Many years ago, on one of our three working television channels, I saw a rerun of some show featuring the lead voice actor from "The Emperor's New Groove" and a special guest star. Just recently I looked it up again, thanks to the guest star having a list on their website of everything they've ever appeared in. I discovered that the show in question is called "Just Shoot Me", a title I had never heard of, and that it actually featured two voice actors from "The Emperor's New Groove". Anyway, I don't know that I'll bother watching any other episodes but I think this one is brilliant. If you wish, skip to 3:13 to get to the good part and miss the inappropriate jokes, and stick around to the end.
Recorded for posterity more so than the people of today who already know this stuff.
Trigger warning: suicide
As much as I want to, I don't like recent Star Wars addition Rose Tico. I know I'm far from alone in that sentiment. In theory, the concept of a character who's not this glamorous action hero but just a regular mook who fangirls over her celebrity crush and then gets sucked into the action alongside him is a great one, but mostly I don't like her because I'm pissed at her for [spoiler alert that shouldn't be necessary because if you haven't seen "The Last Jedi" by now that's your own problem] stopping Finn from making a heroic sacrifice and telling him they'll win "not by destroying what we hate - but by saving what we love." Um, what? a.) Saving what he loves is literally exactly what you just stopped him from doing. b.) 99.9% of wars on Earth and, I presume, in a galaxy far, far away, have been and are and always will be won by killing the other side until they give up. So she's annoying that way.
But I have nothing against her actress Kelly Mary Tran, and even if I did, I would have been disgusted to learn that sexist and racist trolls have driven her to delete all her Instagram posts and leave the status "Afraid, but doing it anyway." Of course, it's not as if she's the first Star Wars actor to be severely harassed - young white male Jake Lloyd was bullied so severely that he quit acting, destroyed all his Star Wars memorabilia, and became mentally ill - but the bigotry in this case adds a particularly vile dimension. But what can we expect in an era when self-proclaimed Nazis fearlessly march in American streets without being shot? Disgusting people are no longer afraid to show the world how disgusting they are, because the most powerful man in the world has shown them that disgusting words and behavior carry no meaningful consequences. It's not going to get better anytime soon.
The Miss America pageant is doing away with its swimsuit and evening gown competitions. I have no stake in the matter, since the only beauty pageants I've ever seen are "Miss Congeniality" and "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous", but I do idly wonder, not for the first time, why we consider it less shallow to judge someone for their mind than their appearance. People don't choose how smart they are any more than they choose what they look like, do they? In either case, they're born with something and then they can augment it to some limited extent. If anything, people have more control over their looks because plastic surgery is a thing while brain boosting isn't. These are the things I speculate about instead of sleeping.
The Supreme Court made a rather vague ruling in favor of the Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony on religious grounds, finding that Colorado failed to respect his religious rights, while not clarifying how similar situations should be decided. As unpopular as it is, I agree with this ruling because the Constitution protects religious freedom and does not protect getting a wedding cake from whichever business you want. Whether you consider someone's beliefs to be bigoted or invalid is entirely irrelevant. I believe that generally if you have a problem with a business's practices, unless they include putting human flesh on pizza or something like that, you should just exercise your right to not patronize that business rather than whining to the government to make it do what you want. Of course there are nuances and exceptions and a need for compromise and yadda yadda yadda, and the Court conveniently didn't bother to outline any of those in any sort of detail at this time.
A couple more celebrities committed suicide this week, giving thousands of Americans the opportunity to glean their coveted likes and retweets by pretending to suddenly care about depression and mental health. Most of them have responded with deafening silence to the 123-ish less important people who've been commiting suicide every day, but progress is progress, I suppose. I don't mean to be dismissive of Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, but I don't know why we need them as wake-up calls for a problem that is not new. It's just too bad that this administration has cut hundreds of millions of dollars of mental health funding and has perpetuated the stigma against mental illness by trying to pretend it's responsible for the United States' exclusive mass shooting problem. It seems like these are exactly the wrong things to do and say in an era when suicide rates are skyrocketing, but nobody asked me.
I think I know why suicide rates are skyrocketing. I think it's because we've created an incredibly shallow, fake, moronic, greedy, self-absorbed, polarized, annoying, unnecessarily and gratuitously stressful society and people, even celebrities who are supposed to be happy because they have lots of money, don't want to be in it anymore. I sure as hell don't. Sometimes the only reason I put up with it is that a new Star Wars movie is coming out every year. Maybe our society could grow up and stop being crappy and see if that helps. But I won't hold my breath. To end on a more pleasant note, here's a soothing song I've listened to a lot this year.
If someone had told me three years ago that I would one day be in church talking to a liberal and agreeing with everything she said, I would have laughed. But it happened. I may have inadvertently misled her to think that I'm a liberal too. Whether she would classify as one surely depends on how liberal she is herself. We had this discussion in whispers in the family history room, where I followed her with permission and vowed to talk to her so she couldn't get anything done, and I don't know if anyone was eavesdropping but I hope so because I felt so rebellious and edgy saying these things in Utah. It was well-deserved revenge for every time someone who thinks the Republican Party platform is scripture has inserted their political views into a sacrament meeting talk or Sunday School lesson. There are still people who think you can't be a liberal and a good Mormon, and talking to those people makes me want to tear my own face off.
She's a middle school science teacher, which obviously can get interesting in a state dominated by a political party that openly mocks science and makes the United States a laughingstock. She's often frustrated by students who assert that climate change is a lie, because they think their parents without college educations are more reliable sources on science than actual scientists or science teachers, because reasons. Of course I brought up evolution, my pet topic. She said evolution is beyond the scope of her class but she would teach it if she could. But that would only bring her additional headaches. As far as I'm aware, there are still some parents and politicians in Utah wanting to get "intelligent design" taught in schools. And both climate change and evolution, facts and theories about the way the world is, have been made political issues because reasons.
Recently she went to New Zealand and met a group of children about the same age as her students. She told them she's a teacher in the US. Naturally, the first thing they asked was if she's scared of getting shot. This is how other countries see the United States now. Not as the land of the free or the home of the brave, but as the country that refuses to do anything about its children being slaughtered. Of course, our humiliating reputation is hardly deserved, because our violence problem has nothing to do with guns. It's all because of mental illness, violent video games, and atheism, which don't exist in New Zealand or every other civilized country that doesn't have mass shootings on a regular basis. Right. There's a special place in hell for the people in our society and our government who are deliberately blocking any and all potential solutions to our unique and thoroughly unnecessary problem. She didn't say, but I imagine the next thing the kids wanted to know was why the United States spends hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars a year on its education system and still has one of the worst education systems in the world.
When I was a conservative, the websites and books I frequented literally treated the United States as above criticism. If some celebrity like Bruce Springsteen criticized some aspect of American society, internet pundits jumped on him with ad hominem attacks about how his singing sounds horrible anyway. I wonder if he ever read those comments. If he did, I'm sure he thought something to the effect of "You don't like my singing? I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of all the money I made from it." But now, I realize that patriotism doesn't mean ignoring your country's problems or pretending that it's de facto the greatest country in the world because we said so. It's not the most free, smartest, safest, wealthiest, healthiest, or happiest country in the world, so I'm not aware of any objective measure that would make it the "greatest". And what's with "America the Beautiful" claiming that American cities are "undimmed by human tears"? Is it seriously making the audacious claim that American cities are free of suffering - in which case Katherine Lee Bates makes Trump look like Honest Abe - or just admitting that most people don't give a crap about it?
On a tangent, it's been bothering me lately that conservatives as a whole, not speaking of individuals, are either more gullible or more dishonest than liberals as a whole, because their obsession with garbage chain emails and memes is sickening. Why am I still seeing easily-disproven lies about Obama being born in Kenya and Bill Clinton assassinating interns? Trump regularly spouts audacious lies in his speeches and no matter how many times he gets called out on it, his followers don't care and he suffers no consequences whatsoever. Post-truth indeed.
The teacher leaned in and lowered her voice even further and whisper-shouted, "I just can't stand Trump!" In that moment I felt like
We enthusiasically listed off a few reasons we both can't stand Trump. Lesser of two evils is one thing, and spineless enough in my opinion, but it makes me sick watching people try to pretend that Trump is this dignified, sophisticated, righteous politician endorsed by God and deserving our full respect and support. From a certain angle and with the right lighting, I could maybe pretend he kind of looks like a president when he's not making words with his mouth or his Twitter account. He's vulgar, moronic, immature, bigoted, inexperienced, dishonest, arrogant, horny, and a disgrace to this country, his party, and the human race. But yeah, let's pretend people hate him because of fake news. I didn't ask if she voted for Hillary. I can't stand Hillary either and voted third party. But she said both sides are corrupt and vile, so she had that going for her. I'm planning to criticize liberals in the near future. I would do it more often if they were running the government. All I'll say right now is that despite the GOP's repeated failures to get rid of Obamacare like they promised, I am grateful to them for getting rid of the stupid individual mandate.
In less political news, I went to an activity that got canceled because it was Memorial Day and five people showed up, and I persuaded someone to take me home and let me watch a movie with her. She said she's lived alone for four years and I became insanely jealous. I've lived alone for about five months at one time and a year at another, and it was exquisite. I am currently blessed with quiet easy-going roommates and I like them just fine except for the fact that they're humans and I don't want to live with humans. What can you do? Anyway, she said I could pick the movie and when I saw that she had the 1997 animated "Anastasia", it was a no-brainer.
Eighteen years or so ago, my sister borrowed a tape of "Anastasia" from the neighbors and watched it so often that I said she would wear it out and they said that was okay. I liked it all right myself. Anastasia was one of my cartoon crushes, along with Ariel, Ariel's lesser-known daughter Melody, Officer Jenny, Nurse Joy, and Colleen from the 1945 cartoon "Duck Pimples". And I thought her line "A dog wants me to go to St. Petersburg" was comic gold. So I should have had the whole thing memorized, but only a few lines and the basic plot remained with me over the years. Then my mom got the soundtrack for Christmas one year and I listened to that and it brought back a few more memories but I remembered little of the context of the songs. Watching the movie now was familiar and completely new at the same time. I remembered some other lines and scenes as I heard them, while others I didn't at all. (How did I forget the part where pieces of Rasputin's face fall off while he's talking? I thought the song line about "a corpse falling to bits" was metaphorical.) I understood now the political background that went completely over my head as a child.
I realized that this movie would totally be PG-13 if it were live-action. And it would be awesome. I want it to happen, except with a few more explanatory scenes, especially at the beginning. This movie that plays fast and loose with history could have helped its own cause with some actual historical facts, like by including more backstory on Rasputin. We never see him in the movie when he's "good", so his betrayal and motivation for revenge have very little impact. In real life, he was loved and trusted by the royal family and had such a close relationship with all the little girls, including Anastasia, that some other employees thought it was creepy and got fired for saying so. If we saw him showering young Anastasia with affection at the beginning of the movie, him trying to kill her as an adult would resonate a lot more. But that's just my opinion. And also, why did Dimitri and Anastasia fall in love besides the fact that he's a man and she's a woman and it's a movie? What did they have in common? What did they see in each other? He claimed to hate it when women speak their minds.
In real life, of course, Anastasia was shot by the revolutionaries in 1918 along with the rest of her immediate family. And that's why movies and other forms of entertainment exist. Because the real world sucks.
Jonathan Young - In the Dark of the Night
A metal cover of one of the songs from the movie that I stumbled upon.
One day I went to play volleyball and someone there announced that we were all invited to her friends' (they were twins) birthday party and that there would be a bouncy slide. So I went, bringing four boxes of cookies to justify my being there. The only person there I knew was one who, up until that night, thought my name was Peter for some reason and I didn't correct him because I thought it was funny. The twins lived in a house they had bought together in a quiet part of town, which seemed nice although they mentioned that some of their neighbors were drug addicts who attracted police who woke them up in the middle of the night. I didn't think anything of that at the time.
"Where are you from?" one of the twins asked, as most people do.
"Upstate New York," I said, and then, before she could move on to the next question most people ask about what part, "Potsdam area."
"Oh, funny story," she said, "my ex-husband is from there."
There was a table with some index cards and pens, inviting attendees to write our favorite memories of the twins, and I hilariously wrote that mine was meeting them for the first time that evening. I had some room left on the card so after some ethical debate I left my web address. When I got home, I was horrified to discover that I had somehow put the pen cap in my pocket instead of putting it back on the pen. It seemed stupid to interrupt their lives for such a trifle, yet it needed to be made right no matter how small, so I determined to leave it on their porch with a note.
"How are you?" asked some lady sitting on her porch on their street. I said I was fine, thanks. I left the pen cap and the note and then by happenstance as I was wandering later that day and realized I was on the same street again, took the opportunity to check whether they had retrieved it yet. They had. I reached the end of the street and found several shriveled-up crusty dandelions growing by the road. I like picking the shriveled-up crusty bits off of dandelions. I enjoy it more than I can explain and I couldn't possibly care less if people think it's weird or assume I'm mentally deficient. So I picked the shriveled-up crusty bits off these dandelions and was about to leave when the lady who had said "How are you?" started incoherently yelling something.
I should have just kept going, but I wandered back over across half a block to stand in her front yard and ask what she was saying. She was brown and wrinkly, wore glasses, and was smoking a cigarette. What follows is reconstructed from my memory to the best of my ability. It was disjointed and surreal and repetitive at the time.
"What are you doing?" she asked. "I just wanna know what you're doing. I saw you on this street earlier, I said 'How are you', now you're back, and you went running real fast when Brennan pulled up in his car."
I hadn't noticed or reacted to any cars. I told her why I had been on the street earlier and how I happened to be on it again.
"Which house?" she asked.
I told her the number.
"That green one?" she said.
I didn't know, I couldn't see from here which one it was and I didn't know if it was the green one because I have better things to do with my brainpower than memorize the colors of houses I've seen twice.
"You're lying," she said. "I don't like liars. I know you're high... on meth." That was news to me, but it explained a lot. "I know because I used to be on meth, but I've been clean for seven years. I know you're here because of Brennan and Stacey. "
"Who are Brennan and Stacey?"
"Oh, you know."
Where could the discussion go from there? There was nowhere for it to go if she was going to be as asinine and incoherent as an anti-vaxxer.
"You were here twice, and God knows when else, because my dogs knocked me down. I have two huge dogs. If I ever see you around here again, I'm going to sic them on you."
"You don't own the street," I said.
"I don't care, I have kids. I have kids."
"You can't attack me for no reason."
She got this smug hoity-toity look and said, "Suspicion of activities." She obviously missed the memo that in the United States, "suspicion of activities" is not sufficient grounds to attack a white person*. I should have called the police then and there. She called out one of her kids, a girl of about middle school age, and told her to go get her brother. And she went and got her brother and her brother was about thrice the size of his mom. And I thought she was going to have him attack me, but he literally just stood there awkwardly for the remainder of our discussion.
"How did you know where I live?" she demanded, squinting at me.
"Because you yelled at me from across the street!" Why she thought my being here had jack to do with her was beyond my meager powers of comprehension.
"You were over there in the dandelions -"
"Yeah, is picking dandelions a crime now?"
"------- dandelions, man? Seriously?"
"Yeah, seriously!" My patience was quickly unraveling as it began to appear that this person was just a bigot against Aspies. If I want to pick the shriveled-up crusty bits off dandelions, I'll pick the shriveled-up crusty bits off dandelions. I don't owe her or anyone else on this planet an explanation.
"If you come back, I - it won't be good for you." Yeah, I'm really scared of a woman older than my mother who sits on her nalgas and smokes all day. I could probably just run circles around her until she died.
At this point I decided I was done being polite. "I'm gonna come back just to piss you off," I promised.
"Yeah, well..." she said something else that I wasn't listening to as I decided she had wasted enough of my time and left.
"I'll go wherever the ---- I want!" I yelled back. I usually try not to swear loudly enough for anyone to hear, but I made an exception that time.
I contacted the Logan City Police via Facebook because I was too nervous to call. Why don't they have an email? God forbid they have any contact method for people with non-urgent matters who have anxiety about phone conversations or being arrested for no reason. Of course, even though the Logan City Police Facebook page says they usually message back within a few hours, they never messaged me back, just like they never messaged me back the first time I contacted them about something. And the first time it felt personal, like they didn't consider me a person of equal value, but this time I should have seen it coming. I had briefly forgotten that harassment and threats are perfectly legal in the United States.
If she had just left me alone, I would have felt zero need to go back. But I was going to keep my promise. There was no way in hell I was going to give in to her misguided and unacceptable abuse. So I went back the next day.
Fortunately it was a cloudy, cool day, so I was able to wear a jacket with sleeves long enough to conceal a large, serrated kitchen knife. I probably didn't need to bother concealing it. I could probably carry whatever I wanted with impunity, because in the United States, "carrying literally any object including a cell phone or a ------- shower head" is not sufficient grounds to kill a white person*. I hoped I wouldn't have to use it, but I was determined that any living thing that attacked me would regret it. Hopefully the mere sight of the weapon would keep her from touching me and hopefully if the dogs attacked I could just wound them enough to make them back off. And the police would be displeased and I would ask them why they suddenly started caring about the problem I already told them about.
A dog barked as I neared her house. Through the screen door, I saw it, about a third of the size I expected. I think it was a bulldog but I couldn't see it clearly. So their existence was confirmed. She was still sitting on the porch, though I almost didn't recognize her without her glasses. As I passed by I looked her in the eye with the most defiant look I could manage. This was the moment of truth.
"Shut up, Z," she said to the dog.
My conclusion? That she was on drugs, probably meth, the first time. That makes it easy to forgive her. I am, by nature, one of the least forgiving people in the world, but I have an enormous space in my heart for addicts. Having stood up to her and kept my honor, I am now willing to put this incident behind us.
*In case it isn't as obvious as I hope it is, I'm mocking the status quo of black males in the United States being frequently attacked and/or killed for stupid reasons, not supporting it.
I'm Han Solo
I have not yet seen "Solo: A Star Wars Story" because not being surrounded by a huge obnoxious crowd is more important to me than seeing it as soon as possible. Here is another tribute song that keeps me psyched for it.
I committed to write a post every week even if it's crap, and this year maybe you've regretted my decision.
I cannot believe it's been a decade since "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was released. I watched the teaser over and over as if that would magically make it be released faster. I wrote "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is released today!" on the top of all my school assignments. I went with some friends for one of their birthdays and I loved it. I found it exciting and funny and original. I know hating George Lucas' more recent movies is the cool thing to do, but I don't, okay? Sue me. I don't hate any of his movies, actually. Not even "Howard Duck", which in my opinion is better than any of the Transformers movies and at least a dozen others I could mention. Anyway, I can't believe how fast my life is zipping by. A tender mercy, I suppose. I don't want to live very long. My tolerance for humanity's nonsense that I find myself constantly surrounded by ran out at least five years ago. I consider it far worse than death.
I don't want Harrison Ford to die, though. He's a national treasure. It was a gutsy move to cast him in the fourth Indiana Jones movie at age 65 and even gutsier to be casting him now, ten plus years later, for the fifth movie set to be released in 2020. We can only hope this will help to reduce American culture's contempt for old people. Disney originally promised that no one besides Harrison Ford would ever portray Indiana Jones (even though he's already been portrayed by River Phoenix, Neil Boulane, Boutalat, Corey Carrier, Sean Patrick Flannery, and George Hall) but now they're saying this fifth movie will be followed by a reboot of some kind. Because of course it will. Steven Spielberg thinks the next Indiana Jones should be a woman. I think if they go that route, they should at least change her name to avoid confusion. They could name her, say, Lara Croft, and call the franchise "Tomb Raider" or something like that. I don't know. It's just a thought.
One of the rumored future Star Wars anthology films is about Obi-Wan Kenobi. TMZ claims to have some details about it. "The report claims the Obi-Wan film is not an origin story like “Solo” but a direct prequel to the original “Star Wars.” The script is set on Tatooine and picks up with Obi-Wan living in exile and watching over young Luke Skywalker. Tensions between a tribe of Sand People and local Tatooine farmers bring Obi-Wan out of hiding." I, for one, hope this is true. I would love to see a Star Wars movie that takes place on one planet with no space battles and little or no involvement from the Empire. Presumably Obi-Wan wouldn't be able to do much with the Force or his lightsaber either, since, you know, he's supposed to be hiding. Hopefully we would see more of the Sand People culture and perspective and no longer view them as mindless killers - Disney could borrow from a Legends story where a moisture farmer befriends them and finds that they have souls after all. This would be such a unique movie and great change of pace from the usual Star Wars fare.
Recently I discovered an online treasure trove of Star Wars fan films that have almost or entirely been forgotten. Yes, most of them have been forgotten because they suck. But I'm wading through to find the gems, and I consider all of them to be worth watching once, or at least worth playing in the background while I do something more important once, if for no other reason than as nostalgic relics of the bygone era of 1999-2005. They make me grateful for how high the bar has been raised on fan films since then. All fan films now are expected to have impressive cinematography, realistic special effects, passable acting, and original music. Some are all but indistinguishable from Hollywood productions. And they're all made available on the internet for free so the filmmakers don't get their butts sued off. This is one considerable advantage of being alive in this annoying and stressful era.
The other night I had this dream where I'm in a car in a parking lot late at night, maybe my car, maybe someone else's, I don't know. But this cop thinks I'm looking suspicious so he pulls up and tells me to get out. I get out and start hyperventilating and coughing from fear, but I figure that's a good thing because it should make him take pity on me. He asks to see my ID and I give it to him, remembering that it's expired, reminding myself that airport security and the jail's visiting center accepted it anyway so he should too. He gives it back and tells me to get in his car. I ask if I'm in trouble. He says no. He takes me to the police station, which is the size of an airport and has a bunch of little shops like an airport, and he takes me to this shop where you design your own trail mix by picking ingredients, and he tells me to get whatever I want. I feel myself waking up but I determine to remember his name so I can thank him for his kindness. I look at his name tag: Michael Post. Thank you, Michael Post.
In anticipation of "Solo: A Star Wars Story", I am reposting this delightful song.
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C. Randall Nicholson (My Pretentious Author Name)
Here is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Mormon, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. Please don't make sweeping assumptions about my views based on one or two posts (hint: the Democrat and Republican parties can both go to hell), and don't assume I'm angry just because I'm passionate about things and try to use hyperbole for comedic effect. Also, if you disagree with something I write, try expressing your point of view in a comment instead of getting offended and never reading my blog again.