William Shatner sings RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, and yes, it is insane

OK, I have plenty of affection for the Shatner, who embraces his inner cheesiness with glee. Never takes himself too seriously.

So is this new Christmas song from Captain Kirk–who actually puts out entire Xmas albums–weirdly good or just good and weird?

Take a look.

I’m gonna say good and weird instead of weirdly good.

Here’s the deal: You can play it straight, and make a song for kids with kids in the video, or you can go cray-cray with creepy adults pretending to be child-sized elves mixed in with actual pookies.

This is a lot like the uncanny valley. We accept cartoonish images of people and super-realistic CGI, but the in-between business doesn’t work. Freaks us out.

Shatner’s video and song freaks me out, and not in a good way. I get that he’s trying to do a twist on a song that’s been done a zillion times. But you gotta decide, and he’s trying to have it both ways: a song for kids but also for adults. Which means you’ve got the sweet and light elements mixed with pierced elves and pseudo-heavy metal. The ingredients just don’t work together.

If you want to make chocolate chip cookies, you get busy and make ’em. If you want to bake a cheesecake, you make that. Where this video gets into trouble is trying to split the difference, meaning it doesn’t really appeal to kids or adults.

VERDICT

Points for trying something bold and risky. Demerits for not executing. But love ya anyway, Shatner–keep on singing.

BONUS VIDEO: Shatner sings ROCKET MAN

Hot tub crime machine

No, I did not make up that headline. That’s the real deal, word for word.

Shockingly, this did not happen in Florida.

Let’s break it down, journalism-style.

WHO: A female inmate, 34 years old.

WHAT: An escape from custody while she was getting booked on a drug possession charge.

She was later found hiding in the hot tub of a senior center, still wearing her orange jumpsuit from the jail.

WHEN: December 19, 2018. It took police hours to find her after the escape.

WHERE: Waverly, Ohio.

WHY: That’s the mystery.

Hiding in a senior center could make sense. It’s not like the cops have to show up there every Friday night to break up bar fights. But to make that plan work, you’d have to change your clothes and pretend to be a visitor, or a janitor, that sort of thing. You don’t hang out in the hot tub, where you’ll (a) get spotted by all kinds of people who (b) maybe want to use that hot tub and (c) will definitely call the cops when they see your orange jail gear.

And for those who don’t get it, the headline is a great riff on the movie HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, brought to you by the same geniuses now doing COBRA KAI.

However, this story is only the latest entry into the proud historical record of Criminals Who Stink at Hiding.

Florida Man takes the top spot in my book, with a man running from the police late at night getting the bright idea that he’ll hide in a pond. True, the 5-0 didn’t find him. That’s only because an alligator did first.

There are hundreds of other stories of criminals hiding in stupid places: in a dumpster, a manure lagoon, the lion cage at a zoo–you name it, some idiot has done it.

So I salute you, Hot Tub Crime Machine Woman–you get an F for achieving your goal but an A+ for style.

Video

Top 10 movie fights that are so bad, they circle back to good

As a huge fan of movies, especially action movies, I’ve seen a lot of cinematic fights.

Fist fights. Gun fights.

Kickboxing, MMA, ninjas, lightsaber duels, you name it.

And this video brings back memories. Bet I’m not the only person who remembers the mistake known as GYMKATA.

Why rare puppers and kittehs dominate the Series of Tubes

The internet of today has four basic building blocks:
(1) memes with dogs wearing Christmas sweaters and such;
(2) videos of cats knocking objects off counters;
(3) recruiting posters for the Empire that reddit fanboys spent waaay too much time drawing; and
(4) videos of Alex Jones ripping his shirt off as he screams about Hillary and Mueller and the Illuminati meeting in the basement of a pizzeria to put chemicals in our water to turn our free American frogs COMPLETELY LIBERAL AND IRREVERSIBLY GAY.

I want to talk about the dog and cat part, because reddit will get bored with Empire recruiting posters and Alex Jones is now broadcasting his insane rants and brain pill pitches exclusively to MySpace or whatever.

Rare puppers and kittehs are forever, though.

Why is that?

Three reasons.

The first deals with how the furballs are alike, and the other two are because of how different they are.

Reason Number 1) Dogs and cats completely own the sweet spot of adorable and skilled

As a father, I know why toddlers are so entertaining.

Human babies are adorable but unskilled. They don’t do much.

Teenagers have the opposite deal: adult-like skills, yet they generally try hard to be tough and cool instead of adorable.

Toddlers, though, are illegally cute while doing and saying surprisingly funny things all day.

It’s the same with dogs and cats: forever child-like and cute, but skilled enough to surprise us, get into mischief and be entertaining.

Plus, dogs and cats are so common and intertwined in our lives that there will never be a shortage of photos, gifs, memes and videos with them, especially dogs and cats PLAYING WITH TODDLERS, which is just adorbs cubed and so unfair that it’s cheating.

Reason Number 2) Cats are cute balls of fur, claws and pure evil

Yes, they cuddle us. When they feel like it.

Mostly, though, cats only do what cats want, which is typically (a) laying around to conserve their energy so they can get to the real business of (b) sneaking up to attack other life forms, (c) knocking every object that’s not nailed down from your dining room table and kitchen counter and (d) randomly whacking owners or other cats in the face, just because.

Having owned cats, I believe deep in my soul that cats are pissed off by the fact they’re not remotely big enough to kill us. Not that they WANT to murder-death-kill us. Their inability just gives them existential angst.

So yeah, turn on a camera when a cat isn’t napping and you’re guaranteed to catch them being little vandals, if not felonious rogues.

Reason Number 3) Dogs are loyal, lovable goofballs

A big reason dogs are vastly different from cats is they’re pack animals and therefore can actually be domesticated, not just tamed like cats. Dogs actually have social manners.

You can tame just about anything, if you raise it from birth and it imprints on you. Cats, bears, cougars, whatever. (No, not sharks, worms or trees. Come on. Let’s just talk mammals.)

But animals you tame will never truly be domesticated like dogs, goats, horses, cows and other pack animals. Check out GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL by Jared Diamond. He’s explains the heck out of this in an interesting, world-altering way. Seriously. Wouldn’t have modern civilization without domesticated plants and animals.

What makes dogs internet gold is their pure joy, their ability to be trained and how hard they work to be loyal and useful.

Dogs understand they’re part of the family, the park, and that means contributing. Doing their part. Protecting the pups and toddlers. Guarding the pack’s territory. Helping out.

Their mischief tends to be misdemeanor level versus the felonies committed by cats.

Sometimes, I look at our Hound of the Baskervilles and marvel at the fact there’s a jet-black wolfbeast sitting there, 100 pounds of muscle and teeth just waiting for the latest orders from me, who he treats like some kind of all-powerful wizard he’s thrilled to be a sidekick for–and that he takes his job of guarding the house seriously enough that I have no doubt he’d take a bullet for me or the fam. That’s loyalty. The silly dog went right after a bear one morning in our backyard. Except I don’t think he sees that as silly, but as his duty, just like he knows we take care of his food, control the lights and temperature and make the big metal horses come alive or go to sleep according to our whim.

The videos of dogs that hit me in the feels the hardest are when they’re overcome with happiness and tippy taps–or diligently trying to copy and please us.

For that, I have to go with Team Dog, despite having owned cats for longer. Because loyalty and love wins out.

Florida Man: Why one state is the absolute mecca for weird news

As a reformed journalist, I have a lifelong fascination with weird news—an addiction that a single state tries hard to satisfy.

Every. Single. DAY.

No other state can hold a candle to Florida.

It’s the only state with its own Fark tag, with so many weird news headlines starting with “Florida man” there’s a Twitter handle that endlessly tweets out insane stories starting with those two words.

I could not love Florida more for this.

Here’s a sample of recent Florida headlines, lovingly curated by fark.com:

Florida Man enters Jacksonville store and chases people with live alligator

Florida teacher quits to become full-time grocery shopper and doubles his salary

Key West mayoral candidate takes a personal cell phone call during a debate. From God

Florida man charged with identity theft after impersonating Backstreet Boy

17-year-old gets attacked by snake while mowing lawn. Gives sage advice: “watch out for snakes”

Police say Florida man planned his suicide for years, making it look like murder by using a weather balloon to carry away the gun

All this craziness packed into a single state begs the question: Why does Florida Man live in Florida?

Theory # 1: Deadly wild animals up the wazoo

Alligators, sharks, pythons invading the Everglades—and those are just the apex predators. You’ll find crazy stories about rabid racoons, bat infestations and all sorts of animal disasters and shenanigans. Yes, that’s the proper spelling. Take note.

Few other states boast the biodiversity needed to generate this much mayhem.

Theory # 2: Dumb criminals

A weird news story’s power gets squared when a stable genius criminal does something truly idiotic only to have karma delivered by the local wildlife.

One great example: man commits a robbery at night and the cops chase him … so he makes the brilliant move of hiding in a nearby pond, where an alligator has him as a midnight snack.

Theory # 3: Paaaaarty time

Florida is seen as a tropical getaway, a place where you go to party on spring break or to retire in the sunshine.

Alcohol and drugs are a common ingredient in weird news stories. Florida gets far more than its fair share of dumb criminals doing dumb things after getting hammered or high. Sometimes both.

Theory # 4: The power of convergence

Every great weird story is a combination of factors, usually (1) men who are (2) drunk or high, doing something risky involving (3) crime, (4) firearms, (5) explosives or (6) wild animals who can kill you.

It’s like baking a cake. Even if most states have an ingredient or two, they don’t have all six, not in the quantities that Florida does. It’s a giant state, one of the biggest, with more people moving there all the time and all those pythons in the Everglades busy laying eggs when they’re not fighting alligators. The weird news will only grow with time.

VERDICT

Florida is an interesting, dynamic place, a semi-tropical paradise that also happens to be home to some of the craziest stories you’ll ever see. We love you, Florida Man—don’t change a thing.

SALUT SALON gives us a musical clinic and a giant dose of joy

Who says classic music is boring?

These four women prove that technical talent can combine with humor. They could’ve played this normally, and nobody but music professors would care about the difference in the quality of the music. This way is just far, far more entertaining for the audience. And for the musicians, too.

I’d bet my house those smiles aren’t fake. Not a bit. These four musicians are clearly having a blast goofing off like this. Their joy is contagious.

Good on you, Salut Salon–thanks for being this creative and having the guts to be silly in a serious business.

The Avalanches get weird with FRONTIER PSYCHIATRIST

OK, I have seen music videos from around the world.

Mediocre videos of singers dancing around.

Miniature movies, with actual acting and production values.

And then there are videos like these that are just flat-out weird.

It’s interesting, but only in a “Let’s drink coffee at Denny’s until five in the morning with my friend who’s an art teacher and his girlfriend, the philosophy professor, as we try to divine the deeper meanings of this thing.”

I’m not sure there really is a deeper meaning to this video and song. But yeah, this one is different enough to be special.

Georgie Dann has talent, so why is PALOMA BLANCA so amazingly awful?

A big part of it has to be the actual talent on screen.

I’m not kidding. There’s wasted potential all over the place: the singer is obviously a pro, and it’s not his first rodeo. He’s smooth and good and the song isn’t terrible in itself.

The dancers are also clearly professionals hired to do a job, and they’ve rehearsed this thing. We’re not talking about an amateur singer who bribed in his cousin to shoot the thing on his camcorder while some neighbors dressed up and pretended to be backup dancers. Check out the costumes–they put time and money into this.

Topping it off: there’s some serious 1978 version of green screen special effects happening in the background during most of this video, and I can’t think of one use of the green screen thing that didn’t make things intensely weird.

So if you heard this song on the radio, now or back in 1978, you wouldn’t think much about it. Good voice, decent song.

It’s the visuals of this video that make it cray-cray.

My favorite is how the dancers really get into pretending to be a bird before they hopped on their bird motorcycle, put on a Fonz leather jacket and truly jumped the shark by throwing one of the dancers in the air, time after time, as he flaps his wings.

Verdict: I’ve seen this thing three times and it still makes me (a) laugh, (b) cringe and (c) wonder if Georgie Dann ever got a competent director for his stuff, because I bet he’d nail it.

HALLELUJAH by Kate McKinnon, who is just killing it

I’m not alone in adoring Kate McKinnon’s impression of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, though Alec Baldwin’s job as Trump got more attention.

This song, though, hit me hard. Who knew she could play piano and sing? (If you don’t know the song, it’s by Leonard Cohen, who just died.)

Capping it off? Her lines after the song is over, when you can she’s choked up. Appropriate for our times.

Though she does a great Clinton (below), she also does spot-on impressions of Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

So she can act and sing. If she could dance, McKinnon would be a triple threat.

Yeah, she can dance.

Kate the McKinnon, please keep on doing what you do and we won’t give up.

Why MELANIANADE is peak SNL and brilliant comedy

Music has never been more competitive. A good music video adds another layer of difficulty–and when you add comedy–the hardest thing of all–then it’s no wonder that truly funny music videos are rare.

Your typical parody video looks cheap and takes easy shots at the artist who made it. Weird Al Yancovic has been the king of parody videos for precisely the opposite reason: he knows poking fun of the singer or band will only go so far, so he takes a song and twists it to make fun of something entirely different, like when he used American Pie to rip on Star Wars.

Comedy is hard because it speaks to painful truths. Cheap, easy laughs aren’t deep. The deeper the pain, the more truth gets revealed.

This video works because the cast of SNL clearly put a lot of time and effort into it. They committed, absolutely, and didn’t hold back.

James Corden did something similar with his Lemonjames video. Take a look:

Corden is making fun of himself, and his industry, more than he’s taking shots at Beyoncé.

The quality of both these videos, in how well they’re shot and edited, may seem like an irrelevant point for comedians. Why waste so much time and effort making the lighting, costumes and settings so perfect.?

Except it’s not a waste of time. Chances are, most people have seen the original video. A cheap knock-off that’s badly shot and uses thrown-together sets and locations will keep dragging you out of it. Instead of noticing the jokes, you’ll get distracting with how amateurish things look compared to the real video–and these days, music videos are expensive affairs, often shot by moonlighting Hollywood professionals. So the bar is high.

These two videos leap over that bar of quality, letting you focus entirely on the comedy.

Well done, SNL and James the Corden–give us more, more, more.