Got some ideas for ya, Joe

Hours after taking the oath of office, President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. signed about a dozen executive orders rescinding some of his predecessor’s bullshit and charting a course toward a more inclusive, climate conscious future. It’s an excellent start.

As the world’s foremost expert on everything, however, I’ve got some more things he could do if he wants to keep up the momentum. You can have all these ideas free of charge, Joe. Seeing them implemented would be payment enough.

Immediately start going by J.R. Biden Jr. How bad ass does that sound? J.R. Biden Jr. is a wealthy, confident, stylish man of the people with an amazing car, superior grilling skills, and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Take your brand to the next level, Joe, and watch China and the Republicans piss themselves in fear of J.R. Biden Jr. The script for the accompanying animated series practically writes itself.

Carve out a stretch of federal land in the middle of nowhere and make it a lawless territory. Now the people who think all government is bad have somewhere to go and will stop getting in the way of actual progress. Don’t want taxes or socialized health care or any of the other things that make the modern world work? Fine. Go. Here. Have fun. But you have to stay there for at least ten years and you have to reapply for citizenship if you want to come back.

Set aside funds to buy Dr. Fauci an all-expenses-paid vacation to the destination of his choice. That guy deserves it. He looks ten years younger since the inauguration. However…it might be fun to pretend you’re rewarding him with a vacation to Mar-a-lago first.

Declare that the Boston Red Sox must spend at least $220 million on payroll this year. Watching decent players sign elsewhere at dollar values the Sox should be able to afford hurts my soul, man. Please do me a solid and make my baseball team at least pretend like it’s trying.

On 2020

So 2020 sucked, right? That’s the prevailing wisdom. I don’t think that’s quite right.

Think back to January and February. How was life back then? What did you expect out of the next twelve months? Chances are that was a better time for you, and that if your outlook wasn’t super rosy you probably had at least a few things you were looking forward to.

I can’t say the start of 2020 was a perfect one for me, but in hindsight…it was pretty damn good. I had some awesome times with an amazing person in a relationship I hoped would get me past my own insecurities and really turn into something. I’d signed on to work with Outland Entertainment on a variety of fiction projects, including the publication of my own back catalog. I won honorable mention in the Boston in 100 Words short story contest. Edge came back at the Royal Rumble after being told over and over again by doctors that his neck was never going to be in good enough shape to allow him to wrestle. Donnie Ding Dong’s reign of stupidity looked primed for a swift and decisive collapse. For the first time in a long time, I liked what I saw my future looking like.

And then…someone halfway around the world decided to have the bat soup special and everything went to hell. Plus Edge got hurt again at Wrestlemania.

So I think it’s not fair to crap on 2020. That year got porked just like the rest of us.

But what’s that matter? It’s not like 2020’s got feelings. But you do, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year it’s that you’re fucked if you don’t work on those. Don’t simply dismiss the last twelve months. Examine them, acknowledge them, and learn from them.

And don’t forget to think about the positives. Build yourself a narrative based on the good things that happened last year. When I think back on 2020, I’m going to try to ignore the frustration, the loneliness, the uncertainty, and that underlying frazzled vibration that’s made every task or interaction feel fraught with anxiety. I’m going to think about the day at the zoo. Dinner at Tony & Elaine’s followed by pictures under the lights in Columbus Park. Playing games at PAX East. Reading my story at the Boston in 100 Words awards ceremony. That feeling of accomplishment when I finished writing Black Yonnix. That first trip to the end of the Minuteman Path on my new bicycle. Having to stop in the middle of a ride to let a mother duck and her ducklings pass. Visiting the cygnets behind Alewife station. The short story class that reminded me I’ve got range as a writer beyond ridiculous fantasy novels. Learning to meditate and feeling all the bullshit just melt away. The tasty things I learned to cook. Laughing at Brent Terheune’s Trumper parody. Stepping on the scale and seeing I’d dropped 20 pounds. The realization that a nice afternoon of slow day drinking is so much more satisfying than pounding swill all night. The nights playing Destiny 2 with friends and family. The endless text threads crapping on the hilariously terrible Red Sox. The first time I ran a mile in 9 minutes, then in 8 minutes, then in 7 minutes. Reconnecting with a few people I’d lost touch with. Singing along with Faith Hill’s “This Kiss” like it’s some sort of instinctual reflex. Opening a package I wasn’t expecting and finding a printed copy of my novel inside. Realizing that everything I’ve done to try to better myself works as long as I remember to use it.

So there’s my 2020. Find yours. Trust me when I say it’ll make you feel better. Then go tell the Trumpers and Covid-deniers to eat shit because it’s their fucking fault you have to do so much of this touchy-feely crap in the first place, god fucking damn it.

On the second season finale of The Mandalorian

Spoilers ahead.

Thinking back on this most recent season of the only reason anyone subscribes to Disney+, it’s clear that the final scene we got was really the only way for this season to end. I think I’d dismissed it as a possibility simply because I didn’t think Disney had the balls to do it. Bringing in such a famous, beloved character that adds an unavoidable connection to material the rest of the show has sort of avoided is a huge risk, especially when it requires the sort of anti-aging technology that doesn’t always work great. That character’s impact could also cast a huge shadow over everything else they’ve announced; if you’ll bring him back once, we’re going to expect him to be around more in other things too.

I won’t lie: the room got a little dusty when that single X-Wing approached Moff Gideon’s cruiser. I thought the earlier brawl between Boba Fett and WWE’s Sasha Banks was as Scott-specific fan-service-y as the show could possibly get, but the possibility that Luke fucking Skywalker, young and unburdened by the sequel trilogy’s stupid god damn motherfucking bullshit, was coming to save the day elicited a legit gasp. At first I tried to logic the possibility away. Surely this was a swerve, a tease before the introduction of someone else. Even when that green lightsaber snap-hissed to life I still couldn’t believe it was actually him.

But then the cowl came down and there he was. For those who don’t know, I like most of the Star Wars movies but I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved the Expanded Universe book series. I devoured those things like they were candy all through my teenage years and into my twenties. I called out of work when they killed Chewbacca with a moon and then again when Han and Leia’s son murdered Luke’s wife. And finally, right there on my TV, was the closest approximation we’ll ever get to the Luke of those lost, de-canonized stories: a young Jedi Master fresh off his victory over the Emperor, traveling the galaxy to right wrongs and rebuild the Jedi. So what if the CGI wasn’t perfect. That one scene almost made the rest of 2020 worth it.

Narratively, Luke’s appearance is like dropping a bomb on the whole setting. Who gives a crap about Ahsoka Tano or the Bad Batch or any of the other series they announced this week when it’s established that Luke god damn Skywalker isn’t just hanging out on his couch waiting for Ben Solo to turn into an emo shithead? The creative minds at Disney have to know this, and I’d bet they’re accounting for it in all of the other Star Wars properties they’re working on. As I wrote previously, this new fleet of stories reeks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s progression, where a series of smaller standalone movies eventually built to massive team ups in the Avengers films. What better way to replicate that structure than by telling the stories behind the first class of Luke’s new Jedi academy? I betcha Grogu won’t be the last new Force user we run into on Disney+.

The elephant in the room, of course, is in the future, when Kylo Ren slaughters all of Luke’s students before the start of the sequel trilogy. Would Disney really get us all attached to a bunch of new characters just so we can watch them die horribly? There’s a lot of money in it, so why not! I’d do it, but I’m kind of an asshole. And besides, the films – and The Mandalorian itself – already set the precedent that “destroying the Jedi” never really means someone got all of them.

As is always the case with any fictional property, we’ll have to see how this goes. This finale arguably does a lot more for Star Wars in general than it does for The Mandalorian, but that might be alright. Let’s just hope they don’t go overboard and bring back Jar-Jar.

Cleveland Baseball Team

Cleveland’s MLB franchise announced last week that it’s going to drop its longstanding Indians nickname. The team had previously moved away from its ghastly logo, which made this move feel like only a matter of time.

Bravo, I say. “But it’s only a name!” I’m sure others are saying. And that’s exactly why it should be changed: the history and tradition behind a name that exists entirely for marketing purposes does not matter one iota in comparison to its place within the current zeitgeist. It’s offensive, dumb, and doesn’t work anymore. Get rid of it.

Which brings us to the fun part: what’s the new name going to be? This happens so rarely in professional sports that when it does I get beyond excited. Will the team draw from something in its history? Will it focus group the shit out of the nickname in a gross attempt to generate the most jersey sales possible? Will it embrace meme culture and go full Seattle Kraken? I’m laying out the odds.

Cleveland Spiders, 2-1 – The nickname of Cleveland’s National League team back in the 1800s could be poised for a comeback thanks to its combination of history and uniqueness. And just think how amazing the mascot would be.

Cleveland Naps, 5-1 – The team’s name for twelve seasons before they adopted the Indians moniker in 1915 has history, sure, but Joe Blow on the street isn’t going to understand it’s an homage to former manager Nap Lajoie. Then again…there’s a lot of potential here for branded pillows and blankets because baseball is so boring it makes everyone want to take a nap.

(Kidding! Baseball is wonderful…at least until it’s 12-3 in the seventh inning and the color commentator has decided it’s time to talk about the process he went through to pick out his new house paint.)

Cleveland Midges, 7-1 – Remember that playoff game when a bunch of aggressive flies swarmed Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain? Pepperidge Farm remembers, and they agree with me it was frickin’ awesome.

Cleveland Rocks, 10-1 – A shout out to Cleveland’s local hall of fame this is their best option, and I’d give it much higher odds if it weren’t for the existence of the Colorado Rockies. Then again, this is a league that already features the White Sox, the Red Sox, and the Reds, so maybe the similarity with Denver’s squad isn’t a problem. How many fans remember the Rockies exist anyway?

Cleveland LeBrons, 15-1 – Because the city’s only sports-relevant when the King is involved.

Cleveland Careys, 30-1 – Drew’s probably the most relevant Clevelander not named LeBron and his face would look pretty decent on a hat.

Cleveland Swingers, 40-1 – You know, because Ohio’s a swing state and that’s how you use a bat. What? There’s another connotation? Eh, I bet that’s pretty relevant to Cleveland too.

Cleveland Stupid Cheap Bastards, 50-1 – Yo, you guys really gonna trade Francisco Lindor? I know I shouldn’t talk because of what just went down with Mookie Betts, but come on.

Cleveland Steamers, 10000-1 – I will be so sad when this isn’t the solution.

So. Much. Star Wars.

During an investor event on Thursday, Disney announced approximately 18,000,000 new movies and TV shows set in the galaxy far, far away. There are a zillion articles on the internet detailing it all, so I’m going to skip all that and go straight to a hot take.

It’s about fucking time.

When I look back on the history of the forty-year-old property, one very clear thought comes to mind: really, that’s it? Nine movies, a few dozen video games, some cartoons, and a few hundred books they decided no longer count is all they did with it? Star Wars has made a lot of money for a lot of people, but it feels like its revenues were only a fraction of what they could have been.

I mean, we’re talking about a galaxy here. Do you understand how much creative stuff you can do with a whole galaxy? The Milky Way is an incredibly interesting, diverse place with bazillions of stars, planets, asteroids, dust clouds, black holes, quasars, pulsars…the works! And then you add some space magic on top of that in the form of the Force and link it all together with wildly efficient faster-than-light travel? My god, the things a creative can do with that are infinite.

That’s why I’m so excited for the future of the franchise. It smells like the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that it’s telling a wide variety of stories in a shared setting with tons of room for creativity, crossovers, and callbacks. And how cool is it going to be when they eventually weave all these new threads together Avengers style?

Although I’ll admit I’m less than thrilled with the unhappy ending the Skywalker clan met, perhaps getting that family out of the way to make room for other characters to take center stage is the best thing the new trilogy accomplished. Let’s see that galaxy already. I’m sure there’s some cool stuff in it.

On The Mandalorian

The first fourteen episodes of The Mandalorian have left viewers with a ton of questions. Foremost in this fan’s mind is this: how in the hell did it take us almost 40 years to get more good live action Star Wars?

Every Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi has been trash, or fine, or controversial at best. Not one of those eight films is universally considered good. Meanwhile, a steady stream of novels and animated series proved it’s not the setting that holds back good Star Wars storytelling. So what gives?

I’d argue that Lucas and Disney learned the wrong lessons from the success of the original trilogy. Sure, people initially ran to the theaters for the groundbreaking special effects, but they stuck around for the story – and that story was actually pretty simple. A New Hope is a simple coming of age tale about a poor redneck kid trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. Empire Strikes Back was all about that kid taking his next steps out into the world and finding a hell of a lot more than he bargained for. Return of the Jedi is that kid pulling himself up off the floor, dusting himself off, and kicking some evil ass.

It’s simple, straightforward, and not overwhelmed by attempts to tack on eighty pounds of bullshit. There are no political machinations, no excessive attempts at madcap humor, no retcons to make whatever they’re doing in the moment work. It’s why Revenge of the Sith – at its core, a story about a man desperate to save his wife’s life – almost got it right. It’s why car-chase-in-space The Last Jedi has its defenders. And that lack of an easily describable focus is what tanks all the rest.

The Mandalorian adheres to its simplicity like a good Jedi sticks to the code. There’s a bigger story going on, of course, but each episode is a bite-sized, well-defined chunk. The motivations of the various characters are clear, concise, and consistent. Action escalates over time but never in a way where it feels impossible to top. It’s gone back to basics in a way all storytellers can learn from, myself included.

I hope these lessons resonate with future writers tasked with directing the franchise. Writing good Star Wars is only as difficult as the writers themselves make it.

Hello. My name is Scott and I’m addicted to subscription boxes

I’m here today because I have a problem. I need everything in my life delivered to my lazy ass on a regular schedule or I’m just not happy.

It started with my subscription to Walden Local Meat. For a little more than five years I’ve gotten a frosty bag of grass fed meats dropped off on my porch once a month. I can now say conclusively that animals who’ve had a happier life are more delicious. You can taste the freedom.

I’ve augmented this with a weekly delivery from Imperfect foods. A variety of produce, grains, snacks, and dairy magically appears at the Colby Estate in a classy pink box. Having so many fresh fruits and vegetables on hand has been a game changer. In the past, I’d only buy what I specifically needed for whatever I was planning to make in the next few days. The Scott of eight months ago was so, so dumb. I haven’t been to Stop and Shop since October and I absolutely don’t miss that wonderful experience.

Living alone for the first time…well, there are a lot of things I need to make this studio apartment feel a little less like a room at the Holiday Inn. Enter Bespoke Post, who specialize in random sort-of-manly crap. My first two monthly boxes were a pancake breakfast kit (pancake mix, a cast iron skillet, a classy leather sleeve for the skillet’s handle, and a bottle of Bloody Mary mix) and a set of beer glasses. There is something really nice about drinking a trendy IPA out of a proper vessel.

Most recently I’ve joined the Microbrewed Craft Beer of the Month Club. I am not even close to the drunk I used to be, but I want to get some use out of those new glasses. My first shipment included a dozen cans from Diamond Bear Brewing Company (the OG craft beer of Arkansas, if the in-box literature is to be believed) and DuClaw Brewing (out of Baltimore). Good stuff.

So what’s next? I’m considering a clothing box, although the last time I tried that they sent me a racist shirt and wanted me to pay to return it. Some sort of monthly chocolate box sounds also sounds scrumptious. Perhaps wine or cheese, since I’ve been working to expand my Masshole sensibilities beyond “whatever’s on sale at the market up the street.”

I’ve realized in my new pandemic reality that I’m craving variety. Buying local is great and all, and I’ve done plenty of that, but such a strategy is itself severely limiting – and in a world where your options are already severely restricted local just ain’t enough.

So. Ya’ll got any more of those subscriptions? Something vaguely trendy, in a nice box? Oh. Ooooooh yeah. That’s the shit. Inject it right into my veins.

Beyond Light’s campaign is the worst in-game Destiny narrative yet

Hoo boy.

I’ve been a fan of Destiny since the launch of the first game almost ten years ago. The movement, shooting, and gear grind all combine to make an experience that’s very fun. The lore behind the whole story is fascinating, surprising, and extraordinarily well thought out. It’s a good experience that’s worth the investment of time and money. I’ve stuck with it all the way through Beyond Light, the latest expansion to Destiny 2.

The initial release of the first game was slammed for its lack of a coherent story. None of us had any clue what the hell we were doing or why. What’s the Light? What’s the Darkness? What’s this Traveler thingy? So these aliens I’ve been shooting nonstop aren’t actually the Darkness? Are characters really using “I don’t have time to explain” as an excuse for not providing any information whatsoever?

Subsequent expansions and the release of the sequel mostly fixed this problem. The in-game narrative of chunks like The Taken King and Forsaken were logical, engaging, and well fleshed out. Beyond Light’s campaign, however, reverses this trend–and somehow might be even worse than the narrative in the first game.

Spoilers ahead.

The worst problem here is that the game never explains why I can’t fight Eramis with my existing abilities. My Light powers were good enough to defeat literal gods who’ve been using Darkness for eons, so why can’t they handle some jerk who just started playing with an evil rock a few weeks ago? Not once do I get my ass kicked, see another guardian get seriously hurt, or get shown to be vulnerable to the new Stasis powers. Why do I need this stuff? And sure, there are a few locks that require the new powers to open, but am I really going to sell my soul to an unfathomable cosmic evil just to open a couple doors? That’s dumb.

And yet, the only way to progress is to acquire supposedly dangerous powers that I don’t feel like I actually need. While I’m doing that, various characters warn me about the path I’m treading and the negative ways these powers could affect me. Like…how, exactly? What’s the actual danger here? Drifter, Eris, and the Stranger are all shown wielding Stasis and they don’t seem any different. Variks tells me the Darkness has changed Eramis, but because I haven’t seen how she acted prior I can’t really grasp how or to what extent.

The worst is when Ghost starts chiming in with his concerns. I don’t blame the little guy for being worried given that he was born of the Light, but we still haven’t seen any negative side effects. My character, as has become par for the course, apparently has nothing to say in response to any of this–which sucks, because this would be the perfect place to explain why I’m charging blindly forward.

Stasis powers do become necessary against the final boss, but the lack of prior evidence that I need them makes my ability to turn the tide feel like dumb luck rather than careful preparation.

Maybe the details I’m looking for are in the lore. You know what? Even if they are, that’s no excuse to exclude them from the onscreen narrative, where they can immediately bolster the story right there in the moment. There’s a huge difference between limiting in-game exposition and not providing any at all.

And maybe you’d say “well, the writers must be building to something!” When you dig a hole for a foundation, you have to make sure you go deep enough. That sounds smart, right?

Anyway, here’s hoping Bungie’s writers get it right next time. They’ve proven they can.

On the election and its aftermath

First off, thank Christ Biden won. Never mind all the other obvious benefits; just having a president who doesn’t slither all over a podium like Jabba the Hutt licking Princess Leia is going to do so much to improve the nation’s digestive health.

For me, the initial call of Biden’s victory was slightly anticlimactic. Maybe my 2020-addled brain couldn’t fathom something good happening. Maybe I was waiting for the other shoe to drop in a story that feels like it’s missing a few twists and turns. Maybe it’s a side-effect of months of isolation. Whatever the cause, the joy didn’t really sink in until later in the day when I rode my bike into Harvard Square and found a horde of happy, cheering, honking people. I swear I could see four years of steam slowly releasing through everyone’s ears all at once.

Getting to celebrate with the community was awesome. For the first time in a long time, it feels like there’s a chance we can make some significant movement in the right direction – but it’s still just a chance. More people voted for Donnie Ding Dong than voted for him in 2016. Ohio and Florida went red and weren’t particularly competitive. The divides between rural and urban Americans, male and female voters, and college grads and those without a degree seem starker than ever. If Democrats don’t win both run-off Senate elections in Georgia, Diamond Joe’s likely going to be stuck pushing his agenda through executive orders.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. The progressive message isn’t attracting a big part of the country. I’ll tell you flat out that I don’t personally give a flying fuck what some racist hillbilly with zero connection to the broader country living in a socially and economically irrelevant backwater thinks about tax policy, women’s rights, police reform, or much of anything, really, but–I want to have a nice life, and I want that guy to have a nice life, and if we don’t pull these people back toward reality just a little bit they will be a thorn in our sides for the rest of our lives. That said, I don’t necessarily think this is the domain of the Democratic party; I think any outreach they attempt in that regard will be soundly ignored, and I think they need to focus on expanding, enabling, and incorporating the progressive and African American coalitions that were so vital to winning this election. Reaching these people who are falling off the map is, I think, a job for smaller, community-based non-profits focused on moving the meter just a few decimal points at a time.

Perhaps the most interesting part of all this: what comes next for Donald Trump? I wish I could say we’ll never hear from Donnie and his brood again, but that seems highly unlikely. MAGA is basically a lifestyle brand at this point, sort of a Lululemon for dipshits, and there’s still a ton of money to be milked from it. I’ve always believed Howard Stern’s claim that Trump didn’t actually want to win the last election and was using it to build momentum toward the launch of his own cable TV network. The Trumps and their weird cult, unfortunately, aren’t leaving the spotlight anytime soon. There’s too much money left to be made and too much influence remaining to be exerted. That blows.

So yeah. Like most other things in life, the 2024 election brought with a combination of good and bad. But make no mistake: this was a victory not just for the Democratic party but for democracy, decency, and reality, and it could literally save lives if Biden’s able to adjust our country’s approach to dealing with coronavirus. That’s definitely worth celebrating.

Scott’s election night survival guide

  1. Grab your favorite booze. Trust me: you’re gonna want a little of the ol’ brain lube for this one. Election night’s going in deep and raw and hard. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Me? I realized I haven’t had a Manhattan in a while, so I’m switching to cocktails for the night.
  2. Make sure there’s food. This is not something to face on an empty stomach. Have a big comfort food dinner and make sure there are snacks at the ready. I’m thinking it’s a good night to order a chicken parm sub from my favorite deli.
  3. Check on your favorite blanket and pajamas. This is going to difficult enough; scrambling to find your Winnie the Pooh snuggie at the last minute is additional stress you just don’t need. My Bruins hoodie is freshly laundered and ready to go.
  4. Find something fun to watch or play. Tune the TV to that special something you know will keep you calm and content. I’m probably going to alternate between watching Dr. Pol pop goat abscesses and fighting the forces of evil in Destiny 2.
  5. Know when to cut yourself off. Just because all your coworkers are going to be hungover on the 10 am Zoom call doesn’t mean you need to be. This could be your chance to finally bury Jeanine in accounting once and for all. I’m a multi-time All-Massachusetts Working Hungover Champion, but I’m holding myself to two Manhattans.
  6. Get some fucking sleep. A good night’s rest will help you face the rest of the week. I’ll be in bed by 11:30.
  7. Plan for a nice breakfast. If you have to run out into the streets to dropkick fascism, you’ll want to do it on a full stomach. Pancakes and sausage, anyone?

“But Scott Colby!” I can hear you screeching through your laptop microphone, which I just hacked, “none of that has anything to do with the election!”

Exactly.

There’s no point in staying up late to watch election coverage til the crack of dawn, pickling your liver and stressing yourself out. It’s not going to be entertaining. You’re not going to learn anything new or useful listening to Anderson Cooper desperately grasp for meaning in the way-too-early returns or watching Slightly Puffier Anderson Cooper dick around with his red and blue Google Maps on a giant iPad. Nobody wants to stare at fucking Florida all night.

And don’t even think about looking at social media. Uncle Cletus’s fresh ramblings about how George Soros is paying Joe Biden to bulldoze the wall will still be waiting for you at Thanksgiving dinner. Remember: your uncle’s a lot easier to deal with when you can fantasize about dumping the cranberry sauce on his head.

If there’s a conclusive result, you’ll hear about it Wednesday morning. If there isn’t…well, there’s not much you can do about it Tuesday night anyway, unless you’re a wizard or the owner of a time machine, in which case…seriously bro, why didn’t you step in months ago?

So just ignore the election coverage. Let this thing play itself out. Stuff your face, rest up, and take care of yourself so you can be at your best if it turns out the country needs you. It’s what Ben Franklin would do. Probably.