Sunday, November 30, 2008

Monster Camp (not to be confused with Monster Squad)

The film Monster Camp provides a voyeuristic window into the world of NERO, the fantasy Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) game in which costumed players challenge each other to physical battles and other staged adventures played out in weekend getaways. And by physical battles, I mean they hit each other repeatedly with foam swords while yelling out spells.

The battles are basically organized chaos. The players fit every dork stereotype—over-enunciating pasty guys with faint moustaches & frizzy pony tails, stern pudgy girls with bushy eyebrows, etc. Their costumes usually involve face paint, felt and sweatpants. When they aren’t playing NERO, many retreat to their basements where they play hours of online fantasy games like World of Warcraft.

The film is pretty entertaining, albeit a little repetitive. It’s especially made for those (like myself) who are really into seeing how the other half lives, but I really wish they delved deeper into the lives of the players outside the game. Some highlights include a guy who eats what appear to be two Denny’s Grandslam breakfasts in order to prepare for what he anticipates to be the vigorous “physical activity” ahead of him. Later, in the midst of one of the battles, he starts wheezing, doubled over and out of breath. Cut to the next scene in which someone has brought him another heaping pile of emergency food, to which he devours standing up, I guess to help open up his lung passages.

There is also a sea elf who, after learning her race has become extinct, tears up and proceeds to question whether people really understand what this is going to mean for global maritime trade and commerce.

Ok, so you can laugh your ass off (and believe me I did) at these folks and their escapist world. But before you dismiss this as a fringe group of freaks from the middle of nowhere, keep in mind there are close to 50 NERO Chapters within the US and Canada. And really, why should it be any more acceptable to watch hours of The Wire (or Arrested Development, as I am doing this very minute) or avidly follow the Eagles or Phillies from your recliner as you suck down beers while sporting your favorite player’s jersey?

Everyone needs to escape once and a while. Even more important is the fact that these people have found a community and they are getting up off the couch and into some fresh air. It’s obvious that many have made the first real friends they’ve ever had. And for others, it is probably the only chance they’ll ever have to get laid! So I say, good on ya, larpers!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


In a rush of irrational nostalgia, I almost bought these scratch-and-sniff stickers on ebay for 20 bucks. For some reason, I had to smell that gross hot dog one more time. Sadly, absent from this lot was the sublime "motor oil" sticker. Yes. Motor oil.

I remember scratching and sniffing the lemony DINO-MITE sticker so many times it had a hole in the center.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Rules for Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock

1. Scissors cuts Paper

2. Paper covers Rock

3. Rock crushes Lizard

4. Lizard poisons Spock

5. Spock smashes Scissors

6. Scissors decapitates Lizard

7. Lizard eats Paper

8. Paper disproves Spock

9. Spock vaporizes Rock

10. Rock crushes Scissors

Monday, November 24, 2008

Webster and Me

My friend Laura and I were talking recently about the really creepy episode of Webster where he finds the secret passage (Bah, whatever. Like you and your friends don't sit around discussing Webster episodes).   
Shortly into the second season, Webster accidentally burned down the family's apartment with a science kit and the family moved to a large Victorian house in the suburbs. The show also delved into more creepy matters when it was revealed that the new home has a secret passage way behind a clock and that a full size female doll is kept in a room in which a young girl died. To many, this move was the point where the show jumped the shark. (from  

After watching that (and various other secret passage movies like my all-time favorite, Candleshoe) I would drag my little brother around our house and make him tap on the walls while I listened with my Fisher-Price doctor's stethoscope for hollow sounds. At which point my exasperated dad would yell out from behind his newspaper, "This house was built in the seventies!"

The Mail Store is Always Serious!

I bought these stickers in DC and they crack me up every time I look at them. The writing is very small and hard to read, but I will give you a blow by blow. 

"The mail store is always serious. It sends to your place. The mail store is always serious. It has delivered in a hurry. However, I want to sometimes rest. "
He has a chick on his head. Why??

"Hello, the letter was come to the report." (translation~"I love you").

(I envision this as some sort of rock opera and I can't stop singing "THE MAIL STORE IS ALWAYS SER-I-OUS" much to my roomate James' chagrin.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Irma Vep-VampIre

The silent French classic, Les Vampires, is a 10-episode serial made in 1915 by Louis Feuillade about a group of burglars and their leader Irma Vep. Irma Vep (1996) tells the story of a Chinese actress (Maggie Cheung playing herself) who’s arrived in France to film a remake of the classic serial only to find the film’s once-revered director has lost his marbles.

I don’t know why, but I find the film appealing. It’s pretty slow-moving and a bit of a mess, but also intriguing mainly because of Cheung’s performance (and this hot latex cat suit she has to wear the whole time). Our confusion with the film mimics Cheung’s confusion in her surroundings as she struggles to make sense of the chaotic scene she’s walked into. She must contend with the batty director’s impossible perfectionism, condescending reporters, language barriers and the overt affection bestowed upon her by the female costume-designer. The fact that she’s playing herself makes the film seem that much more realistic and gives it a voyeuristic quality.

But the reason I felt like writing about the film, and what separates it from being another weird artsy French sleeper, is the incredible last five minutes. After the director's probable nervous breakdown, the cast and crew sit down to watch his final, abandoned cut of the film. Until then, nothing has prepared us for his electric vision-- so rockstar and awesome and unexpected.

Here’s the last five minutes, but I would watch it only if you don’t plan to see the whole film.


They teased her in class. She was odd. They teased her and she would whistle and look up at the ceiling and her eyes would get a little watery. Her mother was my dental hygienist and when she'd get me in the chair she would ask me why she never saw me around anymore. Why don't you give Jenny a call and my mouth filled up with her latex fingers and cotton wads. She would scrape my gums bloody. I would mutter and nod, head back in the chair and my eyes would get a little watery as I looked up at the ceiling and at her red lipstick and dyed black hair.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beware the Wheelers

"It had the form of a man, except that it walked, or rather rolled, upon all fours, and its legs were the same length as its arms, giving them the appearance of the four legs of a beast."

--from Ozma of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

Recently, I’ve been preoccupied thinking about the books I used to love when I was younger. I was really obsessed with L. Frank Baum’s Oz books and used to carefully draw the characters with a colored pencil set I had (when I wasn’t drawing Jem & the Hologram paper dolls). For some reason I’ve had the urge to hunt the books down again. Along those same lines, I’ve been meaning for some time to watch “Return to Oz,” the film based on two of the Oz books. It was Fairuza Balk's first movie-pretty cool.

So, I never saw the whole film, just bits and pieces, but a few images have been burned in my mind for years and I recognized the characters from the books. Like this crazy princess who had a rotating collection of heads she wore. The kicker was she took on the personality of the head she was wearing. So if you caught her on a PMS-HEAD day you were screwed. I remember every time I had a cold or a monster zit I would envision screwing my head off and picking out a new one to wear.

The characters that reeeeealy creeped me out were the wheelers. (Apparently I am not alone in this, judging from the countless comments on IMDB and youtube from people who were also scarred by these freaks as children.)

In the book, Dorothy is perplexed by a foreboding warning scratched in the sand “BEWARE THE WHEELERS.” When the wheelers emerge to chase her down she sees they are humanoid men with wheels for hands and feet. Henchmen not unlike the flying monkeys. Seriously, if you’ve ever seen the movie you’ll remember these things were scary as hell. I saw them on a trailer at age ten, and was always too scared to watch the whole thing because they freaked me out so much.

It's funny how awkward or unusual movements can be so unnerving. Check out the Hush episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (sorry to nerd out completely), with the gliding, grinning psychopaths & the straitjacketed men on all fours, and you'll know what I mean. Irrational movements as a fear inducer--it's a concept perfected by Japanese horror-directors like in the movie Ju-On. Our brain processes them, but knows something is amiss. We are creeped out, but we don't know why.