Author: Haunted Coconut

Who is the TD Ameritrade Beard Guy?

Some months ago I started spasming over what was a series of condescending and creepy ads put out by TD Ameritrade and their “green room”, which, in many ads, appears to be little more than a “beaver trap” for Mr. Beardy and the two cockroaches presumably living in his face rug. So I created a Mr. Beardy dartboard to relieve some of my tension and save the life of my wibbly-wobbly television set. Who knew this off-the-cuff rant and mental slip would turn into–by far–the most popular post I have ever written?

It turns out, people are really fascinated by Mr. Beardy. Some of the very colorful comments received on the aforementioned post have ranged from blinding rage to romantic enchantment (I presume, mostly, because of the proposed hypnotic qualities of the beard). Oh, and the occasional hostility toward people who are hostile to Mr. Beardy. Eh.

So who is he? Allow me to introduce the man who has people and cockroaches alike so worked up: The actor portraying the TD Ameritrade financial therapizer is Jim Conroy. He is mostly known for his animated voiceover work, but has also been spotted in a few other TV ads.

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 12.19.27 PMJim Conroy appears as “Frank” in an AT&T spot

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 12.46.42 PM.pngJim Conroy sniffs Tide detergent in an ad

The page of Jim’s career that has blown my mind the most, though, is his role as…..RUFF RUFFMAN! Parents with kids age 8-13 probably know who I’m talking about. From 2006 to 2010, there was a charming animated PBS show called FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman. Watch a bit here for the craziness of recognizing our TD Ameritrade guy’s nasal shouting!

Crazy. I unknowingly have listened to our cockroach-bearded guy for hours upon hours. Who knew? 

This is an important lesson, though for the TD Ameritrade commercial viewers out there: Jim Conroy is an actor. He is not a financial advisor. His “trustworthiness” is not a reflection on the merits of TD Ameritrade (only their advertising department). And it turns out, I have a fair amount of respect for Jim Conroy and his previous work, as Ruff Ruffman was a pretty great character who brought my daughter a lot of happiness.

However, we all still have full permission to hate the TD Ameritrade financial therapizer character. Or find him sexy. Whatever your bag. I stand by my observations that the “green room” Mr. Beardy lures people to is nothing more than a beaver trap, and that the women are probably stuffed in a cellar that can be accessed by a trapdoor under the pool table. Probably with the help of “Bryan”, who is willing to do anything Mr. Beardy says, as long as he gets to stroke the beard and is never called “Brian” with an “I”.

More to the point, though, it still remains true, TD Ameritrade writers/dickfaces, that ladies don’t need your validation of how busy we are, or to have lazy analogies about golf swings dumped in front of us (although, I think our Mr. Beardy character may have gone a little rogue on that one just to get Golf Lady naked and tied up). The point is, these ads are still condescending and creepy. But the actor Jim Conroy might just be alright. Or not. Only his cockroaches truly know.

Get to Know Andrew Jackson

“His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee…And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said ‘There’s no reason for this.'”

Donald Trump really idolizes Andrew Jackson. His portrait hangs in the Oval Office, and the POTUS has verbal diarrhea, apparently, just at the mention of our seventh president. So maybe we should get to know him and understand what Donald Trump really sees in the “people’s president”.

Solider Boy

Jackson grew up dirt-poor and poorly educated in the Carolinas, and was a tween during the American Revolution. Inspired by his older brother’s grizzly death, his mother made him join the local militia at the age of 13. He was almost immediately captured, and was held as a prisoner of war. Though his military incarceration was quite brief, he nearly died of small pox. Shortly afterward, he lost his remaining brother and mother to disease, for which he always blamed the British. This Anglo grudge led him to a life of military service and a deep, festering sense of vengeance.

Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 2.52.54 PM.png

Donald Trump Comparison!:
A young, wealthy, athletic Trump graduated college and avoided compulsory military service in the Vietnam War because of a dubious diagnosis of having “bone spurs”. Consequently, he has never served in the military. And he once had this to say: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Lawyer, Slave Owner, Cotton Mogul, and Stain on the Soul of Humanity

As an orphan, Jackson was still really poorly educated until he fled his hometown to study law informally in modern-day Tennessee. And it turns out Tennessee, as-was, had a boatload of hookers and gambling opportunities. So that was great for him.

He passed the bar and had friends pull a few strings to get him a gig as a government prosecutor. At age 21 he bought his first slave, which was probably his way of feeling really awesome about himself. By age 39 he was even wealthy enough to buy his own cotton plantation, the Hermitage, with nine slaves working the fields. Of course, this number went up quite a bit under Jackson’s management. Eventually, hundreds of slaves would be incarcerated at the Hermitage. Some historians think he was a relatively “kind” slave owner because he “let” the slaves bear babies and only whipped them when they really deserved it. But hell naw, the man ran a cotton plantation his entire life.

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It’s Thankstivus! The Much Better Alternative to Thanksgiving

Recently, I was working really hard to compile a list of excellent Thanksgiving movies (by working really hard, I mean sipping wine and repeatedly pulling my cats off of my keyboard). What a challenge that was! I mean, aside from the cats putting the computer to sleep every 4 minutes, Thanksgiving is an awful holiday which few want to commemorate on film.

Why? Because Thanksgiving sucks. It doesn’t have the magic or wonder of Christmas, and thematically it’s about family and slaughter. Outside, the world is brown and those are the holiday colors: Brown and orange. Like Cheetos poop. I mean, really, this is one dark fucking holiday. We celebrate how we lulled our native people into a friendly alliance for just one horrible meal, which wouldn’t have been possible without the natives, and then we turned our back on them and butchered their population and stole their land. And turkey. Why does it always fucking have to be turkey? They probably didn’t eat it at the original feast, and I’m not sure why this particular bird needs to be sacrificed every year. Plus, I just don’t like turkey. Boom.

The whole thing is stressful, coma-inducing, bleak, cold, and makes me dread Christmas just a little bit. (I have to see these people again in just one month to do this all over?)

So, I’m declaring a brand-new holiday from this year forward: THANKSTIVUS!

It will be observed on the traditional Thanksgiving day. The holiday does not require decoration, but should you choose to, the thematic colors are blue and black, to symbolize the bruising of our souls by Thanksgivings of years past.

Thankstivus Traditions

The celebration of Thankstivus should be observed as follows: First, all parties must sleep in until a very late hour, for family is exhausting. Then all participants gather at one home in the mid to late afternoon. Children should be immediately evacuated to an insulated room elsewhere in the house with nourishment and entertainment to last hours.

Wine and Cheese Reception

The holiday commences with a pregame wine and cheese reception, that will last exactly 15 minutes, during which no one may speak. This is a time of reflection, relaxation, intimidation of other parties, and–above all else–drinking.

The Airing of the Grievances

Borrowing from the magical holiday of Festivus, it is more appropriate than ever at the beginning of the holiday season to air the grievances. Once the wine and cheese reception is complete, the most eager and loudest person may begin telling everybody how they have disappointed them in the past year. Physical contact (especially hugging) is prohibited, and crying will not stop the proceedings (nice try, Mom). Heavy drinking is permitted, and encouraged.

This will last until everyone has aired their grievances, or one hour maximum, hence why it is important to make your grievances heard loudly and first above all other voices.

The Feast

The grievances are to be set aside, as if purged and cleansed, and everyone is to dine. Each person will bring their own food of choice, since not everyone likes turkey or conforming. Hot dogs, chicken wings, lasagna. There is no wrong meal at Thankstivus. This is a time to feed the stomach and the soul in preparation for the holiday season ahead. You will need your fortitude for gift shopping, light hanging, tree tinseling, and cookie baking. Now is the time for nourishment. And more alcohol.

Nap Intermission

All parties are at liberty to nap on any couches, beds, or armchairs available with no malice toward the sleeping. This nap is to last at most one hour, so as not to skunk the entire damn holiday. Parties not interested in napping may watch mindless television and movies, but no one shall clean or perform other chores. This is a time of mindful rest and meditation.

The Feats of Brilliance

The final ritual of the holiday is the Feats of Brilliance. All members are required to participate, with no exceptions or excuses. The group shall sit down and compete in a tabletop board game, or several, as deemed necessary to declare a Thankstivus Champion. The prize for the Thankstivus Champion is unlimited rights to leftovers from any participant, taking none that she or he does not want, free of guilt or obligation. The Champion may not participate in the cleaning of the dishes or other insipid post-holiday chores (moving tables and chairs, finding Tupperware lids, taking out garbage, etc.). Further, the Thankstivus Champion may drink from any other person’s cup for the rest of the night, as all alcohol becomes spoils of the Champion. The Champion shall reign superior until a new Thankstivus Champion is declared one year later.

I think we will all find that this will be a holiday of cleansing, preparation, and arming ourselves for the jollity ahead. I say to you that autumn is not a time of thanks, but a time to be royally pissed off at the cold and darkness, and the pressure of the oncoming holidays and bleak winter. Rue on, good November people. And Jolly Thankstivus to you and yours.

Best Thanksgiving Movies & TV Episodes to Feast On

Thanksgiving is a pretty ugly time of year. Lots of turkey carnage. And the whole guilt over what was done to the Indians. It’s a slaughtering holiday. The weather is hideous–all brown and cold, with no excuses to get some fresh air and go for a walk. There’s some kind of ludicrous law that most people have to watch football or they’ll die. And I’m supposed to get up early the next day and go shopping?

Plus there’s the annual scene of my dad hacking away at a turkey carcass in the kitchen yelling at everyone not to eat any appetizers–the ones I was asked to bring, mind you–while I am horribly drunk on boxed wine because my empty stomach always thinks dinner will come sooner than it does. Hey, Dad gets what he gets when he tells me to stay away from my own plate of cheese and crackers! Well, after I slur my way through dinner conversations about tired family memories, and I’ve crammed plenty of stuffing and potatoes in my face, the whole time trying not to embarrass my mom or make her cry (as has happened multiple years in the past), it’s time for my dad to pass out in a turkey coma in the recliner.

And that means it’s TV time! We can put on the best movies and TV shows that Thanksgiving has to offer…which decidedly isn’t much. For such ripe material about family and autumn and conflict and booze, there is shockingly little material out there, especially compared to Christmas. Maybe it’s slaughter shame. Christmas is all magical, and Thanksgiving is all carnage.

Well, fret not; the ol’ cornucopia is still full of television and movie treats, and here are the best ones, my fellow slaughterers. Don’t be fooled by other lists that load up any crap movies or TV shows that make me want to wretch over the pumpkin pie. I promise you, below are only truly worthy watches. And for all of them, I am truly thankless. Because I’m an irreverent asshole.

Best Thanksgiving Movies

  1. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

    PTA
    The Braidwood Inn, Del’s trunk, the beer cans exploding on the vibrating bed. The burned-up car, the frozen dog, the impossibly broken car seat, and the two pillows between which Del snuggles his hand.

    Side note: John Candy and Steven Martin perform brilliantly as 1980s male representations of what my marriage is like (I’m Neil Page, and my poor husband is Del Griffith). Rude, sweet, and just damn funny. 

  2. Home For the Holidays

    homeforholidays.jpg
    A hidden gem of a dark comedy from 1995. Turkey grease, puffy coats, Robert Downey, Jr., and floor lamps. Anne Bancroft smoking. Charles Durning dancing. Aunt Glady’s Fruit Loops necklace and admiring her “horse in a uniform”. And Steve-fucking-Guttenberg.

  3. “This is America Charlie Brown”: Mayflower Voyagers

    CBMayflowerPilgrims Snoopy, Woodstock, and Charlie Brown. The simple, varnished version of Thanksgiving as taught to schoolchildren of yore. Blissfully adorable animation. A little bit of actual history. Charlie Brown yacking over the side of the boat. Linus rolling through a pumpkin patch at the new settlement.

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Avonlea Showdown: Which Anne of Green Gables is Better?

Three different versions of our Anne-girl.

L.M. Montgomery’s classic, Anne of Green Gables has inspired dozens and dozens of Annes on film and television since the book’s original publication in 1908. But, to my mind, there are only three worth real consideration: First, the famous and extremely popular 1985 adaptation that starred Megan Follows, long considered the modern gold standard of Montgomery’s vision. And then there have been two new versions causing quite a flutter recently, with fresh takes on Carrots and her fellow Prince Edward Island adventurers. The first came out late 2016 and aired in the U.S. chiefly on PBS stations (though the first installment is currently available to Amazon Prime streaming subscribers). The second debuted on Netflix in 2017.

So how do they stack up? Are any of these new Annes worthy of the Lake of Shining Waters or puff sleeves? I’m spitting out my lime once more, setting down my glass of gin, and cracking my knuckles in anticipation of another great showdown between rival cinematic loves. Just as with the Longbourn Showdown (Ahem, Pride and Prejudice fans), this will be much like Thunderdome, but with ipecac and red currant wine! So scoop the mouse out of the plumb pudding sauce and get ready!

Anne Shirley

Anne of Green Gables Showdown

Megan Follows vs. Ella Ballentine vs. Amybeth McNulty

I thought my Anne would always be Megan Follows, whose 1985 take was dramatically serious in her imagination and fantasies. Every dream and speech was an audition for  play, a sworn oath, with her gaze constantly averted skyward, and it was easy to imagine that Follows’s Anne was maybe destined for the stage. She never lacked sweetness, but came across as a bit more self-centered, at least, at first. And she was always a bit embarrassing. But I just took it for granted that this was sort of baked into the character.

In 2016, we got a fresh Anne from Ella Ballentine. And I’m just gonna say it–she’s awful. Sure her look is sweetly generic, but her freckles are irritatingly fake, as is her grin, and her overly sunny disposition plays as a carefree girl who could make it anywhere. She’s the Mary Tyler Moore of Avonlea. Plus, Ballentine reminds me of a young Lindsey Lohan. And that thought hobbles me like smelling cheap whiskey. I’ve been burned before.

By 2017, we got a very different Anne from Amybeth McNulty. Darker, grittier, and slightly traumatizing to my youth, retroactively. McNulty has a very distinct look that isn’t too adorable or charming. Like a young Shelley Duvall. She’s the orphan that’s a little more difficult for the residents of Avonlea to welcome. And, this is a traumatized Anne who is precocious, but also damaged. She is appropriately distrusting, but still sees the wonder in people and moments. In fact, McNulty’s Anne strikes just the right chord between fear, passion, and silly-heartedness.

This is a tough call. But for age, tone, and looks, McNulty’s Anne is the most believable. She seems real and touching, even with all her imperfections. I’m so sorry to slight Megan Follows this way. She was wonderful, but she was played the role a bit too old, and lacked a certain brightness of youth that McNulty can pull off poetically.

Winner: Amybeth McNulty as Anne Shirley 

McNulty


Marilla Cuthbert

Marilla Cuthbert Showdown

Colleen Dewhurst vs. Sara Botsford vs. Geraldine James

Three brilliant women who do a great service to one of my favorite literary characters of all time: Marilla Cuthbert. Geraldine James’s take stands out the most as a little bit harder around the edges, which matches her version’s tone. Still, she manages to thaw beautifully, as does each of our Marillas. Sara Botsford was maybe a little too accommodating and lovable, making her Marilla a little shallower and easy to please. Almost too easy.

But I note that while grasping for criticism. All the ladies are wonderful. But there must be one winner! And of course, it has to be Colleen Dewhurst. Our husky-voiced Marilla knows how to be harsh and deep, but incredibly loving all the same. Her boisterous anger at the neighbors is brilliant, and yet she can be subtle in her emotions. She is simply perfect, and I wish our Marilla was still around.

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Update: Bran Stark is Still the Villain No One Saw Coming

Brandon Stark is a villain. Make no mistake. If you are a Game of Thrones fan and have not already read my argument on How Bran Stark is the Villain No One Saw Coming, please do take a few moments and read the case to be made for his dark nature and what may be driving him.

Now that season 7 of the television series has aired, it is worth examining how my theory has held up in the season or so since I first published it.

Bran Stark Heart Tree.jpg

Team Ice vs. Team Fire

Let us start with the most rudimentary means of examining the Westerosi standings thus far. As I pointed out previously, the television show–which is based on the books from A Song of Ice and Fire series–is most basically broken down to Team Ice versus Team Fire. Let us review where the teams stand:

Team Fire

– Targaryens (Jon included)
– Dragons: Drogon and Rhaegal
– R’hllor and the Red Preists / Priestesses
– The New Gods
– The pyromancers of King’s Landing
– The Night’s Watch (“I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn…”)

Team Ice

– White Walkers
– Children of the Forest
– The Old Gods
– Dragon: Viserion
– Brandon Stark, aka the Three-Eyed Raven

If you see Brandon sitting fireside at Winterfell and suppose that his return must indicate that he is on Team Fire, then you are mistaken.

Note the new addition to Team Ice? A dragon. A blue fire-breathing dragon. That is quite a remarkable shift in power, so how is it that Bran has not warned anyone? Even if we assume he didn’t see it coming, he most assuredly must be aware that it has occurred. After all, it happened weeks or months before Viserion took down a chunk of the Wall. Should Bran not be telling Sansa? Or messaging Jon? Or at least telling Samwell?? I mean, com’on, Bran, maybe Jon’s lineage isn’t the most super important news alert right now. (And don’t tell me that little perv doesn’t have his mind on Jon’s genes because he isn’t watching Dany and Jon rocking the boat! Eyes on the fire, Bran!)

The Children: A History Lesson

But there’s one big glaring problem that makes Bran’s omission even more ominous. And to understand it, first you need a quick history lesson.

Long ago in our Song of Ice and Fire world, there was something called the Long Night, a period that followed significant and costly wars between the children and First Men. A pact was reached though, and the two factions seemed to live in relative peace, with the Children relegated to the far north, long before there was a wall.

According to man’s legends, the white walkers emerged from…nowhere, allegedly, terrorized both races during the Long Night, and then were vanquished only after men and children banded together. It was then heroic Bran the Builder who engaged in rallying men, giants, and the children to all pitch in and build the Wall, lest the white walkers ever return. And for good measure, Bran asked the children to weave spells into the Wall, protecting everything south from the white walkers.

Of course, you could drive a mammoth through the holes in those legends told by men. And to quote Samwell Tarly of the books:

“The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it.”

The white walkers didn’t just appear. The children made them with their own magic. Why? Maybe they didn’t like being told to stay up north. Maybe they thought that the men were invaders on their land, and it was time to take some of it back. So maybe during the Long Night, the children weren’t terrorized quite as much as they let on.

The Wall’s Magic

Back to that wall, the one that no one believed could be demolished so easily. Especially since Bran gave them no warning that the Night King had become (*gag*) a dragon rider.

Side Note: I really, really hate you, Benioff and Weiss.

Beyond Bran’s lack of wall-melty notice, the really disturbing idea is that the dragon even could melt the wall. It turns out that maybe the routed children, who had been playing both sides of the battlefield during the Long Night agreed to weave spells into the Wall. But did they ever do it?

And even if they did as they swore, there is a good reason that blue dragon fire could break the enchantments: Their magic is of the same source. I cannot emphasize enough that the children are on Team Ice with the moth-eaten dragon that just melted man’s wall without blinking a blue eye, and using their own magic to do it. And they are on Team Bran as well.

What the Hell is He Doing at Winterfell, Anyway?

Still not convinced that Bran’s lack of help or historical knowledge (of which he has total omnipotence, allegedly) is evidence that he’s not on the side of good?

Bran Stark Villain

At this point, I think it’s important to point out something critical about Bran, as he sits toasting himself at Winterfell: He doesn’t claim to be a man anymore. He isn’t Bran. We heard that from his own lips. He’s now the Three-Eyed Raven. So it is highly questionable that The Artist Formerly Known as Bran is even on the side of men, all ancillary evidence aside.

With his motives and allegiances in such dubious standing, I desperately want to know what on earth is Bran, aka Raven Lump, is up to during season 7. His sight isn’t doing anyone much good. In addition to keeping mum about a zombie dragon, he hasn’t let on to anyone what he knows about the genesis of the walkers.

And he’s failed to mention that he established some sort of magical link between himself and the Night King. Maybe that has dissolved already. But maybe it hasn’t.

Bran and the Night King.jpg

It might’ve also been helpful for Jon to have any information about the goings on of the Greyjoys, the Lannisters, the Tyrells, the Iron Bank, etc., etc. So one has to wonder (ahem, Sansa), what the hell good is he? What is he playing at?

If he isn’t helping the cause to protect and Jon and his allies, and he isn’t monitoring and reporting the progress of the white walkers, then it’s a little hard to understand what he’s doing at Winterfell, besides staying warm and fed. It seems to me that he’s a bit like a parasite. Or one of those evil, hairy spiders that lives in my basement each winter, and surely plots to murder me in my sleep. He’s using Winterfell and Sansa and Arya until his time comes.

The End Game

In my first post on this topic, I predicted that both Targaryens will ultimately need to rain fire down on the north to eliminate the walkers, and Brandon Stark as well. I stand by that.

Do not underestimate how big Bran’s role will be by the end. We didn’t spend hours and hours and hours of Bran being dragged through snow and ice, and all those three-eyed raven dream sequences for nothing. He is a much, much bigger player than most fans realize at this point. And his role is not setting up to be a happy, pretty, heroic one.

I mean, sure, I have a few doubts about the TV series, since I believe Benioff and Weiss collectively lack the imagination that the gods give to the average walnut. So maybe they’ll be satisfied with a hero arc for Bran. That would be neat and easy. But even if they do, I still believe that George R.R. Martin has something very dark in mind for the crippled Stark.

He is the secret weapon that the children snuck into Winterfell. The bushy-eyebrowed Three-Eyed Branven has infiltrated the realms of men, and will sow discord from within. So now, my only question is, how much damage will he do, and who will be the one to finally stop him?

Hugo Recipe: The Effing Drink of the Summer

Because I’m a fancy pants,  I can say that I drained my bank account dry to fly across the ocean and sit at various cafes around Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany not long ago. Food and drink were gorgeously abundant, but none were so surprising as the popular drink, the Hugo. If you’re pretending to be European, then go on and pronounce it “Oogo”. These were served (and overcharged for) at every restaurant we stopped at, and we found that Trier, Germany even had Hugo stands right in the middle of the marketplace. For this, I applaud the people of Europe. We need more cocktail stands around here.

Anyway, it is a delicious and bubbly light summer drink, best served out of a wine glass and with a straw and some ice. It’s true. I know it sounds crass, but that is truly how it’s served. Not too sweet, and not at all bitter. This is what you drink on a gorgeous summer afternoon or evening while soaking up the fresh air.

Here is the recipe for a single cocktail:

Ice Cubes
2-3 Fresh Mint Leaves
1 part Elderflower Syrup/Extract
3 parts Brut Sparkling Wine (a Luxembourg vintage is preferred, but an Italian Prosecco will also serve)
1 Lime Wedge

Instructions:
Combine in a wine glass. Boom. I mean, you may want to squeeze the lime and muddle the mint leaves a bit, but no need to get too precious.

Trier cocktails.jpg