Expensive Evil - Godzilla Minus One, Or The Holiday Special
The cheerful art of mass destruction.
I know, Substack’s burning. I’ll tend to that soon. First, here’s the one-and-only free edition of Expensive Evil, a nonfiction series about my biannual trip outside. A paywall around the holiday episode felt off. I hope your year ends perfectly.
Rated T for Teen. Fantasy Violence, Crude Humor, Comic Mischief.
1. A Dull Boy
“Send me your wish list. A real one, I want options.”
This again. What was it? The sixth time? I took a screenshot–my ritual for reminders. It seldom worked, but felt active.
The sender read “Mom.” A volley from my sister, who kept Mom’s number after the wake. I couldn’t critique that: I still hadn’t updated the contact. It’ll say “Mom” when I’m sixty, and the Eagle Imperium starts mopping up writers. Hopefully my heirs keep me as “Dumbass” long after I’m gone.
Blitzen’s third yuletide text (yuletext?) had mentioned Black Friday sales. Her next two efforts abandoned the civilized afternoon, and entered the forbidden “AM.” The dark hours of my old commutes. Blitzen said wake up by yelling wake up, a technique developed across countless Sunday mornings. Adult Swim’s midnight anime block had doomed my soul years before fossils. A loss she aimed to overcome with bargains.
In my defense, most fire sales were a crock. Every year, videos of $20 price tags becoming $30 Black Friday specials went viral. The logos changed, but the content rhymed. Somehow, the companies charging for acid rain lacked Christmas spirit. Strange.
That’s the December brain rot—
The hell? We’re in the opening. What the fuck are you doing?
Well, there’s more to it. Grinch Mode combines complex forces.
Capitalism? Imperial decline?
Work! There it is. I was doing important work.
Multiple threads of work. Four deadlines competed, and they all played dirty. I’d earned more ghostwriting KY Jelly jingles, but now I cared. I smiled when pieces survived. I’d even developed a teenage addiction to virtual praise. After decades heckling influencers, I knew my metrics by heart.
It raised health questions. How many all-nighters canceled out sobriety? Insomnia would, at some point, hit harder than tequila. At least tequila made for fun dates, instead of mock job interviews. HR people had, for mankind’s sake, stopped asking “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But that was the Manhattan Hinge “Hello.” My best answer was “destitute, insane, and wanted.”
Easy. What I wanted. Whatever that was.
Carols made the concept clear: family and capital ignited joy. I didn’t plan on flying, or even walking off of my block. That’s where dragons hid. Goods had to carry the team.
I was a normal person. I wanted things. I wasn’t just a punchline AI, or the world’s most acerbic Magic 8-Ball. My fingers just had to catch up.
Have fun. Don’t ask where it sees itself in five years.
I stared at the screen. What did Blitzen want? Why did I have to go first? And didn’t trading gifts just leave two adults poorer?
Too much thinking. A new Godzilla movie had emerged from the sea. I grabbed my unfortunate Shonen Jump skateboard and searched showtimes.
Alamo Drafthouse had the closest showing with a decent seat. Rich for my adjunct blood, but this isn’t Budget Evil. And this branch was near Wall Street, the throne of greed. Responsible writers don’t walk away from natural material.
Or see Godzilla Minus One. I rolled out of my cave, betting on the rain giving up. If it hadn’t, my board’s anime decal didn’t match my age anyway. I’d miss it, but friends standing near me wouldn’t.
One side effect of endless typing: my step didn’t have much spring. I almost nodded off three stops from the theater. Tough task on the 2, where every train car comes with a DJ. The music was solid this time, but last week’s fumes were running low. I needed to double my intake of preworkout or sleep.
I’d been up past 6 AM, begging Adobe for a truce. Photoshop was my worst relationship, bar none. Our goals clashed: I wanted to edit images, and Adobe wanted to eat my wallet for free. Last night, Photoshop had the advantage. Forgettable images of Beetleborgs took more effort than I’d put into undergrad. Only resentment got it done.
And fear. Each pitch felt like my Waterloo. The day I’d join the list of safely ignorable writers. I often cited ambition or Jamaican/Sardaukar conditioning, but paranoia was my rocket fuel. Fear of falling off a balance beam I’d picked at fourteen. And had slipped off before.
Or two, or four. The MTA should have banned me ages ago. I’d spent more late nights coating cars like this in nonsense than heading anywhere productive. In days I’d be at it again.
I left my seat for a senior with enough luggage for a new life. She kept standing, and swayed less with the 2’s jackknife turns than I did. A teen with a Schwarzenegger build took the seat. I couldn’t judge: only God knew how many plates he’d survived today. His knees could be worse off than my shoulder. If that was possible.
A radioactive, Christmas-colored energy drink sat in my jacket pocket. I abandoned smuggling it into the Alamo, and drained it on the platform. I’d have to trust surround sound and fanboy spirit to carry me through the film.
Easily done. I liked monsters better than people, and barely understood why Godzilla films had casts. I darted out the station on borrowed time.
3. The Bull Returns
Back on the surface, the Financial District was dead. Like a real kaiju had stomped through, leaving the ruins to roaches and cinephiles. I spied an opportunity.
In my short, myopic life, two hobbies had reshaped the world: wargames and skating. 40k turned every book and apple core into a playground, and skating did the same for sidewalks. Actual playgrounds remained off-limits: I wasn’t good enough to dodge curious toddlers. But tipsy investors were expendable.
The impromptu tour took me past the Charging Bull, a two-time Extra Evil guest. I didn’t dwell on it then, but feel deeper today. Is there a better American kaiju? The market flattens nations, while Kong can’t finish off a city or get over his ex. It helps that a brass bull recalls ancient torture devices. Name a tougher American monster.
The bull’s usual tourists were absent. Something about cold and darkness puts people off. To any impressionable children reading this–don’t skip your 10 PM coffee. You miss out on the real fun.
At night, the corporate plazas and smooth concrete were perfect. Including the concrete garden above the theater. That diversion burned my C4 energy boost within an hour, and robbed me of the previews. I could forget chasing or running from anything, or that I’d even planned to forget. I almost missed Godzilla’s first rampage, but my inner nerd was larger, stronger, and armed with atomic breath.
That, and I got my seventh text. There’s a rhythm to these things.
4. The Band Gojira’s Great Too
Well, not precisely. The previous movie, Shin Gojira, was my shit. “Disaster satire via kaiju” was even on my to-do list until then. The best review I can give any art is “ruined my personal plans.”
Godzilla Minus One was someone else’s shit, artfully executed. Around the same letter grade as Shin Gojira, with the black comedy and mass death replaced by human emotions and mass death. But the mass death is shot differently, to keep things fresh.
If that gets you to see it, sure.
Godzilla Minus One highlights the human cost of imperial ambition. American audiences might not relate. The golden age of the eagle has never ended, and never will. The joy of the new Pax Americana brightens every conversation.
I’ve made it sound less politically charged, and that doesn’t even orbit the truth. Godzilla Minus One directly attacks dying for your country/honor/sports team/mood, and you’ll see how closely I relate to that in How to Dodge a Cannonball. For now, let’s just say I dig it. In fact, to be clear: I wrote and sold that book in mid-2023. I only rob Neal Stephenson. And Paul Beatty. And Terry Pratchett. And my bosses at 1900HOTDOG. And–
I was an easy mark. Alamo’s pre-movie sketches pandered to my disposition, which I welcomed after a sleepless year. Besides, it’s charming to see Minilla in 2023. Minilla’s like disco fashion: he sucks, but in a disarming way. I’ll try hypocrisy and call it nostalgic. If you’re unfamiliar, think Scrappy-Doo via practical effects.
The half-full crowd on opening night gave me pause. The headlines about foreign box-office records weren’t out yet. Some egos like feeling ahead of the curve, but I want good things to succeed. In my perfect world, everything I rate above a C would be utterly oversaturated. That fuels more material like it. I welcomed Pickle Ricks, since they cited a fine episode of television.
As for the menu? No idea. I had a coat full of protein bars. Even if macros hadn’t taken over my brain, I can’t surrender to twenty dollar burgers yet. Not while life with two roommates on the edge of nowhere costs more than a building in a sane city. Again, I’ll need a new title if I move. Or when.
I still left satisfied. A walking apocalypse is hard to get right.
I watch a lot of movies in December. Another leftover habit. Mom’s birthday was a heartbeat after Christmas, and her parties never left the house. They featured a long movie, a human-sized glazed ham, and a blind eye to whatever sugar/skinner box game/liquor I was hooked on at the time. For my money, Jesus couldn’t compete. In case the first round of pork wasn’t enough, there were stew peas. Jamaica’s greatest blessing to the tongue and curse on the aorta.
Hard to beat, so I don’t try. Consciously, anyway.
5. What Do You Want?
Never came. I got out at 1:30 on a weeknight, when civilized adults dozed. The party circuit’s schedule sticks with you, long after Last Call. Post-kaiju energy and a loud shoulder ache left me wide awake to dwell on my unread texts, and lack of spiritual worthiness for an MRI.
I’d worked like a grown-up, played like a child, and vegetated before a screen like both. No procrastination formats were left. I sat down on a curb smoother than my apartment floor, and tried to remember what I wanted. Then I opened a blank note and started spamming text.
Retroactive art training.
That Total War game set in Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
A self-feeding cat.
A letter telling teenage me to stick with guitar.
That new Spider-Man game.
A PS5 for said Spider-Man game.
A working sound card. My laptop’s the opposite of a cheap car with futuristic speakers: it’s a supercomputer for the deaf. Only wireless headphones (sometimes) work, and I don’t have long until the rest breaks down.
To understand how war twisted otherwise sane humans into fanged three-headed parodies.
To instantly gain or lose ten pounds.
Super-speed. Other powers are stronger, but none are more fun.
A one-bedroom apartment walking distance from Columbia.
A one-way ticket to Osaka.
Immunity to vandalism charges.
No really, money.
A rematch with Dad at our current ages and weights.
Nine new judges.
Ten minutes with the authority and ethics of Robespierre.
Less judgement for my go-to bagel order.
Blank decks to write in-jokes on.
A newsletter network with a few less eugenics fans.
An autographed copy of The Iliad.
To tell my real, insane, and hilarious Damien Echols story without being sued into oblivion.
Tickets to Eric Adams’s arraignment.
A button that summoned a medium-rare cheeseburger with caramelized onions and sriracha.
A twenty-dollar Dave & Buster’s gift card.
The wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, laser flips, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury.
A fissure in the Earth to swallow Healthfirst headquarters, with every soul still inside.
A Gojira tattoo (the band).
A Gojira tattoo (the monster).
A Gojira tattoo (some clever fusion of band and monster).
Fifteen minutes in the ring with a Times opinion editor. Texas Deathmatch rules.
More Lindt truffles.
To get past the hell-ape in Sekiro that summons a second hell-ape to punish you for ever putting your arrogant mortal thumbs on a controller.
Is money still on the table?
Something that numbs the fear.
A joke better than “bullet control.”
Necromancy, so that I could teach skeletons windmills.
Necromancy, to send a few world leaders a message.
Necromancy, to talk to Mom.
I deleted the more insane and abstract entries, and forwarded the list. Eight hours later, Blitzen asked for a printer. She’ll outlive me.
Thanks for reading. Getting this and the prank done before the obvious deadline took some dark magic. But hopefully you enjoyed it. Share it or I turn to stone.