even in a post about fictional female characters, we still mostly talk about Strange Days

so i recently caught the tail-end of this Ridley Scott version of Robin Hood and what a shock, it featured Cate Blanchett, who has to weigh about 95 pounds, sword-fighting guys, because no one can make a movie where a woman is NOT fighting like a man if there’s any fighting being done. this is a long-standing pet peeve of mine, i admit; i’ve been ragging on it for YEARS, and once injured myself during the course of an impromptu mockery of such a concept.

but it occurs to me that a) it’s not so much the concept of ANY woman being some physical hero, but the ham-handedness of how it’s done that bothers me, and b) there’s at least one lady who reads this site (making her a solid 33% of our readership), so i should probably throw her/woman at large a bone and not be a total misogynist all the time here, right?

(as a brief interlude, let me link to Vulture making sort of the same point i am with their examples being the unrealistic nature of Zoe Saldana, Anne Hathaway and Angelina Jolie’s lack of “some believable heft”, but more logically and politely. although i submit they have an entirely too rosy view of Gina Carano’s MMA career.)

so with all that being said, i figured i’d come up with a top 13 “woman who i accept as competently beating the hell out of men and/or other foes in various works of fiction,” or something like that.

janklow’s favorite 13 female characters who he accepts as competently beating the hell out of men and/or other foes in various works of fiction, or something like that

well… that’s certainly a very literal interpretation of the subject matter in title form… so let’s proceed. now it may be that there are characters who are similar to those below that still manage to annoy me; all i can promise you is that i am NOT annoyed by these characters, maybe because they’re better characters or the justifications are more explained/reasonable. that might not seem like much, but… uh… that’s all i’ve got?

Shakima Greggs (and friends)
it also helps to impress me if your female character has an utterly heartless glare or two in her. fear breeds respect, i find

13. Shakima Greggs (the Wire)
one thing about anything David Simon does regarding Baltimore (Homicide, the Corner, the Wire) is that you can assume it’s PROBABLY all based on a real person somewhere down the line, so maybe a kernel of truth ruins Greggs as a character? that said, i can’t think of who the “real person” is, so she qualifies. she wails on criminals alongside all the male police officers, she expresses concern about handling herself on the same level as them… yes, this a competent female character.

also, that whole “anything David Simon does” thing might apply to Treme too, but i don’t know shit about New Orleans, so i really wouldn’t know. i’m from Maryland, damnit!

12. Mattie Ross (True Grit)
what this is about is defining “competent.” 14-year-old girls shouldn’t be mowing every villain down with a pair of six-shooters or beating up seven-foot-tall men or whatever the hell else all these female heroes are doing (killing Witch Kings, i guess). so while -SPOILER- wounding your father’s killer in the final confrontation in a manner that -DOUBLE SPOILER- causes you to fall into an underground cavern and eventually lose your arm to snakebite doesn’t seem like much of an achievement for a movie’s hero … it’s perfectly competent for a 14-year-old girl who’s the main character to stack up this way. COMPETENTLY. i don’t need to see all these damn space acrobatics.

11. Rachel Brooks (Justified)
okay, a couple of quick disclaimers here:
–for some of these characters that cross multiple forms (movies versus books, for example), i am familiar with the characters in all their forms. however, despite the fact that i have enjoyed many movies based on his works, i don’t read Elmore Leonard novels, so i have NO idea if this “Rachel Brooks” concept is even in there;
–this inclusion is mostly to point out Justified to people who don’t watch it (which would probably be all of you jerks).

anyway, she’s a great shot, never attempts to physically overpower people, and effectively banters with Raylan Givens, our hero (and i will point out that this is a very well-written show). so this works for me. welcome to number eleven!

Beatrix Kiddo AKA the Bride (and friends)
and if all else fails, dress your female character up like Bruce Lee and give her some swords and guns. i… i will be forced to respect her

10. Takako Chigusa (Girl #13) (Battle Royale)
now, in fairness, it’s not like i find all the rest of the female characters in either the book or movie annoying, as they’re both entirely necessary and also just kind of there, and none are portrayed as particularly menacing. i’m not THAT completely insane. …well, okay, but i try to rein it in a little when i’m writing lists for the internet.

still, i’m claiming Chigusa qualifies because a) she’s portrayed as cutting a swath through what should be physically superior opponents (possibly with some eye-gouging and dick-removal) and b) it’s done in a reasonable fashion (she’s fucking crazy for legitimate reason, and has the luck of getting a reasonable weapon in the game). if it had been some other female character being some cutesy bad ass, THEN i would be completely annoyed, as expected.

09. Molly Millions (Johnny Mnemonic/Neuromancer/Mona Lisa Overdrive)
now, in fairness, Molly does take advantage of one loophole that allows fiction to have women cutting through their foes with minimal effort: she’s from the near future and she’s bursting with cybernetic enhancements that make her stronger, faster, and the rest. and this, for obvious reasons, makes it much less annoying that she is (as i recall it) a pretty unstoppable physical force handling most of the heavy lifting for the assorted characters.

i admit that this seems like a concept most writers could use to spare my annoyance, but it often seems to be handled in a much more “cute,” “hilarious” fashion in other works (“oh, look, that cute little girl is beating up those thugs because she’s genetically enhanced” seemed to be the M.O. of Dark Angel, which caused me no end of disgust), and so Molly benefits. so it goes.

08. Beatrix Kiddo AKA the Bride (Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2)
this is pretty much a given: she’s depicted as intensely talented and unstoppable, and she bests all of the opponents she faces, many of them men. however, some factors that make this acceptable include a) explanations and/or montages of training at the hands of masters of her various crafts and b) her often being bested to some extent by foes before ultimately getting the upper hands and c) the fact that a large percentage of her enemies are, in fact, other “competently man-beating women.”

the latter, i suppose, tempers her ranking on the list (after all, you’re not supposed to get bonus points for beating up mere women), but it also ensures that i’m not going to be annoyed by her wrecking the world’s best MALE assassins. although she still kind of does that. oh well.

Andrea (and friends)
not to put my business out there, but if i didn’t include Andrea on this “competent female characters” list, it MIGHT get me beaten up by a girl. seriously

06-07. Erica and Toni (Red Dawn)
so i think we all know that i am totally obsessed with Red Dawn; it’s mostly the tale of plucky teenage boys defeating the mighty Communist war machine invading middle America. but you may remember that there ARE a couple of women/young girls hanging out in this film – Erica and Toni – and they kill a hell of a lot of Russians. and Cubans too, i suppose, as there are a handful of them hanging out in the film.

now it helps that they’re not defeating their foes with martial arts acrobatics or some kind of mastery of swords or whatever; it’s completely plausible that women could learn to shoot small arms into Russian faces with great skill. still, as a grouchy old man, you might suspect that i would object to these teenage girls being seen as death-dealing warriors of the highest sort. but i appreciate the fact that their femininity is not played up and that one of them –SPOILER ALERT– ends up as a booby-trapped corpse that kills some Russians. also… come on, it’s Red Dawn! fuck yeah!

04-05. Andrea and Michonne (the Walking Dead)
let me quickly note that we’re talking 99% about the comic here, as the series is a) not that developed yet and b) does not portray Andrea that competently or Michonne at all (so far). hell, the fact that they’ve now fired the main guy who adored Michonne’s character does not speak well for how well it will go if/when she appears. i guess we COULD be talking about them eventually, but as for now… well, let’s just stick to the comic.

but okay, why are they not annoying? well, Andrea becomes a peerless sniper, but this is a reasonable skill for the bad-ass ladies, she’s generally self-deprecating otherwise and she doesn’t wreck shop in any other physical category. Michonne’s a bit higher on the “how are you possibly operating on this level” scale… but then you can attribute this to her dominance to the quality of her opponents (the average man and/or zombie is not that skilled at sword-fighting either) and the fact that she’s not an entirely unstoppable force. we’ll just leave the specific evidence of THAT untouched for now.

Lornette
even in a cocktail dress, Mason is still pistol-whipping (or otherwise threatening) various men into submission, even if some of said men aren’t dressing THAT much like men in this film

03. Lornette “Mace” Mason (Strange Days)
sometimes i suspect i should just say “fuck it” to all this half-assed comedy and turn this website into a fan site for Strange Days, although for the time being, we’ll just have to stick with the comedy and my ancient 2007 tribute to that film. but moving on, let’s note that the baddest character in the entire film can probably be said to be the female buddy of the film’s main character, “Mace” Mason.

and i’m totally fine with that. she beats people down reasonably (such as by using chairs and not ridiculous acrobatics), she’s not immune to getting trapped in difficult situations, she’s known to make bold declarations that get turned into parts of excellent Fatboy Slim songs, and most of all, she’s a complete character (we get back story, we get interplay with central characters, we get an explanation via her job of why she’s skilled), not some bad-ass female archetype to be used as needed. i think it also helps that she seems completely stressed out for most of this film (albeit with good reason), as constant stress seems like the fuel for someone to just cut their way through a legion of bad guys with punches and handguns.

Ellen Ripley (and friend...ly robot suit
“get away from her, you BITCH” still remains the pretty much greatest “there’s about to be girl-on-girl violence” line in movies

02. Ellen Ripley (Alien series)
yeah, yeah, you most assuredly saw this one coming. Ripley’s never THE most imposing character in any film she’s in … well, okay, MAYBE in Resurrection, since at that point she’s gone to being part alien, but she’s topped by Parker, Hicks and Dillon in prior films, i think. Ripley’s never portrayed as having any degree of training in deadly arts, or physical augmentation, or magical Witch-King-killing powers. still bitter about that last one.

however, this is why it all works: she’s essentially an average person in good shape who is not going to fucking take this nonsense from these damn aliens, which are deadly as hell, but also reasonably killed by anyone who’s got the means to do so. and her most “girl power” moment is still the logical mauling of an alien queen thanks to her ability to run that power-lifting exoskeleton (also helpfully established in a reasonable manner earlier in that film). the key here is to make these ladies seem like real people you can relate to, people.

Kathryn O'Brien (after beating up her friends)
yes, as always, Garth Ennis keeps it 100% classy

01. Kathryn O’Brien (Punisher MAX)
kind of had to go with an outside-the-box pick here (if only in principle, because the number one spot should have SOME element of surprise, right?), but i had to give her the nod because she is to some extent the kind of character i might find annoying: early in the series she’s seemingly mostly there for comic relief, but then Garth Ennis decided to work her in a few more times and flesh out the back story, and all was well (she gets a little more powerful over her run, but i attribute that to Ennis deciding to bring the character back). unless you’re O’Brien, because if you’ve ever read something by Ennis, you know his characters are very likely to have had a rough time of it, and she’s no exception.

but despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that she’s hanging alongside the Punisher, who himself is operating at an unrealistic at-the-limits-of-what-a-mortal-man-could-possibly-do rate most of the time, she doesn’t seem over-powered – she does get injured and/or bested a few times in these comics – just very angry and effective. and not to run anything, but the fact that she’s killed in a mundane way after all the prior heroics certainly doesn’t hurt. as seen in my praise of the Descent, the fastest way to get me to sympathize with female characters is to make them suffer and die. huh… this might say something about me…

final disclaimer: i could honestly switch #1 through #3 around fluidly. this may be one of those “he that i am reading seems always to have the most force” type of things. maybe i just need to watch Strange Days again? (the answer to that question is always “yes.”) also, i know i am going to think of some character who legitimately merits inclusion on this list in a day or so. SO FRUSTRATING.

moral for today: don’t snort the mystery brick you found in the ocean

originally i had a legitimate idea for an update this week (i don’t want to ruin it, as i am going to run with it as soon as possible, but suffice to say it was a listicle), but events spun out of my control (a solid excuse) and thus i am forced to fall back on the old stand-by of “making fun of random articles i find in the news on the internet.” it’s not so bad, really: at least you know what you’re getting instead of really on my “wits.” so let’s get right to it.

Billy Joe Madden
it amazes me that such a classy-looking gentleman could find himself in this situation

man intoxicated, lets 8-year-old son drive, say police

well, there’s pretty no two ways to take THAT title, so i think we know what we’re in for from the jump: a sad tale of a father picking the wrong location and method to teach his son how to drive! wait, no, it might actually be something worse than that:

“State Police arrested a man who was intoxicated and let his eight-year-old drive while the family drove from Mississippi to Texas, according to State Police spokeswoman Trooper Melissa Matey. State Police stopped the truck around 6:30 a.m. on Interstate-12 near Holden, La. Police pulled the truck over after a call from a concerned motorist said the truck was driving erratically and a child was at the wheel, said Matey.”

see, now, if you ask me, it’s not really necessary to point out that the vehicle was “driving erratically” if you’ve started your call to the police with “i’m driving on Interstate 12 and i just passed a car being driven by an eight-year-old.” the erratic may be a given, is what i’m saying.

“Troopers determined that the driver was an eight-year-old with his four-year-old sister in the rear seat and their father, Billy Joe Madden, 28, of Hattiesburg, Miss., in the passenger seat,” said a statement from Matey.”

for one thing, i appreciate the fact that despite this arrest taking place in Louisiana, our suspect here has helpfully allowed me to shake my head and make a joke about the classiness of Mississippi. for another, with a name like Billy Joe, i suppose you’re bound to end up in some kind of tragic alcohol-related arrest at some point in your life… so i guess you might as well make it memorable. success, Billy Joe Madden, success!

“According to police, Madden was intoxicated and sleeping in the the truck while his son drove the truck from Mississippi to Dallas, Texas.”

this does make me wonder, though, if the child was asked/forced to drive, or if this whole “eight-year-old driving” thing happened AFTER the father was asleep. because i could see that: dad’s drunk, passed out in the passenger seat… but that eight-year-old is not missing tonight’s episode of whatever it is that eight-year-olds watch! i mean, i have no idea, i’m old now.

“Madden was arrested and booked into the Livingston Parish Jail on two counts of child desertion, parent allowing a minor to drive, open container, and two counts of no child restraint and no seatbelt, according to police.”

two counts of no seatbelt? now we’re just piling on, guys.

mysterious brick... building
this came up while searching for “mysterious brick,” although i suspect it was not snorted by a fisherman

report: man finds brick of unknown substance, snorts it, dies

well, that title about says it all. actually, so does the subtitle: “bizarre fishing trip ends in tragedy.” INDEED. actually, i’m reminded of an older story i once made fun of where some Russian fisherman thought they caught an alien… and then ate it. what i’m saying is that fishing trips lead to some seriously ridiculous events.

“A Merritt Island man died after a bizarre trip out on the water with his brother Wednesday. Thomas Swindal, 53, was offshore on Marathon when he and his brother Kenneth discovered a brick of an unknown substance, possibly cocaine, floating in the water.”

so far, not two crazy: two guys are fishing and they find what looks like cocaine floating in the water. now, i think we generally expect a story like that to go three ways: one, they take the cocaine and sell it to someone; two, they call the police and notify them of the cocaine’s location; or three, they just ignore the mystery brick and keeping on fishing. i would PROBABLY go with number three myself, mostly because in my experience there’s no way police are going out on the water to search for a “mystery brick” i told them about.

“They ended up tossing the package into a bait well until a short time later, when Kenneth said he turned around and saw his brother snorting some of the substance.”

so i GUESS they were going to go with number one… until the one brother decided to turn their nice, relaxing fishing trip into some kind of coke party. seems counter-productive to me, but then i’ve never been much of a fisherman.

“Kenneth told investigators that about 90 minutes later, Thomas began running around the boat, throwing things into the water, including a cell phone and a VHF radio. Thomas also picked up knives, pliers and a gaff and removed the cowling from the engine, which fell overboard and sank, leaving the brothers stranded.”

at this point in the story, i have to suspect that either this was something other than cocaine having been snorted, or there’s a more nefarious truth to this story, because i’m not sure why a nose full of cocaine (even incredibly high-quality cocaine) would cause you to flip out, throw radios overboard and disable your boat. now, to be fair, i’m not a cocaine user, so maybe i just can’t relate to the way you part when you’re coked up. anyone want to call this “normal coked-up behavior?”

“To avoid further dangers, Kenneth said he tossed all remaining sharp objects into the water, as well as the package of the mysterious substance.”

this would be less funny, i guess, if Kenneth’s brother “mysteriously disappeared” and Kenneth was telling the police, “yeah, he snorted this mysterious brick and flipped out, so then i threw all the knives, including the murder wea- i mean, all the knives, nothing special about those knives, into the water so that my brother wouldn’t hurt himself. and then he just jumped in the ocean and disappeared.”

“Kenneth then climbed to the top of the boat to signal for help. A passing vessel picked the men up, and arrangements were made for paramedics to meet them at shore. Thomas Swindal was rushed to Fishermen’s Hospital, then transferred to South Miami Hospital, where he died on Thursday.”

WHICH IS WHY YOU DON’T SNORT THE MYSTERY BRICK YOU FOUND IN THE OCEAN.

“An autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death and perhaps the type of drug Swindal ingested.”

well, we have GOT to have some follow-up on this story, because either the answer’s going to be “your brother personally snorted a pound of cocaine” or “your brother is full of arsenic, and you’re under the most arrest possible.” or maybe it was some kind of alien fish he snorted, who knows.

Anthony Romo
well… that van is certainly now in a lake

son drives dad’s van into Central Park Harlem Meers lake

“Dad, where’s your car? Try: sinking fast in Central Park, where a driver with a few father issues steered a speeding minivan into the waters of the Harlem Meer yesterday afternoon, eyewitnesses said.”

well, i suppose there COULD be a good reason to drive your father’s car into a lake, although i admit i am drawing a blank on what one could be. i guess it helps that my father a) isn’t a huge jerk or anything and b) doesn’t drive a van. however, if there is one thing i WOULD expect to come out of that opening, it would be a female driver. those ladies, they love to have the father issues.

“After fleeing the sinking vehicle, the sopping wet driver, Anthony Romo of the Bronx, was helped up to shore by rescuers who just minutes earlier had been enjoying a summer afternoon in the northeast corner of the park. “He said, ‘My father cares more about that van than he does about me,'” recounted witness John McBride. “Then he sat down. He didn’t try to resist or run. … It was insane.””

well, i was wrong about the gender of the driver. and “i’m jealous of my father’s van” is not really what i expected to hear from the suspect regarding his motivations. still, i guess when you’re involved in a ridiculous scenario, you can’t have a reasonable explanation for your deeds. especially when those deeds culminate in “…and then i angrily drove my father’s van directly in the lake. that’ll show him!”

“Romo, 30, also mumbled something about his girlfriend before police, firefighters and EMTs reached the scene.”

one follow-up story i read had the dad remarking that this was all about his son’s girlfriend making the son ferry her around to balloon-animal-making jobs and the son thus racking up major parking tickets, causing the dad to cut off use of the car. which is insane enough to make sense, considering that this relates to a story where a son crashed a van into a lake FOR REVENGE.

that said, the son also later claimed that he wanted to crash the car “because I am tired of being used as a taxi driver and I don’t like to be talked to by my family,” which may make sense to insane people, but not so much sense to people saying, “but wait, it wasn’t your car…”

“Romo was alone inside the vehicle as he sped down a pedestrian path toward the water. McBride, in the park with his pregnant wife, said they had just put a blanket down when the van appeared. “He blew right by us,” said McBride. “And he blew right into the lake.””

i don’t know why this guy with the pregnant wife has a fascination with the use of the word “blew” … but i believe there might be some subtext there.

“A man who identified himself as Romo’s father said last night that he got into a fight with his son earlier in the day. The dad said he called the cops after Romo’s girlfriend and her father refused to leave his apartment. Romo drove off in the 1997 Nissan Quest about noon, and his father said he hadn’t heard from his son since. “He’s actually a really wonderful person,” the dad said.”

sorry, father of a crazy person, but really wonderful sons don’t crash their father’s 1997 vans into lakes. although i might point this out to MY father so that i can get a little credit for respecting the structural integrity of his Mercury.

that’ll do for this week, kids, but i’ll do what i can to make that “real update” happen for next week!

“my sibling made me google these dogs and they are awesome!”

so this week, rather than be entirely responsible regarding my obligation to bring my three loyal readers “comedy,” i spent the majority of my normal writing time visiting a relative at the hospital and, to a lesser extent, “seeing if wine is an acceptable liquor to drink for recreation.” this, unfortunately, meant that i did not promptly address the pending need to write that comedy… which brings us to our current situation.

so my sibling sends me a message informing me that i “need to do a blog on panda dogs… and tiger dogs.” i have some knowledge of these long-suffering animals, but i am skeptical about their ability to serve as a topic for an entire update; i can only ramble so much.

her response is “just google panda dog and look at the photos… they are awesome… google tiger dog too.” now again, i don’t think we’re entirely communicating on this point, so i point out that “i need some content… just talk about these dogs?” she claims that ideas will come to me, like robot dogs (who i believe we once featured in a long-ago update) and that “there was a pony dog too.” secretly, i suspect that’s what prompted all this, because she thinks ponies are cool, and i again note that “i just don’t know what an update about panda dogs would go like.”

her response? “my sibling made me google these dogs and they are awesome!” …so here we go!

PANDA DOGS
i guess someone was looking at their chow and thought, “well, i’ll never get a chance to own one of the world’s largest, angriest not-quite-bears, not-quite-raccoons, so i had better make my dog suffer”

PANDA DOGS

i originally assumed that this whole “make your dog look like a panda” thing was something that came out of Japan, the land where all kinds of ridiculous ideas are considered to be excellent. that was not to be, however, as i discovered that this is apparently some kind of Chinese fad and was forced to shelve all my excellent jokes about Japan. anyway, i guess this isn’t as deranged as making your pet wear small sweaters and hats, but it’s still weird, if you ask me:

“There’s a new fad among Chinese pet owners that involves taking your domesticated canine to a grooming salon and having it washed, trimmed, and dyed to resemble an exotic animal. Think fluffy chow-chows as baby pandas and golden retrievers as mini-cheetahs or micro-tigers. Photos currently making the rounds on the blogosphere include images from a dog pageant in China’s Henan Province. The dogs on display look confused and not particularly ecstatic.”

that last line sums it up; i don’t think anyone should be surprised that a chow looks confused and “not particularly ecstatic” when it’s been dyed and trimmed oddly. hell, most chows i’ve known were pretty agitated to begin with, so i can’t even imagine wanting to panda them up. this supposedly is a sign of all this “extreme pampering of house pets” in China, but if you ask me, pampering shouldn’t be about “making your dog suffer in public.”

i personally preferred to pamper my dog by letting him eat huge steaks and sleep on the couch. unrelated note: pictures of MY dog usually involve him having a pleasant expression for some reason.

i know there’s actually been some drama in China where people who are cool with eating dogs literally fight with people who are dog-owners, but i was hoping that ultimately this kind of thing would work itself out to the point where the dog-eaters give a little and the dog-lovers give a little and we have a responsible group of pet-owners not decorating their dogs like little bears. instead, the internet showed me this…

TIGER DOGS
i guess someone was looking at their neighbor’s chow that looked like a panda and thought, “well, i’ll never get a chance to own one of the world’s largest, angriest cats, and my neighbor’s miserable dog looks awesome, so i had better make MY dog suffer”

TIGER DOGS

…which, since the chow and the giant panda are at least both puffy and irritable, means we’re taking this thing to a whole new level. luckily for whatever Chinese guy(s) own this monstrosity, the golden retriever is the world’s biggest soft touch, and thus unlikely to seek revenge. that said, this article does seem to advance some weird notions:

“If this strange creature growled at you, you wouldn’t know whether to run from his sharp claws or pat him on the head and give him a biscuit. From a distance, its striped orange and black coat makes it look like a particularly odd tiger.”

actually, i would, because i have seen a couple of tigers in my day, and they’re not sized or shaped like a moderately-large dog. a tiger is probably also not going to come bounding up to you looking for a biscuit or to play fetch, although i guess that IS possible in cases where someone has an incredibly well-trained tiger. i’ve just never seen one like that. hell, even those Las Vegas magicians got partially consumed by their tiger, and that tiger had had years of training AND exposure to the dark arts.

compelled to go further, i then began to search the internet looking for…

PONY DOGS

DOGS... uh, on a pony
take that, you stupid pony!

luckily, though, i couldn’t find evidence that Chinese guys are going out of control and making their dogs into little dog versions of ponies, but i DID find this awesome picture (seen above) of two dogs riding a pony. which, to be honest, is the appropriate way to do something insane with your pets. you’re not supposed to be painting them and clipping them until their self-respect dies.

unrelated note: i am not sure why “dog rides horse” is considered NEWS in the UK, but i guess i have also read equally ridiculous stories originating in American newspapers.

additionally, you COULD, i guess, do other things to them…

DOGS DRESSED IN THINGS MADE BY PEOPLE WHO HATE THEIR DOGS

Dawn Finds Stuff-Sock Dog Still Weeping Into Sea
this is literally the most miserable dog that i have ever seen that was not actively bleeding to death

…because even when you leave China and return to America, you find that people who supposedly “love their dogs” are doing the worst possible things to their dogs. i don’t even have the energy to make up stuff about robot dogs after all this depressing stuff. ugh.

i want a girl with a short skirt… wait, i actually wanted an update with comedy in it, but we got this instead

sometimes, after a long day of work, i consider the advantages to chucking the 9-to-5 life into what the British call a “dustbin” and heading out to start a band that sings absurd lyrics and possibly has a fascination with horns. but then i remember that CAKE already beat me to that, and i’ve just probably been listening to their records all day. then i’m sad for a little while as my dream has just died, and then i go and tell the internet about it because, eh, i don’t have much else to discuss this week, and that’s how we wound up here.

anyway, one thing i have noticed is that these CAKE characters are singing about (or at least referring to) cars an awful lot. well, and “horrible relationships” as well, but we’ll just not worry about that 50% of their material. and given that i like to occasionally combine “random topics that don’t have anything to do with current events” and “that whole listicle thing,” well, without further ado, i bring you…

janklow’s 13 favorite CAKE songs that are about or clearly refer to cars

honorable mention: there were a couple of three songs that i was going to force onto this list when i was originally working it out, simply because they referred to cars at least once (“Dime,” off Pressure Chief, and “Bound Away”, off Showroom Of Compassion) or because they had a really, really loose connection to the concept (“Comanche,” off Motorcade Of Generosity, because of the whole “if you want to have cities, you’ve got to build roads” thing). so it goes!

Carbon Monoxide
this weird scream picture is probably a mirror of what you’re thinking right now going into this update

13. “Carbon Monoxide” (off Pressure Chief, 2004)

this one ranks at the bottom of our list for two reasons: one, it’s about cars and buses and trucks, i suppose, but what it’s REALLY about is an excessive amount of carbon monoxide, which has been produced by them and is killing the narrator, a sentiment that makes sense for a band from California… but makes a lot less sense for a ban that’s supposed to love cars. and two, it’s got a weird vocal rhythm that limits how much i can get into this song. but that’s my problem to deal with, i guess.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “too much carbon monoxide for me to bear/where’s the air? … after car after bus after car after truck/after this my lungs will be so fucked up.” see, that’s just negative.

12. “Short Skirt / Long Jacket” (off Comfort Eagle, 2001)

now, this is pretty much a classic CAKE-type song, or, if you don’t like me calling their work “classic,” then “the kind of song you remember CAKE playing.” John McCrea is rhapsodizing DRAMATICALLY about some idealized woman (who, admittedly, sounds pretty excellent, what with her uninterrupted prosperity and machete and all), and in the middle of it all, we get a breakdown about her taste in cars: apparently, the car has to be able to hold a drink, travel successfully and look classy. ultimately, though, as much as i dig the song (it’s very catchy), it’s getting downgraded because it was a successful single with mild-at-best car talk.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “she wants a car with a cupholder arm-rest/she wants a car that will get her there/she’s changing her name from Kitty to Karen/she’s trading her MG for a white Chrystler Le Baron.” so you see that i pretty much summed it up above there.

11. “The Distance” (off Fashion Nugget, 1996)

so here we go: THE big CAKE song you remember, clearly included because the song is almost entirely about a dramatic race (which appears to be mostly symbolic, despite its mention of “bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse”), with a small percentage left over for a woman for whom the narrator still has some affection (and the possible poetic description of a car as a horse). it’s a good track and all… but if you were seventeen in 1996 (and i was), then you know how played-the-fuck-out this song can sound, which plummets it all the way down to number 10. still, there’s a solid chance it’s the ONLY song by CAKE the average house of hate reader remembers.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “reluctantly crouched at the starting line, engines pumping and thumping in time.” again, if you listening to rock in the 1990s, that opening line will be all too familiar. plus, i already mentioned the “bowel-shaking earthquakes” thing earlier.

10. “Race Car Ya-Yas” (off Fashion Nugget, 1996)

have i mentioned that i think “Fashion Nugget” is a top-notch name for a record? anyway, so this is a short one, clocking in at only 1:21, but it’s 100% about race cars, changing lanes, and whatever the hell “ya-yas” are. i still haven’t figured that one out, and the album’s 15 years old AND i have access to the powers of the internet, making my failure all the more profound. still, it’s got an unnecessarily dramatic sound that makes me want to race people… until i remember that i drive an economy car. damn.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “the land of race car ya-yas/the land where you can’t change lanes/the land where large, fuzzy dice/still hang proudly/like testicles from rear-view mirrors.” i think that about sums the entire song up, not to mention its inclusion.

Short Skirt / Long Jacket
nothing like some sweet accordion music

09. “Stickshifts And Safetybelts” (off Fashion Nugget, 1996)

despite the fact that McCrea has apparently had a LOT of romantic problems (that were then turned into songs), he does seem to have some “good times with the lady in the car” moments, and that’s what happened here: his romantic problem is mainly that bucket seats keep his “baby” far away from him. and that’s what rock music is all about: describing mild inconvenience as if it’s the end of the world so that teenagers can relate.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “well, a lot of good cars are Japanese/but when we’re driving far/i need my baby next to me.” honestly, this line is 75% delivery, so maybe it doesn’t seem as excellent as it should, but it cracks me up every time.

08. “Got To Move” (off Showroom Of Compassion, 2011)

at this point, i’ll just address the fact that i think i might have been one of the few people actually excited that a new CAKE album was coming out after seven years (this kind of excitement seems common for me, sadly) and that i think the album was “damn fine.” anyway, this is more of a stretch than some on this list as it’s more about “constant movement” than “cars,” but let me be honest: it’s one of their more relaxing songs, and i rely on it when i’m at work and fighting through a headache. and to hell with you if you don’t like it!

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “you are mostly in your car/you always seem so far/no matter where you are/you’re thinking of your car.” actually, this makes it sound like a song someone wrote ABOUT CAKE, which takes this whole topic to another level. or not, but either way, it’s weird.

07. “Long Time” (off Showroom Of Compassion, 2011)

and we’re back with another incredible stretch-to-include-this selection, as my justification for this song is the drawn-out warbling of the word “Pontiac,” which always reminds me of this ridiculous old black Pontiac my father had when i was a kid, since he never drove it and it was always full of mice. and that’s certainly a random story to tell when we’re talking about CAKE! this song is, however, very much in the ridiculous style you’d expect: horns and shouts and references to “pillbox hats” and “drinking arsenic.” see, now THAT is topical.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “it’s been a long time/since we drove your Po-o-o-o-o-o-ontiac.” but like i implied, that’s pretty much it for car-related lyrics in the song.

06. “Long Line Of Cars” (off Comfort Eagle, 2001)

ah, now THAT is more like it: the title clearly tells us that the song is actually about a large quantity of cars, and the attitude towards California’s air pollution is much more relaxed. there remains a larger mystery in that the narrator claims the titular “long line of cars” is all because of SOMEONE (possibly you, the listener), but he never really clarifies why that is. unless he’s talking about California in a personified way, and the why is “because this state is terrible,” a ruling that i will accept.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “there’s no single explanation/there’s no central destination.” this vague confusion pretty much sums up a lot of these songs AND my reasoning for this week’s update.

The Distance
at this point and for no reason, let me just point out that this update was conceived and constructed while entirely sober

05. “Alpha Beta Parking Lot” (off Prolonging The Magic, 1998)

i know some people (and by that, i mean “no people”) were wondering when Prolonging The Magic would make an appearance, and the answer is this: it’s probably their best album, but it’s not as car-heavy as other albums are. anyway, this song isn’t even so much about “cars” as “being in a parking lot and sad about things,” but then again, there is a reference to “idling cars,” so that has to count for something. it’s also worth noting that this narrator has lady troubles, proving that the more problems McCrea has with the women, the better the songs get.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “breathing in the fumes from so many idling cars/right beneath the sign with the dusty yellow stars/watching the sun go down.” amen, brother.

04. “Wheels” (off Pressure Chief, 2004)

to be honest, i don’t know why this song didn’t take off as a single beyond the fact that “all people are stupid.” anyway, let me level with you: there is no mention of cars in this song, just a constant discussion of constantly moving wheels. but if you can overlook that fact, then we’re cool, because i am a MUCH bigger fan of this song than i am of that whole “The Distance” thing. let’s be honest, here: Pressure Chief is the time when people kind of sort of stopped caring very much about CAKE.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: uh… uh… “wheels keep on spinning round spinning round spinning round.” that’s all i’ve got. actually, i personally prefer the whole part about “by the banks of the mighty Bosphorus/is a Japanese man in a business suit singing ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’,” but that clearly has NOTHING to do with cars.

03. “Satan Is My Motor” (off Prolonging The Magic, 1998)

the easiest song to explain a high ranking for. it has an awesome name (check), it’s all about cars, albeit in a metaphorically sense (check), it references Satan, who all the best bands are affiliated with (check), and it rocks in a general sense. but let’s address the downside: this is one of the songs i am prone to singing in the shower, a fact that assuredly freaks everyone out whether because of the accompanying mental image OR the fact that i most assuredly have no singing ability. neither of those things, however, is going to stop me.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “my intentions are good and earnest and true/but under my hood is internal combustion power/and Satan is my motor.” hear my motor purr!

02. “Easy To Crash” (off Showroom Of Compassion, 2011)

i think i already made the point about my high opinion of the newest record, so let me just say that at least this song IS about cars, be they “busy” and “little” or “luxury.” on the other hand, it seems to be largely about how easy it is to crash those cars, and people being generally oblivious to the crashes (or the conditions that make it easy to crash, one of those), so it might be a little more negative than a song about how Satan is the only one that seems to understand.

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “clouds hung hugely and oppressively/over our busy little cars
clouds hung hugely and oppressively/we didn’t notice/we didn’t care.” you know, with a line like “we didn’t care,” it might not be JUST obliviousness.

Pressure Chief
i find this album cover especially excellent in light of the fact that i like to take photos posed “like we’re shaking hands on a serious agreement”

01. “Take It All Away” (off Pressure Chief, 2004)

yeah, yeah, this one is actually about McCrea’s lady-sadness… but it does feature an extended car crash metaphor, references to a lady’s “economy car” and the use of the phrase “rubbernecker’s dream,” so i think it’s earned its spot on this list. and frankly, if you don’t like it, i don’t know how you made it this far into my list, since i don’t recall many jokes happening this week. go ahead, take your economy car and your suitcase and your psycho little dogs and get the fuck off my website!

lyrics that sum up this song’s inclusion: “you’ve been racing through my mind/you’re picking up in speed/you’re driving recklessly/it’s like a car crash happening on my street/broken bodies at my feet/and sirens on the way.” told you that metaphor was extended!

oh, and…

… maybe there is a new gun?

why, yes, internet, there is! again! as the Irishman says, “every time i see you, i assume you’ve bought a new gun.” in fact, it might even be time for…

guns that let us pretend we’re in exciting television shows redux

COUGAR

you may remember that i declared that the purchase of my S&W 4586 would allow me and J.Miles to play the Shield once i tracked down a Stoeger Cougar; as it turned out, i went even more official with the original Beretta Cougar. the fact that ladies love the ‘stache remains unchanged.

anyway, i guess it really DOES take the whole “current events” thing to get some jokes going, so i’ll try and do that next week. sorry about all this CAKE stuff.