Archive for December, 2019

Night Sparrow

December 30, 2019

She had been born Sierra Swiftwatch but she had shed that name when she was still a scrawny teenager. She had been awkward when she had been thrown out on the streets. She had been taken in by Holdo the Blind. The world knew Holdo to be a blind beggar priest but in reality, he was a legendary thief in charge of a secret band of criminals. His alter ego was the Typhoon, and when he swept in, everything was gone. Sierra went through Holdo’s brutal training and came out the other side transformed. She became the Night Sparrow, a minor goddess of pickpockets and cat burglars. She left her tag behind wherever she went but they still could not stop her.

It was a gloriously bright Grand Festival day in Corallen in the proud nation of Alscines and the Night Sparrow was smiling. Her daytime garb changed every day because she never wanted to be recognized. She wore a different wig in a different style every day and never wore the same outfit in a twenty-day period. She even tucked her ears away to look more human. Although, she had posed as a half-orc a couple of times. She was extremely careful as anonymity was one of her greatest attributes. She had looked into getting some sort of enchantment to change the color of her eyes but no go so far.

She found herself on that sunny day flitting through the crowd and cutting purses and picking pockets like it was nothing. She was a little bored. The guards were completely clueless and every so often she would hear a surprised noise as people realized they were suddenly broke. She chuckled to herself as she was dressed very posh in an upper-class outfit. Nobody would ever suspect it was she who was the shark amongst all of the little fishes. She could have murdered any one of them but it was not in her code to kill anybody. She was ready to inflict a few cuts or a knockout blow if it was ever necessary but she was definitely not ready to kill.

Well, she had killed Holdo but he had pushed her too far. He had been a cruel master and she eventually needed to cut herself loose. Holdo had objected and had tried to push their relationship deeper so she had pushed the dagger deep. Even though she knew it had been necessary, it had given her nightmares for months. In the light, she had felt fine but when shadows crept, she saw blood on her hands and his empty eyes. She had been haunted. She did not want that ever again. She shuddered.

She reached out for another money pouch but she felt a hand clamp down on her wrist. She blinked. This had not happened since her training, in older days Holdo would have beaten her for this. She had been thinking about him and she had gotten distracted. Damn her eyes she had gotten sloppy. She kept her eyes low and blushed and then she looked up at the owner of the hand. She saw a grim-looking man with a long beard in the process of going gray. His eyes literally flashed blue and she gasped. Fuck! It was a magic-user. It had to be a magic-user.

“Can I help you, miss?” He asked and then smirked, an eyebrow raising.

“Um,” the Night Sparrow mumbled. “My mistake.” She hit the man’s wrist with her knuckles and he released her as he cried out in pain. She sprinted toward the closest alley. She would disappear in a moment and burn this outfit so she would never be compromised. This could be salvaged. Everything could always be salvaged.

Her feet flew from underneath her and she hit the pavement hard, her cheek planted in the puddle of grease. Was it magic or just bad luck? She tried to scramble to her feet but she had a lot of difficulties. The grease was absolutely horrible and it was everywhere. She managed to push off of the wall but when she looked up the magic-user was there again. He did not look mad, though. He looked amused, he offered her his hand.

“Well, miss,” he said. “I wasn’t sure before but now I am. You’re exactly what I need.”

The Sparrow blinked. “What?” she asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Let’s get you cleaned up and then I’ll get you a drink,” the man said. “Then I have a job offer.”

Lessons

December 28, 2019

It had been a roller coaster for Carly Weatherby in the past decade. Like many young wizards and witches, she had attended Hogwarts, excited about following an old family tradition. She learned a lot about herself at Hogwarts. She was sorted as a Ravenclaw and learned that she loved to learn and moreover she loved to teach. She happily tutored a lot of her fellow students and looked forward to maybe having a career in teaching. She wanted to help students explore new horizons in their lives and into their future. It was something that just instantly clicked in her just the same as memorizing spells and learning new charms and potions. She made a lot of friends and, bit by bit she was able to learn to set aside studying to have a little fun with her friends. She was never the stuffy academic but was able to remain wide-eyed and excited about new things.

There was just one problem. It was not a problem for Carly but it ended up being a problem for Hogwarts. The school had often been seen as a little more conservative than Ilvemorny or Beauxbatons but less conservative than somewhere like Durmstrang (of course). A lot of old families clung desperately to tradition. Carly had actually been named Joseph when she was born. In between years six and seven, Carly came out as transgender which her parents and family were very accepting of. They supported her decision to undergo a transformation spell that physically turned Joe to Carly in order to match her inner self. The spell itself was physically painless but it ended up resulting in emotional scars. While her friends were supportive, other students and the staff could be cruel.

Officially, the school kept referring to her by her dead name and they refused to move her to the girl’s dormitory. She was constantly getting chased out of the girl’s bathrooms. She was misgendered in classes and some people at Hogwarts just could not wrap their heads around the simple change. Carly was still the same person she had always been, she was just now living her completely true life as well. Students stopped wanting to be tutored. Carly’s grades suffered and the school graduated her because they probably wanted her out. That was the year of Dumbledore’s sabbatical but Professor McGonagall had been comforting and supportive. It did not spill over into the school’s board of governors and Carly was ostracized.

Carly had applied for teaching positions throughout the wizarding world, not feeling ready for her dream job of teaching at one of the great wizarding schools. She was flatly turned down because her reputation preceded her. Nobody wanted their kids to be exposed to Carly’s innocent true nature which they saw as wicked and unnatural. Carly became cynical and frustrated over the whole thing and began to fade into obscurity. She delved into research instead of teaching and started to show up on many radars. She was hired by a small collective in northern Africa that was doing good work researching weather magic. Carly eventually became an expert in lightning and storm magic. She invented a way to store lightning for use as magical power. She and a colleague were even able to provide small bursts of magic to squibs.

It was during this time that she met and fell in love with a young vampire named Sura, a lovely woman native to Sudan. The two bonded over their rejection from society and their mutual love of learning and knowledge. They made a home together in the shadows. While Carly made a sort of name for herself in weather magic research, she slipped through the cracks of academia at large. Her first true love of teaching was almost a distant memory, a dark frustration that reminded her that she would never be truly accepted by the wizarding world. She and Sura did their best to be happy but Carly knew something was missing and Sura knew that it had wounded Carly.

Then the second great Wizarding War happened and Carly waited with anxiety for the results of the Battle of Hogwarts. Sure, there had been plenty of bad memories at the end of her stay there but there had been plenty of good ones before then. Even though she knew they had done her wrong, she did not and could not wish death or injury on any of them. Her favorite teacher Professor Mcgonagall was still there and Carly feared the worst. She knew that everywhere people were fighting the Deatheaters which were the most visible symptom of the hate and prejudice that Carly had experienced. She had a twinkling of hope that the exploits of the great Order of the Phoenix might banish some of that hate and bring some light back into the world.

She was not disappointed. Many things changed in England after the Battle of Hogwarts. There was a concerted effort to change hate into love everywhere people looked. People found it a bit harder to listen to darkness after the King of Darkness had been defeated. The joy of victory spread from Hogwarts and the world began to change bit by bit. The bigots were expelled from the Ministry and the tide turned against them. People’s minds started to open bit by bit thanks to young luminaries such as Luna Lovegood speaking up about the right to be different. Best of all, Professor McGonagall became the new headmaster of Hogwarts and the first female headmaster. McGonagall reached out specifically to Carly and asked her to take her pick of subjects to teach. Carly hesitated only as long as it took Sura to convince her to take the position.

Carly moved back to a much more enlightened Hogwarts and brought Sura with her. While students were curious about the new transgender professor with the vampire girlfriend (soon to be wife) but they were kind and respectful. They were even supportive. Sura happily agreed to work in a staff position when Carly vouched for her. Carly felt herself healing deep inside a wound she had barely acknowledged but had darkened her heart. She felt love and light shining all around her as a new day dawned for the wizarding world. A much kinder, more inclusive world to be sure.

Media Update 12/26/19

December 26, 2019


Anna and the Apocalypse

I had heard about this movie last year and I finally get a chance to watch it. It’s worth the wait. This movie is a Christmas horror musical which is a very rare combination (but I would love to see more). The movie is set in the senior year at a high school and the title character is heading toward leaving her small town in Scotland. The cast is full of characters from the high school and, although there are different settings, it does not stray far from the school. It is interesting to see high school drama and Christmas cheer devolve into absolute chaos. Ella Hunt plays the lead role and she is definitely somebody I wanted to see succeed. Malcolm Cumming, Marli Siu, and Christopher Leveaux are all great supporting characters with their own little stories and throughlines. Sarah Swire is a definite standout as a driven high schooler who wants to head places. Similarly, Ben Wiggins and Paul Kaye stand out as the movie’s villains and they are both engaging. The songs are definitely a lot of fun. I definitely recommend this movie.


A Christmas Carol (2019)

At this point, I have seen so many versions of a Christmas Carol but this one promised to lean into the horror aspects. I was not disappointed. The movie is a darker, expanded version of the familiar story. It spends more time with the Cratchits and Marley so that we really get a feel for the damage that Scrooge has caused. We also get even more backstory for Scrooge that makes things clearer and makes the inevitable redemption all the more impressive. Guy Pearce is such a dynamic, mischievous Scrooge. He is amazing at twisting his cruel knife over and over until you both hate and sympathize with him. Andy Serkis plays a perfectly gruff and frightening Ghost of Christmas Past, a right bastard who is out to break Scrooge down to rebuild him. I also really loved Stephen Graham as Marley, the repentant spirit who is now saddled with a mission from Purgatory. Joe Alywyn is so, so good as Bob Cratchit. Vinette Robinson was a real standout as Mary Cratchit, a character who is usually incredibly two dimensional. The movie/miniseries is a dive into dark, traditional horror with some brilliant effects. I definitely recommend it.


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

This movie is almost impossible to explain. It is a take on the Finnish folk tradition which is their version of Santa Claus. Santa is more of the stick than the carrot in those stories. The movie is entirely in Finnish and tells stories from the frozen North, up near the actual North Pole. The movie is almost like a mix between eldritch horror and alien horror. Everything is done with practical effects and, although the tone is often dismal, there is some strange offbeat humor. I have tried to explain the movie to others and it really does not translate. I definitely recommend it as it is so strange that it has to be seen.

Music of the Week:
Sabrina Carpenter – Almost Love

DEVILDRIVER – Copperhead Road

BODY COUNT – All Love Is Lost feat Max Cavalera

Lindsey Stirling – Underground

Beach Bunny – Prom Queen

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Christmas Horror 2019”
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 7
– I watched more Runaways Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Scream Season 1
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 3
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Acquired Tastes

December 23, 2019

WILPW

Today I want to talk about those performers who kind of fill a unique niche in the business and therefore become kind of an acquired taste. In fact, plenty of people never warm to them. They have unique or strange gimmicks or are just so different from what we think of when we think of a professional wrestler. Since it is incredibly close to Christmas, I think I will start with somebody I consider a gif. I’m talking about “Freshly-Squeezed” Orange Cassidy.

I do not know much about Cassidy’s early career. All I know about is his current gimmick and the one that catapulted him to the top of the independent scene and now onto primetime network television. His gimmick (brought to life in PWG, ICW, Chikara, Beyond, and others) is that of a perpetually hungover slacker. He walks out to the ring in a faded jean jacket, slacks, a t-shirt of himself wearing his t-shirt, and mirrored sunglasses. He barely emotes and tries to get away with moving as little as possible. In tag matches, you can sometimes be tricked into thinking he has fallen asleep in the corner. He moves slowly and then hits his opponents with strikes that could not hurt a fly. However, the crowd and announcers always sell the strikes as if they were brutal and savage. Just when his opponents dismiss him, he either tricks them into losing or kicks it into full gear and kicks their butt. All without removing his hands from his pockets.

Of course, he has both fans and detractors. His gimmick is extremely meta since it relies heavily on the cooperation of everyone involved. To their credit, the crowds bought into it fairly quickly. He may not look like he is doing much but every move is defintely thought out and calculated to tell one long joke. It is the kind of joke that feels really good to be a part of. I admit that I did not get it at first but once I watched a couple of his matches, i had it. His detractors think that his act distracts from the so-called legitimacy of the sport at the heart of the story. They complain that his lackadaiscal attitude and behavior is a slight to the other performers who are working hard and risking their bodies in more athletic endeavors. Except that they do not see that his act also takes skill and athleticism. They do not see that he chose the gimmick not to insult his co-workers but to stand out but also make them look better.

Next, we’ll move on to the other example I have today. His name is Marko Stunt and he seems to be even more controversial than Cassidy is. The thing about Marko Stunt is far more simple. Marko started as a viral sensation that allowed him to make a name for himself on the independent wrestling scene. Marko is all of five feet and two inches tall. Of course, that means he is only slightly shorter than I am but there is a problem. This is incredibly short for a pro-wrestler. The average seems to be somewhere between 6 foot and 6 foot 8 inches which is tall for most humans. While I cannot find a billed weight for him, he is very skinny. He also lacks the defined muscles of the classic pro-wrestler. All of this adds up to make him look like somebody’s kid somehow wandered into the ring. In fact, that is the usual knock his opponents pull out when he comes out to the ring.

It is easy to predict that the knock on Marko Stunt is that he is too small to be a believeable threat in the ring. The size disparity is indeed a lot to take in but the thing is that we are talking about a fantasy version of a fighting sport. Sure the average performer has more than a foot in height and probably a hundred pounds on Marko. However, any match can be won or lost based on strength, athleticism, skill, and heart. Marko has a ton of athleticism, skill, and heart. He is absolutely impressive in the ring and moves quicker than some of the fastest people I have seen in the squared circle. His agility and processing speed allow him to do some things that I did not think were possible. With him flipping and flying all around the ring, I start to believe that he just might win after all. Now that he is paired with “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry and Luchasaurus, he seems to be taking off a bit more in the public eye.

Mindcrash Pt. 3

December 21, 2019

May and Dylan questioned the crowd surrounding the crime scene, most of them had only come to gawk when the security barrier had been erected. One of them pointed toward a nearby house and said that they had been alerted by the citizen in the house. May and Dylan dispersed the crowd after scanning them to keep a record of who had been there. They headed to the threshold of the house. When they got to the door, a tall and gaunt form stepped close to the door. May looked up at the man who had coal-black eyes and fought not to shudder. Vampire Town was creepy.

“Greetings, Detectives,” the man said. “I am Grimm. I am, so to speak, the leader here and I thought I might check in.”

May held up her badge and scanned Grimm. Her badged chirped and the display popped up. “Grimm Harrow. Councilman and de facto mayor of Vampire Town,” May said. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Detective May Collins and this is Detective Dylan Rider.”

“I’ve actually met Mr. Rider before,” Grimm said. “It’s nice to see you again although the circumstances are not ideal.”

“We’re sorry that this happened on your doorstep,” Dylan said. The council did not really rule with iron fists but people deferred to them in times of crisis. They also acted as arbitrators in conflicts.

“Was it one of ours?” Grimm asked, his eyes narrowing slightly. “One of mine?”

May looked around to make sure they did not have any eavesdroppers. “Our technician, Cirra, was able to identify the remains as somebody from the Gamezone.”

Grimm’s eyebrows rose. “So far abroad?” He asked. “So strange. This might be a deep mystery. We have not had many deaths in the Lost Lands so far.”

May nodded. “Yes, well, if you’ll excuse us, Councilman, we were just about to question a witness,” she said.

Grimm looked at the door. “It might be better if I accompany you,” he said. “My constituents are very theatrical but many are actually quite shy.”

May and Dylan shared a look and Dylan shrugged. May sighed. “It might be a really good idea, I guess,” Dylan said.

“Alright,” May said. “Let’s go.” She turned and knocked on the door. Nobody answered it, it simply slowly opened. Grimm made a gesture for them to go first and May cautiously stepped into the house.

The house was extremely dark, like something out of the old horror movies. Almost every surface was textured like old, rotting wood. There were huge cobwebs absolutely swarming with spiders. Every so often, a bat flapped from somewhere in the darkness to somewhere else in the darkness letting out a shriek. May flinched every time a bat made a noise and her skin crawled when she saw the spiders. She knew that none of it was real. There was no such thing as actual animals in the Lost Lands. The spiders and bats were probably elaborate AI programs or possibly just well-programmed decorative effects.

“You don’t really like it here, do you, Detective?” Grimm asked.

May shrugged. “I’m not a fan of horror,” she said. “No offense.”

Grimm laughed and the sound of it was chilling but charming. “It’s quite alright, Detective,” he said. “It’s not for everyone.”

“Who lives here?” Dylan asked. He reached back and touched the sword on his back almost by instinct. May checked her own sidearm just in case.

“Morgan Le Mark,” Grimm said. “She’s rather dramatic as you may have noticed.”

A silken voice rang out from the next room. “Mayor Harrow,” the voice said. “Who have you brought into my abode?”

Grimm called out. “Morgan,” he said. “These detectives mean no harm. May we speak to you?”

“You may enter,” Morgan said.

They stepped into the room and there was Morgan standing in front of a roaring fireplace. She was pale and tall and she was wearing a black dress and she was draped with a black silk shawl. She smiled and there were actual fangs glinting in the firelight. May shuddered.

“Relax, Detectives,” Morgan said. “You will come to no harm in my home.” Her voice held the hints of some sort of European accent. She was a bit cliche but many stuck in the Lost Lands ended up that way. When you could be whatever you wanted for an eternity, some embraced their fondest dream.

Media Update 12/19/19

December 19, 2019


A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby

I was not going to let the Holiday season go by without checking out what has been an annual tradition for three Christmases now. I fell in love with Rose McIver through her role on iZombie which definitely showed her range. I fell in love with her again in the role of Amber (now Queen Amber) in The Christmas Prince. She plays such a nuanced, intelligent, and likable character. Ben Lamb returns as King Richard, who is charming and intelligent himself. Alice Krige and Honor Kneafsey return as Queen Helena and Princess Emily and continue to be delightful. Theo Devaney returns as Simon and gets to continue a rather interesting character arc which I was pleased to see continue. Tahirah Sharif was not a new addition to the series but in the past two movies, she only got a few minutes of screentime so it was interesting to see more of her story. Newcomer Momo Yeung (as Queen Ming) really made the movie for me as she was a welcome addition and was such a breath of fresh air. Kevin Shen (as King Tai) and Crystal Yu (Lin) were also very welcome. Other returning characters were pushed to the background but they got their moments to shine. I really enjoyed the influx of people of color into the franchise which led to a richer experience overall. I definitely recommend this whole franchise.


Let It Snow

Frankly, I was not going to watch this movie and was instead going to watch a different, more cheesy Christmas movie (which I may watch next year). However, two things changed my mind. One, the cast included two genre actresses which reminded me of what got me back into Christmas movies a few years ago (Dear Santa). The other was that the movie ended up on a list of LGBT holiday movies to watch since we all decided to boycott Hallmark (I have a lifetime boycott). The two actresses that I mentioned are Kiernan Shipka (from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) and Liv Hewson (from Santa Clarita Diet). What I didn’t realize was that there would be other favorites of mine. Shameik Moore was Miles Morales in Into the Spidervers and was in The Get Down and here he was surely fantastic. The always funny Jacob Batalon (Ned in the MCU Spidermovies). I was also shocked and very pleased to see Joan Cusack as the only adult in the movie. The rest of the cast was so great. The movie is a great ensemble piece as if somebody had watched Love, Actually and had said to themselves “I can do that but better”. It was a wonderful collection of stories that really did not have a lot to do with Christmas but that was a breath of fresh air too. I recommend this as well.


The Knight Before Christmas

Back to the cheesy Netflix Christmas movies! Vanessa Hudgens was a welcome addition to the Netflix Christmas family last year and it was good to see her return. This time, we get a particularly innovative Christmas movie about time travel. Basically, a knight from England is transported to a modern-day city (probably Canada). Vanessa Hudgens really ties the movie together well as her snarkiness and sweetness really guide most of the scenes. She is joined by Josh Whitehouse who is great as the somewhat naive but fun knight out of time. Most of the scenes are between the two of them but the rest of the cast is delightful. The movie was just different enough that I found it harder to predict each story beat so I was pleased and engaged by it. This movie also established a shared universe with the Christmas Prince universe so all of those post-apocalyptic theories have been disproved. I am interested to see if this is a new franchise for Netflix or just another valuable addition to their Christmas stable. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Lizzo – Never Felt Like Christmas

Elton John – Step Into Christmas

My Chemical Romance – Every Snowflake is Different (just like you)

TLC – Sleigh Ride

Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Netflix Christmas 2019” #NotSponsored
– I watched Max Headroom’s Giant Christmas Turkey
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 7
– I watched more The Crown Season 3
– I watched more The Gifted Season 1
– I watched more Runaways Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more Prodigal Son Season 1
– I watched more Scream Season 1
– Merry Christmas! Next week is Christmas Horror.

Hanlon and Occam

December 16, 2019

I have been thinking lately of two famous sayings, both are remembered for good reason as their wisdom has filtered down through the years. The first is Occam’s Razor which says literally “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” However, in modern days we have translated it more clearly as “The simplest solution is most likely the right one.” The other phrase I have been thinking of is Hanlon’s Razor which states “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. There is a lot going on in public discourse on politics and it is driving me a bit crazy (as it is with most people).

The first is the ridiculous OK symbol controversy. Apparently, if people want to casually and surreptitiously signal their allegiance to white supremacy, they just have to make an upside OK symbol with their hand. Recently, at the annual Army-Navy game, a couple of midshipmen were seen to flash the symbol behind a broadcaster. Everybody was aghast and outraged. Now, far be it from me to defend the military-industrial complex but I think these were just dumb kids. I mean, I would not be surprised if the military was not filled to the brim with white supremacists. I think there are plenty in the Army, Navy, and Air Force and, obviously, the Police.

However, I have read that these incidents are more likely the Circle game, a game where you flash that same symbol. If you get people to look, you get to punch them. It may have evolved to just be something you get your friends to laugh at. I honestly never played the game but I know it has been around since the mid-nineties. I don’t know if they are playing a game or flashing white supremacist symbols. Little actual journalism seems to occur after the fact, the perpetrators are not questioned publicly. They are usually reprimanded or punished and ordered not to talk about it publicly. Here, the cadets and midshipmen will probably get a good talking to and told to never do it again.

My issue here is both Occam’s and Hanlon’s razors yet again. Having this complex little game where people turn an innocuous gesture into a symbol of white supremacy seems like a stretch. I mean, they could be doing that but just this year an entire West Virginia Corrections Academy class did the Nazi salute in a photo and got away with a slap on the wrist. Yet, a costumed performer was fired at Universal Studios after making the symbol in a picture with a bunch of kids. No public statement from the performer. I really wish we knew for sure whether it was malice or stupidity. I don’t want to let white supremacists off the hook but I also think people have a hair-trigger these days. I wish people would stop screaming at stupid things when there are bigger evils in the world.

* * *

I think the same can be said for the cries of “Russia!” Everything evil that happens now seems to be attributed to Russia when the simpler cause is capitalism and stupidity. Capitalism breeds people like Trump and, to a lesser extent, centrists like Hillary and Biden. Their lives are filled with few consequences and therefore they know they can get away with just about anything. In a world where George W. Bush did not see any consequences from committing war crimes, how can we expect anybody in office to behave properly? The rich will always look out for each other and few, if any, will ever choose us over them. The simpler explanation is that most of our leaders don’t really care about us and are only out to enrich themselves and maintain a status quo with them on top.

The instinct to attribute the evils of the world to Russia (without much evidence) seems to come from a fear to confront that our problems started right here at home. We were too permissive with our leaders. We expected the government to punish George W. Bush and his cronies for their crimes and we were disappointed when it did not happen. How were we surprised when Nixon and Reagan went free? Obama, as good as he was, got away with some nasty stuff with drones and a vast program spying on our own people. Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have been punished instead of the people they exposed. It is hard to have much hope that the current crooks will be punished if we have such a poor record of keeping our politicians accountable.

So that is why I roll my eyes every time I see “Russia” on twitter or on some pundit’s headline. While there is evidence that Russia attempted to meddle with our election, there is more evidence of the corruptive influence of capitalism. Besides, the US has meddled in countless elections and more effectively than infiltrating Facebook or hacking a few voting machines. Should we prevent Russia from doing it again? Yes. However, we should also look at ourselves. We need to stop trusting the smiling faces of the rich and powerful when they say they want to look out for us. It is a lie coming from Trump the same as it is a lie coming from Joe Biden.

* * *

To sum up: I think we need to engage in more critical thinking and less jumping on the bandwagon. The more complicated answer is sometimes simpler emotionally but it does not make it the right answer. I feel like people are chasing ghosts and their own tails instead of confronting the real issues. I have little faith that this will change but maybe.

Mindcrash Pt. 2

December 14, 2019

May arrived at the crime scene and luckily somebody had erected a barrier around the body. That was good as a crowd of pale people in dark clothes had gathered around with curious and cautious eyes. It had probably been one of the AI servitors who operated as officers in the Lost Land. They usually laid dormant until moments like these. The barrier was bright white and eight feet tall and made of energy. May flashed her badge at the barrier and it rippled and pulsed and allowed her to step through. It felt a little claustrophobic inside the barrier but at least the crowd could not see inside. There were only two other people present inside the barrier.

Dylan was standing and looking down at the body. He was really tall so May had to look up which was kind of annoying. He nodded at her and she nodded back. Cirra was crouched over the remains like a pale spider. May recognized her as one of Vampire Town’s local Learned. She had probably been closest when the call went out. It looked like Cirra had just finished coaxing what energy was left of the body’s energy into a container.

“What do we got?” May asked. She crouched close to the container and peered at it until Cirra gave her a scathing look which caused May to stand back up.

“From what I can tell,” Cirra said. “A male. Energy signature matches an Akemi Nakamura.” Her voice was monotone and kind of sounded disinterested although May knew from experience that it was just how she sounded. She loved doing her job even when it was this morbid.

“What killed him?” May asked. “Was it a Fracture?” The Fractures were the distorted remnants of those who had been lost in the server failures on Christmas Day. The files of their mind had been corrupted and twisted. They operated much like ghosts but their energies could be unpredictable and harmful. Most people were scared of them but some found them fascinating. May thought they were sad and wished there was some way to help them.

“It was not a Fracture,” Dylan said. “Scans prove there has been no Fracture activity in this sector for a while. The only ones remotely near here were on the other side of town.”

“Good work, Dylan,” May said. “So what is the cause of death?” Dylan was a go-getter and had obviously been able to get out of bed a little earlier. May felt a little embarrassed that she was lost to the party but she could play catch up with the best of them.

Cirra sighed. “It’s a little early to tell,” she said. “I will have to run any data I find to create a simulation. It was violent, though. I can tell you that it was most likely not natural causes.”

May raised an eyebrow. “Do we even have natural causes in here?” she asked.

Cirra shrugged. “Maybe,” she said. “We don’t know enough yet. It’s actually my personal research project.” The Learned were highly intelligent and creative citizens of the Lost Lands who chose to study the Lost’s unique human condition. They were the doctors, the scientists, and, in this case, a crime scene investigator.

“Interesting,” May said. “Not exactly useful here but I’d be interested in hearing any results.”

“I think most people would be,” Cirra said. “That’s why I picked it.”

“Is there enough to reboot?” Dylan asked, interrupting. “Seems a shame to see a guy go like this.”

“I think so,” Cirra said. “There is significant data left over but I am not sure what will come out of it.” She looked hopefully and thoughtfully at the container.

“And whatever is rebooted from Mr. Nakamura will have no memory of the crime,” May said. “We need to know who he was.”

“Nakamura had designated himself a citizen of Gamezone,” Dylan said without looking at the container. “He was a top scorer.” Gamezone was the part of the Lost Lands dedicated to video games and gamer culture. It could be a pretty wild and violent place.

“What was a gamer doing all the way over here?” May asked. “It’s not the most inviting area.”

“People have different interests,” Cirra said indignantly. “I could go over to Gamezone.”

May gave her a sidelong glance. “Do you go over to Gamezone?” she asked.

“I said I could,” Cirra said. “if I wanted to. I probably won’t want to.”

“Uh huh,” May said. “Fair enough. Anything to add here Dylan?”

“Not really,” Dylan said. “We should probably head over to Gamezone to check out Nakamura’s friends.”

“Of course,” May said. “but we should also question any witnesses around here and drop a note with the head of Vampire Town as a courtesy.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Dylan said with a nod.

“Back to the lab for me,” Cirra said. “I’ll let you know when I know anything else.”

Media Update 12/12/19

December 12, 2019


Klaus

When I saw the first stills from Klaus, I knew I was going to watch it. I am a huge animation fan and any studio that is going back to 2D art is going to raise my eyebrows. Sergio Pablos and Aniventure took traditional 2D animation and applied newer computer-generated lighting effects which make for an entirely new look. The animation is so pretty but that is also because the art design is so good. The movie is an account of the origin of Santa Claus. It takes place in a beautiful but remote island in Denmark. The key lesson of the movie is “A true selfless act always sparks another.” I felt whiffs of Disney, early Tim Burton, but also so much more. The movie stars JK Simmons as the title character. He is gruff but with plenty of good drama and a little bit of awkward comedy. The character the movie actually follows is Jason Schwartzman who does a great job at keeping the energy going by constantly talking but being endearing even when he is an asshole. Rashida Jones is really good as the local schoolteacher, gruff and smarter than anybody else in the film. They also went out of their way to cast real Saami people to be included in the movie and their culture was treated with respect. I definitely recommend the movie.


Noelle

When I saw Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader together on a poster for the movie, I was sold. Bill Hader has quickly become one of my favorite actors/comedians. Anna Kendrick is somebody who I like but I am not as familiar with her work but she always seems fun to me. Besides, I just got Disney+ and it seemed like the perfect first Christmas movie to watch this year. Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader play Santa Claus’ kids who must deal with responsibility after his death. Kendrick is so good at the realistically naive but jolly title character. Hader is delightfully neurotic as Nick. Kingsley Ben-Adir is so likable as the down to Earth but still slightly clueless private detective. Maceo Smedley plays his incredibly insightful son. I was also really glad to see great supporting roles from Shirley MacLaine, Julie Hagerty, and Billy Eichner. The show is really sweet and funny and definitely not too much in any direction. I really enjoyed it and, true to Disney form, I cried near the end. It is a great story about finding your place in the world and growing up and into who you want to be and who you need to be. I definitely recommend it a lot.


Santa Girl

This was an interesting movie to pair with Noelle. It is about Santa’s daughter feeling restless and rebellious about having to take over the family business and an arranged marriage. She decides to go to college to experience life before she has to settle down. It is a fun movie with a lower budget that does not get in the way. The movie basically boils down to scenes between four characters. Jennifer Stone plays Cassie Claus, a somewhat spoiled and naive girl who just wants more substance in her life. Devon Werkheiser and Joshua Cody play the two guys she meets and becomes friendly with at school. Werkheiser is casual and funny with a big heart. Cody is stern but with a good heart. McKayla Witt plays Cassie’s personal elf and she is so cute and fun and she steals a lot of the scenes she is in. The movie started off slow but, like many Netflix Christmas offerings, really hit its stride and felt really good. A big part of it is the chemistry between the characters. I definitely recommend it as it seems like it went under the radar because it was released during August of this year.

 

Music of the Week:
Set It Off – This Christmas (I’ll Burn It To The Ground)

Kessiah and Maya ft. Kai – Donde Esta Santa Claus

Akim and Teddy Vann – Santa Claus Is a Black Man

Run The Jewels – A Christmas F*cking Miracle

The Killers – Don’t Shoot Me Santa

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Santa Claus’ Family”
– I finished Charmed Season 1
– I watched more Brooklyn 99 Season 3
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 7
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 2
– I watched more The Crown Season 3
– I watched more The Gifted Season 1
– I watched more Runaways Season 1
– I watched more Justice League Action Season 1
– I watched more Penn and Teller’s Bullshit Season 3
– I watched more Scream Season 1

Big Bird

December 9, 2019

Obviously, I am a huge Muppets fan and I wholeheartedly love everything they have ever done pre-Disney and post-Disney. The Muppets will always be a part of myself and definitely part of the font of creativity in my soul. I have spoken at length about how Jim Henson was a personal hero of mine. I know his personal life was not perfect but his creativity and willingness to collaborate have definitely carried me through difficult parts of my creative, personal, and professional lives. One of the early things that Henson created while he was struggling creatively and financially was Sesame Street. While I was more of a fan of The Muppets and Fraggle Rock, when I was little I definitely watched some Sesame Street. It, along with Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, definitely encouraged my little imagination.

I think my favorite back in the day was actually Bert. As an introvert, I definitely felt a kinship with a guy who wanted things just right and was always trying to counter his introvert roommate’s energy. He was intelligent and underappreciated. However, through my teen and college years, I identified most with was Oscar the Grouch. I definitely went through a cynical period where I struggled with my anger and I have only recently begun to come out from under that cloud. Still, even during those darker days, I had a lot of love for those who I was loyal to. Of course, Oscar the Grouch was voiced by the most iconic character of Sesame Street. Of course, I am talking about Big Bird, the one character who never really had a name of his own. He was a shining symbol of childlike wonder and often seemed to embody that awkwardness we all feel in our own bodies.

Most of you must know that I am talking about this because the man behind Oscar and Big Bird (and others), Carroll Spinney, has died. It is indeed very sad but we had so many years and three generations got to enjoy Big Bird and all of his friends. I have been thinking back to some of his best moments. One that was not very televised was Carroll’s appearance at Jim Henson’s funeral in character as Big Bird. It was a beautiful moment that felt more beautiful to me since Henson had parted ways with Sesame Street long before. They were still all friends. I remember when Big Bird finally proved the existence of Mr. Snuffleupagus. It was a moment that showed kids that they should be believed when they are telling adults the truth. The moment was intended to give power to kids suffering from sexual and physical abuse.

In a moment from the year of my birth (and in fact 37 years and two days ago) Mr. Hooper died and Sesame Street used that to teach kids about death through Big Bird. It was such an interesting and meaningful moment that they could have explained away or covered for but they wanted to use it to teach. They confronted the hard truth. That moment makes me wonder how they are going to proceed with Sesame Street. Will they mention or acknowledge Carroll’s death on screen. I think it is obvious that Big Bird will not die. Jim Henson died and Kermit did not follow suit. Muppets cannot die. Humans can and do. Mr. Hooper was a different case but I wonder if they might do something subtle or outside of the show to honor Spinney.

The beauty of all creative endeavors is that the show will go on because it must go on. Carroll’s spirit will not be forgotten just as everybody who ever contributed will not be forgotten. Big Bird will continue to be that childlike influence on the kids (and their parents). Oscar will still grumble and gripe from his trash can. They have been so good at casting in the past years that you can barely tell when a new performer takes over. All of the Muppets feel like living characters and, honestly, I feel that they really are in their own way. The muppeteers have often said as much. I am interested to see where the story goes next. I wish that Sesame Street could break free from the corporate paywall it is now behind but if people are still benefitting from it, it is what it is. Hopefully, they can continue to make Jim and Carroll and everyone proud and make us learn and laugh.


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