Can’t imagine why there’s a teacher shortage

Drew Sheneman

Best and worst animated films of 2021

Back when I was young, I was happy to see even one new animated film a year. Now there’s practically one a week.

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In the 80s, I started a magazine called “Animato!” that later grew quite large and popular. I got to meet and interview great animators like Chuck Jones and Ralph Bakshi but later sold the magazine, and it went on to even bigger successes until the internet killed all magazines.

So I’m still an animation fan, but it’s basically impossible to see all the films and all the animated TV shows these days unless you’re a full-time animator or animation historian, I guess.

And this is especially true during the pandemic. Studios realized that while they couldn’t make as many live action films, animators can work from their home … so we got a lot more animated films than we would normally get.

There were some really great films this year I did get to catch, though. My favorite was Mitchells vs. The Machines, but I also very much enjoyed Encanto, Vivo, and Ron’s Gone Wrong.

These days, with so much CGI, we can debate what an “animated film” even is, but generally the accepted definition is that the main characters must be animated — not just the monsters or effects. (And “motion capture” doesn’t count.)

So here’s my annual end-of-the-year list of best and worst animated films (based on their Rotten Tomatoes score).  I used to only include films that were released to theaters, but thanks to the pandemic, that should no longer apply. This means there are more films on this list than in previous years. Ties are broken by number of reviews, and you have to have at least 10 reviews to make my list.

The best reviewed animated film of 2021 was a Denmark documentary about emigration that was animated so, yeah, technically, it belongs on this list! It was followed closely by a Japanese anime that got very little distribution. The rest of the list includes two good films with music by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Encanto and Vivo — he was busy last year) and a bunch of straight-to-streaming ones.

  1. Flee (98%)
  2. Demon Slayer: Mugen Train (98%)
  3. The Mitchells vs. The Machines (97%)
  4. Raya and the Last Dragon (94%)
  5. Luca (91%)
  6. Encanto (91%)
  7. My Little Pony: A New Generation (90%)
  8. Back to the Outback (88%)
  9. Vivo (86%)
  10. Arlo the Alligator Boy (82%)
  11. Ron’s Gone Wrong (80%)
  12. Paw Patrol: The Movie (79%)
  13. The Spine of Night (76%)
  14. Sing 2 (70%)
  15. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (69%)
  16. Wish Dragon (65%)
  17. Spirit Utamed (50%)
  18. The Boss Baby: Family Business (46%)
  19. Tom and Jerry (31%)
  20. The Addams Family 2 (29%)
  21. Space Jam: A New Legacy (25%)

But of course

The Filibuster, according to the Constitution

People often ask me, as a Constitutional scholar, about what the Constitutional provisions are for the filibuster.

It’s actually very simple.

There is no mention whatsoever of the word “filibuster” anywhere in the Constitution. It’s not even there under a different name. It never even happened until a hundred years or so after the Constitution was passed.

It’s a Senate rule that allows a Senator to speak as long as they want to block a bill unless 2/3rds of the Senate votes to shut them up. And it has been used more often to block progressive legislation than the other way around.

As you may have guessed, the conservative Senators use it a lot more than the liberal ones but have had no problem in breaking the filibuster rule when it worked in their favor. Their current claim about the sancity of it is bullshit, of course. They’d get rid of it in a second if it would benefit them.

So it could be changed tomorrow without any harm coming to the Constitution in the slightest.

But what happens is that Republicans filibuster anything a Democrat tries to do, meaning that in order to get anything passed, instead of just getting a majority to vote for it, you need sixty Senators. This seems to contradict the entire idea of majority rule, because it allows the minority to block anything even if the majority of Americans want it.

This is especially true now, since the Senate is inherently unrepresentative. The smaller, more conservative states each get two Senators no matter how slight their population. The Republicans in the Senate haven’t represented the majority of Americans since 1996. This is why, despite our views being the majority views in America, we can’t seem to get our agenda passed.

I’m not going to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining why the rule should be changed. I just wanted to point out that it’s not in the freakin’ Constitution already, no matter what some idiot on the internet might say.

This is fiction

Loony

One reason why no lawyer will take your case

As a lawyer, I get calls all the time from people wanting to sue someone. Very few of those cases are taken by my firm.

You see, lawsuits are expensive. And not every hurt you have is worth filing a lawsuit over.

You fell on someone’s sidewalk that wasn’t shoveled and hurt your back? Well, sure, someone else was responsible but did you go to the hospital? Are your injuries permanent? Did you lose work? Are you still in pain? It’s not worth bringing a lawsuit costing thousands of dollars in filing fees, printing costs, and lawyer expenses to win and have the jury decide to award you $50.

Someone insulted you? You were defamed? Sure, but did you lose your job because of it? Are people protesting your home and spitting on you as you walk by? How badly are you hurt? Just because someone lied about you doesn’t mean a lawsuit is worth it.

Now, this is not to say you shouldn’t see a lawyer when you are hurt, especially if you have legitimate hospital bills and other expenses due to the injury. Perhaps a call to the other person’s insurance company will settle everything nicely. Perhaps a minor action can be filed at the magistrate that won’t cost as much.

But I do find myself often telling people that it’s just not worth it.

And now, a warning: Most lawyers in personal injury civil cases will work for a percentage of what they can get for you. They only get paid if they get money for you. They believe the case is winnable and so they’re willing to spend their own money risking it, knowing they’ll recoup that money once the case is won. It also ensures that they’re going to do everything they can to get the largest possible amount for you, because that means more for them as well.

However, some lawyers will take your case as long as you pay all expenses and their fee. This is a sign that they don’t believe you will win the case, so they’re making sure they at least get paid. Don’t hire these lawyers. Oh sure, sometimes they’ll win but maybe the money you’ll get won’t be much more than what you spent to get it.

If no lawyer wants to take your civil case, then maybe it’s just not that good of a case. Be happy that you’re not that badly hurt.

Trust me, every single client I’ve had that was badly hurt and won their case would have been much happier without having to be hurt in the first place. Every one would have traded what we got for them to be healthy again, or to have their dead family member back.

Jordan testifies…

Clay Jones

Nobody is mad at you for saying “Merry Christmas”

To those people sharing memes that say things like “I don’t care what people say, I’m going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ even if it makes people upset!” Have you ever met one person who was upset when you said “Merry Christmas”? Even one?

You’ve been suckered by Fox News, which has managed to convince people that if you say “Happy holidays” then you’re against anyone else saying “Merry Christmas” if they want to. As if the two are opposed to each other in some way.

Don’t be so gullible, angry, and ridiculous. Getting angry if someone says “Happy holidays” to you is the most anti-Christian and anti-Christmas attitude you could have at a time where you’re supposed to be loving each other and promoting good will.

Nobody is stopping you from saying “Merry Christmas” and no one is upset at you if you do say it. The only people I’ve ever seen get mad are the so-called Christians who froth at the mouth when someone says “Happy holidays.”

Don’t be stupid for the holidays.

Behind the scenes

Ten great Michael Nesmith songs

When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be a fireman or an astronaut. Nope. I wanted to be a Monkee. I wanted to be in a band where we all live in the same house and have wacky adventures.

As it turned out, when I was in college, I was in a band called The Naughty Bits where we did all live in the same house for a while (except the drummer who was still in high school and should not have been allowed to play in the clubs we were in), although we never had many wacky adventures.

And while my musical tastes changed over the years, I still remembered fondly the Monkees, and come on, they had some great hits. Why not? They had some of the greatest songwriters of their time penning music for them: Carole King, Neil Diamond, Boyce and Hart, Neil Sedaka, David Gates … and Michael Nesmith.

I’ve since co-written two books about the Monkees and their music, and have seen them in concert a number of times. We saw Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith just a few months ago in their farewell tour. Mike looked very ill, but was determined to carry on, knowing this was his last chance. And Micky clearly loved the guy, looked after him, made sure he hit his cues, and, well, it was heartwarming and sad at the same time.

People don’t realize how much Mike influenced music, bringing country rock to the foreground with the Monkees, writing songs for Linda Ronstadt and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He pretty much created MTV with his show “Popclips,” later won the first Grammy for “best video,” starred in his own TV show “Elephant Parts,” and financed films like “Repo Man” and “Tapeheads.”

And he wrote songs.

So here’s a random list of ten of the songs he wrote for the Monkees and for his solo career that I think showcase his talent. These are not his greatest hits; they’re just some of my favorites.