Thursday, October 26, 2017

Obligatory Halloween Post...MUST...BE...DESTROYED!!!

*** WARNING ***

What follows is a pretty deep dive into the most labyrinthine horror movie ever made. Plot points will be discussed in detail, so be warned of spoilers. Particularly spoilers in bathtubs. F#ck, I've already said too much! God dammit, why are you reading this when you haven't even seen the movie yet? 
That makes no sense! If your choice is to watch one of the scariest movies ever made around 
the perfect time of year or listen to some asshole on the internet run his mouth off, 
then I think the choice is pretty obvious. Go watch the movie first and
 then come back to see what this asshole has to say about it.   

***

Harpy Hell-O-Ween, Super-Creeps!

Yeah, I know, I know: this blog is deader than disco. But I still can't shake my annual desire to talk about the horror movies that scared the ever-livin' fertilizer outta me as a formative human.

In previous entries I've talked about early childhood scares as well as my personal run-ins with such formative, bone-chilling horror fare as An American Werewolf in London, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien, The Return of the Living Dead, and The Evil Dead.

As I rabidly began to consume every example of the genre I could get my hands on, I started to hone in on what really scared me the most. It wasn't movies featuring masked killers, suave vampires or monstrous bug-a-boos, it was spiritual stuff. For some reason, films featuring spectral threats such as ghosts and phantoms really had my number. Looking back on it now, I suppose it had something to do with my lapsed Catholic faith. After all, when you're raised as a good Cat'lick boy, the Holy Ghost constitutes one-third of your irrational belief system. 

Ergo, if there are Holy Ghosts, why not Unholy Ghosts? 

The next movie I saw on my cavalcade of terror came relatively late in my career as a horror fan. I think I was eighteen or nineteen at the time when I first saw it. This is partly because the movie had been almost universally panned by movie critics when it first came out back in 1980. For example, Nigel Andrews, in his book Horror Movies writes:

"Though one admires the film for its metaphysical and mazy obsessionalism - here are Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd endlessly chasing each other's psyche's in an inner circle of their homemade Hell - it seldom harrows or terrifies."

Hmmm, I don't think "mazy" a word. Nor is obsessionalism for that matter. Oh, well.

At the time, I thought this rather surprising, given the film's pedigree. After all, I'd seen many of Stanley Kubrick's other movies and I thought they were all rather effective. To this day Dr. Strangelove is still my favorite comedy, 2001: A Space Odyssey blew my fragile, eggshell mind and both A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket rocked me to the core by shattering on-screen taboos and depicting visceral violence. At the very least, I knew that Kubrick had the balls to go there in the horror genre. 

What I didn't know was that Kubrick had crafted a film so dense, so bold and so innovative that it would come to revolutionize the horror genre in much the same way that those aforementioned films redefined comedy, sci-fi and war movies. Just like all of his previous projects, Kubrick was so ahead of pack that it took everyone else on the planet about a decade to catch up to him. 

When I sat down to watch The Shining late one night sometime back in the late 80's, I honestly wasn't expecting very much. I certainly didn't expect to see my worst nightmares made incarnate in film

The Shining (1980)

 
As soon as I pressed the "PLAY" button on my VCR's remote control, I immediately started to feel unsettled. The credits, the effin' credits, fer Chrissakes, were creeping me out. Between the sweeping helicopter shots conveying shades of omniscient, disembodied forces keeping watch on us overhead and the discordant, banshee-like wails on the uber-spooky soundtrack, I was already starting to come down with a serious case of the wiggins.

We're soon introduced to Jack Torrence, played by the incomparable Jack Nicholson. When we first meet Jack, he's being interviewed for the job of caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel. We learn that Jack is a struggling writer who's looking to winter at the hotel with his family and perhaps finally start working on that elusive GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL he's been telling people at parties all about. He accepts the assignment, even when Ullman, the hotel manager, sneaks in a colorful little eleventh-hour vignette about a previous caretaker who went Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs and chopped up his wife and two daughters with an axe. Fun!

Inter-spliced between this is a scene where we meet Jack's wife Wendy, played to pathetic perfection by Shelly Duvall and his young son Danny. Quite often child actors are so dreadful that they completely take me out of the film but young Danny Lloyd plays disassociated and shell-shocked so well here that I think he's on par with his adult peers. I'm not sure what Kubrick did to wring such an amazing performance out of him. Hopefully it's never revealed that Danny's pet rabbit was kept hostage in the walk-in fridge until he hit his marks. 

Anyway, young Master Lloyd does a tremendous job conveying trepidation and trauma. Adding an extra layer of oddness to the proceedings is Danny's invisible friend Tony, who he talks to by wiggling his finger. What's even stranger is that Wendy just rolls with it, even going so far as to directly address her son's bobbing digit from time to time. I get the impression that poor, pale, chain-smoking Wendy has been so badly beaten down by life's incessant worries that she's like 'F#ck it, I gotta pick and choose my battles so I'll talk to the finger.'

By that point in my life I'd seen enough horror movies to know that it's a generally a good idea to listen to kids, particularly psychic ones. After croaking out that he "doesn't want to go", Tony gives Danny and the viewer a delightful little sneak peek at things to come: namely a veritable tidal wave of blood gushing through the hotel's elevators doors. Not only does this cause Danny to black out, it forced me to shut off the VCR at the time and create a notable spike in my parent's power bill. 

After humming cheerily and basking in the florescent light of the kitchen for awhile, I eventually trudged back to the T.V. room, eased into the sofa and pressed "PLAY" again. Mercifully, I was treated to a bit of a reprieve as a doctor comes to visit Danny to make sure he's alright. That's right, kids, we might have smart phones and online banking now but back in the day, doctors made house-calls! #darkageconveniences

I remember feeling decidedly jealous of Danny since he seemed to be taking all of this in stride a lot better than I was. After wringing very little information out of Danny about Tony or the vision, the Doc digs up some interesting trivia while chatting with Wendy. As it turns out, Jack inadvertently hurt Danny one night after he'd been drinking, leading to a five month stretch of sobriety. The plot thickens.

Instead of taking Danny's fainting spell as an omen (or an ottoman, as the case may be), Jack packs up the fam and whisks them off to the hotel. En route they have an absolutely whack-a-do conversation about the Donner Party, whereby Jack almost gleefully explains how this poor, lost clan had to eat each other in order to survive. When Wendy chides Jack for talking about this in front of Danny,  the boy casually replies: "Don't worry, Mom. I know all cannibalism. I saw it on T.V."

This scene forces me to make a confession: I had issues with The Shining the first time I saw it as well. That's not to say that it didn't scare the ever-lovin' crap outta me, I just had some pretty hefty issues with the plot. For one, I'd already read the book by that point and, like Stephen King himself, I though that Kubrick took too many liberties with the plot. Chief of which is how quickly Jack Torrence goes over the deep end.

The first time we see Jack during the interview, he appears to be just fine. If anything, he comes across as a bit too conciliatory. But now that we see him with his family, he seems to be decidedly out of patience and humors the practical aspects of turning your kinfolk into bouillabaisse. Upon first viewing this kinda pissed me off since it jettisoned the natural arc of deterioration Jack experiences in the book. Now I just look at it as another way for Kubrick to sow those early seeds of discord and ensure that we never feel sympathy for this died-in-the-wool asshole. 

More on that later.

Kubrick continues to ratchet up the creep-factor. While playing darts by himself in the hotel's game room, Danny gets the feeling like he's being watched. He turns around to see two pasty-faced girls with abnormally large foreheads staring at him. Without saying a word they gradually turn around and slowly drift out of the room. Eeeeee. Then, while Ullman, the site manager, is escorting Jack and Wendy around the property, he lets another chestnut casually slip about how the hotel was built on an ancient Indian burial ground. Man, this guy is THE ABSOLUTE WORST real estate agent on the planet!  

All of this spooky preamble comes to a head when the Torrances meet Dick Halloran, the head chef of the Overlook. After sharing a silent tete-a-tete with Danny, the two have a private conversation and the boy finally learns about the nature of his special abilities, which Halloran calls "shining". Dick explains that a rare handful of people have the ability to see psychic residue left over at places where bad things happened. Since I've always subscribed to this concept, at least in principal, hearing this actually voiced in a movie was particularly troubling to me.

Halloran insists that he's "scared of nothing here" and that the Overlook's own macabre version of "shining" is harmless, just like pictures in a book. But then Danny plucks what must be a glaringly-obvious splinter out of the chef's brain and asks a very specific question...

DANNY: "What about Room 237? You're scared of Room 237, ain'tcha?"
 

HALLORAN: "No I ain't."
 

DANNY: "Mr. Halloran, what is in Room 237?"
 

HALLORAN: "Nothing.  There ain't nothing in Room 237. But you ain't got no business going in there anyway, so stay out!  You understand, stay out!" 

Before Kubrick gives Halloran a chance to elaborate we smash-cut to another title card that simply says "A MONTH LATER". This is sheer brilliance on Kubrick's part. For those keeping score at home, so far we've gotten an eerie "spirits in the sky" intro, Danny's oddball visions and behavior, the threat of total isolation for six months, creepy stories about the hotel, Jack's past history with anger management and alcohol and now, a "Bluebeard"-style mystery about Room 237. So, with that simple little title card, Kubrick informs us that this poor family has already been marinating in this polluted psychic stew for thirty days.

And I'm just taking into account all of the overtly weird stuff. I haven't even mentioned all of the inexplicable subliminal shit that your woke mind probably missed but your brain is subconsciously gnawing away on like a rat chewing on the bars of its cage. For example, how can Ullman's office possibly have an outdoor window? Why is Jack reading a copy of Playgirl while he's waiting to meet his new employer in the lobby? Why are the girls identical twins when they're described as sisters aged eight and ten?

There are a lot of visual anomalies in The Shining both before and after the Torrances move into the hotel. Now, normally, I'd just chalk this up to simple continuity errors, but Kubrick was notoriously anal retentive about every aspect of his films. Yes, I know the movie has a few unintentional flubs but I think a lot of what viewers see as goofs are just designed to keep our unconscious minds off-kilter. And by the time the film reaches the mid-way point, this incessant parade of discordant, under-the-radar noodle-bending starts to chip away at the viewer's mental state.    

Anyhoo, we're a month in and already Jack is starting to exhibit signs of writers block and fatigue. He tells Wendy that he "fell in love" with the hotel from day one and the place gives him a preternatural sense of deja vu. "It was almost as though I knew what was going to be around every corner," he tells her, then makes light of it with a pretty bitching "spooky ghost" impersonation. This segues into an unsettling shot where Jack takes a break from his fruitless labors by throwing a tennis ball incessantly against the wall and then gazes down at a model of the nearby hedge maze where he envisions his wife and son getting lost in the labyrinth.  

Things continue to go downhill. Via a revolutionary continuous Steadicam shot, we see Danny Big Wheeling around the hotel and encountering the notorious Room 237. He gets a vivid mental flash of the same two creepy girls from earlier so he gives up on testing the locked door and wisely books it out of there. Then Jack completely loses his marbles on Wendy when she interrupts his fevered writing. Later we see him looking decidedly unhinged as he stares out the window at his family who are frolicking outdoors in the snow.

A heavy winter storm blankets the hotel, making things feel even more insulated and claustrophobic. Kubrick once again follows Danny around on his Big Wheel as he bombs around a corner and runs smack dab into the same haunting twins we've seen before. This time, after staring balefully at him for a bit, they finally speak, and what they say doesn't come as a relief:

"Come play with us, Danny.  For ever and ever..."


Kubrick then turned my brain into gibbering mush by inter-splicing a few frames of the two girls lying bloodied and all hacked up on the floor. For the record, this ghastly image is single-handedly responsible for my irrational fear of old, underpopulated hotels and children. Particularly British children. 

This charming little scene necessitated yet another break. I shut off the VCR and hyperventilated for awhile under the comforting glow of every 60-watt bulb in my parent's house.

'This effin' movie is really getting under my skin,' I remember thinking to myself as I poured a few ketchup chips into a bowl. I looked down at them, suddenly felt queasy and immediately put them back in the bag.

Resigned to my fate, I returned to the haunted environs of the T.V. room and tentatively pressed the "PLAY" button. Damned if this movie was gonna get the best of me tonight.

Once again, Kubrick cleanses the palate by serving up a scene of relative domestic normalcy. But even now he can't help but needle our subconscious brain by showing Wendy and Danny watching a television set that isn't even plugged in. Dafuq?

Anyway, this false tranquility is soon torn asunder when Danny tries to tip-toe through their living quarters and encounters his dad, who's sitting on the edge of his bed looking disheveled. He invites his son over for a heart-to-heart, and the resulting exchange gives a pretty reliable sneak peak of what to expect during the second half of the film. When Danny asks Jack point blank if he plans to hurt him and / or his mum, Jack doesn't deny it right away, instead choosing to ask if Wendy put the idea in his head.

Then, in a "methinks thou dost protest too much" kinda moment he tells his son:

JACK: "I love you, Danny.  I love you more than anything else in the whole world, and I'd never do anything to hurt you, never. You know that, don't you, huh?"

Fun fact: Steven Spielberg once told Kubrick that he thought Jack Nicholson's performance in The Shining was so over the top as to be out of sight. Kubrick responded by asking Steven who his favorite actors are and Spielberg reflexively rhymed off "Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Clark Gable." Kubrick stopped him and asked why the legendarily-hammy James Cagney wasn't on the list, because he was one of Stanley's all-time favorite actors.

I will also concede that Nicholson goes completely yooka-laylee mid-way through the film and his performance borders on parody at times. But the more I see The Shining, the more I realize that Kubrick and Nicholson took the right approach, especially after witnessing this subtle and chilling scene with Danny Lloyd. Let's face it: legit crazy people don't care if their mask of normalcy slips off. If anything, Jack's performance is very Cagney-esque: completely free of pretensions and unrepentantly unhinged.

Literally two scenes after reassuring his son that he won't touch a hair on his angelic l'il noggin, Jack has a harrowing nightmare about Ginsu-ing Wendy and Danny up with an axe. Wendy tries to re-assure him but then Danny stumbles into the room looking borderline catatonic. She runs over to him and notices that his shirt collar is ripped and he's got a dirty big red welt on his neck.

After spending about two milliseconds in her mind-palace, Wendy logically concludes that Jack had his ham-hocks all over the boy. But, then again, Wendy didn't witness the previous scene.

We, on the other hand, did see what happened. We saw a tennis ball roll towards Danny as he was playing with his toy cars in the hallway. We watched him stand up to investigate where it came from and then notice that the door for Room 237 was ajar. We didn't get to see what Danny witnessed in that room, but given the physical marks on the boy, we now suspect that Halloran's "harmless pictures in a book" theory isn't 100% accurate.

Or is it? More on that later...

Now tried and convicted, Jack goes on a tantrum-fueled stomp through the deserted hotel, eventually ending up in the Gold Ballroom. He grabs a seat at the bar, lamenting that he'd "sell his goddamn soul" for a glass of beer. And then, right on cue, the spectral bartender Lloyd appears, leading Jack to a confessional of sorts.

What's interesting is, up to this point in time, Jack has already been acting vaguely intoxicated. But when his enabler Lloyd shows up, he falls completely off the sanity wagon. This whole concept is inherently terrifying since Ullman has told us in no uncertain terms that every drop of booze has been removed from the hotel to cut down on off-season insurance costs.  

Sharp-eyed viewers among you might also notice that Jack praises Lloyd for his exemplary bartender skills but when he orders a bourbon, Lloyd clearly pours him a whiskey out of a J&B bottle. In the immortal words of Harry S. Plinkett: "you might not have noticed it, but your brain did."

Anyway Jack spends the next little while bad-mouthing Wendy, calling her "the old sperm bank" and a "bitch" at one point. He tells Lloyd that Wendy never let him forget about accidentally dislocating Danny's shoulder, even though we've seen absolutely no evidence of her harping on him. In fact, the only time she loses her shit on him is when the evidence points to no other possible suspect.

This is particularly telling when she shows up moments later and tells Jack that Danny was strangled by a  "crazy woman in one of the rooms".  Even though she's letting Jack off the hook by subscribing to their son's fevered retelling of events, Jack still comes back with "Are you out of your fucking mind?" Nice, Jack. Real classy

Of course, this sets up a scene where Jack investigates Room 237. When I watched this for the first time, I remember being positively shit-baked. This place had been built up right from reel one as the absolute nexus of horror for the entire film and considering what I'd suffered through thus far, I was nearly sick with dread.

We see Jack inch his way through the oddly-appointed suite, seemingly oblivious to the ominous music shredding what was left of my wits to ribbons. We see his hand on the bathroom doorway as he pushes it open and enters. We see the intimation of a figure in the bathtub behind the shower curtain. Slowly the curtain is drawn back by the occupant, revealing a gorgeous naked woman in the tub.  

Despite the fact that Jack has no clue who this woman is, he's clearly pleased by his good fortune. Especially as this mystery woman stands up, climbs out of the tub and starts walking towards him. With 'YOLO', the battle cry of horny men everywhere firmly in mind, Jack follows suit, embracing and then kissing her passionately. 

It's at this point when Kubrick clobbered me right between the eyes and the legs. We get a glimpse of the woman's true appearance in the mirror and what happens next is a masterclass in horror editing and sound design. It's so effective that I don't think its ever been rivaled in cinema history. 

Plot twist: all this time Jack has been snogging a dead elderly woman, her saggy, wrinkled flesh marred by wide-spread patches of rot. Relishing her deceit, the hag starts to cackle like a witch in a Disney cartoon. Then we get an unexpected shot of Danny experiencing some sort of seizure. Then back to the tub with the old woman's decayed body under water, her skin discolored and eyes agape. Naturally this is lit with the most harsh, unforgiving florescent lighting possible. 

Kubrick cruelly refuses to release us from this seemingly-endless symphony of terror. Next we cut back to Jack as he retreats from the room. Then we see the naked old crone, walking towards him, her wet hair like strings of seaweed, her toothless grin perverse and leering. Then over to a convulsing, drooling Danny. Then back to the corpse in the bathtub. Then onto Jack stumbling in reverse though the living room. Then back to the woman reaching out to him. Then back to Danny. Then back to the body RISING SLOWLY OUT OF THE BATHWATER, eyes still open and vacant. 

Even as Jack escapes the room, shuts the door and then bars it behind him, we can still hear that hideous, hair-raising cackle as he flees down the hallway.  

I distinctly remember turning the movie off at that point, if only to exert some terrestrial control over it. I turned on all of the lights again in an effort to drive back any malevolent threats that might be lurking in the shadows. During my tour of the house, I caught myself appraising common household objects for their defensive capabilities against disembodied entities. That's when I chided myself and realized that the only threat to me at that moment was Stanley Kubrick's fevered imagination.

Looking back over this series of Obligatory Halloween Posts, it's pretty easy to see one common denominator. All of these horror movies were helmed by a directors who's field of fucks were clear and presently barren. They shattered taboos right in front of you and then proceeded to rub your nose in it. They were fearless in their pursuit to scare the ever living shit out of the audience.

And that's what dutifully sent me back to the VCR. I felt that if I could get through The Shining, it would be the cinematic equivalent of eating the heart of your enemy and gaining their strength. So, once again I dimmed the lights, settled in and shakily mashed the "PLAY" button.

What happened next baffled me even more. Wendy asks Jack about what he saw in the room and he plays dumb. At first I was completely confused by this, but then I realized that if he'd come clean, Wendy would have thrown Jack and Danny over her shoulder, run down to the snow cat, thrown them both inside, started it up and wouldn't have stopped driving until they hit the first off-ramp to Boulder. Sure, Shelly Duvall is pretty spindly in the movie, but, hey, when the spirit moves you, so to speak...

Even without his confession, Wendy makes a cut and dried case for evacuation. Danny has another one of his perfectly-timed, patented blood tsunami visions just as Kubrick hard cuts back to Jack who violently rails against the very suggestion that they leave.

JACK: "It is so fucking typical of you to create a problem like this when I finally have a chance to accomplish something. When I'm really into my work. I could really write my own ticket if I went back to Boulder now, couldn't I? Shoveling out driveways, working in a car wash - any of that appeal to you? Wendy, I have let you fuck up my life so far, but I'm not going to let you fuck this up!"

Wendy is left reeling in the wake of Jack's caustic vitriol. He tears ass back to the Gold Room, where he inexplicably finds the place packed with revelers who all apparently share the same passion for "Roaring 20's" cosplay. After collecting another free drink from Lloyd, he mistakenly bumps into one of the servers, who spills several drinks onto his jacket. The waiter offers to clean Jack up and escorts him into the washroom.

In the next scene the butler is revealed to be Delbert Grady. At first we assume that it's the same Grady that Ullman was talking about at the beginning of the film, but that was "Charles" not "Delbert". Jack tries to get Grady to admit to being the former caretaker who murdered his own family but the waiter remains elusive and turns the focus back on Jack.

GRADY: "I'm sorry to differ with you, sir, but you are the caretaker. You have always been the caretaker. I should know, sir. I've always been here."

Grady does a complete bait-and-switch on Jack, warning him that Danny has already sent out a psychic S.O.S. to Dick Halloran after his harrowing encounter in Room 237. In many ways this discussion between Jack and Grady is just as spine-tingling and shocking as the visuals that came before it. Particularly caustic is how Grady refers to Halloran and how quickly Jack identifies Danny as "willful" and Wendy as someone who always "interferes".  

As soon as the cat is out of the bag, Grady sheds any pretensions and starts talking about his own struggles, albeit under the cloak of euphemism.

GRADY: "Perhaps they need a good talking to, if you don't mind my saying so. Perhaps a bit more. My girls, sir, they didn't care for the Overlook at first. One of them actually stole a packet of matches and tried to burn it down. But I corrected them, sir. And when my wife tried to prevent me from doing my duty I corrected her."

Upon hearing that, Jack's face lights up in a wolfish smile and you know that the denouement of the film will be as certain and unavoidable as the end of a Greek tragedy. Up to this point, the movie was running at about a "10" on the ol' Scare-O-Meter but this conversation cranks things up to a Spinal Tap-ian "11" and then breaks the knob off.

From here on in the film's pace becomes an unstoppable juggernaut. Danny is so traumatized by this point that Tony has taken over as the dominant personality. Wendy leaves the apartment to find Jack and tell him that she's taking Danny out in the snow cat. Clearly she's so troubled by these prospects that she brings a Louisville Slugger along with her for self defense.
  
Wendy goes to find Jack in the Colorado Lounge and discovers that the manuscript that he's been obsessively working on is a rather one-note autobiography that's admittedly no worse than your average Stephanie Meyer novel. Instantly her worse fears are confirmed and she's forced to face the fact that her husband has gone totally and irrevocably mad.

What follows is a scene that reportedly took one-hundred and thirty seven takes to get right. Jack pops up out of nowhere and starts berating Wendy. She tries to retreat back up the stairs, waving the baseball bat like a wand of protection out in front of her. Eventually she corks her manic husband in the melon, sending him tumbling down the steps.

It's breath-taking to watch this sequence for several reasons. For one, it's impeccably shot. Kubrick placed stacks of high-wattage floodlights just outside the fake windows of the lounge's studio interior, creating a genuinely over-exposed "snow blind" effect that you would typically only see during the dead of winter. This subtly conveys hints of cold isolation. There's no way out. He also uses the newly-minted Steadicam to great effect, making it feel as if camera's perspective, and the audience's P.O.V., is that of a disembodied voyeur. 

But it's the performances that make the scene particularly hard to watch. Jack is inhumanly cruel to his wife, mocking her voice, making light of her concern for their son and giving her a supreme guilt trip for not keeping the focus where it belongs: on her husband. As he backs her up the steps, Wendy begs him not to hurt her and he replies:

JACK: "Darling, light of my life, I'm not going to hurt you. You didn't let me finish my sentence. I said 'I'm not going to hurt you...I'm just going to bash your brains in!'  I'm going to bash them right the fuck in."

Sure, Jack is great, but the real super-star here is Shelly Duvall. By all accounts, Kubrick was inordinately cruel to her on set, to the point where she fell ill for months, suffered from fainting spells between scenes and her hair started falling out in clumps. I wouldn't be surprised if the seed of her current lamentable mental state was planted on the set of The Shining.    

In this scene, she isn't acting. She's just trying to get through it, which just so happens to be Wendy's motivation as well. All she wants to do is get away from Jack and get back to her room. Which begs the question: did Kubrick's unorthodox methods justify the means? Personally, I wouldn't have had the "belly for it" to paraphrase Grady, but it did result in one of the most memorable and authentic performances in cinema history. It's baffling and frankly unforgivable that Shelly Duvall was callously nominated for a Worst Performance Razzie Award in 1981. 

Wendy drags Jack's unconscious body into the food store room and locks him in. When Jack comes to, he tries to use every underhanded trick in the book to convince her to let him out, but she won't budge. When she tells him that she plans to take the snow cat into town and then come back with help, Jack ominously replies that she's got a "big surprise coming to her" and "she isn't going anywhere". 

Sure enough, Wendy discovers that Jack has disabled both the radio and the snow cat. As the realization dawns on Wendy that they're completely isolated now, we cut back to the store room where Delbert Grady turns up again. He mocks Jack, calling into question his ability to handle the escalating situation. Jack assures him that this is just a momentary hiccup and that he's fully committed to follow through on their verbal contract.

GRADY: "I fear that you will have to deal with this matter in the harshest possible way, Mr. Torrance. I fear that is the only thing to do."
 

JACK: "There's nothing I look forward to with the greater pleasure, Mr. Grady."

That's when we hear the pin being removed from the lock. It's the only instance in the entire film where the environment gets physically manipulated by "spiritual forces". I have a theory about that, which I'll mention later, but if you take the film at face value and believe that the hotel is indeed rife with malevolent ghosts, this is your biggest piece of supporting evidence.

From here on in it's just one visceral body blow after another. Drained, exhausted and oblivious to Jack's escape, Wendy falls asleep in their locked apartment. Danny wakes up, the voice of Tony muttering "REDЯUM, REDЯUM" over and over again. He picks up a knife, writes this cryptic word on the bathroom door and then starts to approach his sleeping mum. Does he intend to do her harm?

Watching this for the first time I could feel the hackles rising on my back as Tony's eerie mantra got increasingly louder and more shrill. Roused by the unsettling noise, Wendy wakes up and immediately embraces her son, even though he's standing over her with a butcher knife. Set to the cacophonous strains of the spine-jangling soundtrack, Wendy looks up and sees the word "REDЯUM" reversed in the mirror as "MURDER". At that self-same moment, the head of Jack's fire-axe hits the apartment door for the first time. 

This is yet another bravura example of music, editing and deft camera work. I love the quick zoom in on "MURDER" just as the soundtrack kicks in. Also amazing is how Kubrick manages to keep the head of Jack's axe in the center of the frame every time he draws back and swings at the door. Sharp-eyed audience members will also notice that the music is largely absent while this is happening. 

Though terrified, Wendy has the presence of mind to gather up her son and the knife and retreat into the bathroom just as Jack breaks through. Shelley shoves Danny through the outside window / mail slot and then tries to follow suit but is surprised to learn that she's too big (!) to squeeze through. She tells him to run and hide and then turns back just as Jack makes his first connection with the bathroom door.

Moments before her psychotic husband is about to break through ("HEEEEERE'S JOHNNY!!!"), Jack hears the sound of a snow cat outside. He leaves her to stalk and murder the "intruder" Halloran with the axe, which has become another source of criticism of the film. I can sorta see this if only because Kubrick goes out of his way to show every step of Halloran's odyssey to get back to the hotel. He finally gets there after an epic trek only to get hacked down by Jack as unceremoniously as a kid knocking over a pile of Jenga blocks.

But there are many reason why things happen this way. First off it shows that Jack will murder anyone that stands in the way of his fantasy life at the hotel. On a merely practical level, it provides Wendy and Danny with a possible means of escape. Next it subverts audience expectations that anticipates some big clash between Jack and Halloran. Finally, I believe that it dove-tails with the film's theme which I'll touch on later.

Jack then chases Danny out of the hotel and into the nearby hedge maze. This leaves Wendy alone in the hotel, searching frantically for her son while trying to escape. This results in one memorable system shock after another for both the viewer and the beleaguered mom. 

Kubrick annihilated what was left of my frazzled nerves by having Wendy stumble upon some sort of lurid, surreal, half-glimpsed costumed coupling going on behind a half-open door. Just thinking about this image and the teeth-jangling music always gives me chills because its so fucking inexplicable. My brain always short-circuits whenever I see it. I guess, in full disclosure, I need to add "furries" to my list of irrational fears, along with British kids and old hotels.    

Another jolt to the nerves. Another pause for air. At least when I went back to the movie that last time I could see the maze's exit in the distance. 

After the costumed shenanigans, Wendy gets treated to the hotel's greatest hits package: including a zoom in on Halloran's bloody corpse, a formally-attired wraith with a massive head-wound who casually remarks "Great party, isn't it?", a dusty, cob-webbed chamber filled with funhouse skeletons and finally her own private showing of the blood-filled elevators. All told, it's a last final "fuck you" from Kubrick to all of those pretenders who claim to be "masters of horror".  

By now, Danny has managed to outwit his psychotic pops in the maze by back-tracking in his own footsteps and jumping off the path. Jack roars by and Danny follows the prints out to the exit and reunites with his mom. They escape in the snow cat and we get one final smash cut into the harsh light of day and the jarring sight of a frozen Jacksicle.

Of course the movie can't end without yet another Kubrick-ian head-scratcher. The camera slowly zooms in on a photo hanging on the wall which shows an impossibly-young Jack standing front and center among a huge throng of  period-attired revelers. The cryptic caption on the image reads "Overlook Hotel - July 4'th Ball, 1921."

At first I just assumed that Jack was either a re-incarnation or just a distant relative of someone who once worked at the hotel. This sort of explains why Jack was drawn there and why he has such an odd affinity for the place; a case of "ancestral recall" as it were. Now I think the entire mise-en-scene is just one big analogy. Specifically I think the Overlook Hotel is a representation of America, and everything that happens during the film is just a rumination on white privilege, cyclical abuse and historic gender roles.

Hearkening back to the roaring 20's is nothing new. Sure, it was a boom time, but it was also rife with racism and exploitation. It's the same myopic nostalgia that Donald Trump and his ilk have for the 1950's, which was a real Golden Age so long as you weren't black or a woman. I think the Overlook itself is an idealized view of the kind of America that people like Jack dream about.

America was built on the backs of natives, slaves and immigrants but the country's success has almost universally been claimed by white people. The film drives home this point when Ullman casually mentions that the hotel was built on an Indian burial ground and Jack later makes a non-sequitur reference to "white man's burden" while drinking with Lloyd. This is a reference to a hideously-racist poem written by Rudyard Kipling which posits that "civilized" nations should be encouraged, nay obliged, to help out more "primitive" races under the guise of imperialism.

This is also why Grady is so adamant that Jack eliminate "outsiders" like Halloran. It's to keep the environment, or "America" pure. Sound familiar? I also think that's why Halloran gets disposed of so easily. Kubrick shows him doing the right thing, busting his ass to respond to Danny's alert and come save the hotel that he has a vested interest in. But as soon as Halloran tries to right the wrongs, Jack just bombs in and cuts him down without hesitation in a selfish, wasteful moment of self-preservation.

As for the rest of the film, I believe that it's largely psychological. Jack, like the average guy, was probably told during a formative age that having sex with as many women as possible is a large part of being a man. I think that he got Wendy pregnant by mistake and was then baffled when those same societal forces demanded that he marry her and raise his son. Unable to reconcile these two directives, he now simmers away in a stew of resentment, silently wishing that they'd just go away because he thinks his life would be better without them. That's why he's hostile to them right from their first scene together. Remember, "All Work and No Play makes Jack a Dull Boy."

This resentment boils over from time to time, which results in physical and verbal abuse. That's why I believe Jack injured Danny in Room 237. After all, isn't the tennis ball that rolls towards Danny the very same ball that Jack was firing against the wall in those earlier scenes? This also reaffirm's Halloran's belief that the visions are all harmless. Danny's coping visions aren't aren't going to leave a physical mark, but his father's hands will. 

But what about Jack's own encounter encounter in Room 237? Well, I think the whole thing is a manifestation of his guilt over Wendy. When he sees the hottie in the tub he doesn't think twice about making out with her, because that's what happened when he met Wendy. But when the hottie starts to turn into something flawed, aged and imperfect, he's repulsed.     

Now I hear you asking, "Wait a minute, Dave! What about Grady?" No worries, I was just getting to him.

You'll notice that every encounter that Jack that has with "ghosts" in the movie (save Room 237) is a positive experience. They're welcome residents in a fantasy world of his own creation. The same goes for Grady. There's a reason why Jack and Grady converse in a mirrored bathroom and why the bartender Lloyd seems to emerges from a mirror. I believe that Jack sees both of them as a reflection of his own self.

Grady and Lloyd are dichotomies: they may be servants, but they're posh servants. Jack sees himself in the exact same manner: he's a blue-collar shlub, workin' for "that man" but he has lofty ambitions. He's protective of the status quo yet resentful that this hasn't paid off in dividends yet. He's got the right skin color to match society's elite but not the right bank balance. 

I think the reason why Grady is given two different first names and why Lloyd fucks up the drink order is because they're both constructs of Jack's psyche and the product of his own incompetence. Lloyd justifies Jack's drinking (I.E. insanity) while Grady is Jack's sounding board to work himself up to whacking his family. He sincerely thinks that by rebooting his personal life and keeping any "undesirables" away he'll finally get the full windfall of white privilege that's owned to him. This, in spite of the fact that Jack is lazy, entitled and seems himself as thoroughly blameless for his own lot in life.

Which brings me to Wendy. She's the glue that holds the family together, even if the family should be crumbling by rights. Have you noticed that Wendy is the only person who actually does any work? She cooks the meals, tidies the place up, keeps tabs on the weather, monitors the boilers and regularly checks in with the forest rangers. So when Jack suggests that Wendy is trying to get him to shirk his responsibilities to his employers, this almost comes off as laughable. 

In contrast to the male paradigm of "go forth and conquer", women of Wendy's generation were told that they'll be successful if they found a reasonably-suitable man, got married and had babies. If the man is scarcely suitable, then women are told that she should do whatever they can to change him and if she can't improve him, this might be seen as some sort of personal failure. This holds especially true in the movie since Wendy is more apt to believe Danny's "crazy-woman-in-one-of-the- rooms" yarns then accept the fact that Jack hurt their son again. 

And I think that's why Wendy finally starts to see "spirits" during her escape from the hotel. She's forced to confront the fact that her raison d'etre, her husband, is a psychotic monster and this shatters her entire paradigm. The resulting shock causes her own psychotic breakdown, which manifests in all of the crazy shit she sees.

As for Danny, I believe his visions are just a symptom of the routine abuse he suffers at the hands of his father. Tony is more than just an imaginary friend, he's part of split personality that ends up assuming control of the boy when the trauma becomes too much to bear. I also think that Tony is the one who releases Jack from the storage room because he wants Jack to get his comeuppance, perhaps at the hands of Halloran or Wendy. When this doesn't happen, it's up to Danny / Tony to lure Jack into the maze and make him pay for all the grief he's caused. Danny does this by literally back-tracking in his father's foot steps and not leading the vanguard into another cycle of abuse.  

And finally, there's the photo. I really don't believe it represents a previous incarnation of Jack. I believe its a commentary on Jack's antiquated beliefs. Spiritually, he's more at home in 1921 then he's ever been in present day. Rather than see the flaws in the hotel and everything it stands for, Jack keeps glorifying the setting and the era. So instead of forging a real future with his family, his soul becomes forever lodged in what amounts to a Star Trek-ian temporal causality loop.  

Or, hey, maybe the whole movie is just about evil spirits in a haunted house that goad a mentally unstable former alcoholic into trying to murder his wife and child.

I'm serious. Kubrick was once asked about symbolism in The Shining during a interview and he said that "For the purposes of telling the story, my view is that the paranormal is genuine. Jack's mental state serves only to prepare him for the murder, and to temporarily mislead the audience". He also went on to state, in no uncertain terms, that "the ballroom photograph at the very end suggests the reincarnation of Jack."

But that's what makes this movie so great. It's like the Dagobah tree in The Empire Strikes Back; viewers always take out of the film precisely what they bring into it.

Like I said before, The Shining was practically pilloried by critics when it was first released. In addition to poor Shelly Duvall getting a wholly undeserved Razzie nomination for Worst Actress, Kubrick was inconceivably nominated for Worst Director. It's hysterically short sighted looking back on it now. 

Perhaps the film's most notable critic was Stephen King himself. He thought that Kubrick had taken far too many liberties with the original source material. Interestingly enough, when King personally oversaw a slavishly-faithful television movie version in 1997, the results were tepid and forgettable at best.

Personally, I think King hated this version because the character of Jack was largely autobiographical. King hated to see Jack portrayed as an asshole from the beginning because he took it as a personal affront but nothing could be further from the truth. I just think Stanley hated the idea of the audience having any sympathy at all for Jack. In Kubrick's eyes, Jack is a self-centered, misogynist, racist, serially abusive prick who's obsessed with self-betterment to the ruination of all else.

Whenever I re-watch the film I get the impression that Kubrick read King's novel at arms length. That distance and perspective gave him the ability to hone in on the novel's true subtext which he went on to underscore in his film version. The resulting picture is a lean and mean masterpiece. It's one of the most artistic, epic, psychologically-complex and flat out terrifying movies ever unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

And every year I test the film again to see if it still holds sway over me and guess what? It never fails to frighten the crap outta me. Even now, just as I'm writing about it, I'm getting chills up and down my spine. 

So, for its memorable setting, brilliant cinematography, go-for-broke performances, labyrinthine subtext and eternally haunting, perverse imagery, The Shining scores a "4" out of "5" on the ol' Evil-O-Meter:



So, there you have it, kiddies! Join me again same time next year for yet another installment of my Obligatory Halloween Post.

EPIC: Even thought Kubrick is quoted as saying "If you submit it to a completely logical and detailed analysis of (a supernatural story) it will eventually appear absurd", it hasn't prevented cinephiles from dissecting every aspect of The Shining in excruciating detail. This resulted in the gloriously loopy doc Room 237, which isn't so much about the movie as it is about bending the interpretation of art just to suit your questionable agenda. 


ALSO EPIC (BUT FOR TOTALLY DIFFERENT REASONS): Stanley's daughter Vivian shot a "behind the scenes" doc during the making of The Shining that really gives a lot of insight into the production, particularly where it concerns the cast and crew dealing with her father's eccentricities. It's buried in the middle of this low-fi episode of BBC's "Arena" but its still worth a watch.


FAIL:  There's a reason why movies are different from books, Stephen.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bride of Obligatory Halloween Post

Happy Samhain, Ya Sick F#cks! 

Yeah, I know, I know...I said I wasn't gonna post here anymore, but I'll be damned if I let Halloween go by without telling y'all about yet another horror movie that scared the ever-lovin' shite outta me as a kid.

In the first entry of this series, I talked about some early childhood brushes with fear that made me a life-long horror addict. I then proceeded to recount my own personal experience with such notorious nightmare fuel as An American Werewolf in London, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien and the balls-to-the-wall horror comedy The Return of the Living Dead.

After Stephen King, the Arbiter of All Things Scary, proclaimed this year's repellent l'il entry to be "the most ferociously original horror film of"1981, I felt compelled to seek it out somewhere in my mid-teens. Particularly intriguing was this description of the picture in Horrors: A History of Horror Movies, written by clearly-traumatized movie scribes Tom Hutchinson and Roy Pickard:

"Everything is troweled on without question - from twitching zombie faces to white-balled eyes through to twitching, severed limbs seen through a camera wielded as though by a whirling dervish. The writer-director...has gone so far over the top as to be out of sight."

This is the movie that almost single-handedly kicked off the whole "Video Nasties" debate in the U.K. (see "Fail" below), to the point where the film was even banned from distribution for two years back in 1983. Of course I'm talking about the one, the only...

The Evil Dead (1981)

Although Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness in particular, ventured increasingly deeper into the realm of horror comedies, there's still a lot of gruesome, Grand Guignol-style black humor inherent in the first Evil Dead. This is made especially evident when you listen to Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Blu-Ray commentary track, during which the director and his lead actor gleefully poke holes through all of the film's flimsy bits. 

Indeed, to say that The Evil Dead was made on the cheap is like saying Donald Trump is "moderately self-aware". I'm sure that while they were making their modest l'il horror picture, Sam Raimi and producer Rob Tapert would never have guessed that it would eventually be subjected to the unforgiving scrutiny of high-def digital home video. In fact, DVD, and especially Blu-Ray, transfers are downright cruel to The Evil Dead. It makes the movie look like a pasty-faced cubicle monkey under the brutal glare of florescent lighting. And that's why I think the movie should be viewed the same way I first saw it: on a crappy VHS tape that's been unspooled and re-spooled about a thousand times.  
  
Eventually I screwed up the courage and slipped that nasty, ratty old videocassette into my parent's virginal VCR. Given all of the hype, I was 100% convinced that what I started to watch that fateful evening was evil incarnate.I didn't see matte lines around the moon, seams in the prosthetic makeup or dwell on the lousy performances. What I saw thrilled me at first. Then it horrified me. Then it repulsed me. By the time it was all over and done with I felt as if I'd survived something traumatic with my wits scarcely intact.

But before I get ahead of myself, lemme set the stage for you. Five college students travel to the world's most decrepit log cabin, which lies practically abandoned in the Tennessee backwoods. Even before someone has a chance to unpack and / or crack open a beer, the flighty, artsy Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) is  inexplicably compelled to sketch the image of an ominous-looking book with a twisted face on it. Apparently nonplussed by her flirtation with demonic possession, she blithely shrugs it off as if she's just been visited by the world's scariest muse.

Not long after, Ash (Bruce Campbell) and Scotty (Hal Delrich) find a matching, flesh-bound tome in the cellar along with a convenient "book on tape" version. When they play the recording, it spouts off a chilling Sumerian incantation from what turns out to be the Necronomicon, I.E. the "Book of the Dead". The next thing we know, disembodied McNasties begin to appear in the woods and attempt to possess the kids. One gruesome set-piece follows after another.

Nowadays, it's really hard to believe that the seemingly jovial, impeccably-dressed, "Three Stooges"-loving, Spider-Man directing, Xena-producing Sam Raimi was once capable of presiding over the parade of cinematic depravities that followed. In fact, after watching the character of Cheryl get molested by a friggin' tree, I distinctly remember coming to the conclusion that this director was a certifiable deviant. 

The horrible sights kept piling on. A possessed Cheryl stabbed Ash's girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker) in the ankle with a friggin' pencil, a sight that would cause even the most hardened gore-hound to wince reflectively. Then Shelly (Theresa Tilly) got co-opted by one of the "deadites" and attacked both Ash and Scotty with an ancient Sumerian dagger. After getting impaled, she then proceeded to chew her own fucking hand off to prevent Scotty from turning the weapon against her. Man, talk about hardcore.  

All the while she's making this horrible, high-pitched, guttural scream which made my blood turn into ice water. Scotty finally ended this assault on the senses by grabbing an axe from Ash and dismembering what was left of Shelly. To this day I can't believe that Raimi had the cajones to show the axe actually hacking through Shelly's limbs and then doubled down on the gross-out factor by training the camera's unblinking eye on all the disembodied bits flopping around on the floor.  *HURK!* 

A-a-a-a-a-a-a-n-d that's when I stopped the tape. I remember just sitting there stunned, as if someone had dropped an anvil, Looney Tunes-style, on my head. All I could think was: 'Wow, I like being scared as much as the next guy but clearly this Sam Raimi guy isn't playing with a full deck.'

After dry-heaving / hyperventilating into a paper bag for about ten minutes I screwed up the courage to press "Play" again.  Yeah, it didn't get any easier

Next up, Linda became the equivalent of a walking, talking demonic time-share and began torturing Ash in this creepy, sing-songy little girl voice that would drive anyone to homicide within about sixty seconds flat. Then, after braving the woods, Scotty returned to the cabin all messed up, presumably sporting a tree-trunk-sized poop shoot. For one brief, shining, blatantly-deceptive moment, Cheryl and Linda returned to normal. Off course, this prompted dumbAsh to let his guard down so the two spazzed out and nearly killed him.  

Poor Ash, he did everything he possibly could to avoid dismembering his beloved possessed girlfriend, Linda. At first, he tried locking her out of the cabin but she snuck back in and tried to skewer him with the dagger. Heartbroken, Ash was finally forced to turn the weapon on her. Assuming that she was finally dead, he proceeded to do the proper, decent thing and bury Linda in the front yard. Big mistake.

Naturally, she popped back up again, screaming bloody murder all the while. Still hesitant to "kill" her, Ash tried the subdual approach by smoking Linda in the melon over and over again with what appeared to be a foam railroad tie. Despite the gratuitous level of head-trauma, she just kept coming at him over and over again, forcing our "hero" to admit defeat and decapitate his girlfriend with a shovel.  

"Hey, kids, are we having fun yet?" 

The whole thing came to a götterdämmerung climax after the demonic husks of Scotty and Cheryl double-teamed Ash in the cabin, and not in a good way. Our hero temporarily managed to stave off certain death by pushing his thumbs through Scotty's milky-looking orbital sockets. Speaking as someone with a particular aversion to eye trauma, I distinctly remember watching that l'il pantomime through a web of interlocked fingers.  

When Ash noticed that Scotty's corpse began to smolder after the Necronomicon landed in close proximity to the fireplace, he tried to huck the book deep into the blaze. At the same time, Demon Cheryl started pounding on him with a fireplace poker whilst a blind (but apparently no less determined) Scotty began gummin' away at Ash's leg like that weasel in those Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. At that precise moment, Evil Dead managed to rip the "Most Horrible Thing Anyone Could Possibly Imagine Award" out of the rotting, skeletal mitts of Return of the Living Dead for me.  

When the Necronomicon was reduced to "briquette" status, I was then "treated" to one of the most sickeningly-creative amalgams of stop-motion animation, puppetry, live insect wrangling and what appears to be about a gallon of spoiled cream and partially-solidified oatmeal. Honestly, words fail me; you just have to see it for yourself.

Regardless of the film's bargain-basement aesthetics and occasional veers into the realm of abject stupidity (honestly, how many times can Ash get "trapped" beneath that flimsy-looking bookshelf?), The Evil Dead is still a remarkable achievement. The germ of Sam Raimi's trademark creative camerawork is well on display here. Shaky-cam shots, cock-eyed perspectives and Dutch angles abound, but the level of creativity Raimi uses while applying these techniques is nothing short of genius.         
      
For its incredibly-innovative visual panache, gritty and claustrophobic setting, inventive Grade-Z sensibilities and commitment to follow through on the sickest images imaginable, The Evil Dead easily earns a "4" on the Evil-O-Meter.

Just promise me, if'n her gonna watch it, try to see it on VHS first.


EPIC  Cool fan-made mini doc has some great sound bites from the demented minds behind The Evil Dead.


VAGUELY "EPIC"  Here's my expanded review of the film originally posted on this site's sister blog, Entertainment Tourette's.

FAIL  This particular doc details how The Evil Dead ran afoul of the draconian British ratings system, which clearly couldn't distinguish quality schlock from schlock schlock.

Friday, September 2, 2016

So, This Thing Happened...

Peace, Patient Perusers!

It's been nearly a year since I last felt compelled to write a post here but something very, very important happened this spring which virtually demands that I do an update. An update which, mercifully, has nothing to do with a dead celebrity or trying to save the country from political seppuku.

Six years ago ("Yikes!") I left a miserable, soul-deadening call center job. My goal: fulfill a life-long dream of being paid to write. In retrospect, it was a pretty daunting task, especially when you read some of those early posts. Cripes, I just wince at some of that stuff now.

Given the absence of any sort of guiding force in my life, I started up this very same therapeutic blog and then self-published my first novel. The former turned out to be a great way to "hone my craft", as pretentious jack-holes say, while the latter turned out to be a genuine labor of love as well as a surprising, if minor, source of revenue.

Intoxicated by the immediate feedback that comes part n' parcel with blogging, I added two new efforts: one which encapsulates my love for all things entertaining and one which celebrates my obsession for tabletop games. Each new venture got more attention than the last in terms of hit count and feedback but unfortunately it did precious little to improve my bank balance.

With my savings slowly bleeding out, I was forced to take on a part-time job. This actually turned out to be an unexpected boon since it dovetailed nicely with my interests, kept my days free to write and introduced me a whole platoon of awesome new people.

During this time the odd writing and / or editing gig came down the pike, but it typically involved helping out a friend or a family member. I don't count those as legit jobs since, IMHO, three criteria need to be fulfilled in order to really call yourself a writer. They are:
  1. An impartial party must either requisition you to write a story or agree to publish something you've written based solely on the quality of your work or your body of work in general.
  2. The resulting publication has to be readily available for people to read en masse.
  3. You needs to get paid, yo.
Over the last six years, I've deliberately refrained from calling myself a WRITER. When asked what I do I'd always tell people "I like to write" or "I've written a book" but I'd never be so bold as to call myself a WRITER since I hadn't met all three of conditions listed above. I could have, I suppose, but it would have been the equivalent of posting me reciting a six-second snippet from an Othello soliloquy on Vine and then calling myself a master thespian.

So what I'm trying to say, in the most roundabout way possible, is that this happened:



The funny thing is it didn't happen the way everyone told me it should happen. It didn't happen because I blanketed every periodical in the nation with random query letters and pitches. It happened because I was lucky enough to get an invite to a very cool Meetup event that had nothing to do with writing and during the Meetup someone asked me what I did and I said "I like to write" and then after the Meetup I wrote an informal recount of the Meetup and then one of the people that read it turned out to be an editor and then several months later he contacted me outta the blue and said "Hey, you can write! Do you wanna write this thing for money?" and I said "Hell's to the yeah!" and then I wrote it.

Notwithstanding the fact that my editor, Joey, would be well within his rights to fire my lame ass after reading that last run-on sentence, this all took place, in the immortal words of Emperor Palpatine, "according to my desires". Lend me a few moments of your time, Kind Reader, and I shall endeavor to elaborate.

When I started this crazy quest six years ago I had two choices:
  1. I could spend all of my time composing and sending out unsolicited queries, the equivalent of throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded, and then drown under the resulting tsunami of a trillion rejection letters OR...
  2. I could I work my ass off to become a reasonably-competent writer and hope that eventually someone with authority and discriminating tastes would recognize that I have some semblance of talent and roll the dice.
I decided to pursue Option #2 and now I'd like to take this opportunity to invite all the naysayers to merrily SUCK IT.  In fact, seeing this story in print finally gives me the authority to hoist a great big middle finger up to certain people (you know who you are) who wanted to see me waste my time collecting a ream of rejection letters, get demoralized, "come to my senses", throw in the towel and then crawl back to the same shitty job that I left six years ago.

Now don't get me wrong; things still ain't a bed o' roses. Between the part-time job and the writing gigs, I'm still not making anywhere close to the bank that the crappy call center job provided. Also, if I had my druthers I'd much rather be writing about social issues, creative people and board games, but ,hey, I gotta go where the money is now. 

Even if I'm eventually forced to tap out and take a full-time job for purely mercenary reasons, these personal achievements will always be there. They can't be undone. Regardless of what happens to me over the next few years, no-one will be able to strip this triumph away for me.

And to all of my loyal readers out there: thanks for visiting this blog and thanks for your support, whether it was active, passive or just plain karmic. Without your precious hit counts and feedback to spur me on, I'm convinced that none of this would ever have happened.

***

EPIC

Well, since that thing I mentioned above happened (and apparently happened reasonably well) this thing happened (see page 14) and then this thing (see page 6) and then this thing (check out page 18).

In fact, I'm pleased to report that at least five (!) other things are scheduled to happen over the next few months. Stay tuned, Tireless Reader! We're just gettin' warmed up!

FAIL

No fail today. Today is all about the EPIC. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Curse Of Obligatory Halloween Post

Happy Halloween, Ya L'il Rotterz!

Many moons ago, I started a blog series about the things that scared the ever-livin' poop outta me as a kid. It started simple, with my first recollections of fear in general, which I recounted right hur. Then it moved on to a catalog of all the horror movies that scared me silly growing up, starting with An American Werewolf in London and moving on to The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the original Alien.

Needless to say, I really wanna continue this trend, but maybe lighten things up a bit this year. And when I say "a bit" I really only mean "a smidge". 'Cuz, let me tell ya, my next pick really freaked the hell out of me.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)


Yes, The Return of the Living Dead is another horror comedy. What can I say, I was a really sheltered kid.

Just like in American Werewolf in London, writer/director Dan O'Bannon wasted no time establishing a creepy atmosphere. Frank (James Karen), a supervisor at a medical warehouse, tries to spook his dim new protege Freddy (Thom Mathews) by telling him that the events in George A. Romero's seminal zombie movie Night of the Living Dead actually happened fo' realz.

Since that film had already made an indelible impression on me, I was already pre-sold on a follow-up of sorts. That is until Frank told Freddy that one of the living dead corpses was actually stashed in the basement underneath their very feet. Hat's off to actor James Karen for taking what could very well have been a boring scene of pure exposition and turning it into a creepy campfire yarn. Sorry, James, I don't care if you're ninety-one years old now; if I ever run into you I'm still gonna punch you right in the nards for traumatizing me so badly as a kid.

Of course these two chuckle-heads wandered down into the basement and within record time they managed to break the seal on the zombie canister. Pretty soon the entire facility was flooded with some sort of toxic nerve gas, which apparently was all the excuse Dan O'Bannon needed to trot out one darkly humorous and brain-noshingly dreadful set piece after another.

First, one of the anatomical cross-section dogs came to life and started barking and growling. Freddy and Frank then proceeded to beat the vile thing into a second death with crutches. Whenever I watch this scene now I laugh my ass off, but back then I thought it was the sickest, most reprehensible thing I'd ever laid eyes on. Man, I was such a Republican...

To make matters worse, O'Bannon uses nudity for shock value when one of the jaundiced-looking corpses in the meat locker starts running around buck naked and attacking people. Even after our gormless duo manage to decapitate the thing it just springs back up again and starts running around like a headless plucked chicken. Again, I find this to be hysterically funny now, but back then seeing a nude, homicidal, headless corpse attacking people while they screamed their lungs out really shattered my nerves.

After Mutt and Jeff finally managed to subdue the frenetic corpse by hacking it into pieces (!), they came up with the brilliant idea of burning the remains in the crematorium. This only served to send toxic smoke skyward, which then fell back down to earth in the form of rain. Of course, when the tainted rainwater bled into the ground, scores of horrifically-decomposed corpses started popping up out of their graves like rigor-mortis-inflicted Sea Monkeys.       

Even before the first twenty minutes of the film was over by mind had thoroughly blown and leaking out of my left ear, so I just sat there and gurgled as O'Bannon kept troweling on one body blow after another. I watched slack-jawed as the punk rocker Trash, played by aforementioned scream queen Linnea Quigley decided, for no apparent reason, to do a striptease on top of a graveyard crypt. Since promiscuity is an instant death sentence in horror pictures, it wasn't long before she got enchompinated and came back as a zombie who was clearly free of any body image issues. 

And, let me tell ya, folks, these ghouls didn't play by the old rules. They didn't even have the common courtesy to drop after you blasted them right in the mush. You practically hafta stuff 'em into a blender and put 'em on frappe for at least three minutes. Also, unlike the dazed-looking extras wearing a few scattered facial appliances and scars in Night of The Living Dead, Return's zombies are all rotted, gross and nasty.  Just Google "Half-Corpse" and "Tar Man" and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.

There's one other  important way in which these guys differ from Romero's living dead: they can haul major ass! Watching them swarm military and police barriers with ease was enough to scare the fertilizer outta me. Bonus points: O'Bannon's ghouls are also positively chatty! The scene in which  a zombie uses a police car (and then an ambulance) radio to place an order for delivery is completely hilarious, but at the time it was completely lost on me. My brain was on total lock down by that point.

There were more gut-wrenching scenes to come. After directly inhaling the toxic gas, Freddy started to succumb to the zombification process. But before that happened he had a gut-wrenching re-union with his girlfriend Tina who, naturally, became a total wreck while watching him go from dead to living dead. Eventually she's forced to flee from him and the other characters bar him up in another room. 

Thom Mathews gives a brutal, go-for broke performance here, delivering his E.C.comics-inspired lines so well that they haunt me to this very day:


Sorry, but that's just creepy as f#@$.

For its complete lack of scruples, shock-value nudity, amazing gore and makeup effects, eerie lines, and over-the-top performances, Return of the Living Dead also scores a "3" on the Evil-O-Meter.

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So, there you have it for another year, kiddies! Join me again next year, same bat-time, same bat-channel for a new installment of my Obligatory Halloween Post!

EPIC BEHIND-THE-SCENES DOC  I went completely off the deep end when DVD's first came out, thanks to amazing in-depth, "making of" docs like this one:


SEQUEL FAIL  Turns out, Dan O'Bannon made a much better follow up to Night of the Living Dead then it's co-creator did. Watch now in amusement as Internet sensation Dr. Wolfula sinks his teeth into John A. Russo's excrementally awful Children of the Living Dead.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

"____" Reasons To Vote STRATEGIC A.B.C. On October 19'th



Greetings, Persistent Purveyors of Political Prudence!

Well, if anything was going to inspire me to blow the dust offa the ol' Emblogification Capture Device, it was a new federal election. After all I've used this particular platform to rail against Herr Harper on four separate occasions:
  1. Way back on April 26, 2011 I cautioned my fellow Canadians about the dangers of voting for Harper's pack of preppie douchebags. The good news is, sixty-one percent of youze guys listened to me. The bad news is, thanks to Harper's electioneering and our own cock-eyed political system, all of those left-leaning votes got split up amongst three different parties which allowed the Refor...er, Allianc...er the "Conservatives" to capture the long sought-majority that they've sacrificing all those goats for since 2006.
  2. On March 7, 2012, not even a year into Harper's Palpatine-like mandate, I decided to do a follow up entry. I quickly discovered that Our Supreme Leader had done a lot more irreparable harm to our beloved country than I originally feared. Between hideous violations of privacy, drunken taxpayer wastage, blatant attacks on scientists, the gutting of the CBC and criminal-style election fraud, all I could do was catalog these escalating violations with disgust and wince at the prospects of yet another three years under this despot.
  3. Just three short months later, on June 21, 2012, I was inspired to take up quill and paper again "thanks" to the the pork-stuffed C-38 omnibus bill. After researching this Frankensteinian hunk of legislation I just had to kick back against what can only be interpreted as a blatant attack on the middle class, retirees, aboriginal people, the environment, food safety standards, and our autonomy from the United States. 
  4. Then, back on May 22, 2014, I felt compelled to share two decades worth of recollections about our Crime Mon(i)ster via The Quotable Harper. My goal with this entry was to show young people and Canadians with short-term memories that Harper is nothing more than a maple-syrup flavored Neo-Con corporate puppet like his Republican idols down south. And I proved this in simplest manner possible: by using Harper's own words against him.
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By rights I should have done a post about the downright-Orwellian Bill C-51 but by the time it sluiced through Parliament, ye olde ECD was winding down and I was getting kinda depressed by the apparent inevitability of it all. But now, with a new election hurtling towards us like a Mack truck with a giant Green Goblin Harper face mounted to the front, I can't stand idly by in good conscience while the Conservatives have even the slightest chance of forming a government in any capacity.

And, yes, I know everyone thinks that the Cons are on the ropes but frankly I'm not one to underestimate the inherent incompetency of our fucked-up political system or Harper's capacity to scare the shit out of people with his all-purpose boogeyman threat of "terrorism" or xenophobia.

So, here then are...

"???" Reasons to Vote STRATEGIC A.B.C. On October 19'th
(1) "Sorry, I Had No Idea How This Machine Works." He's exhibited nothing but sheer contempt for the traditions and institutions that define our own unique brand of democracy, whether it be the concept of federalism, allocating sufficient time to debate important issues or the rulings of the Supreme Court. 


(2) "Ignore Us Your Poor, Your Tired, You're Huddled Masses..." Maybe if the Conservatives didn't view so many asylum seekers as “bogus refugees” we might have been spared these horrifying images back on September 2'nd.

(3) "I Thought 'Blowback' Was Just A Ron Howard Movie About Firefighters." If you think that I approve of fluid borders and letting hordes of refugees into Canada, then you'd be wrong. I'm a firm proponent of getting your own house in order before inviting guests. In the same breath you can't expect to bomb and destabilize other nations for nine long years and not expect a refugee crisis. Where I come from if you make a mess then you're obliged to clean it up!

(4) "Peezekeeping Iz Fer Weenerz."  Remember when we used to help patch up the planet instead of fucking it up? Well, under Harper's war-hawkian watch, Canada has slipped dramatically in its role as the planet's most trusted peace-keeper.

(5) "Hey, The Military-Industrial Complex Ain't Gonna Feed Itself!" Speaking of tub-thumping for war, if Harper had been Prime Minister with a majority back in 2003 then it's pretty durned likely that we would have been complicit in the illegal invasion of Iraq.

(6) "Um, Yeah, The Election's Actually On The 20'th. Yeah, That's The Ticket!" In a move taken directly from the Neo-Con playbook, the Conservatives crammed Bill C-23, with its ironically titled "Fair Elections Act" through Parliament. This was designed to severely curtail the chief electoral officer's freedom to use “any media or other means” to give people the information they need to exercise their “democratic right to vote.” But Elections Canada is still fighting the good fight, using loopholes in the bill's verbiage to try and safeguard our most basic tenants of of democracy. 

(7) "Sure Voter Fraud Is Rampant. Why, There's An Entire...Handful Of Cases!" As if muzzling Elections Canada wasn't sleazy enough, Harper also instituted the sort of superfluous voter ID laws that the Republicans in the States have been salivating for. Despite the fact that there's been little to no voter fraud in the history of our nation, Harper weaseled this thing into existence for the express purpose of making it harder for students, seniors and native Canadians to vote in this election. Harper is relying on us to be unregistered or have insufficient ID so that our power to kick him in the cubes politically is diminished. So be vigilant, folks, and make sure that you've crossed all your "T's" and dotted all your "I's" before you go to the polls on October 19'th.

(8) "Sure, I Believe In The Freedom Of The Press. To Freedom For The Press To Go F#ck Themselves." In a healthy democracy, a free, muck-racking, independent press is the bleach used to kill the bacteria of corruption. Which is why Harper despises the media with the fire of a million suns.

(9) "LA! LA! LA! I Can't Hear You!" Since Harper's less-than-keen on journalists, why the hell would he bother to lift a finger for one who's currently being illegally detained in Egypt?

(10) "My Favorite Batman Hero Is Two-Face. Whattaya Mean Two-Face Isn't The Hero?" Since I'm old enough to remember the borderline fascist Reform / Alliance party that Harper used to belong to, it really doesn't surprise me that his gang of misfits have said some none-too-flattering things about indigenous people. In fact one of Harper's former speech-writers has recently gone on record to say that Harper's 2008 public apology to Indian residential school survivors was a “strategic attempt to kill the story” and "move on to a better relationship between Natives and Non-Natives". Stay classy, Harper.

(11) "It Isn't Really High On Our Radar." Good gravy, that's an actual real quote. Harper's epic-level ennui when it comes to over twelve-hundred missing aboriginal women is reason enough to shit-can this cold-blooded lizard who's doing such a poor job masquerading as one of us.

(12) "We Stand On Guard For...Oil." What makes me really angry is that Harper is already assuming that the environmental ruin that comes part and parcel with Chevron's Pacific Trails Pipeline, the TransCanada Coastal Gaslink and the Enbridge North Gateway is as inevitable as pumpkin spice lattes in October. As such, representatives from these companies keep barging onto Wet’suwet’en land, trying to survey it like an undertaker measuring a sick man for a coffin. Thankfully, the Unist'ot'en clan, led in part by Freda Huson, keep fighting a noble battle to prevent these ancient and unspoiled lands from being annihilated by a dirty, inefficient and antiquated industry. This video, which briefly documents their campaign, makes me weep with pride and sadness whenever I watch it.

(13) "Look On The Bright Side, Now That Alberta Is Mordor, Lord Of The Rings Tourism Is Way Up." Two words for you: TAR SANDS. Y'know, for a religious dude Harper doesn't seem to care too much about God's country.

(14) "God Money I'll Do Anything for You." Then again, there's no higher authority in Harper's world than corporate wealth. Just look at the ridiculous ends he's going through just to keep the tobacco industry on life support.

(15) Harper Isn't An Economist: Part 1. Harper still clings to the belief that "dropping our tax rate has not caused the government's corporate income tax revenues to fall, which indicates that it does in fact attract business." Unfortunately there's a pesky l'il thing called facts that doesn't jibe with this assertion.

(16) "I'm Not Fond Of Trees But I Really Love Eyesores."  Y'know something, these effin'  things alone alone should be enough to get us all enraged. The Conservatives slashed a bunch of good, door-to-door mail delivery jobs just so they could waste taxpayer money on these "super" mailboxes. How much you wanna bet that they'll all look like something out of Mad Max: Fury Road by the time spring rolls around next year? Ultimately this is yet another major middle finger to seniors who'll be forced to climb over McKinley-sized snowbanks this winter just to chisel their mail outta these things like ancient scrolls recovered from the gullet of glacier-imprisoned woolly mammoths.

(17) Harper Isn't An Economist: Part 2. You can expect Harper to flog this minor triumph like a rented mule over the next few weeks but what he wont talk about is how he plundered EI premiums, veteran's affairs, aboriginal resources and other social programs in order to do it. 

(18) "Elizabeth May? Where? Where...?!?" Even after serving as the ersatz leader of our great country for the past nine years, Harper still pees a little and tries to hide in the nearest closet every time someone mentions the name of the classy and intelligent leader of the Green Party.

(19) "I Have Decided To Remain Silent On The Grounds That It Will Incriminate Me." Look, it's bad enough that no less then four of your affiliated senators, namely Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin are all being investigated for fraud and breach of trust. But to try and stymie the information commissioner's investigation by playing keep-away with important documents is particularly greasy. Hmmmm, I wonder if Harper's favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hero is Shredder? "Shredder"... geddit? 'Cuz he's "shredding" documents? *Ahem*.

(20) Conservatives Say The Darndest Things - Part One. As far as I can determine Harper's remaining devotees consist of the following people: (1) People who are laboring under the mistaken belief that Harper is still a Progressive Conservative and not an Alliance / Reform extremist with the serial numbers filed off. (2) Our own version of Fox News viewers (R.I.P. Sun News) who really do subscribe to his creepy goal to return us all to the 1950's. (3) Racist assholes who want any excuse publicly double down on this whole niqab crap. Sorry, spoiler alert...see #39 below. (4) Rich assholes looking for tax breaks. (5) Corporate Assholes looking for tax breaks.  Case in point, remember this clown? The reason this story resonated so much is because we've all debated Conservative Harper supporters in the past and they all sound like this jerk. As soon as you confront them with pesky facts they get belligerent, turtle and then take their ball and go home.

(21) "Sure I Believe In Freedom Of Speech. The Freedom Of Speakers To Go F#ck Themselves." Y'know, when Harper introduced strict protocols limiting what scientists can say to the press about their research I knew that this would likely be used to limit criticism of government interference. What I never expected in a million years is that a scientist would be suspended just for writing a simple protest song. "In Soviet Canada, song protest you!"

(22) "David Suzuki? Where? Where...?!?" If the venerable and respected broadcaster, activist, and scholar David Suzuki thinks that re-electing Harper once again would be "terrible for Canada" then we really need to prick up our ears.    

(23) "My Favorite R. Kelly Album is Trapped In The Closet."  Remember when that lone wingnut shot up parliament last October? More to my point do you remember how our illustrious leader reacted to this crisis? Quick refresher: he essentially did what a toddler would do when mommy and daddy start arguing with one another down in the kitchen.   

(24) "Sure I Believe In The Charter Of Rights And Freedoms. The Right and Freedom For You To Go F#ck Yourself." Edgar Schmidt, a high-profile lawyer working for the federal justice department decided to sue his employer over some incredibly dubious directives that are clearly designed to give the Conservatives more wiggle room to erode our beloved Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The justice department responded to Schmidt's lawsuit by putting him on an unpaid suspension for six months. Seriously does anyone even recognize our country anymore?

(25) "Civil Liberties? Folks, That's Not The Country We Live In." Sadly, that's a real quote, uttered by Calgary-Signal Hill Conservative candidate Ron Liepert during a debate back on the 20'th of September. It was in response to an audience member who understandably expressed trepidations about Bill C-51's assault on our civil liberties. Liepert claims that criminals "had too many damn rights" and police needed more powers to "pursue and prosecute when necessary". This, of course, is completely contrary to the fact that crime had steadily been dropping in Canada for the past twenty years. No, it's much more likely that Bill C-51 exists thanks to the handy, catch-all boogeyman of "terrorism", which, thanks to Harper, can mean just about anyone nowadays. Speaking of terror, isn't anyone else terrified by all of this?

(26) "Voter Fraud? Why That Only Happens In Places Like The Ukraine...And Maybe Guelph." Let me make this crystal-clear: the Conservatives cheated in the last election. That isn't debatable, that's a cold-hard fact. Back in the 80' and 90's, if a political party was found guilty of something this serious they'd be drummed out of office and would soon cease to exist. But thanks to an endless conveyor belt of Conservative scandals that have made citizens apathetic and resigned as well as Harper's draconian control of the media, these blatant misdeeds are just par for the course now. Little wonder ten thousand citizens signed an electronic petition asking representative from the U.N. to monitors this upcoming election; they're legitimately worried that it'll happen again.

(27) "Yours Is Not To Question Why..."  If you really think that Canadian troops were sent to Afghanistan to hunt down terrorists and bring stability to that war-torn part of the world, then I'm gonna hafta straighten that "sucker" sign on your back. This happened under Harper's watch, and it was one of the earliest examples of Canada turning from peacekeeper nation to aggressor nation. By the time we left in 2014 even right-leaning media outlets had a hard time justifying all of that taxpayer money spent and lives lost

(28) "...Yours Is But To Do And Die."  Y'know it's bad enough that our armed forces were put into harm's way unnecessarily or, at the very least, purely mercenary reasons, but to not support them when they come home is downright unforgivable.

(29) "Whattaya Mean That 'Half Of The Population Is Women-Folk'? Ruh-roh." Back in 2010 the Conservatives  de-funded no less than fourteen different women's support groups within a two-week time span. Wow, that's gotta be some kinda patriarchal record.     

(30) Even Stalin Had The Brains To Keep His "Enemies" List In His Head. I mean, what kind of childish, paranoid, simpleton actually lets his staff compile a list of "enemy lobbyists, bureaucrats and reporters" who actually have the temerity to oppose your insane and destructive agenda. At the very least I could have saved him a bunch of time and just written "EVERY ONE ELSE" on a piece of paper with a crayon and handed it back to him. What a maroon.

(31) "Hey, Look, We Love Muslims! Especially Muslims With Fat Bank Accounts."  Harper merrily orchestrated a $15-billion dollar deal to ship armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia, one of the worst human rights violators on the planet. Funny how Harper's view of Muslims is predicated on how much money they can feed into our budding military industrial complex.

(32) "Hey, Where Did Everyone Go? Guys? Guys?" A lot of ministers fled the ranks of the Conservative Party leading up to the election. Samuel Getachew is just the latest and his insider testimony should terrify us all.

(33) "What, You Expect The Government To Fix That Bridge? Why, That's Socialism!"  Most of our country's infrastructure dates back to the 1960's and since it isn't being maintained or replaced fast enough people are getting hurt. Unfortunately the Conservatives dragged their heels on implementing an extension on the New Canada Building Fund just so they could post a rare budget surplus...just weeks before the election. Convenient. I sure hope nothing collapses between now and October 18'th.

(34) Graduating With A PHD...In DebtUnder the Conservatives, tuition rates across the country have skyrocketed. No surprise here since Harper's probably a big fan of the American "education for profit" model that's turning the university system into a major enterprise and keeping it well out of reach of the poor and the middle class.

(35) "I Believe The Children Are Our Future...So I Will Crush Them."  So you say you're pissed by the previous point about rising tuition costs? Well, good luck affecting any change on October 19'th. Thanks to Harper's draconian new voting laws, you probably won't even be allowed to vote since you just moved into residence recently. Ain't democracy fun?

(36) "Danny Williams?!?  Where? Where...?!?!"  Danny Williams is still remembered as one of the best Premiers Newfoundland has ever had. He's an example of a true statesman, someone who left the private sector and entered politics for just enough tome to effect real change and as soon as he was done he went right back to where he came from. He isn't a career politician, just a rare example of the now borderline extinct Progressive Conservatives that I would still proudly vote for. And, as a man of knowledge, integrity and perception, he despises Stephen Harper with the fire of a million suns

(37) "I'm Lookin' Out For Number One...The Number One Percent That Is." Ever since day one Harper's been trying to fast track the Trans Pacific Partnership, I.E. the largest trade deal in human history. Unfortunately the deal was reached just a few short days ago under a cloak of complete secrecy and fostered by a cabal of greedy bankers and corporate pinheads. Not only have the people of North America been ill-informed about the deal, they haven't been given a chance to weigh in on it at all. Many economists believe that the T.P.P. will give corporations, banks and Wall Street unlimited freedom to self-regulate, all at the expense of small, independent industries and, ultimately, the middle class.

(38) "Hey, Look Over There...Yoink!"   What's that, you say? You've independently researched the Trans Pacific Partnership deal and you think it'll be ruinous for Canada, particularly for dairy farmers and the auto industry? You say you don't want anything to do with it? Yeah, well, too bad, 'cuz it's already a done deal here in Canada. Since day one this deal's been fast-tracked in a sleazy manner that display's Harper's utter contempt for the people of Canada. He really does think that we work for him, instead of the other way around.

(39) "I Mean To Win...By Any Means Necessary." Just a short month ago, Harper's numbers were right in the dumper. People were pissed off by important issues such as Harper's woeful economic record, his cold-hearted stance on refugees and all of the rampant chicanery in the Senate. So, in order to reverse this downward spiral, he retained Lynton Crosby, AKA the "Aussie Rottweiler", a ruthless political opportunist that retrieved David Cameron's flagging campaign out of the dustbin in the recent UK election. Crosby's modus operendi is to make people forget about the issues they really care about and concentrate on winning hearts instead of brains via dog-whistle politics. So, when Harper took a hard-ball stance on a non-issue like the niqab his numbers shot through the roof. Pity this means that the real issues that effect every single Canadian have since fallen by the wayside.

(40) "Not My Fault...I Didn't Do It...You Can't Prove A Thing!!!" Despite the fact that the niqab debate was a blatantly transparent and desperate attempt to distract oblivious voters from the real issues, it's resulted in some pretty serious blow back. When our own Prime Minister engages in such openly divisive and racist fear-mongering he encourages others to act out in kind. Is this seriously the sort of Canada you want to leave to your kids and grand-kids? 

(41) "And By That I Mean Old White Canadians."  Sorry, Harper can back-pedal all he wants but it's not hard to tell what he meant by "old stock Canadians". By the way, you wanna know who the real "old stock Canadians" are, Mr. Harper? The Inuit and native population, that's who.

(42) "Snitch-ery Guarantees Citizenship."   Y'know, I really wish I was making this one up, but sadly I'm not. In another action that dove-tails with their racist and alarmist agenda, Harper and his cronies want to set up an anonymous tip line where you can rat on your fellow citizen about "barbaric cultural practices". Which, in my humble opinion puts a just a stones throw from this. I can't wait to use it to report on all the barbaric cultural practices that the Conservatives are indulged in.

(43) "What? Immigrants Have Plenty Of Good Uses! Like Driving Wages Down."  Y'know, for someone who isn't fond of immigrants, he sure does love the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Well, so long as it benefits his rich corporate buddies and not, say, Filipino nannies.

(44) "I'm Just Starving The Dog That Wants To Bite Me."   Harper's history with the CBC is a pretty adversarial one. As a completely independent Canadian voice funded entirely by taxpayers, the CBC has held politician's feet to the fire since it was established way back in 1936. But since Harper got into power, he's has cutting off funding to the venerable network more and more, knowing full-well that they'll never tow his line. His latest claim, that the CBC is foundering due to a flagging audience and not merciless budget cuts, was immediately and soundly rebuked by the network's current CEO.

(45) "Patrick Who?"  On September 15'th Patrick Brazeau plead guilty to assault and cocaine possession but wriggled free of a more serious sexual assault charge. This doesn't even cover Brazeau's 2014 conviction for impaired driving or submitting possibly-fraudulent living expenses for his Senate gig. How this guy is still living off the taxpayer dime is beyond me. I mean, just look at him. He's like Canada's answer to Tommy Wiseau...but at least 30% creepier.

(46) "Bruce Who?"  On July 27, 2012 one of Harper's former top advisors, Bruce Carson, was charged with influence peddling related to a proposed deal involving water purification systems for First Nations communities. What sounds like a humanitarian act on the surface quickly takes on a more sinister cast when you hear the allegation that twenty per cent of the revenue that would been generated from this sale would have been directly funneled to Carson's then-fiancee at the time, Michele McPherson. This isn't the first time Carson has been charged with wrongdoing; back in 1990 he plead guilty to three accounts of fraud. And even though Harper claims that he would have never hired Carson if he'd known about "more recent things", Carson himself maintains that his boss knew everything but hired him anyway.

(47) "Michael Who?"  Even though Michael Sona was the only Conservative thrown under the bus for the notorious robocall scandal, both the crown prosecutor and the defense both agreed that "evidence indicates he did not likely act alone". Makes sense, since Sona was just a snot-nosed, 22-year-old staffer at the time and not particularly capable of hatching such an elaborate scheme. The bottom line is, Harper created a climate in which election fraud became a viable option and he deserves to be roasted for it. 

(48) "Micheal, er...Mike Who?"   Honestly, we Canadians have been hearing about the Mike Duffy scandal for so long now that the whole thing has degenerated into a giant, nebulous morass of lies, counter-allegations and denials. Mercifully the good folks at Buzzfeed were kind enough to distill the whole sordid saga down to its essence, using a series of Game of Thrones-related gifs. Who says politics is boring?

(49) "Pamela Who?" As recently as last March, the RCMP have honed in on no less than one hundred and fifty Pamela Wallin expenses that require "additional investigation". According to the Mounties forensic accountant: "I believe that Senator Wallin breached the standard of responsibility and conduct demanded of her and by the nature of her office. I believe that Senator Wallin's conduct represent[s] a serious and marked departure from the standards expected of a Canadian senator." At first Harper claimed that "her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian traveling from that particular area of the country over that period of time" but lately he's distancing himself more and more from the embattled senator.

(50) "Dean Who?"  As bad as all of that is, the real capper comes in the form of Dean Del Mastro, disgraced Conservative MP and Harper's former mouthpiece. Back in June of this year, l'il Deaner was sentenced to a month in prison and four months of house arrest, for illegal overspending in the 2008 federal election. According to Justice Lisa Cameron the crimes were an "affront" to Canadian principals and the "antithesis" of our democracy. And what's Harper's reaction to that happening under his watch? Well, it's likely that we'll never know because of point # 51...

(51) "I Could Answer That But I Don't Wanna." Thanks to Harper's stranglehold on investigative reporting the only question he seems willing to answer is "Why are you so awesome?"

(52) "Rob And Doug Who? Oh, Yeah, Those Guys. They're Cool." Just a few days ago, Rob and Doug Ford were front row center at a Stephen Harper rally in Etobicoke. It certainly isn't the first time these guys have hung out together. Besides being rank idiots, why are these clowns so firmly entrenched in Harper's corner? Because, they're rich, entitled, morally-ambiguous assholes, who don't pay their fair share of taxes under Harper's watch. I just think it's funny that Harper, who's supposedly tough on crime, turns a blind eye to Rob Ford's chronic scum-baggery.

(53) Conservatives Say The Darndest Things - Part Two.  Yes, I keep harping on this (pun intended), but it bears repeating: Harper's Conservatives aren't Progressive Conservatives. As former Alliance / Reform goons, they're a lot closer to the Ayn Randian / Objectivist Neo-Con assholes who hijacked the U.S. Republican Party back in the '90's. And a major tenant for these folks is that taxes are bad because that takes money away from noble, hard-working, self-sacrificing martyrs like me and gives it away to lazy, freeloading takers. This guy, for example, would apparently have no qualms about supporting a candidate who's inordinately amorous towards quadrupedal, even-toed ungulate mammals, so long as said candidate doens't oblige us to support such wasteful things as Canada Pensions, E.I., and Medicare.  

(54) "Yeah, These Guys RAWK!!!'  I don't know what's lamer, the fact that Harper welcomed human / taint hybrid Chad Kroeger to 24 Sussex Drive or that Kroeger's boring McBand Nickelback actually flashed up a picture of Harper while playing "Photograph" during a concert. Jesus, that's the scariest image I've seen on stage since Iron Maiden's "No Player For The Dying" tour.

(55) Harper Isn't An Economist: Part 3.   Prior to the rare and impeccably-timed surplus that was announced during this protracted political season (see # 17), the HarperCons orchestrated no less than six straight deficits between 2008-09 and 2013-14.

(56) "Taking Care Of Veterans? Why, That's Socialism!"  Now, I've already attacked Harper for needlessly sending our troops into harm's way in Afghanistan and documented one-man's terrible experience upon returning from that illegal war (see # 27 and 28), but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Veterans are so collectively pissed off by Harper's wanton neglect that they formed a powerful political force with a fact-based website and some pretty powerful videos.

Seriously, is anyone out there still voting for Harper? 'Cuz, to paraphrase Shepherd Derrial Book from Firefly: "Politicians who de-fund veterans are going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater."  

(57) Bribery Will Get You No-Where.  This time last year, Harper introduced a "family tax cut / income splitting scheme", claiming that it would give couples with children under the age of eighteen a credit of up to $2,000 bucks. Well, there's one slight problem with this: it needlessly complicates the tax process, restricts what "kind" of family gets a break and only really benefits people who really don't need it. Mercifully a lot of people saw right through this transparent payola and aren't letting Harper off the hook for a zillion other transgressions.  

(58) "Fear Controls The Fearful." Oakville Conservative MP Terence Young recently took a cue from Harper's playbook of paranoia, telling a group of stunned town hall debate onlookers that the Liberals, once elected, will turn their once-idyllic neighborhoods into dens of iniquity. Hey, if you can't win based on your past record or your future platform, why not just slag off the other guys in a desperate attempt to snag the "oblivious moron" vote. Wait, does this mean that Rob Ford's gonna start wearing a Liberal pin if Justin Trudeau wins?

(59) "Universal Health Care Doesn't Work! I've Made Sure Of That."  In order to give himself a a rare budgetary surplus to brag about during this election season, Harper cut thirty-six billion dollars out of our health care system. Not too surprising since the guy would love to see the whole thing privatized for a buck.

(60) "I Have A Dream: That Hordes Of Wild Turkeys Will One Day Roam Our Land!"  Back in the first week of September, Stephen Harper announced that he'll earmark $5 million large a year to preserve the wild game population starting in 2017. Honestly, this isn't a bad measure, but it would be a whole helluva lot better if it wasn't designed just to give future generations of penis-deprived hunters something to shoot in the beak. Let's face it, announcements like this hardly qualify as inspiring and ambitious campaign promises. As Rick Mercer so eloquently stated recently, where's the vision? Harper's had nine years at the helm of our country and he's done little to nothing to improve it.  

(61) We Used To Be One Of The Good Ones.  Ever since Harper began his despotic reign, our country has seriously slipped in the eyes of the international community. Even more so since this greasy election kicked things into "crazy old racist Uncle Larry" territory.

(62) Big Brother Is Watching You. And So Is Big Sister, Big Cousin, Big Aunt, Big Uncle and One-Hundred And Eighty-Four (!) Other Big People.   When Cindy Blackstock, an activist and professor, took the Conservatives to court over neglected First Nations children, no less than one-hundred and eighty-nine separate government staffers were tasked to spy on her and shadow her every move. Their efforts were so invasive that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled against the Canadian government and ordered them to pay Cindy $20,000.00 in restitution. Hmmmm, someone should get Mr. "I Vote For Sheep Fuckers" on the line and see what he thinks about that one?

(63) "If You're Not With Us...Then You're With The Terrorists."  Harper experienced some pesky blow-back when hundreds of people were illegally rounded up and detained during the G-20 summit in Toronto back in June of 2010.  Good thing then that Bill C-51 got crammed through Parliament, which gives Harper the ability to cast any protester as a "terrorist" and make the whole process of stripping your rights away a breeze!       

(64) Harper Isn't An Economist: Part 4.  When Harper took office back in 2006 Canada's unemployment rate was 6.3 per cent. This now stands at 7.1 per cent, putting Canada in fifth place among the G7 nations.

(65) Conservatives Say The Darndest Things - Part Three.  Sure, anything can be abused, but without unions our kids would still be toiling away in sweat shops making designer handbags for lose bits of string and dead budgerigars. Despite doing far more good then harm, Conservatives like Walter Pamic absolutely despise unions, probably because they divert a tiny modicum of the profits to workers instead of their super-rich CEO's and share-holders.   

(66) "Voter Suppression? Why That Only Happens In Places Like North Carolina...And Maybe Vancouver."  As predicted, Harper's "Fair" Elections Act reforms are doing just the opposite. All of these superfluous and restrictive voter ID requirements resulted in massive line-ups at many of the advanced polls. At an election office on West Hastings in Vancouver voters queued up for hours to exercise their democratic right. Even though they had until 6 pm to cast their ballot the office inexplicably closed an hour earlier, sending a dozen people packing. Sadly, this isn't the only story I've heard like this.

(67) "NERRRRRRRRRRRRD!!!"  Restricted by how much they can travel, starved for funding, and weary of being muzzled by the Harper government, Canadian scientists like Steve Campana fled for greener pastures abroad. This, of course, is all due to Harper's systemic persecution of scientists which pundits predict will have a dreadful impact on our nation in the long run.

(68) "I'm Tough On Crime! Well, Not Right Now...But As soon As I'm Re-Elected I'm Totally Gonna Be Tough On Crime!"  Harper was so desperate to get a budgetary surplus to wave in our faces that he actually de-funded his own crime prevention program to the tune of $28 million dollars. I wish McGruff would take a bite outta his lame ass.

(69) Conservatives Say The Darndest Things - Part Four.  Even though Harper is solely to blame for gutting our mail services, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant recently took out an ad in her local paper telling voters that the "only" way to save Canada Post is to re-elect her. Ironic, considering that, along with the rest of Harper's pack of flying monkeys, she helped defeat an NDP motion to retain door-to-door deliveries. And here's the capper: the union for Canada Post is pondering legal action against her for misappropriating their logo. What a maroon.

(70) "I Dunno, I Thought Reefer Madness Made Some Pretty Solid Points." Harper has arbitrarily declared that marijuana is "infinitely worse" then tobacco.  Pity that there are these pesky little things called facts that get in the way of that claim. Is that why Harper hates scientists so much? Is it because of all their sass n' back-talk n' indisputable, quantifiable data n' such.

(71) Prisons For Profit. Just like every other human endeavor, Steve believes that our prison system should be a source of free enterprise. Look, I have nothing against capitalism, but I have a huge beef with corporatism. As soon as certain enterprises are turned over for private gain, greed, cronyism and abuse will invariably start creeping into the mix. Hmmm, I wonder is Harper's militant stance against marijuana has something to do with filling super-prisons up with nominal occupants?

(72) "Sure I'm Fiscally Conservative. Well, On My Dime I Am."  Just a few short days ago, the National Observer completed an audit on public expenses claimed between 2013 and 2015 and found out that Conservative MPs spent a helluva lot more on travel then their political counterparts 

(73) "We're Cutting Back On Entitlements For Lazy Bums!"  While Harper merrily continues to gut Employment Insurance premiums...

(74) "But Not Rich Lazy Bums!"  ...he also keeps doling out generous gobs of corporate welfare both federally and provincially!

(75) Fair Weather Fiends.  When the campaign first started and people were talking about important stuff like the economy and the environment, the Conservatives polling numbers went right in the tank. Desperate to turn things around, Harper retained political hit-man Lynton Crosby who advised him to whip up emotional and "patriotic" fervor by bringing up the whole niqab issue. Thankfully the lion's share of sane Canadians recognized this tactic for what it was: divisive, dog-whistle politics that had no bearing on reality. And when the resulting blow-back put Harper back on the ropes again, Crosby abandoned Harper just days before the election, bringing to mind a rat deserting a sinking ship.  

(76) Fiddling While The World Burns.  Back in April of 2013 Harper's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said "I think that people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees” and that “scientists have recently told us that our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated.” Unfortunately Oliver didn't specify what scientists he was talking about. Was it these scientists? Nope. How about these guys? Uh, nope. How about the...ah, fuck it.

(77) Harper Isn't An Economist: Part 5.  With fuel prices soaring back around 2008, Harper doubled down on Canada's dirty, archaic and inefficient oil and gas industry. Unfortunately when our good ol' buddies the Saudi's decided to flood the market with cheap oil it caused prices to tank. Now our petroleum industry is hemmoraging profits and leading us straight into another recession.

(78) "Remember, Hair Should Protect The Head." Did you know that Stephen Harper was the first Prime Minister in Canadian history to retain a full-time stylist (and psychic!) on the public's dime for years? As far as I can determine, Michelle Muntean's retainer fee has never been disclosed, but disguising a reptile like Harper as something vaguely approximating a human being can't come cheap. Psychic transmission to Michelle: you may want to keep working on that ornamental, Lego-esque skull cap that he's still wearing. It's about as realistic the rigor mortis grimace that he vainly tries to pass off as a "smile".

(79) "What You Don't Know Won't Hurt You."  Under Harper's watch, Canada is no longer in the top fifty nations for global freedom of information and our current protocols "fail to meet global standards". Jaysus.

(80) "But What I Do Will Hurt You. So, It's Kind Of A Trade Off."  Even more troubling, Canada fell out of top 10 in UN’s human development index back in 2013.

(81) "Spending Money On Social Programs? Socialism! Spending Over A Billion Dollars On A Spy Palace? Absolutely Badass."  While tub-thumping for claw-backs on social programs, Herr Harper earmarked $1.2 billion dollars for a new lair for C.S.E.C., I.E. our very own maple-syrup-flavored equivalent to the NSA. Fun fact: Canadian taxpayers have never paid this much money for a government building ever before, especially one with such a heinous raison d'être.

(82) More Like 'The War On Frugality'.  Think that spending a billion dollars on a facility designed to spy on Canadians is bad? Well, how about misplacing $3.1 billion dollars during our laughably aggrandized "war on terror" and having no clue how to account for it?

(83) "I'm In Yer Innerwebz, Creepin' Yer Profyle."  Government agencies tapped Canadian telecommunications companies nearly 800,000 times in one year for private information on their customers. And get this, instead of going through the once-legal means of obtaining warrants to do this, the RCMP just paid companies like Telus and Bell $1.6 million dollars to buy this data wholesale. Seriously, why every citizen in Canada isn't completely up in arms over this alone is beyond my comprehension.

(84) "Julian Fantin-Who?" Harper hand-picked Julian Fantino as Minister of Veterans Affairs in July 2013 but was demoted him just a few months ago over his callous handling of complaints from a myriad of disenfranchised veterans. Hey, Julian, this might be a good time for you to re-read the Joss Whedon-penned quote back at # 56.

(85) "Canada! For Sale! Cheap! EVERYTHING MUST GO!" Part I  Formed in 1935 to safeguard the prices our farmers get for their crops, Stephen Harper allowed the Canadian Wheat Board to be pawned off to a U.S. conglomerate and an investment group based in, you guessed it, Saudi Arabia.

(86) Remember, His Official Title Is Prime Minister Cheaty McGillicuddy.  Thanks to this latest sign-destroying scandal featuring Bal Gosal, the Conservatives are now looking at their fourth consecutive criminal investigation related to an election. Man, and you though that José Bautista's  batting average was good.

(87) "Canada! For Sale! Cheap! EVERYTHING MUST GO!" Part Two  Back in December 2012, Harper signed off on a $15 billion dollars deal which saw the domestic energy company Nexen sold off to China National Offshore Oil Corporation. I wonder if Harper did this because he knew that our oil and gas industry was going to start swirling down the commode soon?

(88) "Why Are We So Awesome? Well, It's 'Cuz That Sign We Bought Over There With Your Money Says So..."  Since he first took tower in 2006, Harper has spent $750 million dollars on self-promotional ad campaigns like the "methinks thou dost protest too much" Economic Action Plan billboards, buses and signs. 

(89) "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Pretty Much Sums Up My Opinion On Gay Marriage As Well." Even though Canada as a whole is refreshingly open-minded when it comes to such things, that certainly doesn't reflect the opinions closely held by our illustrious Prime Minister. Notwithstanding this little chestnut, Harper has always been pretty right-lipped on the subject of gay marriage over the past nine years. But given an insulating crowd of supported bigots, his true colors do shine through occasionally. And whattaya know, they're completely intolerant and close minded. Oh, and if you read this and actually share his opinions then you're just as deluded as he is.   

(90) "The Medium Is The Message. And the Message Is 'Fuck Impartiality'". Don't think that corporate-controlled media is a problem? Then just check out these hideously-biased front pages of these Postmedia-owned newspapers.

(91) "'Contempt? I Gotcher 'Contempt' Heatin' up Right Hur." Harper's Conservatives are the only political party ever to be found in contempt of Parliament for refusing to disclose information about various clandestine expenses. These charges were so serious that it kicked off the 2011 election, which inexplicably resulted in a Harper majority.

(92) "Admit It, Shooting A Fish In The Face Isn't Nearly As Rewarding."   A recent analysis of Harper's alterations to environmental protections led University of Calgary law professor Martin Olszynski to declare that the government has "all but abandoned" efforts to protect Canada's lakes and rivers.

(93) "It's Just A Thing We Do Now." As much as I want this to be unwarranted, over-dramatized hype, stories like this give me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. When confronted with damning evidence about the mistreatment of Afghan detainees back in 2009, Steve-O just resorted to shouting  "LA! LA! LA! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" over and over again until the whole thing blew over. Unfortunately, ever since Harper got Canada deeply involved in places like Afghanistan, Libya and other hot-spots in the Middle East, terrorist organization are now calling us out like never before.

(94) "Whattaya Mean 'Proroguing' Isn't A Polish Dumpling?"  Back in 2008 the NDP, Liberals and and the Bloc Québécois (!) formed a loose coalition to try and topple Harper's minority government. Unfortunately Harper's familiarity with the dark arts revealed a little-known and rarely-evoked parliamentary procedure called "proroguing" which, politically speaking, allowed him to take his ball and go home. The gambit worked perfectly. Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General at the time, folded faster then Superman on laundry day, dissolved Parliament and Harper enjoyed a two-month vacation, returning to power no worse for wear. In fact, this maneuver worked so well that he pulled the same stunt again a year later when questions about Afghan detainees made the kitchen a tad too hot again.

(95) ISRAEL GOOD....PALESTINE BAD.  Not only is former Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird a bit of a jackass, he was downright obtuse when it came to complicated international affairs such as the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. Even though Canadians are split right down the middle about this issue, under Harper, Canada has sided with Israel every single time, going so far as to actively vote against the Palestinians' campaign to become a non-member state and publicly opposing their bid to join the International Criminal Court. This partisan declaration got Baird's motorcade justifiably pelted with eggs and shoes when he last visited the region back in January of this year. He resigned not long after, the main motivation for which still remains hotly debated.

(96)  Failing Upwards. Back in 2010, senior cabinet minister Tony Clement used the G8 meetings as an excuse to divert $50-million dollars worth of improvements to his home riding in Muskoka with absolutely no paper trail or oversight. There was one slight hitch with this brilliant plan: Muskoka was no-where even remotely close to the summit site. In spite of this, the region was blessed with new parks, sidewalks and, of course, a bitchin' little gazebo. Now, in most normal working environments, someone like Clement this would be taken out back to the wood pile and summarily dispatched and his boss would face some pretty stern question. But no, not with the Conservatives! Quite the opposite: Clement was promoted to President of the Treasury Board, I.E. the department which is supposed to keep tabs on government spending. Wow, irony alert!

(97) "QUICK! GET TO DE ENTITLEMENT CHOPPAH!!!"  Harper's former Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay has always been a pompous, dandified idiot, but in 2010 the big diva demanded that a Cormorant search and rescue helicopter airlift him away from a private fishing trip in Gander Newfoundland, all to the taxpayer tune of $16,000 large.

(98) "It Is My Humble Opinion, Mister Speaker, That The Honorable Supreme Court Chief Justice Is A Big Meanie Face."  Just over a year ago, Harper had a public meltdown when his less-then-qualified Supreme Court pick Marc Nadon was lobbed right back at him by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. Unaccustomed to not getting his own way, Harper called her ruling “inadvisable and inappropriate”, a move which made him look like Anakin in Attack of the Clones.

(99) A Little Bit Of The Ol' In-Out, In-Out...To The Taxpayers Of CanadaAfter the Conservatives came to power in 2006, Elections Canada noticed a few...anomalies in the campaign financing receipts. They saw that inordinately large amounts of cash were transferred from the federal Conservative party to their individual ridings to cover volunteer expenses which was then donated right back to the party! In the end, Harper was forced to admit their culpability and re-pay $230,198 to Canadian taxpayers. Which, unfortunately, is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $2.3 million bucks spent trying to get the Conservatives to admit their guilt in the first place.

(100) He's Clearly Thinks That The Canadian People Are All Idiots.  Seriously, the fact that Harper is still ensconced in power with all of this damning evidence piled up against him; he must be sitting back and laughing his ass off at us.

(101)  Hmmmmm...

...y'know something, this is waaaaay too easy. I could just as easily post a slew of these all by myself but where would be the the fun in that?

Tell you what, why don't you guys post your favorite reasons as to why you wanna "Heave Steve" on October 19'th?  Provide you reason plus a supporting link in the comments below and I'll add it to the list.

I'll probably about one-hundred of these myself but if you guys wanna help, let's see how many we can get!  


***

Epilogue 

One thing I'll say about Stephen Harper: he's a master at electioneering, which isn't a compliment, BTW. He knows that there are three left-leaning parties opposed to him and he's counting on us to split the vote again.

And, honestly, I think that's a safe bet on Harper's part. Right now only Elizabeth May of the Green Party and Thomas Mulcair of the NDP are humble and sharp enough to be open to the prospects of a desperately-needed coalition. Unfortunately, unless Justin Trudeau gets over his hubris and ego it'll be all for naught.

Which brings me to my main point: we can't just vote Anything But Conservative, we have to vote strategically. Fortunately there are plenty of online resources to help us with this this. One of my favorites is "Vote Together" who wisely maintain:

In 2011, a majority of people voted for a change in government, but our broken voting system gave the Harper Conservatives 100% of the power with just 39% of the vote. This time, if we vote together, we can stop the riding-by-riding vote splitting that lets Harper win.

61,883 people have pledged to select and support the best local candidates to defeat the Harper Conservatives and move Canada forward.

We're focused on the Conservative swing ridings where a few thousand votes could be all that decides whether or not Harper is Prime Minister again. No matter where you live, we’ll give you the tools you need to make a difference on October 19.

Sure, we might not be voting for our ideal candidates, but if we can just dustbin Harper to the annals of history and shift our country towards a more sane and sound political middle ground that actually represents our national beliefs, we can then can vote with our hearts the next time out.

But right now it's all about taking our country back from a government that's run by corporate interests and not by us. But sadly, if I had to wager on how things were gonna look on October 20'th I'd bet on a "Conservative Minority".

And I, for one, can't think of a more terrifying pre-Halloween horror story.

EPIC AnyoneButHarper.net is another great resource to kicking the Conservative to the curb this election season.

FAIL  "By his own standards, Stephen Harper is a colossal FAIL-ure."