The Shape Of Characters In Pixar’s [Up]

This piece is by a contributor to Did You blank It? (not Mr. Blue) who wishes to remain anonymous. If you are interesting in contributing to the site please don’t hesitate to contact.

Disney Pixar’s Up is a masterpiece that leaves sentimental saps, such as myself, in a state of emotional disarray. I rose and fell with the plot, channeling my anger at the greedy construction company, bracing myself during the thunderstorm, and celebrating as the villainous Charles Muntz fell from the sky. I’ve watched the movie enough times to quote scenes and conduct the brilliant score. With every viewing, I notice a new detail that makes me fall deeper in love. I realize Mr. Fredricksen brought his mailbox to South America, Ellie was scrapbooking for her husband on her deathbed, and Russell needed a father figure just as much as Mr. Fredricksen needed a son. The creators of this movie fired arrow after arrow into my heart and always hit their mark. When I watched the movie earlier today, I made an effort to notice how the makers of Up crafted these devastating assaults. I became fixated on the characterization, particularly how each character was designed. In “The Art of Up” by Tim Hauser, I read that each character was modeled after a simple shape, but I hadn’t realized how ubiquitous this tactic was.

Carl Fredricksen is a square. His box-like head is made possible by a 90-degree chin and echoed in his angular glasses. Even the wrinkles adorning his forehead are cut in straight lines. The theming continues with Fredricksen’s sharply creased trousers, rectangular belt buckle, and distractingly square knuckles. All these design choices highlight Fredricksen’s terse nature and lack of tolerance for nonsense. His sharp nods are sharpened by his angular chin, and his staunch determination is underscored by his crisp bow tie. It’s as though Mr. Fredricksen’s personality is so striking that it overflows into his physical characteristics and apparel. But it’s not just the design choices, but the contrasts in Up as well.

Carl and Ellie pose in their home

Ellie is Carl’s sweetheart and further evidence for “opposites attract.” Carl is angular and reserved and Ellie is curved and expressive. Age wrote its history gracefully across her features, granting her smile-lines and ovular glasses. Her head is round and soft, crowned with an elegant bun. Carl’s brows rest furrowed atop his glasses, but Ellie’s float in a constant state of curiosity and delight. Ellie’s chair is round and patterned, and Carl’s plain leather seat consists of right angles and straight lines. Ellie drinks from a teacup while Carl sips from a mug. Ellie’s coffee table is a circle, and Carl’s is a square.. Every one of Ellie’s portraits is a round shape, and as you can probably guess, Carl’s images are always framed with corners. Even the lamps illuminating their bedroom reflect their distinctions. Ellie’s lamp is a dome while Carl’s light comes from a modest rectangular prism.

Due to Ellie’s death, the two share less than ten minutes of screen time. However, the creators of Up developed their relationship through the tiniest details. This constant characterization submerges the viewer into the lives of Ellie and Carl, causing us to care so deeply about the couple that it hurts even more when death separates them. But the artists and animators did not stop there.

Carl is annoyed by Russel

Carl is continually confronted by a cast of contrasting characters (pardon my alliteration but I can’t help myself sometimes). Enter Russell: a lovable youngster in pursuit of his ‘assisting the elderly’ patch. Not only is age a distinctive difference between Mr. Fredricksen and Russell, but we again see physical contrasts. With a round face and soft features, Russell serves as another contrast to Mr. Fredricksen’s angular disposition. Russell is naive and undaunted, quick to trust and quicker to share personal information. His innocence is captured in rosy cheeks and unkempt hair. Where Mr. Fredricksen’s hands are gray and boxed, Russell’s are flushed and plump. These contrasts emphasize the lessons the two characters share. Russell demonstrates the importance of loyalty and honesty while Mr. Fredricksen leads with grit and resilience. Russell shares an optimistic perspective unhindered by past disappointments. Mr. Fredricksen teaches wisdom forged by decades of experience. They complement each other, continuing the precedent set by Ellie, rounding out Carl’s sharp edges.

Even the animals are shaped by contrasts. Kevin, the brightly colored bird who we later discover is a girl, is oval-shaped. Dug, the talking golden retriever, has a round body punctuated with a big, ovular nose and fluffy tail. Everywhere Carl Fredricksen goes he meets another character who is like Ellie and unlike him. These constant contrasts build and build until a pivotal moment. Carl pages through Ellie’s scrapbook and finds a message from his late wife thanking him for the adventure and encouraging him to have his own. Her note releases him from the obligation he feels to preserve their house, causing him to recognize the people in front of him right now. Perhaps he sees Ellie’s gentleness reflected in the way Russell cares for Kevin or how Dug refuses to leave even when Carl gives him every reason to or how much Kevin will do for her chicks. Or maybe he hates the way he resembles Charles Muntz’s cruelty with his sharply drawn wrinkles and angry eyebrows. No matter the reason, Carl rights his priorities and comes to the aid of his friends. Though loneliness and loss had carved sharp edges into Carl Fredricksen, the contrasting characters in his life softened those lines.

Carl flies his zeppelin

Beneath every charming character and plot twist is a host of tiny artistic decisions and creative detail. Up has heightened my awareness of the immense amount of work that goes into the art of emotional devastation. I love re-watching movies to catch a glimpse of that process, to understand the arrows lodged in my chest. The artists and animators responsible for Up are master craftsmen, and I will continue to be a target standing at the end of their archery range, taking in more arrows every time I watch.

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This Is How I Win [Uncut Gems]

Is it possible for a movie to be good when you don’t enjoy any of it? Movie goers butt up against this question in many forms, from people asking them why anyone would pay to be scared in a horror flick, or when they unglue themselves from their seat after an intense war movie. But the question took on new complexity for me after watching Uncut Gems.

The movie is an audio-visual stress knot. The first scene where Sandler appears, playing Howard Ratner, felt like being shoved and locked into a small box, a feeling that will be useful to draw from as people get trapped in tight spaces throughout the rest of the film. 

The music that highlights the visual panorama that bridges Ethiopia (where the first scene takes place) and New York (where the rest of the movie takes place) is loud, bold, and demanding. Fine for a transition between two stories, but it becomes overwhelming as Howard Ratner tries to navigate is over-complex and dysfunctional life on screen.

Everyone demands Howard’s attention, and he fully commits it to no one. Crammed in the close confines of his jewelry store are six people too many, causing interweaving storylines for our inept main character to handle. Howard needs to pay the heavies who are there to collect a debt, he needs to answer the phone, he needs to help a costumer, he needs to stop a fight between KG’s bodyguards and the heavies, he needs to entertain KG, he needs to make sure KG’s earrings get cleaned, he collects a package he had been waiting for for over a year, and ultimately gets it taken from him by KG, and thus the story begins. Afterwards, I was begging for it all to stop, and yet, I was committed to seeing how it would all be resolved. 

From that point the plot never stops growing. It becomes an unwieldy beast pressing forward needlessly and with no regard for the well-being of its characters or viewers. The simplest stuff becomes immeasurably more complicated in Howard’s incapable hands. And every joy and ray of hope is snatched from his grasp. 

Howard Ratner nursing his wounds.

My stress rose as his did. I felt the anxiety as he couldn’t get the opal back from KG, and I lost it when that damn door wouldn’t buzz open to allow KG to finally return the stone. I felt anxiety in the auction room with each delayed raising of a paddle and in the closing scene as they watched the Celtics game, hoping to hit the massive parlay. I never relaxed.

But can I say it was a good movie? I guess I can from the perspective that good films make the audience feel empathy for its characters. But Uncut Gems had a callous disregard for the catharsis of that empathy- shooting it right in the cheekbone. There were no moments for the sake of humor, no beautiful scene that makes everything worthwhile, no tender moment, no lesson learned for viewers to walk away with as if they had a precious gem. There was no resolution to the massive snowball of conflicts that Howard was trying to solve.

So what do I have? A collection of powerful scenes, great acting, a terrific story- all the components of a great movie. But why would I ever put myself through it again? 

Uncut Gems rides the line of enjoyment as close as any film I’ve seen. I don’t know if I think it’s a good movie. I just know it did a really good job at whatever it was trying to do to the viewers. Heck, maybe that’s what a great movie is.

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I Don’t Like Elizabeth Holmes [Bad Blood by John Carreyrou]

This post is a representation of an opinion that was developed solely on my reading of Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

I don’t like Elizabeth Holmes and that annoying piss-ant “Sunny” Balwani. They are awful people. They are self-centered, ignorant, reckless, naïve, arrogant, over-emotional, self-deluded, shameless bullies who are supremely bad at their jobs. And I just read an entire book, Bad Blood, that rubbed my nose in all of their willful, unacknowledged, dangerous mistakes. The entire time I wanted them to get their comeuppance. Yet for most of the book that did not happen, it was just lie after mistake after lie after mistake until I realized that I have not been this mad at a villain in a book since Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter– may she rot in fiction hell. The only difference… these assholes are real.

John Carreyrou writes a solid book of investigative journalism. It feels like Silicon Valley’s attempt at All The President’s Men but falls short of that high mark because of the lack of intensity and pace. Most of Bad Blood is re-hashings of the same problems or off shoots of those problems from multiple source’s perspectives, which is necessary in his line of work, but not in a book. Maybe I struggled to comprehend some of the jargon (both tech and medical terms combined into a Megatron of strange vernacular), but I felt that I kind of got the point about halfway through the book, and everything up until the news broke about Theranos being the worst company of all time was beating the dead horse so badly it almost got up and ran again. 

Not everything was unnecessary and boring after the halfway mark (and certainly was necessary in the upcoming trials and lawsuits against Theranos), but it was a bit like finding Easter Eggs, and the names of people who worked in the tech lab…became disillusioned…debated about quitting…quit…and then were bullied into signing NDAs… blended together. 

And the research and discovery into Ther-anus (got ‘em) never felt intense for me. The problem was that this was basically done in the open as opposed to the deep deep layers involved in a book like All The President’s Men. Yes, Theranos was ridiculous on secrecy and security. Yes, people like you and me, the patients who would use the machine could have no way of knowing that this company was a sham run by two goons who probably couldn’t tie each other’s shoes without trying to yell at the laces to comply. However, so many people connected to the company knew or should have known it was garbage, and only limply did anything about it (until Carreyrou shook some people into action).

I understand the reticence of the bottom rung workers to blow the whistle. If I was being threatened to be sued for millions of dollars, I am not sure I could have done better (But I do think they could have done more inside of the company. The efforts, or lack of efforts, taken before abandoning ship always seemed week. It was like, bring attention to higher-ups about life-threatening issues… get yelled at by Sunny… RUN). 

However, there were also tons of medical oversight committees and investors who would look at the machines or processes used by the company with the goal of discerning proficiency and effectiveness and absolutely got sold the Brooklyn Bridge by Holmes and Sunny. These people I cannot comprehend.

I can only imagine that Silicon Valley is the only world in which something like this can happen. Where one swinging-dick and his dim-witted girlfriend could dupe everyone into thinking a little box that was worse technology than what we currently have is worth 6 billion dollars (with a ‘B’). Silicon Valley has the recipe for this type of The Great Oz business model. 

  • The Steve Jobs Effect– Everyone trusted Elizabeth Holmes because she had a deep voice and wore black turtlenecks. I’m joking… but only kind of. She looked the part and acted the part, and after Steve Jobs got removed from his company only to come back and resurrect it from the ashes like MJ returning from baseball to the Bulls, everyone wants to get behind the next technology Messiah. They thought it was Elizabeth Holmes. It was not. Not even close. Swing and a miss. You got duped. 
  • High pressure to get on something early– Everyone wants to ride the money rocket to the stars in Silicon Valley, which is maybe one of the only places left in America where the upward mobility that made the American Dream possible still exists. But it is contingent on one thing- spot the start-up early and invest a lot. This means that you are not seeing working products that are doing useful things (by that point it would be too late). Holmes gave people a wish and a dream, and people gave her millions in return. This doesn’t happen anywhere else.
  • SOOOOO much money– Lawsuits and funding allow for people to do crazy stuff. It allowed for Holmes to remain solvent and profitable when they didn’t do anything useful or do it well. And it allowed them to intimidate everyone into submission through NDAs and lawsuits. Money doesn’t provide happiness but it sure can cover your ass when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing (just ask Holmes). And there is an abundance of money in Silicon Valley
  • Silicon Valley had the perfect type of person– I don’t see this type of foolish operation working without a certain type of people who are willing to follow. Everyone who worked at Theranos thought they had the job that they had been dreaming of since they first gazed into a retina display. To them, this was the next Apple or Facebook and they were working on the medical equivalent of the new iPhone. Also, these are people who want to spend their life either working in a lab or creating hardware and software and the code that goes with it, and they are really stinking good at it. But I have to imagine that those who chose a career path of individual work were not pumped to getting bullied and screamed at by a short Indian man with a Napoleon complex. Some handled it well, but most did not, because I think they are not the type of people who want to have to deal with it. So it didn’t get dealt with.
  • Silicon Valley cares about technology more than people– Could someone maybe have actually followed through in seeing how these tests worked on people? No one cared. It was so consistent throughout the book it was mind-boggling. All I ever wanted was for someone to make Theranos test someone and see the results and then look at Elizabeth Holmes and say, “Your tech doesn’t work. How can you have this many people working with this amount of money and not do what you say you do? Are you an awful person who should be bagging groceries rather than running a company?” But that didn’t happen. Because people asked about the tech, people wanted to see the tech, people wanted to know how the tech would be applied someday. What everyone seemed to forget is that the tech is only as good as its impact on people. If they would have remembered that, this all would have ended a lot sooner. The Silicon Valley bubble of isolation can be a dangerous place.

So here is this fragile ecosystem, ripe for exploitation, and in walk Holmes and Bulwani who created the tech version of the Fyre Festival, and I hate them for it. Because on the other end of their very elaborate get-rich quick scheme, were real people who just wanted blood results so they could live healthy lives. That’s a simple request that should not be made difficult or complicated by a girl with delusions of grandeur and a man nicknamed “Sunny” (what is he 12?).The book took over the literary world like Theranos took over Silicon Valley, and based on some (not a ton, but just enough) of its weaknesses, I imagine it was because most people felt a similar outrage towards these two doofuses. Bad Blood is worth the read just to get a glimpse into this world, and to make sure Elizabeth Holmes never tries anything like this again, because it seems like she is… Business Insider.

Mediocre [Mad Max: Fury Road]

Quotes are the lasting imprint of a film.  They enmesh the fictional story of the screen with the reality we inhabit. One of the great movie lines that has found life off-screen in our non-irradiated world is spoken in Mad Max: Fury Road.  I want to do the line honor, so that someday I may ride eternal, shiny and chrome.

The Set-up

Immortan Joe
Immortan Joe is all things to all people. He is the surrogate father to the entire Citadel, their general as he leads them into combat, their king and ruler, and, quite frankly, a god. 

Nux
Nux is a War Boy, just barely getting by on blood bags- like Max- to survive. Unproven, unremarkable, slowly dying in the same way all the other War Boys in the Citadel are dying. His life’s meaning is found in whatever Immortan Joe bestows upon it.

The Plot
The Imperator Furiosa has stolen Immortan Joe’s favorite breeders, The Five Wives, to liberate them from Joe’s enslavement. She also hijacked a souped-up semi, the War Rig, during a run to trade aqua cola for guzzolene and is hoping to make it to the green place where she was born. 

The Moment

The Chase
Immortan Joe had finally caught up to Furiosa, driving Rictus Erectus’ car, The Big Foot. This is his chance to incapacitate the rig or Furiosa and reclaim his breeders, shiny and chrome.

Build
Nux has already failed, in an attempt to die Historic on Fury Road, by racing ahead in the Chevy 5 Window Coupe ’34 with Max chained onto the lancer’s perch as Nux’s portable blood bag, spurred on by the mere fact that Immortan Joe glanced his way, believing he was awaited in Valhalla, hoping as he slowly dies to die with significance. But a hell of lightning, sand, and fire destroy his chances and his car. But he woke up with Furiosa and Joe’s breeders in his grasp, only to be left behind again, no breeders, one shoe, and a punch in the gut. He caught back up to the War Rig one more time, only to be tossed out into the sand another time (He lives, he dies, he lives again). So he catches a ride once the pursuing Army catches up and has now made it onto the Big Foot with Immortan Joe by waving a white cloth as proof of having made it onto the War Rig.

Plan
In yet another attempt to reclaim Joe’s brides and Immortality, Nux offers both his knowledge of a secret entrance onto the War Rig and to ‘pike’ Furiosa for Immortan Joe. Joe, in a show of magnanimity, asks Nux his name, offers him his personal revolver so that he can put a bullet in her skull, sprays Nux with chrome and offers, upon completion, to personally carry Nux to the gates of Valhalla, promising him he will ride eternal, shiny and chrome.

Significance
Nux’s life revolves around staying alive through soaking up other’s blood, rigging cars, and looking for a way to make his life meaningful by his death. And the only way anyone can die significantly is to do so in the service of Immortan Joe. Most’s actions are only noticed by fellow V8 War Boys in adrenaline fueled kamakrazee cries to “Witness me!” (like Morosov’s suicidal leap with a crossbow bolt in his cheekbone), leaving behind momentary legacies in a desperate search to validate a sad life. Very few have the opportunity to be witnessed by their king, leader, general, father, and god- Immortan Joe. He is the only man that can guarantee their significance and salvation. So when Joe looks Nux in the eyes and offers to witness Nux’s final act and, if successful, to personally walk him to the gates of Valhalla, Nux experiences the greatest possible conclusion to his sad life. All he must do, is do it.

Execution
With this windfall of good fortune in an otherwise pathetic existence, Nux leaps from the Big Foot, revolver in hand and tears in his eyes, lands on the War Rig, climbs to the top, and walks towards both the cabin and his awaiting destiny. But the chain, still attached to his wrist from the blood bag, gets caught in the grates, pulls him off balance on an already unstable perch, slams him into the side of the War Rig and sends the gun careening off screen. All under the watchful eye of Immortan Joe.

Response
To which Immortan Joe responds, “Ahhhh…MEDIOCRE.” In the most meaningful and devastating single word in modern film history.

The Line

Music
Music is an important part of Mad Max: Fury Road which has little dialogue and is driven (pun intended) by pounding, orchestral music with banging drums and electric guitars. However, this intensity is often counter balanced with grand and climactic music to indicate a significant or heartfelt moment amidst the chaos

In this scene, the backdrop is mostly the high-octane music that composes most of the chase scenes, however, as Immortan Joe speaks to Nux, the alternate music plays, emphasizing the significance and tenderness of this moment to Nux, who, not too long ago, was excited about Joe merely glancing in his direction and is now being promised to be carried by his father and god to immortality. But as Nux is tugged off of the War Rig, the music unceremoniously cuts back to the no-nonsense pulse pounding beat, right in time for Joe to deliver his line, “MEDIOCRE.” It creates the emotional equivalent of a hit and run. This seems like it should matter, it was everything to Nux, but for everyone else- on with the chase. Nux was forgotten as soon as he was noticed.

Delivery
Immortan Joe’s voice rattles around in your rib cage like dice in a shaker. From the moment he steps onto the stage above the thirsting masses to rain his voice and water upon them, the growl and bass from his vocal cords make everything he says feel significant. And since there aren’t many lines in general in Mad Max: Fury Road, let alone for him, we have the verbal equivalent of Jaws not showing up until the end of the movie. So whenever Joe speaks it has a special sort of impact. And he shows unique eloquence and word distribution to Nux as he tasks him with the assassination of Furiosa, which makes the growl of frustration with which he declares Nux’s attempt ‘mediocre’ ever the more powerful.

Word Choice
I have always been fascinated with the word choice here. This is not a highly educated clientele we are working with. As far as can be surmised, education doesn’t exist outside the confines of working on cars. And yet ‘mediocre,’ an uncommon word, is in common use. After Morosov jumps off the War Rig to lance a Buzzard, his effort is declared ‘mediocre’ by Slit (probably out of jealousy because that move was some bad-assery for sure- the rest of the War Boys give him a V8 of appreciation after they witnessed him). And now we have Joe declaring Nux’s inadequacy as ‘mediocre.’ It feels so formal and highbrow for a group of car hacking, kamikaze attacking, uneducated half-lives, and yet there is also a lot of innate tradition in this culture. ‘Mediocre’ is an example of this and feels like an all the more impactful indictment on Nux because of the formality involved in the word. He wasn’t just being declared a failure, he was a failure in their culture, cult, and creed.

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Slang Dictionary [Mad Max: Fury Road]

One of the many amazing aspects of Mad Max: Fury Road is its storytelling through absorption. There is no leading dialogue that hints at what happened to the world, no text before the movie begins that catches us up on details of the setting, no scenes for the sake of cluing us in on character’s pasts and the past of the world in general. The movie starts at one hundred miles per hour and has no time to catch you up.

I am sure George Miller (the director) has eons of tradition and lore tucked into corners of his desk and brain, but instead of laying it out in an obvious way, he just lets it inform the film. 

The story takes place with the history affecting and influencing decisions and outcomes, and at first that may seem confusing or exclusive, but the opposite happens, the movie feels all the more inclusive, like we are being told the world’s best secret, and the more we watch and pay attention, the more we learn about this world and people’s past

My favorite way the film does this is through its language. The dialogue is loaded with words that have slightly or entirely different meanings than right now, or words that are brand new. And the only way you can understand them is through context clues and careful attention… or by reading the rest of this post.

Here are some of the words in Mad Max: Fury Road and their meanings as best as can be deciphered (In Alphabetical Order). 

aqua cola (n.): Water pumped by Immortan Joe from under The Citadel. Since water is so rare, he uses it as a leverage commodity to control everyone and everything. 

black thumb (n.): A mechanic; the term is in reference to how often a mechanic’s hands are covered in grease.

blood bag (n.):  A full-life that is used to supply half-lives with fresh blood if they have fallen ill. The two are connected by an IV and blood is transfused from one to the other. Max is used as Nux’s blood bag when the chase to catch Furiosa and The Five Wives begins. Nux takes his blood bag with him by strapping him to the lancer’s perch and staying connected to it by chain and IV.

breeders (n.): Women kept by Immortan Joe for the purposes of creating War Pups. The most famous breeders are Immortan Joe’s “Five Wives” or the “Five Wives of the Citadel.” The movie revolves around their escape at the hands of Imperator Furiosa and subsequent attempt at recapture.

Bullet Farm (n.): A neighbor to The Citadel that manufactures small arms, gun powder, and bullets from an abandoned mine. Allied with The Citadel based on mutual dependence. The farm is run by The Bullet Farmer. 

Buzzards (n.): A Russian speaking scavenger tribe of bandits that live in the underground “Sunken City.” They are recognizable by their vehicles which are covered in spikes and sport buzz saws used to scavenge anything they can capture. In the film, The Buzzards attack the War Rig causing Max and Furiosa to ally based on need.

chrome (adj. or adv.): Used to describe anything that is awesome, holy, or glorious. The word develops based on the importance of chrome in a society that 1.) Values vehicles above all else 2.) Is a wasteland of dirt and sand where everything is deteriorating and dying. The word is often used with “shiny” as in “shiny and chrome.”

chrome spray (n.): War Boys will huff chrome spray before their final act before death. This gives them a high that enhances their ability and desire to spend their life in a glorious way and earn their way into Valhalla where they will ride eternal, shiny and chrome. The residue leaves them with a silver mouth.

The Citadel (n.): Immortan Joe’s city. Prosperous because of its ability to pump aqua cola from the ground.

flamer (n.): A flame-thrower attached to a vehicle used to set fire to other vehicles. Furiosa noticed flamers and polecats in The People Eater’s pursuing army.

Fukushima Kamakrazee (adj.): A description of the War Boys, specifically to the way they fight and risk their lives in the name of Immortan Joe, similar to the way Japanese kamikaze fighters risked their lives for their country. Fukushima references the nuclear power plant leak in Japan in 2011, which may be a contributing factor in their half-lives. Fukushima Kamakrazee is chanted as they lower the War Rig for the run to Gas Town at the beginning of the film.

full-life (n.): A person who is not dying by the genetic and radiation factors that are plaguing the War Boys of The Citadel. Max is referred to as a full-life before he is hooked up to Nux.

Gas Town (n.): Settled on an abandoned oil refinery, Gas Town produces guzzolene, and thus trades with The Bullet Farm and The Citadel in a mutually beneficial alliance. Furiosa was originally supposed to be going on a run to Gas Town at the beginning of the film to trade aqua cola for guzzolene, before she abandoned course and betrayed Immortan Joe.

The Green Place (n.): The once fertile land of Many Mothers and the destination of Furiosa as she tries to escape with the Five Wives of The Citadel. It has since devolved and is inhabited by settlers walking on stilts needed to traverse the boggy terrain.

guzzolene (n.): Gasoline; a precious commodity in a world where whatever remains is used to furbish vehicles that need gas to operate.

half-life (n.): A term used to refer to War Boys and Pups who are dying from radiation sickness. A possible reference to nuclear fallout that may have destroyed the world, but a definite reference to a shortened life span due to in-breeding, genetic factors, and exposure to the irradiated wasteland.

Imperator (n.): A lieutenant to Immortan Joe in charge of contingencies of War Boys. The story revolves around Imperator Furiosa who was put in charge of the run to trade guzzolene for aqua cola. The other Imperator seen is the Prime Imperator who, like Furiosa, does not seem to be ailing from the same diseases as the rest of the War Boys.

lancer (n.): A War Boy in charge of attacking enemy vehicles with grenade tipped spears. They spike the spears into the cab’s and undercarriages of vehicles, causing an explosion on impact and incapacitating the vehicle. A lancer flipped Max’s Interceptor at the beginning of the film and is a very common method of attack against the War Rig during the chase.

mother’s milk (n.): Breast milk; since water was rare, this was another form of hydration and sustenance. The Citadel has a troop of overweight women who sit in a row like at a saloon and are pumped, by a machine, for their breast milk. The visual is reminiscent of cows at a dairy farm.

nitro (n.): Nitrous oxide; used to boost vehicles’ speed. Sometimes released from a cylinder in the cab of the car.

pole cats (n.): War Boys that strap themselves to the top of long flexible poles and are mounted onto vehicles. The poles rotate back and forth creating inertia that flexes the poles and allows the pole cats to attack from above, equipped with flame throwers, lances, saws, nooses, or a plethora of other weapons.

revhead (n.): A War Boy capable of driving a vehicle.

schlanger (n.): Dick

shiny/shine (adj. or adv.): A description of anything that is new or undeteriorated. Can also be in reference to a flashy or awesome thing done. After getting the War Rig onto high ground by using a winch and a tree, Nux says, “I never thought I’d do something as shine as that.” Also often used in tandem with chrome, as in “shiny and chrome.”

smeg (n.): An all-purpose swear word. Used twice by The Dag, one of the Five Wives, in reference to Max. Once by itself, and another time in cooperation with schlanger, “He’s a crazy smeg who eats schlanger!”

“V8” (n.): A gesture used by War Boys, made by intertwining and steepling your fingers so that eight of them form a ‘V.’ A reference to the everlasting nature of engines in comparison to their very short lives. Used to show honor and respect to those who may or have sacrificed their lives in service of Immortan Joe. The V8 is also the name of the belief system that holds together their cult-like following and worship of Immortan Joe.

Valhalla (n.): Heaven; all War Boys hope to die and ride eternal in Valhalla, shiny and chrome. Immortan Joe, at one point, promises to carry Nux through the gates of Valhalla, the greatest prize a War Boy could hope for.

War Boys (n.): Boys, chosen to be a part of the V8 cult and military group at a very young age. The grow up believing that death on behalf of Immortan Joe will bring meaning to their lives. The movie focuses on a War Boy named Nux, who continually fails to give his life in service of Immortan Joe, and must find a new way to find meaning.

War Pup (n.): A child chosen to become a War Boy but, as yet, is too young to be of service.

War Rig (n.): The souped-up semi-truck driven by Furiosa on the guzzolene run where she deviates and escapes with the Five Wives. Built to withstand all attacks. Furiosa describes it as “2000 horses of nitroboosted war machine.”

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Deleted Bugs Bunny Interview [The Last Dance, Space Jam]

Bugs Bunny deleted interview for The Last Dance, about his time playing basketball with Jordan. This period of Jordan’s life is also covered in the documentary Space Jam.

Hey Bugs.

Ehhhhh. What’s up Doc?

Thanks for doing this interview. You knew Michael at a tough time in his life. What was it like first meeting Air Jordan?

Air Jordan? The Michael I first met was not Air Jordan. He didn’t show up until much later. The Michael I first met was barely hitting .200 for White Sox AA ball. But we needed him to become Air Jordan. And he didn’t disappoint.

Why did you abduct Michael in the first place?

Well its like I told Mike at the time- these aliens from outer space wanted to make us slaves in their theme park. They were little. So we challenged them to a basketball game. Eh, what do we care? They’re little! But then they show up and they ain’t so little, they’re huge! We needed to beat these guys, ’cause they’re talking about slavery! They’d make us do stand-up… the same jokes every night… every night for all eternity! We were going to be locked up like wild animals and then trotted out to perform for a bunch of lowbrow, bug-eyed, bad-headed, humor-challenged aliens! Eh, what I’m trying to say is…  We needed help.

What made you take a risk, and abduct Jordan to play on the Tune Squad? Why not a player who was playing in the NBA?

If you remember, the Monstars had already stolen the talent from Ewing, Barkley, Bradley, Bogues, and Johnson. Our choices were limited, and we knew that the Monstars weren’t going to abduct a baseball player for their team. So we thought it was the safest option. But also, we knew that if MJ wanted to, he could become His Airness again.

How did you get Jordan to join the team?

We lassoed him through a golf hole. 

No, after that. How did you get him to want to play? He had retired.

Did anyone tell you about when the Monstars insulted Mike?

No.

So, we just brought Mike into the gym. He still wasn’t sure about playing basketball again, claiming his ‘timing’ was all off since he hadn’t played in so long. Eh, we weren’t concerned, and we were desperate! So, we cleaned the gym to practice. Taz had just gotten the gym ‘lemony fresh’ when the Monstars burst in, showing their big ugly mugs, and bad-mouthing Michael! Saying they were better than the ‘Dream Team,’ they were the ‘Scream Team.’ And then they called Mike a ‘woosy man,’ called him a chicken, said he was washed up! And then they dunked him through a basketball hoop.

Wait a minute… They did what?

I know…

That’s insane.

I know. Calling Mike washed up was the worst decision they ever made… He looked them right in the eye and said, “Ehhhh, Let’s play some basketball.”

Was Michael a good teammate?

*long pause* Well, he helped us win? We aren’t in slavery. But Mike was tough. Especially on Porky.

Porky Pig?

The one and only. See, Porky is slow… he is fat… but he is slow, much like Stan was. And Mike wanted to see him workin’ a bit harder to get up and down the court. He would let him know what he thought about him during practice. He was constantly trash-talking him, trying to get him to fight back. There was also the incident at halftime of the big game.

What happened at half time?

Porky wanted to forfeit. 

Mike had lost the team. They were tuned out, gone, done-zo. MJ was trying to pump ‘em up, get ‘em ready for the second half. We got a game to play! That’s when Porky said he wanted to forfeit. I thought MJ was going to fry him into bacon with his eyeballs the way he stared at ‘im. I had to step in and save the team. MJ was always going to do whatever it took to win. He didn’t care about what people thought about him.

Could Michael have won the big one without Lola Bunny? 

It was beautiful to watch MJ and Lola play together. Jordan was the playmaker and player-coach and Lola was his outlet, a competitive partner. I know that in the first half Mike tried to do too much. We found ourselves in a 66-18 hole at halftime. And part of the reason the team wasn’t responding to MJ was because he was trying to do too much. It was iso after iso. 

But the Monstars were like the Bad Boy Pistons, they beat him up, they physically dominated the game. It wasn’t until the second half, when we played like a team, that we made our epic 48-2 run and caught back up. It was like when MJ finally embraced the triangle offense and started passing to Paxson against the Suns in game 6 in the finals. Lola gave him the confidence to play as a team.

Did Jordan ever doubt his team’s ability to win that game?

Never. He had faith in his team. He bet his own freedom while still down by 48 points.

About thatWere you ever worried about Jordan’s gambling?

Worried? I visited MJ’s house. If he had a gambling problem, he wouldn’t have a house that nice. I met his kids, his kids wouldn’t love him like they do if he had a gambling problem, his wife would’ve left him. He doesn’t have a gambling problem. 

You don’t believe that Jordan was suspended because of gambling for 18 months?

Listen, I was with Jordan when he decided to play basketball again. He wasn’t waiting for a suspension to end. He missed his dad and needed to re-fall in love with the game. And when he took off from half court to dunk the game winning points, and as the Monstars grabbed onto his legs in one of the great no-calls of the modern era, and when he stretched his arm out to 60 feet in order to win the game as time expired, Mike became Air Jordan again.

Are you saying you are the reason Michael Jordan returned to basketball?

Ehhh. I believe you said it, not me.

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Best Insults In All Of [Succession]

Insults in Succession are a microcosm of the dark comedy culture the TV show creates. Some are hilarious, others are devastatingly cruel, lots are both. But they are enmeshed in the fabric of the show and the characters complex relationships to each other. 

Most of the characters in Succession do not have the time, desire, or emotional intelligence to hash out their feelings relationships besides their obvious roles (dad, brother, boss, husband… blah blah blah). So the insults of Succession serve as a unique view into complex emotions between characters (Because we all saw how the therapy went, “FAMILY THERAPY…FAMILY THERAPY…)

“Fuck you, you pusillanimous piece of fucking fool’s gold. Fucking silver spoon fucking asshole”- Stewy (S02 E01)

To Kendall the first time they see each other after he backs out of the takeover.

I’m starting with one of my favorites. This insult blends the blind rage of someone who both throws ‘fuck’ after every word and has the presence of mind to use the word ‘pusillanimous,’ which is an all-time insult word- just meant to be thrown at people like mud. Overall, it is a fair representation of the uncontrolled rage Stewy felt in this moment, his understated intelligence, and the complete disdain he has for Kendall, who is now as low on the respect totem-pole as possible. Also, anytime I need a dictionary to understand an insult- that’s a good insult.

“You lump of fucking tur-duck-en.”- Tom (S01 E04)

To Greg after he thinks Greg told Gerri about Tom’s press conference ambitions.

Tom is a prime example of someone who says stuff that feels right even if the words don’t quite fit the moment. Therefore, don’t think about this too much. A lump of fucking tur-duck-en does not hold a ton of gravity if taken literally, but the sound and feel of it works. The rage behind those hard consonants cannot be denied, so the point is effective if non-sensical.

“You… are… a… fucking… idiot”- Logan (S01 E03)

To Kendall, fighting through speech impediments due to having a stroke.

Not the most inventive insult, but any time you fight like hell to say something through partial facial paralysis due to a stroke, the words have weight. If anything, the simplicity of the insult in the face of that much effort adds a level of meaning to the words. Logan casually, in full health, calling Kendall a fucking idiot- no big deal. Logan calling Kendall a fucking idiot even though he can’t talk- probably makes him wonder if he’s actually a fucking idiot.

“At least I’m only getting fucked by one member of this family.”- Willa (S01 E05)

To Tom after he makes fun of her for her new ‘arrangements’ with Connor.

Willa, up to this point, appeared to be the clueless hooker that was never supposed to be in any of the places she was invited by Connor, all while sponging massive amounts of money off of him because he was the only person more clueless than her. That was only mostly correct. But no one told Tom. And Tom finally saw someone that was one rung lower than him on the insult ladder (other than Greg), and he took his shot by prodding her about her ‘arrangements.’ But, in a flash, Willa retorts with this ‘too true’ to be funny insult, massacring Tom and revealing a bit of her true self- she is not as clueless as Tom thought. 

“They call Gil meth-head Santa because he so rarely delivers.”- Hugo (S02 E09)

Announcing the spin they are putting on the Congressional hearing led by Gil Eavis.

Clever points- ONE THOUSAND. Hugo was a nice addition to season two. He came out of nowhere and delivered (unlike Eavis). This was one of his better lines, delivered with the factualness of a PR guy. Devoid of any malice.  Nothing to see here. Just doing his job

“Everyone thinks you’re a joke.”- Logan (S02 E10)

To Connor about his Presidential run.

He’s not wrong, but therein is the heat behind this insult. Connor is the guy everyone let’s do his own thing because he doesn’t have the heart to make it in their business world. And it’s okay, because he is mostly harmless and well-meaning. He is also socially and intellectually isolated from the rest of the world (which is why he thinks he can run for president), so when Logan tells him everyone thinks he’s a joke, Connor didn’t know. And his personal bubble was burst in a pretty cold and heartless way by the man Connor looks to as a personal god.

“Sometimes when you were absent, they would refer to you as the calamari cock-ring.”- Frank (S01 E09)

Explaining to Kendall how the Canadians feel about him.

Frank was the perfect character to explain this particular insult to Kendall. Frank stays clear of the mudslinging and is one of the more positive and friendly men in the land of the Roys. So as he dutifully does his job by responding to Kendall’s question, while sheepishly mitigating the impact of the comment by saying he doesn’t even know what it means, he accidentally adds to the insult by limply trying to protect Kendall from an obvious slight. Kendall wouldn’t have it though, telling him the insult was pretty clear, “I think it means they think of me as a cock-ring…made out of calamari.” I think that’s about right.

“What’s up Kendall? Mix me up with your sponsor?”- Lawrence (S01 E02)

Answering Kendall’s call in the middle of the night.

Lawrence either had this one stored away for later usage, or he is one quick mother fucker. Because he woke up from a REM cycle and opened the convo with this barn burner. There’s some genuine enmity between two people when casual greetings are about life-ruining addiction. 

“You made a playground and you considered it the whole world.”- Marcia (S01 E09)

To Shiv on her wedding day.

Marcia spent the first season making us wonder what she was up to and hoping someone would lay into her for her meddling. As Shiv put it, “Have you ever eaten a grapefruit without an agenda?” (not a bad insult all by itself). But Marcia defied all comeuppance and ultimately won the hate-off between her and Shiv by holding back for just a sec after a confrontation between Shiv and Logan. Shiv looked like she was golden, finally telling off the two who had been giving her so much trouble all season when Marcia slid this insult like a dagger between her ribcage. And oh yeah, she calls her a slut… on her wedding day. Marcia is continually underestimated in her ruthlessness.

“I look at your face and, no offense, I see dead babies.”- Connor (S01 E10)

To Senator Gil Eavis when Connor sees him at Shiv’s wedding.

In Connor’s mind no one can meet him on the battlefield of political rhetoric. And that is what makes him unbeatable. His attacks come fast, furious, and out of nowhere and they don’t need any context or logic. This is one example of that randomness. Only Con would rapid-fire an insult like this into the face of a senator at his sister’s wedding and add a kind ‘no offense’ in the middle, just in case Gil were to be put-off by the railroading. But chalk this up as a win for the Conservatives of America. Gil had no response, and I can’t imagine any other liberal would either.

“You’re curdled cream.”- Logan (S01 E10)

To Kendall as his siblings confront him about the bear hug.

Listen, I am not even totally sure what Logan is getting at here, but I love this insult and this sentence so much. The imagery is strong, it feels good coming off the tongue, and its uniqueness adds an extra layer of salt to the wound. Logan didn’t reach for the nearest insult. He called him a hot house flower, which is unique but has been done, and then ended with this insult that no one has ever heard, implying Kendall’s time is up. He’s no good. Time to throw him out with the trash. Kendall got back a little bit by retorting, “You’re a beast,” which is strong, and also gives the moment a Shakespearian air, but there is no coming back from the depth, complexity, and emotion of Logan’s insult.

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Other [Succession] posts from Did you blank it?:
Rulebook for Boar on the Floor
Who is more full of shit? The Pierces vs The Roys (Part 1)
The Many Kendalls
“L to the OG” Grammy Acceptance Speech by Kendall Roy [Succession]
Best Stewy Moments [Succession]

Reaction To The Original [Dune] (1984)

With the re-emergence of Dune into the public discourse, my friend had the distinct pleasure of- right before quarantine locked us all down- bringing the original Dune to my house and having me watch it. I had read the book and I am following the anticipation of the next film, but I had never seen, or had the desire to see, the original. His father, however, is a Dune true believer (so hardcore he has no room for the new film in his Dune-loving heart) so he had seen the film and wanted to see my reaction to it.

So here is my reaction as best as I can manage. And the best way I can both capture my feelings on the film and react to it at the same time, is through a series of distinct questions.

First Question…

Why is everyone damp?

Everyone. There is a general moistness in the film that is a bit mind-boggling when considering they are, for a large portion of the movie, on the arid planet of Arrakis, where the whole ideology of the indigenous life is that water (perspiration included) is precious. This was infinitely harder to believe with the sheer amount of it coming off of all parties involved. And what’s more unsettling is that I am not even sure what the moisture was- sweat, spit, water, or, god forbid, some other bodily fluid. This is an important starting point in any discussion about Dune, and one I have seen people broach before. Here’s to hoping that Villeneuve’s vision does not include unnecessary moistness.

Next Question…

Why is everyone throwing fastballs?

There is a lot of reasons people have dialogue in films- develop a character, provide background, develop the plot to name a few. And because of the plethora of reasons that any given character could be speaking, not all dialogue is important. Except for in Dune. Based on the performances in Dune, ALL lines are important. They are all serious and consequential and significant to the arc of the character and every word should be listened to with discernment and anticipation. Every character is trying to be the scene stealer in every shot. Its one 95 mile an hour fastball after another for 2 hours and 17 minutes (unless you like the director’s cut, in which case it is 95 mile an hour fastballs down the middle for 2 hours and 57 minutes). Take a breath DuneI’m exhausted and I’m not the one riding a giant sand worm.

Also…

What’s with those costumes?

I got some strong medieval vibes to start, but this isn’t a high fantasy story, it’s much more in the science fiction genre, so the ballroom gowns and tunics threw me for a loop. And boy was I not ready for the flying fat suit. Harkonnen was like if Augustus Gloop and Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had a kid after Violet had turned into a blueberry (assuming the Oompa Loompas were unable to turn her back into a normal human, no disrespect to Oompa Loompas who seem incredibly efficient at a very messed up job), and then someone poked that child with a pin and let it fly around the room like someone let go of a balloon.

At other times there were strong steam punk, or S & M, vibes to the apparel. I don’t have a reference point. I am just throwing out my best guess. Regardless, it felt like a high school theater troupe made do as best they could with what they had in the moldy closet under the stairs. Not the product of a 45-million-dollar budget.

Speaking of S & M…

Is that a vagina?

When the steam punk band rolled in the Guild Navigator in the opening scene, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening (and I had read the books- I have no idea what people who hadn’t read the books were going through). And then the steam punk/S & M guys revealed what was inside the giant Spice container, and I thought it was a vagina. It wasn’t, but there were some close-ups that validated my misunderstanding. 

There was also a scene where a witch asked Paul to put his hand in her box, which worried me for a second. But then she brought out a literal box, and I felt better. But then she seemed to derive immense pleasure when Paul put his hand in her box, and I got worried again.

Also…

Is that a penis?

Lots of phallic symbolism in the film. The thing that tried to assassinate Paul when he was in his bedroom was, I am pretty sure, a flying penis. The training system that descended from the ceiling into the room was a fighting penis. The sand worms were giant angry penises. Once I saw one I couldn’t stop. I would’ve been loath to point it out if I hadn’t also seen all the vaginas.

Sixth question…

How are people who didn’t follow the book supposed to keep up with this?

I had to ask some questions during the film, and I remembered the general premise, main conflicts, and characters from when I read it. I can’t imagine what it was like to go into it cold, hoping that the movie did what movies generally do- tell the story. If it is any indication how a non-book reader felt while watching, the opening line of the New York Times review of the movie started with, “Several of the characters in Dune are psychic, which puts them in the unique position of being able to understand what goes on in the movie.” Ouch…

Which leads me to…

Why do they keep narrating their thoughts?

I am conflicted by this. Not whether or not it was bad (it was bad) but as to why it is bad. At first I thought it was bad because they seemed to be narrating stuff that was obvious, things that in the course of normal films are communicated through a facial expression or the tone of one’s voice. But at the same time, I was wondering how people could possibly follow the story, and the narration was added as a way to guide the viewer through the movie. So I don’t know what to think. It seems to me that at the point where the producers feel the need to have the characters talk the viewer through what was happening after it happened, you need to call it a wash, and just go for ‘inaccessible’ and ‘misunderstood.’

8th Question…

How’d they get Sir Patrick Stewart for this film?

Sir Patrick Stewart played the minstrel-warrior Gurney Halleck. A minor role in a bad film. I don’t know how they swung it. 

And…

Is that Sting?

Yeah. It was Sting. With maybe the best performance in the film?

And…

Is that Toto?

The soundtrack is provided by Toto. Not horrible, but at times out of place.

But…

No ‘Africa’?

No. In a movie that took place on a dry arid planet of mostly sand, we didn’t get the most iconic song from the band that was providing the soundtrack. 

By midway through the movie…

How much more of this?

Part of the reason I asked this question was because I didn’t like the movie, but not all of it. Some of it was because I knew how much more of the story needed to transpire, and about halfway through the film, we had about three-quarters of the story to go. Not an enviable position to be in. Little did I know, the story hits overdrive at about the midway point, and covers massive amounts of story through narration and montages. Well, they didn’t really cover it, but it was assumed to have happened and understood by those watching.

 In the perfect example of bad pacing, the entire story is told- Paul conquered Harkonnen and retook Arrakis as Muad Dib- and in the final scene where all the people gather together (awkwardly because all the blocking in this film is like a bad high school play) Sting steps forward and engages Paul in a fight to the death! It was bizarre watching them fight with knives under the assumption that any viewer would, at this point, have a vested interest in this fight or its outcome.  In a movie full of odd choices, this may be the oddest.

Lastly…

Do people really like this movie?

Yes they do. And I love that they do, because that is the very best part of film. I didn’t love it. I didn’t like it. I didn’t connect with it at any level at all. But I didn’t need to because Dune found its niche. Its guys like my friend’s dad who watch it and have affection for its strangeness which has now become iconic. Dune is a terrific story, one that is going to be revisited soon, and I can’t wait. But others can because the story was already told to perfection in 1984. Long live storytelling.

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Father Of The Year: TV Drama’s Bad Dads

There is something about the role of the ‘father’ in television that is rife for conflict and mistakes. TV Dramas capitalize on those conflicts and create terrible dads in their series all the time. Maybe it is the battle of the patriarchy, the growing disillusionment with family, the absence of the American dad, or the commitment to work over empathy in males today, whatever it is, bad dads abound in television today.

So here are the candidates for Worst Bad Dad in TV Dramas and what we can learn about and from them along the way.

Tony Soprano

Strengths

  • Strong sense of ‘family’
  • Tries to instill values in his children 
  • Provides kids with everything they need and want

Weaknesses

  • Short temper
  • Often absent affairs
  • Can be physically abusive
  • Spoils his children
  • Tendency to murder other people while on college visits
  • Unhealthy marriage
  • Unable to discipline appropriately

The whole premise of Sopranos started with “which family will kill him first.” There is a special sort of ineptness in a man who has a better chance of surviving the New York and New Jersey crime syndicate than his own kids.

Tony’s strengths are often his weaknesses, a penchant to provide becomes a tendency to spoil which puts his children at odds with his hard work ethic. His strong sense of family becomes a trigger for his short temper when his son does not feel that same connection. And the way he provides for his family becomes absence from the home and a poor marriage. 

The big guy can’t get out of his own way. He always had a deeper understanding of the inner mechanics of his ‘family’ than his family, making intricate and ingenious moves in his business while making ham-fisted and doddering decisions at home. He is a consistent and ruthless leader with the guys, but an inconsistent and emotional father.

Walter White

Strengths

  • Provides for his family
  • Present
  • Teaches 

Weaknesses

  • Puts his family at risk
  • Poor marriage
  • Selfish

Walter’s desires were at odds with his family’s. In the face of his illness, he wanted to pay for his medical bills so that he could be with them, spend more time with them, be a father. But while becoming the world’s best meth cook in order to pay those bills, Walter learned that he didn’t just want to survive, he wanted to live. The life he had as a teacher and family man felt empty after his experience breaking bad. He informs us in the last episode, he didn’t cook meth to provide for his family (like he had been telling Skylar since she found out), he did it because he liked it, it made him feel alive. 

Ultimately, Walter White rejected his family to become a meth dealer, passing it off as a way to support them, when he just wanted to obtain his own goals and fulfill his own needs. Not exactly Father of the Year behavior.

Logan Roy

Strengths

  • Teaches independence
  • Shows tough love
  • Prioritizes family time

Weaknesses

  • Antagonistic and combative
  • Cold
  • Jealous
  • Inscrutable
  • Manipulative

Logan grew up in a completely different world than the one he provided for his children. He is both jealous of this life and worried it will prevent them from becoming the ‘killers’ that he thinks they need to be as heirs to his empire. Because of this, he provokes and antagonizes them, trying to bring out a tough and harsh side to them that couldn’t possibly exist in the ‘playground’ he created for them. 

There is certainly love in these twisted feelings. He has tender moments with all his children (“You’re my number one boy”), and he is with his family all the time (family meetings galore) but he is constantly playing a weird chess game with their lives, and never reveals his thoughts and desires, maybe because he doesn’t know what he wants (he’s not a man to be emotionally reflective) or maybe if he told them, it would defeat the purpose. 

Don Draper

Strengths

  • Embodies the American Dream
  • Even-tempered
  • Values hard work

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t love being a father
  • Absent
  • Poor marriage
  • Unfaithful

Don doesn’t seem to be much of a father. He is a product of the fifties where parenting was something the wife took care of while the husband made all the money to support the household. But as times changed in America and women asserted their independence, it was the children that fell through the cracks. 

The Draper household was no exception, and Sally Beth was a wonderful example of the impact of those changing times on young people. She was necessarily independent, willful, and argumentative, searching for a means to love an acceptance.

Don embodied the American ideal, he was upwardly mobile, he rewrote his own history to better suit his future, he had a beautiful wife and lovely kids, he worked on Madison Avenue in New York, but he also represented the underside of that picturesque exterior with his infidelities, absence, and general lack of interest in family life and that which did not directly benefit himself.

Tywin Lannister

Strengths

  • Consistent
  • Defends his children
  • Tough love
  • Disciplined
  • Protective

Weaknesses

  • Plays favorites
  • Rigid
  • Unforgiving
  • Cruel
  • Political

Tywin is the symbol of strength and success and regality. His number one concern is the image of his house, and its opportunity for success. His kids are only as good to him as their ability to further that agenda. 

To be fair, when his children seem like they can or will help House Lannister, he is tough on them but ultimately good to Jaime and Cersei. Tyrion, however, not so much… He represents, a poor image, weakness, and a lack of discipline and regality. So he is treated like no child should ever be treated by his father and subsequently by his sister who looks to her father as god. 

But since the Lannister name and its image means so much to him, he does protect and bail out his children when they get in a fix- like when he saved all of King’s Landing because Cersei almost got it seized in the Battle of the Blackwater. But he also ‘saved’ his children when they did not want his saving, as he determined Jaime’s life path for him and ruined Tyrion’s. 

Ultimately, it never bodes well for your parenting skills when you are murdered by one of your children.

Rick Grimes

Strengths

  • Protective
  • Present
  • Loving
  • Instills leadership and values

Weaknesses

  • Prone to bouts of insanity
  • Distracted and unsure about life

Rick Grimes is in the toughest position to be a good father. Raising a child is difficult, raising one while also protecting them from man eating zombies is, I imagine, a bit of a sticky wicket. But Rick manages to do so for a very long time, while also maintaining good qualities in Carl. In fact, one of Rick’s downsides as a father is that Carl has to do a lot of the teaching and moralizing for Rick and not the other way around. Rick’s leadership and parenting roles get the best of him, and his grip on reality isn’t always rock solid. 

Rick ends up raising a good child in spite of himself, but ultimately (not to rub salt in the wound) was unable to protect his child, which was the thing he was always best at.

Ned Stark

Strengths

  • Loving
  • Fair
  • Great teacher and mentor
  • Present
  • Good husband
  • Creates a stable home
  • Good values and morals

Weaknesses

  • Poor decision making
  • Poor choices in friends
  • Misguided loyalty

You might be saying, “Wait! I thought this was a list of bad dads! Ned Stark was a great father!”

 Au contraire. Ned definitely establishes himself as a terrific dad in all the mechanics. He is fair and loving and takes painstaking measures to make sure his children grow up loved but not coddled, fair but not weak, provided for but not spoiled. And he has a terrific litter of little dire wolves as the product of that time and effort. 

However, his family ends up as one of the most decimated and destroyed families in all of Westeros (which is really saying something) and it all begins with some questionable (at best) decision-making to go down to King’s Landing at the word of a blow-hard king. He should have known better. 

He then got enmeshed in the one thing he probably is worst at, the game of thrones, and decided to trust everyone in the process of playing said game (if there is one thing you can’t do in the game of thrones it is trust people) all the while he brought his two daughters with him into the lion’s den, and then gets himself arrested which brings his son into the war as well. 

Meanwhile he keeps a very important secret from his bastard child that ends up going with him to the grave, and sends the same kid to the Wall under the false pretense that it was a noble place (being the Warden of the North he had to have known better). 

All-in-all that’s a blue streak of bad parenting choices.

These are the candidates for Worst Bad Dad in TV Dramas. Sound off in the comments on who you would nominate and who should win.

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The Meaning of the Five Music Tones [Close Encounters of the Third Kind]

Video of the five tones

Start with the tone. (Pinkish-red) – D

Up a full tone. (Orange) – E

Down a major third. (Purple) – C 

Down an octave. (Yellow) – C (an octave lower)

Up a perfect fifth. (White) – G

These are the tones and their corresponding colors that were bequeathed upon humanity by the extra-terrestrials in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and then relayed back to those aliens via a synthesizer and colored light patterns (and also a xylophone by a little kid). 

These tones establish contact with the aliens in the closing scenes, and also create the basis for the score of the entire film. They are, as best as can be surmised, the basis of a tonal language/alphabet that the aliens use to interact with the humans. In short, they are very important to the movie.

They also are, in my experience and of many others, what the viewer takes with them the most after seeing the film. Those tones replayed in my head, like a man trying to communicate with the mothership. I recalled the people in India, sitting at the spot of a UFO sighting, and as one, chanting the five tones over and over again, faces turned towards the ever-present heavens, alight with joy and expectation. The sounds made their way into pop culture, signifying that there may be aliens among us even to those who have not seen the movie. 

There is a foreignness to them, especially in that fourth note, that dips an octave and feels slightly off key, and in the way they end, with expectation and a lack of finality. But there is clear design, and comprehension- a composition to them as well. There is intelligence behind the design. They were not randomly thrown together, a feeling or a thought is being communicated through the tones, as music is wont to do. 

But the strangeness of the tones, and Close Encounters in general, is the lack of any clarity to the meaning of that collection of sounds. The scientists conclude, during the exchange with the mothership, that they are being taught a quasi-tonal alphabet. As one man put it, “It’s the first day of school fellas.” But even though the tones result in a reaction from the aliens, we don’t know what was communicated.

Scientists try to communicate with the Mothership

In fact, it may seem a bit comical to imagine, that if those tones had a literal translation to them, that the mothership would be listening to this foreign lifeform repeat the same phrase over and over again, with increasing rapidity until it blends into one continuous ringing song, “Take….us…with…you…Take…us…with…you…Take us with you…Take us with you…Takeuswithyou…TakeuswithyouTakeuswithyouTakeuswithyou.” 

But the tones are probably nothing so simple as that. As Claude Lacombe wheeled his finger in a circle, urging the synthesizer-er to play faster and faster, the looped and smashed sound of the tones together sounded more melodic and comprehensible than the individual sounds. And the response from the mothership, an orchestral cacophony of honks, dings, and blasts, with a light show to match, went beyond trying to translate the sounds to words like some tin-foil hat cryptographer. 

Maybe the tones represented an emotion, a feeling. “I am here, and I recognize you.” The tones in the movie have important emotional impact throughout the film in both the scenes and the score. The tones create the emotional backdrop as we empathize with Roy’s family as he descends into delirium, the grandiosity of discovery, and the fear of invasion. And the way the tones are played change the viewer’s emotional responses to what is happening.

There is a big difference between the emotions involved as Barry plinks away on his xylophone trying to get the notes just right-he keeps getting tripped up on the full octave dip- and when the group of Indians chant together in ecstasy. Barry creates an eerie fear of the unknown (something probably common in Munster, Indiana) and the chanting feels expectant and hopeful, full of mystical possibility.

Indians chant the five tones to the heavens

 And we see the difference in the immediate impact of the notes during the closing scene between the humans and the mothership. The slow plodding, probing and expectant feel when it starts, versus the anticipation, discovery, and excitement when the notes run together. And the aliens responded in kind. We know nothing about them other than those tones, and their bold and beautiful response, but that is enough to make us feel like we know them very well.

But maybe that is making too much of it. Maybe at the end of the day, sentient beings only have a couple ways to communicate, and when language fails we must turn to music. And as the extra-terrestrials probe this world of ours, they are on a search for sentient life. Those who respond with comprehensive notes, who can understand and return the language of music are the intelligent life forms they seek and accept and will respond to. 

So as the group of scientists in their communication bunker in Wyoming plunk out their notes on the synthesizer- at first with reservation and uncertainty- finally discover the music they are playing, they are able to communicate their intelligence back to those who first showed theirs.

But who really knows? This is alien life we are talking about. And the only sure thing at the end of Close Encounters was the lack of answers provided. What did the aliens want? What happened to those who were returned to earth? What will they do to those who went on their ship? What did those tones mean?

But leaving off a movie with questions unanswered is not a bad thing as long as the story was concluded. And in Close Encounters the tale was told. The movie is a quest for something else, something greater that can bring us out of our humdrum lives and give us something more to believe in. The same quest that draws us to the movies again and again. And the movie ends with them finding out that there is something greater out there, and it is embodied in those five tones…

Start with the tone. (Pinkish-red) – D

Up a full tone. (Orange) – E

Down a major third. (Purple) – C 

Down an octave. (Yellow) – C (an octave lower)

Up a perfect fifth. (White) – G

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