For some reason, criminal geniuses like to (a) dress up like ninjas when they (b) rob a gas station. There was a rash of trailer park ninjas robbing 7-Elevens in Florida, which is very on point for Florida.
Then a gas station robber in Utah used a Klingon sword, which is both bizarre and epic, since those things are ginormous and impossible to conceal. Even weirder: the clerk who got robbed knew the actual name of that Klingon sword-like object and told the cops how to spell it or whatever.
So what’s the hidden connection between gas stations and ninjas? Maybe the not-so-hidden fact that gas stations seems to decided they are ninja superstores, with a glass case full of $9 throwing stars, $16 nunchucks and ginormous fantasy knives with three blades or whatever. Maybe these criminal masterminds get the idea to rob the place at 2 a.m. when they’re in line at 6 p.m. to stock up on Mountain Dew, Cheeotos and insanely cheap weaponry.
Either way, this combination makes for a constant stream of weird news stories, a river that I promise you will never run dry. Because gas stations and retail stores get targeted so often, they all have cameras recording 24/7, which means there’s tons of footage.
P.S. The last clip might be my favorite. Though it’s cheating to dress like a ninja while using a gun, this dude dressed up like a NINJA TURTLE to rob a store. Can you top that? No.
If you went to university, like me, and studied the philosophers and the political science and such, you learned that people far, far smarter than us violently disagree on (a) how the world works, (b) how the world SHOULD work and (c) who should run the world.
However: I can boil down just about all the major approaches to these worldly questions by using TWO COWS.
Here we go.
ANARCHY: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price — or your neighbors steal your cows and kill you.
FEUDALISM: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.
PURE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.
NIHILISM: You have no cows. Who really cares, anyway? They’re just gonna die some day, and so are you. And nobody’s going to remember you. And even if they did, you’d still be dead. It’s all so pointless. You might as well be dead now.
COWS WITH GUNS: You are a cow, and humans want to turn you into hamburger. The only solution? A revolution.
DARWINISM: You have two cows. They develop opposable thumbs and milk you.
NORTH KOREAN COMMUNISM: We do not need cows. Those are the tools of the ruthless capitalist exploiters and rapists of the proletariat in the oppressed, feudal South. We will, in keeping with the principles of Juche, eat our own grass. Please do not pay attention to the mooing coming from the two large crates addressed to the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il.
DICTATORSHIP: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you into the army.
REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.
ROMANTICISM: You have two beautiful, majestic, elegant, bovine companions. You think about them daily.
PURE SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. You have to take care of all of the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.
BRITISH DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. One of your cows has a small foot infection. The government orders you to burn both cows. All the cows in the surrounding area are also burned, roads and footpaths are closed and the media throws the country into a panic. You decide to protest about not being allowed to hunt foxes on public roadways.
PURE COMMUNISM: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.
BERKELIAN ANALYSIS: You have two cows. You put your cows in a drawer and close it. Your two cows cease to exist.
RUSSIAN COMMUNISM: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.
VEGANISM: You have two cows, and choose not to exploit them. Everyone is happy, especially the cows.
CANADIAN CAPITALISM: You have 2 cows. The government takes the milk and puts it in a bag. You get free health care.
YODAISM: Two cows you have, hmmm?
INDUSTRIALISM: You have two cows. You dissect them both and figure out how to build a milk-factory instead.
CONSERVATIVE CAPITALISM: The poor should give their cows to the rich so that the milk will trickle back down to the poor.
BIG BROTHERISM: You have two cows. Black is white. Eurasia is ungood. Eastasia is ungood. Oceania is plusgood. BB is doubleplus good. You have one cow.
SWISS CAPITALISM: You have 5000 cows, none of which belongs to you. You charge for storing them for others. If they give milk, you tell no one.
FREUDIAN ANALYSIS: You have two cows. You dream that they come to your bedroom at night, dressed in your mother’s clothes. On waking, you initially deny that this could mean anything. On further consideration, you move through phases of intellectualisation, displacement and projection, and finally determine that the cows represent a psychic compensation for the passive/aggressive treatment you received from your father during your adolescence. Also, you have a thing for mom.
RUSSIAN CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You drink some vodka and count them again — whoah, you have FIVE cows. The Russian Mafia shows up and takes however many cows you may or may not have.
GOVERNMENT COW-ER-UP: Cows never crash-landed in the New Mexico desert. In fact, cows never even existed. You never saw anything.
UTOPIAN LIBERTARIANISM: You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull and grow a prosperous herd of cows.
HONG KONG CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt / equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows’ milk back to the listed company.
DARTH VADER: The two cows would be powerful allies. They will join us or die.
IDIOCRACY: You have two cows. One cow is stupid and breeds with other stupid cows, while the smart cow doesn’t try to mate. Eventually, you have lots of stupid cows.
NIGERIAN CAPITALISM: DEAR FRIEND, I AM SON OF FORMER NIGERIAN PRESIDENT SANI ABACHA. YOU WERE RECOMMENDED TO ME BY A COLLEAGUE. I HAVE A BUSINESS PROPOSITION FOR YOU. I HAVE TWO COWS…
PACIFISM: You have two cows. They stampede you.
CYNICAL LIBERTARIANISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull and grow a prosperous herd of cows that your neighbor steals. He may or may not shoot you first. But we don’t need a government or police — your survivors can always sue the evil neighbor for damages.
PROTECTIONISM: You have two cows. You can’t buy a bull from another country.
FRISBEETARIANISM: You have two cows. One of them flies up on the roof and gets stuck. You hope the government provides cow ladders.
SURREALISM: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.
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?
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.
As a huge fan of action movies, hear me now and believe me later in the week: the Era of Epic Explosions is over.
Stick a fork it in.
It’s kaput. Done. Dead and buried.
X-MEN: OSCAR ISAAC WEARING 30 POUNDS OF MAKEUP is only the latest nail in the cinematic coffin, though it’s a nail that cost more than the domestic product of Paraguay.
Now, I liked the movie more than I expected after all those bad reviews. HOWEVER: the big action set pieces where the villain started destroying the world?
Big shrug. Didn’t care.
Here’s why explosions were once movie magic and now make people sneakily check Twitter on their magical phones.
1) In the old days, big explosions meant big budgets and big stars
Way back, only the biggest productions could afford to blow things up.
Those same movies also had the best directors, best actors and biggest budgets.
Meanwhile, B movies had incredibly cheesy explosions and effects that looked like Ed, president of the AV club, cooked them up on his Macintosh during a long weekend fueled by two-liter bottles of Orange Crush and two over-sized bags of Cheeto’s, which should be spelled Cheetoh’s but isn’t. Not sure why.
This is why the following compilation of great movie explosions skews toward old action movies. Because they actually blew things up, using real explosives, instead of spending millions of dollars on fake pixels.
2) Explosions were rare and therefore precious
In the Golden Age of Things Going Boom in the Movies, directors and producers had much smaller budgets, which meant you couldn’t have things explode on screen every two minutes.
You had to (a) find an abandoned building that fit your script, (b) file permits with the city for permission to blow it up and (c) hire professional people to blow them up on time and on schedule, while cameras rolled.
If the things went wrong, you were out millions of dollars and needed to find a new abandoned building.
Therefore, action movies of yore couldn’t go overboard with fire, smoke and debris. They had to use explosions when it mattered most.
This was a good thing, for movie budgets and for people sitting in dark rooms while they munched on overpriced kernels of exploded corn.
3) Today, everybody can afford special effects and explosions
It was epic when Bruce Willis sent the office chair down the elevator shaft in DIE HARD.
And I be you can remember the first time you saw the Death Star explode in STAR WARS. (The second and third times, not so much.)
Directors making movies today grew up watching those cool, big-budget movies with amazing explosions. Even if they’re working on a cheesy TV show, now they can afford to blow up anything they want, as big as they want.
So yeah, they do it.
All. The. Time.
It goes deeper: people making fan movies or YouTube parodies have the technology to blow up New York City, the West Coast or the entire solar system, if they’re truly ambitious. Check out the insanely detailed fan-made movies about Star Wars with excellent lightsaber effects. Amazing.
With giant budgets and armies of CGI people, it’s insanely easy these days to spice up a bad scene with explosions. Except it’s used so often, it’s a cliché.
Michael Bay has created an entire career out of blowing things up in slow motion. Here’s a montage:
4) Easy CGI means explosions aren’t believable
Audiences today grew up watching real explosions in action movies. We know what they look like.
Even big movies with big budgets struggle to get CGI right.
When you know it’s fake, you don’t care.
5) We’re numb to ka-booms by now, and we know the villain will lose
It’s a staple of every action movie, comic-book movie or thriller that (a) the Bad Guy Wants to Destroy the World and (b) the Bad Guy Gets to Start Blowing Up the World because (c) it wouldn’t be any fun if the audience didn’t get to see six blocks of Manhattan get demolished for the 2,874th time.
The old rule of storytelling was to always, always raise the stakes. If saving your wife and daughter from terrorists was good, then saving an entire city from a stolen nuclear warhead was better and stopping a villain from destroying Earth had to be the ultimate.
Except we expect this now. We’re numb to it.
And audiences know how it ends. The villain never, ever gets to truly destroy Gotham, New York City or the Earth.
The dice are loaded. The villain is going to lose.
Which means there’s zero suspense.
Oh, we’ll get a little look at the Big Bad Guy stomping on a few blocks, or a glimpse of how his doomsday device will flatten New Zealand, but no, the villain never gets to actually win.
So as I sat there watching the X-Men head off to stop Apocalypse from destroying civilization, what should have been the most exciting part of the movie had zero thrills whatsoever.
Because you knew the villain would lose. No question.
This is part of the reason why CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR worked so well. The story is smaller and the stakes are lower. The villain isn’t trying to destroy the third rock from the sun. He’s simply trying to get revenge by turning the Avengers against each other. Yet you care far more about CIVIL WAR than BATMAN VS SUPES or X-MEN: COME SEE WOLVERINE FOR TWO MINUTES. And the reason why is simple: audience will always, always care more about living, breathing characters than bits of concrete and rebar.
TL;DR: Blowing up things isn’t shocking or thrilling anymore, not when it’s CGI pixel nonsense. Also: Villains with evil plans to destroy Gotham, D.C. or Earth never get to actually do it, so stop making that the plot of every action thriller and comic book movie.
Bonus video: Expectation vs reality – action movies
Why is this so funny and perfect? Let’s take it apart and see why it sings.
1) The sheriff deputy is from central casting.
If there’s a factory where Hollywood makes police officers from small towns, Lt. Higgins is the man they use as the mold.
Even without the hat and the uniform, Higgins would look and sound like an officer of the law. It’s in his bones.
Also, his accent and the cadence of his speech is mesmerizing. I could not, and would not, improve it. And his name is perfect.
2) Telling details about the crime and the suspect.
Show somebody the surveillance video without any narration from Lt. Higgins and they’d be all, “Yeah, it’s some kid in a hoodie. Good luck figuring out who.”
Lt. Higgins doesn’t see grainy film and a kid in a hoodie.
He sees a six-foot-tall suspect in a camo hoodie, a man with a distinctive lanky gait.
If we gave Lt. Higgins more screen time, I bet he could dissect every frame of this surveillance tape. And we’d be educated while entertained.
3) Son, I’m gonna have a cheeseburger here, with fries and a coke
The beginning is good. The middle is interesting.
But the last two-thirds is the climax, and that’s what makes this little bit of YouTube footage into viral gold.
This is what slayed me: “Look at me son, I’m talking to you. The sheriff likes Stelly’s restaurant, and so do I. The food is good, and the folks are friendly. We’re gonna identify you, arrest you and put you in a small cell. After that, I’m gonna have a cheeseburger here, with fries and a coke, and leave a nice tip for the waitress. Meanwhile, your next meal will be served in a small door through a cell door.”
Then Lt. Higgins gets all CSI, talking about his detectives “harvesting DNA from the rock you used” and the perfect bootprint on the door.
The kicker: Lt. Higgins doesn’t need all that science evidence, because the suspect’s friends, they don’t like him much and will go for the reward money. Oh, that stings.
Verdict: Lt. Higgins should have his work duties changed so he records Crime Stopper videos all across America.
The Best Exchange Student in History tells me everybody over in the former Soviet Union has dash cams in their cars, as insurance against nonsense like shady cops or people lying about who caused an accident.
I think it’s really because of the humor value of all the crazy stuff that happens on the road.
That’s the context for the clip above.
Now here’s a compilation of actual dash-cam footage, and yes, it’s stranger than fiction.
As somebody who drives a rural highway and sees some weird and wild things most weeks, this makes me want to install a dash cam.