Monthly Archives: March 2017

River Bluff Dental Reviews (RIP Cecil)

Remember when that dentist killed Cecil the lion in 2015?

I’d almost forgotten about it. The killing of Harambe sort of became the go-to unnecessary animal death that we all thought about instead.

But the killing of Cecil was different. When Cecil was shot, people went NUTS. Not just because an animal died, but because we had a human to blame. In the Harambe case, the zookeeper was just doing their duty – we might not agree with their decision, but Harambe wasn’t killed out of selfishness. Not so with Cecil.

Cecil was killed by dentist Walter Palmer as part of a recreational (and subsequently deemed illegal by Zimbabwean authorities) big-game hunt. Basically he flew out and killed a lion – who turned out to actually be a famous lion in the conservation world. Uh-oh.

The internet went ballistic, with everyone suddenly remembering that big-game hunting is still a thing that happens in the world today. It didn’t die out with Ernest Hemingway.

The backlash against Walter Palmer followed the usual lines of the Twitter outrage machine. He was publicly shamed, his privacy invaded, and his workplace picketed.

I have no idea if the dentist’s practice – River Bluff Dental – is still operating. Google does list its opening hours still, but I can’t find a functioning website or social media page for it. I’d wager it’s just keeping a low profile. What I can find are reviews people have left for it on Google.

It’s a form of protest I haven’t seen before. Not just slating the person online, or holding up signs outside their workplace, but leaving them bad reviews online. But since there are also genuine dental patients there leaving reviews, it ends up reading like the most insane dental practice ever. Observe –

From a 5* review of one of the doctors there, to a 1* calling the owner a murderer. Quite the mixed bag.

If you were trying to pick a new dentist, what would you make of the above? Well, some people are saying he’s a murderer. But on the other hand, he gets some good reviews. It’s like reading reviews for an Italian place that reads “Best lasagne in town! Also the owner denies the Holocaust. 3.5 stars.”

Let’s read some more.

These two are interesting. Polly seems to be giving a genuine bad review of the place. But this is in the midst of all the hate-reviews coming in. Is she possibly a fraud? Greg seems to think so! His comment is a meta-review of the other comments, suggesting that they’re not all legitimate. But then he himself gives the place two stars for no obvious reason. Why did you do that, Greg? WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Deub EEBRAB making the chilling claim that Palmer actively murders animals in his workplace. This goes beyond the established facts. He killed a lion in Zimbabwe. Still, huge if true.

Who exactly is Erika meant to be quoting here? This reads like they should be quotes from his website or something. But they’re not. You can’t just put criticism of someone in quotes. That doesn’t “mean anything.”

There’s a couple of these too. Clearly angry protest reviews that still give the place more than one star. Like Rutofni here. He clearly disagrees with Walter on the value of animal lives. And yet he can’t find it in himself to give River Bluff Dental the full 1*. I wonder what earned the second star?

And this one just gets it entirely wrong. If you’re calling for someone’s arrest, DON’T GIVE THEM FIVE STARS. It only encourages them.

So many of these are sarcastic you forget there are some genuine bad reviews in the mix too.

To be honest, I’m pretty impressed people are still doing this, so long removed from when it all went down. What reminded Salvador and Greer here to go and leave a review? I’d love to know.

As businesses rely more and more on good Yelp/TripAdvisor reviews, it’ll be interesting to see how this form of protest develops. It has hints of online slacktivism in that you don’t have to do anything beyond pressing a button and writing some nasty words. But it has an additional layer of malice about it, in that you’re also trying to destroy someone’s livelihood. We should probably remember that other completely innocent dentists worked at River Bluff Dental too.

And of course, we should remember the lion who had to die for one man’s sick pleasure.


(PS. Don’t forget you can replay the last days of Harambe as an interactive text adventure – written by me! – here).

Spuds MacKenzie is the coolest dog in the history of advertising

Usually for a blog like this I’d attempt to tie it into some current event. But for Spuds MacKenzie, there’s no need. He’s just the coolest dog ever. Not sure who Spuds MacKenzie is? BEHOLD, SPUDS:

Don’t let the caption fool you. Spuds MacKenzie isn’t actually a Dean of Partyology. And I’m pretty sure he’s not actually pouring that beer.

No, Spuds MacKenzie was the mascot for Bud Light in the 1980s. And it was totally awesome. Just… LOOK AT HIM!

I don’t have all too much info on the history of Spuds MacKenzie. But I do want to meditate on what exactly is happening here.

For some reason, the marketing people at Bud Light in the 80s decided they needed a mascot for their horrible beer. And what better way to appeal to the masses than with a cool dog with a rad attitude? Yup, they literally just did a Poochie.

Imagine pitching this today. “We need to get more young people drinking our beer. How about a dog that wears sunglasses? Everyone loves dogs!”. It doesn’t quite make any sense, but it sort of works. I couldn’t find any footage of him actually drinking any beer, but I did find this .gif of him doing a sweet ski jump.

Look how cool that is! So much better than Jean Claude van Damme doing the splits or whatever he’s doing in those Coors Light ads right now.

At the height of Spuds’ popularity, you could even buy merchandise of him. Sort of like a precursor of the Compare the Market meerkat tat you get now. Here I am in my younger days modelling such a tee:

“The original party animal.” He sure was.

If that phrase sounds familiar, it might be because Futurama ripped off the character wholesale for their ‘Slurms Mackenzie’ character. RIP

Apparently there was some controversy when it was uncovered that the original Spuds dog was in fact female. But I’d just argue that would actually make Spuds an early figure in the awareness of social progressiveness in advertising. So good for her.

More worrying was that people thought the dog particularly appealed to children. And that children loving a beer-drinking dog probably wasn’t the best idea. So Spuds was retired. Although he made a reappearance in the 2017 Super Bowl literally as a ghost mutt. This kind of implies he died, which is sort of morbid. But it’s cool to see him back in action.

LOL at the idea of you showing up late to a house party with a crate of Bud Light and people actually being happy to see you.

Anyway, that’s it really. Spuds MacKenzie represents a better time. A time when a dog could advertise beer on TV and everyone thought it was cool. Crack open a cold one and toast Spuds, wherever he is now.

The State of Greetings Cards

Why are all greetings cards so terrible?

I had to buy a card the other day, and it was a depressing experience. There’s something about that industry that brings out the worst in creative design. I mean, just look at the state of some of these:

Could this maybe be meant ironically? Is the demand for irony sufficient to justify the mass production of this card?
Absolute state of this.


Burn this sick planet.

Here are some more, from Twitter.

So what’s the deal? Why are these always the ugliest, unfunniest, worst possible things that could exist? I’m not entirely sure.

I guess it’s something to do with having to appeal to absolutely everyone. “Happy Birthday! Your nuanced opinions on neoliberalism inspire me!” would be a niche card – though I would buy it – while “Happy Birthday! You like beer!” applies to pretty much anyone with a mouth. So I guess they’re just going for lowest-common-denominator trash?

Speaking of, there’s a weird theme of alcohol in greetings cards. The male-intended cards feature beer, while the female-intended ones feature wine, G&Ts, or cocktails. There’s a lot more to unpack there (OMG CLINTONS CARDS IS THE PATRIARCHY), but my beef is more to do with how horribly unoriginal it all is.

And then there’s just loads of toilet humour. Flatuence, crude sexual innuendo, endless pictures of old naked people for some reason. When did we stoop so low?


It’s gotten real bad, folks. So bad that Scribbler has had to put up signs in their shops basically warning people how bad their cards are.

Maybe I’m just out of touch? Maybe all these cards are actually really funny. Maybe it’s not the brexit-voting, Mrs Browns Boys-watching, James Corden-liking, mouth-breathing masses that have it wrong. Maybe it’s just me.

Sometimes I do genuinely think that. But then I saw that this is currently the 4th top-selling card on (don’t worry, the top 3 are also terrible).





Please, someone help me.

Hot Take: That thing you like is actually bad!

You know that thing you like? You know that thing that everyone thinks is good? I’ve got some bad news.

It’s actually bad.

Yes, that’s right. That thing you like is bad.

Maybe you think it’s funny. Or cute. Or in any way worthwhile. Maybe you derive some fleeting enjoyment from its existence. But you shouldn’t. It’s bad. And you should feel bad for not thinking it’s bad in the first place.

You see, I’m the one who sees things correctly. I know what’s good and what’s bad. And so I can see that the thing you like isn’t a thing that people should actually like.

I’m there in the comments. I’m telling you that cute animal is actually in distress. I’m telling you that you’re racist. I’m getting offended on everyone’s behalf.

I know all the ways in which things are problematic. Or could be construed as problematic. Or that I could deliberately misconstrue in order to portray as problematic. And if you’ve got a problem with that, you’re part of the problem too.

Oh, and that other thing you think is good? That’s bad too.

Everything good is actually bad. I’m sorry, but you really should have known better.

Oh, you disagree with me? I’m afraid you’re just a troll. Thinking things are good is bad. Defending good things is trolling. Only I am not trolling. Only I have the true overview of things. And I’m telling you that you’re wrong.

Next time you think something is good, just ask yourself “what if it was actually bad?” And then you will know the truth.

Then you will have the hot takes as I do.

Steamed Hams is the Greatest Comedy Scene Ever

Let’s start by rewatching this.

I believe this is the greatest scene of all time in any comedy. And I’m going to tell you why.

1. The Script

This scene comes in at about 340 words, and 67 sentences. Every line serves a purpose – either as a joke, or as character building.

The very first exchange, for example, goes as follows:

Well, Seymour, I made it- despite your directions.

Ah.  Superintendent Chalmers. Welcome.
I hope you’re prepared for an unforgettable luncheon.

Chalmer’s opening line does so much work. It demonstrates that Chalmers is already somewhat annoyed at Skinner, for giving him wrong directions, and that he has an incredibly dry and sarcastic sense of humour. It also implies that Skinner is unreliable and prone to errors. Chalmer’s resignatory tone may also suggest that he’s used to Skinner’s bumbling idiocy, setting up the dynamic for the rest of the scene.

Indeed the very first thing that Chalmers says is “Well”. Starting a sentence with “well” is a casual way of speaking. He’s not saying “Hello Skinner, I’m here” – he’s saying “Things are already off to a bad start, and I’m a bit annoyed.”

Skinner on the other hand is oblivious. He misses Chalmers’ veiled insult, and seems surprised to see him at all. The very first thing he says is just “Ah” – a kind of surprised noise. He’s either too dumb to get the joke, or he’s so engrossed in his own little world that he doesn’t notice. The line “I hope you’re prepared for an unforgettable luncheon!” is both intelligent (it uses long, intellectual-sounding words) and stupid (people don’t talk like that) – giving the line an airy feel contrasted with the grounded, sarcastic opening from Chalmers. Chalmers’ response to Skinner’s line isn’t even a word, it’s just a kind of mumbled “Yeah..” – again a contrast to Skinner’s own flowery language.

So what do the opening two lines tell us? We know that Chalmers is the down-to-earth straight man, and Skinner is the airhead idiot. It’s the classic straight man vs. crazy character set up that you find throughout comedy. Which brings us onto the structure.

2. The Structure

The structure of the scene is very simple. Skinner is trying to impress Chalmers, but is foiled again and again by both the situation and by Chalmers’ inquisitiveness. Rather than admitting defeat, Skinner attempts to bolster his position with increasingly flimsy lies. Thus there’s a characterisation to be noted in the structure of the scene – Skinner’s pride vs. Chalmer’s intelligence. The power dynamic is boss-employee, and the concept of desperately trying to impress one’s superior without showing any signs of weakness is universally relatable.

The fact that the setup is something of a cliché is entirely the point. The faux opening for a show called ‘Skinner & the Superintendent” is so good because you can perfectly imagine what the entire show would be like; “Skinner with his crazy explanations“. Farce is a sitcom staple, and though this sketch is meant to be a lampoon of the format, it also works perfectly in and of itself.

Notice how the lies that Skinner tells become ever-more absurd.

  1. Skinner is just stretching his calves, rather than climbing out the window.
  2. The smoke coming out of the oven is just steam.
  3. That Skinner moments ago said ‘steamed hams’ instead of ‘steamed clams’.
  4. Skinner routinely calls hamburgers ‘steamed hams.’
  5. That ‘steamed hams’ is a regional expression for hamburgers (from Albany, specifically).
  6. The burgers are an old family recipe.
  7. The fire in the kitchen is actually the aurora borealis.

At what point does Chalmers stop buying into Skinner’s deceptions? Possibly as early as (2) given the facial expression he makes before leaving the kitchen, and certainly by 4/5. The ‘steamed hams’ interrogation scene in particular is a densely-written masterpiece. Look at the script:

Superintendent, I hope you’re ready for mouthwatering hamburgers.

I thought we were having steamed clams.

D’oh, no. I said steamed hams.
That’s what I call hamburgers.

You call hamburgers steamed hams?

Yes. It’s a regional dialect.

Uh-huh. Uh, what region?

Uh, upstate New York.

Well, I’m from Utica, and I’ve never heard anyone use the phrase “steamed hams.

Oh, not in Utica. No.
It’s an Albany expression.

I see.
You know, these hamburgers are quite similar to the ones they have at Krusty Burger.

Oh, no. Patented Skinner burgers.
Old family recipe.

For steamed hams.


And you call them steamed hams despite the fact that they are obviously grilled.

To his credit, Skinner does a decent job here at fending off Chalmer’s queries. Chalmers isn’t buying it for a second of course, Skinner’s charade is woefully transparent, but the deception doesn’t completely fall apart until the very last line. There’s no contradiction in what Skinner has said (apart from the clams v. hams discrepancy which he addressed directly) until the point at which Chalmers points out that steaming is a different process to grilling.

As a side point, it’s worth comparing this scene to the one in Inglorious Basterds where Fassbender’s character is interrogated about his accent.

Replace Piz Palü with ‘Albany’ and it’s pretty striking. The comparison isn’t really relevant to my point, but it is interesting. Just because the scene is in an episode of The Simpsons, it doesn’t mean it can’t be incredibly great writing. Which brings us onto…

3. The Animation

Because yes, The Simpsons is ultimately a cartoon. There’s just some great drawings and animations in this scene. Chalmers’ reaction shots especially.

That one just screams suspicion and scrutiny. Meanwhile, the previous shot is equally excellent.

In a good cartoon, any frame should be able to stand on its own as a great joke. I’d say this one qualifies. The framing of Skinner in the foreground, with a whole leg out the window, and Chalmers bursting in with an expression of shock, is perfect. It’s the straight-man vs. the fool in a single shot. (The rational vs. the irrational). The hard cut from this to the light-hearted intro is a great piece of timing too, just at the beat we’d expect Skinner to get rumbled. It’s also parodying the concept of a cold opening in sitcoms, so again the concept is well married with the form.

Returning to the ‘steamed hams’ interrogation scene, observe how it’s mostly just two shots. Skinner talking, then Chalmers talking and back again. Between them are the offending hams.

Without wanting to seem too arty, there’s surely something in the placement of the burgers. They’re symbolically the objectification of Skinner’s lies, and they’re literally under both their noses. Skinner has served his lies up on a literal platter too. The two men are talking around a subject when they can both see the truth right in front of them. It’s not until Chalmers finally confronts Skinners with evidence of his lies (the grill marks on the burgers) that the spell is broken.

But we can go even deeper.

4. The Psychology of Space

Imagine physical space in the scene representing the dominance of each character We see four spaces in the scene, as such.

The spaces to the right are the (literal) domain of Skinner. Chalmers acts as an intruder into this domain. So we begin in this position, at the front door scene.

Chalmers gradually invades the space, and Skinner loses power accordingly. He’s weakened early on when Chalmers steps into the kitchen, attacking his defensive bastion.

Skinner is able to just cling on though. And off-screen is able to make it to the Krusty Burger.

During the meal, they’re just about even. Equal combatants fending off blows.

The power balance is thrown off when Skinner is confronted with the grilled hams. At the very same time, something else interesting happens. His safe space is again compromised.

By the very end, Skinner has no space left at all at the fire has spread to his entire house.

Symbolically, Skinner has sacrificed everything, and he’s failed. He’s lost his footing and Chalmers goes away with the power advantage, having come out on top in the battle of wits. Or has he?

5. The Climax

The height of the narrative comes in the aurora borealis exchange.

I should be- Good Lord! What is happening in there?

Aurora borealis.

Uh. Aurora borealis at this time of year at this time of day in this part of the country localized entirely within your kitchen?


May I see it?


It’s Skinner’s most extravagant lie by far. And Chalmers’ perfectly-delivered “at this time…” line is one of the funniest and most memorable Simpsons moments ever. But at the very last minute, the scene pulls its punch. Skinner isn’t called out. In fact, Chalmers acts entirely out of character and asks to see the very thing he has such trouble believing.

What’s the rub? It’s an inconsistency that’s hard to explain. The writers gave themselves a hard task here, essentially writing themselves into a corner. Skinner’s lies are a build up of tension that has to be released. You’re constantly expecting Skinner to get rumbled, and it doesn’t happen. Even at the end, his obviously-burning down house isn’t commented on. So, rather than giving us the satisfaction in a payoff where Chalmers exposes the web of deceit Skinner has concocted, the tension is relieved by an unexpected shift in tone.

Even the very ending is ambiguous. Chalmers tells Skinner “you are an odd fellow but I must say you steam a good ham.” The language he uses here is somewhat similar to Skinner at the start – some awkward turns of phrasing. Is Chalmers subtly mocking Skinner with his remark about steaming hams? Certainly he doesn’t buy into the lie.

I’d argue that the message we take away from this is that Chalmers regards Skinner as a good friend, and that he actually enjoys their interactions, ridiculous as they are. He knows that Skinner is doing his best, and only has good intentions. Skinner on the other hand remains 100% oblivious. It’s a strange friendship, but it works, and it gives the scene heart. We go away knowing something more about each of the characters.

6. The Editing

Before concluding, I just want to appreciate the editing. The whole scene is edited really nicely, but particularly in a few key moments.

  • As said above, the hard cut from Chalmers entering the kitchen to the sitcom intro.
  • The transition from Skinner running over to Krusty Burger to entering the dining room with the hamburgers. We don’t need to see him buying the burgers, or arranging them in the kitchen. The pacing means we’re still on edge from the previous altercation between the two, and the music subtly smoothes it over too. Special mention goes to the noise that plays as Skinner runs over to KB – it has the feel of a scheme being put into motion, emphasising Skinner’s deception.
  • When Skinner leaves the dining room, enters the kitchen, and re-emerges a second later. It’s not an immediate enter-and-leave, and it would have been easy to do so given Skinner’s swinging kitchen door, so there’s just a moment where we’re left to imagine what’s happening in the kitchen. It’s great that we don’t see it, and makes Skinner’s non-reaction all the funnier. There’s just a glimpse of flames through the kitchen door, and that’s enough for the audience to know that something awful is happening.
  • The way the camera snaps to zoom in on Chalmer’s face during his aurora borealis line. We get closer and closer to him, so he becomes framed larger and larger in the shot. Each part of what he’s saying makes the lie more and more ridiculous. After Skinner fobs him off with a simple “Yes”, we return to Chalmers normally-sized again, as if the enormity of the lie has somehow been deflated by Skinners’ flippancy.

There’s so many other little gems in the scene too. Like Skinners’ shaky thumbs-up at the end. Is there a better drawing of someone pretending everything is fine?


The steamed hams scene is incredibly tightly written, and masterfully executed. Every line is delivered to optimal effect. The editing and use of space help to reinforce the dynamics of the scene, which in turn support the humour. The format of the scene as a parody of a typical sitcom farce is sublime, and succeeds on both levels: being funny in itself, and spot-on as satire. At under three minutes, the scene delivers on all fronts that you’d want a comedy to deliver on, and nothing is wasted. Nothing else in the history of comedy comes close. This is a masterpiece.

Further Simpsons reading:

The greatest story ever told (…involving Hartlepool)

What’s the greatest story ever told? No, don’t even start with the life of Christ or something.

Is it that monkey that got left at IKEA? The guy that got a selfie with a plane hijacker? Yesterday, when Rod Stewart apologised for staging a mock beheading? Nope. All wrong.

The greatest story ever told is the one about the monkey that became mayor in Hartlepool. But it’s even better than that.

I remember in A Level politics we were studying elections. It was mostly all boring (like all politics am I right lads) but one subject was great – how the public can be very dumb and stupid. Can’t think of any examples from the last twelve months though.

This was way back before the days of Boaty McBoatface and so on. But even then we had Mister Splashy Pants – a whale with a stupid name picked by an online poll via Greenpeace. But the star of this show is H’Angus the Monkey.

H’Angus is the official mascot of Hartlepool United FC (for reasons we’ll get into later). His career started off in the typical football mascot trajectory – appearing at games, getting embroiled in the occasional sexual assault scandal, and so on. So it was no surprise that in 2002, H’Angus decided to run for mayor.

Yup, H’Angus the football monkey mascot ran for mayor. And he won.

There’s actually a note made of this in the official Parliament papers. These include another great fact: in the same elections, someone ran as ‘Robocop’ in Middlesborough and also won. Isn’t democracy great?

Of course, H’Angus was really just a front for Independent-runner Stuart Drummond. Drummond is no longer the mayor of Hartlepool, though he was until the city decided to abolish the post entirely – presumably because they had literally voted in a cartoon monkey.

But why the monkey anyway? This is where the story gets EVEN BETTER.

Hartlepudlians are sometimes referred to as ‘monkey hangers’. This is due a local legend that I’ll just steal from Wikipedia now:

According to local folklore, the term originates from an incident in which a monkey was hanged in Hartlepool, England. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship of the type chasse marée was wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool. The only survivor was a monkey, allegedly wearing a French uniform to provide amusement for the crew. On finding the monkey, some locals decided to hold an impromptu trial on the beach; since the monkey was unable to answer their questions and because they had seen neither a monkey nor a Frenchman before, they concluded that the monkey was in fact a French spy. Being found guilty the animal was duly sentenced to death and hanged on the beach.

Some highlights:

  • There was a monkey onboard a warship. Why would there be a monkey on a ship during war time? To entertain the crew? I’m not buying that.
    Was it some kind of exotic cargo? Was he a crew member, perhaps trained to perform tasks on deck?
    Sadly, we will never have answers to these questions.
  • The monkey was the ONLY SURVIVOR. Like how resilient was this monkey? What were the circumstances that led to every sentient human being dying, but this dumb beast staying alive? Was he involved in the wrecking of the ship? Was it an inside-job? Perhaps he grew sick of being a pet and George Bush’d the whole thing.
  • “because they had seen neither a monkey nor a Frenchman before, they concluded that the monkey was in fact a French spy”
    That is the greatest part of the whole story.

“Oi what’s this ugly, hairy thing?”
“Dunno! I’ve never seen nothing like it.”
“Must be one of those Frenchies.”
“Looks more like some kind of animal to me.”
“Nah, he’s all hairy and he stinks. Definitely a frenchie.

  • Giving the monkey a trial. On the beach.
    Like did they set up benches? Was there a judge? Why would they go to the effort of all that? You’d realise pretty quickly that he wouldn’t be able to stand trial.
    Of course, if you’re gonna hang a monkey, I guess you’d wanna give it a fair trial. But I just can’t picture the circumstances in any way that sounds at all plausible.
  • Just the fact they hung him for being a spy is incredibly ridiculous.

And YES, there’s theories that the story originated from an old celtic song, or that the monkey was just a ‘powder monkey’ – the term for a small child who ran gunpowder for the ship’s cannons. But I don’t want my story spoiled.

The people of Hartlepool don’t seem to mind. They’ve got a memorial for him on the beach now.

So RIP french monkey spy I guess. His memory lives on in a football mascot disrespectfully called H’Angus, and a mayoral election so absurd they stopped having mayors forever.

And THAT, is the greatest story ever told.