Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Key Collector Comics App is Really Handy

I dabble in comic-book speculation, as folk may know, which is the art of buying a comic in the hopes it will have some value shortly (or later on) and then selling it. I've written about hot comics for my occasional segment The Hot Comics Revue, and I'm a big fan of the website Comics Heating Up (a fantastic place to learn about upcoming comics that might be sought-after). One thing I heard about and have used for a bit is Key Collector Comics. They both have a website and a really professional app. You can use it to find details about past comics that are getting popular, upcoming releases that might be worth getting, and scuttlebutt about things that aren't hot now, but if they get optioned/have a show made, might very well then be in-demand.

Key Collector Comics is free to use, but if you want a whole bunch of other helpful features (alerts, assorted snazzy articles) you can subscribe for $1.99 a month or $19.99 for the whole year. Based on how much this website and its app contains I would say that is quite worth the price. For example, once I made my account a paid one I took advantage of some alerts about books that might become, "Key," issues to dig in my back-issues and pull-out comics that I thought were worth all of a dollar but depending on what the future holds might go for a chunk more someday. Even if you are someone who doesn't do much buying and/or selling of comic-books, the lists and writings are full of fun facts, trivia, and otherwise I'd say they're extremely informative if you just like learning about comics.

Some of the current categories/lists being featured.
I'd encourage folk to visit the website, and for sure try Key Collector Comics out on their iPhone, or if they have an Android-style phone it is available in that format as well. Between the user-friendly design and great content I really like Key Collector Comics and am eager to continue using it to both get advice on popular comics, and learn a lot of interesting things too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Intergender Wrestling Matches and the Socio-Cultural Politics of Sports

I haven't watched wrestling much in years. This is not a slight at the art of wrestling, as I greatly enjoyed viewing it from my middle-school years, up through high-school, and even sometimes would catch some broadcasts during college. The thing with professional wrestling however is that it actually is a whole lot plot, drama, and scripting, and like many other television shows (or certain comic-books like super-hero ones) if you stop paying attention for long you fall completely behind and find yourself bewildered. As I got older I just had a lot less time for some of my hobbies, and in the same way I play video-games a whole lot less now, I lack much time for wrestling. That said, I do still read-up on its sometimes and found this very interesting article that made me think about wrestling, gender equality, and cultural views/politics.

In a recent big wrestling event known as, "The Royal Rumble," which had its 2019 edition, for the first time in a long while it came about that a woman named Nia Jax wrestled men. This got some press. For a good decade now you would have rarely seen a man intentionally strike a woman in a pro-wrestling match. Lately it has been where women always fought women, men always fought men, and if there was an intergender tag-team match the guys and gals basically never struck one another, rare exceptions aside. This came about for many reasons, from how professional wrestling often in the past had portrayed women more as sex objects, wanted to avoid controversies of men hitting women, and so forth. After all, in our nation's social politics it often struggles with serious discussions of domestic violence, and having scripted violence where a man appears to beat-up on a woman is not a good look for a huge company. In the past the WWE (as it is currently known) had women such as Chyna who would often fight men, but it was the bigger, "manlier," women who were thought to be okay to engage in fisticuffs with dudes--e.g. the pretty chicks wouldn't fight men.
Apparently that has been changing, as the door is maybe opening to intergender wrestling and showcasing that strong women and strong men can engage in this sport with respect for one another, gender aside. The WWE looks to be working hard to make sure that in their shows of scripted violence they don't create an image of women being ganged-up on by men, or play the idea of a woman beating a male wrestler for laughs, this moment with Nia Jax has moved things into a realm where intergender matches could occur and it be done in a manner that is mature and professional. 

Lots of sports lack much in the way of any intergender players. There are no women in the NBA, they are in the WNBA. There are no female NFL players (not even kickers, as people sometimes like to be tone-deaf and joke a female could do, which is disrespectful to both women and kickers), the closest women get to the field is as a cheerleader or reporter. Sports just don't have much of any intergender aspects and going into the social-political-physical reasons for that would take more space than I will ever have in an article. Wrestling however, with its mixture of being both athleticism and relatively scripted is a unique blend of sport and live-action drama. It is a play where the stage is the ring, and the protagonists and antagonists act their stories out through an equal mixture of words and whaling on one another. By the prospect of how a lot of what happens is already planned, it is quite easy to script the violence in a way that addresses social politics, or carefully avoids them. It is unique in both its opportunities and limitations when compared to different sports, in other words. 
Nia Jax eventually lost by being tossed out of the ring,
but not before herself eliminating many male competitors.
There is a lot of stuff to consider in any sport when it incorporates intergender matches, and pro-wrestling has even more to mull-over as unlike a woman playing in the MLB, this is a sport where the entire point is to physically attack your opponent and win. A whole lot of cultural elements are at play when it comes to the idea of men and women wrestling one another, and how to handle the optics. One wonders though, if a relatively scripted-sport such as pro-wrestling can be progressive enough to incorporate intergender aspects, what is keeping supposedly mainstream sports from doing the same?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Why I Haven't Bothered Talking About Bill Maher

Bill Maher hates comic-books. Who cares what he thinks though?
In November of last year Bill Maher posted a big anti-comic screed to his blog in the wake of Stan Lee passing. Apparently this past weekend he doubled-down on his hatred of comic-books and their related film properties by stating how they are for kids, boring, and all the other outdated claims made by someone who probably has not actually bothered to understand the art-form he is criticizing. A handful of people have asked me what I wrote about Maher in November (nothing) or what I was going to write now and I expressed there is little need to counter his claims about comic-books. Why do I feel like there is little need to discuss Maher or his outdated views? Well, the man has been culturally irrelevant for years.

If some random moron on the street were to hand you pamphlet they'd xeroxed full of hateful opinions about the things you love, you'd toss it aside and barely give it a second thought. Also, if someone who used to be relatively famous had built-up some much ill-will for being a jerk that they had to resort to bringing equally-hated guests on their show or making idiotic proclamations in the hopes it would get them even any attention, what would you care? The person with the brochure is desperate for engagement from others for their beliefs, and Maher craves some kind of recognition, no matter how negative. He wants people who matter (movie-stars who play super-heroes, big-name writers, etc.) to pay him their mind because he hopes that way he'll seem like he matters too. He does not.
Maher insulted Kevin Smith--with an outdated photo of Smith pre weight-loss, no less--too,
because again, he wants people who matter to pay him attention.
Maher used to be considered an edgy and insightful voice in the field of comedy. Then over-time he morphed into a hateful little man, shouting into the void hoping someone would watch his shows, read his articles, simply pay him any kind of attention. Maher is doing this shit because he wants to make people angry--he knows he lost his ability to make people laugh at his jokes or think critically about serious opinions long ago and now all he has is the ability to play on people's emotions. I honestly don't care if Bill Maher dislikes comics just as I don't care if some person at an intersection is holding a sign declaring how all politicians are secretly lizard-people (which is silly, we all know they're secretly bird-people), they think something stupid and just want attention for it. Maher is culturally irrelevant, and this hissy-fit about comic-books is just yet another example of him trying very hard to seem like his opinion matters. It doesn't.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

"Twilight of the Bat," Comic Review

I've always been intrigued by Josh Simmons' comics about a vigilante who is known as a man who dresses as a Bat...but isn't Batman. Simmons seems to just barely skirt a lot of copyright and trademark laws by arguably making his tales with a Bat-character parodies of Batman, and of course satire is protected from certain copyright elements, hence all those unapproved-by-DC porn parodies of Batman that exist.

Simmons did a tale about this Bat-character before that I enjoyed in how bizarrely twisted it was as the Bat talked about his obsession in regards to fighting-crime (as a Catwoman-style character said how he'd become a bit pathetic) and came up with a disturbing concept for mutilating criminals. While when it was published as a mini-comic it was titled, "Batman," Simmons was able to include it in his utterly disturbing collection of his work, "The Furry Trap," (a book I've talked about before) by changing some elements, such as naming it, "Mark of the Bat." I heard he had another comic with the Bat that came out in late 2017, but utterly forgot about it until I saw some writing about it recently. I immediately ordered a physical copy from publisher Cold Cube Press (because even if it can now be found digitally, I like physical comics a lot). I've now read the comic and will share my thoughts.
The first thing that I noticed/realized about, "Twilight of the Bat," is that while it has Josh Simmon's credited as the writer of the story, outside of the artwork on the back-cover of the comic he does not contribute any further art. Instead, Patrick Keck is the artist. While I enjoy Simmon's illustrative skills, this was not a bad thing at all as Keck's work is perfect for this story, which involves G---- City now utterly destroyed due to some kind of explosions/bombs/etc.

The place now is covered in snow and fires, with Batman for months unable to find anyone, until he spots his unnamed (within the story) laugh-loving criminal counterpart. The book never says its the Joker, but it is. Keck's artwork makes the snow and ruined city looks absolutely perfect in how ruined and destroyed it all is. Plus, as the comic proceeds and Bats finds his patience wearing thin with a completely laissez faire Joker, Keck's work perfectly expresses all kinds of blood and gross body-matter being exposed.
Simmon's writing always is a weird mixture of quiet subtly and over-the-top grossness. "Twilight of the Bat," has a moment where the Joker dances around at Batman has ripped-off a finger from him in rage, waving his hands about (as blood sprays around) before proceeding to take a dump on the ground--all it turns out, in the hopes of simply making the stone-faced Batman laugh. Much of the comic discusses how the Joker doesn't think he's doing things to be mean or nice, he just feels he likes a good joke, and Batman's obsession with right-and-wrong is just a hilarious thing to mess with, in his mind. It is a comic that is a mixture of fan-fiction, satire, and its own interesting take on the whole mythology of how Batman and the Joker both need and despise each other. I enjoyed reading it and would say Simmon's and Keck did a great job.
4 out of 5 stars.

"Twilight of the Bat," is available for free digitally. You can order your own copy of the comic itself at the aforementioned Cold Cube Press website. It is also contained in a collection of works by Simmons that came out in 2018, "Flayed Corpse and Other Stories," which is published by the great folk over at Fantgraphics.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The STL Comics Geeky Extravaganza Was Great Fun!

Today I went to the Geeky Extravaganza that was held by STL Comics and it was a stellar time. I was able to trade some stuff I brought with me, sell a handful of items, and acquired a lot of great reads as well. I ran into some of my favorite vendors and met some great new folk too. After chatted with the head of STL Comics itself, Eric Meyer, I checked out everything on display...

I enjoyed running into James of Cabal Books who is both a friend of mine and a fantastic vendor.

I got these neat varied comics which caught my eye from Jack Brown of Trade Up Comics.

I met Erica of Straight Outta Comics (the link goes to her snazzy Etsy store) who had all kinds of cool comics for sale as well as some really impressive handmade pop-culture-themed crafts!

David from Callisto Comics was selling some delightful assorted books.

Drew Stuart of CoMO Comic Books sold me some comics featuring Moon Knight I was happy to snatch-up.

Last but not least, I saw Justin from Wayne Kent Comics, who was selling a smorgasbord of books.

I had an immense amount of fun at the first ever STL Comics Geeky Extravaganza where besides the vendors I mentioned there was all kinds of other wares on display from toys, to other crafts, and it was a spectacular time. The location it was held, Manhattan Antique Marketplace, was super-nice as well and I hope to attend any future ones. I'm also excited for the next STL Comics next event on February 24th, the first Mirco Con of 2019! All-in-all, this was a great time for sure and I had a ton of fun today, thanks again to STL Comics for organizing this and all the amazing vendors for being there!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Shit is Going Down at DC Comics

Sometimes I am weirdly prescient. You see, my last post a handful of days ago was about a DC comic released at Walmart causing all kinds of controversy due to its depiction of the theoretical brutal murder of Lois Lane. I talked about how this comic was in a big issue of new stuff and reprinted materials that was geared towards general readers. I also mentioned how the Direct Market was in trouble, maybe necessitating comics for more general readers, albeit ones that hopefully didn't shoot Lois Lane in the head on the first page. Well, shit is going down at DC and it has laid-off a number of folk in relatively high-up positions of power.

One of the people unceremoniously let-go is a gentleman named Mark Chiarello, known by friend and industry-folk as, "Chi." Chi was previously heavily involved in a variety of the best-regarded and most critically acclaimed DC projects, such as my beloved, "Wednesday Comics," so his being given the boot especially stings for me, and in the opinions of myself and many others. Also, before you ask, the people let go were by no means disliked, with a lot of love expressed for them by assorted folk, and they all were lacking in any kind of scandal (to my knowledge) so this is in essence a move done by DC to focus on totally revamping marketing. Prestige projects or experimental stuff is less important, and creating a more unified identity seems to be the focal point. It is no secret DC has been struggling with its identity some, from the slow death and eventual rebirth of Vertigo, to the false-start of the, "Black Label," which was essentially sunk by Batman's penis making a cameo.

Mark Chiarello
This shake-up and reorganization happening at DC isn't exactly coming-out of the blue, I distinctly remember back in June of 2018 when a lot of folk suddenly left the company entirely, or set-up special deals with it to no longer have certain positions of power but still be contributors. The comic-book market is in a state of flux, and DC clearly is having its own big shifts and changes too. Whether this will end-up working-out in the company's favor or this is the equivalent of that classic expression regarding rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic is something I am by no means able to predict. I do think I can say without (intentionally) sounding too pessimistic however that things are probably going to get worse before they get better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Direct Market Woes, Comic-Books at Big-Name Retailers, and the Gruesome Murder of Lois Lane...Wait, What?

Troubling news and possibly a forewarning?
Excuse my mouthful of a headline, but it encompasses a variety of news that has occurred lately and which all weirdly ties together a bit. Basically, there has been more and more discussion of how the Direct Market method of comic-book selling seems to be slowly sapping the life away from the industry itself (to summarize the Direct Market: Comic-stores get a deep discount on all the comics they order ahead of time, but are unable to return them, making it a bit of a dangerous guessing-game if there aren't enough customers who have said in advance what they would like to buy). Combination-retailer-and-journalist Brian Hibbs has written about his concerns before with this 4-decades-old system and is getting especially alarmed as he expressed in his latest column.

In my interactions with assorted owners of comic-books stores I have found that many have expressed to me that they are getting to a point where they basically order what their customers with pull-lists/reservations inform the store they want, and then a minimal number of extraneous stuff (besides the most popular-comics) lest they get stuck with a ton of inventory that just sits on the shelves till they have to resort to big sales/throwing a ton of stuff in dollar-bins, losing a bunch of money overall. The Direct Market has been a growing concern for years, but things seem to be heading towards a tipping-point. If the market is fundamentally broken however, what can be done? One idea seems to be showing Lois Lane graphically murdered for 12 pages.

Keep in mind this comic is geared towards kids and general readers.
This is the first page. The first damn page.
Okay, that last sentence probably threw you off, so let me explain. DC has been releasing these big mega-comics at Walmart which contain some reprinted stories as well as a bit of new material to entice regular comic-readers to pick up the books too. They usually are near check-out lanes with other random stuff like snacks and trading cards, put there to encourage folk who don't normally read comics to pick them up and give them a flip-through, or hand them to a friend/relative--e.g., "My nephew Timmy loves super-heroes, I'll get him this as a surprise!" This make it odd how in the latest issue, "Superman Giant #7," it contains a story where the first-page is Lex Luthor demanding Lois Lane beg for her life as she defiantly says how Superman will arrive soon to save her. Upon her refusing to beg Luthor brutally shoots her in the head. It is then revealed the comic is about Superman being away from home and worrying about all the terrible things that could happen to Lois without him nearby to protect her from his enemies--so that scene readers just witnessed was a morbid day-dream of sorts. The comic then proceeds to showcase all the terrible ways Lois could die, essentially being a 12-page snuff-comic.

This opening tale is written by Tom King, whom I have repeatedly said can write both amazing stuff and things that make you go, "What the Hell?" King just recently defended the story as being a way to show vulnerability and stress in regards to Superman or such, which is all well and good, but maybe doing that via scenes of theoretical vicious murder isn't the best choice in a comic geared toward general-readers and kids. Here's the thing though, if the Direct Market results in many comic-shops suffering decreasing sales and possibly closing, we may end-up with less options for purchasing comics if someone is a consumer who likes to go to a comic-shop (many areas lack even one, after all), and besides buying stuff online folk may very well only be able to buy their comics at Walmart. That, or pick-up weird tie-in books for new toys being released exclusively at Target--although the creative team on that, "Primal Age," comic (Marv Wolfman is involved, to name one person) is pretty impressive considering its a tie-in to Funko-brand toys that look kind of like He-Man rejects.

Does a dark future await our beloved comic-book shops?
I do not know what future awaits physical comic-books. Will the Direct Market be tweaked into something workable or will it have to be burned-down to the ground for something better to emerge? Could a worst-case scenario occur where the potential end of the Direct Market leads to the shuttering of countless comic-shops and people end-up having trouble finding comics anywhere but big-box retailers or online comic-shops? Regardless of what occurs, what kind of comic is appropriate to showcase Lois Lane being repeatedly tortured and killed--besides the obvious answer being: Most likely none of them, because 12 pages of that sounds like bit much. The Direct Market's clock may very well be running-out, and I can only hope when it does reach its deadline that it has a more peaceful ending than the ones imagined by Superman for Lois Lane in, "Giant Superman #7."

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Fun Geek-Culture Event is This Saturday

This coming Saturday, January 26th, there will be a really cool event happening which is being done by STL Comics. Titled, "Geeky Extravaganza," it will be another cool show put on by STL Comics, but unlike their awesome Micro Cons the focus here isn't just comics. All things geeky will be involved, including vendors who deal in pop-culture-focused jewelry, crafts, toys, gaming-stuff, anime-related things, movies, television-focused paraphernalia, and of course comic-books will still be involved too!

This first-ever, "Geeky Extravaganza," is taking place in the Manhattan Antique Marketplace, located at 10431 Saint Charles Rock Road, in Saint Ann, Missouri, 63074 (so right by Saint Louis). It runs from 10AM-4PM and is completely free to attend (you read that right, free)! There will be a food vendor present as well, New York Tom's Food Truck, whom I have purchased food from before at other shindigs and I can tell you he has some delicious stuff. STL Comics always put on great shows, be they big evens, micro cons, or this new, "Geeky Extravaganza," and I encourage anyone in the are who is able to attend to do so, I know I'll be there excited for some fun, food, and great deals on all kinds of geeky-goodness!

"Black Panther," Got Some Oscar Nominations!

For those following the news about the Oscars (no, not that hosting stuff), it was cool to see a super-hero movie getting respect outside of just the usual technical categories (which are important too, but often the dumping-ground for awards related to blockbuster-flicks). "Black Panther," became the first-ever super-hero movie to get a, "Best Picture," nomination, which was cool even if director Ryan Coogler was snubbed for, "Best Director." Also, Kendrick Lamar and SZA's song, "All of the Stars," from the soundtrack was nominated for best song, which is awesome although many people already think Lady Gaga's song, "Shallow," from, "A Star is Born," will be a shoo-in to win--I say time will tell.

"Black Panther," was a stellar movie, and while I don't know if it was in the fact the best movie of 2018 (there are far too many flicks I didn't see that also got a lot of buzz, so I'm wholly unqualified to judge), it is fantastic to witness it getting some recognition for The Academy Awards. After all, if we are being honest this show is a pretentious exercise in Hollywood patting itself on the back, so at least some movies people actually saw this year got some nominations (along with all the random films few people have heard about). Disney/Marvel must be quite pleased. Oh, and meanwhile DC's film division isn't sure what the Hell it wants to do with its oft-delayed and quite troubled Batman movie, to give you a comparison. At least they have big hits in the form of Wonder Woman and (of all things) Aquaman, right?

Monday, January 21, 2019

One Thing Has Been Bugging Me and Others About, "The Bachelor."

I've been enjoying the latest season of, "The Bachelor." While the first episode was annoying with its constant interruptions in the form of, "Live Viewing Parties," the second was better in that it was simply just the usual--and had comedians stopping by including Billy Eichner (who is always a treat) to tell jokes. Still, one element continued to persist and perturbed me even further--all this focus on virginity. I get it that in the first episode we've gotta get our jokes out of the way regarding how this season's Bachelor--Colton Underwood--has decided not to have sex until he is in love, and this has resulted in his being 26 and a virgin. Things have gotten weirder as of the second episode however.

There is a woman named Hannah B. (there is another Hannah so she gets a B.) who in the latest episode discussed how she admired Colton being a virgin and how it tore her up inside she had previously engaged in sex with someone else and couldn't give that present to her husband or something; she felt she lacked self-worth. As Vulture pointed out in all-caps, "SLUTS CAN HAVE VALUE AND SELF-WORTH AND REFUSE TO SETTLE, TOO." Just because someone enjoys having sex they shouldn't feel ashamed. 
Hannah B.
Also, the women on the show who are virgins--or one who claims to have never even kissed someone--are treated as weirdly special for being virgins whilst Colton gets jokes made about him. After all, why would a handsome man choose to be a virgin, he should be having all kinds of sex, but of course these women should not because a woman enjoying sex is terrible. That last sentence hopefully sounds moronic to you, but that is basically the message we are being given, as Vice discussed. A bunch of men sitting around leering at a woman talking about how badly they want to take her virginity would definitely give the show a creepy vibe, but as it is hot women thirsting after a dude everyone lets it go. 

Virginity is basically a social construct created by people with prudish morals to make others feel bad about having sex or enjoying it. When someone is very young they should of course not have sex as they are not physically, mentally, or emotionally mature enough for the complications and responsibilities of being sexual. If a grown-ass person wants to have a lot of sex and makes sure it is consensual and they take safety precautions as needed (e.g. safer-sex to prevent pregnancy or STI's) that is perfectly fine however, just as it is absolutely okay to be in your 20's, 30's, etc. and not having sex. People choose to have sex for just as many reasons as they don't. 
Just Google, "Reasons to Have Sex," and there are many.
We have sex because we are in love, bored, simply horny, or (in regards to heterosexual sex) maybe want to procreate. We don't have sex because we lack the time, are busy, don't like anyone we've met who wanted to have sex with us, or simply just aren't horny and would rather read a book than find a sex partner. If you want to have sex and have somebody eager to do sex-stuff with you, go for it. If you don't want to have sex then feel free to abstain from getting freaky. It is as simple as that, yet this season of, "The Bachelor," has practically made the whole focus, "Who is going to have sex with this virgin and deflower him real good?" instead of, "Who is going to maybe fall in love, and have sex in the fantasy suite if they feel like it?"

Tonight will be the third episode of the show. My dear, dear, hope is that as we proceed further into this season that maybe Colton's virginity will be mentioned at times, but it won't override everything else on this show and give us a weird chaste-vibe on a program about a guy dating double-digit numbers of women in the hopes after making-out with them all he'll find the right one. "The Bachelor," has always had its cake and eaten it too with its weird mix of prudishness-meets-sex but this season it has paradoxically talked about sex more than ever due to the presence of a virgin. I pray the show pivots to other things than a relentless tunnel-vision on this concept of virginity, because Dear God are the jokes getting tiring.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

"Thank U, Next," is Absurdly Catchy

I have discussed liking the music of Ariana Grande before. I would not declare myself some kind of huge fan, but I enjoy a good deal of her stuff. With that said, "Thank U, Next," is the kind of song that is absurdly catchy and fun. You can claim that upon hearing it you don't want to dance and sing along, but you'd be a damn liar! A joyous ditty for sure, it features Grande reflecting on past relationships, but instead of being a downer she observes how every man she has dated has helped her learn something about relationships as well as herself. Grande closes the song essentially declaring how in the end she loves herself no matter what and that is the most important thing of all. The music video also is zany with its references to an assortment of famous movies in a play upon nostalgia. Numerous websites and magazines love it too (Vulture thought it was the best one of 2018) so clearly plenty of folk get amped-up from this jam!

Friday, January 18, 2019

We Need to Support People Impacted by the Government Shutdown, Here are Some Ways To Do That

Help is Needed
It is saddening to think that within our country there are people who work for our Government--the entity that runs America--and they aren't getting paid. Those who provide the service of keeping the USA functioning and safe are either furloughed, working without pay, or simply have had to quit/resign from their jobs to earn an income. Thankfully there are folk stepping-up to help, such as Paypal with interest-free cash advances now available to the 800,000-ish people currently without a paycheck from what should've been a dependable career. How can we, as individuals help these people suffering from the shutdown, however? I did some research and saw various tips I thought I would share. In no particular order...

Donate, Donate, Donate
Whether you are giving goods to a local food pantry, helping with funds to repair National Parks that have turned into a mess, or giving money to nonprofits that are assisting furloughed and unpaid Government employees, donating whatever you can is helpful.

Contact Your Senator or Representative
Make whoever is representing you in Congress aware that you, as their constituent, do not approve of this shutdown. Be respectful, yet firm, and keep in mind you may not speak with your actual Representative or Senator,  but someone who works for them and notes down calls and such. You can find your Senator here and your Representative here.

Understand and Empathize if Impacted Employees are Your Customers/Renters
It is beyond depressing to hear about Government employees being served with eviction notices due to being unable to pay rent, going without needed care, or suffering in homes lacking electricity or heating due to being unable to afford bills. If you provide any kind of services for people who are currently furloughed or working without pay, try to be as understanding as possible. Whether it means offering a discount, allowing these workers to pay you later once this shutdown is (hopefully in the near future) resolved, or anything else,making an effort to ease the burden of this shutdown in whatever way possible is undoubtedly a kind gesture that will greatly appreciated.

Just Be a Friend
You don't have to donate a bunch of stuff, be making all kinds of phone calls, or own a business helping Government employees to offer support to those hurting from all this. Just by being present and being a friend to furloughed employees or those working without pay you're helping. These people are our friends and family after all, and they are feeling a wide-range of emotions from fear, to anger, to general worry. An empathetic ear or shoulder to lean on (or cry on, if needed) can do a world of wonder.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mid-January 2019 Links and News to Counter the Cold

To think, this January started out so mild and warm...and then the snow came. Right as things are starting to melt the weather reports are saying this weekend may very well be nasty too, so how about we spend our time cooped-up inside by keeping warm with some assorted links and bits of news?

Interesting Things (In My Opinion)
Let's start with an article whose headline sums up my opinion on all these supposed internet-celebrities we have nowadays, "No One is an Influencer if Everyone is an Influencer." Written by Maria Sherman and published by Jezebel it perfectly expresses that all these folk who think having a couple thousand followers on Youtube or Instagram somehow makes them an important celebrity are quite often just the worst (no surprise there) and are mainly interested in little more than making money hocking various products . We all know that famous quote (which is often butchered) about how in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes? I think we need to tweak that to read, "In the future everyone with at least 15 followers will think they are famous."

The idea that a person would actually get death threats for posting a negative review of a movie (in this case, "Aquaman,") sickens me. That female movie critics seem to get a lot more online abuse for simply having an opinion is equally disheartening.

Kotaku had two recent articles involving Japanese culture and individuals that caught my eye. One was about how the mini-disc (which never caught on too much in America) still has a relatively strong degree of popularity in Japan despite the rise of iPods and other MP3 players. The other article mentioned that Marie Kondo lady who helps people organize their houses/lives and how a comment she made about trying to not keep too many books brought the wrath of the internet upon her. I mean, it isn't like she is coming into people's houses and tossing their books in the trash so I don't quite get the hate.

Watching the internet collectively crack-up like a teenager over how, "Now That's What I Call Music," has reached its 69th iteration (in America at least, they're in the triple-digits in the UK) is funny in a tacky and juvenile way, but funny nonetheless. If you don't get why people think it is, ask your parents or an older friend.

I know I am alternatively very affectionate towards the works of Tom King or incredibly hard on him for making stuff I think is hot garbage, but I will always say the guy is quite nice. He is assisting in giving-out free comic-books to Government employees affected by the shutdown, which he didn't have to do but is very kind to offer folk who don't have much positive stuff in their lives right now.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I hated when Megyn Kelly took over the third hour of, "The Today Show," and proceeded to drag the whole program down. Therefore, I had no love lost when she was unceremoniously booted from it and the rest of NBC. I like seeing her ex-boss (head of NBCUniversial, Steve Burke) admit putting her on the show was a mistake, but laugh incredulously at how he essentially tries to say nobody could have predicted things would go so poorly. I'm pretty sure I and everyone else saw it coming, Steve.

In, "A comic I never thought was coming back actually is and I'm excited,"-type news, "Sex," by Joe Casey, Piotr Kowlaslski, and (the amazing colorist) Brad Simpson is in fact going to return! I know when it suddenly ended claims were made it'd be back, but I honestly wasn't too optimistic. We are getting, "Sex," Volume 6 straight to graphic novel form, though, in an arc titled, "World Hunger." A joyful surprise like this is the best kind of surprise.

My Dad is certified/accredited/whatever the term is as an Ornithologist. That means he is someone who studies birds. An organization dedicated to that practice as well as conservation, Audubon, made a cool article about just how many interesting birds there are contained within, "Red Dead Redemption 2," and how intriguing accurate the game is at its portrayal of said birds (with a handful of errors here-and-there). I've been meaning to send my Dad a link to the article as I imagine he'd find it cool.

Lastly, President Trump served a bunch of hard-working student athletes who managed to win a championship an assortment of fast food, because America has turned into a twisted fun-house mirror version of itself at this point.

Try and Stay Toasty
I hope everyone stuck in the path of the previous and upcoming snowstorms manages to stay comfortable even with all this frozen precipitation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Post on My Favorite Disney Attractions, Because Why Not?

The Happiest Place(s) on Earth! Until my Rides are Gone...
I have been to almost all of the parks at Disney World (I have not visited the water parks) and the attractions within Disneyland's area a number of times thanks to a variety of factors--e.g. relatives who work for the company being able to get discounted tickets as well as relatives who live in the States where the parks are located also being able to also get big discounts. I don't say this to brag, as for every person who adores Disney's theme parks there is someone who absolutely hates them. No, I say this to make it clear I'm at least a little experienced with the parks and have been enough that the metaphorical rose-tinted glasses some newbies bring with them to the park and view it with have faded--I can be frank about the awesome and lame aspects of my favorite attractions, because even the stuff I love most isn't flawless. There are two attractions I love which still are present in the parks and two I miss dearly, let's break them down.

Still in Existence
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror--Disney's Hollywood Studios
I have taken a ride on the Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios (once upon time known as MGM Studios) a number of times, and was able to ride a version of it at the Disney California Adventure Park before it was later changed into a Guardian's the Galaxy ride. Thankfully, the superior version (in Florida) still stands as it is a lot of fun and much more in-depth. Whereas the later-built California ride simply shoots riders up and down, the one in Florida moves you along a track and then does its jolting about. However, I love the whole vibe of the area before the ride itself even more than the ride, I dare say. The place looks like an old hotel, you watch a video with Rod Serling (and a dubbed-over voice) to make it seem like you are in an actual episode of, "The Twilight Zone," and the atmosphere is perfect. Plus, it was one of the best television shows ever so a ride inspired by it is simply cool.

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe--Tomorrowland (in Magic Kingdom)
Currently closed for refurbishment--but my favorite element will be unharmed--Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe would be like any other place you can get food within Disney, but it has within the restaurant a large animatronic alien named Sonny Eclipse who runs on a 20-ish minute loop singing songs and stating jokes. It is very corny yet I oddly like it and the way everyone sits around eating their burgers half-playing with their phones and half-watching Sonny with vague bemusement is part of the charm.

Sadly Gone/Demolished/Changed

The Great Movie Ride--Disney's Hollywood Studios
Whenever I visited the movie-themed Disney park it always only felt fitting to go on, "The Great Movie Ride." Free of any sharp turns or spills, people instead would sit in a car and ride it through various famous movie scenes featuring an assortment of animatronic figures as well as live-actors. There were also no especially recent movies on display and any other attractions that used to relate to it are long gone (peeks behind the scenes of movies filmed nearby, and so forth). The last tram finished its tour in 2017. It will in the near future be a runaway rail-ride featuring Mickey and Minnie. I'm sure that will be fun, but it won't be the same.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter--Tomorrowland (in Magic Kingdom)
My favorite ride ever was an alien encounter, and it wasn't even a, "Ride," so much as you sitting in a big room. You and everyone else are informed how an alien ambassador is going to beamed into said big room to meet everyone, but something goes wrong (of course) and a dangerous space creature arrives, escapes, and proceeds to scare everyone until it is beamed back out. The seats you are in rumble, you feel the alien's, "Drool," and it is delightfully scary--in fact, it was maybe too scary for Disney, depending whom you ask. It shut down in 2003 and reopened in 2004 with a similar idea of an alien being contained and escaping, except that alien is now Stitch (of, "Lilo and Stitch," fame) resulting in the ride having a lot more of a humorous vibe as opposed to terrifying park-goers. I've been within Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom a number of times and haven't had the heart to go back and see if the ride has any of that original magic left, it just makes me too sad.

Honorable Mention!

The Haunted Mansion--Disneyland and/or Magic Kingdom
I said I would talk about four attractions total, but here is an extra surprise/honorable mention. The Haunted Mansion, whether being ridden within Disneyland or at Magic Kingdom in Disney World is a pure delight. Disney is always updating certain parts to make it continuously feel fresh and for that reason in either park The Haunted Mansion is just the right mixture of scary and funny.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Television Tuesday: The Masked Singer is Silly, Hokey, and Ingenious

There have been two episodes of Fox's program, "The Mask Singer," that have been broadcast and I am hooked. Ever since they ran short promos for it all I could say was, "This looks dumb as Hell, yet I want to watch it." Having been watching, "The Masked Singer," I would say it is spectacularly silly, and works quite well, in spite of its annoying judges (more on them later). Between the extravagant outfits, some surprisingly strong voices (as well as some weaker ones that are at least clearly trying), and the whole zany mystique of it all, "The Masked Singer," has become a must-watch show for our household and much of the Nation too. You start out not really caring much but by the end are yelling at the top of your lungs how absurd it is that the Monster lost to the Unicorn because the audience clearly must be tone-deaf, that's how weirdly addicting this whole thing is. Between surreal videos introducing the masked singers with little hints as to their identity, the bizarre outfits, host Nick Cannon doing his usual Nick Cannon thing, and some solid singing, every element is just surreal and intriguing. Well, everything except the judges.

I hate or am indifferent to almost all the judges on this show. Seriously, why the fuck is that lies-about-vaccines-spreader Jenny McCarthy present? At least Robin Thicke is pretty good at breaking-down the vocal tricks done by the more skilled masked singers, even if he always comes off as smug and self-satisfied. Along with those two assholes there is a random lady from the, "Pussycat Dolls," group that was popular 10 years ago (Nicole Scherzinger), and Ken Jeong, the one judge I like because he is actually clever and humorous. They don't even really, "Judge," however so much as try and guess who the masked singers are whilst the audience sends the lowest-rated singer home. Terrible-judges-besides-Jeong aside, it is a great show and worth watching if for not other reason than it is so zany and just fun.
4 out of 5 stars.

Literally Selling Sex in Advertising--A Porn Company Has Fashion Products Now

I learned the other day via people discussing it on Twitter that a porn company known as Brazzers (that link is not safe for work in any way, shape, or form) is selling expensive clothing. I have to say this feels like the inevitable climax (no pun intended) of a whole bunch of concepts in communications and media melding together. Let's take a step back so I can explain all this.

I took a large number of courses in the span of my undergraduate and graduate degrees that involved health, communications, sociology, and anthropology. They all would extensively discuss the media and advertising. One thing in advertising that is obvious regardless of if you have a bunch of book-learning or didn't even finish high school would be this: Sex sells. Whether you are selling the idea that buying a product will make a person seem sexy/desirable, will attract a partner, or that not purchasing something makes you lack in the sex-appeal department, a good deal of advertising is based upon playing our desire to be sexy. Hell, even just associating the pleasurable feelings of arousal with a random concept or thing is a big point of ads. This seems to especially apply in the realm of fashion.

When you are selling clothes/shoes/etc. you are literally selling sex. You are telling someone, "Wear this and you will be attractive." Almost any clothing is designed to appeal to the male gaze (sometimes the female gaze) or to encourage the women being advertised towards to themselves appeal to the male gaze (as much of advertising is still of course very heteronormative in design). In this era of an increasing digitization of sex as well one finds how things that used to be taboo are now literally just a keystroke away, and more and more individuals feel comfortable openly discussing their kinks and/or fetishes. One element of all this is also how pornography makes more and more money these days, because people like sex, and the internet makes getting dirty videos a lot easier than in the old days when people had to drive to an adult store or theater to gain access to X-rated materials.

Our world becomes even more money-and-power focused these days as we potentially reach late-stage capitalism now, when even our raunchy stuff is sometimes tailored to appeal to people desperately wanting to look wealthy. In other words, we've got sex, money, fashion all on everyone's mind, and we are all talking about it on the internet--because even if folk hate the 1% a lot of individuals maybe secretly wouldn't mind being in that demographic. Folk may say, "Eat the rich," but also wonder what it would be like if they could spend money as if there was no tomorrow and have sex like the night were endless...or something. This brings us to the porn company Brazzers and their $250 pair of shoes.

If you aren't aware of it (or just want to pretend you have never heard of the company to seem innocent), Brazzers is one of the biggest and most popular internet porn companies around, according to sites like Wikipedia and from the minimal tax info that can be gleamed from assorted sources. They get mainstream press sometimes for doing outlandish things like creating pornographic spoofs of popular mainstream movies (basically any super-hero flick has a Brazzers parody) along with adult parodies of video-game subjects. They have won all kinds of adult content awards and have millions of subscribers. They also now sell extremely pricey clothing.

In their official store (that link is safe for work) one can find $40 t-shirts with the Brazzers logo plus  $120 sweatpants and $130 sweatshirts that have cheeky little, "X-Rated," faux-rating symbols on them are for sale as well. Oh, and the $250 shoes I mentioned. This apparel isn't shy about its namesake either, as even the shoes are emblazoned with the Brazzers name, so that anyone wearing this stuff can proudly state, "I love sex/porn and expensive shit."

Selling fashion often means selling sex, and seeing as Brazzers literally sells sex it actually all makes perfect sense in some twisted logic. The only other occasion I can think of something vaguely like this occurring was when a now-defunct French clothing company got headlines over a decade ago for shooting short porn movies featuring its actors and actresses wearing their clothes briefly before disrobing in order to have sex. The company is long since out of business, but now here we are so maybe they were just ahead of their time/the world hadn't gotten weird enough yet. I'm not sure if Brazzers' gambit of selling pricey clothing is going to pay off, but they have enough capital from their main business (selling videos of people fucking) to for sure give it a try.

I may be knowledgeable about health and human sexuality thanks to my schoolin' and be heavily enmeshed in media-topics as a part of writing a popular-culture blog for 8 years now, but I have minimal fashion sense and the only brand-name stuff I wear I got on clearance. Therefore, while we all know that sex sells all kinds of products, who knows if sex itself can sell something...if that clumsy statement makes any lick of sense--I surely don't have the fashion-knowledge to tell you what will happen. Time will tell what success or failure Brazzers will have with this endeavor, but there is no doubt it seems like the logical conclusion of the intersection of sex and commercialism that a porn company starts selling expensive apparel. Once Victoria's Secret quits pussy-footing around and just starts selling hardcore videos of models in their underwear we'll know we truly have reached an apex in regards to all this.

Monday, January 14, 2019

"Appalachian Apocalypse #1," Pre-Review

When I first heard about a new comic publisher emerging on the scene, "Cave Pictures Publishing," they sounded interesting--comic-books with a spiritual angle (not focusing on a particular religion, per-se) telling assorted yarns. I wrote them an email asking to be on a press-list or such in order to stay updated but never heard back. I didn't take it personally as plenty of publishers get random emails from people claiming to have websites and sorting through it all is probably a pain (and spam filters can be overeager and block my emails to companies as well). However, in an interesting twist one P.R. company that at times sends folk emails about various comic projects sent me a message about Cave Pictures Publishing and their debut comic (the one I was most excited to read), "Appalachian Apocalypse." Set in West Virginia (where I once lived) it involves a mixture of American and Religious history colliding to result in (what else?) zombies.

Written by creator Billy Tucci (of, "Shi," fame) and illustrated by Ethan Nicolle ("Axe Cop," illustrator), "Appalachian Apocalypse," opens in 1864 and follows a bloodthirsty Confederate general (who we later learn had a fondness for religious artifacts) summoning the undead in a last-ditch attempt to turn the tide of the Civil War. He fails and end-up buried in a cave (along with all the secrets) until a modern-times scientist uncovers it. From this point the comic gets a little slower, laying-out the present-day characters and the plot of how Moses' staff (of all things) ended up stolen and eventually smuggled to America--and it clearly is going to cause more undead-stuff. It is interesting stuff, but I honestly was hoping for more zombie-filled goodness like in the comic's opening.
Nicolle's artwork hits the right mixture of silly-and-cartoonish without being too over-the-top and Tucci does a good job setting stuff up, but this first issue is a lot of set-up. I still enjoyed it with the mixture of modern-meets-ancient, and zombies in general are pretty fun. I see potential for this series to utilize its mixture of wacky elements and interesting historical fiction to continue getting even more entertaining. For now, it's a solid 3 out of 5 stars. "Appalachian Apocalypse," #1 will be in comics stores this Wednesday, January 16th and I encourage you to tell your comic shop to grab you a copy or order one if they don't have any in stock.

Note: A digital copy was provided by a P.R. company that put me on its list for comics and sends me stuff for the purposes of review.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Weather Was Cold but the Toyman Deals were Hot!

Yesterday was extremely snowy, but thankfully thanks to the hard work of snowplow trucks and things getting a bit warmer the roads were just a bit wet (not even that slick). Therefore, I was able to shovel our drive-way and make my way to today's Toyman Show. I was eager to trade some comics of my own I brought (and I had a little bit of cash) to acquire some cool reads for a good price. Sometimes when I go to the show I'm looking for Funko Pops or other toys, but today I had comics on my mind, and I had immense success finding some cool stuff!

I found a really old comic featuring Archie and his friends as well as an old issue of, "DC Showcase #40," with an early appearance of the Metal Men. The comics are far from near-mint condition but that allowed me to get them for reasonable trades/prices!

I talked with one vendor at a table named Dan, who was at the show with some wares from his store, Comic Service, located in Springfield (Illinois). I traded some comics of my own for these cool digest-sized reads about Green Lantern and UFOs.

These rad issues of, "Master of Kung Fu," were on sale for just a buck each and I couldn't say no to some vintage adventures of Shang-Chi.

Lastly, in the upstairs section of the show I bought some assorted ashcans, underground stuff, and this really cool read featuring The Thing (of Fantastic Four-fame) fighting a Spider-Man foe I feel is underrated, the Rhino.

Today's Toyman show was (as always) a delight. This time I was after awesome comics and I succeeded at finding them. There was a wide array of toys for sale too--obviously--including everything form old action figures, to hot wheels, lego, and so much good stuff. The next show is March 10th, and I hope to be there without a doubt (regular admission starts at 9AM for $5 with 16-and-under free, early bird entry is 8AM and $12). I'll see everyone there!