Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Chasing the Rabbit: Chapter Twenty -Cat and Mouse

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Under ordinary circumstances, having Daffy Duck on your side meant that you'd doomed yourself to the losing side. And indeed, the main office had already dealt with an entire afternoon of no discernible progress before the duck had shown up with unrelated opinions about everything from the FastPass system to the arrangement of staplers.

Mickey was the highest authority in the office, and he wasn't particularly adept at interrupting someone who wouldn't shut up. As such, Daffy had the room's focus and showed no signs of letting it go. Three minutes in, the chipmunks dragged over one of the largest binder clips the office had on hand and motioned to Mickey that they were more than prepared to snap it shut on the visitor's beak. The mouse gave them a horrified look, which eliminated the easy solution. The munks shrugged and left it to their boss to come up with a backup plan.

Mickey tried to make eye-contact with Porky for assistance, but the pig had spent the better part of his career learning the art of passive resignation. He turned to Sylvester next who gave him the 'just wait' index finger gesture. Mickey mouthed "For what?" but the cat only gave him a comforting nod.

As much of an obstacle as Daffy was being, he was inherently charismatic about it. So much that nobody realized they were hearing the loud clack of approaching heels on the hallway floor until Madame Medusa burst into the office. "Where is Oswald?" she bellowed.

The intrusion stopped Daffy mid-sentence. But before he could say 'oh no she didn't' Mickey dove into the lull. "Well, see, the thing is, Madame Medusa, Oswald hasn't, you know, come back yet-"

"Then he's out! Give me the rat's contract now!"

"He's not a rat," Mickey muttered; one of the few times he'd taken offence to a comment.

Goofy chimed in. "Gawrsh Miss Medusa, you know tha' rules. Ya can't fire someone if ya can't find 'em."

"You have one minute to put Oswald's contract in my hand-"

"Or what?" snapped Daffy. "You heard the dingo! A rule is a rule! And you can't change a rule without changing the rulebook! Every rulebook will tell you that!"

 She tried turning her attention back to Mickey, oblivious to the reality that you might interrupt Daffy, and you might ignore him, but nobody ever managed to do both. "What is this idiot saying?"

The duck jumped up in her face now. "I'll tell you what this idiot is saying, Wanda Wiggins! YOU have one minute to put the rulebook in MY hand or YOU'RE out of here! Done! Finished! Kaput! Capiche! Kapow! Capote!" He'd gotten her attention, and was only just realizing he didn't want it. "Wow lady, that is some ten yard stare you've got."

Under ordinary circumstances, Daffy was a liability. But these were not ordinary circumstances. In that moment, Madame Medusa's newfound fury with Daffy superseded her intention to oust Oswald.

Nobody in the office did anything but watch as she dragged the duck down the hallway she'd just come from. "By the way, that's a stupid rule!" Daffy called just before he disappeared out of sight.

"How did you know?" Mickey asked Sylvester.

"I didn't know that would happen, but theeth thingth alwayth have a rhythm." The cat clapped his hands together, ready for action. "You care if we play through?"

"Gosh, I don't you what you can do to help."

Sylvester smiled. "Probably nothing. But it doethn't look like we can make it worth."

"Worth?" Mickey repeated. "Oh, worse! I'm really sorry."

"Nothing to be thorry about. Doeth the thimulation have any thchematicth?"

"Schematics? The hard drives have the pre-production, and Oswald's diagrams are in his office. But for some reason we can't get into the program itself."

"Well let'th have Porky go through the hard drive, and Wile E. look through Othwald'th offith. If you're okay with that."

"And what you need me to do?" asked Speedy Gonzales.

"You make thure we all thtay on the thame page."

"Si seƱor gato."

Rival studios never had any personal tension between them, but the addition of a corporate layer added a massive and complex legal slate to the mix. Mickey knew he was putting more on the line than he ever had before by agreeing to this alliance. But people were in danger. And whether or not the business side would deem them worth the risk, the mouse truly believed they should.

"I guess that will be okay," he said. "I don't know what you'll find that we haven't."

Sylvester leaned in and lowered his voice. "There'th thomething I need to talk to you about privately."

Mickey's office phone was ringing when he and Sylvester stepped through the door. The incoming caller's I.D. was the red phone booth in the guest area; the one where only top tiered staff knew the code to dial out from. "I'm sorry. I gotta take this."

The cat took a seat in one of the comfortable chairs and watched the world's most successful studio mascot awkwardly fumble his was through a mostly one-sided conversation. His responses were a series of yesses, I sees, and keep me posteds, while he forcibly kept his Disney smile firmly in place. The stress in his eyes told a more accurate picture. Sylvester made a mental note that it might be profitable to challenge the studio VIP's to a poker game somewhere down the road.

The mouse hung up the phone and did his best to pretend everything was all right. "So, whatcha got?"

Sylvester grinned. As far back as the Schlesinger days, the Looney Tunes founders had gazed up at the Disney legacy with a resigned envy. Not so much that it ever reached the toxic levels that Daffy had for Bugs, but the weekend gatherings had been home to many a playful imagining of what it might feel like if for one moment they could one-up the Mouse House. Sylvester would be the first to ever one-up the actual mouse.

He gestured to the phone. "Othwald okay?"

Mickey tripped over a response somewhere between yes and no. "How did you-"

Sylvester produced an office folder, placing it on Mickey's desk but temporarily ignoring it. "Full dithclothure," he said. "We love you guyth. We love your optimithm and your perpetual belief that thingth will alwayth work out. We're not here to preth-th an advantage, or upthet your balanthe. You want to protect your rabbit, we want to pretherve ourth."

"And we really appreciate that. But you guys being here really might make things worse."

"Of courth it will!" WB was nothing if not proud of the chaos they tended to cause. "You need worth."

Mickey shook his head. "Not much worse."

The cat was right about him trying to protect Oswald. In light of Madame Medusa's recent tirade, Mickey hadn't wanted to admit he'd even spoken with Oswald, much less had any idea where he was. But both studios would lose if they weren't able to resolve the issue with the simulator.

"Okay," he decided. "The virtual island runs on this kind of..." How was he going to explain it?

"Adaptive programming?" Sylvester offered.

"Yeah, we all remember TRON. Oswald thinks it's reading Bugs as a virus."


"Something like that. He's going to test the theory using some of the old Innoventions tech."

"You think he can create an anti-viruth?"

Mickey jolted at the thought. "No! He'd never do that!"

"Could it fixth the problem?"

"It would destroy Bugs! That wouldn't fix anything!" It was a little disturbing how nonchalant Sylvester was at repeating the suggestion that it would in fact solve the Disney Studio's side of the problem. "Are you sayin' Oswald would do that?"

"Are you thaying he wouldn't?"

"He'd never dream of it!"

"My point exthactly." He slid the office folder over to Mickey. "None of you know how to think like an antagonitht."

Mickey opened the folder to find the formal invitation that Bugs had received in the mail to join Oswald's project. On Disney stationary. Mickey stared at it in disbelief. "He was invited?"

"You tell me. We found that in hith houthe."

"This can't be right."

"No. It can't." Sylvester leaned back in his chair. "I think you need uth."

"I think so too."

Jasmine was already scouring the debris of wooden planks piled against the outer edge of a small cave mouth when Frollo finally reached her location. The dust was still rising from the explosion. "Kronk!" the self-titled princess shouted.

An incoherent muffle came from within the rubbish. What had the idiot charged into? It looked like the remains of a storage facility; no doubt useless after the catastrophe.

Jasmine was now on the far side of the pile where Kronk's hand protruded. She took it in her fingers, feeling for a steady pulse. "Kronk?"

A few tones of his voice made it through labyrinth of splinters. "Somebody lose a cannonball?"

"We're going to get you out of there," Jasmine promised with nothing to back up her claim. She surveyed the rubble, presumably looking for the best way to leverage the upper weight. Frollo shook his head.

"Just leave the fool-"

"He saved your life," she scolded him, like he was some kind of infant.

"And that's relevant because?"

"It makes him better than you!"

He rolled his eyes. "Decreeing value based on circumstance now?"

"Yes. And if you want to stop being dead weight you could try to help me loosen one of these beams."

"Have you ever done any actual...princessing?"

Jasmine began a careful climb of the heap, doing her best not to shift any added pressure onto where she thought Kronk was. "What's that supposed to mean?"


"Zip it Frollo!" He shot her a look, but she didn't have time for a staring contest. Jasmine crawled behind the most vertical support and propped her feet against it. "There's sacrifice and there's abandonment. The difference is convenience."

Frollo snorted. Let her highness waste her energy trying to topple the scaffolding. The cave mouth had drawn his attention. There were steps. Carved into the stone, but undoubtedly by human hands. He couldn't make out more than a few yards into the darkness, but a thought occurred to him. If the entrance had been protected by a countermeasure and Kronk had already set it off, whatever lay down there was now unguarded.

"You may want to move, Frollo," Jasmine called. "This is coming down."

"Gladly," he sneered.

This moment would forever be burned into Daffy's memory as the backdrop for his guest spot on "This is Your Life". In a matter of ninety seconds, he'd gotten himself evicted from the Disney premises; a place to which he'd not only been invited, but granted security clearance. But it wasn't a simple eviction. He'd been forced to wait outside the lobby for twenty minutes while security took its sweet time completing the procedure. He found himself sharing a bench with a droopy eared quadruped in an otherwise empty hallway; the quote "Welcome to the happiest place on earth" painted in bright colors on the wall across from him.

"Well this can't get any more poetic," he muttered to his benchmate. Only after a moment of eye contact did Daffy realize who the donkey was. He buried his head. "Egad."

"Have that effect," said Eeyore.

Daffy sighed. "I don't imagine you're being thrown out too."

"Nope. Appointment moved. Have to wait," Eeyore responded with a full rest stop between each sentence.

"I bet you're a delight on the late night talk show circuit."

"Wouldn't know. Never asked."

"You and me both pal."

Daffy thought he might try to sneak into Guest Relations to let them know that the character meet and greets were not exceeding his expectations. Here at the happiest place- why did they decide to call it that? Who was ever made happy having to draw from their 401K just to afford entrance to the parking lot? Was that happiness? Negotiating through a literal pileup of rented strollers, ungrateful gremlins, and hordes of seagulls straight out of Hitchcock's casting agency? It was a joke, and someone else was telling it.

Termite Terrace. That was the happiest place Daffy had ever been a part of. No expectations. No corporate contracts. Just chaos unhindered. "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery"; that was a picture he wished would never end. Apparently dreams did come true, just not for very long.

Abruptly he turned back to Eeyore, visibly surprising the donkey. "Let me ask you something. You worked your way into cultural iconography, right?"

"Just kind of happened. Probably be forgotten."

"Yeah, I get it, gloom, no pride, trope namer. But as long as generations of the entertained continue to exist, you're theoretically immortal."

"Suppose so."

"Day to day, how do you live with it? The general unpleasantness of being who you're destined to be?"

"Focus on what matters. Some times you make a difference. Someone else is a little happier, because you're you. And that's enough."

"I think," Daffy professed, "that you just bummed me out."

"Have that effect," said Eeyore. "It's who I am."

Daffy sat in silence. He couldn't fathom finding any comfort in the happiness of others. He knew it was selfish, but that's who he was. He was selfish. Always had been. There was no way around it.

It's who I am. He repeated the donkey's words in his own head. That's who Daffy Duck is. I'm incorrigible. I'm not someone who does what he's told. I don't cooperate. I don't play by the rules. And above all I don't WAIT for security to eject me.

One glance at the unobstructed corridor from whence he'd come was all the motivation he needed to take to his scrawny legs. He patted the donkey on the head. "Don't ever change." And without another word, he was gone.

Eeyore grumbled to himself. "I think I just unleashed a monster."

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Chasing the Rabbit: Chapter Nineteen -A Cold Welcome

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The long eared creature evaded Elsa's attempts to corner him. He was fast; almost disappearing when he wanted to. Were it not for the accompanying whoosh sound his speed created, both starting and stopping, Elsa would likely have lost track of him.

"I'm not here to hurt you," she promised.

"Says you, Blondie," the animal retorted.

Despite the fact that this large room sat in the middle of an entire cave system made up of molten rock, the internal temperature was much more bearable. Not cool, or even comfortable, but well below the miserable threshold Elsa had endured on her way there. Most of the heat in the room seemed to be radiating from behind the rows of monitors that lined half of the room's perimeter.

Elsa glanced over the screen images, presuming they were a similar form of magic that Maleficent had demonstrated. "You've obviously been keeping tabs on us all. Have I given you any reason to think I'm confrontational?"

"Listen hot stuff. I don't know you, and I don't know them."

Elsa took note of the fact that he hadn't made a sprint for the entrance behind her, as she really didn't have the means to prevent his escape. As casually as she could make the gesture, she coated about a third of the floor, opposite his current location, with a thin veil of ice all the way to the wall. "You obviously know something," she said. "Could you come out so we can talk?"

"Say, that's a great idea! Why don't I lay out the Ritz Crackers while I'm at it?" he sneered. "You got a bottle opener?"

"Maybe we can help each other," sais Elsa, taking a few cautious paces in his direction. "My name is Elsa of Arendelle."

"And I'm Lightning McQueen," he fired back, choosing to bolt again before allowing her to get a good look at him. Unfortunately the moment his feet touched the ice Elsa had just created, he lost any ability to steer, or stop (short of smacking against the wall). By the time he'd regained his bearings, he found himself surrounded by thin frozen sheets forming a temporary containment. He rolled his eyes, thinking himself capable of simply plowing through his cell walls. But with no traction on the floor, his feet only spun in place when he tried to run again.

Elsa shape appeared on the other side of the glassy barricade. "I'm also not here to be nice."

He began throwing a childish tantrum. For all she knew, he may have actually been a child. He was smaller than she was. Between the ears and the brown fur, she couldn't tell if he was a human in mid-transformation or just an animal wearing a sweater.

"I swear I don't know anything!" he insisted.

Clearly he was lying, as nobody would preemptively deny having information so vehemently unless they were desperate to avoid being interrogated. But rather than confront him head on, Elsa decided to let him open up by accident. "What are these images? Some kind of crystal?"

He stared at her, feigning ignorance as to what she'd just asked.

Elsa moved to the nearest screen and tapped on the glass. "These. What are they?"

"They're monitors," he muttered.

"What do they do?"


Elsa couldn't tell if he was being snide or really just stating what he felt the logical answer would be. "What do they monitor?"

"The whole island."

On this, he wasn't lying. The monitors showed feed from every place Elsa had been on the island and at least thrice as many as she hadn't. But there was little sign of any of her friends. She spotted Jasmine running along a beach towards some kind of wreckage, and Frollo taking his time following her. On another monitor it appeared as if some woman Elsa hadn't met was carrying a child through a wooded area. No Kronk or Bagheera from what she could see. And no Maleficent. Had they perished?

Her eyes settled onto a single screen that showed Tarzan's face. His eyes were closed and there was no indication that he was breathing. It was impossible for Elsa to tell if the image was frozen or if Tarzan was simply no more.

"Where is he?" she asked the creature.

"I don't know."

"You've been watching these monitors. What has happened to Tarzan?"

"I haven't been here that long! She left me here and told me to watch everything!"

"Who did?"

"The horned lady," he whined.


"That's her! She said if I did what she said she'd change me back."

Elsa examined her prisoner through the ice. He seemed to be trembling, either from nerves or from a temperature he didn't care for. "All right, I'm going to let you go. If you run, I won't chase you. But if you want to stay with me, I'll protect you from Maleficent. Agreed?"

He gave her a suspicious eye but nodded. And in seconds the cell of ice dissolved into mist which Elsa collected into her palm. The creature collected himself and watched as Elsa reshaped the mass into a crude topographical map. "What are you doing?"

"Replicating the island." Elsa mentally deconstructed every screen showing the outdoors, figuring out where it was in relation to the island and adding details to her translucent model. "What are you exactly?"

"I'm just a kid."

"Did Maleficent change you?"

He shook his head. "I just got into the wrong stuff at the wrong time. There were a whole bunch of us. One minute we were running wild at a carnival, and the next every friend I had started turning into donkey."

"A donkey? Is that what you are?"

"Only half. I stopped drinking the brew."

So, a brew that could turn a child into a donkey. That seemed a little far-fetched to be true, but also a bit too absurd to have been made up on the spot. Elsa didn't entirely believe him, but she had no reason let him know of her doubts. "What's your name?"

He answered halfway between a question and a statement. "Alex."
Elsa finished her simulation as best as she could. She had the shape of the island in her hand, and several major landmarks. There were several ambiguous areas that the monitors hadn't covered, but all things considered it was a pretty useful display. She closed her eyes took in the geometry of her creation, feeling its complex outline in such a way that she could reproduce it later.

Confident enough with her spatial memory, she held her design out to Alex. "We're somewhere underneath this mountain here," she said. "And we need to get to this beach here, where Jasmine and the others are. Do you happen to know how to get back to the surface?"

"You mean without having to go through the lava cavern?"

Elsa nodded.

He thought for a second. "There's a metal pipe with those things on it that you can climb. She told me to stay off of it."

"Then that's where we're going." She dismissed her island into mist and gestured for him to take the lead out of the room. As soon as they were a comfortable distance away, Elsa waved her hand across the whole area of the monitors, coating them in a wall of ice.

"What are you doing?"

"I doubt we'll be coming back here, and I'd just as soon not leave these lying around for anyone else to use."

"But they're electrical!"

His protest came just a few seconds too late. Elsa tried to dismiss the glacier she'd been building, but the screens on the end were already starting to crack. A buzzing sound emitted from within the glass that she couldn't possibly have anticipated. "Oops?" She turned to tell her companion to run but he was gone. She barreled out of the room in the direction she'd been pointed, covering her ears from the first explosion.

The security alarm deafened the collective skulls of the four animals who'd gotten stuck trying to squeeze through gate all at the same time. Porky got free first, having been shoved forward by Sylvester. Daffy shook himself back into awareness and jumped on top of Clarabelle's desk, leaving Wile E. Coyote to drag himself off the floor, as he'd wound up on the bottom of the dog pile.

The duck pointed accusingly at the cow, who kept pretending to file her nails rather than acknowledge him. "Listen Elsie! I'll have you know we were personally requested, begged if you will, to fix your system glitch!"

Porky rolled his eyes. "Y-you're gonna guh-get thrown out."

"Nah, it's Disney," Daffy said. "They give you free stuff when you complain." He proceeded to give Clarabelle a scolding about how her people called his people and even if they weren't people they were called people and if people were people they why should it be the two of them should get along so awfully before realizing he'd lost track of his own stream of thought. He scowled at his companions. "Why does nobody ever stop me from talking?"

The heavy thud of footsteps followed by Pete's unmistakable bellow prevented anyone from answering. "What's goin' on 'ere?"

Daffy instantly regained his faux confidence and hopped back down to the floor. "I'll handle this," he assured his compatriots.

"We knew you would," Sylvester muttered.

Daffy proudly threw his shoulders back. "All right Buster!" But his challenge of authority was met with the uncomfortable realization that he was not in fact staring Pete in the eyes, but the kneecaps. He had enough time to tilt his head upwards before a huge gloved fist wrapped around his neck and pushed him against the security gate, which instantly went silent. "You know you're a lot bigger in person?" Daffy wheezed.

"An' you got one awfully big mouth chump."

Sylvester snorted. "That'th why we don't thtop him from talking."

Daffy tried to produce his security pass, but grabbed a loose post-it note that had stuck to his feathers by mistake. Realizing the error, he hastily scribbled an unconvincing self portrait with the words 'diplomatic immunity' on the note and presented it with a long shot of hope. Pete was not amused. he crumbled the note in his free hand and pulled back for a left jab.

It was a foregone conclusion that Daffy would have been out cold for the next hour or so were it not for the timely appearance of Speedy Gonzales again. "Senor Pete, we're from the Warner Brothers studio. Senor Mouse asked us to help get the conejo out of the embrollo."

"Da who outta da what?"

"He'th thaying," said Sylvester, "that your thtudio athked our thtudio to athitht in athething the theverity of the thituath-h-hion."

Daffy sighed in defeat; he HAD to be doing that on purpose. Eyes turned to Porky next who just shook his head and kept his mouth shut. It was Wile E. who managed to defuse the situation. Through pantomime; about half a minute of a bizarre sequence of crouching, lurching, springing, and a brief foray into soft-shoe. What, exactly, he was conveying was lost on Daffy, and the other Looney Tunes showed no comprehension of the plot. But by the end of the routine, Pete had apparently gotten the gist.

"Oh I get it," he said. "Yeah, we've been expectin' you guys."

With that, he discarded the duck and motioned for everyone to follow him. Speedy shrugged and shot down the hall followed by cat, pig, and coyote; who gave Daffy a smug eyebrow waggle.

Clarabelle continued to ignore him as he tried to relocate his dignity and ponder what in the Maltese Mantis had just happened. By the time he got to his feet, Speedy was back. "Hurry duck. You getting left behind."

Daffy grimaced. "How come you didn't set off the alarm when you came through?"

"Too fast?" Speedy offered. And was gone. And was back. "By the way, you're welcome." And was gone again.

"Shut up," Daffy grumbled.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Flightless Bird Pride Parade (A Metaphor)

I recently had the experience of hand feeding an emu. I've tried feeding an ostrich before and gotten my skin pinched (no fault of the ostrich), but surprisingly the emu was much more precise in its ability to remove dried out popcorn kernels from my bare palm.

I'd like to pretend that I'm bringing this anecdote up because of a certain empathy I imagine I have for flightless birds; knowing that you have wings and a tail in all the right places but for whatever reason you just can't do the one thing birds are historically known for. Yeah, I could probably make a decent argument for opening the blog this way, but the truth is very different. See, whenever I share my blog posts on Facebook, a snippet of the first paragraph always appears with the link. And frankly, I'm happy to let the whole world think that I'm blogging about emu feeding. Obviously I'm not.

I'm blogging about asexuality. I haven't wanted to. Ever. For me it's a subject that ranges from painful at its worst to irrelevant at its best, so I've never had any motivation to bring it up. But here with June being LGBT-ETC. Pride Month, maybe I feel compelled to address the elephant missing from the room. What exactly is asexual pride supposed to be?

Let's start with something a little more fundamental. How do you define asexuality apart from a lacking of something? Google will know. asexual: (adj) without sexual feelings or associations. Well that helped a hell of a lot. It doesn't seem like 'or associations' really adds anything helpful except making it sound more scholastic than 'without sexual feelings 'n stuff'. It's kind of hard to take pride in an adjective that technically applies to lower life forms like Protozoa and inanimate objects like snow shovels.

I don't know if you've ever picked up on this from films or magazines or rooms with more than one person in it but sex is valuable. In fact, a majority of social situations seem to equate attractiveness and/or prowess with value. What does that mean for an asexual? Do you grow up wondering whether or not you have any value?

So when it comes to a concept like asexual pride, what exactly is there to take pride in? I'm proud of things I've done, like written comedy, danced in a music video, acted in a silent film. I even have a twisted sense of pride about some things I've chosen not to do, like to never read a Harry Potter book. But asexuality isn't any kind of accomplishment or choice on my part. It just...I don't

And to piggyback off of other things I don't really know, I don't really know what the value of blogging about this is. It's certainly not making ME feel any better revisiting memories of things I'd just as soon erase from my history. I'm only writing about it at all because I have a kind and understanding wife; my biggest cheerleader who believes in me a lot more than I ever have. She wants me to be proud of who I am, and I'd never want to fall short of being the guy she sees when she looks at me. And who knows? Maybe my child self could have processed his asexuality better with a little guidance from the present me. And if that's the case, then maybe there's a chance some other me-like soul out there could stumble across this post and take something worthwhile from it. So here it goes.

1. You already suspect that something is missing. Somehow you just feel like you're different, even if you can't process for yourself what that feeling is, much less explain it to anyone else. And you're right to feel this way. You are different. I'm happy to tell you that it's not a bad thing (it isn't) but I don't expect you to believe me. Because it's going to feel like a bad thing. You're going to feel like you don't belong. Like something is happening around you that you just can't connect with. It's going to hurt.

2. Adolescence is going to make it worse, because it's a freaking roller coaster for your hormones; and not a fun roller coaster, but one of the old wooden ones that's at least a decade overdue for refurbishment. There is nothing that can be done about this. Adolescence is a test of endurance. It's not going to be who you are forever.

3. There's a big difference between being asexual and aromantic. The fact that you're one and not the other is going to be a huge internal conflict for you. You're going to crave intimacy, but you're not going to have the desire to express it through sex. You have three options. You can do what I usually did, retreat from the intimacy you want. That's going to be lonely, and you're going to risk convincing yourself that nobody wants you, but it let's you at least feel some control. You can also do what I occasionally did, embrace the moments where you can experience the intimacy you desire by faking the desire that you're not interested. These are going to be mistakes. Probably mistakes you're better off making than not (remember, adolescence is when you're bound to screw it up), but be ready for a broken heart and some damage to other people you leave behind. And you can do the thing I only did once, be honest about it. It's a complete relinquishing of control and you'll never feel more frightened by the vulnerability. That's terrifying, but it's real. And isn't that what you ultimately want?

4. Asexuality affects how you feel and how you view yourself, but it has much less to do with how the world feels or views you than you'd expect. For example, it doesn't serve as a shield to being sexually assaulted, even at the age of twenty-nine. Don't be surprised if it takes you a few months to realize that's what happened to you.

5. Never underestimate the value of being trustworthy. It's possible that your asexuality is going to allow females to view you as approachable, even if it's not for romantic purposes. I don't know if it's a simple cause and effect or if it's just a factor. But know this, when one of your female college friends reveals to you that she's been raped, and she's telling you that while she's alone with you in her own dorm room, that is a big fucking deal to her. Never forget that you were the guy she was willing to open up to.

6. And this last thing is the most important. There's a very real possibility you might wind up alone. Asexuality may aggravate that fear but at the end of the day it's not the cause; everyone has the potential to wind up alone. The pain of isolation is heavy, and it's natural to want to blame it on something. Asexuality is a convenient scapegoat, but don't. You didn't choose this and it's unrealistic to judge the quality of your life against the hand you haven't been dealt. Stick to the one you have. And that hand has an advantage that you may not be aware of until it's no longer relevant. Do you know what's worse than being alone? Being with the wrong person. And do you know why people wind up with the wrong person? Well, any number of reasons, but at the top of the list is because they've made a dramatic decision using the wrong organ. You won't have to worry about that.

If you are blessed enough to find that right fit, you'll know. For the first time in your life you'll feel truly like you. The pain doesn't just go away, but at long last you'll allow it to surface. You'll cry, and your special one will be in front of you with open arms and a genuine smile of encouragement and acceptance. You're loved. I hope that happens for you. It did for me, and I know I'll get to hold on to her forever.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

How I'd Change Endgame if I Had the Infinity Gauntlet

Can we talk for a second? Just you and me?

First off, I just want to say thanks for visiting my blog, and I mean that. Whatever it was that led you here, I'm grateful that you clicked the link. This is, in fact, a milestone for me; 250th post. I honestly never thought I would stick with it this long, and as far as I know I'm probably winding down the output (just trying to finish up the frigging Disney fan fiction and all that). But I really do appreciate you taking the time to scroll through my attempts at jokes, insights, and complete sentences (not necessarily in that order).

But the main thing I'd like to talk about is that I'm a misfit, and for better or worse I always will be. As I type that out, it occurs to me that the words carry any number of meanings depending on context. Misfits always find each other (to paraphrase the Ed Wood production team's DVD commentary). Lone misfits feel the weight of their isolation, and the discovery of a misfit community fills them with an apprehensive exhilaration. "You mean I get to belong?" they say, "My people were out there the whole time?" It's uncomfortable being a misfit; and to illustrate, let me point out how smoothly in this very paragraph I shifted from talking about myself to talking about a third person archetype. The discomfort never goes away. I bring this up because now we live in a world which I never could have predicted back when I was a small-for-my-age child living in fear of being beating up by kids smaller and younger than me. The nerds won.

Nerds and misfits don't exactly equate interchangeably, but the overlap is enough where the spectrums only require one story. The misfits own the cinema, and television, and the internet, and the non-misfits have had to get comfortable coming to us for navigational guidance. We won. And the funny thing is, I don't think we realize it. We certainly never meant to, we were just trying to do what we thought was right. And thus, total victory still doesn't feel like a victory.

So what the hell does this have to do with Avengers: Endgame? A few things. First point, Endgame is the undisputed BIGGEST thing ever in the cinema (western culture's secular temple). It's the most massive, expensive thing ever to be experienced by this much of humanity all at once that didn't come from the Heavens. It's earned back its budget and marketing costs in two days and stands a chance at snapping that f**king James Cameron hack job out of the number one slot. Marvel delivered on the impossible promise they made eleven years ago, and everyone in my circles couldn't be happier. Which brings me to my second point; as usual, I'm the schmuck who has something to gripe about.

For the record, I don't like being that guy. I'm tired of being the misfit. I'm tired of feeling like an asshole whenever my coworkers ask me what I thought about the latest 'thing' that brought so much joy to everyone else as they brace themselves for what will inevitably come across as a fabricated flaw in paradise. I wish I could just ride the roller coaster as it is instead of honing in on what I think kept it from transcendence. But I am that guy. I take Prozac to be a little less of that guy, but for reasons known only to God I live in the suburbs of impossible-to-please.

So here it goes- what didn't I like about it? Let me stress...mostly nothing. The Russos pulled off a feat that I sure as hell won't pretend to ever have the capacity for; I've been writing the same damn novel for nine years now. The film deserves all the praise that it's been getting from everyone around me. But it also deserves to have the two glaring flaws pointed out; and I'm not talking about whether or not Ned failed his senior year five times.

Flaw one (and I know I'm being unrealistic here), the Thanos saga needed to be a trilogy. Acts one and two are nearly flawless, but the third act is just too overstuffed to carry the resonance of Wanda's three minutes of screen time, Spiderman's resolution, Wasp's appearance, and Pepper's...whatever it was she did. Why not just wipe out all of Wakanda if the survivors aren't going to matter until the ending? Was Wong really doing something that important during the time heist? And you can't use the same character for a big damn heroes moment twice in one movie or you get diminishing returns on both (that's already becoming an issue with Carol Danvers).

But you know what? I could totally overlook flaw one were it not for flaw two. I mean, Captain Marvel had plenty of issues and I didn't lose it over that movie. Admittedly less was at stake, but as I felt that they got the important stuff right I could bend on everything else. And unfortunately with Endgame, flaw two is kind of important. Staring us all right in the face. And I have to be the bad guy by pointing it out. But here it goes.

They left Thanos out of the movie.

I mean, yeah I know. I DID see the same movie you did. He's visually there. But his character is gone. I don't know if he got cut for time (refer to flaw one) or if the Russos just didn't bother for a second round, but all of his complexity in Infinity War that made him such an engaging villain was non-existent in Endgame. His performance was as wasted as Christopher Eccleston's was in Thor: Dark World. The big guy deserved better.

Why do I think he deserved better? At his core this version of Thanos was a misfit; just like me, just like the audience who cherishes superheroes, and I would assume just like you. The best villains are the ones who reflect something truly horrible inside us, and Thanos represented a blind belief beyond reason in an extreme idea. How many examples of that in the world today can we think of? Should we be comfortable with villainizing them beyond any hope of redemption?

But he murdered half of all life in the universe! Yeah, I know. I didn't say we just needed to hug it out. Thanos is a villain, and he's consciously accepted that role in favor of doing what he feels is a greater good. But our heroes also had Thanos at their mercy, and they stopped being heroes when they executed him right there on the spot. And even though I know we probably would have done that ourselves given the chance, our heroes are supposed to be better than us; and be heroes, especially when it sucks to be heroes. Heroes have rules, not the least of which is you can't kill a villain unless there's no other choice.

This is what should have happened. They confront him, cut off his gauntlet hand (honest mistake), and then talked to him once he was no longer a threat. The reality of the situation unfolds the same way (no more infinity stones, no do overs), and the Avengers decide to just leave Thanos where he is. Alone with his sunrise and the knowledge that the rest of the universe is going to know where to find him. It's at that point that Thanos, in an apparent bout of remorse, gives them the idea for the time heist.

Act two unfolds pretty much the same way, but it's slowly revealed that one-armed Thanos is secretly manipulating things in a way that causes his younger self to receive information about the future, thus reminding us of what a master tactician he is. This culminates in the epic battle sequence but with the added layer of a post battle one-armed Thanos for Steve to deal with; this time no shield, no Tony, and no Thor. But who comes to the rescue? Loki. He's the deus ex machine, for whatever bullshit reason his unresolved timeline opened up. He gets the killing blow on Thanos. And as an act of mischievous generosity, he's the one who sends Steve back to his own time period.

And you know what? I changed my mind. It still needed to be two movies.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Chasing the Rabbit: Chapter Eighteen -Firewalls and Blindspots

Click here for the table of contents.

She lay. Motionless. Numb.


A voice. Anna's? No. Someone else. Pleading with her to get up.

Was she sleeping? What happened to her? There was an island. And a creature. Screeching. With talons. Made entirely of molten rock.

Get up.

Was she dead? The bird had come for her. A gaping beak of flames. Open. For her. The corner of her mouth twitched into a smirk.

It had chosen the wrong girl.


The voice came one last time before vanishing into stillness. She opened her eyes as a cloud of mist dissipated into the hot air around her. She lay. Her back pressed against stone. Glowing stone. Burning.

She shrieked. Sparks scattered as she sprang upright. The ground was hot as coals. She encased her feet in protective ice which immediately began to melt.

A second shriek startled her. On reflex she struck a defensive stance, sending a tiny shield of ice in the direction of the sound which turned to vapor before it touched the floor. It had been nothing more than an echo.

The soles of her feet were starting to burn again. She reformed her makeshift slippers and started mov-

The image of Arendelle's queen on the auditorium screen froze mid step, and Judy Hopps turned her attention to the assembly of figures, thirty or so, scattered throughout the seating meant for around two hundred. Nobody ever wanted to sit towards the front.

"Did I see a hand?" She was positive one had gone up, only to retreat comfortably back into anonymity. "I like questions," she assured her audience who hadn't discovered until an hour before that they were attending a workshop on character analysis. The student who had caught her eye meekly raised his paw again. She smiled. "Yes. Go ahead."

"Wouldn't the heat kill her?"

"Very good! That is an excellent critical question!" She skipped to the edge of the stage and sat down. "Always ask questions like that. It doesn't matter if you go into animation, writing, music, or performance. You should always ask about the details. Look at them from the protagonist's eyes. From the antagonist's. From the side characters'. And especially from the audience's. You don't always have to have an answer. But if something slips past you that you haven't at least thought about, it's only going to reflect back on you. And believe me, someone else WILL pick up on it."

Now that Judy could see the faces of her audience more clearly, she took a moment to scan for the ones who were genuinely engaged in the workshop.

"So what do you guys think? Would the heat kill Elsa?"

Silence, as expected.

"Let me rephrase it then. You have someone whose whole existence is attuned to ice surrounded by recently molten rock. Why is she still alive?"

A few eyes tilted back as if the attendees were trying to puzzle it out, but nobody spoke up.

"There's no wrong answers- well, obviously there are. But there are no wrong ideas in trying to get to a right answer. I'll be honest, I don't know. This is only the second time I'm seeing this footage, and before this morning I didn't know it existed."

"Where'd this come from?"

"I don't know that either. All I can tell you is, it's unused footage from something the high-ups haven't told me about, but they asked me for my take on it and I thought it would be a fun exercise for us to explore together." She hopped back to her podium and reversed the stream to a still of Elsa's slippers melting. "No matter what field you eventually go into, intuition is a healthy skill to develop. Sometimes you only have an instant to make a decision. That's not the scientific method; that's survival. So what quick deductions can we make about what little we've seen?"

"It's not real molten rock?"

"Bingo! That was my first thought. I'm no volcanologist, but it's a pretty sure bet that stones glowing red from heat would kill anyone who isn't aligned with fire. Now we can see there's actual heat, enough to create vapor. A sauna can do that. Do you think a sauna could kill Elsa?"

A few shrugs transformed into a small ensemble of bobbing heads.

"Possibly so." Judy advanced the footage a few minutes ahead, with Elsa flailing all over the screen at triple speed; provoking some comfortable snickers from the students. "I'm going to skip a bit because it's mostly her staggering through the tunnel, trying to create cold spots on the floor to step on."

She stopped the feed on an image of Elsa giving a puzzled look to a series of human-made rails; metal and wood, likely designed for a mine cart.

"All right. Now remember, this is a workshop on character analysis. Based on what we've talked about, and what you're about to see, I want you to make as quick a deduction as you can." She gave her audience a sly grin. "Ready?"

She pressed play. Elsa came to life, gasping for breath. She glanced in one direction the tracks led. Then made herself a small platform of ice to stand on while she intently peered down the other direction. A loud roar. Elsa's attention snapped back to the first direction she'd faced. And the image went blank.

Judy brought the auditorium lights up for the first time since she'd taken the stage. "Conclusions?"

"Get the heck out of dodge."

Judy laughed along with her audience. "That would be a sensible decision, and I want to put it on hold for a second. What can we conclude about character?"

"She's scared."

Judy nodded. "Good, yes. What else?"

"She wants to leave?"

They were reaching now. "Yeah, this is all good. But we knew that already. We have new information now. What can we take from it?"

Empty stares.

"Okay, let me put it like this. We're making a guess based on what little information we have. One, Elsa. Someone synonymous with ice. Two, an artificial setting that she would be most uncomfortable in. Three, a premade clear-cut choice: left or right. And four, a solid indication that one way is significantly different than the other."

In truth, she wasn't surprised that nobody was making the leap of logic; a thing like that really had to come from experience.

"What's a logical deduction we can make about a character other than Elsa?" Judy crossed the length of the stage and back to give them time to mull it over. When nobody volunteered and answer, she decided to give them one last hint. "Is anyone here familiar with Scooby-Doo?"

"They're trying to scare her away."

There it was. "Good job!" she said. "We call that the 'Aha!' moment, and that's what you're striving for in analyzing character."

She resumed her spot at the podium, bringing up the first still page of the rest of her presentation; but her audience that, until recently could barely be prodded into speaking, now openly expressed their determination to know what happened to Elsa.

"I don't know," Judy reminded them to an audible disappointment. "I don't know what happened next or what any of this was about. That's all the footage they gave me. And that's the harsh reality about answers. They reveal themselves when they do. If you only take one thing from our time together, let it be this. Answers tend not to come to you when you wait for them. Some questions require an answer from the inside. It takes courage to go in blind and it takes creativity to get back out again. It's never too soon to start practicing both."

"So you don't know if Elsa made it out alive?"

"Exactly. I don't know. And I won't know until I do." What she knew was that she was going to have to rush through the rest of her presentation if she didn't bring this portion of it to a close. "I would assume she did, if for no other reason than I can't believe our company would send us the final recorded moments of one of their stars. But ignoring that; if we're right that someone wants Elsa to go a particular direction, and she goes in that direction, the odds of survival are stacked in her favor. It's a lot of assumptions but it's still the most-"

She trailed off. An idea had piqued her curiosity. Something about assumptions.

It took her a moment to realize that she'd stopped mid-sentence in front of her whole workshop, and all she could do was give them a half-attentive apology while she took out her phone.

Monitors. Seventy-six in all. They filled an entire hemisphere of the control room; revealing every single detail, and disguising them in an impossibly thick coat of visual noise.

Alice's ankle had been wounded, likely sprained, possibly broken. That would slow her down, making a handful of screens unnecessary to pay any attention to for a while. Maleficent was impossible to keep track of but anytime she did something important she drew as much attention to herself as she could. Tarzan was...uncomplicated. But it was utterly frustrating that the 'Jasmine' team wouldn't stay together. There was no way to predict where to look. And now that the mouse had returned from his meeting, those twelve screens erupted into chaos.

"Where's Oswald?" He had the nerve to ask such a question of the very staff members who'd been anxiously awaiting him and the rabbit to return together.

"What do you mean 'Where's Oswald'?" Minnie snapped at him. She'd already endured a tongue-lashing over the phone from Madame Medusa, and had to force back tears while vastly overstating her optimism that they'd have regained access of the system by the next day. The robot V.I.N.CENT was their best bet for tech support, and he'd been unable to help them over the phone so Minnie had to approve an emergency overnight flight using a thousand dollars out of her own pocket to get him to the studio by the next afternoon. She was in no mood to hear that Mickey had lost track of their island simulation's main designer.

At that moment the security gate alarm went off. It happened on a fairly regular basis and ordinarily the staff had gotten used to it, but today their reaction was priceless. Ducks spilled papers and chipmunks dove behind shelves as if the place was under attack. It was a much needed moment of delight among seventy-six monitors of monotony.

But somewhere in the franticness was an unfazed horse.

Horace Horsecollar.

Hired in 1925 as a jack-of-all-trades handyman, Horace was your go-to guy for practically anything. In over nine decades, he hadn't missed a single day of work. His presence was so commonplace that the bulk of the newer generation (and some of the veterans) often stopped noticing him. He was always just kind of...there when you needed to know where he was. And now he was there.

Amidst the commotion, Horace suddenly appeared behind Minnie, speaking into her huge ear something that the hacked surveillance cameras couldn't broadcast.

Minnie's expression had recently gone from unbridled stress to subtle relief as Mickey had taken charge of the issue with the security alarm. Now her face had become stoic. For a moment the two animals stared at each other, followed by a simple nod from the horse that Minnie should follow him. What was going on?

Without a word to the rest of the staff, Minnie led Horace toward the stairwell, and it didn't take a leap of intuition to figure out where they were going. The old sound room from the B&W years had never been renovated, essentially storage; but it was also more soundproof than anything the modern era had produced. If you wanted some privacy to warm up your voice, scream your head off, or negotiate off the record, that was the room to do it.

And obviously there was no surveillance.

Unfortunately there was no way to record footage on this end and replay it, so there was no way to tell where Horace had come from, but disconnecting the feed from the outside world was no big loss at this point. And it might even prevent the robot from being of any use at all.

The operator felt under the console for the handful of cords that connected him to the main office and yanked. In unison, twelve monitors shrank to a single pixel and faded to black. "Too fast for ya," he smirked, satisfied that whatever Horace was telling Minnie no longer mattered.

But it did. What he didn't realize was, in trying to send Elsa away from the control room he'd inadvertently given the outside world a suspicion that the simulator's malfunction was not by chance. Not that they could do anything about it, but you should never overestimate the resourcefulness of animals wearing gloves.

It was time to up the ante; so far he'd been too generous. Keep them running. Where was the panther?

He pulled up the feed from the caverns and scanned for glowing eyes; the ambient noise made it impossible to hear footsteps down there. There were specks of light in many places, fireflies and bats, but not what he was looking for.

So intensely did he stare at that handful of screens that he neglected to take notice of anything else happening on the island. You couldn't blame him for not paying attention to Elsa once she'd encountered the roar of the lava monster a few hours ago. Indeed, he'd have no reason to think that she wouldn't make a beeline for the exit, which is why her decision to head towards the danger would have perplexed anyone (save for one exceptionally clever bunny). But even as determined as he was to track down the whereabouts of Bagheera, it was pure carelessness not to notice the Queen of Arendelle stumbling just outside the entrance to the control room.

And even as she now stood behind him, he only became aware of her presence by the abrupt drop in temperature that made the fur on his arms stand up.

Continue to Chapter Nineteen.
Return to the table of contents.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Ten Lessons From Ten Years of Marriage (With Guest Blogger Sarah DeArmond)

Yesterday was our ten year anniversary.

Never having had a ten year anniversary before (not of marriage anyway) I was trying to think of what the ideal way of publicly flaunting my success story would be. My first thought was to write "I'm happily married and you might not be! So nyah nyah!" all over my Twitter feed. But then I worried it might alienate all of those alleged independent publishing houses that keep trying to get me to buy online courses, so instead I want to go with something a bit humbler.

I think the best way to honor the past decade of truly feeling whole is to compile the life's lessons that I never could have learned otherwise into one single blog. And then flaunt that. But as marriage is never a 'my' journey but an 'our' journey, I'd like to welcome my beloved back for her third appearance at the Wooly Side.

Thank you Sean. We've learned a lot, I mean a lot, over these past ten years. I can honestly say I wouldn't be the woman I am today without my husband. I've been though a lot and it's because of him that I'm still standing firm. That's why we want to both present to you all ten things we've learned over the past ten years. 

1. There Are No Secrets.

Now, I'm not talking about those kinds of marriages that you see on Lifetime or in magazines. And I'm also not talking about those kinds of secrets, because that really should be a given regardless of how frequently we see examples otherwise. No, I'm talking about that terrible side of yourself that you keep hidden from the world for your own sanity. Be it any of your undiagnosed mental health issues (chronic depression here) or how you REALLY feel about Harry Potter, those things come out. You can hide them from everybody else but not your spouse. They will see you at your very worst, worse than you would ever have believed anyone would. And when you're still loved, cherished, and honored in sickness and in health after those shadows come forward, you know it's the real thing.

2. You'll Be Each Other's Biggest Cheerleaders.

It's taken me awhile to find my passion in life, but I've had my husband cheering me on every misstep of the way. When I finally found what I wanted to do, there was no rubbing in my face all of my past mistakes, he just continued to cheer me on and say, "I knew you could do it" Marriage is about rooting for the other person, not bringing them down reminding them of their failures.

3.  You'll Get Comfortable Being Wrong.

I've heard several other men describe marriage sarcastically as "Oh yeah, I love never being right." And I understand where they're coming from, but I also can't help but feel they're missing the vital element. The harsh reality is, you're going to be wrong. A lot. And in a healthy marriage, you're going to be reminded. On the flip side, sometimes you'll be right and your spouse will not. How to reconcile those conflicts is a later entry on this blog. For now the takeaway is, being wrong isn't the worst thing in the world. In and of itself it's not even a bad thing. It feels like it, sure. But eventually you come to realize that *gasp* you can be wrong and not be any less of who you are; not be loved any less. It's okay to be flawed, to make mistakes, and to say those three beautiful words to your love "You were right".

4. You Will Say, "I'm Sorry."

While we're on the topic of being wrong, love doesn't mean never having to say you're sorry. Of course it does. As my husband was saying, sometimes you'll have to be the bigger person, swallow your pride, and say, "I'm sorry." Now, that doesn't mean throwing your beloved's apology back in their face, this is where you talk it out. But saying those two words can lift a huge burden off of you both.

5. When Someone Wins, Nobody Wins.

It seems counter to just about everything you're taught growing up, but the sooner you remove the idea of 'winning' the argument from your mental facilities the better off you'll be. You're not out to win, you're out to return to each others arms. In most cases that means being partially right, partially wrong, deciding several things aren't even worth sorting into either category, and ultimately defeating the conflict by rendering it unimportant. Arguments you win are still important to you. Arguments you resolve are just vessels to a warm embrace. You both win when the idea of win versus loss is irrelevant.

6. You'll Get To Know Each Other's "Silly Side."

I know this is a bit of a weird one, but going back to what my husband said in the beginning, you will get to know every part of the other person, including what makes them laugh at weird moments. Sean knows I get goofy at night or when I don't get enough sleep. To be honest, I never knew that about myself until after we got married, but he doesn't mind. When you find the one, you won't mind what hits your partner's funny bone, even if it is a little odd!

7. You'll Become an Authority on Unexpected Topics.

When your significant other cares a lot about something, you're obligated to care at least a little. Not a fake "that's nice dear" kind of caring, because you'll never slip out that way more than once. As such, you're going to be finding out-of-the-box ways of connecting to things you otherwise would never have noticed. I've become a connoisseur of romantic comedies. They're not all equal in quality regardless of predictability; there's a whole spectrum between very well done and offensively bad, and it's actually quite fun to explore. I still can't tell you the steps to applying makeup, but I've become quite interested in the 'why' behind it. And, oh yeah, Netflix please give Girl Meets World a reunion movie; those characters were awesome!

8. Be Prepared That Your Spouse Might Change Their Mind On Some Big Things.

When my husband and I first got together, we agreed to be parents. A few years down the line, I discovered that wasn't what I wanted. I broke the news to him as soon as a realized it. That's key, as soon as you know deep in your heart your mind has changed on plans, tell your spouse. If Sean had truly wanted a kid, we would have worked something out in therapy. It wouldn't have ended us, but when I told him, he was shocked at first. Then, as we had a long talk, we realized we were on the same page. The point is, never go along with something you aren't 100% on board with that you will later regret. If your spouse disagrees, work it out in therapy. I'm thankful that after a very long talk, we were (and still are) on the same page.

9. You're Never Alone.

That sure sounds like happily ever after; and yes, it IS the case, but that's not much of a lesson. There's a side to that fairy tale ending which requires some very real (and ongoing) responsibility. Namely, whatever you do is always going to affect the other person. We had a wonderful counselor who explained how the notion of two becoming one paints an inaccurate picture of marriage. In actuality, two become one and one and a marital connection (which makes three by my count). The people are still individuals, and the marriage is a whole new entity that has to be cared for and nurtured. The work is constant, but not in a grudge work kind of way. This is the work an artist puts into their craft for the pure joy of creating something they're proud of.

10. You Still "Date".

You know how you acted like you were when you were a couple? You always hugged, kissed, held hands, and made time to go out. That doesn't stop after the wedding. We will always keep doing those things. Saying "I do" doesn't mean we're no longer dating. It means a more intimate level of it.

Thank you love for indulging me. Next blog should be a characteristic return to my regular snideness and cynicism, but here's a toast to our second ten years!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Finding a Host for the Oscars (My Nominees)

To recap: on December 4th, it was announced that Kevin Hart would host the Oscars in February 2019. By December 6th, Hart announced he was stepping down from the position after jokes he'd made ten years prior on Twitter had resurfaced; namely of a homophobic slur nature. Then last week, Hart's interview on Ellen DeGeneres's talk show aired, and Ellen endorsed Hart as the host and tried to play peacemaker between him and the Academy, a move that divided Ellen's fan base, and really did nothing to quell the controversy about Hart's tweets. And, man, I have little to no interest in writing recaps.

Okay, my opinion which nobody asked for; I don't blame Ellen for wanting to support a fellow comedian. I happen to not agree with her (I don't think Hart should host -keep reading), but I don't think she deserves the backlash she's gotten for the interview. I've heard it said by some comedians that comedy can't exist without offending someone. I'm not entirely positive that's true, but there's no such thing as a comedian who's universally loved. As such, it's a natural trap for comedians to start out trying to be edgy. Not all of them go that route, but the ones who do typically move on from that phase to achieve any kind of success.

I'm obviously not in Kevin Hart's head, so I can't say for certain whether he is or isn't homophobic today, or where he fell on that spectrum ten years ago. If I had to guess, I'd say he's probably a comedian who did some stupid shit ten years ago in an attempt to find an audience. I believe he's since graduated from that adolescent phase and become a better person.

Why shouldn't he host then? Simple. As he correctly surmises, the controversy would overshadow the proceedings. Is that fair? No. But too damn bad, that's the way it is. He doesn't 'have' the audience right now, and a venue like the Oscars requires a performer who will have the audience without a struggle. The Golden Globes are jazz, they can take a risk. But the Oscars are classical music. They're kind of stuck with the memory of Bob Hope, and this year that just isn't Kevin Hart. Sorry, but comedy is brittle.

So, who should host instead? I mean, besides Rob Lowe and a Disney cosplayer. Well, I might have a few thoughts on that. Here then are my nominees for 2019's Oscar host in ascending order.

5. Billy Crystal

I know! Right? Brilliant! Who would have thought of that? I don't need to prove that Crystal can host. He's done it nine times. It just feels wrong to not top his legacy off at the big two digits. Crystal is also the safe fallback bet after a controversy, see 2012's ordeal with Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy for details (including homophobic slurs, ah repetitive history). How good would he be? Who knows. Truthfully, he'd only have to clear the bar of adequacy to feel like a success, and Crystal can do that with his eyes closed.

4. Mel Brooks

In light of the controversy, why not embrace a classic comedian whose whole career (the good stuff anyway) is based on subversion? Now honestly this is a long shot. After all, Mel Brooks is 92 years old. I'm sure he doesn't have near the energy he had at the peak of his creativity. But suppose he served as the show runner, bringing in a wide ensemble of performers who get his type of playfully offensive lampoonery. It would be like letting the soul of Mozart run wild for one last night in the great concert hall; a perfect cap to an amazing career.

3. Jay Leno and David Letterman

I'll admit this is probably a really bad idea, but I don't blog (or write fiction) to play the odds. Let's pretend the microscopic-chance-in-hell-of-a-best-case-scenario happens; these two late night power hitters wind up being able to work together. If egos could be set aside, Leno and Letterman could conceivably have the chemistry of Abbott and Costello. Watching them trade barbs for three plus hours all behind the veil of 'it's just for the show' comedy would make for a night of legend. And I can't think of any duo who could more dramatically symbolize the repairing of rifts (Except Conan, but something tells me that's never going to happen).

2. Elizabeth Banks

The awards programs understandably tend to favor those with talk show hosting experience, but Banks has that 'it' factor. Actress, director, producer, or hostess of the Democratic National Convention, Banks is that rare starlet who can land face down in the sludge and still make a classy exit (Madeline Kahn had 'it' as well). A good host has to demonstrate enough confidence to carry a show, but enough humility to remember that it's not about them. That's Elizabeth Banks in every role I've seen her play.

1. Trevor Noah

Like Hart, Noah had his own run in with tweets from his past at an inopportune moment. But unlike Hart, Noah's apology was unquestionably convincing. Taking over the reins of The Daily Show after juggernaut Jon Stewart was a thankless uphill battle, and Noah may in fact be the only comedian who could have pulled it off. His outsider perspective on the state of America always carry a weight that cannot be dismissed. He's blunt, but always respectful. And he's funny as hell. His goal as a comedian is always to heal, no matter how harsh the reality is between here and there. We could all use some of that by now. And it opens us up to a really bad review blurb that's begging to be printed: "Hart-less Awards Ceremony is Anything But".

And on that note I turn it over to you, Google crawlers and Russia's hackers. Who would you like to see host the Oscars?