Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Running


Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 21 January 2024 .

1 out of 5

I recently took a belt test in my martial arts class after a long afternoon of whiskey drinking (in fairness, dear reader, I had forgotten about the exact date of the belt test in the midst of all the usual holiday hubbub and chaos), and I found myself woefully ill prepared.  I hadn’t bothered to ask what was involved in the test beforehand [again, to be fair, I previously trained in kung fu, where the belt tests weren’t “announced” per se…sifu would simply observe us individually during regular classes, and once he saw that we were proficient enough, a new belt would be awarded).  And as mentioned supra, I spent most of the day before the test (which test, incidentally was at night (which is the only time these people meet and train…they’re like ninja monks)) drinking whiskey.  So I was shocked…profoundly shocked, dear reader…when the first thing we were asked to do was run a mile in under 10 minutes.  Which was a problem for me.  You see, dear reader, I don’t run.

There are, as per our usual arrangement, myriad reasons for this.  I can run.  I mean I’m perfectly physically capable of running.  I used to be pretty good at it…ran track in high school.  But even then I didn’t like it.  It didn’t feel right.  It felt like I was going against my own nature.

You see, dear reader, I find running unbecoming.  Undignified.  Common.  I’d say pedestrian, but I find walking to be completely dignified and appropriate in whatever situation.

Anytime I see someone or even a group of people running, my first thought is, “What are they running from?” which is followed almost immediately by “What a bunch of pansies…why would you run from anything?  In public?”  So I usually look at the direction that they’re running from, waiting to see Godzilla, or a guy on meth who stole a tank from the local national guard depot, or a Cartel hit squad up from Matamoros, or something.  But there never is anything.  At all.  Perhaps I was wrong about these people.  Or maybe they’re just running from themselves.  That would make sense if it was a bunch of kids, but these are adults.  Running.  And if they’re not running from something, then the next logical question is,  “Well, then…what are they running to?”  Is a local radio station doing a cash-drop from a helicopter?  Are they giving away free drugs half a mile that way?    Lifetime supply of toilet paper to the first 20 people to show up at some grocery store?  Was Jesus spotted in a park having a picnic with Elvis and the Buddha?  Are there still local radio stations?

A few times in the past, when I’ve seen gaggles of people running, I drive by them in the gutter such that they get splashed with water, then I keep driving in the direction they’re going.  And every time I get a couple miles down the road, I see nothing worth running for.  Hell, I’m in a car and I’m not even slightly inclined to pull over for anything.  Sometimes I think I should turn around, drive back and find the running gaggle and helpfully informing them that they can stop and calmly return to their homes: there is jack shit up ahead for you.  But I never do, because fuck ’em.  Who can be bothered?  Not me, not today…I’m a Man on the Move.  In a proper car.  I don’t have time to fuck around with people who run.

I don’t like talking about things while I’m writing about them, but I think I can make a brief exception in this case.  I recently spent a few years working in the mental health unit of a state prison.  Once I got through the main gate, I had to walk over a mile and get through 7 more heavily locked and reinforced “doors” (sallyports and such)  to get to my office.  About 99% of that walk was outside with inmates, usually groups of inmates, walking around, heading to their first class or group or prayer service or whatever of the day.  When I first started, I made this walk alone.  Anytime I’d encounter any inmates, I’d always make eye contact and say a terse, “Good morning.”  The white guys would say, “good morning” or “‘Sup, boss,” or something similar.  The black guys would casually give a slow, “Aaaaalright.”  The crazies wouldn’t say shit.  But nobody ever lipped off to me.  No assaults, no incidents.  Ever.  I helped soldier-carry friends of mine who’d been violently assaulted off the main yard, but no one ever messed with me.  After a couple of months of working in this shithole every day, I got to know some of my coworkers pretty well.  So, if we arrived at the main gate at the same time in the morning, we’d walk the mile together, out to our building.  The majority of people who worked in my building  were female psychologists and social workers.  And when we’d walk in together, they quickly noticed that it was a very different experience than walking in by themselves.  “First time in eight years I haven’t been ‘good-morninged’ once,” said one of my favorite psychologists the first time she walked in with me.  “That was amazing.”  Being told “good morning” may not seem like a terrible thing, but these were some of the worst men on the planet.  Violent serial rapists, multiple murderers…one time I found myself watching The Jerry Springer Show in the day room on C Yard with a guy who was in for cannibalizing an 8-year-old boy.  And being told “good morning” by such a person when you’re a small female walking alone through a prison before the sun is up can be…unnerving.  Remember ‘The Silence of the Lambs’?  What’s the first thing we ever hear Hannibal Lecter say?  Yep: “Good morning.”  And it’s creepy as hell.
So before long, word spread, and female employees would start waiting at the main gate for me to show up, then we’d all walk in together: me and 5-10 women.  This started happening at lunch, also, when I’d walk the half-a-mile or so to the cafeteria, any females who wanted to go would go with me.  During my final year there, I was very rarely seen without an apparent harem of mental health professionals.  Because they felt safe around me.

On paper, they shouldn’t have felt safe at all.  I’m 5’10”, 170lbs.  Most of the inmates were 6’+, 300lbs.  I may know a little martial arts, but I also understand the laws of physics.  And so did they.  I knew that any one of them would have destroyed me in a fight.  And against more than one of them, I’d be ripped apart.  Not only did they know it too, they knew that I knew it.  So why did nothing ever happen?

There were a couple of contributing factors, but I think a big part of it was the way I carried myself.  And a big part of that is the way I walk.  If you’ve spent any time around me, you know that I have three modes of terrestrial locomotion: saunter, swagger, and strut.  The differences between each of these are incredibly subtle and nuanced.  They are very slight variations on the same theme.  And that theme is bad ass.  King Shit.  The Man.  I’m pretty in tune with my animal side…at least a hell of a lot more in tune with it than the majority of Americans seem to be.  And in places like prisons, the rules of the animal kingdom apply far more than the laws of human society.  And prison can be looked at as massive zoo full of apex predators who are only in their cages part of the time.  Ask any inmate, they will back this up.  So to know how to survive in prison, look to the mammalian kingdom (think wolves and gorillas).  How do apex predators behave?  A couple minutes of observation yields one very obvious conclusion: they are never rushed.  And they don’t fucking run.  Sure, maybe a quick burst whilst hunting or whatever, but for the most part, when getting from one place to another, they take their own sweet time.  The betas and females might be inclined to scamper about, run hither and thither, but the main male never runs.  Further, if the main male sees something running, he views it as weak, potentially as prey.  Certainly not a threat.  That’s exactly how it is in prison.  And like it or not, when it counts, that’s how it is in the Really Real World.

Anyway, back to my belt test: I ended up running the mile in 10:02.  Close enough, apparently…and fortunately the running was only a part of the rest of the belt test…the rest was all standing and fighting.  I got my next belt.
But outside of such rarities as martial arts belt tests, dear reader, you’d do well not to run in public, lest you find yourself passing through the digestive system of an apex predator.  #runningsucks

N.P.: “Go Down Deh” – Sachin Pandit

Review: hangovers


Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 30 December 2023 .

2 out of 5

Hello, intemperate reader. Welcome back to my sleazy, trash-filled corner of the internet, where we tackle life’s most profound questions, like “Why is pizza round?” and “Who the fuck still thinks Daylight Saving Time is in any way a good idea?” Today, however, we’re diving headfirst into a topic that’s as old as time itself: hangovers. Or as I like to call it, “Nature’s way of saying ‘fuck you’ for thinking that whiskey shots after midnight are ever a good idea.”

I decided to pre-emotively ring in the new year last night, get my end-of-the-year drinking in a couple of days before everybody else does…while I could still get a seat at the bar.  Which was a great idea…I’d do it again if I had the choice.  But now, here we are…waking up sticky, broke, and confused on a sickly Saturday morning, celebrating Hangover.

Saturday mornings (and for the last couple decades, afternoons as well) have been the time my friend and family traditionally celebrate Hangover.  Hangover, dear reader, is perhaps the longest standing (actually laying down) tradition of my people: the Irish invented Hangover, and have been celebrating it regularly for millennia.  While celebrating Hangover is appropriate any (or all) days of the week, most typically observe Hangover on Saturdays.  Hangovers sneak up on you like a ninja in fluffy slippers, striking just when you thought you’d escaped unscathed from the previous  night’s debauchery. One moment, you’re sleeping like a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome; the next, you’re grappling with a headache that feels like Thor’s hammer doing the Macarena in your skull.

But let’s start from the beginning. The first stage of a hangover is denial. You wake up, sunshine streaming through the window, birds chirping merrily outside. Everything’s fine, right? Wrong. Then you sit up, and it hits you: a wave of nausea so potent it could knock out a sumo wrestler.
Next comes bargaining. You promise the universe—or anyone listening—that you’ll never drink again if only this torment would end. Your bathroom floor becomes your best friend. Your stomach, your worst enemy. You start to question your life choices, like why you thought mixing beer, wine, and that neon green cocktail was a good idea.

Then there’s the ‘I’m never drinking again’ phase, which lasts until your buddy calls you up and says, “Pub tonight?” Suddenly, your conviction disappears faster than cookies at a weight loss meeting.
So, how do I rate hangovers, you ask? On a scale of one to ‘I wish I could rip out my throbbing brain’, I’d give them a solid ‘Why do I do this to myself?’. They’re like that terrible movie you can’t stop watching, or that annoying song you can’t get out of your head. You know it’s bad for you, but you can’t help yourself.

My most recent hangovers have been defined by waking up with an acute sense of desiccation.  Did you see the movie Underworld?  When the elder vampires go into a centuries-long slumber, they are drained of blood.  They spend hundreds of years as veritable prunes, hanging upside down like dead leaves hanging on a late fall tree.  When it’s time to wake them up, blood is transfused into their veins, and they come back to life.  That’s how I feel these days whilst hungover, and that’s how I felt this morning when I woke up: all organs shut down, put into a state of suspended stasis until pure water is returned to my system.  In those horrible moments, I can down a six-pack of LaCroix inside of 10 minutes.  Even then, I’ll need at least two more hours of bedrest, and then, a greasy lunch, preferably consisting of fried foods.  And then, only then, can I seriously consider climbing out of bed.  That used to be the end of it.  But now, at this age, the residual effects of hangovers can be felt two, maybe three days after whatever debauchery caused it.  There is nothing pleasant about it, but it does serve as a reminder that you are still alive and subject to the same rules of mortality as everyone else.  Which is something I need to be reminded of from time to time.

In conclusion, hangovers are the universe’s way of keeping us humble. They remind us that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction—usually involving a toilet bowl and a regrettable text to your ex. So, here’s to hangovers, the Saturday morning tradition none of us asked for but all of us have experienced. Until next time, drink water, take aspirin, and remember: cheap tequila is never your friend.  Cheers, or better yet, bottoms up!

N.P.: “Party Train” – The Gap Band

Review: Big Wang’s X-Treme Teppanyaki & Cajun Sushi Shack

Big Wang's X-Treme Teppanyaki & Cajun Sushi Shack

Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 2 October 2022 .

2 out of 5

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

I don’t often leave the Safehouse, but when I do, I’m always immediately reminded why when everything inevitably goes directly to hell. Last night I went to this snooty new hibachi joint in Old Town, the historic district of Fecal Creek. At least that was my intention.

The building that now houses Big Wang’s X-Treme Teppanyaki & Cajun Sushi Shack has been a lot of things since it’s original construction in 1949 when Rattlesnake Dick discovered gold in the nearby hills and made his fortune. In its early days, it was a whorehouse, a speak-easy, and a police station (I happened to learn this a few weeks ago as I was serving jury duty at the Anhedonia County Courthouse. The Anhedonia County Museum is located on the first floor and admission is free, so I wandered in one afternoon during lunch recess and learned all manner of fascinating facts. For example, did you know that the Anhedonia County courthouse is the only county courthouse in the United States that has a moat? It was built that way to keep out the rattlesnakes. There are still a lot of rattlesnakes in Anhedonia County, but by God they won’t be interfering with the administration of justice in that courthouse. Crazy.). Anyway, since I’ve been alive, it’s always been some species of restaurant/bar. The first time I ever went in there was in the mid-80s, when I was still in high school. It was called the Silver Palace then, and my friend Mike and I had cut school and met up with two of Mike’s derelict friends who were both over 21 and knew the bartender at this place. We spent the afternoon drinking beer. At some point, I noticed that according to this massive antique silver clock in the center of the bar (which probably hadn’t worked in a hundred years): it was still 1:30, which is what the time was when we first arrived hours before. I pointed this fact out to one of the derelicts I was drinking with, and he said, simply: “Time stands still at the Palace.”

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

Anyway, that was then, this is now, and now the thing is trying to pass itself off as a snooty hibachi pit catering to the upper crust of Fecal Creek, which turns out to be pretty crusty indeed.

Things got weird before I even got there. I decided early on that since there would most certainly be hard liquor, I would take an Uber. Which I thought was inordinately responsible of me. So my Uber driver shows up in this tricked out luxury black Benz. The app had forewarned me that the driver typically responded to the name “Jerry.” Jerry’s picture on the app showed him wearing sunglasses, which ended up being appropriate since, during almost the entire course of our interaction, Jerry was wearing the same sunglasses.

“This is a pretty swank ride, Jerry. This shit is class. For an Uber? Fuck yeah.”

“Thanks, man,” replied Jerry. “I don’t drive for Uber for money…I’m rich. I just do this to get the hell out of the house and away from my wife at night. Here, excuse me….”

My eyes grew a bit wide as Jerry reached down beneath my legs and pulled a handle of gin from underneath my seat. “Do you like gin?” asked Jerry.

“To be honest with you, Jerry, I normally despise gin. It is, perhaps, my least favorite alcohol. Fortunately, however, the only type of gin I will drink is free gin, of which I shall drink freely. Is this gin free, Jerry?”

“It is, my good man. There are cups in the glove compartment…pour us each a few fingers, if you would. Or, if you’d rather, you can take the wheel and I can pour.” Jerry seemed to have a good thing going, steering as he was, so I elected to pour.

“Cheers, brother, “said Jerry just before shooting this entire cup of gin. “Delicious! Let’s go again…pour some more. Where the hell are we going anyway?” I told him, and as soon as he found a soundtrack he thought appropriate, and turned it up to a volume that absolutely any decent person would recognize as completely inappropriate in any situation, but especially this one, and we were off, into the heart of the suburban desert night.

“Yeah, my wife is an insufferable twat. The sound of her voice makes me homicidal, so I decided to start doing this at night. How about you…you married?”

Well, look at us, I thought. Look at me and my new rich friend Jerry, with his magnificent German car, driving through the middle of town and draining his handle of gin like gentlemen.

We almost instinctively fell into a sort of rhythm of booze, where he’d bring the Benz to a stop at a light, and I’d hand him his gin. We’d cheers, then drink our drinks before the light turned green, at which point he’d hand his cup back to me, and in the time until we got to the next red light, I’d discreetly refill. Repeat. Which we did rather a lot of times before we finally pulled up to the Hibachi Pit. By that point, it seemed weird to just bid Jerry farewell and part ways forever…we were now, after all, I suppose, bros.

“So Jerry, you are clearly my kind of people…you want to come check this place out?”

“Dude, I was just going to offer to pay if you let me hang out with you. I really don’t want to go home.”

Jerry parked the car masterfully, despite our rapidly decreasing gross motor coordination. As soon as he got the fob out of the ignition, he grabbed the gin: “Let me see that bottle…yeah, we might as well finish her off before we go inside. Fuck cups.” And with that, he took a massive belt straight from the bottle, then handed it to me, with the unspoken expectation that I polish the bottle off. Which I somehow managed to do without blowing it all over the digital dash of the Benz.

Jerry got out of the car, and he just kept getting out of the car. By the time he had fully unfolded himself out of the car, Jerry’s six-foot-four frame towered over me, and he had this way of carrying himself that made him seem even bigger. And his clothes weren’t doing him any favors: he was still rocking the sunglasses (even though the sun set a while ago), and then what appeared to be a tux if he had swapped out the traditional tux jacket for this garish red leather biker jacket. Now, having had the opportunity to take the full measure of the man, I decided Jerry looked like a very tall, very pissed off valet at a gay club on a smoke break.

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

To understand the “X-tremity” of Big Wang’s, one must first understand Big Wang. Or at least where he came from. Big Wang (this may very well be his birth name…he never says anything about it, and I never see any evidence to the contrary) did not open this restaurant because he is passionate about serving his community, or passionate about either Japanese or Cajun cuisine. As far as I can tell, Big Wang opened this place because he is pissed off at his parents. Really pissed off. And not just because they evidently named him Big Wang. Apparently Big’s birth parents were both Japanese, and while on vacation in Florida when Big was just two years old, Big’s dad (Daddy Wang, presumably) was eaten by alligators when he “fell” into a gator pit at a popular tourist attraction. Big Wang and his mother were subsequently taken in by an overbearing Cajun man with a taste for ‘shine, and Big was raised as a Cajun. By the time he was 15, Big had inadvertently become a master of both Japanese and Cajun cuisine.

One night, while working in his stepdad’s Cajun shrimp shack, Big had an altercation with a customer who made a disparaging comment about his Japanese heritage. In a moment of rage, Big grabbed the man by the neck, picked him up, and dunked him in a massive vat of gumbo. In addition to ruining that day’s gumbo, Big went to jail for manslaughter. When he got out, he decided to open his own restaurant: a place where he could serve up both his Japanese and Cajun heritage with a side of revenge. And thus, Big Wang’s X-treme Teppanyaki & Cajun Sushi Shack was born.

At least that’s what I imagined happened, or certainly something similar, otherwise Big Wang’s X-treme Teppanyaki & Cajun Sushi Shack is simply inexplicable.

The outside of the building is nondescript, owing entirely to the Anhedonia County Historical Society’s labeling of the entire district where the old Silver Palace building sits a historical landmark, thus no changes or modifications to the original design are permitted. Which is the way it should be, of course, but it does then make what would be otherwise be simply a jarring experience almost intolerable.

Anytime anyone enters the front doors of The Shack, a truly massive gong is struck. I’m afraid that statement does not truly convey the experience of the gong. If God had a gong, it would be this one. The gong is approximately 10 feet across, and is suspended from reenforced ceiling beams. A honest-to-god sumo wrestler mans a catwalk surrounding the gong, and evidently his entire job is to just sit up there until someone comes in, then just whale the hell out of that gong. And when he does, the sound is, quite simply, pants-shittingly loud.

“Jesus God Almighty!” shouted Jerry, although he was almost inaudible under the rumbling thunder of Gongzilla. We had been knocked off our feet and back about 5 feet by the gongblast. As the sound finally started to fade, all the male staff members, who all appeared to be dressed as either Samurai or, in the cases of management, Shogun. In full fucking traditional regalia, all turned and yelled something in Japanese, in unison, at us. It sounded menacing.

“Haro,” said Jerry exuberantly with a deep bow.

On shit, I thought, Here we go. But instead of decapitating us, the Samurai just seemed to growl disdainfully and go back to their cooking.

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

As we slowly got to our feet and began to regain our senses, we were rushed by what appeared to my still-swirling senses to be a group of geishas. The women were wearing traditional kimonos and had their hair done up in an intricate style. They simultaneously escorted us over to the hostess stand, served us tea and sushi, and generally fawned over us. The geisha who seemed to be “in charge” asked demurely, “Do you have a reservation?” I didn’t.

“I don’t.”

“Very well. There may be a bit of a wait. Please follow me to the bar and we’ll let you know when your table is ready.”

Stepping down into the bar was like stepping into another world…if that other world was a nightclub in present-day downtown Tokyo and populated almost exclusively by the Yakuza. Seriously. The restaurant might be busy, but the bar is fucking packed with what appear to be actual Yakuza: wall-to-wall Japanese dudes in black suits and Kato masks. Each booth had built-in scabbards for samurai swords. Yeah. Blatant Yakuza tattoos with the center of the chest clear, pictures of traditional Japanese gangsters on the wall. Instead of a jukebox, there was a karaoke machine, and instead of barstools, there were couches. And instead of bartenders, there were more geishas. These ones were topless. Which seemed odd to me, but it clearly made sense to Jerry.

“This is more like it,” said Jerry, ogling openly and grinning stupidly.

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

We sat down on a couch and were quickly served something clearly not tea. “Complimentary plum wine while we prepare your table,” our geisha said.

We had only been inside for a few minutes, but Jerry had already been reduced to a barely intelligible drooling fool. He was trying to converse with the geisha with the complimentary plum wine. I think what he was trying to say was something like, “My goodness, you are both beautiful and topless. You move with an easy grace, and your open kimono flows around your erumpent breasts like hot sake.” That’s what I would have said. Instead, what Jerry says is:

“You see, I’ve always said, there are two types of people in the world: you’re either cabbage, or you’re slaw. Do you understand? Shit…hey, what’s the Japanese word for nipple?”

“Oh, ferchrissakes…can we just get more of this delicious plum wine please?”

She obliged. It quickly became apparent that the geishas’ only English was limited to what had already been used on us. If we asked for anything other than more complimentary plum wine, they simply nodded and smiled.

“This plum wine might not be doing the trick,” said Jerry, out of no where. “You like whippits?”

“Nitrous? God yes I like nitrous. You have some?”

With the practiced silent dexterity of a ninja, Jerry reached into a pocket of his red leather jacket, cracked the metal vial, and filled a huge red balloon right there in the middle of lounge. Apparently the Yakuza are unfamiliar with nitrous and its medicinal uses, and thought that Jerry and I were perhaps going to entertain them by making balloon animals, for they all turned to look at us and clap as Jerry finished filling the huge balloon.

“Yes! Very good! Please, make us a giraffe!” shouted the man who appeared to be the Head Yakuza In Charge.

Jerry and I looked at each other and shrugged. “You want a giraffe? I can’t make a giraffe. How about Godzilla! I’ll make you a fucking Godzilla,” and he placed the balloon to his mouth, released the pressure he’d had on it, and inhaled deeply the gaseous contents of the balloon. Before exhaling, he handed the now slightly smaller balloon to me, and I repeated his action for myself, sucking in an unhealthy lungful of nitrous. If one has never done nitrous, one will likely understand what happened next: Instantly, all sound turns to this “whaoh…whaoh…whaoh” sound that is oddly enjoyable, and one loses any interest in remaining or ability to remain vertical. At one point, Jerry appeared to collect himself in a fit of indignant pique, and decided it was Time To Go. But when he tried to crawl/stumble out of the bar area, he was physically prevented from doing so by two of the more burly yakuza enforcers. Jerry took umbrage, evidently, and I took another huge suck off the Nitrous Balloon as Jerry stumbled angrily toward the massive koi pond that took up probably one-third of the total real estate in the bar. I can’t swear to what happened next because, honestly, all I heard was whaoh…whaoh…whaoh but I’m pretty sure I got the gist of what Jerry was yelling, and it wasn’t good: “Goddammit, this is Pearl Harbor all over again. The first wave was this goddamn complimentary plum wine, and now you’re holding us hostage! This is egregious!” His words didn’t appear to register with anyone in the bar, or maybe they just weren’t properly equipped to handle a angry white man in the grips of multiple lungfuls of nitrous, absurd amounts of complimentary plum wine, and, let’s not forget, and at least half-a-handle of shitty gin, for all appeared nonplussed. None of us were ready when Jerry suddenly plunged his hand into the koi pond, yelled maniacally, and came up with a smallish and existentially absolutely panicked koi fish in his hand.

“If we’re not shown to our seats immediately, I’m going to eat this fish!”

Holy shit, I thought…this is about to get weird. There was some minor pearl-clutching amongst some of the topless geishas, and the club music that had been playing scritched dramatically and stopped. But other than that, nobody made a move. Jerry looked around desperately, hoping, I think, that someone would do something to keep him from eating the fish. After several tense seconds, Jerry seemed to sense that his bluff had been called. So he sacked up and swallowed the fish. There were awful choking and gagging sounds, but after about half a minute, he grabbed a bottle of something from a nearby table and took several belts off it, trying to wash the fish all the way down. Once the deed was done, Jerry let out a large, satisfied “Ahhhhhhh,” and smiled triumphantly. Some of the geishas were acting repulsed, but his impromptu fish consumption seemed to have garnered Jerry significant respect from the Yakuza, for they all began clapping and cheering. But just then, in his moment of glory, The Gong was hit, and Jerry was blasted back down to the ground next to me. The music resumed and everybody seemed to get back their drinks, ignoring the two torporous idiots on the floor.

Nitrous really impairs your perception of the passage of time, so I have no idea how long Jerry and I were rolling on the floor, trying (and failing) to stand up, howling and laughing like idiots. We were down there for a while, though. I may have passed out.

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

Eventually, we were roused from our stupor by topless geishas dumping complimentary plum wine on us, and kicking us lightly in the ribs. Once we were able to get to our feet, we were led to our table.

The restaurant proper was just as bizarre as everything else going on in the building. It was a cross between a Japanese teppanyaki grill and a New Orleans-style seafood shack, with gaudy Mardi Gras decorations everywhere. The chefs were all in full Samurai regalia, with top-knots and full on Katanas at their hips (along with a set of scary looking knives one presumes are more for cooking than slaughtering one’s enemies).

We were led to one of the dozens of teppanyaki tables, with an oval table surrounding a massive grill. There were already 6 other people at the table, all couples. I hadn’t seen them in the bar, but they too had clearly been victims of too much complimentary plum wine.

“You two look like a couple of jaded fucks,” grumbled an unpleasant old man (pretty much all old men I encounter these days are aggressively unpleasant, so I repeat myself. But this dude was just wretched) sitting next to his wife, who appeared to have been rendered silent by drink and fear of near-future domestic battery. The old man’s comment hung in the air for a moment, went unresponded to, and dissipated, so he turned his attention and his face back to his heavily-fruit-festooned cocktail. I felt oddly confident that that was the last interaction we’d have with anyone at our table. A geisha appeared (fully kimonoed) to deferentially take our drink order.

“I don’t know about you, man…but I think I need to try one of whatever the hell that is he’s having,” said Jerry, without taking his eyes off the old man’s fruity drink.

“Yeah,” I told the geisha, “can we each get two of whatever that guys drinking?”

“Two…each?” The notion seemed preposterous to her.

“Damn right. Two each. And can we get some wet naps or something…this complimentary plum wine we’re wearing is gonna get sticky soon.”

She seemed to still be grappling with the concept that two grown American men could want two bullshit cocktails each when she laid two menus in front of us and toddled off, presumably to fetch our drinks.

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

The menu at Big Wang’s is…diverse, to say the least. It includes sushi rolls with traditional Japanese ingredients like tuna and salmon, as well as more unorthodox offerings like alligator and crawfish. The Cajun dishes are similarly eclectic, ranging from gumbo and jambalaya to fried gator tails, po’boys, and crawfish étouffée. And of course, everything is served with a heaping helping of Big Wang’s Signature Hot Sauce, which is said to be made with the tears of his enemies.

Soon the waitress brought our cocktails. Two each. They seemed to be a bottle of rum poured into a hollowed out pineapple, and then garnished absurdly with an entire tropical rainforest. Once the drinks were placed in front of us, it was obvious that would be the last we would see of the other people sitting at the table until our drinks (and their ludicrous garnish) had been properly dispatched.

We decided to go all out and ordered the “Wang’s Ultimate X-treme Teppanyaki X-perience,” which appeared to be basically one of everything on the menu and cost $375. This turned out to be a mistake.

At once, our view-obstructing cocktails were removed and replaced with large glasses of Sapporo beer alongside small decanters of hot sake.

“Hot damn! Sake bombs! That’s more like it. If I see anymore plum wine I will light somebody on fire.”

The lights in the rest of the restaurant seemed to dim, and suddenly our table was the focus of several spotlights. There was dry ice smoke. This meal seemed to have its own soundtrack, as aggressive Japanese techno music began blaring from the speakers.

The teppanyaki chef, a massive and terrifying bald man with tribal tattoos on his arms, whose nametag said “Perfecto,” started the show by flipping his spatula in the air and catching it behind his back. He then proceeded to juggle knives, light things on fire, and do all sorts of other dangerous stunts. At one point, he even pulled out a chainsaw and started revving it menacingly.

Suddenly, Perfecto seemed distracted by the drinks in front of us. His threatening scowl suddenly lightened into a conspiratorial grin. “First, we drink sake!”

“Sake bomb!” shouted Jerry as he dropped our respective sake glasses into our respective Sapporos. “Banzai!” shouted Jerry.

“Very gooooood!” hollered Perfecto through a thick Japanese accent of dubious origin. They both looked at me expectantly.

“Oh…” I said, hoisting my drink quickly for the toast. “Banzai!”

Perfecto grinned again. “Very gooooood! Now we drink…Banzai!”

I’m not sure exactly how much sake bomb I was able to drink before all of our glasses were shattered by The Gong only seconds later. We were now pretty much directly underneath The Gong, which was putting us in more subsonic distress that human bodies are meant to experience. I’m pretty sure I swallowed some glass. Guess I’ll confirm later. What was really bothering me, oddly, was that knowing The Gong was right above us, which meant that Sumo wrestler was right above us. And I was suddenly alarmingly aware that if I looked up, I might get an eyeful of Sumo taint, which, in my steadily deteriorating condition, would simply be Too Much. I must let my Ultimate X-Treme X-Perience by sullied by the fear of hanging taint.

The waitresses quickly swept up the glass and mess and delivered new Sapporos and sakes, and soon Perfecto was ready to get back to work.

“Fried rice!” shouted Perfecto. He dumped a mountain of white rice onto the grill, then pulled out a pair of nunchucks and put on a truly impressive display of martial artistry, swinging the deadly chained-clubs all over the place. Then he cracked a couple of eggs, and soon set about whaling the hell out of the eggs, using the nunchaku to scramble them. It was noisy as hell and made a mess of everything. He finally put the ‘chucks away and started composing the fried rice.

Evidently, an important part of the Ultimate X-Treme X-Perience is drinking sake in whatever form between each course, but you had to drink twice as much each round. So this time Jerry and I and Perfecto drank two sake bombs each. All of us were quite tight by the time Perfect sprang the next course on us.

“Shrimp and scorpion appetizer!” shouted Perfecto.

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

He threw a bunch of shrimp and some scorpions onto the grill, and while they cooked, he started juggling knives again. At one point, he used his spatula to flip a shrimp into the unpleasant old man across the table, but missed and caught him right in the eye. Maybe it wasn’t a miss at all…perhaps Perfecto just didn’t like the cut of this dude’s jib. I was Olympically drunk at this point, so I’m not sure if he actually cut any of the shrimp or scorpions up, or if he just scooped them off the grill with his bare hands and threw them into a bowl. But either way, they ended up in front of us, and we were expected to eat them.

This, along with all the drinking and the nitrous and the koi fish, was apparently too much for Jerry, who had turned a surprising shade of green. With sudden solemnity, he excused himself and ran toward the bathroom to do the Big Spit.

I’m not a big fan of seafood, so I was already dreading this course. But when I saw the scorpions, I nearly lost my dinner too: they’re not seafood, they’re insects! Fucking bugs! They were still wriggling around, and their pincers were snapping menacingly. I have a pretty strong stomach, but this was pushing it.

“Um…do you have any ketchup?” I asked Perfecto weakly.

He scowled at me. “No ketchup! Big Wang’s Signature Hot Sauce!” he shouted, pulling out a huge orange bottle that looked like a miniature fire extinguisher, and shooting a blast of whatever it was into my bowl. Instantly, the scorpions stopped wriggling, died, and burst into flames.

“That’s just bear spray!” I knew I’d seen the bottle before.

“The tears of Wang’s enemies!” retorted Perfecto.

I knew there was no way out.

“Oh god…” I muttered, picking up my chopsticks and preparing to eat what might be my last meal. I closed my eyes and popped a shrimp into my mouth, then quickly followed it with a big scoop of rice. I chewed quickly and swallowed, then took a big gulp of Sapporo.

“How is?” asked Perfecto, glaring at me.

“It’s…crunchy,” I managed to say. “And the Hot Sauce has blinded me. I’m hoping that’s temporary.”

Perfecto cackled gleefully. “Very goooooood!” he exclaimed. “More sake bomb!”

I groaned inwardly, but I obediently raised my glass for another round of toasts. As we drank, Perfecto started working on the next course.

“Okonomiyaki!” he shouted. He dumped a bunch of batter onto the grill, then added some cabbage and other vegetables. As it cooked, he kept adding more and more ingredients, until it was a huge, steaming mound of food. Then he started hacking at it with his knives, chopping it into smaller pieces. “And obligatory onion volcano!” he shouted again, tossed several onions on the grill, and for the next 3 minutes, constructed a 8-inch onion volcano. He then filled it with some sort of rice-based booze and set light to it, causing it to quite literally erupt. The people at the table who weren’t burned by the blast cheered wildly.

Art by Tasty Piece,©️ The Safehouse Collection 2022

Finally, he scooped some onto our plates and doused it with a sticky-sweet sauce. I took a tentative bite. It was…not bad, actually. I mean, the sauce tasted like a bum’s nutsack, but the rest of it was actually pretty tasty. I ate a few more bites, then washed it down with another sake bomb.

At this point, I was so deeply inebriated that I had the urge to leave Big Wang’s and go to either church or an inpatient detox program. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes, letting the sake and Sapporo and plum wine and nitrous and gin wash over me. Perfecto started shouting again, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. It sounded like he was announcing the next course, but I couldn’t be sure. I opened my eyes just in time to see him throwing a live octopus and a small, very live alligator onto the grill.

“No…” I moaned, burying my face in my hands. This was too much. I was done. I couldn’t take anymore. And where the hell was Jerry? He was my sky hook at this point, and also my ride home. Sure, I could summon another Uber driver, but I’d bet a testicle whomever they send won’t have a handle of gin under their seat. Besides, Jerry and I had been through too much already to not see this through to the end.

Perfecto scooped the octopus onto my plate and added some sauce. “Eat!” he commanded.

“No, I can’t,” I said, pushing the plate away. “I’m done.”

“No, no, no!” shouted Perfecto. “You must eat! It is part of the Ultimate X-Treme X-Perience!”

“I don’t care,” I said. “I’m not eating that.”

Perfecto scowled at me. “This is suck!”

“This is suck, Perfecto,” I concurred, relieved we could agree on something.

Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his pair of nunchucks.

“You will eat,” he said, waving the nunchucks even more threateningly than before, when he was scrambling eggs.

“No way,” I said, backing away from him. “I’m not eating that octopus, and you can’t make me. I’ll fight you.” I got to my feet and prepared to give Perfecto a taste of the Celtic Long Knuckle.

“We’ll see about that,” said Perfecto, advancing on me with the nunchucks.

“Whoa…hey…settle down,” said Jerry, returning from his egestive adventures in the toilet. “What’s going on here?”

“He won’t eat the octopus!” shouted Perfecto.

“Well, I wouldn’t either. So what?” said Jerry, who had evidently taken a large knife from one of the nearby tables. “Let it go so I don’t have to cut off your hands.”

Perfecto considered this for a moment, then reluctantly put away his nunchucks. “Fine,” he said. “But no more sake bomb for you!”

Jerry helped me out of my chair and steered me towards the door. “Come on, buddy,” he said. “Let’s get you out of here.”

As we left, I could hear Perfecto shouting at the other customers, trying to goad them into eating the octopus. But I was done. And barely conscious, really. I’d had enough of Perfecto and his X-Treme Teppanyaki & Cajun Sushi Shack.

Never again. Two Stars.

Review: Lazy Dog’s Wings

Lazy Dog's Wings

Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 9 June 2021 .

1 out of 5

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar™ has shit wings.  If I teach you only one thing today, let it be this:  Lazy Dog has shit wings.  Absolute garbage.  They were far more reptilian than avian, and I’m not being hyperbolic: the last piece of meat that I gnawed on for over a half-an-hour before giving up due to a general lack of noticeable progress and complete mandibular exhaustion was alligator. On a stick.  I would have had easier time eating the stick.  [It was so weird, dear reader…a week after the gator incident (which took place at a Bayou by the Bay Food & Music Orgy), I found myself having a Saturday lunch at a high-end restaurant in downtown SF, just north of Market, and the special that day was crocodile.  But it was ground crocodile, served in sort of mini-meatball form, so the chewiness wasn’t an issue, and I remember I thought it tasted great.  I also remember I was heroically drunk, so anything I was eating I thought tasted great, regardless of reality.  One of the people I was having lunch with seemed surprised that I (or anyone, for that matter) would order crocodile for lunch, and I slammed down my whiskey (just to emphasize the state of things) and said, “Ha…last week, I ate alligator.  On a steek.”  I then held forth for the better part of an hour about how I enjoyed eating things that would otherwise eat me, that I preferred to feed on apex predators.  Somebody asked why that was, and then I launched into my whole spiel about how a vegetarian once tried to scare me vegan by telling me that you inherit the dreams of the animals you eat, which instead of having the intended effect only served to increase my intake of animal flesh…I just started eating cooler animals.  Shark and swordfish began making regular appearances on the menu, plus the prenominate dinosaurs…I don’t remember what else.  I then discovered that no one at the table was an ardent fan of Highlander because they all blatantly tuned out during the next part of my oratory, which was completely Highlander-intensive.  I expounded drunkenly about The Quickening and how there can be only one and the whole deal, but I’d lost them.  I ended up going out on the fire escape for a little air and witnessing a car theft.]  Anyway, don’t eat the wings at Lazy Dog: they’re shit.

N.P.: “Every 1’s a Winner – 12″ Version” – Hot Chocolate

Review – Ghost


Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 23 August 2018 .

5 out of 5

Okay, so during the last several weeks, somehow (I don’t actually remember how it happened), I’ve become rather obsessed with Ghost, the mask-wearing Swedish satanic metal band.  Obsessed as in I’m actually alarmed at how much I’ve been listening to them.  Obsessed as in each day, I decide that today I’m going to listen to something – anything – else, but about 10 minutes later, I’m listening to Ghost again.
Serious fans of any species of Scandinavian metal (especially those church-burning death metal viking assholes) will take great issue with Ghost being labeled anything other than a purely pop band.  And there is merit to that argument.  One critic rather accurately described the band’s music as “metal for people who don’t like metal.”  Which isn’t literally the case, but I absolutely understand what he’s getting at.  Here’s what I think he meant: take Motorhead.  I love and adore Motorhead and was rather crushed when Lemmy died.  And like most other people on the night Lemmy passed, I went to Motorhead’s page on Spotify and started to play their top 10 most popular songs.  “Ace of Spades” was first, natch, and I turned the volume waaaaaay up.  Brilliant.  Poured a shot of Jack and threw it back.  Then the next song started to play.  It was great, but I have no idea what it was.  I know it was 3 chords and 3 minutes long because, well, damn near every song in the Motorhead catalog consists of 3 chords and is about 3 minutes long.  So the second song ended, and the third song started up, and it was maybe half a minute into it when I decided that was all the Motorhead I could take and put something else on.  It occurred to me then that I have never and will never be able to sit through more than 3 Motorhead songs in a row.  I could never get through an entire album side.  And I love Motorhead.  That’s just the way it is.  I talked to other fans of Motorhead who validated my opinion: love them as much as you may, you simply can’t sit around listening to Motorhead for any length of time.  The same holds true for the Sex Pistols: absolutely love them, and they only released one actual album, but to sit through the whole thing if you’re over the age of 20 and have already heard it is more of an endurance contest than anything else.  And so it is with metal.  Especially any old school Norwegian death or black metal: if it speaks to you, it’s great stuff, but even if it speaks to you, one of its defining characteristics is that it’s recorded “dirty” (i.e., crappy and aggressively analog equipment with even crappier acoustics), and, let’s be honest, most of it sounds pretty much like some sort of missile strike with lead vocals that sound like a very angry Cookie Monster extolling the virtues of eternal damnation through a ludicrously distorted fuzz box.  But now, along comes Ghost, who are very much “metal,” but with addictively hook-filled song writing, pristine production and digital bliss, layered harmonies, instrumental complexity, and melodies that are “musical” as opposed to literally monotonous, delivered by a vocalist with a multi-octave range whose intention is to be understood.  Thus, “metal for people who don’t like metal.”
Other reasons I think Ghost is brilliant:
  • Many of their song titles and lyrics are Latin, so of course I’m all about that.
  • They utilize things like Lydian and Aeolian modes and other esoteric things I haven’t really encountered since music school.
  • Ghost is what rock music would be like if the ’60s had never happened.
  • They are what would have been the norm if we hadn’t eliminated music education from American public school curricula.
  • In a screenwriting class I took in grad school, I had this idea about a huge rock star who wore a mask and concealed his identity, as did all the members of the band, so that they couldn’t be linked and followed.  I loved the idea of some super-famous guy who was completely anonymous, who could be onstage in front of 10,000 screaming people on minute, and then a few hours later be standing in line at the grocery store, unrecognized and unharassed as one of his songs plays on the store’s speaker system.  I couldn’t make the screenplay work, and I ended up turning in some dreadful thing about vampires.  But the idea has always appealed to me.  So when I saw these guys, it was almost a recognition: “I’ve been wondering when you guys were going to show up.”  
  • Ghost is the first band  in a very long time whose music has got me not only reaching for the guitar again but also wanting to start recording again.
  • Though I am an involuntary atheist, my world view has become undeniably Luciferian in the last few years, and it’s kind of nice to have a suitable soundtrack.

I’m sure this is a Me thing, just something that is hitting me at exactly the right time; however, Ghost won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2016, so that says something.

Give ’em a listen.

Review – The Official Annotated Prince Discography

The Official Annotated Prince Discography

Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 29 April 2018 .

4 out of 5

Prince and mgmt

The Official Annotated Prince Discography put together by the good folks at the Prince Estate ( is fucking amazing.  Spending a minute on the site wondering why Prince hadn’t been able to do this himself whilst still with us.  He had tried with his NPG Music Club and other online ventures, most of which ended up being one-off websites that may have promised access to a library of music and video, but were ultimately just publicity tools for the latest album which would be stop being updated shortly after the albums release, and usually totally shut down within a year.
It was so frustrating to listen to Prince rail against the record industry and music business year after year and how badly he wanted and needed total control over his music, not only it’s production but it’s distribution and use.  One just wanted to grab him by his ruffled collar and yell, “Dude! You were lucky enough to be born right about the time the internet happened, which enables you to do exactly what you want to do!  Total vertical integration.  You write, record, produce, license, and distribute your music entirely in house, and keep virtually all the money.  Retain all the rights.  Pull things offline if you feel like…throw something new you just finished on there and see how people react.  Total control.  It could have been perfect.  But he never seemed to be able to get his digital shit together.
But now, his estate has quietly pulled it off.  The website is beautiful: clean, easy to navigate, but very Princely.  Even the cursor (a familiar drawing of Prince’s eye (which shifts from right to left depending on what side of the screen your cursor is on)) is brilliant.   Here you will find all of Prince’s Studio Albums, Legacy Releases, Live Albums, Compilations, as well as albums that he produced, listed and annotated with reviews, quotes, pictures, and videos.  It’s actually a rather dangerous time-killer for some of us, but that’s likely because suddenly, instead of employing a cadre of attorneys to constantly patrol YouTube and issues take-down orders like parking tickets, the estate is organizing and encouraging participation, which is rather a sudden shift.
The only “fault” I can find with the website is that it is somewhat less complete than what I’d hoped the actual estate could put together, and I’m not entirely sure why.  When Prince started experimenting with alternate distribution methods and unorthodox arrangements with traditional record labels, his albums got difficult to find, and my personal collection reflects that: I’ve got everything right up to “Crystal Ball” and things get spotty.  Some stuff was never released on CD at all, some CDs were only distributed with the purchase of a concert ticket.  Some albums were distributed in weekly newspapers in the U.K., and never even released in the States.  Most of the albums on the site have track listings, and if you click on any song, a 30-second snippet plays.  So you can click on the first one, let it play the entire album in 30-second snippets while you’re reading the material below…it works out well.  But it turns out the estate’s collection has the same limitations I do: no track listings for certain rarer albums.  I can only assume that this is due to licensing issues, and I’m hopeful that these issues will be resolved.  The same issue is true for all of the albums listed in the Major Albums Produced by Prince.  Some of them I understand: the actual artist was on a different label, and now they’re dealing with licensing issues.  But the early stuff by The Time, Sheila E, Vanity, Apollonia, etc, was all Prince, on the exact same Warner Bros. contract.  But this is clearly a work-in-progress, and the estate makes it very clear that this is just a beginning.

Review – Wonderful Chinese Restaurant

Wonderful Chinese Restaurant

Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 12 March 2013 .

3 out of 5

Unlike other ethnic restaurants that boast an “authentic” dining experience (I’m looking at you, Benihana, where the last three chefs who juggled Ginsu and gyoza and made onion volcanoes and pretended to throw shrimp at me in traditional Japanese manner were named Jose, Esteban, and Gonzalo, respectively), the staff of Wonderful Chinese Restaurant in Citrus Heights, California is authentically Chinese.
The family that runs this restaurant appears to be largely antisocial and downright angry at your presence, and greets your arrival with simple rudeness, but that quickly escalates into open hostility and apparent contempt. Continue reading

Review – Troll 2

Troll 2

Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 19 February 2013 .

3.5 out of 5


Louis Wain was an English artist back around 1900 who painted cats.  Well, I mean, he didn’t actually go around tagging neighborhood cats …he painted pictures of cats doing people things: wearing clothes, playing golf, litigating, whatever (the proper term for this is anthropomorphic, but my old lady is tired of me flaunting my vocabulary, so I’m trying to tone down the sesquipedalia).  Anyway, his paintings were pretty popular in jolly old England, and his work was widely published and he managed to eke out a living for a while.  But then things went south for Uncle Lou.  There’s some debate over whether he was schizophrenic or just really Aspergery, but either way you slice it, he went nuts.  Which is no big deal: artists go nuts all the time, it’s part of the gig.  What’s remarkable is that he kept painting cats throughout his decent into madness, and oh boy…you should see what happens to the cats in his paintings when the carnival comes to town and sets up its tent in Louis Wain’s brain.  Seriously, go check it out.

Anyway, I mention Mr. Wain here only because until this week he was the artist that I thought most effectively documented how one’s vision of the world warps during nervous breakdowns and psychotic episodes.  But then I saw “Troll 2.”  Mother of God.

Continue reading

Review – Joyful Noise

Joyful Noise

Reviewed by Jayson Gallaway on 3 February 2013 .

1.5 out of 5

Joyful Noise

Sly Stone has been on my mind a lot lately.  In case you don’t know about Sly, he was a San Francisco Bay Area DJ back in the 60s who decided he could write better songs than what he was having to play on the radio, and he formed a band called the Family Stone, composed of men and women of multiple races, which, at the time, was nothing short of a cultural declaration of war.  From his radio experience, he came up with a simple but inimitable formula: hooks so funky that they would keep playing in the ear of anyone who heard them for days, but short songs, usually less than 3 minutes long, which meant more frequent plays on the radio.  The math was right, the music rocked, and it all came together in a meteoric rise to fame and chart domination starting in 1967.

Things went awry almost immediately.  The pressures of fame strained Sly’s relationship with his band, his family, and himself.  Then came drugs, and that meant increasingly erratic behavior and limited musical output.  He never really recovered, and his output and appearances have gone on to almost define the eccentricity of musical genius.   As seems to always happen in these cases, Mr. Stone’s various managers and agents and record companies ripped him off in grand manner, and he hasn’t seen any of the at least $40 million in royalties he’s earned in the last few decades.   In 2011, Sly was rumored (actually it was more than a rumor: there was an interview and photos) to be living in a van in LA, hooked on crack, but still writing music on a laptop powered by an extension cord run from a friend’s house.

These are dark days for Sly Stone, dark days for pop music, and dark days for movies.  Last night I watched something called Joyful Noise, which featured a rendition of one of Uncle Sly’s songs.  It’s a testament to just how great his music is that not even a production this banal could mess it up.

I’m not sure which is weirder: that I ended up watching this movie, or how it actually got made.  Either way, my God.  What a nightmare.

I suppose there are some “good” aspects to this debacle: it is not, to my knowledge, a remake, which is a first for Hollywood this decade.  It stars Queen Latifah, who’s always good, and Dolly Parton, who looks absolutely amazing for 103.  But that’s about it.

Queen and Dolly are the alpha females of a small-town gospel choir that gets their asses handed to them every year at the national competition.  Their beloved choir leader, played by Kris Kristofferson, has a heart attack and dies in the opening scene, providing the only bit of plot I could actually get behind.  I had high hopes that the rest of the movie would be composed entirely of scenes of choir members dying, but alas, ‘twas not thus.  Instead, not only do the rest of the choir members live on relentlessly (okay, there is one other choir death), but they keep singing ludicrously over-produced covers of pop songs, the lyrics of which have frequently been “gospelized” horrendously.  While they are all shameful, far and away the most insipid is a version of Usher’s “Yeah,” which, well…here:

Up in the church with my homies, trying to get a little praise on, but it keep it down on the low key, cause you know how it is.

I saw shawty, she was checking up on me, from the game she was singin in my ear, you would think that she knew me, so we decided to chill.

The worship got heavy, she had me feeling like I’m ready to blow.  Oh.

God saying “Come get me! So I got down in front, my knees on the floor.  That’s when I told God, I said, “Yeah, yeah.” 


The other three people I was watching the movie with, including and especially the two teenagers whose idea it had been to watch this damn thing, fell deeply asleep within 15 minutes of the opening credits.  They had the right idea.  But inexplicably, I kept watching.

Some other sort of quasi-plottish things happened, but I don’t think there was an actual writer involved in the “creation” of this script.  They were the sort of things a free plot-generating app could generate.  Seriously.  It was like what someone would come up with when their pitching their really great idea to a movie exec, and that movie exec says, “Nope, I don’t like it.  What else you got?” and then that someone just makes something up on the spot.

The whole thing comes to a horrendous crescendo featuring the Queen/Dolly choir doing this massively produced medley with Sly Stone’s “Higher” as its core.  It’s supposed to be this last-minute decision when Queen Latifah sees that the audience is, much like the audience at home, falling asleep during their rehearsed song, but the production and choreography are on par with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.   I hope that Sly saw a fat royalty check from this cinematic turd, but given the millions of dollars he’s already been screwed out of, I doubt it.   Whether he did or not, during the last hour of this movie, as my fellow viewers blissfully slept, I couldn’t help but thinking that even if he is in a van in LA, smoking crack and making music on a laptop, he’s probably better off than he would be sitting through this ridiculousness.

Stay of the crack, and stay away from Joyful Noise.