Friday, July 10, 2020

CGC is Moving into Grading Cards

In news I find interesting, CGC is moving into grading cards. CGC is best known for grading comics as well as concert posters and the like, but have not graded cards before. They just now have started offering grading for cards from two trading card games, however. "Magic: The Gathering," and, "The Pokemon Trading Card Game," now can have their cards graded and encapsulated by CGC. This is pretty interesting, but it made me wonder, "What about sports cards?" seeing as that is a big business as well.

Less than a day after I pondered that, I received an email from CGC and saw articles discussing that email about how they are looking for experts so they can start authenticating and grading sports cards as well. It won't be CGC itself doing sports grading though, it will be a new sub-company, CSG, or Certified Sports Guaranty. Clearly CGC is expanding its focus with all these trading cards and sports cards being certified!

I haven't collected Pokemon cards since I was a young lad and have zero knowledge about sports cards. I also never did much with, "Magic," even though friends wanted me to give it a try because it looked like an expensive hobby to pursue (and I've spent enough on other things I enjoy that adding something else costly would be difficult). Hence, with my lack of knowledge, I'm not sure if CGC and their new CSG sub-company will be welcomed by those who collect trading cards and sports cards or met with some resistance--I simply am not a part of those circles. I personally find it interesting to see CGC expanding so much, however, and wish them the best. In the meantime, I'll just be sending them comics still, and should I somehow come across a bunch of valuable cards I'll know to have them help me with those too.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Marvel Reverses Course, Returns Some Series to Print

I had written about how Marvel decided to suddenly take some series that had physical issues already released and finish them out/keep them going as digital-only comics. Then DC decided to do the same thing as well. In an interesting twist, Marvel has changed their mind and comics that were going to be printed but then made digital are in fact going to be printed as individual issues--all 19 of them. This is good as now people who would otherwise be unable to have a whole series (besides in trade paperback) will be able to own all the issues of a title. I am not sure what made Marvel change their mind, but I'm glad they did.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Next ToyMan Show is Less Than a Week Away

The May ToyMan show had to be canceled due to the impact of COVID-19 on...well, the entire World. However, this Sunday, July 12th, the next scheduled ToyMan show will be happening, and it is going to have a whole bunch of safety features so that people can attend with minimal risk. Face masks will be required as well as supplied, the hall capacity will be capped at 50% (about 250 guests in the large main hall at a time), and hand sanitizer stations will make sure the sanitizer flows freely for all. Between the vendors and carefully limited number of attendees, it should be a pretty safe and very fun time.

Should you choose to attend, it is as always at the Machinist Hall District 9 found at 12365 St. Charles Rock Road in Bridgeton, Missouri. They'll be a variety of vendors of toys, comics, and basically, anything of interest you can think of (there is always a ton of cool stuff) in addition to snazzy guests--you know the drill, it's a great event. It is understandable if some folk have hesitation about attending, and there will be future shows to go to as well; for those who are hankering for something fun to do, however, it is great ToyMan is taking so many steps for safety so folk can attend a fun show!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Television Tuesday: Space Force

Ah, "Space Force." The show loosely based on some quite dumb real-World event. Yes, it was savaged by critics, but lots of people seemed to watch it (as far as we know, Netflix is always cagey about viewership) and my wife and I gave the 10 episodes a shot too. We actually quite liked it, so I guess we're different than a big chunk of reviewers! Yes, it starts off a little slow but by the 3rd episode, it really gets rolling and continues to entertain. The cast is solid with Steve Carrell, Lisa Kudrow, John Malkovich, and plenty of other comedic folks who get smaller but hilarious roles involved. The show never makes the military look stupid but refuses to fawn over it as well.

Basically, "Space Force," is about a bunch of people who mean well but can't seem to agree easily. Be they the 4 star General played by Carrell butting-heads with Malkovich's civilian scientist, or the countless other individuals struggling to make this new military branch work as a talked-about but never named or seen (beyond some texts) President who is just called, "POTUS," or, "The President," wreaks havoc here-and-there.

It is clever this show doesn't outright mention or reckon with Donald Trump, as that would in some ways immediately date it. By having the President just be this unseen force of chaos it could be any fictional President causing trouble, just as easily as Donald Trump making a mess. "Space Force," and its ensemble of characters all balance each other out pretty well and the 30-ish minute episodes go by at a snappy pace, rarely feeling too long or overly decompressed as some Netflix shows are known to struggle with (the infamous and oft-discussed Netflix bloat).

Generally, each episode introduces a challenge for the cast of, "Space Force," they handle it as well as they can, and some subplots keep simmering in the background until the end of season 1 where we get a bunch of cliffhangers. It is a formula, yes, but it works and results in a fun show. I'm not sure exactly why the critics were so savage towards, "Space Force," and my friends all seemed to either absolutely love it or hate it. Samii and I thought it was pretty darn entertaining and we look forward to a presumed second season.
4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 6, 2020

I'm Annoyed How Limited This Black Lightning Funko Pop Will Be

I still collect Funko Pops of my favorite characters/shows/etc. despite having cooled a bit on the hobby due to it feeling oversaturated with new releases constantly spilling-out. That said, when Funko announced a Black Lightning Funko Pop to be released as a part of their virtual convention (what with Comic-Con International/San Diego Comic-Con canceled) I was excited! Then I saw it was limited to 3,000 figures. Come on, Funko.

Funko doesn't do limited runs as much now, and when they do it is generally a variant of a Pop (like its chrome, glow-in-the-dark, and so forth). This is not the case with Black Lightning. It is just the really cool Pop, limited to 3,000. If there were a SDCC it would have been exclusive to the show, methinks, but as everything is going to be online there is maybe a sliver of a chance people can buy it for retail. I know I'm going to try as I'm a fan of the character in the comics as well as loving the television show. Here's hoping it all goes well! Should I manage to get one, I might just see if friend of the blog and creator of Black Lightning, Tony Isabella, would be willing to sign it for me--now that'd be cool!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

"Blood Force Trauma," #1 is an Exciting and Funny Comic

Some months ago I backed the Kickstarter campaign for the first issue of, "Blood Force Trauma." It took it an extra month or so to come out due to COVID-19, but I now have it and greatly enjoyed reading it! Set in the futuristic-yet-retro Edge City, "Blood Force Trauma," is also the name of a popular (and extremely brutal) fighting show. In a unique twist a viewer of the show who books a ticket, Zap Daniels, ends-up being called-up to fight, and from there, things get pretty crazy.

Creators Jake Smith and Hiram Corbett provide some fantastic humor, great action, and the atmosphere of the artwork fits the tone perfectly with its neon excess and, "What the 80s thought the future might be like," styled vibe. This first issue never takes itself too seriously, but avoids being overly slapstick or just telling jokes. There clearly are some mysteries afoot and future issues will explore just why Zap is suddenly made into a BFT fighter. It is all very entertaining.
"Blood Force Trauma," #1 is a great read and I'm pleased I backed it when I saw it on Kickstarter a bit ago. I look forward to future issues and would encourage you to check it out too!
4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Be Extra-Safe This July 4th!

Today is July 4th, so don't just be safe this year, be a bit extra-safe. Normally I advise everyone to be careful in regards to drinking (and not driving), fireworks (try to avoid injuries), and all that. This year I'm saying to be even more careful, however, because we have COVID-19 to be concerned about as well. You know the drill--practice social distancing if you have any kind of gathering, wear a mask, and so forth. With all that kept in mind, you should have a great 4th of July! Oh, and if you live anywhere besides America, have a good regular day!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Film Friday: "Batman Returns," is the Best Batman Movie

I'm going to just say it. "Batman Returns," is the best Batman movie. Now, "The Dark Knight," is the best Joker movie thanks to Heath Ledger's incredible performance, but I love, "Batman Returns." The first Batman movie, 1989's purely titled, "Batman," is fantastic with Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, but I still love the sequel more. Keaton seems even more at home in the role, Danny DeVito kills it as the Penguin, Christopher Walken is a delightfully sleazy Max Shreck, and Michelle Pfeiffer is tied for best Catwoman ever with Eartha Kitt.

The cast is amazing, the plot is clever with its election tale of The Penguin being a monster but creating a positive public image to try and gain a position of power (always relevant), and the imagery is a crazy as you'd expect with Tim Burton directing (he directed the debut, "Batman," as well and just as with Keaton seems more at home in the sequel). From seeing it as a youngster to revisiting it as an adult today, "Batman Returns," is a cinematic delight and my favorite Batman movie when it comes to Batman--again, "The Dark Knight," wins when it comes to the best movie with a Joker involved.

Currently, rumors abound about Keaton returning as Batman for future DC movies. I'm quite eager for such a thing to occur if it turns out to be true as whenever I picture Batman, the person I see is Michael Keaton. I hear Kevin Conroy's voice coming out of his mouth, oddly enough (all those years of the cartoon), but I see Keaton. The reason for that is, "Batman Returns," the best Batman movie.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Going (Band)Camping: Edition 2

My last post was fun so here we are with the second entry of my occasional segment, "Going (Band)Camping," which I continue to think is more hilarious and clever a title than it probably is. The thing that unifies all of these albums and eps is that they can be found on the stellar music-platform Bandcamp. A great resource for indie or big-name musicians, I've loved finding new music and artists I know on Bandcamp since I started using it lately. Hence, here I am offering my opinions on what I've listened to lately. Let's begin...

Tenci--"My Heart is an Open Field"
Tenci is singer Jess Shoman and her band giving us some damn fine folk music. "My Heart is an Open Field," slowly released singles from the album over the past number of months, with many observing how good they sounded, and now its out and the whole thing is incredible. There is not a single track I disliked, but there were some I absolutely adored (such as, "Joy 2,") on this stellar release. The soft and thoughtful voice of Shoman along with perfectly relaxing instrumentation produces a truly beautiful LP that I give my highest recommendation. You can buy the digital download/vinyl record/cd/cassette here.
5 out of 5 stars.

Neon Vectors--Cyber Love
"Cyber Love," is an album full of music that people describe as, "Vaporwave." The genre of vaporware can best be thought of as if house music and disco had a baby and it went on to be obsessed with drenching everything in a neon glow along with having an 80's fashion sense plus a fondness for old tech. It's a wild hodge-podge, in other words, but it sure is catchy. The artist, Neon Vectors, has assembled a tight little album here, with some fantastic tracks, ("Facetime Tonight!" and, "The Way U Make Me Feel," and others that are solid even if they don't really grab you as much ("Night Disco," drags for me). Overall, "Cyber Love," is a rollicking good time and makes you want to get-up and dance when you're listening to it. Get a copy of the digital album here.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Spliff Jacksun--Sanctuary
Spliff Jacksun's latest release of beats makes for a delightful beat tape (whether you actually buy it on tape or another format). It is smooth, but never too relaxed, and carries itself with the self-assuredness of a rising sun while also giving of a bit of a groggy and hazy vibe that accompanies such an early morning. Sometimes a hint of strings or gentle melody will occur, but the various and well-crafted beats are what steal the show and make this album so listenable. You don't quite chill-out to, "Sanctuary," so much as you relax in a state of heightened awareness and absorb its pleasures. To summarize: It's great! Find a copy in your preferred format here.
5 out of 5 stars.

Mike Vass--Man Alone With Himself 
Vass released this experimental folk EP with a, "Pay what you want," pricetag for those who have had their income, "...adversely affected by the Covid-19 crisis," or who have supported fundraisers for this EP previously. That's very thoughtful of him, and the mixture of classic folk style with a bit of unique synth bass or other out-there effects at times thrown in creates a lovely four tracks. Only one song was not to my tastes ("Shadow in the Flame,") with all other three being just perfect and delightful to sit and hear play-out. Vass recorded this solo-ish layering the sounds himself with assistance mastering the mixes and such. It's a fantastic EP and considering you can pay what you like for it, I'd encourage you to contribute whatever you're able and get the digital download here.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Antarctigo Vespucci--Love in the Time of Email
"Love in the Time of Email," is a stellar album by Antarctigo Vespucci, a collaboration between an assortment of gentleman who had been in other bands but came together to make something special. I'd describe this album as being pop-rock/power-pop with an occasional punk edge in addition to sometimes just barely hinting at some emo vibes. Whatever the genre is, its damn good music. Every single track is listenable, but there are some that totally steal the show such as, "Freakin' U Out," "All These Nights," and, "Another Good Thing." The lyrics are clever, singer Chris Farren has a stupendous voice, and the instrumentation is consistently on-point. "Love in the Time of Email," is just a real treat of an album and should be in your regular rotation of favorite LPs. Cop yourself a vinyl/cd/cassette/digital LP here.
5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Time for a Random Post About My Favorite HVAC Company: Advantage Air

There isn't much to report today, so I figured I'd make a post about my favorite HVAC company ever, Advantage Air. No, this is not a paid post. I just felt like expressing how pleased we are with Advantage Air and had nothing else on my mind, so let's talk about it today! Advantage Air helped us when we moved into our new house and had repeated issues with the AC in the Summer due to our unit being old. Then a day before Christmas one year the heat stopped working, they still were able to help us and there was no extra charge for it being the day before that big holiday. When we got a new unit they gave us a great price and we have used them for maintenance since. They always put customer service first, being thoughtful and helpful.

Here's a single example of many when they impressed us: One time the AC wasn't running that great and I called to see if someone could come out. They said they were happy to send a person, but asked if they could save me the cost by having me answer a question about the most common issue--had I changed the air filter lately? I had not, and I felt stupid. I changed it and the house cooled immediately. They didn't want to just take my money, they wanted to make sure I was actually helped and was a satisfied customer, yet another occasion they were amazing. Not that I mind their techs coming out, any employee we have ever worked with is amazing. Back when I did Yelp (before I quit it due to moral concerns with people abusing the site to get free stuff among other issues), I wrote a glowing review of Advantage Air. I quit Yelp years ago, however, so why not brag about Advantage Air here on my blog now?

Should you live in the Saint Louis region, Advantage Air can help you with all your residential (or commercial) HVAC needs. I'm clearly quite a fan of the company, having dedicated a blog post to them, so I'd recommend them for anything you might need assistance with. Again, this was not a paid post and Advantage Air is not even aware I'm writing this post (and will only know about it once I send them an email about how I wrote it). I just felt like giving a shout-out to Advantage Air because I wanted to write about something today and one of their occasional email newsletters they sent recently about what the company has been up to had them on my mind! Check them out, and if you live locally give them a try!