National History Day, weebly, and the preservation of digital records

Homepage of as of September 11, 2019

In my newsletter back on August 14th, I noted that National History Day had sent me an email asking for “donations since their relationship with Weebly,” which had provided their website creation platform, after a ten year run, in hopes that such donations could pay a developer so they could create their own “website creation platform…by November 1, 2019,” costing $150,000 in total. I then realized that I still had one website on the platform. In the past, I had already transferred my website about the space race (which I created for the 2010 National History contest) to a separate weebly account. But, I hadn’t done that for my one on the war on drugs (which I created for the 2011 contest). I saved most of the pages using the wayback machine of the Internet Archive in almost desperation, but as a second attempt, I tried to log in to my old account.

This post was originally written in September 2019, but was slightly changed and fixed up in December 2022. It is being published on here for the first time.

To my surprise, the log-in worked and I was able to edit the site in all its functions. But, I wondered if this site could be sustained. Will it last on weebly forever? Will I always be able to edit it? So, I contacted the weebly people for assistance, to see what they would say.

What the login page looked like when I logged in on September 11, 2019

I sent them a short message on September 11 about my issue:

So, I have an old website for NHD ( that I would like to transfer to a domain. I would appreciate help with this, so I can preserve the website and its contents going forward. I look forward to hearing from you.

Right after, I received a a confirmation that they are “working on responding to you as soon as possible.” As I awaited their response, I saved the website’s pages on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, specifically the

Then, on September 16th, I received an email from Dakota of Weebly Policy Support, telling me that “unfortunately there is no way to convert NHD at this time or to connect a domain name in the current NHD account. Please go to the following link for further information about the NHD program and sites,” providing a link to a page about this from their help site.


Basically, their “solution” was for you to send an email archive of your website to yourself, which I had already done, with an email of my website titled “The export of your site is ready to be downloaded” with a zip file attached. But what happened after that? They didn’t answer that question. For me, that would have involved creating a whole new weebly website with the same content, something which I didn’t want to do. So, I did the next best thing: I used webrecorder, which I had learned about in an appraisal class of my spring semester at UMD as part of my graduate school studies for a Master of Library and Information Science, with a concentration in Archives and Digital Curation. I created a public collection of the website, with the bottom picture showing what it looks like when you visit it online, presently:

I created a collection, which I arranged into lists, although its obviously not the same as viewing the original website itself, as some videos didn’t even show up.  For instance, while internal videos work just fine, the video of Hemp for Victory, shown below, on the Timeline page, NEVER shows up! To be clear, I’m not saying I endorse these videos, but rather I am adding them as examples of content that Webrecorder is not capturing, showing one of its flaws.

Similarly, a video on “Is It a Conspiracy?” page, where a Former LAPD detective argues that the CIA has dealt drugs throughout U.S. didn’t appear in the Webrecorder archive either as it never showed up on the page when I went to archive it. In another instance, the video of a Harvard Economist saying that all drugs should be legalized, on my Viewpoints page, was never part of the Webrecorder archive either:

Strangely, the video on the “who benefits” page showed up in Webrecorder, despite these others not showing up. Of course, there is also the issue of dead video links across the website, which neither webrecorder nor internet archive can solve, as it means those videos were taken down from YouTube.

That led to my last attempt to archive this content: moving it to a new home, my YouTube channel, apart from the one video I had uploaded there, which used to be on my NHD website at one time. So, I aimed to upload them, choosing the most historical videos of the lot, cropping others for length, to make them better.

And the preservation continues onward. I look forward to your comments and would love suggestions on how I can preserve this website going forward.

© 2019-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Habits of a digital reader and the appeal of old books

Day after day, I look at the lighted screen of my phone, reading articles of the day, whether posted on Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, or some other social media platform, apart from thumbing through new emails or photographs on Instagram from librarians, archivists, genealogists, and friends. In the meantime, books in my own personal library, whether in my small apartment or in my childhood home, often sit on the shelf, collecting dust, untouched and unmoving. Some could say I’m like Abby Hargreaves who finds a “lot of comfort in books not-yet-read” with her books “stacked high on the floor” of her office, next to a bookshelf that is overfull. Perhaps like her, unread books do not disappoint me. More than that, however, with a life in flux, my collections of books are divided, leaving me to only focus on chance books to read, whether on the bus or the train, riding public transit from one part of Maryland to another. At the same time, the strain of reading articles for my classes during library school at UMD takes time away from reading physical books, with many textbooks available in a digital form and the articles for each class like a nest of PDFs that are portioned out, week by week.

This is a book I wrote for Book Riot back in August 2019, but it was never published. So it is being published here for the first time.

While saying all of this, I especially love old books, even “recently old” ones like the 1990s or early 2000s. This expands to novels, like Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow or Albert Camus’s The Plague, which I’m still in the process of reading. Recently, at a book sale hosted by the friends of my local library, I bought a number of books like Spencer R. Crew’s 1987 historical overview for  the National Museum of American History, Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration 1915-1940 and Norman G. Rukert’s 1982 illustrated history, The Port: Pride of Baltimore. Events like the booksale show, once again, that physical books are not fading away and being replaced by e-books, whether they become something like holobooks in the Star Wars universe or not.

Perhaps it is this love of old books which drew me not only to research my own family history, but to events like the wonderful National History Day, which can be called a “science fair for history” for short, and ultimately to library science. A physical book you can hold, smell, touch, and turn the pages offers something that no online resource cannot. This fact is the reason that most of the documentary evidence of my life and thoughts lives in paper journals, sketchbooks, and binders, rather than through any sort of digital footprint. But, with some people it is very different, especially with the newest generation of young people, whom are more plugged into their devices more than ever.

Perhaps my reading habits, of physical books, are akin to Will (played by Matt Damon) in the classic 1997 film, Good Will Hunting, who reads only books at the top of bookshelf of his therapist Sean (played by Robin Williams), rather than the others. He even declares at one point to Clark (played by Scott William Winters), a Harvard student, that “you dropped 150 grand on a fuckin’ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.” This is a message worth hearing in light of National Library Week earlier this month (April 7th to 13th) and the newest report on the state of U.S. libraries from the American Library Association.

In the end, while paperback and hardback books will sit on a bookshelf collecting dust, old books will still be calling to me even as my phone sits on the desk right next to me.

© 2019-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Cleopatra in Space and the Missing “Quarantine” Episode

On July 15, 2020, the streaming service, Peacock, made 12 episodes of Cleopatra in Space, an animated show, available to all U.S. residents, after making five episodes available to Xfinity subscribers a few months before. Whether by error, laziness, or purposeful action, the show’s sixth episode was not listed, meaning that only episodes 1-5 and 7-13 were available to anyone who subscribed to Peacock Premium. Mike Maihack, creator of the graphic novel series which this animated series was based on, lamented this development. He described the “missing” episode as focusing on a “zombie-like flu,” with Cleo having to face the consequences of avoiding quarantine, and said it is an episode that the “entire world should be able to see right now.” He also called the release of only 12 episodes “disappointing,” referring to the fact that 26 episodes were part of the show’s first season, many of which premiered on the Dreamworks channel, available to subscribers in Southeast Asia. A fan of the show later asked Peacock about this episode and they described it as “temporarily unavailable” and said that there is no news on the release “at the moment.” As of the time of this article’s publication, the episode has still not been added to Peacock, with an official Peacock account explaining that the episode was “not actively” on the platform, but not explaining why this was the case. This article will summarize the “missing” episode, reportedly with the name “Quarantine,” as listed on the website of Rotten Tomatoes, [1] and note how it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was originally written in October 2020, but never published for some reason. It was since named and fixed up in December 2022, so some of the information in it may be outdated. It will be published on my History Hermann WordPress blog on Feb. 23, 2022. The episode was finally released on Peacock on June 25, 2021.

This episode is not the first time that a show has focused on a quarantine. The Simpsons Movie in 2007 was about the town of Springfield trapped under a glass dome by a power-hungry EPA administrator. Some have argued noted other Simpsons episodes, like one where the “Osaka Flu” spread across Springfield, although such a comparison is faulty due to the unscientific way that the flu spread across the town itself. On the other hand, the August 2011 episode of Futurama, “Cold Warriors,” had the arrogant space commander, Zapp Brannigan, attempt to bring the quarantined city of New New York into the Sun after the common cold virus accidentally spread across the city from Fry to the rest of those in the city. Luckily, the cold is controlled once everyone receives a vaccine, the quarantine is lifted, and the city returned to its rightful location. In a similar vein, Edgar Allan Poe, in his short story “The Masque of the Red Death,” focuses on a prince who gathers his rich friends within a castle while a plague known as the “Red Death” spreads across the country, killing all who are exposed. Ultimately, they are exposed to the virus and end up dying as a result, showing no one is safe from the disease.

Cleo and the zombie flu

This episode is different from the previously mentioned examples. Cleopatra “Cleo,” (voiced by Lilimar Herandez) is adjusting herself to the future, almost getting killed by a robot assassin, a robotic monster, nearly captured by scavengers, and liberating a planet from the control of the Xerxs, the footsoldiers of the tyrannical Octavian, in previous episodes. She begins the episode by going on her first solo mission to retrieve a book from a planet named Buflong whose inhabitants look like butterflies and “speak a musical language,” boasting she can deal with a “bunch of butterflies.” She figures out how to deal with the burping butterflies, first zapping them with her quaser (a type of laser pistol), throwing her bracelets to the creatures, and speaking a burp language with the queen butterfly creature.

Cleo returns to Mayet confidently and when her mentor, Khensu (voiced by Sendhil Ramamurthy), tells her to quarantine because of a flu outbreak on the planet she came from. In her typical style, she decides to not take him seriously, declaring she has no idea what quarantine is, and says she is fine because she “doesn’t even have a sniffle.” She touches as many people as she can when she arrives at Pyramid, an academy which is a cross-between a college and high school, with no social distancing whatsoever. Although she thinks that everything will be “totally fine,” the next day she sees all the students at the campus sick with the zombie flu. She does not understand how she got everyone sick, with Khensu informing her she is a carrier of the flu. She is shocked by how the sickness is developing among her classmates, such as temporary tentacle growth (in the case of Zaid), hallucinations (in the case of Brian), and projectile crying (in the case of Akila). Khensu tells her that the flu “affects every species differently” in the first stage of the virus. Although cats only have a mild cold, the second stage is the same for everyone: “extreme aggression.” Basically, everyone turns into “rage zombies” who are prone to fight others. Yikes!

Cleo defends her actions, saying that she doesn’t know “weird future stuff” and shows she has no knowledge of quarantine, guessing it is a mineral, a dance, or “some kind of pastry.”

Khensu and Cleo leave in the nick of time, as they have to find a cure before everyone in the academy dies from the flu, killing each other in their uncontrollable rage. They travel to an uninhabited ice planet to meet Dr. Queed (voiced by Paul Rugg), former head of biosciences for P.Y.R.A.M.I.D., who was forced out because of his eccentric nature. While Khensu and Cleo are sparring, their ship crash-lands on the planet, and they barely escape being killed by lightning which strikes anything above 20 feet. Thanks to Cleo’s quick thinking, charging her quaser with the lightning’s energy, as soon as the virus fully takes hold of Khensu, making him a “rage zombie,” the giant ice spider, which blocks their way, is killed by a blast from the quaser. Afterward, Cleo and Khensu enter Dr. Queed’s lab, and learn the unsettling news that the monster Cleo killed was one of his creations! As Cleo pleads with him to help those at the academy, he remains skeptical of offering his “uncanny scientific brilliance.” Using his over-confidence, hubris, and ego against him, Cleo manipulates Queed into helping them, as Queed claims he can cure “any sickness.” Khensu, overtaken by the flu, almost kills Queed, until he sticks the untested vaccine into his arm, which ends up being successful. Later, Cleo goads Queed, saying he can’t cure everyone, leading him to declare he will prove his scientific abilities by making a big batch of vaccines.

On their return to Mayet, Queed, Cleo, and Khensu wear special helmets equipped to shoot vaccine darts at people. When they return to the academy, it has turned into utter mayhem, with each of them spreading out to cover more ground, firing darts filled with the vaccine at every student they can find. In the end, Brian is the only holdout, remaining infected because the darts can’t penetrate his cyborg body. Cleo has to activate her super pink power and is trapped by Brian, allowing her to suck out the power from Brian’s body. With everything returning to normal, Cleo says the spread of the illness is all her fault, a conclusion which is mostly correct. Khensu admits that he shouldn’t have assumed she knew of the “importance of quarantine.” Ironically, she later enters quarantine after showing symptoms of a presumed common cold. In the last scene of the episode, she remarks, “quarantine stinks!” a sentiment a lot of us would agree with at this point in time, and asks for a charger.

Cleo declares that “quarantine stinks!”

Relevance to the pandemic

The episode is extremely relevant to the present, even though the flu which is portrayed in the animated series is nothing like COVID-19. When Cleo unknowingly brings the disease back to Mayet as an asymptomatic carrier, and becomes the superspreader. A close watching of the episode shows Cleo gets close to at least five people, including fist-bumping with two, and hugging two more people while walking through an area bustling with students. Since the area was crowded with people, at least 18 students in the area nearby, by my count, she undoubtedly spread the virus to them. As such, the simple action of walking near the gathered students is a super-spreader event. When it comes to COVID-19, densely packed areas where people are talking or singing is risky as it leads to super-spreader events, [2] with the same applying here. In the same episode, Professor Jurval is shown teaching a class with at least seven students, although more are likely there and not shown on the screen. This is another presumed super-spreader event as she coughs toward the students, leading them to spread the cough between each other. Similar to the virus shown in the episode, COVID-19 has various stages and symptoms and does not affect everyone the same way.

Jurval’s possible superspreader event

There are few lessons and takeaways from this episode, tempered by the current time and place we live in. The first is that you should quarantine yourself when you are sick and don’t think you are above it. The latter attitude is how people have died or become seriously ill with COVID-19. In fact, Cleo spreading the virus almost caused her friends and classmates to die as their rage came to a melting point. She barely saved the day, only thanks to a medical doctor, although one that was seen as a quack, his vaccines of sorts, and her mentor, Khensu. Another takeaway from this episode is that you should listen to medical advice, not ignore it, as Cleo does at the end of the episode when she develops a cold of some type, perhaps as a side effect of the virus she spread or something else entirely.

The episode as a whole can be interpreted, in our current time and place, as emphasizing the importance of social distancing, coupled with mask-wearing. If Cleo had social distanced from her fellow classmates, wore a mask, and gone to quarantine, the outbreak of the flu could have been completely avoided. But, that wouldn’t have made a “good” story, right? More fundamentally, the episode is about trusting others and not being as self-centered (or arrogant), especially when you don’t know something or others will be harmed by your actions. This is especially relevant considering the current infection of the U.S. President with COVID-19 and those around him, [3] after not following the proper safety precautions, whether not social distancing or not wearing a mask. Clearly, no one is immune from the virus, no matter their stature in U.S. society, and no one can escape its wrath or effects.

Unlike COVID-19, where someone can feel “well in their battle against it one hour can easily take a turn the next,” as noted by TIME magazine’s Senior Editor, the virus shown in the episode only has two stages. Even so, there are many parallels to the current pandemic. The event last Saturday at the Rose Garden to announce Judge Amy Coney Barrett as a nominee for the Supreme Court, has been considered a superspreader event. [4] Similarly, Cleo walking through a crowded area at school, and Jurval sneezing on her class, are similarly superspreader events. At the same time, the way the virus was transmitted in the episode itself is similar to COVID-19 because it spreads in tiny aerosol droplets, something which the CDC recently admitted COVID-19 does as well, after initially denying it. [5] The agency’s official website currently states that “some infections can be spread by exposure to [the] virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours,” making clear that social distancing and mask-wearing alone will not limit the virus, but rather that it is about the time of exposure.

The episode itself also highlights the importance of proper medical care and science. If Queed had never created the vaccine and inadvertently made Khensu into a test subject, then everyone at the academy would have killed each other. Admittedly, this vaccine did not go through all the stages that those vaccines for the flu, measles, smallpox, and many other diseases, must go through before being given to the general public. In that way, it was a big gamble to even make the vaccines for everyone because they only had one test subject (Khensu). What if the effects on the students had been different? Imagine that instead of removing the flu particles within each of them, it killed or made them sicker? This is where the show falls down. Since it is reportedly geared toward those aged 6-11, according to showrunner Doug Langdale, such serious discussions are often sidetracked. As such, shows like Futurama do a much better job of highlighting the medical issues and risks in infection than Cleopatra in Space, with critics praising it for highlighting “what happens when an epidemic breaks loose in the future.” Even so, the Cleopatra in Space episode still has its merits, as it does not have flashbacks and neither is everyone put in quarantine. Similar to the Futurama episode, a vaccine is created, but the plotline is more straightforward and focuses on fewer characters, as Cleo’s usual team of herself, Brian, and Akila, is not possible, as Brian and Akila have the flu.

Final thoughts

The parallels to the current COVID-19 pandemic could why the episode is still not listed on Peacock. However, the episode has aired on the DreamWorks channel, Showmax in South Africa, Viaplay in Scandinavia, and ABC Me in Australia, to give a few examples. Perhaps the executives, whether at DreamWorks, Universal Pictures (parent of DreamWorks), NBCUniversal (parent of Universal Pictures), or Comcast (parent of NBC Universal), did not want the episode to be interpreted as a commentary on COVID-19, with a protagonist who violates quarantine rules and is gleeful about it (before releasing her error). If that is the case, it is completely absurd. Since the show is relatively complex, in terms of the fact it has 26 episodes, coming in a total of over 570 minutes of animated content, it undoubtedly took a long time to produce, as compared to shorter productions. The show has been in production since at least January 2018, when the request to develop the music for the show was put out, [6] and when DreamWorks registered the trademark for Cleopatra in Space itself. Looking into those in the show’s crew, depending on the person, they worked on the show any time between April 2018 and August 2019, far before COVID-19 was on anyone’s mind.

Hopefully, this episode will soon be made available and that other animations in the coming year make parallels to the current COVID-19 pandemic in a way that is respectful and recognizes the gravity of the virus. In the end, there are various lessons and takeaways that viewers can glean from this episode, and the animated series as a whole, which will have relevance to this current time and place, and into the foreseeable future.

© 2020-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] This episode seems to be named “The Flu,” when the Korean title of the episode, when it aired on the DreamWorks channel on December 2, 2019, was translated. It also aired on Teletoon+ in Poland on February 24 of this year, and on ABC Me, an Australian broadcasting service, this summer.

[2] Brown, N. (2020, May 15). What is a coronavirus “super-spreading” event? Retrieved October 4, 2020, from

[3] Over 19 people have been infected as noted by Norah O’Donnell in the CBS News special report on late night television on October 5, 2020 about the return of the U.S. President from Walter Reed to the White House, a number that increases every day.

[4] Santucci, J. and Faulders, K. White House aides anxious as coronavirus cases rise in Trump’s orbit: Sources. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from; Holland, S. and Chiacu, D. Trump set to go home to a White House hard hit by coronavirus. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from

[5] Dillion, N. CDC admits COVID-19 can spread through tiny aerosol droplets suspended for ‘minutes to hours’. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from; Edwards, E. CDC reverses again, now says COVID-19 is ‘sometimes’ airborne. Retrieved October 5, 2020, from

[6] Lofty, C. (2019, November 25). Cleopatra comin’ atcha! – the music of Cleo in Space. Retrieved October 4, 2020, from

Wednesday Review (Spoiler Filled)

From the first promo video for the series in June 2022, showing Thing on Wednesday’s shoulder and showing her snapping her fingers, a callback to the 1960s TV series

Wednesday is a coming-of-age supernatural, and comedy, horror series which is all the rage on social media. It is a live-action series created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with Tim Burton as an executive producer, along with Steve Stark, Andrew Mittman, Kayla Alpert, and others. The series debuted on November 23.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the fourteenth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on December 7, 2022.

Jenna Ortega, a Latine actress of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, who plays Wednesday, carries the series. She is known for her performances in live action series like Jane the Virgin, Richie Rich, and Stuck in the Middle. She also played protagonists in Elena of Avalor and Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, two animated series, and a recurring character in Big City Greens. This previous acting experience informs her role as Wednesday, who is part of a multiracial Latine family.

Jenna Ortega, a Latine actress of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, who plays Wednesday, carries the series. She is known for her performances in live action series like Jane the Virgin, Richie Rich, and Stuck in the Middle. She also played protagonists in Elena of Avalor and Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, two animated series, and a recurring character in Big City Greens. This previous acting experience informs her role as Wednesday, who is part of a multiracial Latine family.

Wednesday is joined by her partner in crime, Thing, a disembodied hand sent by her parents to watch over her. Thing is sentient and serves as her best, and sometimes only, friend. Wednesday arrives at Nevermore after causing problems at other schools, like dumping bags of piranhas into a school swimming pool to get revenge on kids bullying her brother.

Like other supernatural series, Wednesday has latent magical powers. Specifically she has psychic visions toward the past, seeing her ancestor, Goody Adams (also played by Ortega), and events before they happen. This is akin to the powers of Bond, the dog in Spy x Family who has visions of the future.

The school she attends is filled with other societal outcasts like Xavier Thorpe (played by Percy Hynes White) who can make his art come to life, a siren named Bianca Barclay (played by Joy Sunday), a student named Eugene Otinger (played by Moosa Mostafa) who can control movements of bees. Also Wednesday’s roommate, Enid Sinclair (played by Emma Myers), is a werewolf, who has yet to “wolf out”. Vampires, witches, faceless monsters, gorgons, and others also attend the school.

Wednesday often clashes with those in authority, whether the Nevermore principal, Larissa Weems (played by Gwendoline Christie), Donovan Galpin (played by Jamie McShane), the sheriff of Jericho, the nearby small town, and her court-ordered therapist, Dr. Valerie Kinbott (played by Riki Lindhome). All the while, she tries to solve the mystery about a monster attacking students at the school, sometimes with help from others, and other times, by herself.

Ortega makes Wednesday into a character you can empathize with. This is even the case when she challenges established histories by pointing to genocide of Indigenous people or child slavery used to make chocolate, while working at Pilgrim World. She remains committed toward sharing the reality of what is going on, rather than sugarcoating anything.

Along the way, she faces villains such as Joseph Crackstone (played by William Houston), the Pilgrim forefather of Jericho, who wants to kill every outcast, and a student named Rowan Laslow (portrayed by Calum Ross) who almost kills her with his telekinesis. She fights to defend herself by any means necessary, even through sword fights.

Wednesday’s gothic appearance is likely intended to express her own sensitivity, self-confidence, rebellious nature, and be a wall to protect herself. It makes her distinguished and mysterious, more than any other character.

This is heightened by the difference from previous adaptations. For one, it is more mature, with blood, gory violence, murder, and gruesomeness. Secondly, in Addams Family movies in the 1990s and the two animated films in the 2000s, Wednesday is a kid and does not have independence, always coming back to her family. In this series, such shies away from her family, before coming back to them later.

In the words of Ortega, the series is “Nancy Drew–esque”, with Ortega saying she was inspired by Ricci’s performance, and emphasizing that she didn’t want Wednesday “to be nasty”. She also described the performance, often on location in Romania, as very stressful, and noted Burton’s role in how Wednesday looked on screen, even suggesting changes to the braids Wednesday used, and the style of her bangs.

In Wednesday, there are many callbacks to the films and original television series, including finger snapping to open a secret vault and ringing a bell at the coffee shop in Jericho where Tyler works. Even so, it is different than those previous versions, as Wednesday is much more assertive, even more than when she left her family in The Addams Family 2 and believed a demented scientist was her father.

Apart from Morticia and Gomez, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzmán, other characters make a brief appearance in Wednesday. This includes the younger brother of Wednesday, Pugsley (played by Isaac Ordonez), the Addams family butler, Lurch (played by George Burcea), and Uncle Fester (played by Fred Armisen), the uncle of Wednesday and brother of Gomez.

In a somewhat surprising twist, the school’s botony teacher, Marilyn Thornhill, is revealed as a villain, after Wednesday suspects her. This is unique because Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993), plays as the character of Marilyn. In that way, Ricci’s performance in Wednesday could be a callback to her previous portrayal.

Apart from non-existent LGBTQ representation in Wednesday, despite some arguable same-sex romantic vibes and promotion, and undertones negative toward Black people, there are are other grounds to criticize the series, including the use of oft-known tropes, caricatures, and archetypes. At times, the series falls into formulaic mystery and teenage romance. An improved show would have expanded representation, perhaps even with Wednesday as asexual, bisexual, or lesbian, or another protagonist.

Despite this, Ortega’s performance gives the show its charm, especially with her deadpan humor. She makes the show you want to watch until the end, following her from abandoned houses to hidden libraries as she tries to figure out who the monster is, and why it is targeting specific people. Ultimately, without Ortega at the helm, the show would fall apart.

More specifically, while the other actors in the series are talented and skilled, their performances pale in comparison to Ortega. None of them measure up to her, not even Thing. As such, the other performers are underused, or even worse, miscast. This could have been remedied of the series had busted apart genres, rather than complying to them. Perhaps it could have been set in a college environment, rather than a boarding school which almost seems akin to Hogwarts in more ways than one.

The next season of the series has been hinted, but has not been confirmed. Apart from any possible LGBTQ storylines, it would be good to see more world-building outside the town of Jericho and into the wider world. Otherwise the show would feel like High Guardian Spice or Little Witch Academia, in that it would be set in a magical school. While neither series is bad, if Wednesday followed the same path, the show could become too stale and uninteresting.

Furthermore, the series would be weakened if it continues to emphasize heterosexual teenage romance, especially involving Wednesday, or Enid. Such as focus could result in the show becoming like Twilight, and become an unfortunate detriment to the series as a whole.

Despite my criticisms, I tentatively recommend the series, mainly due to Ortega’s acting performance, the role of Thing, and the macabre and horror vibes from the show. I hope the show improves in the future.

Wednesday can be watched on Netflix.

Review box, which says: Acting: 4 stars; Writing: 3 stars; Direction: 3 stars; total of 3.3 stars

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

“Hamster & Gretel”: A Series With Promise

Hamster & Gretel tells the story of 16-year-old boy, Kevin, who helps his sister, Gretel, when she and her pet hamster get superpowers. It is an animated action, comedy, and superhero series created by Dan Povenmire. He is well-known for being a co-creator of Phineas and Ferb, and Milo Murphy’s Law, with his Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, often his writing partner. The series debuted on August 12.

Reprinted from Pop Culture Maniacs and Wayback Machine. This was the thirteenth article I wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs. This post was originally published on September 1, 2022. This article was originally written for The Geekiary, but due to their guidelines I submitted to Pop Culture Maniacs instead.

Hamster & Gretel has a pretty simple storyline. An elementary school kid named Gretel (Meli Povenmire) is granted the power to fly and superstrength. She fights alongside her hamster (Beck Bennett). Her older teenage brother, Kevin (Michael Camino), tries to guide Gretel and Hamster. He helps them recognize what it means to defeat evil and remain superheroes.

The series is set in the same universe as Milo Murphy’s Law and Phineas and Ferb. Although it has been stated that no official crossover will happen, it is not known which characters will reappear in Hamster & Gretel.

Diversity is a big part of Hamster & Gretel. Gretel and Kevin are Venezuelan lead characters. Their mother, Carolina Grant-Gomez (Carolina Ravessa) is Venezuelan. The fact that the head writer, Joanna Hausmann, is Venezuelan, as is Povenmire’s wife, according to a podcast, inspired these characters.

Additionally, the series is based on a dynamic between Povenmire and his younger sister. It is also inspired by Povenmire’s family. The series will focus on Kevin and Gretel’s sibling relationship, according to show director Amber Tornquist Hollinger.

Hamster & Gretel includes many former cast and crew who worked on Povenmire’s previous projects. Hiromi “Romi” Dames, who voices Hiromi, a geeky comic book ship employee that Kevin has a crush on, voiced Charlene & Sharon Burlee in Milo Murphy’s Law. Phil LaMarr voiced Marcus Underwood in the same show, while Alyson Stoner voiced Lydia.

Danny Jacob, a composer, performer, and songwriter for Phineas and Ferb, is the series composer and song producer. Like Milo Murphy’s Law, Povenmire is involved with the show’s music. However, he is more involved in the songwriting for this series.

As for Stoner, her voice acting as Isabella Garcia-Shapiro in Phineas and Ferb is well-known. In this series, LaMarr voices a supervillain, Professor Exclamation. Stoner voices Lauren/The Destructress. The latter is part of an fraternal evil duo with Lyle/FistPuncher (Brock Powell).

Hamster & Gretel has promise as a new series due to its animation and voice acting. Even the simple storylines have the potential to lead to something more. It is easily digestible and doesn’t take itself seriously. This quality is not only present in Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy’s Law, but Kim Possible, a classic 2000s Disney series.

Reportedly, Hamster & Gretel has action sequences with better quality than the two aforementioned series co-created by Povenmire. The series garnered voice actors like Joey King, who voices Fred, a tech-savvy cousin of Kevin. Also, actor and comedian Matt Jones voices Dave, the father of Kevin and Gretel.

Povenmire voices an unseen extraterrestrial entity. Internet personality Liza Koshy voices Veronica Hill, a no-nonsense news reporter. Priah Ferguson (best known from Stranger Things) has a breakout animation voice role as Bailey, a school friend of Gretel. Also, Povenmire’s daughter, Meli, has her first big-time voice role as Gretel.

The show’s voice actors are experienced. They voiced characters in The Simpsons, American Dad!, Adventure Time, Amphibia, and Onyx Equinox. Series such as Victor and Valentino, The Ghost and Molly McGee, The Legend of Korra, We Bare Bears, DC Super Hero Girls, Harley Quinn, Final Space, Craig of the Creek, and Disenchantment also featured some of the show’s voice talent.

Diverse representation of characters of Venezuelan descent and Black characters, like Bailey, is a key part of the series. However, it remains to be seen whether there will be LGBTQ+ characters or not.

Specifically, Camino described himself as straight but said he doesn’t want his sexuality “in a box”. Stoner, as I noted in my review of Phineas and Ferb, stated her attraction to men, women, and “people who identify in other ways”. She also said she wanted to remain fluid in how she identified her sexual orientation. Hopefully, these qualities are portrayed in the characters they voice.

Furthermore, the series has emphasized the importance of being your true self and acceptance. Having LGBTQ+ characters would not be a stretch. It would easily fall within the series.

Dave cries as Carolina introduces Dave’s “lost” dad as a present

Even so, the series has some downsides. For one, it is not a young adult series like The Owl House, which will is ending possibly this year with its final season, or the recently ended Amphibia. Instead, kids and families are the target audience.

This is not unique. Currently airing Disney series like Big City Greens, The Ghost and Molly McGee, Chibiverse, Chip ‘n’ Dale: Park Life, and Monsters at Work appeal to this demographic. In addition, upcoming series such as Cars on the Road, Firebuds, Cookies & Milk, Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Tiana, Iwaju, Moana: The Series, Hailey’s On It!, Primos, and Kiff are geared toward the same audience.

This contrasts with Star Wars: The Bad Batch and What…If?, which have more mature themes. Even The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder falls into this category. Such series are not, for the most part, the focus Disney executives. Instead, they want to remain family-friendly despite the growth of the young adult animation genre with series like Dead End: Paranormal Park, The Owl House, and Infinity Train.

In addition, the series has an issue with implied self-inserts. For one, Povenmire appears to loosely base Kevin on himself. Secondly, the father of Kevin and Gretel has a similar name to Povenmire. This complicates the series in various ways.

It is an open question as to how effective the series can be without Swampy, who is reportedly voicing characters later in the series, as a co-creator, and co-writer. Milo Murphy’s Law and Phineas and Ferb were strong due to their combined talents.

In addition, I have concerns about the series’ staying power considering the first episode is not strong. The theme song is not very good.

Furthermore, since Povenmire wrote and performed the song, it makes me worried that the series will be middling, rather than superb. Generally, I have a high tolerance for theme songs. But, I dislike this one more than Arcane‘s theme, sung by Imagine Dragons.

Kevin and Gretel singing about family togetherness

Despite this, the pop music of Hamster & Gretel is like Milo Murphy’s Law and Phineas and Ferb. I was glad to see a rap battle at the end of “Neigh, It Ain’t So!” It reminded me of the much smoother rap battle between Rinku and Muni in D4DJ, voicing their grievances about each other in song. Hamster & Gretel may do something similar.

It is a distinct possibility that this series will do something akin to the sick battle dance in now non-canon 2005 The Proud Family Movie. It has a bizarre plot almost pulled from Kim Possible or Totally Spies! episode. Currently, such music battles generally only occur in anime series, but Hamster & Gretel could change that.

I liked the reference to the anime series within the show’s universe about cheerleaders who masquerade as students in the daytime but have superpowers otherwise. It had a feel of Totally Spies! and was a clear parody of absurd anime out there.

Situational comedy is an important part of the series, similar to Phineas and Ferb and Milo Murphy’s Law. It is coupled performances said to be “inspired“, featuring actors like Thomas Sanders, who voiced a character in the TV film, Candace Against the Universe.

With other Disney series like Elena of Avalor, Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, and Mira Royal Detective having elaborate musical numbers, it is likely that Hamster & Gretel will follow suit. There is also a distinct possibility that Disney will revive Phineas and Ferb as well.

Since ten episodes of Hamster & Gretel are on Disney+, the series appears to be one-third through the 30 episodes ordered for its first season. This means that there is a possibility that the series will become even better as the season continues.

Despite my criticisms, I tentatively recommend the series, and hope it improves in the future.

Hamster & Gretel can be watched on Disney+ or the Disney Channel.

© 2022-2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Bang, Bang, Pop!: Reviewing Girls With Guns Anime

Created in Microsoft Paint.

In recent years, there have been even more anime featuring girls with guns, expanding the genre. I decided to examine this genre and offer my thoughts.

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“Phineas and Ferb”: An Animated Series All Can Enjoy

Candace tells her mom that her brothers are making a title sequence in the show’s opening song

Phineas and Ferb tells the story of two stepbrothers who try to keep themselves occupied during their summer vacation, building elaborate inventions, while their sister tries to bust them and expose them to her mom, hoping to get recognition.

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2022 Webcomic Roundup: Girl’s Love August Edition!

Created in Microsoft Paint

It’s the beginning of August. The ten webcomics featured in this month’s roundup celebrate various relationships, and stories, with girl’s love themes and characters manifesting those themes. Webcomics featured are mainly from WebToon*.

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Ashly Burch’s Contribution to LGBTQ+ Representation

Four of Ashly Burch’s roles, all of which are canon LGBTQ characters

Recently, Ashly Burch, a well-recognized voice actress, singer, and writer, came out as pan and queer. Taking into account this development, I decided to examine some of her past roles and offer my thoughts on her contributions.

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“Craig of the Creek”: An Exciting Adventure for All Ages

Craig of the Creek follows Craig and his two friends, Kelsey and JP, who explore the creek near the fictional suburban town of Herkelton, Maryland. They face family conflict, snobs, witches, and other challenges along the way.

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