Food Porn: DeFranko’s Subs

I’m no Trooper York (who is?) but even in my current ascetic state, I do occasionally indulge. And, of course, when I do, we’re not talking a Big Mac or a footlong from the Subway. No.

No, no.

I prefer to patronize local establishments. While some are quite bad, the good ones are gems: Not much more expensive (if at all) than a fast food place and in the category of real food that doesn’t make you feel bad after you eat it.

The sub sandwich and I have a long history, it being one of the food we’d go out to eat for when I was a kid. (We almost never went out to eat; remember those days?) They were, of course, way too strong for my palette–capicola, or even just a regular Italian salami–but I’d power through.

Finding a good, big sandwich isn’t that hard, but finding a good Italian is very difficult. And what’s more, even if the insides of the sandwich are Boar’s Head, a lot of sandwich shops will stuff them into a crappy roll.

Enough talk, let me show you a picture:
This is from DeFranko’s in Van Nuys. It’s a little shack a block south of the Flyaway. Piles o’ meat topped with diced pickles, tomatoes and onions, stuffed into a roll baked that morning at the owner’s bakery. They default to a hard, chewy roll, but you can get a soft one, too, and whole wheat until they run out.

A lot of my pals love the pastrami, and I do, too, but it’s a lot (even for me). Plus, I can get a good pastrami a lot of places. The meatball subs are great and I’ve been known to just have a cheese sub (when I’m off meat) which is almost as good as one of the more traditional offerings.

Right now they’re selling fresh basil plants on the counter, but you never know what you’ll find there, except you know it’ll be fresh (like a fresh baked brownie or cookie).

The people are friendly, fast and hyper-competent. It’s actually a marvel to watch one of these things put together–but don’t blink. Even so, they can get behind during the lunch hour when the line often goes out the door. I’ve waited 20 minutes or more for a sandwich. It is so worth it. You might get it fast, but it ain’t fast food. (So if you’re in a hurry call ahead.)

My mom’s been buying subs there since the ‘70s. I hope my kids are buying subs there in the 2030s.

Shop Locally. Think Whatever.

The telephone stopped ringing on Sunday. The refrigerator stopped refrigerating on Monday. The pilot light on the water heater went out Tuesday. They were going to charge $100 to relight but knocked it down to $50. (Thanks, guys! I suppose I should’ve just relit the damn thing myself, but I hate messing with gas lines if I’m not sure what’s going on. Too many times seeing that Friz Freling Bugs Bunny cartoon where he throws the match into the powder room and Yosemite Sam has to run in and fetch it out.) Turns out the pilot was symptomatic of a larger problem, to boot.

So. Yeah. $1,000 for a new refrigerator from these guys. And then $1,200 more for the water heater with installation from these guys. (Checking my bank account see my federal tax refund of $2,155 just came in. Sigh.)

I actually strongly recommend both Waadt and Frankel’s. Before discovering Frankel, we tried a bunch of different plumbers who would “guarantee their work for life”. But what they’d do is shut down after a couple of years and re-open under a new name. We had the same scam artists come in 2-3 times under different names before we realized what was going on.

Frankel’s backs their work and have been in business for a long time. Plus, they’re straight up about what you need. (The previous plumbers installed a commercial quality garbage disposal in the kitchen, which our pipes couldn’t possibly support if we actually needed it.)

The best thing you can say about Waadt is that they care. If you’ve ever bought something from one of the big chains–Circuit City, Best Buy, wherever–you know they don’t really care about you beyond the sale. Why should they, right?

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m sure the corporate level cares to some degree, though they’re always balancing things like pissing you off versus how much it costs to make you happy, and you’re not a “you” but part of a large demographic. The people who run Waadt are right there on the floor; there’s no minimum wage employee buffer. That alone would make anyone care more.

But more than that, they’ve always been good about selling floor models if you’re pinching pennies, and they have a great repair guy who once located us a free dishwasher.

Some of the best advice ever is to “shop local”. Not because corporations are all evil and corporation-y but because there’s a good chance of longer term happiness. Local appliance stores can often give better deals than the big box chains. And they have way more invested in your happiness.

“Not Until You’re Twelve, Son”

We went shooting last night, for the first time in a while. We have a membership but sort of ironically, we haven’t been since they printed our card. It was still sitting there in the box.

Just got busy, I guess. Plus, the last couple of times I had felt really tired and I was having trouble focusing on the target. That’s something that’s definitely changed. And it’s okay, since you only have to visit about 69 times in toto to make the membership cheaper than doing a pay-as-you-go. We’ll probably get in a few more than that.

As we were leaving, I asked one of the guys working at the front if business had picked up lately, and he gave me an earful. You know, you hear about the uptick in gun sales and the like, but you don’t really know if it’s true.

He was having trouble buying certain types of guns, and all kinds of ammo. Since he shoots thousands of rounds a month, he makes his own and was having trouble getting the supplies for that. A lot of his biggest suppliers simply closed their websites, no backordering–nothing.

We also were there late at night in the middle of the week, and there were plenty of people.

They had a shotgun there, and they do actually allow you to shoot one but you have to buy their ammo ($20/25 shells, so pretty expensive). It also turned out that it was a customer’s shotgun and you had to bring your own. I checked on Google for prices and the first three places that turned up were sold out.

He said it had started with the economy and then gone ever crazier after the election and inauguration.

So, there’s your man-on-the-street reporting for the day.

Oh, and I sucked. I mean, I hit the target 95% of the time, but with my aim, I have to hope any attacker is a wimp, deterred by a series of flesh wounds.

Teflon Mouth

It is a tradition going back to The Boy’s second birthday that, on each child’s birthday, I take them out to do whatever they want. The Barbarienne turned three, and so was allowed to pick a restaurant to have lunch at.

But, of course, she’s three. What does she know? I tried to interest her in some local places she had been and liked, but The Flower was hard at work, lobbying for her favorite restaurant.

What I may not have mentioned about The Flower is all the ways in which she is like an old woman. From her quote here (“I’ve got nothing to do today but smoke and boss people around.”) to her disturbing practice of collecting nickels for her grandchildren, The Flower has many characteristics that one normally associates with senior citizens.

Which brings us to Denny’s.

Denny’s usually results in heartburn for me, starting somewhere about the time when someone says, “Let’s go to De–”, and before they can utter “knees” my heart starts to whine. I’m not sure what it is about that place versus all the places I might eat (Tommy’s Burgers, for example, or “that place under the freeway where the day laborers hang out”) but my heart objects.

I’ve had a theory, though: I think they cook everything in some kind of non-stick Pam-like spray. Probably a cheap knock-off. So, on top of the heartburn, the inside of its mouth feels like it’s coated with teflon.

You know that list that floats around about uses for Coke? It’s also about the only thing that will take the teflon off.

Anyway, I don’t have to go back there until The Flower’s birthday when, unless I do some fancy footwork, she’ll want to eat there for lunch and dinner.

Fun fact: One item on the current Denny’s menu is $16.70. Inflation’s a bitch.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

You know, I love that song. More and more over the years. I think first when I heard that the grandfather of modern Islamic terrorism and all-around killjoy Sayed Qutb pointed to it as a symbol of Western decadence.

There is a real richness, though, to the song, and it brings to mind (in its own 1950s way) the seduction poetry of the Renaissance.

But I digress. As much as I like the song, I look at Freeman Hunt’s pix of her fallen tree and reflexively think, “Is that a movie set? People don’t actually live places like that, do they? Good Lord, places like that don’t actually exist, do they?”

I’m only partly kidding. (One of my first jobs was on the lot at Warner Bros. when they were filming the second “Batman” movie which–as wintry and snowy as it looked–was entirely on a sound stage wth massive air conditioners, while it was So Cal hot all around.)

When I was a child we had a cabin in Lake Arrowhead which we would visit. I have some fond childhood memories of playing in the snow. Getting there was dangerous and nauseating, as my father was wont to take the Rim of the World drive at 50 mph. But it was a little like Disneyland or something because we’d go up Friday afternoon and be back by Sunday night. (I don’t think we ever missed school/work.)

So, in a very real way, snow is a toy or a prop, something you visit, not some place you live. (More recently I was in Philadelphia for the biggest snowstorm of 30 years and managed to drive in it, though I can’t say I enjoyed that.)

I think about it because I think California is pretty much doomed. And I suspect the rest of the sunshine belt is next. Moving some place cold and even desolate may be a necessary step to trying to preserve freedom.

Which sucks because it’s really, really nice here.

I remember watching a nature show on Pompeii, and they interview the people, and ask them, “Hey, that thing could go off at any minute, why do you stay?” When they respond, “Well, the weather is great and the wine is great and, after all, everyone has to die sometime,” I have to say I understand the sentiment.

Names Dropped.

I got about 80% of the way through a post about all the celebrities I’ve encountered over the years, as a joke response to Troop’s reaction to my chance encounters with Leah Remini. (I naturally responded by constantly increasing the closeness of Leah and my relationship.)

Then I figured, why not list every celebrity you’ve encountered over the years and get it all out of the way. Besides, it would make an interesting/funny post.

But I got up to about 30 and it stopped seeming funny and started seeming sort of tasteless. (In a bad way!)

Go figger.

Knott’s Halloween Haunt

I’ve already blogged about The Hanging at this year’s Halloween Haunt, so I thought I’d take a look at the rest of the event.

We stayed at the Knott’s Resort Hotel, which used to be a Radisson, and was actually better when it was, though only in mostly minor ways. First being, no free Internet. $6 for an hour, $10 for a night. I was fine without the ‘net, but that sort of thing annoys me.

Far worse, though is that they’ve messed with the water flow to the rooms, so that there’s very little pleasure in taking a shower and it takes forever to fill a bath. That’s a pet peeve of mine.

Unlike most amusement parks, Knott’s takes some care with their food. (The food inside the park is varied and while not exactly good and of course outrageously priced, it beats most of the other parks by a mile. They have a Johnny Rocket’s and a Panda Express, for example.) Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Kitchen, just outside the park, is rather good, on the other hand. But they don’t take reservations and the lines are just enormous around Haunt time. Since we were at the hotel, a buffet is part of the deal, which is not quite up to Mrs. Knott’s level.

Anyway, the big deal about the Haunt is the mazes and monsters. Lots of monsters wandering around the park trying to scare you. These guys are fun and good at spotting victims, whether screamy teen girls or people who are focused on other things. (They love coming up to me when I’m looking at the map.)

They have 13 mazes and a bunch of shows. On the first night, not all the shows are playing, but we managed to pack in four shows and see all the mazes (except for “Pyromaniax”, which is the log flume, and my kids are weird about log flumes).

Besides the log flume, the other ride that gets converted to Halloween-style is the mine ride. If you’ve never been to Knott’s, or its sister park Calico (out in the desert), the mine ride is one of those ’50s era throwbacks where a slow-moving mine car takes you through some representations of historical mining practices. It’s as thrilling as it sounds!

For years, this was turned into an Army of Darkness-themed ride called “Army of the Underworld”, one of our favorites. Last year, I think it was, they changed it to become “The Lair of the Black Widow”, a spider-themed ride. It was pretty thin, last year, as if often the case with the new mazes. This year, they had added a bunch of cool stuff, though they are quite constrained–as with the log flume–because of the structure of the ride itself. So, there’s always a guy in this one box, and always an animatronic dealy-bob over there, etc. This year they had the animatronic dealy-bob lunge at you (as always), but then it spit out some slightly moist air, which was pretty effective.

By far the dinkiest maze in the park (due, as I say, to structural issues), and yet the only one that The Flower would absolutely not look at. The other mazes were gorier, disgusting, loud–and she was fine through them all. But apparently she draws the line at giant spiders.

Anyway, we always do the mine ride first, before the park opens to the general public, because no matter how light a day it is, there can be lines. (Because you do get to sit down for a few minutes, I’m quite positive.)

From there I work the park in a counter-clockwise direction. The trick is to get the heavy-walking done up front. Although I know The Boy is good for the whole time, this was only The Flower’s third trip, and she wasn’t sure she was going to come. (Last year we did the log flume, and–well, I told you my kids were weird about the log flume.) We actually hit all the mazes except one by 9:30.

Lost Vegas was the first maze we did. This is a potpourri (that’s SO not an appropriate word here) of buffet gluttony, zombie strippers and Elvis impersonators.

13 Axe Murder Manor is the scariest maze on the lot. In non-Halloween times, it’s the “ride” where the old Indian tells you a story and they make it look like the smoke from his campfire is making little cartoons. Before it was “13 Axe Murder Manor” it was a cajun-themed, mutant hillbilly deal–and still was the scariest maze on the lot. One year, they had a Leatherface-style chainsaw weilding maniac–cleverly using a real chainsaw without the chain, so it had the real sounds and smells–and my mom has never gone back to the park.

Heh.

Part of this ride is a parody of The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, done in very grisly form. The one year we brought one of The Flower’s peers, he freaked out.

The park gives you lots of warnings about not bringing kids, which is smart. Now, in practice, 95% of the monsters are going to respond in a friendly way to a child, if they respond at all. But there’s always at least one who wants to scare the kids. Those seem to gravitate toward this ride.

Last year, they made The Flower very nervous, but she’ll take The Boy’s hand on one side and mine on the other, and she didn’t even flinch.

Meanwhile, she loves The Doll Factory, because, you know: Dolls! This is another one of those rides that has its share of hot chicks in short skirts and stockings. (Hey, it’s hard to be a guy sometimes: You’re supposed to be scared, not leering.)

Although only in its second year, this has a nice, spooky theme and some great visuals. It’s interesting how “anomalous imagery” (as HP Lovecraft might have styled it) can be created just by oversizing something a bit. The park can’t be overly subtle when it need to move huge crowds through, but you can linger a bit on the first day and appreciate some of the finer points. (The Boy and I tend to be a little clinical in that regard: We like the special effects and aesthetics of the mazes.)

Two of the mazes are parked at the far west end of the lot, and are often pretty weak. They’re good ones to get out of the way early on before you get too tired. If you come in the side gate “VIP” entrance (as we do), you’re actually right there, and it’d probably be smarter to do those first than it is to run to the mine ride. (But, if you haven’t gathered, I hate lines.)

The Asylum is, you know, what you’d expect. Crazy people and lobotomies, overenthusiastic shock therapy and the like. And this year it feeds into Club Blood. They retired the aged, highly-polished “Lair of the Vampires” (which was interesting if for no other reason than it was a kind of “vampire through the ages”, besides being the repository for most of the hot-chick-type “monsters”–I mean, what self-respecting girl doesn’t want to be a vampire these days?), and recycled bits of it for this dance-club themed vampire maze.

In a weird turn, the theme is more “morning after” vampire: You basically follow the story of women seduced by vampires who then get pregnant and give birth to demon babies.

Surprisingly strong for a first year maze. I wonder if it’s related to that “True Blood” series on HBO that I haven’ t looked at.

In The Slaughterhouse–the very theme makes me think of Motel Hell with Rory Calhoun–I discovered I do have a “rule” of sorts about mazes: I have my doubts about being made complicit in evil activities.

I’ve talked about this before, but the phrase “torture porn” gets thrown around a lot with regard to movies, without any sense of what means, or what it should mean. I like, for example, the Saw movies, the first Hostel movie, and a lot of other movies and stories that feature graphic violence.

But what they have in common is that you’re not supposed to enjoy the violence. That is, you’re not supposed to be a sadist. You’re supposed to empathize–especially in the early Saw movies–with, “Wow, what would I do in that situation.”

In the ’70s, there were quite a few movies where the violence was sexualized, and these movies are nearly unwatchable.

So, in this maze, the idea is supposed to be that you’re trapped by sausage-making madman who want to auction you off and make you into the daily special, but in fact, you’re treated more as a knowing customer.

As I said, a little uncomfortable. But if horror isn’t about some discomfort, what it is about? It’s all in good fun? Right? This is the first time I can recall having this at the park–and it happened in a later maze, too.

Alien Annihiliation and Corn Stalkers: For years, Knott’s–to get their thirteen mazes in–has tried to do something with this narrow stretch at the east end of the park. Since they first opened it has been a generic sort of maze called “Dark Passage”, and they spiced it up a bit by making it a laser-tag game.

This year, they took the laser tag game in-doors and placed it on a spaceship full of aliens you could blow away. The Flower got herself a gun and shot them all–and most of them actually fell down, which was pretty cool given how long a night these guys have. The Flower was a little Ripley and even blasted the giant alien at the end.

Meanwhile, the area that used to be “Dark Passage” had been given a sort of evil-Wizard of Oz feel, complete with Tin Man and an assortment of scarecrows. The problem, though, is that the area is so small that even on the first night, you end up bunched up with a crowd trying to navigate through the tight turns. Plus it’s just not quite “there” yet. It has a very generic feel still.

The other ride where they controlled entry–not because of crowds but because they were trying to get a particular effect in the opening room, was Quarantine. Movie-based mazes are usually lame: First of all, it seems to take a while to develop a good maze. “The Grudge 2” maze was quite bad the first year, and really excellent the second year, when it was no longer relevant. Second of all, there’s often not that much in a movie that constitutes good maze material. Last years “Beowulf” maze was just sad.

Happily, this maze was quite effective, even if a little light. The opening room is large-ish and has story elements and a creepy atmosphere with a surprise effect. And what was particularly effective was that most mazes funnel you in a particular direction. You know where the side-pockets are, and the “scares” (such as they are) tend to come from this focusing of your attention in one place while coming at you from a different direction.

A room in “Quarantine” had you in the center of a room, with zombie-ish infected creatures all around you, slowly encroaching on your personal space. I don’t know if they’ll be able to keep it up when the park reaches “Mark of Gideon” crowd densities but it was definitely a worthy addition to the catalogue.

Also, I’m gonna hafta go see the movie just to figure out what the demon-baby thing is. I’ve not been paying much attention to the commercials but now that I’ve been through the maze, I’ve noticed a flash of the demon-baby image in the commercial.

“Quarantine” was the other ride where you were made to feel as an outsider who was not helping the victims. This wasn’t so bad because the implication was that you were gonna be a victim, versus being a customer in “The Slaughterhouse”.

Right around here, The Flower saw a show going on, so we sat down and watched Zamora do his thing. I’m not a sideshow guy, not since I was a kid. (I don’t like the circus, either.) But the kids seemed to like the whole laying-on-bed-of-nails, arm-skewering and the like. Fire-eating is always fun. And at the end they had a bit where a woman sits on a tesla-coil-ish thing and shoots lighting out of her fingers. (They did a thing on that on the Discovery channel, but it’s fun to see it live.) I have some pix of this that didn’t come out well.

Replacing the old “Lair of the Vampire” was The Labyrinth, inspired by Pan’s Labyrinth more than the muppet movie. This is the one maze we went through twice, because The Flower liked it so much. It’s not really scary, but it’s very cool: Lots of cute girls as faeries, with a bunch of guys dressed as satyrs. The Flower practiced her curtsey with the faerie queen, and it looked liked they stole Grendel’s animatronic machinery to make a keen rock golem-thingy, reminiscient of Hellboy 2. It sort of petered out a bit at the end but was still enjoyable.

At that point, it was 9:30 and we had done all the maze but one, so we went to see The Hanging.

After the Hanging we ran over to Killer Klown Kollege, which seemed remarkably subdued this year. They did have bungee guy, which is cool: One of the effects they have is to make a big recessed area with a guy at the far end, 5-10 feet off the ground, and hooked to a bungee. They fill the area up with fog and the guy leaps at you.

So what you see is this guy flying out of the fog at you. Very nice. They also did this very effectively on “13 Axe Murder Manor”, but everything’s freakier with clowns.

We tried to see the Chipper Lowell experience after this, but he didn’t show up (he was supposed to). But we did catch “Inferno”, an apparently local group of 2 girls and three guys, plus a third gal with a fire-extinguisher. They did what’s known as “fire dancing”, which is sort of like rhythmic gymnastics if you set all the implements on fire.

The funny thing, to me, was the way the girls were smiling. I couldn’t tell if they were doing a straight “pageant-smile”–that freaky, frozen thing that beauty pageant contestants do–or whether they had juiced it up with a little Jack Nicholson, pyromanic-type thing. (The fact that their faces were very close to fire may have added a certain demonic quality.)

They seemed like nice young, fire-eating kids. The Flower got her picture taken with them.

The Boy got hungry so he had a bit to eat and The Flower rode the nearby carousel a couple of times. You know, it’s a bit of a challenge to take a picture of someone on a carousel at midnight, while it’s moving? Just in case you were wondering.

We didn’t have an opportunity to see the vampire show “Fangs”. Those tend to be a bit racy, but–you know, it’s funny. I took The Boy, in one of his first visits, to see Elvira’s last show at the park, or possibly the one right after he last show, which was even racier. Kids ignore this stuff; I mean, it’s tamer than what’s on TV, and (at least my kids) are pretty content to stay in the Nick/Toon/Disney band.

Which is good, because the Bird Cage performance was basically “ball jokes”. There was a little ball bath on stage and they went “South Park”. The Bird Cage is usually so-so. If I were to bitch, though, I’d probably just complain that initially, audience participation and improvisation was a bigger part, and I’ve noticed they’ve gone almost totally scripted.

Still, it’s cool to see where Steve Martin honed his chops.

The Boy discovered the knife and gun store and the Flower wanted, for her souvenir, a cigar box with John Wayne’s picture on it. $40 seemed a bit steep, though, especially since she has no idea who John Wayne is. (She just like boxes.)

Then we mosied on out to the strains of “God Bless America”, satisfied with the days shenanigans. All-in-all a good year and good job to the Knott’s folk.

Knott Political: The Hanging.

So, Thursday was the first day of the Halloween Haunt. And as always, it’s the best day to go. Although, I guess if you could know the traffic beforehand, a later day might be better, especially if you were willing to spring the extra $200/person for the VIP access to the mazes. You skip right to the front of the line. And if there’s anything better than no lines, it’s taking cuts in front of everyone else. Heh.

I’ll put up more of a review later, but I wanted to get this down: Every year, the Halloween Haunt turns its stunt show in to “The Hanging”. Basically, it’s the regular stunt show without the western motif, and with lots more fake blood. Also, instead of cowboys, the prime players are dressed up as cultural icons. It’s usually tasteless, borderline amateurish–fake punches really look fake–and it’s more than a little crude. And I don’t mean that, necessarily, in a good way.

The idea is that they hang the most offensive person in society. Since it’s meant to be funny, this is usually a pop-culture icon. I consider myself lucky if I’m aware of who the person is. I do get the movie references, or most of them (it took me a while to process the “Zohan” reference, so quickly had I forgotten that movie even came out–was it Sacha Cohen or Adam Sandler?).

I don’t really get the music references. I’m sort of, like, “Is that Amy Winehouse?”, “No, wait, that’s Amy Winehouse!”, “Well, who was that person five minutes ago?” Since I seldom go with anyone who’s more up on pop-stuff than I am, I can’t ask. The Boy seems to shun that sort of thing and The Flower is still too young. I did recognize Hannah Montana, I think. (The other thing is that it’s the same dozen stunt-folk changing in-and-out of costumes, and some of the impressions are very weak. Has anyone else noticed that there’s this recycling of Clinton wigs for McCain? What hell? McCain’s hair is a wispy combover!)

The whole thing is like a gross-out comedy movie, where some of the jokes land and some don’t, but the next one’s along pretty soon so you aren’t bored.

This year, expectedly, was political themed. And, actually, given the recent market meltdown, it was almost quaint. They had Javier Bardem fighting alongside of Santa Ana Smith (Indy), which felt odd because No Country For Old Men feels like it was a lifetime ago. (And I just re-watched it on cable a couple of times.)

But they hung…oil company executives. These were represented by people wearing the logos of Chevron, Texaco, etc. This was accompanied by the (admittedly funny) line “You really wanted to go to Universal Studios, but you couldn’t afford to fill up the gas tank!” (Of course, we drove past Universal Studios to get to Knott’s.)

Meh. I’m usually underwhelmed by the ultimate victim. And I guess people really believe that it’s all those mean old oil company guys are to blame for it all. The ultimate oil guy, by the way, was represented during the actual hanging part by Daniel Plainview. That was both odd and old. (But I kept wondering if that’s what I missed about the movie: Maybe you have to assume from the get-go that Plainview is pure evil, and that his actions are evil, and the very process of drilling for oil is evil.)

The political figure who got the most stage time was none other than John McCain. He did a lot of fighting, mostly with Hillary Clinton (who was the butt of most of the jokes in the first 5-10 minutes of the 30 minutes show). At one point, they had McCain and Clinton fighting, with Iron Man taking McCain’s side. (Hillary kept turning Iron Man off, though.)

Sarah Palin got a walk on. This actually underscores one of the weaknesses of the hanging. Right next to “clap humor” at the bottom of the humor scale is “referential humor”. Where they cross is right at the bottom when some late-night hack refers to a partisan talking point. Referential can be funny, of course, either through scale (think Tom Cruise being Austin Powers, or Orson Welles in The Muppet Movie), through accuracy (this involes the joker saying just exactly what you’re thinking, which can overlap into “clap humor”), or through sheer randomity. (During an episode of MST3K, Catalina Caper, a typical ‘60s beach dance scene ends with the camera panning up into a starless night sky, and Crow says, “Meanwhile, deep in the impenetrable void, John Paul Sartre is a-movin’ and a-groovin’.”)

Bush and Cheney also got a walk-on. No sign of Biden.

Anyway, McCain couldn’t kill Hillary; Obama showed up to finally do her in. Then McCain and Obama duked it out for a while. Neither was shown as a clear winner, and neither was killed.

Which I suppose is a sort of cruel neutrality.