My death looms on the horizon. That's because like many Cracked editors, I am incredibly old. As I cling to life, I'm not fond of constant reminders that the world and culture have moved on without me. The era of my youth has long passed from memory, and as such, the young masses can now see a poster for an upcoming movie called RoboCop and say, "This looks good, I haven't seen a robot movie since my father took me to see I, Robot when I was 7 years old. And now I am old enough to drive a car."
Crazy Kids' Trivia Fact: The guy on the right used to be one of the world's most famous rappers.
Sure, perhaps another teenager nearby will reply, "This 'RoboCop' story is actually based on one of the lost ancient tales told by the Old Ones." But no flash of recognition will pass over the faces of those around him, all of whom would assume that "Peter Weller" was a porn star's name. Why, just this year I watched them line up in varying amounts for new editions of The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall, Judge Dredd and Red Dawn. I, in my croaking old voice, would say, "Younglings, do you not see that these are reruns? That these stories have been told -- and I mean literally the same stories, with the same characters and plot twists -- recently enough that I still have the VHS copies in my closet?" But they only ignore me, one of them muttering to their little friend, "What is VHS?"
"Wait, is that chocolate? Do we eat them?"
In my more serene moments, I realize that it was always a cycle, that in my day I was simply too young to realize that Star Wars was just a big-budget Flash Gordon, that 1989's Batman was itself just a gritty reboot of a TV show I was barely aware of, that before there was Quentin Tarantino, there was Sam Peckinpah. I accept that the buyers of entertainment are teenagers, and that as soon as a new crop of teenagers screeches into the world, studios can sell them as new all of the same distractions that dazzled the last bunch, and pop culture fades from memory so quickly now that you don't even have to change up the titles.
I suppose I should be grateful, for I have a movie coming out soon, based on a book I wrote (have I never mentioned that before?), and it is comforting to know that if it does not succeed, we can simply do a gritty reboot of it a couple of years from now.
The good news is that all of your favorite entertainers have Twitter accounts. The bad news is that none of them feel the need to create actual tweets worth reading -- even the Internet-savvy greats like Louis C.K. use their accounts almost exclusively to remind us to buy tickets or tune in to their shows. Some others have embraced the short-form comedy format to try out jokes or post random thoughts, but that's usually about as good as it gets.
But then you have stand-up comedian Neil Hamburger's Twitter. Neil seems to follow the accounts of every corporate Twitter page out there, all of which post mindless, vapid questions encouraging customers to reply, as if engaging the kids on this "social media" thing will somehow create a new generation of Kentucky Fried Chicken customers. Well, Neil Hamburger has devoted his life to replying to all of their questions:
But what I can't take my eyes off of are the Taco Bell vomit tweets. Neil has apparently figured out that if you search Twitter for Taco Bell you find mostly people complaining that they got horrible food poisoning from it. And he goes through and meticulously retweets all of them. Hundreds and hundreds of "HOLY SHIT TACO BELL JUST GAVE ME EXPLOSIVE DIARRHEA" posts:
And it goes on, and on, and on. And I CAN'T STOP READING THEM.
His name was Rudy Eugene, but you only know him as the man behind the Miami cannibal attack, or the Miami zombie attack, or the Miami bath salts attack, depending on which corner of the Internet you get your news from.
On the evening of May 26, 2012, this headline splashed across news outlets everywhere:
And here's the amazing part: That is not sensationalized at all, and in fact left quite a bit out (e.g., both men were naked, the attacker succeeded in eating most of the victim's face and the attack went on for nearly 20 minutes).
The story so perfectly fit so many frightening narratives that it almost seemed like it was staged as a viral advertising stunt (and I kind of wish I'd thought of it for my book, since it features a very similar scene on almost every page). Let us count the ways:
First, the story came out of Florida, the world capital for insane news stories (Adam Carolla used to have a radio bit where he would read a bizarre news story and make readers guess whether it had occurred in Florida or Germany). It really does look like the most realistic portrayal of the state was the Bad Boys franchise.
Downtown Miami, Tuesday afternoon.
Second, the story perfectly mimicked the opening scene of every zombie apocalypse movie ever ("Mysterious reports of a crazed man eating another man ... not stopping until police shot him ..."), only zombies don't go right for the face and typically are not nude, which only made it freakier. Soon the Internet was abuzz with a list of other stories proving that this attack was part of an epidemic.
Third, the second wave of reports revealed that the attack was the result of a terrifying and mysterious new drug called "bath salts." Holy shit! There is nothing Middle America loves more than stories of random violence due to some evil new drug. Headlines could not jump on the bath salts epidemic alarmism fast enough. Never mind that it turned out that Eugene had none in his system.
Bath salts. Not pictured: Face-eating.
Between the zombie bullshit and the bath salts bullshit, this story was the perfect storm for everything that is wrong with the way news is reported in the Internet age. But cut through it all and you still have an absolutely true story of a naked man who ate another naked man's face.
I have removed all of the music-playing devices from my home for fear that they will become conduits by which dubstep leaks into the house, so I'm not exactly on top of the modern music scene. That means that I'm going outside the box for my song of the year choice, which occurs at 2:20 of this video:
We celebrated the brilliance of the Bad Lip Reading videos last year, in which one genius' absurd redubs of political ads created nothing short of comedy magic. You wouldn't think that taking videos of politicians and dubbing in nonsense that perfectly matches their lip movements would result in world-class entertainment, but holy shit you would be wrong.
And I don't think I could have gotten through this election season without the beautiful breaths of fresh air that were these Bad Lip Reading clips. In an era when 99 percent of political comedy is also trying to get you to vote a certain way ("Mitt Romney's position on capital gains taxes is hilarious!"), the BLR videos were pure absurdist joy, taking no sides on any position whatsoever. And I consider the above video to be their masterpiece.
Saul Loeb / Getty
It's actually the only case where any aspect of this debate can be termed a "masterpiece."
They took the first presidential debate (moderated by Jim Lehrer) and, through their meticulous yet completely ridiculous dub job, turned it into a singing competition. Finally, after moderating some nonsensical back and forth between the contestants, Lehrer breaks into beautiful song, the lyrics of which set the imagination reeling:
I'm jumping in a pimento shower
I wanted the music first
In the tragic square of the Fresh Prince
There went a perfect brown baby
When they laugh at you, you'll drown
Eye of the sparrow, this girl slipped on my arrow
"Don't ask me, man. I just work here."
And don't tune out after he stops singing -- the beautiful choral version that comes back to play over the credits starting at 3:19 nearly brings a tear to my eye. All at once I'm reminded of what it was like to be a kid again, laughing at grown-ups saying nonsense things, free of subtext, commentary or political agendas. Thank you, BLR.