Thursday, April 11, 2024

Trina Robbins Has Passed

Two obituaries in a day is a downer, I know, but this one is someone we remember a bit more fondly than my earlier post. But yes, Trina Robbins has passed at age 85. I found out late yesterday. The word, "Trailblazer," is sometimes overused, but in Forbes piece discussing her death, I agreed 100% with the phrase. She spent decades in comics doing everything from creating Vampirella's outfit to offering feminist takes on a variety of subjects during a time when comic-books were more of a, "Boy's Club." Underground classics like, "Wimmen’s Comix," come to mind whenever I think of Trina Robbins, and she was the first woman to ever draw Wonder Woman within her own comic series. The list of things Robbins accomplished would be an extensive list indeed. I was able to meet her, once. Back at a comic convention in 2015, I had the pleasure of speaking with Robbins and found her to be kind, approachable, and full of great stories. An amazing talent and voice for the art form of comics departed and she will be missed.

O.J. Simpson Has Died

Orenthal James Simpson, better known as, "O.J." or even, "Juice," has died of cancer at age 76. Simpson was a famous athlete, amateur actor, and infamous for being accused of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. Simpson was found, "Not Guilty," to the surprise of many in 1994 after a long trial that was quite the media spectacle (in 2016 a great show chronicled everything). The thing I always found most interesting (I don't want to say, "Impressive," per se) about O.J. was his audacity. You would think most people after a controversial murder trial would slink away out of the spotlight and try to live a quiet life. O.J. did not. He kept himself in the media via a variety of methods. Whether he was doing a controversial prank show, signing autographs at sporting events, or writing a book literally titled, 'If I Did It," where he did everything but admit he was guilty, O.J. craved attention, positive or negative. He did, in fact, go to prison for some time due to an altercation over sports memorabilia, but after serving nine years, he was granted parole in 2017.

O.J. Simpson was not a good person, but he was a famous one. O.J. wanted to be a celebrity, good or bad, and he got that wish. It is quite likely he did murder Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, but it seems he took any true confession to his grave. I only hope that the families of Nicole Brown, Ron Goldman, and Simpson's own family can get some kind of closure from his passing. The internet has been having a field day with jokes, but one actually stuck out to me. It basically was someone stating, "I just hope O.J. can rest easy knowing the killer has died." That sums everything up pretty well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Wait, People Are Missing the Subtext of, "Helldivers 2," Despite How Clear it is?

I played, "Helldivers 2," a bit on my PlayStation and found it fun. I especially appreciated the weird way it hilariously sells itself as one big piece of propaganda. We are obviously the villains with our over-the-top recruitment videos and proclamations of spreading democracy through the stars by any violent means required. The outfits, the vibe, it all feels like a monolithic fascist empire forcing its boot on space aliens and robots that are foreign enough to us that we have zero hesitation about committing genocide. It's a darkly humorous subtext, but it is so obviously there you can't miss it...unless you do.

As can be seen on Twitter/X and is discussed in this piece on Forbes by Paul Tassi, some people missed the memo on, "Helldivers 2." The game takes a lot of inspiration from, "Starship Troopers," which is another movie where the subtext might as well be text because the point is obvious. I will own-up to the fact I missed some of messaging in, "Starship Troopers," the first time I watched it at age 12 because I was too busy enjoying the exploding bugs and giggling at the sight of a bunch of exposed body parts during the infamous group shower scene. I was a pre-teen then, however, and now I'm a grown-ass adult who understands subtlety. The thing is, "Helldivers 2," isn't even subtle. We're the villains, but gamers who wanted something they could declare, "Anti-woke," missed the jackhammering of jokes about totalitarianism. It is like if someone argued the original, "Star Wars," movies somehow weren't political and the franchise only got, "Woke," recently and...oh dear. I guess the risk with even the slightest subtlety is that some people will miss what you're trying to say, but if someone is that dense would even outlining your point be of any use? That's a puzzle with no answer, I'd say.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Television Tuesday: The, "Fallout," Show is Streamable Tomorrow!

I was incredibly bummed when, "Westworld," ended up getting canceled by Warner Brothers Discovery as the company slaughtered their entire line of movies, shows, and now games. However, I was excited to hear the showrunners of, "Westworld," would be making a, "Fallout," show. Yes, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy crafted a show set in the Universe of, "Fallout," and I am pumped for a variety of reasons. I love (most) of the games, am a fan of Nolan and Joy's work, and the show is on Amazon Prime so it has got itself a juicy budget (Bezos' and his mega-yachts don't play). None of that guarantees a good show however, so I'm pleased early buzz is overwhelmingly positive.

The show is getting so much hype that Amazon has moved the release up a day with every single episode launching tomorrow, April 10th. A second season is already basically confirmed, and the games are on sale in a digital bundle with some great titles (and ones that got more mixed reviews) if you want to dive into the Universe further before or after viewing the show. By all accounts, "Fallout," as a television show is superb and I can't wait to tune in starting tomorrow! Now we just need Nolan and Joy's dream of finishing, "Westworld," to come true someday too.

Monday, April 8, 2024

The Partial Eclipse Today Was Fun to Witness!

Today I was able to witness the partial eclipse with Samii and Gibson (Clarkson was at his school), and it was incredibly cool! While it wasn't quite as wild as when we had the full eclipse in 2017, achieving 99%-ish totality was pretty snazzy. Now we just need to wait for 2044 in regards to another one of these coming to (contiguous) North America.

Attention Everyone: Please, Please be Careful When Scrubbing Sharp Cutlery--I Learned the Hard Way!

Yesterday I was working on the dishes and noticed one of our sharper kitchen knives had some pieces of food particles stuck to it despite having been washed previously. I put the other knives that were already clean away, but got to work with my Scrub Daddy (I love those things) at trying to get the caked-on piece of food to go away. Either I was scrubbing too hard, not paying proper attention, or something else, because my hand slipped and I sliced my right index finger. After getting over the initial shock/burning sensation I saw my finger was bleeding quite quickly so I put it under cold water and applied pressure with a paper towel. Then, I got a dry bandage on it so that clotting could occur.  Samii was upstairs with a napping kid so I texted her what had happened and sent a quick picture. Please be warned it is a bit graphic. Observe:

Not the deepest cut and I was able to avoid going to the hospital for stitches, but it definitely stung and was bloody. I felt really moronic having such a thing happen to me, but Samii said that accidents are bound to happen sometime and she was glad I didn't get hurt worse. Still, this imparts how important it is to be extremely careful anytime you are scrubbing sharp cutlery or otherwise working with it. Whether you happen to be dicing up some veggies or are using a sponge after making food, always keep your attention fully on the task at hand and practice as much safety as possible to avoid accidentally slicing your finger/s. In regards to me, everything is feeling better today and healing nicely. I am thankful that I am more left-hand dominant when it comes to writing and such as my right hand is at less than 100% functionality. I did not need a huge band-aid once the bleeding stopped, at least, with a smaller one working quite well. Check it out:

The moral of the story here is to always be careful with sharp cutlery--or anything sharp. You don't want to end up feeling stupid as you run freezing cold water over your bloody finger or wind up going to the hospital if it is an extremely bad cut. Practice safety and you won't end up like me!

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Let's Check in On, "Deadpool," With his Latest #1 Issue!

Deadpool is one of the, "Newer," characters at Marvel in the sense he came about in the 1990s as opposed to decades before. The thing with the passage of time is that now in some ways it seems like he's been around forever with a new guard of even fresher characters on the scene in the past decade or so (Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, and so forth). There have been times a metric ton of books featuring Deadpool were coming out and times the flow of titles is a bit lighter. Lately, it feels like his, "Main," series has kept re-launching and that isn't just me thinking such a thing--this latest series is the fourth in five years. Why Marvel keeps starting over with a new #1 is beyond me (I mean, I guess that attracts new readers sometimes and gets sales), but here we are in 2024 with the latest, "Deadpool, "#1. I haven't read a Deadpool-centric book in a while so I thought I'd check it out.

This was a solid debut issue. It discusses events from some past, "Deadpool," series I recall (his daughter, Ellie) and things I am unfamiliar with (he was in love recently and also now has a new symbiote daughter-pet creature he was, "Pregnant," with a bit ago). Everything is mentioned in a manner that readers can pick up the gist of what is going on and enjoy the main thing many folks read Deadpool for--Jokes and violence. Between some sadness and humanity (I do like it when Deadpool isn't purely a joke machine) we get quips and a number of body parts going flying. The creative team of Cody Zigalr (writer), Rogê Ântonio (artist), and GURU-eFX (colors) all synergize wonderfully. I was especially tickled by a busy page of a car chase where Deadpool does his signature breaking of the 4th wall and remarks it was probably a pain for the artist to draw--but man, does it look awesome too.

"Deadpool," #1 introduces us to the character's latest status quo and gives us a mysterious new villain Deadpool encounters while on a mercenary mission (Death's Grip). Sometimes the debut issue of a series is so busy setting up stuff or filling us in on past events it forgets to entertain in its own right--thankfully the first issue of, "Deadpool," avoids that trap and is a superb read. If you like, "Deadpool," this should successfully scratch your itch for more of his shenanigans.

5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Flashback/Film Friday: I Continue to Think Mike Myers Could Excel in Serious Roles Based on a Flick From 1999

Mike Meyers is known for a variety of characters. From being Wayne Campbell on SNL and in movies to creating the voice of Shrek to--of course--Austin Powers. The man is a comedy powerhouse even if he's had some missteps in his career too ("The Love Guru," was a movie ticket I regret purchasing). That said, sometimes the guys who do comedy can excel in serious roles as well. Adam Sandler was superb in, "Punch Drunk Love," as well as, "Uncut Gems," and Jeff Daniels is amazing whether he's in, "Dumb and Dumber," or, "The Newsroom." He recently had, "The Pentaverate," for Netflix and it got mixed reviews like much of his work, but it was a comedy. Where are the serious roles? I ask because there is an utterly random scene in, "Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me," that has made me wonder for years, "Could this guy do drama?"

It is a scene right at the end of the movie where a character played by Myers in a bodysuit named Fat Bastard ambushes Powers and Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham). He is about to kill them when she asks Fat Bastard (seriously, that is his name), if he's happy with life. This leads to a monologue that starts out a bit silly where Myers' character answers that, "Of course I'm not happy!" He does some jokes about his body, but then the character's voice quivers and he seems almost serious with a, "I can't stop eating. I eat because I'm unhappy and I'm unhappy because I eat." He goes on to say its a vicious cycle and he needs to forgive someone--himself. He also lets out a big fart randomly as this is a comedy movie. Still, for a brief second, you forget Myers is playing a joke character in a fatsuit. For an ever-so-short sliver of time, you feel for Fat Bastard and his sadness as Myers imbues the character with more humanity than you'd expect. Then he farts. Still, when Brendan Fraser wins an Academy Award for playing an obese man maybe Myers' set the scene with a little gravitas himself in between the jokes about tooting? Here is the discussed scene:

Mike Myers is an incredibly funny guy. If he ever gives us a wholly dramatic performance, I'll tune in to that for sure too.

I Don't Mean to Be a Broken Record About IDW, But Things Keep Going in a Troubling Manner

I have blogged a great deal about IDW and how the company has been through rough times followed by...more rough times (then even more). Well, things only seem to be getting worse. Rounds of layoffs continue and the company keeps hemorrhaging IPs, grasping onto, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," for dear life as a way to stay vaguely solvent. It is a bummer as the company has made a lot of cool properties over the years and their continued reorganization efforts only can accomplish so much. I wish everyone let go from the company over the recent years the best and truly hope IDW can figure out a way to sustain itself into the future. I mean, at least it has kept its talent paid, by all accounts--eh, SCOUT Comics? Anyway, there will doubtlessly be more on IDW as situations develop.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

A Nationwide Solar Eclipse Is Just Days Away!

On April 8th, 2024 a big chunk of our nation will witness a solar eclipse. In some regions, it will be, "Total," meaning that the sun gets blocked out for a few minutes in an incredibly cool and vaguely eerie fashion. Back in 2017, when Clarkson was but a wee baby, we got to witness a total solar eclipse in Saint Louis! Totality will not be achieved where we live this coming Monday, but a big chunk of the sun will still be blocked out, with other regions not too far from us getting to experience, "Totality." I am excited for another solar eclipse, be it partial or full. Just make sure that if you view the solar eclipse, you practice proper eye safety and wear the special glasses you can buy or get for free at numerous places (stores, libraries, schools, and so forth). I'm excited for Clarkson to experience his second-ever eclipse and Gibson will be witnessing his first--good times all around!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Latest Beckett Hockey Card Price Guide is Extremely Useful!

I am someone who is fully aware that we can use the Internet to find the price of items. I use many apps to help me keep on top of comic-book trends and prices, after all. That said, I always write about having a fondness for big paperback price guides. My soft spot for the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide has often been discussed on the blog so considering I have been getting into hockey cards, why not try out a price guide for those? Enter, the, "2024 Beckett Hockey Card Price Guide."

I didn't have a lot of hockey cards so I had minimal need for the price guide, but when a friend gifted me a massive box full of random hockey cards I needed something concise and clear to help me out. This big ol' book by Beckett says how it is great for pros or, "Curious beginners," and I'm definitely the latter. While hockey cards can fluctuate in value just like comics, it is always good to have a reference guide and the, "Beckett Hockey Card Price Guide," seems to be the gold standard. I also have been enjoying the monthly, "Beckett Hockey," magazine which discusses trends with the newest hockey cards so between that for fresh stuff and this massive guide for older stuff, I'm set anytime I get some hockey cards that are newer or older.

The guide itself is quite straightforward and easy to navigate. It separates listings alphabetically by the card line and then the years within said line. So, the 2021-2022 Artifacts cards are earlier in the book than any 1990-1991 O-Pee-Chee cards if that makes sense. I also appreciate how many card lines have a little picture to show you what that brand of card looks like. The price guide does not have any fun articles or such unlike Overstreet, so I kind of miss that, but I suppose when you have over 800 pages dedicated to listings anything else would feel like filler. I did notice that the Four Sport line--which did include hockey along with basketball, football, and baseball--is not in this guidebook, which I understand as hockey only made up a fourth of it, but that absence is noted (even if most of those cards are basically, "Junk wax," as people say). Minor quibbles aside, this is a stellar book and very handy to have when you want to look up a hockey card. If you dabble in hockey cards at all, I'd highly recommend the, "Beckett Hockey Card Price Guide," with the 2024 edition having come out pretty recently. You can get it on Beckett's official website or from various retailers--I'm pleased I picked up a copy!

5 out of 5 Stars.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

It is World Autism Awareness Day

It is April 2nd of 2024 and that means it is also World Autism Awareness Day. Someone I love very much has autism spectrum disorder--my son, Clarkson. When he was first diagnosed I worked to learn a lot about ASD. However, there is a multitude of misinformation out there regarding autism, so one needs to always check the source they are learning from. With that in mind, today is about helping to expand the knowledge and understanding of others about autism. There is still plenty of research and learning to be done, but I appreciate that such a day now exists to encourage folks to learn more about ASD.

The World's Most Popular Superhero Right Now? Apparently, Dog Man!

I saw an article by Graeme McMillan for Popverse that discusses how, "Dog Man," is the best-selling book in basically the entire World right now. Dog Man is--at this moment--the biggest superhero around. Created by Dav Pilkey, the character goes on all kinds of fun adventures and is up to his 12th book. Pilkey is known for creating all kinds of fantastic works (including, "Captain Underpants," a stellar series) and I read his first, "Dog Man," book some years ago to see what all the fuss was about--it was fun! Other folks agree Dog Man is enjoyable as the books just keep selling and he, apparently, has an animated movie on the way in 2025

Superman and Spider-Man might be, "All time," greats when it comes to superheroes, but Dog Man is on a lot of people's minds right now. He may not be in a monthly comic series like some characters, but anytime a, "Dog Man," book is released, it's a big deal. I'm all for kids or adults enjoying comics in any form, so Dog Man is a cool fellow/animal in my opinion!

Monday, April 1, 2024

As Always, Be Careful This April 1st AKA April Fool's Day

It's my least favorite, "Holiday," today. Yep, April Fool's Day has descended upon us. The day when you can't trust anything you read online even more than usual. Last year I laid out the worst kind of pranks you can do and should avoid engaging in. 

This year, I simply advise everyone to be alert and respectful. Be on guard for rude pranks that are in bad taste or could upset you. Be respectful if you want to partake in the day and keep your pranks harmless/cute. If Godzilla and King Kong can put their differences aside to defend planet Earth and make a bunch of money at the box office then surely we can rise above the temptation to do hurtful pranks and treat each other kindly, right? Right?

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Happy Easter 2024!

I hope anyone who celebrates Easter has a good time today in whatever form they recognize the holiday. Clarkson and Gibson saw the Easter Bunny yesterday at We Rock the Spectrum in Fenton so that was great fun! Have a good day, everyone!

Saturday, March 30, 2024

"Marvel Rivals," Has Been Announced and it Could be a Fun Game

For some time (a while ago) I really enjoyed playing, "Overwatch." Characters of widely different abilities would fight in an arena of sorts and it was fun how different everyone was yet the game made everything gel together. Eventually, I got tired of, "Overwatch," and it apparently had a messy launch for its sequel, alienating a chunk of the fanbase. I'd try another game in a similar vein, and it seems Marvel, with the developer NetEase Games, is making that in the form of, "Marvel Rivals."

"Marvel Rivals," is set to be a 6vs6 arena shooter-style game with various characters destroying popular Marvel-related environments as they fight. Certain characters can team up for special moves and it all looks a lot like, "Overwatch," with Marvel characters--but that is not a bad thing! There are some really well-known characters such as Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Scarlet Witch, but, "Deeper cut," characters are involved too such as Peni Parker. Moon Knight has not yet been confirmed, but if he is I"ll definitely try the game out to at least play as him! The wait won't be too long as the game launches in, "Alpha," this May. As that isn't even, "Beta," this is bound to be pretty buggy at first and look a lot different when the game is in fact finished (and assumably comes to consoles as for now it is just on PC).

I see the potential for a game where Marvel characters play off one another's powers while wrecking interesting environments to be fun. The key will be making sure all the characters are balanced off of one another and it isn't a case where only a handful of characters are, "Worth," playing as. This coming May we'll be able to see what anyone who tries the free-to-play Alpha thinks!

Ed Piskor the Latest Comic Creator Found to Be Engaging in Inappropriate Behavior

Update, 4/1/24, 4:18 PM: 

Ed Piskor has apparently died from suicide. This is tragic and we are going to see the internet playing the blame game for weeks. It is possible to have both sympathy for anyone who felt victimized by Piskor and for the man himself--he clearly felt he was a victim in enough of a manner that he made this decision. It is incredibly sad and I am now dreading watching as various people on the internet try to score cheap points using this to help their agenda. I don't care what your political affiliation is and how guilty or innocent you felt Piskor was. This whole thing is just upsetting, full stop. I don't care if we, "Blame," all this on Comicsgate, SJWs, or any other term you're bound to hear being thrown around. It is just upsetting and I would have never wanted any of this to have occurred. It is all awful no matter how you look at it.

Original Article:

Ed Piskor has been revealed to be engaging in behavior that is not illegal, but incredibly inappropriate. It started when a woman revealed Piskor followed her on social media and at first complimented her art but then began coming onto/grooming her when she was 17. The age of consent in Pennsylvania (where Piskor and the girl were located) is apparently 16, something the handful of Piskor's defenders on Twitter/X have loudly pointed out. Be that as it may, it is still incredibly creepy for a man then nearing 40 to be trying to pick up someone who can't even legally vote. That revelation being posted led to other women sharing how Piskor had interacted with them--generally in a disgusting manner. It all turned into a big snowball rolling down a hill of bad behavior. 

An art show that Piskor was the star of is now delayed/canceled and Piskor's longtime collaborator, Jim Rugg (they did a podcast called Cartoonist Kayfabe together) said he was no longer going to work with Piskor. By all accounts, Rugg is a nice guy and I've never heard anything bad about him. In regards to Piskor, I'd not heard about his behavior toward women until all this news broke but had heard from other men who had ever spoken with him that they found him to be wholly unpleasant to interact with. The general vibe he apparently gave off was someone who was full of themselves and wanted to be perceived as a, "Bad boy of comics." Well, he's been bad alright, just not in a way conducive to having a successful career.

How do we interact with his past work now? Some of it was admittedly cool stuff. I mean, I found, "Red Room," to be disturbing but interesting. Plus, "Hip-Hop Family Tree," was a popular work by Piskor as well as his recent take on the X-Men via, "X-Men: Grand Design." Multiversity has a poll asking fans how they respond to the work of a, "Cancelled," creator they like, and that can be hard. I've struggled with my feelings regarding the works of Warren Ellis ever since his big scandal. Piskor's career has taken a major hit that I honestly don't think he'll be coming back from and I hope his being exposed for predatory behavior helps bring even a modicum of relief/closure for any women he interacted with in an awful manner.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Follow-Up Flashback Friday: I Tried Fun Dip for the First Time In Years and That Stuff is Potent!

Fun Dip as we know it has been around since the 1970s. You take a stick made of sugar, lick it, dip it in some more sugar, then lick that sugar off. That's the official way, at least. Some people just pour the loose sugar down their throat and chomp on the stick to ingest everything as quickly as possible. It has been at least more than a decade since I ate Fun Dip, but I was thinking about it back in 2022. Now, however, I actually tried some the other day as my own little, "Dip," into the past. That stuff hits hard.

We got the Fun Dip as a present for the kids in an Easter/Spring/whatever holiday basket. Clarkson doesn't really eat candy (we offer it to him, but he isn't a fan of candy but he does love doughnuts), so I decided I'd try a packet of Fun Dip. I eat candy sometimes and enjoy chocolate, so it is not like a bunch of sugar should strike me that much, but Fun Dip was like a short-lived jolt of pure sweetness that made me squint a little from a slight head rush. No wonder some kids are so jacked-up on sweets, they're out here downing Fun Dip like nobody's business!

I've been working at cutting down on junk food and candy (I'm drinking a lot less soda for sure) so I don't plan to have more Fun Dip anytime too soon. That said, it clearly appeals to some people in the same manner as other treats that are essentially pure sugar (such as Pixy Stix), so I just hope anyone who regularly consumes this stuff also makes sure to brush their teeth well as it is basically 100% sugar you're ingesting.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Your Village STL Has a Stellar Play Space for Little Ones!

Your Village STL is a, "...supportive, inclusive space for expectant and new families to find support, community, play, education, health and wellness." Found in Chesterfield, Missouri, it provides health services covered by insurance including but not limited to pediatric sleep, speech, nutrition, OT, and more. It also has classes for parents ranging from prenatal education to support groups, play groups, and parent-and-me yoga. The way I heard of them, however, was how my wife and I saw they recently opened a play village for children in a Facebook group talking about fun places for kiddos!

The play village is just that, " indoor imaginary play space designed to promote a safe and stimulating environment for children to engage in active play, social interaction, and imaginative exploration while parents remain with [their] child." It is open Tuesday-Friday from 9:00 AM-1:00PM. Special events can sometimes be attended on other days or there might be private parties booked on those days. I took Gibson to the play village for the first time yesterday and he had a ton of fun! He wanted to crawl all around the infant space and was eager to interact with the other babies (and bigger kids) who were around. There was coffee and snacks available for purchase as well and the space was clean, organized, and had a nice warm & inviting feel. Gibson and I were the first to arrive before it got busy so I was able to snap some pictures of the lovely setup in the play village. Take a look:

Gibson loved exploring all the various toys and objects too. The nearby, "Yuck bucket," was nice to have provided as the boy loves to try and put toys in his mouth any chance he gets (I feel like almost all the shaky eggs ended up in the sanitary bucket by the time he was done with them). Here are some images of Gibson enjoying the space:

Your Village STL provides a bunch of great services to parents and I especially appreciate the delightful play village! We went for the first time yesterday (as I mentioned) but I expect we will be going there many more mornings after Clarkson is dropped off at school as Gibson had such a great experience! You can learn more about Your Village STl and all their services on their website and can book admission to the play village online too. They allow walk-ins but to guarantee a space for yourself it is always best to book ahead of time!

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Television Tuesday: "Quiet on the Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV," is Fascinating and Depressing

If you were a child in the 1990s or early 2000s and had cable, the odds are quite good you watched Nickelodeon. For programming geared towards kids, it was that or the Disney channel--and Disney generally cost extra back then. I am one of those youth who adored, "All Than," "Kenan & Kel," "The Amanda Show," and so forth. I was a bit older by the time, "Victorious," "Drake and Josh," "iCarly," and so forth really took off, but I was at least familiar with those programs and their stars (some became quite huge such as Ariana Grande). One thing I've found is that when you're a kid you dream of being famous and how cool it would be to star on those children's shows but when you're an adult you're thankful as Hell you had a normal life and weren't a child star. Docuseries such as, "Quiet on the Set: the Dark Side of Kids TV," helps show how awful things could get for everyone involved in children's programming.

Dan Schneider was like a God at Nickelodeon. He discovered a number of stars, made huge hits, and was the golden boy for the network. He was also a verbally abusive boss who treated women and people of color horribly. Schneider screamed at people, threatened their careers, and often asked the women who worked as writers or costumer-makers to drop what they were doing to give him a neck massage on the set (seriously, the way he asked all these ladies for massages was well-known). Schneider created a terrible work environment for adults as well as children. He was never inappropriate with kids, but created an environment where people did not feel safe to speak freely so it allowed other adults who were predators to prey on kids. Seriously, at least three recorded sexual predators were roaming Nickelodeon and taking advantage of their positions of power.

Multiple former child actors, their parents, and other adults who worked at Nickelodeon share just how terrible things were, with Drake Bell possibly having suffered the most of those who chose to come forward for this docuseries. He was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a producer at Nickelodeon he trusted and thought was a friend. Nickelodeon didn't really care, focusing more on making money than keeping talent safe--although, oddly enough the fact Bell recounts Schneider was surprisingly supportive of him when he came forward about being preyed upon is maybe the one positive mention of Schneider.

"Quiet on the Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV," is not exactly shocking as for years upon years we have seen child stars suffer due to the behavior of adults who should have been trustworthy. Whether it is the extensive trauma endured by, "The Little Rascals," Corey Feldman, Drew Barrymore, or plenty of other people, a lot of extensive work needs to be done to ensure child stars are protected and feel comfortable enough to be able to say when they don't feel safe. Hopefully, docuseries such as this can help push for change.

5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Music Mondays, Debut Edition!

My Latest On-Again-Off-Again Segment!

I have a bunch of random segments that I either do often or do extremely sporadically so why not create another one? That’s right, I am happy to present the first-ever edition of my Musical Musings… on a Monday. If you’re in the mood for some scattered opinions and observations about music then buckle up because you’re in for some fun.

Music News and Thoughts

Justin Timberlake dropped his new album, “Everything I Thought it Was.” Reviews have been mixed but I mostly like what I’ve listened to so far on the LP. It is no, “Futuresex/Lovesounds,” but that was Timberlake’s best album ever. At least this ain’t, “Man of the Woods,” which was definitely an album Timberlake put out—no other comment is needed.

Drake can be hit-or-miss but I must say his new popular single, “You broke my heart,” is pretty darn catchy. Between a solid beat, some good bars, and Drake singing a little it’s a good tune. Drake could use some positive news after that unfortunate sex tape leaked of him—although considering the rumors about his affinity for very young women I was glad that at least anyone who was with him in any video was of legal age. That sounds like a joke, but it’s not.

 On the subject of Drake, I do not like seeing that he is having some beef with Kendrick Lamar. It seems Lamar has not been getting along the best with J. Cole or Drake in regards to the debate about who some of the best current rappers are. It is a debate about the, "Top 3," so to speak. I would prefer everyone get along but there obviously is no competition when it comes to who is at the metaphorical peak—Kendrick Lamar is the best (currently active, unless André 3000 decides to start spinning again) rapper alive. That’s sad, I don’t want to see everyone arguing. Then again, Drake seems to often have little feuds that at least don't turn into violent beef.

Kacey Musgraves is someone I’m a huge fan of and she just released her latest work, “Deeper Well.” I haven’t had a chance to listen to it but it’s on my list of stuff to get to tuning into ASAP.

Olivia Rodrigo keeps putting out hit after hit lately. I know sometimes I am crotchety about the new pop music that kids these days love, but she is actually a quite talented young woman. Even if I’m not into all of her songs, many of them have a good message or are enough of an earworm you can’t help but hum along.

Willie Nelson has been making quality music for more decades than I've been alive. He has collaborated with countless artists and it is wild to think there is someone he hasn't worked with yet. Well, for the first time ever, Willie Nelson did a duet with Kermit the Frog as they sang, "Rainbow Connection," That's just heartwarming stuff right there.

T-Pain and Young Ca$h have their own group known as the Bluez Brothaz and the latest jam, “Biggest Booty,” is a hoot. It’s more funny than some hip-hop songs that are pure objectification as they rap about a lady a with rear end that is so absurdly gigantic she may be unable to fit in a Lamborghini and so forth. I wrote recently how we need to put some respect on T-Pain’s name and this is another quality track he’s a part of.

Director Ryan Coogler is involved in making a movie that will heavily feature the music of, "Prince," while not being a biopic. I can't think of a single bad movie Coogler has been a part of so this news is exciting!

Lastly, this article about one of the strangest bands ever, The Butthole Surfers, is worth a read for how it revisits the sheer weirdness of the group and the psychedelic legacy they leave behind.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Website Kotaku Seems to be Crashing and Burning in Regards to its Quality

For years I really enjoyed getting video-game and other pop-culture news from Kotaku. Over time the site went downhill, however. Acquired by G/O Media in 2019, from that point on there has been a deluge of annoying ads, an editorial exodus, and now the site won't even allow readers to comment as the news that yet another Editor in Chief is out (this one quit, some have been fired) due to how Kotaku is going to do a lot less news/opinion pieces and instead make bland game guides. It's quite a fall from grace for Kotaku, but G/O Media knows how to ruin good and popular things for sure, having previously dismantled  Jezebel (which was bought by Paste, at least) and Deadspin, which is now going to be a sports gambling referral site. 

At least we have an interesting newer site called Aftermath. It is subscriber-supported and features a lot of talent from websites such as Kotaku, Vice (a whole different story of an empire collapsing), and more. Journalism has been going through a lot these past years (censorship, corporate takeovers, AI) whether it is focused on politics, current events, or popular culture. Thankfully, there are always talented voices pushing against those only interested in fluff content that makes a quick buck as opposed to actual quality writing. It's just a shame to see formerly good sites reduced to a hot mess.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Check Out Author Nina Ayers!

Last weekend I had the chance to meet author Nina Ayers while she was at Half Price Books for an author event promoting her latest work, "Joy of Murder: Life of a Serial Killer/s." Her work is based on actual events involving a real-life serial killer and the efforts that were taken to bring him to justice. Nina's book involves multiple twists and turns--it sounded like the perfect read for those who enjoy both fictional and true-crime stories.

I greatly enjoyed speaking with Nina while she was tabling to her promote her book and it was clear she put a great deal of work into creating this stellar publication. She isn't just stopping with this book, however. She has other titles in the works with this series as well as a series for kids titled, "Fairies of the 4 Realms." You can find, "Joy of Murder: Life of a Serial Killer/s," at your local bookstore (or have them order it for you). You can also always buy it from Amazon or via Barnes & Noble as well.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Film Friday: "Alien: Romulus," and, "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice," Are Bringing the Retro Back!

"Alien," was released to theaters in 1979. "Beetlejuice," came out in 1988. The former has had many sequels and tie-ins, the latter has had some random tie-in properties (like an animated children's television show) but never a true sequel. In 2024, they're both bringing the retro back with, "Alien: Romulus," and, "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice."

The first, "Alien," movie is without question a horror film that happens to have a space creature instead of the usual monsters. Later flicks moved in a much more action ("Aliens," or science-fiction-heavy direction, but that first, "Alien," is horror through-and-through in a sci-fi setting. There are many opinions out there regarding, "Prometheus," and, "Alien Covenant," which function as prequels to the rest of the franchise--and I like both (especially, "Covenant," to be honest). The upcoming, "Alien: Romulus," takes place between the debut, "Alien," and, "Aliens," with what seems to be a heavy horror vibe, and I'm all for it. Films in the franchise such as, "Alien: Ressurection," showed you could get a little too complex and over the top. Just throw some people in a run-down spaceship with face-huggers/Xenomorphs and let shit go crazy, is what some people would tell you to do, and, "Alien: Romulus," looks like it plans to do just that. Here is the trailer:

Then we've got the late-80's classic, "Beetlejuice. A comedy film with a lot of horrific trappings (I mean, it was a Tim Burton film) it is darkly hilarious with a stellar ensemble including a then very young Winona Ryder, the always amazing Catherine O'Hara, and Michael Keaton's Beetlejuice stealing the show (among other solid cast members). I loved that movie as a kid (a lot of the more raunchy jokes went over my head until I got older) and a sequel seemed to be in development Hell for years. However, Burton is back directing, a lot of the previous cast has returned, and yes, that means Keaton is back. This seems like it won't just be a lazy cash-grab for nostalgia based on all the old talent returning and some new great additions (Jena Ortega, for example). There is a teaser you can see below:

"Alien: Romulus," is due in theaters this August 16th and, "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice," will be hitting the silver screen come September 5th. What's old is new again, while still managing to be pleasantly retro. Here's hoping both flicks are as fun as it appears they very well could be.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

An AI, "Artist," Had a Winning Submission for the Spawn Cover Contest and I Just Sighed Loudly

AI and its so-called, "Art," is not art. It is theft and soulless machine-computing throwing a bunch of other people's work it, "Studied," together to make something supposedly new. Todd McFarlane had a contest where people could draw Spawn and Spawn-related characters with the reward being your artwork is featured as a variant cover for an upcoming issue of, "Spawn." I would also hope people got paid for this promotion as you can't pay the bills/eat with, "Exposure." Well, one of the contest winners, Luis Ruiz, seems to have almost assuredly, "Made," their work with AI (the link takes you to Bleedingcool, so be warned it is a nightmare to navigate without an adblocker) Cue my exasperated sigh.

The contest explicitly said you didn't have to be able to draw (e.g. you could submit a picture of something crafted out of clay, perhaps) but that AI was forbidden. Luis shrugged at the rules and submitted his so-called works as authentic. I sincerely hope their entry is disqualified and further steps are taken to prevent AI hucksters from claiming actual accolades due to people whose art involves more than typing in a prompt on various websites.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

CGC Has Acquired James Spence Authentication

In news that I found interesting for two reasons, CGC has acquired an authentication company known as James Spence. What are the two reasons? I'm glad you asked!

1. CGC's biggest competitor is CBCS and they have an authentication service where even if a comic isn't watched getting signed in person by a CBCS employee they can verify a signature is legit when slabbing their books. If CGC is getting into the authentication game then that'll definitely catch the attention of anyone who has a signed comic and wants CGC to grade it but wants the yellow, "Signature Series," slab as opposed to a green slab usually given to comics with a notable issue or an unwitnessed signature (that is, unless CGC plans to make a whole new style of a slab, one wonders).

2. CGC has been in a lot of hot water these past months due to people scamming the company with ease thanks to various loopholes in the slabbing process that resulted in either a bunch or a small number of falsely labeled slabs (it depends on who you ask in regards to how bad the scamming got). Having some positive news with a method that will encourage a slew of submissions to CGC might help wash the bad taste of the slabbing scandal out of comic fans' mouths.

Will this news and the idea of CGC authenticating unwitnessed signatures work out well for the company and help them keep the metaphorical wolves at the door from bursting in? Does this actually raise more questions about how reliable CGC could be if they allow unwitnessed signatures to be graded in some fashion? Come April when the exact way the services will work becomes clear we may have a better idea.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Johnny Ryan's, "FATCOP," is Absurd, Grotesque, and Quite Funny

I run hot and cold on Johnny Ryan. When you read a comic by him you're going to get a lot of jokes involving body fluids, sex, violence, and sometimes all three at the same time. The thing with Ryan is he manages to be outlandishly clever a good deal of the time when he's being outrageous, and that results in some entertaining works! After all, "Prison Pit," is disgusting but it is also a fun read. There are times when Johnny Ryan is simply trying to shock readers, however, and those are occasions where his work falls flat (for me at least). Ryan's last long-form comic was the aforementioned, "Prison Pit," until now with the one-word and all-caps, "FATCOP."

"FATCOP," follows a rather large man who is a police officer. His name is Fat Cop. The big hardcover book starts out seeming like it is just going to be little vignettes of Fat Cop being a terrible person in between meals. He abuses his power and only ends up doing any good by accident. This is not due to the fact he is a police officer, however. Everyone in the comic is horrible. Almost all the characters are prone to violence, sexual violence, self-harm, spreading their own feces everywhere, and so forth. Anyone who isn't visibly awful winds up dead because this is a Johnny Ryan comic. 

Ryan's comics are full of nasty stuff but there are enough weird and clever touches that his material somehow elevates itself beyond just being shock-for-shock's sake (usually, at least). Little surreal moments like a pile of garbage coming alive and demanding Fat Cop has sex with it (until a nuclear explosion occurs at the moment of his climax) or a running gag about Trader Joe's having a whole sex dungeon set up under the store--run by a towering and murderous albino fellow no less--are delightfully strange. There are self-aware winks as always too. One quiet moment comes to mind where Fat Cop's new partner (actually hired to annoy Fat Cop until he quits) observes Fat Cop is a lot like a lady who was on, "Flavor of Love," that randomly, "Shit on the floor," and gave no reason other than she needed to poop. There is no logic or reason, just unpredictable actions at unpredictable moments.

"FATCOP," and its plot also is a bit undecipherable. There are hints of some grand conspiracy with shadowy figures and a, "Corporation," that involves everything from Trader Joe's to corrupt police, but a lot of random digressions occur in the comic (Ryan loves to spend time on those sudden scatological moments or long segments of graphic sex) to the point where a lot of ideas or directions for the story arise but end-up falling by the wayside with little explanation. What is the, "Corporation," and who are the shadowy figures? Why did the Chief of Police hire her husband as a new officer to get Fat Cop to quit and did it relate to a big conspiracy? Many questions are raised but few are answered, which is a bit irritating as the book ends with somewhat of an anticlimax that gives some characters their due desserts but leaves us readers scratching our head about if Ryan wanted to tell a clever story while giving us gross-out humor, or he simply wanted to use a framework of a story as an excuse for the nasty jokes. Either one is okay, but if, "FATCOP," expects me to be invested in its story as well as laughing at the raunchy humor, it should deliver on both fronts. If the story is ancillary to all the dirty stuff, make that clear then--it is all I request.

Grumbles about an unclear story aside, "FATCOP," is a rambunctious read. Ryan's a superb cartoonist and whether he's drawing a startingly detailed garbage dump or beads of sweat dripping off an exhausted Fat Cop when he's forced into a situation with running, Ryan makes even the grossest illustrations shine. Not many comic creators can make diarrhea shooting out of a rear-end look good to the degree Ryan somehow does--the man's got a twisted gift. Ryan's style of storytelling and artwork makes it so that I absolutely cannot recommend his works to anyone with sensitivities to content that can cause offense. Ryan wants to be disgusting and make readers uncomfortable. If you are the kind of person who can chuckle at some of the most outrageous content from a pen being put to paper, however, Johnny Ryan's comics tend to be a fun time. "FATCOP," is a ribald read for sure, and some quibbles about an unfocused plot aside, I enjoyed it a great deal. As long as you know what you're getting into with, "FATCOP," you may dig it too.

4.5 out of 5 stars.