Hey, someone did a drawing about this already. And it's all scientific-like.
Thanksgiving is the day you default to family. At least it was when I was growing up. People just show up out of the blue and when you’re only eight years old and you only just met these people its really hard to keep track of them. I have no idea what half of my relatives’ names are now and I’m 33.
So you just default to assuming everyone you meet on Thanksgiving is family. Everyone I see on the train is in my family.
But you don’t need to know your relatives’ names or your friends names because you can get all that information from the internet. Just keep browsing your friends list until you find their face, then you have their name.
I know you’ve all done that.
People used to have to memorize that stuff. Think of how much brain space is freed up now to have imaginary relationships with movie stars and politicians.
Because that’s what we’re doing. The anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorized that people can only keep track of around 150 people. That is, you know how 150 different people will interact with you and with each other. Later studies upped this number to 231, but that’s not as sexy and round a number, so 150 is still the common wisdom.
That’s the level of community we evolved at. We were once only tribes, numbering a maximum of 150 or 231. When we got bigger than that, some of us split off and formed a new tribe.
150 doesn’t sound all that big, but you are constantly keeping track of how those people would all interact with each other. Think of it: you can probably easily imagine how your aunt and your college roommate, who have never met each other, would interact if they met. The number of relationships you are tracking is actually 150 to the 150th, which is a VERY large number of interpersonal combinations.
But, you say, “I have more than 150 friends on Facebook right now.” Right. What you’re doing is sharing out friend slots. Four people can share a slot as long as you only think about them one-quarter of the usual time.
That’s what my distant relatives were like for me: one-fourth of a person each. They were obviously important, my parents acted as if they were, but I never, ever saw them. It was hard to reserve space in my brain for them, especially when I had to memorize every comic book hero and villain and imagine how they would all interact with each other and with me, when I got my superpowers.
Now its the real world. We all have personal relationships with Obama and Bush, for example. We probably all hate one and like the other, but they take up slots. You can imagine how each person you know would interact with both Obama and Bush. I sure as hell know what all of my friends and family think of each of them, because now, they are part of our tribe.
We’re all one tribe on Thanksgiving.
And yet, and yet, we can’t quite get our tiny ape heads around accepting everyone in the world as part of the tribe. I’m telling you now that they are. That’s the inevitable destination we’ve been wading towards since we left the trees.
The secret to world peace is to realize that we’re all in the same tribe. We just need to share out our friend slots on a greater scale.
Take 6 of your 150 friend slots and sub-divide them out around the world. You can still reserve 144 for your friends and family.
There are roughly 6 billion people you don’t know. Give each of those people one one-billionth of a friend slot. They can share.
The dying people in Somalia and Afghanistan and Detroit are all in the tribe. The rich people in New York and London and New Delhi are all in the tribe.
We’re all in the tribe. Stop killing us, everyone. Everyone, stop killing us.
Each of us is now responsible for the life of everyone. Be a responsible adult. No more war for us, us eager murderers of aliens with different skin colors or ideas.
End it all now. I’m talking to everyone. We are directly responsible for all the people your government kills. I’m a murderer. So are you. End it. Stop killing with war and pollution and greed.
It’s Thanksgiving. Default to family.
Part three will be cheerier.
Sorry, I have no jokes to put in picture captions right now. Come up with your own, if you're laughing.
That turkey really deserves that trophy. It's at the perfect intersection of 54 and 16. First prize.
In New York on Thanksgiving, you must wade.
Those of us who are adept at wading prosper, and shave precious minutes off our trips.
Those who cannot wade through the cars and pedestrians and trains are losing time. And what is life but a long stretch of time?
If you don’t wade, you’re just wasting your life.
This is how you Wade.
What’s wading? Go to the ocean. Stand where the water is as deep as your chest. Face the sea and walk. That’s wading.
That’s what we do in New York, to go faster. Cars and people and traffic and trains replace the the sea.
We wade in the city, those of use who cannot afford surfboards or jet skis.
We don’t have cars. We’re never in taxis. We can barely afford the train. We wade as hard and as fast as we can, and we live longer than you. Because every five minutes you gain by struggling as hard as you can against New York is five more minutes you get to spend as you choose. Immortality is best achieved one step at a time.
It is the future. You live on a giant floating metal donut near Titan. All food and drink are free. You cannot die, because little robots will find your corpse and rebuild a new body for you. Augmented reality tags hang on everything. The only thing that matters is how many people like you, because if they like you, you get Flow.
And Flow is all.
Once you wrap your head around the idea that the only things you are entitled to on the donut are sustenance and immortality, your whole perspective of the world changes.
This is a game where giving someone a “Frownie” – the equivalent of Facebook’s much-clamored-for-but-never-implemented Unlike button – is worse than killing them.
Sure sure, if someone dies they are unconscious for a day as the Aggregate (the giant AI that runs things) rebuilds their body, but if you Frownie someone they lose Flow. They become less popular. And that is the true death of this game. Unpopularity.
This is a game where life is unashamedly nothing more than a popularity contest.
If you want to pay someone something, you give them Flow. But also, you can earn Flow. If you and someone else become friends, you each get some Flow. You can spend that Flow on anything you want. So the more friends you have, the richer you become. Flow is also used to complete any in-game action, and here you can see the true elegance of the mechanic.
If you want to grow yourself a living Welsh Corgi, like we did last game, you spend flow on it. If you are a direct descendant of Sam Adams and you need to defend yourself in a bowling alley against a direct descendant of Andrew Jackson, which happened to me last game, you spend flow.
The essential elegance of Freemarket does slow down a bit once we get to the card mechanic.
You solve disputes by playing a little card game, which also uses your stats. It’s pretty similar to rolling dice, but since it’s a deck, you can anticipate future results and do some card-counting if you want to. I did. Decks have 45 cards and the cards don’t change, and you don’t reshuffle the discard pile back into the deck, so you can, in some ways, see the future.
The cards are cool, but they do slow down gameplay and force it in certain directions.
As anyone knows, most conflicts can be solved by role-playing the thing out. You don’t always need to get into a prolonged rules-bound engagement.
That’s probably the issue with the cards. With dice, you can just roll one and decide what that means. Every time you want to do something major in Freemarket, you need to do a whole Tarot-style spread to see what happens in the future.
That’s fine if that’s the only kind of conflict resolution you want, but I prefer things a little looser. Still, this is a game I’m absolutely sure I will find myself playing again, because it’s just, well – fun.
Something about this game is very fun. The design and artwork are beautiful. The setting is clever and funny and not pushy or arrogant. You can make pretty much any character you want.
I am John Samuel Adams, 55th generation direct descendant of Sam Adams, and I came to the dount after my family’s attempt to establish New America on Mars failed. I have a robotic eagle painted red white and blue called Uncle Sam. I also have a deadly flying poisonous robot wasp.
My friend is Les Bitters, from the Lebowski family. He’s an expert at growing living organisms, bowling and mixing White Russians. We grew a Corgi for him last game.
We’re barely scratching the surface with these characters. One of the NPCs we interact with is called Galaxy Orange. He’s human, but he’s a giant orange ball of fur with a big black snout. Humans can look like anything now, with so much bio-engineering.
On HBO. You've heard of it. Steve Buscemi is in it. Martin Scorcese directs. Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg are executive producers. Should be good, right?
About Boardwalk Empire I say, “Meh.” After three episodes, I haven’t seen a real female character, but I have seen a lot of adolescent male fantasy and blowjobs. I say, “Meh.”
I mean, for the most part, you can say that about the Venture Brothers, except for the blowjobs. But the Venture Brothers is a cartoon.
Compare Boardwalk Empire to something like Deadwood and you’ll see what I mean. By this time, Deadwood has many real female characters, and it is set in a time when women had even fewer rights and opportunities than they did in the 1920s.
Scorcese’s direction is great. Buscemi is great in the lead. The cinematography is great. But the script is just: “Meh.”
All of the women are in love with the men. The men have all the power and each has at least one woman in love with him, usually two or three.
This is essentially a harem anime.
Dear God I want to be Tenchi Muyo so bad.
By the time we get to episode Four, the female characters are:
1) A profoundly stupid chorus dancer/prostitute.
When she speaks up at dinner and then is challenged to state her view of the League of Nations she doesn’t know what it is, and then says, “But Paris sounds swell. Will you take me there, Daddy?”
Maybe not the most sexist character ever written, but we are getting close to it.
2) A way-too-naive irish waif who Steve Buscemi rescued from her big, menacing, abusive, alcoholic husband by framing him for murder and then having him killed. She’s a single mother raising her children, but her story does not exist except in ways that it affects Steve Buscemi’s character’s storyline. She will be the good girl that Buscemi eventually marries.
3) Another beautiful chorus girl, who performs in the nude. So, the 1921 equivalent of the best looking stripper, aka the whore with a heart of gold.
She falls in love with one of the male leads for no reason at all. He follows her around for 3 days, then they talk once. They each say 20 words. Then she grabs his dick. This is basically porn. There is only a thin veil of story cast on top of it.
There are some more equally bad female characters I’ll talk about later.
Female characters aside, let’s look at this weird section of dialogue and what it tells us about the thoughts that went in to making this show.
The Senator has just come to visit Steve Buscemi, who plays the Treasurer of Atlantic City. The Senator has just inferred that he will soon be President, and that he can order Buscemi around any way he wants. Then he decides he wants to change his drink, so he says:
I’m through with this champagne!
What’s your pleasure, senator?
I’ll have a Pimm’s Cup.
I’m sorry, we have no Pimm’s Cup tonight.
For God’s sake, why not?
I should have seen this coming when I found out Mark Wahlberg was an executive producer.
Remember when this was who Mark Wahlberg was?
I can imagine Mark Wahlberg coming across the Wikipedia entry for Pimm’s Cup, which is a jello-shot-type alcoholic drink that people used to drink back then, and just loling about the fact that a Pimm’s Cup sounds just like the phrase “a pimp’s cup”, and then demanding that it be inserted into the script at least three times.
Now he works with this guy.
Ever notice how people just casually call Martin Scorcese “Marty”, just to prove to you that they are close enough to Martin Scorcese that they can casually drop his childhood nickname in public? Well, I’m doing that, and I’ve never even MET him.
Anyways. MARKY MARK meets with MARTY SCORCESE across the Executive Producer’s table:
Pimp’s cup! Pimp’s cup! Pimp’s cup! Three times, Scorcese!
What is this? I don’t even -
MARKY MARK (rapping)
Yo! It’s about that time
To bring forth the rhythm and the rhyme
Please, not again, Mark.
MARKY MARK (rapping)
Marky Mark and I’m here to move you
Rhymes will groove you
And I’m here to prove to you
That we can party on the positive side
And pump positive vibes
So come along for the ride
I’m with you, Mark. Please, get off the table and put your shirt back on.
Making you feel the rhythm is my occupation
So feel the vibration
(MARKY MARK jumps off the table and tackles MARTY SCORCESE.)
Come on come on
Feel it feel it
Feel the vibration
I feel it all through my chest, Mark. Please, I can’t sit up.
MARKY MARK (rapping)
It’s such a good vibration
It’s such a sweet sensation
It’s such a good vibration
It’s such a sweet sensation
I can’t breathe.
MARKY MARK (rapping)
Donnie D break it down
There’s another one of the Funky Bunch in here?
DONNY D (rapping)
Donnie D’s on the back up
DONNY D (rapping)
Drug free, so put the crack up
No need for speed
I’m the anti D-R-U-G-G-I-E my
Body is healthy
MARTY SCORSESE (rapping)
Good for Ye
We’re all real Funky Bunchers
Drug pushers are just monkey punchers
Don’t you agree, Donny D?
DONNY D (rapping)
My rhymes make me wealthy
And the Funky Bunch helps me
To bring you a show with no intoxication
Come on feel the vibration
I feel it, Donny D. I feel the vibration.
MARTY SCORSESE (to Mark)
Three times, Mark. He’ll say it three times. Donny, can you call an ambulance?
Ok, you can stand up then. Donny D, let him go.
Pimm’s cup it is! But that’s the only decision you get to make as executive producer!
Yahyee! Pimp’s cup it is.
(MARKY MARK and DONNY D dance out.)
I knew emailing him that link would work in my favor.
“Are You There God, It’s Me, Dean”, episode nine of the Venture Brothers, is the episode that grew the show its beard. Here it is:
Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, the show’s creators, like to name “Tag Sale, You’re It!” as the beard-grower. What’s more accurate is that ”Tag Sale” is the episode wherein the creators realized they had a beard. If you’re confused by all the beard nonsense, read this from tvtropes by clicking on either photograph of Jonathan Franzen:
Now, take a good look at those pictures up there. Because they are related. Sad ex-child-adventurer Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture is allied with priggish Pre-beard Riker, while Billy Quizboy squires with strong and in-charge Bearded Riker.
This is the episode that brings in the endearing tertiary characters like Billy Quizboy and Number 21. This episode shows us Quizboy and Pete White, who the authors claim as their avatars, in argument with the premise of the show. Will it remain tethered by the narrow premise of being the sad afterlife of a child adventurer, or will the show break free into the comics nether and come into its own.
In short, will it grow the beard? Will it become an adult show?
It does. Happy Birthday to the Venture Brothers.
Publick and Hammer are trope-aware. They know about Ryker’s beard and they, I suspect, are more expert in many areas of pop culture than I am. But I wonder if they truly planted all the references to hair and beards in this episode, or if they were just as surprised and delighted as me by their creation.
Let’s talk about Number 21. This is his first major appearance, and he is my favorite Venture Brothers character. Early, he argues with his cohort 19 about whether Smurfs re-produce by egg or whether the mother carries to term. This slightly cliched argument is the first of many they will have on the show about pop culture.
But what does 21 end up shouting at the end of this episode?
“Papa Smurf has a beard! He has a beard!”
Now the creator sings out against his hamstrings. He yearns to throw off the trappings of his premise. He hopes against hope that his work does not become the Smurfs, a formulaic show where the same damn thing happens every episode.
He doesn’t want his show to be a children’s show. He wants it to be a show for adults.
He wants it to grow a beard.
Have some cake. It’s a birthday party for the Venture Brothers. Mazel Tov. You are Venture Men.
By the way, I’m not going to spend a lot of time rehashing the story. I’ll talk about specific events and characters, but if you want to know about the plot, then you should just go watch the damn thing. Which, in truth, I recommend to all of you: go and watch the damn thing.
I’m trying to make my paragraphs longer. It hurts real bad and I don’t think it’s an experiment I’ll stick with, but that’s why my paragraphing may be a bit off during this review. But who reads reviews for the paragraphs? Except me, maybe?
Let’s just go to this episode:
Pause at 0:51.
“I look like Rufio.”
This is a reference to the movie Hook, a forgettable Robin Williams adaptation of Peter Pan, which I just happened to see twice in the theatre with my friend Mike Weir, when we were, like, thirteen. We saw it once, and the sound shorted out so we didn’t get to see the end, and they gave us free passes, so we decided to go see it again.
I remember Rufio.
He was the leader of the pirates, in Peter Pan’s absence. Peter Pan, you see, had grown up. He’d become, of all things, gasp – a pirate. That’s right: though 1991 was the year, Peter Pan had grown up to be one of those 1980s Wall Street archetypes: the Junk Bond Pirate.
The Junk Bond Pirates were around for quite some time in the 80s, according to certain movies I’ve seen, like Pretty Woman. They would seize your company, slice up the pink fleshy assets, sell them to other companies, and gorge themselves on the profits. And now Peter Pan was one of them.
This is how they pitched that movie: Wall Street meets Fantasia.
It was just missing pink hippos. And Michael Douglas.
Michael Douglas, swimming casually.
No, Michael Douglas, swim for your life! Hippos are more dangerous than lions! Why are you swimming in hippo territory?!
I will save you, says Rufio.
But Rufio was just a minor character in that movie, some punk kid Pan had to Crow off to regain his throne. Hook skewers him at the end, and the movie affords him little pathos.
But Rufio was a badass. He fought Hook and almost got him, before he died. Who else has said, without fear, “Looky, looky, I got Hooky.”
The Venture Brothers referenced a minor character from a 1990s kid movie. That’s how unashamed they are to plumb pop culture. It happened to be a movie I saw twice in the theater. That’s how magical attuned the show is to my life.
But, most importantly, they plucked a hidden badass. Rufio was a badass, the hidden badass inside every nerd kid. They picked that guy on purpose for their little reference. They may not know they did, but they did. They picked the diamond in the rough.
If this show is about anything else, this show is about the success of the diamond in the rough, as much as its creators claim the opposite. Of course they are inveterate liars, being fiction authors.
This show is about the quiet, progressive success of the underdog. The same nerds the authors and I once were, and still at heart are.
The Venture Brothers is the final revenge of the nerds.
Venture Brothers is a show I’ve been playing with for a while. Season one is clever. It is not great. It is worth watching. Season two is much better.
Season three and later is fine, fine television. You could bet fine television like this against millions of dollars in the right poker game. If you were playing with someone who has a specific interest in these sorts of things. Someone like me.
I have bet a significant amount of time and thought in my poker game with this show, and I am all in. This show hits every childish nerd-nerve I have. Every thing I loved as a child is here.
Some questions I ask myself when evaluating whether I should spend time watching a show or not are:
Age five: Are there superheroes? Are there spaceships?
Yes. Yes. I, five years old, am in.
Is it action figures in action? Yes. Does it have boy protagonists? Yes.
I, eight, am in.
Does it have science fiction? Yes. Does it have a wizard? Yes!
I, twelve, am in.
Are the Fantastic Four in it? Yes. Is there a scantily clad woman in it? Yes.
I, fifteen, am in.
Does it have a dark power? Yes. Does it have a vampire hunter? Yes.
I, seventeen, am in.
Is it Einstein smart? It its range of references deep? Is it unafraid and unapologetic? Does it create lovable and unforgetable characters and then mercilessly savage them? Yes.
Does it always take as much time as is it needs to tell the story at hand, and yet still pace better than Mamet? Yes/
Does it tell us more about popular culture than any documentary? Yes.
Does it entertain, god-balls-all-out entertain?
I, thirty-three, am in. I call.
Full House. Aces over eights. I take the chips.
Wait, the Venture Brothers say, their white-cuffed arms barricading me.
We have a royal flush.
The Venture Brothers win.
The Venture Brothers wins. There is no fail.
Wolverine cannot rend the Venture Brothers.
Ozymandias cannot out-smart the Venture Brothers.
Dave Sim, in his spacey misogynistic hog heaven cannot out-weird the Venture Brothers.
Scott McCloud cannot out-analyze Publick and Hammer.
The Venture Brothers are the boy child spirit at the heart of every man.
And they are the best show on television right now.
Then come back and watch it with me. It is here we go our several ways.
The young man: if a young man dreams to be a man, that is the man they dream to be.
This is why he is so bland. He is the vessel for the audience to dream of being. And they are not.
But of course this is Todd as a young man. He was the young man all young men dream of being.
The old woman: no spoilers.
There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit and the vermin of the world inhabit it and it’s morals aren’t worth what a pig would spit and it goes by the name of London.
At the top of the top of the hole sit the privileged few making mock of the vermin in the lower zoo. Turning beauty into filth and greed.
I too have sailed the world, and seen it’s wonders. For the cruelty of men is as wondrous as Peru. But there’s no place like London.
The young man is kind. But he is bland. He is so kind. But he is so bland.
There was a guy my friend used to date and he was so bland, so bland. His name was Andrew. And, like Ann in Arrested Development, we called him Egg. Eggdrew. If you don’t get these references, stop reading now.
Eggdrew was a competent young man, about computers or something. I know computers and I never could get a read on him: was he hardware, software, or just a schmoe?
He was a schmoe. He was Eggdrew. He was the bland young man.
He was so bland his black peaked hair made you think of the bland young man in Todd instead of the Mountains of Peru.
His inky black eyes made you think of the bland young man in Todd instead of the Dardenelles.
He was just that bland. He was like Luke Skywalker before he leaves Tatooine.