Monday Morning Movie Review: She’s Allergic to Cats (2016)

Regular reader and Nebraska Energy Observer contributor Audre Myers frequently tells me that I am offering a valuable service by describing movies people should not see (if you agree with Audre, I take donations).  This Monday’s film, 2016’s She’s Allergic to Cats, likely qualifies, and I would like to apply it towards my contributions to humanity.

The description for the movie on Shudder.com reads thusly:

A lonely dog groomer in Hollywood searches for love, but his true passion is making weird video art that nobody understands. His menial routine spirals out of control when he meets the girl of his dreams, crossing boundaries between reality and fantasy as he dives deeper into his video experiments.

I guffawed as soon as I read the line “making weird video art that nobody understands.”  That sold me on the flick, which I actually found enjoyable, if baffling.

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Supporting Friends Friday: Review of Rachel Fulton Brown and Dragon Common Room’s Centrism Games

After sitting with the copy on my nightstand since the book’s debut, I finally sat down and read Rachel Fulton Brown and Dragon Common Room‘s Centrism Games: A Modern Dunciad.  Having read it, my only regret is that I did not do so sooner.

A bit of background is in order:  Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown is a medievalist at the University of Chicago, and is known in our circles as a traditional Christian professor fighting against social justice indoctrination and infiltration of the humanities.

One wouldn’t think the more esoteric realm of medieval history would be a major battleground for the ultra-woke, but it makes sense:  the modern West is profoundly a product of the Middle Ages.  With that in mind, it becomes clear why the progressive revisionists wish to dominate the field:  in rewriting medieval history to fit their woke narrative, it makes the rest of their revisionist project—of casting all white, male, Christian endeavors as inherently wicked—that much easier.

Milo Yiannopoulos’s short book Medieval Rages: Why The Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America, details that struggle in more detail.  I highly recommend picking it up, as it highlights the length to which the wokesters have gone to silence Dr. Brown.  Correspondingly, it demonstrates Dr. Brown’s incredible courage and fortitude—as well as her cleverly elfish responses to her critics.

Dr. Brown founded a Telegram chatroom, Dragon Common Room, to be a “a place for training in the arts of virtue and poetry. And mischief making for God. We fight the demons with laughter and wit.”  I participate infrequently in chat, but it has become one of my favorites on the platform.  In addition to fighting “demons with laughter and wit,” Dr. Brown and her merry band of righteous mischief-makers wrote, workshopped, edited, and compiled Centrism Games, releasing it as a handsome little volume consisting of seven poems of thirty stanzas each.

The seven poems constitute a mock-epic narrative, modeled after Alexander Pope’s satirical epic The Dunciad.  Whereas Pope’s Dunciad mocked the goddess “Dulness” and her agents, Centrism Games lampoons the goddess Fama—Fame—and her o’er eager knights

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Creepshow (1982)

I’ve been enjoying my Shudder membership immensely, and it’s pretty much become the main streaming service I watch when I’m viewing solo.  Needless to say, I’ve consumed a lot of movies on the service already, so brace yourselves for many horror movie reviews (as if I didn’t mostly write those already).

This week, I’m looking at the horror anthology Creepshow (1982).  Horror anthologies can vary in quality, with usually one very strong entry, and then some forgettable duds.  Creepshow, for the most part, beats the odds.

I don’t remember when I first saw Creepshow, but I was probably far too young.  What I do know is that some of its most iconic, comic-book-inspired images have stuck with me down to the present.  I didn’t even know they were from Creepshow until re-watching it all these years later, but they’ve been seared into my brain.

For example, the whole plot of “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill“—which stars Stephen King in his first film role—has always stuck with me (indeed, I have an idea for a short story with a similar premise tentatively entitled “Yeast Man”):  the idiot farmer slowly succumbing to the weird alien plant.  Ted Danson’s submerged head in “Something to Tide You Over” is another memorable image, as is the flood of roaches entering the impossibly sanitized apartment in “They’re Creeping Up on You!

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List

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It’s that time of year again:  summer!  That means we’re due for The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2021!

After publishing the list a bit later than usual last year, I’ve decided that the list should be a midsummer event—just in time for Independence Day.

But, like Sunday Doodles—a perk for $5 a month subscribers—my philosophy is “better late than never!”  And with the Independence Day holiday approaching, it’s a great time to do some reading.

For new readers, my criteria is pretty straightforward.  To quote myself from the 2016 list:

The books listed here are among some of my favorites.  I’m not necessarily reading them at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Pretty vague, I know.  Additionally, I usually feature three books, plus an “Honorable Mention” that’s usually worth a read, too.

For those interested, here are the prior two installments:

With that, here’s The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2021:

1.) Thomas Harris, Hannibal (1999) – I recently wrote a review of the novel Silence of the Lambs, the second book in a series containing the charismatic, devilish cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  I very much enjoyed the novel, but having seen the film, I already knew many of the plot points.  That did not diminish the quality of the novel—Thomas Harris is an exquisitely descriptive writer—but it did take away some of the thrill.  The point of a good thriller is to be constantly in a state of suspense; when one already knows the major plot points, that sense of suspenseful uncertainty is diminished.

As such, I was quite excited to read Hannibal, the third installment in what might be called Harris’s “Hannibal Cycle.”  I did not know any of this story going in, beyond some whispers about the outcome of the magnet relationship between Dr. Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling.  The book takes place seven years after the events of Silence of the Lambs, with Dr. Lecter on the loose and living secretly as an academic in Florence, Italy.

Meanwhile, one of Dr. Lecter’s former victims, pig tycoon and sadist Mason Verger, has put a hefty bounty on Dr. Lecter’s head, and employs a ruthless team of Sardinian kidnappers—and a corrupt, disgraced Italian cop—to hunt down the fugitive.

Tossed into the mix is Clarice Starling, who finds herself increasingly disillusioned with the bureaucracy and careerism present in the upper echelons of the FBI and the Department of Justice.  Her mentor, Jack Crawford, is creeping towards retirement, and is no longer the robust agent he once was.  Meanwhile, a lecherous deputy attorney general—working hand-in-glove with Verger—sets about destroying Starling’s reputation at the Bureau, both to undermine her search for Dr. Lecter, and because she rebuffed his sexual advances.

Whereas Silence of the Lambs portrayed the FBI glowingly as a competent, professional organization with the means and tenacity to track down the slipperiest serial killers, Hannibal resonates much more with the modern reality of the FBI—a venal, corrupt organization that, rather than solving actual crimes, uses its power to oppress and harass law-abiding citizens.  The corruption on display, with highly-placed government officials attempting to advance their professional and political careers by working with wealthy scumbags, rings true.  In the eleven years between writing Silence and Hannibal, it appears Harris had a real change of heart.

Overall, I can highly recommend Hannibal.  Be warned that it is a long read, with 103 chapters and around 560 pages, but it’s rarely a slog and always a chilling pleasure.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: The City of the Dead (1960)

Regular readers know that I have a penchant for schlocky horror movies.  Knowing this fact well, Audre Myers, a regular contributor at Nebraska Energy Observer and a frequent commenter on this site, e-mailed me last week with a recommendation to check out Shudder, the horror streaming service.  She isn’t the first to recommend the service—a colleague of mine has been singing the service’s praises for several months, but I kept putting it off for the same reason folks are slow to subscribe to my SubscribeStar page:  whenever I thought to sign up, I didn’t have the time to do so.

Regardless, Audre sent along a YouTube video by Jade The Libra, a woman dressed like a witch and talking about which stores tend to put out their Halloween decorations first.  Jade is some kind of Shudder affiliate, and entering promo code “JADE” gives new subscribers a free month of the service.

With that enticement—and without the lame excuse of lacking time—I signed up for the annual membership.  Since subscribing (just about five days ago), I have pretty much only watched Shudder.  If I weren’t paying a mere $2.15 a month for Hulu—and sharing it with three or four family members—I’d probably drop it entirely in favor of Shudder.  After all, other than Bob’s Burgers, I pretty much only watch horror and thriller films on Hulu (as well as plenty of weird sci-fi flicks).

But I digress.  That cloying endorsement of Shudder is my long way of introducing the subject of this week’s Monday Morning Movie Review, which is the second flick I viewed on the service.  The film is 1960’s The City of the Dead (known as Horror Hotel in the United States—I like the original title better), a story about a coven of witches who have taken over the town of Whitewood, Massachusetts.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Minecraft Camp 2021 Review

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My second camp for the summer, my annual Minecraft Camp, is in the books!  It came on the heels of my inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp, which was a far smaller (and calmer) summer camp.

Minecraft Camp was the brainchild of a former colleague of mine, who did all of the initial setup, promotion, etc.  He invited me to join him for the inaugural Minecraft Camp in 2014, working as a counselor and assistant.  I owe him a huge debt of gratitude, as I took over the camp after he and his family moved a couple of years later.  The camp is a great deal of fun, but it also tends to be very lucrative; in some years, the camp’s net revenue is substantially more than my bring-home pay for a month (keeping in mind that I slam a solid two-thirds of my paycheck into retirement accounts).  It was quite costly when I was sick and missed camp during Summer 2020, but I was thankful that another colleague was able to step in to run the camp and make a few bucks.

This year’s camp was one of the biggest in the school’s history, surpassed, I believe, only with the very first camp in 2014.  In this post, I’d like to run through the basics of camp, then dive into some of the financials involved.  I’ll also include some very minor tech notes about which version of Minecraft we use, and which mods we’ve tried.

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Minecraft Camp 2021 Begins!

Yesterday marked the first day of my school’s annual Minecraft Camp, which I host every June.  Minecraft Camp is a great deal of fun, and it’s probably the single most lucrative event for yours portly all year.

Last year I was very sick, so I had to hand Minecraft off to another colleague.  I hated to miss it, not only because of the nice little paycheck it brings, but because it’s so fun seeing what the kids come up with in-game.  I’ve been working Minecraft Camp since 2014, and have been running it since probably 2017, and I’m always impressed (and amused) by what the kids come up with.

As such, I’m thrilled to be back.  As best as I can tell, this year’s camp is the biggest attendance in the history of camp, with the possible exception of the inaugural 2014 camp (based on a photograph from that camp, I count fifteen campers, but I know of at least one student not pictured—he’s working as a counselor with me this year!).  We have sixteen kids signed up, and I have three young men working as counselors with me, two of whom were in Minecraft Camp when they were younger.  With yours portly tossed into the mix, that twenty very old desktop PCs up and running in the lab.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Life Like (2019)

Ever since watching 2012’s Robot & Frank, The Great Algorithm at Hulu has been sending more artificial intelligence and robot flicks my way.  Each of these movies grapple with the ethical and moral issues surrounding artificial intelligence, chiefly the idea of how human can it really become?  Can robots develop souls, emotions, etc.?

In the case of Robot & Frank, Frank largely anthropomorphized the robot, the same way many pet owners attribute human characteristics, thought processes, and motivations to their dogs and cats.  Just as a dog doesn’t think in the way we do, the titular Robot did not requite the emotional bond Frank had developed with the adorable tin can.

The featured film of this week’s review, Life Like (2019), explores those ideas further.  Instead of a cute, rounded robot, the androids of Life Like are, indeed, life-like:  designed to resemble perfect humans, and designed to make their owners happy—whatever that might require.

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Lazy Sunday CXVIII: More Movies VI: Movie Reviews, Part VI

Another week has rolled by, so it’s time for another Lazy Sunday—one so lazy, I’m sticking to the recent movie review theme.  I’m heading into a very busy week with a whopping sixteen tiny campers in Minecraft Camp, making it the largest such camp in the school’s history.  I’ve also got a full slate of lessons, including two new students, so I hope you’ll excuse some additional laziness today.

That said, here are three more Monday Morning Movie Reviews for your consideration:

  • Monday Morning Movie Review: Boss Level (2021)” – This flick—which features Mel Gibson as the chief villain—is a fun, action-packed romp through a quasi-video game scenario:  every time the protagonist dies, he starts the whole day over.
  • Monday Morning Movie Review: The Ghost Writer (2010)” – A political thriller about a thinly-veiled Tony Blair character writing his memoirs, The Ghost Writer is interesting and tense in spite of its holes.
  • Monday Morning Movie Review: High-Rise (2015)” – A sci-fi parable for classism in 1970s Britain, High-Rise stars Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as a man caught in the middle—socially and physically—of a high-tech tower rapidly descending into decadence and chaos.  Not a film for everyone, but it’s a good ride.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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