Peter Rabbit (Who appears to have gotten over his PTSD, become a farmer and married a fat little thing in a pink frock), Benjamin bunny takes his family out to the dump to eat garbage.  Specifically, fermented cabbage which, apparently, has 'soporific' effects.

So after he takes his family out and they all get high after eating garbage, they all pass out and/or laze about in a drugged out stupor.  Benjamin puts a paper bag on his head and has a chat with a mouse, not noticing that the farmer has come along, found his children and popped them in a burlap sack with the intention of skinning them and cutting off their heads and turning them into food and clothes.

Luckily his cousin-wife has not taken part in the orgy of drug-taking and comes along, realizes something is wrong and with the help of the mouse, saves her children, replacing them in the sack with vegetables.

They follow the farmer, who seems rather inbred himself,  to his home where they hear about what his intentions were with the bunnies and their skins.  Then for no reason the youngest bunny is badly hurt by a flying gourd and they go home without learning any lessons.

The helpful mouse is rewarded that Christmas with some rabbit fur outfits.  So I suppose the littlest bunny ended up expiring from his injuries and his parents were thoughtful enough to turn their dead baby into clothes.  The end.

Book Review

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Imperial Bedroom, aka Less Than Zero 2, will likely have two stand out moments for most readers: The first ten pages and the last ten.

In the first ten, The whole narrative of Bret Easton Ellis' universe is given a clever metatextual shake up which acknowledges the veracity and fiction of both Less Than Zero the novel and Less Than Zero the movie and then creates a third (Or fourth, depending on how many fictional Bret Easton Ellis' you think are out there.) 'real' universe in which Imperial Bedrooms takes place.  It's a bit of a stroke of genius where he is able to create both a stand alone novel and a sequel to a book and a movie based on a book that deviated from the plot and main themes of the novel it's based on, wildly.

In the final ten pages there is a sudden return to the kind of sadism and violence that Ellis is well known for and which had been otherwise absent from the rest of the novel.  It's jarring and horrible and proof that, as far as I'm concerned, Bret Easton Ellis should be considered one of the world's leading writers of horror, not just contemporary fiction.

In between these bookends is a nasty little tale of societal paranoia that made me feel like like I was reading a posthumous J.G. Ballard novel.  Clay returns to L.A. to cast a movie he's written and almost immediately strange things start happening: Anonymous texts, threatening cars following his every move, someone breaking into his condo and the sudden appearance of a mysterious would-be actress who really wants a part in his movie.  As Clay tries to hold it together, all the while descending deeper and deeper into alcoholism, cracks start to appear that hint at a much darker past that he has let on

Imperial Bedrooms doesn't quite skewer society as his past novels have done but it follows Lunar Park's lead in telling a nasty little tale of psychological horror while drawing attention to the darkest recesses of Hollywood, the backbone of our culture and what kind of people inhabit it.

Click here for a taste of the mood of the book and assess how much of the devil lives in you.  (I'm 100% evil and already dead inside, according to it.  But then, I didn't need a website to tell me that!)


I'm getting too old for this

Talking about Hobo With a Shotgun the next day made it sound amazing: "There's this bit where they put steel plates on bumper cars and explode old peoples heads with them!" "The girl gets her hand mashed off with a lawn mower and then uses the smashed up arm bone stump to gut the bad guy!" "They have these noose harpoon guns that mean that after they hamstring people, they can shoot them up into the ceiling so that they hang to death!"

But I'm getting ahead on myself.

Hobo With a Shotgun is a Canadian film from the same people who brought the world the trash cinema classics The Red Violin, Last Night and Blindness.  It takes place in Halifax and tells the story of a hobo who comes to town with the dream of setting up his very own lawn mowing company but, after being pushed too far, trades the lawn mower for a shotgun and cinemagic is created!

Pretty much everything sucks in this movie.  From the murder of Ricky from Trailer Park Boys in the first five minutes to the use of garish lighting (Referencing the same colour palate which Dario Argento used in Inferno, Interestingly enough [Get off the stage, nerd boy!]) to cover up bad special effects.  When there's not something incredibly offensive on screen, the movie's fairly sluggish and boring.  There's a scene in which the Hobo talks about the power bears for 15 and a half million years.

That said, it's also pretty great.  It's offensive to just about everything, pushes the limits of bad taste, creates a real sense of dread for the main characters and features Rutger Hauer accidentally showing up playing a tragic Shakespearian lead in a cheap Troma knock off.

Had I have watched this movie 10 years ago, I would have loved it and watched it twenty more times.  But I'm getting old, I guess and was frustrated with it.  First of all, there was too much screaming.  Screaming, screaming, screaming, all the damn time.

Second of all was the swearing.  Sure the fuck-word is awesome but when it's just repeated ad-nauseum without any creativity, it becomes offensively dull and a lame attempt at shock.  Which is more fun?  "Fuck! What the fuck is fucking going on, fuck?" or "Fuckity damn, what in the name of the fuck motel is going the fick fack on, Johnny Wong?"  Hobo opts for the former; I've pulled the latter out of my ass.

And finally there's the lack of politics.  In a good exploitation movie there's got to be some kind of message, however suspect.  Even Street Trash, Hobo's cinematic siamese twin managed a vague message around 'treat Vietnam veterans right of they might encourage hobos to perform criminal acts out of their fear of sex vampires' and had characters you cared a little bit about.  Hobo, other than a lame attempt at 'street people are people too,' doesn't try too hard in the exploitative message that all exploitation films need.  There's not even a politically or socially relevant bad guy; he's just the nerdy loser from Lexx who is playing a live action version of The Raccoon's Cyril Sneer who runs an arcade and forces people at gun point to pretend they're in a reality show whenever he commits a public execution.

See?  It kind of sounds amazing and it pretty much is, however I've outgrown it.  Much to my sadness.  I'll check it out again any maybe I'll change my mind - I want to change my mind - but until I get around to watching FUBAR 2: Balls to the Wall, I'm a little disappointed with the state of Canadian cinema.

Penne all'Arrabbiata

The easiest meal:

  1. Pour 6 TBSP olive oil into a skillet
  2. Add a chopped up chilli or two, seeds and all, and 6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and poked with a fork a couple of times.
  3. Fry on a medium heat until garlic starts to brown.  Add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, season & stir over a medium high heat to reduce.
  4. Meanwhile, boil 2 cups of penne lisce until they're about a minute or two away from being al dente and then drain.
  5.  Remove the garlic cloves and add the pasta to the sauce.
  6. Cook the pasta in the sauce for five minutes then serve with lots of parmesan cheese and a bottle of Nero d'Avola.
Serves 3.