Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Kicking Off 2020 Sick as Hell

Basically our whole household.
You may remember in October of last year my discussion of how I was sick. Well, now I'm sick, Samii feels bad, and Clarkson had a viral illness that went away, but the drainage led to a sinus and ear infection so now he's on antibiotics. We are kicking off 2020 sick as Hell. It is unfortunate but we are muddling through. Please send all the positive energy you can.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The First Volume of, "Way of the Househusband" Is a Wonderful Read!

There is a new manga series that had the first volume released in English a bit ago and the second volume (which I plan to read soon) just came out in English as well. It is titled, 'Way of the Househusband," and follows a man who was once an extremely dangerous Yakuza member known as, "The Immortal Dragon." The thing is, one day he just suddenly quit to live as a househusband. His wife goes to work and he uses his skill with the blade to cook, also cleans the house expertly, goes out looking for good deals on clothing, and otherwise keeps things in order. It is a setup which is a little like, "John Wick," if Wick had simply stayed out the mob underworld instead of getting involved again. The comic is mostly light humor with bits of really dark moments hinted-at but not fully explored. I loved it.

Perhaps because I am a stay-at-home Dad I relate a bit to being a househusband and how it can garner unique reactions from people. I was never a feared member of the Yakuza, but I'll still get stares if I'm the only guy out shopping somewhere or at a food event (the Immortal Dragon does not have kids, but would probably also get comments as I do about how cute my son is and those are welcome, weird questions about where mommy is are met with snarky replies). Funny moments abound as the Immortal Dragon intimidates people who see all his tattoos and wonder if he's dangerous, even if the guy just wants to take advantage of a clearance sale. Run-ins with past rival gangs lead to issues too, as few want to believe he truly has stopped being one of the most dangerous Yakuza enforcers around for a quiet and happy life.

There are many, "Misunderstanding," scenarios that are humorous and little clues about just how feared this man once was. When one former rival hits him over the head with a 2X4 he just laughs as his head starts to bleed and remarks it would be great for making some furniture. It scares them off, then he proceeds to take the 2X4 home and use it in a craft to make a cute and dainty children's chair. It is a surreal comic for sure.

One thing I would've liked, "Way of the Househusband," to explore more is just how the Immortal Dragon ended-up with his wife and how much she knows of his past. There is a moment toward the end it is indicated she first met him when he was in a bad way and she helped him (with them then falling in love shortly thereafter, one would figure). This was just the first volume of the series, so there is plenty more time to explore their relationship between shopping excursions and hilarious vignettes such as where a malfunctioning robotic vacuum cleaner wreaks havoc.

Kousuke Oono is the writer and artist; he does a masterful job illustrating this manga. The Immortal Dragon looks incredibly imposing even when being sweet, which makes sense as he was dangerous for years before becoming a househusband. For a book about a relatively peaceful life, it also is extremely kinetic, with a chase after the aforementioned robotic vacuum cleaner looking impressive and moments of creating tasty dishes full of gorgeous drawing where you can really sense the energy that goes into making a meal. The artwork and story are both superb and I can't wait to get a copy of the 2nd volume that just came out, and future volumes to enjoy as well!
5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

I'm Quite Concerned for IDW

Back in April of 2019, I wrote about how, "I'm a tad concerned for IDW." This post came about as the company was maybe having success in publishing comics, but overall losing money due to investments in television shows that were popular, but not exactly turning much (or any) of a profit. I observed something others had too, that the company seemed to be spreading itself a bit thin. Now we are in 2020 and IDW disclosed to investors (it is publically traded so it can't keep numbers to itself like many other publishers) how it lost 26.4 million dollars in 2019, will liquidate more cash in 2020, and hopes to be profitable by 2021 as its television properties that are sucking-up so much money hopefully start making funds.

Now, plenty of mega-companies lose money for a good deal of time before making money and they keep going thanks to investors with deep pockets and big dreams. The question is if IDW can manage to keep moving along to that point investors are pleased with actually getting venture capital back or cut their losses and IDW suddenly is insolvent/bankrupt? I'm no longer a tad concerned for IDW, I am quite concerned.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

This Infographic About American Gun Ownership is Fascinating

I have made it clear on my blog how I am extremely in favor of gun control/not big on how the 2nd amendment has been interpreted. I have had readers and friends who agree with me on this and those who disagree. As it stands, I'm not really a fan of civilian gun ownership. Therefore, I am probably about a complete 180 degrees in terms of views from most readers of a website called The Minuteman Review which is all-in on guns and the idea of the right to own as many as you want with no limitations. That said, when someone from the website reached out to me about how their site had assembled a massive guide about gun ownership in America and was seeing if blogs wanted to share it, I was intrigued.

Having reviewed, "The Ulitmate Firearms Industry Guide: Statistics, Trends, and Data," I can say I am impressed with how much raw data it complies into objective facts that are easy to follow and read. It breaks-down how much gun ownership there is in America clearly by multiple factors (race, sex, etc.), concisely lays out data about why people say they own guns, facts about concealed carry permits, and it has no pro-gun or anti-gun viewpoint so much as just tells facts. Now, if you are someone who is concerned about guns you would probably be alarmed by a fact like how 46% of the World's guns are owned by Americans, but someone who wants less gun control will probably be pleased to see that 29.59% of gun owners say they own more than five guns. It is all detailed data that those who love guns or hate guns can really dig into.

I don't agree with The Minuteman Review on guns in basically any way, but I will say they did an amazing job creating this guide and it is one of the most in-depth infographics on gun ownership I have ever encountered. Whether you feel the way I do about guns or are more closely aligned with the views of The Minuteman Review you will probably find the information interesting too. I thank them for contacting me about it.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Grammys Have Turned Into a Big Mess

Remember when the main joke about the Grammys was people joshing around about how it wasn't, "Even really an award that mattered?" Shows like, "The Simpsons," on numerous occasions poked-fun at the Grammys. It seems quaint, as now in 2020 when we talk about the Grammys it is more from a perspective of if the whole thing is one massively rigged sham. It all started when Deborah Dugan, the former President and CEO of the Recording Academy (who gives out the Grammys) was suddenly removed from her position of power. She began to spill so much tea it was a like tidal wave of Lipton.

As Deborah Dugan tells it, she was expressing concerns about sexual misconduct and how the Recording Academy would engage in vote-rigging, where someone who maybe was in 16th place for votes was still a top nominee as then they would be willing to perform a popular jam at the show or such. Dugan says because she tried to correct misconduct and corruption she was thrown-out for not playing ball and/or accepting sexual advances from a lawyer who negotiated big record deals, and/or letting the rigging continue. The Recording Academy paints a very different picture of Dugan as a toxic employer who made everyone miserable and was otherwise a nightmare to work with. They say she's just a vengeful pain-in-the-ass who is making up lies now that she got fired because of how miserable a human being she is. It is a mess, and this year's Grammys are, oh snap, this coming Sunday? All of this started about two weeks before the actual show?
Are they really, though?
A month ago people were vaguely excited about the Grammys and I don't think anyone would have predicted just how big a cloud hangs over the thing now. Award shows have always been exercises in navel-gazing and self-congratulation, but at least the statues were given with some degree of legitimacy attached. If a big-name award isn't even reputable to some degree how is it any different from me sitting-in on a committee that decides the best bloggers and making sure I'm the winner or else I won't appear at the show? That sounds like a horrific conflict of interest, and artists sitting in on groups where they were nominees--just like my example--is something Dugan has claimed happened all the time!

I don't know what the absolute truth is in this case. I just know the whole thing has turned into a big mess. Whether the actual broadcast of the Grammys addresses this at all remains to be seen, but it definitely has put a damper on the proceedings and raised a whole lot of questions.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

100 Seconds to Doomsday

The Doomsday Clock  (no relation to the recent comic series) was created to represent how close we as a World are to an utter planet-ending catastrophe. Originally created with the threat of Nuclear war in mind during 1947, now it applies to just all the general trouble in the World that could result in Atomic destruction being triggered. Between mystery viruses emerging from China, how Australia is on fire, the climate being an utter mess, politicians like Trump inching us closer to war, and so forth, the clock has inched closer to Midnight. We are now less than two metaphorical minutes to everything ending, 100 seconds. This is the closest the clock has ever gone to utter destruction.

Now, this is, of course, an opinion of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, but I would say if anyone is qualified to judge how close we are to planet-ending Nuclear war, it would be Atomic scientists. This is worrisome, in other words. Things are bad, and I really hope they get better before we strike midnight and the planet is just a big ol' smoldering crater.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"Churchill: A Graphic Biography," Provides A Stellar Overview of a Fascinating Life

I'm on the mailing list for the publisher Dead Reckoning, which is the graphic-novel focused imprint of the Naval Institute Press (a part of the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, professional military membership association). The NIP prints books that explore naval and military history in both fictional and nonfiction methods. I was a huge fan of, "Trench Dogs," which explored World War I through anthropomorphized characters and was excited to get an advance review copy (it's due to be released April 15th, 2020) of a more nonfiction work, a graphic biography of Churchill.

Well-known historical figures who did great things as Churchill did can be tricky to write a biography about because people have lots of preconceived notions. Some may be prone to deification as if Churchill could do no wrong, and those who would be all too eager to point-out only his failings. The foreword to the book by popular historian and biographer Andrew Roberts acknowledges this risk, as he lays-out in his opinion that this graphic biography does a stellar job refusing to sell Churchill short, but also willingly acknowledging the man's imperfections. He was loud, he was brash, prone to impulse, but he also was brilliant and integral in the Allies victory during World War II.

The version published in April will be full-color.
My review copy was black-and-white. 
"Churchill: A Graphic Biography," has a solid introduction that points-out this biography tries to be thorough, but with someone such as Churchill there was so much that went on in his entire life that this book is focused on more of notable points in his development as a young man and then most impactful decisions as a military officer and politician. The book's writer, Vincent Delmas (translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger), does an excellent job examining Churchill, starting with him as a young boy up through the conclusion of the war against Germany in WWII. Teenaged and early-20's Churchill is brave but almost foolhardy in how recklessly he rides a steed into battle.

As Churchill grows, he develops more skills in strategy and surrounds himself with the best advisors and tacticians during times he really needs their assistance. The ups and downs of his life are earnestly portrayed, with even a joyful moment such as the victory over Germany in WWII having a somber note as Churchill reflects that the Nazis may have been defeated but a new Iron Curtain falls across the World (Stalin and the Soviet Union). Churchill actually lived to 1965, but the book ends with the Japanese theatre of war still an ongoing concern and a good 20 years of his left uncovered. It is understandable as much time should be (and is) focused on the earlier parts of WWII where the UK was often under threat of German attack/actively being bombed, but it seems a little odd to suddenly just stop the biography when Churchill had a good deal of life left. It's the author's choice, however, and everything before the somewhat abrupt ending reads great.

The art by Christophe Regnault works superbly with the story. There are a lot of text-heavy moments as Churchill's life is examined, but at points in the book, Regnault gets to really cut loose with some stellar layouts, such as key battles of WWII. There are humorous moments drawn fantastically as well, such as a towel-clad Churchill fresh out of the tub joking with America's President Franklin Roosevelt about how, "Britan has nothing to hide." As this is a graphic biography it is key that the illustrated elements are strong, and Regnault is talented at making sure the book is as eye-catching as it is informative.

"Churchill: A Graphic Biography," is fantastic. It's informative while being engaging with the writing and artwork working in perfect unison. I would recommend giving it a read for sure if you want to learn about Winston Churchill in a unique manner compared to the all-prose biographies of him. I look forward to the book's release in April!
5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK And The Ongoing Fight for Equality

Today honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For some younger people learning about all the work he and everyone did to fight for civil rights, it seems forever ago. It wasn't. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929. He was murdered on April 4th, 1968 at the age of 39. Theoretically, MLK could still be alive today, aged 91. This is all living memory.  There are people in their 60s and 70s who remember having slurs and objects hurled at them when they were the first black children allowed into schools that were being desegregated.

Everything was more recent than some would maybe like to admit, and the struggle continues. Racism still is rampant, bigotry is earnestly displayed by those wearing, "Making America Great Again," hats and economic inequality--also a major concern of MLK--is a glaring issue as the rich make billions with minimal taxation and the poor struggle to even afford food and healthcare. The worst thing we can do for the memory of MLK is to think he solved everything. The struggle for equal rights continues and his dream that one day we will all be judged by the content of our character as opposed to the color of our skin is an ongoing one.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

News, Links, and Notes for January 2020

The Middle of January

The first month of this new year is a bit over halfway done. I hope your January has been good. Normally I hate January but after how insane December was I'm actually pleased for things to be mellow. Because I love you, my dear readers, I have saved links and interesting pieces of news to share with you in this post. No need to thank me, just feel free to Venmo me five bucks when I am able to figure out what the Hell my Venmo password or account name is.

Things To Share Thoughts On
Remember me? Yes?
Miss me? No?
Polygon had a great feature on the Kinect and how it failed despite the best efforts of Microsoft. It struggled when it came out for the Xbox 360 and even bundling it with the Xbox One when that console first launched couldn't make the thing popular.

Also from Polygon, an observational piece on just how miserable it is to try and shop at Gamestop.

The implosion of the organization known as The Romance Writers of America could be made into a novel itself, but more of a tragic thriller than anything passionate.

No, just no.
Gwyneth Paltrow's snake-oil peddling company Goop has a new show on Netflix and it is apparently as bad and cringe-worthy as one would expect. I will not even be hate-watching lest Netflix thinks that indicates a positive response.

I loved reading about these six small-press makers of comics to keep an eye on. Their work already is amazing and I wish them all massive success.

When, "The Simpsons," first came on the air in the late 1980's Apu was not made with malicious intent, but he is a pretty bad caricature and well past being of use to show still in his current incarnation. Fox seems to realize this as Hank Azaria (the voice of Apu and many other characters on the show) has said he won't be doing any scenes as the character going forward. Whether this means Apu will be retooled or just simply not appear on the show remains to be seen.
Buy these--legally distinct from--Baby Yoda items!
I like to buy stuff on Etsy ranging from vintage comics and knick-knacks to cute personalized gifts for my loved ones. Currently, there is not much merchandise of Baby Yoda/The Child from, "The Mandalorian," and Esty sellers have stepped up to fill that void. Disney does not like this, however. Anyone who isn't vague enough in a listing is finding themselves hit with a takedown notice/their item delisted.

Paste's list of the 100 best horror comics of all time has some selections I really agree with and some that made me go, "What?" It is overall a solid list though, and props to it for including the stellar, "Black Monday Murders," which I am still patiently waiting for to be finished.

To conclude, leave Harry and Meghan alone. Let them live their life however they want. If they do not want to be royals that's cool. Should Meghan want to return to acting in the form of voice-over work, that's fine too. Harry's mother--Diana--was arguably killed due to the actions of the paparazzi.  It makes sense Harry and Meghan want none of that and are fine giving up royal titles to have some semblance of regular life with their son. Let them be sad, happy, or whatever they feel in peace.

Try and Keep Warm
It will probably get colder before it gets warmer, so try and spend the rest of the month staying as warm as possible. I truly appreciate you all.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

You Don't Have to Read Every X-Men Book Coming Out Right Now

There are a lot of comics dealing with the X-Men coming out right now under this, "Dawn of X," line-wide relaunch. A lot are great, some are okay, none so far have been terrible (thankfully). It can feel a bit overwhelming as while the books can stand alone they are also one big interconnected tale (as upcoming collections of the comics reflect). It is okay if you don't want to read every book, however. Yes, seriously. Even the architect of all these X-titles (and writer of some key ones), Jonathan Hickman has said as much. Now, the books are pretty closely linked, so maybe that is easier said than done, others would point-out. This seems to happen whenever a particular character or line is especially popular.

There was a time Marvel was putting-out like 3 ongoing comics focused on Deadpool and at least two mini-series at a time with him too, the key was to prioritize the books you liked versus the ones you did not. Now, these, "Deadpool," comics did not really all tie together to tell a massive story, but you see my kinda-sorta shaky point. There is a massive all-encompassing story being told about the X-Men by Jonathan Hickman and all his collaborators, but these issues are like pieces to an absolutely massive puzzle. Should you be missing some pieces/issues here-and-there you'll still see the overall picture just fine. I'm not complaining yet, as I'm just happy comics with the X-Men have me this excited for the first time since Grant Morrison's work back in the early 2000s. Man, I am old.