Monday, June 29, 2020

10 Cuddliest Creatures In Fiction

Life's too hard. Let's focus on something nice for once.

That's pretty much all the premise this article needs.


10: Dex-Starr
A more obscure character for those not at least neck deep in DC Comics, this cosmic kitty is a dangerous member of the Red Lanterns. His fury is only matched by his tragic backstory. He's not an alien or a mutant, he's just a kitty who wants to be loved.


9: Appa
This strange six-legged flying bison was introduced to us in Avatar the Last Airbender, and immediately flew away with our hearts. He's a big friendly mode of transportation and best friend to Aang. His only real competition in his world is when we were treated to baby sky bisons in the sequel series Legend of Korra.


8: Snorlax
When we first ran into Snorlax sleeping in the road in the Kanto region, did any of us really want to wake him up? He's just sleeping there, living his best life in the afternoon sun. It's almost tempting to just hang the rest of the adventure and join him on his big soft belly.


7: Baymax
Specially engineered to be as friendly and cuddly as possible, Baymax is the perfect healthcare administrator. He heals wounds, can warm you up to stave off hypothermia, and is just a pleasant personality program to tell your woes to. Baymax will even read up on you woes to find the best way to help you deal with whatever your dealing with.


6: Baby Owlbear
Found in the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, owlbears have been around since near the beginning. They're large menacing creatures that are not to be taken lightly, unless they're cute little cubs. Found in some supplemental guides, adventurers lucky enough to come across one of these little darlings can train them to be powerful and loyal pets. While they'll be perfect in battle, they also make great places to sleep on the long road.


5: Tribbles
Seen first in the classic Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" and later in the Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations", these parasites multiply incredibly fast, and if left unchecked can endanger starship operations. The reason they are kept though is because they're soft, furry and purr like cute little alien kitties.


4: Nibbler
The deceptively intelligent alien pet from Futurama, Nibbler is a three-eyed bundle of love (as long as he's not hungry). Nibbler is part of a race of powerful warriors tasked with defending the universe from the Brains and other cosmic terrors, but in between life saving missions they're always up to snuggle and put on cute outfits.


3: Niffler
Formally introduced to us in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, these little mole-like critters are attracted to shiny things, for better or worse. They only get to about the size of a house cat, and while cuddling up to you may be a rouse to get that fancy pocket watch they spotted earlier, it's still a nice cuddle for everyone involved. Plus if you can get the Niffler to fall asleep you may get access to its secret magic pouch and get some treasure of your own.


2: All Baby level Digimon
Digimon can be big scary monsters that look like they climbed out of a high school student's edgiest sketchbook, or they can be the cutest little critters to rival even the squishiest of Pokemon. Baby level Digimon, no matter what they turn into, are all like this. Cuddly, friendly and fun little balls of squish, that you almost don't want to Digivolve.


1: Totoro
Duh.
Totoro from Ghibli studio's My Neighbor Totoro is the ultimate cuddle buddy. A forest spirit that protects children who are lost and in need of a friend, Totoro is there if you need an umbrella in the rain or a nap in the woods. Totoro is a big cat spirit ready to give you all the love you need, all you have to do is believe.


***Honorable Mention: Stitch***
Stitch, the adorable and lovable alien from Lilo and Stitch, would be on this list, except for the fact that while cuddling with him there'd always be that nagging worry that at any moment he may try to destroy major cities, back up sewage lines, and steal everyone's left shoe. Stitch is cuddly, no doubt about it, but he's a little too unstable to make this list.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Operation New Beginnings: Regina Mills


(Guest Post by Tyler)

In Once Upon a Time, we get to see amazing representations of many of the characters we grew up hearing stories about. These include famous heroes like Robin Hood, Snow White, Cinderella, Prince Charming, Belle and Tiana. But while their stories are shown in compelling ways, the last few times I’ve watched the show I’ve found myself drawn more towards the characters initially considered villains such as Captain Hook, Zelena (the Wicked Witch of the West) and mostly importantly, Regina Mills better known as the Evil Queen.

Quick Spoiler Alert here for those who haven’t watched the show. If you are someone who loves seeing characters who change and grow take a look at this show on Netflix.


“My life was never just one story. It was many stories.” (Regina Mills; Once Upon a Time Season 6, Episode 1)

The character of Regina Mills could easily be considered the tragic villain. While it takes a few seasons (the first six actually) to get a full idea of her backstory, we learn that she just wanted to be loved. She wanted her mother’s attention and when she finally found someone she loved and who loved her, her mother showed her that attention by killing him. This is what led to her descent into becoming known as The Evil Queen.


“To some, a villain. I hurt people... in ways I can never make up for.” (Regina Mills; Once Upon a Time Season 6, Episode 1)

Now the typical story of the Evil Queen as a villain is known by almost everyone. She tries to kill Snow White. However in the stories told to us through the flashbacks through the seasons, we learn that it wasn’t just Snow and Charming that she tormented. She was the one who stole Ariel’s voice. She was the cause of Tinkerbell ending up in Neverland as a disgraced fairy. She not only committed her own acts of villainy but was a source of inspiration to other villains such as Maleficent. Eventually, she kills her own husband and starts an outright battle with Snow for leadership of the kingdom ultimately leading to her casting the curse that starts the show’s plot.


“To others, I'm... a hero. They've seen my strength, my ability to do the hard things, even when I thought I couldn't.” (Regina Mills; Once Upon a Time Season 6, Episode 1)

But the thing about people is, that they aren’t tied to one set of morality. Given the chance, some people will surprise you and change. It just takes the right motivation. In Regina’s case, that took the form of her adopted son Henry. We won’t take the time to even attempt to analyze the family tree in here but let’s just say, it’s a mess. After being the main villain for Season 1, Regina starts to see how her actions affect her son. She realizes that she isn’t the best at showing that she cares about people and takes a step back to learn how to do it better. At the end of Season 2, we really start to see this change as she was willing to sacrifice herself to save Henry and the entire town realized how much she was changing.


“I want to start a new story. One where the Evil Queen doesn't get a part.” (Regina Mills; Once Upon a Time Season 6, Episode 1)

There’s a lot of particulars that I could go into with the character of Regina Mills, and I’ll be back later to do just that, but to sum up the character of Regina, she is a perfect embodiment of how a villain turned hero should be portrayed. She went from “I will destroy your happiness” to having the people she once called her enemies become her closest friends. A wild ride to be sure.


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Why You Need a Joey Tribbiani in Your Life


Our home was suddenly more quiet and indecisive (as far as Netflix is concerned) when Friends was removed at the end of 2019. Recently, we bought my brother’s collection of DVDs as he subscribed to HBO Max. As a result, it’s been a breath of fresh air to pop in those discs and have some good laughs while the world is still going crazy. In particular, Joey and Phoebe are always good for a laugh. I’ve written about Phoebe before, so today I wanted to focus on Joey and why everyone needs someone like Joey Tribbani in their life.


Joey will sacrifice his own desires for yours
It happened repeatedly throughout the series. He was willing to give up so much for his friends. He gave up meat when Phoebe was pregnant, he told Chandler to date Kathy, and he was willing to give up Ursula to keep Phoebe. Find yourself a friend who will care for you enough to sacrifice for you.

Joey is always there when you need a hug
Whether it’s good news or bad news, Joey is never too far away for a big bear hug. Whether he was saying goodbye to Chandler or comforting Phoebe, he was always ready to show affection to his friends. Who couldn’t do with a big bear hug on a bad day?


Joey is loyal to a fault
I’ve already labeled him a Hufflepuff in the past and this only goes toward the evidence I presented in that post. He yelled at Rachel’s baby-buying boss, he went after Chandler for kissing his sister, and he would have married Phoebe to help her with her baby. That's pretty awesome!

Joey will keep your secrets (at least for a while)
He might be the lovable idiot of the group, but he’s smart. Only Joey pieced together that Monica and Chandler were secretly dating. After he found out, he kept the secret for so long (four-ish months). All because he cared about Monica and Chandler and he knew how happy they were together.


Joey is forgiving
Make no mistake; he knows how to hold a grudge. However, Joey is also very forgiving. He forgave Chandler for kissing his sister and he forgave Kathy for kissing Chandler. He might end up giving you grief from time to time, but he’s got a good heart and he can’t keep a true grudge for very long.

Joey is funny
The most obvious reason to get to know Joey is that he’s funny. Especially with how insane adult life is, I know I can use all the laughs I can manage. That’s why those Friends DVDs end up on our TV basically everyday. Laughter is good medicine, so I guess that makes Joey the doctor.

Make sure to share this post with a Joey in your life. Gotta get me one of those. He’s not perfect though and can definitely be selfish at times because….


Monday, June 22, 2020

5 Reasons Homer Simpson is the Dad We Need

When the words "model TV dads" come by, you usually hear the dad from Leave It To Beaver, Andy Tailor, maybe more recently Danny Tanner from Full House. But if you want an example of a dad who is more realistic, look no further than Homer J. Simpson.

I'm serious.

5: Always Willing to Change

Homer's known for being pig-headed, stupid, and ignorant on most topics, but for Marge and the kids he's always willing to learn about something, even if it's just enough to get by. After taking a test that indicates he may be a bad father, Homer gets closer to Bart as they build and race soapbox derby cars. Homer even goes as far as to ask Ned Flanders for parenting advice just to prove that he is a good dad and does care about his kids.

4: Stands By His Kids

In the episode "Lisa the Iconoclast" he helps Lisa as she tries to unravel a conspiracy around the town's founder, Jebediah Springfield. Even though Jebediah is a hero of Homer's, he's willing to hear his daughter out and help her get to the truth, even at the cost of his job as town crier. Homer could've easily jumped in with the mob against Lisa, a position even Marge takes, but instead he sticks by Lisa to the end, even supporting her decision in the end to not reveal the truth. Homer has also helped Bart fight off bullies, defended Lisa's beauty and has stood up to Marge on the few times when she's shown a lapse in judgment, like when she broke a promise to Lisa to make her a costume.



3: Willing To Teach

There's not much that Homer knows that's really of use to anyone, but the little he does have he's always eager to share with his kids. This includes giving Bart the tip that "When it comes to compliments, women are ravenous blood-sucking monsters always want'n more... more... MORE! And if you give it to them, you'll get plenty back in return.". It may not be accurate but it helped Bart in the moment and Marge and Lisa did appreciate the compliments. Homer's never afraid to bring his kids along on one of his zany adventures, and teach them some handy life lessons along the way.



2: Respects His Wife

Homer has argued with Marge, sometimes done things she doesn't approve of, like buying Lisa a horse or buying a gun, but in the end he always tries to respect Marge's opinion and never puts her down. He's completely devoted to making Marge and the kids happy, even if he has to grumble about it in the car. The pair have taught their kids that a perfect marriage doesn't need to involve perfect people, but it does involve mutual respect and caring. Yes Homer slips up, but he's always the first to apologize and make amends. 

1: He Does It For Her

In the episode "And Maggie Makes Three" Bart and Lisa ask why they're aren't any pictures of Maggie. The subsequent flashback story tells how Homer and Marge, fresh out of debt and at the time only having two children, decide that Homer can chase his dream job of working at the bowling alley. This comes crashing down when Marge announces he's pregnant and Homer has to go back to the nuclear power plant where Mr. Burns puts up a plaque that says "Don't Forget: You're Here Forever". Homer takes pictures of Maggie and arranges them to make the plaque say "Do it for her" so he always remembers why he's working so hard at a place he hates. Homer is shown to sometimes forget Maggie but when he's at work he never forgets what makes it all worthwhile. 

Homer is the dad we didn't want but the one we needed. 

-JOE

Friday, June 19, 2020

Zoey's Extraordinary Journey

Zoey is on a personal journey. It’s easy to forget that as you’re watching Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist because of the fun musical numbers and awesomely expressive choreography (thanks, Mandy Moore!), the compelling story (go Team Max!), and the phenomenal acting (we will miss you, Peter Gallagher!). But at its core, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is about a woman who is on a journey of self improvement, of stepping out of her comfort zone, and of being vulnerable with others. Thank goodness the show was recently picked up for a second season!

Zoey’s admonition is clear from the first episode: “HELP!” She was given her extraordinary power to help other people. And when she shies away from this responsibility, the universe gently -- and sometimes not so gently -- reminds her how important it is for her to help others. Her days are interrupted constantly by “heart songs”, she glitches until she gets her own head in order, and even car horns remind her that she needs to help people. The universe is a persistent little bugger!

But here’s the thing: Zoey isn’t really just helping others. The person she’s helping the most is herself. Zoey’s journey of personal growth includes opportunities to put herself out there and to gain confidence. She learns to trust herself and to reach out to others for her own help. Zoey learns to create a support circle. Ultimately Zoey learns to take a page out of BrenĂ© Brown’s book (well, any of her incredible books) and find strength by being vulnerable.

I’ve watched the entirety of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist 4 times now with various friends and offspring, and by myself. Something in it speaks volumes to me. It’s more than the perfectly chosen music (see here for a playlist of our favorite songs), the exquisite production values, or the great humor in the show. It’s Zoey’s personal growth that speaks to me. I’ve been learning to love and accept myself recently. I’ve been learning to be more vulnerable. I’ve been learning to reach out to friends and build a circle of support. I’m learning to trust myself and others. And despite being surrounded by death and love triangles and work drama, I’m learning to live life to its fullest. And wholehearted living and authentic growing is the heart of Zoey’s extraordinary journey.

Well, that and some pretty dope cardigans.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Why Avatar the Last Airbender is Still Significant

There’s been some familiar faces popping up on my Facebook feed lately, and no it’s not because my mom found an old photo album and has been talking about the fact that I was Dracula for Halloween about six times. Avatar the Last Airbender has returned to Netflix and it feels like everyone is talking about the old gang like it was 2005 again. The interesting thing though is that when Disney added The Simpsons and Gargoyles to Disney+, the memes and conversations weren’t nearly as prominent, so what is making the world go gaga for Appa?

Spoiler alert:

A Dystopian Future
Follow me on this cause this might get complicated:
One of the reasons fans are re-identifying with The Last Airbender is because, like Aang, we’ve woken up into a world that feels darker and more terrifying than it used to be. We meet Aang and the gang right after his 100 year nap, so to us the world is as it is with the Fire Nation putting a stranglehold on most of the other nations, but Aang doesn’t see it that way. He remembers a world where people from all nations lived in peace, and where he had friends of every nationality. Compare that to our modern world, where only a few months ago live was as it had pretty much been, with words like pandemic restricted mostly to fiction. We’re living in a world changed by forces we have little control over and are forced to cope day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour, just like Aang.

The Classic Adventure
As much as people love to talk about how innovative The Last Airbender is, when you get down to the bare bones it’s the classic good guy vs bad guy narrative. Yes *Spoiler* some bad guys become good, and we show how more complex situations can be as expressed through excellent writing, but the story is that there’s a big bad evil, a time limit, good guy has to stop big bad evil. There’s a comfort in having a clear good guy to root for, someone we can get behind and identify with their struggles. Aang is not a Mary Sue, he has to work for every inch of progress he makes. His friends have struggles, they have moral dilemmas, but in the end we know the good guys win. It’s the kind of narrative that, again at this time, we need right now.

An Escape for Everyone
Right now everyone is looking for what Wade Watts in Ready Player One called “an escape hatch from reality”. Some are escaping into Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Others have found refuge in shows like Tiger King and the latest seasons of Rick and Morty and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, but Avatar the Last Airbender is a show the entire family can sit and binge without having to be a gamer or cover young eyes and ears. If it had been out a month ago it would’ve made my list of shows you can binge with your family without hesitation. It is something that we can talk about to get away from the news, thinking about what we’ve lost, and what could be coming around the corner.

This year has been bad, more for some than others, but I believe that Aang can save the world, if only for a half hour at a time.
-JOE

Monday, June 15, 2020

Boy Meets World Cameos in Girl Meets World


It may have ended a few years ago, but Girl Meets World is still my guilty pleasure on Disney Plus. I grew up with Cory and Shawn, so when it was in its early days on Netflix a few years back, my buddy David and I had to watch it. It’s definitely a different tone than Boy Meets World and it’s definitely a Disney Channel show. But in my mind it transcends other Disney Channel shows. The series also gives plenty of cameos to important Boy Meets World characters (so many that I couldn’t include them all).


Harley Keiner - Season 1, Episode 13 (Girl Meets Flaws)
He was Cory’s bully for a couple seasons back in the day, but more recently he’s the janitor at Riley’s middle school during Seasons 1 and 2. He appears in several episodes throughout those seasons, so it was hard to pick my favorite. I liked his character because he’s still the snarky Harley Keiner we remember from Boy Meets World, but he’s no longer a bully. Instead, he stands up for the bullied. Just goes to show that anyone can change and anyone can be redeemed.


Mr Feeny - Season 2, Episode 4 (Girl Meets Pluto)
I couldn’t not include Feeny on this list. The question was which of his episodes to include. He appeared five times through the show’s three seasons, but this one was my favorite. Feeny wasn’t the center of the episode by any means, but he appeared as Cory, Shawn, and Topanga dug up a time capsule in his backyard. So of course Riley and Maya pull out their best Feeny call to greet him. Also, I love their heartwarming conversation with him afterwards.


Eric Matthews - Season 2, Episode 5 (Girl Meets Mr. Squirrels)
For some reason grown-up Eric just makes me happy. Partly, his names for Maya just get more ridiculous as time goes on. But also it just shows how much goodness is in Eric’s heart. I still find it so strange that they slowly turned Eric from a ladies’ man to an idiot in the seven seasons of Boy Meets World. But this episode showed how amazing Eric is, even if he’s barely literate.


Tommy - Season 2, Episode 9 (Girl Meets Mr. Squirrels Goes to Washington)
His story arc in Boy Meets World was relatively short, but this was one of those stories that made me love Eric back in the day. The same Tommy that Eric refused to adopt in college, he returned under the name TJ to help Eric win an election. It was beautiful to see Eric find closure to the decision he made for Tommy. A decision that tore him up when he made it. But Tommy never forgot him.


Mr. Turner - Season 2, Episode 10 (Girl Meets New Teacher)
Another story that deserved closure. After his motorcycle accident, Mr. Turner dropped off the face of Boy Meets World. But turns out he survived and married his nurse. This story was a great twist on the story of Mr. Turner from the original series. He got to stand up for Harper, a new edgy teacher, and make some cracks at the principal along the way.


Shawn Hunter - Season 1, Episode 18 (Girl Meets Master Plan)
He appeared so much that he was more of a recurring character than a cameo; he still deserves a mention. It was hard to pick an episode for him. This one is one of my favorites because it shows how much Shawn had begun to care for Maya. He knew what it was like to have absentee parents and (even though he didn’t become her step-dad/dad until later) he became a father figure for her at that time. It changed who Shawn was and I love that.

I knew I couldn’t possibly hit all the Boy Meets World cameos in Girl Meets World, but who were your favorites? Angela is another that I wanted to add. Also Morgan/Morgan in the finale.


Friday, June 12, 2020

Disney Dungeons and Dragons

A discussion that occurs often in my house is which Dungeons and Dragons class characters from other fictions would be if brought into D&D (Don’t judge me, I bet you have weird discussions too!) So here I present a Disney based Dungeons and Dragons party featuring all the major classes from 5th Edition and why I think each character fits with each class.
Enjoy!

Barbarian-Beast

A creature made of pure rage, the Beast is a perfect fit for the barbarian. When we see him defending Belle from the wolves he goes into what can only be classified as a rage as he drops the entire pack, only to fall in the end just like a barbarian would once their temporary hit points ran out. We also see that Beast isn’t much of a fighter until he goes into said rage when he’s fighting Gaston, who gets in several cheap shots before Beast sees Belle and unleashes his furry fury on the hunter.

Bard-Ariel

I will argue that Ariel is one of the most active princesses we have, especially in the pre-Elsa world. Her defining traits include her incredible singing voice and her curiosity about the world, both of which fit perfectly with the bard’s skill list. When her voice was taken and she had to somehow convince Eric to kiss her she doesn’t miss a beat, using her exceptional charisma stat to charm him into nearly kissing her. Ariel is the bard that can get into and out of any situation.

Cleric-Baymax

My first instinct was to go with Rapunzel since she has the power to heal with magic, but clerics are more than just the healer in the back that keeps the idiot fighter from dying. Clerics can hold their own in battle as well as aid the party with buffs and heals. Baymax can do it all between his vast medical knowledge and high-flying armor, willing to keep his team safe in battle and get them healed in between.

Druid-Pocahantas

In touch with her people and her land, Pocahantas makes the perfect druid. She strives to protect the balance between her people, the settlers and the land by brokering peace through understanding and knowledge. She even casts Comprehend Languages and Speak With Plants at various times throughout the movie, and has a hoard of adorable animal companions that help her in her journey. The only thing she’s missing is Wild Shape, though I vote that turning into pastel paint during “Colors of the Wind” counts.

Fighter-Mulan

There’s an instinct to put Mulan under the monk category because of her Asian heritage and the monk’s classical leaning towards Eastern tradition, but Mulan doesn’t get the specialized training and inner focus a monk gets, she’s trained as a soldier, and is therefore a fighter. Mulan is an excellent fighter though, able to hold her own in both armor and a dress, and uses her brain to take out stronger opponents as well as her martial skills. Mulan is the one who would be on the front line, chopping through enemies without the need for magic or help.

Monk-Rafiki

Rafiki on the other hand, is a person who is not only a martial artist but in touch with his own spirituality to the point of granting him insight into the world itself. He is the spiritual leader of Pride Rock, and can use his own inner wisdom to find the answers to issues that effect his land. Plus just watch him fight off the hyenas and tell me he’s not a martial artist.

Paladin-Hercules

Gifted with strength from his godly parenthood, Hercules has one mission: to rejoin the gods of Mount Olympus. He becomes the noble knight vanquishing evil with his trusty (if obnoxious) steed Pegasus. Riding into every fight with a righteous cause and a quest to complete, he becomes the perfect paladin. On a side note he’s also a great example of how to play a lawful good character without making them obnoxious, but that’s probably a subject for another post another day.

Ranger-Merida

Merida does not get her just due as a princess. She is a fierce red head with a fiery spirit to match. As a ranger she has her trusty bow and knowledge of the wilds on her side, plus an empathy with animals around her, including her own mother at one point. Merida could outshoot any other Disney character (Including Robin Hood-Fight me) and she’s never afraid to enter a battle. You need some ranged on your team? Recruit Merida.

Rogue-Robin Hood

He may not outshoot Merida, but he is an extremely competent archer and an even better rogue. Robin Hood stole gold right out of the royal carriage before King John could notice. He then orchestrated a plan where he stole dozens of bags of gold out of John’s room while he and Hiss were sleeping. Combined with his variety of disguises and agility and he’s the quintessential rogue-just don’t let his partner kiss your hand.
Sorcerer-Elsa

Born with magic, sometimes uncontrollable, usually by conditions before birth, Elsa almost comes straight out of the Player’s Handbook. Elsa has to learn to control her powers as she learns that the more she suppresses them the more trouble they’ll cause her. The diversity of her magic gives her the range to keep your enemies on their toes, making you grateful to have her in the party. Just don’t pet her familiar without asking or you’ll get burned.

Warlock-Genie

Okay here me out because this was the hardest to find in all of Disney. Dr. Facilier, the bad guy from The Frog Princess is probably the perfect fit, but he’s also a villain and we’re building an adventuring party. In Xanathar’s Guide to Everything we get the subclass Hexblade, which binds the Warlock’s power to a weapon from the Shadowfell, so for this one we replace the weapon with Genie’s lamp and voila, a warlock. This of course will probably fly out the window in the next year when genie pacts become a thing but whatever. Either way, are you going to say no to having a being with phenomenal cosmic powers on your team?

Wizard-Merlin

This on the other hand was a no-brainer. Along with magic most of Merlin’s powers comes from his study of science and culture, and his collection of books seals this deal. Merlin is a specialist in transfiguration, turning him and Wart into a variety of animals to teach the future king lessons on life. His ultimate accomplishment is him polymorphing himself into a germ to infect Madam Mim’s dragon form, thus winning him a magic duel. That’s the move that proved that he’s a wizard extraordinaire.
What other Disney characters would you want to class?

-Joe

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