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Archive for the ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 26, 2019] MST3K Live

I didn’t realize it was exactly one year ago that I went to the previous MST3K Live experience.  How funny.

I have enjoyed both of the two previous MST3K Live shows quite a bit.  So when it was announced that they were going to do it again and this time it was going to be in New Brunswick instead of Glenside, PA, I got tickets right away (and wound up in the third row).  I only wish I had picked the other side of the stage, because Joel and the bots did their movie watching from over there.

I have been very lucky to have gotten two movies each time I’ve seen the performance.  It seem like a lot of locations get only one movie.  I’m not sure why I’ve been so fortunate.  (And State Theatre offered a discount if you bought seats for both movies!).

Last time the riffing was done by Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray as well as many of the actors from the show.

This time things were very different.

Jonah Ray was not there.  Nor was Rebecca Hanson as Synthia Forrester.  And of course, no Felicia Day nor Patton Oswalt (not even on video).

But the big announcement was that this was going to be Joel Hodgson’s last MST3K Live tour.  I don’t know if that means there will be more, or if this is the end of them entirely. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOBE NWIGWE-Tiny Desk Concert #881 (August 19, 2019).

Tobe Nwigwe is the leader, but he shares the spotlight with his backing vocalists all of whom take lead vocal spots at some point.

The thing I like best about this set is that they are all wearing T shirts that say “My First Tiny Desk.”

There’s a wide array of sounds on this Tiny Desk too, from delicate R&B to some abrasive rapping.  I like the abrasive rapping a lot more–he has terrific delivery in that part.

Tobe’s performance was a five-song medley sandwiched effortlessly into a 15-minute block. Launching with “Houston Tribute,” he used clever and evocative wordplay to rap about coming of age in the South. Accented almost hypnotically by a trio of harmonies provided by background vocalists Luke Whitney, David Michael Wyatt and Madeline Edwards, Tobe’s mindful words are like a life hack for those seeking guidance.

The song has a gentle melody with delicate keys from Nic Humes.  The song is a rap, but a soft one.  He speaks quickly but the rhymes are positive and amusing.

My flow a monastery for them extra poor people
That don’t get commentary and get honored rarely
For the guava jelly they produce even though they get thrown fecal
Matter on a platter made by they oppressor
I shatter all the chatter that seem to make us lesser

After about two minutes Lucius Hoskins kicks in some guitar licks.  Then Devin Caldwell throws in some cool deep bass sounds making the song sound very full.

Tobe’s wife, Fat, known for her striking beauty and lead role in the magnificently directed music videos that have paved the way to Tobe’s rapid growth on Instagram. And through it all, young Baby Fat sat silently in her mom’s arms, absorbing the spiritual energy of her dad’s music.

After the song he says, “That’s how you do it June 24” (So it took two months for this to air).  Then he says “Lets teach ’em why the caged bird sings.  “Caged Bird” opens with Aldarian Mayes playing some simple drum thumping before Tobe starts rapping.

LaNell “NELL” Grant gets a lead rap mid song then after another chorus, Luke Whitney takes a high falsetto verse followed by an even higher falsetto from David Michael Wyatt.

Up next is “Against the Grain.”  Madeline Edwards takes the first lead vocal, but Ii love this song for the great raw sound of the bass and guitar and Tobe’s growling rapping delivery.

Aight, I feel like the masses on melatonin when it come to melanin
I grew up melancholy ’cause I ain’t realize that the hemoglobin in my skin
Was connected to a lineage that never ever had to penny pinch

That sound is unlike anything else in the set, although it does segue into “Shine” with more lead vocals from Madeleine.

Throughout the set he offered pleas for listeners to look past inherent hardships and evil and to keep their eyes on the prize, while he reflected on his own decision to go against his Nigerian roots and parental expectations to pursue his dreams of being a rapper.

He is very funny and says, “I’m Nigerian I know a lot of y’all though I was regular black”  For Nigerian parents, if their children haven’t done one of three things they’ve wasted their lives: become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer.  So you can imagine when I told my mom that I wanted to be a rapper. She said (in maternal Nigerian accent) Tobe, why are you such a parasite to my life?  Tobe, why do you love poverty so much? Tobe, why re you trying to kill me?

Legends like Dave Chapelle and Erykah Badu were telling me I was dope which is what  “I’m Dope” is about.  David Michael Wyatt sings an impressive falsetto and the song actually does mention that Chapelle and Badu said he was dope.

The credits also cite Igbo Masquerade: art.  I’m not sure what that’s a reference to.

[READ: September 1, 2019] Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic

I couldn’t imagine how this comic book would work with the premise of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s movie riffing.  But Joel Hodgson had an idea and it works wonderfully.

The Mads up on the dark side of the moon are still tormenting a guy up on the Satellite of Love.

This book is Netflix-era, so the Mads are now represented by Kinga, Synthia, TV’s Son of TV’s Frank (Max) and the Boneheads.  And joining Crow, Tom Servo and Gypsy on the SOL are Jonah and two small robot creatures that I didn’t recognize (I haven’t watches the Netflix episodes).

I absolutely hate the way Todd Nauck draws the host segments. I can’t stand the mouth designs on anyone, especially Kinga.  They all look like the Joker (is that because this is from Dark Knight comics?) and are horrifying.

But once you get past the art design of the host segments, the premise is pretty great.  Synthia has designed a machine The Bubbulat-r which allows a person to enter a comic book.  They test it out on Max and his favorite book Funny Animals.  Max jumps in as a rabbit can talk to the other characters.

The book explains that there’s a little bubble at the bottom of the word balloon to indicate a line that has been added and is not a line from the actual book.

But when Max comes back he tells us that the cute little bunny is in fact four feet tall with powerful sinewy limbs and reeks of a bizarre musk.

But the key point is that that Kinga has invented a way to do movie riffing from inside the comic.  So Kinga sends them comics and our heroes are inserted into different books. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 26, 2018] MST3K Live

A year ago I went to see MST3K Live and it was a ton of fun.

I assumed it was a one-off thing, but they announced a 30th Anniversary Tour this year and came back to the same theater I saw it at last time.

Once again, I got tickets for both movies.  This year’s turkeys were to be The Brain and Deathstalker II.

When the show started, Synthia Forrester (Rebecca Hanson) came out on stage and introduced the cast.  But this time there was no Joel Hodgson.  Could they really do this with no Joel?  Last time, Joel came out from time to time to mess with audience.

Then she gave us the surprise: Joel was going to be a part of the riffing!  For the first time in forever, Joel Robisnon was shot into space to riff on movies. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VICENTE GARCÍA-Tiny Desk Concert #701 (February 2, 2018).

Singer-songwriter Vicente García plays a delicate acoustic guitar and has a pretty crooning voice.

The blurb says that he

is still relatively under the radar, but performances like the one he gave at the Tiny Desk are starting to turn some heads.

García’s music isn’t dominated by his native Dominican Republic, but you can hear it in every note. His poetic lyrics are like short stories, sung by a voice both plaintive and evocative, yet always distinct.

“San Rafael” is quite a pretty song echoing the beauty of San Rafael.

Before “A La Mar” (the title of second album which means ‘to the sea’) he introduces [unclear] Vasquez from Dominican Republic on percussion and Ricardo Muñoz from Bogota on the keys.  There’s a neat moment where he plays a harmonic on the guitar in a rather unusual way.  The delicate percussion really adds a lot, as does the bass line plays on the keys.

“Dulcito e Coco” opens with a lovely guitar melody and a close up of the fascinating percussion box that Vazquez is playing–a purple, strangely-shaped box that seems to get different sounds where you strike it.  The song stays quiet throughout although it does get a bit bigger by the end.

 

[READ: November 13, 2017] Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children

I was so excited to see Trace Beaulieu in person.  Ans even though this book is available everywhere, it was especially neat to buy it from the man himself and get him to autograph it.

It is subtitled A Yucky Big Book of Rainy Day Fun for Belligerent Children & Odd Adults with Nothing Better to Do.  The illustrations are by Len Peralta who apparently has not done anything else I’ve read even though his work looks so familiar and is really good.

So what is this?

Well the title is pretty accurate.  Trace has concocted snarky funny poems.  Most of them are pretty short (and in this format are often two or three lines per page) and accompanied by an illustration). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUNK ROCK XMAS (1995).

Long before it was cool to make “punk” things for mass consumption, Rhino released this Christmas album.  I bought it because I was pretty tired of Christmas songs back in 1995 and this was a pretty good antidote.

Listening to it twenty years after it came out, I was surprised to hear how many songs would fit pretty nicely in a contemporary rocking playlist.  Although in the true spirit of punk, there are a number of songs that wouldn’t fit at all, either because of the very anti-Christmas sentiment or the bad language.  I have labelled those [NSFC] Not Safe for Christmas.

THE RAVERS-(It’s Gonna Be A) Punk Rock Christmas
This song is actually quite fun.  Santas’s gonna be a Sex Pistol for a Day and Farrah Fawcett is going to change her hair.
THE DICKIES-Silent Night
This is a fairly faithful rendition of the song, just done as a surf punk song with the nasal vocal delivery of The Dickies.  I’ve know this song for decades and have rocked out to it on many a non holiday eve.
SLOPPY SECONDS-Hooray For Santa Claus Theme From ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’
This is a rocking cover of the hilarious song from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.  I can’t even imagine how they know it as I only know the movie from MST3K.
FEAR-Fuck Christmas [NSFC]
This song starts off like a slow ponderous song and then it ends abruptly with a hardcore chant of the title.
THE GREEDIES-A Merry Christmas
This is a fairly straight punkish blend of Christmas songs, puts some pep in your ho ho ho.
THE DAMNED-There Ain’t No Sanity Claus
This song is just great, Christmas themes or no.  In fact I don’t even know what the rest of the words are and it could easily NOT be a Christmas song–except for Santa Ho Ho Hoing at the end.
PANSY DIVISION-Homo Christmas [NSFC]
Kudos to Rhino for adding this aggressively queer song to the mix.  But it is quite explicit.  Also, I never noticed before but the opening chords could easily have the harmonica solo form Blues Traveler’s big hit fit in there very nicely (and wouldn’t that be a hoot).
BOUQUET OF VEAL-It’s Christmas [NSFC]
This is a mildly inappropriate song about sex and drugs but it’s catchy and short.  You could probably slip it in without people noticing.  (That’s what she said).
THE CELIBATE RIFLES-Merry Xmas Blues
The Celibate Rifles were an Australian punk band.  I don’t really know them at all.  The verses of the song are fast and hard to understand but they’re darkly comic and the chorus is just a punk version of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”  The end is a fairly straight blues riff.  A fun addition to a party.
RAMONES-Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)
This song is pretty widely accepted as a classic Christmas song now.  Listening to it amid these other punk songs, it made me realize just how far the Ramones drifted away from their punk sound and into a more metal feel.
METAL MIKE, ALISON AND JULIA-Deck The Halls
This is a pretty goofy, sloppy, slurry version of the song.  There’s mention of a helicopter.  It’s a minute of fun.
EL VEZ-Feliz Navinada
This is one of my favorite Christmas songs.  A wildly buzzy guitar, fast chanting of Feliz Navidad and some serious Public Image Limited love thrown in.
HUMPERS-Run, Run Rudolph [NSFC]
This would be a pretty straight punk version of this Christmas song, fun for all, except for the “Check this shit out” comment before the solo.
TVTV$-Daddy Drank Our Xmas Money [NSFC]
This is a sad (funny) drunken tale of a drunk dad spending all of the Christmas money.  It starts out with a slow intro and then a fast punk conclusion.
THE FROGS-Here Comes Santa’s Pussy [NSFC]
 This is a slow creepy song that feels like it’s meant to be really naughty, but it’s just kind of dumb.
MOJO NIXON-Christmas Christmas [NSFC]
I just don’t really like Mojo Nixon (my store could use some fixin’).  I do, however, enjoy the idea that the chorus is done in the style of “Louie Louie.”  But the verses are a bit beyond the pale.
D.I.-Mr. Grinch [NSFC]
The song starts with the melody form the song “Black Sabbath,” but it soon becomes a more standard punk version of the song.  The biggest problem with the song is that it’s nearly 4 minutes long.  People will clamor for the original, which is more fun anyway.
STIFF LITTLE FINGERS-White Christmas
This is a sloppy but faithfully punk version of the song for the first verse.  The second time around is blistering sloppy noise punk.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “The Face”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

This story is told in an interesting way.  It begins with a boy raking leaves in an old couple’s front yard. He’s making money and having some fun (he leaps in the pile and wrestles with the bags once they are full).  Then he sets the pile on fire.

While he’s watching it burn, the homeowner, an 80 year old man comes over to talk to him.  Mr Aurelius asks if was true that the boy had been to Hong Kong.  He had and he told the man some things he saw there (most of what he saw was ferries and dead animals). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 24, 2017] The Mads Are Back! 

Just a few months after seeing MST3K Live, I found out that two more MST3K alum were also touring.  This time it was TVs Frank (Coniff) and Dr. Clayton Forrester or Crow T. Robot (Trace Beaulieu).  I was so excited that they were coming to Bethlehem. I hoped to see both shows, but could only make one.

I didn’t realize that they had been riffing like this together since 2015.  They were clearly having fun and the show was a real treat–even if the movie was possibly the worst film I have ever seen.

Unlike the massive specatcle that was the MST3K tour, The Mads show was far more low-key.  In fact, Frank Coniff and Trace Beaulieu were sitting at the entrance greeting people (I was running late and basically got there just as they were packing up, rats).

We went into the theater (the theater at ArtsQuest is luxurious!), and after a few minutes of screen grabs like the one above, the two came out and stood before us. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 7, 2017] MST3K Live

I first discovered MST3K when I lived in Boston (on The Comedy Channel) in 1992 (just before it merged with Ha! and became Comedy Central).

Holy cow, did I love that show.  I eventually watched every episode and had every episode on tape.  I even made and sold (at break even price), audio tapes of all of the “songs” in the episodes.  It was a time-consuming labor of love (I wonder how hard it would be to convert them to CD), but I was a fanatic.

I could never choose between Joel or Mike because I liked them both for different reasons.  I admit that by the last few seasons I didn’t enjoy the scenes with the Mads as much, but the movie jokes never wavered.

And then the show was over in 1999.  And we all wept.

Well, 16 years later in December 2015, we were all blown away when we saw that Joel was going to try to resurrect the show.  Of course I pledged on Kickstarter (but still haven’t been able to watch any episodes for various reasons).  I was happy to be part of the new experience.

But I was even more excited when in May (after all of the new episodes had aired) it was announced that there would be a LIVE TOUR!  And that my location would get not only the announced show  ‘Eegah’ but also a “secret surprise film.”

Eegah! happens to be one of my all time favorite MST3K movies, so I was thrilled to hear that that was the movie they would do.  And I was even more thrilled to hear that they were making all new jokes (no mean feat).  But then to get a “Secret surprise film” never before seen by MST3K?  That was spectacular.

Some of the reason why I hadn’t watched the new episodes is because I didn’t want to ruin my awesome memories of the old episodes.  What if the new stuff wasn’t as good?  And who were all of these new people anyway?  Obviously I knew who Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day were, but I’d not heard of Jonah Ray or Hampton Yount (Crow) or Baron Vaughn (Tom Servo) or Rebecca Hanson (Gypsy).

I was a little nervous when I got to the theater–would it be good?  Would it be fun?  Would I actually enjoy watching this with other people?

Well, it was a blast. (more…)

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Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #577 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

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peanuts-1995SOUNDTRACK: TINARIWEN-Tiny Desk Concert #184 (January 5, 2012).

tinariwenTinariwen are a band from northern Mali, whose members met in the training camps of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Much has been written about them and their story, which is pretty amazing.  I’m only going to talk about this Tint Desk Concert.

Typically, they play an interesting electric guitar kind of trance music.  But for this one they were all acoustic.  As Bob Boilen notes, they are his “favorite electric-guitar-based band on the planet.”  But he says he was:

“initially worried and disappointed when I learned that it was coming to play the Tiny Desk as a trio carrying acoustic guitars. My heart sank a bit more when the three Tuareg musicians from the Sahara arrived in jeans and polo shirts instead of the beautiful, flowing robes I’d seen them wear on stage so many times.

But they switched clothes and they do not disappoint on acoustic guitar.

I don’t know their music all that well, but it feels like the acoustic nature of this show is even more soothing and trance inducing.  The two acoustic guitars interweave–one playing lead (which is mostly hammered notes–not a “solo” per se) and the other strumming.  The percussion is the sound of two hands rubbing, clacking (with a cigarette lighter) and pounding (for bass drum) a large gourd.

The songs tend to be almost looping.  Like they could go on forever.  There’s no real verse chorus structure that I can tell.  It’s more of a meditative sound.

All of the vocals are in Tamashek and I have no idea what the songs are about.

On “Adounia” both guitarists sing and the voices sound very traditional, almost atonal. “Takkest Tamidaret” opens with a more conventional sounding guitar lick, but it’s all so quiet in the mix, that you can’t tell how much his fingers are moving.  The lyrics are a bit slower, but still in that droning style.  I love the way “Tenhert”  has a a cool riff from the lead guitar–one that probably sounds more intense on electric guitar.  He sing/speaks incredibly quickly.  “Tahlamoyt” is a much slower song with the lyrics pretty much all spoken word.

The “Mali sound” is pretty distinctive and Tinariwen are great proponents of it, spreading it around the world for all to hear.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1995-1996

I was under the impression that these last few volumes of books would show a serious drop in quality.  I had assumed that with the amount of product the Peanuts characters were sponsoring that these strips would be more cute.  But that is far from true.  I enjoyed this book as much if mot more than some of the other recent volumes.

I was also surprised to discover that I really enjoyed the Sunday cartoons more than the dailies.  In the past I haven’t really gotten big laughs form the Sundays–it seemed like the big stories and jokes were in the dailies and the Sundays were unrelated one offs with varying degrees of punch.  But I enjoyed a dozen or so in this book.

One of the major additions in this book is the inclusion of a slightly older Rerun.  He is now mobile and even heading to kindergarten (I love that he is aging while the others aren’t).  But rather than using Rerun for obvious cute child jokes (he’s no longer riding the back of his mom’s bike) Rerun is now making funny “outsider” observations about the world of Peanuts–he is constantly disenchanted with the way  things are going and with the belief that people are always lying to him.  There are also a ton of strips of him trying to shoot a basketball and failing miserably.  Schulz has always tended to take an idea and run and run and run with it, but this one is pretty good for the number that he uses it. (more…)

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axe3SOUNDTRACK: SPIRITS OF THE RED CITY-“Halfway Poem” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2015).

spiirtdLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  And I want to draw extra attention to a couple of them.

I know very little about these bands, but I assume that this folkie collective uses this kind of instrumentation all the time, although I have to suggest that two upright basses and a viola seems excessive.  The beginning of this video shows an early aborted attempt with different instruments (accordion, banjo, flute, drum and ukulele), so that sounds promising–and honestly the overload of large strings doesn’t sound bad at all in the final product.

It’s interesting that bands with lots of members are a kind of trend–it’s so impractical.  And yet when done well, it’s quite lovely.  And when these seven folks starts singing along near the end of the song it’s really pretty.

The story of this video is also interesting.  They had planned to film their video outside.  But on the day of their video shoot it was 33 degrees below zero (in Minnesota).  They have some brief footage at the beginning and then the video switches to them inside a quite cozy cabin.

It’s hard to tell from just this one song what kind of folk collective Spirits of the Red City is, but I enjoyed this song quite a bit.

[READ: February 20, 2015] Axe Cop Volume 3

Axe Cop Volume 3 returns to the format of Volume 1 (the one I liked better) with a mix of shorter comics and the return of Ask Axe Cop!

The first comic we see features the return of Bat Warthog Man and features the practical science of Chemist M (whom Axe Cop buys for ten dollars). It also has a chihuahua who was a soldier that was turned into a chihuahua when the soldier’s dog bit him (Malachai’s understanding of how transformations work makes me hope he never gets bitten by anything).  The dog can turn back into a man “only when I am not ready to fight…which is almost never.”  There’ also a hilarious scene where Axe Cop is inside the imagination of a mouse which is in color and is “full of unicorns and cheese.”

The Ask Axe Cops are more intense in these later variations, like the one that asks if he ever got in trouble (he got in trouble with his mom when he chopped the head off a rabbit who was not following rabbit rules).  We also see the introduction of head trash–a place where all the heads that axe cop has removed are disposed.  There’s dating advice (very sound); a jumping competition and a hilarious bit about Halloween (where he gets 1,051 candies to share with his friends, but the bad guys have poisoned 1,040 pieces of it.  There is also Axe Cop’s strangely violent generosity on Thanksgiving (yipes).  (more…)

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