Monday, June 30, 2014

Reflections on the Hubbub my "Open Carry" Article Caused AKA Why We Can't Talk About Gun Control Without a Ruckus

It all started so quietly...
On Wednesday June 18th I posted an article that I expected to get little views. It was an opinion piece on how I felt that "Open Carry" was an extension of white privilege and therefore inherently racist. My more political-posts generally get minimal views so when shortly after it went up even a single person commented on it I was pleased, regardless of how they disagreed with me. I then had a quiet weekend where little of note happened, and Monday came with a nice sunrise. And then within the span of a couple hours I had hundreds of views of my article and a lot of comments and tweets about it by folk who really, really, didn't agree with me.

Apparently various  open-carry and 2nd-amendment-boosting groups had stumbled upon my blog (or someone who already read it and disagreed with that post told others) and linked to it, resulting in an immense uptick where what would normally be the views I receive over days on a variety of posts turning into a tsunami focused on a single piece. Some people disagreed with me respectfully, others less-so. The thing that struck me the most however was that if I, some pretty small name on the internet, can get this much attention for wading into the ever-controversial debate on gun control, what happens to actual journalists who dare express an opinion other than "Guns are just great and should be everywhere!"? I wondered...

Dick Metcalf, who despite owning guns is apparently some kind of anti-gun crusader.
...and well, to answer that question:  They get in trouble, and depending on where they work, they get fired. A new article by "Atlantic" titled, "Why We Can't Talk About Gun Control" discusses how a man who wrote for "Guns & Ammo" magazine who dared to express the opinion that he felt his rights weren't being infringed by having there be more training before someone is issued a gun got in hot water. Perhaps it was also that he said universal background checks were an okay idea, but whatever the case, Dick Metcalf, who is a gun owner and even a member of the NRA was told he was some sort of "Benedict Arnold" and wanted to infringe on people's rights--despite his never saying he wanted infringement, only regulation.

A man, who actually proudly owns a gun, finds himself torn to shreds by others for daring to suggest that the Constitution's 2nd amendment maybe is open to interpretation as meaning folk shouldn't just be given all the guns they want until a single person owns enough weaponry to qualify as a small army. Then that man loses his writing job, and becomes another victim of those few gun owners who do more than simply own a gun, but instead also loudly obsess over a fear of them being taken away as if Obama himself is actually going to show up at their door and demand their weapons before their being implanted with a tracking chip to keep them in line.
From the cradle to the rapid time

I wonder if us pro-choice people would have more success at getting laws that support us pushed through if we had people as rabidly pro-choice as there are folk who petition for limited-to-no gun control. Maybe if NARAL and Planned Parenthood had the money that the gun lobby does politicians would say how banning abortion is pointless because those who break the law and still get an abortion would get one regardless of the laws--just as how those who supposedly get guns illegally are unaffected by gun control (or maybe the Supreme Court wouldn't rule in favor of religious objections over human rights). The same goes for those who push immigration reform; maybe a catchy slogan such as "You can take my green card from my cold dead hands," that threatens violence to anyone who disagrees would get the message across. I'm being a little sarcastic here, but it makes my point how it seems for some reason if we talk about any issue besides gun control debate is okay, but as soon as firearms come into the discussion you're either on the side of "Ban all guns!" or "Everyone gets a gun!" when there are so many shades of gray between those two extremes.

I don't get why we lack the ability as a nation to talk about gun control without a ruckus--I really don't. Perhaps it is a fear that if we start regulating some guns rights it will be a slippery slope leading us into the next holocaust somehow (people do think that); maybe the reason it is hard to have a discussion is that while there are many gun owners who are reasonable, it is the loud few who scream about how we are "sheeple" that dominate the conversation. Then again, it could be that very few people really care all the much about gun control but organizations such as the NRA intimidate us all into thinking it is a hot-button issue when really they're just working to further gun interests. I'm not sure what the reason is gun control discussion is so often hushed. I do believe that if we just shut-up and let those who want to have no gun control maintain free reign of public discussion however then we'll only have more crime, more mass-shootings, and more tragedy.
One issue I think everyone can agree on.
That's why I didn't get quiet even when a veritable storm of rage poured down upon me and my little ol' blog. I listened to what people said--the respectful and disrespectful--told them my thoughts, and can only hope that I possibly impacted someone's opinion for the better. Maybe if everyone realized that talking about regulation was just that--talking and trying to show other folk our opinions--something positive could get done.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

PrideFest Was A Great Event!

PrideFest Thoughts
I attended PrideFest and it was fun, informational, and nice to see people able to feel comfortable being themselves. There were numerous interesting local vendors from food from Naked Bacon and Fields Foods to clothes from Glad Rags and numerous other folk. There also were organizations raising awareness for various causes from The Anti Violence Advocacy Project by "ALIVE" to the Missouri division of the ACLU.

This was a big year for PrideFest;  it was celebrating its 35th anniversary, and commemorating the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. At first the brainchild of two groups who then unified to become "The Saint Louis Lesbian & Gay Pride Celebration Committee", PrideFest has grown into a tradition still going strong.
There was music, plenty of food, and a bunch of interesting booths (as I mentioned). I wasn't able to see the parade on Sunday morning but heard it was fun and had a friend take photos. I recommend going next year for sure. Through its providing a safe place for people to be who they wish to be, PrideFest is a great event and one I recommend checking out next year!

Below are some images from the parade given to me by my friend:

I changed the title of the headline as "Neat" didn't seem to impart how wonderful pride was as much as saying how it was great. Also, here are two more photos, one with my lady (Samii) and a friend of ours, Chrissy, from the aforementioned Glad Rags, and another with Samii by some of the rainbow-colored chalk!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

PrideFest is this Weekend in Saint Louis, I'll Be Attending!

Fun Times Approach!
While I may self-identify as a heterosexual male, I have always been a big supporter of Human Rights and LGBTQ matters, because LGBTQ rights are human rights. I've had past blog posts dealing with LGBTQ stories, and have had articles before about local Saint Louis events, therefore it makes perfect sense for me to attend and report on PrideFest this weekend in Saint Louis!

I'll be at PrideFest as press taking notes and pictures for The Newest Rant, and as it will be my first time attending I am excited to go (previous years I was always out of town when PrideFest occurred). Expect a big post or two on PrideFest after I go this weekend, and if you're in the Saint Louis area I encourage you to come by too!

It's at Soldiers' Memorial in downtown Saint Louis, going from 12:00 PM until 9:30 PM on Saturday, and 1:00 PM to 7:30 PM on Sunday--with the parade also happening Sunday at 11AM and lasting for two hours (hence the main event-stuff not beginning until 1:00 PM on Sunday).

See you there!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Let's Link to Interesting Things!

I haven't linked to things I've found neat for awhile, let's rectify that!
Like the headline says, here are some cool links...

A good series.
In the past I've said how "Thunderbolts" was a good comic with a great idea, I'm glad since the title has had time to grow and try out other writers more folk think that also now.

Rosario Dawson is going to be in the "Daredevil" Netflix series. She's a good actress, so that sounds pretty good, and considering who they got to play the Kingpin it looks like a quality cast is coming  together.

Chuck Dixon
I've enjoyed Chuck Dixon's comics regardless of his political affiliation. He makes claims that being a conservative in the field has made getting work--especially with the big 2--much harder, however. The thing is, folk like Tom Brevoort counter that it isn't Dixon's politics that make him undesirable, but his attitude when it comes to working well with others. Whatever the case, I wish Dixon the best and hope he can get some work as the man has made some good comics.

I think even if he weren't also someone who cheated his way out of paying taxes, we could all still agree that Hitler was a terrible, terrible person.

Well done, Mozzocco, well done.
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a genius for coming up with the above article, and others along with myself have insisted he make it a monthly thing. The only aspect I hate about this is that I'm mad I didn't think of doing it first.

So, Iraq is a mess, again--and please note this link has a news-video that will auto-play.

I wish I could have gone to this Marvel-themed restaurant back in its heyday.

Bob Kane, the solely credited "creator" of Batman is getting a posthumous star on the Hollywood "Walk of Fame". As someone who has read-up on Kane and his numerous questionable-to-terrible actions, I have no comment on least not one that is very nice.

Speaking of "Batman", 25 years ago today the original "Batman" film came out. Crazy to think I would have barely been walking and talking all those years ago.

Finally, Ubisoft is looking really bad right now for not having any female assassins in the next "Assasin's Creed" game, claiming that it would have been too difficult to animate women. People of course called them out on this B.S. and now its become one huge PR debacle, one that other companies are eager to take advantage of.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Open Carry" Is Just Another Extension of White Privilege--A Political Editorial

Warning, Political Thoughts Ahead
I know how much people love my political posts--not that much because they get the least views compared to when I mock the latest inane thing DC has done (this "band-aid" business sounds odd)--but I had some thoughts about all this "open carry" talk and wanted to share them. Here we go...

What is Open Carry?
Oh yeah, I feel much safer seeing this.
For those who don't know what "open carry" is, it means basically what it sounds like, carrying one's firearm in public, not necessarily concealed but hanging out there for all to see, whether it is a handgun or an AR-15. Most reasonable people realize that seeing someone walking around with an assault rifle is kind of scary, even if they supposedly are just doing it to display their rights and be "protected" from whatever danger could strike them at the local Starbucks (well, not Starbucks now, as the company wised-up to the fact that folk don't feel comfortable drinking a latte when a man with an AK-47 is sitting next to them stroking the barrel of his gun). Something about all this open carry talk really strikes me though, namely that whenever I see people speaking out about how "open carry" is a right, it always seems to be 99% of the  time a man, and 100% of the time (as far as I've seen) a white person.

White Privilege Strikes Again
White Privilege is another thing that is what it sounds like, the way that being white seems to entitle people to certain rights that others either lack or have to fight harder for, and it has really surprised me that more people haven't talked about how all this open carry business is really just another example of white privilege being heavily exercised. You don't see anyone who is of any color other than white running around openly displaying their gun because in this supposedly post-racial society a black man brandishing a pistol is more likely to get him shot than hailed as some sort of patriot of gun-rights. A white person can walk down the street with his assault rifle and while it may make most people nervous and uncomfortable (except for those few who think he is proudly expressing a right), just being suspected of having a gun if you're a person of color will get you killed by jumpy police or white men who are just "standing their ground".
Yes, this is real. No, it's not a joke.
White men extol the virtues of open carry and brandish their guns in public because they know they can get away with it as long as the laws that further white privilege (such as open carry and "stand your ground") exist. It isn't surprising that when a black person tries to claim they followed the "stand your ground" law they end up going to prison even if they fired a simple warning shot, but when it's someone who killed an unarmed black teen, well...yeah. Isn't it funny that the very people who claim they are fighting for our rights seem to be eager to trample on the rights of others to feel safe and equal, regardless of their skin color?

Why Aren't We Talking About This?
It's true, and the NRA used to support gun control much more in general too.
I've looked around and seen very little that points out how open carry is basically just another extension of white privilege. Why this hasn't been discussed more I'm not sure. Perhaps it is because there are still plenty of white people who don't like open carry laws and think bullies such as the NRA should go take a long hard look in the mirror for being proponents of such stupidity. Maybe it is because those who are against open carry laws don't want to be accused of playing the "race card" and picking on the poor helpless white man with all his proudly-brandished guns. I don't know why this has so little discussion, but I think the more we think about just who benefits from open carry and who suffers, the more it becomes apparent this isn't so much a 2nd amendment rights issue as it is human rights issue.

UPDATE on 6/23/14
I originally had a "your penis must not work" joke in the article about open carry but it was pointed out to me in a comment by Alex it was mean and damaged my point (which they didn't fully agree with, but I thank them for calmly saying why instead of getting mad like in some of the other comments). Therefore, I eliminated it from the main article but have it below as it would be wrong to try and act like it was never in the article...
 "If you want to conceal and carry your handgun that's your business, but when you having just swinging out in the open as an extension of the unable-to-function penis I assume you suffer from...well, we have an issue."
Yeah, that was maybe in bad taste.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Itty Bitty Hellboy

Good Fun
I enjoy the work of Art Baltazar and Franco as they often seem to put out material that is both cute, funny, and otherwise enjoyable ("Tiny Titans", for example). Therefore, when I saw the trade for "Itty Bitty Hellboy" a  couple months ago I picked it up eagerly. Now, I'm not too familiar with the Hellboy universe, having only read a mini-series some years ago with Lobster Johnson and reading the occasional B.P.R.D. comic by friend of the blog, John Arcudi (check out my interview I did with him a bit ago here). That said, I still greatly enjoyed this book and imagine readers of all ages will too regardless of their familiarity with Hellboy. Let's discuss the top three reasons why I enjoyed this, shall we?

Reasons I Enjoyed "Itty Bitty Hellboy"
Reason 1: It is just so fun
You want to know one big thing that makes this comic fun? Well, look at that art! It is bright, colorful, well-drawn, and the characters are cute but still resemble their more  grown-up counterparts. The adventures that Hellboy, his friends, and his enemies go on are just as delightful, be they hanging out in their forts made of dishwasher & refrigerator boxes, looking for Sasquatch, traveling to Hades, ascending to Heaven, or simply attending a birthday party. The bright colors, inventiveness, and general feeling of fun result in a comic that just is a great time.
Reason 2: It is clever
You can take a variety of commercial properties and try and make a "cute" version of them, but to really make it enjoyable you have to be clever about it. "Itty Bitty Hellboy" has the characters in a more child-like form but still has kept aspects about them intact resulting in interesting ideas. Hellboy uses his rock-arm to smash walnuts, Liz uses his fire-powers to roast marshmallows--the comic takes these grown-up characters and uses their powers in the sorts of ways kids would, namely by having fun. There is also still conflict with the "bad" characters, but instead of it being some sort of world-threatening drama it is at that much smaller level we enjoy playing at as youth--stealing each other's box-forts, being jealous of the other's swimming pool, stuff like that.

Reason 3: It is hilarious
Probably the best thing about "Itty Bitty Hellboy" is that it is just so funny. Whether the characters are crashing into each other and causing a ruckus while trying to find a Sasquatch, or filling the suit of a character made out of air with soup in order to make him more stable and cure the potential cold he has, there are always some humorous shenanigans going on that will make you giggle or at least put a big grin on your face.

An All-Around Good Time
Other than the one potential concern of how his name contains the word "Hell", "Itty Bitty Hellboy" is a great comic for kids and their parents who want to enjoy a comic that is fun, funny, and an all-around good time. I highly recommend this trade paperback to anyone who loves Hellboy, enjoys the work of Baltazar and Franco, or just wants to enjoy reading a cute and funny comic.
5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Television Tuesday--The Rise of Netflix Original Programming And The Need for Net Neutrality

The Rise of a Giant
Remember when Netflix was just a company that mailed people DVDs of movies they wanted to watch as opposed to having to drive to the video-store? That seems like it was forever ago in this era of streaming original shows by Netflix from our computers and video-game consoles, doesn't it? Whereas once Netflix's online division was relatively smaller, it now--I believe I've read--makes up the mass majority of its income. Netflix still has movies you can stream, but now its all about watching various T.V. seasons over just a couple of days ("binge watching") and looking forward to original programming done by Netflix you can only view via them--or buying a DVD of one of their series, although that just seems ironic.

All those years ago would anyone have predicted Netflix would be making award-winning programs with a big following such as "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards"? Would people have thought that against all odds "Arrested Development" would be brought back--albeit in a form that admittedly disappointed many? Sure, not everything Netflix tries to put out is a pure gold (it seems everyone hates "Hemlock Grove" but as I haven't watched it I feel unqualified to comment), but enough stuff gets them popular buzz that there are people who buy a subscription just to see the original programming, and then enjoy other movies and television series as an afterthought.
Kevin Spacey, almost always enjoyable in whatever he acts in.
When you get legitimately pretty-big names such as Kevin Spacey giving you stellar performances, or quirky and clever shows such as "Orange is the New Black", you're going to draw fans, and Netflix has done so in droves, even despite that PR debacle they had a few years back (Remember Qwikster? Netflix would prefer you didn't). Netflix now is popular enough that when they announced a small-ish price increase recently people didn't freak-out too much, mainly because it'll be happening slowly, at first just impacting new subscribers and then after a bit over a year everyone else who already has had a Netflix subscription. Pretty much the only thing posing a major threat to Netflix right now is the ever-looming possibility of the death of Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality
It was good while it lasted.
Net Neutrality, for those who don't know what it is, basically is something we have had since the birth of the internet. For example, if you have internet by Verizon, and go to a website, you will get that website as fast as someone who has internet by AT&T--assuming you pay to utilize the same about of data with either service. Should Net Neutrality die a terrible death, now a website could make a deal with AT&T so that their content loads faster with that company, regardless of how much data you normally purchase. Then, Verizon could make a deal with another company and before you know it the internet is separated into a fast-lane and slow-lane where the rich get lightning-fast video-streaming and the less wealthy have a simple website load as fast as if they were on a 56k Modem AKA the old-fashioned phone-lines.

If the death of Net Neutrality sounds scary, then I'm glad you're upset, because you should be terrified. Recent court rulings have it so that while we have Net Neutrality at this moment, that won't necessarily be the case for long. Netflix is already doing some "Deals with the Devil" that have immediate-but-minor repercussions in anticipation of Net Neutrality going the way of the Dodo bird, and if the FCC lets corporations start slicing up the internet into various speeds things are probably gonna get really ugly.
Enjoy speedy streaming of Netflix shows like this while you can.
We truly need Net Neutrality because without it something like what Netflix has built with their online streaming would have been all but impossible to establish--that goes for Hulu (if someone does the paid option) and the increasing streaming options via Amazon Prime too. Netflix has some quality original programming, assorted television shows, and movies. I want to be able to enjoy streaming them without my internet provider getting to screw me over. So yeah, hooray for Netflix and mad props to Net Neutrality--let's hope that both continue to live long and happy lives.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mini-Series Conclusions, T&A Witches, and Outer-Space--These Are My Rant-Reviews!

No Particular Reason
Today I thought I would just do whatever and review the final issues to some mainstream mini-series (some of which finished a bit ago and others still fresh in our minds), the ever-entertaining if also completely bonkers, "Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose", and just for good measure throw in a review of the first two issue's of Garth Ennis' "Caliban" coming out from Avatar Press. Yeah, there really isn't a rhyme or reason to my selections today other than I felt like talking about these particular books, so let's get to breaking things down, shall we?

Origin II #5
Wow, after a somewhat slow start, then getting more promising I had developed relatively hopeful expectations for this comic before...well, this. Basically all we learn is that Victor Creed AKA Sabertooth has a sister that Wolverine hooked up with once but whom was never spoken of again by anyone. Also, Mr. Sinister "dies" but with that guy death is about as final as finishing your soda at a restaurant--you've got another one coming to you again relatively soon as long as the refill machine is working. This was not terrible, but still disappointing with a ending that all but guarantees an "Origin III" is in the works. Hopefully it won't be as wholly unimpressive as this mini-series. At least Adam Kubert supplied some dynamite art.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

What-If: Age of Ultron #5
Another Marvel-mini that ended a bit ago, and another disappointment. After a bunch of relatively-unconnected issues occurring with the only theme being the breaking of reality in "Age of Ultron" altered some worlds, all of the sudden the various universes explored in the previous four issues merge together in order to fight Ultron and give birth to a new world...or something. Honestly, this issue kind of ruins the previous ones--not that most were particularly good--and seems like a missed opportunity to tell a good "What-If" story based around "Age of Ultron", which readers will recall I actually have some fondness for despite others being hard on it. Oh well.
2 out of 5 stars.

Forever Evil #7
This is the last event-comic I plan to read for some time, as I repeatedly keep telling anyone who will listen how I have event-itis. "Forever Evil" wasn't that great, but it actually wasn't particularly bad either, telling a relatively-solid if not overly-creative tale of evil versions of DC's heroes coming and causing all sorts of trouble before in a (not that shocking) twist the very villains of the main DC world end-up saving the day. This issue had plenty of over-the-top violence as DC seems to love doing lately, drawn capably by David Finch, so that's good too.

With Lex Luthor now set-up as being a hero of humanity it might be interesting to see the direction some of the DC comics take--if you're someone who is still reading them. The only thing that really was a bit surpsing was Luthor figuring out how Bruce Wayne is Batman, that may result in some interesting stories before DC finds some way to erase that from Luthor's memory and/or continuity.
3 out of 5 stars.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #86
Jim Balent likes to draw half-naked (and fully-naked) bi-sexual witches. He also likes to draw mostly-naked bi-sexual were-cats (its like a were-wolf  but a cat-body) and bi-sexual vampire-women. He then draws these characters engaging in almost pornographic sex with each other or a man in other issues, but keeps it just tame enough to not end up in the adult section of "Previews". He draws this T&A with great skill though, being good at giving the audience what they want, which is sexually-charged comics with a wiccan-theme that inexplicably draws a large female audience.

This is what Balent wants to print every two months, and its what his fans want to read. Therefore, this issue where Tarot and a vampire fight over how they want the were-cat to be their exclusive girlfriend and also say some stuff about magic is exactly what readers of "Tarot" look for. It's gorgeously drawn T&A with a teeny-tiny hint of something deeper while also being a bit insane. For succeeding at what it sets out to do I respectfully give it...
4 out of 5 stars.

Caliban #1 and #2
Garth Ennis has made some interesting books with Avatar Comics, doing everything from his favorite subject of war-comics, to horror (look at "Crossed" for an example of that) to now outer-space with a horror-bent. These two issues basically entail the crew of a space-ship called the Caliban accidentally merging with an alien ship when both try to occupy the same hyper-space. This fusion results in the crew exploring this mysterious alien ship where it seems a variety of strange samples from other worlds are being kept and things clearly are about to go even more horribly wrong--if the end of the second issue is any indicator.

Ennis always has had a good ear for dialogue, and maintains his great skill of building tension while giving us just little bursts of violent and/or scary release (whilst still continuously ratcheting up the intensity). While not a ton has necessarily occurred within these two issues Ennis has nailed the atmosphere of fear and dread wonderfully and I look forward to seeing what happens next in the third issue which comes out this week.
4 out of 5 stars (for both issues).

So there it is, some comics reviewed. Have a quality rest of your day.