Month: December 2013

30 Days of Blogging: Day 30

Finally!

 

My 30-Day Blogging Challenge is finally over, and truthfully, both the accomplishment and the end of an obligation are two amazing Christmas gifts to myself. Before I take a much needed break, let’s look back on what I learned.

“Your Requests: Blogged” (both parts) rank in the top half of this blog’s recorded page views, and neither of them required much research. My ramblings about kung-fu and monster movies is dead last, and in the process of finding something to say, I got to revisit a lot of classics.

My most popular post, “Time Capsule,” was, by leaps and bounds, the least fun to do. It was a slog of repetitive archiving, on top of which was the rotten process of rereading breakup letters, reacquainting myself with deceased pets and relatives, and cringing as I waded through so much emotional baggage from my teenage years. Some of it was interesting, but the more I think about it, the more I just want to burn that yellow folder and never look back.

I had a journalism professor in college who implored us to follow a very specific writing style. He said that if you have something you really want to say, it’s like a cute little puppy that you want to coddle and train and sculpt into a loyal and obedient dog. His advice: “drown your puppies.” It may be fun to write and, once you get it right, there’s a chance it’ll be fun to read, but in the meantime, you’re ignoring everything else going on around you and annoying the hell out of everyone around you with your incessant cooing and coddling. Generally, this boils down to the 80-20 rule. 80% of the stuff anyone produces is going to be junk. That’s typically based on the notion that we produce the first thing that comes into our heads. One school of thought on this is if you have 100 things in your head, push past the first 80 that come to you and then start looking at the remaining ideas. It doesn’t mean that those first ideas are inherently crap; it just means that they’re easy, and what is easy is rarely good. Give those ideas time to mature, and they might become useful.

The school of thought that powered this 30-day experiment was to take those half-baked ideas and run with them. They may not be the best, but the point is not to have 30 phenomenal posts; it’s to get into a rhythm, so that when a great idea does come along, the endurance to perfect it is there.

Also, it should be noted that you shouldn’t actually drown any real puppies. What are you, a monster?

Another thing I learned is that I may need to give the blog more direction. Writing every day might have been an easier task if my ideas were all focused in one direction (travel or science fiction or philosophical musings or personal miscellany) instead of being scattered all over the spectrum. With a greater range of choices, I found it much harder to actually choose an idea and take a whole-hearted run at it.

I also simply need more time to write. I juggle writing with a day job, and trying to publish a post per day makes the quality suffer. For example, even though it ranked near the top of my page views, I think the “Guilty Pleasures” post, among others, could have been better if I’d had the time to expand, revisit, and revise (ERR). To ERR is human, and posting first drafts of everything made me feel a little like a machine. Luckily, I had some intelligent and well-read friends who were paying attention and were willing to add content in the comments field.

If I’m going to write about movies, media culture, and literature, I need time to actually consume and digest those things before writing about them. The stuff I did write about was already in my repertoire, but I felt like I used the same examples over and over *cough*StarWars*cough*. So, as I continue, I’ll be giving myself time to watch movies, read comics and books, and dig through the news again. It’s going to be awesome.

One last thing I learned is that stats and page views aren’t as important to me as I thought they’d be. They’re a half-decent indicator of what’s getting read, but with the available tools, comments field aside, there’s no real way to find out why. For all I know, the sheer number of tags on the “Time Capsule” post is what gave it 50% more views than the next most popular post from this 30-day challenge.

In a few days, after a much needed vacation, I’ll be back with something. Until then, have a happy New Year!

Brief: Christmas Traditions

I’m spending this Christmas in the Philippines with my girlfriend and her family. Traditions for these couple of days tend to be fairly similar for those who celebrate, but the differences are what make us who we are.

On Christmas Eve, it is her family’s tradition to go to her grandmother’s house for dinner, sing Christmas carols, and open presents. This year, the routine is slightly modified to accommodate a Secret Santa gift-giving circle that her brother devised for the younger generation, but as a whole it will remain the same. Christmas Day, we’ll be going to mass, having a big breakfast at a restaurant, and coming back to the house to avoid Manila’s infamous traffic and to watch movies.

My family’s tradition has changed quite a bit over the years. It used to be that we would have my grandmother and maybe one or two close friends over for dinner on Christmas Eve, and then there would be drinks for the adults afterward. Over the years, more and more friends found their way to our house until about ten years ago. At that point, my parents couldn’t do dinner for all those people, and just made Christmas Eve a night of drinks and finger foods, including fresh tamales, which they would pick up from various Mexican grocers. At the end of the night, when everyone had gone home, we would put on The Big Lebowski and have one last drink for the night–just the three of us. Now that this thing tends to run later, and my visits home have become rarer, the movie portion has gone away. The night has also changed to the weekend before, so that people don’t have to go visit relatives hungover the next day. Christmas Day has always seen us opening presents while snacking on a small breakfast, and then making our way to my grandmother’s house for a late lunch, which stretches well into dinner time.

Whatever your tradition, if you celebrate, have a Merry Christmas!

See you tomorrow for the final day of the blogging challenge!

SUPER NINJA EXPLOSION BONUS ROUND! FIGHT!

I’m going to leave you, tonight, with a recipe my friend Art shard with me some time ago. It’s Christmassy as hell.

Charles Dickens Punch

  • 1 packed cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups dark rum (Gosling’s or any other black rum works great)
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 4 cups very hot water (not quite boiling)

His instructions:

In a 4-quart saucepan combine the sugar, rum, and the brandy. Warm over low heat. Be sure there’s no exhaust fan running. Light the liquid [on fire, not with a lamp]. When the flames have gone out, squeeze in the lemon juice and add the water. Stir. Cover completely and cook for just a few minutes. Serve warm or over ice.

An addendum:

You don’t really have to light the booze on fire if you don’t want to. It’s dangerous and requires careful attention, since alcohol flames can be hard to see in a well lit room. Not using fire, however, will increase the alcohol content of the punch. Regardless, be very careful. This is strong drink and not for the novice drinker.

A second addendum:

If you like, especially if you didn’t choose to play around with fire, you can mix this concoction with hot, spiced apple cider for a pleasant and less alcoholic holiday quaff. It still may knock you on your ass, though. Just so you know.

Bitches and Media Dickery

I spent last evening drinking with my girlfriend’s extended family. Toward the end of the night, one of her relatives told a story that I’m going to try and reproduce here from memory. It may not be accurate to the letter, but it’s going to be close, and as true to the story as I can get it.

You know, our generation of Filipinos is maybe the last one that speaks fluent English. There’s the accent, of course, but you can tell English is going away when you hear the younger people say one word: confirm. They say con-feerm. I always get this: “confirm” is when you know something, and “con-feerm” is when you really, really know it. But I have to tell them: it’s “confirm.” When something’s solid, it’s not feerm; it’s firm.

Another cousin, a teacher and former journalist, jumped in and added something more:

I hear that. I hear another one, too. Kids are always saying they’re going to go to the bitch. They’ve got a bitch house. This bitch is my favorite. It’s like they’re not listening to what they’re saying. ‘The Philippines has a lot of really nice bitches.’ Well….

I guess I’ll get to see for myself, when the family takes a trip to the bitch after Christmas.

The next item on my list is the article BuzzFeed posted about the whole Justine Sacco debacle. If you want to know about it, read it. My first rule of BuzzFeed is don’t talk about BuzzFeed, and I’m bending that rule enough just by doing a quick meta-analysis. The title of the article is: “This Is How A Woman’s Offensive Tweet Became The World’s Top Story.” AP style gripes notwithstanding, there’s something wrong with this whole concept. I’m not going to go down the journalism ethics road, because BuzzFeed isn’t journalism, but it is, unfortunately, news for a lot of people. I see far more articles from this website re-posted to social media than I see from any of the waning heads of the Fourth Estate. The Boston Globe did put out an interesting article on the Tsarnaev brothers, who were (I think we’re still supposed to use the word “allegedly”) responsible for the Boston Marathon Bombing earlier this year, but articles like it aren’t being produced in volume sufficient to keep pace with the more exciting, short-burst consumption that is BuzzFeed.

What troubles me about this particular article is that it involves at least one of BuzzFeed’s staff. If you’re going to claim that a shitty tweet was the world’s top story, even if the hype flared up and burnt out over the course of a day or two, it would seem like a conflict of interest to have your own people commenting on it and ginning up controversy within the same interactive medium. But again, BuzzFeed isn’t journalism. There is no conflict of interest because it is in their interest to keep page views up. They may not have been the ones to start the fire, but fanning the flames couldn’t hurt if there might be an article in it.

Sometimes, though, wish I had that kind of work ethic.

Just the Tip

As I mentioned early on in this blog, I work customer service for a company in the States. All day long, I watch pizza delivery orders pass through our website, and occasionally, a restaurant will call in to add a tip to an order if the customer waited until the food was delivered, or simply forgot to add one. Typically, anything under $10 gets a $1 tip; $10-$13 gets a $2 tip; $13-$17 gets $3; $18-$24 gets $4, and so on. Generally, Americans are pretty good about giving 15-20%. Some people tip less, some more, depending on service, existing delivery fees, personal budget, and the economy, but almost everyone gives something.

The practice of tipping is so ingrained in American culture that we know exactly who to tip and how much. Like American English, though, there are a ton of exceptions, and you learn them along the way, typically by asking someone else. For example, you tip delivery drivers because they’re bringing food from a restaurant to your home, and you also tip waiters because they’re brining the food from the kitchen to your table, but neither tip the UPS guy nor the person behind the counter for takeout (the latter is actually optional, but most people tip much less than 15%). You tip house movers, tattoo artists, and blackjack dealers, but not tow truck drivers, appliance repairmen, or chefs. Oddly, people tip a bartender, but not a barista. Though I did get some tips when I was a barista, they were nothing compared to a bartender’s tips. Both are mixers and preparers of socially accepted drugs, but one earns the big bucks, relatively speaking.

I don’t know if you’re supposed to tip a prostitute or dominatrix, but I Googled it, and there is a pretty even split on the issue. Some say that the fee is all-inclusive, but others say that if you have a regular girl, you might want to tip. There are other issues, like pimps and pay-as-you-go rackets, and it all gets pretty complex. With dominatrices, however, the split leans more toward tip than don’t tip. Anyway, the point is that it’s kind of willy-nilly. There’s no set of rules for who gets tipped. You just have to know. A good starting point is that if there’s skilled/dirty labor involved, you tip them.

In my experience so far in Southeast Asia, tipping is rarer and at a far reduced percentage than in the States. Leaving a little something, like the odd change from a bill, is fine, but on your receipt, you’ll generally find a 10% service charge already included. Restaurants in the States do this, but generally only for large groups of six or more. Here, even if someone’s doing a dirty or service job for you, you still might not tip them. It is almost wholly dependent on the person, place of business, and region. For instance, everyone I’ve talked to who’s been to Japan and Korea, say that it’s frowned upon as an insult. In Malaysia, it’s more accepted, but I’ve tipped two people at the same place and been met with two different reactions. And once, I tried to tip a guy and he just stormed off. Lesson learned. I haven’t had the opportunity to tip here in the Philippines, but I’ve been told that while it’s not frowned upon, it’s not really a thing; there’s no set percentage, and people tend to give a few coins or whatever they feel is appropriate.

Americans are so used to tipping that when, in places like Boston that are saturated with college students from around the globe, we don’t get tipped or see someone not getting tipped, we lose our minds. For the most part, we treat service jobs as lower class or a transition from one place to another in life. A job as a waitress might be a way to get through college, or it might be a way to work your way up to management, where you get paid enough not to need tips. It’s kind of a trial by fire. In one sense, tips, in the American experience, are a way of encouraging excellent performance through incentive–positive reenforcement. In another sense, it’s a way of motivating people upward, through the knowledge that because they rely on tips to survive, they are the lowest on the heap and need to fight their way up. Bootstraps, or whatever. But philosophy aside, tips are a way of supplementing employees’ meager wages in an industry that can’t afford to provide for its own people. At least in America.

The Philippines: First Night, First Impressions

After a long day of travel and several drinks, I groused that I wanted to postpone the last five days of this 30-day blogging challenge until the Christmas festivities are over, but was told in return–in no uncertain terms–that I was to finish this thing and not make excuses. No rest for the wicked. So let’s start toward the top of this travel experience, and then get to the Philippines, because chronology.

A couple months ago, I posted about a taxi driver, Mr. Zain, who defied the laws of gods and men to get us to the LCCT airport a full half hour before reasonable expectations. Today, he chopped at least another fifteen minutes off that journey. At one point, I could swear that the tires left the road ever so briefly as we crested the top of a rise. As gravity yanked us back from our flight of fantasy, I felt my internal organs rise in my chest cavity. Part of the experience is a bit melancholy. In another life, this guy would be a fighter pilot or captain of a rocket to the moon. But we only get the one, and looking back at the choices we could have made and the decisions we should have reconsidered can only cause grief.

In the car I heard a cover of a pop song that I’ve probably hear a few dozen times, but oddly I can’t put a name to it. The only reason I mention this is because it was a mariachi version in Tamil. Perhaps the mind-destroying combination is what is preventing me from remembering the name of the song.

At the airport, it took us about a long time to find the place where we needed to check in, because, of course, there were no signs up. The counter itself wasn’t even labeled. We ended up finding it by locating the long, snaking line of Filipinos. Once we checked in, we found one of my girlfriend’s colleagues, who is also spending the holiday in Manila. As we sat, waiting for our delayed flight, the following exchange took place:

Lucy: “What’s the difference between Asia Air and Asia Air Zest?”

Emmett: “About an hour and a half wait, apparently.”

Lucy: “More time in the airport!”

Indeed.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been working my way through Asimov’s Foundation, but with maybe twenty minutes a night to read before sleep overtakes me, I hadn’t made much progress. But I got a ton of time to read on the plane, and it seems that Hardin’s headed to Anacreon, and shit’s getting real.

As a welcome to the Philippines, we were taken directly off the plane, put onto buses, driven twenty-five yards and then deposited in front of the gate.

I was told that traffic round Manila was going to be insane, especially so close to Christmas, and that it’d probably take at least an hour to get to my girlfriend’s parents’ place, but not including a stop for petrol, it took twenty minutes. When we were in the car, I was taking some video on an iPhone (which I can’t/haven’t uploaded yet) when someone exclaimed, “Look at that traffic!” and pointed out of the left side of the car.

“That’s a parking lot!” I said, and then realized that I was taking video of an actual parking lot. It was not a proud moment. Still, the traffic was pretty gnarly.

Speaking of gnarly, the internet is spotty, so hopefully I’ll get a post out tomorrow, let alone show up for work.

Off to the Philippines

Tomorrow, it’s off to the Philippines with me.

I’m looking forward to getting away, but there’s something weird about celebrating a winter holiday in a place that doesn’t get winter. (Obviously, it gets plenty of other awful weather, but this isn’t a meteorology blog, so I’m not really going to go there unless it’s relevant.) We did see some Noble Firs for sale, at over $100US for one six feet tall. They’re imported, like so many other goods and services around here. It’s a step price, but if you’re serious about getting a Christmas tree it’s not a bad deal. I suggested, once or twice, that we could decorate a ficus or fern, but the idea was vetoed. Some things, it seems, are better imported.

Take vodka, or any spirits, really. After looking at the vodkas and rums for sale at the grocery, and seeing prices of 100RM (about $33US) or more, I thought that maybe I could look at the bargain rum for 39RM (about $11US). You can buy dirt cheap booze in the United States, and it’s typically fine for mixing. Not here. My 39RM bottle of rum tasted like the bathtub it was probably distilled in. A little cola, and it was palatable, so I thought nothing of it. A week ago, I had one shot of equally cheap vodka, again mixed into cola, and almost instantly became incoherent. In the morning, I woke up feeling like someone had beaten me with a sock full of nickels. Whatever was in that bottle was not vodka. Wood varnish, maybe. Rubbing alcohol, likely. This is apparently not an uncommon mistake, and it can end badly. I was lucky to have a brutal hangover, but I have heard accounts of people ending up in the hospital from drinking liquor laced with a little too much methyl alcohol.

Anyway, this was a post about heading to the Philippines. The next post will be from there.

Tilt-Shift

Christmas came a few days early this year. My girlfriend weebled and wobbled, but couldn’t couldn’t wait six days. In a bag, weighing about as much as a brick was a brand new tilt-shift lens.

She complained that my response to the gift was not as enthusiastic as it could have been, but to be honest, I think I was just in shock. I’ve always wanted one of these, but have no idea how to use one. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have been messing around with it and already come up with some pretty good shots.

_MG_3071

_MG_3063Even without using the tilt-shift portions, the picture quality is astounding. It is necessarily a manual focus lens, so it won’t replace my 50mm f1.8 (the “plastic fantastic”) for general purpose shooting–t least, not all the time.

From what I can tell after watching a couple online tutorials and messing around with the lens a bit is that the purpose of the tilt and shift mechanisms is to alter the depth of field and focus points. This allows for some corrections in perspective (parallel lines and whatnot) and some interesting distortions of perspective. Currently, I’m not sure what the difference is, usage-wise, between my 45mm and, say, a wider-angle 24mm. In either case, I’m going to learn a lot more about photography in general, just by figuring out how this lens works. And as far as my photos are concerned, it’s going to be a gift that keeps on giving.

_MG_3073

Scissor Kick My Rubber Suit, Baby. It Don’t Hurt.

Call it cheese. Call it shlock. Call it bad, and call me a hipster for loving the hell out of it. Actually, don’t do that. There isn’t an ounce of irony to my abiding adoration of old kung-fu, monster, and kung-fu monster movies. You might ask why this is, and you’d be right to do so. Watching these movies is a window into one of the most abundantly creative times in cinematic history, and you don’t need to look all that closely to see what some of the movies we consider to be classics have borrowed, stolen, repurposed, and improved upon.

But let’s start at the beginning. Gojira (1954) likely started the man-in-the-rubber-suit phenomenon, and how! The technology for fusing man and rubber monster was so primitive that the guy inside the suit occasionally passed out from heat exhaustion.

Whatcha got behind your back there, buddy?

Over the course of the Godzilla movies, the rubber suit became more wearable, but looked more and more human as it went on. This allowed for some awesome knock-down-drag-out fights, as in The Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). As soon as we needed to have Godzilla express consternation, amusement, and other emotions relevant to beating ass, technology improved. This made Godzilla’s purpose less the divine punishment for man’s hubris to something more akin to the guy you tag in when the saucer men from Planet X try to steal your women folk. Laudable, but not quite the same message–unless you’re from Planet X. Eventually, when technology allowed it, we kicked out the guy in the suit and replaced him with a computer-generated version of the beasts we wanted destroying our cities. The change allowed us to bring back a more lizard-like form, and allowed for greater destruction, but at the same time, the message of these films became more self-centered. While modern monster movies focus on survival and the triumph of the human spirit, Gojira asked if either of those two things are worth having. Maybe we’ll get it right again some day, but don’t hold your breath.

At the same time guys in rubber suits were clumsily duking it out, Hong Kong was producing some of the best martial arts movies ever made. Bruce Lee dazzled us with his lightning speed and “waaahhhh!”s and “wooooo!”s. But we also had guys like Sonny Chiba putting his fists in people’s faces as a less sympathetic, Yojimbo-type character. This was also the era of the style battles. Tiger! Mantis! Iron Monkey! Will anything defeat the Wu-Tang style? I hear it’s not to be trifled with. These movies are also on YouTube. Check out Deadly Mantis (1978) if you like watching guys learn the art of ass kicking from insects.

Generally, this genre evolved in two directions. Taking the fantasy path, one branch of kung-fu films bought up all the wires and harnesses available and allowed its characters to fly across rooftops and balance on the ends of swords. Notable examples are Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010). From this category, following from movies like Dance of Death (1976), directors like Quentin Tarantino found an excellent villain in the aged mentor.

The other branch steeped itself in realism, focusing less on the importance of style and more on the end result. In that category, we ended up with Drunken Master (1978) and Ong Bak (2003). In spirit, we also ended up with The Raid: Redemption (2011), which you can see almost scene for scene in Dredd (2012).

Speaking of superheroes, a day came in 1975 when someone asked, “Hey, couldn’t we mix kung-fu with rubber monsters and insanely overpowered superheroes to make a pastiche of ’70s Hong Kong for the benefit of future generations?”

And they totally did.

Infra-Man was awesome not only because it blended all of these things into a great big cheese puff of a movie, but because it is essentially the model for the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Except that it’s only one dude. And he can shoot lasers from his nipples eyes.

All of this, together with Voltron, we now have the family tree that produced Pacific Rim (2013). As a movie, it accomplished exactly what it set out to, and if we want to argue about its nonsensicalness (why build giant robots to punch things?), we only need refer back to it’s lineage to see that its gaping plot holes are the product of generations of Bene Gesserit breeding.

Prequels Done Right

I know, you were like, “Hey, great. He’s done talking about Star Wars. Now we can read about scraps of paper he forgot to throw away. Yay…?” But, now I say, “Get out your horse-beating stick, because we’re doing it again!” And then you say, “Shut up, you dweeb!” And I say, “No. We’re doing this shit!”

It occurred to me that I went on at some length about science fiction, storytelling, prequels, reboots, and all the rest, but never provided any examples or indications that Star Wars prequels could be done right. Well, they can, and they have. In the mid-’90s, Kevin J. Anderson and Tom Veitch wrote a series of comics under the “Tales of the Jedi” banner, which chronicle the events of the Old Republic, some 5,000 years before the events in A New Hope. One of the special things about this series is its opening with a non-human character. 009+010 frame 1He might look alien, but he’s a total dweeb, so he’s relatable to pretty much anyone who would be picking these comics up in the first place. As we’re learning about ancient history (of the Star Wars universe), he’s doing the same. It’s a good beginning because in just a few pages, it conveys the idea that where and when we are is so far removed from the Luke Skywalker era that trying to tie anything to the movies is pointless, and ret-conning is impossible. Not only that, but it shows us exactly what we expect from a Star Wars story: science fantasy.

In A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.” What the writers did here was take that tiny bit of unspoken mythology and expand it into the Star Wars universe’s Arthurian legends, tales of knights in shining armor, and story of Siegfried and Brünnhilde. George Lucas tried shoehorning science into the fantasy by explaining the roots of the Force and Boba Fett, but it felt wrong. These feel right because they explain everything–who the Sith are, why there need to be only two at one time, the creation of dark places (that cave on Dagobah where Luke cuts fake-Vader’s head off in Empire Strikes Back), how the Republic became cohesive, and even how the Force, lightsabers, and hyperspace travel work–all through the framework of fantasy.

This guy's hat has more character than Anakin Skywalker.

This guy’s hat has more character than Anakin Skywalker.

There are knights (obviously), a badass warrior princess, gangsters, mercenaries, a guy who turns himself into a tree, and sorcerers so villainous they’d use Emperor Palpatine as a chew toy. There are naval (space) battles, love stories, a storming of the castle, a brother’s betrayal, a uniting of kingdoms, and a trip to the heart of Mordor (Korriban). Hell, for a good chunk of the storyline, they refer to use of the Dark Side as magic because no one knows what it is.

Despite the amount of history we get, there is a surprising lack of exposition, and what we learn through it is absolutely relevant to the story. We learn about the terrible battery life of ancient lightsabers when we see that they have to be plugged into a power source strapped to the Jedi’s belt, which means no throwing. It’s like watching Mulder talk on a cell phone the size of a brick on The X-Files. Sure it works, but dude: there’s still pay phones.

I guess this post was a little scattered, and I’m not sure what I was getting at here, except that maybe a better way to do a prequel–and perhaps a better way to do a sequel–to the original trilogy would have been to leave the old characters behind and to set the stage, with the originals in mind as what might come as a logical progression. Maybe I’m just grasping at straws for content.

Cheat Day 2: I Need This, OK?

The last few days have been a little rough. I’m not sleeping well, and haven’t been able to sleep in but once since I’ve moved to Malaysia. That, combined with blog fatigue, holiday stress, and a visit from my good friend depression, means that my creativity and my ability to give deep thought to anything other than self-pitying bullshit are both running on fumes. I am writing this new intro, though, so technically I’m getting something done.

Rather than inflict un-fun upon you today, I’ve decided to revisit a post I made for my old blog, which died because I neglected to feed it (and because I forgot the password). Those who know me may remember it–others may have stumbled upon it. I have done my best to replicate it as exactly as I could, based on the files I dug up on my computer. I did make a few changes here and there, but mostly cosmetic.

Great Codpieces in History, Vol. I

There are great and numerous drunken arguments that attempt to determine the greatest codpiece in the history of humanity. I’m just going to cut to the chase here and posit that there is no single greatest codpiece, and that there may never be one so gloriously over the top that it would outshine them all—literally, perhaps. But this does not make all codpieces equal. The best way to prove these codpiece-related ideas may not be a best-of list, but simply a chronological list of notable codpieces throughout history. Let’s begin, shall we?

1. Hot Nuts in Warm Places: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (1759-1766)

It is not my business to dip my pen in this controversy—much undoubtedly may be wrote on both sides of the question—all that concerns me as an historian, is to represent the matter of fact, and render it credible to the reader, that the hiatus in Phutatorius’s breeches was sufficiently wide to receive the chesnut;—and that the chesnut, somehow or other, did fall perpendicularly, and piping hot into it, without Phutatorius’s perceiving it, or any one else at that time.

The genial warmth which the chesnut imparted, was not undelectable for the first twenty or five-and-twenty seconds—and did no more than gently solicit Phutatorius’s attention towards the part:—But the heat gradually increasing, and in a few seconds more getting beyond the point of all sober pleasure, and then advancing with all speed into the regions of pain, the soul of Phutatorius, together with all his ideas, his thoughts, his attention, his imagination, judgment, resolution, deliberation, ratiocination, memory, fancy, with ten battalions of animal spirits, all tumultuously crowded down, through different defiles and circuits, to the place of danger, leaving all his upper regions, as you may imagine, as empty as my purse.

With the best intelligence which all these messengers could bring him back, Phutatorius was not able to dive into the secret of what was going forwards below, nor could he make any kind of conjecture, what the devil was the matter with it: However, as he knew not what the true cause might turn out, he deemed it most prudent in the situation he was in at present, to bear it, if possible, like a Stoick; which, with the help of some wry faces and compursions of the mouth, he had certainly accomplished, had his imagination continued neuter;—but the sallies of the imagination are ungovernable in things of this kind—a thought instantly darted into his mind, that tho’ the anguish had the sensation of glowing heat—it might, notwithstanding that, be a bite as well as a burn; and if so, that possibly a Newt or an Asker, or some such detested reptile, had crept up, and was fastening his teeth—the horrid idea of which, with a fresh glow of pain arising that instant from the chesnut, seized Phutatorius with a sudden panick, and in the first terrifying disorder of the passion, it threw him, as it has done the best generals upon earth, quite off his guard:—the effect of which was this, that he leapt incontinently up, uttering as he rose that interjection of surprise so much descanted upon, with the aposiopestic break after it, marked thus, Z…ds—which, though not strictly canonical, was still as little as any man could have said upon the occasion;—and which, by-the-bye, whether canonical or not, Phutatorius could no more help than he could the cause of it.

Though this has taken up some time in the narrative, it took up little more time in the transaction, than just to allow time for Phutatorius to draw forth the chesnut, and throw it down with violence upon the floor—and for Yorick to rise from his chair, and pick the chesnut up. (2: LXII)

If this was too lengthy or flowery for your sensibilities, our narrator, Mr. Shandy, describes the reactions of a man who is unfortunate enough to have a hot chestnut roll off the table and into his loose codpiece. It is a classic 18th-century slapstick scene, and must be appreciated as such.

2. Do You Bite Your Codpiece at Me, Sir? Romeo and Juliet, dir. Franco Zeffirelli (1968)

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I’m sure that there were codpieces aplenty in Shakespeare’s time, but the grapefruit-sized lumps in the trousers of the male actors helped this production take the Oscar for Best Costume Design at the 1969 Academy Awards. Perhaps The King’s Speech could have taken the costume design category this year if only Colin Firth had had the courage to make the cock-pocket sacrifice.

3. Malcolm McDowell’s DeLarge: A Clockwork Orange, dir. Stanley Kubrick (1971)

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Again, let’s not dwell on the source material when we have wonderful little images like the one above. Perhaps the more frightening thing about this particular codpiece is the very real possibility that we might just see what’s under it, and that it could be the last thing we ever see.

4. Sean Connery’s Floating Head: Zardoz, dir. John Boorman (1974)

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Say what you will about the movie, but don’t say it here. This is not a film review. After the obvious, there’s really not much to say about this fine piece of pelvic craftsmanship. It speaks for itself, and is one of the prime examples of a codpiece thought by some to be the greatest in all of cinematic history. We shall see.

5. Humungus’s Humungous: The Road Warrior, dir. George Miller (1981)

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Who gives a hot fuck about Mel Gibson prancing around in the desert, when you’ve got a badass like Lord Humungus? Yes, the studded leather pouch makes him a bonafide aristocrat. It’s right here in the rules. Look it up.

6. Sting’s Meat Shield: Dune, dir. David Lynch (1984)

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This here is another hotly contested Most Glorious Codpiece Ever nominee. Not only is it a character in itself, but it is one of the best parts of this movie, second only to Sting, who chews up every molecule of scenery around him except for this bulletproof cock blocker.

It is said that David Lynch has disowned this movie, but certainly not because of this. Certainly not!

7. The Silver Lining: Labyrinth, dir. Jim Henson (1986)

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This one is subtle, for a while, until you see it, and then you see nothing else. Allow me to demonstrate.

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Now look back at the first picture. Notice anything different? If you look closely at the credits to this movie, you’ll see that David Bowie’s giant codpiece has its own billing. The ‘80s were a very progressive time in the film industry.

8. Cameo’s Cameo: “Word Up” (1986)


The Year of Our Lord 1986 yielded a bumper crop of fantastical codpieces, the wearing of which seemed to be spearheaded by musicians. Cameo’s “Word Up” music video is nutty enough on its own, but this red latex monstrosity makes it one of those videos you show to teenagers when explaining what the ‘80s were like. Want a closer look?

not pictured: years of therapy

not pictured: years of therapy

It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

9. Comics Get Cocky: Doom Patrol #70 (1993)

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Before you ask, yes, that’s a laser cannon strapped to his crotch. Apparently it doubled as the kind of power tool a Cosmopolitan sex advice columnist would come up with. And, yes again, his name was Codpiece. Comic books in the early ‘90s went completely off the rails. I don’t know if it was the heroin, grunge rock, or just post-Cold War ennui, but the lives and costumes of superheroes and supervillains got really weird. Thank goodness we’re past all that now.

10. Stallone’s Detective Shield: Judge Dredd, dir. Danny Cannon (1995)

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Again with the crazy comic book stuff gone horribly wrong. At least this time it was its transition to film that caused the real weirdness. How hard must it have been for Stallone to growl, “I am the law!” with that bulletproof cup strapped to his junk.

Oh well. At least it’s not particularly memorable.

11. Sex Machine: From Dusk Till Dawn, dir. Robert Rodriguez (1996)

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Subtle.

I’m not sure what it was about the ‘90s and dick guns, but they certainly were big back then. Perhaps without the Internet being as big as it is now, memes didn’t burn themselves out so quickly. Still, this one, like a very few lolcat macros, stands out in the sea of cock rockets because of its inventiveness and practicality.

There are many, many more codpieces out there, some fantastical, some dignified, and some just plain obscene. Perhaps, one day, we will catalog them all, stand back and gaze upon our collection, and finally find the best one of them all. Until then, however, the search continues. Onwards and upwards, lads.