2017 Reading List

Our culture is one of needless remakes, sequels, and the unabashed destruction of the classics. Luckily, literature has been less affected by this trend than, say, the film industry. Sure, there are the “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies” of the world, but for the most part, the classics have remained unscathed.

But what if they weren’t? What if we took classic works of literature and modernized them? What if we took Shakespeare and set it in modern day New York and had Claire Danes and Leo Di– Oh, wait, that did happen. Well, how about we take these classic literary works and modernize the shit out of them? Here are some quick synopses of the books featured in the 2017 Modern-Classic Reading List:

Cash Me Twenty-Two –by Joseph Heller:

Danielle Bregoli is a celebrity. She’s acquired fortune and fame for having a catchphrase and a tenuous grasp of the English language. She has rocketed into the spotlight by being hated by every self-respecting person in society.

But, therein lies the problem. For, as our hate for Danielle Bregoli grows, so does her stardom. We could stop talking about her, but as she tumbles from her celebrity status, we lose our scapegoat and start to actually feel bad for her.

As for Danielle, she could learn how to read and appropriately socialize and not be so hated, but by doing so, she would lose her fame and subsequently the source of income she would need to pay for the caliber tutor she needed to raise her sub-moronic IQ in the first place.

The catch is that you’re damned if you, damned if you don’t. There’s always a catch. Cash-22.

 

Brunch at Tiffany’s –by Truman Capote:

It’s the fall of 2017 and Holly is a wildly opinionated, jobless, young-adult. She contributes nothing to society but maintains enormous self-esteem by hanging out with wealthy friends who she posts yoga pictures with on Instagram. In one sense, she is a free-spirited modern woman with high-minded ambition and expensive taste. In another, much more real sense, she is a prostitute.

 

The DM of the Wild –by Jack London:

This short adventure novel focuses on the Instagram account of Buck. A massive St. Bernard who lives in a tiny apartment in Santa Clara. Buck lives happily as a bandana and sweater wearing “Furbaby”, with his owner, Judge.

Or, at least that’s what it says on Instagram. IRL, he is cramped and is left alone in the apartment for 9 hours a day waiting to be walked to a dog-friendly rooftop bar where servers offer him gluten-free-organically-raised dog treats.

Our adventure finally begins when Judge realizes the only thing missing in his beloved pet’s life–or more accurately, his pet’s Instagram account­– is a wild and primal sense of adventure. Or, at least, the appearance of it.

 

Of Mice and Non-Gender-Specific-Pronouns –by John Steinbeck:

The economy is in shambles and displaced from their job as hole-in-the-wall-coffee-shop baristas, George and Lennie set out to follow their dreams. George aspires to be a social media influencer who works for himself and works from home. Lennie aspires to live with George and take care of an eclectic litter of rescue animals.

Upon arriving in San Francisco, George and Lennie realize that it’s hard to travel all the time with no money once their parents stopped paying for everything. So, the two seek employment at a different hole-in-the-wall-coffee-shop. Their boss, Curley, is hard on them and continually accuses them of stealing nitro-coffee and putting too many slices of avocado on the avocado toast.

Eventually, Curley’s wife comes to visit and Lennie greets her with a gender-assuming, colloquial greeting. Curley’s wife is then permanently and irreparably damaged, emotionally. The two are forced to flee San Francisco, and eventually, George becomes a cop and kills Lenny who was actually black this whole time.

 

The Scarlet Emoji –by Nathaniel Hawthorne:

Hester is totes preggers and she doesn’t know who the baby daddy is. She suspects it happened one Thursday when she totally blacked-out on prosecco. She woke up alone, with a text from a rando’ that read nothing but an emoticon of a peach and a scarlet “100%”. The struggle that morning had been particularly real.

After finding out her food-baby wasn’t actually a food-baby, she has shade thrown on her by her fam, and by her peers, who call her a THOT on social media. There are, however, a few people who know that she is just a badass bitch who doesn’t need to follow the same path as everyone else. They believe that her treatment is straight savage and think the other people should apologize, so they troll everyone until everyone gets the flu from guilt.

Or, maybe, from thinking that vaccinations cause autism.

 

As I Lay Like Literally Dying –by William Faulkner:

This classic novel follows the unnecessarily-long, incoherently-rambling, social media accounts, of which Addie–an angst-filled 18-year-old girl–has 15 of.

The novel begins as Addie considers deleting her social media presence after not getting enough engagement on a particularly important post which quoted Marilyn Monroe (“just a basic bia like her”). Her internal monologue, as she makes this important decision, is being live-tweeted, and is well written, if she does say so herself.

After coming to the decision that she would make a pledge to take a temporary hiatus from only snapchat, she witnesses her dog get its snout caught in a red plastic cup, causing her to immediately go back on her pledge. It’s clear to Addie that something so amazing– so profoundly earth shattering– as that, could only be captioned with one thing.

Literally dying.

 

Alice’s Adventures in Coachelland –by Lewis Carroll:

Alice is a typical suburban girl. She smoked pot once or twice in high school and did a shot of UV blue with the football captain once. Then, she goes off to college and decides that maybe doing hardcore designer drugs is her next logical step.

One afternoon, while she’s studying lazily in the quad with her roommate, she meets a scrubby looking guy in a white t-shirt. The guy says his name is Rabbit, and he sells her hardcore designer drugs out of a pocket watch. She then follows him to the desert where she finds a magical land filled with people dressed as animals, painted with glow stick juice, all listening to intolerable, deafeningly loud, techno music. She then befriends a man wearing a peculiar hat, who gives her more drugs.

Alice eventually wanders away from the crowd, into the desert. There, she is picked up by the cops. She tells them that she is totally sober, but the cop tells her she is “More than a mile high.” She is then arrested for public intoxication and banned from Coachelland forever.

When she gets back, no one believes that she was in such a magical place. They say they believe her, but she knows they don’t. So, Alice shows them an egregious number of pictures that she took while she was there, but they still just, like, had to be there.

 

 

 

 

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It, The Movie

The source of humanity’s irrational fear of clowns is being remade. On September 8th, Stephen King’s classic coming-of-age/psycho-murderer-clown tale will hit the silver screen. And I, despite hating remakes and unnecessary sequels, couldn’t be more excited. The original, mini-series version was enough to haunt my childhood (and adulthood) and with modern film making capabilities, and the talented screenwriting of Cary Fukanaga (True Detective) (season 1) (not the convoluted, disastrous season 2) it’s going to be a nightmare. In the best kind of way.

It takes a special kind of film to be legitimately scary. A decent horror movie will have you shaken in the theater, like The Conjuring” A good horror movie will linger under your bed and in the darkest shadows of your room, like The Witch. A great horror movie will bury itself under your skin. It will eat away at you, and make you fear not just the film, but fear itself. Then there’s the films that go beyond that.

But what is it about “It” that transcends the genre and positions itself with the likes of films like Rosemary’s Baby, and The Step Father? To be sure, It’s not the jump scares and the obscene violence. It’s the razor-sharp allegory that the story tells in the most horrifying and spectacular way. While those other films were so deeply unsettling, that they had me fearing members of my own family and looking over my shoulder in broad daylight, It does something that even they couldn’t do.

Sure, It will get under your skin and have you whimpering at the sight of a red balloon, or a sewer grate, but what separates It from the bunch is that the story is an overtly positive allegory wrapped in a terrific, blood-soaked package.

I submit that underneath the violence, the macabre, and the sheer horror of the narrative, It is a masterful anti-bullying allegory. But, before you accept or reject my theory out of hand, let’s take a closer look.

First, let’s look at the bullies themselves. Bullying, in real life, is typically used as a means of establishing power. By beating others into the literal, or figurative, ground, the bully’s social status climbs. It makes them scarier in many ways to the victims and even the observers. And fear is an effective, maybe the most effective, form of power. Bullies prey on fear. The scarier a bully seems to a victim, the more power they have over them.

Now, let’s look at Pennywise, the killer-clown from the story. Pennywise is simply the manifestation of the fear that bullying creates. He preys on children, and not just any children, the one’s in the self-proclaimed “losers club”. These kids are already fearful, and lack self-esteem and, just like a real-live bully, he feasts on this fear for his own power. He finds out what each child is most afraid of and can literally become the living version of that fear. And as the children’s fear grows, Pennywise grows stronger.

But that’s not all. Much like real-life bullying, the murders and attacks in the story happen, practically, in plain view of adults and bystanders, who are either oblivious, or refuse to help. In the story, dozens of children go missing over the years, and no one seems to be doing anything. In real-life bullying, countless children are victimized, and yet no one seems to be doing anything. One big reason is that bullying has a slippery definition. It takes many shapes and sizes. Kind of like, oh I don’t know, a shape-shifting killer clown?

But if you’re still not convinced of my interpretation, let’s look at the victims some more.

In real life, the easiest targets for bullies are perceived as weak, or have some characteristic that makes them different and isolates them from the group. A bully will find what the person dislikes most about themselves and use it against them. The more obvious the insecurity, the easier the prey. In the story, It is able to identify the greatest fears of each of his victims and become the physical form that fear takes.

Now, let’s look at the children in the story. The Losers Club.  In the club, there’s a stutterer, an asthmatic, a fat kid, a poor girl, and the minorities: the black kid and the Jewish kid. Each of these kids is isolated in the community and each is a victim of the literal town-bully, Henry Bowers, who, predictably, has an abusive alcoholic father. They are all traumatically bullied by Henry and his gang of followers, and it’s here that the fear It preys on finds its way in.

The victims, of course, represent the people in real-life who share their feelings of isolation. In real-life, these people are picked on by individual bullies, entire groups, and even systematically cast out of society. In the film, the characters are picked on by a metaphorical killer-clown.

So, we found parallels between It and the characteristics and methodology of real-life bullies. The instinct to prey on the weak or downtrodden. The use of fear as a source of power. The fluid and indefinable form that the bullying takes.

Then, we found parallels between the characteristics of the victims of It in the story, and the victims of bullies in real life. But again, if that’s still not enough to validate the metaphor, let’s look at some similarities between the long-term effects of bullying and the long-term effects of being tormented by a shapeshifting demon-clown.

Victims of severe childhood bullying, suffer the repercussions well into adulthood. With their self-esteem tragically stunted, some find themselves in abusive relationships, some turn to substance abuse, and some even turn to suicide as a means of coping. It’s also common for them to project their own history of abuse and bullying onto their kids, or people that they perceive as weaker. (See Henry Bowers, the town bully with the abusive father)

These aspects of bullying are covered in the story by the timeline shift to the children’s adulthood. In the story, some have turned to suicide, like Stan who despite being the most skeptical, kills himself out of fear of returning to his home town. Others find themselves in their own abusive relationships, like Bev, who is married to the physically and sexually abusive, Tom Rogen. But It also touches on a totally different, and more difficult to define, repercussion of childhood bullying.

Most of the grown children pretend that It never happened, or that it wasn’t as bad as they remember. This seems crazy at first glance, because I think most people would vividly remember, and appropriately weigh the seriousness of their brother getting his arm ripped off by a sewer-dwelling clown. But, taken as an allegory for bullying, it doesn’t seem so ridiculous. Victims of extreme physical abuse and rape will sometimes repress their memories and look back on them thinking they had overreacted or misinterpreted the situation.

This conversation is one-way, so I get to assume you see the metaphor now, even if you don’t.

But, I said this was a positive movie. So, what solution does the story offer us? What is the real message? What is the positive?

There are several lessons to be learned from “It” that can be applied to both bullying and demon-clown sightings.

The first is that it’s important to act immediately. Since bullies both create, and feed on fear, it’s important to stop it before it starts. Before the bully gets too strong, and the bullied too weak. In the story, the children have all been haunted individually by Pennywise for years, but do nothing to stop it until it’s too late. Luckily, we get to learn from their misfortune. However, applying this in real life is difficult. The problem is that, as I previously stated, bullying is hard to identify and define. In the story, it isn’t until the children meet and realize that they are all suffering from the same thing, that they are even able to give It a name. Identifying and labeling the problem is the hardest part. But once they do, the characters are able to move on to the next step, or lesson, that we learn from the story. And the next step in defeating a bully.

Showing strength. There is, of course, strength in numbers. And once the kids realize they are not alone, they are able to assert themselves and stand up to their bully.  They realize that the less afraid they are, the less power It has over them. There is a smaller hole for the fear to creep in which makes them a harder target. They are no longer weak, which makes It no longer strong.

On the surface, It is a creepy bloodbath of a clown-slasher-film. But when we look deeper. When we look beneath the surface and into the sewer system of the film (if you will) we see something greater. We see a brave and powerful message to bullies. We see a huge step forward in the awareness of bullying and the dangers of ignoring it. We see the true strength and courage that exists in all of us when we work together, rather than stepping on the weak.

Or maybe you just like horror movies.

Either way, go check out Andrés Muschietti’s remake of It. In theaters September 8th.

A Transcript from the 2020 Presidential Debate

Cooper: Good evening. I’m Anderson Cooper of CNN, which i’m now obligated by law to say is fake news. We would like to welcome you to University of Phoenix for the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and seventeen-time world wrestling champion Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson. Tonight’s debate will be a town hall format which gives voters the chance to ask the candidates questions directly. Both candidates will have two minutes to answer each question. We would like to ask that— you know what? F** it. Clearly the whole world has lost its damn mind, so do whatever the hell you want. Here are your candidates. President Trump, the first question is directed to you and comes from Gina Franklin. Gina?

Franklin: Thank you. These last four years have been defined by political distrust, impropriety and turmoil. How do you plan to fix that during your presidency.

Trump: So, let me say this, let me tell you first of all, these questions are supposed to be unbiased and clearly this is a person who watches fake news and buys in to the liberal agenda, who doesn’t support the truth. Let me ask you this. Where do you get your news from, Gina?

Cooper: Mr. Trump, please just ans—

Trump: I’ll tell you, you see what I’m saying? She probably watches CNN. My answer to your question, which I shouldn’t even have to be answering, but I will anyway, is that the last four years have been a tremendous success. We have solved the crisis in the Middle East, we have ISIS on their heels, we have more jobs here in the United States than we ever did under the Obama administration, health care prices have dropped astronomically and we have begun construction on the wall. So when you ask me about political turmoil, I see that as nothing but words, when I have provided tremendous actions with huge results.

Cooper: To be clear, Mr. Trump, the crisis in the Middle East is far from solved, there have been no documented changes in ISIS activity and fewer than 60% of American citizens are able to afford health insurance.

Trump: Here we go again, Anderson. Why don’t we let my opponent, who has no political experience answer that question?

Cooper: (taking pull from fifth of Jack Daniels) Sure. Go ahead, The Rock.

Johnson: First of all, Gina, that is just an awesome question. Thank you guys all so much for the support you’ve shown me. As president, I will make it my job to listen to the American people, and do everything in my power to T.C.O.B. that’s take care of business. I’m a guy who busts his ass early in the morning working out everyday, and I’ll bring a new energy and new positive vibes to the white house. These last four years you’ve had leadership that’s lied to you, that’s ignored you that’s—

Trump: NO.

Johnson: —That’s spread hate.

Trump: NO.

Johnson: And the American people—

Trump: Wrong.

Johnson: (raises eyebrow at Donald Trump) —And the American People deserve a leader that can be honest and can be held responsible for his actions. Less talkin’ more rockin’. (Finger guns)

Cooper: Thank you… The Rock. Our next question comes from Steve Conan. Go ahead Steve.

Conan: America is completely divided on almost every issue and this has been a catalyst for hateful rhetoric, violent protests, and even racism. How will you solve these issues, and unite us once again?

Cooper: The Rock, you may answer this one first.

Johnson: Steve, once again, awesome question, you really look like you work out, by the way. While my opponent grew up rich and inherited money from his father, I grew up poor and worked my way to the top. I have been a registered republican, and I have voted democrat. My allegiance isn’t with one party, but with the people. I’m literally made of the people, look. This is the people’s eyebrow. This is the people’s elbow. I, Kevin, am the people’s champ. Look at my opponent, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he looks like a big fat bowl of Fruity Pebbles.

Cooper: (spit takes Jack Daniels)

Johnson: What the people need is a strong leader. And who is stronger than me?

Trump: Can I talk now? Can I? Anderson, Can I?

Cooper: (loosening tie) Yep, we can’t wait.

Trump: When my opponent claims, that he will solve this violence that is plaguing the American people, who I love more than he does, he is lying to you. He says he doesn’t stand for hate, but this is a man who made his living off of violence. He is a professional wrestler, do you know what that means? That means that him and another man, and sometimes even a woman, will fight, and this is all true, you can quote me on this, they will fight in a ring in front of a crowd and he gets paid for it. Is that the message you want to send your children? That it’s okay to hit and to kick and to do the People’s Elbow? And do you know what else he’s not telling you? I know this because I have the top people briefing me, he want’s you to think that his wrestling is real, but in reality, and I’m not making this up, it’s not real. He’s acting, or more accurately, lying to each and every one of you. Is that the man you want leading a country that is, as Marvin said, divided? I don’t think so. SAD.

Cooper: So… should I? Or do you want to?

Johnson: I’ll take this one, Anderson. President Trump. Are you under the impression that educated American citizens believe—

Trump: And I’ll tell you what else. He claims to be this strong leader. But ask any top scientist, and I don’t mean fake, liberal, scientist. But ask any real, top scientist and he’ll tell you the human body is like a battery and exercising, as much as this man does, is-just-is-you- It’s-just-it’s bad for you. You wan’t a president who’s going in for knee surgery after every time he travels  because he drained his body? No.

Johnson: So you think you’re stronger than me?

Trump: I know, I’m stronger than you. I’m smarter than you. I’m more successful than you. And I’m a better president than you. Ask everyone.

Cooper: For the record, you had one of the lowest approval ratings of any president, and Mr. Johnson, please keep your shirt on, I feel like I shouldn’t need to say that.

Johnson: (now in slacks and wife beater) Cooper, you better ask the next question before I pound this Jabroni.

Cooper: Great idea. This next question comes from Dan Carlson. Go ahead Dan.

Johnson: Actually, Coop, I have my own question.

Cooper: This isn’t the time for questions—

Johnson: And this question doesn’t concern Gina Franklin. It doesn’t concern Steve Conan.

Cooper: Mr. Johnson, please, you are slowing down the debate.

Trump: See, you let him keep talking but you cut me off, you owe the American People an apology. Losing—

Johnson: And this question doesn’t concern Anderson Cooper, and it doesn’t concern Dan Carlson. This is a question for you, Donald Trump. (rips microphone from podium) IF YOU SMELL-EL-EL-EL-L-L-L!!—

Cooper: Oh please God no.

Johnson: WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKIN’!? (Rips slacks off, revealing wrestling speedo underneath.)

(Johnson runs across stage and clotheslines President Trump. Secret Service rush the stage. Johnson begins hitting them with metal chair, while simultaneously stomping the ground to create the sound effect. Trump comes up behind him and hits him with a microphone. The blow does nothing but anger Johnson who grabs President Trump, inverts him, and pile-drives him through a folding table that no one had noticed on the stage. Anderson Cooper downs the rest of his fifth of whiskey and throws it into the crowd. Johnson, begins throwing elbow pads into the crowd. The crowd cheers for the people’s elbow. Johnson elbow drops President Trump on the stage.)

Cooper: There you have it folks (slurring his words). We’ll see you on October 10th, at the University of Michigan in Flint for the second presidential debate.

Films of the 21st Century

Top 25 films of the 21st century:

  1. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
  2. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  3. The Social Network (David Fincher)
  4. Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
  5. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
  6. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
  7. No Country For Old Men (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
  8. Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
  9. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton)
  10. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
  11. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  12. Lucky Number Slevin (Paul McGuigan)
  13. The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson)
  14. Inside Out (Pete Docter)
  15. Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott)
  16. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton)
  17. City of God (Fernando Meirelles)
  18. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
  19. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón)
  20. Superbad (Greg Mottola)
  21. Gladiator (Ridley Scott)
  22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
  23. Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
  24. 3:10 To Yuma (James Mangold)
  25. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)

Top films of the 21st century Honorable Mention:

  • Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
  • The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
  • The Town (Ben Affleck)
  • The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
  • Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
  • The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)
  • Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh)
  • Avatar (James Cameron)
  • The Big Short (Adam McKay)
  • Inside Man (Spike Lee)
  • Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie)

 

Top 10 Comedy Films of the 21st century:

  1. Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
  2. Superbad (Greg Mottola)
  3. Knocked Up (Judd Apatow)
  4. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
  5. Sideways (Alexander Payne)
  6. Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh)
  7. Juno (Jason Reitman)
  8. The Wolf of Wallstreet (Martin Scorsese)
  9. Mean Girls (Mark Waters)
  10. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)

Top 10 Horror Films of the 21st century:

  1. Let the Right One in (Tomas Alfredson)
  2. The Witch (Robert Eggers)
  3. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
  4. Paranormal Activity 3 (Ariel Schulman)
  5. The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard)
  6. The Others (Alejandro Amenábar)
  7. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
  8. The Mist (Frank Darabont)
  9. American Psycho (Mary Harron)
  10. Saw (James Wan)

Top 10 films of the 21st century that I Could Watch Over and Over Again:

  1. The Social Network (David Fincher)
  2. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird)
  3. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
  4. Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh)
  5. Superbad (Greg Mottola)
  6. Chef (Jon Favreau)
  7. Troy (Wolfgang Peterson)
  8. Mean Girls (Mark Waters)
  9. Knocked Up (Judd Apatow)
  10. 8 Mile (Curtis Hanson)

Top 10 Romance Films of the 21st century:

  1. Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
  2. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
  3. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russel)
  4. Brooklyn (John Crowley)
  5. Juno (Jason Reitman)
  6. Her (Spike Jonze)
  7. 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb)
  8. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
  9. The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt)
  10. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)

Top 10 Sports Films  of the 21st century:

  1. Friday Night Lights (Peter Berg)
  2. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
  3. Moneyball (Bennett Miller)
  4. Lords of Dogtown (Catherine Hardwicke)
  5. Warrior (Gavin O’Connor)
  6. Creed (Ryan Coogler)
  7. Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood
  8. Fighter (David O. Russell)
  9. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
  10. Hardball (Brian Robbins)

Top 10 Animated Films  of the 21st century:

  1. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
  2. Inside out (Pete Docter)
  3. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton)
  4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
  5. Shrek (Vicky Jenson, Andrew Adamson)
  6. Up (Pete Docter, Bob Peterson)
  7. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton)
  8. Zootopia (Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush)
  9. Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, David Silverman)
  10. The Incredibles (Brad Bird)

Top 10 War Films  of the 21st century:

  1. Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
  2. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
  3. Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott)
  4. American Sniper (Clint Eastwood)
  5. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
  6. Enemy at the Gates (Jean-Jacques Annaud)
  7. Troy (Wolfgang Peterson)
  8. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
  9. The Pianist (Roman Polanski)
  10. Beasts Of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga)

Top 10 Music Films of the 21st century:

  1. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
  2. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
  3. Crazy Heart (Scott Cooper)
  4. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
  5. 8 Mile (Curtis Hanson)
  6. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
  7. Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray)
  8. Walk The Line (James Mangold)
  9. School of Rock (Richard Linklater)
  10. Ray (Taylor Hackford)

Top 10 Science Fiction Films of the 21st century:

  1. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón)
  2. Ex Machina (Alex Garland)
  3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)
  4. Avatar (James Cameron)
  5. Minority Report (Steven Spielberg)
  6. The Martian (Ridley Scott)
  7. Source Code (Duncan Jones)
  8. 28 Days later (Danny Boyle)
  9. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
  10. Signs (M. Night Shyamalan)

Top 5 Found Footage films of the 21st century:

  1. End of Watch (David Ayer)
  2. Cloverfield (Matt Reeves)
  3. Paranormal Activity 3 (Ariel Schulman)
  4. Chronicle (Josh Trank)
  5. Paranormal Activity (Ariel Schulman)

Top 10 Hidden Gems of the 21st century:

  1. Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
  2. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton)
  3. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
  4. Chef (Jon Favreau)
  5. Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow)
  6. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
  7. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (Macon Blair)
  8. Punch Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  9.  The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt)
  10. Stranger than Fiction (Marc Forster)

Top 10 Obscene-Budget-Action-Explosion-Pump-Up Guilty Pleasure films of the 21st century:

  1. Inception (Christopher Nolan)
  2. Apocalypto (Mel Gibson)
  3. Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird)
  4. Crank (Brian Taylor)
  5. Furious 7 (James Wan)
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gun)
  7. Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro)
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
  9. Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino)
  10. John Wick (Chad Stahelski, David Leitch)

An unjust world

Have you ever heard the expression, “If life is fair, then why do roses have thorns?”

Well, I have. I also think that as far as the injustices go, roses having thorns is pretty unimportant.

First of all, roses don’t have thorns because life is unfair. They have thorns because the first roses with thorns were protected from predators which allowed them to survive and pass on the “thorn trait” to the next generation of roses, who passed it on to the next, and blah, blah, evolutionary, blah.

But don’t get me wrong. I believe the world we live in has more than its fair share of things that are unjust, unfair or just plain wrong. Here’s a list of some true injustices:

  • Separating darks and lights while doing  laundry is racist and promotes segregation and unfair biases.
  • People are totally diggin’ sand all day and night, but then, when people finally take sand home with them, they treat it like garbage.
  • Leaving a little bit of milk in the carton so that the next person can have some is a selfless act of generosity and yet it is never appreciated.
  • A girl can say “I only like tall guys” and that’s cool. But, if I say “I only fly first class” then I go broke.
  • We have no problem giving people, who already have food, a bite of our food. But when an ant, who has no food, wants a bite we fucking murder them.
  •  Just because bees are an essential part of the environment, we have to protect them, even though they are dicks, and they are willing to kill themselves in order to inflict a small amount of pain on innocent people. Yet, 10,000 years ago, there were peaceful elephant-sized sloths and humans hunted them to extinction without anyone saying ‘boo’.
  • We have the right to bear arms but not the right to arm bears… Although, on second thought, maybe that’s a good thing.
  • People always say, we should leave a better world for the generations after us, but the people before us managed to evolve from primates. Then they let themselves go generation, after generation, and now primates can beat the shit out of humans, are way better at climbing trees, and have way less debt from student loans.
  • Gangsters can wear Loony Toons shirts and look cool and I can’t even dress nice and look cool.
  • Weathermen, politicians and Siri are allowed to constantly be wrong and answer questions that are different than the one that was asked, and no one really thinks twice. But, if I do that, even only 1/4th of the time,  I get a C on my exam or get fired from my job.
  • You need a license to drive a car, but you don’t need a license to tell people that spiders can crawl in your mouth when you are sleeping.

This Just In

If movies could be summarized in one newspaper headline…

 

**possible spoilers**

The Dark Knight:

Billionaire dresses up as bat; beats up clown.

Psycho:

B&B owner/Momma’s boy linked to dozens of missing persons.

Signs:

Extraterrestrials invade planet that is 70% water despite being allergic to water.

Whiplash:

Rude music teacher ruins concert

There Will Be Blood:

Ambitious prospector strikes oil; drinks local preacher’s milkshake.

American Beauty: 

Gay murderer’s son films plastic bag

Citizen Kane:

Newspaper tycoon owned sled as child

Requiem for a Dream:

Three teens do heroin; ruin everyone’s weekend.

Gran Torino:

Local racist befriends car thief.

A Beautiful Mind:

Schizo reforms game theory.

The Sixth Sense:

Dead psychologist councils local medium.

12 Years a Slave:

“150 years later, slavery is still bad” experts report.

The Lord of the Rings: 

Midget walks barefoot across continent; throws jewelry into volcano.

The Shawshank Redemption:

Interview with escaped convict reports, “Prison not so bad. I’m besties with Morgan Freeman.”

 

Boys and Girls

I’m sure that all of you have read numerous blog posts about the differences between men and women. I think we can all agree that the differences between us are far more complex than the presence or absence of a Y chromosome. The real issue here, and I am aware of how potentially offensive this may be, is which gender is better. I think this is an important thing to discuss. We watch the olympics to certify our athletic dominance over every other country. Don’t you think it would be upsetting to watch the olympics only to be told that although USA’s basketball team crushed Japan 120-56, the real difference was between the countries’ cultures? I sure do.

Let’s be clear. Because I am a man… not the manliest of men by any means, but a man nonetheless, some people might think there are some personal biases in my scoring system. That is 100% true. Everything I am about to say could be considered sexist, prejudice, misogynistic, maybe even demonizing (just learned that word today), or downright unfair. But guess what? This issue needs to be settled, so I don’t care.

Anyways,  I will be evaluating each gender on their ability to perform in a number of categories. These categories are not meant to favor any gender in particular, although in some cases, one is just better than the other. We will start, as most critical debates do, with drinking.

*Disclaimer* Nothing I write for the duration of this post will be politically correct. It is written with the intention of being humorous and entertaining, not to offend or to belittle anybody. I am hesitant to even post it, but I think all of us are mature enough to be able to laugh at ourselves once in awhile. Anyways, please don’t hate me.

Drinking:  Its no secret that men can drink more than women, at least in volume. In addition to being larger and more able to consume liquid in mass quantities, men are cursed with hubris and can easily convince themselves that they can/should drink their body weight in beer. This makes it so men will drink more than women whether they are able to or not. The hubris factor will also result in a few fights, and some unprecedented philandering.

On the other hand, a woman’s drinking ability can be evaluated on a curve. The origin of the curve would start at the first drink. A woman will be careful and have a map of their entire evening drawn out in their mind. If we are graphing, the coordinates of that first drink are (0,0). The next notable coordinate would be (3,3). That’s three drinks, three significant events. This is also the point where the curve  should stop, because after this, well…. shit rolls downhill.  At (6,6) the girl will have minor alcohol poisoning, have lost her best friend and have interviewed at least two candidates for a new best friend. At (8,8) it’s time to confiscate the cell phone, call a cab and call in sick the next day.

Boys 1. Girls 0. 

Locker Rooms:

I’ll wrap this one up quickly. Women’s locker rooms are full of naked pillow fights and girls helping other girls apply soap to the unreachable areas of their backs. I think we can all agree that that is 100% true.

Men’s locker rooms, on the other hand, are full of old men, who are way too comfortable in their skin, walking around naked, blow-drying their junk and invading the personal space of teenagers who are facing the wall and changing with their eyes closed.

Boys 1. Girls 1. 

Bathrooms: 

This one may come as a surprise to a lot of people… but not to those who have worked in the service industry. Although men are far more vocal about their bowel movements and restroom experiences, the girls’ restroom is just down right disgusting. The worst you will find in the men’s room is an un-flushed #2 and maybe the remnants of some bad aim, while in a girls bathroom you might just find every single bodily fluid… ever.

Boys 2. Girls 1. 

Sports:

I’m talking about actual sports, not sailing, cheer leading, air-hockey, baton twirling, fishing, and especially not dance. I will also begin by disputing the whole, “Dance is a sport” submission. Girls say that dance is a sport because it is hard and a lot of guys could not do it. This is true. Through a series of unfortunate events, I was forced to participate in a dance line routine, and it was quite difficult. However, the difficulty of a task does not determine it’s status as a sport. Calculus, throwing a tic-tac into a water bottle from 100 feet away, and  doing 1,000 push ups are also very difficult activities, and a lot of guys probably couldn’t do it, but the fact remains… they are not sports.

Here’s the deal… Men are better at sports. You might think I’m bias and that’s fine, but let’s compare the best NBA player to the best WMBA player. Let’s compare the best MLB player to the best softball player. Let’s compare the best NHL player to the best women’s hockey player. Let’s compare the best NFL player to the best… oh wait…

Boys 3. Girls 1. 

Outward Sexuality:

This has nothing to do with sexual orientation. This is simply a matter of observation. Let’s compare the attributes of the male physique to that of the female. Men’s bodies are hard and hairy and full of tan lines and ingrown hairs. When men work hard they stink of body odor, and to top it all of, they have hairy butts.

The female physique is soft and curvy. Elegant and graceful. Smooth and hairless (typically). When women work hard their faces turn flushed and omit a warm glow… and in the words of my own girlfriend, “Girl’s have boobs.”

Boys 3. Girls 2. 

Dating:

Once in a relationship, men and women behave quite differently. A man’s strengths in a relationship are typically his loyalty and willingness to stand up for his girlfriend. A “good boyfriend” will do whatever it takes to please his girlfriend and do whatever it takes to avoid letting her down. The only problem is that they fail miserably. Despite admirable attempts to listen, take hints, and be caring and thoughtful, we just kind of suck at all of those things.

Women’s weaknesses in a relationship come from their lofty expectations, passive-aggressive war tactics, and cryptic forms of communication. However, their strengths lie in the fact that they get to set the expectations, they are incapable of losing arguments, and ability to control their boyfriend’s actions by withholding sexy-time.

Boys 3. Girls 3. 

The Bible: 

Sorry ladies, but men kind of dominate this category. We got Jesus. We got Moses. We got Noah! We got Adam!! We got Abraham!!! We got all twelve disciples… Beeeyaaahhh!!!!

The girls counter with an MVP worthy performance by The Virgin Mary and a noteworthy showing from Eve, but they sadly come up short. Plus, we all know who sinned first… amiright?

Boys 4. Girls 3. 

Handwriting: 

Girls, with the exception of college professors, have impeccable handwriting. Men on the other hand have abysmal handwriting. Even in the increasingly paperless world we live in, people still have to write things down. In a classroom setting, a female student will be able to look back at her lecture notes and even share her notes with other classmates. Her male counterpart, will perhaps be able to look back at his own notes and read them, but when it comes time to share he will spend most of the time clarifying what he wrote. Example: “Is that a Q or an A?” “Is this a 0 or an 8?” “Is this word dividend or a drawing of a dog eating a candy cane?”

Boys 4. Girls 4. 

Cage Fighting:

Whoa… didn’t expect this to be a category did ya? But bear with me, it illustrates a point. Men are given a clear physical advantage in the “cage fighting” category. They are bigger, stronger, faster and typically more competitive. In a society where winners and losers were determined by the outcome and nothing more, men would dominate this category. But sadly we don’t live in a society like that.

Women gain their advantage in cage fighting by creating an unwinnable contest for their male opponents. If a man wins a cage fight against a woman, it does not make him look good. In fact, it makes him look quite despicable in the eyes of his peers because only a jerk would beat the crap out of a girl. And, if a woman beats a man in a cage fight, she is a hero in the eyes of her peers and has succeeded in publicly shaming her opponent. Therefor, a cage fight between a man and woman, presents a lose-lose outcome for men and a win-win outcome for women.

Boys 4. Girls 5. 

Manual Labor:

Typically, it is the men who do the majority of the manual labor. We lift the heavy stuff. We fix the fences. We build sheds. We know how to operate a jackhammer. We can look at a car engine and immediately know what is wrong with it…. or so I’m told.

Women have men do their manual labor for them. Obviously, that is a better gig.

Boys 4. Girls 6. 

Friendship:

From what I have observed, women tend to have around 3 friends. I’m not talking about acquaintances or people that you talk to on facebook, I am talking about people who you spend your time with, share your secrets with, and would basically consider part of your family. Those are the kinds of friends I am talking about, and of this particular kind of friend, girls have around 3. Usually, one of the four girls in the group is secretly hated by the other three, and is mercilessly ridiculed behind her back.  One advantage that girls have is that the interactions within their friend group are overwhelmingly positive and supportive.

Men seem to have no cap on the amount of friends they can have. Although, unlike women, the interactions within a friend group are almost exclusively insulting. The result is that when a guy actually compliments one of his friends, it is received with suspicion and a barrage of homophobic responses. However, at the end of the day, most guys would defend their friends against any army and would put a friends life before just about anything.

Boys 5. Girls 6. 

Personal Care & Hygiene:

Although women seem to be generally cleaner than men, it comes at a much higher cost. For a man to be clean, he will take a shower, brush his teeth, and put on deodorant. He might shave, but some men can get away without doing that.

A women has do all of those things, plus shave their legs, straighten/curl their hair, shape their eyebrows, put on makeup, take showers that inexplicably last for 45 minutes, paint their nails, put on jewelry… etc. So, women definitely end up looking better, but men have managed to set the bar so ridiculously low, awarding them the point.

Boys 6. Girls 6. 

Originally I was only going to have twelve categories, but obviously I can’t end this contest in a tie. In a debate of this magnitude there are very few satisfactory tie-breakers. However, because the topic of this debate is boiled down to which gender is better at being people, the only way this can end is a seven round, seven heavenly virtues, shootout extravaganza. So, according to the epic poem The Contest of the Soul, by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, and confirmed on Wikipedia, The Seven Heavenly Virtues consist of: Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility. For the sake of word count we will do this rapid fire, with a quick refresher on what those words actually mean.

1. Chastity: Purity and discretion of sexual conduct. Boys 6. Girls 7. 

2. Temperance: Moderation and constant mindfulness of others. Boys 6. Girls 8. 

3. Charity: Generosity and self-sacrifice. Boys 7. Girls 8. 

4. Diligence: Careful nature in one’s actions while upholding one’s convictions at all times. Boys 7. Girls 9. 

5. Patience: Endurance through moderation, resolving conflicts peacefully as opposed to violently. Boys 7. Girls 10. 

6. Kindness: Compassion for its own sake. Trust without prejudice or resentment. Boys 8. Girls 10. 

7. Humility. The courage to take on tedious or unglamorous tasks, while refraining from despair. Boys 9. Girls 10. 

So, at the risk of further offending every reader, and losing all my friends, I present to you your champion. Girls!

Bit Part

I would first like to apologize to anyone who has been checking my blog as of late, and found nothing new. I’ve been focusing my writing efforts elsewhere and  I have also been swamped watching netflix and eating chipotle. Okay, there’s your apology, let’s move passed it.

I would like to take a minute of your time to talk about the little people who have shaped the world… (not talking about midgets). The people I’m referring to are the bit parts that end up becoming famous in their own special ways. Oh, for those of you who don’t speak movie-nerd, a bit part is a role in which a character, with typically less than 5 lines, interacts with a main character. Their roles can be significant to the plot, or just throw away lines, but the point is they are not main characters, or even close. Side note: I’m not talking about extras, who are just in the background and are basically pointless.

1. Glen Coco. It should come as no surprise that the infamous Glen Coco, of Mean Girls, made the list. In about .7 seconds of screen time, Glen Coco won four candy cane grams, as well as the hearts of every basic white girl in America. You go Glen Coco!

2. Steven Glansberg. Poor Steven has no lines in Superbad, but has still managed to become the poster child for people who do any kind of activity completely alone. His character is portrayed as a young man who eats dessert by himself at whatever school Seth, Evan and Fogal attend. He is mentioned when Seth (Jonah Hill) says, “So I gotta sit here and eat my dessert alone like I’m fuckin’ Steven Glansberg?”  I like to think after graduation he went off to college and made tons of friends and never had to eat alone again… but hey i’m a glass-half-full kind of guy.

3. Dylan Toback. Also known as “the shusher” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In the episode “the anti-social network”, Dennis is shushed by a stranger at a hip, new dive bar in Philly. Enraged, about being shushed so rudely, the gang sets out to find the perpetrator, but they end up following a trail of lies, gin bars and catfishers.

4. Boba Fett.  Probably kind of stretch to include Boba Fett in a list of bit parts, mostly because he is like the coolest character in Star Wars. However, he is a man of few words, awesome words, but few all the same, so he’s making the list. If you have anything to say about it, just remember, “You can run, but you’ll only die tired.”-Boba Fett (obviously).

5. Chris Gardocki. More commonly known as the guy who makes Will Farrell lick white dog shit in the movie Step Brothers. Mr. Gardocki has a small, but effective role in the film, and was the cause of one of my own personal favorite lines, “I got a bellyful of white dog crap in me… and now you lay this shit on me?”- Brennan Huff.

6. Rex. The name Rex may not ring bells for many of you, but he is personal hero of mine. You may remember him as the ultra-patriotic martial arts instructor from Napoleon Dynamite. In his scene he is wearing American flag, parachute pants, which begs the question: Would anybody want a roundhouse kick to the face while he’s wearing those bad boys? Forget about it. Oh, and don’t forget, “At Rex Kwan Do, we use the buddy system. No more flying solo.”

7. Dr. Delcavoli. You may not recognize this hero’s name, but you can go ahead and thank him for quite possibly the greatest 47 hours and 32 minutes of your life. Dr. Delcavoli is a renowned oncologist, known for his savvy, but not for offering services covered by major health insurance providers. However, the most important thing the good doctor ever did was oversee the treatment of a man named Walter White. Could you imagine a  version of Breaking Bad that had Walt dying of lung cancer after two seasons? Well thanks to Dr. Delcavoli you won’t have to. “Remember His Name.”

8.Reginald Ledoux.  *spoiler alert*. Reginald Ledoux is an absolutely terrifying character from the universe of True Detective. He is a primary suspect in the Dora Lange murder case, and during his short time on camera, is clearly up to some nefarious activities. His only lines are creepy incoherent rambling before Woody Harrelson basically just blows his head off. Personally, I thought Mr. Ledoux was a pretty awesome villain, but maybe that’s just me.

9. The Wicked Witch of the East.  We basically only see the bottoms of her shoes, but if not for her, the Wizard of Oz would have been an entirely different story. She was the tyrant responsible for enslaving the munchkins and  turning the Land of Oz into kind of a bummer. But, just like so many dictators before her, she was finally stopped when a teenage girl’s house landed on her. I think that’s how Joseph Stalin died too, but I’m not 100% sure.

10. Bonnie Grape.  Probably the butt of every yo’ momma joke for poor Gilbert Grape. Bonnie Grape is the morbidly obese, housebound mother in the 1993 film, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. I’m not sure what the character breakdown was during the casting call for that role, but I imagine when Actress Darlene Cates was offered the role of the “fattest lady ever”, it probably stung a little bit. The good news is that the actress later lost some of the weight, I assume by eating exclusively subway sandwiches. Oh, by the way, if you haven’t seen this movie, you may be wondering if it was, in fact, Bonnie Grape who was Eating Gilbert Grape. The answer to your question is yes, but only metaphorically speaking.

Honorable Mention:

  • Squeeze Toy Aliens.   “The Claw.”    Toy Story.
  • Chazz Reinhold’s Mom.  (No lines)    Wedding Crashers.
  • Lunch Lady Serving Sloppy Joes.  “I know how you’s kids like ’em extra shloppy.”     Billy Madison
  • Creepy Shusher Lady.  “Shhh”     Shutter Island
  • Admiral Ackbar.  “It’s a trap!”     Return of the Jedi
  • J. Walter Weatherman.  “…And that’s why you always leave a note.”     Arrested Development
  • Jesus Quintana. “Nobody fucks with the Jesus.”     The Big Lebowski
  • The Gimp. “muffled nonsense.”     Pulp Fiction
  • Guy Who Likes To See Homos Naked. “Home is where you make it.”     Joe Dirt

Naked and Afraid

While the rest of America pretended to be entertained by the NFL draft, I treated myself to a reality show that’s got entertainment value in spades. The show I am referring to is called Naked and Afraid. If you haven’t seen it, you are most likely under the impression that I am writing about an HBO late-night-soft-core porno or maybe a slasher film, but you are sadly mistaken. If you have seen it, you can go ahead and skip down a paragraph or two, while I explain the plot to these other idiots.

Two survivalists, one man, one woman, (who are either ex-military or that person you tell your kids not to stare at in downtown Los Angeles) are stripped of everything, including their clothes, and dropped into hostile environments. First they are assigned a P.S.R. or a “Primitive Survival Rating”, which takes attributes like mental toughness, experience and probably insanity and assigns them a score out of ten; with a one being the lowest and a ten being a Katniss Everdeen. They are given one survival item each, which usually ends up being a hatchet/machete and a flint….or fire starter…thing…. and then they are sent off into some ridiculous jungle, desert or swamp. The challenge: see if they can survive in the wilderness for 21 days completely naked and completely afraid.

What I really want to do is talk about the last episode which takes place in Bolivia. This is probably the best episode I have seen and it ended in suspense and mystery. But first, some quick background info about Bolivia, it is located in South America and it is pretty much like every other South American Country. Or in other words, It is hot, everyone likes soccer, there is probably a rainforest or two, a couple panthers, and a few dozen old ladies carrying baskets on their heads. Anyways, the reason this episode is so crazy is not because of the environment, but because of the female cast member, Sabrina. With a P.S.R. score of only 6.7, she falls somewhere between Dora the Explorer and a cameraman on Man vs. Wild. She then goes on to do three of the strangest, most memorable things, I have ever seen on reality TV.

1) Sabrina starts by introducing herself as an “American Witch”. If I am her male co-survivor, all i’m thinking is Shit!! Mainly because everyone knows that muggles are better suited for primitive survival because they haven’t been babied by their magical abilities all their lives. Plus, this witch is not a cool witch like Hermione or Selena Gomez, she is one of the bad ones… like the redheaded witch from Hocus Pocus. Throughout the 21 days, she wastes her energy making little witchy sculptures that look like what goth kids draw in their notebooks. Meanwhile, her partner is contracting, and I quote, “three kinds of jungle diseases”, including Malaria! So, either this lady was casting spells on him from day one or he was just off on his own rolling up jungle plants and smoking them. In the end, it says his recovery is on-going. I just want to take a second to truly appreciate the craziness that took place here. What other reality show has witches and people actually getting fatal diseases on the set? That guy is either dead or dying and he had a  P.S.R. score of 8-point-something which only puts him a little bit behind Liam Neeson.

2)  Her partner eventually gave up and was probably air-lifted to the best medical facility in Bolivia or in other words, the airport where he was then immediately flown to the U.S. where the doctors wear shoes.  Completely alone, Sabrina decides to pursue what I like to call, “The Wilson Approach“. The Wilson Approach comes from the hit film Castaway. In the movie, although I am sure you have seen it, Tom Hanks is trapped on an island for years all by himself. During his time he befriends a volleyball that washed up on shore with him. He draws a face on the ball, names it Wilson, and then proceeds to talk to it all the way up to the moment when Wilson floats away and breaks everyone’s heart. Well, Sabrina the witch took a very similar approach by drawing a smiley face on a rock and naming him “Mushroom Man”. As lovable as Wilson undoubtedly is, I would like to make some quick comparisons to demonstrate some key differences between Wilson and Mushroom Man. First of all, Tom Hanks is stuck on the island for 5 years (or something like that, I haven’t seen it in awhile) so befriending a volleyball is arguably reasonable behavior. Sabrina is about a week-and-a-half into her journey, is was only alone for like 20 minutes before she starts talking to Mushroom man. Secondly, Tom Hanks names Wilson after its brand of volleyball, a logical thought process even for someone who is friends with an inanimate object. Sabrina on the other hand, names her rock Mushroom Man even though the rock does not resemble a mushroom in any way. Image

3) Sabrina pulls of one of the boldest strategies I have ever seen in a survival situation. After being left alone to fend for herself while her partner selfishly dies in a Bolivian hospital, Sabrina begins to starve. She manages to hike about 30 feet from camp to a lovely little area at the base of a waterfall. The two survivors had been using this area to fish, cool off, and contract jungle diseases through their urethras (not sure if that’s the plural for urethra or not). However, famished from her lack of food, Sabrina is unable to catch any live prey. She has all but given up, when she finds, and I shit you not, a decaying bird head. Yes… a decaying bird head. She picks it up and as gross as it is, the audience takes a small amount of comfort in the fact that she is a survivalist, and no self-respecting survivalist would eat a decaying bird head. But then we remember, this is no ordinary survivor… this is a Rock-naming witch lady. Now, I know I am in no place to give wilderness survival advice. Realistically, I would have a P.S.R. of about 0.7 because I am Jewish and I can’t even tie a fishing knot, but even I know you shouldn’t eat decaying bird heads. However, Sabrina apparently skipped the “what to do when you come across a rancid old bird carcass” lesson at nut-job school, and she ate that bird head like her mamma made it. Soon after, she was rushed to a hospital and treated for Appendicitis, Hepatitises A-Z, and pretty much every other infection known to man kind. Luckily,  she is expected to make a full recovery.

Although, like I said, this is one of the better episodes of Naked and Afraid, there are a few unresolved issues. Did the male survivor, Vincent, ever recover? Is there a massive law suit against Naked and Afraid (probably not because I’m sure they sign about ten waivers)? What house was Sabrina placed in at Hogwarts? Did she get to keep Mushroom Man? If she did, did she divorce her husband (yes she is married) to be with Mushroom Man instead? The world may never know. Anyways, I urge you to tune in Sunday nights at 9PM ET/PT to catch the next thrilling episode of Naked and Afraid…. Unless you have HBO then watch Game of Thrones instead.

Pokemon: The Untold Story

On windy nights their voices can still be heard. Merely echos of a once great nation. Countless victim’s bones lay merely inches below the dirt and yet over the span of a few short years they have been forgotten. We remember the Holocaust and the Atlantic Slave trade, both sick and shameful examples of genocide and ethnic cleansing. But somehow the capture and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Pocket Monsters (Pokemon) in the 1990’s, seems to slip our minds.

The initial movement started in Western Kanto, in the small village of Pallett Town. Here, children were given a domesticated Pokemon at a young age as a method of desensitizing them to the violent life of becoming a Pokemon Trainer. What they called Trainers, historians say are comparable to the position of SS-Scharführer in the Nazi party, who captured and deported Jews to ghettos and extermination camps. The Trainers were instructed to raise the domesticated Pokemon until they were strong enough to fight. Then the Trainers were sent from their homes on a bloody pilgrimage across the land, to search far and wide for free Pokemon to capture and force into captivity.

Some of the methods they used have been lost in translation as Pokemon become a more distant memory, but I will try to break down the process as best I can. A Trainer would traditionally keep captured Pokemon inside what were called Pokeballs. The engineering and design that went into Pokeballs was simply astonishing for the early 90’s and is still not fully understood today. Physicists believe that they had a particle accelerating core and held as much energy per mass as an atomic bomb. Pokemon as large as a fully grown, 200lb Charizard could be reduced to the size of a tennis ball and stored easily in a backpack or on a utility belt. Inside these tiny and uncomfortable balls, the Pokemon experienced what was likely a variation of Stockholm Syndrome and after being held captive and beaten for days they developed a dependence and love for their trainer that was so strong , they would willingly fight and die for them. When the Trainers came across a free Pokemon, they would force the domesticated to attack and scourge it until it could no longer fight back. Once it was near death and posed no threat to the Trainer, it was captured inside a Pokeball and later forced to perform the same acts of violence.

As time went on, and the capture and trade of Pokemon became common-hat,  the Trainers began to make games out of fighting the Pokemon. Similar to the concept of Mandingo fighting during the Atlantic Slave trade, two trainers would each place a bet, then each chose one captured Pokemon and force them to fight each other to the death. This practice was known as “battling”, and its popularity spread like wildfire because of its high entertainment value and money making potential. Soon, some trainers with particularly large and powerful collections of Pokemon built gyms, where the majestic animals were born and raised for the sole purpose of fighting. The gym leaders were commonly known as Pokemasters and were idolized by young trainers. Ash Ketchum, born and raised in Pallett Town, was one of the most well known Pokemasters, famous for his coined phrase: “gotta catch ’em all.” Some historians believe that he might have been the very best… like no one ever was.

Because of the Pokemon’s low cognitive ability, they were not capable of much resistance. In fact, with a few exceptions, they could only make noises that sounded like the name of their species classification, or some variation of it. There is no doubt that an average Pokemon would defeat a human in hand-to-hand combat but because of their low intelligence and poor organizational skills, they were no match for the technology that the Trainers possessed. The only documented resistance against the Pokemon Trainers was from a rebel group known as Team Rocket, which was made up of 2 humans and one of the rare talking Pokemon. However, leaders of the Fascist Pokemon training movement, like the infamous Professor Oak, used propaganda such as a Pokemon TV show and Pokemon trading cards to squash the resistance. The media at the time positioned Team Rocket as a group of foolish villains who were hell bent on world domination. Because of how they were portrayed, Team Rocket received little support and their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

The Fascist Pokemon training movement eventually failed when people’s interests just kind of changed and the capture and slaughter of Pokemon became nothing more than a distant memory and a game that nerds play on weekends. Although it has diminished in popularity, there are still people who perform Pokemon battles using the methods championed by the Pokemasters of the 1990’s. We may never completely rid the world of such horrific behavior, but I write this essay for the purpose of remembrance. So that we never forget the innocent Pokemon that lost their lives and the tragic acts of senseless violence that went unpunished. So come with me, the time is right and there’s no better team. Arm and arm, we’ll win the fight, it’s always been our dream. We must work together to ensure that the Pokemon are never forgotten.