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MISCmedia MAIL FOR 3/14/17: WHAT PI DAY MEANS TO ME
Mar 13th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

The day with a name-coincidence to everybody’s favorite “irrational number” brings to mind why rationality matters. Also on this day: saving what little film incentives WA’s got; Daniel Ramirez Medina speaks; a snag for an Af-Am community group that wants to take over a big block in the CD; and the UW and Gonzaga b-ball women both start their NCAA tourney runs right here.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 3/7/17: BIGOTRY, THE SEQUEL
Mar 6th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Meet the new travel ban, almost as stupid as the old travel ban. Also, meet the clever promoters who booked the nascent Ramones into the stolid Olympic Hotel; the IT guy who allegedly tried to steal data from Columbia Sportswear; the commentator who doesn’t approve of Nathan Hale High’s basketball recruiting tactics; and the Colfax boy who became a classic-film legend.

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 120/17: (MORE) NEWS ON THE MARCH
Jan 29th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Our Monday e-missive is, natch, mostly about the weekend’s “emergency marches” against the immigrant ban and the Sleaze Machine that devised it. But we also find space to remember a local TV legend and nationally renowned Scandahoovian-dialect comedy singer.

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 1/10/17: ALL YESTERDAY’S TOMORROWS
Jan 9th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

We finally have something to look forward to this year! (Two things, if you count the possibility of a little snow on Tuesday.) Additional topics include a local eco-activist’s part of a global effort to keep once-futuristic electronic gadgets out of dumps and landfills; the just-started and already deadlocked Legislature; how urban growth affects plant/animal evolution; and Teatro ZinZanni’s site getting sold off.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/6/17: AS HE LAY DYING
Jan 5th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Video evidence shows that police-shooting victim Che Taylor was left to bleed on the ground for almost eight minutes. We also discuss a potentially misguided effort to industrialize a suburb; big sign-ups for the local Women’s March; a girls’ school adding boys (in a separate facility); Korean fashion coming to town; and the usual dozens of weekend activity listings.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/9/16: SNOWTACULAR!
Dec 8th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Finally! Snow in the city, spectacular and beautiful (and rare and very temporary). Non-meteorological topics this day include gift books for the budding political activist in your family; a new, almost-1,200-unit residential complex; another local alt-media source needing support; a woman who videoed her own racial hate crime; and the usual umpteen weekend things-2-do.

MISCmedia MAIL for 10/31/16: DEATH OF A TALL COOL ONE
Oct 30th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We say goodbye to John “Buck” Ormsby—a Fabulous Wailers member, a partner in a pioneering artist-owned record label, and one of the inventors of Northwest rock. We also speak of the end of the little cable-news channel that could; racists falsely claiming police support; a new deal for the Public Safety block; and Huskies and Sounders triumphing while Seahawks go pffft.

MISCmedia MAIL for 9/30/16: SATELLITE OF LOVE?
Sep 29th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

As the calendar turns a new page into the darker and wetter months, we can’t unsee Jeff Bezos’s (non-pocket) rocket. Plus: the feminist bookstore seen on Portlandia won’t be seen on it anymore; a lesbian pastor at PLU; how to make the police more diverse; good (non-French) press about a coffee genius; and a sorority’s “sacred secrets” get revealed (as if anyone cares).

MISCmedia MAIL for 9/29/16: NUCLEAR NOSTALGIA
Sep 28th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

As WSU prepares a Hanford museum, local activists propose a unilateral nuclear-weapons scrap. Additional topics this Thursday include a clever local response to a traditional-gender-roles “action fashion” shoot; hydro power’s eco side effects; a drive to “democratize” artificial intelligence; the ascendant Sounders; and a soap-opera master’s final fadeout.

MISCmedia MAIL for 8/18/16: DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DORK
Aug 18th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We’ve got a graphic example of how to avoid looking grotesquely “fake hip,” by visually celebrating your geek. Plus: how not to headline a story about a white supremacist’s violent crime; Seattle’s “most dangerous street” gets a little less so; a trans singer-songwriter tries to find his voice again (literally); and the heat’s gonna be brutal.

MISCmedia MAIL for 8/17/16: DE-BUNK-ING
Aug 16th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

There’s more rancor over the “Bunker” police precinct. Additionally, the judge in the police-reform case takes a stand; Councilmember Sawant makes a life change; City Light’s new boss was accused of sexist behavior at his previous job; a great indie grocery’s threatened; and Jacob Lawrence’s magnum opus’s coming here next year.

MISCmedia MAIL for 7/26/16: THE NIXON WE LIKED
Jul 25th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

It’s a sad day for fans of “ghost singer” and KOMO kids’ host Marni Nixon. We also think about a victory for a police whistleblower; a potential new name for Alaskan Way; the STILL unending road work on 23rd Avenue; attempts to pump up the local arts scene; and what the Seattle U sit-in protesters still want.

MISCmedia MAIL for 7/7/16: FEELIN’ LUCKY?
Jul 6th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

On the supposedly luckiest day of the year, we explore still more trouble for Tim Eyman; a scheme to build “affordable” housing on top of parking garages; Microsoft learning how not to relate to college students; a company trying to create “viral” videos; and a broadcasting landmark’s sad end.

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© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).