Tag Archives: Deathstopia

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.

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.

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.

These 100 United States

As the thunder of fireworks and election sounds, the people of the United States think to themselves: We need to re-draw state lines.  Well, don’t worry America, I’ve done just that.  I even took the same rule all modern country-makers take: Draw a bunch of lines in existing territories without much thought. Now, am I saying that this is a dark visage of of our own future?  Yes. Yes I am.  Pack your bags, this will probably happen tomorrow.

TUS


Colympus

Eureka

Pacifico

Los Santos

Guadalupe

Sonora SpacefallSparganophilusModocFremontMeadowlark

Mr. Starkey

Inland Empire

SnakelandBitterrockBasalt Falls

Goldpit

Walker

Warm Springs

Escalante

Tetonia

Salt Lake

Kruckeberg

Foreverwood

AntipodeAnda NangkwaChantemakhaBleeding PeaksNuevo FosilClovisThe ShardScopulosusMisfortuneDrainageCloud Peak EnergyBlack HillsBuffalo 57720Commanche's WingLonestarThe GireNorth GireUbetchaZedlakeSuxlandConfluenceNodawayTourmentCreekstone Farms Premium LandsA Liscenced Pizza Hut LocationOzarkTerminusMagnolionBoue RougeBig ThicketSamslandAustiniaInterexitYazooWartburgGinoozininiMesabiSuperionDriftless ZoneMuskellungeChicagoWestcagoTullyMuskogeeLutheronThe Brave and Beautiful Kingdom of Buffalo TraceWabashGeneral MotorsHuroniousThe ClawOhweoAllegheniaAppalachiaCoca-Cola CorporationTupossoluhThe FourDisney's Territory of FunFloridiumPiedmontShenandoah!CommonwealthCapetownChesapeakeJoiseeAdirondackEerieRochesterRegular YorkNewest YorkHavenBorschtbeldtKhaaaaaaad!!!MaineslandBeringiaYukonStill Hawaii

The 10 Favorite Books

Once again, I find myself in a predicament.  Someone has asked me to send them my favorite book, and as we all know I have problems with choosing a favorite anything.  But I can at least narrow down my list to 10 Favorite Books.  So without any further ado, here they are:

  • House of Leaves: A creeping and mysterious tale that got a lot of people interested when it was published in 2000 because of its experimental formatting.  This could have easily become a gimmick, if it weren’t for the fact that every colored word and blank page, every page-long footnote, every chunk of sticky-note sized text is all adding to the character’s psyche and the mood of the piece.  I have yet to read more Danielewski, but his first novel was more than captivating.
  • Ubik: Another first, this time the first P.K. Dick story I read.  A strangely twisting tale that instantly captivated me and painted a world of immensely imaginative science fiction.  Like with many of Dick’s works we begin with a captivating science fiction concept (Extra-sensory powers), and from there go down a rabbit hole where the reader begins to question the very fabric of reality within the book itself.
  • If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler: A book completely about reading, which makes it simultaneously a brilliant written work and the singular book I would love to adapt into a movie.  Another work which includes a central idea which could become a gimmick if every time the story switched and every time The Reader (both protagonist and yourself) begins again the central idea and conceit of the book becomes clearer and clearer.
  • Crime and Punishment: An exploration of guilt, conscience, and most interesting (for me anyway) obsession.  Dostoevsky is able to write a profoundly fascinating tale which includes many scenes where protagonist Raskolnikov is just walking through streets named K or N.  Also, Porfiry Petrovich, the police detective intent on proving Raskolnikov’s guilt, is one of my all-time favorite literary characters and his interrogation scene where he slowly goes mad is an absolute work of art.
  • A Wrinkle in Time: My Mother read to my Sister and I almost every night growing up.  We would have a story time, where she’d read from a book we didn’t yet have the capacity to do ourselves, and we would listen and marvel for an about an hour then go to bed and have wonderful dreams.  She read the entirety of The Wrinkle in Time series to us, and the most memorable part for me (which technically comes in a later book) may also be what got me first fascinated with the idea of parallel universes.  The book itself is also a brilliant science fiction adventure story bringing in questions of angels, time travel, alternate universes, and dimensions beyond time.  Though it’s true that a lot of why this book is on my 10 List is because of the memories surrounding it, the memories accumulate around this one for a very good reason.
  • Fahrenheit 451: Another book about books and reading, and one of the few instances where the book is adapted into a pretty great movie.  It shows the both the power of the written word as a means of expression and culture and travel and passion, but more importantly it’s a book about the power of ideas and what happens to a world when there is no more expression and a government goes too far out of its way to repress The Idea.  If this book were simply about the rise of television and radio and how it will rot a person’s brain, I don’t think it would be as lasting and as adaptable as it most certainly is.
  • The Stranger: A guiding philosophical force for me, though I was already familiar with The Myth of Sisyphus, Absurdism, and Existentialism before this (though The Stranger isn’t Existentialist, Camus’ philosophy of the Absurd is markedly different in a few incredibly important ways, mostly: The Point is to Live).  The Stranger touches on many of the points of Camus’ philosophy while being much more digestible and simple than his essays.  Through the protagonist of Mersault, who is an ultimate book protagonist in that he has no wants outside of what external forces demand of him be it society or others’ expectations, the reader is able to understand the absurdity of living for expectations outside of your own and existing for no other reason than to serve a society which itself is absurd.
  • Doom Patrol: The Painting that Ate Paris: I haven’t read many comic books (or graphic novels.  There’s a difference between the two, though I’m not sure what it is and which Doom Patrol falls into.  Probably Comic Books), but I have read all of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol and it is fantastic.  It’s this compilation that really gets into the heart of how imaginatively insane Morrison’s Doom Patrol was and just what, exactly, being the supergroup “tasked with protecting the fabric of reality itself” meant.  It also helps that this is the compilation that introduces my favorite villain team Mr. Nobody and his Brotherhood of Dada.
  • Animalia: One of the most important books of my childhood, which brought me so much joy seeing it again as an adult at the Albuquerque Zoo that I just had to buy it so I could look over each illustrated letter over and over again.  Animalia feeds into almost all of my obsessions that have been with me throughout my life: Words, Animals, and true-to-life animals wearing silly hats.
  • Timeline: This was my favorite book in Jr. High School, and even though it wasn’t my first Crichton book (that was Congo, I believe), it’s the one that sticks out in my mind.  It continued my ongoing fascination with time travel and science fiction, and it was the first book I read to approach science fiction with a more measured and scientific look.  Outside of the world of memory, it remains an interesting story of causality and time, and a neat medieval adventure story as well.  Is it the best of Crichton’s works?  Probably not.  That might be Sphere.  Timeline also has the distinction of being the work that I was most monumentally disappointed in when it was adapted into a movie.  The movie is absolute garbage and shouldn’t be watched by any means.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • American Psycho
  • Naked Lunch
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Cat’s Cradle
  • The Metamorphosis (by Franz Kafka)
  • Chronicle of a Death Foretold
  • Les Miserables
  • The Magicians
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Lorax

An Unhelpful Guide to the 2015 Blockbusters

2015 is fast becoming the year of the colon, and this punctuational mark’s dominance will only grow in power this summer movie season until we need some kind of team of Punctuation-based superheroes to stop it from tearing the earth in two in order to make the world its colon.  Don’t worry, though, because the subtitle for 2016 is “Semicolon Rising”.

Enough of that, here’s how the colon will gain almost too much power for our team of intrepid heroes this year:

The Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1)

Tony Stark/ Iron Man makes a robot named “Ultron” but doesn’t think it will become evil. Uh oh, it does.  He calls upon his best friends Thor, Captain America, and Hulk to come and shut down the robot’s mainframe, but it’s too late: The robot has become the internet!  Now they have to team up with Hawkeye (not from M*A*S*H) and the Black Widow (also not from M*A*S*H) to stop this evil robot-internet. BUT OH NO, the evil internet has now taken over a military satellite in space and will soon be blasting a hole in the Earth!  “Shoot, if only I weren’t such a loveable jerk, then maybe I’d have more friends!”, says Tony Stark/ Iron Man. “Ooga Booga” says the Hulk.  This gives Tony Stark/ Iron Man a great idea, and he builds another robot to help stop the other robot that is the internet that is the military satellite and will soon be Skylab.  This robot is Vision. Also, there is a really Quick boy who likes silver and a Witch that’s not a witch but is Scarlet (not to be confused with Scarlett Johansson, because she’s Black Widow, which also shouldn’t be confused with the Green Lantern because the Green Lantern is from the wrong Comic Book universe) and the two of them help the robot become the internet but by the time the robot takes over the time machine they decide to join the Avengers to stop them and be heroes.  Also Samuel L. Jackson shows up with an eyepatch. Also the robot is the guy from the Blacklist. Poor Tony Stark/ Iron Man, this is the worst birthday ever.

Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15)

Max is a guy who’s really tired and just wants to get home and rest, but there’s SO MUCH TRAFFIC. “Ugh, I have so much fury because of this road!”, Max yells at his windshield. He decides to park his car and walk home, because the traffic is moving so slowly.  Well, White Skull, the emperor of the highway, doesn’t like this and decides to send out all of his minions to wear crazy outfits and yell at Max.  Max responds by yelling at them.  Eventually he meets a girl. They probably yell at eachother while White Skull’s minions come and yell at them.  The fury becomes so great, that Samuel L. Jackson wearing an eyepatch has to come in and say “OK, tone it down guys. You just wait 10 minutes. It’s not a big deal. Or you could invest in a monorail system and alleviate this problem while also helping out the environment. I mean, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but investing in clean public transportation really is the responsible thing to do.  OK, well I got to go stop this robot from taking over the ISS with my good friend Black Panther. See you”. Max responds to this by yelling and getting back into his car. He’ll never get home now.

Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15)

The sequel to the movie that introduced us to the “Cup Song”, Pitch Perfect 2 begins where the last movie ended: Auditions for the next school year with Anna Kendrick’s Beca leading The Bellas, an  a cappella group that’s involved in the gangland of competitive singing. Unfortunately for Beca and the Bellas, a nuclear blast goes off during the audition launching the world into an apocalypse.  Lucky for the Bellas, the only survivors are a cappella groups (including the one that only sings songs by Survivor).  Beca now has to unite her new society and try to stop raiders and singing mutants, and worse of all: Samuel L. Jackson wearing an eyepatch is too busy telling that killer robot who is now the Moon how he’d save money and help reverse climate change if he switched to wind and solar.  The robot has none of it, though, the robot wants to destroy the world because he’s evil because he was programmed by that jerk Tony Stark/ Iron Man.  Anyways, Beca finds a way to get the group united again and singing the Cup Song, and soon they unite the disparate singing tribes (including A Tribe Called Quest) through a mashup a cappella jam of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”, “I Will Survive”, “Eternal Flame”, and “In Your Eyes” (in honor of her boyfriend Jesse who died saving her from a madman singing “Psycho Killer”). In the end, the moon is solar powered and the post-appocappellypse of the Earth is united through song.

Tomorrowland (May 22)

George Clooney is the king of imagination in this upcoming film by The Iron Giant director Brad Bird.  Clooney has to jetpack through a UNIVAC controlled city in order to stop the hit television show Lost from taking over reality, and in order to do so he has to team up with a plucky 20-something who was really into Lost.  Meanwhile the evil David Nix (Hugh Laurie), heir to the vile Nixon throne, has sided with the greatest evil Imaginationland, our world, and UNIVAC-City has ever known: The Blacklist robot who has now incorporated UNIVAC into his systems and has also taken over the imaginary Earth in this imaginary future.  With Samuel L. Jackson in an eyepatch no where to be found, Clooney must rely on his incredibly good looks to keep his magical teleporting imagination pin from falling into the hands of David Nix, because if Nix gets his hands on the imagination pin then he’ll use it to escape the land of imagination and bring forth 100 years of Nixon-darkness upon the world (It was assumed Richard Nixon died in 1994, but in fact he had been banished to the realm of imagination because he was planning on taking the White house by force from Clinton.  Clinton couldn’t allow that, as he had his own plans for the white house that factor into the creation of the UNIVAC jetpack city of the future and allocating fund to Tony Stark/ Iron Man so he can invent the evil Blacklist robot.  This is all explained in flashbacks with Hugh Laurie playing the elder Nixon as well, and Jeff Bridges giving a stirring performance as Clinton). In the end Nix is double crossed by the evil robot, but Clooney defeats everyone because he only watched the first season of Lost and couldn’t really get into it.

Insidious: Chapter 3 (June 5)

Before the spookiness of Insidious chapters 1 and 2 is the story of how a plucky 20-something psychic uses her powers to contact the underworld and save a teenager from being dragged down to an ultimate hell.  The teen, however, has a secret plan for the psychic, though, a plan that can only be described as… INSIDIOUS.  When the plucky psychic makes contact with the underworld (thanks to her sarcastic ghost friend The Man Who Can’t Breathe, played with gusto by Michael Reid MacKay), the teen forces the psychic’s soul to be taken over by a horrible trans-dimensional demon named Carl in exchange for not being targeted for possession and for her to go to prom with the most handsome boy in school.  Now stuck in hell, the psychic (who has only lost some of their pluck, but is able to maintain hope thanks to TMWCB) has to claw her way back to the world of the living by jumping into the body of a teen who is competing against the other teen for Prom Queen.  Carl- who is in the body of the psychic- then uses its evil demon-powers to give the evil teen mind control, and the psychic- who is in the body of a teenager- has to use her wit and psychic powers to win back the prom queen crown and her soul.  The big twist- SPOILER ALERT- comes at the end with the psychic, having banished Carl and the Evil teen to an extra-dimensional wasteland, finds herself trapped in the body of the teen she had to jump into in order to stop Carl who was in her body which is now lost forever.  And this teenager? Well she grows up to be THE BLACK WIDOW,  Avenger and assassin who helps to defeat the evil robot.  And the double-twist? THE ROBOT HAS BEEN WORKING FOR CARL ALL ALONG TO GAIN ACCESS TO THE INFINITY GAUNTLET AND GET REVENGE ON THE PSYCHIC FOR BANISHING HIM TO THE EXTRA-DIMENSIONAL WASTELAND.

Jurassic World (June 12)

SCIENCE? This question starts off young paleontologist Owen Grady on a quest to a remote island where dinosaurs walk and fly. This is Jurassic World. A hologram of park creator says “Welcome… TO JURASSIC [WORLD]” as you walk through the main doors and are greeted by a velociraptor with a clipboard . It screeches.  A translator around its neck, or perhaps just a robotic speaker, says “Please sign this liability contract saying that you will not hold Jurassic World parks and resort responsible for any injury or death acquired on the premises”.  Grady grudgingly agrees and is brought to the park owner: Judy, who (SPOILER ALERT) also happens to be the mother of the plucky 20-something in Tomorrowland (more on that later).  Judy is in a panic. “Owen, I know you and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye since Bangkok”, Judy Begins. “THEY WERE CHILDREN!” replies Owen with the fury of one thousand Samuel L. Jacksons wearing an eyepatch. “They wanted to ride a brontosaurus!  You KNOW the park wouldn’t have allowed that! But enough of the recent past, we need to talk about history. PRE-history”. Owen sombers up: No. No she couldn’t have.  After the events that set back the opening of the park 22 years ago? “You mean…”. “Yes, Owen, we created a dinosaur that combined the most terrible parts of all dinosaurs and now it is loose in the park and eating everyone and we need YOU to stop it”.  “But… WHY ME? I’m just a paleontologist from Ohio. I don’t know anything about hunting dinosaurs”.  “Because you have a long-standing employment contract with Jurassic World and its corporate subsidies which makes you the only person we can call”. Owen nods: “Okay. I’ll do it. But in exchange I want to ride a Brontosaurus”. Judy nods. “WITH, George Clooney”. Judy nods “That’s a given, Owen. Thank you“. “You can thank me after I’ve given you the disproportionally large head of this genetic dinosaur monstrosity. Adios, Judy, don’t let your corporate greed hit you on the way out”.  Owen then hops out the window and onto the back of a brontosaurus. He goes to fight dinosaurs.  Meanwhile, Judy smiles and calls her daughter.  “You can tell George that everything’s on track. We’ll get that prom crown even if it kills us… AGAIN”.

Inside Out (June 19)

Robots. Genetically modified dinosaurs. Superheroes. SO MUCH ANGER.  What is it like to live in a world like this?  What is like to live in a world of so much possibility and horror?  Inside Out takes us into the mind of Quinn Brenner, a plucky 20-something who has lived outside of Tommorrowland for most of her life and just got a decent job at the VHS tape factory.  However Quinn’s world is turned upside down (or should we say Inside Out) when she finds one of the magic teleporting pins and is thrown into our world.  She now has to navigate our world and get used to our customs, like: Why aren’t there large digital clocks showing countdowns everywhere?  What is “blu-ray”? Why aren’t there lens flares when I turn on the light?  As she goes through this, her inner world is in disarray when the embodiment of her Joy and her Sadness get sucked down a memory tube, and she’s only left with Fear, Anger, and Disgust.  That is, until a new emotion rises.  A dangerous emotion. One named Revenge.

The Transporter: Refueled (June 19)

Ed Skrien was just trying to take a truckload of Ben & Jerry’s to a corner store, but traffic became so terrible and everyone started yelling at eachother, and before he knew it he was running low on gas.  Skrien pulls into a gas station in the Outlands and watches as White Skull’s army of oddly dressed minions battle the Avengers who are also battling the horrible yellow monsters from the Despicable Me series.  The giant robotic eye that is the sun look down on Skrien, the gas meter slowly climbs up, and Skrien sighs.  At this point, he’ll never deliver this ice cream in time, and he may just have to eat it all!

Terminator: Genisys (July 1)

The Avengers failed. George Clooney Failed.  The Earth has been taken over by the evil Blacklist robot and its evil robot army, and it will soon be taking over the Milky Way.  There’s only one hope left.  Thanks to the hit television series Lost of centuries ago, a man named John Conner (Justin Clarke) builds a time machine and sends his best friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to stop all this horror and cross-universal terror from happening.  Reese travels back to 1904 in Sherman Texas.  Although he over shot his desired year (time travel is tricky that way), he’s still able to set in motion a plan that will hopefully stop the robot revolution and prepare the Avengers for this terror.  It begins with him marrying Lou Birchie Ayers, whom he met in the past first out of obligation but grew to love her, and changing his name to William Jefferson Blythe.  Eventually he and Lou have a child who they would name William Jefferson Blythe Jr.  Kyle gives Bill Jr. a set of instructions, beginning with getting a job in the motor pool during World War II and working on Project: Rebirth before the start of the war.  Here, Kyle tells Bill Jr. that he will meet a man who would become known as Captain America.  It would be important for Bill Jr. to speak to Captain America before April of 1945 and tell him that eventually he will meet someone named Tony Stark/ Iron man, and that no matter what happens Captain America has to stop Tony Stark/ Iron man from making a robot.  Reese, though, also begins several backup plans, mostly in the form of a package to be given to his grandchild in 1978.  That grandchild? William Jefferson Blythe III, also known as Bill Clinton.  In his package to Clinton, Reese outlines the creation of a new initiative called “The Avengers” which is to be headed by a plucky Samuel L. Jackson NOT wearing an eyepatch.  Again: It is important for Tony Stark/ Iron Man not to create a any robots.  Thus, when Tony Stark is shot down and nearly killed by shrapnel, Clinton was going to step in and attempt to stop him from ever creating the Iron Man suit.  This plan, however, is thrown off course when Richard Nixon tries to take over the White House with his secret army.  In the resulting chaos, Samuel L. Jackson gets his eye gouged out, Clinton is unable to stop Tony Stark from creating his first robot suit, and Nixon is banished into the realm of imagination.  Clinton and Fury hope that they can still stop the robot future they fear is coming, but could it be too late?  Jeff Bridges returns as Bill Clinton.

Minions (July 10)

The horrible yellow monsters from Despicable Me are back in their own horrible yellow movie.  Here, they gain access to the time machine from Terminator:Genisys and decide to pull a Time Bandits and go around through time ruining EVERYTHING.  They do this, because they are horrible yellow monsters.  Eventually, Tony Stark/Iron Man and The Avengers have to come in to stop them, as they no longer battling the robot because Bill Clinton was successful in his attempts to fulfill his great-grandfather’s wishes (who was actually the original time-traveler from the Terminator world).  The horrible yellow monsters battle The Avengers, at which point another foe comes through the time stream: Robots. Thousands of them. The yellow monsters look up as the robots swarm out of the time-hole, and join together in a horrified chorus of “Ba-ba-ba. Ba-ba-Na-Na”.  Maybe it’s funny. Mostly, it’s horrible.

Ant-Man (July 17)

Paul Rudd is the Ant-Man: The Hero/Theif/Corporate Saboteur that the Bay Area needs, not the one it deserves.  Using his Ant-mobile which he keeps in his lair: The Ant Hill, he roams the streets at night stopping such memorable villains as: The Jokeman, Mr. Riddles, Sargent Snowstorm, and The Auk.  In this thrilling installment, Ant-Man’s mentor, former Ant-Man Hank Pymm, needs the new Ant-Man Rudd to sneak in and steal some evil documents that could result in Bay City becoming the nexus for World War III. Ant-Man is on the case, and using his super-shrink suit and the power of Ant-mmunication he kicks some ant.  Unfortunately evil corporation Nabisco has hired the merciless Darren Cross, AKA Yellowjacket, to put an end to the Ant-Man once and for all.  Meanwhile, noble district attorney (who has been trying to build up a case against Nabisco for quite some time) gets caught in an acid explosion, goes mad, and becomes the newest in the Ant-Man’s rogues gallery: Most-Face. Also, Meanwhile, it’s revealed that Nabisco has been working with Jurrasic World Parks and Resort’s head Judy in order to fund a High School prom.  Because the item that the Ant-Man and Yellowjacket are fighting over? It’s East Ridge High School’s Prom crown.  As the sun rises and the Ant-Man perches atop the golden gate bridge, he looks over Bay City and thinks to himself: “Thank God I’m not in New York. Those people have crazy robot problems”.

Mission: Impossible 5 (July 31)

Originally titled Mission: Impossible: 5, this one sees our favorite team of superspies going up against their greatest enemy yet: HIGH SCHOOL!  Ethan has to infiltrate East Ridge High School in order to weed out an evil Syndicate that is trying to take over the same way everyone in high school takes over: By becoming Prom Queen. “Ethan: I don’t care how great of a spy you are, you can’t become Prom Queen”, says Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn. “I can do what I want! I am a golden God!” screams Ethan, mad with power after helping the football team beat state and go to Regionals.  “He’s in too deep!” screams Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (not from M*A*S*H), over Skype of course because he’s currently in New York helping put the timestream back together and fight evil time-traveling robots and also The Red Baron, who The Minions brought back as a joke but now NO ONE IS LAUGHING.  Its Prom night. Ethan is nervous, he’s been able to get candidacy for Prom Queen and is going with Jimmy St. Horn, the most handsome guy in school!  He hopes his dress isn’t too unflattering for his broad, manly superspy shoulders.  Ethan’s also nervous because he has a biology test in the morning because Mr. Dilley is SO LAME and gave the kids homework on Prom Night. UGH.  It’s then that Ethan gets a superspy telegram: It’s worse than everyone thought. The Syndicate isn’t only out to rule High School, and it’s not out to rule the world, it’s out to rip apart our dimension. Remember Carl and the Evil teen  Well, they’ve escaped from the terror-dimension once again, and with plucky psychic Black Widow helping Hawkeye (still not from M*A*S*H) battle robots, they think there will be no one to stop them from getting the Prom Queen crown this time around.  Well, thinks Ethan, I’m just going to have to be the prettiest girl at the dance then. Will he make it? Will Benji be able to open up another portal into the terror-dimension to send Carl and the Evil Teen back? Will Ethan and Jimmy St. Horn kiss?! These are questions that mustn’t be spoiled.

Fantastic Four (August 7)

The cinematic universe is in upheaval at this point (which is partially good, we want there to be an environment of chaos for Semicolon to rise, and for a Civil War to break out): The Blacklist robot has successfully gotten back from being banished from time and Bill Clinton is too busy with his wife’s presidential campaign to help stop it, The Yellow Monsters have done nothing to fix the time rip, The Red Baron has found out that we’ve turned him into a Pizza Mascot and is now PISSED OFF, evil centuries-old demon Carl and the Evil Teen are close to winning the Prom Crown and fulfilling their evil quest to bring 1000 years of High School to the world, and the Dinosaurs from Jurassic World have hopped on the back of the giant aquatic dinosaur and are now on the mainland eating everything and destroying the ecosystem. Ethan from Mission Impossible can’t help, Owen and Judy (who has since turned good after finding out she was duped by a demon and NOT by corporate stooges who wanted to breed dinosaurs for profit) are doing the best they can but it isn’t enough, even the Avengers and Samuel L. Jackson wearing an Eyepatch can’t help (Also the Ant-Man can try to steal the Prom Crown, but he can’t defeat an entire crazy robot army with dinosaur demons).  The world is short on heroes.  In fact, it is short exactly four heroes.  In wlaks Sir Ben Kingsley “Good Morrow, I may have a solution for your quandary”, says Kingsley with the voice of a God.  Kingsley has created some kind of Dimensional Rift: This can send Carl and the Evil Teen back to Hell where they belong and it can also seal up the time-hole and any problems caused by that.  The dinosaurs?  Well it won’t fix those, but two out of three isn’t bad.  Judy, the most business minded of everyone, says “Okay. Go ahead. Do you need volunteers? I volunteer”. “No Judy, you’re not in this movie”, says Kingsley, but he sounds so good nobody questions it.  Kingsley enlists the help of Skrien, Quinn, George Clooney, and Bella from Pitch Perfect (who stumbled out of her time period into ours via the time portal. Sorry, that was way back in Minions and I forgot to mention it).  Kingsley starts up the Trans-dimensional modulator.  Whirr. Whizz. Bang. Lens flare.  Before dimensions are torn apart, Kingsley smirks “Oh, and I forgot to mention that you’ll each gain superpowers based off of the Four classical elements. Tah”.  Our Four Fantastic heroes are sent through. With the dimension hole opened, the table is set to hopefully stave off the Infinity War until 2018 and 2019. The Four Fantastic heroes come out of the rift.  True to Kingsley’s soothing words, they have been changed: Clooney now has super-stretch powers, Bella can now light herself on fire, Quinn can turn invisible and make forc fields, and Skrien is now a rock. Just a rock. Nothing special.  Now that the Cinematic Universe has enough heroes, it’s time to start eliminating threats.  “Let’s do this like Buddhists” says Kingsley. His voice is heavenly.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E (August 14)

What is the deal with Carl? We get a bit of that answered here.  In the 1960’s two superspies were hired to stop all-out nuclear war by the dashingly handsome Hugh Grant. They called this operation U.N.C.L.E, because we were young and we thought periods were cool in the 60’s.  U.N.C.L.E was successful at the start of the summer and stopped the nuclear war, however thanks to some horrible yellow monsters things went south real quick.  The last hope Hugh Grant had was to send his two top agents, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie hammer) through time using a prototype of Kingsley’s Dimensional rift (which is itself based off an idea from Lost, the same idea which would lead the ultra-robot future to create the Terminator machine).  Okay, but what does this have to do with Carl?  Well Carl began as an Occultist in Victorian England, fascinated with raising demons and accessing other dimensions in order to let out old Gods and begin a New Old World Order.  Now U.N.C.L.E didn’t land in Carl’s time, but Carl did open his dimensional portal on the exact same day as Grant opened his, and when you’re dealing with trans-dimensional portals that transcend time and space opening things on the same day means you’re pretty much ripping apart the same universe at the exact same time.  Carl was sucked through, and before he could claw his way out Hugh Grant closed the portal in the 60’s because Solo and Kuryakin had been successfully transported back into the 40’s.  Carl was now trapped in Hell, a Hell that existed outside of regular time and so- in fact- he did live there for centuries.  Thousands of years even.  Enough time for Carl to forget about ever being human and to embrace the Demon he had become.  That’s when he hopped a ride and blah, blah, blah Insidious. So what about U.N.C.L.E?  Well, once in the 1940’s they were able to work with the allied powers against the Nazis, nothing huge that would destroy time (because they’re smarter then those horrible yellow monsters) but enough that they caught the eye of one Captain America.  Solo and Kuryakin told the Captain about their mission: That they had to stop a horrible nuclear war that could very well end life on Earth, and that before they were sent through time Hugh Grant told them that he would hide the Nuclear launch diamonds (it was the sixties, we thought hiding secrets in diamonds was cool. We were young and naive) where no one would expect them: In a high school Prom Queen tiara.  So once the Captain, now in present day messy 20:15,  heard about the Prom election at East Ridge High school and all the superspy activity there (because the Mission:Impossible team?  Well that was originally founded by Hugh Grant back in the 70’s) he knew that Nuclear War was imminent.  So Captain America, Black Widow (who, as you remember, was the original psychic who banished Carl and the Evil Teen), the Ant-Man, and George Clooney head over to East Ridge to stop the Prom Queen elections.  In the end, Clooney uses his incredible handsomeness and powers of imagination to defeat Carl and the Evil teen, but also to show each of them their humanity again and give them a second chance, along with Nix, in the world of Tomorrowland. One down.

Straight Outta Compton (August 14)

Dinosaurs are ravaging the western seaboard, and to make matters worse The Red Baron has found a way to control the dinosaurs and create his own Kaiser-saurus army.  Owen and Judy do what they can, but it’s a losing battle.  But then a funky beat comes from Compton, California. It’s Bella and her supergroup NWA.  She saunters up to Owen and Judy. “Hey. I got my ticket for the long way round. Two bottle whiskey for the way. And I srue would like some sweet company, and I’m leaving tomorrow: What do you say?”.  Owen and Judy nod.  Together Owen (Chris Pratt), Bella (Anna Kendrick) and NWA (Keith Stanfield, Aldis Hodge, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell, and Corey Hawkins) all punch dinosaurs while singing a capella versions of NWA’s hits: Because the true way to stop dinosaurs is through song.  Also that’s the only way to stop the Red Baron and send him back to his own time to be shot down by Snoopy.

Hitman: Agent 47 (August 28)

This just leaves us with the original villain:the Blacklist robot.  Since its puppet-master, Carl, had been defeated the Robot had been losing power.  Why, Tony Stark/Iron Man was even able to wipe out half of its evil time-robot army.  Things are bleak.  The Blacklist robot sings a song about it.  That’s when he gets a plan: Hire a hitman to wipe out Samuel L. Jackson wearing an eyepatch and destroy the group unity of The Avengers (The robot finds continuity as confusing as it actually is, and is still mostly concerned about destroying The Avengers, despite the fact that Bill Clinton (Jeff Bridges) and Quinn Brenner (who wants revenge on the Robot for destroying this world and causing so much upheaval in her mind-world).  The Blacklist Robot hires Hitman 47 for the job, the most ruthless destroyer of life there is.  So ruthless is Hitman 47 that it has forsaken its name, gender, its entire identity save for killing. “Ha ha ha! You may have defeated my robot army, but you’ll never defeat this very human single hitman I’ve hired! It’s curtains for you, Tony Stark/Iron Man! Ha ha ha!” cackles the Blacklist robot.  The Hitman approaches Tony Stark/Iron Man from behind: “I am 47, destroyer of worlds. I have no name, I have no life. My only purpose is to kill, and today my purpose is…”. BANG. Tony Stark/Iron Man shoots him. It’s not that Tony Stark/Iron man was listening to 47’s explanation either, he was just really tired that another villain was introduced this late in the summer when we still have no idea what happened to Richard Nixon who was banished in 1994.  Meanwhile, in the Robot’s lair, it tries to piece together a plan. It’s not very good at this, but it’s going to try. It’s a REALLY MEAN robot and a REALLY EVIL VILLAIN.  It’s not that Quinn approaches him. “Hey. You’re a robot”. “Yes, I think that’s obvious”, replies the Robot. “You travelled through time, even crossed into a timeline where you didn’t actually exist, and you did this all because some demon wanted a prom crown?” asks Quinn, vengeance seething inside of her. “Well, it sounds stupid when you say it like that”. Quinn nods.  This is it. This is the moment she’s waited for.  She take Skrein the rock and bashes the robot’s stupid motherboard with it. Again and again. Stupid Robot. Go back to being in The Blacklist. Once the robot is dead, Quinn looks at Skrien the Rock and, for the first time in a long time, smiles: “I was wrong, Skrien. You are something special. Now come on, let’s go watch reruns of Lost on Netflix.  I have a feeling I’m going to like this new dimension”.  And with that the sun sets, the day is saved, and we can safely go into the prestige movie season of the fall.  Oh, and those horrible yellow monsters from Despicable MeLet’s just say that the Hulk smashed them all and made a soup out of them and it wasn’t a very good soup but at least those horrible, horrible yellow things are dead and they will never, ever come back ever again until Despicable Three in 2017. THE END.

Top 100 Movies

People  walk up to me in the street and scream in my face “What’s your favorite movie” at least once,  and so to be prepared for this again here is a current list of top 100 movies. Perhaps come next year this list will change, but here’s something hastily scrambled together for now.

Top 10 Science Fiction Films

  1. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Wise, 1951)
  2. Brother From Another Planet (Sayles, 1984)
  3. Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979)
  4. Alphaville (Godard, 1965)
  5. Gojira (Honda, 1954)
  6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 1977)
  7. Fiend Without a Face (Crabtree, 1958)
  8. Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)
  9. Brazil (Gilliam, 1985)
  10. City of Lost Children (Jeunet, 1995)

Top 10 Animated Films

  1. My Neighbor Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988)
  2. The Triplets of Belleville (Chomet, 2003)
  3. Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001)
  4. Grave of the Fireflies (Takahata, 1988)
  5. Finding Nemo (Stanton, 2003)
  6. The Brave Little Toaster (Rees, 1987)
  7. Dimensions of Dialogue (Svankmajer, 1983)
  8. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Hertzfeldt, 2012)
  9. Aladdin (Clements, 1992)
  10. Castle in the Sky (Miyazaki, 1986)

Top 10 Films Noir

  1. Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, 1950)
  2. Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
  3. Shock Corridor (Fuller, 1963)
  4. The Man Who Wasn’t There (Coen, 2001)
  5. Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944)
  6. Scarlet Street (Lang, 1945)
  7. Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, 1955)
  8. The Lady From Shanghai (Welles, 1947)
  9. The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973)
  10. Red Rock West (Dahl, 1993)

Top 10 Comedies

  1. Fargo (Coen, 1996)
  2. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera (Blamire, 2001)
  3. Being John Malkovich (Jonze, 1999)
  4. Daisies (Chytilová, 1966)
  5. It’s a Disaster (Berger, 2012)
  6. The Brothers Bloom (Johnson, 2008)
  7. In Bruges (McDonagh, 2008)
  8. Survive Style 5+ (Sekiguchi, 2004)
  9. Raising Arizona (Coen, 1987)
  10. Sherlock Jr. (Keaton, 1924)

Top 10 Dramas

  1. Blood Simple (Coen, 1984)
  2. Melancholia (Von Trier, 2011)
  3. Oldboy (Park, 2003)
  4. 12 Angry Men (Lumet, 1957)
  5. L’Eclisse (Antonioni, 1962)
  6. The Phantom Carriage (Sjöström, 1921)
  7. Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
  8. What Time is it There? (Tsai, 2001)
  9. Oasis (Lee, 2002)
  10. Network (Lumet, 1976)

Top 10 Horror Films

  1. Videodrome (Cronenberg, 1983)
  2. Evil Dead II (Raimi, 1987)
  3. Woman in the Dunes (Teshigahara, 1964)
  4. Gremlins (Dante, 1984)
  5. Alien (Scott, 1979)
  6. The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)
  7. House (Ôbayashi, 1977)
  8. Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004)
  9. The Thing (Carpenter, 1982)
  10. Re-Animator (Gordon, 1985)

Top 10 Action/Adventure Films

  1. The Princess Bride (Reiner, 1987)
  2. Face/Off (Woo, 1997)
  3. Kung Fu Hustle (Chow, 2004)
  4. Once Upon a Time in the West (Leone, 1968)
  5. The Sword of Doom (Okamoto, 1966)
  6. The Fifth Element (Besson, 1997)
  7. Seven Psychopaths (McDonagh, 2012)
  8. Looper (Johnson, 2012)
  9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Spielberg, 1989)
  10. Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino, 1992)

Top 10 Documentaries

  1. Stop Making Sense (Demme, 1984)
  2. Lost in La Mancha (Fulton/Pepe, 2002)
  3. Harlan County U.S.A (Kopple, 1976)
  4. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010)
  5. Waltz with Bashir (Folman, 2008)
  6. A Brief History of Time (Morris, 1991)
  7. F for Fake (Welles, 1973)
  8. Best Worst Movie (Stephenson, 2009)
  9. Bowling for Columbine (Moore, 2002)
  10. The Thin Blue Line (Morris, 1988)

Top 10 History/Biography Films

  1. All The President’s Men (Pakula, 1976)
  2. Matewan (Sayles, 1987)
  3. The Informant! (Soderbergh, 2009)
  4. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928)
  5. The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998)
  6. Catch Me If You Can (Spielberg, 2002)
  7. Rome, Open City (Rosselini, 1945)
  8. Milk (Van Sant, 2008)
  9. The Scarlet Empress (Sternberg, 1934)
  10. Ashes and Diamonds (Wajda, 1958)

Top 10 Miscellaneous/Uncategorizable/Experimental Films

  1. Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977)
  2. Southland Tales (Kelly, 2006)
  3. 8 1/2 (Fellini, 1963)
  4. Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929)
  5. Naked Lunch (Cronenberg, 1991)
  6. Dancer in the Dark (Von Trier, 2000)
  7. A Movie (Conner, 1958)
  8. La Jetée (Marker, 1962)
  9. Ballet Mécanique (Léger, 1924)
  10. Wavelength (Snow, 1967)

Honorable Mentions:

 

So there they are.  You may now commence telling me why all of these lists are wrong.  You have one year: GO.

 

 

I’m Tired and My Head Hurts

Here’s a seldom seen one from my time in Boulder.  Part of that is because I’ve never thought very highly of it, part of it is because it’s completely made up of copyrighted material that I don’t necessarily want to break the copyright on. At any rate, it’s a “Film Essay” that I made about the themes of loneliness and alienation in “Meshes of the Afternoon”, “The Cool World”, “Ornette: Made in America”, and “Jeanne Dielmann 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”.  Let’s take a look at it and see if I’m right about it being sort of boring:

I’m Tired and My Head Hurts from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

No I’m not.  The disjointed nature of the film not only helps keep something like this interesting (I had never heard of film essays before, since then I’ve seen a few and so I know it’s a thing and something that could be sort of neat), but it also helps convey a lot of the ideas on these films and how they can connect visually and metaphorically in a scattered but understandable approach.  Outside of the realm of Video Essay, though, I also think that if nothing else this is a good study on alienation through information, as I included so many layers of video, audio, and text, that it overwhelms the viewer when they can’t keep up with everything (plus, the minute in complete blackness is a nice touch).  So in the end, I suppose I learned today that one of the films I had previously thought was pointless is actually sort of nice.  What did you learn today?

Shrimpocalypse!

I had to make a video exploring the post-apocalyptic landscape.  It also had to have something to do with zombies, maybe?  To top it all off, I was in Boulder with limited resources (I wasn’t an upperclassman, even though I was, and so I didn’t have access to good equipment.  Thanks, University) and I didn’t know many actors around Boulder.  What was I to do? What could I do?  I could create an apocalypse of images. An apocalypse of sound. An apocalypse of Shrimp.

Shrimpocalypse! from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

This is still surprisingly powerful.  It’s connection to the Katrina tragedies (Both before and after the levees broke), it’s connection to the feeling of encroaching doom I had recently experienced (and anyone feels when they’re facing their personal apocalypses), and this is all tied together through image (Mostly photos of water damage acquired through the Wikimedia Commons) and Andrew’s reading which is both simmering in rage and resigned to doom.  I do think the narration and the film goes on a bit too long, and we don’t need much explanation for why or how this happened (also, I don’t think many of us would know or care why the world had ended).  Still, though, I’d say this is another strong entry in the Henceforth filmography.