Saturday, September 14, 2019

If I Were A Super-Villain My Evil Plan Would Go Kinda Like This...


I was thinking the other day about how I an not a super-villain, and I have zero desire to be one. That said, if I did want to be a super-villain, I do have the best evil plan ever. To see what I mean, please refer to the super-detailed and complicated drawing I did above and then read on...

Basically, my dastardly plan is to purchase a vacant strip mall on a little hill and then at opposite sides of it install a Walmart and Trader Joe's. These two establishments are notorious for having some of the worst parking lots ever, so between the slight incline that is just steep enough to cause trouble and these two businesses at separate ends of my parking lot there is sure to be mass mayhem, confusion, and otherwise lots of people honking their horns and cursing with displeasure. I am not doing this evil plan simply to cause trouble however--I am not some chaotic evil person who just wants to, "Watch the World burn."
An actual Trader Joe's parking lot.
Just picture this multiplied by a Walmat lot!
No, I am doing this plan because the inevitable news stories and memes about this, "Worst parking lot ever," will allow me to get famous and in the process score all kinds of sponsorship deals as the super-villain America loves to hate. With this money I will then donate most of it to charity so that in the ultimate twist I am a super-villain and super-hero at the same time, allowing me to both cackle with evil glee at the turmoil in my parking lot from my perch to the side (as pictured) and still feel like I'm doing good in the World. Also, with the bit of money I do keep I'll go buy some more, "Everything but the bagel," seasoning at the Trader Joe's in my plaza because that stuff is delicious.

Friday, September 13, 2019

"Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child," Features an Artist in Their Prime and a Writer Well Past It

Frank Miller is a man who has created some amazing comics but I think 99% of people will agree is way past his prime in terms of his creative output as a writer. He does not do too much art anymore either, but I have an affinity for his style even at its roughest so while I'd dismiss much of his recent writing I still like his drawing. That said, hearing he is going to be writing another one-shot set in his, "Dark Knight Returns," Universe that gave us one amazing book ("The Dark Knight Returns,") and a lot of garbage (everything else) which is to be titled, "Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child," made me feel completely uninspired...until I heard who the artist is.

Rafael Grampá is an absolutely incredibly artist whose style reminds me of if Geoff Darrow and Paul Pope somehow had a baby and that baby grew-up to draw insanely gorgeous and kinetic comics (I know they both are not much older than Grampá, but shut-up, its my metaphor and I'll do what I like). Upon reading about this 48 page one-shot that features the writing of Miller and the art of Grampá  I felt the weirdest mixture of dread and joy that is hard to describe--it is kind of like how you would feel if it were an incredibly hot afternoon and the ice cream truck was coming around the bend blaring an announcement about how all the ice cream is free today...but you also notice it's being driven by scary clown covered in blood (another weird metaphor, I'm aware I am on quite the roll today).

I guess my point in all this is I'll probably buy, "Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child," but I expect the actual plot and dialogue to be terrible whilst I spend most of my time just ogling the incredible visuals. For all I know the story might actually be decent too, but as this is Frank Miller in 2019 we are talking about, I do not plan on it. Again though, Grampá  will be superb.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

My Thoughts on Mountain Dew's Mystery Flavor, VooDEW

I am that odd person who does not really like Mountain Dew itself but enjoys a number of its offshoot flavors. I love, "Code Red," and was a fan of, "Livewire," which I think still sometimes comes out. I did not hate, "Pitch Black," and the Lemonade flavor you could get at Taco Bell for awhile was pretty solid. I know I'm forgetting a number of temporary flavors because there have been many but my point is I tend to like at least trying them. That brings us to the Fall/Halloween 2019 Mountain Dew event flavor, the humorously titled, "VooDEW." It is a mystery flavor, meaning Mountain Dew won't tell us what it is supposed to taste like, we just have to figure out for ourselves what it is. I took on this challenge because I am naturally curious about mysteries even if I suck at solving them (I never could figure-out who the real villain was in any, "Scooby Doo," episodes). I bought a bottle at my local Schnucks grocery store, drank it, and have thoughts to share.

VooDEW presents itself in a somewhat unappetizing way. It is a weird milky-white color with a dark orange and purple label that causes the white to stick-out even more. Thankfully, the taste is better than the color. It is a bit like carbonated orange skittles, which if you like skittles is a good thing (should you hate skittles, you will be quite disappointed). One person online (Kotaku's Zack Zwiezen) said it reminds them a bit of an orange cream soda which I kind of see where they are coming from, but I tasted less of a cream-sensation so much as a that slightly chemical-vibe you would get if you were to eat (you guessed it) orange skittles mixed with club soda. That maybe sounds a bit odd, but I liked it even if I didn't love it.
I found VooDEW to be decent if lacking in any sort of, "WOW factor. It is another welcome addition to the Mountain Dew family of random and wacky flavors and even if I don't adore it, I can say with 100% confidence it is much better than the all-time worst flavor, Baja Blast (come at me, internet). Should you want to try it I recommend you visit your local grocery store/pharmacy/gas station/extreme skate park, you know, anywhere Mountain Dew products are sold. Should you be unable to buy VooDew anywhere close you can always buy it online right from Amazon as well if it is not temporarily sold-out as seems to happen sometimes. Overall, I rate this soda as 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

9/11/2001 Was 18 Years Ago

It was 9/11/2001. I was living in West Virginia at the time and in 8th grade. I was in my first class that morning after our initial Homeroom that I can't quite remember the subject of--it was English-related but had more to do with reading literature than learning grammar or such. The class had just ended and someone said how on the news they were saying one of the World Trade Center towers had been hit by a plane, a gas leak had gone off inside, or some other freak accident, people were not sure. Not too much later in my Algebra class we were told that the 2nd World Trade Center tower had been struck by a plane, and clearly America was under attack. The day all that happened felt like simply too much to take in and I was unsure how to respond. I just felt numb and confused. Then the Pentagon was hit and one other plane crashed Pennsylvania, the passengers had fought-back against the terrorists aboard. It was overwhelming.

The next day is when it really hit me, as all the images of sheer terror played-out on the television screens, collecting what had been recorded of towers falling, people running and screaming, the death-total rising...it made me and pretty much everyone else in my school cry as basically every class had the news on with us watching instead of doing our classes. Eventually the Principal had everyone just shut the televisions off in our classrooms because it was just bringing everyone undue stress and misery, but whether we had our T.V. screens going or were browsing the still-quite-basic-compared-to-today internet, something had changed for the many of us who had never lived in an America which had suffered an attack from a foreign entity on our home soil--the last time that had happened was Pearl Harbor decades ago.

Some years later I would move to Upstate New York, some hours from the city, and meet people who had lost loved ones on 9/11. My heart would ache for them then, and it still does. It was an awful day and thinking back to it 18 years later it is weird how some parts of it feel incredibly distant and other memories of that day feel immediate. Many politicians have used 9/11 for political gain while not actually caring about those affected, and countless civilians (famous like Jon Stewart and non-famous alike) have worked tirelessly to care for those first responders who now years later suffer health ailments from exposure to all kinds of chemicals, dust, and debris in the wreckage of the Towers and Pentagon.

9/11 has at times been reduced to more of a talking-point and some people like our so-called President Donald Trump would rather make the occasion all about them than the thousands of people who died or lost loved ones. Trump make everything about him however, and it would be hoping for too much to think he'd realize a day like 9/11 is about a lot more than one person (even a huge narcissist like him). Some people will never learn. There are still those who try to make all kinds of conspiracy theories sound true about that day, ignoring the simple and depressing truth that there was no master plan, it was just a huge intelligence failure on a massive scale that illustrated how vulnerable our Nation could be if someone really wanted to hurt it, but again, some people will never learn.

Now there are people who will be old enough to vote this year who only know of 9/11 from their history books or watching old footage, that is how much time has passed. I won't claim there was some lesson to learn or try to make foolish silver-lining claims about how it, "Brought us together," or other platitudes, because it shouldn't take a terrorist attack to make a Nation feel unified. It was a tragedy and the best thing we can do is honor those we lost and try to prevent something similar from happening again. The most darkly ironic thing is that now, 18 years later, our Country may be at its most divided since the 1960's and we are facing an epidemic of homegrown terrorists committing mass-shootings at an alarming rate.

It isn't Al-Qaeda we most need to fear now, it is our own hatred towards whoever we think is, "The other." 9/11/2001 was 18 years ago, but humankind's ability to hate one another is unending, be it foreign powers flying planes into our buildings or our own citizens shooting-up public places. I have no solution, the only thing I can do is hope that eventually love can win-out over hate, because as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." I hope eventually the burden of hate can be cast-off by more of us, because it seems all-encompassing in our Country right now. I can only dream and do the best I can to spread more love than hate.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

My Latest Post is Up on Cinemaways!

I have another contribution up at the great website, Cinemaways. This time I'm discussing the top 10 movie sociopaths or psychopaths who AREN'T villains. We are so used to those kinds of characters being the bad-guys it is was fun to write about individuals in flicks who are basically terrible, but within their film maybe garner some sympathy or are even heroes. Check it out if you enjoy my style of writing (e.g. the ramblings of a man who either needs more coffee or has had too much coffee).

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Dreamcast Came Out 20 Years Ago Today (In America)

I know it launched in Japan in 1998, but for me the U.S. launch of the Sega Dreamcast holds a special place in my heart. 9/9/1999 was the day the console that was just too ahead of its time and too beautiful to exist went on sale in America. That is 20 years ago today. It had awesome and quirky games I still fondly recall ("Crazy Taxi," "Sonic Adventure 1 & 2," "Seaman," "Shenmue," and the list goes on), was capable of connecting to the internet for multiplayer gaming back when that was a shockingly new concept (outside of PCs). It was a console ahead of its time and the last one Sega released before deciding to focus instead on making games for everyone else's consoles. Nowadays it is commonplace to see Sonic and Mario popping-up in the same game, but back in the 1990's that would have been unthinkable.

The Sega Dreamcast provided some of my happiest video-gaming memories, and it was beloved by countless others too. It literally changed lives and I hold fond memories to this day of the last and best console Sega released--heck, it arguably was the best console ever. 20 years on so many of us still crack that little smile of joy when we think about time playing the Dreamcast, that proves more than anything just how much of an impact it made on those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed it in its too-short prime.

That controller was honestly pretty terrible though.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

"Trench Dogs," Review

"Trench Dogs," is an original graphic novel that came out last year from newer publisher, Dead Reckoning. Dead Reckoning itself is owned by the Naval Institute Press, which is, "The publishing arm of the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, professional military membership association. Through Dead Reckoning, the Naval Institute seeks to broaden the community of those who understand the history, dedication, and experiences of all who serve." Basically, it  has the goal of publishing comics that explore military and naval history through both nonfiction and fiction means. As I am a history nerd this appeals to me.

It is interesting when a nonprofit enters into comic-book making, as it can produce works that don't have to sell a ton of copies or be super-commercial. The announcement of a different new publisher the other week that is non-profit, Fieldmouse Press, shows it is a growing group of entities who want to make comics published by their organizations. Anyways, the reason, "Trench Dogs," caught my attention when I heard about it coming-out from Dead Reckoning is that it happens to focus on World War One, a war often give a lot less attention. Also, "Trench Dogs," does the clever thing sometimes seen in other comics about war (such as the seminal, "Maus,") where it turns the people fighting the the wars into different animals depending on their Nationalities.

"Trench Dogs," was created by Ian Densford and he does a stellar job mixing the anthropomorphic soldiers and civilians with scenes of both peaceful everyday life and a war that was brutal. If this comic had the soldiers as humans it would maybe be too grotesque for many readers to handle, but thanks to thanks to the slight cartoon-element it allows people to witness how horrific war back then was (and still continues to be) in a manner that informs without shutting-down the reader. "Trench Dogs," is presented with very little speech from any characters or narrative captions, but Dendsford and the Dead Reckoning website helpfully provide a detailed study guide that goes in-depth about much that is in the book and provides further explanation about the historical elements of everything Densford draws in the comic.

"Trench Dogs," is a fascinating read that touches-upon many aspects of World War I and is a good way for those less knowledgeable about the first, "War to end all wars," to learn a bit about it in a visual manner. Ian Densford is a fantastic illustrator who portrays how ugly and terrible war is with some of the edge that might turn-off more sensitive readers a bit filed-down thanks to the anthropomorphic art-style. It is quite a good read and I recommend it to anyone who is a history buff or loves comics that are a bit more out-there than the norm.
5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Is Nicki Minaj Retiring or Just Trolling Us?

I have never made it a secret I lack much of any enthusiasm for Nicki Minaj. Unlike the rapper who has taken a lot of press that Nicki used to get, Cardi B., whom I have at times been really hard on but will admit has some solid jams and is a pleasant person, anything I've ever heard Nicki rap on has only suffered from her presence. Also, she apparently is a huge, "Meanie," to put it politely. Nicki Minaj tweeted yesterday how she plans to retire from rapping and focus on starting a family with her love, Kenneth Petty. This announcement of course had nothing to do with how none of Nicki's songs were hitting the radio/streaming/etc. lately and how dare anyone state she is desperate to troll us all for some press.

I don't know what Nicki Minaj's long-game is here, but if she is indeed retiring or simply taking a break from rap to truly focus on starting a family I honestly wish her the best as I love being a parent and would tell you having a kid/kids is awesome. If this is just a ploy to get media attention however, then that is honestly par for the course with Nicki doing whatever it takes to get headlines besides actually, you know, making good music.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Etsy's Got Some Drama with Sellers

I like buying stuff from Etsy on occasion. Whether it is nice presents for my loved ones or old vintage comic-books for myself, it is a fun place to shop. I of course do a chunk of selling things on eBay as a hobby, and once dabbled in trying to sell older stuff on Etsy too, but I just lack the right skills pro-Etsy users do, plus my crafting abilities are nonexistent so I am unable to sell neat handmade jewelry, woodworking, furniture, or the like. In other words I don't have much to offer in terms of an opinion on Etsy as a seller but it seems to be experiencing some drama with Sellers right now.

This in-depth and very interesting article from VOX discusses how Etsy has oftentimes gone through stages of evolution such as when it went public, and right now in an effort to help sellers compete with Amazon it is being suggested/forced upon them to offer free shipping on purchases over $35 lest a seller's listings be de-prioritized against other stores. Now, Amazon has Prime and is a big corporation sending goods out whereas Etsy has individuals like a nice Grandma in rural Minnesota who has to send her hand-knit scarf with her eating the cost of shipping in the near future. Now sellers either suffer or just raise the price of stuff in the hopes that helps counter the cost of shipping (which is what Etsy basically has recommended and just seems a bit sleazy to hide shipping in the main cost of something). Apparently that is what buyers want now, and I do know people hate the idea of paying for shipping these days (I've learned that much selling on eBay), so Etsy is gonna force it through, and drama will be had. We shall see where this leads, and if my presents for friends & family along with the vintage comics I enjoy suddenly are going to have free shipping but suspiciously cost a good deal more.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

I Want to Play That New, "Control," Game

There is a game developer who always makes weird and interesting titles. They are known as Remedy and I will forever defend their (best title in my opinion), "Max Payne 2," as an incredible game whilst admitting the first one is quite wonky and the third one is great too but is sometimes feels like a Michael Mann film if Mann took a lot of upper-type drugs and refused to sleep for a week (so, both awesome and a bit much). I will also say, "Alan Wake," is a surreal masterpiece and volunteer I never played, "Quantum Break," but heard it was okay. With all of that said, I am eager to play the newest game from the developer, "Control," which features a trippy plot about otherworldly beings that inhabit technology, exciting game-play, and loads of weird little stylistic touches Remedy is known for--how about a creepy live-action puppet show for ya?

The overall plot of, "Control," is a bit mysterious as a lot of the fun comes from untangling the story. The general idea however is that you play a young woman named Jesse Faden who is looking for her lost sister and ends-up at the Federal Bureau of Control, which studies and tries to contain phenomena that should not exist within reality. Clearly things get quite wonky and I am eager to try it all out on my PlayStation 4. I would hope to get the game from the library sometime or see if it comes to Redbox--that or wait for a price-drop as I try to be frugal and not buy a new game at full-price considering how quickly things get discounted with sales these days. Worst comes to worst, while I wait for a chance to play, "Control," I could always buy a cheap copy of, "Max Payne 2," for my computer and try out some old mods on it. I'm patient, after all, and I'm always looking for an excuse to play, "Max Payne 2," again.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Bret Stephens Earned His Bad Week

Last Monday morning a man named David Karpf tweeted a joke. He saw there was an article about how the, "New York Times," offices were suffering from a bedbug infestation and it was proving difficult to get the bedbugs removed because they are notoriously good at burrowing-in somewhere and a huge nuisance. David Karpf tweeted, "The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens," and went on with his day. The post was not retweeted by anyone and got all of nine, "Likes." Karpf made this light joke about Stephens because Stephens is notorious for being difficult and a pain--much like bedbugs. Stephens is someone who always goes on rants about how, "Liberal snowflakes whine about needing safe spaces," and that free-speech is important because people need to feel uncomfortable and should develop thick skin instead of getting offended all the time. Stephens is one of those guys who likes to, "Tell it like it is," in his mind, but as with many people who ramble at length about how, "People are too damn sensitive these days," he actually turns into a mess should someone call him on his own B.S. This became apparent not long after Karpf's tweet.

David Karpf not too long after his mild joke about Stephens found himself receiving a very sternly-worded email from Stephens. In it, Stephens went on about how hurt he was to be called a bedbug and told Karpf how if Karpf were to meet Stephen's wife and kids, get to know him, and all that jazz he would never dream of using such hateful language against him. Bret Stephens also CC'd the head of Karpf's department with the clear intent of getting Karpf in trouble...for making a joke almost nobody saw about Bret Stephen being a bedbug. Karpf tweeted about what Stephens had done, and then a tweet that had garnered all of nine likes and no retweets began to really take off.
Brett Stephens once defended human cesspool Tucker Carlson as free speech is all about a right to offend.
This, of course, does not apply to anyone offending him, it seems.
From this point Stephens went on to attempt to defend himself during the week by talking about how he wasn't trying to get Karpf in trouble (yes he was) and was by no means a hypocrite for all his talk about free-speech and then being upset some random guy called him a bedbug (yes, he is). Things only got weirder when on Friday, August 30th, before everyone got to go home for a nice Labor Day weekend Bret Stephens turned-in an editorial at the NYT. Stephens' editorial was about how dangerous language is as a tool and that Nazis used it to dehumanize others. Yes, Stephens literally went and compared being called a bedbug online to the Holocaust. "What the Hell?" is the response from me and many others.

When you write your thoughts online people may take issue with it. I have been called all kinds of names by people who disagree with me and I know as a White Man I am getting barely a hint of what writers who are people-of-color, women, and/or LGBTQ face. I have heard first hand from female journalist friends who often they are threatened with rape by people they have never met enraged at an article they wrote. I hear about LGBTQ people being harassed by alt-right morons who doxx them with threats towards their family and friends. Bret Stephens was called a bed bug as a joke by a professor, and he absolutely flew off the handle about it. I guess the importance of free speech applies to his right to insult others, but should never be applicable to somebody telling a joke at his expense.
I spoke with David Karpf via Twitter last night as he said his DM's were open to any reporters curious about all this craziness. I wrote him and asked if this was really as weird as it all sounded and he confirmed that it was. Stephens must have found the tweet through an assistant who looks for any references online for Stephens or via having his Twitter set-up with a keyword alert for his name. In my opinion that sounds absurdly narcissistic, but how else could he have found Karpf's tweet? As Karpf told me, Stephen's must have put in some effort to find the tweet, managed to get offended at it, and then took the time to track Karpf down and figure out a way to contact him as well as the people above Karpf at the University. Stephens did all this to--in his mind, "Put me in my rightful place," as Karpf told me. This entire debacle is one I told Karpf I felt bad he was dragged into and I said I hoped things got less weird for him soon.

To review, a tweet almost no-one would have seen is now trending massively and Bret Stephens is being given funny hashtags like, "Bretbug," by Twitter users cracking-up about how stupid this all has been--with the blame for the idiocy falling squarely upon Bret Stephens. Bret Stephens earned his bad week, and hopefully once he returns to work from Labor Day (its amazing if the NYT wants to employ him still after all this) he'll realize how all the blame for this getting so much traction falls right upon him. Then again, he will probably just blame everyone else, something Conservatives tend to excel at.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

"Bad Gateway," Review AKA Simon Hanselmann Has Done it Again!

I have voiced how much I love the work of Simon Hanselmann before. Whether it is his mini-comics or his big books, he is an amazing creator who manages to mix humor and sadness in his writing like nobody else and makes some incredibly gorgeous artwork too. "Bad Gateway," is published by Fantagraphics and follows-up on all of the previous stories with the main characters, Megg and Mogg (along with all their friends/enemies/romance partners/sometimes all three at once) but it can be read by someone going-in fresh as it summarizes all the madness from before in a handy two-page spread before taking us back into the really messed-up lives of these individuals.

Megg is a witch, Mogg is a cat and they are in a long-term relationship but both are basically miserable with each other. Their current roommate is a man named Werewolf Jones who sells drugs when he isn't using them-up because their old roommate, Owl, was maybe the one responsible person they knew and they drove him away by being terrible towards him. Megg has strong feelings for Booger--she used to be Boogeyman but since transitioning to female is known as Booger--and Mogg hates Booger and blames her for the trouble in Megg and Moog's relationship although Megg cheating with Booger off-and-on is a symptom of the domestic-trouble, not a cause. Also, they really need to get money for rent but blew it all on drugs and Megg might not pass her evaluation to keep getting Governmental support, so stuff in general is pretty messed-up. This sounds dreary, and it at times is, but this book is also hilarious.

Werewolf Jones anytime he appears in any of Hanselmann's books continues to be a source of both misery and hilarity. The man is messed-up and as bad at being a roommate as he is being a Dad or hard-working employee. The only thing Jones is really good for is coming-up with terrible ideas and passing-out from being too drunk or too high to function. As readers of the book we feel a little bad for him, but also frankly disgusted with much of his behavior and general treatment towards others. Megg and Moog inspire a little more sympathy as they sometimes are somewhat trying to not just be miserable, but between their reliance on a whole lot of drugs and basically being co-enablers of their worst impulses it is just tragic to witness them go about their day-to-day lives. Again, though, this book is funny too so don't think you'll just be sobbing the whole time you read it.

Hanselmann's art-skill are top-notch, with his masterfully illustrating everything from a beautiful landscape to the garbage-covered home of Megg, Mogg, and Werewolf Jones. Whether he's drawing a nasty and crowded bus or a quiet night's drive, Hanselmann expertly balances the gorgeous and grotesque in a manner that invites readers to just be drawn into a page and dive-in to scenes no matter how disgusting the things he illustrates so incredibly are (Werewolf Jones is often naked and needs to bathe for sure). When it comes naming creators who are currently at the top of their game making comics currently, Hanselmann is someone who has to make most short-lists.

"Bad Gateway," is a book that is equally tragic and funny with some incredible illustrations that mesh perfectly with the purposely disjointed tone. I would not be surprised if this book appears on many, "Best-of," lists at the end of the year, and imagine it'll probably be one of my top titles too, with Simon Hanselmann being due lots and lost of praise heaped upon him for his incredible work. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and will most likely be singing its praises for a good long while.