Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: THE AMAZING WORLD OF GUMBALL

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This show has been the New Hotness around here for maybe three weeks or so, and he really hasn’t watched anything else during that time.  Outside of Teen Titans Go!, which it just occurs to me has never been the subject of one of these posts, it might be my favorite series he’s ever watched, to the point where I really don’t even have anything snarky to say about it, just a recommendation that you go watch it yourself, even if you don’t have a little kid in the house to give you an excuse.

The premise: the blue, oddly wide-hipped cat on the right is Gumball Watterson, a middle-school aged cat-thing.  The orange thing in the green socks on the left is Darwin Raglan Caspian Ahab Poseidon Nicodemius Watterson III.  That’s not a joke.  They call him Darwin, but that’s his name. Darwin is a fish, and he used to be Gumball’s pet and live in a bowl on his desk, but apparently I missed the episode where he grew legs and became a main character or something?  I dunno, roll with it.

(In time-honored The Boy Is Watching TV fashion, I haven’t seen the episodes in anything even vaguely resembling the order they aired in, so I’m sure I’m missing lots of stuff.  But yeah, Darwin’s a fish, and used to be a pet, but now he can breathe air and walk around. Make something up so it makes sense.)

Also, Darwin is a cat, and his mom is a cat, but the fish is also his brother in addition to being his former pet, and his dad and his sister are both rabbits.  The role of genetics in this world is somewhat suspect.  Also, his dad is a genial useless Homer Simpson type without the cynicism– oddly, I find dad weirdly refreshing– and Mom may be a no-shit actual ninja when she isn’t housewifing.

Take a good long look at that picture up there, which includes a decent chunk of the cast. You will note that there appear to be a pretty wide variety of animation styles on display, from traditional 2D animation to 3D CGI to papercraft to 8-bit pixel art to 1930s-style cel animation to puppetry to stop-motion to live-action.  The characters themselves range from animals to insects to robots to inanimate objects (one character is a bomb with legs) and food to Sussie.  This is Sussie:

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Sussie, if you can’t immediately tell, is someone’s upside-down face with googly eyes glued to her (?) chin.  (Sussie is female, but I think the chins are mostly guys?  They’re not always the same chin; that one snaggletooth in the picture isn’t always there.) We watched a Sussie-centered episode last night before going to bed and she was what convinced me that this show needed one of these pieces written about it, because Sussie is fucked up, guys.  She apparently takes her eyes off before she sleeps, and then peels them off of a sheet of googly-eyes to put them on in the morning?  And the episode was about her making Gumball and Darwin wear her googly eyes over her real eyes, and then they saw the world the way she does, and the entire episode was a fucked-up masterpiece of 3000 different styles of animation all in the same episode, and it was weird and brilliant and

(brief pause while I realize the second Tunisian player is being stretchered off the field since I started typing this; damn, but the Belgians and Tunisians are going at each other hard in this match)

and anyway the show is weird and dark and funny and insanely inventive and adventurous and original and has the best facial expressions of any animated television program I’ve ever seen and it’s genuinely worth a watch even if you don’t have a kid in the house to give you an excuse.  Actually, let’s talk about those facial expressions for a moment; one of the results about this show’s refusal to stick to a single stye of animation is that they’re free to vary things like line weight as much as they want, which gives them a tremendous range of expression when they need it:

Multiply this across literally every character on the show and you’ve got something really special.  Go check this one out.

REPOST: MOAR BUTTZ, a tale told with pictorial accompaniment.

Context: my day has been long and tiring, and yesterday was largely consumed by dealing with my now-six-year-old son’s ass and the various horrifying products it was creating and dispensing.  I am not in the mood to write a post, but I have always felt like this one didn’t get enough credit.  And most of you haven’t seen it.  So therefore: enjoy.

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So for the last couple of days the boy has been all

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and, frankly, it’s starting to look really unpleasant.  He’s clearly not terribly happy with the situation either.

My wife gets home from work today and tells me she has a mission for me.  I’ll be honest: I was tired (again) and hungry (again) and more than a little aggravated already for reasons that I don’t plan to go into and the thought of a mission was not entirely pleasing to me.

“Describe the nature of this mission,” I requested.

“I need you to get butt paste,” she said.

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“Butt paste.” I replied.  I made sure to phrase it in such a way that she heard the period at the end of the sentence.

“Butt paste,” she says.  “I’m hoping you can get it at Martin’s.”

(Context: Martin’s is our local grocery store; it’s a chain but I’m pretty sure it’s limited to north-central Indiana and maybe lower Michigan.)

I look up Butt Paste on the Internet, which sadly is probably not the oddest search I’m going to perform on the Internet this week.  It turns out that there is a product specifically called Butt Paste.  Check the URL:  you find it at buttpaste.com, which should not be a website for medical supplies.  However, frighteningly, that is not the Butt Paste that I’m looking for.

UnknownWhat I’m looking for– what the pediatrician apparently explicitly suggested my wife try to locate– is actually called Dr. Sirlin’s Bottom Ointment, which still sounds inappropriate.  Dr. Sirlin’s Bottom Ointment is, near as I can tell, only sold in one place on Earth, but more on them later.  Needless to say, that place isn’t Martin’s.  My wife calls Martin’s anyway, just to be sure, and asks the pharmacist who answers the phone if they carry, no shit, this is a direct quote: “Dr. Sirlin’s butt paste.  For butts.  Baby butts.”

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I consider protesting the use of the phrase butt paste for this query, because we aren’t looking for butt paste, we’re looking for bottom ointment, which is clearly very different.  I do not actually voice the query.  The person on the other line comes back quickly with an affirmative.  We have butt paste!  Go for butt paste!

Unknown-1And I’m off to Martin’s.  It’s not far away from home, which is the reason we’d rather go there.  Once I get there I arrive timed perfectly with a car leaving a very choice parking spot, which I wait for.  The driver of the other car, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to get that I want her parking spot, and keeps trying to wave me on past her, thinking she’s being polite, and no amount of flailing and pointing at the empty goddamn parking spot on my part convinces her otherwise.  So instead I park here:

Unknown-2And into Martin’s I go.  To be greeted with a conundrum!  Cute Cashier Girl is for some reason working at the pharmacy counter.  Cute Cashier Girl, I hope to God, is in her early twenties.  She’s a cashier, though!  She’s not supposed to be at the pharmacy!

I cannot ask Cute Cashier Girl for butt paste.  I’m gonna try and be all suave, like

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but I know me.  It’s gonna come off all

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I cannot do this.

I spend a moment considering other options and can’t think of any.  I approach the counter.  She smiles cheerily and asks if she can help me, with no idea of the horror of the request I’m about to make of her.

“I’m looking for something called Dr. Sirlin’s Ointment?”  I omit the word bottom, because I cannot say bottom to this lovely young lady.  “I understand it’s supposed to be behind the counter for some reason.”

She looks quizzically at me, then looks around for a minute.

“I don’t see it.  What’s it for?”

Don’t say butts.

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“Diaper rash.”  Ha!  I win!

She lights up, smiling again.  “Oh!  You’re the butt paste guy!”

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Oh hell no.  I am a lot of things, Cute Cashier Girl, but I am sure as hell not butt paste guy.  No.  Uh-uh.  No goddamn way.

The butt paste, apparently, is not behind the counter.  It is actually in the baby aisle.  I swallow what is left of my dignity and head for the baby aisle, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt what is about to happen.  And my worst fears come true:

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God dammit.  That, you will notice, is not Dr. Sirlin’s Bottom Ointment.  That’s fucking butt paste.  I don’t want butt paste.  I want bottom ointment.

I pick up the box, cursing God and all creation, and return to the pharmacy counter.  She’s still there, of course, it’s not like the goddamn baby aisle is that far away.

“I have a, uh, follow-up question?”

“Oh, okay!”  oh god she hates me so much she’s actually got her bright cheery smile on her face, and a bit of a twinkle in her eye that suggests to me that she’s enjoying my pain.

“I assume you are the one my wife talked to.”

“Yep!”

“She asked for Dr. Sirlin’s… (makes a face) Butt Paste.  The stuff we want is actually called

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Bottom ointment.  I thought this might happen.  Do you have the ointment?  This isn’t actually what I’m looking for.”

She looks around again and then signals the actual pharmacist, who has been hiding behind a rack of drugs and trying her damnedest to keep a fucking straight face.  The pharmacist confirms that, no, they don’t have Bottom Ointment.  Just Butt Paste.  So I have to go to the other place.

I thank her for her time and apologize for my own nonsense.  Off to the car!

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There are two reasons I don’t want to go to this other establishment.  One I’ll get to later.  The other is that they are a million miles away.  They are literally not in the same town I’m in.  I don’t want to go to another town for butt paste or bottom ointment.  I want to be home, eating dinner.  In my town.

But I love my wife, and I love my son, at least the non-butt parts of him.  So off I go.  I drive past this place on my way home from OtherJob all the time, so I know where it is, and I head there– to OtherJob, not quite realizing until it’s slightly too late that I drive past it on the way home from OtherJob, and for reasons that are not interesting I generally drive home from OtherJob via a different route than I take to get to OtherJob.  So I’m going the wrong way.

Once I realize this and correct my course, I still manage to make two fucking wrong turns before successfully arriving at Pharmacy Two.  On the way over to the pharmacy, it occurs to me that I am so fucking blogging this shit when I get home.  I take a moment in their parking lot and compose an entertaining Tweet to that effect.  Then I get out and go inside.

Well, I try to.  As I’m reaching for the fucking door, an employee locks the fucking thing from the inside and points at a sign next to the door.  The sign cheerfully informs me that this fucking place closes at six, as pharmacies do oh wait no they fucking don’t, ever.

I look at my watch.

It’s five fucking fifty-eight.

At this point my mood somewhat transitions.

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I was entertained with this bullshit up until this exact fucking second.

You did not just LOCK A FUCKING DOOR IN MY FUCKING FACE TWO FUCKING MINUTES BEFORE FUCKING CLOSING AT A FUCKING ***PHARMACY***.  It ain’t goddamn 1983 anymore.  My fucking watch ties into a goddamn satellite that tells it what time it is.  I can’t even adjust the motherfucker.  It ain’t goddamn 6:00 yet, which means your ass isn’t fucking closed yet.

Listen, bitch, this ain’t fucking Barnes and Noble and it isn’t fucking Applebee’s.  I am not fucking here to browse.  You’re a pharmacy, motherfucker, and no fucker anywhere goes to a fucking pharmacy unless they motherfucking need to. I am there to get my shit and get the fuck out, and don’t you dare fucking thing for one fucking second that I can’t see that there is at least one motherfucker in there who isn’t dressed like he’s at fucking work.

I have two fuckin’ choices here.  One is to go home.   The other is to go to jail.  Jail will no doubt feel better but either way there will be no fucking Bottom Ointment.

Not.  Happy.

I went home and had dinner.  A bit more research after dinner indicated that Dr. Sirlin’s Bottom Ointment is apparently produced by this pharmacy.  It’s literally the only place you can get it other than the Internet.  Well, fuck them.

Butt Paste it is.  I return to Martin’s.

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I collect my Butt Paste.  I go back to the pharmacy counter, because I’m buying this with a damn flex account and it’s easier if we just use the pharmacy counter to buy anything medical-related.  She’s still there, naturally.  And she, I swear to God, says:

“There’s a story here, isn’t there.”

Oh sweetie.  You have no idea.

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(ADDENDUM:  I didn’t include this in context because it kinda kills the tone of the piece, but the other reason I don’t like this pharmacy?  They tried to kill my dog.  My dog in high school/early college developed epilepsy, and rather than try to get a canine version of the drug they needed the vet just contracted through them to produce his medicine– which happened to be in liquid form.  He was on the stuff for quite a while, and at some point we went in and got a bottle that was a radically different color and consistency than every other version of the medicine we’d gotten.  The pharmacist not only argued with my mother about whether the medicine was different, at one point he actually said the words “Look, it’s just for a dog.”  So this is the second time this place has nearly resulted in a member of my family going to jail.  Merrill Pharmacy in Mishawaka, Indiana?  Go fuck yourselves.)

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(FINAL NOTE:  As I was finishing this post up, my wife, who has been bathing our son, sticks her head into the office.  “Hey, babe?  There’s poop in the tub.”  Because of course there is.)

The End.

A few observations relating to my son’s completion of kindergarten

shutterstock_103426844(That’s not a picture of my kid.)

My son’s last day of school was today, or at least his last couple of hours of school were today, and I’ve entered that liminal couple of months where I’m no longer the parent of a kindergartner but not quite the parent of a first grader yet.  They had a little program to mark the end of the year; it started at 8:30, each class sang a song or two, and they were done by probably 9:15, at which point everyone was dismissed to go home.  My kid’s school, thankfully, does not put up with any sort of “graduation” nonsense for kindergarten children.  No one’s names were called, no certificates were handed out, and there was no walking across stages.  No caps and gowns, either.  Classes come up, classes sing songs, classes go away, and I continue to be amazed at the outstanding lack of classroom presence possessed by the music director, who “runs” each of those things and who cannot quiet down a room of humans to save her bloody life.

I still don’t feel like I fit in at this place.  Granted, today is my day off and most of the folks there probably went to work after the presentation, but I was literally the only parent in the room in a t-shirt and jeans.  And large groups of white people tend to make me nervous, especially large groups of white people who visibly make more money than me.  I spent half the concert on edge, waiting for someone to insist on speaking to my manager.  That type of crowd.

One definite plus: as a first grader, my son moves to a different division of the school next year.  This means that today was probably the last time I have to listen to three- and four-year-olds trying to sing and play instruments and try to keep a straight face.  I mean, I guess in theory I might live long enough to have grandchildren?  But he’s six, so… the last time for at least a couple of decades, I hope?  Sure.

I caught myself musing about escape routes as the program dragged on, and realized with a jolt that I was genuinely sitting there and thinking about what the best thing to do would be if someone with a gun came in– if it’s from that door, I grab the boy and try to get out of this door, but if it’s from this door, the one next to me, I’m probably fucked and the best thing is probably to do my best impression of a guided missile and see just how hard my 300-pound ass can hit someone with a running start from a chair fifteen feet away.  I was probably thirty seconds into it before I realized what I was doing, and then my head was fucked up for the rest of the morning.  This is a wealthy, mostly white school, see; it’s those schools that tend to produce the school shooters.  Not once while I was working in urban public schools did I ever catch myself doing this sort of calculus.

One of the more recent school shootings caught me where I live.  The Noblesville shooting didn’t raise a ton of press outside of Indiana because no one was killed, but I know kids who go to that school.  I spent a weekend at the booth next to them at Starbase Indy a couple of years ago, and their mom and I are still connected on Instagram and Facebook.  Mom posted yesterday that her youngest had only just then decided she felt safe to go back to school.

I shouldn’t have to think about this shit.  But Americans have to have their fucking toys, don’t they?  Because freedom, or something.

Bah.  I’m taking the boy to Dairy Queen and trying to get out of this fucking mood.

#REVIEW: GOD OF WAR

God_of_War_2018_capa.pngBefore we get started:  In case you missed my repeated announcements across every form of media I have access to, I’ve started a Patreon.  There’s already a brand new story, WARRIOR JAYASHREE AND THE ROC, up for Patrons at any level.  Join for early access to new work, microfictions, signed & personalized books, and more!  I’ve got three Patrons after the first day– you don’t want them to be the only cool kids, do you?


Also, yes, I’ve been writing a lot of reviews lately.  There are probably two more coming soon, since I haven’t written about DEADPOOL 2 yet and I have my tickets for SOLO already.  Gimme a break; I’ve been encountering a lot of media worth talking about lately.  🙂


I beat God of War last Friday after spending probably 40-50 hours on it.  There’s still some stuff to do, and weirdly I haven’t touched the game since I beat it– probably because the ending was so flawless.  My days off are Thursday and Friday, and since my son is at school and my wife is at work, I spend most of those days by myself.  I do not exaggerate when I say I probably spent 80-90% of those hours over the last several weeks playing this game.  In my defense, I don’t get a lot of time to game when everybody is home, particularly playing something as violent as God of War.

I’d picked it up mostly because I’d gotten bored with Super Mario Odyssey and going back for another hundred hours with Nioh wasn’t quite catching my attention.  I’d never played a previous GoW game, so all the talk about how the series was having a soft reboot and would play completely differently meant it was right up my alley.

And then the game caught me completely by surprise and I ended up loving it mostly for the story.  Don’t get me wrong– the gameplay is great, and killing things with any of Kratos’ available weapons never gets old.  But it’s watching Kratos’ relationship with his son Atreus evolve over the course of the game that elevates it from a quality hack-and-slash to one of the best games, if not the best game (the only real competition, for me, is Nioh) of this generation, and the third for which “buy a PS4 to play this” seems reasonable.  But it’s true: I haven’t had a game’s story hit me as hard as this one did since The Last of Us, and for many of the same reasons.

The plot is pretty simple: at the very beginning of the game, Kratos’ wife, the mother of his only child, has passed away.  Her last wish is for her ashes to be scattered from the highest mountain in the realms.  The whole game is Kratos and Atreus trying to reach that peak.  There are some complications along the way, of course.  But that’s the plot.  Let’s go fulfill Mom’s last wishes.

Kratos is not a good father at the beginning of the story.  He is, at best, a marginal father by the end of it.  But you get the feeling quickly that Mom sent them on this quest as a way to force them together rather than a desire to be scattered off of something really, really tall, and while there are definitely some other moments that show she had other motives in mind– I won’t spoil anything,  you deserve to hit them unaware– the growing relationship between Kratos and Atreus is the heart of the story.  Fathers need to play this game, and fathers of sons in particular need to play it.

On a technical level, the way they’ve integrated Atreus into the story is phenomenal.  Most games with sidekicks have at least a few moments where you’re cursing the sidekick’s existence; they keep getting in your way, they die at ridiculous times, they get caught on some inconsequential piece of geometry and you can’t move on until they fix it.   Atreus has none of that, and ends up being an integral part of your strategy in battle; he’s never in the way and is constantly useful.  The decision to make him impossible to kill isn’t the most immersion-worthy idea ever, but hell if it doesn’t make the game better.

God of War is action-packed, touching, at times hilariously funny, wonderfully acted, and– not for nothing– has one of the greatest endings to any game I’ve ever played.  Actually, this much I’ll spoil: the Big Battle with the Bad Guy is well before the actual ending of the game, where Kratos and Atreus scatter the ashes– and the entire ascent to the summit is played without action, and with another big story revelation, and the credits play silently afterwards as you and Atreus walk back down the mountain.  It’s phenomenal.

Go check it out.

Hey, remember this?

Let’s see how old my readers are:

This isn’t exactly a deep revelation or anything, but for some reason this commercial popped into my head this morning as I was getting ready for work.  I strongly suspect if you’re within five years or so of my age you have this jingle memorized still, but have you ever really thought about just how impossible it would be to market My Buddy in today’s kids’ toys market?  Things weren’t as rigidly gendered in the 1980s as they are now– that is a straight up doll being marketed directly to boys, doing boy things like riding Big Wheels and hiding in a clubhouse and climbing trees.  They’re not even trying to muddy the waters with the label “action figure.”  My Buddy was a doll, and never wanted to be anything else.

There are not many ways in which I think American culture has backslid since the 80s, but the rigid adherence to gender essentialism in absolutely fucking everything related to kids is definitely one of them.  I had a parent come in this morning looking for white bedroom furniture for her son, and it threw me for enough of a loop that I almost needed to have her repeat it to make sure I was hearing her right.  Because no one buys white bedroom furniture for boys.  We have a couple of sets that are gender neutral and you should see how incredibly confused people get when they can’t immediately figure out what genitalia the children in the room with the furniture are supposed to be.  It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.