The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Reincarnation

snake eating lizard

One of my worst fears is to be reincarnated as an insect or some other small prey animal.  You are guaranteed a horrible, painful death.  You are most likely to get destroyed by some other animal, if you don’t smash on a windshield or become some toddler’s torture toy.

And animals are not kind to each other.  If you can avoid getting your head ripped off after mating, or torn apart in a ant vs. termite war, you’re guaranteed to get eaten.  You’ll become old and slow, and eventually you won’t be able to avoid that flicking tongue.

And it’s not like there’ll be a crunch and instant death either.  You are alive when they start to eat you.  You won’t die right away, or shut down.  The frog or snake’s going to swallow you whole, while you feebly struggle in its cavernous mouth.  You’ll find a new definition of pain as you are slowly digested.

The sad part is that if you are reincarnated, you are almost guaranteed to become some other animal’s food.  (Assuming that the border limit is at least multicellular animals)  The odds just work that way.  There are a lot more insects and fish in the world than humans.

I hope animals don’t feel pain.  At least not in the same way we do.  They go through so much agony — constantly searching for food and starving in-between, craving to mate.  And they die constantly.

Analyzing the Disney Villains: Edgar (The Aristocats)

edgar butler aristocats
Origin: The Aristocats (1970)

Edgar Balthazar. I have not seen a worse Disney villain. I think he may be the worst. At least he won’t be making any AFI top ten lists. He’s pathetic, he’s incompetent, he’s dull. Someone like Maleficent or Ursula would have put a bullet in his head on day one. It doesn’t help that he’s in such a tedious movie, but part of the villain’s job is to spice things up. And is there anything more cliche than “the butler did it”?

Motivation: A little part jealousy and a little part greed. There’s no originality in a guy seeking vengeance or reclamation because he got cut out of the will. That’s a white people problem first world problem rich people problem irrelevant to me. Other than that, I’d probably trust Edgar to be my butler — I don’t have any pets and I never leave the intercom on.

Character Strengths: I don’t think he has any character strengths. I suppose he’s a competent at his job — he helps that doddering old man up the stairs, and can get a cuppa on time — but he can’t wait a few years for the cats to die so he can get the inheritance. Even if he didn’t wait, what does he expect the cats to do with the money? Someone’s going to have to use it. Someone’s going to have to feed the cats. Just skim some cream off the top until you can get the whole bowl.

Not to mention when he does make his criminal move, it devolves into three-stooge-like buffonery with redneck dogs, sight gags, and rubberface mugging. All it does his show is ineptitude. He can’t even drown a bag of sleeping kittens. Not to mention he doesn’t have the foresight to simply shoot them in the face. And then he leaves all kinds of evidence behind, and doesn’t even make sure the cats are dead.

Evilness: As aforementioned, he doesn’t make the smart move of killing the cats outright. Of course, if he does that, there would be no movie (hallelujah) but in the climax when he has the chance to correct his mistakes, he screws it up. A few cats attack him (fat, stray cats, mind you) and they send him to Abu Dhabi a la Animal Farm.

Tools and Powers: He has two natural abilities. Jack and shit. And Jack left town.

Complement to the Hero: Like Bambi, this movie is all about twee animals being twee. The wikipedia page lists O’Malley as the deuteragonist rather than the protagonist, but I think O’Malley’s the one that changes the most in this story. Fact is, it’s hard to find material for this area, because the hero is just as badly written. He has nothing he wants, no back story, he gets nothing by helping Duchess — he doesn’t even want a little tail (these are the jokes, people). He just pops up like an guardian angel, and accomplishes anything he tries. He even has no problem shedding his stray lifestyle. At least the Tramp had to think about it.

Fatal Flaw: I dunno. Maybe hubris, since for some reason he feels it necessary to tell the horse what he did, which sets off “the rescue”. Look, I know animals can’t talk, but if I had just committed a plan to betray my employer — my wealthy employer — I’d still keep my trap shut just in case someone’s hiding behind the barn.

Maybe it’s lack of killer instinct, since he doesn’t have the balls to take out a few fluffy pets (the stray, however, he tries to stab with a pitchfork… and MISSES!) Maybe his fatal flaw was that he should have learned how to use a gun.

Method of Defeat/Death: While he’s attempting to seal the trunk, a bunch of alley cats scamper to the rescue, latching onto his arms and legs, until he falls into the trunk he intended to lock the cats in. I’m surprised I didn’t see a ripped out pant seat with heart underwear.

Final Rating: (Need I say it?) One star

Analyzing the Disney Villains: Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)

ratigan great mouse detective

Or Professor Padraic Ratigan to his friends. Of which he has many. It’s pretty easy to have a good villain when you’re simply lifting one of the greatest, already existing antagonists in literary history. But adding mouse ears and Vincent Price’s voice goes a long way towards making this one of the most underrated villains in Disney canon.

Motivation: Ratigan doesn’t want money — he already has a bunch — nor vengeance nor escape. He wants power. Why? I’m not sure, other than it would be cool to put on his resume. He seems to have a problem with his lot in life — a mastermind condemned to the sewers because he’s a rat big mouse.

And on the plus side, he’s not a one-dimensional Lex Luthor — he has a backstory with Basil, the Sherlock Holmes expy, and we know his past crimes have made headlines. It’s just too bad we never get to see any of that. But kudos to Disney for extending the story to something that exists outside of what’s presented.

Character Strengths: Not only can he play a classy harp, but he’s obviously an analytical genius. He can extrapolate, deduce, and predict with the best of them. It’s really too bad he’s stuck with cartoonish flights of fancy, because he could really do some damage to the human world.

He’s really quite well-liked in geek circles and I didn’t know why until I saw the movie. Then I figured it out: he’s the Joker. A criminal talent whose prone to fits of psychosis, maniacal laughter, and displays of grandeur. Just like the Joker he knows he’s the bad guy and he loves that.

Evilness: Good marks here too. On the surface, he’s got charisma, style, and a track record. Make one mistake and, after a near psychotic break, he’ll calmly call for his “you have failed me for the last time” henchcat, Fluffy. Which, to a tiny mouse, would be the equivalent of summoning Cthulhu at the ring of a bell.

Plus he has one of the best villain songs I’ve ever heard. All his characterization takes place in that one number. And not just from telling, but from showing.

You can tell Ratigan is a different villain from Maleficent from their animations alone. Maleficent is always very stiff, like a pillar or a wall. Her facial expression rarely changes. But Ratigan is all over the place — dancing, swishing that cape, making faces that make his eyes bug and his teeth gleam. Also, did that song say something about drowning widows and orphans?

Tools and Powers: Ratigan’s got a lot in his pocket — a gang of thugs and lowlifes, the whole of the underworld in his palm, a bat with a nightmare-fueled voice — but I think most of his game is all talk. Sometimes it works — he made a great ploy to lead Basil to his death trap, but then he does the Bond villain thing where he fails to kill the hero, monologues, then leaves.

He talks a a big game about his most “fiendishly, diabolical, clever plan yet”, but it’s to replace the mouse queen with a robot (a robot for 1897) that will name him as the new all-powerful ruler. And it’s not even him inventing the robot — the toymaker he kidnapped is doing all the planning and implementation. I’m not sure whether this characterization is intentional or not, to show Ratigan’s real impotence. But for what it’s worth, it’s good villainy.

Complement to the Hero: I don’t think I should give as much credit here as one should, since this isn’t based on original material. Yes, there’s a great yin/yang here, but it’s really no different than what occurred in Sherlock Holmes, even with the personality shifts. However, I do like what Disney did by adding the more calm Basil to the raging Ratigan, especially during the climax.

Fatal Flaw: And to that end, the divergence of personalities is what’s responsible for Ratigan’s downfall. Although I’m not sure what he was thinking with creating a steampunk dummy of the queen. I mean, seriously, no one was going to question this? The thing’s wired into a loudspeaker. It can’t move. Ratigan’s schemes come with a heaping dose of mad scientist that never bodes well for success. The design of his big, thick death trap is composed of several smaller death traps. Which is the very thing that allows the hero to escape. Any one of those implements would have done the trick.

Method of Defeat/Death: With his plot foiled, Ratigan escapes via pedal-blimp to Big Ben. Basil pursues him where they have a harrowing chase through the gears to the clock face outside. By this time, Ratigan’s worked up such a rage that he resembles a tiny Incredible Hulk. He furiously claws Basil with violence unprecedented in a Disney movie, pushing him until he hangs off the minute hand by a hand.

Ratigan rears up for the final blow, following all the cliched camera shots, as Basil’s friends in the balloon hover nearby to catch him, Ratigan strikes… And it works. Even Ratigan can’t believe it. Except Basil’s hanging onto the crashed pedal-blimp, just as the clock chimes and Ratigan falls off. But not before grabbing onto Basil’s pants. They both tumble into the smoky London night, screaming their last.

Except Basil, who was still clinging to a bit of the blimp’s propeller that he uses to float back up to his friends.

Cinematically, not bad. I like playing with the tropes, the homage to the original Holmes/Moriarty final battle, and Ratigan’s animalistic psychopath moves. However, there’s something to be said for the ultimate cause of death. Mice can climb up walls. I find it hard to believe Ratigan’s sense of balance is that bad he could fall from the bell ringing. I know it’s supposed to be a callback, but it just doesn’t work. It’s not related to character or events. Plus, how hard would Basil have to pedal to get his helicopter back up?

Final Rating: Three stars

Rhinos

rambi donkey kong country

Hey, all you rhino poachers.  You know how you keep killing rhinos to get their horns so you can sell them on the black market?  You know, you don’t have to actually kill any rhinos.  Just fake some white powder and leave the rhinos alone.

It’s not like your consumers are going to know — they didn’t actually see you kill the rhino.  And it’s not like you believe that rhino horn is a real thing — you just want the money.

And there’s no test to find out whether what you’ve got is pure unadulterated rhino horn.  It’s not like you can test its pH balance with a little strip of lemon juice paper.  It’s not like a drug deal where you take a little of it first to see how pure it is.  And if there is, rhino horn is just keratin — same thing your fingernails are made out of.  Just use that.  It’s a placebo anyway — fake or not, it’s effectiveness is based on psychology.  So leave the rhinos alone, ‘kay?

I just thought of this this morning.  And this was before I saw this article.