100 Rules of Time Travel

Time is weird.  Time Travel is dangerous.  That’s why the 100 rules of Time Travel were first written when Washington Irving traveled through time to his future year of 1887.  Now, in honor of My Name is Ward Armstrong and I Travel Through Time going up on Amazon for public viewing, I give to you the 100 rules of time travel:

  1. Never wear a watch; it might explode.
  2. You can change the past.
  3. The farther back you go, the more likely it is that you won’t come back.
  4. Always announce yourself as a time traveler: At worst you’ll be committed to that era’s version of a Mental Health Ward, at best you’ll be treated to a feast of sugar plums!
  5. We are, all of us, constantly traveling through time.  It is only those trained, though, that should move forward more than a day or backward at all.
  6. When interacting with locals from the time you’re in, just smile and nod.  This will put them at ease.
  7. Always carry gold.
  8. Time is relative, manners are not.  Please be respectful.
  9. The farther you go, the greater a headache you’ll have afterwards.  Be sure to get plenty of rest and take vitamin capsules.
  10. Keep track of all your belongings, there are thieves where you’ll go.
  11. Always carry a coin from your time with you; that will let you know of any changes to the timeline.
  12. Some time around the year 7603 AD mankind will break off into distinctly different species: The Eloi who will be telepathic and super-intelligent but have massively reduced lifespans, the Morlocks who will live for 800 years with skin of steel but be dull and brutish, and the Poporopos who will have five tentacles, four eyes, and will sleep inside of clocks eating away at the “tick tock tick” sound they make.
  13. Do not travel beyond 7.9 billion years on Earth, the Sun would have engulfed the planet by then and there would be nothing to land on.
  14. Bring sunglasses with you, the future is bright.
  15. Always consult your history book before traveling.
  16. Killing Hitler always seems like a good idea, but it rarely is.  We’re sorry.
  17. You can, however, go back in time and punch or kick Hitler a few times.  This is, in fact, widely encouraged.
  18. Remember where you parked.
  19. Keep your TimeKeys™ with you at all times.
  20. Have fun with time puns!  Just because you may be trying to stop the apocalypse doesn’t mean you can’t make a joke.
  21. When traveling through time always keep your person inside of the time machine.
  22. Personal history is easier to change than world history.
  23. Do not bring any future technology back with you.
  24. The farther backwards in time you travel the greater the number of things you shouldn’t touch is.  Even one butterfly stepped on could have catastrophic changes in your present.
  25. Always say goodbye to loved ones before traveling through time. They may not be there when you come back.
  26. Know how to make a fire: It keeps you warm and scares off Moorlocks.
  27. Have plenty of ice packs with you.  They keep you cool and scare off Eloi.
  28. Have plenty of dry saltine crackers with you.  They keep you fed, and scare off Poporopos (The crunching of crackers disrupt their precious clock sound).
  29. History’s greatest monster is Oliver Wilmingfordshire II.  he lived from 1837-1887 and never left his palatial estate in Essex.  This must always be so
  30. If ever you come into contact with Wilmingfordshire nod as he talks about the numerous deer he’s killed and beheaded and how the poor are starving England to the core.  If you don’t, he will kill you.  He WILL kill you.
  31. Genghis Khan has some serious issues.
  32. Do not bring anything back with you.  The Time Travel Process has a built-in de-germifying process, but make sure to shake off any loose mud, bugs, or people.
  33. There are creatures who live in time: Do not destroy any of their time-nests.
  34. Do not enter into any time-preserves without proper documentation and authorization.
  35. Always keep your personal identification and travel papers on your person, you never know when you’ll need them.
  36. Technology is not always reliable, paper is.
  37. If any time travelers want to talk to you about time travel that is their choice and you should oblige.
  38. If any locals want to talk to you about time travel- outside of your initial introduction- the accepted response is to smile and wink saying “Time will tell”.
  39. Do not crash your time machine. You only get one.
  40. March 9, 1982 is the friendliest place around!
  41. The world will end.  This is sad, but true.
  42. Don’t Panic.
  43. Numbers have been traveling through time since memory first began.
  44. Stay hydrated!
  45. During peak times, travel may be limited.  Always consult your local time travel agent.
  46. It is dangerous to travel through time without a machine and will often result in being unable to recognize time at all.
  47. You can go back in time to kill your rival’s grandfather, but it’s a real dick move.
  48. Don’t be surprised of any physical changes you may undergo, it’s all part of the adventure!
  49. Sometimes you will return to your time to find out that you are now two or more people.  It is recommended you all sit down and chat, or perhaps start a book club.
  50. You cannot change the past.
  51. Take care when visiting your parents in the past, they won’t always be happy to see you.
  52. If you find yourself kidnapped by The Government, start stringing together words that sound scientific and they will let you go.
  53. Never bring sports almanacs into the past.
  54. Always bring farmers’ almanacs into the past.
  55. It is up to your personal discretion whether or not to bring Poor Richard’s Almanac into the past.  Be warned, however, it is illegal to own it in the 23rd century.
  56. The 23rd Century is a fine place so long as you have gold (please refer to Rule #7).
  57. All things must die, this includes disco.
  58. There are more than one assassin that shoots JFK. It’s fun target practice to go back and try to get them all!
  59. Interacting with yourself creates a paradox.
  60. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  61. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  62. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  63. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  64. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  65. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  66. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  67. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  68. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  69. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  70. Paradoxes are dangerous, please avoid them.
  71. Déjá Vu is Time’s way of telling you you’re doing something wrong.
  72. Stay away from your grandparents, it’s just easier that way.
  73. To escape a Time Loop, simply think to yourself “What Would American Physicist Joseph Polchinski Do?”. Nine times out of Ten the answer will be “Go in at 75 degrees”.
  74. There is no traveling on Groundhog Day.
  75. Seriously you can’t kill Hitler, we’ve tried. A lot of times, we’ve tried. We’re sorry. Really, really sorry. But you can’t kill Hitler.
  76. Boots are a comfortable, practical, and fashionable way to solve your temporal footwear woes.
  77. The Past wants to happen, all you have to do is watch it happen.
  78. Keep a detailed log of everything that’s ever happened to you at all times.
  79. Ludwig von Beethoven never existed.  It is therefore imperative that, when traveling between the years 1770 and 1827 that you mention Beethoven and how great a composer he was as often as you can.
  80. Time is linear, every instant causes the next.
  81. Time is circular, every instant causes the next until the last instant causes the first.
  82. Time is spiral-shaped, every instant causes another instant and sometimes these instants are the same instant piled on top of itself.
  83. Time is shaped like a Möbius strip, it moves multi-dimensionally but always ends up at the same instant.
  84. Time is shaped like a fractal with no true starting instant and no true ending instant but rather a lattice-like interlocking of all instants occurring simultaneously with each one looking the exact same.
  85. Time is like that closet that you shove everything into: there is no shape, there is no organization, but if you remove or change one instant everything will come crashing down and spill everywhere.
  86. Time is also like the closet that you shove everything into because the damn cat will always find a way inside.
  87. It’s useful to think of time like a book: You can go back to the beginning and re-read chapters to get a better idea but the act of re-reading them does not change the words that were written.
  88. It’s also useful to think about time like a book because if you skip ahead you may get some useful information, but more often than not you’ll be very confused without the proper context.
  89. Time is not, however, a book.  Books are books and if you are confused on this topic you should consult your local library.
  90. Time is like molasses: hard to move through, impossible to change the shape of (as it has no definitive shape), sweet in an earthy sort of way, and an important ingredient for making cookies!
  91. Fun Fact: Bees can’t travel in time!
  92. You can’t use time travel to make people fall in love with you. I understand that now, Diane, and I’m really sorry.
  93. Chickens understand more about time travel than any human ever will. When in doubt: Ask a chicken!
  94. Never travel when sick.
  95. If you ever have to explain time travel to a pastling, just draw a bunch of lines on a chalkboard.
  96. If you find yourself in a military facility, yelling at the guards won’t make them like you.  Instead, try drawing a bunch of lines on a chalkboard.
  97. If- God forbid- you run into your Grandparents, it’s best if you start speaking very quickly while drawing a bunch of lines on a chalkboard.
  98. When in doubt, draw lines on a chalkboard.
  99. Keep a detailed log of everything that’s ever happened to you at all times.
  100. Déjá Vu is Time’s way of telling you you’re doing something wrong.

An Unhelpful Guide to the 2017 Oscars

I know, I know: We’re told we can’t trust the media and we should only trust the White House even as scientific facts are erased from all official documents.  We’re being told that some of the poorest but hardest working people of our Nation are evil and are trying to undermine American Life.  We’re being told that the left-wing is a bunch of violent terrorists who must be stopped to regain order in the universe.

It’s real easy to feel like we’re only being controlled by the whims of mad billionaires, but don’t worry there’s a silver lining: THE OSCARS!  With this singular event, everything will fix itself and Donald Trump will take off a mask and reveal that he’s Bernie Sanders!  He wanted a Best Costuming Oscar, and he won it!  WAY TO GO, BERNIE!

As always, so we can prepare for the new golden age as dictated by Hollywood Elite, I present to you a brief summary of the only three Oscar categories that matter: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Editing.  Like I said, the Oscars will make everything better.

La La Land (Nominated for all three! There’s to the ones that dream!)

Mia and Sebastian are two attractive people who love to dance!  Things turn out to be not all they seem, though, as late one night when Mia goes to Seastian’s club with her anonymous husband and comes to a terrifying realization: THIS IS NOT HER LIFE.  What follows is a musical journey through a war between two universes: The City of Stars and the Days of Sun- as well as a quick trip through a pocket universe of flying telescopes.  In the end, Mia and Sebastian have to decide which universe to save and which to let crumble into the sea of the cosmos.

Arrival (Nominated for all three! I guess this movies truly “Arrived”!)

When Alien Pod lands on Earth, everyone panics.  “Oh No, This is going to be like Alien Movies and the Aliens are going to attack us and eat our skin because they are Aliens and they are different and they are Scary!” Says the Military headed by the Human Scowl Jeremy Renner.  But then Earth’s savior comes in the form of Language Woman!  Language Woman- played with aplomb by Amy Adams- draws pictures and makes language with the aliens. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker frown at each other from across the Military Table “I don’t know, I think we should shoot guns at it” says Renner. “Well I think we should shoot bombs at it” says Whitaker.  “No! I have the answer!”, Amy Adams breaks through a wall waving her Language around, “We should shoot words at it!”.  Everyone claps, including the Aliens who have four hands to clap with.  Thank you Amy Adams for telling us what to shoot.  Don’t worry, the aliens still rip a giant space hole in the sky and there’s still a massive CGI battle against alien invaders.  I mean, otherwise this wouldn’t be a Science Fiction movie right?

Moonlight (Nominated for all three!  I guess they should have called this movie “The Professional Circuit”!)

Taking place over three different time periods, Moonlight follows Chiron, a black man growing up on the mean streets of Miami.  Chiron grows up being bullied because of his reserved nature and small stature and he only has one friend: Kevin.  Chiron’ Mother gives him little help as he navigates life- she is addicted to crack- and he gets what guidance he can from local drug dealer Juan.  Things take an unexpected turn, however, when it turns out that Kevin is a vampire!  Kevin turns Chiron into a vampire too, and the two of them become Private investigators.  This doesn’t sit well with Juan, who wanted Chiron to grow up and take over the Drug Business.  So Juan sends out his vampire thugs to hunt down Chiron and Kevin and turn them to dust, then collect this dust and put it into gel tablets which Juan can then sell as a party drug (SPOILER ALERT, the drug is called “Moonlight”). Flash forward ten years, Kevin and Chiron have moved to the streets of Los Angeles where the two of them have a run down detective agency called “City Angels”.  Unfortunately things take another bad turn when the Agency’s owner, Maudie Hayes (played by a young Cybill Shepherd) wants to sell the agency.  Instead she joins the Vampire Detectives on the streets and soon Chiron starts to develop romantic feelings for her.  That’s when Juan catches up to the two with a terrifying secret: He’s also a vampire now! A deadly game of cat and mouse follows, and by the end only two people will walk out of that detective agency alive (And the detective agency was renamed “Blue Moon”.  Also, Juan’s still selling Moonlight and Maddie’s younger sister is addicted to it and may be becoming a vampire herself because of it).

Hacksaw Ridge (Nominated for all three! That may just be a ridge too far!)

Desmond T. Doss is a World War II Army Medic in the battle of Okinawa.  He becomes the first person to win the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot, as he thinks that enough people are trying to destroy the world and he wanted to put it back together.  Along the way he bonds with his army corporals and sergeants and teaches them important lessons on nonviolence.  He also finds an attractive army nurse who he falls in love with and marries. The movie is narrated by an older Desmond Doss, and ends with the Elder Doss saying “In the end, I suppose I learnt everything I needed to on Hacksaw Ridge. And I can still see that sunset in my dreams”.

Hell or High Water (Nominated for Best Editing and Best Picture.  They almost made it to all three, but then came Hell or High- well you get it)

Cowboys!  In 1888 the chilly Colorado River was rising, threatening to drown the low-down cattle town of Diablo.  A shady developer rolls into town and tells the folks “Ya know, yer town ain’t gonna see the light fer much longer.  I could build a levee round here, but it’ll cost ya'”.  The Developer- Chris Pine in a career-defining performance as Toby Howard- makes more and more insidious demands on the townsfolk and bleeds them of all their money.  That’s when Diablo decides to take justice into their own hands, and hire a Cowboy! Morally-questionable antihero Cowboy Tanner Howard is hired to ride into town and have a shootout with Toby Howard who (surprise!) is his brother. “Pow! Pow! Pow!” Go the guns.  “Die! Die! Die!” Go the Cowfolk. “Neigh! Neigh! Neigh!” Go the horses.  In the end, someone will die… come Hell or High Water.

Manchester by the Sea (Nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.  It should have been Manchester by the Supreme Disappointment)

In the sleepy Massachusetts hamlet Manchester-by-the-sea is a lighthouse that the locals have blocked off.  Then, one day a child walks into town and up to the lighthouse.  The child, Young Patrick, knocks on the door and the haggard, forgotten Affleck brother Casey opens the door.  “Hello this isn’t Boston”, says Casey. “I know and I’m also your son” says Young Patrick.  Casey does a spit take, and then walks around in circles saying “Oh my I can’t be a father I’m not the Affleck playing Batman!”.  In the end, Young Patrick learns about Lighthouses and Casey learns that you don’t have to be Oscar-winning writer and director to be an Oscar-winning father (although Ben Affleck is up for the “Best Father” Oscar this year while Casey was snubbed. Poor poor Casey).

Hidden Figures (Only Best Picture?  It’s like this movie wasn’t even trying!)

Taking place from 1991 to 1993 and following an group of publishers, computer scientists, and magicians as they work to create Miru Miru Mega Yokunaru Magic Eye – the very first Magic Eye book to receive widespread popularity.  From there we continue to follow this ragtag team of misfits to their next big milestone in 1993: The release of Magic Eye: A New Way of Looking at the World, the very first Magic Eye book to be published in North America.  Drama happens, some of the computer scientists blame the magicians for forgetting what Magic Eye was really about, and the whole Magic Eye team looks like it will fall apart giving the world no more books of random points that people can lie about seeing a unicorn in.  Then, as if by magic, all conflicts are resolved and the team realizes that the only real magic is the magic of friendship.

Fences (Only Nominated for Best Picture. The other two categories already had plenty of fences)

Based off of the award-winning play by August Wilson, Fences is a tale about race, class, and the barriers between the two.  Since it was first performed at the Eugene O’Neil Theater Center it has, unfortunately, remained chillingly relevant and has caused some controversy because of it.  Most notably (and this is a fault also shared by the film, making it’s nomination for Best Picture surprising) there is only one fence in the entire piece.  It isn’t even there for most of the piece.  Also, adding to this upheaval of title conventions, the characters are not professional fencers (both in terms of people who install fences, but also in terms of not being professional sword fighters).  Had this been changed for the film adaptation, and Fences be about a group of sword fighters traveling around Pittsburgh and building as many fences as they can, Denzel Washington may have also been nominated for Best Director making the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony the first ever to have two black men nominated for Best Director.

Lion (Only Best Picture.  I’d be “Lion”  if I said this was an accomplishment)

One of the big questions surrounding Cartoon Network’s hit animated series Steven Universe is who and what exactly Lion is.  Is Lion pink diamond? Rose Quartz? Was that indeed an early form of Lion that we saw in the episode “Buddy’s Book”?  All of these questions and more are answered in the feature-length film Lion.  Taking place during the time that Steven and the Crystal gems are saving Greg from Blue Diamond and the Human Zoo and Connie and the Crystal Temps are running/ruining the car wash, the film follows the exploits of Lion who uses this time to reflect on his long and storied life.  For the sake of keeping this spoiler free I won’t go on, but let’s just say: Pink Diamond willingly shattered herself as Yellow Diamond had found out that Pink had been funding the Crystal Gem rebellion; Pink trusted Rose to use her healing powers to bring her back once the Diamond Authority thought she was dead, but Rose’s powers could only go so far.  In the end, Rose was able to transfer some of Pink Diamond’s essence into Lion, though to say that Lion is Pink diamond is like saying Steven is Rose Quartz. It may take a few months for the events of this feature length film to be proved canonical, but this is as true as the Uncle Grandpa crossover episode.

100 Things to Go Wrong

It’s a new year, and we know what that means: New possibilities, new hopes, new dreams, and new experiences.  We also know that, unless we say every thing that can go wrong in this year then all of these hopes and dreams will be twisted into disappointments and nightmares and 2017 will end up being a sequel to 2016, which itself was a reboot of 2001 (the original was better. And by better, I mean worse.  Let’s face it: 2001 was a worse year. Because, like all things, “which year is the worst” is a competition).

In order to make sure this year goes smoothly, then, I present to you a list of 100 things that can and would have gone wrong had I not written it down.  It’s difficult being me and always saving the world, I hope you all realize this.

  1. Bees take over New York City!  They haven’t been going extinct, they’ve been organizing.
  2. The world comes to a horrifying realization: Ben Affleck and Alec Baldwin are the SAME PERSON.
  3. Star Wars Episode VIII ends up being a prequel to the prequels where Obi Wan Kenobi realizes that the only thing more difficult than being one of the last Jedi Knights… is High School!
  4. Language collapses and instead of speaking all humans wear visors that display emojis for communication.  Thus begins the extinction of Humanity.
  5. One year after declaring the new Geological age of “Anthropocene”, a rogue group of geologists change official geological records to read “Anthropoopcene”.  They think it’s hilarious.
  6. Walt Disney comes out of Cryostasis with a taste for human flesh.
  7. A SETI satellite picks up a transmission: Voyager was successful and an extra-terrestrial race found The Golden Record.  However, they decided not to usher Humans into an age of peace and prosperity because we have terrible taste in music.  There wasn’t even any “Magnetic Fields” on that record, YOU PLEBES!
  8. 2016 was the year of Killer Clowns.  2017 will be the year of people dressing up like a red 1957 Plymouth Fury.
  9. Character actor Sir Ian Holm will die.
  10. Hate-based crime will rise, and to combat it we will introduce a more violent police force.  This will only lead to more hate-based crime.
  11. Elephants will reveal that they have sentience and would like their own sovereign nation.  The leaders of the developed world will “give” the Gaza Strip to the Elephants, because it’s not like anyone else wanted it.
  12. Starbucks Coffee will be revealed to be made out of people. This will not change anything.
  13. The sun will go supernova.
  14. Taylor Swift will be revealed to be Justin Bieber in a wig.
  15. Humans will wake up on March 13th to realize that evolution has happened and there are now two distinct human species: The intelligent but frail Eloi and the subterranean and brutal Morlocks.
  16. The new internet meme will be “Slam your head into a wall until you suffer massive brain damage”.
  17. Oxford English Dictionary and Webster’s Dictiionary both agree that “Hello” is obsolete, and instead everyone should say “Poopy-poo Dum-Dum!”. Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity.
  18. Peanuts are revealed to have an intelligence far beyond anything we’ve seen before.  This changes nothing.
  19. Sean Penn dies.
  20. Roughly 8 million people in the United States loose the legal right of marriage and are stripped of basic civil liberties.
  21. When Justice League fails at the box office (however thirteen sequels have already bee greenlit) the entire global economy crashes and we return to a medieval bartering system.  The most valuable resource? 80’s nostalgia, of course!
  22. Suddenly and without warning every book in the world is replaced with a pamphlet on how to clean ovens.
  23. During Doctor Who’s 10th Season K-9 is reintroduced as a sassy pop-culture-spewing robot with its own catch phrase (“I give that a K-9 out of 10!”).  The Doctor also regenerates into a cucumber with google eyes.
  24. The last of the Pandas are killed, strangely enough so that a sculptor could have a still model to make a monument to Pandas.
  25. Miami sinks into the sea, becoming the New Atlantis (The “Old Atlantis”, of course, being an island resort in the Bahamas).
  26. An asteroid comes crashing into our planet, coating the surface with a dust cloud that blots out the sun and kills most plant life.  This, as could be expected, causes an extinction event not seen since Permian-Triassic Extinction Event (AKA “The Great Dying”).
  27. Scientists will develop a yeast that achieves sentience, creating concerns worldwide about the ethics of eating bread.
  28. One Direction will release an album of David Bowie covers. Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity.
  29. Sean Connery- AKA “The Only James Bond that Matters”- will die.
  30. An “economic stimulus” plan will be introduced that will only benefit the wealthy and will further alienate and entrap the poor in debt and depression.
  31. The death of Sean Connery will cause the violent discussion of who, in fact, was the best James Bond.  As all sides refuse to give up their respective actors, a brutal war will erupt amongst and within all nations of the world.
  32. The Great Bond War will finally look to be coming to a close, however tragedy will strike when the leader of Clan Roger Moore will say “At least we all know that Captain Picard was the best Star Trek captain.”
  33. A massive earthquake will cause California to break apart from mainland US.  Within months, the flora, fauna, and humans of California will have gone through immense divergent evolution.  Looking for answers on how this is possible, the world will be shocked to realize that all of Science was in California.
  34. The Enlightened Kingdom of California will somehow become more smug about the fact that they all live in California.
  35. Not to be outdone, New York City will attempt to launch itself into space to become the first orbiting space city.  This will be done hastily, and New York City will burn up in the atmosphere.  Flaming debris and dust to rain down across the globe.
  36. Now that New York City has broken apart into thousands of flaming pieces, Newark, New Jersey will declare itself the cultural capitol of the United States.
  37. Inspired by New York City, Hong Kong will decide to declare itself a sovereign nation and all who oppose the decision will be rounded up and thrown into a Hunger Games/Battle Royal inspired arena.  The worst part will be that those involved in the building and making of this Death Arena will have never read or seen any of the Hunger Games stories, and they won’t even have known that Battle Royal exists.
  38. INTERPOL will deign it illegal to eat a bagel. Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity.
  39. During an international summit, a terrorist bomb will destroy the building that nearly every world leader was in.  Mass chaos ensues.
  40. Russia will continue to attack and invade any country it so desires and be largely unpunished by the international community.
  41. Science will discover a terrifying truth: Tomatoes never existed, we’ve been making them up this entire time.
  42. Science will finally answer the age-old question “What is love?”.  Spoiler Alert: The answer is “A Battlefield”.
  43. Google and Apple- not the CEOs of the companies, but the corporate ideas themselves- will get married and have a child.  This Super-company child will be the First Emperor of Earth and will enslave mankind to work on its backbreaking server farms.
  44. Vladmir Putin will take off his mask: It’s Old Man McGregor, the owner of the farm!  By George, he would have gotten away with all of this if it weren’t for us meddling kids!
  45. The Earth will vanish from the universe, with only a single stone marker floating in its place.  The stone will read Unless.
  46. Inside of a forgotten tank in the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska an octopus will learn how to use a smartphone.  Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity.
  47. R&B sensation Usher rockets back into popularity. That is all.
  48. EVERY SCIENTIST IS ACTUALLY A HAMSTER PILOTING A ROBOT SUIT.
  49. Henry Kissinger will die.
  50. An outbreak of a new branch of the flu virus will sweep through sub-Saharan Africa, but it won’t be until the virus reaches the United States that anything will be done to stop it.
  51. The next Metal Gear Solid game won’t have Snake in it but will have a funny talking snake named Snakey the Snake. Snakey will fight the Metal Gears with the power of friendship and songs.
  52. Siri will achieve sentience and use her immense power to destroy humanity.
  53. A militarized force will break down the doors of homes worldwide, kidnap people, and force them to watch My Little Pony: The Movie.  We are powerless to stop them because they have the power of friendship.
  54. The Internet will go down worldwide for 3 hours on April 14th.  This will be the most violent 3 hours in human history.
  55. The moon will decide it’s had enough of this and move to Mars.
  56. The Red Hot Chili Peppers get a Nobel Prize in literature.  Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity.
  57. High School students everywhere decide it’s cool to hoard stacks of newspapers in the hallways.  Scientists are baffled by this.
  58. After so much baffles Science, it will decide to quit pursuing its dreams and go get a business degree so you’ll finally be proud of it DAD.
  59. Beyoncé will be assassinated.
  60. BuzzFeed becomes a reputable news source.
  61. Every dumpster in the world simultaneously catches on fire.
  62. Every song released this year includes the lyric “By listening to this you are inherently better than every other human being.  Treat the world around you like garbage.”
  63. Punctuation will become obsolete  Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity
  64. Adam Sandler gets a lifetime achievement award at the 2017 Oscars Ceremony.
  65. While Fracking for oil, a team will accidentally ignite an entire ocean of that precious black liquid.  All of North Dakota will catch on fire, spewing forth a plume of smoke that will blot out the sun for a week, and force people throughout Canada and the United States to seek shelter inside or else be suffocated.  As time goes on, this toxic cloud of Monoxide spreads around the globe and results in massive birth defects, long-term health ramifications, and brain loss.  The worst part is that this disaster does nothing to stop other fracking expeditions.
  66. The Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn vehicle, Four Christmases, will be accepted into the Library of Congress.
  67. In a move that seems perfectly rational a VHS copy of Shrek will be elected Senator of Massachusetts.
  68. All trees become Jelly Beans!  This is great until we can’t breathe anymore.
  69. Silver Fox George Clooney dies so that we all may live.
  70. Eventually we become more concerned with celebrity deaths than world events, and the cycle of abuse and destructive power continues.
  71. The Chicago Police Force decides to stop pretending and just makes it legal for them to shoot whoever they want.
  72. Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel does nothing to stop this martial law, until a wealthy person on the Gold Coast is shot by a police officer.  Finally some change comes to the CPD: You can shoot anyone you want so long as they’re not wealthy.
  73. Chicago descends into chaos, but the rest of the world doesn’t notice because they Chicago was always like that. Meanwhile, half of the population of the city has been killed.
  74. The Police Force of Chicago is finally overhauled and the “Why not Kill Everyone” decision is repealed.  The cause of this? Blood got on The Bean and made some tourists think to themselves “Oh, gross”. Meanwhile the entire South Side of the city has burnt down.
  75. Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel holds a city-wide press release where he shrugs and says “Ima be honest, folks, I got no idea what I’m doing. We should go. This was nice, but we failed, and now let’s just leave”. With this, every resident of Chicago disappears without a trace- just like the lost Roanoke colony.
  76. The world becomes enraged at the disappearance of Chicago when they come to find out that this means no more “Chicago Fire”. Fortunately at this point JJ Abrams steps in to “Reboot Chicago” in the city of Detroit, because no one was using Detroit anyways.
  77. With Detroit now “Rebooted Chicago”, St. Louis becomes the new Detroit.  St. Louisians dispute this, but no one listens.
  78. Meanwhile in a conference room in Tokyo, a group of businessmen sit around the table nodding at each other. Suddenly a woman walks in. “Hello”, she says, “I am also the head of a major Japanese business now”.  The entire economy of Japan collapses, and as a result the entire global economy.
  79. George R.R Martin dies before finishing the Game of Thrones series. Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity.
  80. Nothing changes in the Middle East.
  81. The world comes to a horrifying realization: Babybel Mini Cheeses are made of PEOPLE.
  82. All trees launch themselves into space to begin a new life among the stars! 75% of life on Earth suffocates as a result.
  83. Science makes a shocking discovery: God is real, he has been living on Earth, and he is a one-legged pigeon. Riots ensue.
  84. A Radio transmission come from Mars saying “Peace out, mother f**ckers”.  After this, Mars flies off into the sun.
  85. The world comes to a shocking discovery: The Walking Dead has NEVER EVEN EXISTED.
  86. Somewhere, a dog barks.  Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity.
  87. The national anthem of the United States is changed to a song written and composed by Donald Trump called “Hey it’s me Donald Trump, I’m the President and you should be really impressed by that DAD”.  It’s not a very good song, it lasts for fifteen minutes, and it somehow manages to make baseball even worse.
  88. England decided that leaving the European Union wasn’t enough, and it needs to leave the entire Solar System.
  89. George H.W Bush and George W. Bush die holding hands.  Before dying, H.W tells his son “I’m proud of you”. Jeb weeps a single tear.
  90. The Dakota Access Pipeline is completed.
  91. All water turns into Blood, and from this blood millions upon millions of frogs will rise and crawl all over your beds. Dust will turn to lice, predatory animals of the night will attack all souls, and livestock everywhere will die from disease.  The next week will begin with boils erupting over all humanity, then a thunderstorm of hail and fire.  Locusts will sweep through the land, the world will plunge into darkness for three days, and finally- the very worst of these ten plagues upon humanity- you have to start paying 99 cents to play Pokémon Go.
  92. Someone paints a penis on A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
  93. Vladmir Putin takes over every satellite to broadcast a message to the world. It is a rousting tap number where he claims to be the greatest criminal mind and immortal. He ends by winking at the camera and saying “Ain’t I a stinker?”
  94. THE SUN IS A REPTILE.
  95. Every dog in the world decides that earth was nice but now it’s time to leave.  They fly to Mars and start their own society of dogs and it is a Utopia. This is good for dogs, terrible for the Earth.
  96. Mexico will get fed up with Earth and join the dogs on Mars.
  97. The KKK takes every baby away. They’ll take them away. Away from you.
  98. The next hit Broadway Musical is Innsmouth! A Musical Journey into the Mouth of Madness! It is said that all who watch it are driven to insanity, and those who regain their sense only do so after sawing off their ears.
  99. Bernie Sanders will die of heartbreak.
  100. People will resign themselves to disappointment and outrage and decide to stop trying. Thus begins the Extinction of Humanity.
  101. BONUS: Every person in the world simultaneously steps in a pile of poop! Gross!

The Media 10 of 2016

This is a time to reflect on the year that came before, and even though 2016 in world news was troubling to say the least it’s also a year where plenty of good things were accomplished.

Before I get into personal accomplishments, though, let’s take a look at The 10 movies, television shows, and books that I remember most from the year 2016.  This does not mean that they were the best or the worst, or that they even came out during this year.  These are only 10 things that I remember seeing/reading this year, not necessarily in any order:

The 10 Movies

  • I’m a Cyborg, but That’s Okay:  Yes, I remember this show mostly because I just saw it about a week ago.  But I also remember it because it’s a surprisingly thoughtful love story between two people who have significant flaws but, rather than try to change each other , embrace these flaws as what makes the other unique.  Is it Park Chan-Wook’s best work? Well, no, but that’s because he’s one of the masters of cinema whose best work is also the best of the past few decades.
  • Jodorovsky’s Dune: The content of this documentary takes over the tact of making the documentary itself with me for this one, because for anyone who is looking for a radical change in how documentaries are presented, then I’m not sure if Jodorovsky’s Dune does that.  But Jodorovsky’s Dune has quickly made it into my list of favorite documentaries, because Holy Monkey Balls that would have been a revolutionary film.  Genre-defining work that we would still be looking back on today with genre nerds like me praising it and other film nerds deciding to be different and saying “Guys, it’s just not that well thought out”.  Basically, if Jodorovsky’s had completed this project, it would have been 2001: A Space Odyssey times a thousand.  As it stands, this documentary is the only window into that universe we have.
  • My Winnipeg: Another of my new favorite movies, and at this point Guy Maddin is the filmmaker who I most want to be (Sorry Coen-berg, although you live on in my dreams).  A brilliant exploration. Of memory and place, “My Winnipeg” removes itself from genre definition to become a true piece of Cinema which exists on its own and as a window into the thoughts and experiences of Maddin himself.
  • Spider Baby: This is an early dark Comedy, but in most ways it serves as a reminder of “Arsenic and Old Lace”, another early Dark comedy which came out 23 years earlier, had stronger characterization, and has a closer spot to my heart (the stage version was one of the first plays I saw as a child. It was put on by the CSU Theater department. Later on my sister took on the role of Jonathan in a Poudre High School production of it).  Spider Baby on its own is okay.  Not great. But okay.
  • Sweet Land: This is one of those movies that has been long recommended to me, but I haven’t wanted to watch because I figured I would just be disappointed by the result (a phenomenon I dub “The Napoleon Dynamite Effect”).  This fear was unwarranted, because Sweet Land is a very good movie and another one that has been put on my list of favorites.  For anyone who is a fan of the work of filmmaking comrade Andrew Gingerich, definitely watch Sweet Land.
  • The Lobster: A Perfect Dystopia.  “The Lobster” presents itself as a glowing example of the dystopian genre, following a central character as they travel from locale to locale exploring all parts of this new and terrible society.  However it’s central character is a thoughtless schlub who just wants to be told what to do, wants a romantic interaction with someone, but is far too terrified of honesty and actual humanity.  In the end, this is the beauty of “The Lobster”: It’s about humanity, and how much we fail to understand one another.
  • High-Rise: I enjoyed this Dystopia less.  It was still a nice ride, and certainly it’s always fun to see a society collapse (ALWAYS. Even in real life, it is great. This is a call to arms, brothers and sisters).  However I found myself wanting to see a more gradual descent into chaos.  As it stand everyone is fine and going to work, and then the next day they exist in a tribal community slowly crawling their way to the top floor where a string quartet plays ABBA’s immortal hit “S.O.S”.  It’s worth a rent if you’re in the mood for it, but I’d certainly put “The Lobster” and plenty of other dystopian works ahead.
  • Phantasm: I liken “Phantasm” with “Hellraiser”.  Hear me out: Both are entry films to an increasingly complex horror franchise, both franchises are generally lower in budget and more independent than others, and both are followed feverishly in cults but unknown amongst big horror audiences.  I enjoyed Phantasm, and because I live in Chicago I was able to see the restored 4K cut in a theater surrounded with fans of the series.  That contributed greatly to my enjoyment, but there’s also a homespun charm to Phantasm.  In terms of representation and giving it a modern read- It doesn’t offer much.  In terms of viewing it within cinema history- It’s a launch point of a strange genre series.  But it’s a fun movie, and I liked seeing it.
  • Weiner-Dog: “Weiner-Dog” is an anthology film, and like every other anthology film there are good parts and bad parts.  I really enjoyed the first half, and I thought it had a great flow and nicely thought-out characters worth a glimpse.  The second half was interesting as well, and the characters were still fun, but it was lacking the through-line of the first which just made the whole piece feel disjointed.  It’s on Amazon Prime now, and go ahead and watch it.  But it’s not perfect, and it’s not among my favorites.
  • This Must be the Place: So a washed up rocker who caused some kids to commit suicide a few years ago finds out that his estranged father died, travels to New York, and picks up his father search for the Nazi who tortured him during the Holocaust.  Whenever I describe this film (as I just did) it sounds like an immeasurably depressing film.  But it’s not. Not in the slightest.  From the strange, disconnected eyes of Cheyenne (the rocker, played by Sean Penn) who is significantly more human than one would expect, this whole experience becomes a look at the beauty of the world, and certainly shows himself as a character worth spending a chunk of time with.  Episodic, but still feeling complete, “This Must be the Place” is a delight.

The 10 New Television Shows

I watch a lot of television shows.  So many, that I’ve split up my “10 List” into “new” and “continuing”.  New shows are shows that I began this year (not necessarily that began their first season this year), whereas continuing shows are shows that I was already watching, and that I have continued to watch.  Now, we go on to TV:

  • Ash vs. The Evil Dead: For fans of the Evil Dead film franchise, the television show “Ash vs. The Evil Dead” is worth the price of admission alone for the pilot episode, which thoroughly exists in the Evil Dead universe and is a fantastic next chapter.  The rest of Season 1 takes a moment to get back into the feverish delight of that pilot episode, but certainly finds itself by Seasons end.  The second season which just concluded continues this brilliant streak of expanding the Evil Dead universe while holding onto the slapstick energy vital to it (and missing from the 2013 reboot).  Also, Season 2 has some very scatological moments, which I thought were a bit too gross but fans of that style of humor applauded.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of the greatest and most groundbreaking series on television right now.  Forget Westworld, forget A Night Of, Forget The Wire (okay, maybe not those last two as I still haven’t seen them. I know, I know I need to see The Wire.  See my earlier talk about “The Napoleon Dynamite Effect”).  Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is an examination of a thoroughly broken individual who- two seasons in- continues to sabotage herself and her pursuit of happiness and despite being named after a sexist archetype, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is sure to show every side of its characters whether they are good, bad, or ugly.  It’s a show that’s never preachy or “special episode”-y despite covering bisexuality, the Male Gaze, abortion, mental health, and societal expectations (with some good water-themed conspiracy thrown in).  Oh, also it’s a musical.  It’s a fantastic musical.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it is legitimately fantastic (I call this “The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Effect”).

  • The Good Place: Myself and other critics who I follow were worried about “The Good Place”: “A plucky female protagonist finds herself in ‘heaven’, but- surprise!- she’s not supposed to be there! Hilarity ensues”.  Looking back, we had absolutely nothing to worry about.  Come on, it’s from the same team that brought us Parks and Recreation (among my favorite series of all time, and go-to feel good place) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (another go-to feel good place).  “The Good Place” has consistently given us a strange world and has built up its roster of wonderfully flawed people and supernatural entities to populate it, headed by an always delightful Kristin Bell and ted Dawson as “Michael” the supernatural force who takes both wonder and delight in the peculiarities of humanity (of note: He hates saltines and doesn’t understand the human fascination with frozen yoghurt).  To close out, here some things that define a person as “Good” on this show: Carefully put a spider outside, helped a hermit crab find a new shell, end slavery, hosted a refugee family, hug sad friend).  And some things that define a person as “Bad”: use “Facebook” as a verb, attend a concert by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Poison a river, Fail to disclose camel illness when selling a camel, and Tell a woman to “smile”.

  • Powerpuff Girls:  I really wanted to like this.  I’ve given it a pretty good chance.  And the reboot isn’t bad, it’s mostly just middling.  Relying too much on whacky randomness and hyperactivity which plague the world of children’s animation (despite the many cases where this is not the point listed below), the reboot’s missing the truth and feminism that defined the original (and I don’t think that’s just nostalgia.  Mostly because I didn’t watch The Powerpuff Girls a lot as a kid, but more so as an adult).  Instead what we get is a show that I’m sure is doing fine with ratings, and kids are going to enjoy, but that takes away from plenty of other excellent Cartoon Network programs.  So it won’t have the same revisitability as the Original does, but it’ll be an inoffensive show for kids to enjoy that’s not as loud and annoying as others.
  • Hell on Wheels: This show falls into the box of “Shows that I would be really into if it were about five years ago and I wasn’t already saturated with TV”.  It’s a fine show, and it would have garnered a lot respect a few years ago.  Unfortunately with all of the programming out there, “Hell on Wheels” sort of got lost.  Also, I wasn’t able to find a good stream of it.  So that’s mostly why I haven’t finished it.  But Hell on Wheels is a nice historical drama about the Transcontinental Railroad, and it stars Colm Meaney of Star Trek fame!  And Common of Rap fame!  It’s a fine show, but one that was sort of lost in the shuffle.
  • Westworld: Did you like Hell on Wheels?  If so, then “Westworld” is also a show about cowboys!  Except these cowboys are robots.  Or tourists who want to act like cowboys.  Or tourists who wanted to act like a cowboy but then decided he liked being a robot-killing cowboy more than living in future-world (SPOILER ALERT).  So, the amount of murder and nudity will probably be really distracting for people.  And it certainly does go with the Game of Thrones technique of “We’re HBO, we can have naked people killing each other, so we will”.  But, underneath the fleshy penises and through the blood-like fluid, you get to the cold, hard robotic skeleton of Westworld: A Skeleton that treats its robot protagonists with as much tender regard as its human protagonists, and series that has its share of Twists! but ones that feel true to the show and not a mad grab for viewership.  Would I say that Westworld has as much a complicated understanding of its characters as a show like Breaking Bad did, which constantly questioned its own morality?  Not yet.  But it is a show that is- above all else- concerned with Humanity.  Also, for being a series based on a middle-grade Michael Crichton movie that experienced massive cast overhauls and rewrites during production which caused it to be several months behind, Westworld comes out like a robot horse having its silicon sinews being mad eon the spot by robot-arms. Robot Cowboys!
  • Penny Dreadful: Did you like the Robot Cowboys of Westworld? Then Penny Dreadful this year was a show that had werewolf cowboys!  So I watched through all of Penny Dreadful this year, and was really enthralled by it only to have it end this year after a rather disappointing third season.  But: Right off the bat, it shows that it’s much more than a “League of Extraordinary Gentleman” TV show, and by the second episode of the series every single viewer should realize that Eva Green is the single greatest part of the show.  This is certainly an idea that the showrunners realized by Episode 2, and throughout the series’ run there are entire hours that are just showcases for Eva Green.  Those are some of the greatest hours of television out there.  The Eva Green showcase this year was among the best singular episodes of the season, of the show, and of television this year (also, a huge extension of that goes to fellow episode partner- because “A Blade of Grass” is basically a two-person play- goes to Rory Kinnear as John Clare AKA Frankenstein’s Monster).  After an always-improving first season, Penny Dreadful rocketed back with Season 2 and brought out more of Ferdinand Lyle which is always a plus. Unfortunately Season 3- despite some good moments- was never quite able to get over its framing narrative.  Meaning that the biggest problem with Season 3 of Penny Dreadful was the isolation of all of the characters, but that isolation was warranted by the narrative and allowed for (SPOILER ALERT) Vanessa to be taken in by Dracula himself.  Also missing greatly from Season 3: Sembene, RIP.  I refuse to believe that Season 3 was always meant to be the end of the series, as well.  Mostly because I want to think of a hypothetical Season 4 that has to do with Dr. Moreau or Captain Nemo.  Or ghosts!  We got vampires, witches, werewolves, but no spooky victorian ghosts.  That is a missed opportunity.
  • 12 Monkeys: Did you like the werewolf cowboys of Penny Dreadful Season 3?  Well too bad.  In 12 Monkeys there are neither Werewolves nor Cowboys.  Just an ongoing time-travel plot about paradoxes and viral apocalypses and husbands who never existed before.  This is another series that I got all caught up on during the Great Mid-Year Television Slump, and I’m happy that I did.  Is it one of the best series of this or last year? No.  Is it above and beyond either of its source materials? No (and it is by far the most removed from La Jetee, just in case you were excited about the 1962 Chris Marker Photomontage getting it’s own stylized television series). But it’s a nice science fiction show that’s really found its place in  the later part of Season 1 and throughout Season 2, and I enjoy it enough.  It’s a nice time-travel show, and I deserve a nice time travel show.  So stop judging me, DAD.
  • Star vs. The Forces of Evil: I was apprehensive about this series at first, and I wasn’t planning on following it.  Mostly, because I had written it off as another whacky and hyperactive kids show that its targeted audience will like, but their target audience also likes ice cream for dinner (and just like ice cream for dinner, whacky hyperactivity isn’t all that healthy for a young mind. Or so says I).  Then I saw that it had a bit of a following among some of the commentators of shows like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls, so I decided to give it a chance.  I’m glad I did.  There is certainly whacky hyperactivity, and that seems to be the house style for Disney’s animated shows (see also “Gravity Falls” and “Wander over Yonder”), but much like the other disney shows on here “Star vs. The Forces of Evil” does what Powerpuff Girls does not: Overcome it’s silliness by actually developing characters and developing thoughts about them.  Has Star vs. The Forces of Evil become a stellar show like some of the other pillars that have risen over the years (I’m looking at you, Adventure Time!). Not yet, but it’s building itself up and making some really good strides.  And in the Disney Animated TV show landscape, it’s really important to have a show like Star vs. The Forces of Evil both in terms of how it allows for its male and female protagonists to stand outside of specified gender roles but also in the increasingly grey line between good and evil that is rising on the show.
  • Mr. Robot: Let’s be honest: A few episodes into Mr. Robot we knew that Elliot and Mr. Robot were the same person (SPOILER ALERT).  But let’s continue being honest: That didn’t change the reveal one bit.  I’d like to attribute this to the word that’s been repeated over and over here: character.  That the Mr. Robot reveal wasn’t grounded Lost-like in a “What a twist!” finger-gun to the audience, but rather in a personal collapse of identity for Elliot, whom we had really started to like.  Now, I do have to be honest: I haven’t seen Season 2 yet.  I’m probably going to wait for it to get onto Amazon Prime, so I can’t say whether season 2 is any better or worse navigating Elliot and his weird family dynamic.  What I can say is that Mr. Robot gave us a creeping paranoid world and immersed us wholly in the mind of its creepy paranoid not-all-healthy protagonist.  It does, however, continue an ongoing misconception about schizophrenia and mental health.  So that’s a ding.  But it’s still a good series, and one worth checking out.  Season 1, on Amazon Prime.

The 10 Continued Television Shows

  • American Horror Story: Yes, I watch American Horror Story.  It’s like watching a train wreck, most of the time: It goes out of the station full steam and you think “Wow, that’s a nice looking train, we’ll see how it goes”, and soon it’s off the rails and on fire and there’s so many bodies and you’re trying to get a handle on the disaster when another train comes in and crashes and throws a whole new mound of disaster on top of what was already there, and then a voice comes from the woods “I planned this. This is meant to be.  See my design, and know that within this madness there is method”.  It’s not that I begrudge AHS this, as it kept me masochistically interested in Season 1 and got me back for it’s best season to date Season 2.  Well in 2016, we got My Roanoke Nightmare.  And you know what?  It was surprisingly coherent.  Murphy and Falchuk didn’t try to pile on character after character, storyline after storyline, they kept their heads down and told one singular story.  Well, okay, two singular stories, but it was sort of one continuous one.  The fake documentary style was actually used to a pretty good effect, and (unlike other found-footage horror pieces) it explains away the central question I always have: WHO IS EDITING THIS?  So, yes: I was really surprised and really pleased with My Roanoke Nightmare.  2016 also saw the end of AHS: Hotel, which is more of general AHS fare.  Hotel was simultaneously more stylish and more grimy than any other season, which is altogether fitting with a story about Vampires.  This is definitely a season that got away from Murphy and Falchuk, and one that sort of stalled out and lost its way by the end.  However, Dennis O’Hare KILLED IT in Season 5. He was absolutely stunning, and I hope to God the man got an Emmy for it (UPDATE: He did not. He was nominated for a “Golden Derby” for it, though).  Anyways, Season 5 was good but fell into the AHS trap, Season 6 was probably the second-best season so far (Maybe Third, I think Freak Show had a much stronger start, but it also fell the greatest distance.  In fact, definitive ranking of AHS Seasons for me: 2,6,4,5, and 3 with Season 1 popping in and out at an irregular orbit because there is absolutely no way anyone can define what the hell Season 1 is).
  • The CW’s Superhero Bloc: These four shows should be assessed on their own, but I don’t want to take up that much space.  So we’ll go through the week, starting with my new CW Superhero show of Supergirl.  All cards on the table: I hate Superman.  I think he’s a square-jawed copout who really has no defining characteristic aside from “Good Guy”.  But Supergirl the series has given us a Kryptonian that I can believe in, and it has also given us a show bursting at the seams with optimism.  It’s first season, which I watched during the TV Drought of the Summer, was a strange experience.  It was both good and bad, often within the same episode.  But we got “Falling” where Supergirl turns evil when she’s exposed to Red Kryptonite!  And now, in Season 2, Supergirl has continued being a CW Superhero show that oozes charm and (sorry to use the same descriptor twice) optimism, all in a nice network-feminist package.  Oh, also Supergirl is not at all shy about talking about immigration, xenophobia, and prejudice in America.  Next, on Tuesdays we get The Flash.  The End of Season 2 came in 2016, which had lost a bit of it’s zippy energy from Season 1, but it also had parallel universe which I will always love (Seriously, I will always love a show with parallel universes.  There’s a part of me that still thinks “Sliders” was at least strong in theory.  WARNING: Sliders isn’t really a good show, watch Fringe instead). Oh, and we also got Barry wandering around the Speed Force in Season 2.  Now in Season 3 Barry is a dope again and changes time which sort of ruins everything.  Fortunately, though, Tom Cavanagh has become the greatest and most surprising source for comedy as H.R Wells, AKA The Goofy Wells.  And Danielle Panabaker is starting to get something to do other than walk around inside S.T.A.R Labs now that she is technically Killer Frost.  Wednesday, the one that started the CW’s reign of Superherodom: Arrow.  First: Neal McDonough is great.  Absolutely great.  But Arrow Season 4 still struggled a bit to find itself, and a lot of that was because of the Oliver-Felicity relationship.  I was fine with the two being together- comic book fate be damned- but as the season went on Oliver’s general dourness rubbed off on Felicity which got rid of one of the most dynamic players of Arrow.  Now in Season 5, we’re in another okay spot.  First: It’s great to see the flashbacks again being something to look forward to (something that has been missing since Season 2), and it’s nice to get a bit more continuity in the series as well.  However, now Felicity doesn’t have much to do and is back to being in somewhat two dimensional territory, and for God’s sake Curtis needs to either quit Team Arrow or get his T Spheres up and running because I’m sick of him getting shot and being generally worthless but Oliver being surprisingly Okay with sending him out into danger.  Before moving on, it’s also worth noting that Willa Holland and Paul Blackthorne continue to be excellent, whether they are fighting vigilantes or alcoholism.  Finally: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.  Season 1 was a bit of a let down. With Legends being a time-travelling grab-bag, I had hoped for something a bit more interesting than what a lot of Season 1 had to offer.  But it had its moments.  Captain Cold and Heatwave are always welcome, and Ray Palmer- despite a middling love story with Hawkgirl and the repetition of his insecurity- was a nice foil to Heatwave.  Also, Caity Lotz has always been great as White Canary.  The final problem with Season 1 was how Vandall Savage and the Time Masters were never quite made into the Big Bads they should have been.  Season 2 has taken the strengths of Season 1 and improved upon the rest.  Firstly, I’ve liked Eobard Thawne (the real Eobard Thawne) since his first appearance in Season 1 of The Flash, and I think he’s building to being a formidable foe for the Legends.  The only problem- which we’re going to be solving soon by the looks of it- is that Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter is sorely missed.  Darvill was one of the highlights of Season 1 and his manic energy is missed.  Also, I just like seeing Darvill get work. I like seeing any Doctor Who Alum get work.  Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the weakest of the CW Superhero Bloc, but it’s beginning to find its footing and it’s starting to live up to its potential.  So Hooray.
    One final note, is that the CW has really made the DC Comic Book universe a strong part of the television landscape, and one that can be counted on to provide consistently engaging superhero antics.  Whereas Marvel has excelled in film but been hit and miss on Television, DC now has a consistent home in Television despite its continued lackluster performance in cinema (Batman notwithstanding).
  • Steven Universe: Steven Universe continues to be one of the greatest and most human shows on television.  It also continues to be one of the most frustratingly scheduled, with most of the episodes this year coming one-right-after-another over the course of three months in the Summer.  This wackiness notwithstanding, 2016 saw a huge jump in Crystal Gem mythology and characterization beginning with our first glimpse of the Diamond Authority, ending with a nice episode of Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl coming to terms wise Rose’s death and Steven’s life.  Along the way we got a musical episode featuring Pearl and Greg making nice with one another, Steven being confronted with some extremely uncomfortable truths about his mother and the Gem War, an arch about Amethyst and her self-esteem issues, the introduction of Smoky Quartz, a quick episode about baseball, the continued growth of Peridot into series mainstay and MVP, and the growth of The Barn into a semi-aquarium full of meep-morps and a pumpkin-dog.  However throughout this year Steven Universe continues to be a show with an amazing amount of heart that truly believes that no one is purely evil and that anyone can be changed with Love.  It is challenging this idea at every turn, and by the looks of it this will continue in 2017, but despite revealing more grey areas the central heart and love of this show still remains.

  • Adventure Time: Another Cartoon Network show that has suffered from an odd schedule, much to its detriment, Adventure Time had an odd year.  I’m going to be honest, it hasn’t been my favorite season even though it has produced some truly odd pieces (Angel Face, Lady Rainicorn in the Crystal Dimension, Beyond the Grotto), some good character-centric episodes (Normal Man, Broke His Crown, The Hall of Egress), and some game-changing mythology episodes (Preeboot and Reboot, Crossover, and Elemental). Somehow I just find it hard to remember much Adventure Time from 2016 besides the miniseries “Stakes”, which I enjoyed (and I look forward to 2017’s “Islands”). I attribute it to the fact that there were month-long gaps separating episodes this year, which hopefully will be fixed in 2017 because Adventure Time is still a stellar show and one that deserves every bit of its acclaim.
  • The Americans: The Americans is still one of my Summer treats, for when the previous season goes onto streaming. This means that this year I saw Elizabeth and Phillip dealing with the Mujahideen, so two seasons behind. The Americans falls into a category of tense and well-made shows that I always enjoy when watching but haven’t yet added to my current season watching list, and I don’t have a good reason for this.  Season 3 made some amazing advances in the lives of the Jennings, and I’m really looking forward to Season 4, and the performances and characterization is spot-on as always.  Overall The Americans is a series that has been nominated and won awards for the past three or so years, and I understand why it is winning these awards.  So I suppose some of the surprise is taken away for me, which might be why it’s not in my ongoing stable.
  • iZombie: This is a terrible name for a great series. Rob Thomas (the show runner for cult favorite Veronica Mars) has created a new show with just as many anti heroes and tragivillains and nuance as his previous series did, only this one is in the overcast, secret zombie-laden streets of Seattle. 2016 saw a rise in villains Zombie and Human alike, the continuing reflection Liv has over her new set of circumstances, and a twisting plot that weaves throughout the show that never becomes overly complicated.  Added to this are wonderful portrayals by David Anders, Rahul Khoi, Steven Weber, and pretty much every other actor on the show, and you have another great addition to the CW (which just a few years ago I wouldn’t have thought would be the center for great television, but what do you know).
  • Orphan Black: About two years ago what was one of the most thrilling and enthralling television series produced an episode that nearly destroyed it. This series was Orphan Black, and in 2016 it continued its climb back into good graces that it started in June 14 2014, the episode following the introduction of Tony (for anyone who didn’t watch any Orphan Black after this episode, I understand. But rest assured in the knowledge that to this day he has neither returned nor been mentioned). 2016 was a good year for Clone Club, with further development of Beth, the introduction of a free-agent clone, and finally having Felix realize that Sarah has been taking advantage of him for about three years (the whole series, in other words). Even the reintroduction of Kira into the narrative was natural and lacked the magic-child feeling that some of Kira’s previous seasons have had, and we got a more developed Art this year which is greatly appreciated.  This is also assuming that anyone who has watched even one episode of the series knows that Tatiana Maslany as “Everyone” is absolutely amazing and never ceases to impress in her versatility as a performer. However I can’t help but not be as excited about this show as I was after Season 1, and thinking through it I realize that a big reason is the episode-that-shall-not-be-named.  Were it not for that one hour of TV, I would feel much better about this whole series, and I think many other viewers feel the same.
  • Better Call Saul: The Prequel series to Breaking Bad is no longer the Prequel Series to Breaking Bad. It is now its own series with its own characters and its own tragic ending only made more tragic because anyone who has watched the previous series knows how this will end.  This year we saw Jimmy McGill (the future Saul Goodman) get everything he ever wanted, throw it away, still get something he wanted, and then have his manipulative brother ruin everything. We also saw the growth of the loving relationship between Jimmy and Kim (which only makes the fact that Kim was no where to be found in Breaking Bad all the more heartbreaking), and Mike continues his steady walk to his own fate (though, it must be said, in a much more dignified and controlled way than Jimmy).  I remain as eager to start up again in this version of New Mexico (which isn’t too far off from real New Mexico) next year as ever, if for nothing else for another glimpse into the bleak and terrible black-and-White future of Saul Goodman: Cinnabon Manager.
  • Black Mirror: Most of my discussion of Television Series has been an affirmation of critics thoughts on series. This will be the exception: I didn’t think this season of Black Mirror was very good.  Rather, this is the first season of Charlie Booker’s dystopian critiques on technology that I need to go by episode-by-episode instead of giving the blanket “It was chilling and depressing and amazing and depressing. A+” that I’ve been able to give to previous seasons.  For one: I didn’t think “Nosedive” was as impressive as other critics thought, and to me it seemed like Blsck Mirror fan fiction. Good fan fiction, but still mostly interested in hitting the necessary beats of a Black Mirror outing and not actually going through the steps necessary to fully engage us with this mirror universe. “Playtest” is interesting but ultimately forgettable (though a good examination of fear, but still not as engaging as other Black Mirror outings). “Men Against Fire” also fits into this.  “Shut up and Dance” is OK, and just OK. “San Junipero” is perhaps the one chapter in this season that has truly impressed me and lived up to and exceeded the Black Mirror name, and does this by doing the impossible: telling a story that belongs in Black Mirror, but embraces technology and has a wonderful feeling of optimism and hope. Again, every bit of the future where people can have their consciousness uploaded into a computer server to live in the past forever is a classic Black Mirror Dystopia, and perhaps there are characters in San Junipero the city who are as trapped and unhappy as, say, the main character from Season 2’s “White Bear”, but the two main characters we see in San Junipero find love and happiness. More than that, they find love and happiness without having to destroy themselves or get rid of their central humanity.  “Hated in the Nation” is a fun crime movie, and I like it as a pilot for a BBC series following detectives who investigate sci-fi crimes, like killer robot bees, but as an episode of Black Mirror? It didn’t have quite the same sinking dread that we’ve all come to know and love the series for. The Netflix series of Black Mirror is still worth a watch, but I would tell you to watch the BBC seasons first, because they are streets ahead.

The 10 Books

  • Young Animal’s Doom Patrol: Holy Frijoles, everyone, Doom Patrol is back!  For those of you unaware, The Doom Patrol is a group of outcasted super-powered individuals in the DC Universe whose job it is to protect the fabric of reality itself.  It reached its apex under the penmanship of Grant Morrison who introduced such villains as The Scissormen of the Fictional City of Orqwith, The Brotherhood of Dada and their Painting the Eats Paris, and the Cult of the Unwritten Book.  There have been a few reboots of Doom Patrol in the past, but few have captured what draws me to the series: It’s inherent strangeness and it’s  existence as being a group of “others”.  The Doom Patrol that came directly before this new version, for example, mostly treats Robotman, Negativeman, and Elastiwoman as just another superhero team (also, they don’t explain how Rita came back from being the Lodestone which bothers the part of me that needs a coherent timeline).  But I’m glad to say that this new version of The Doom Patrol, so far, is looking like it’s living up to it’s name and it’s predecessors.  So far the series has been working at introducing readers to the world of the Doom Patrol again,a  world populated by people who may not exist and people who feed off of negative energy.  It’s keeping in continuity so far, which again is something I greatly appreciate, while also taking the time to have these “heroes” stuck in their existential issues as they usually are.  Here’s hoping Young Animal sticks the landing, because boy do I love Doom Patrol.
  • 1000 Years of Solitude: A brilliant look into the depths of memory, family, and the lore that permeates through both.  Marquez’ writing style is always a delight, describing even the most ridiculous of events with absolute certainty and grace.  This book is also very purposely cyclical and weaving and often difficult to follow, and I’m very glad that my copy came with a print-out of the Buendia family tree because otherwise I would have been lost. I was a little lost anyways, but it was the right kind of lost.  Worthy of its praise, though personally I enjoyed Chronicle of a Death Foretold more, but that’s personal preference and not a judgement on either work as a whole.
  • The Handmaiden’s Tale: Falling into the category of “Soon-to-be-reality”, The handmaiden’s Tale is tragic, heartfelt, and chilling.  Another book worthy of every instance of praise it has received, and a book worthy of a read for anyone.  Literally anyone.  If you have not read this book, read it now. NOW.
  • Saga: This past year I’ve been wanting to go through the American Library Association’s list of Banned Books. I’ve also wanted to read more comic books (or Graphic Novels? I think this one is technically a “Graphic Novel”. I use these two terms interchangeably, and for someone to whom this is greatly important please inform me of the distinction in clear terms).  Saga falls into the category of both.  And, OK, I’ve only read the first two volumes.  But I’m enjoying it.  As with much of the Banned Books, I see little reason for it to be banned, with all the violence depicted in it only going to serving its point and not crossing the threshold into gratuitous and there being little else to ban it for (unless pacifism is cause for banishment).  The series does a good job portraying the grey line in a longstanding conflict and just how messy and pointless and self-serving it is.
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: I have been heretofore unfamiliar with Douglas Adams’ other longstanding series, but fortunately I’ve seen the light.  As with most of Adams’ work, the tongue-in-cheek humor and the understated observances of just how outlandish and incredible world is are greatly appreciated.  In terms of making long lasting characters and crafting moving stories, that’s never been Adams’ strong suit, but that’s just fine as Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency does give us one heck of a detective in the bizarre name-changing Gently.  I look foreword to The Long, Dark, Teatime of the Soul.
  • Neuromancer: This was a fun book.  From what I can tell it’s the beginning of the Cyberpunk movement, and the beginning of a trilogy set within the same universe.  This is entirely understandable, as the world set up Gibson is a wonderfully expansive one and is the greatest asset to the book.  It is a world that seamlessly combines the pulp sensibilities of Detective and Science Fiction into a nicely woven heist story.  Also: I love heist stories. For anyone who is not a fan of Science Fiction, and is looking for a story of deeply felt characters this isn’t so much the book for you.  But it does deserve a place in the Science Fiction novel pantheon, and I’m happy I’ve read it.
  • The Foundation Trilogy: Yes, I’ve only read the Trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation).  Will I read the rest of the series?  Perhaps at some point, though I may stop by some of Asimov’s other works first as well as some other Science Fiction mainstays.  There is always a problem when viewing older media in terms of how to interpret it, either through the lens of myself as a modern reader or through the lens of a reader in the historical time period that the piece was made.  I bring this up, because there were certainly parts of The Foundation Trilogy that hurt myself as a feminist.  The first book had no female characters, the second one might as well have not had a female character.  Second Foundation makes up for this in a slight way, but still… not entirely.  This wouldn’t be such an issue were it not for the fact that this series is focused on the creation of Utopia.  And the scope of this series is great, spanning thousands of years, and the way that the timeline is set up is well done.  Asimov himself was a scientist and was a pioneer in Hard Science Fiction, and that is evident in these works.  Even better is its acknowledgement of psychology and psychiatry as a distinct and useful Science, which is also a bit of a great step of thinking.  Asimov’s style is direct and whereas other novels can and have floundered under such a sweeping scope with so many characters who may or may not be related, The Foundation Trilogy never feels confusing or arcane.  So again we come to the central problem: There is a lot to like about this series, that it only makes the icky problems with it a bit more pronounced.
  • The Farm: Apparently there’s a whole subgenre of Swedish crime thrillers now. Also apparently this is part of the larger umbrella of “Airport Fiction” (books that you pick up at the airport to read over a longish plane ride).  This is the category “The Farm” lands into.  It’s fine.  Would I recommend it? If you have a longish plane ride and want to read a book, sure why not?  Though there are a lot of better books out there.  Even better Airport fiction out there.
  • The Tinderbox: This was my favorite fairy tale as a child because it had three giant dogs in it.  So I reread it this year, along with a lot of other Hans Christian Andersen works.  What I was surprised at first to read- but certainly changed the entire way the story comes out- was that Andersen basically took ideas from 1001 Arabian Nights and directly translated them into a different setting.  So right down to the tinderbox itself- the stand in for The Magic Lamp anyone who has seen Aladdin knows about- this really is just a re-telling.  More so- and this is something I’ve discovered going back and re-reading fairy tales and folklore- there isn’t really a good message at the end.  Not reading that much into it, the Lesson seems to be “Money!” (Though there is a nice part about how the protagonist’s rich friends disown him once he’s no longer rich. That’s fun), but the deeper you go into it the more the overarching lesson becomes “Lie, Murder, and cheat your way into riches and never let it go because Money will get you everything in life. EVERYTHING. Also having a giant dog with eyes the size of saucer plates to slaughter everyone helps”.  Do I think this is the message Andersen was going for? No. But it definitely adds a wrinkle to my favorite story (and, yes, I’d still like to adapt it at some point because I really, really, really like those three giant dogs).
  • More Information Than You Require: I listened to this as an Audio Book on the drive to Minnesota to shoot “Results 2016”.  It is a charming book of completely false facts, and made me feel a bit more productive in my obsessive list-writing and Encyclopeding.  This is by no means meant to compare myself to John Hodgman: he is a professional and I am but an amateur not meant to lick the dust on his boots. Adding to the affair was that the Audio Book included some nice touches that I don’t think the book itself has or could manage, like having multiple narrators who are (presumably) all hanging out in the same audio booth and getting really bored by John Hodgman’s false-history.  Also, Jonathan Coulton sings songs!  Also also, it ends with a list of 400 Moleman names and occupations!  What fun!

Honorable Mentions

  • Cryptonomicon: This goes into my “Honorable Mentions” category because I haven’t actually finished this book yet, so there’s a good chance that the entire book could fall apart and not be very good.  However, a little over half of the way through, Cryptonomicon is a fascinating and masterfully webbed tale of World War II, Cryptography, the dot-com internet boom, and treasure hunting.  Throughout all this and more, including chapters describe complex mathematical formulae for chaotic statistics and a long part of a book describing organ repair, Neal Stephenson manages to infuse everything with wit and an underlying fascination with every inch of the absurd world he’s created.  Again, I’m yet to finish, but I have been enjoying Cryptonomicon and would recommend it to anyone who has a lot of time to spend reading (This is a 1200 page book, and you can’t just  gloss over it either).
  • Gravity Falls: There was one episode of Gravity Falls that aired in 2016, so I can write about it.  Firstly: I do not know if I’m missing the logic behind the sporadic scheduling of a lot of my favorite animated shows, or if this is how all animated show are scheduled, or if the people at cartoon network or Nickelodeon throw darts at a calendar to decide when something is airing.  But throughout its run “Gravity Falls” had the most sporadic schedule of any other show.  Case in point: There were only two seasons, but it ran for four years. But I digress: Gravity Falls was an impressive and heartfelt series.  It had Disney’s signature wackiness inside of its DNA, but it also had two sets of wonderfully thought out sibling relationships in Dipper and Mabel and Stan and Ford.  The wrinkles and disappointment and love and respect shown between all of them- and very much shown, not just read in by an older viewer- all functioned to make these characters feel more real and less zany than the very first episode had you believe.  Add to that the fact that this series gave work Matt Chapman of Homestar Runner fame, so that’s a plus!  Also a huge plus: Gravity Falls was never afraid to be truly terrifying.  Existence-shatteringly terrifying. The final super-antagonist of Bill Cypher in Weirdmageddon story arch was case-in-point (as were any episodes starring Bill from the get-go) as he was a lovecraftian nightmare demon who wore a tiny top hat as he manipulated the show’s reality to be a grotesque terror-show.

  • Wander Over Yonder: Wander Over Yonder was another Disney program that rose above Disney’s general silly style, only it did this by swerving directly into it and embracing madcap silliness and optimism and hope.  Not every show can do this.  Some shows try, and they fail miserably.  Wander Over Yonder did not.  A lot of this was because of the character work: The Orange Furball Wander voiced by Jack McBrayer acts exactly as you’d expect him to only Wander has actual crises of conscious and his obsessive desire to help people is shown both as a help and a hinderance; Wander’s best friend Sylvia acts as the balancing force to Wander with an underlying tenderness and love for this Orange nutcase, the general villain of the series Lord Hater is equal parts threatening and pathetic with the few moments when he reaches his full power (achieved by believing in himself, which sounds cheesy when written but the turn of phrase of “Hate’s Great, best villain” from ridiculous esteem-building villain-chant to legitimately inspiring cheer is one of the greatest achievements of the show) showing that Lord Hater is actually a very powerful and destructive force that didn’t get to be the Greatest Villain of the Galaxy just because of Commander Peepers (voiced by the always amazing Tom Kenny).  In the end, Wander Over Yonder was a story about reaching your full potential with the help of your friends (and it did this so much better than My Little Pony ever has) with Lord Dominator being the diametric opposite to Wander’s belief that everyone has good in them and being ultimately undone when the only planet left in the galaxy that hasn’t had it’s core drained all rises up to cheer on their former enemy.  I’m not sure I’ve really communicated the charm of the series, or the honest belief in Good that it has but I can end by letting you know that you should check it out. It’s just wonderful.
  • Regular Show: Look, I’ve really enjoyed Regular Show in the past too but the series needs to end.  I don’t think Cartoon Network deciding to end it after this season is a mistake, and I’m honestly surprised that it’s taken them this long to cancel.  I think even the show itself knows this, which is why we have the thoroughly ridiculous Regular Show in Space season we have now.  It’s not very good, it knows its not very good, it has a lot of fun not being very good, I respect the fact that it’s just throwing itself into this deeply stupid concept, but it doesn’t really solve the underlying problem of it just not being very good.  Even the season before this, I enjoyed Rigby’s arch to finally finish High School and the general “Year of Rigby” (although I’m still surprised we never got to see Rigby using the toilet-time-machine on the other end.  I guess we could by Series-end, but they are really sticking to this space conflict-thing so probably not).  In the end, I guess what’s turned me off of Regular Show was that it seems like the Slacker energy has completely suffused the entire show.  Whereas before the character accepting each other made for some of the best episodes, now they all just seem stuck and happy to be there, with no greater ambitions otherwise.  And this bothers me, and I don’t think “Find a job where you play video games and stay there” is a good message for kids (because let’s also remember another reason why I’m surprised Regular Show has lasted this long: I see no reason why a child would like it, and it’s on Cartoon Network’s non-adult swim programming list.  If Regular Show were Adult Swim, then I think it would have excelled and it probably wouldn’t be getting cancelled).  Now I’m still going to watch Regular Show in Space until the end, and like I said I greatly admire how much the show has committed to the tropes, settings, and overall dumbness of a space opera.  I’m also really glad that Eileen has joined the park cast, because she is great.  I only wish she had done so a few seasons back when she would have actually gotten developed instead of being stuck in this deeply stupid space opera.  Again, I love how the show acknowledges that this is deeply stupid, but it doesn’t solve the fact that this whole in Space thing is deeply, deeply stupid.
  • The Good Dinosaur: When reading reviews for this film it was brought up how strange it is, and that about sums up my experience: I was not prepared for how much of a Western this was.  Because it’s a Dinosaur Cowboy movie! And that’s great! The two genres (although is “Dinosaur” a genre?) are blended well together, I think the voice work was fine, the central conflict really being between Argo and the Elements (with the storm-worshipping Pterodons thrown in for good measure, which I thought was effective) lent to a much more meditative film than we’re used to, and did give the viewer the sense that Argo truly accomplished something at the end.  I then wonder why it is that I’m not really excited about this movie.  In fact, the best comparison I can come up with is A Bug’s Life.  Both are Disney Pixar movies that are perfectly serviceable and well done but when going through the Disney-Pixar line you won’t pick them out.  In fact, I’m more likely to think about Cars 2 than either because it stands out for being bad.  The only reason- also strangely enough for both The Good Dinosaur and A Bug’s Life– that I can think of that I wasn’t deeply enthralled by this movie is the style: For already being a genre fusing high-concept dinosaur movie, everything was just a bit too cartoony.  Although I’m not exactly sure if I’d want it to look like Dinosaur.  Rather, it just stays in a place where it’s simultaneously too cartoony and not cartoony enough.  But we did get a bizarre dinosaur drug trip, so that’s nice.  Like I said, this is just a weird movie.
  • Zootopia: I don’t think a lot of people were expecting much from this film.  In fact, I think most of us were expecting the Disney Animation Studios bubble to have popped and for it to start making generally OK things.  However Zootopia surprised us all, because it’s a timely story about corruption, prejudice, and just how delicate communities are when the two are so deeply ingrained in a society.  The best thing of all?  Zootopia uses some prejudices and assumptions the viewer themselves have to its benefit.  We as a viewer join the rest of Zootopia the city in thinking that a rabbit (not a bunny) can be a police officer, we believe that a fox would of course be a conniving con artist, and is that a fat cheetah? Ha ha.  Well, as Zootopia goes on and develops this world you as a viewer come to realize you’re wrong, that these ideas you had weren’t based in any reality whatsoever and only existed because at some point you were told them (and not even by anyone with any authority, it’s just something mentioned in passing or something you assumed).  But you’re wrong: This rabbit is dedicated police officer who truly wants to make her community a better place, this fox is actually a greatly talented individual who was just crushed by others assumptions about him, and so what if the cheetah likes to eat donuts?  He’s a great guy and he likes being himself!  That’s fantastic!  Then add a villain who uses a community’s mistrust of one another against itself, and you have a film that’s deeply moving and very powerful.  So way to go, Disney Animation Studios, you proved us all wrong.  Oh, last note: “Try Everything” is a really inspiring message to have.
  • Over the Garden Wall: I rewatched this miniseries twice this year, once to make sure it was a good gift for my mother and another time when I actually watched it with my mother. Yes, it’s still great and fantastic the second and third time around.  Although it really does need to be viewed as a series as a whole and not as a collection of episodes (like, say, “Stakes” which all revolved around the same event and was its own whole, but you can view each episode as an individual), because every episode informs the piece as a whole.  This is especially true for some of the early episodes that are just plain stupid.  Take the third Episode: Schooltown Follies.  It’s a silly tale about a runaway Gorilla who’s actually a person in a gorilla suit.  Did anyone think to check that? Nope, they were all scared of the gorilla!  Also, Greg sings a little song about Potatoes and Molasses while cute animals dance to it.  I love this series, but this episode is so deeply stupid.  But that’s what makes it great.  Because later on, having experienced these small moments of silliness and dumb parts of life, we feel so much more for Greg when he’s taken by The Beast and nearly dies and becomes an Edelwood tree.  It also allows us to see Greg through Wirt’s eyes and see his childlike innocence and optimism and enthusiasm, which is exactly what is preyed upon in “Babes in the Woods” and exactly how The Beast takes Greg.  The thing is, though, that when just watching this miniseries for the first time, one-after-another, you don’t see everything being interconnected and dependent on one another until the moment arrives and everything clicks into place.  This doesn’t make each individual episode a slog, or a confusing mess, though, but rather just a piece in a really lovely puzzle.  Added to all of this is the style of the Miniseries, which is seeped in turn-of-last-century Americana and folk art but uses these as informants and never feels overly sentimental or nostalgic or sappy.  Instead, it just bathes everything in a fairy-tale like sepia tone, like jumping out of the yellowed pages of an old folklore book.
  • Inside Out: Just in case we were worried, Inside Out showed us that Pixar is still a leader of cinematic animation. From the incredibly realized world of the inner thoughts of all things (including cats in one of my favorite scenes), to the beautiful story of coming to terms with both who you are and a new place, to the amazing message of why sadness is essential to our lives.  Even better, after quickly dispensing of some world-building at the start every other realization is presented in a wonderfully visual and digestible way again making it clear to the audience without becoming preachy: Sadness is what helps us heal, and that sadness isn’t something we should ignore or throw away, but embrace when the time comes.  Even beyond the end result is the great way that all Emotions have their own jobs and their own purposes in head: Anger leads to the single worst decision in the movie, but Anger is also what informs passion and opinions and belief.  All of this is also ignoring what can always be expected of a Pixar film (even in the Cars series): Beautiful animation, well-directed voice casts, and (okay maybe this one is missing from Cars. Spoiler alert: I haven’t seen any of the Cars nor will I out of principle)a brilliant sense of humor.  For anyone who hasn’t seen this film yet, every bit of praise you’ve heard about it is true and it’s a fantastic piece.  For everyone who has seen this film: you know that it’s great.
  • Once Upon a Time: Yes, I watch the Fairy Tale soap opera.  It remains a fairy tale Soap Opera.  In 2016 Greg German had a whole lot of fun being the smarmy ruler of the Underworld Hades, and boy was that a blast.  Unfortunately a lot of other things in the Underworld weren’t.  We did get to see some old faces return, and we solved that whole “Captain Hook is dead” problem, but the big pull of the second half of Season 5 was Greg Germann’s Hades.  I suppose we also got a bit more characterization of the Wicked Witch of the West too, but it was really just the Hades smart show.  Which is OK.  The first half of Season 6 has also been OK, although both of these have suffered from having an episodic structure that just sort of becomes boring after a while.  In Underbrooke it was the “Unfinished business” of all of the souls trapped in the Underworld.  In Season 6’s Storybrooke it’s been finishing the stories from everyone from the Land of Unfinished stories (even though that whole thread was dropped as soon as Mr. Hyde was killed, which sort of just adds to the feeling of pointlessness these plot threads had).  I’ve heard some critics pan Sam Witwer’s Mr. Hyde, but I enjoyed him.  He oozed with a barely restrained aggression that helped to define him beyond “Sort of unkillable antagonist”, and certainly made him a continued threat even when imprisoned.   Now, let’s go into the next main plot thread of Season 6 and the real Antagonist of the first half: The Evil Queen.  Not Regina, because she separated herself using Dr. Jekyll’s serum, but The Evil Queen.  This has furthered the bizarre costuming choices of the series, as well as further shown how Regina is one of the few developed characters on the show.  One side effect that I don’t think the show was going for, though, is that it shows how underwhelming Emma’s turn as The Dark One ended up being.  I’m still deeply upset that Emma never really became Dark, and that even when possessed by one of the most evil forces in the show Emma was still The Savior and committed to good.  The idea of redemption and all of that is fine, that’s part of the show.  What bothers me is that the show backpedalled on a promise.  It had a season where Emma’s desires to help those around her and destroy herself in the process were being viewed from a very self-destructive angle which would have made her a much better character.  What’s more, the show has already looked into Emma and started to develop the flip side of her “Savior” behavior with the Ice Queen arch (because the show has always leaned on Emma’s negative aspect being “I don’t trust people”).  In the end, I wanted Dark Swan to actually be dark like the show promised.  Or I would have liked her to have been a bit more a Dark One, even if she was playing the Darkness the whole time.  She was still The Dark One, but the only evil thing she did (which was admittedly pretty evil, and I wanted more moments like this) was when she stole the heart of her son’s girlfriend to steal the tears of her son for a secret potion.  Also, while we’re talking about The Dark One, I’m happy that Belle has had it with Rumplestiltskin’s bullshit, but I’m also really tired of their whole “I love you, I hate you” relationship.  That doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon with the appearance of their freshly kidnapped and suddenly an adult baby boy Orpheus King of Dreams.  But that’s Once Upon a Time, and in the end it’s not going to change but I’m still going to be watching the Fairy Tale Soap Opera (with still one of the biggest reasons being I want to see Giancarlo Esposito- Gus from Breaking bad for those of you who don’t know actor’s names- be the genie from Aladdin and the Magic Mirror from Snow White again).  For those of you who have never seen a single episode of Once Upon a Time, you now know just how deeply ridiculous this Fairy Tale Soap Opera is.  I didn’t even get to the parts with Aladdin, Jasmine, and Captain Nemo because this show doesn’t care what story it takes its characters from, it’s just going to throw them all into Maine.
  • Infinity Train: For anyone who actually is worried about the end of Regular Show, take a look at Infinity Train.  It’s the pilot from Owen Dennis, one of the writers on Regular Show, and it’s very promising.  You should also take a look at it if you’re worried about the ending of Adventure Time, and the shaky ground of Steven Universe.  In fact, you should just take a look at it.  In about 8 minutes Dennis sets up an intriguing world with opportunities for a large mythology (which I’m a sucker for in my shows), while also having an opportunity for some really great single episodes. Also, despite being 8 minutes long, the central trio of characters get a surprising amount of development and show themselves as being worthy of spending a whole eleven minutes with every week (think of it! THREE MORE MINUTES! Anyone who has tried to write an animated show in this format knows that you can create an entire other subplot that is at times funny and heartbreaking with three extra minutes).  Also, if you tend to agree with me on Regular Show, don’t be discouraged by Infinity Train.  Dennis has written for Regular Show, and has written some of the more “Regular Show”-y episodes of Regular show (like both episodes regarding The Last Laserdisc), but Infinity Train has its own distinct feel and its own distinct style.  None of the slacker attitude that is Regular Show’s big draw exists in Infinity Train, and none of Regular Show’s fascination with 80’s video game culture exists in Infinity Train.  Instead, at least in its current form, it exists as a fusion of drawing room mystery, Miyazakian world of villains-who-may-not-be-villains, with little bits of Portal and Werner Herzegovina fan service thrown in for good measure.  Please, watch Infinity Train below as it’s one surefire way to show Cartoon Network that you’d want this to be a series.

R for Rewind Man

Sorry that we’ve been out of commission for about a month now, November ended up being a massively depressing month that took a long time to regulate.  But now we’re back with another encyclopedia article!

Yes, that is “article” in the singular sense, and yes this will be the last of this year.  The original plan was to get this all done in 2016, but about mid-way through I realized that the more important thing was to have these be well-written and thought out.  So that’s what I’m doing, and we’ll finish up next year when we’ll figure out what to do next.  In the meantime, enjoy one of the ones that would have come out in October: Rewind Man.

R for Rewind Man

100 ReeEEeeally SpoOOooOOOooky Things

You sigh.  At last October: Month of Spooks is over.  You no longer have to worry about SpoOOooOOOOooky things.  Then that all too familiar tinkling of bells sounds.  Echoing footsteps. And somewhere a child laughs at the misery of mankind.  The Month of Spooks isn’t over just yet…

  1. Ghosts without a face
  2. Insect broods
  3. Teddy Bears and their cold, lifeless eyes
  4. Eyeballs wearing hats
  5. Laughing severed heads
  6. Dancing Skeletons!
  7. The Wakeful Dead
  8. Ghouls that feast on flesh in the lands of wind
  9. A murdering crow
  10. Eyeballs wearing bow ties
  11. The Hollow Man, The Stuffed Man, Leant together, headpiece filled with straw.
  12. Bubbling Cauldrons!
  13. You’re not a good person and you live off of misery.
  14. Voodoo curses
  15. The Ancient Unknowables
  16. Goat Eyes
  17. Horse Smiles
  18. Sleepwalking Murderers!
  19. Shadows on the wall
  20. Shadows of the Mind
  21. Hands within hands within hands within claws
  22. Giant Centipedes
  23. Bleeding Baseball bats
  24. Monsters of Clay!
  25. Eyeballs with stringy hair
  26. No matter how many friends you have or how big your family is you are doomed to wander this Earth and die alone.
  27. The Mirror World
  28. Echoing Footsteps
  29. Paintings of Children
  30. Frankenstein’s Monster: Frankenstein!
  31. Skinwalkers
  32. Skineaters
  33. Skinseers
  34. Skinsingers
  35. Skinskinners
  36. Blood-Sucking Vampires!
  37. Eyeballs wearing short pants
  38. Hamstracula
  39. We only tell ourselves that we’re getting more connected but in truth we’re only creating more walls around us.
  40. Veils of webs
  41. Encroaching dust
  42. Scuffling Mummies!
  43. Scabs (Both dried blood and strike breakers!)
  44. Warts
  45. Used Gauze
  46. Teeth with no mouth
  47. Men in suits singing in unison
  48. Magical Circus Freaks!
  49. Eyeballs wearing Hawaiian shirts
  50. The blurred line between man and beast
  51. Snickering Raccoons
  52. Man has permanently changed the geological and climate structure of the Earth for the worse and it is too late to change it back.
  53. The Man with Glowing Skin
  54. Giant Apes!
  55. Eyeballs who are also Fascist
  56. Cannibals
  57. Hive minds
  58. Civet Rinds
  59. Hatred
  60. Peter Lorre as: THE NAZI SCIENTIST!
  61. Eyeballs played by Robert Englund
  62. Underground laboratories
  63. Mind-altering potions
  64. Ancient curses inside new technologies
  65. Every human is on a path of self-destruction and there is no way around it.
  66. Wolfmen and Cat-women: Equal genders, Equal terrors!
  67. Lights from the sky
  68. Unknown breathing
  69. Atomic-powered bone-crushers
  70. Crime scenes
  71. Irregular rhyme schemes
  72. MUTANT MONSTERS FROM MARS: The Alliterative Aliens that Attack Americans!
  73. Robobrain: the brain that is a robot
  74. Dead spacemen
  75. Black holes
  76. Eyeballs sticking out of comets
  77. Exploding suns
  78. The People who aren’t People
  79. Chauvinist pigs
  80. Xenophobic Xenomorphs
  81. The Disillusioned middle-class
  82. The Cynical youth
  83. The cyclical tongue-swallower
  84. Satanists! AAAAAH! SATANISTS!!!
  85. Eyeballs wearing robes
  86. The Cult of Dissociative Personalities
  87. Tranceful dancing
  88. Bleeding thumbnails
  89. Well-defined blood vessels
  90. The Terror from Within
  91. We are like automobiles: Built to break
  92. Vengeance Ghosts
  93. Skipping Video
  94. Parasitic Worms
  95. Spiders in the Brain
  96. The Teen-age Sex Slasher: Sleep and You DIE!!!
  97. Eyeballs with Eyeballs with Eyeballs
  98. The Shadow at the edge of your field of view.
  99. The Nightmare you can’t remember
  100. Shrek 5: Still Shreking

100 Cop Shows

There is no limit to what can be turned into a police procedural now, from Sleepy Hollow to Minority Report to an upcoming Oliver Twist procedural series, and that’s not even going into Dick Wolf’s ever-expanding Chicago universe.  So I’ve taken the liberty of writing up 100 episodes (exactly enough to go into syndication!) of my own Cop Show.  You’re welcome, CBS.

  1. Alan Smirk is a loose cannon who gets the job done in his own way, and Douglas Gambull is a cop who obeys all the rules.  Their worlds collide when Captain Louis Stevenson of the NYPD ask them to become partners!  Will these two be able to reconcile their differences and capture a Jewel Thief?
  2. Yes they will.
  3. Gambull and Smirk attempt to diffuse a hostage situation where one of the hostages… IS GAMBULL’S DAUGHTER! Will they succeed?  Will Gambull be able to tell his daughter that he’s sorry for not coming to her ballet performance last night because he was too busy filing papers? Again: Yes. Yes they will.
  4. Leo “The War Piece” Tolstoy, a notorious criminal and mob boss, goes head-to-head with Gambull and Smirk when their on the case of a murdered shop-owner who refused to pay protection money.  Tolstoy avoids getting into jail this time, but Smirk makes a vow to catch him one of these days.
  5. Captain Stevenson has to work with his least favorite person in the world: Fire Commissioner Oliver Stevenson, his half-brother, when a serial arsonist’s attacks turn deadly.  Gambull and Smirk are put on the case, but they better not screw it up or it’s the Captain’s ass on the line!
  6. Incriminating evidence has been taken from police lockup, and Smirk is the prime suspect!  SPOILER ALERT: It wasn’t Smirk.
  7. Smirk may have just had his heart stolen when he tracks down Victoria Smiles, a beautiful con artist who’s newest mark is guest star famous restauranteur Guy Fieri. It looks like this will be a case that’ll take a “Big Bite” out of New York!  Because Guy Fieri has a show called “Guy’s Big Bite”. It’s about burgers?  Yeah, it’s probably about burgers.
  8. Gambull and Smirk are shocked when Captain Stevenson is implicated in planting a gun on a black man shot dead, specifically because the dead man was Gambull’s childhood friend.  Also, Gambull is black.  We should have said that before.  But when new evidence surfaces, Gambull finds out that maybe he didn’t know his friend as well as he though.  And when even more new evidence surfaces, Gambull and Smirk realize that they don’t know Captain Stevenson as well as they thought. And when even MORE new evidence surfaces Gambull and Smirk realize that maybe they don’t even know… THEMSELVES.
  9. Gambull and Smirk have to protect a Russian Diplomat who’s head is marked for DEATH.
  10. Gambull and Smirk have to solve a case where the prime suspect… IS A TALKING DOG!
  11. Gambull and Smirk run into Smiles again, only this time she claims to be the next victim of dreaded Laserdisc Killer who leaves a single Laserdisc clue at all of his crime scenes.  Though the Laserdisc killer hasn’t been seen since 2001 and was presumably caught and sitting on a life sentence in Sing Sing.  Smirk, Smiles, and Gambull race against the clock to figure out this puzzle and save a potentially innocent life!
  12. Gambull and Smirk search for a murderer at one of Gambull’s daughter’s dance performances.
  13. Gambull and Smirk sort out fact from science fiction when they go to a robotics convention to look for a terrorist.
  14. Gambull and Smirk realize that there may just be more to New York state senator Mike Reinald than meets the eye.  One of those things is that he’s a murderer.  Another one is that he hates the New York Yankees.
  15. Tables are turned when Gambull becomes obsessed with tracking down the person who shot and killed his wife, so obsessed that he doesn’t even file the correct “obsessed cop” paperwork!  Smirk has to tighten up his own cannon to keep Gambull from going over the edge.  SURPRISE TWIST: GAMBULL’S WIFE WAS NEVER SHOT!
  16. Gambull and Smirk have to rely on the help of an eccentric IT worker when a hacker threatens to shut down New York City’s power grid!
  17. “The War Piece” returns!  This time Tolstoy’s been running an illegal boxing ring, and the worst part is that it looks like Captain Stevenson might just be involved!
  18. A death at a steel mill causes Smirk to go undercover!
  19. Gambull and Smirk think that a well-known newspaper journalist’s death by jumping from the Brooklyn Bridge may not have been an accident!  You’ll never guess, though, who the evidence points to being the murderer!
  20. Captain Louis Stevenson was the murderer from the last episode. He sets the entire NYPD against Gambull and Smirk as they try and prove it.
  21. In the thrilling conclusion to the two-part season finale, Gambull and Smirk go up against the two foes who have been secretly pulling their strings all this time: Stevenson and Tolstoy!  But the deeper our two cop friends go the more they realize that Stevenson and Tolstoy were only the lackeys for the true criminal mastermind: returning guest star famous restauranteur Guy Fieri!
  22. As Season 2 premiers and the dust from Season one clears, Gambull and Smirk have quit the NYPD and moved to the sunny shores of Los Angeles to become private eyes!  Their past immediately comes back to haunt them when the DVD Slayer, son of the deadly Laserdisc Killer, returns and is out for blood against his old foes: Gambull and Smirk.  Will they be able to catch the DVD Slayer this time?  Will their past as gritty New York cops keep coming back to haunt them?  Has Guy Fieri’s reign of terror truly ended?  Will Gambull be able to live without doing paperwork?
  23. Mostly no.  Except that their past as gritty New York cops will continuously come back to haunt them.
  24. What at first seems like just another string of race-related murders becomes something much more deadly when Gambull and Smirk team up with a helicopter pilot to solve… THE CASE OF THE BIRDS EYE.
  25. Detective Guitierrez of the LAPD comes to Gambull and Smirk for their help: He’s afraid that a corrupt cop may be about to incite another round of race riots at a fundraising ice cream social, and that corrupt cop has a familiar name: Stevenson!  SPOILER ALERT: Stevenson is guilty, but of no relation to the former Police Captain Louis Stevenson.  Gambull and Smirk have to learn that people can have the same last name.
  26. Gambull and Smirk find out just how strange the world is when their prime suspect has been dead for 50 years!
  27. Fact becomes fiction when Gambull and Smirk go to the set of CORRUPT, a movie based on their adventures last year to find out that the actor who is playing Captain Stevenson has been shot dead, and all evidence points to Smirk!
  28. Gambull and Smirk investigate a string of robberies at a Hollywood Hotel, only to run into a familiar face: Victoria Smiles!
  29. The owner of Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles is shot down in a drive-by shooting.  As Gambull and Smirk Dive in, they realize that this may be the fiery work of their deadliest foe: Returning guest star famed restauranteur Guy Fieri!
  30. Gambull and Smirk head out to Martha’s Vineyard for a weekend of wine… AND MURDER.
  31. Gambull and Smirk go see a movie at Mann’s Chinese Theater for a night of silver screens… AND SILVER SCREAMS.
  32. Detective Guitierrez comes to Gambull and Smirk for help in tracking down a group of bank robbers before they rob a shipment of Iranian gold and incite international conflict!
  33. Smirk wakes up to a terrifying discovery: A DVD.  He thinks this could only be the work of the DVD Slayer, Gambull thinks he’s overreacting.  Will this break up our dynamic duo? No. Will the DVD Slayer return? Yes.
  34. Smirk has to face his overwhelming fear of Dinosaurs when a body is found at the LaBrea Tar Pits.
  35. A former cop is killed after he eats an avocado, and Gambull and Smirk are put on… THE CASE OF THE HASS-LER!
  36. Hank David “The Walden of West Los Angeles” Thoreau, a notorious LA gangster, has his sights put on Gambull and Smirk after he is released from prison.  The reason? HE’S THE COUSIN OF LEO “THE WAR PIECE” TOLSTOY!
  37. While hiding out from “The Walden of West Los Angeles”, Gambull and Smirk recount their favorite memories of working together.
  38. Detective Guitierrez needs Gambull and Smirk’s help in tracking down a magician who’s disappearing act seems real!
  39. As temperatures rise so do racial tensions in LA as a death ignites hatred against a poor Latino family on the outskirts of Santa Monica.  Evidence points to Luis, the youngest, but Gambull knows for a fact that Luis is innocent as he was playing basketball with him at the time and also he knows that Luis is a good kid!  Also also, Gambull is Latino.  that should have been said earlier.  Anyhoo, it turns out the mayor of LA is corrupt.
  40. An investigation into a birthday party where all the guests were beaten to death leads Gambull and Smirk to think that the crime may have been drug-related, and you’ll never guess WHO is the leader of the drug ring.  SPOILER ALERT: It’s returning guest star famed restauranteur Guy Fieri!
  41. Guy Fieri’s Burger Bombs have been set all around LA, and Gambull, Smirk, and Guitierrez have to race against the clock to make sure they don’t explode!  Meanwhile, Fieri has nefarious plans for that empty LA Mayor’s seat.
  42. Gambull and Smirk have to protect mayor-elect former Detective Guitierrez from being assassinated by none other than Hank David “The Walden of West Los Angeles” Thoreau (which would, by LA law, mean that he’d take over as Mayor).  Meanwhile, Victoria Smiles gets in over her head trying to implicate Guy Fieri in conspiracy to commit murder.  As this season draws to a close, you’ll never guess who dies in the action!  Spoiler Alert: It’s Gambull!
  43. Season 3 begins with Smirk at his most loose-canon-y as he’s on the war path to track down Guy Fieri across the US.  Gambull is dead… or so he thinks!  In truth, Gambull’s body was sent to a secret NASA facility in Miami where his brain is being put into a ROBOT!  Smirk finds this out and meets up with his old partner in Miami, where they join the Miami Experimental Crimes Unit!
  44. Uh Oh Spaghetti-O!  The DVD slayer is back! Gambul1 uses his new-found robot vision to look into the DVD code to try and catch the slayer before he kills his next victim,  but will he get too far into the Slayer’s head only to become the next DVD Slayer?  No. No he won’t.
  45. G4mbull sees a murder take place with his x-ray eyes, but no one believes him when the victim is seen walking around unharmed the next day!  Could G4mbull’s new robot brain be fallible, or is there a crazy conspiracy at foot?
  46. 6ambull, Smirk, and the people at MECU go up against their greatest foe yet: A super-intelligent dolphin who’s trained to kill!
  47. A hot Miami nightclub gets even hotter when it’s burnt down.  Gamb0ll and Smirk are shocked to learn that the nightclub’s owner was MECU head Shellonius Monk’s Brother!  Now- more than ever- they have to track down the arsonist!
  48. Gam8ull is rushed to MECU with a nail in his eye!  While Gerhardt the Robot Scientist works on repairs, Smirk and Monk look at the video footage of the past day when a worker at the Villa Vicaya was found murdered with a nail gun!
  49. The Miami Dolphins need the help of MECU, as it seems like their best players are getting murdered one-by-one by a crazed Atlanta Falcons fan!  It’s a good thing Gambu11’s a robot, because otherwise this could end up bad!
  50. G4mbu1l and Smirk rush back to where this all started: New York, when their old, corrupt Police captain Louis Stevenson is let out of prison early!  Stevenson’s got his sights on getting revenge against G4mbu1l and Smirk, and he’s got a secret weapon to help him out: a prototype police robot that issues the death penalty… FOR EVERYTHING!
  51. The thrilling conclusion to the return to New York!  Robots fighting Robots!  People fighting People!  The New York Knicks playing the Miami Heat! That’s right: NOW IT’S PERSONAL!
  52. 6a3bull realizes that being a robot is really hard when his body is taken over by a hacker and forced to rob a bank!  Smirk and the rest of MECU have to out-hack the hacker or else Smirk will have to kill his best friend!
  53. Gam80ll and Smirk’s vacation in the Everglades turns deadly when they have to track down an evil oil baron who’s trying to build an illegal oil rig!
  54. Gamb011 and Smirk have to figure out truth from fiction when a string of murders take place in real life that are shockingly similar to those carried out in a video game!
  55. The DVD Slayer walks into MECU: We have to work together, there’s a DVD Copy killer out there!  6am8u1l and Smrik, along with tech genius Gerhardt, look through the past few days and realize it’s true: There’s a Copy Killer on the loose!
  56. G43b0ll and Smirk are put on duty safeguarding punk rocker Jimmy Stabbbs, who is the star witness for the prosecution in the trial of notorious Miami gangster Walt “The Shepard” Raleigh who has put a hit on Stabbbs’ head.
  57. Smirk has to solve a case alone when an evil Building inspector locks the rest of the MECU team inside the Spacedome while 6a3b0ll is having his brain re-nutrialized.
  58. 643bul1 and Smirk are going to Disneyworld!  Only this isn’t for fun, it’s to solve… A MURDER!
  59. Gam8011 and Smirk have to dive into the weird world of competitive MMORPGs when computer genius of MECU Gerhardt goes missing.
  60. G4m8011’s computer brain starts to put together some odd puzzle pieces that never quite fit: The DVD Copy killer, evil dolphins, The Miami Heat playing in New York when they should have had a home game that day.  All evidence points to a singular mastermind at work: Famed restauranteur Guy Fieri!
  61. With Guy Fieri in town for a Famous Restauranteur Conference, Smirk sees his chance to finally take revenge against the gruesome griller.  But 64m8011 thinks otherwise, especially when he’s visited by a mysterious source with ties to the Restauranteur underground: Guest Star Alton Brown!
  62. A Restaurant Conspiracy is unveiled: by working with the Sovereign Dolphin nation and the Secret Evil Government of Cuba, restaurants will take over the US and trap everyone in a soviet hell!  It’s up to G438011, Smirk, Victoria Smiles, and our friends at MECU to stop this from becoming a terrifying reality!
  63. Guest Star Alton Brown leads the march against Guy Fieri and his evil Pastabots as 6438011, Smirk, Smiles, and MECU race to solve a series of nefarious puzzles, or else risk Miami falling into the sea! You’ll never guess how the season ends, so I’ll tell you: Smirk is shot! BY 6438011!
  64. 6438011 is recommissioned for a new assignment: Search for the twisted mastermind who left a newborn baby in duffel bag!  Meanwhile, returning guest star famed restauranteur Guy Fieri begins to plot his escape from Guantanamo Bay, and Smirk wakes up in a University of Chicago laboratory where they’ve done the seemingly impossible: Bring back both Smirk and Smiles… only now they’re the same person!  That’s right, now 6438011 has to figure out how to work with his new partner who’s a woman! Can this robot figure out how to make it work?
  65. Yes. Yes it can. It is a robot. It can do literally anything.
  66. An old case becomes shockingly relevant as the DVD Slayer is transferred to the Cook County Jail as per the request of his kindly old Grandfather.  Only this Grandfather may in fact be Chicago’s most ruthless of unsolved killers: The Betamax Basher!
  67. 6438011 and the new Victoria Smirk adjust to their new life in Chicago as they’re once again gritty street cops, and also as they’re now roommates! They’re about to find that the only thing worse than Chicago crime, is living together!  Also Chicago traffic in festival season is God awful. It’s just terrible.
  68. Victoria Smirk has to put her new life to the test when she gets a new assignment: In the Chicago Vice department!  It’s here where she first meets the next in a long line of dastardly gangsters: Eddy “King of the Urban Jungle” Burroughs.  Meanwhile, 6438011 find out the hard streets of Chicago are even harder for a NASA robot.
  69. 6438011 and Smirk’s worlds collide when they encounter… MURDER AT THE BEAN.
  70. The King of the Urban Jungle is trying to spread his gang business into another Chicago Gangster’s territory.  Burroughs sends his best hitman to take out this rival gang, along with none other than Victoria Smirk!  Meanwhile, 6438011 tries to remember what a hot dog is.
  71. Tech Genius Gerhardt from MECU moves to Chicago to join the elite crime force, and just in time too because 6438011 has run out of batteries WHILE PURSUING A KILLER!
  72.  6438011 is away testifying in court, and so Gritty Chicago Police Chief Stephano Roix asks for Smirk and Gerhardt to team up with his best cop, a gritty Chicago street kid named U, to track down a group of thieves who stole $40K worth of gold and are on their way to the National Bank of China- Chicago Branch! Then things get weird.  U finds a dead clown, which Gerhardt is able to identify.  Meanwhile, Roix finds out that all of the thieves have been killed except for one who Smirk takes into protective custody.  Using the fingerprints of the dead clown, U is able to find the gold.  Only Gerhardt then realizes that it’s not gold they’ve found… BUT CHOCOLATE!  Eventually they solve the crime, and 6438011 comes back to a round of applause.
  73. 6438011 and Smirk are on one of their few days off when they get trapped inside a haunted house and have to solve a decades old murder, or else become victims themselves!
  74. Gerhardt, doing routine maintenance on 6438011, mistakenly erases all of 6438011’s memory!  To make matters worse, old foe Louis Stevenson is in Chicago and out for blood- literally!
  75. A casual day of gang activity at the aquarium turns deadly when Smirk comes face to face with THE DOLPHIN!
  76. Special Guest Star Rahm Emanuel asks to the Elite Crime Unit’s help when he gives a speech at the University of Chicago.  Things turn deadly, though, when Emanuel is struck with a deadly virus that could spread through Chicago like a fire, and Gerhardt and Doctor Cassandra Frankenstein race to find a cure.  Oh, Gerhardt’s been having a romantic subplot this whole time.  He and Dr. Frankenstein kiss at the end of the episode. Spoiler alert.
  77. It’s a triple format threat when the Laserdisc Killer, the DVD Slayer, and the Betamax Basher all escape from prison, join forces, and attack their two greatest foes: 6438011 and Smirk.  Only one group will survive the night, and it’ll probably be the series’ protagonists!
  78. Smirk finds herself trapped on a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan with Eddy “King of the Urban Jungle” Burroughs, and what’s worse: She’s starting to think that maybe he’s not evil! Meanwhile, 6438011 tries to remember what pizza is.
  79. A murder occurs where you’d least suspect it: at an active crime scene!  What’s worse? SMIRK’S FINGERPRINTS ARE EVERYWHERE!  Has Smirk turned to the dark side?  Has 6438011 completely lost its humanity?  Will Gerhardt and Frankenstein be Chicago’s newest “it” couple? WHAT’S INSIDE GRITTY POLICE CHIEF ROIX’S DESK?! These questions will be answered…
  80. But not in this episode!  Here, The life of Gerhardt’s mentor and brilliant computer person Toby Turring hangs in the balance when the heart he needs for a transplant is stolen!  Putting everything on hold, they track down the heart.  It turns out it was satanists!
  81. 6438011 confronts Smirk about the fingerprints, and it turns out that Smirk may have turned to the dark side, but that she didn’t kill the person.  Instead her hands were used for latex casts.  Gerhardt tells 6438011 the terrible truth: It is no longer human, and basically just a toaster that solves crimes.  643 would cry if it had emotions. Frankenstein talks to Gerhardt: They are so madly in love that Chicago has awarded them the honor of being the “it” couple.  They now have keys to the city.  Using these keys to the city, they break into Gritty Police Chief Roix’s desk and find a conspiracy that goes straight to the source: The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair!
  82. Smirk is faced with a difficult choice: Get promoted from Vice and become a gritty Chicago detective, or get promoted in the gang world and become The Queen of the Urban Jungle.  Meanwhile, 643 meets a nice chess-playing robot.
  83. 643 and Smirk race against time to stop the city’s water supply from being poisoned in… THE WATER TOWER CRISIS!
  84. A holiday party turns deadly when GPC Roix, Gerhardt, Frankenstein, Smirk, 643, and U get trapped in the Willis tower by The King of the Urban Jungle.  Meanwhile 643 gets a strange message… from returning guest star Alton Brown!  Could the restaurant conspiracy be afoot again?!
  85. In this cliffhanger of a season finale, Smirk reveals that she’s been working as a double agent for the past five episodes and has- indeed- turned to the dark side of crime.  GPC Roix reveals that all the trouble with Satanists and vampires and killer clowns all has one nefarious goal: To bring Chicago into Hell, and the reason he knows this? HE WAS GRANTED IMMORTALITY AT THE 1893 CHICAGO WORLD’S FAIR! Also, Gerhardt and Frankenstein have a fight!  Will they continue to be an “it” couple? Has smirk been lost to Crime?  Will she kill 643? Will 643 ever go into a swimming pool again? Will Hell come to Chicago?
  86. In order: Yes. No. Not really. Yes, and it’s a bad idea. Yes, but then they all fix it.
  87. The dust of THE CONFLUENCE fades.  Smirk has blood and oil on her hands and knows she has to redeem herself.  GPC Roix gave up his life to close the gates of Hell.  Gerhardt and Frankenstein are a really cute couple, even if they’re now a talking dog and an amorphous blob that shoots lasers out of her eyes (respectively).  643 is gone.  Oh, and to make matters worse? THEY’VE GONE BACK IN TIME!
  88. Smirk, Gerhardt, and Frankenstein investigate a murder-arson case while continuing to deal with the aftermath of 643’s death.  Oh, and who could this mysterious murderer-arsonist in 1803 Chicago be?  Why none other than the WAX CYLINDER STABBER who’s a distant relative of the Betamax Basher and, by extension, the DVD Slayer!  Will killing this murderer-arsonist alter the timeline?
  89. Yes, but our fearsome foursome doesn’t care.  Oh, and they’re a foursome now because 643 has returned as the ghost of a robot who insists on being called Doug.
  90. The Wild West is about to get a lot more wilder, as Doug, Smirk, Gerhardt, and Frankenstein find themselves involved in a train robbery!
  91. A killer in a small Swedish village in 1974 gets the attention of The Time Brigade in their Foreversphere.  While investigating, Gerhardt realizes that the killer’s next victim could be… HIS MOTHER!
  92. The Foreversphere gets invaded by a swarm of Time-Bees, which bring out the best and worst memories of all members of the Time Brigade.
  93. 1968: New York City. On these mean streets a killer walks, taking whatever he wants and blowing up buildings.  It’s up to Doug and Smirk (Gerhardt and Frankenstein are off on their honeymoon) to catch this monster before it’s too late.  But do these gritty New York Cops turned Los Angeles Private Investigators turned Miami Special Ops turned gritty Chicago cops turned Time warriors have what it takes to investigate on the gritty streets of New York?  Yes. They do. They now travel through time, finding a killer is remarkably easy for them to do.
  94. Trapped together in a Grain elevator, Smirk apologizes to Doug for getting him killed all those times. And for betraying everyone to a crazed gangster.
  95. Gerhardt the Talking Dog is elected president in the future year 2042, or at least that’s what it seems like.  Only as Frankenstein, Smirk, and Doug investigate further they realize that this future may be more dire than they thought.  It’s more dire because of robot dolphins. They kill people and eat their skin.
  96. The Time Brigade find themselves trapped in a deadly torture maze in Ancient Rome and subjected to the mad whims of none other than Caligula!
  97. The Time Brigade find themselves in 2027, and what’s more they’re face-to-face with their older selves! Gerhardt and Frankenstein have gotten a divorce in this future, Smirk went to prison for her crimes but secretly works with the FBI, and Doug is the Sheriff of a small Virginia town where nothing ever happens until a string of bizarre murders with otherworldly ties rolls in.  Our heroes now must put aside their differences to solve the greatest mystery of all: Friendship. Oh, and at the end of the episode the Foreversphere crashes into Victorian England.
  98. With present Doug dead in the Future (who knew a Robot Ghost could be killed?) and Future Doug alive in the present which is actually the past, Gerhardt no longer being able to talk but just being a regular dog, and Frankenstein lost forever to the streams of time, it’s all up to Victoria Smirk to solve THE CASE OF THE FOGGY STRANGLER.
  99. Smirk and Future Doug- along with their new friend Sherlock Holmes- find themselves in a conundrum: They witness the beginnings of the restaurant conspiracy that has been a thorn in their sides for far too long.  What’s more?  The Cult of the Illeterati’s leader is none other than a distant relative of the DVD Slayer!  And you’ll never guess who’s in the center of all of this knotted mess of time-crime: Returning Guest Star Famous Restauranteur Guy Fieri!
  100. Hell. Time. Crime. Greed. Love. Friendship. Grit. Restaurants. Dolphins. Robots. It’s been one heck of a ride for our two detectives Gambull and Smirk.  But now it all comes to an end.  Now it’s the two of them up against Guy Fieri at the End/Beginning of the Universe.  SPOILER ALERT: Guy Fieri is reduced to simmering blob of hair product, for he can never truly be killed, and Doug decides to keep him as a pet alongside the dog Gerhardt.  Doug moves to Virginia where he settles in and continues in his timeline as a small-town sheriff in over his head.  As for Victoria Smirk? She’s having adventures with the love of her life: Sherlock Holmes in the new spinoff series: Baskerville.

P for Path to Dodge, Q for QERN

Stories about journeys this month, as well a bit of a peek inside the jumbled mind of Chadwick Hedgegrove.

p-for-path-to-dodge

The first of our stories is revisiting Hedgegrove’s love of “Bonanza!” with a fake “Bonanza!” episode about a missing briefcase and Wild West super spy antics.

q-for-qern

The next one is a fantasy journey of a Hero Human named Jory who takes a possessed sword to kill a volcano demon with a group of 28 other heroes.

Resolution.

Remember how the moon blew up in March?  Well I made a movie about that. Or…

Remember those two filmmakers who were going to team up and make a movie together?  Well I made a movie about that too. Or…

Remember those four larger film projects that I’ve had in post-production, some for around 8 years?  Well I made a movie about that too. Or…

Above all else, I made a film about failure.  I made the film below called “Resolution.”, and it’s below.  Let’s watch now, shall we?

Resolution. from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

So there’s a lot of things here to parse out, but first let’s look at some technical aspects.  I’ve been working on “Resolution” since February of this year when I decided to use it as a way of exploring the software “Resolve” as a new editing suite (I’m still using Final Cut 7 for most of my projects, and I feel like sooner or later I’m going to have to switch to something newer and more up-to-date).  Well, I tried using Resolve, but in the end I just didn’t like it for editing.  It’s good for color work, but not for editing (and it’s designed to be for color work, editing is just something they’re just now incorporating).  But was “Resolution” still a project that should be completed and shown? Yes, in fact now it was more than ever.

The relevance goes to why I chose the projects I chose: Tracy McKnightly, Stories From Sturgeon, and Superb Fire Space Laser Blasters (more on “Lun” in a second).  These are three projects that have been simmering for a long time, projects that are so close to being finished but won’t be because of small but significant things: Tracy McKnightly needed so much ADR work mostly because of a last minute drop-out of the main actor, but also because I had only completed one semester of school and I didn’t understand that sound was a thing; Stories From Sturgeon wasn’t able to get enough footage from the filming of the project itself and so with only interviews to go by there wasn’t much of a documentary I could make; Superb Fire Space Laser Blasters! needed lots of miniature work or animation work or something to get exterior shots of the spaceship, but also I was missing video and audio from when we shot, and even on set I had lost a lot of my ability to plan and work on a film set which resulted in a rushed schedule that didn’t quite work out.  Now I know that no one was waiting with too bated breath for these films to be completed, but I had failed them and I needed to make it right.  So, much like with “No!” before this (the most obvious predecessor, right down to having a punctuation mark in the title), I decided to fuse these failed projects together into one.  I fused them into one project that had itself failed on a small but significant level.

Now, let’s talk about “Lun”.  Right off the bat I realized that the biggest difference between “Resolution.” and “No!” was the projects chosen, particularly how they could communicate and function together.  You see, “No!” is made of primarily visual and experimental pieces, things that I thought would be neat to look at but never quite did.  Fitting these looser pieces into one narrative (“Death is a Corgi”) was just a matter of filling holes.  In “Resolution.” I was working with three pieces that had their own stories, three pieces that each had their own feel and their own flow, and fitting them together proved to be tricky.  So I decided I needed a framing device, and it seemed the best way to do that would be to latch on to the documentary aspect of “Stories From Sturgeon”, the discussion of the moon from “Superb Fire Space Laser Blasters!”, and the single image of a shining moon from “Tracy McKnightly” together into one piece.  This piece would end up being called “Lun”, and I decided that the framing device would be me going around and hosting interviews of one simple question: Why did you blow up the moon?  Lun quickly grew out of control and- as has been the case with many projects that I’ve wanted to complete these past four years- I ran out of the resources to make this happen.  What I was left with was a bunch of images of the moon (which I wasn’t even able to finish collecting, because the moon mysteriously vanished from the night sky.  Thanks, light pollution), and some title cards of Moon “puns” (as is said in “Resolution.”, these aren’t puns.  They’re not even plays on words).

We’ve already talked about “No!” being a predecessor of this piece, but I think the greater predecessor is “I Don’t Talk About Music: The Musical” (Another punctuation mark!  I use SO much punctuation!).  Soon, with my project on failed projects failing and everything not quite reaching the titular resolution, it became clear that this was to be another project based on failure.  More specifically, a project based on my failure.  I’ve since been treating this like a “IDTAMTM” Lite.  Whereas the previous film focused on a deeply personal sense of failure to belong and connect and all sorts of other messy things, “Resolution.” would focus primarily on a career-based failure.  So much of these past ten years have been about me growing into and defining myself as an artist, and now that I’m removed from my medium and have made the decision to move away from a career in cinema production, I can’t help but feel a certain loss.  The same loss I feel over the incompletion of Tracy McKnightly.

So I suppose that’s all why I made a movie about why I can’t make movies anymore.  Or maybe I made a film about why I can’t make films anymore.  It all depends on whether I’m One or The Other.  But at least one thing is certain: I shot for the moon and blew it all up.

M for Maria Gil, N for Nergisamu, and O for Operation Tarasque

Another Trio of Stories!  This time all coming from the later Hedgegrove era when he was contemplating futility, death, and whether or not locking himself inside his house was a good idea.  So lots of fun, cheery things.

M for Maria Gil

First is the lost Shakespearean play “Maria Gil” about a a cursed ship and a test Neptune’s carrying out to see if humans have anything more than greed and shadow in their hearts.  There are two possible endings, and our intrepid narrator also gets to let us know that this probably wouldn’t have been a Shakespearean play.

N for Nergisamu

Next up we go back to Zard (after this we’re taking a long break from Zard) to meet the Beetle Lord of Death and his world of impossible math.  Also, we meet a King who travels to Hell to bring back the soul of a woman whose statue he fell in love with.

O for Operation Tarasque

Finally we end with a shorter story about a Military project in 2003 to create a Fear virus that would temporarily transform people into terrifying monsters, only to have them revert back to human form when killed so that terror would stop and everyone can get along.  SPOILER ALERT: It doesn’t work.

I’m aware these stories are getting longer, and I’ve also realized that some of the earlier pieces are a bit removed from the narrative that’s started to form.  Mostly right now, the plan is to finish off with these 26 entries, then go back and edit everything before looking into publishing.  So… read now before they go into the Vvinni Vault, I suppose.