The Fifth Ivy

“Look, there’s something really big in the water out there!” squeals the blonde-haired nurse, but she isn’t fooling anyone in the ICU. This includes Mom and Dad who are not impressed. They stand beside my bed looking down at me. Mom on my right side holding my hand. Dad on the left, bunched beside the medicine bags and I.V. machine. Angel guardians, the two of them, standing vigil. It has been a very long day. The past few hours have involved a rather complicated procedure to correct several abnormalities in my brain. “Rather complicated” might be an understatement. Maybe, I don’t really know.

My doctor says the brain is so complex that it largely remains a mystery to the medical world and that they never really know how it’s going to react in any given situation, that each situation is unique.

Prior to the surgery, I pictured in my mind the stretching of the scalp, the cutting of the skull, the manipulation of the brain tissue. Now that all of this is done the back of my head feels like a sea of large, churning objects.

The nurse looks away from the window and turns her attention to me. “How are you feeling, Clay?”


“Just remember to breathe. You been out for ten hours so it’s important to remember to breathe. When you have been out that long sometimes your brain forgets.”

My doctor comes in at that moment.

“When do you think he can come home?” asks Mom.

“It’s hard to say right now. Maybe Monday depending on how well he does this weekend. I’ll be in Sunday afternoon to check on him and make a final decision then.”

Mom asks a big grabbag full of other questions and finally stops, apparently satisfied for the moment. The doctor leaves. And because visiting hours for family are over in the ICU, Mom and Dad leave soon afterward as well.

“All right, young man, I’m going to hook you to some stuff that will help you sleep.” The nurse fiddles with the machine. “Then you’ll understand…” I am obviously susceptible to this stuff because that is the last thing I hear before I am off to dreamland.

In the next moment…

I was in a cell. The cell was almost bare except for a toilet, sink, mirror, and bed. I was already standing in front of the mirror. I stared at my reflection.

There was a knock at the door. Without waiting for a response, a man opened it. “Hurry up, your appointments in 15 minutes on the dot. On the dot means on the dot.” So I finished. There was not much I could do in the way of grooming with only a washcloth hanging over the side of the sink and a toothbrush and comb sitting on the other side. I gave myself a quick sponge bath. Then I noticed a strange tattoo on my neck. I leaned toward the mirror for a better look. In bright red ink were the numbers 76001120666.

I shrugged and donned the black suit and shoes that were lying on the bed because I assumed these were the clothes I was supposed to wear. I exited the room and passed into a long hall. The man was sitting behind a desk. He looked up from a ledger when I appeared. He pointed down a long silver hallway, “Hurry.” Everything had a cold metallic look to it. As I passed down the hall, I encountered a line of gaunt men and women and children in similar black suits sitting on silver chairs against one side of the hallway. On the opposite side was a line of evenly spaced white doorways. Above each of these was a long, thin screen. And above each of these screens were small signs. Above the first doorway, “a-c,” the second doorway, “d-f,” and so on. I stopped in front of the “g-i” door.

No sooner have I sat down then a woman in a black suit exited “g-i” with a folder. She left. She did not look happy. Neon green digital lettering appeared. “Occupant 76001120666 may now enter,” said a slightly robotic female voice. My memory usually isn’t that great, but somehow, I remembered that tattooed number on my neck as clearly as if I had photographic memory. I stood a little unsure, hesitating.

“Next!” yelled an impatient and very human voice beyond the still open door. I entered a small, cramped, and stuffy office that seemed very out of place here. A man in a faded brown suit sat behind the desk. Directly behind him was a door to another room.

“Have a seat,” he said as he dug out a file from a box beside his chair. He plopped the file on his desk and flipped it open. He was one of the most bored characters I have ever seen. He sighed. “Okay Clay Ivy, what do we got here. Clay Ivy. So Mr. Ivy,” he looked directly at me,” …where are you?” At that, I fell into a slumber where I sat.

When I opened my eyes

I was lying flat on my back staring up into a clear, blue sky. The bluest blue I’ve ever seen. I got to my feet. An appraisal of the immediate environment showed nothing. Literally nothing. I seemed to be smack in the middle of an orange, empty desert. The earth was so dry it was cracked, but it really wasn’t hot. In fact, there was a cool breeze blowing from the west. That is when I saw that in the far distance in that direction there was a large body of water. I blinked.

When I unblinked…

I was back in the office with Brown Suit Man. He acted like nothing at all amiss had just happened.

“Alrighty, this is your resume. Not much to it. Order picker.”

“Highschool job. Greenhouse.”

The man grunted. “Is that why it says ‘works at a greenhouse during high school’”?


He threw the folder in another box. “Come closer.”

I got up and approached the desk.

“Lean over the desk toward me.”

I leaned over the desk a little.


He did this until we were practically face to face. He placed two fingers on my neck. He glanced at the fresh tattoo grunting approval. “Okay, stand up straight.” He fingered through a stack of debit-like cards and handed me one. The front of it bore my name and number. “Guard that with your life and carry it with you at all times. I repeat, don’t lose it.”

Brown Suit Man checked his folder again. “For now, I’m placing you as an assistant.”

“An assistant? An assistant to whom?”

“To whom, to whom he says, so correct. That would be Francine Verom. You will be her assistant. Ahhh, Francine, our very own in-house curmudgeon. You shall see right about now.”

I blinked and suddenly

I was back in the orange desert. This time the blonde-haired nurse was there.

“Look” she said pointing into the distance.

“How did you get here? Where are we?”

“Look where I’m pointing.” She pointed in the direction of the water in the distance.

“The sea over there? That’s a sea, right?”

“Yeah. That over there is where a hospital sits. Your hospital. By the water. You will be a patient in that hospital and I am your nurse. We won’t find it there, but it is there at another time.”

“Will be, right?”

“Will be, are. Both, in a way. We’re there right now in the future—the real future. And in the real future beyond that, you are 706001120666 and I am 55924319666.”

I blinked and then…

I was back in the office with Brown Suit Man. He coughed and proceeded. “Remember that name, Francine.” The blonde-haired nurse rather unceremoniously burst into the room.

“Speak of the devil,” Said Brown Suit Man apparently unsurprised. “Francine,” he told me. “Clay will be your other assistant,” he told her.

Francine ignored the comment and me entirely, scanning the office. “This is disgraceful. Clean your office.”

Brown Suit Man just smiled.

Francine glared at him and abruptly departed. It seemed strange to me that she should enter and leave without really doing anything, but Brown Suit Man didn’t seem to care.

“Is she the boss?” I asked.

“She thinks so. Okay, Mr. Ivy. Take this folder. Tomorrow you’ll give it to the guys in the Medical Ward when you go down there. 7 a.m. sharp. They’ll put a sensor right about here.” He placed two fingers right below his left ear. “Only on you.”

“A sensor? What exactly is that?”

“It’s just a teeny tiny chip they put under your skin, so they can keep track of you. Nothing to worry about.”

“Everyone here has one?’

“Most.” Then he indicated the folder in my hands. “Tonight you’ll probably want to go over the rules and regulations of the place, stipulations and such. Okaaaay, have a nice day now.”

I opened the door. Brown Suit Man was looking for another folder then added, “Oh, a piece of advice about working with Francine. She doesn’t know as much as she thinks.” I nodded. And opened the door.

I must have blinked

as I was passing through the door because I exited into the orange desert.

“So is everything clear now?” asked Francine.

“No, not even slightly.”

“You know you’re traveling from time to time to time, right?”

“Yeah, I figured that had something to do with it. What’s to understand?”

“Well, it’s complicated.”

“Okay, well?” I blinked away.


When I open my eyes again

I am in my hospital bed. Francine, mom, and dad are standing on either side of my bed. My parents are overjoyed at my waking, but they are clearly drained. The calendar over the bed indicates that it has been almost three weeks since I first entered into the ICU room. I can’t speak for some reason.

I am very drowsy and rest my eyes again.

“His feet are really swollen,” says dad, “I bet it feels good to have them rubbed.”

“Surely it does,” replies Mom, “especially with your cold hands.”

“I wish he could tell me himself.”

“It’s probably best that we keep quiet for now anyway.”

Their words grow increasingly muffled. After a while, I open my eyes. Mom and Dad have gone for the day and Francine is there injecting a glowing yellow liquid into the I.V. machine. I am soon gone again.

I was still on the threshold of Brown Suit Man’s door.

I turned to ask him what in the world is going on, but he is looking for another folder and no longer listening. As I retraced my steps down the hallway, I heard the female robot voice saying “76001121666 may now enter.” Francine was standing at the end of the hallway where it intersects with another hallway. She is looking at the contents of a folder. As I am about to pass her she mutters, “Do you understand?”

And then I am in the hospital. It is morning.

“Well. Morning!” says the doctor. I try to respond but I still can’t talk. “Yeah, you can’t talk right now. You weren’t breathing real well so we put in a trach a couple weeks ago. Right now, you’re breathing through your neck.”

Dad holds up a cardboard cutout with the alphabet written on it. ”I made this so you can say stuff to us. Just point out what you want to say.”

“We have devices to make it easier to communicate,” says the doctor. “But that’s great for now, though.”

“See this is the space button,” says Dad pointing to a small space bar icon at the bottom.


“You had a brain surgery about a month ago and now you’re just getting better,” said Mom.

“How are you feeling right now, Clay? Do you have any pain?”


“Oh, Don’t be scared. We’re right here,” says Mom.

“And we’re not going anywhere,” adds Dad.


“What do you mean?” says Dad.

I was getting frustrated. How could they possibly not know? DONT KNOW WHO TO TRUST

“Really?” said Dad.

“Not even us?” says Mom.

“He may be talking about hallucinations and having strange dreams,” says the doctor. “It happens to brain patients. A lot of really strange stuff can happen when you tamper with the brain. It starts playing tricks.”

Mom took my hand and knelt face to face with me. “Clay,” she says with tears in her eyes. “You may not know what is real, you may not know who you can trust, but know that you can always trust God. He’s always real.”

After a while, they leave and I am alone with Francine. “Do you understand?”

No, I think, of course not.

She fiddles with the machine and I doze off again.


And then I returned to the orange desert.

Francine and I spent the next few hours journeying toward the water. I didn’t know why she was so intent on this, but it was water, which was better than a dry desert any day. When we got near the water which appeared to be a kind of harbor, we found there were steep red ridges bordering it. We carefully descended. As we did so, a gust of wind blew against us. I beheld that under the waters below swam the shadows of several huge creatures. When we were about halfway down we ventured alongside a narrow rock formation that jutted out into the middle of the harbor. Beside it was docked a large and very strange ship.

“Are we getting on that ship?”



Francine sighed. “Sit down.”


“On that ledge behind you.” I sat down. “Okay, Clay….Where to start, where to start. Many years from now, a scientist, that man you just met—”

“That dude in the future in the brown suit?”

“That’s him.”

“He’s a scientist?”

“Yes. Anyway, the year after you meet him he will discover the secret of time travel. It’s through dreams. It’s all very complicated, really. Anyway, radioactivity is key. I won’t pretend to know everything about it, but he has brought it here to this time. He’s been back here numerous times in order to change the future. He will keep on doing this until he engineers a future that works for him. Making more copies of himself as he does so. Our task is to rid the ship of nuclear waste and end it.”

“Why? Why is that necessary?” It also occurred to me that if jumping to a time meant making another copy of yourself, this had to mean that there should be four of me here since I had been here four times now.

“It’s essential partly so our existence will remain on one line. You may not realize it, but he’s created a dozen alternate universes already and all of them are suffering from life-altering nuclear fallout because of his work. Enough chit-chat.”

We descended and boarded the ship. It was strangely noiseless and seemingly deserted. We ventured to the middle of the boat where there sat many barrels of something or other. Francine walked beside me across the deck. “I’ve done this many times before. Just do what I do and you won’t get hurt.” I then wondered where all the other Francines were.

“Where are the other mes and all the other yous?” I asked.

Francine did not seem to hear my question. “Now listen, there’s some stuff you have to do if you don’t want to fall into the nuclear waste. But, like I said, you’ll be all right if you just do what I do.” As we stood speaking the floor in front of us began to lower until the barrels disappeared. In its place was a boiling, glowing, steaming pool of liquid fire. The pool was at least 40 feet from side to side. I was hesitant. “Francine, that guy in the brown suit told me that you don’t know as much as you think. What exactly do you think he meant by that?”

“He said that?” She thought. “Well, he clearly knows I’m on to him.”

Francine got a good run at the pool and suddenly jumped. She almost floated over the pool in slow motion. She gracefully landed on a small ledge on the other side. And then I saw a door on that ledge that looked so familiar. She turned and cried something I couldn’t quite make out. Then I saw what seemed to be human hands reaching up at me from the ooze. And for the first time, I also noticed a surrealistic crowd gathered around the gyrating pool, obscured by the murky fumes.

Francine was desperately shouting at me. I could not make out what she was saying. And then Brown Suit Man was standing beside me saying,” This is what I call the Pond of Lost Souls. See that ledge on the other side? You can get there. To cross it you just need to get a good run and then jump.”

“Is that what Francine wants?”

“Yes, but she doesn’t want you to get to that ledge.”

I did not know why Brown Suit Man was apparently helping me. But I ran and jumped. Things looked great as I soared halfway across the pool. But then Francine spoke and I heard her as clearly as if she was in my head. “Oh, the futility of it all. I don’t think you’re going to make it, Clay.”

In my heart, I believed she was right. It was then that I slowly began to descend toward the glowing waste.

The still not quite seen surrealistic figures cried to me from the billowing fumes, “Clay, you have to believe!”

“Why won’t you listen to me?” cried one of the voices.

“It’s over,” I said giving up.

I slowly sank toward the fiery waste. Francine had gone through the door, thinking that I was no more, but Brown Suit Man and the shadows in the fumes continued watching, hoping. And it was surely mere seconds before entering its boiling depths that I saw that the fiery pool was inhabited by all manner of men and women and boys and girls. Then I understood. We had all been fooled, lured into Francine’s grand scam. I suddenly believed. And then I understood even more. I slowly began to rise.

And then I was walking down the hallway…

in what I believed was the far future. In the shining black mirrors of the flooring, the waves of the harbor crashed and the shadows of the enormous beasts swam.

I approached the doorway and knew, knew that I would find a former me talking to Brown Suit Man on the other side. I opened the door. Brown Suit Man did not seem surprised in the slightest to see me. The other me, on the other hand, was speechless.

“Ivy Number Four,” he said in greeting. He indicated the me sitting in the chair,“Meet Ivy Number Two. I knew you would make it.”

“Unless I miss my guess,” I, Ivy Four, replied, “Francine should be coming through that door behind you.”

“I know.”

“And she says you’re bad.”

“I know that too…And while I did know you were coming, I am very proud of you. Very few make the crossing.”

The door burst open and a smiling Francine entered. Behind her swirled the pool of fire and Ivy Three was slowly drifting toward the molten hands.

“Speak of the devil,” Said Brown Suit Man. “Francine, Clay is my assistant now so you can keep your gloating today.”

Francine glared at him and at both of me and abruptly departed the way she came.

“Leave the door open,” he told her as she exited.

Francine’s smile was long gone and then she was gone as well. She had literally vanished. Once on the platform, Brown Suit Man turned to me. “You can go now. Take the others with you.” The three of us stepped out onto the landing. Ivy Three landed beside us and did not seem surprised at all to see us.

“Where’d she go?” asked Three.

“Oh, She’s off doing her thing again. Don’t worry. She will be dealt with eventually.”

“So, when exactly is this?” asked Four.

“If you’re asking about a time, it isn’t. There has been no time travel involved. Francine likes to make stuff up.

“So that copy thing she was talking about?”

“Not a thing. Not like she meant, anyway.”

All three mes had so many more questions.

“It’s time for you all to get going,” said Brown Suit Man.

Together we ascended. As we did so we blended into one. The fiery waste swirled further and further below me as I continued to ascend. The wind blew across me as I soared over the strange ship, over the shadows of the large creatures in the water, over the orange desert. I passed silently across the sea to eternal safety.

A voice spoke to me in the wind. “Where are you going?”



“This has to be a dream. But even if it is, I will choose to go.”


I am still very weak…

but feel worlds better. “Good news,” says Mom. “The doctor says we can take you home.”

I still can’t speak.

“That’s all right,” she said. “Just rest.”

“You need to fight this,” Dad said continuing to whisper to me and pat me on the hand.

“At home,” says Mom. I fall asleep.

When I awake, I am still in this literal state of being. A nurse who isn’t Francine is helping me from a wheelchair into the waiting car as Dad helps.

“Everything’s gonna be fine; you look great,” says Mom.

Soon we are moving away, away from the enormous shadows in the water, away from all Francines, away, away into an entirely new state of being. I believe, as Brown Suit Man would say, it is the fifth Ivy. As we turn a corner I see the looming hospital one last time. In an upper window, I see a figure in a brown suit staring down at the world. It may be my imagination, but I think he is smiling.

The Advent of the All-Inclusive Events Law

July, 2070 – In August 2020 Congress passed the All-Inclusive Events Law which stated that all private and public events were required to have at least one event attendee representative of every race in the U.S., including American Indian, Asian, African American, Caucasian; a member of every sexual orientation represented by LGBTQ; and a practicing member of a major U.S. religions, including a Christian, Judaist, Muslim, Buddhist, Hinduist, and atheist in attendance (with the inclusion of a heterosexual member optional).

On the 27th of the same month, the brothers John and Steve Earnest became the first arrested offenders of the law. Upon raiding their shared apartment, the investigating FBI agents discovered a Bachelor Party put on for the soon to be wed family friend, Thoreau Heew. Two other friends also in attendance included Bubba Jones and Alfred Lady.

The arresting agents found the event to be shockingly white-washed with solely heterosexual males present and none of the required 15 to 16 attendants. They then informed the Earnest brothers (as the ringleaders of the crime) that they would be placed under immediate arrest for failing to maintain the melting pot idealism envisioned by the law. Heew, a law student, came to the defense of the brothers, stating that in this case, the law allowed for the waiver of the required members in the event the size of the space only allowed for a smaller number of guests. In such cases, the law stipulated that only that number be in attendance. He went on to state that while the brother’s three guests were all heterosexual males, they all fulfilled a different demographic: lispers, the morbidly obese, and men who identified as Wonder Woman when they were 5-years old.

Nevertheless, since those three demographics were not on the list of accepted demographics, the agents confiscated the white cake and moved to detain the brothers. John Earnest’s heinous evasion of the law ended when he suddenly stated that he was sorry that the cake was white but that he didn’t like chocolate cake. The agents immediately downed the perpetrator in a hail of bullets. Bubba Jones later confessed to being the creator and mastermind behind the entirely white cake. He escaped immediate execution only after stating in writing that he was fully willing to consume deserts in any shape, form, size and color.

In court, Steve Earnest, the remaining alleged perpetrator, confessed to engineering the whole scheme with his brother. The judge sentenced him to a 10-year suspended sentence during which he would personally apologize to everyone and animal he had ever offended. After a year, having failed to consistently send in a daily 5-page report on his progress, the judge sentenced him to a 50-year prison term.

In the many ensuing years, Heew became a senator, being instrumental in adding a rock, dog, cat, and a stereotype to the required attendees list under the All-Inclusive Event Law; Jones lost 360 pounds; and Lady helped form the Justice League.

Five Hilarious Side Characters in Television

Introduction by Ben Plunkett

Why should the main characters of the great sitcoms get all the glory? Well, in most cases the main characters of these great shows deserve a lot of it because they are, like, main. But there are truly great and equally as hilarious side characters. They should not be so callously ignored and brushed to the side of our comedic subconscious. The best of them add much to the hilarity and substance of the show. Today’s Five pays honor to five great and hilarious side characters in T.V. history.

Floyd Lawson – The Andy Griffith Show

Floyd Lawson is a barber, supposedly. We rarely see him actually cutting hair, but he does hang out in the barber shop a lot. At least, when he is not sitting outside on a bench with Gomer, or Goober, or Andy. Or at the Court House hanging out with Barney and Andy. Or doing who knows what else. Floyd leads a simple life. A quiet life. He occasionally cuts hair and spends the rest of his time with his friends. And for that, I love Floyd. But mainly, I love Floyd because he is a complete lunatic living right in the middle of Mayberry. Based on some of the other citizens of that fair town (Ernest T. Bass, Gomer, Goober, The Darlings), it’s not surprising he blends right in. Still, he’s crazy and listening to him talk about…anything is one of my favorite things on any show. His dramatic reactions. His wacky conspiracy theories. His soft-spoken nuttery just make my heart smile. I have no idea if Floyd Lawson was a good barber, but I am sure he was a great character on an iconic television show. (Phill Lytle)

Ethel Mertz – I Love Lucy

When one thinks of I Love Lucy, in all likelihood Lucille Balle (AKA Lucy Ricardo) instantly springs to mind. And there is absolutely no denying that she deserves so much praise for this role. Lucy was one of the funniest T.V. characters of all time, portrayed by one of the funniest women of all time. However, although her high accolades are very well deserved, her great shadow too often obscures a perfect sidekick and comedic partner. I speak, of course, of the great Ethel Mertz. Ethel was frumpy, oldish, simple, and kind of drab. It says a lot about her that she was once disappointed not to get an iron for her birthday. All of this made Ethel (Vivianne Vance) an incredibly odd best friend for the young, good-looking, full of life, and totally insane Lucy.  Plus, Ethel could sing really well and Lucy famously could not sing a lick.

But as simple a life that she much preferred, Ethel grudgingly but always with great humor went along with just about all of Lucy’s crazy schemes. As different as the two were, the truly loved each other. That was very evident. Like sisters, they were constantly getting into fights but in every single such instance, they were always weepingly apologizing in a very short time. Ethel’s brand of pure comedy complimented her BFF to such a level that it highlighted and accentuated Lucy’s funniness. (Ben Plunkett)

Richmond Avenal – The IT Crowd

“I mean, I don’t know what any of this stuff even does. What’s going on there? I don’t know. Is it good that it’s doing that? Usually, it doesn’t do that. And I think I should tell them, but often I just look away. And this one: Flash. Flash. Flash. Then wait for it. Nothing for a while. Here it comes. Double flash. Brilliant.”

And with that quote, I think I fully began to appreciate the brilliance that is Richmond Avenal. Weird. Random. Could be Tim Burton. Richmond could be creepy and hilarious at the same time, as when he tells a woman, “When you laugh I can see the outline of your skull”.

The IT Crowd is a hidden gem of a show to me and Moss, Roy, Jen, Douglas and Denholm all play their parts superbly. But Richmond joins a pantheon of characters that didn’t appear in every episode, but made every scene they were in funnier. Whether he was hiding on the ceiling or pontificating about why the gang shouldn’t go to the theater (“I trod on a piece of lego, O it went right in the heel”), he had us in stitches. He truly deserves to be on this short list. (Gowdy Cannon)

Jean-Ralphio Saperstein – Parks and Recreation

There are some characters that only work in small doses. Jean-Ralphio is the textbook example of such a character. Through his unbridled bravado, his terrible rhymes, and his abject lack of discipline, self awareness, or life goals (outside of strongly desiring to be rich and famous though having no discernible skills), Jean-Ralphio comes on strong. Too strong if the show was centered around his character. Fortunately, the writers of Parks and Rec know exactly how utilize him to get the biggest laughs without overstaying their welcome. Throughout the show – from his introductory scene where he sings about being “Flushed with cash!” after the death of a disliked relative, to his absurd business venture, Entertainment 720 with Tom Haveford – the writers unleash Jean-Ralphio as a little comedy grenade, perfectly thrown into the mix to make good scenes better.

Jean-Ralphio would be the worst sort of person to be friends with in real life. Fortunately, a sitcom is not real life and his absurd confidence and absolute smarminess work perfectly in a fictionalized setting. In a show like Parks and Recreation, already populated with dozens of insane characters, Jean-Ralphio is so insane, so unpredictable, and so funny that he stands out and brings giant laughs every minute he is on the screen. (Phill Lytle)

Mary Lightly – Psych

Not counting the Musical and the Movie, Mary is only in three episodes of Psych…the Yang Trilogy. Yet without a doubt this portrayal of a serial killer expert by Jimmi Simpson is my favorite — and the funniest – secondary character of any TV show I’ve ever watched. Whether he’s telling Gus “That’s very good, Gustus,” running with ankle weights or donning a monkey ascot, Mary has made me laugh extremely hard. I don’t know that there is any thing he says or any gesture he makes that isn’t funny to me. He’s subtle and overt, random and calculating, creepy and warm all at the same time. It’s a true masterpiece of a role.

My favorite Mary moment is actually a montage of himself on video, that Shawn and Gus watch in “Yang 3 in 2D”. The video keeps changing scenes of Mary talking to himself.
“Day One, Hour One. What’s the deal with One Tree Hill? It’s like a poorly executed Dawson’s Creek…
Jasper peaks, arrows and bows, the tickle of a good friend’s nose, a tom tom filled with Spaghetti-O’s…
I think CGI has ruined storytelling for all of us.
[Gus: Is he wearing a onesie?  Shawn: Yes.] I don’t wanna say it’s completely Michael Bay’s fault but that guy needs to be stopped because it’s all his fault…”

I don’t know how he does it, but there is something about Mary. He kills me every scene he’s in. (Gowdy Cannon)



500 Words or Less Reviews: The War

Filmmaker Ken Burns is probably most famous for creating the documentary miniseries, The Civil War (1990), and for good reason. It is a documentary masterpiece. In the years since he has made several other series on a variety of other historical subjects. Hoping to recapture the magic of The Civil War, my sister and I recently watched his 2007 World War II series The War. While it did not match The Civil War in thoroughness or filmmaking magic, The War was nonetheless extremely good.

As for the thoroughness, the film is clear about its limited scope and its rationale for such. Each episode is introduced with these two lines: “The Second World War was fought in thousands of places, too many for any one accounting. This is the story of four American towns and how their citizens experienced that war.” I would not be a bit surprised to learn that he put this here specifically because test audiences kept complaining that the series was a limited look at World War II. In effect, this two lines explained that World War II was so huge that it would be impossible to give a complete look at it in a mere seven-episode series. No, instead it looked at multiple stages of the war as seen through the eyes of Americans from Waterbury, Conn.; Sacramento, Calif.; Mobile, Ala.; and Luverne, Minn.

All of the commentaries are people from one of these towns and were individuals who either fought in the war or normal American citizens who were drastically affected by the war in various ways. Unlike The Civil War, there is no commentary by experts like historians. The people who lived these things are the only experts we get. This is just fine because hearing the testimonies of these people who actually lived it makes it more real, more poignant. It gives audiences a closer, more emotional, look at things like the plight of Japanese Americans; life in America during World War II; life for Americans imprisoned by the Japanese in a Philippine internment camp; and, of course, soldiers who fought in the war on a multiplicity of fronts.

Although most of them are not technical experts in any historical area, the selection of those individuals who commented was excellent casting. All of the now elderly people chosen had a kind of indescribable charm, a respectability, an impeccably honorable essence. Even more so, for obvious reasons each of them clearly felt deeply about the subject matter. It was this that more than anything else added to the enrichment of this story. They were The War’s secret weapon. The seven episodes will take you on a journey all over the world through the eyes of these American citizens who lived and saw the horror, saw the greatness, experienced the time that changed their lives and impacted the world forever.

July, 2068 – Remembering the Writer’s Flood of 2018

It came unexpectedly during a particularly stagnant summer. Some say that the writers were to blame, but there was actually plenty of blame deserved by a wide array of sources. It cannot be denied, though, that the writers got the whole catastrophe going that fateful day.

They were at a complete loss as to what to say. The lot of them gathered in the park banging their heads on the side of the huge Witty Tank of Words. From dawn till dusk, from dusk till dawn they beat upon its sides begging for it to relinquish its life-giving liquid of language and punctuation. No one noticed that as they pounded on its witty walls, periods and ellipses began oozing from its seams. The gathered writers began becoming alarmed when this slow ooze turned into exclamation points suddenly loudly popping out into the crowd with loud sounds like screams, howls, and yells.

Suddenly the witty sides of the tank burst completely asunder and all manner of verbiage and grammatical technicalities spewed forth, ensnaring even the hapless billions of longsuffering readers in chaotic waves.

The enormous blob of grammar that rolled through the middle of town was encased in every punctuation known to mankind. Surviving witnesses say commas, periods, semi-colons, jots, and tittles were apparently the most common. As the outer case of punctuation fell off, the alphabet of over 7,000 different languages shot through the gaps like water from fire hoses. The ultra-powerful streams felled a number of schools, libraries, and government buildings.

There was much carnage and mayhem that day, my friends.

There were many a run-on sentence that went on and on and on for miles, bewildering everyone.

One college professor was slain when a tidal wave of misspelled words fell on hees howze.

Three enormous waves of LOLs, JKs, and ROFLs slammed into the side of a car of a teenager who was texting while driving.

Tidal waves of a multiplicity of languages wreaked havoc in many different neighborhoods. One woman said ten strands of what she thought were Mandarin dialects plowed through her garden. A family eating a picnic said a German stream plowed through the park, taking their bratwurst and sauer kraut with it. Two boys said they learned to count to ten in French after it floated down the creek in which they were playing.

Onlooking readers groaned as a wave of puns struck a chicken farm. It was poultry in motion.

Several writers drowned in an ever-deepening cesspool of commas.

More than a hundred fragment sentences streams. Just stopped mid-thought. In the middle of the street.

A steaming black mess of profanity in the form of @#$%& streamed into the river, turning it as black as night.

At long last, an army of editors came in to save the day. It took them three months to clean up the mess. Even after most of it was cleared, all over town people were stuck to hashtags, question marks hung off the eaves of houses, nouns were smashed into verbs. It took a team of linguists a month to extricate a boardroom of council people from a congealed mass of really long, complicated sentences that didn’t say anything.

In the end, most of the chaotic mess was dumped into the already blackened river. It would be over 20 years before vowels returned to its fsh and rcks.

As for the rest, the editors made a new, sturdier Witty Tank of Words. Only this time they called it Witty Tank of Wise Words knowing full well that that would fix the problem forever and for all time. (Sarcasm had been restored.)

The carnage was over, but the smell of newsprint and gigabytes lingered in the air for years. They say that sometimes during particularly stormy weather long dead languages and hieroglyphics still float to the surface of the raging river.

500 Words or Less Reviews: To Kill a Mockingbird (Film)

In 1960, Harper Lee published her masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. It has since become one of the most beloved books of millions of readers. The movie adaptation of the book bearing the same name was released just two years after its original publication. One might have thought that since the movie was released so quickly after the book’s first appearance it would be extremely good at best, but it is debatably the greatest movie adaptation of a book ever. (To be honest, there are several others that are very close contenders. Nevertheless, TKaM gets my vote.)

In the year it opened, To Kill a Mockingbird garnered eight nominations at the Oscar’s, winning three of those. But moviegoers recognized that it was more than merely one of the best movie of the year; both critics and audiences rightly saw it as one of the greatest movies of all time. It has maintained that status.

I don’t think anything made by mankind is ever perfect. Things that we do and make can always be perfected in some way. But I do admit that there are some things pretty close to perfection. This particular work of art directed by Robert Mulligan fits well in that category.

There is so much to appreciate here, from the mastery of the music, the directing, the writing, the cinematography, etc. Everything clicks, everything turns like a well-oiled movie machine, a projector, if you will. A good argument could be made that the acting is the film’s most outstanding feature. This is particularly true of its three main actors: Gregory Peck (Atticus Finch), Mary Badham (Scout Finch), and Phillip Alford (Jem Finch). This is Peck at his award-winning and iconic finest, which is actually no surprise. Peck is always so good at his profession that he could probably out-act most actors at acting while gagged, tied, and encased in a coffin—and still win an Oscar. No, the actual surprise here is the acting of Badham and Alford, neither of whom had been previously trained but who both did a superb job carrying most of the movie alone.

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in a quaint little town and looks at the world from the young vantage points of Scout and Jem. The story is a coming of age one of sorts. Along their young journey they get their first real glimpse into the adult world filled with its selfish pride, racism, death, and hatred. In the midst of this stands the pillar that is their father, Atticus, a lone bulwark of wisdom and mercy and grace and love.

Along the journey, they will adventure with their best friend Dill Harris, and encounter unforgettable characters like Boo Radley (portrayed by Robert Duvall in his debut film appearance), Tom Robinson, Calpurnia, Mayella Ewell, Bob Ewell, and many other wonderful and colorful people.

Lastly, a final shout-out to legendary composer, Elmer Bernstein, for the film’s haunting, beautiful, utterly timeless soundtrack.

Five Classic Toys of Our Youth

Ah, the days of youth, how quickly they flew away. They were the days that we spent hours of fun enjoying our toys of choice to the fullest. Here are five classic toys members of REO loved in the days gone by.

Slip’N Slide

South Carolina is insanely humid in the summers and while I was blessed to have a local public pool to go to and regular beach trips, some days you just wanted something cheap and convenient to help keep you cool (when you weren’t working out in the field, that is). If whatever this was also happened to be fun, then you had done the impossible.

Enter Wham-O’s Slip’N Slide, a marvel of an invention that millions of kids all over the US have enjoyed for decades now. The set up is so simple: water, a garden hose and a thin sheet of plastic a few yards long. Yet it felt like you had your own water park in your own backyard. Hours and hours of fun were to be had, changing up the way you slid and watching and cheering on others and they did the same. The very name conjures up images and memories that bring nothing but the joy of youthful innocence to this middle-aged heart. (Gowdy Cannon)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I’m still not sure exactly how much of my childhood fascination with the Ninja Turtles was fueled by how much I actually liked the show. I tried to go back and watch some of the original cartoons a few years back, and it hadn’t held up in my mind exactly like I remembered it. The hype at the time, though, was real. And the toys that I played with gave an added physical dimension to the cartoon. One where I created my own stories and added to the lore that was already there.

My favorite toy of them all was the 1989 pizza thrower tank/van. You inserted little plastic pizzas into the top slot, and then a big grey button on the side would launch a pie right out the front, knocking down whatever toy was in its path. The poor foot soldier figurine that I had took regular pizzas to the face, only to be then pummeled constantly by the turtles and friends. Shredder usually put up a better fight, if I recall correctly. I would string zip lines up around my bedroom and have them slide down and crash into the enemies below.

For a kid my age, they were spot on. The toys articulated enough to show lots of expression. They came in tandem with a show that was marketed directly toward my demographic, and they were bigger and bulkier than the G.I. Joes…but in a good way. I probably earned half of my collection by not crying when I had to get a shot at the doctor. My mom always promised me a new toy if I was tough. And for a brand new ninja turtle? Not a speck of moisture would dare pool up in the corner of my eye. (D. A. Speer)


It’s cool that the Transformer toys have come to the new generation. It really is. But the new vision has yet to become the bulwark of awesome that is the 80s transformers toys. Although I ever only owned one. It was Jazz – the greatest toy I’ve ever owned. Took me about two months to perfect the transforming process though.

I largely enjoyed every other Transformer toy through my friends. At my elementary school, Transformer toys were huge. Classmates were constantly bringing their newest robots in disguise to school to show the masses. If I was lucky one friend, in particular, would invite me over for a slumber party where we could play with his armies of Autobots and Decepticons all night long. My favorites of my classmate’s toys included Optimus Prime, Megatron, Sound Wave, and all of the Dinobots.

It may be me just glorifying them in my mind, but the T-toys of that era seemed so much cooler, more durable, and way more complex than the cheap stuff you see at the store now.

I also loved the cartoon, but somehow in my mind, I was able to keep the two separate. That is, I would have liked both just as much if the other never existed. But if I was forced to choose one, it would have been the toys. Truly, my friends, they were worth more than all the gold in Erebor. (Ben Plunkett)


I grew up in Panama. The country. Not the city in Florida. Naturally, things were different for me as a child than for someone who grew up in the United States. With that said, I had access to pretty much all the popular toys. My brothers and I played with G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and anything else we could get our hands on. And we got our hands on a lot of toys. I probably owned as many as 70 different G.I. Joe action figures at one time.

When I was in the third grade, we spent half the year near Asheville, North Carolina and the other half in St. Louis, Missouri for what was called furlough at that time. (The name has been changed to “stateside assignment” for missionaries because “furlough” sounds like a vacation.) While in St. Louis, I attended a Christian school. My classroom had the largest collection of LEGO bricks I have ever seen in one place – outside of a store. Inspired by years of watching cartoons like Voltron – where five robot lions join together to form the giant robot Voltron – I decided to create my own giant robot made out of smaller robots all constructed using LEGO bricks. I spent hours working on it – every recess, every break. Each robot had the same design, though some were bigger than others depending on what part of the body of the giant robot they were to become. It was glorious.

I never completed the giant LEGO robot. I arrived at school one day, with just a few more parts to finish, only to discover that all of my robots had been dismantled and placed back in the bin used to store the bricks. To this day, I have no idea who decided to destroy my work. Why had they waited until I was this close to finishing? Why did they hate all the good things? It left my third-grade spirit broken and miserable. It was okay though as I learned an important lesson that day: Bad things happen and when they do, the best way to deal with the sense of loss and disappointment is to go obliterate all competition on the dodgeball court. A nice dodgeball to your opponent’s face is a healing balm. And trust me when I say this, I healed so much that day in recess playing dodgeball. So much. (Phill Lytle)

BRIO Railway

From 1985-87 my family and I lived in the St. Louis, MO area (across the Mississippi River on the Illinois side), and one of our favorite things to do was visit Union Station. My favorite part of Union Station (besides eating chili dogs at the now non-existent O. T. Hodge Chile Parlor) was visiting the toy train store. I enjoyed watching the model trains running all around the store; but, most of all, I loved playing with the BRIO wooden train sets. My parents could’ve dropped me off there and left me all day, and I would never have noticed they were gone. I’m pretty sure they never actually did that…

When I was a kid, those wooden train sets were exotic; and, as far as I knew at least, only BRIO made them. Now, of course, they are very commonplace and affordable. Many children own their own train tables and multiple sets of tracks and trains. I, however, had only the trains at the train store in Union Station, which I had to share with strangers and only got to visit once a month or so. Until…

It was either Christmas of ’86 or my birthday in early ’87, I don’t remember which, I was absolutely shocked to receive not one, but two BRIO train sets of my own. I’m not sure how my parents were able to do it, but it was probably my favorite present of all time. One set was a figure eight track with a small bridge and a small station with little wooden passengers waiting on the train. The other set was a larger bridge.

I have played with those trains for countless hours, possibly more than I’ve played with Legos, possibly more than I’ve played video games. I’ve cared for those train sets with much love. Even the original packaging lasted until just a few short years ago. Yes, I still have them, 31 years later. I’ve passed them on to my own children, adding on some cheap generic trains and tracks from Ikea and many, many trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. All of the original pieces from my childhood are still there, surviving the many purges of moving. And, now, I think I must dust off the conductor’s hat and go play… (Nathan Patton)

In the comment section below, tell us about your favorite childhood toys. And if you enjoyed reminiscing with us, feel free to share this article with your friends.



Five More Ways to Pretend Your Smart

Long ago I wrote about five incredibly effective ways to make you look smart. However, my teachings are not yet complete, my young Padawans. Here are five more timeless principles of the Smarti Knighthood. Learn them well:

1. Practice “Smart” hand language.
There are many multiplied forms of this. The tip to tip fingers, the beard stroking, the hair twisting, leaning on the fist, the list is long and possibilities multitudinous. All are important, and all can be smartized if effectively used. While all are imperative and must be practiced faithfully, my personal favorite may be the tip-to-tip. One performs this smart hand motion by placing his or her two hands together, fingers touching tip to tip. It is no coincidence that all of history’s world great conquerors were enabled to do so in large part because they mastered the tip-to-tip.

2. Stare Pensively and Ever So Silently into the Distance.
One of the most imperative things you should know about pretending to be smart is that being mostly silent and very brooding is key. This must necessarily be paired with a very pensive gaze into the distance. People will be awed—awed!—because they will assume you are thinking about earth-shatteringly profound idea or revolutionary concept when in reality you are just deciding between Hardee’s and Wendy’s.

3. Make a Habit of Almost Always Talking About Grammar on Social Media.
One of the chief things I absolutely love about social media is that people will let you know when you have made some sort of grammatical blunder. That, my friends, is an excellent way to bolster your smart profile in the eyes of the world. To cap it off perfectly it helps to go ahead and call them a “bloviating ignoramus” and/or an “odious pachyderm.” Indeed, make a practice of constantly talking commas and there, their, and they’re. All will love you and despair.

4. In All Conversations Consistently Remind Everyone with An Ear to Hear that You Possess Encyclopedic Knowledge of all Things from the Foundations of the World to the Present.
This is another of life’s great joys to be found in abundant use on both Twitter and Facebook. When these very gifted and learned people speak their vast knowledge, people listen. They soak it up. In reality, this is a very simple thing to do. Very is actually very little knowledge out there so just pretend like you know all the answers to everything.

This works for real-world conversations as well. In this case, you should be sure to do so only if you’re in at least decent shape. Such is the case since after you regurgitate a “fact” you should run away and hide as quickly as possible while they check your “facts” on Wikipedia.

5. Wear a Cape.
In my last article on pretending to be smart, I mentioned that a wizard’s staff is an excellent clothing item to complement your pretended smartness. While that is an ancient and very respected smart accessory, it is certainly not the only helpful one. There is also the cape. Edna Mode will not tell you that yet another reason that she has the “No Capes!” rule is that she has found that the cape makes her superhero clients look smarter than herself. Imagine Superman or Dr. Strange or Batman without capes. Superdorks, that’s what you would get. Nothing but superdorks.

To utilize a cape to maximum efficiency walk into the wind so that it furls dramatically behind you as you walk. If possible, walk in slow motion.

Five Things Our Mothers Taught Us

Mothers. None of us would be here if they weren’t around. Am I right or am I right? But our moms are so much more than just the person who brought us into the world. I don’t know about you, but there is a universe of knowledge I gleaned from my mom. For this Mother’s Day, the REO team wanted to honor our moms by relating five of the important lessons we learned from them.

Vickie Speer

When I was around 6 years old or so, I was at the supermarket with Mom, and we had finally made it to the checkout line. I asked her if I could get some Starburst candy, and she flat out said “No”…but I just couldn’t take that for an answer. When she wasn’t looking, I wedged the Starburst in between a few other items on the conveyor belt and hoped she wouldn’t notice.

My devious plans were foiled, but not before the cashier had already scanned the candy into the register. My mom held her up from her scanning, and the cashier asked if she should take it off and shelve it. For some reason, mom left it on the bill and bought it. And then, she didn’t let me have the candy. Oh man, it was so much worse knowing for weeks that the candy was in our possession, sitting alone up in the cupboard. The poor, lonely candy. The poor, deprived child.

I probably learned my lesson: No means no. At the very least, I haven’t forgotten it. Still, once enough time had passed, I snatched the candy out of the cupboard and asked Mom if I could have some, and she just hurriedly unwrapped it and let me eat it. I think she forgot about its significance. I ate it with the weight of shame upon me. How could something so sweet be simultaneously so bittersweet? Cast your pejorative gaze upon my childhood shenanigans and learn, O reader. A Starburst eaten with a clear conscience is worth 500 eaten in shame. (D.A. Speer)

Betty Lou Plunkett

When we were kids Mom told us that “Here at The Rock, we have two basic rules. The first rule is: obey all rules. Secondly: Do not write on the walls, as it takes a lot of work to erase writing off of the walls.” Just kidding. That’s Barney Fife. Though she kept decided discipline and order, Mom was definitely not a Barney Mom, constantly spouting off rules, regulations, and long rants of “wisdom.” Mom was not one to dole out a lot of such talk and sage quotable diatribes. Her wisdom was largely displayed through how she lived. Most of what I learned from her I learned by watching her live life and interact with those around her. And I learned so much. One of the ways she most impacted me was via her enduring innate joyfulness and contentment in all situations no matter how dark. Mom had been through a lot of heavy moments in her life: Months in the hospital as a child after accidentally drinking a glass of lye soap; months worth of hours spent in the hospital with me for various reasons; raising four kids; years of serving as a home missionary, foreign mission, and teacher; and finally lymphatic cancer. Yet, for as long as I knew her (since 1973) she always maintained her contented spirit. This is not to say she never got sad or anything like that. Yet even in sadness, there was always that feeling of joy radiating from her. No matter how dark situations got, she had a way of making it feel like matters weren’t that bad. This was even true with her final battle with cancer. Like Paul the Apostle, she had learned the secret of being content even in the darkest moment. That secret was their hope in Jesus. Her contentment and joy came to a head just minutes before she died. During those moments she expressed an almost rapturous joy in Jesus, and we who were present could almost see heaven itself. (Ben Plunkett)

Yvonne Cannon

I remember once my senior year in high school my best friends Wade and John came over one afternoon on a school day – I don’t recall why – but they ended up staying for dinner even though we hadn’t planned for them to do so. My mother cooked extra without even a second thought. Then, again without really planning it, they slept over. On a school night.

The reasons these things happened is because my mother created a home environment where people felt welcomed to treat it like it was theirs. My living room was often packed with our friends on weekend nights when we were teenagers. Some of our friends didn’t even knock when they came over. People of other races and ethnicities were welcomed into our home. My dad’s hunting buddies, Super Bowl parties, Seinfeld finale parties, Bible College visitors, church prayer times…our house was (and still is) constantly being used to host people. Even though our house was well kept, even when my mother worked full time, we worried far less about stains on the carpet and spills in the kitchen than we did about making sure everyone in Turbeville, SC knew there was a place where all were welcome. My dad is a great man, but my mother was the main reason this was so.

So of the million things I have learned from her, most of them from observation and not words, hospitality rises to the top. It takes humility and sacrifice to open up your home to so many people. It’s supremely inconvenient. I wish I could say I appreciated it back then, but I do now. It’s one of the most Jesus-like things about my mother’s life. And one I hope to emulate here in Chicago. (Gowdy Cannon)

Judy Lytle

There is nothing more empowering than hearing the words “you are good at…” It may even be more important for a parent to affirm the things their children do well than to correct their short-comings. As a teen, I more or less floated through life. I am not particularly athletic, musical, or creative. I was fairly shy and just starting to take an interest in academics. Some people can do well just about anything they attempt. Well, I had (have) very few skills. I just was. When I was in high school, my mother told me that I would make a good history teacher or perhaps a good chef. Studying history and cooking were two things I did well and loved doing. That conversation with my mother established the trajectory of my life. This morning I got up early to pray with 30 of my students before taking their AP United States History exam. I also baked them homemade cinnamon rolls. It has been 20 years since my mother said, “You are good at…” but I am living out the empowerment from that conversation nearly every day. (David Lytle)


My mom is the hardest worker I know. If there is a job to do, she does it. If there is a meal to make, a person to visit, a floor to tile, a room to paint, a class to teach… You get the point. Unfortunately, I did not inherit that impressive work ethic from my mother. In my defense, no one in the history of the world has a work ethic like my mother, but it would have been nice to get even 50% of the inner drive she possesses. Also in my defense, I do work very hard if it is for something I love. But my mom works hard period. Full stop. Love or no love, she jumps into every task as if it is the most important thing in the world. And while I don’t have that same character trait, I do have the best example anyone could ask for to push me, nudge me, and even unintentionally shame me a little into working harder on things that I don’t love that much. (Phill Lytle)

Ranting Ever On: The Five Edition

There are days when you just need to rant and rave about stuff. Moments when you need to get it off your chest. You know the drill. If there is something that is bothering you or getting under your skin, this is a safe space to vent. But keep a few things in mind. First, do your best to keep the object of your rant as illogical and pointless as possible. Nobody has time for a rant about something serious and important. Second, try to keep it short and sweet. Long rants wear out their welcome very quickly. Finally, be honest and transparent. Nothing is worse than a ranter ranting about something that doesn’t really bother them that much. It’s plain to everyone around that it is an empty rant, devoid of purpose and passion. Mean it or keep it to yourself.

In our ongoing effort to be helpful and generous, we here at REO have decided to give you, dear reader, a short collection of rants to help guide you in your future ranting. A primer, if you will. Here are five mini-rants about five different things that are deserving of the best we have to offer. We hope you will enjoy this Ranting Ever On, Friday Five style. And please, feel free to add your own rant in the comment section below.

How Pluto has been Dismissed As Not an Actual Planet

Back in grade school, we learned the acronym My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas to remember the planets. The truly awesome thing about this acronym is that we were getting nine pizzas. Nine! But now…now our innocence is lost. No more carefree hours of staring at that pizza planet in the sky (I don’t think we can actually see it, but we can imagine its there). Now It’s just My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine…  And that’s it. Nope, nothing, nada. But there is hope. In recent years there has been a movement afoot to include all of the dwarf planets with the regular planets. If this dream transpires it will be Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Cerus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. I have seen a number of suggested acronyms if this does, in fact, become reality. Unfortunately, none of the suggestions I read have included pizza, which makes me think many people are missing the important point here. Let me suggest My Very Educated Mother Christine Just Served Us Nine Pizzas Having Mucho Everything. So I say its high time we take back our childhood. Let’s take matters into our hands and put that pizza back in the acronym as it so justly deserves. (Ben Plunkett)

Wendy’s “Fresh-Never-Frozen Beef”

Why does Wendy’s now advertise that their beef is fresh and NEVER FROZEN? It is in every commercial they do now. Freezing beef is now up there with being a Nazi as one of the worst sins you can commit in 21st century America. People freeze meat all the time. They buy giant deep freezers just so they can buy a lot of meat and freeze it.

Now Wendy’s has decided that it is horrible to freeze beef. WHAT IS NEXT, WHERE WILL THIS END!?!?!?! (Mike Lytle)

Why Does Carey Elwes Have to Be So Much Cooler Than Me?

Yeah, Carey, I get it. You got to be Westley in The Princess Bride, getting to kiss Robin Wright, hang out with Andre the Giant, have the greatest sword fight of modern times and make women all over the world fawn. And you got a turn as the Dread Pirate Roberts, as if being a pirate isn’t a lifelong fantasy of mine. Yeah, you got to actually be on the set with, run lines with, and act in the same scenes with George Costanza and other characters from Seinfeld once. No big deal. Not like I wouldn’t light myself on fire to have had that opportunity. You got to match wits with Shawn and Gus as the mesmerizing, out-of-the-park home run recurring villain Despereaux in Psych. You even got to prove that when your role is a lame character, like Jerry on Liar, Liar, that you still make it totally unforgettable and quotable! You have the perfect looks, the sublime accent and the filmography I would die for.

And yet all of that apparently isn’t enough, as you have now signed on for Season 3 of Stranger Things. Why do you do this to me, Carey Elwes? Why do you take my perfectly content life and make me yearn for more? (Gowdy Cannon)

Clipping My Fingernails

I hate clipping my nails. It’s boring. it’s tedious, and it seems like I am having to do it more often these days. My nails just won’t stop growing! Why do they have to grow so fast? I’ll admit, I would hate NOT having nails because then my fingers would look like little fleshy protrusions growing out of my hands, but all this nail clipping is just a complete headache. Sadly, there is no good answer here. No nails and I’m a mutant. Long nails and I’m a creep. So I have to clip them. Fine nails! I’ll clip you on a regular basis but don’t expect me to be happy about it! (Phill Lytle)

Internet Lists

Do you know what we need a lot fewer of on the internet? Lists. Some lists are cool, such as this fine websites weekly list of musings from various contributors. I have benefited greatly from sitting down in the morning and creating a daily to-do list But I think the internet has really gotten out of hand and we need to stop. Every time I turn around someone is publishing some inane list of something and they are usually way more than just a few items. “Twenty-five reasons why the number two is cooler than the number eight” or “99 reasons that 1999 was the best year ever!” or “22 reasons that Barb from Stranger Things is the greatest character in the history of fiction”. I haven’t always felt this way. I remember when they celebrated 100 years of film with the top 100 movies of all time. I enjoyed watching that because it was compiled from years of cinema and it made me want to watch some movies that I had never before thought of watching. Now, however, we are just using lists willy-nilly as if they are some magic device that makes our opinion more valid. Why do we like making lists and looking at the lists of others? Is it because we like ranking stuff and seeing if others agree with us even if the things we are ranking aren’t that important and/or really don’t require any sort of ranking? Are we not content to have a group of stuff that we like that isn’t broken down somehow? Do we have to catalog every single aspect of our life and share it with other people and then find ourselves arguing over the ways their list is different than ours? Maybe it annoys me so much because I’ve caught myself ten points deep into a 35 point list that I saw on the internet and realized that my life will not be improved by knowing all of the times that Hurley from Lost proved himself to be the smartest person on the island. Lists are not bad. Lists are fine if used in moderation. But can we please show a little restraint on our usage of lists.

I hope you will revisit the site next week when I publish my list of 19 reasons why I believe that The Walking Dead is all happening inside Jack from Lost’s head. (Jonathan Postlewaite)