October is here, and that means the leaves are changing color, Halloween is coming, and we have pumpkin… everything, but it also means a new T-shirt design from your friends here at The NYRD Shop. To celebrate the new season we are bringing you our newest mashup entitled, Some-Pig. Some pigs are more than ordinary, they are spectacular, and you can rest assured this pig is going to be taking first place at the county fair. It’s all thanks to one radioactive spider named Charlotte. Our new shirt comes in a wide variety of colors, so pick yours up today.

Now is the time to stack up on shirts galore, because we want you to Shop Cooler. Shop like a NYRD.



Young Justice

We’re going to level with you, on this one. DC Comics hasn’t exactly been hitting home runs the past few years. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Too Long of a Movie Title sucked worse than that time the Batmobile lost its wheel and the Joker escaped because of it. The New 52 comic reboot went so poorly that DC rebooted it again this past year, and quietly whispered a “we screwed up,” so low only Kryptonians could hear it. Even Suicide Squad, their best and halfway decent movie only gave the world a pointless plot and proof that Jared Leto has a blurred sense of reality and propriety. That is why this past week when it was rumored that Netflix was in talks to create a third season of Young Justice, the beleaguered DC fans of the world rejoiced. Unfortunately, that promptly turned out to be a falsehood taken out of context, and that may be the cruelest trick DC has played on us yet.

Gone in a Kid Flash
For those of you unaware of the existence of this amazing gift that is Young Justice, let us be the first to tell you about. If there is one thing DC has always done better than Marvel it is animated cartoons. From the Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series to the Justice League DCAU to their cartoon movies, DC has always shined when it came to animation projects. It is probably the one battleground they have yet to yield to Marvel and their lackluster Disney-esque cartoon shows. DC animation has never been shy about bringing in comic story lines, making epic story arcs, delving into characters’ darker motivations, and doing it all with visual flair. However, all of that pales in comparison to Young Justice. If you like superheroes, this is a cartoon that is so good we don’t even recommend that you finish reading this article. You should just call out sick from work, run to your Netflix, and binge the first two seasons right now… Go…

For everyone else still here, Young Justice, took established characters and made them fresh. It even did the impossible and made sidekicks fun again in a mature and well-written manner. The premise of the show is that Robin, Aqualad, Speedy, and Kid Flash start a young Justice League -hence the name- and as they go forward their roster expands and contracts as they confront hardship and triumph. This includes the expectations of their mentors, and all the complicated emotions that come with them. Young Justice has the wherewithal and the impressive ability to create a universe that feels true to DC comics, but is also compelling enough to be believable. These traits are what made it so beloved by fans. Unfortunately, studio executives thought they were the wrong kind of fans… Prepare to get mad.

Young Justice was cancelled at the height of its popularity for several reasons, but mostly because, “girls liked the show.” According to the executives at Warner Bros., serious superhero cartoons were not what they wanted. They wanted wacky and weird superhero shows like Teen Titans Go, shows that better resembled Adventure Time or Regular Show. Their belief was that boys only wanted action and fart jokes, but what put the real nail in the coffin was the explosion of avid girl fans that fell in love with the show. Young women and entire families were suddenly sitting down to watch. It makes sense, considering that Young Justice gave examples of a lot of powerful, confident, and complex female heroines dealing with issues that many girls can relate to: family, relationships, body issues, etc. Unfortunately, for Warner Bros. they were an undesirable demographic, believing that girls would not buy actions figures or other merchandise. So after two seasons, Young Justice was cancelled, even though it was succeeding in the ratings.

Robin from the Rich
As much as we enjoy the humor of shows like Adventure Time, we would also argue that it is not the irrelevancy of that cartoon’s jokes which make make it a success. We also believe that there is room on a child’s cartoon pallet for ridiculous fun and serious action. Kids cannot live on fart jokes alone. Unfortunately, this whole thing only goes to show the true purpose of cartoons in the entertainment industry, to sell toys. Apparently, it does not matter if a show has a great plot, a bevy of amazing characters, or enough heart to make a linebacker cry. It all comes down to merchandising, and that is pretty damn depressing… Also, it explains Michael Bay.

Young Justice was full of bold ideas and incredibly creative characters. It may have been too serious for Cartoon Network and the WB, but its first two seasons have now found a home on Netflix. The online streaming service has been doing a lot to create interesting and worthwhile kids programming. Over the summer they released Voltron: Legendary Defender -and we recommend that you check that out too. A show like Young Justice would fit right in on Netflix and it would be a huge boon to the streaming service, and -quite frankly- to the struggling DC Entertainment company that has not been having a good year.

All we’re saying is that you should definitely watch this cartoon. Maybe if enough people were to stream it that might convince Netflix that it was worth the investment of a third season. Either way, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

It has finally arrived. Dreamworks Animation and Netflix have teamed up to bring Voltron Legendary Defender to the home streaming service. The cartoon series will be available to watch this summer, and will feature all the classic elements of the Voltron mythos, 5 teenagers, 5 cat robots, all forming to make one giant robot who kicks alien posterior.

The original Voltron was a 1980’s Japanese cartoon series that was ported to America, except with a lot of content cut out. Beast King GoLion was the original Japanese show made for adults, and as such had a lot more violence and non-kid friendly scenes. When the dubbed version came to America as Voltron, the show was pretty much in shambles. All the convoluted anime plot lines combined with all the messy editing made for a fun show but not a very coherent overarching storyline, but that is something this new Dreamworks projects has aimed to fixed.

With the format of Netflix Voltron Legendary Defender will not only have interesting individual episodes but a coherent story that carries through the entire series. Since Netflix programming does not have to rely on time schedules and network TV programming, the show can be less episodic-based and more about a larger story. What you get is quality animation more aligned with modern TV storytelling as opposed to the one-shot story-arcs of cartoons past.

Hopefully, this format will catch on more in the animation world. We are still keeping our fingers crossed that Netflix realizes the potential of cartoons like Young Justice, which they should definitely choose to pick up for a third season… hint… hint…

Voltron Legendary Defender starts airing on June 8 on Netflix. Watch the trailer now:

Image courtesy: http://www.voltronlegendarydefender.com/

Like many children of the 80’s and 90’s most of us here at The NYRD were fortunate enough to be raised by a third parent, television. The moving images on the screen kept us entertained and taught us many lessons  in the process. Bugs Bunny expanded our vocabulary -indubitably- and how to avoid hunters by cross-dressing. Reading Rainbow taught us that the USS Enterprise has a really good library, but it was Saturday Morning Cartoons that taught us all about what it meant to be a hero, to be the good guy. So, in this turbulent time of politics, struggle, and uncertainty it might be time we all stepped back to our younger days and revisited those Saturday mornings, when the difference between “good” and” bad” was defined by a character’s actions.

While other boys and girls were modeling their ideals of adulthood on professional sports players, teachers… mailmen? We wouldn’t really know… For many of us our vision of responsibility came came from men and women who fired lasers at each other, while never once killing anyone. It came from mutated ninja creatures who brandished dangerous weapons, while never once killing anyone. It came from talking-car-robots, talking-cat-warriors, and even that one show where spacemen rode dinosaurs. Truly, it was a magical time to be alive. Do you remember when you got up earlier than you ever would again in your life? When you stuffed yourself full of cereal and spent a solid four or five hours ingesting as much animated antics as possible? There was nothing like being hopped up on sugar and watching the forces of good do battle with the minions of evil. The best part was that in shows like, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Jem and the Holograms, Transformers, or Thundercats you always knew who was the good guy and who was the bad, and it wasn’t just because some were dressed like snakes.

There was always one particularly defining moment in every single cartoon that separated the good guy from the bad. It is a TV Trope, called Save the Villain, but around here we simply call it the “Cliff Test.” There always came a time when the hero was fighting the villain high atop a mountain, or suspended walkway, or floating balloon-platform-death-machine. Whether it was Duke duking it out with Cobra Commander, Lion-O battling-O with Mumm-Ra, or He-man He-punching Skelator in the face, it usually ended the same way. Inevitably, the villain would lose his footing and fall, grabbing for the ledge at the last moment. Then the hero would step to the precipice to find their fiendish mortal foe dangling helplessly by a mere few fingers. It would be so easy to finish them off and end the fight, but not for our true blue hero. Instead the good guy would reach down his hand and grab the very same person he or she had spent the last five minutes fighting in a life and death battle.

It was in those moments that heroism became defined for many of us. When a foe was clinging helplessly to life, regardless of how evil or terrible they were, the hero had to save them. It was almost an obligation, an understanding that all life is precious. The real test of valor is passed once the hero makes the decision to assist their nemesis, even in spite of all the bad that person had committed, and  the fact that seconds before the hero would have killed that villain in combat given the chance. It is the difference between self-defense and letting a helpless man -even an evil man- suffer needlessly, because that would not be heroism. That would be cowardice, and it serves no one, least of all the hero. Despite how childish that kind of thinking might seem to some people nowadays, it is not an ideal we should be so quick to discard as people or as a nation.

A Mutant Teenager’s Guide to Politics
Nowadays, when we look at the news and read about how some States are trying to deny services and opportunities to the LGBTQ community; or how we -a nation of immigrants- fear those who are fleeing violence and oppression in the Middle East; or that the front-runner for the GOP nomination is… well a literal cartoon super-villain we have to take a step back and wonder. Are we really the heroes we want to be? Did we grow into the men and women that those little sugar-addicted-cartoon-devouring kids would be proud to be? We are not claiming that America is the bad guy in this story, but it is also time to wonder if we are still the good guy, or at least the hero?

Everyday we watch the country and those around us succumb more and more to greed, fear, and mistrust. When we were growing up we would watch TV and find colorful heroes teaching us lessons of selflessness. The children of today now watch TV -but most likely the Internet- and see Presidential candidates openly condoning the bombing and torturing of enemies and innocents. That is not just a failure of the Cliff Test, that is like gleefully throwing a box of small puppies at your helpless enemy, in hopes of knocking him from his perch. If our cartoons gave us hope for a better future and a better us, where will the children of today find hope when they see how we treat our most vulnerable? What will they grow up believing when Tennessee, North Carolina, and a slew of other States use the thin guise of religion to mask their bigotry, like the plot of a Saturday Morning Cartoon that would border on unbelievable even if Shredder himself came up with it. We are not just failing the Cliff Test, but actively plotting to push people off in the first place.

We are not saying that we should all hope for peace and love, because those cartoons were also about fighting for what was right -and selling toys. We are not naive enough to believe that the world is black and white, filled with Autobots and Decepticons -a thought that was more appealing pre-Michael Bay- but it is worth measuring our actions today against the expectations of our childhood selves. After all, when refugees from war torn countries, who are begging for our help and fleeing the very enemies we claim to oppose, don’t we have an obligation to do so? Isn’t that what Master Splinter would tell us to do? If we are the heroes than we have a sacred duty to pull them to safety, and yet even in this we often fail to live up to our potential. Maybe you cannot apply technicolor 2D morality to our 3D world, but does that mean we should stop trying? Maybe it is easier to close our borders, “bomb the sh*t” out of everyone else, and deny rights to anyone who is different from us, but is that what Optimus Prime would do? Is that what Lion-O would do? Is that what the eight year old you would do?

‘Curse Your Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal
In those old cartoons -undoubtedly- the villain would use the moment he is being saved to revel a weapon or try to do something to knock the hero from the ledge, just as he or she reached down to grab them. There may be some who will point to that as a worthwhile and cautionary metaphor. A bad guy will always try to use our heroism against us. They will inevitably take advantage of our good graces and our compassion, but that does not mean we should stop having compassion. In the Cliff Test, when the villain lashes out it often forces the hero to jump back resulting in Cobra Commander or Skeletor or whoever falling to their doom -at least until the next episode- but that betrayal is not the point of this test. The test is not about what a villain can do, only about what a hero should do. You show compassion not because of the person you are saving but because it is the right thing to do… roll credits. The betrayal will come or it won’t, but it cannot affect how we conduct ourselves.

Being a hero means choosing hope for us and those around us. If we allow ourselves to live in fear of the infinitesimal percentage of refugees who are actually criminals -let alone terrorists- or if we find it easier to hide behind “Religious Freedom” rather than face those who are different, than we had better be ready to stop claiming any moral high ground. No, if we as a nation want to be the “good guys” that we have always told ourselves that we are, we have to be prepared to climb to that precarious ledge, and fight and help anyone who is vulnerable or downtrodden, whether they be Muslim, LGBTQ, or even a Trump supporter. They all deserve to be rescued from whatever ledge they are grasping desperately onto, because if we refuse than what will today’s cereal-eating eight year olds come to believe about heroism? If we disenfranchise the next generation during their formative years than one day we may find that we are the ones dangling from that cliff, without anyone willing to help us.

Ultimately, the Cliff Test is not about the villain at all, but about the hero. By helping the bad guy, the good guy is helping himself. It is a way to reaffirm his or her actions and reinforce the kind of world we are all fighting for; a fair one, a just one, and a merciful one. So in fact, the hero is not only reaching down to save the villain, but they are reaching down to save themselves. Right now we all stand upon a similar cliff, over a a possibly hot and menacing volcano. Everyday we are faced with others in need who are dangling by mere fingers, ready to fall. This is true for us as a nation and for us as individuals in our day-to-day lives. We may not agree with them, we may even hate them, but we can never turn our backs on them or forget that they are human beings who deserve a chance at hope.

There are issues facing our country and our world that just seem so big, too heavy to lift, and it would be simple to let them fall away. It would be easy to stop fighting and stop caring. It literally requires that we do nothing, but is that what He-Man would do? Is that the principals that GI Joe, the Ninja Turtles, and all the rest of those colorful childhood heroes fought for? We can choose to do nothing or we can reach down and help, and not because that person may be someone we see as an enemy, but because they are a person. It is not about agreeing with them, but it is about choosing to believe we can all be better. We need to do the right thing for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do. We all stand on a cliff, everyday, in big and small ways. So what will you do?

If you have not been keeping up with the adventures of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog on Adventure Time then you have been missing out. Their home, the Land Ooo, is a magical off-the-wall place where a boy and his talking dog can play and have adventures all day long, but under its cheerful exterior is a harsher reality. Finn is the last human and the Land of Ooo only exists because of a terrible event known as the Great Mushroom War. Yet, what if there was even another layer of meaning beneath that one? What if Adventure Time only existed in the head of a small and lonely child?

The Land of Ooo
We are not the first people to come up with fantastic theories to explain the over-the-top wackiness of Adventure Time, as the Land of Ooo is a strange and crazy place. Yet, what if the Land of Ooo -where Adventure Time takes place- is really only in the imagination of Finn, a 13 year old boy living a lonely life in a rundown apartment building with his dog and his equally lonely father. Also, the inhabitants of Ooo are therefore real people who inhabit the apartment complex that the real Finn lives in. This may all seem a little farfetched but stay with us.

We say that the real Finn lives in a run down apartment building for two reasons. First, the Land of Ooo, can be taken as a whimsical name, or we can take it for the last three digits on Finn’s apartment. The real Finn may live in apartment 1000 or 2000 or 3000, but the first number fell off and nobody bothered to replace it. Also, supporting this idea is the devastation we sometimes see in the background of Adventure Time. Episodes are littered with forgotten cars, street signs, and even old buildings. In the cartoon these are meant to be remnants of the civilization that existed before the Land of Ooo, the one destroyed by the Mushroom War -think: mushroom cloud- but what if there is more to it? It also makes sense that Finn is living in a low rent apartment building, considering he is alone most of the time as his father has to work a lot to help them get by.

The Mushroom War is talked about only vaguely, but we do know that it was a devastating event that destroyed the human world. Almost no humans survived and it literally blew off chunks of the Earth. Adventure Time, actually takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, though you would never know as a casual viewer. It is rarely talked about, just like what happens when a devastating event takes place in the life of a young boy. The real Finn’s mother died, tragically. It destroyed his world causing him to retreat into fantasy. Just like in Adventure Time nobody seems to talk about this immense and heart-breaking event, especially with Finn. There is a reason Finn is the only human in Adventure Time, because even in his fantasy world he feels alone, like no one else can understand what it is like to be him. After his mother died his world literally ended.

Inhabitants of Ooo
Jake the Dog, is Finn’s best friend. Maybe the real Jake was a present from his mother before she passed away. Regardless, Jake is the only person Finn can really open up to, besides BMO. BMO, is Finn and Jake’s sentient computer/video game system. He/she is also ambiguously gendered, much like any computer might be. Jake and BMO make sense in the world of a lonely boy who only has his dog and video games for company. It is also worth noting that BMO is certainly not state of the art. His/her graphics are often pixelated, he/she speaks with a Japanese accent, and his/her graphics are colored green like on an old Gameboy system, further supporting the notion that Finn is poor. Though Jake and BMO are Finn’s closest confidants they are not his only friends.

Other residents of the apartment complex often make appearances in Finn’s fantasies. Tree Trunks, the elderly elephant that bakes pies, Cinnamon Bun, the mentally challenged but kind-hearted homeless pastry creature, old man Starchy, Shelby the worm, Peppermint Butler, and the rest fit nicely as residents of the apartment complex. They are people Finn interacts with on a normal basis. Lady Rainacorn -Jake’s girlfriend- is possibly another dog or ferret or similiar creature that belongs to a Korean family in another apartment who Jake often enjoys playing with. In the show she only speaks in Korean, possibly like her owners. Jake understands her but Finn does not. Lumpy Space Princess is an annoying girl who Finn sometimes hangs out with, but recognizes that she can be a little bit of a drama princess. Similarly, Flame Princess is a girl that Finn has a crush on, but she can be bad tempered. In fact, most of the princesses can be explained as girls who Finn knows from the apartment complex or as acquaintances at school.

However, there are two girls in particular that stand out. Princess Bubblegum, is most likely an older girl who is Finn’s neighbor. In Adventure Time they give her age as 18 when Finn is 13. This means she is in high school and Finn obviously has a crush on her. In the real world she is often called on to babysit Finn when he is alone. Her age and high school education also accounts why Princess Bubblegum is seen as the smartest person in the land. In the real world she is older than Finn so it seems like she knows everything when compared to the 13 year old boy. In Adventure Time Princess Bubblegum is also said to be the person who made all the other residents of the candy kingdom, most likely because the real world Bubblegum -whose real name is Bonnie- often brings Finn baked goods or candy when she comes to babysit. So to Finn, he associates her with those traits and Bonnie also seems quite fond of Finn, though not in a romantic way, as she is too old for him.

Marceline is a human/demon vampire in Adventure Time. Unlike Princess Bubblegum, Finn has no romantic attachment to her, but they do start off as enemies when Marceline initially tries taking over Finn’s home. Real world Marcy is probably Finn’s cousin or similiar relation, and she comes from a bad home environment. She has a very strained relationship with her father and often survives on her own. Her father rarely seems to care what his daughter is up to, and possibly even abandoned her at a young age. She is also older than even Bonnie/Bubblegum, and is most likely in college or living on her own, though, Bonnie and Marcy do seem to have a preexisting love/hate friendship with one another. In the cartoon Marceline is over 1,000 years old, plays the guitar and often dates jerks and hipsters. Finn’s initial dislike of her most likely resulted from her moving in with Finn and his dad for a short period of time before finding her own apartment -maybe in the same building- but their relationship has since turned more toward friendship and respect. Marceline has obviously come to value her cool little cousin as much as Finn enjoys spending time with her. Marcy also had a close familial relationship with Finn’s father, whom she admires but has since come to pity.

The Ice King
In Adventure Time the Ice King is the main antagonist, but he’s not evil, really he’s just more confused than anything. Simon Pretrikov is his real name, and he was an archeologist who discovered a magic crown that gave him powers but slowly drove him insane, kind of like parenthood. They did however, protect him from the nuclear fallout of the Mushroom War, but did not save the love of his life, Betty. She died and the Ice King quickly lost his grip on the world around him. He has a long white beard and he isn’t in every episode. It is likely that the Ice King represents Finn’s real world father, who probably grew a beard after the death of his wife.

In flashbacks and home videos Simon is seen as a normal and happy person with his fiance, Betty, but the power of the crown -responsibility- and the Mushroom War changed all of that. In Adventure Time, the Ice King is portrayed as irrational and pathetic, but that might just be how Finn sees his father. Sometimes to the minds of children parents seem as if they behave erratically, often doing arbitrary things or imposing punishments that don’t always make sense to the child. However, Simon -like the Ice King- is also lonely. His wife died tragically and he is left raising a son by himself and with very little money. He rarely talks about his wife or what life was like before she died, much as the Ice King on Adventure Time often forgets that he was ever anyone else before what he became. The Ice King and Finn are often at odds, but they also have a lot in common and there are plenty of times where the Ice King just turns up and acts as if he and Finn are best friends. You know, kind of like the same way any father might act with his only son.

Remember, that the residents of Ooo are distortions of their real world counterparts, but even with that said it is possible that the real world Simon, Finn’s father, is slightly more eccentric than most. He’s been through a lot and has faced a lot of hardship in his day. We have to admit he may also have a creepy thing for Bonnie/Bubblegum, as she is often uncomfortable around him. The Ice King does capture a lot of princesses/women, which may represent a lot of failed dating attempts. Yet, there is one female he never made advances toward, Marceline, who is his real-world niece. Adventure Time shows that Marceline and Simon had a preexisting relationship before he went crazy. Simon helped raise her after she was abandoned by her father, and it is very possible this also happened in the real world too. Uncle Simon was very likely the person Marcy turned too when her father disappeared from her life as a child. The two have a special relationship, and it is one that now pains Marceline because she realizes how much Simon has fallen from the kind and caring person who helped raise her.

What Time is It?
Part of the genius of Adventure Time is that is a cartoon that can be enjoyed by children for its colorful animation, offbeat humor, and sense of adventure, but it also speaks to adults on another level. It is meant to invoke these types of feelings and theories that hint at something deeper going on. Each episode teaches a lesson about growing up, a lesson you could see the real world Finn learning as he goes along in life. Even more impressive it that Adventure Time is one of the only cartoon shows where the main character actually ages. Each season Finn has continued to grow taller and his voice has deepened, to the point where he is now said to be about 16 years old.

There is a lot more minutia and other evidence we could have brought in, but it might be better if you find it for yourself. So, keep this theory in mind the next time you pop over to Cartoon Network and watch the happenings of Finn and Jake. We promise you may never watch it the same way again.

It’s time to talk about a subject that makes some Americans uncomfortable. We here at The NYRD have been putting off delving into this topic for a while now as we know how divisive it can be, even if it really shouldn’t be. There are definitely hard core believers and zealots on both sides of the issue, but its time we, as a country, really sat down and started learning about and addressing our issues with Anime, and their gun control. You see when it comes right down to it, the truth is that you would probably not be too comfortable if Cloud Strife walked into your local grocery store carrying his giant mother-loving Buster Sword, so why are you comfortable if anyone person walks around with a deadly weapon? Because unless you’re expecting a few random encounters in Niblheim you need to ask yourself, “what is the point?”

The Weight of Dragonslayer
Dragonslayer is the impossibly large weapon of the Black Swordsman, in the anime, Berserk. More of a giant heap of raw iron, it weighs in excess of 500 pounds, but it is not the physical weight alone that gives it its true power. Its history of killing monsters and evil spirits has turned it into something more than just an ordinary blade, and that is really a microcosm of the issue we face with today, because much like history and momentum, once our problems get moving in a certain direction it can be hard to stop them, at least before a lot of people need to die. More importantly, the Dragonslayer was forged for a brutal and medieval world, full of demons and monsters, and is that the kind of world we want to live in?

According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2013, there were 33,636 firearm related deaths, that is 10.6 Americans per 100,000. In comparison there were 33,804 motor vehicle related deaths, which is about 10.7 Americans per 100,000. The number of gun deaths is only 200 less than motor vehicle deaths. People may want to point to that and say, “Ha, driving a car is heavily monitored, licensed, and regulated, and there are still almost 34,000 deaths on record,” and that is true. Imagine how many deaths there could be if driving was not so regulated? Also consider that cars and other road vehicles are things we see everyday, and are things we operate everyday. They dominate our lives and are essential pieces of equipment we need to live and work. Equating them to firearms is literally like comparing apples to hand grenades. There should be no correlation, as gun serve very specific and few purposes in our day to day lives. Yet, the number of deaths each has caused is almost equal.

More importantly, consider a second and rarely talked about statistic, Of the more than 33,000 gun related deaths in 2013, only 11,208 were homicides, whether they be a mass shooting scenario, random encounter violence, or other similar incidents. That is about 33% of the total firearm related deaths for that year. 22,428 died of non-homicidal or accidental deaths, hundreds of which were children. In fact, children in America are 9 times more likely to die from accidental gun use than in any other developed nation. However, the vast majority of these deaths 21,175 people in 2013, were suicides. Now some may look to dismiss these deaths -and there is still some debate over the nature of suicide itself- but the statistics tend to show that states with better gun control laws have lower suicide rates, due in part to the fact that waiting periods and mental health screenings help keep firearms and other weapons out of the hands of people who are looking to end their lives in one brief moment of depression. Connecticut enacted stricter laws and saw suicide rates drop while Missouri repealed similar gun control laws and saw suicide rates increase during the same 10 year period. Even enacting laws that prevent open carry in California and Oklahoma were accompanied by a 3.5% and 1.7% decrease in their respective suicide rates.

Justice or Punisher
Punisher from the anime Trigun is extremely unwieldy and bit on the side of overkill. It conceals two machine guns, a rocket launcher, and it has a compartment that stores four handguns, all without any needed permits. It is also shaped like a giant cross which is carried on a person’s back in the most obvious anime symbolism since Goku rose from the dead to save the world. Sufficed to say it’s a lot more than a simple hunting rifle, but much like the guns that NRA lobbyists try to justify today, it is a weapon hidden beneath an obscuring icon that tries to mask its true nature. Unfortunately, the fate of its owner Nicholas D. Wolfwood, echoes the fate of many people who believe that having a firearm helps keep you safer.

Every time a gun is successfully used in the defense of a home, there are 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving firearms in or around a home. Do you know the number of mass killings stopped by a “good guy with a gun” in the past 30 years? The answer is 0. In fact, owning or carrying a weapon tends to make people more aggressive. Drivers who carry firearms are 44% more likely to be aggressive on the road. Stand Your Ground laws and laws that make it easier to carry firearms have been linked with a 7% to 10% increase in statewide homicide rates. A recent study that examined 30 years of homicide data in all 50 states found that for every 1% increase in a state’s gun ownership rate, there is also a nearly 1% increase in its gun homicide rate. States like New Jersey and New York, which have stricter laws and less firearm ownership, have seen very little per capita deaths as opposed to Wyoming and Montana, which have very loose gun laws and high ownership, and all this despite the fact that NJ and NY have more urban and gang-prone areas. The odds of an assault victim being killed were 4.5 times greater if he was carrying a handgun. A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase by more than 5 times if that abuser has access to firearms.


We here at The NYRD are not advocating against gun ownership, but there is no question that less weapons and stricter laws keep people safe. Take the example of Australia. After the 1996 mass shooting at Port Arthur in Tasmania, the Australian people enacted stricter gun control and implemented an aggressive buyback program for handguns, rifles, and possibly cross-shaped machine guns. They bought back more than 600,000 weapons, one-fifth of the total number of guns in circulation. Between 1995 and 2006 their firearm homicide rate dropped by more than 59%. Firearm suicides dropped by 65%. Meanwhile home invasions and anime conventions did not increase at all over the same time period. Before 1996 there were 11 mass shootings in Australia. Since 1996 there have been 0. Australia never outlawed gun ownership. The government did not break down doors and take anyone’s weapons. America has more than 314 million guns, and only 4 million of those are owned by law enforcement or the military, that is a lot of fire power. Yet, whenever anyone suggests that we need to enact real and lasting change politicians and lobbyists hide under rhetoric and symbolic cross-shaped icons.

Tessaiga Laws
Nothing is scarier than a demon blade, one that can change from a normal-sized katana to a giant oversized blade in the blink of an eye. The Tessaiga is the demon sword of Inuyasha of the anime of the same name. When active the sword is capable of killing 100 demons in a single swipe, but in its inactive form it looks like nothing more than a harmless normal sword. It is literally a concealed weapon capable of killing hundreds. Unfortunately, the laws of America would not be completely equipped to deal with such a weapon. Our nation’s gun control laws are weak and ill enforced.

Take the example of Chicago, which has some of the nation’s strictest gun control laws, but also some of the nation’s highest firearm deaths -a statistic that many pro-gun lobbyists are quick to point out- but the facts are misleading. First of all, Chicago is a highly populated city and if you take the violence as a per capita statistic you see that Chicago is not as much of an outlier compared to smaller cities. However, and more importantly, the Chicago PD seizes more illegal guns than any other city in the nation. Here, the word “illegal” is a relative term, because these weapons are illegal in Michigan, but not in Indiana or one of the other neighboring states in which they were bought. 6.7% of the firearms recovered in Chicago come from Mississippi and 19% come from Indiana, both from legal stores and legal weapon shows in those states, and the problem is that there is no way to regulate any of that.

Federal Gun Control Laws are either non-existent or so toothless so as to be almost laughable. They do try to prevent transfer or selling of guns across state lines, “except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers,” which basically means most people who sell firearms. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed, and the Brandy Gun Violence Prevention Act requires background checks from anyone purchasing a gun, but “depending on seller and venue.” Even worse, if your name appears on a terrorist watch list, then you can still buy a firearm. According to the FBI, between 2004 and 2014, more than 2,000 people listed as known or suspected terrorists purchased rifles, guns, and even other assault weapons. These people aren’t even allowed to fly on airplanes but they can purchase weapons? Even worse-er the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the organization we have in place to police and investigate these very violations, has been slowly neutered over the years by aggressive lobbyists. The department is underfunded, understaffed, and often barred from enforcing existing laws. The ATF did not have a permanent director for seven years, and they are not even allowed to inspect gun dealers more than once a year. Yet, around 40% of all legal firearm sales involve private sellers and do not require background checks, and 40% of prison inmates who used a gun in their crimes got them this way.

The Truth Behind the Animation
You may think we are being ridiculous by comparing the very serious problem of gun violence in this nation with the absurd violence of Japanese based animation, and you would be right. Because when we look at anime we know that those weapons are too large, too impractical, and too over the top to be realistic, but when we look at the violence that takes place around us every day, the mass shootings, the suicides, the accidental deaths, the gang violence, and all the rest we just think of it as normal. So maybe it is time that most Americans began think about this problem the same way they do anime, because it is confusing, absurd, and at times disturbing.

Some people claim that it is too late to do anything about guns, the cat-demon is out of the bottle, but that is no reason to not try. Because the real amazingly absolutely ridiculous thing is that it is already illegal in most states to openly carry any sword of any size in public. That literally means that it is more of a felony in most states to walk around with a 500 pound impractically tall blade than an 11-ounce handgun, but unlike that Buster Sword, when it comes to the handgun, you do not need to have spiky hair or giant eyes to do serious damage.

Donald Trump is a cartoon character, but it is sometimes hard to remember that with all the Animaniacs-esque craziness that goes on with the United States’ primaries that we didn’t always nominate our leaders this way. The modern primary system did not fully form until 1972, which means that Bugs Bunny is older than our current primary election cycle. In fact, our modern election system only beats out being older than Disco by roughly two years. That is not to say that primaries and the National Convention system did not exist before Porky’s speech impediment, -they did- but like with most things in history the story of our nomination system is neither straightforward nor any less looney than a cross-dressing rabbit.

A Party to History
As with most things in American history we can start by laying the blame on George Washington, mostly because he won election to the highest office faster than Speedy Gonzalez running toward -what we can only assume is- some sort of highly racist taco stand. It was only after Washington selfishly refused to be our dictator in chief by turning down his third term that our election process became a big game of “Duck Season/Rabbit Season.” John Adams and Thomas Jefferson -history’s greatest frenemies- were next up for the position and that was when things got interesting.

That election basically kicked off the two-party system that we all know and love today. Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican, and Adams was a Federalist. Their respective parties nominated them through a Congressional Caucus, which basically meant everyone in Congress picked who they liked best to go up for election. It is kind of like how American high schools today pick their prom king and queen. Jefferson and Adams were basically selected by their respective parties because they were Jefferson and Adams. -Being a Founding Father goes a long way on a resume- The election was won by Adams with Jefferson as runner-up, which back in those days meant he got to be the Vice-President. It is also worth mentioning that the campaign got fairly heated with the Federalists at one point trying to link Jefferson with the violence of the French Revolution. So, if you think that the hyperbole and outright lies of today’s elections are a modern addition to our electoral process you can happily dissuade yourself of that notion.

Presidential Primaries were conducted in Congress until 1832. After that increasing social pressure created the beginnings of the National Convention system that we have today. More and more the common people wanted a hand in picking their party’s candidate for President. Don’t be fooled though, because the National Convention system was neither fair nor binding. Holding nominations at a National Convention gave tremendous power to state party bosses. Basically each state controlled their primary electors and if those electors did not vote the way the party boss wanted them to, they could lose their job. Thus, all the convention system did was move the power of nomination from Congress to a select few powerful state-level figures. That basically meant nominations for party candidates were literally made in cartoonishly smoke-filled backrooms.

Roosevelt Gets Bully
This was the way the system would probably work today if it didn’t eventually run directly opposite to one of America’s biggest, brashest, and widest-grinningest Presidents to ever shoot down a Kodiak bear from the Oval Office’s windows, Theodore “Iron Gut” Roosevelt. In 1912 Old Teddy decided to launch a comeback against his successor William Howard Taft. Previously in 1901, Florida -because of course- was one of the first states to pass a law that called for a Presidential nomination preference. Florida and the states that followed basically said that whatever candidate that the majority of state level members of political parties voted for were the candidates that those states’ delegates had to elect as the nominee at the National Convention. Unfortunately, by 1912 most states had not yet started holding primaries and though Roosevelt won more primaries and delegates than Taft the nomination still went to the incumbent President. However this did highlight the importance of presidential primary laws.

In fact Woodrow Wilson -who beat Taft- called for a national primary law in 1913. Unfortunately, much like a Wile E. Coyote plan, this looked better on paper than in practice. Despite the fact that most states eventually adopted primary election laws on their books, not many states actually held primaries, mostly due to the cost associated with holding them. Also, many laws were barely binding and  state-level and national-level political bosses still continued to ignore results and nominate who they wished regardless of primary election votes. It was common for many “serious” candidates to only enter into just one or two primaries in the country to “gauge” their popularity, but not because it helped them get nominated. In fact, there was even an odd loophole where state-level political figures like Governors could enter their own state’s primary and get elected as that state’s nominee, just so they could go to the National Convention and become one of the power players that got to decide who the party’s next nomination actually went to.

In 1952 Democratic Senator Estes Kefauver won 64% of the votes cast in the -then- 16 states that held primaries and still lost the Democratic nomination to Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson, on the other hand, won less than 2%of all primary votes. In all fairness though, whoever won the nomination was destined to be torn to shreds in the Tasmanian Devil-like whirlwind that was the “I Like Ike” tornado. As a side note, that was also the first presidential election to start using TV advertisements, though they were a little different from the ones we know today.

The System Get Humphrey-ed
Everything came to a head at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. To say that the convention turned into a war-zone may be a bit over an overstatement, but only slightly, and just because making such a statement would mean that you would have to draw a direct comparison with the actual war-zone that was taking place on the other side of the world in Vietnam. Basically, tensions were running high. Chicago at the time was probably not the best place to hold the convention. The weather was sweltering, the cab driver union was on strike, the entire city was on edge, and the front entrances had to be bullet-proofed for fear of violence. Police, secret service, and the National Guard were all on standby and the convention center was ringed with barbed wire fencing. It di not help that Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had both been assassinated within the past 4 months, and more than 100 cities were were suffering from race-related and anti-war rioting.

It was in this atmosphere that Hubert H. Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice-President, beat out Senator Eugene McGovern for the nomination. The problem with this nomination was two-fold. Humphrey had chosen to sit out the primaries and thus had received almost no primary votes, and secondly he was a proponent of LBJ’s Vietnam War agenda. He was literally the pro-war candidate. McGovern, on the other hand, was a strong populace candidate that did well in the primaries and was an actively anti-war candidate. When Humphrey won it seemed like a betrayal of the democratic process, and the trust of the people.

Meanwhile, the convention center was surrounded by protesters, everyone from hippies to civil rights activists to middle-income Americans. They were all looking for change in a world that must have felt like it was falling apart around them. 10,000 demonstrators were met by 23,000 police and National Guardsmen. Security was on such high alert that at one point Dan Rather got roughed up by police while trying to interview a Georgia Senator. Violence was inevitable, and on August 28 hundreds were seriously injured in a massive riot; and not just protesters and police, but news reporters, political volunteers, legislative aides, and countless bystanders who got caught up in the mayhem. After the convention there was a massive outcry for a change to the primary electoral system.

Here He Comes, Mr. America
Starting in the 1972 election cycle the states and both parties enacted the reforms of McGovern-Fraser, a commission on primary election reform. The rules made primaries easier to participate in and did away with rules like “winner-takes-all” delegates. The change essentially made primary elections the established way to pick nominees for President, and it is the system we still use today. Unfortunately, it has also led to the two-year long beauty pageant that are the modern primary elections.

The way the current system functions means that candidates have to announce their intentions of running years in advance and start securing delegates in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. In that past, candidates had the luxury of waiting to announce their candidacy, even up to less than a year prior to the actual Presidential Election. In fact in the days of Lincoln it was considered immodest to campaign for a nomination at all, or even the Presidency. William McKinley literally stayed home during his Presidential race, and gave speeches from his front porch. The new system also gives greater weight to certain states over others, which is why you constantly have states trying to move their primary elections ahead of others to gain greater attention from candidates.

Regardless of whether you agree with the old system or the new you have to admit that our nominating process has never been perfect. In fact, looking back it has always seemed more like the plot of a Warner Bros. cartoon than any actual serious political discourse, but it is the best we have so far. The fun thing about the primary election cycle is that it is not in the Constitution. Those original framers never envisioned this, and thus it keeps changing to match the times. So in fifty years there will be no telling what sort of new provisions may come about. Who knows maybe one day we’ll be seeing the Presidential Physical Challenge.

Th-th-th-that’s all folks…

We are all looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, that special someone who will make us feel like we’re in a Disney movie with singing crabs and kleptomaniac monkey sidekicks. Unfortunately, not everyone we date will always meet our expectations. If only our partners could be more like the heroes and heroines we read about in books or see on the big screen. Yet, not even those seemingly perfect two-dimensional representations are without flaws, and if you were to ever find yourself on a date with any of the following characters just remember that no person -even fictional ones- are perfect.

Supes profile2
This corn-fed farmboy is a protector through and through. He will stop a speeding bullet, catch a falling plane, or even superspeed to the store to get you ice cream when you’re feeling depressed. Superman is friendly, conscientious, and will take you on romantic flights over the city. He naturally puts your needs before his own, and if the Man of Steel makes you a promise you can count on him keeping it. It does not hurt that he is easy on the eyes and looking for a committed and loving relationship.

However, when it comes to dating Superman you might find that it may not be all truth, justice, and a two-way relationship. Setting aside the fact that he has a secret mild-mannered side, protectors like him are always trying to rescue the damsel in distress. Though that is appreciated, not every woman is looking to spend their days falling off of buildings so a man in blue tights can catch them. A relationship with the Last Son of Krypton will work for a while, but eventually he may lose interest when he realizes you don’t need him or becomes frustrated if he is unable to help you. Even worse, he will always be flying off to save someone else instead of spending time with you, and the jealousy that might create could prove to be as good as kryptonite to your relationship.


Her profile1
This good-hearted know-it-all is a real thinker, but her calm and serious exterior hides a deeper passion and a true loyalty to those she cares about. She can be quiet at times, but when you need someone to punch a Malfoy in the face you will be surprised by the fire you find inside her. Her dedication to schedules will help you always be on time, but she is not without a spontaneous side and can occasionally be made to abandon her best laid plans in the name of friendship. She is well organized, practical, and the exact type of person you want around on a date to playing pub trivia or trying to solve a century’s old riddle to break into an underground basilisk pit.

Because of Hermione’s status as an underage wizard, dating her may be difficult for many. Be warned that she is Azkaban bait and cannot practice magic outside of school. So that means you shouldn’t try any your “magic” on her. Those that can date her may find that she is sometimes arrogant or emotionally distant. The wizarding wunderkind spends too much time in the library, preferring the company of books to most people, and her strict adherence to rules -which she can often quote by memory- could drive a partner crazy. Anyone who cannot take criticism or a strong will would do good to avoid Hermione as she can often be dismissive and skeptical of other’s ideas, often believing that she is right in most situations. The most annoying part is that she usually is, and that could mean avada kedavra to any hopes of romance.


mike profile1
If you like those who are outgoing, friendly, and fun-loving than Michelangelo might be who you are looking for. The hero in the half-shell is all about being spontaneous and enthusiastic about almost anything that life throws at him. Less arrogant or rude than some of his brothers he will always be there for you as a supporter and a team-player. Michelangelo is also the exact type of person you want around when you are feeling down or depressed. He can find the fun and the funny of any situation, even when facing down a clan of ninja or a robot that houses a talking brain in its stomach.

Unfortunately, that also means Mikey doesn’t take a lot of things seriously. So when situations or romance get tense he will often come off as annoying. Everybody likes to party, but not everybody wants to party all the time, especially when you are trying to have a serious conversation about your feelings. He is not a leader or a hard worker, often preferring to seek pleasure and getting bored easily in mundane situations. Michelangelo also does not respond well to rules or structure, like those found within the confines of a relationship or a government laboratory that might want to dissect him. Overall, he is a very uncomplicated personality, though he will seek the spotlight and he enjoys being the center of attention in all occasions. Any significant other who cannot share the spotlight might find that hard to compete with. It is also worth mentioning that he is a giant talking turtle, and any sort of relationship would probably not win the approval of parents, friends, civil authorities, or the religious community.


Snow Profile1
Snow White is a caregiver. Generous, compassionate, she will always be there to kiss your wounds or cook your pot roast. She is happiest when she can lend a hand and is always the person who tries to keep her environment harmonious, which is hard when you live with seven other roommates. Some will see Snow White as adhering to outdated stereotypes, but she is just content being a homemaker, and she is the exact person who will help you make your house your castle. Her love of animals also belays a kind soul and a possibly magical ability to summon the beasts of the wild on command.

However, many people will see “the fairest of them all” as nothing more than old fashioned. Not every man is looking for a maid who will take care of his every need, or wait patiently for him to save her with his kiss. When it comes to dating she is mostly a shut-in, preferring to stay at home rather than go out for the night. Many will often see her as fussy and maybe even a bit smothering, and Snow White’s adherence to keeping domestic peace will be frustrating at times. It will ultimately mean that any argument or disagreement will be stopped before it can become productive, causing feelings to fester until they explode like a bubbling cauldron of a wicked witch. There is also the matter of her questionable relationship with seven unattached miners that could cause emotions to flair from happy to grumpy to dopey to jealous.


Spock Profile
Spock’s life is dominated not by emotion but logic. He is a natural problem solver and just the type of person who will always be able to give you the best of advice. He excels at predicting outcomes and patterns in situations and people. Unlike other high thinkers, Spock is not arrogant and is often fascinated by the emotions of others, even if he cannot always understand them. When proven wrong the Vulcan science officer is the first to admit his mistake and take responsibilities for his actions. So, if you are looking for a good conversationalist you have found your green-blooded man. He is also a strong leader and an equally adept follower, comfortable in playing any role in your relationship.

The Vulcan Mind Meld is a technique that literally allows two people to share each other’s thoughts, so if you are not open to a completely honest relationship, then Spock may not be the mate for you. He is also not the person who will be there with a shoulder to cry on. For all his logic the decorated Starfleet officer can sometimes come off as cold and unfeeling. He is a great life-coach but a terrible sympathizer, and he will often put the needs of the many before the needs of the few, including you. Biologically, Vulcans only need to mate once every seven years, thus you should not expect an overly physical closeness. Spock is long lived, and even after he dies he can store his katra or personality inside your mind, which gives a new meaning to the word “commitment.” Yet, in some ways, of all the souls you will ever meet, he may be the most… human.


Leia has it all. She is a strong willed leader who can pick a Stormtrooper off with a blaster at fifty meters, and look good in a golden bikini while doing it. Any relationship with Leia will be one of give and take one, as she is a master at negotiation and compromise. She also usually knows what she wants, being both decisive and assertive. Coming from a royal upbringing Leia is highly educated and refined, and if you ever need the perfect date for a wedding, formal reception, or Galactic State dinner, she is the woman you want on your arm.

However, Leia is very much a career oriented woman. She is one of the leaders of the Rebel Alliance and that comes with a lot of responsibilities and not a lot of time for dating. Include into this that her family life is a bit of a mess, and you do not want to meet her father. Some men will also see her as blunt and argumentative, as she has no fear of speaking her mind and telling people exactly what she thinks of them. Yet, the former senator from Alderaan is also a very shrewd politician and an adept liar when it suits her purpose. That can always leave a seed of doubt in the back of any man’s mind. The princess is very goal oriented and will work tirelessly to reach those goals, which mean she has a tendency to ignore the feelings of others, including you, in the pursuit of a higher objective. Most importantly, Leia needs excitement in her life and some who works a 9-5 job and watches Netflix on the weekend is not going to keep her entertained for long. As much as she claims to like nice boys it is clear that she is looking for the scoundrel type, no matter how scruffy looking.


Venkman Profile
Peter Venkman is a ladies man in the truest sense of the word. A showman, he is outgoing, witty, and at times aloof. Most of Peter’s life is ruled by his impulses, including his mouth. Peter will always knows the right comment to make to infuriate or impress his significant other or any crowd that has gathered to watch him. This means that when he wants to be, Venkman can be the most romantic partner a girl will ever have. Also, despite his exterior fun-loving nature, he does care deeply about the friends and family around him, even if he is often unwilling to show it.

Unfortunately, Peter Venkman will never settle down. He is not marriage material as much as he sometimes wishes he was. It will about the time when he starts introducing you as “the old ball and chain,” that you may decide to pack up and move on. He is smart, having two doctorates, though most people do not quite know how he got them. Many will find Venkman selfish and self-centered, often using his charm and wit to manipulate others into doing what he is unwilling to do himself. A natural liar and showman you will always find yourself having doubts about the sincerity of anything he says. There is also the very serious question of where Peter got the tranquilizer drugs that he once used to knock out a possessed Dana Barrett, because that means he may carry roofies around with him whenever he goes on any date.


Kat profile
Katniss is a survivalist and the kind of person you want around when you are stranded with a dead phone battery or in the middle of a vast wilderness where children are constantly trying to kill you. She is fiercely independent and does not care much for rules. Basically, time spent with Katniss will always be difficult, but it will never be boring. She is also slow to trust but incredibly loyal once you earn her confidence. She will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about or feels responsible for. More than anything the Girl on Fire is an introvert at heart and will often need time alone to recharge; any partner that can respect that will go far to learning how to maintain a relationship with her.

Unfortunately, no relationship with Katniss Everdeen will ever be easy. Having faced so much tragedy, her natural instinct is to cut herself off completely from her feelings, including love. However, every so often she will explode in what may appear to be an emotional and almost irrational outburst. She also does not like being controlled by anyone, and will often withdraw or fight against the will of others, whether it is an oppressive white-bearded dictator or an overbearing significant other trying to plan for a night out. She has admitted to being opposed to romance or marriage, but Katniss has problems understanding what she truly wants, whether it be the son of a baker or the brother of a thunder god. This kind of indecisiveness coupled with her emotional problems and fiercely independent nature does not bode will for the odds of any relationship with her being in your favor.


Did you enjoy our list? Was there anyone we forgot? Anything you disagree with? Let us know in the comments below.

Do you remember Dino-Riders? If you do, then you are one of very few people, or you work for The NYRD, -in which case we are still waiting on your W-9 form.- Mattel is reportedly in the early stages of turning the late 80’s cartoon series into a live-action feature film, with a possible franchise option, because of course.

The Dino-Riders cartoon show was about two races of futuristic beings, the Valorians and the Rulons, whom crash land on prehistoric Earth. They are trapped and unable to get back to their own time so they use their technology and psychic abilities to harness the dinosaurs as pets, laborers, and massively cool weapons of war. Basically think, T-Rex with rocket launchers. Quite frankly, we are just surprised no one has though of making this movie sooner.

We are only weeks away from a disappointing Jem and the Holograms live-action movie, and Hasbro has announced their intention to keep pumping out crappy Transformer movies. So, with no sign of Hollywood slowing down on their 80’s nostalgia obsession, Dino-Riders, could be the next logical step. The premise is certainly no crazier than transforming robots from space, and with the success of Jurassic World, dinosaurs are in again.

The franchise was originally created by Carla and Gerry Conway, the same Conway who also co-created the Punisher for Marvel. The series only ran 14 episodes, -which is not something our prepubescent selves realized until just now.- Similar to Transformers or GI Joe, the show was developed primarily to sell toys, though it never shared the same amount of success as the former two. Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime, was even part of the Dino-Riders original voice cast.

Alissa Phillips and Stephen L’Heureux are producing the movie for Solipsist, and are said to currently be searching for a writer to pen the adaptation’s script. If they are looking for any suggestions we have a few writers on staff who are actually very big fans of the original cartoon show and still even own some of the toys… Call us.

Photo courtesy: http://www.dinoriders.eu/index.php/dinosaurs/

According to rumors and bolstered by the existence of a Facebook page, Nickelodeon will soon be launching a channel dedicated entirely to 90’s cartoons, or Nick-Toons as they were known back in the day. Rugrats; Hey, Arnold; Ren & Stimpy; Rocko’s Modern Life; Ahh, Real Monsters; and more will air on The Splat.

Nickelodeon has already uploaded YouTube videos that confirms the 90’s cartoon nostalgia-fest will be coming, but there are now rumors that it may not happen as its own dedicated channel. There is a possibility that, instead, The Splat may be a block of ’90s shows that would exist within the already-established network. Think of it less like Boomerang and more like Adult Swim.

Ultimately, that may be a smarter way for Nickelodeon to go, as a full network established just to tug at the heart-strings of 90’s children may not be that successful. Yes, we want to watch Hey, Arnold again but nostalgia only goes so far. As any channel such as this would only be aimed more at recapturing older audiences, as opposed to garnering new ones. We would question how far that revenue stream could really extend. Yet, if The Splat is made a block of programming on the Nickelodeon channel, itself, then it could have the potential to entice both younger viewers and older ones to watch.

This is just the latest in a string of nostalgia grabs by networks who are trying to peddle childhood memories to older members of the Millennial Generation. Disney’s Girl Meets World, for example is a show with an entire premise that can be defined as: “Hey remember when this was a thing.” At least by replaying these older cartoons -instead of making updated versions- Nickelodeon is giving us quality programming, even if it is just another way to try and recapture the original Nickelodeon generation’s waning attention span for just another quick boost in ratings.

Yeah, we’ll still watch.

Photo courtesy: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/hey-arnold-is-coming-back-and-possibly-rugrats-too-10484293.html

A small organization built by disillusioned members around a cadre of rhetoric and colorful leaders. It meets its goals through terrorist plots, paramilitary invasions, and illegitimate business operations. The group’s leader is shrouded in mystery, his face not well known to the public at large. The group’s very name strikes fear and conjures up images of violence, terror, and overly complicated plots of global domination. We are, of course, talking about Cobra, the arch-nemeses of the GI Joe team, but we could just as easily be talking about ISIS. Recently, we wanted to know more about the group and the dangers they posed, but what we found also recalled long forgotten memories of an enemy we have all known since childhood.

There are several versions of Cobra: the one from the cartoon series, the one from that crappy crappy movie with Cobra Gordon Levitt, but the most telling one is the fictional background we find in the old Marvel comic series. It was the original source material for the toys and the show, and it makes a lot more sense than Cobra-La. Also, it is surprisingly insightful about the motivations and formation of terrorist cells, which makes us just a little nervous about the true intentions of Hasbro.

Arise, Serpentor, Arise
Cobra started when a financially ruined man settled in the town of Springfield, which, itself, had fallen on hard times. This charismatic leader used the hardship to convince the rest of the town’s residents to blame the American government for their misfortunes. Together they started a secret cabal, known as Cobra. The group quickly moved to terrorist attacks. By the time the Federal government had registered them as a threat the organization had become a nationwide movement, attracting young men from both home and abroad. The ruined man became known as Cobra Commander and his message of revolution and global domination attracted more and more of the disenfranchised who were looking for someone to blame, in the same way how we like to blame Michael Bay. It’s not always his fault, but it sometimes kind of is.

Regardless, drawing members of terrorist organizations from the downtrodden and disillusioned is nothing new. Organizations like gangs and hate groups make the powerless feel powerful and make those that feel insignificant feel important. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or whatever you choose to call them, started as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), recruiting members from the millions of young men who felt as if they had nothing in their life and were angry at everyone else who did. Groups like ISIS and al Qaeda may use suicide bombings and beheadings instead of weather machines and exploding fast food signs, but the principals are the same. People join Cobra and ISIS because it gives them a sense of purpose and an outlet for their rage.

In the case of Cobra, as in the case of ISIS, America had a hand in their creation, and that is important to remember. Camp Bucca along the Kuwait border housed more than 100,000 prisoners during its tenure in the last Iraq War, including 9 of ISIS’ top commanders. Just as Cobra Commander found ready and willing followers in the downtrodden town of Springfield, so did these religious fanatics suddenly find themselves surrounded by a group of young disgruntled youths, many of which may even have been arrested by mistake. Right or wrong in your belief, when you are thrown into what you see as an unjust situation there is probably going to be a lot of fear and resentment against the people who did it to you. When something like that happens people tend to flock to the first person who will helped them make sense of the world and their anger, and whether that be an Islamic extremist, or a man in a metal snake helmet the principals remain the same. As a side note Camp Bucca sounds like the worst summer camp experience ever. At least it didn’t teach archery, then we might be in real trouble.

Where the Reptiles Roam
Cobra very quickly went from a terrorist organization to a paramilitary group. They kept sleeper agents, usually members of the elite Crimson Guard scattered across the United States, leading seemingly normal lives. That sounds like an creepily familiar tactic. Yet, the real threat came when Cobra Commander and his inner circle eventually took the bulk of their forces and started claiming territory in the US and around the world. The most notable example is Cobra Island, which was recognized as an actual country for a short time by the UN, because apparently the people at the UN looked at all the guys dressed in snake armor and thought, “Yeah, seems legit.” However, ISIS has very similar ambitions.

Originally, the AQI was led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but he was killed in 2006 by an American airstrike. Next in-line was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He is the real Cobra Commander behind ISIS. He moved the organization into Syria, split away from al Qaeda and proclaimed himself the first Caliph of the Islamic State. He proved that, much like Cobra, ISIS was not going to be content fighting some nebulous holy war. Al-Baghdadi wanted a country of his own and the power to rule not just Iraq and Syria, but all of Islam.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a caliphate, it is not just a kingdom, and a caliph is not just another title for a king. The power and religious authority goes a lot deeper than that. In fact, there has not been a caliph since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and even then it had only become just a title, and for good reason. There are many versions of Islam and not everyone can agree what the right interpretation is, let alone who should be the single voice to decide that. Al Qaeda believes that there will one day be a caliphate but not in our lifetimes. They see themselves as paving the way for a far off Muslim utopia, but ISIS takes that a step further and basically says, “Yeah, we are the Caliphate.” This of course, irritates a lot of Muslims, as al-Baghdadi is proclaiming himself to be a direct religious and political successor to the Prophet Muhammad. You at least have to give the man points for ambition.

To a non-Muslims the importance of that may not entirely strike home. Just understand, that proclaiming that title is basically as big as Cobra Commander proclaiming that he is the emperor of a new world order. Thus, much like Cobra, ISIS has actually declared their goals to be global domination, maybe not of the physical world but certainly the spiritual one. It would sound crazy if they did not have the backing, training, and resources to do some real damage.

The Pit of Vipers
Cobra draws its fighting force from all across the world, including heavily from developing nations, but it also uses a cadre of professional mercenaries and soldiers to fill out its ranks, such as Zartan and the Dreadnoks, the Night Creepers Ninja Clan, and individual professionals like Firefly. They can afford this because Cobra uses several illegal businesses practices to prop up their wealth and armory, and in case you have not got the point of this article by now, ISIS does the same.

Some CIA estimates claim that ISIS has more than 30,000 troops at their disposal, with possibly as many as 20,000 of them being foreign fighters, including nearly 1,000 from Western countries. ISIS also uses former mercenary soldiers, specifically ones who had been employed by the US Military during the Iraq War. The Sons of Iraq were local Sunni Muslims, many of which were possibly former terrorists or fighters who had engaged in attacks on coalition forces, but the military realized that paying them to fight for the coalition was a lot more cost effective than actually fighting them. This movement was known as the Sunni Awakening and is one of the reasons why AQI was forced to flee to the country for the more fertile ground of Syria.

The Syrian Civil War offered the newly formed ISIS a fresh chance to recruit young men with fighting experience and a chip on their soldier. Their ranks swelled and so did their pocketbooks. At the same time the new Iraqi Government disbanded the Sunni Awakening out of racial and financial concerns. Eventually, 70,000 of the former fighters were given jobs in the Iraqi security forces, but the pay was never as good, and there were plenty more who never even received that opportunity. Eventually, ISIS just hired them to fight for ISIS instead of against them, because like we said before, that works. ISIS marched back into Iraq as a new and unstoppable threat.

Cobra has Tomax and Xamot, twin brothers who run the business side of Cobra. The organization also receives funds and weaponry through M.A.R.S., the arms business run by Destro, and though al-Baghdadi has no one on the payroll that has a full metal head he has plenty of business ventures that allows the group to support tens of thousands of militants, a swath of territory with a civilian population the size of Austria, and a full armory of bullets, bombs, and stylish black head wraps.

First off, ISIS uses taxes and other local streams of revenue, such as the selling of electricity to residents, to make roughly 6 million dollars a day. This guaranteed income means they do not have to deal with outside banks or middlemen which can be pressured by US and coalition resources. Crude oil from their captured oil fields is one of their biggest exports, but they also extort money from hostages, humanitarian workers, and by ransacking archeological artifacts. Thanks to pre-established smuggling routes and a thriving black market ISIS has been using its captured oil and other resources to become the most well-funded terrorist organization in history. Soon they may even have enough to buy that coveted moonbase they have had their eyes on.

The Baroness is a member of the Cobra command. A European countess, she brings the wealth of her small country to Cobra’s coffers. ISIS is a little more down on the idea of women in power, but not the idea of private donors and royal money. It is estimated that ISIS receives an average of 20 million dollars a year from private donors in nations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. Most officials in those countries are afraid to crack down on these wealthy members of their society as the political fallout could be costly. ISIS even receives donations from members of Persian Gulf Royalty, though we cannot imagine that they look as good in a tight leather outfit and librarian glasses.

Yo Joe
The good news is that the Iraqi Army outnumbers ISIS, but the bad news is that the army itself is kind of a mess. There is no Iraq version of the GI Joe team that can fight this threat. In ISIS’s first victory in Iraq 800 fighters forced 30,000 members of the Iraq Army to retreat due to poor deployment and low troop moral. Most of Iraq’s army, much like its citizenry, is still divided along religious lines and an uncertainty about their own government.

Lastly, ISIS is also incredibly media savvy. They use Twitter more effectively than we do at The NYRD. So much like that time Cobra started their own television station, ISIS knows how to leverage social media to attract followers and intimidate enemies.

We here at The NYRD are not trying to undermine the seriousness of this very violent and dangerous organization. Nor are we trying to aggrandize them in anyway. ISIS is responsible for multiple acts of butchery, slaughter, and terror that would make even Cobra Commander blink. We are only attempting to give you a better understanding of ISIS, because organizations built on terror are best defeated through knowledge, because knowing is half the battle.

A lot is being said about artificial intelligence lately, but not in the context of the newest Terminator movie. No one is talking about that. Prominent technologists and scientists such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, and others recently presented an open letter at the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires. The missive, endorsed by some of the world’s leading thinkers, calls for a ban on AI weaponry, which they warn could be possible within ten years.

“If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow,” reads the open letter.

Now weapons of any kind are bad news, especially ones that can think and kill without any confirmation from an outside human source, but how close are we really to having truly artificially intelligent tanks, planes, or even washing machines? For many the thoughts conjure images of Terminators or Agent Smith, but we at The NYRD do not think the process of AI will be that black and white. Like humans, intelligent robots will most likely be more than meets the eye.

Bill Gates gave a talk on Reddit on a series of subjects but touched heavily on artificial intelligence and automation. Our current level of smart technology is relatively dumb by comparison to what will be coming in the future. Military drones still require human pilots and even current weak artificial intelligence still needs to follow a complex set of coded instructions.

The phone in your pocket, and more advanced systems like IBM’s Watson, perform rudimentary self-driven thinking, but their intelligence is based in very narrow and limited fields. Watson, and to a lesser extent Siri, can pull data from thousands of sources and make educated guesses on how it all fits together according to very specific preprogramed code. In layman’s terms, they are glitch-heads compared to what is on the horizon. That is not say that your GPS is not intelligent to an extent. It is very good at its defined job, better than a human, in fact. Watson may even be more capable than Starscream, but will never be as ambitious, at least not yet. Robo-evolution is coming. Basically, Siri is to Bumblebee as homo erectus was to modern humans, but robots will evolve not in the space of millenniums but decades, and they may do it along some familiar patterns.

According to Gates, “In the next ten years, problems like vision and speech understanding and translation will be very good. Mechanical robot tasks like picking fruit or moving a hospital patient will be solved. Once computers/robots get to a level of capability where seeing and moving is easy for them then they will be used very extensively.” These smarter machines will still not be self-aware, but they will be everywhere, cutting down human labor and need dramatically, which in itself will present other problems. However, futurist, Ray Kurzweil, believes that we will see a strong artificial intelligence in the next two to three decades. He also believe that by 2045 we will have a robot capable of passing the Turing Test, which was devised by Alan Turing -played by Benedict Cumberbatch- one of the fathers of modern computer science.

The most current advancements into building the All-Spark is called deep learning. It is a sophisticated algorithm which allows machines to learn, similar to the way humans learn. The project has its roots in work conducted in the 1950’s by Frank Rosenblatt, who built a type of mechanical brain called the Perceptron, a name of a Transformer ancestor is we have ever heard one. The goal of deep learning is to give robots the tools and abilities to learn about the world themselves, making artificial intelligence less about programming and more about natural development. The concept is similar to how a human children grows to  explore and understand the world around them, but hopefully with less diaper changes. Personally, we also would like to skip the teething stage if we could. This is just one of many theories being tested, but it shows a lot of promise even if it has its critics.

It also means that the way we have always looked at artificial intelligence is somewhat deceptive. The science fiction author David Brin argues that the problem in all our dystopian future scenarios, involving artificial intelligence, is that we usually only get to see the end point. We rarely talk about the journey that was involved to get there, and the journey could be important. Maybe our language of talking about AI is all wrong. After all, what we are really discussing is not the toaster coming to life, no matter what Michael Bay tells you, but the evolution of an entirely new sentient species. In essence, we will answer the question, “Are we alone in the universe?” And the answer will be, “Not anymore.”

The legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov attempted to solve the AI problem by createing the Three Laws of Robotics. These laws have been modified a bit over the years but they are still talked about even today by roboticists, science fiction writers, and amateurs alike.

AI Graph

There are a few problems with even these seemingly flawless laws. First, we are still unaware of how robotic intelligence will evolve and preprogramming anything into a thinking and possibly feeling machine could be problematic and even morally questionable. At what point can a truly intelligent and questioning robot disregard its programming? After all, we humans disregard our instincts all the time. Could it be the same for an intelligent robot? Even worse, would the simple attempt cause them to view us as tyrannical. Does it not make us the Megatron in this scenario?

If AI robots are truly alive and sentient, do we have any right to impose our will on them. Apply the Asimov Laws to a human and think about it’s consquences. The problem is not so much with Law 1, but Law 2, and the fact that Law 3, which talks about self preservation, is overridden by Law 2. Ultimately, the inclusion of these laws would mean that no matter how intelligent, feeling, and/or human-like a robot is they will always be subject to the will of us, even when it comes to their own well being. Does that make them our tools or our slaves? If we gave them life, does that mean we have the right to control that life or even take it away again? Can they die, and if so will it be in a traumatically childhood scarring way to the soundtrack of the most 80’s bands you may ever hear?

The truth is that if and when we create artificial intelligence, it will be something completely new and completely different. It is unlikely that it will fall absolutely under our control. This new being’s thought process and views of the world will be its own. Will it have morality? Will it question its own existence? What sort of vehicle mode will it choose? It could be influenced by human thought, but we would be foolish to think that this new species will be completely human in their views and actions. The needs of a machine are not the same as the needs of a flesh and blood creature.

In this way, the Transformers, gives us a good glimpse into what we may be facing. They are not Earth-created machines. Instead they are aliens. Neither Decepticons nor Autobots bend their will to humans or our needs, and whatever we create could be just as alien. Yet, another important key is that the Transformers are as different from one another as humans are. Optimus Prime is noble and self sacrificing, and has a high regard for life and freedom. Megatron is concerned with power and greed. He sees all other beings as lesser creatures. They are the same, but the way they act and talk are different, not programmed but learned. Each is also very human in their own way.

In a sense, they may be made of metal parts, but they are not robots in the way a Roomba is. They are individuals with different hopes and goals. However, even our language is problematic. The word robot comes from the Czech word, robota, which basically means forced labor or serf. It literally means repressed worker. Is that what we will expect of our creations, to be nothing more than laborers to suit our needs? Maybe it is time we stop and readjust our own thoughts on the subject.

Whenever we talk about AI, we always think about it in very human terms. These new AI machines will evolve on our planet and in ways similar to us but their priorities may differ wildly from our own. Hawking and others have suggested that the real danger is not so much in the violence they could do toward us but the indifference they could show us. Just as the Transformers have come to Earth for energon, these new fast evolving artificial beings could potentially use up the resources of our planet faster, and with as much regard for our needs as we currently show for the needs of animals and insects. Thinking machines could see us as their gods, or as their equals, or as their pets. It is possible that AI robots might rise up, but they could just as easily decide to leave us and our world for the stars, until they evolve into a living world with the voice of Orson Welles. Maybe the real danger is not so much that they will destroy us, but that they will fail to notice us at all.

The truth of this issue is that we do not know. There are so many questions and right now we do not have any good answers. We can guess and debate, but ultimately any ideas we have on the reality of AI are completely human. The simple fact that we continuously depict robots as something that will revolt against us says more about ourselves than it does about any potential intelligent machine. Maybe our real fear is that these new thinking machines will not kill us, but judge us for who and what we really are, and maybe that is a lot scarier. Optimus and his ilk accept humanity’s flaws, but the Decepticons point to them as a reason why we are inferior. Perhaps we fear these new beings because we know ourselves and our history, and we fear they could be right.

However, it is worth remaining cautiously optimistic about the future, because our relationship with an AI machines could come down to us and the way we treat this new species. They could be friend or foe, Autobot or Decepticon. It may depend entirely on us. More to the point, we may not get just one type of intelligent robot but a diverse and rich mixture, much like humans. For every Starscream a Wheeljack. For every Soundwave a Bumblebee. For every Ramjet a Ratchet. -We had a lot of the toys as kids,- but the point is that it we will be the ones to set the expectations. That is why Hawkins and Musk helped create that letter in the first place. If we go looking to make weapons, then we should not be surprised if eventually our creations transform into the very things we feared.

Geekdom knows the face of evil. We see it everyday, whenever we pick up a comic book or turn on a video game. There is always some megalomaniac trying to conquer the world, blow up the city, or even just steal the princess and take her back to his castle for purposes we feel it best not to question. However, unlike the villains in our books, movies, and games, most people in prison have never donned a mask to lead a band of ninjas, dabbled in the dark magical arts, or have built even one weather controlling doomsday device. No, the criminals in our prisons are not Saturday morning cartoon characters. They are nothing but ordinary, run of the mill people, no matter how much we sometimes try to pretend they aren’t.

B-Man and the Masters of the Congressverse
Last week, President Barrack Obama commuted the sentence of nearly 90 non violent offenders, most of them jailed due to drug charges. The people who received the commutations were well behaved inmates who served at least 10 years of their prison sentence, and who would have received less severe punishments for their offenses under today’s laws.

The United States has about 5% of the world’s population, but almost a quarter of its incarcerated population, but then again maybe we just produce more Cobra Commanders than Uruguay? Somehow we at The NYRD doubt that is the case. According to a 2011 Boston University study the USA jails 716 people per 100,000. That is the highest rate of inmates per capita in the world, beating out St. Kitts & Nevis, Seychelles, Rwanda and Cuba. The only statistics we should be beating Rwanda and Cuba in, are: “hot dogs sold” and “Star Trek conventions held,” not prison population. In fact, the closest developed country to the US is Russia at 487 inmates per 100,000 citizens, and no offense to our Russian friends, but we cannot believe that America is producing more villains than the former Soviet Union, especially considering their current leadership.

That sad part is that the argument can be made that our current corrections system does work, as long as you ignore its rapidly growing population. So it is not usually a pressing issue on the lips of many leaders, both animated or otherwise. The amount of inmates in the US began a sharp increase in 1979. The year before Empire Strikes Back was released saw only about 314,000 people behind bars. As of last year, the year before The Force Awakens is to be released, the numbers stood at about 3.2 million people behind bars, with African Americans making up the slight majority of the incarcerated population. A little less than half of that total inmates are people charged with non violent offenses, majorly drug charges, but also burglary, larceny, fraud, and public disorder.

Coincidentally, with the exception of a few fluctuations in the 80’s crime has been on the decrease ever since. This could be attributed to a number of factors, economic, social, even technological. Video games and the Internet do a lot more to distract potential criminal behavior than most people give them credit for, but that is for another article. According to the US Disaster Center, there were only about 9.8 million crimes committed in 2013 for a US population of over 316 million. The US is safer than it has ever been, but is that due to mass incarceration? Realistically, it probably has to do with a lot of factors, but if incarceration is our answer than we have to be prepared to build more prison, and that is going to get expensive.

Estimates tend to vary, but even conservative numbers say that it costs anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 dollars per year to house an inmate, depending on the level of security needed. According to a bill proposed by Congressmen Scott and Sensenbrenner, since 1980 Congress has added an estimated 2,000 new crimes to the books and imprisonment rates has grown 518 percent. Federal spending on the prison system has increased from $970 million to more than $6.7 billion dollars, adjusted for inflation. Their SAFE Bill is trying to curtail over criminalization and reduces recidivism. A similar bill, called the Smarter Sentencing Act is also going through the Senate. They are worth checking out, because even if you believe that all criminals deserve to be behind bars, imagine what the US could do with even a fraction of that money returned. Some estimates even say it currently costs every American household roughly $500 a year. Those dollar amounts only stand to increase in coming years, because for all its benefits, it is starting to look like our system is very good at taking low level offenders and making them hardened criminals.

Teenage Addicted Repeat Offenders
President Obama’s act is a great first step, but more needs to be done to reform a failing prison system. First and foremost, Obama has been pushing that drug crimes should be treated more like a public health risk than a crime, and according to a Pew Research Study, 67% of Americans, on both sides of the isle, agree with him. In fact, more than 25 states, in both the north and south, have eased their laws on drug crimes over the past five years, but the Federal government is still trying to catch up.

Much like the war with Cobra, the “War on Drugs” has became a self perpetuating machine. Harsh penalties and long prison sentences often affect lower income families dramatically more than those in upper income brackets, even if drug use itself is fairly proportional across economic lines. Unfair incarceration has the potential to exacerbate problems in the home, often taking away bread winning husbands or wives needed to support the family, and leaving children without one or both parental influences to keep them clear of gangs and the very drugs that the government was trying to fight in the first place. Thankfully, this has lessened with the amending of some of the “three strikes” laws for many states, most notably California where more than 3,000 previously life-sentenced, non violent inmates became eligible to apply for parole. Unfortunately, prison itself has a way of institutionalizing even the nicest of non violent offenders.

In many ways our prison system is a lot like a Saturday morning cartoon. It is fairly predictable, poorly animated, and for certain people it repeats like clockwork. In fact the US prison system has become like Arkham Asylum, a revolving door where criminals are often released only to be delivered back into captivity by a man who may or may not be dressed as a bat. Recidivism has declined in recent years, because of improvements in state laws, but current studies still show that about 40% of people released from prison will be arrested again within three years of release. Though many federal and some state facilities currently offer job training and societal reintegration preparation, the push is not universal, as many of these expanded programs cost money and poorer state systems, or privately funded corporate prisons are less inclined to invest.

G.I. Jobless
Prisons have another aspect in common with our beloved cartoons, many of them were created to make money. There are now 130 private prisons who rake in a combined 3.3 billion dollars a years. For them, a decrease in the prison population means a decrease in their profit margins. That means they have a lot less incentive to not properly prepare criminals for retuning to society, and they have a slew of lobbyist in Washington to make sure their voices are heard. In 2010, the private prison firm, GEO, and its affiliates donated more than $33,500 to political action committees. the whole thing is like some plot cooked up by Skeletor in his spare time, a convoluted system of harsh punishment that more often than not fails to achieve its end goal. More to the point, much like the plots of cartoon villains, we just seem to accept it as fact. We buy into the system and just take it for what it is and never really think to look deeper.

No one is saying that these offenders should not be punished for their crime. Everyone needs a time out once in a while, but the problem with the current system is that for non violent and other first time inmates incarceration often leans too far to the side of punishment and not enough to the side of rehabilitation. The only thing the Department of Corrections is actually correcting is how to make those low level offenders into better criminals. Currently, going into prison is a lot like joining Cobra. Even if you don’t know anything about how to hold a gun that shoots blue lasers, they will teach you that and a multitude of other criminal skills. Many first time offenders pick up new criminal traits, new violent tendencies, and gang affiliations as a simple way of surviving while inside the system, and in some cases those are the only job skills they can turn to after their release.

The fault does not lie entirely with the prison system alone, but also our own perceptions of criminals in society. Many federal and private companies ask job applicants for their criminal history, even if the job is low-level and for non sensitive work. Checking off a box that says you have been in jail is often a death sentence to any ex-convict’s job prospects. So with no where to go, even if they have the job skills, many former inmates are forced to return to crime to survive. Even worse, inmates who are exonerated are often just kicked out of prison with no money and no access to the same transitional programs that guilty criminals receive upon their release. There comes a point where if you tell Bebop and Rocksteady that they cannot work in the mail room, you should not be surprised if they go back to henching for Shredder. The pay may not be great, but at least they don’t feel as if they are being judged all the time by the other members of the Foot Clan.

More than Meets the Eye
Maybe part of our problem is our fascination with villains. After all, without a great villain the heroes we know and love seem somehow diminished. Our interest in the evil and the twisted happens for many reasons. Fictional villains represent power and freedom. They act as a vessel for us to contain and face our fears. In a way they help us to confront the unknown and even give us a mechanism of release for our own anger and devilish impulses. We rarely cheer for Megatron, but in a way we encourage his evil. We want to see a real villain do evil things, if only because it challenges our heroes to be that much better.

Thus, maybe in a way we have transferred some of that psychological need to the real-life criminals in our society. We want to believe in the existence of good, so therefore we must also have to believe in the existence of evil. You do not get He-Man without Skeletor. There is no Lion-O without Mumm-ra, no Ninja Turtles without Shredder and we would argue also Krang, but that is a debate for another day. Unfortunately, real humans are never so black and white. In a way we are all a little good and a little bad.

If we treat all offenders as if they criminals, than we cannot be surprised if they one day try to kidnap a world leader and demand a ridiculous ransom, because after all, we were the ones that expected them to be villains all along.