The Redressers: Part 1

“Hey, Weedkiller! Tight dreads! Army Ant, those antennae are perfect! Whoa! Sweetie, you are the best, most adorable Panda-Man I’ve ever seen! Can I get a selfie?” Mia crouched down next to the 7-year-old and held him tight as she snapped a picture with her phone.

The cosplay contest at the Mid-River Silver Age Con was the highlight of her year. She’d spent weeks perfecting her steampunk design and another month constructing it.

She had a lot more free time to spend on cosplay since she finished her BS in mechanical engineering. She found work, don’t get her wrong. It just wasn’t exactly in her field. Or any field. But she liked coffee and muffins, so serving it to customers wasn’t the worst job there was. At least, that’s what she told herself every day until her shift ended, when she rushed home, waved hi to her roommate, and shut herself in her room to apply for any job she could find.

She had the degree and the brains, but she hadn’t gotten through an interview without embarrassing herself, cutting off the interviewer, or accidentally insulting the company. She sometimes considered studying her rejection letters to find patterns of polite, normal conversation she might use for future interviews.

She looked up from her phone to see a tall, cut, middle-aged man approaching her.

“OMG! Your costume is amazing! That black armored spandex spy outfit is spot-on. Where’d you get it? Aw, man, you’ve got little pouches and everything! And your gun looks so real! I can’t believe you got it past security. They usually want it to look fake.”

“It is real.”

“Ummmm, okay, wow. Hey, I’ve gotta catch up with my large group of paranoid friends who will call the police and track my phone if I’m gone for more than 10 minutes, so I’ll see you later.”

“Mia, wait!”

Oh, she waited.

“How do you know my name?”

“I know everything about you, Mia.”

Mia froze.

“Just kidding. I know a lot about you, but not everything. Probably. But I’m not a creep or anything, just a spy. And now that I said the s-word, you have to come with me or I’ll kill you.”

Mia was still frozen from before.

“Sorry, I was kidding again. I’m working on my managerial methods. My performance evaluation said I come across as distant, so I’m trying to use humor to be more easygoing.”

“Maybe stick with distant instead of casual jokes about murdering me.”

“Noted. Okay, but I do need you to come with me. That was real.”

“Are you really a spy?”

“Oh, yeah. Super secret stuff. Killing terrorists, neutralizing evil organizations, fighting off aliens before anyone finds out about them. It’s crazy.”

“Did I do something wrong? Oh, crap. Does Etsy fund terrorism?”

“No, no. You’re not in trouble. I want to recruit you!”

“Huh. So the Etsy thing just now wasn’t an immediate clue that maybe I’m not the type to rely on to kill scary people?”

“Oh, we’ve got killers. Ha! So many killers. You have no idea. No, we need you because you were the best engineer in your class.”

“Wow, really?”

“Oh, hell yeah! Look at the detail on your costume! All those little gears and belts and stuff? I’d almost expect it to work.”

“Well…don’t tell anyone, but it does.”

“That’s gonna be hard. I’m really bad at keeping secrets.”

“Really?”

“No, sorry, kidding again. So definitely stick with distant?”

“Are you a dad? You strike me as a dad. Wait, how do you know about my mad engineering skills?”

“College transcripts, your emails to your parents, your friends’ texts about you, your advisor’s files. Speaking of which, he’s really gross. Hooks up with a different freshman every year.”

“Yuck! Should I report him?”

“Meh. I’ll slip some articles about some crazy STD outbreaks on campus into his news feeds. That should settle him down.”

“What STD outbreaks?”

“Oh, it’s not true. I’ll have our media division make it up.”

“Wait. So fake news is a real thing?”

“Oh yeah. Well, some of it. Only like 15%.”

“Like what?”

“I can’t say unless you work for me.”

“What’s it pay?”

“Not much week to week, but you get a big bonus if you survive each mission.”

“You should really stop kidding.”

“I’m not.”

“Can you make my student debt disappear?”

“Sure, yeah. Do you want it paid off or just eliminated?”

Mia’s eyes widened. She had never felt so powerful before. “Eliminated.”

“Awesome.” He tapped on his phone for a few seconds and showed Mia her new principle balance: $0.00.

“Woo hoo! And no killing? Just building stuff?”

“No killing. You in?”

“Yeah, let’s do it!”

“Come on. My ride’s waiting outside.”

“Yes! Best day ever!”

“Do you need to tell your friends first?”

“Oh. Right. That was a lie. Not a big, ah, friends person. Or fam-i-ly. Orphan. Only child. Bad at relationships. Not a great roommate. Also never was much of a–”

“Yeah, I know. I read up on you.”

“You have that in your files?”

“What? No. I follow you on Instagram. By the way, you’ve gotta stop posting pics of polenta. It tastes fine, but it’s not photogenic. Okay. Ready to go?”

“Yeah, let’s do it! I just said that, didn’t I?”

“It’s okay.”

They stepped outside of the arena and onto the sidewalk. The street was closed off for the convention and there wasn’t a car to be seen for blocks.

“Where’s your ride?”

The bottom of a rope ladder suddenly dropped in front of them. Mia looked up to see a plane — or maybe a spaceship — whose cloaking device had just disengaged.

“Oh, one thing. The other members of the team are pretty unusual.”

“How unusual?”

“You like comics, right? Hold on tight. Oh, by the way, I’m Dwayne.”

Mia screamed as the ladder was hauled aboard and she and Dwayne were yanked into the air. Within seconds, she found herself in a cargo bay. She caught her breath and looked around.

Dwayne spread his arms. “Mia Ortiz, welcome to the Redressers.”

“Is that Frankenstein?”

John K. and Trump

No jokes in this one, just some troubling insight I had this morning.

I’m a huge fan of weird, funny stuff. Besides the classic weird comedies like The Goon Show, Monty Python, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, SCTV, The Kids in the Hall, and Mr. Show, I also love love LOVE cartoons that make the most of the cartoon medium and play with what’s possible within it. I love the old directors like Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Ub Iwerks as well as the more recent shows like Rocko’s Modern Life, Eek! the Cat, Chowder, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, and Gumball. And the emergence of a lot of those weird, wonderful cartoons since the mid-90s can be traced back to a show that came seemingly out of nowhere and changed TV animation: Ren and Stimpy.

Ren and Stimpy was like a lightning bolt. In the early 90s, we had been stuck with boring cartoons that were animated as cheaply and crappily as possible for about 20 years. Every show, it seemed, was either a dull script timed to someone flipping through the four most generic drawings ever made or a commercial for toys. If you were lucky, you got to catch Looney Tunes or Disney cartoons from the 30s and 40s, back when they were fun. Or at least you saw reruns of Rocky and Bullwinkle or Roger Ramjet, which at least had funny scripts and funny voices. (Roger Ramjet also hung a huge lantern on the fact that it was extremely cheap by zooming in or shaking the camera at a caption.) But for the most part it was cartoon Mr. T or cartoon 9th Derivation of Scooby-Doo or cartoon Average White Boy Hanging With a Talking Car and they all save the day by being nice and teaching us lessons about manners. Yawn.

Ren and Stimpy was gross and crazy and stupid and silly and everybody loved it except pearl-clutching Churchy Joes who hated fun. Doug and Rugrats were good, too, but Ren and Stimpy stole the show, and John K.’s name was scrawled over the title cards. None of us knew who Bob Camp or Bill Wray was, but we all knew John K., so he must be the mastermind auteur behind the Thing We Love.

Fast forward 15 or 20 years. Cartoons have come back to life in a major way. Adult Swim caters their comedy and anime to college students and grown-ups. Nick and Cartoon Network have a zillion in-house shows that dare to be funny. Spongebob has taken over the world. Some shows suck and some are fantastic and some are just okay, just like every other medium, but things are generally much, much better than they were in the Before Times. And we all know it’s thanks to that brave generation of shows on Nickelodeon, which began with Ren and Stimpy. John K. is a hero, but we notice he hasn’t done much work since he left Ren and Stimpy.

I’ve always loved drawing, but I can’t draw to save my life. I can doodle funny pictures, but I have little to no rudimentary skill. Somehow I happened upon John K.’s blog, which was mostly devoted to teaching animation. On his advice, I bought the Preston Blair book on animation and got to work practicing. It was fun! And I was learning! (I didn’t stick with it and still have little skill, but I use what little I learned when I doodle.) John K. came through for me again! But there was something a little weird.

In his animation school blog, John K. would occasionally digress into his old grudges with the other folks from Spumco. He would demand he was the sole artistic voice and driving force behind it all and that when he left, the show suffered a fatal blow. I didn’t know he’d ever left. His name was still scribbled on the title cards as the creator after he left. So I went back and watched them and…oh yeah. He was gone after the first season and the others took over. Huh. Well, the only one I’d ever heard of was telling us that he was the big deal, so I guess he’s the big deal. But man, it clearly hit a nerve whenever it came up. He’d get really mad about it.

There’s no graceful way to come at this. If you care about cartoon history, you heard the big revelation a few days ago. Two women accused John K. of grooming them as teenagers to be the victims of his gross perversion for underage girls. One was 16 when he was 39. I’d never heard of her. The other was Katie Rice. Katie was active on the blog and became John K.’s star pupil. Looking back, his public internet affection for the kid less than half his age was obviously gross, but I hadn’t learned to notice that kind of thing yet. For me and many other straight, cis, white males like me, that vigilance would come later, after the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and the sexual violence of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein and the other myriad events and movements and reactions that pried our eyes open to the reality we’d been ignorant of or actively turning away from.

I didn’t doubt the claims against him for a second. I was angry and deeply sad for the women he abused and disappointed in myself for idolizing a monster. I dashed off an angry tweet about it and figured I was done talking about it to the 4 people who see me online. Then this morning, it hit me: John K. is my Trump, and if I hadn’t learned to believe accusations, I might ignore the ones against him. Which is shocking to me. But it made me empathize — for the first time, really — with people who on paper should abhor Trump but stand by him despite his creepy behavior at the debates, history of sexual assault accusations, hair trigger temper, and “with me or against me” paranoia. He’s the same sort of cult figure as John K., just with more nuclear weapons. They constantly put out the message in varying degrees of subtlety that they are the right and good ones and anyone who says otherwise is a selfish liar or a complete moron. They’re the winning team. They’re the ones who achieved everything and did all the hard work. Everyone else is a disposable hanger-on and they have no problem disposing of them.

Except it’s a complete lie. And now animators, artists, and industry professionals are coming out of the woodwork to say, “Yeah, John K. is full of it. He only did a small part of the work and took all the credit and was an enormous psychotic turd the entire time.” That’s why we haven’t seen much of him in 25 years. It’s not because the world can’t handle his art; it’s because no one wants to deal with him when they can work with someone just as creative and talented but much less awful.

Stories are not even emerging, but being immediately shouted from all corners of the internet, “Yeah, he was always a gross, tantrum-throwing pervert but we needed our jobs and it made life hell for everybody there!” I’m very thankful that basically everybody except John K. quickly backed up the women accusing him. And, in retrospect, I’m glad he was kicked off the show and now understand why it wasn’t anywhere near as good when it was revived in the 2000s. We were played by a cult figure. And at least two women paid dearly for him to keep his cult reputation.

So let’s place John K. in the toilet bowl of history and pull the chain. I don’t know anything about the first woman he abused, but I know Katie Rice is a hell of an artist, so I hope her career is booming. And I’m gonna spend some time learning more about Bob Camp and Bill Wray and the other creative forces behind Ren and Stimpy, who from what people are saying this week are decent, fun people.

To tie it all up, it’s important first not to idolize anyone, which absolves them of their basic responsibility of decency. But if you do, keep an eye on it. Would you defend someone else if they did that? If Obama and Trump did the same thing, would one be a villain and the other be excused? If a man and a woman made the same accusation, would you believe one more than the other? It’s hard work to constantly check yourself, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to spend your time on Earth defending garbage monsters.

Current Standings

US down three to 7th, China up one to 6th, EU steady at 5th despite Brexit fears, Japan back at 10th after optimistic reports, and India continues to rise, currently at 12th. More updates as details emerge.945BF7F1-36D7-4690-80EA-29A286ABA056

Bunkum 53!

The new episode of Bunkum is up! The first “arc”, let’s call it, of Bunkum was episodes 1-50 and was inspired by old-timey radio and was mostly me playing a bunch of crazy idiots fighting with each other. Very “Goon Show”. In episode 50, I went back in time and prevented the whole podcast from happening because I was getting frustrated with the format. So after a few weeks off Bunkum came back with episode 51 in a new “regular podcast” format. It’s me doing one-to-three extended silly monologues with a fake commercial thrown in there.

Anyway, the newest one consists of “Swimming Across America” and is sponsored by the NRA and it lives here! Enjoy!

Swimming Across America

Thanks, Brian. Yes, I’m now making the final preparations for the astounding feat and I will, in fact, be using my astounding feet (ha ha) as the chief means of propulsion to accomplish my incredible publicity stunt designed to astonish and amaze. For I plan on April 9th to don my special astonishing slash amazing uniform, take my position in the Portland Maine Municipal Starting Blocks, and proceed to swim across the United States of America.

The plan is to begin in Maine, swim down New England following the I-95 corridor, picking up I-70 near Baltimore, and swimming west. This leg is where I’ll run into some difficult terrain in the form of the Appalachian mountains. My coaching team has been working with me and we’ve developed a pretty good technique for swimming up a mountain and back down the other side, so I think I’ll be able to cross them in just a few weeks. Then it’s smooth ground straight until St Louis.

Now, St Louis is where I will find the biggest challenge of swimming across the United States of America: water. There’s a large river called the Mississippi that runs north to south in that area and from what I understand it’s a pretty difficult thing to avoid. My coaching team and I considered altering the route to go around the Mississippi, but that would take me into Canada, which the brand team pointed out is not technically part of the old United S of A, and some of the public might take issue with a more internationalist course. Fortunately, it’s very broad and at times quite shallow, so I’ve checked with the judges and they’ve approved my request to at this point take a brief respite from swimming and wade across one of the shallower parts of the Old Miss, fighting off sharks and hippopotamuses and Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, heroically coming ashore in the western two-thirds of the country and resuming the great swim.

From that point, it’s considerably less dramatic the rest of the way to California. I’ve been swimming through cornfields and soy fields and wheat fields for sixteen years to prepare for this feat, so the journey shouldn’t be too much of a problem until I hit the Rockies. These have the same general triangular shape as the Appalachians, so that shouldn’t be too difficult. However, right after the Rockies comes an area known as Monument Valley. Now, unlike the Appalachians and the Rockies, which are more gradual in their slope, Monument Valley is more uppy-downey. It’s a flat sort of area with some straight up-and-down buttes dotting the landscape here and there. It will be a challenge since I haven’t swam straight up before as it defies gravity as well as the will of God, but I’m always willing to give something a try. Of course, once I reach the summit of each butte, it’s hundreds of feet straight down again, which makes for rough swimming, but I believe in my coaches and they’ve assured me that I can handle plowing through sandstone with only minimal psychological damage.

And from there, it’s a straight shot through the desert and the Sierra Nevadas to Oakland. At this point, I will plan on taking a BART train across the Bay as I’ve never actually swam through water and I don’t have time to learn how before the big event. This alteration didn’t need the judges’ approval as I will be swimming across the seats while on the train. I will emerge from the train at the Embarcadero station, swim up to the street, and make my way across the city until I reach the Golden Gate Bridge.

Now, some people have asked me why I’m doing this. It is in fact an effort to raise money for research into the cause of gun violence. The current research indicates that it’s most commonly from the bullet aspect of the gun violence scenario, but we would like to replicate those results as many times as possible, preferably next door the next time they’re having one of their midnight dance parties. Thanks to my online network of donors I have raised enough money for this effort to pay for the food I will require for the first three weeks of this seventeen-year endeavor. If you’d like to contribute, please go to fatuous-imbecile.biz and click on Donate. Thanks, Brian.

Gorilla

You ever notice how people only see what they wanna see? And you can be jumpin’ up and down and yelling the truth right in people’s face, but they just see what they wanna see, you know? I was saying this to Mickey in HR the other day, trying to ease into it gradual-like, but he started talking about the mainstream media and alternate voices and all that, so I just gave up. I’ll try again some other time.

Hmm. I guess before I get too far ahead of myself I should probably mention, I’m a gorilla.

Now there isn’t any law or regulation or anything that says you can’t hire a gorilla, so I don’t think anyone’s gonna get in trouble, but I’m still a little nervous about coming out, so to speak. I’ve tried dropping hints like leaving my lunchbox sitting open so you could see it’s full of leaves or putting a photo on my desk with me and my folks on vacation with my much smaller human wife and her parents. Seems to me the difference is pretty clear, but no one seems to notice. They just ask me how I liked Aruba. It was nice! Not humid like you’d think.

My wife asks me, “Why don’t you just go in and tell them you’re a gorilla?” She doesn’t get it. It’s not as simple as that. I’ve been there for four years and everyone just assumed I’m a human. If I go in and say I’m a whole ‘nother genus, let alone species, they’re liable to get upset, like I was trying to deceive them or something. They’ll say I was lying by omission, but it’s not like there’s a box on the insurance forms where you check off human, gorilla, chimpanzee, or bonobo.

It also might affect Larry in shipping. He’s a gorilla, too, but he’s still pretty jungle, you know? Good at lifting stuff, but never really cracked a book. If I start talking about gorilla stuff, they might point at him and say gorillas are too dangerous and unrefined and whatnot. You can say we’re 98% genetically similar til you’re blue in the face, but it’s there, you know? They’re not actively bigoted against gorillas, but I think it’s in the back of their heads somewhere.

They sometimes make comments about bananas or something. I don’t think they mean to; I think it’s subconcious-like. Still bums me out, though. I mean, I’m working late trying to finish up some CL reports and someone asks me outta nowhere if I know sign language. It ain’t cool. I oughta just tell ’em and put it out in the open.

That’s what I’ll do. We got a planning session tomorrow and I’m gonna stand up and tell ’em that they’re working with a gorilla and that’s okay. And if they try any of that species-ist stuff about Larry, I’ll say yep, AND he’s the one who’s been embezzling the last two years. Gorilla or not, I’m not losing my Aruba money for that lummox.