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  • One gasmask from World War I, crumbling
  • One child-sized modern gasmask
  • Five American Civil Defense manuals from before 1970 relating to surviving nukes and/or fallout
  • One Soviet equivalent
  • Signed copy of The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel addressed “To Suzy”
  • Copy of The Federal Siege at Ruby Ridge by Randy and Sara Weaver, signed “Mark Laursen, Freedom at any Cost! Randy Weaver”
  • Black and white photograph of people in a market with their backs to the camera, captioned “Empty shelves, Moscow”
  • Three World War I soldier postcards, one of which has a cartoon of a Tommy in oversized uniform and the words “Wanted: five minutes with the guy who said it’s clothes make the man.”
  • Two ’78s: “When They Found The Atomic Power” and “When the Atom Bomb Fell”
  • A painfully racist postcard from 1907, with a cartoon of a black man being stung by bees
  • A fascinatingly racist bumper sticker with the confederate flag over the White House, and the words “I have a dream.”
  • A confederate flag bumper sticker with the words “Dead Yankees don’t lie!” written on it.
  • A Chairman Mao magnet from China
  • Four or five Soviet pins from the 1980s
  • A button that says “Nixon: now more than ever”
  • A black and white picture of Jesus from about the ’50s, and Jesus waves his arm if you shake it
  • An entire photo album of a family of strangers from the teens into the ’20s
  • Numerous SWAT Playmobils
  • Two WWII ration books from my Grandmother
  • A 10,000 Reichsmark bill from 1923
  • An Outline of Abnormal Psychology, 1929
  • A blue and an orange wind-up, plastic chattery teeth with feet
  • Sixty-year-old face powder in a pink box
Via BBC America

Via BBC America

In honor of Charlie Jane Anders’ every Doctor Who episode ever list at io9, I am going to humbly approach a smaller task — ranking the new episodes. Because though technically the wise friend and her wise father who introduced me to the show did start with Three (Jon Pertwee), I have never yet had the attention span for Classic Who. Anders’ list may help me decide which arcs to tackle, however for now, I know only new.

Here we go, the top ten episodes of shiny new Who because I am way too lazy to do a count-down in reverse order. For additional laziness, multi-parters are filed under one average ranking.

We start with the best ten, and if I ever feel ambitious, I will keep on with the list.

1) “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” (2005): This was my second NuWho, and the episode that hooked me for life. A sciencey plot that is not resolved with reversing the polarity of the neuron flow, a touching exchange about WWII that I constantly cite, Captain Jack at his most roguish, and GAS-MASK ZOMBIE CHILDREN. Also the London Blitz. I love everything about this. And it’s a key one to cite when mourning the brief tenure of Christopher Eccleston as Nine.

2) “Blink” (2007): Yep, I am ranking it in the same spot as Anders, but at least I don’t have 250 episodes to compare it to. It’s just so clever — before then-writer, now showrunner Steven Moffat became too clever by half. It is the first look at a very Moffat-y beast, the Weeping Angels, before he overused them. It has a fantastic companion (as it were) played by Carey Mulligan before she hopped across the pond. It is scary, funny, and satisfying. It is overrated, except it really isn’t.

3) “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit” (2006): I never disliked this episode, but it has been slowly crawling up my favorites list over the years. Rose and Ten have great moments together, but not sappy ones. They go off and do their own thing and take their own risks, but their bond is vital. The Ood are creepy and endearing, the secondary cast are awkwardly believable, and oh yeah, space Satan? Before I read Childhood’s End, this was even more epic a concept. But it’s still epic.

4) “The Doctor’s Wife” (2011): Neil Gaiman, you beauty. This was one of the handful of episodes during Eleven’s tenure that made me keep the faith. Nothing against Matt Smith, who has some really great qualities as the Doctor, but something about the tone of the whole show was usually off to me. And Amy does nothing for me as a companion, even if she is a stunning redhead with a gorgeous accent. This episode, on the other hand, has a terrifying villain to menace Amy and Rory, and a brilliantly bizarre way to give the Doctor a chance to speak to his oldest companion — his true love (no, it ain’t River Song, damn it).

5: “The Girl in the Fireplace” (2006): In some ways I might have burned out on this episode from too many rewatches, but it really is wonderful, no matter if the characterization of our main peeps is sort of…elusive. Finally getting Mickey in the TARDIS and having him adventure with Rose gives them a chance to have some good bonding. In the meantime, there’s a fabulous French woman who might be a Mary Sue, but valiantly rises above that; there are also clockwork monsters, another wild premise that holds together until the end (more or less), and a horse in space. More timey-wimey stuff that doesn’t just feel like someone shouting at you until you are distracted.

6:”Dalek”(2005): Weak extraneous characters with hilarious John Wayne American accents. However, Nine is on fire here. One Dalek becomes more menacing than millions of them. They are the ultimate in diminishing returns. Why couldn’t the show repeat the fury and terror in the Doctor’s reaction to Daleks with any success in ANY subsequent episodes? Rose is here being important to the plot, but this is Nine’s episode.

7:”Father’s Day”(2005): Anders is right that the monsters that appear do not show up in any other paradoxical instances before or after this episode. And considering what show this is (hint: timey wimey), that’s a bit awkward. But everything else here is so damned wonderful, and it all makes so much sense as a one-shot, that I don’t care. This is a fantastic episode about idealizing people who are gone, and missing them, and things like that. Billie Piper is really wonderful, and I think a former teen pop star deserved more credit for how good she was at being Rose.

8:”Midnight”(2008): This is another one that has slowly crept up in my ranking over the years. It’s almost Donna-free, because the Doctor needs to be separated from having an ally. Multiple people over the years have suggested this is Doctor Who does The Twilight Zone. It’s a strange, eerie, mysterious plot — and the strangest, eeriest, most mysterious part (besides how Russell T. Davies could sometimes write such good episodes, when he would go nuts in every finale) is that all of the alien confidence of the Doctor fails in this case. People are not impressed by him, and they don’t magically assume he knows best.

9:”Utopia/”The Sound of Drums”/”Last of the Time Lords” (2007): But-but the ending, you cry. Yes, I know. It is not…ideal. Still, before that final twist, you have two whole episodes that are strangely disturbing. Not in the way that Moffat’s best monsters are disturbing, but in a more subtle way that lingers for longer, like everyone’s eventual demise (sorry). “Utopia” takes place at the end of the universe. It’s dying, but people are trying to take a rocket to get somewhere…else. (Something about a slapdash rocket full of refugees trying to escape the end of the universe makes me sick in an awesome way — the way really killer sci-fi is supposed to, until you put it down and watch Gilmore Girls instead.) John Simm’s turn as the maser is not as hamfisted as it becomes later. It is still plenty broad, but it balances on a perfect, genuine line between madness and evil. His wife is unsettling with her twist. His domination of the world is scary. Everything except that final bit is fantastic. And yes, that final bit is bad. But it still makes more damn sense than whatever the fuck happened at the end of “The Stolen Earth” or even “Journey’s End.” Seriously, when Davros tries to destroy “reality itself” it feels like nothing. John Simm and the taclafane are an oddly sickening nightmare that demands repeat viewings.

10:”Flatline”(2014): There is a very good chance that this episodes will be seriously downgraded in the years to come. But I feel so grateful towards it right now, that I want to celebrate it. It’s as if someone was finally listening to my mother’s complaints that aliens are too humanoid. The alienness of aliens is fully acknowledged and worked with in this episode. There’s menace and pathos, but actual slapstick that didn’t make me want to stick my head through a wall. Clara is tolerable, and almost endearing. Secondary characters are good. The Doctor is not prominent, but he’s there, and Peter Capaldi is amazing and needs more episodes worthy of his amazingness. This is the first episode since “The Doctor’s Wife” that made me go “fuck yeah, this show, I love this show!” I keep forgetting this is possible.

Dawn_of_the_dead1) Shaun of the Dead

2) Dawn of the Dead

3) 28 Days Later

4) Night of the Living Dead

5) Day of the Dead

6) Warm Bodies

7) Dance of the Dead

8) Zombie 2

9) Fido

10) Dawn of the Dead (2004)

600full-joe-strummer6) Townes Van Zandt, Be Here to Love Me

Before I watched this thing, I knew “Pancho and Lefty” and Justin Townes Earle’s namesake, and that was about it. But this sad, sad, documentary that is a country song in itself went so well with my last Nashville adventure. S.T. and I perched in R.B.’s disaster of a music nerd bachelor apartment and sunk into the life of Townes.

The most memorable part, besides the quiet, woeful songs? Van Zandt’s son talking about how he learned his dad was dead. Switching across the stations one night, the son heard one of his dad’s song, which was rare. Then he heard another one and thought, oh, a two-fer, great. A third song followed and he knew something awful had happened.

Before S.T. and I watched this, and before we saw Old Crow Medicine Show that night for a WSM radio show, we had paid tribute to Townes by having a beer at The Gold Rush. There is a picture of the man himself above one of the bars. When S.T. and I went to take a photo, the middle-afged bartender began telling us perfect, tragic stories about how shit-faced Townes used to stagger home from the place. Sometimes he would leave his lyrics-covered napkins behind, and the bartenders would keep them for him. By telling us these raw, real tales of sorrow, the bartender managed to simultaneously puncture the unserious fun time impression of the country-drunk and enhance it one hundred-fold. All in all, it was a very Nashville moment.

Favorite Townes Van Zandt song (besides the one I put in Friday Afternoon links below):

Oh, and here’s the whole documentary on Youtube!

5) Tommy Jarrell, Sprout Wings and Fly

A group of us has rented a little house in Nashville — by us, I mean the collection of oddballs I met from internet Old Crow Medicine Show fandom, all of whom are at least 15 years older than I am — to see the group at the Ryman for the switch from 2010 to 2011. There was moonshine, black-eyed peas, collard greens, Prince’s Hot Chicken, and S.T. and J.K. busking their hearts out on the corners and side-streets off of Broadway. And when S.T. and J.K. practice their fiddle and guitar, it gets serious — even religious. During their practice at our (for the moment) little house, the DVD of Les Blank’s Sprout Wings and Fly was brought out. “Tommy” they called Jarrell. In their reverence, he needs no other name. I didn’t display my ignorance, but watched and tried to learn the appropriate lessons and display my old time piety.

Jarrell was an old school Appalachian fiddler, absolutely from another universe, even while Blank filmed him at the end of his life in the 1980s. It’s just one of those perfect folk moments in amber that makes one wish to be named Lomax. S.T. told me later that the story goes that Jarrell’s musician father learned “Poor Ellen Smith” from Peter Degraf himself as he sat in jail for the poor woman’s murder. That story is so America, that I hope never to confirm whether it is true or not.

Favorite Tommy Jarrell song:

Here’s the trailer for the documentary:

4) The Clash, Westway to the World

I don’t remember the first time I watched Westway to the World, but my 15th and 16th years saw the DVD nearly worn to splinters. It’s just the Clash talking, with archival footage. Headon is withered and still on heroin, Jones is all teeth and a bit of smarm, Simonon is still handsome and cheeky, and Strummer seems sweet, and sad, and regretful about his key part in fucking up the completely magical foursome had had going.

Favorite Clash song:

And the documentary:

3) Joe StrummerLet’s Rock Again!

Oh,  Let’s Rock Again! I waited breathlessly to watch, sobbed my eyes out when Strummer is passing out flyers to his own gig, or sitting on the sidewalk chatting with teens, or being hugged by hysterically joyful Japanese fans, and then I could never watch it again. The Clash I missed by miles, but if congenital heart defects and my lack of prodigious coolness hadn’t gotten in the way, I could have seen the Mescaleros, dammit. I missed it. I fucked up. I was late. But the whole documentary just makes you love Strummer’s humanity and his earnest, human optimism. (Which, knowing how he turned out, makes asshole, must be a punker, 1976 Strummer even more adorable.)

Favorite Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros song:

And the clip where Joe passes out flyers to his own show — contrived or not, I want to hug him real bad. Strummer was the most huggable of all the old punk rockers.

2) Simon and Garfunkel, Songs of America and The Concert in Central Park

The latter, a 1981 concert that made 12-year-old me infuriated that I had even missed that pale imitation of a folk reunion by six years of life — making the ’60s I yearned to visit seem farther away still. The former, though officially packaged with a shiny new version of Bridge Over Troubled Water a few years back, came to my eager hands as a grainy VHS from an internet friend (I “met” her in an MSN Paul Simon fans group. She also sent me a burned CD of a bootleg of the once-rare The Paul Simon Songbook). That tape was painfully wonderful — finally a glimpse of the duo at their peak, the thing I missed. The thing itself is pretty low-key, sometimes it lags, but there are some good concert scenes, and a particularly wonderful Simon and Garfunkel warming up bit.

Favorite Simon and Garfunkel song:

And Songs of America! (You God damned kids have no idea what it was like pre-Youtube. The dial-up days were dark indeed.)

And the Central Park one as well!

(I finally saw Simon and Garfunkel in 2004, though for most of my childhood I assumed it was impossible. I heard “The Only Living Boy in New York” and “Suspect Device” that year. Seventeen was a good musical year.)

1) Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense

This, for the distinctive memory of my father rushing home from work one day, piece of mail in hand, and how he popped in his brand new VHS of the flawless Talking Heads doing their thing. He and mom were actually there for one of the nights the concert was made from. Though they were a very New York City band, my parents in LA in 1984 watching David Byrne in his great big suit, dancing with a lamp, makes them seem very California, and very familiar in a way — as if they helped raise me. And the concert is as wonderful as everyone says — its slow build from David Byrne playing “Psycho Killer” all alone to the full, wild stage and incomprehensible energy. It’s perfect, and it’s strange, and it’s my parents being cool and before my time.

Favorite Talking Heads song:

And —

— David Byrne and that lamp.

Maybe I just want to hang out with her and Tavi Gevinson. Is that so wrong? Is it?

Maybe I just want to hang out with her and Tavi Gevinson. Is that so wrong? Is it?

6) Hats, specifically fedoras, are not some signal that the wearer is a mouth-breathing creeper (creepertarian is some circles) whom you can instantly dismiss. You’re thinking of trillbys. And honestly, shut up about both. Fashion — especially the male variety — is dull enough already without all of your judgement, people.

(Let’s bring suspenders back, though. I’m on that, but nobody else seems to be.)

5) Taylor Swift, whom I enjoy in small doses on occasion, is not particularly anti-feminist. Some critiques are fair, like the point I saw somewhere that Swift is the beautiful, rich insider who has a bad habit of playing the aggrieved ugly duckling even now,  but some (looking at you, Jezebel, back when you thought Lady Gaga was your new artistic God), are way too prude-shaming, romantic-shaming, in my day we smoked clove cigarettes and used boys before they used us and we never, ever fawned ever bullshit. Other people are different, Jezebel. Nobody knows how contrived Taylor Swift is as compared to any other famous woman, but some people are less comfortable with meat dresses or leotards than others.

(I also dig this New York Magazine piece that notes that Swift is a woman, but she’s making 12-year -old girls fawn all over her the way they usually do over boys/non-threatening men. That’s cool. She’s the musician on stage. And since the majority of those girls will grow up to be heterosexual, they maybe want to be her, not dream of dating or marrying her. That’s not bad at all.)

All I ask is for folks to stop using the lyrics to “Fifteen” as proof that Swift is a big old slut-shamer. When she sings “Abigail gave everything she had/to a boy who changed his mind” she may or may not be talking about sex, but she is certainly also talking about feelings and emotions and such. The song also includes the lyrics “I swore someday I was going to marry him/but I realized some bigger dreams of mine” and “In your life, you’ll realize bigger dreams than/dating the boy on the football team/I didn’t know it at 15.” Again, not bad at all. Stop willfully missing the point, snob-feminists. The net lady power gain of Swift is debatable, but that song is not the sign of her and society’s creeping conservatism the way every blog decided it was circa 2010.

Also, at least half of you are lying when you claim never to have felt even a twinge of the sentiments expressed in “You Belong With Me.” Lying.

Try to ignore this photo, though.

Try to ignore this photo, though.

4) Guy Fieri is not that bad. Okay, maybe I don’t like him exactly, but there’s something totally non-threatening about his brand of douche-bro, at least within the context of his Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. His propensity for wearing his sunglasses both on the back of his head and upside down is upsetting. His hair is ridiculous, as is his mall-trash-rockabilly thing. But dammit, the show is glorious, glorious, greasy diner porn, with travel porn mixed in. And Fieri is just sort of genial about it all. He seems to know he has an enviable job. He talks, but not incessantly. He makes the experience about him to some extent, but more about him enjoying the food. And he knows where to go. Every restaurant I have been to that had his picture on the wall was amazing. (Nashville staples Prince’s Hot Chicken, and Bros, as well as the original Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh).  Just, calm down about Guy Fieri, America. I don’t think he means us any harm.

(I wish he wouldn’t refer to his show as “triple d,” on the other hand. That’s a little nails on the chalkboard.)

3) Neither is Zooey Deschanel the devil. First of all, stop calling every character a manic pixie dream girl, especially “Summer.” Deschanel is doomed to be that, and it’s partially her fault for embracing a certain type of wide-eyed, childish, vintage-clad, sparkle and cupcake-loving character But she’s more than that, by virtue of being an actual breathing human.  And like Taylor Swift, I can’t speak to what aspects of her personality are “real” and which are contrived. But the assumption that no female wants to wear vintage clothing (I do) or be obsessed with cute little cakes (okay, not so much) unless they’re “trying too hard” is tiresome.

And the entire point of 500 Days of Summer, a decent movie, is that it stars an unreliable narrator. That is made abundantly clear to audiences, that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character has romanticized the relationship and is constantly projecting things onto Deschanel’s character that are not there. And yet, this movie, which arguably subverted the quirky woman exists for your growing and learning experience, man-boy! trope even before Ruby Sparks did, is tossed into the pile along with much less thoughtful versions of the trope. And Deschanel herself seems pretty solid, especially when she says bad-ass things like ” I want to be a fucking feminist and wear a fucking Peter Pan collar. So fucking what?”  You go, girl.

Also, there are a few decent She and Him songs. And New Girl is sometimes funny.

2) Leave Girls alone, but stop talking about it. Girls is a decent show. It is not nearly as bad or as amazing as people have suggested. It is occasionally funny or poignant, if slow-moving. The self-centered quality of the characters is moderately interesting, especially since they’re females and that is more rare, letting them be this unpleasant. Lena Dunham’s body and her awkward sex scenes are kind of interesting and were a sort of bold idea. (And people being complete assholes about her body kind of proves her point, by the way. So ha.) Everything about the show is pretty okay, if not ever super thrilling or lovable. Now let’s never speak of it or its deeper meanings ever again.

Look at these fucking hipsters.

Look at these fucking hipsters.

1) Stop calling everything hipster. It once meant something (like the death of the western world, am I right, Adbusters?!) 1950s and cool. It may have meant something recently (circa 2004, it was the high school students I knew who wore ugly clothes and listened to Mates of State and said things about vinyl that should have been a cliche to any self-aware 17-year-old). It means nothing except “thing I don’t like” now. And those of us who have ever been accused of being one I am sure have our reasons for being annoyed by the slur. I like vintage clothing and old shit of all kinds, so I am under suspicion. And my love of folk, old time, and country is more suspect than it was in 2008. (That’s the trade-off for having a lot more bands to enjoy. I will take it.)

Back in 2009, I dragged my skeptical mother to an Old Crow Medicine Show concert. She had heard some of the band’s earlier music, the sort that sounds bizarrely close to 80-year-old string or jugband music, and thought it was too derivative. Something about it couldn’t be taken seriously. But then she saw them live, chock full of runaway train, punk energy, and her mind was changed. Bandleader Ketch Secor is clearly putting on a show, both in interviews and at concerts. But he clearly has this fondness and fascination with the past performers that translates into a theatrical, but honestly sincere way of writing songs and speaking about music. He knows it’s all a show, but you can’t tell me he doesn’t love this old music to which he’s devoted his life. Nor can you tell me he did that just because it was going to make a killer Oxford American story someday.

While dancing to Pokey LaFarge a few months ago, I noticed the band’s dapper outfits, their ’20s style of music. Is this hipster? I wondered. Indeed, what the hell is that word, except an accusation that someone’s appreciation isn’t sincere? That it is instead a competition for most strange or obscure interest? Is wanting to buy quirky old shit on ebay hipster? Does it matter if my love of old objects — even, say, a hilarious old ad — is not condescending towards the foolishness of days gone by, but based on a breathless thrill that comes from trying to believe in a time for which I wasn’t around? Mom heard the jugband-influenced Old Crow as sort of jokey. I heard it as delightfully alien, and real, and holy shit, once this was what people heard on the radio and played in their kitchens. Ears hear differently.

You don’t know other people’s hearts and minds. So stop crying hipster-wolf and unless there’s proof of otherwise, assume that people love what they love — because they were going to love something — and this is what they picked.

165341)  Cigarette Smoking Man (The X-Files)

Strangely calm — maybe it was the Canadian accent — and occasionally vulnerable (seemingly) in later seasons, there was something compelling about this guy. We seem him as the top villain for Mulder, but then we see that he is just a part of the much bigger conspiracy. He’s the guy they go to for clean-up and it has cost him a normal human existence. His centric episodes are never dull. (Always wondered why he didn’t just take out Mulder, though.) He smokes not like a villain trying to intimidate someone, but like a man with all the time in the world, who isn’t even thinking about any of it.

2) Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Iconic, duh. Think of him in the first movie when he’s the terrifying cyborg, but is beneath Grand Moff Tarkin. And he has that strange commitment to this mysterious religion. We learn more about him. He blows up a whole planet. He can choke people with his hand. He is willing to get into a TIE Fighter and fight — albeit, not very well. And though people usually mock Mark Hamill’s acting when he discovers the terrifying truth about his parentage, well, think how you would feel. Look at Luke Skywalker’s reaction and realize, it’s serious, horrifying stuff to be the son of this man.

3) The Joker (The Dark Knight)

The late Heath Ledger really did deserve those accolades, regardless of their inevitability after his tragic death. Ledger plays the Joker in a transformative, uncomfortable, annoying (those fucking sounds he makes, aaaugh!) disturbing way. It’s such good acting that it’s fun to watch. He’s the best part of the movie, and is on my short list of highly praised things that are not remotely overrated. The greater meaning of the anarchic character isn’t important. Just fucking watch him act.

4) Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones TV show)

Not the sadistic King Joffrey? Not the real power, Tywin Lannister? Nope. Give me Cersei, because we see her struggling to be a villain. She’s a woman, she’s maybe not as smart as she thinks she is, but she’s wily enough to fight hard for what she thinks is hers. She’s funny as hell. And she loves her scary-ass son, because he is just about all she has, but she knows he’s sick. She knows how women gain power, but she still yearns to be playing at the big kids table. You see her when her villainous swagger is on, and you see her being completely dismissed by her father and intellectually trailing behind her brother. She’s fascinating. And she has the world’s most flawless bitch face.

5) O’Brien (1984) and The Operative (Serenity)

Like all good top villains in a dystopia, O’Brien knows all the counter-arguments with which our hero has struggled. He knows them all and can beat them with authority, charm, conviction, and the terrifying certainty of his position. He inflicts the pain, and he is someone to whom Winston Smith can finally speak freely. He knows what he does and he does it because power exists to keep itself alive. No grand motives. Just keeping the system going.

The Operative sees even more clearly than O’Brien does that he does terrible things. But he thinks he is doing them to build something better. Yet, he also thinks there is no place in that world for people like him with so much innocent blood on their hands. He’s the mechanism for improvement at a terrible price, but he has no illusions about being warmly invited into into the new society. Strange character. Very human for a villain, but very frightening.

6) Angelus (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

God damn was he a better monster than a hero. Bland, self-hating (understandable, but still), earnest, when he had a soul, he was playfully sadistic without one. He tortured a woman into insanity, he toyed with a lovesick Giles (best character) after killing his ladyfriend. The contrast between that guy and the guy trying to do right makes even the dull fellow more interesting, just because we know what nastiness is inside of him.

What are some of your favorites, dear readers?