Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A must-follow absurd Twitter account, a pair of classic TV shows, and some music worth hearing

Illustration for article titled A must-follow absurd Twitter account, a pair of classic TV shows, and some music worth hearing

NOT OPTIONAL takes a quick weekly look at five essential releases, some recent, some not.

I’m at least a year behind on this, but some entertainment is timeless—entertainment like a Twitter spambot spewing strangely lyrical non sequiturs into the ether such as “You don’t need to spend big money at a restaurant to enjoy mouth,” “Unfortunately Many Owners,” and “Vegetable Christmas,” all in a misguided attempt to sell terrible books. Were @Horse_ebooks not a real thing, some science-fiction author would have had to invent it: An artificial intelligence begins generating Dadaist poetry and becomes a celebrity, captivating thousands, inspiring artwork, clothing, and I’m guessing a band name or two. But according to Internet sleuthing done by Splitsider and Gawker, a Russian web developer invented Horse, programming him to spew random phrases to avoid being detected as spam. And while there’s some debate over whether those phrases are still random now that so many have discovered them, there’s no argument from me that @Horse_ebooks is still one of the best parts of my Twitter feed, a daily hit of accidental avant-garde comedy amid the more overt attempts. I’m also quite fond of Burton Durand’s Horse_ecomics adaptations, which really capture the surrealist horrors lurking behind Horse’s most innocuous utterances. [Sean O’Neal]

When Fringe debuted in 2008, it was a straightforward science-fiction procedural with plenty of standalone episodes, but that structure gave way to a more serialized framework sometime during season two. Though this was a welcome development, it did require more of a commitment from viewers: It was no longer possible to just drop in and see what everyone was up to on any given week. The following season complicated matters even further when the characters began to travel between alternate universes. I should probably stop now before I get spoiler-crazy. At long last, Fringe is available to stream via Netflix—the first four seasons, anyway. Here’s hoping the final season arrives soon, to facilitate marathon viewing sessions. [Andrea Battleground]


Soul Coughing, Ruby Vroom
Earlier this week, Mike Doughty announced that he was raising money in order to re-record and release new versions of his old Soul Coughing songs. Doughty has long had a tumultuous relationship with the group, which broke up in 2000. He’s likened it to Dante’s Inferno and said he’d only reunite the group if he’d already lost one eye and reforming could prevent the poking-out of the other. That all sounds pretty intolerable and no one wants him to re-enter a situation that’s so horrible for him, but all that being said, I like the original Soul Coughing records. I’m most fond of 1994’s Ruby Vroom, which, with tracks like “Sugar Free Jazz,” “True Dreams Of Wichita,” and “Janine,” is a mostly charming and poetic take on mid-’90s alt-rock. It might just be a nostalgia thing, but the jazzy, sample-heavy sound of the record has always seemed kind of perfect, making it not optional for me, even if it’s optional to the point of wanting to do it over for Mike Doughty. [Marah Eakin]

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVI
The common impression of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is that the cult series fixed its movie-mocking gaze exclusively on black-and-white fiascos starring rubber monsters and/or pie-tin UFOs. While this is true of maybe 35 percent of the movies screened on the Satellite Of Love, there’s no way the show could’ve built 11 seasons and nearly 200 episodes on the dregs of the drive-in circuit alone. No, the show’s appetite for cinematic garbage was much more wide-ranging, as evidenced by the four episodes collected for Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVI, the latest step in Shout! Factory’s attempt to corral as much of MST3K on DVD as film-licensing rights will allow. The four episodes within the set—Show 411: The Magic Sword, Show 516: Alien From L.A., Show 620: Danger!! Death Ray, and Show 803: The Mole People—span the genre-film canon, comprising a medieval epic, an entry from VHS-trash purveyor The Cannon Group, an Italian James Bond imitation, and the star vehicle for some of the lesser Universal Monsters. None of these are among the best episodes of the show, but they are representative of its sharpest seasons, when the cohesion of MST3K’s whip-smart writing staff helped the series weather a transition in hosts—from creator Joel Hodgson to head writer Mike Nelson—and networks—from Comedy Central to what was then known as The Sci-Fi Channel. And at the very least, Alien From L.A. features the ill-advised, Albert Pyun-directed big-screen debut of supermodel Kathy Ireland, whose helium-voiced line readings are worth a laugh with or without the wisecracks of Nelson and his robot friends. (Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVI was released on March 26.) [Erik Adams]

Cheatahs, Extended Plays
Cheatahs plays fuzzed-out indie rock that’s a direct descendent of the ’90s paragons of the genre, such as Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk, Archers Of Loaf, Sugar, and, via the new song “Fall,” My Bloody Valentine. That makes the English band’s recent EP collection, Extended Plays, catnip for certain members of the A.V. Club staff. Extended Plays collects a pair of previously released EPs ahead of a full-length due out later this year, but for people who don’t live in England, it’s all new. And it’s great. The band’s currently on a mostly sold-out tour with a couple groups enjoying a ton of attention right now, Wavves and FIDLAR. Getting tickets for those shows may be tough, but hearing Extended Plays isn’t. [Kyle Ryan]

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