A “look, I agree that you did good, but you sure could do better” type of vent

So there’s this Disney series of shorts about Baymax (the healthbot from Big Hero 6), and this clip is going around, where Baymax goes through the “clueless non-period-having adult is dispatched to get emergency products for a teen/tween girl who’s trapped in a bathroom, oh no” gag.

Good: child-friendly media is acknowledging that periods exist!

Also good: one of the people who advises Baymax on period products is a guy in a giant unambiguous trans-flag shirt!

Still good: the stock joke in this scene is no longer “women treat the hapless shopper as some kind of suspicious pervert, because the idea that he might have a tween girl to shop for is totally unimaginable”!

All that is positive and I’m here for it.


I’m still annoyed that the stock joke in this kind of scene is now “hapless shopper can’t figure out all these mysterious products, ends up buying one pack of each just to be safe.”

Why would you do that. Why??

If you were making an emergency run on somebody else’s behalf for tissues, you wouldn’t stand in the tissue aisle and go “oh my god, should I get 2-ply or 3-ply? Do they want the ones with lotion or aloe? Fragrance-free, chlorine-free? How much recycled content is acceptable?? I better bring back 20 boxes of tissues, that’s the only way to make sure my friend gets the correct nose-blowing experience.”

No, you would get one (1) box of tissues — probably the one that was cheapest! — and be done.

Just get one box of pads. That’s all.

If you want more details, I recommend looking for the words “basic”/”regular” and “unscented”/”plain”, but honestly? In the “helping a tween girl stuck in a bathroom” situation, you don’t need to track any of that. Just remember “pads” and you’re covered.

Your job here is not to get her the Perfect Menstrual Product Experience. All she needs is to get from the bathroom to a place where she can restock — maybe she has more supplies at home, maybe she’s going shopping too — without bleeding through her clothes along the way.

Literally any pads in the Feminine Hygiene aisle will handle that.

And, look, maybe the writers are trying to counteract humanity’s chronic “cis men making all kinds of stupid and dangerous laws based on wild misconceptions about how uteruses work, while being convinced that they know everything and are totally qualified” problem.

But I feel like “periods are an exotic and overwhelming mystery, anything period-related is automatically super-complicated and can’t possibly have a simple solution” is…just another strand of that same problem.

Some things have simple answers! It would not be impossible or overwhelming for a well-meaning cis man, and/or balloon robot who goes by “he” but has no biological organs of any kind, to learn a few basic pointers.

Granted, it’s harder than it should be, because a lot of the resources are made by people who think “this is impossible or overwhelming to learn, so we won’t even try to teach it.”

Resources like, ooh, let’s say…an educational cartoon where each episode is about a friendly robot nurse helping one of his neighbors with a health problem?

Crazy idea, I know, but it just might work.

Bonus: while writing this post, my browser spellcheck flagged “uteruses” as a word it doesn’t recognize. For comparison, it doesn’t flag “follicles” or “aortas” or “penises” or “kidneys” or “ventricles” or “testicles.” The mystique of “this topic is sooooo exotic and complicated that you shouldn’t even bother trying” is so widespread, it even affects which plural nouns someone thought were worth putting in a dictionary.


Erin Watches: Yurikuma Arashi, The Last Ship, Moon Knight

RL news is awful, feel free to recharge with this low-stakes post about TV problems.

I finally watched Yurikuma Arashi, the infamous “you all loved my smash-hit Utena, now come watch my show about lesbian bears” anime.

Tried to watch it in 2015 when it first came out, got through 3 episodes, and thought “I can’t tell what’s going on, I’m having a hard time telling all these characters apart, I’m not sure how seriously to take any of these metaphors, and it’s not convincing me to care about any of it.”

(How many people in this picture are secretly bears? The answer may surprise you!)

So this time, before tackling it again, I did some prep:

  • re-upped my paid Funimation account, apparently for the last possible time before they merge with Crunchyroll, so I could watch the dub instead of splitting my focus with subtitles
  • saved the Imagine Me & Utena episodes where they watch Yurikuma, and listened to them every 1-2 episodes to explain all the things I missed
  • opened the SailorMoonSub commentary on each episode (currently only through episode 10) for bonus insights, and also jokes

…and it worked! I got through the whole thing, understood it (you know, as much as you can with an Ikuhara show), and enjoyed it.

Still wasn’t super emotionally invested in most of the characters. Or the main romance. But it had a lot of fun details, and I’m glad I made the effort. (Also glad [spoiler] got to be happy at the end.)

The Lost Ship, episode 1: we are something bigger than the US Navy now, our duty is to the world

Episode 2: meet some evil Middle Easterners, no alliance possible, firefight to the death

Episode 3: meet some evil Russians, no alliance possible, firefight to the death

Episode 4: in transit all episode, don’t meet anyone new…

Episode 5: meet some evil Costa Ricans, but also some good ones! And the evil ones are conveniently unambiguous about it. Firefight to the death with the evil ones, then our heroes left the good ones in charge.

Episodes 6-8: meet one (1) non-evil Jamaican…a teenage girl, retrieved from a boat where everyone else died. So she’s immune, which is magic in Hollywood virology. They rescue her once they deduce she’s useful to them. Our heroes!

Yeah, it’s a “post-apocalyptic-pandemic” show. Aired 2014-2018, so the medicine is awful, in a ton of “now we all know it doesn’t work like that” ways. Once somebody says “nobody here is sick”, everyone instantly believes it (also, asymptomatic carriers, what are those?) and is happy to take off their PPE! The current strain is “stable” and will never mutate! A vaccine takes all of 3 weeks to develop!

But after 2+ years of COVID, the “our duty is to the world” speech in the first episode had me genuinely tearing up. We need so much more of that kind of leadership.

…then I kept watching, and the show seems to have 0% interest in living up to it.

Episode 10: season finale took us back to the US, and I was all set to be annoyed at how (comparatively) well it’s doing. But don’t worry, it’s also run by evil people — they’re Surprise Twist Hidden Evil, not Conveniently Obvious Evil.

It’s also the stupidest kind of cartoon evil. The US city’s power plants are now run on plague victim bodies! Because, as we know from the Matrix, those are the most efficient kind of fuel. And the leaders are killing extra people on purpose, because I guess the fictional pandemic that killed 4 billion humans didn’t provide enough bodies.

…yeah, I’m not going back for season 2.

Okay, it’s official: episode 5 catapulted Moon Knight up my rankings from “pretty good MCU TV” to “top-tier MCU TV, on par with WandaVision.”

I just. I love it when you get people in a fantastical world going through all kinds of magic/alien/mutant/shouty-pigeon trauma, and actually being reasonably traumatized by it, you know? And it’s not just a metaphor for real-world kinds of trauma, it exists alongside them, and interacts with them. And their coping methods involve both believable IRL strategies, and dealing with the magic/alien/mutant/divine stuff on its own terms.

Also, I love a good “headmates learning to work together” story. (And they finally got to hug.)

It’s got me writing fic again, for the first non-Yuletide time in…oooh, a long time. I’m on tenterhooks waiting for this finale.

My family has been keeping up with it week-by-week and talking about it. We’re all fannish in different ways, and in this case I’m the one checking out the comics and reading the online discussions and reporting back with interesting tidbits.

So here’s my mother’s very serious prediction for Episode 6: “It’ll be a recap of the whole series so far, but from Jake’s point of view, showing all the things he experienced that we skipped over. Then there will be a secret Episode 7 that’s the finale.”

(…Maybe next week I’ll regale them with the story of Apple Tree Yard.)

98 days and 40 minutes behind schedule

Spent the weekend at the CWRU Film Society Marathon 47.

Traditionally they hold it in January, over MLK weekend, so in 2020 it went off without a hitch. 2021, they postponed it to May, and ended up holding a version that was “restricted to current students, with special exceptions for people who haven’t missed a single once since 1976.”

This year they decided to let the riffraff back in. With extra safety rules, and a warning that “if this becomes a superspreader event, we won’t be allowed to do it next year.” The crowd was still awfully thin, and we were good about masks, so I think it’ll be okay. (Knock wood.)

Dune (2021) definitely benefited from the big screen. The story was just okay, same as I’ve always found Dune — but they clearly had truckloads of money to spend on sets/props/CGI, and took full advantage. You could’ve watched most of it with the sound off and enjoyed it purely for how pretty it was.

Disaster Squad 2: Dawn of Armageddon (the first Surprise) was a wild ride. It’s a 2-hour movie made by four guys in 2000 while they were in high school. They have borrowed cameras, props made from cardboard and/or bargain-bin Halloween costumes, settings based on whatever buildings around town would let them in, all the effects they could hand-draw in Windows 98 editing software, and incredible dedication.

Also, their eye for visual gags and comic timing is genuinely amazing. (Fair warning, they’re not all winners — it has a few of the unfortunate jokes you’d expect from, well, four straight white teenage boys in the early 2000s.) The whole thing is on YouTube, treat yourself to a watch.

The Iron Giant is amazing, but you knew that. Paired with Howard the Duck and Muppets From Space, it almost made a running theme — “lone misfit from space tries to fit in with humans, while the military-industrial complex almost ruins everything.” Lawnmower Man was sort of a tangent to that — “human misfit from Earth tries to fit in, then goes down the path of becoming less human, while capitalism tries to ruin everything.”

And then there’s the absolute contrast of the Iron Giant to Pacific Rim. Giant robots, they even have similar weapon placements/designs, embodying “I am not a gun” versus “I am SO MANY GUNS and I am going to blast the giant monsters with ALL OF THEM and it’s going to be AMAZING.”

…don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting anything out of Pacific Rim except high-budget robots punching monsters and smashing up cities. And it delivered! No complaints.

Okay, one complaint: Mako Mori deserved better. (I was expecting that too, but still.) The last movie before this one was Moon Zero Two, a 1969 film with exactly the same aesthetic/budget as Star Trek TOS but none of the compelling writing or likeable characters, and it was very notable how the One Female Character spends most of the movie having men send her places and tell her what to do. Then we jump forward to 2013, and get…One Female Character who spends most of the movie having men send her places and tell her what to do.

I always keep an eye on how many of the movies pass the Bechdel Test, and this year — not counting the ones I slept through — was a dismal two (Dune and the Muppets). Anyone know offhand about Lifeforce (1985) or Space Battleship Yamato (1977)?

It’s still a novelty to do the whole Marathon and then just…be home, basically instantly, no plane ride or 8-hour drive still to go.

Wasn’t fast enough as far as the cats were concerned — I’ve left the Fluff alone for a bit before, but this is the longest I’ve left him and Fiddlesticks alone together. Both investigated me pretty hard when I got back. Good news, I passed their tests. And it looks like they didn’t fight, or run out of food, or destroy anything! Which means they passed mine.

Scams, cults, schemes, & frauds

A reclist of good (and free!) listens, in a genre I’ve been diving into pretty hard lately.

Some are ongoing series; others have ended (officially or unofficially), but their back catalogs are still worth checking out.

MLMs/Pyramid Schemes

  • The Dream (podcast): Season-long deep dive into the social and legislative history of MLMs. Then a follow-up on the “wellness” industry. Great background knowledge to have for some of the other recs.
  • Life After MLM (podcast): In-depth, sympathetic, long conversations with survivors of pyramid schemes, from the obscure to the famous. The stories are personal and unique! The underlying grift is always exactly the same.
  • Sounds Like MLM But OK (podcast/Youtube): A tour of pyramid schemes. Not so much deep-diving here, it’s more about the rubbernecking.
  • Multi Level Mondays (YouTube series): Wide-ranging survey of MLMs. You probably knew about the makeup/clothing/vitamin ones, but did you know they’ve sold insurance, chocolate, ants, CBD, and dirt? (Literally! Dirt.)

Finance & Cryptocurrency Scams

  • Coffeezilla (Youtube channel): Finance scams! With a focus on crypto scams, especially recently. Videos are mostly short, all energetic, and really accessible for those of us without business degrees.
  • Crypto Critics’ Corner (podcast) Crypto scams, plus analysis of shady behavior that suggests “Scam Reveal on the horizon, it’s gonna be all over your timeline any day now, get the popcorn ready.” Always a fascinating listen. Gets a lot more technical/into-the-financial-weeds, so if you’re like me and don’t have much background in that already: binge Coffeezilla for the accessible explanations first.
  • Exit Scam (podcast): Or binge this first! Season-long deep dive into a career fraudster, how he pivoted from traditional Ponzi schemes to running a crypto exchange, and how it all came crashing down. Walks you through lots of backstory really well.

Other Tech & Business Scams

  • KickScammers (Youtube series): Stories of crowdfunding campaigns that were misrepresenting their products. Or ran off with the money. Or, in one memorable case…backers got the rewards, only to find out the device exploded. Can reach a bit too hard to zazz a story up (e.g. an ominous “The rewards…were never delivered” on a KS that didn’t fund, i.e. the creator wasn’t paid to deliver any rewards in the first place) — but there’s enough genuine drama, it’s fun even thru the spin.
  • The Great Fail (podcast): Officially tells the stories of failed businesses, but a ton of them were scams from the start (think Theranos, Juicero), or crashed because they *got* scammed (think Toys’R’Us).
  • Easy Prey (podcast): Less “history of individual scam incidents,” more “outlines of different scam genres, and how to stop/avoid them.” Plus interviews with people in security fields. Sometimes experts! Usually interesting. (Had a personal interview with John McAfee not long before his death, for anyone who wondered “okay, these stories sound unhinged, but what’s he like firsthand?”)

Romance & Interpersonal Scams

  • The Perfect Scam (podcast): 1-2-part overviews of different scam types, guest interviews with specific survivors. Focused on the ones most likely to target older people – romance scams, tech support scams, grandparent scams. The co-host of the early seasons is the Catch Me If You Can guy, so you also get regular tidbits about his IRL scamming history — up to you whether you think they’re more or less interesting than the main topic of each episode.
  • Fool Me Twice (podcast): Host’s mother gets romance-scammed, host does a season-long breakdown of how it went down. Then returns for a breakdown of a diamond scam (more specific than “the whole diamond industry”) (but there’s some of that too).
  • Something Was Wrong (podcast): Host’s friend gets elaborately scammed, host does a season of interviews with friends/family to unpick all the lies, one listener goes “whoa that happened to me too,” host sets out to interview *their* friends/family…It must be such a relief, when someone tells a multi-year web of lies to a big group of people, when a journalist-minded person comes in with fresh eyes and the goal to systematically unravel it all. (And it’s a good listen, too, since it’s 9 seasons and counting.)
  • Scientology: Fair Game (podcast): More long conversations, this time about the same cult. Abusive, fraudulent, always worse than you think. Hosted by two survivors, great at expositing all the weirdest details for those of us from “the real world.” (The podcast is a follow-up to their documentary TV show on the same topic — it’s not free, but if you have a streaming service that carries it, you might want to watch that first.)
Comedians Tell Their Friends About Scams Of All Kinds
  • Lie, Cheat & Steal (podcast): Two comedian friends take turns telling each other about famous liars, frauds, thieves, and cons. Some historical, some ongoing, all entertaining. With bonus episodes on their Patreon!
  • Scamtime (podcast): Two comedian friends take turns telling each other about famous scams. Funny, interesting, and they’re Canadian, which makes everything 25% more charming.
  • Scam Goddess (podcast): Comedian host tells her comedian friend guests about history-making frauds, ongoing cons, and reader write-ins about their non-headlining adventures in low-key scamming.
…got a favorite that isn’t listed here? Please tell me about it, I’m always looking for more.

Erin (Re)Watches: Boston Legal, Rebuild of Evangelion, the bluescreen of a misbehaving laptop

Started rewatching Boston Legal for my comics-making background TV, and all the B-roll of streets and buildings is making me really nostalgic for Boston.

…but definitely *not* nostalgic for the 2000’s. The level of Cultural Discourse we were wading through, holy cats.

One standout: mall Santa gets fired when a kid says “Santa please make me normal, I like wearing girl clothes,” and Santa says “nothing wrong with that, so do I.”

And the baseline defense is “look, it’s not like he would tell EVERY kid he crossdresses! This was a special case!”

Instead of “oh ffs why *not* tell everyone? These are regular street clothes. Women wear them all the time. Every child in this boy’s class should be told that, hey, some men wear them too — maybe even Santa! — and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

After almost a whole month of good behavior — and precisely 3 days after the original service contract expired — New Computer did the thing again on Saturday.

And then yesterday, I woke up to find it back on its old “doing the thing on Thursdays” schedule.

(Checked the update history — as I expected, there isn’t anything new corresponding to either restart.)

Is this just going to be a Technically Harmless But Still A Huge Nuisance feature of New Computer for the rest of its operational life? Signs point to “ughhhh.”

After rewatching the first three Rebuild of Evangelion movies, I finally got to the fourth one today.

The animation is stunning. Not just the wild mecha battles, but the startlingly natural detail in tiny motions like “Shinji throws his SDAT player and it goes skittering across the ground”. And the backgrounds — they have this low-key showing-off trick where they’ll come up with a lushly detailed set, then draw it at a dozen different long-shot angles, so they have to do a new full painting every time.

Also, we spend like 40 minutes in an idyllic little farm town that’s been cultivated and defended against the post-Impact wasteland, where they apparently got Studio Ghibli to collaborate. It absolutely paid off.

How much can I talk about the plot at this point? I haven’t run into a single unmarked spoiler in the wild…which suggests that either the early viewers are being extra-conscientious, or that most people haven’t gone to the effort to see it yet.

In general:

It’s wild and twisty, but, you know, in on-brand-for-Eva ways. There’s some setup that doesn’t pay off, some payoffs that weren’t really set up, but each chunk ranges from “competent” to “deeply satisfying.”

There were characters who got to be so happy that you figured they definitely wouldn’t make it through an Eva film alive (did I mention there are people living in a Ghibli village??). A surprising amount of them pull it off anyway. Sometimes the TV-series lore gets punted off into space. Other times, they go so hard with the callbacks, the original titles are literally flashing on screen.

I will spoil this: the penguins are okay. This movie knows which questions are really essential to answer, and it delivers.