Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mary Loves To Laugh -- 10 Scenes That Always Make Me Laugh

I love to laugh. I'll laugh at clever jokes, dumb jokes, slapstick, irony, puns, dark humor, light humor, pretty much all of it. I am not really a humor snob. Well, I do have my limits. I don't appreciate rape jokes or anything that is particularly mean-spirited. I grew up loving John Candy and Robin Williams and I think their light-hearted take on humor really formed the base of what makes me laugh at a young age. The next layer up from the base is Simpsons humor. Then it is downhill from there.

Really, John Candy's death heralded rise of cynical humor that became prevalent in the 90s (Still not over his death)

After watching a scene in a movie that without a doubt makes me roll with laughter, I decided to make a list of 10 scenes that always consistently make me laugh no matter how many times I see it.  This will be a countdown list with 1 being the best.

10. The Breakfast Club -- "All I need is a lobotomy and some tights!" 

There is nothing more 1980s, the decade of my birth, than the Breakfast Club. I have seen this movie more times than I could count. I cannot get tired of the tale of five different teenagers spending a Saturday together in detention only to realize they aren't so different after all. But besides the story, this movie has sentimental value to me. My late brother and I used to watch it when it would make its weekly rounds on TBS. He'd get excited over it and would quickly fix himself a snack and sit down and we'd watch it together. We would recite scenes and get each other laughing.

A friend of mine once said comedies are different experiences when you are with people and I think that is true. A lot of what I laugh at in the movie, I laugh at because I remember him laughing at it.

The Breakfast Club is a drama with comedy elements. It has many memorable moments that have seeped into the public consciousness and numerous quotes that have been lampooned and used in AIM status messages. And there are tons of parts of the Breakfast Club that makes me laugh -- especially John Bender Quotes.

This Guy

The quote above comes from when Andrew Clark and Bender get into an argument about school activities. Bender lays the sarcasm on thick. He'll go out for activities. He'll join the wrestling team. "All I need is a lobotomy and some tights!"

Why this line would get my brother and I laughing so hard -- and I still laugh so hard at it -- is simply the fact that Bender begins his sarcastic tirade then suddenly meets that sarcasm singularity. You know, what I mean, in which the tone almost sounds sincere. The delivery of the line also makes it.

You can watch the scene here.

9. Wolf of Wall Street -- Go Run Free

I should not have liked Wolf of Wall Street as much as I did. By all accounts, it does not seem to be a Mary movie. And yes, I have some critiques about it -- mostly that they could have stood to cut about 30 minutes out of it -- but mostly, I really enjoyed the rise and crashing fall of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Like the Breakfast Club, Wolf of Wall Street is a drama with comedic elements. I always chuckle when Jordan in the beginning throws a glass of orange juice in the bushes. When Jordan introduces his business partners and how most of them have something to do with selling and buying weed is another in which I giggle. I laughed hysterically during the famous powerful Quaalude scene when I saw it for the first time. Now, in rewatches, it gets a little less funny each time.

I find that happens a lot with slapstick

There is one scene, though, that for some reason gets more hilarious the more I view it. This is when the Jonah Hill character talks about marrying his cousin and what he would do if one of their kids had special needs. Now, I am actually a Jonah Hill fan. 21 Jump Street is one of my favorite stupid comedies that has come out in recent memory and Hill just has great comedic timing to begin with. He has such a natural way of speaking, even when he is playing an oddball like he does in Wolf of Wall Street. Some comedians will play such characters in such a way that they feel super imposed in the movie -- not that that is always a bad thing -- but Jonah Hill manages to make his style of comedy seep into the movie itself. Granted, as I noted before, this movie is a drama and Hill does dramatic well too -- but his comedic scenes, really were noteworthy.

I know it was the 90s in the movie but that sweatshirt fad really was odd

Note how natural he talks about it.  That is why I can't help but laugh hysterically when I watch this scene.

8. Teen Wolf -- "My Mom Does The Grocery Shopping"

Teen Wolf is one of my guilty pleasures, although maybe not the last couple of seasons (it got very meh). While the TV show is supposed to be a more gritty take on the Teen Wolf franchise from the 80s, I find where it really hits its stride is its comedy elements. The way Tyler Posey and Dylan O'Brien play off each other has to be one of my favorite pairings on the small screen. They are best friends in real life and that translates well. O'Brien's Stiles has hilarious moments, true, but I find Tyler Posey playing his wide-eyed, innocent, naive Scott McCall really gets me rolling.

Looks like a Wolf but is actually a Puppy

There is this scene in which the gif set of it is one of the most popular Teen Wolf posts on tumblr. I always reblog it when I see it and I always end up laughing for a good couple of minutes when I see it grace my dashboard. There is so much just so perfect about this scene. First off, Jackson, the asshole who confronted Scott, is wondering why Scott suddenly shined on the lacrosse field. He has no idea that it has to do with Scott's wolf powers so assumes steroids were used. Scott is not all that bright. He's not even playing dumb because he doesn't want his secret to get out. He honestly has no idea what Jackson is talking about. He doesn't know what juice means. The best part is how this confusion plays out for a few seconds on Scott's face before he says his line, "My mom does all the grocery shopping."

Wait, I have no idea what is going on now
Even now, I am just giggling at that gif. The look really makes the grocery shopping line that much more hilarious.

7. My Boss, My Hero -- Pudding Race

I've mentioned this scene before in my top ten Japanese Dramas but it deserves a place on this list too. Tomoya Nagase is one of my favorite comedic actors. Honestly, his delivery of lines and his facial expressions really get me laughing so hard.

I also have a type (or one of several). Shut up!
I won't lament on about this particular scene. I already touched on it in my jdrama post. But here's the scene in question. I recommend go and watching it. The part where I begin to loose it is when Nagase takes off the kid's jacket and throws it at him. The kid then collapses on the ground dramatically. And is probably stampeded to death. IDK.

6. Hercules -- "Guys, Olympus is that way"

I know it is far from perfect but I love Disney's Hercules. Yeah, I know it's not canon. Hera didn't give birth to Hercules and actually tried to have him killed like she always did with Zeus's numerous love children. But whatever. I understand. Disney had to write a kid's film and there is a lot in Greek Mythology that is not exactly kid friendly. Also, normally I would care, but Hades is not necessarily a bad guy in mythology (if you take the story about Persephone out of the equation). He got stuck as the God of the Underworld and may be unpleasant but not evil. I actually like Rick Riordan's interpretation of him best in the Percy Jackson books. Hades is grumpy and generally not fun to be around but hey, he went to greater effort to protect his demigod progeny than all those losers on Mt. Olympus.

This Hades probably used his children's blood a long time ago

But I am getting off topic. Having said that, I love James Woods as Hades. He really makes this movie. I love his wheeling and dealing interpretation of the Greek God of the Underworld. And he has many great lines and the most amusing dumb henchmen. Without James Woods, I probably wouldn't have watched Hercules as much as I have (although I do like the music a lot).

Anyways, while many Hades lines cause me to smile, there is one in particular that ALWAYS causes me to laugh hard.

After Hades lets out the titans (spoilers), the titans dramatically shout out for Zeus while doing their particular special elemental attack over the landscape. Hades then interrupts and points them in the opposite direction -- towards Mt. Olympus.

This is the response I get when asking for directions
I just love this joke because it is such a bait and switch. You're expecting the climax to get underway. The titans are out. They look cool, bad stuff is about to happen. They're... so friggin stupid.


5. Mean Girls -- "If you're from Africa, why are you white?" 

Mean Girls is one of my most favorite movies. It is witty, thoughtful, memorable, and Lindsey Lohan's only good role. It also introduced me to Tina Fey. I always enjoy her writing. It is snarky, but not mean-spirited. It has reached that perfect balance in my opinion. It is really a rant for another day but I really don't like how comedy nowadays has gone from cynical to just mean and how people think that is edgy. I love snarky humor. I grew up on the Simpsons. But if your joke is bringing down a target that is already down, then it's really not funny. It is just sad.

But once again, I went off topic. Mean Girls has so many hilarious moments, it is hard to say which one always makes me laugh and not just laugh but laugh hard. It is no wonder Mean Girls has entered the cultural consciousness right up there with the Breakfast Club. There will be a day in which kids will say, "Stop trying to make fetch happen" and have no idea where it is from. So I guess -- fetch did happen.

However, there is one scene in particular that always makes me laugh. It involves the scene in which Cady first sits with the Plastics. She mentions how she is from Africa and then Karen Smith, the dumb one, asks if Cady is from Africa, why is she white? Then Gretchen Wieners (my favorite) responds with, "Oh my god, Karen, you can't ask people why they're white!"

Now, I'm gonna shame you on tumblr

The delivery on both those lines gets me every time. The blank look in Karen's face and Gretchen's righteous indignation. It's all perfect. Not to over-explain the joke or anything (but I have been doing this all post!) but what is great about this joke is it is edgy because it is about race but the target is sheltered white girls (a favorite Tina Fey targets to be honest). What Karen said is a typical white girl thing to say. Africa is filled with black people amirite?

Here get the extended scene.

4. Avatar: The Last Airbender -- "That's Rough, Buddy"

Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of my most favorite series of all time while The Last Airbender is my least favorite movie of all time. Funny, how that happens. Avatar does a great job of tying together serious story elements with humor. There are many great lines in the franchise both of humor and those of the thought-provoking persuasion and if you're Uncle Iroh, both.

Uncle Iroh inspires me daily
For those of you who know me well, know I love Zuko the most. I love his pouty-mcpout face. I also love his journey from the spoiled prince as he overcomes his trauma (and himself) to become a great leader and teacher. But a lot of Zuko's lines crack me up, most of it has to do with how he is animated in the process. Whether it is him trying to hold his temper or just looking like a sad sack. My favorite is a subtle change. Aang says, "I don't care what people say, you're very smart, Zuko!" Zuko smiles then suddenly does a take as if to say, "Hey wait a minute, people have said I'm stupid?!"

But the scene I'm talking about here is probably the most famous and most meme'd scene in the series. I'm talking about is this one. In it, Sokka and Zuko are traveling to the prison they believe the Fire Nation took Sokka's father. They talk about past loves and Sokka says his first girlfriend turned into the Moon. The look on Zuko's face cracks me up. It's like the Teen Wolf one above. You can read his thought process. Like, "What do I even say to that?" Then he settles on one of the most beloved (and downright hilarious) lines in the series.

The key to comedy is always timing.

3. The Simpsons -- The Land of Chocolate

As I mentioned before, I grew up on the Simpsons and the show really contributes to what I will find humorous or not. There are many scenes, lines, and episodes that crack me up, even after all these years. Like guaranteed, if Sidshow Bob is in the episode, it is one of my favorites. Ralph Wiggum quotes still get me going. But honestly, there is only one scene that will cause me to helplessly giggle like a titmouse. It is the scene from the episode, "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk." And if that doesn't give it away, here's another hint:

 I am of course talking about this magical scene. Do I even need to explain further?

2. Tropic Thunder -- Matthew McConaughey sees his son as a disappointment

Tropic Thunder is another of my favorite movies and is probably my favorite comedy. There are so many great moments and hilarious dialogue. It also made me like actors I'm not particularly wild about -- mainly Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise. Going back to what I mentioned before, what I like about the edginess in this comedy is the target of ridicule is Hollywood and overbloated egos and budgets. While nothing is above criticism, I feel a lot of people who criticize certain parts of this movie seem to forget that the target is Hollywood and out of touch rich people.

While each actor has a hilarious line or two or a dozen (looking at you, Cruise), the actor that cracks me up so hard is Matthew McConaughey as Tugg Speedman's agent. I don't know what it is about him. Maybe it is his good-natured personality combined with just being plain out of touch.

I don't care if I have to go through a jungle filled with dangerous drug lords, YOU WILL GET A TIVO!
There is one scene in particular that without a doubt just causes me to giggle uncontrollably. It is towards the beginning and McConaughey is calling Ben Stiller asking how the adoption thing is going. Stiller says sadly he thinks all the good ones are taken. McConaughey then says as he looks with great disappointment over at a picture of his own son, "At least you get to pick yours."

I'm laughing so hard at this pic right now
Just the look of such disappointment and disgust, I just lose it. There is so much that is perfect about that scene. The facial expression, the dialogue, and of course the sight-gag of the family picture. Here, watch it for yourself

1. Spy -- The Swedish Bodyguard

Paul Feig is quickly becoming one of my favorite director-screenwriters. Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy are all great comedies. I really love how he just believes in his female stars so much. I cannot wait for the new Ghostbusters film. Additionally, I really wish I had Melissa McCarthy growing up. I may have hated myself a little less as a teenager.

There is something about Melissa McCarthy's Susan Cooper in Spy that I strongly relate to. She lacks confidence in the beginning despite illustrating she is more than capable of being a spy. She is surrounded by people who don't believe in her -- except for her bff of course -- and she proves them all wrong.

In the end, Susan Cooper only had to prove to herself she could do it

I found that in of itself is what made this movie so important to me. There were so many scenes in the movie I just related to. One in particular is when Susan goes out to eat with Jude Law's Agent Fine, her partner. Fine is nice enough but there are these small throwaway lines that are just kind of hurtful and he doesn't even realize it either. And also how all her co-workers take advantage of the fact that Susan is practically a work horse. The fact that Susan comes to realize she has worth and grows confident in her abilities was just empowering for me. She realize all those people she thought she wanted to impress really don't matter -- even the hot Jude Law.

Anyways, Spy is hilarious. I cannot recommend this movie enough. There is so much I love about its message, its humor, and its actors. While I laugh at McCarthy's awkwardness in the beginning, Miranda Hart's act as the real Girl Friday, and Rose Byrne's icy bitchiness as Raina, the weapons dealer, there is one set of scenes that I just can't help myself but turn red with laughter.

Spoilers -- Susan Cooper gets an in with Raina by pretending to be a secret bodyguard  her father hired. Soon, only Susan and a Swedish bodyguard named Anton remain. Susan and Anton buttheads from there. At first, Anton is ice cold as Susan begins to antagonize him. Then slowly, Anton begins to break. Several scenes later, Susan demands, "What, are you going to cry?" And Anton collapses into tears.

Melissa McCarthy is a bombastic, comedic force. I imagine it must be difficult to toe the line with her. And here is this Swedish comedian who is not that well-known outside his home country involved in probably the most skilled, hilarious, comedic volley I have ever seen. Seriously, watching the three or four scenes between Susan and Anton is like watching an intense tennis match except instead of a ball, it is hilarious quips. Don't get me wrong, I love the Jason Statham/Melissa McCarthy scenes but I feel the Anton ones are so underrated. And I laugh hysterically every time they happen.

I can't find a clip of this so you're just going to have to watch the movie and see for yourself.

What scenes or lines make you laugh every single time?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hey, I Can Be Friends With Boys!

It's been written over and over again. Guy meets girl. Guy and girl become friends, usually after some minor dislike. Then something more develops between the two of them...

Don't get me wrong, I think it is important to be best friends with your significant other. But why is that formula so pervasive to the point that polls that ask if Men and Women can just be friends, the polls lean towards no. Keep in mind, I don't think there is anything wrong with the formula but why can't we just tell interesting stories of a male-female close friendship with nothing romantic?

I got thinking about how this sort of irritates me because I have so many male friends, most of which I have not had romantic feelings for and I believe it is vise-versa. And as I wrote about before, there is nothing wrong or less about platonic relationships. But Male-Female friendships aren't lesser and they do exist and it is possible for it to remain so. It shouldn't be a foreign concept.

I decided to, to prove my point, make a list of my favorite platonic couples that never had any romance between them on either side and also their relationship is defined as equals (so no older brother/older sister or mentor type relationships).  There is more, but here is my five.

1. Liv Moore and Ravi Chakrabarti -- iZombie

I just want to say that if Ravi wanted to be more than platonic with me, that's okay

This show is what inspired this post and is totally my wheelhouse. I can't believe it took me as long as it did to watch this. It is a Police Procedural with a campy horror aspect. I love both of those things! It also has a cute, snarky, bearded guy -- definitely a plus!

For those not in the know, iZombie is about a pair of medical examiners -- the titular couple-- and one of them is a secret zombie. She eats the brains of those who were murdered and gains memories, talents, and personality traits and she uses those abilities to solve mysteries.

I know technically Ravi is Liv's supervisor but I feel their friendship is that of equals. They completely respect each other and show their love through snarking. There is also no romantic feelings between the two of them. In fact, Ravi dates Liv's roommate -- the only person who is snarkier than he is.

I love their friendship so much and how much they honestly try to support each other. It is a true friendship.

2. Asami and Bolin -- Legend of Korra

We all have that friend

 This friendship is subtle and doesn't get a whole lot of play but it is actually an extremely underrated as far as touching platonic relationships go.

Legend of Korra is the sequel series for Avatar: The Last Airbender that follows Avatar Korra and her friends. Asami is a cool-headed, mechanical genius whose pairing off with Korra broke the internet. Bolin, unfairly called Sokka-lite -- is a spacy, good-hearted earth-bender who never can seem to catch a break.

Bolin and Asami have many touching scenes. For instance, Asami is the only member of Team Avatar that Bolin completely confides in. He tries to hard to impress both Korra and his older brother, Mako. But he and Asami have many talks in which Asami gives him great advice. She shows great patience with him, especially as they play Pai Sho.

Also, completely platonic. Bolin or Asami don't show any romantic interest in the other.

3. Jake Peralta and Gina Linetti -- Brooklyn 99

 It was only a matter of time before I had to bring Brooklyn-99 into this. I just had to because Gina and Jake are amazing.

I read in an article at The Mary Sue about how Jake treats his female co-workers as equals. In fact, I would say his best friend is probably Gina. Well, they do talk about their history together. They grew up in the same neighborhood and spent afternoons at Jake's grandma's apartment. This history has caused them to just GET each other. And not only that, they know where to draw the line with their own individual bullshit. Both are self-absorbed in their own way but do have a personal loyalty to each other.

I also find it interesting that Jake and Gina do have an argument because Jake did look down at Gina for being an admin while Jake was a detective. Come to realize Gina has her life together more so than Jake does. But even after that, Gina is willing to help Jake out for very little in return -- which she wouldn't do for anyone else. And Jake always has her back.

4. Luna Lovegood and Harry Potter -- Harry Potter Series

Shippers aside, I love Luna and Harry's friendship. I wish it got more play in the books. The thing about Harry and Luna is that Harry doesn't have to put up a front around her. Yeah, he has his biffles Ron and Hermione but Harry still had to put up the front that everything is okay when things Were Not Okay. He could be honest with Luna and Luna has been consistently there for him, even when it seemed like Harry had no one.

He took her to the Yule Ball and actually had fun despite it all. And with Luna? She had friends who accepted her for her quirks and all.

5. Homer and Ellie -- Tomorrow When the War Began (Movie Only)

The two in question are front and center

 Tomorrow When the War Began is one of my guilty pleasure movies. I know it is kind of silly and campy at times but it is such a fun romp. The movie is based on a book series -- which I have read the first one -- and the differences between the mediums illustrates the point I'm trying to make. First off, the plot of both the series and the movie involves a group of Australian teens who go camping "in the bush" for the week and when they return, it turns out Australia had just been invaded by an unnamed country. Suddenly, like Red Dawn, the teens are forced to become insurgents despite their teen bullshit (and there is a lot of it -- and I love it).

The narrator of the story is named Ellie, your quintessential teenage girl who is responsible but likes to have fun. Homer is her second best friend after her female friend who I can't remember as she's not all that interesting. Homer is the fun, comic relief character (who does grow up a bit in the movie) who likes to troll people. He and Ellie work together extremely well and it is clear they'd do anything for each other. I love how Homer is always goofing off and Ellie is just Not Having Any Of That (but I am hiding a smile cuz that was a funny joke) sort of thing. The two work as the joint leaders of the insurgents. Homer has the guts and the creativity while Ellie is able to cool his impulsivity and bring responsibility. I LIKE their friendship.

I was disappointed in the book. In the movie, Ellie has a crush on a different guy who is a sensitive piano player (cuz of course) and Homer likes the girly, naive Fiona. In the book, while Ellie does like the same guy and Homer has a thing for Fiona -- Ellie and Homer kind of this thing for each other. I mean -- why can't they just be friends?

I didn't finish the book series so I don't know how much of that sticks but as of now, I like movie Homer and Ellie's platonic friendship. Partly because I did have quite a few Homers in my life.


 I guess what I'm saying is not that we should stop the whole they were friends now they're romantic trope but just platonic guy-girl relationships can be just as awesome and special.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons! -- When TV Shows Have Roleplaying Centric Episodes

As I mentioned in my post about how I discovered Dungeons and Dragons, before I actually played I didn't know exactly what it contained. All I knew about it was some throwaway jokes from the Simpsons and how it was the go-to hobby of stereotypically geeky characters. However, this was before the rise of Geek Chic.

Love it or hate it, Big Bang Theory is really indicative of this

Yes, we live in an age in which geeks/nerds are no longer the outcasts but are now mostly accepted in the circle with the popular kids. Now, people who would not previously been associated with the sub-culture subscribe to I Fucking Love Science on Facebook, follow George Takei, and may even *GASP* casually video game. Roleplaying is still pretty niche, though. It is cool to like Sci-Fi, regular science, and gaming (politics of THAT aside) but the average person still backs away slowly at the mention of Dungeons and Dragons.

That still does not stop the fact that it has almost become vogue of geeky TV shows to devote full episodes to one of the geekiest of hobbies. And it is not because I love D&D and roleplaying that I love these episodes. I love these episodes because there is a lot of thought put into them on what it means to be a roleplayer. And also what it means to be a geek.

All the episodes I'll talk about below have quite a few things in common. For one, the lessons of each episode is about finding a place you belong or bonding with a person who looks passed your quirks to see you. Another is also a lesson in empathy. That is one thing I absolutely love about roleplaying is you do learn a bit of empathy. You can choose to walk in someone else's shoes and explore modern day problems thinly disguised in worlds of dragons, spaceships, and elves. There was a study done illustrating how roleplaying is a great way to learn how to empathize. And that is the reason I want to talk about these episodes and how a lot of love was put into them -- both to show what is constructive about roleplaying games and for the hobby themselves.

Spoilers below.

1. Freaks and Geeks

Man, they look so YOUNG

 To start with, let's go back to the magical year of 1999. People feared Y2K, I was a junior/senior in High School, and Geek Chic didn't quite exist yet. This may be part of the problem why this Diamond in the Rough of a show didn't live to see a second season. It now lives on Netflix with a sizable cult-following. You should watch it.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it takes place in 1980 and follows a brother and sister who are outcasts at their school. The sister, Lindsey, is identified as a freak and her little brother, Sam, is a huge geek (into Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, the whole shebang). The show follows each sibling as they work through their respective cliques. They rarely interact with each other and there is little cross-over until the last episode of the season called "Discos and Dragons."


One of the plots of the episode involves Daniel, played by James Franco, all bummed out that if he fails a test, he'll be held back. So he pulls a fire alarm to prevent taking the test and gets punished by working with the Audio Visual Club (Sam's clique). Up until this point, Daniel is having something of an existential crisis -- feeling his friends drift away and school ending. Sam and his friends accept him and invite him to play Dungeons and Dragons. Daniel does so although he is side-eyeing them and rolling his eyes.

Now to fight North Korea

Daniel makes a dwarf named Carlos and they're off. At first, Daniel is confused and just a little lost but slowly, he gets more and more into it. Then by the end, he's playing Carlos with ease. As the adventure ends, Daniel admits he had a lot of fun and asked if they could play again next week. He's a different Daniel. Through the whole show, Daniel plays this James Dean schtick and he was beginning to realize that was just an act. With Sam's geeks, he found he could let loose and be silly. And he also found he really liked the Audio Visual stuff too. Before, he would have looked at it and thought, "No, I'm too cool for that." Now, a "freak" felt more at home with the "geeks".

The overall lesson is don't knock it until you try it and like what you like. You never know -- you could find a loyal group of friends who you can be yourself around.

Just remember -- make the DM happy

2. Community

Community is a TV show that follows the misadventures of a Spanish Study Group at a Community College. It is one of my favorite shows. The first 2 seasons are just pure gold. However, my favorite episode is one entitled "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons".

The episode starts off paying homage to Lord of the Rings, setting up the reason why the study group is getting together to play a good ole game of D&D. Basically, there is a guy in their class named Fat Neil who seemed to be showing signs he wanted to kill himself so our heroes decide to run a D&D game for him to show he is loved and wanted.

In the process, they didn't invite old man Pierce because he is not exactly sensitive. Pierce finds out and feels slighted. So he shows up using obscure rules and sabotages the adventure Abed had put together for everyone.

Together, everyone else plot to take down down Pierce to defend Fat Neil in the neutral good way that motivated them to get together in the first place.

I absolutely love this episode. Not only does it have some of the best one-liners in the series,

A deadly attack... especially if it contains a bag of books

 there is so much that is heart-breaking... and yet there is such a lining of hope around it at the same time. As Pierce taunts Fat Neil, turning Neil's character of Ducain into Fat Neil, everyone else jumps to Neil's defense. And with their support Neil is able to take the high road. It is -- in D&D terms -- a wrestling between the chaotic evil Pierce with the neutral good nature of the group.
As I mentioned in my introduction, this episode was about empathy. As Jeff says, "This game is silly" but he feels bad enough that he indirectly gave Neil his horrible nickname that he still tries to work his way through the game, even getting all indignant about getting a pegasus to catch Pierce. All to help Neil.

Then as Pierce is a horrible person, everyone uses pity as their arsenal against Grandpa the Flatulent's ego. They pitied the fact that Pierce went to so much effort to make another human feel so horrible about himself. And then, as the icing of the cake, after the game ended, Neil invites Pierce to play next time as if to say that Pierce feeling left out for not being invited was valid. It illustrates that maybe even the biggest asshole has valid grievances.

Good Night... and good luck

 3. IT Crowd

The IT Crowd is another of my favorite shows. It follows the denizens of the IT Department at some corporation; made up of two socially awkward nerds and their boss--who knows nothing about computers and makes up for this by being socially savvy for all three of them. It is kind of a British Big Bang Theory but I feel in a way that is unfair. I almost wrote an entry on why I feel IT Crowd is better in Big Bang Theory (mostly having to do with the characters doing bad things always involves karma biting them in the butt while things mostly work out for the BBT dudes) but I felt like it came out all wrong so scrapped it.

The episode in question is called "Jen the Fredo". This episode has three subplots coming together to form one. In one, Roy breaks up with his girlfriend and spends the episode moping. In another, Jen becomes head of entertainment for visiting business partners and finds herself challenged by the first delegation she has to deal with.  No matter what she does, she can't seem to please them. And finally, Moss is planning a Dungeons and Dragons game.

Oh Moss, it's like my life

Now, for those who don't know, Moss is pretty much a cloudcuckoolander. He seems to be out to lunch, super quirky, and extremely socially awkward. However, he has these moments of insight that really sometimes tie together the heart of the show. And this episode is no different. Seeing Jen and Roy's problem, Moss offers to run the D&D game for the visiting business partners and Roy.

D&D -- a game for intrigued businessmen!

Anyways, the businessmen get super into it. And then Moss places an ex of Roy's character in the game. Roy uses this as to vent his feelings about the break up to Moss in one of the most hilarious moments -- yet strangely touching -- parts of the show.

Their bromance knows no boundaries.

It leads back to my original point about empathy. There is something almost asbergery about Moss at times and he's not especially emotional so the fact that he manages to help his two best friends in such a round about way ties into my original thesis.

You are a good friend, Moss

4. Gravity Falls

 I feel like if I could use a TV show to best describe my personality, it would be Gravity Falls -- it is funny, heartwarming, a little campy, imaginative, and a little unsettling. Honestly, I've been plugging this show left and right to all my friends of late. There is a lot going on here and it is highly imaginative but at the same time playing homage to shows I grew up on (mainly the X-Files and the Simpsons).

Gravity Falls is about a set of twins named Dipper and Mabel who are sent to spend the summer with their Great Uncle (Grunkle) Stan in Gravity Falls, Oregon. When Dipper discovers a book detailing the odd goings on in the town -- everything from gnomes to shapeshifting monsters to bizarre Douglas Adams meets Lovecraft trickster inter-dimensional monsters (I'm looking at you Bill) -- he realizes there is some sort of hidden conspiracy involving the town and his family. Also, it's funny.

Below is a huge spoiler for season 2 so stop reading now unless you welcome the spoilings.

If you complain about spoilers!
The episode involving Dungeons and Dragons is an episode in season 2 called "Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons". In this episode Dipper gets the latest edition of Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons and is trying to look for someone to play with. He approaches Mabel who seems into it when she sees unicorns and elves but blanks out as soon as Dipper explains the fine points of the game. He asks Grunkle Stan, who laughs in his face.

Dipper then finds a fan in an unlikely spot -- Grunkle Stan's twin brother Ford  AKA the Author who Dipper wanted to try to get to know anyway. The two bond over the complex game and quickly take over the house with graph paper annoying Stan and Mabel who want to watch the season finale of ducktective.

Ford and Dipper go into the basement and Ford shows a dice he got in his dimension hopping adventures. It is an impossible dice that if you roll you can destroy the universe or... roll an 8.

At this point, the dice is accidentally rolled as Stan and Mabel come in and the game D&D&D comes to life. Dipper and Ford are kidnapped by the villain of the game and Stan and Mabel have to go after them.

Eventually Stan and Mabel meet up with the villain who turns Dipper and Ford into characters on a board and Stan and Mabel are to play them. Dipper and Ford say that the game is heavily on chance (appealing to Stan's love of gambling) and imagination (appealing to Mabel). Using their strengths, our heroes win the day.

In the process, Mabel and Stan learn as to why the geeky things Ford and Dipper are into appeal to them and they reach a new understanding.

Anyways! These were just my thoughts on Roleplaying-centric episodes of my favorite shows. Two entries this week! I'm on a roll.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ode to Sid Meier's Civilization

Ug, I've been so bad about my blog and worst of all, I have no real reason to have not updated it before now. I've been unemployed since 30 August and I've been doing random stuff, but not writing. Mostly, I've been playing video games, cleaning out closets, and (re)watching stuff as I waited/applied for stuff. I started a Top Ten Movies but it wasn't coming out to how I liked it. I couldn't think how to write about it.

Then I got inspired.

One of the games I've been playing is Sid Meier's Civilization V. It is probably one of my favorite, go-to games. I know, it's not super glamorous or super exciting (Although the music is full of win as is the voices provided by the late Leonard Nimoy) but it never fails me. When I want to be busy, it keeps me busy. When I'm down in the dumps, it pulls me out of the dumps.

Outside it being a historical/political game, it is kind of odd how I could like a sandbox game as much as I do. Mostly, when I start a Sandbox game and the directions are, "GO FORTH! DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!" I have no idea what to do with myself. I'm so overwhelmed and end up usually shutting off the game not to play it again.

Really, I'm kind of like this

But I can play Civilization. I can waste an entire weekend playing it. It is not like my other favorite games in which I have to be in the mood or it is that time of the year (as I mentioned with Final Fantasy before). The thing that is absolutely amazing about Civilization is every time you play, it will be different. Even if you try to replicate it and when you use the same settings for each game, you will not be able to play the same game. You can employ the same strategy, sure, but you are playing in a constantly shifting world and have to adapt. You may decide going in that you're a pacifist and won't get into battle but you never know. The game could generate a war mongerer neighbor and you will have to build up your defenses. Or you may decide early on, you'll play for science victory but you aren't near any resources you need to build up for science and instead find yourself trading and bam, you won the game by commerce.

Let me back up. To newbs, Civilization is a series of games created by Sid Meier. The game is a simulation. You play one of the empires of current and times past. The game puts you on a map with several other civilizations with different personalities and goals. You gather science, resources, build/manage cities, build/manage militaries (if that is your jam), engage in diplomacy/espionage, cultivate culture, building world wonders, and maybe spread religion to become the best civilization of all time. There is a lot going on in this game and you have to balance each tenant to stay afloat sometimes.

There are several ways to win. Science Victory is accomplished when you build a space shuttle heading to Alpha Centauri before another civilization. Diplomatic Victory is you convince the other civilizations to vote you the head of the United Counsel. Military Victory is if you capture three or four capitals. Commerce Victory is if your treasury reaches a certain amount. Cultural Victory is when you have the coolest culture and influence the other civilizations.

Now admittedly, I may start a game and never finish. Or I'll start one and I'm so not pleased where I started out in the map, I'll restart. Sometimes I hate when I do that because when you fight through the shitty start, it is just that more rewarding. Like in the current game I'm working through, I started off surrounded by Silver which is great later but in the beginning it is a death sentence. I worked through it and now I'm getting some good trades.

I think what I like the most about Civilization is you're seeing history between the lines. Yes, the game is technical but my imagination often takes over in some spots and I form narratives. I guess, fan fiction? I don't know. Like for instance, in the last game I finished, I played as Rome. On the map I played on, Rome was on one side of a mountain range. Mountains, you cannot cross unless you have aircraft. There was one valley that I could pass through and through the entrance, I started the city of Ravenna. The ways city work is you have a small radius to start with and then it spreads out as your culture grows, indicating where you have influence. Culture has difficulty crossing mountains. So there was no culture in the valley pass and no matter what I did, I couldn't spread it through. A road was built though and caravans constantly zipped in and out. And sometimes Barbarian villages would pop up and I'd have to clear them. All I could think was what the story was here. People would have to pass through no-man's land -- a jungle and surrounded by mountains -- to get to the capital. The even more amusing part is other civilizations would try to take Ravenna so they could get to Rome. The only other way was by sea. As a result, Ravenna became a huge military city. I could pop out units so incredibly fast. In my mind, I saw the Ravenna militias seeing themselves protectors of the Capital.

Except Roman?

Maybe another reason I like Civilization is simply the fact that in a world like ours, it is nice to play a game in which you have control over the world. In fact, earlier today, I had a conversation on Facebook with an online friend from Malaysia. She shared an article about the Red Shirts (a racist faction) and how she found it upsetting. Then, I replied with 'smh' and we got ranting about political stuff in both our countries. Finally, she decided she needed a break from the world, and she would nap. I said, I would play Civilization. I think that is also part of why I love the game.

I would talk more about this game. Like the weird lore surrounding it (like Warmonger Gandhi or I've been playing the same Civilization II game for 10 years) or how much I find Civilization mimics (although sometimes simplistically) how real world politics work.

It is either go to war or give money I don't have to Elizabeth II
But I will finish this post by saying, one day maybe I will not be like such a nice guy and play the game like an asshole and see where that gets me. Mary's usual strategy is put everything into Science, culture secondary. Make a huge military but just have it chilling. If someone attacks, MAKE THEM PAY and let them know don't interrupt me while I try to Science.

So I guess I play Civilization like Bruce Banner?