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MISCmedia MAIL FOR 4/21/17: TEST OF ‘TIME’
Apr 20th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Your big weekend e-missive begins with an unexpected (but not undeserved) honor for one of our state’s greatest. We continue on to mention more mayoral-race and Murray-case developments; stories of people caught up in the big anti-immigrant scares; the close of the Burlington shooter’s sad life story; and the reasons we need Earth Day and the March for Science.

4/6/17: POP FOR A COP
Apr 6th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Alas, handing cans of Pepsi to cops at protests probably won’t save the world. Shocking, I know. But there are more realistic topics to discuss today, including nice Canadians having border trouble; a plea to try and get more “affordable” units under the HALA plan; physicians saving refugees from being sent home to die; and Amazon vs. the Girl Scouts.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 3/30/17: LIFE IMITATES CGI
Mar 29th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

It’s just a coincidence that there’s a computer-animated feature out now called “The Boss Baby,” and that the title role is voiced by Alec Baldwin, and that ads show the baby in a suit and tie with orange-ish hair. Really. In more deliberate occurrences, we note Daniel Ramirez’s freedom (at least for now); neighbors who want more public amenities in the expanded Convention Center; Jeff Bezos’ even greater (on paper) wealth; and the little Belltown restaurant that got big.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 3/29/17: IN BLOOM
Mar 28th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

One of the top local Sure-Signs-O-Spring® is finally with us. Also with us this day are freedom for Daniel Ramirez (for now); KOMO employees vs. their right-wing parent co.; an attempt to preserve KeyArena and environs more-or-less as-is; and a completely sincere farewell to the First Hill McDonald’s.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 3/28/17: THE DOOMED DOME
Mar 27th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

On the anniversaries of its birth and death, we recall the Kingdome, that building of the future that’s now long passed. Other topics include Seattle standing tall against DC’s “sanctuary city” threats; Olympia Democrats’ budget plan; the differences between Seattle’s and Vancouver’s real-estate booms; and fun with out-of-context stage dialogue.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 3/27/17: REAPPEARED, THEN RE-DISAPPEARED
Mar 26th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Demolition crews uncovered the original façade of the old Civic Ice Arena, just before they razed it. We also look at the sad end to a Seattle TV tradition; the sad but proud end to Kelsey Plum’s UW basketball career; the hidden history of a local landmark; and an Islamophobic CEO getting his comeuppance.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 3/8/17: YES, WHITE WOMEN ARE WHITE
Mar 7th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

International Women’s Day, and the call for a “Day Without a Woman” strike, have caused disunity and charges of “white privilege.” I also turn my eye to the White House’s war against Planet Earth; anti-Sikh violence a century ago and now; the city “sweeping” the homeless from a site the city had originally encouraged; and an impasse over the “levy cliff.”

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 2/23/17: OWNING IT
Feb 22nd, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

I’m sure Ed Murray’s new speechwriter knew what he was doing when he wrote that we in Seattle are “on our own” these days. And I like to think I know what I’m doing when I talk about the state’s decaying bridges; Daniel Ramirez Medina’s latest legal tactic; a lost opportunity for affordable housing on east Capitol Hill; and Stephen Colbert’s fun with KCPQ’s “exposé” of teen emoji use.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 2/14/17: WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT
Feb 13th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

In my approaching dotage, I approach at least a slightly less snarky attitude toward Valentine’s Day. And I today discuss the economic clout of “sanctuary cities;” a victory for family-leave advocates; a potential new anti-fossil-fuel initiative; and Mercer Islanders’ sense of transportation privilege.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 2/2/17: A WORLD DISAPPEARED
Feb 1st, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

As a new exhibit about local Japanese-American life (before and during the WWII internments) shows, we’ve been down the path of ethnic demonizing before, with tragic results. We’ve also got the now-usual roundup of resistance news, plus a real police-reform bill at last; how the state Senate could get re-tied; and the death of a ceaseless advocate for urban trees and plants.

A DISNEY VILLAIN FOR OUR TIME
Jan 26th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

The total-control regime in Washington DC, and its egomaniacal central figure, are existentially frightening in their threat to every aspect of the American Republic and its people (and, by extension, all the peoples of the globe).

I’ve been thinking of how to portray this character in the context of the great villains of fiction and lore.

I’ve compared certain past politicians to everyone from Lord Farquahr in the original Shrek to a one-shot Get Smart! villain, Simon the Likeable.

This past summer, I began to call the then GOP presidential nominee “He Who Cannot Be Named” (from Harry Potter). But that became cumbersome.

So I went in search of the perfect pre-existing fictionalization for this man-child, a figure with an insatiable lust for attention and a craving to cause suffering just to maniacally laugh at his victims.

A villain this insanely sure of his own omnipotence would never show panic, so that leaves out the Master from Doctor Who.

The pantheon of Disney villains (even if you only count the studio’s “core universe” of animated features and shorts) is vast. But even these characters usually have a relatable core motivation for their various crimes (greed, power, vanity, revenge, even fashion). They largely don’t encompass the pure “evil just for the sake of ego” that I’m talking about here.

With one recent exception.

It’s a character described in a fan-written “wiki” as: “Insane, twisted, crass, mischievous, deceptive, manipulative, sly, vague, witty, lively, whimsical, hammy, confident, spiteful, temperamental, choleric, evil, chaotic, greedy, sadomasochistic.”

The character’s “likes,” as described on the same web page, include: “Chaos, the suffering of others, destroying things, partying, manipulation.”

bill cipher

I’m talking about Bill Cipher.

He’s the main antagonist on Gravity Falls, a Disney Channel cartoon show that ended last February, after airing 41 half-hours over three and a half years (the last two as a one-hour finale).

The show’s set in Central Oregon, in one of those fictional towns where assorted weird things show up every day. In various episodes, the show’s brother-and-sister heroes encounter such anomalies as gnomes, unicorns, ghosts, zombies, dinosaurs, a crashed UFO, and video-game characters come to life.

And, like several other sagas of its type (Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Lost, et al.), there’s a “meta-mystery” on Gravity Falls.

It involves Bill, who’s initially introduced as a “dream demon” from another dimension. He sees all, knows all, and can invade people’s minds, especially as they sleep.

Bill can take any visual form, but his default appearance is as a triangle with a single eye near its center. But even though he resembles the “eye in the pyramid” on the $1 bill, Bill’s motive is not material wealth.

Rather, he wants to “cross over” from the “nightmare realm” and become a physical presence in our world—not to merely rule it but to destroy it, just for kicks.

Bill Cipher’s depicted as both a homicidal maniac and as a brilliant schemer; a good of chaos and and a master manipulator.

In the series’ climactic story arc, Bill successfully cons two characters and obtains the materials to make a “dimensional rift” between his world and ours. He summons a hooligan gang of monsters to ransack the town, turn people into statues, and otherwise spread “weirdness” (pure destructive chaos).

From there, he aims to expand the “weirdness” across the Earth: “Anything will be possible! I’ll remake a fun world, a better world! A party that never ends with a host that never dies. No more restrictions, no more laws!” As he says this, the screen shows images of a giant-sized Bill in a potential future, etching a “smiley face” on the North American continent (destroying whole cities in the process), then taking a bite out of the Earth as if it were an apple.

I believe this sadistic madness, not any mere material avarice, is the type of villainy that fits our age.

You can hear Bill Cipher’s sneering laugh among goons who laugh too hard at their own racist/sexist “jokes.”

You can see his smug taunting among the online “trolls” who belittle and insult everyone deemed different from them.

You can hear Bill’s line about how “there’s no room for heroes in MY world” echoed in the voices of conservatives who want the rest of us to shut up and fall into line.

You can sense Bill’s lust for destruction among certain “religious right” figures who not only oppose all efforts to save the environment, but who sometimes vocally wish for the “End Times” of Fundamentalist prophecy.

To prevent Bill from spreading his “weirdness” to the rest of the Earth, the surviving townspeople have to hold hands in a rite that will send Bill away. They include characters that had been mortal enemies in previous episodes, but who now must work together against a common foe.

It doesn’t work at first, because two of them refuse to cooperate with one another. In the final episode (titled “Take Back the Falls”), those two have to finally cooperate (and one of them risks losing his mind) to trap and remove Bill, revive the frozen townspeople, and bring the town back to a semblance of “normal.”

Similarly, to stop the threats to America’s civil society, we’ve got to forge alliances across lines of race, gender, region, religion, and social class.

(As an aside, someone put up a “Bill Cipher for President” Facebook page late last summer. One smarky commenter wrote: “You’re seriously making me choose between a horrible demon bent on destroying everything he touches, and Bill Cipher?”)

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/17/17: ‘MAKE AMERICA AGAIN’
Jan 16th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

A local Af-Am activist says we shouldn’t try to go back to some perceived past golden age of the U.S., but to create a more equitable country at last. We also view MLK and pro-school-funding rallies; Boeing’s (and American industry and labor’s) racist past; a strange Amazon request to the FCC; and Seattle having one-quarter of the world’s very-richest people.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/3/17: GOP-ACOLYPSE NOW?
Jan 2nd, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

As a safety-net-hostile, ethics-hostile Congress prepares to convene, we continue to focus on local stuff, including another dead orca; state Sen. Baumgartner’s latest power-grab attempt; Amazon bashed for, well, just about everything; and fire trucks crashing into each other.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 12/30/16: 86-ING ’16
Dec 29th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

I think pretty much all of us (even Sounders FC and Husky football fans) would consider this past year to have been, overall, a dud, a bomb, a Dumpster® fire; with even scarier days looming ahead. Nevertheless, we have news items to discuss in the here-n’-now, such as St. Mark’s Cathedral calling bigotry a sin; the pre-upzoning U District as America’s most competitive housing market; Mt. Rainier as one of the world’s “most dangerous volcanoes;” and dozens of places to go on the big night.

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/16/16
Nov 15th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Should we form an indie nation of western states? Join up with Canada? Do you know how darn-near impossible it’d be? In more real-world coverage, we view a settlement in the coal-train suit; EMP becoming “MoPOP” (no relation to KEXP’s show “WoPop”); King County’s aging homeowner population; and a wood-fueled jet plane!

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