Saturday, March 2, 2024

SCOUT Comics Blasted Over Creator Nonpayment and General Questionable Behavior--Why Isn't This Getting More Press?

SCOUT Comics was a cool little publisher for a while. They put out cool stuff. Then they seemed to start just cranking out more and more books in an effort to get them optioned and the quality of said books really dipped. I rarely read anything from SCOUT now but try the debut issue of a cool-sounding series now and then. However, lately a scandal has emerged regarding SCOUT that we've seen with other publishers too. Unfortunately, SCOUT is turning into another publisher in hot water for not communicating with creators, paying them money they are owed, and so forth.

SCOUT has at least put out a press release admitting, "Missteps," and, "Miscommunication." Perhaps they were too busy to talk to creators with their near-constant shows on Whatnot selling their variant covers. I kid, but from what creators who are speaking out have said, things sound suspect. Talks of threats, lies, and SCOUT seemingly intentionally sitting on sellable stock out of either ignorance or spite whilst refusing to terminate contracts unless outrageous monetary demands were met. It isn't good.

One SCOUT book with a displeased creative team.

Did SCOUT simply drop the ball as it became a bit too big for its britches and will hopefully improve? Would SCOUT have kept pulling questionable moves against creators if a number hadn't gone public? Will SCOUT even survive or end up being another publisher who emerged with a splash but ended up burning out in a relatively short period of time? Time will tell, but it is odd more sites aren't reporting this. 

I linked above to a great article by Chris Arrant at Popverse and saw Comic Book Club mention the hubbub too, but that's about it. Bleeding Cool loves tabloid drama but has been oddly silent on this compared to other scandals. Then again, they seem to have close relationships with certain publishers and companies (they waited a long time to talk about the CGC mess too) so maybe I shouldn't be surprised anybody they're chummy with seems to get lighter treatment. I mean, Avatar Press ostensibly still exists and does own Bleeding Cool so when Brian Pulido sued Avatar for the rights to Lady Death that was a huge story weridly enough never acknowledged by the site. There are plenty of other sites that could talk about SCOUT too and while Comics Beat has not yet, I think they will as they're pretty good at digging out the truth in big ol' messes. It just gives me pause when a decent-sized publisher has a huge fiasco going on and it isn't getting as much press as one would expect. Time will tell if this gets more coverage and who exactly it is that covers it.

The new Savory Chili Sauce at McDonald's is Fine but Forgettable

I enjoy McDonald's. I like eating there a little more often than I probably should (although I am eating better lately). I like to sample their limited-time goodies they do now and then so when I heard about the savory chili sauce, I was intrigued. Part of a weird promotion where the M is becoming a W so that the logo is WcDonald's for some reason (it relates to an alternate anime-inspired Universe or something), the savory chili sauce was a little bit above average, but not particularly notable.

When you put some of the savory chili sauce on your nuggets (or dip your fries into it) the first thing you notice is how a lot of soy sauce went into this. If you like soy sauce, that is a good thing, but if you dislike it...sorry. The soy and chili flavors interact well and a moment after you finish eating your bite there is a bit of a pleasant heat from the ginger left over. It isn't too much, but it's there. It reminded me of Szechuan sauce without being quite as good. This doesn't come close to beating my favorite sacue--the only short-time dip to come close to challenging sweet and sour (I love it so) would be the sweet and spicy jam. As it is, the savory chili sauce is worth trying and relatively good, but once it and the WcDonald's promotion are gone, few will remember either.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Flashback/Film Friday: "Big Fat Liar," Holds Up Decades Later

In some recent interviews relating to his fantastic role in, "The Holdovers," actor Paul Giamatti discussed how a number of people still recognize him initially for, "Big Fat Liar." A family-friendly comedy from 2002, it follows a young boy who tends to lie all the time (played by Frankie Muniz). In an attempt to not fail English and be stuck in Summer school he writes a big story a make-u assignment--then gets hit by the limo of a movie exec in town filming a flick. That bigwig happens to be Marty Wolf, played by Giamatti. Muniz leaves his story behind in the limo (by accident) when he hitches a ride in exchange for not causing a scene. Then Marty Wolf steals the story and plans to make it into a huge movie.

It sounds a little outlandish, but the thing is that Giamatti portrays Wolf with such a sleazy authenticity and determination you find yourself believing, "Yeah, this guy would steal a story from a 14-year-old kid." A number of other talents are in the flick as well, from a shockingly young Taram Killam to Amanda Bynes at the height of her popularity from, "All That," and, "The Amanda Show." Her role is actually relatively understated compared to some of her sketch characters, but this isn't really a movie about her or the supposedly titular liar Muniz, this is Giamatti's showcase. 

Whether he's spending half the movie dyed blue due to a prank by Muniz, screaming at elderly women in the way of his car, or beating up (an admittedly aggressive) kid at a birthday party who mistakes him for the clown (due to the blue body paint), Giamatti manages to be over-the-top yet not so outlandish it hurts our suspension of disbelief. Yes, it is a little far-fetched at the end of the movie that a bunch of other Hollywood talents band together with Muniz and Bynes to trick Wolf into admitting he stole the story...but the dude is a huge dick. He screams at John Cho's character with vaguely racist overtones about camera setups, insults the age of a stunt coordinator who requests a single day off for his grandkid's birthday party, and seems to care about only himself at the expense of all others. By the climax of the flick, we're outright cheering to see Wolf finally get his comeuppance. The fact all the ways he gets screwed over are quite funny is just the icing on the cake.

"Big Fat Liar," came out in 2002 and still is pretty hilarious to this day. Not every single joke holds up and this is a PG-rated movie so don't expect anything too extreme, but yeah, "Big Fat Liar," is another solid example of Paul Giamatti and his acting range. It isn't streaming anywhere, but you can always buy a DVD of it or purchase a digital copy. You ought to, it is pretty fun.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

A Willy Wonka-Themed Event Turned Out to be a Sham and the Internet Can't Look Away

Advertisment versus reality.

A Willy Wonka-themed event that was careful to emphasize it was not officially related to well-known properties in any way turned out to be an utter joke of an, "Experience." AI ads made it look like people would walk into a surreal wonderland full of candy. Instead, they were in a mostly empty warehouse with some cheap decorations and actors/actresses who made it clear they had zero interest in being there. The man who played the Willy Wonka-alike himself discussed the gig made him cry in his car. It's being compared to such catastrophes as Fyre Fest, Dashcon, and so forth. Everybody loves gawking at a big public mess, and this is one for sure. People in Glasgow paid something like 35 pounds/$45 to be utterly disappointed. Instead of wonderment and chocolate, everyone got a run-down warehouse and glasses of lemonade along with a single (just one!) jellybean. Children were left in tears and the police were called as words like, "Fraud," were angrily thrown around.

Less magical and more meth-alike.

If there is one major thing to learn from this it would be that, yet again, AI has been used to mislead people. Whether it is a deepfake of a celebrity, altered voices over phones to scam friends, or making it look like your event is going to be a lot more magical than a run-down warehouse, AI is advancing at a rate much faster than people seem ready for. It wasn't used responsibly here and I am pretty sure that trend is going to continue as long as unscrupulous people can make a buck.

Enjoy the Bonus Day, February 29th!

2024 is a Leap Year and it is now Leap Day. For a variety of scientific reasons, we have these extra 24 hours this year and I hope everyone makes the most of what has become a bit of a holiday. Let's celebrate because we'll have to wait another four years for this day to come back around!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Happy 7th Birthday to Clarkson!

It is wild to think that Clarkson was born seven years ago today. He was just a tiny little fellow in the NICU and now he's a lot bigger for sure! Clarkson is getting very skilled at using his talker device to communicate with us and that has been wonderful this year. He also continues to be very sweet and loving, with a great sense of humor. He loves to laugh! This is also Clarkson's first birthday as a big brother and he has been caring and thoughtful with his little bro, Gibson. Samii and I are so fortunate to have Clarkson as our awesome firstborn child. Happy seventh birthday, Clarkie!

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Fast Food Surge Pricing Sounds Like an Awful Idea

Wendy's announced in 2025 that it is planning on testing surge pricing. This means during the busiest times of the day food will cost more. Suddenly the dinner rush will also result in your burger/nuggets/fries being higher in price. This is an awful idea.

Yes, companies such as Ticketmaster and Uber engage in surge pricing. However, Ticketmaster basically has a monopoly on tickets and people absolutely hate the company. Uber engages in this practice at certain times of day and in areas that see a surge of activity--e.g. when a sporting event or concert lets out. It is disliked then too but has some basis in logic. A fast food building, however? That makes no sense. Wendy's does not have a monopoly on fast food that would allow them to pull this kind of B.S. If McDonald's tried it out people would be mad but that is also the biggest fast food chain here on Earth, they can throw some weight around if they so choose, bad press be damned. Wendy's, though? They are known for being funny on Twitter/X with their sarcastic posts--that ain't gonna make people pay an extra two bucks at 5PM for their food. 

Even if things will supposedly be cheaper at the off-peak hours, so what? Are people going to need to plan to only go to Wendy's at 3PM because that's between lunch and dinner? If a ton of people start going there then wouldn't that become the new peak time anyways? To take an old-time quote and tweak it a little, "That dog don't eat at Wendy's." A big part of me suspects this test of surge pricing won't even occur in 2025 as it is getting such bad press. We shall see.

Monday, February 26, 2024

When it Comes to Disabilities, Our Nation Needs to Remember the Importance of Inclusivity AND Accessibility--Plus Keep them Affordable!

From various things I've observed in the news/popular culture and within my own life, I feel like getting on my ol' soapbox and sharing some thoughts. Basically, I usually see an effort made for more inclusivity or accessibility for those who are disabled in some fashion, but I don't see inclusivity and accessibility, at least not without great financial cost. Does that make sense? If not, let me explain.

I was reading an article about how a young woman named Alexis who turned 18 and has a complex disability requiring a lot of medical care. She is being sued by the hospital she has spent much of her life in for trespass because she won't let them move her to a nursing home far away from family and friends. The hospital is working at helping her have access to care, but not working to make sure she has inclusivity. The article by NPR goes in-depth about this and how despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act over three decades ago, people find themselves often lacking the care they are due as someone with a disability. 

The article upset me but didn't surprise me. I know plenty of folks caring for children or adults with disabilities (in my personal life and via Facebook groups) and find themselves facing a myriad of issues. Insurance wants them to keep paying copays to the point where they are out-of-pocket two, four, or 10 grand before everything is covered. Individuals want their children to go to a school that can provide services that fall under medical categories (be it ABA, PT, OT, or anything else) and insurance bleeds them dry. That, or I know individuals who want their children in a public school but have to fight for them to get assistance from the school in the form of Paras or other helpful measures. We want our children or adults with disabilities to access care and sometimes that is so expensive it can't be achieved. I know of people homeschooling their loved ones with disabilities to ensure they access a good education somehow, but then they are at home and not enjoying time with friends at school--there's a lack of inclusivity (or put your kid in a school and they enjoy peers but can struggle to learn). Study upon study has shown children and adults with disabilities love to spend time with a wide range of peers from disabled to not disabled, neurotypical to neurodivergent. Yet it is never as easy as doing what the studies show is best.

My awesome son!

Oh, and yes, I have a dog in this fight as they say. Every day our son goes to his school we have a copay until we hit our max out of pocket for him midway through the year or so. Clarkson simply could not be in a public school without it being possible to ensure he has constant 1:1 supervision. My son is sweet, loving, and awesome, but to put it bluntly, he is a massive flight risk. If Clarkson sees something of interest or just feels like it, he'll try and take off running. The boy doesn't understand danger. He'll try and run out of a building, run into the street, or just do whatever he feels like. He also needs an adult with him to ensure he stays focused on a task. Clarkson is a person with many attributes that make up who he is and he isn't just defined by his autism, but that is a major part of him and he needs to have steps taken to make sure he is safe and learning. We love where he goes for school, but insurance wants to make sure they pocket some money from us for him going there. 

I do want to give props to agencies and nonprofits that assist people caring for children or adults with disabilities. Thanks to an organization known as Variety we were able to get Clarskson's talker device he uses (and he uses it a lot now, which is great) paid for without it taking a big bite out of our own budget. Other agencies such as the Recreation Council help pay for those with disabilities to go out and do recreational activities with peers. Those agencies are here in Saint Louis, but there are organizations that work Nationwide and other local groups exist too. They shouldn't be needed though. With things like the ADA, you would think insurance would almost totally cover the expenses of stuff like school, devices, and making sure those who are disabled can have full social/spiritual/etc. lives. That ain't the case though, and many people struggle as a result.

The media is a double-edged sword, so to speak.

The media can help, to a degree. More and more shows feature fictional or true stories of those with disabilities be it Autism or anything else that isn't neurotypical. Still, sometimes stories seem to struggle to portray someone with a disability in a manner that doesn't make it their entire personality or ends up stereotyping them. Reality shows that have those with disabilities can avoid that trap, but fall into other ones--e.g. infantilizing or simplifying these people who have many aspects to them but are on a show due to having a disability, and therefore it ends up being a big focus if not the whole focus. It's a tightrope the media walks, but at least it is there when people need to engage in the act of calling up the news to discuss when a school/business/etc. is failing to help them with their disabled loved one. Nobody wants to end up on the news for acting in a manner that harms disabled people. Bad press is a big motivator. It shouldn't be (there I go using that word again), but here we are.

We as a Nation need to make sure those who are disabled can enjoy inclusivity and accessibility in their lives without it costing a prohibitive amount of money. Our country has made steps towards improving healthcare over the decades, with Medicaid helping many with disabilities, and the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) made strides toward improvements as well. Still, we live in quite a broken system. It isn't going to be fixed anytime soon, but speaking out and being an activist is a good step to take. Whether you care for a disabled person or are disabled, making it clear you won't suffer within this system with silence and will work to improve it is immensely important. Some may want you to shut up so you can be ignored, but make enough noise about an injustice and eventually, they'll have to acknowledge you. Let's make some noise and create some change.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Marvel to LOWER Comic Prices?

For years comic prices have kept creeping up. Sometimes it would just be certain event comics or variant covers, but then more issues would increase in price before basically all of them. However, Marvel shocked me today saying they are going to work at lowering prices on comics--assumably without cutting pages, one would hope. Marvel has a lot of titles at $4.99 or higher but wants to get more down to $3.99. Perhaps the idea is to increase sales instead of simply raising prices. I'd wonder if the really pricey comics sold poorly and the cheaper ones were doing better? I do not know, but lower prices without losing content is something I can get behind.

Friday, February 23, 2024

We Are (Somewhat) Back on the Moon!

It’s been over 50 years, but as of now, there is a new American spacecraft on the moon's soil. It is privately owned, by Intuitive Machines, but it’s American in origin and named the Odysseus lander. Working in tandem with NASA, the idea behind this new lander is to start growing a Lunar economy with this being a foundation for commercial space flight and ways to make money with the moon. Other nations are working at getting to the moon as well, basically sparking a new space race. It’s really cool we’re going back to the moon. It’s interesting to think this time it’s more for economic reasons than it is political like in the 1960s, but whatever the underlying reason, the knowledge from our exploration of space and the Moon is bound to be of use!