Were the judges of Deep Fried Masters too thirsty?

Deep Fried Masters (2013)

In a different dimension it’s the judges of Deep Fried Masters, not the Kardashians, who fill our screens. There is speculation of their love lives past and present. Exultation in their successes and mourning at their failures.

These three judges, Jim Stacy, Butch Benaides and Abel Gonzales were selected for this hidden gem of a television show based on some mystery mix criteria probably now lost to time. They each have deep-fried awards, some charisma, stern beliefs about what works on the midway. What they do not have is any chemistry or basic respect for each other and fuck is it amazing.

Beyond the main attraction of the judges there is food, and, like the contestants, it is often equal parts gross and engrossing. The usual tropes and invented stakes of reality tv exist but are vastly simplified into the recurring problem of oil losing temperature.

Some of the value of the show is watching as contestants and judges struggle to act as if a falling temperature dial is going to disrupt the onslaught battered and crumbed meats and sweets. Another big part of the shows attraction is the ambitions and failures of the mixed bag of would be champions which include upright citizens, rednecks, and one actual swamp person. At least one contestant cooks drunk, a lot storm off in rage, and the most glorious of all, Gator, simply sits back and fails with a lackadaisical charm only a true carny could muster.

But the highlight, the true beauty of the show, is in the palpable tension between the three judges. They start off nervous and stilted but by the end of the first season are constantly throwing shade. Even in their lighter moments they bicker and argue and not even the tight editing can hide the flashes of resentment or contempt in their eyes as they disagree about batter crunch or flavour profiles.

At the height of their anger they trample their way through double-entendre’s about sausages and sticks and it seems one, perhaps all three, are closeted and the others are trying to out them. No other television show has this degree of nervous energy between three people. As if they might have slept together. As if they realise this is their big show, that they could become a cult hit, if only they could learn suppress decades of small business snark.

In a world where losers petition the ether for the return of awful sitcoms it’s amazing Deep Fried Masters was allowed to fail and fade away. Or perhaps these beautiful talented bearded men were just flames that burnt to bright for this world to handle.


Raising Cain (1992)

Brian De Palma

Is there anything better than the lunacy of a film both written and directed by Brian De Palma? Try John-fucking-Lithgow playing not one but five characters. The other actorsMV5BMzI1NzgxNzczMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjEzNTgwMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,745,1000_AL_ are essentially reduced to featured extras.

The movie is almost a one man show. Lithgow reacting to or against himself. Alternating between the deer in the headlights as seen in his character from 3rd Rock From the Sun or Planet of the Apes and the seething menace as seen in his villain from Cliffhanger.

Like most of De Palma’s early films Raising Cain is bat shit crazy. It’s filmed in soft focus and with the melodrama of a soap opera or daytime TV movie. De Palam shows off with long tracking shots and simultaneously confuses as scenes and story lines clash together. The movie for the first half is confusing and unsettling as the John Lithgow’s various characters kill and kidnap women and children.

Lithgow and the film are at once sinister and laughable, surreal and unnerving. It’s camp and it’s deadly serious and above it all Lithgow shines. Oh boy does he shine.


Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation

Dr Octagon

Popped my head up from under a rock long enough to realise it wasn’t just MF Doom that released new tracks in the last month but the Doc Oc as well. While I’m still unsure on the Czarface/MF Doom collab (need to give it more time), this, Dr. Octagon’s first album in twelve years, is possibly an instant classic. Dark production and fast flows, there’s not a track thamoosebumpst goes over five minutes or outstays it’s welcome. The medical horror themes still run heavy through the lyrics, and they’re still gross, but aren’t as emphasized as in the past where I thought they overshadowed the skill of the rapping, production, or DJ’ing. There’s only a couple of very short skits, no filler tracks, and a return to Pushead artwork. Awesome.

Shifty eyed fruits and vegetables

Wholesale produce has the best advertising.

A sentient capsicum and a sentient eggplant (possibly planning to engage in inter-cultivar fornication) look guilty while driving a model t style ford fashioned out of the carcass of a zucchini and using baby pumpkins for tires. #Truecrime

The Lancefield Black Panther

Australia is riddled with black panthers, jaguars and pumas. They are skittish and seldom seen. Deadly dangerous and fiercely secretive. Some claim they are a myth. But, if that were the case, how could so many people know so much about them? I visited Lancefield because it is a town that has added their own small dollop of bullshit onto a pile as high as nearby Mt Macedon. They have a black panther and I wanted to see it.

Lancefield is a small town. It has a short main street with a handful of shops including bakeries, cafes, book stores and galleries. At the end of the street is a disproportionally large and very grand hotel. A common fixture of towns of or near the goldfields.

As far as small out of the way country towns go it seems better than most. There are also some important ties to history, Wikipedia tells me, but, ultimately it is like a lot of other places.

What makes Lancefield different and why I’ve visited, will visit again, will even take unwitting overseas or city friends for trip to get a neenish tart is because Lancefield has a black panther sculpture. The sun is already beginning to take its toll upon it and the lustre of black is quickly fading to grey. The sculpture isn’t necessarily worth the visit, it’s not very big and it’s not very impressive. There is a similarly not quite impressive story behind it. As the Midland Express writes, the sculpture mysteriously appeared overnight one weekend back in 2015.

No one knows who made it or how it was delivered.

Except the same article does go on to quote the mysterious creator. He or she details how they had three people help and a forklift to install the piece. In a town with a population of less than 2500 it seems likely the mystery is a little bit of a conceit. But, be that as it may, the sculpture exists. It was supposedly installed without the sanction of the council. In this area that is enough of an accomplishment. Plus, that there is any level of mystery even it seems a little forced is truly in the spirit of the Australian black panther.

Every year there is a big cat sighting in different parts of Victoria or different parts of Australia. There has been photos and video footage, but they are not considered definitive proof. Naysayers are quick to discredit witnesses. Claiming they are drunk, that the footage of black beasts only shows overgrown feral domestic cats.

I remember hearing stories of large cats ever since I was a child. Variously described as panthers, jaguars, pumas or leopards the popular theory in my town was they were the mascots of, and had escaped from, American military training bases during WW2.

This ABC article posits the theories of other districts and eras. That the large cats escaped from zoos or could have been brought back as souvenirs with troopships returning from Africa. The article is surprisingly reasonable about the existence of the large cats though also points out that the appeal of the rumour is that it allows us to imbue the landscape with a sense of mystery.

It’s not just the cats that are the mystery though but the origins of the stories. In my story of escaped military mascots, I questioned why the American army would allow their soldiers to have such dangerous mascots. I took for granted that there were mascots, and that there were enough American military bases to sustain a breeding based of escaped Pumas. I’ve since never been able to confirm the existence of such bases or mascots (although perhaps that’s because covered it all up – seriously though).

I think it’s the stories of the large cats are the most enthralling part. Because they have been passed on so effectively for so long, decades, without the help of internet or television. The stories have different local flavours and are imbued with embellishments to suit different districts. In the mountains the cats are shadows which retreat to the peaks at night, leaving little but the occasional paw print behind them. The large cats of farming districts are responsible for the mysterious mutilations of livestock.

The Macedon ranges are an area which trades heavily upon the invented mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock. It is also a place which is increasingly at war with itself on whether to allow or prohibit development as people move into the area from Melbourne.

Whether it came mysteriously or not. Whether it was sanctioned beforehand or retrospectively by a council often paralysed by the paradoxical needs of its constituents, the black panther of Lancefield is great for its homage to drunken sightings and fear of the bush. The chance that we don’t really know what roams the vast countryside and deserts. That there still might be mysteries hidden in folklore.