Boyhood Review

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Life Itself

 

Boyhood

Director: Richard Linklater

Stars: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke

Year Released: 2014

Genre: Drama

The Life of Spoilers

            Famous French director Jean-Luc Goddard once said that “The cinema is truth twenty-four times per second.” I’ve always believed that the exact opposite was true. After all, most movies are about things that did not or cannot happen. Even if that old familiar disclaimer “Based on a true Story” is used, it just means that instead of the story being a hundred percent fake they’ve managed to shoehorn in a tenth of the true story. This is especially true whenever age or the passage of time is used. How many times has the viewing public been asked to believe that an actor in their twenties or thirties is a “kid” or that ten years have passed despite everyone’s appearances not changing? This lack of realism isn’t necessarily good or bad, it’s just one of the realities of moviemaking. Though, for every rule, there must be an exception.

“Boyhood” is that exception. In 2002 Director Richard Linklater undertook a nearly unbelievable task, he would tell the story of a boy’s childhood in real time. To everyone’s surprise (including mine) Linklater pulled it off. Filming in bursts over a twelve year period, “Boyhood” is a one of a kind movie. Before anything else is said, I have to dedicate a metric ton of respect to everyone who stuck with this film over the dozen years it was filmed. Extra special thanks (with a cherry on top) has to go to Ellar Coltrane who plays our titular boy and Lorelei Linklater who plays his sister. These two kids put the most awkward years of their lives up on the big screen and kept going with the movie despite not having any contract that would force them to keep going (stupid De Havilland Law).

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I haven’t been talking about “Boyhoods” plot much, and that’s because the movie’s plot is life itself. The story (if you could call it that) revolves around Mason Evans Jr. and his middle class, single parent Texas family and the ups and downs of their lives. Aside from his mothers divorced status and her poor taste in men (she seems drawn to a bunch of drunk assh&%$) Masons life isn’t much different than yours or mine. Mason clashes with authority figures, finds mentors, discovers his passions, dates girls, experiments with drugs, forms his own personal viewpoints and eventually heads off to College.

That’s one of the main complaints about “Boyhood” it’s so close to reality, that it’s not interesting anymore. While the perils of his mothers’ abusive boyfriends add some danger and excitement to the story, the thing that got me invested was seeing a glimpse of my own past. This allowed me to put myself in Mason’s shoes even though we lived different lives (seriously if you grew up during this time prepare for a massive nostalgia rush).

While the almost three-hour running time will likely discourage some, I thought the time when by quickly and I can’t remember being bored during any part of “Boyhood”. Though I also don’t remember being particularly invested either. In that way the story was like life itself, you don’t even notice it while it’s happening. On the character side of things, everyone gave very natural and realistic performances which seemed to be part of the problem for some people. I’ll admit that Mason as a character doesn’t have much agency or effect on the story, which is completely fitting given his age. Remember, most people don’t have much say on what happens to them in the first couple decades there alive. Still, there were a few surprises like Mason’s sister being the more rebellious teen and that Mason Senior (Ethan Hawke) the divorced dad trying to start a music career would be more of a functional adult than mom (Patricia Arquette). While it isn’t really an issue for this kind of movie the camerawork is very good and the Texas scenery looks great.

“Boyhood” is a confusing film because it’s like life. There are a few great moments and a few bad moments but mostly it’s just normal. That’s not saying that it wasn’t consistently watchable, just that the story wasn’t as extraordinary as how the movie was made. I suspect that the making of “Boyhood” might be more interesting than the movie itself. Despite all of this “Boyhood” is a phenomenal movie that deserves respect for reaching for the stars with its premise. I encourage everyone to go see just so creativity is encouraged and you see how close a strangers life is to your own.

 

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes but only with other people so we could discuss it

Would I buy it: Yes, but the deluxe edition so I could see all the extra stuff

Facts of Life: Your right hand has never touched your right elbow; imagine how sad it must be.

 

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12 years well spent

 

Mister Johnson Review

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English Man in Africa

 

Mister Johnson

Director: Bruce Beresford

Stars: Maynard Eziashi, Pierce Brosnan, Edward Woodward

Genre: Drama

Year Released: 1990

Proper English Spoilers

 

While most conquered peoples will hate their new masters, some will try to become them. These poor chumps end up having the worse time of anyone because nothing is more dangerous than a servant trying to be a master. In 1923 Africa had been well and truly conquered by various European powers, with Nigeria having been under British influence since 1885 until it was officially declared part of the British Empire in 1901. Some Nigerians rebelled but most just tried to continue their lives as best as they could under the new and confusing rules of a foreign power that had very little interest in understanding the society of the people who were now under their control. “Mister Johnson” is the story of one of those regular Africans trying to become an Englishman.

More specifically it’s the story of the titular Mr. Johnson (Maynard Eziashi), the friendly and helpful clerk, who serves as the assistant to the local district officer Harry Rudbeck (Pierce Brosnan). Johnson considers himself different from the other Africans, specifically, he considers himself an Englishman. I’m not even joking about this, Johnson dresses in a fine Savile Rd. suit with matching shoes, he always speaks English far more than he speaks his native language and he even refers to England as his home country.

Now Johnson is neither insane nor is he stupid, he just sees the world in a very simple way. While this is more touched upon in the novel “Mr. Johnson” is based on, foreign missionaries educated Johnson when he was a child. These missionaries hoped to “civilize” the “savage” African and gave him his Christian name. It was during this education that Johnson decides that a man was either savage (meaning African) or civilized (meaning English). Since Johnson himself was civilized, then he must also be an Englishman.

By the start of the movie, Johnson has gone into severe debt with his English Gentleman lifestyle. To his own detriment, Johnson lives in the moment and goes from scheme to scheme, always trying to stay one step ahead of whoever is after him. Johnson gets his big break when his boss Mr. Rubbeck mentions that his dream project, a road that would connect his township to the main highway has run out of money. Mr. Johnson takes this opportunity to teach Rudbeck about the way create money.

With his trademark, helpful nature, Mr., Johnson suggests that instead of building a new courthouse, just paint the old one and use the money on the road, instead of buying new uniforms for the colonial soldiers just patch up the old ones and use the money on the road. Now this turn of events can be taken many different ways. You could see it as the devious Johnson corrupting his gracious employer. Or, you could see it as Johnson becoming a true Englishman by exploiting the African people like Rudbeck and his friends. I prefer to think of it as just another sign of Johnson not thinking ahead. Johnson is simply focused on completing the road and nothing else and fraud is the best way to do it. Johnson will take this attitude with him throughout the entire movie and it will eventually lead to tragedy.

While “Mr. Johnson” is full of great performances, the standout is Mr. Johnson himself. Not only does he have a magnetic and charming personality but also he’s such a complex character that anyone who watches this movie will be pondering his motivations and mind state long after the movie is done. I see Mr. Johnson as someone who has bought into the message of colonialism. While the stated message of England’s domination of other countries was to “spread civilization” and “educate the savage natives”, the truth was that it all came down to money and power. The thing is, many of the people in the field carrying out this conquest fully bought into the idea of bringing civilization to the barbarians. While most of the Africans ignored the rhetoric and treated the British as the latest in a long line of foreign dictators, Mr. Johnson is the exception.

This is best demonstrated through the conversation Mr. Johnson has with the crude and racist shopkeeper Sargy Gollup (Edward Woodward). After growing close to Johnson on a hunting trip, Sargy gives him an unfortunate compliment when he tells him that he’s, “Too good to be a Nig.” Johnson actually takes this racist jibe as a compliment and why shouldn’t he, Sargy mean it as one. Understand that Johnson isn’t some spineless servant taking Sargys abuse with a smile; he simply takes the comment to mean he is a true Englishman. Johnson actually knocks Sargy out when the have an argument later on something the other Africans would never attempt for fear of the consequences but Johnson would because he sees himself as Sargys equal. Here are two men that are unaware of any power plays being made in London, their mealy two men trying to civilize each other.

If anything frustrates me about this movie it’s Johnson’s superior Mr. Rudbeck. He starts off as a typically oblivious Englishman, who’s so wrapped up in his own affairs that he can’t bother to understand his own surroundings. In fact, one of the earliest schemes in the movie is Rudbeck explaining to the local Waziri that they cannon flog a woman for stealing. While the Waziri tries to explain to Rudbeck that this is how they’ve done things for century’s, Rudbeck tells him that flogging is now forbidden and that’s that.

While I’m hardly trying to push some kind of pro-flogging agenda, you have to realize that it comes across as monumentally arrogant for a foreigner to tell someone that they have to abandon centuries old customs, just because they say so. While Rudbeck does improve by the end of the move I wonder if he has really learned anything. He tries to help Johnson at his point of greatest need and even grants him his final request, but was this because he has realized the cruelty of colonialism or simply due to his lingering affection for his helpful assistant. Either way, the final shot of Rudbeck is a hunting one as he ponders for the first time in his life, what serving England really means.

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes

Would I buy it: no

Tips on how to get a smoking hot body: Get Cremated

 

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For he himself has said it, and it’s greatly to his credit, That he is an Englishman

 

 

Class Post-Night Vale

“The Beloved Craziness of Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome To Night Vale

Authors: Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Year Published 2015

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Horror

All Hail Spoilers Worship and Submit

           

          An average person reads a lot of books in his life. Some are good and some are bad, but the best ones are those that stick in their memory, like a great conversation. In the book “Welcome to Nigh Vale” The part that stuck with me is in chapter seventeen when our protagonist Diane is making excuses to her son Josh for her absence. She tells him that she was on a date with her co-worker Dawn . Josh mishears Dawn as Don and It’s not until chapter 20 that Josh becomes aware that Dawn is a she. The only reason that he becomes aware of this is because Diane automatically corrects her son “based on a reality that was irrelevant to her lie”. Who hasn’t seen (or participated in) a mother and son having two separate conversations without even knowing it or reveled one of their own lies out of simple reflex? That one part was one of many that really hit home for me.

 

What is “Welcome to Night Vale” about? It’s about town, a small town in the desert not unlike your own. It’s a town where, “the Sun is hot, the Moon is beautiful and strange lights pass overhead in the night as we pretend to sleep.” This is the town of Night Vale, a town just like yours, or maybe just more like yours than you’d care to admit.

 

All right so maybe Night Vale isn’t much like your town. In our world (I’m assuming you live in the same world as me) “Welcome to Night Vale” started as Comedy/Surreal horror story podcast, which was presented being the community radio show from the fictional town of Night Vale. A town, where the bizarre happens so much, it’s just a part of regular life. Whatever I say about the book I just want everyone to know, that if your interested in a story podcast that perfectly balances surreal horror and hilarious absurdity, you should give “Welcome to Night Vale” a listen. Chronologically the book “Welcome To Night Vale” takes place just before episode seventy-six, so everyone who’s interested should go and get caught up, don’t worry I’ll just wait here.

 

All right, now that were all on the same page, was that awesome or what! For those of you who didn’t take the time to listen to a mere seventy-five episodes (shame on you) “Welcome to Night Vale” can best be described as the twisted love child of “News from Lake Wobegon” and “The Twilight Zone”. Night Vale is in all respects a standard small town. Like all small towns, they’re concerned with the P.T.A, Mayoral elections and the fear that large corporations might change their way of life. The only difference is that in Night Vale the head of the P.T.A is an ominous and mighty glow cloud (ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD), the mayoral candidates are a literal five-headed dragon and the faceless old woman who secretly lives in your house (yes, your house) and the encroaching corporation isn’t Wal-Mart, but StrexCorp Synernists Inc. a sinister cult devoted to a terrifying smiling God (Believe in a Smiling God). Fortunately, most of that stuff isn’t important in the context of the book.

 

The book “Welcome to Night Vale” focuses on two specific citizens of Night Vale and how the comfortable routine weirdness of their lives, is suddenly changed into uncomfortable new weirdness. One of our main characters is Jackie Fierro the nineteen-year-old owner and proprietor of the local Night Vale pawnshop. Jackie has been nineteen for as long as she can remember (has it been years or century’s) and she has always worked at the pawn show. This familiar routine is shattered when a mysterious man in a tan jacket (yes that man, in that tan jacket) pawns a slip of paper with the words King City written on it. Now, no matter what she does that slip of paper always ends up back in Jackie’s hand. On the other side of town, office worker and single mother Diane Crayton struggles to raise her fifteen-year-old son, Josh by herself. Josh is at that awkward time in his life when kids can be a real hand full. It also doesn’t help that Josh is a shape shifter and is starting to ask questions about his father. After a series of hilarious misadventures and terrifying existential terror, both women team up to solve their small town problems.

 

When I was growing up my mom would always listen to The Prairie Home Companion” as we drove home from school and I loved watching the twilight zone on the Sci-Fi channel. So it should be no surprise that when I heard that there was a podcast that combined these two I was all over it like a five-headed dragon on five pigs. When I heard that there was going to be a Night Vale book, I did wonder if the shows creepy humor would successfully survive the journey into the realm of print. I’m happy to say that both the scares and the laughs are here. But I’m even happier to say that they weren’t even my favorite part.

 

While I was prepared to scream and laugh when I read “Welcome to Night Vale” I was not prepared to care. Yes, believe it not I became sincerely invested in our two main characters. I felt Jackie’s fear over being uprooted from her comfortable routine and thrust into the unknown because I’ve felt that. I also felt Diane’s difficulty in raising a son on her own, even though I haven’t felt anything like that before because the writing was good enough for me to step into her shoes. I’ve I can press one thing on you, it’s that it’s very hard to have relatable, interesting and sympathetic characters in the book as freighting and absurd as “this one but “Welcome to Night Vale” somehow pulls it off.

 

Sadly “Welcome to Night Vale” isn’t perfect. While I didn’t have too much trouble, the weird wordplay, and constant bizarre shifts will undoubtedly leave many people lost and wondering what the heck just happened. There is also the matter of the plot, which in short is Jackie and Diane try to get to King City because they think the answers to their questions are there. Now it takes them awhile to get to King City, as that’s where the climax happens, but before they get there it seems like they’re just spinning their wheels. Not only does it take a while for both Jackie and Diane to realize they’re after the same thing but their search mostly involves them looking for something, then running into a dead end. Now, while this is realistic it also gets a little frustrating after a while, but maybe that was the point. Fortunately, the search itself contains a ton of interesting moments. One of my favorites is when Jackie and Diane go to the offices of the local newspaper, to talk to hatchet obsessed editor Leann Hart about articles she wrote about King City. After a strange conversation (aren’t they all) Jackie gets fed up and just asks if Leann can put them in touch with anyone who lives in King City.  Leann responds, “Oh no, I never actually went there or talked to anyone there. I’m a reporter, not a snoop” ladies and gentlemen, journalism in a nutshell.

 

“Welcome to Night Vale” is an interesting specimen. Not only is it the first book based on a podcast (that I know of), but it’s also a surreal horror comedy where the best part, at least for me, was the characters. While anyone who listens to the podcast will obviously want to pick this one up, I’m also going to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t listened to the podcast and is interested in reading a blend of scary, funny and touching. While it might confuse some, a quick visit to Wikipedia will let you know the basic outline of the show. If you’re tired of your dull lives, then why not drop everything, abandon your home and drive on over to Night Vale. After all, you’re only weird once ( the previous statement may not be true).

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the book: Yes

Would I read it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

Tell a joke about eating people: Two cannibals are eating a clown. One looks to the other and says, “Does this taste funny to you”

 

Slacker Review

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Uh, yeah I was gonna put a caption, but something came up

 

Slacker

Director: Richard Linklater

Stars: The Whole Cast

Year Released: 1991

Genre: Drama/Comedy

So like Spoilers or you know… whatever

 

In 1989 armature Texan director Richard Linklater set out to make a film with little more than a 16mm camera and a twenty-three thousand dollar budget. From those humble beginnings, he created a film unlike any I’ve seen before. It’s a film with no main character and no real plot , but it still manages to be interesting. That movie is “Slacker” and talking about it means talking about its unique structure, “Slacker” begins by following a young man (played by Linklater himself) who arrives at an Austin bus station. This guy catches a cab home and regales his captive driver with a story of a dream he had. Once Mr. “Should Have Stayed at the Bus Station” arrives home (yes, that’s how he and the rest of the cast are listed in the credits) the camera stops following him and starts following someone he met in the street. “Slacker” continues on in this manner, following one of the many weirdoes in Dallas until the meet or pass by someone else and the camera decides to follow them.

This host of misfits include a disgruntled grad student (aren’t they all), a violent agitator giving out tee shirts (“Remember, terrorism is the surgical strike capability of the oppressed”), a group of guys symbolically destroying their stuff to get over losing their girlfriends (that never works guys, though admittedly when I did it, it was someone else’s stuff) and a woman who has faith in groups and describes then deconstructs half the arguments on the internet before the internet even existed (You know, that’s what I hate: when you start talking like this, like you just pull in these things from the shit you read, and you haven’t thought it out for yourself, no bearing on the world around us, and totally unoriginal. It’s like you just pasted together these bits and pieces from your “authoritative sources.” I don’t know. I’m beginning to suspect there’s nothing really in there.).

While “Slacker” is quite well shot for a low budget movie, the real draw in this type of film is the dialogue. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this movie is almost endlessly quotable and you’ll likely be remembering bits and pieces of it for months afterward. “Slacker also avoids one of the common problems of dialogue-heavy movies, the possibility that you won’t find the main character interesting, by not having one. This, unfortunately, can lead people to continue on watching even though they don’t like the movie just to see what happens next and then feel cheated at the end. My advice to any would-be watchers is to give this movie thirty minutes. if it hasn’t hooked you by then you should just cut your losses and turn it off.

Fortunately, I enjoyed “Slacker” a lot, even though I didn’t like all its characters. The conversations can range from funny to profound and I was actually invested in the stories of some of the characters. “Slacker” to me, is like wandering around a college town on a summer day and just enjoying meeting new people. So if you like strange conversations about strange topics by strange people (like me). Wake up at the crack of noon, pour yourself a bowl of cheerios and goof off with “Slacker”.

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the movie: Yes

Would I watch it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

What will you be doing when the revolution comes: doing what I do every day: Trying Not To Die

 

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This movie was arguing with idiots before the internet made it cool

 

Welcome To Night Vale Review

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Mostly Paper, Partial Words

 

Welcome To Night Vale

Authors: Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Year Published 2015

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Horror

All Hail Spoilers Worship and Submit

           

There is a town, a small town in the desert not unlike your own. It’s a town where the Sun is hot, the Moon is beautiful and strange lights pass overhead in the night as we pretend to sleep. This is the town of Night Vale, a town just like yours, or maybe just more like yours than you’d care to admit.

All right so maybe Night Vale isn’t much like your town. In our world (I’m assuming you live in the same world as me), “Welcome to Night Vale” started as Comedy/Surreal horror podcast, which was presented as the community radio show from the surreal town of Night Vale. A town where the bizarre happens so much, it’s just a part of regular life. If you’re interested in a story podcast that perfectly balances surreal horror and hilarious absurdity, you should give “Welcome to Night Vale” a listen. Chronologically the book, “Welcome To Night Vale” takes place just before episode seventy-six, so everyone who’s interested should go and get caught up. Don’t worry I’ll just wait here.

All right, now that we’re all on the same page, was that awesome or what? For those of you who didn’t take the time to listen to a mere seventy-five episodes (shame on you), “Welcome to Night Vale” can best be described as the twisted love child of “News from Lake Wobegon” and “The Twilight Zone.” Night Vale is in all respects a standard small town. Like all small towns, they’re concerned with P.T.A meetings, mayoral elections and the fear that large corporations might change their way of life. The only difference is that in Night Vale the head of the P.T.A is an ominous and mighty glow cloud (ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD), the mayoral candidates are a literal five-headed dragon and the faceless old woman who secretly lives in your house (yes, your house) and the encroaching corporation isn’t Wal-Mart, but StrexCorp Synernists Inc. a sinister cult devoted to a terrifying smiling God (Believe in a Smiling God). Fortunately, most of that stuff isn’t important in the context of the book.

The book “Welcome to Night Vale” focuses on two specific citizens of Night Vale and how the comfortable routine weirdness of their lives is suddenly changed into uncomfortable new weirdness. One of our main characters is Jackie Fierro the nineteen-year-old owner and proprietor of the local Night Vale pawnshop. Jackie has been nineteen for as long as she can remember (has it been years or centuries) and she has always worked at the pawn show. This familiar routine is shattered when a mysterious man in a tan jacket (yes that man, in that tan jacket) pawns a slip of paper with the words King City written on it. Now, no matter what she does that slip of paper always ends up back in Jackie’s hand. On the other side of town, office worker and single mother Diane Crayton struggles to raise her fifteen-year-old son, Josh by herself. Josh is at that awkward time in his life when kids can be a real handful. It also doesn’t help that Josh is a shape shifter and is starting to ask questions about his father. After a series of hilarious misadventures and terrifying existential terror, both women team up to solve their small town problems.

When I was growing up my mom would always listen to the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” as we drove home from school. I also loved watching the twilight zone on the Sci-Fi channel. So it should be no surprise that when I heard that there was a podcast that combined these two I was all over it like a five-headed dragon on five pigs. When I heard that there was going to be a Night Vale book, I did wonder if the shows creepy humor would successfully survive the journey into the realm of print. I’m happy to say that both the scares and the laughs are here. But I’m even happier to say that they weren’t even my favorite part.

While I was prepared to scream and laugh when I read “Welcome to Night Vale”, I was not prepared to care. Yes, believe it not I became sincerely invested in our two main characters. I felt Jackie’s fear over being uprooted from her comfortable routine and thrust into the unknown because I’ve felt that. I also felt Diane’s difficulty in raising a son on her own, even though I haven’t felt anything like that before because the writing was good enough for me to step into her shoes. If I can impress one thing on you, it’s that it’s very hard to have relatable, interesting and sympathetic characters in the book as f and absurd as this one.  “Welcome to Night Vale” somehow pulls it off. One of my favorite parts is when Diane is making excuses to Josh for her absence and she tells him that she was on a date with Dawn her co-worker. Josh mishears Dawn as Don and his error isn’t corrected until long after the conversation has ended. Who hasn’t seen (or participated in) a mother and son having two separate conversations without even knowing it? That one part was one of many that really hit home for me.rightening

Sadly, “Welcome to Night Vale” isn’t perfect. While I didn’t have too much trouble, the weird wordplay, and constant bizarre shifts in the story will undoubtedly leave many people lost and wondering what the heck just happened. There is also the matter of the plot, which, in short, is Jackie and Diane try to get to King City because they think the answers to their questions are there. Now it takes them awhile to get to King City, where the climax happens, and before they get there, it seems like they’re just spinning their wheels. Not only does it take a while for both Jackie and Diane to realize they’re after the same thing, but also their search mostly involves them looking for something, then running into a dead end. Now, while this is realistic it also gets a little frustrating after a while, but maybe that was the point. Fortunately, the search itself contains a ton of interesting moments. One of my favorites is when Jackie and Diane go to the offices of the local newspaper, to talk to hatchet-obsessed editor Leann Hart about articles she wrote about King City. After a strange conversation (aren’t they all) Jackie gets fed up and just asks if Leann can put them in touch with anyone who lives in King City.  Leann responds, “Oh no, I never actually went there or talked to anyone there. I’m a reporter, not a snoop.” Ladies and gentlemen, journalism in a nutshell.

“Welcome to Night Vale” is an interesting specimen. Not only is it the first book based on a podcast (that I know of), but it’s also a surreal horror comedy where the best part, at least for me, was the characters. While anyone who listens to the podcast will obviously want to pick this one up, I’m also going to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t listened to the podcast and is interested in reading a blend of scary, funny and touching. While it might confuse some, a quick visit to Wikipedia will let you know the basic outline of the show. If you’re tired of your dull lives, then why not drop everything, abandon your home and drive on over to Night Vale? After all, you’re only weird once. ( The previous statement may not be true.)

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the book: Yes

Would I read it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

Tell a joke about eating people: Two cannibals are eating a clown. One looks to the other and says, “Does this taste funny to you”

 

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Now is not the time to Panic, The time to Panic was much earlier, but you can always make up for lost time.