Inspired by the ‘Arc of the Scythe’ Series by Neal Shusterman

Who knew death could be so much fun? What a creative and unique world Neal Shusterman invented for us through his Arc of the Scythe series. I ate this post-mortality concept up. How did he do this? I’ve read a lot of dystopian literature, and I think this one might be my favorite. It gave me the same feeling that The Hunger Games did, in that I was transported into a world far from where we find ourselves now. This reminded me why books are magic. In a year where we are inside all the time because of a deadly pandemic, you will feel far from quarantined once you enter the world of the Scythedom.

The breakdown: What would happen if we became so technologically advanced that disease and death were eradicated? Where if we were hit by a car and rendered “deadish” we could be sent to a “revival station” and be brought back to life? Wanna look younger? That can happen, too. The one problem: How would we control the population? Shusterman gives us the answer with his creation of the “Scythedom”: a superior and respected group of people who kill others in order to prevent overpopulation.

At the center of this amazing series are two teenagers, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, who undergo training as apprentices to Honorable Scythe Faraday (I loved Faraday so hard). Each youth struggle with the “art of killing”, and eventually become extremely important to the future of not only the Scythedom, but to life on Earth as we know it.

Technology is also the star of the show. An advanced computer system known as the “Thunderhead” controls society. Who is preventing plane crashes, sinking ships, and terrorist attacks? The Thunderhead, that’s who. Yep, and it’s watching when you accidentally electrocute yourself and need to be brought to a revival station? The Thunderhead sends reinforcements to bring your fried ass back to life. The Thunderhead is a form of AI that does not make mistakes or have regrets, and serves the population in life, while the Scythedom serves us through permanent death. It operates separate and apart from the Scythedom. In the second and third books, we see how this AI tries to save humanity from itself after the Scythedom goes rogue. And how it’s inability to interfere with the Scythedom complicates matters. What a testament to show that even without disease and death from violence, the same things lead us to hurt one another: greed, power, jealousy, and groupthink.

I loved these characters, even the horrible ones. I also liked to imagine what life would be like if this were real. Would I be a Scythe? Hell no. Would I enjoy getting the 18 year old version of my ass back every few years? Hell yes.

As an aside, I loved the words and concepts Shusterman created. Examples: “Gleaning” (permanent killing), “MidMerica”, “Tonists”, “Revival Stations”. It goes on. The names he gave the Scythes, too. So much fun.

The Arc of the Scythe series is worth your time. Read (or listen) to all three books. If you choose to listen to the audiobooks, you won’t regret it: Greg Tremblay does a fantastic job bringing each character to life.

Dream Cast:

Scythe Faraday: Liam Neeson

Scythe Curie: Viola Davis

Citra aka Scythe Anastasia: Jenna Ortega

Rowan aka Scythe Lucifer: Alex Lawther

Scythe Goddard: Mads Mikkselson

Scythe Rand: Lucy Liu

Greyson Tolliver: Levi Miller

Jericho: Jade Hassouné

Monira: Selena Gomez

Thunderhead: Morgan Freeman

Inspired by ‘The Father’

I watched The Father two days ago and couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I drew this piece in honor of a great movie with a superb script and cast. It started out as charcoal and then I decided all it needed was pencil and lots of blending. Quick note about the movie: Anthony Hopkins was fantastic and I’m glad he was honored for nailing such a difficult role. I think anyone who has had a family member with dementia could connect with this film. And it shows how very scary it is for someone afflicted, almost like a horror movie. I thought of my grandmother many times while watching this, and it made me understand my own family situation more. There were times where Anthony (the character) just sits in silence because he knows explaining his confusion won’t help. That look is one I saw many times. A great film. (Available on Starz).

If ‘12 Angry Men’ were made today

I drew this for my teenage niece. She has a learning disability (she said it’s ok if I say that) that makes it difficult for her to retain information. She has always been a visual learner, and it’s just hard for her. She tries so hard. Her English teacher assigned 12 Angry Men and is allowing her to also watch the movie to help retain the material. One small problem: my niece isn’t into the movie because it’s in black and white and “it looks old” (forgive her for she know not what she says) and it’s just “a bunch of old white guys” (ok, she got me there but she also knows it was a representation of how things were in 1954 when the play was written). There is a 1997 movie adaptation but she wasn’t interested in that either. So, to make it fun I suggested we put our own diverse cast together with actors she’s more familiar with so she can connect with them and put a face to the character. Then I’d draw them to try to help her remember each man, and what their personalities bring to the jury. She wanted to me to pick six, and then she picked the other six. (By the way, she selected Shawn Mendes as the defendant 😂)

I used the same background as the movie poster from 1957, but I inverted the colors on procreate. Here’s the original:

Here is the version I drew in 2021, the year of our Lord and Savior Dolly Parton:

Jury Foreman: Paul Walter Hauser – calm, fair, employed as a high school coach. Originally played by Martin Balsam.

Juror 2: The Banker. Riz Ahmed. Shy and meek. Originally portrayed by John Fiedler.

Juror 3: The Angry Business Owner. John Turturro. Hot-tempered and estranged from his son. Wants a guilty verdict. Originally portrayed by Lee J. Cobb.

Juror 4: The Stockbroker. Chiwetel Ejiofor. Detail-oriented, concerned with focusing on the facts of the case. Originally portrayed by E.G. Marshall.

Juror 5: The Survivor. LaKeith Stanfield. From humble beginnings. Now a healthcare worker. The one who realizes the position of the switchblade knife is inconsistent. Originally portrayed by Jack Klugman.

Juror 6: The Painter. Oscar Isaac. Tough, measured, protective of the older jurors when they are disrespected. Originally portrayed by Edward Binns.

Juror 7: The Salesman. Patrick Wilson. Wisecracking, totally indifferent, would rather be anywhere but in a jury room. Originally portrayed by Jack Warden.

Juror 8: The Architect. Mahershala Ali. The first one to vote not-guilty. Kind, justice-seeking and humane. Originally portrayed by Henry Fonda.

Juror 9: The Senior. Alan Arkin. Wise. Extremely observant of witness behavior. Originally portrayed by Joseph Sweeney.

Juror 10: The Garage Owner. Woody Harrelson. Bigot, loud-mouth. Originally portrayed by Ed Begley.

Juror 11: The Watchmaker. Mads Mikkelsen. European immigrant and naturalized citizen. Passionate about democracy and due process. Originally portrayed by George Voskovec.

Juror 12: The Advertising Executive. Alan Cummings. Indecisive and easily swayed by others.

Why this even needs to be said…

A rare political post from me. I keep up with the news, but don’t discuss it online as much as I used to. Why disease prevention has become a partisan issue is beyond me. And it’s annoying because the recklessness is just prolonging how long we will deal with this. Fall is going to be bad. Ignoring science under the guise of “freedom” won’t keep you healthy, and so many will die in the coming months who could have been saved. Irony is making a mandate saying there can’t be a mandate that’s put in place to protect the public’s health. What?

If you don’t want the vaccine, fine – but then at least wear a mask. Germs and diseases don’t care that you’re inconvenienced.