Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Television Tuesday: Big Brother Season 20 is Great, Thank God

I have written about the show, "Big Brother," and its seasons ever since I started religiously watching the television program (and sometimes its live feeds or at least reading-up on what happens besides what is broadcast) around season 15. For those unaware, "Big Brother," is a CBS reality-show that has been going since the early 2000's and involves putting a bunch of people into a house, isolated from the outside world, and making them compete in challenges to have the power to send other house-guests home--while cameras tape their every move. It is a mixture of silly contests and genuinely interesting social drama as people's real selves become apparent once folk start to, "Crack," being stuck in this household with each other. One big thing about the show however is depending on who exactly is in the house, that can drastically impact how interesting things are. Thankfully, season 20 has been stellar so far.

I and basically everyone else hated season 19. It brought back someone from season 18 we all liked--a man named Paul--but then he proceeded to run the house as the only, "Veteran," of a previous season and those who didn't do what he said were bullied and treated horribly, until at least in the last episode a bitter jury robbed him of wining (people voted-out pick between the remaining two house-guests who gets a half-million dollars), which was admittedly funny to see. Before that, seasons alternated between solid and dull generally, but for real, 19 was awful and after going through something as boring and tedious as it I feel like we earned season 20 of, "Big Brother." As for why it is good, well, people are actually playing the game, making an effort, concocting plans, watching those plans fall apart and/or come to fruition, and its just thankfully fun to see all this happen. As happens any season some stronger personalities are getting more air-time, but that is to be expected and usually as the house loses some of the many people living within it week after week other folk get attention. Yes, "Big Brother," is good again, and it is glorious.
Tyler from this season.
Reality television is arguably by nature trashy and voyeuristic. "Big Brother," knows this however and leans into it, with the title itself being a reference to  George Orwell and his idea of a future full of constant surveillance where we are always being watched and scrutinized. That is what fans of the show love to do, whether we are gawking at hilarious things like Kaitlyn failing to solve an absurdly easy puzzle to avoid, "Eviction," from the house, witnessing Tyler clearly be more than a dumb surfer-bro with how expertly he is tricking people into allying with him, or observing a tense discussion about hurtful words between J.C. and Bayleigh that hopefully helped those watching to discuss such things too--there is always cool stuff.

After season 19 being boring, full of bullying, and just otherwise lame, I am so thankful that Season 20 of, "Big Brother," has so far been immensely entertaining and appears as if it will continue to be a great time as the season proceeds. Whether it is a great season or a bad one I like to watch the show, but a fun season always is wonderful, obviously.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

5 Things I'm Sick of Seeing on the Internet

Oh that Internet
The internet, it is a wonderful thing in how it puts the world at our fingertips, but also arguably it is one big mistake that should have never been created and has doomed our society. I am of course a super-important web-journalist (not really) so I spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet (that part is true). With that in mind, there is some shit I am just sick of seeing on the web and will share some of it with you now, because I need to vent, damnit. Here are five things in particular...

What I'm Tired of Seeing
Nonsensical Fan-Theories
I've blogged about this before, and for good reason. I can't stand when people try to claim two separate shows are somehow, "Linked," or individuals who offer a weird grim and dark take on a cute kid's show ("Seriously man, everyone on rugrats is dead!") and the internet is full of this. I'll be honest, sometimes shows are loaded with metaphors, complex textual clues and references, and sometimes a children's show is just a cute cartoon that you are reading way too much into. I understand you want to seem like you, "Get it," and know a secret about a movie or television program, but your so-called theory is basically its own form of glorified fan-fiction and makes you sound more like a crazy-person than some kind of genius.

White People Complaining About Wanting to be "Allowed," to Use the N-Word
Oh dear God, the White people who do this need to stop. It seems anytime a white person in power or a white celebrity lets slip this slur and gets into trouble other white folk love to say, "But the black people, they get to use it with impunity, why?" The thing a select group of white people seem to miss is you can use the word, you can use it as much as you want, they just want to use it without consequence or responsibility, which one cannot do. I am reminded of this web-video by a comedy troupe known as, "The Message," that disbanded some years ago but made a genius point:

"If that's how they truly feel," is what it says about white people using that painful word. And don't  get me wrong, if we are discussing the word, we need to say it. One of the best writers on popular-culture I've ever had the pleasure of reading, David Brothers, put it best when he wrote, ""Basically, if you are utterly incapable of saying the word nigger, you shouldn't be talking about the word nigger...We're adults right? Adults use words, understand the history of those words, and understand that painful words can be used in certain contexts without offense," and it is a painful word. You see, when I worked as Medical Case Manager  at a non-profit it happened that I worked with a majority black population and much of my office was made-up of African-American individuals as well. This resulted in my getting odd questions such as, "Do they let you use the word?" First off, no. Secondly, I wouldn't use that word, no matter what, and if you asked me why, I would simply give you a list. I would say, "Emmett Till, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Denise McNair, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon MartinPhilando Castile..." and the list would go on-and-on of black people younger and older, past and present, killed for the color of their skin, all undoubtedly called a Nigger at some point--ask any black person and they can tell you about a time they were called that word by a white person, and it wasn't in a nice way. If you're a white person and really want to say the word with an, "Er," or an, "A," at the end, you can, but be ready to own-up to the questions you'll get for the word you're using.

People Hating-On the New Version of Something they Loved as a Kid
Go online and you won't be able to search far without somebody bitching about how, "Star Wars Episode VIII sucked and retroactively ruined my childhood," or, "The new Thundercats looks like trash compared to the old one," and etc. As I've talked about plenty of times on here before, nostalgia is a powerful tool, and also a bit of a trap. People think back to when they were younger and how much they loved something, then they can't stand the slightest change being made to it. Fans forget something though: The creators of your entertainment owe you NOTHING. George Lucas owed you nothing with his, "Star Wars," movies whether you loved or hated them all, just as Disney owes you nothing now. The creators of any popular entertainment are making a product they want to make (or see the market desires made) and these people and entities don't care if it is different from what you loved.

Just because I am a big fan of, "Batman Returns," that doesn't make, "The Dark Knight," any better or worse with its portrayal of Batman just as, "Batman Versus Superman," is its own good or bad movie, regardless of what was made first. Just as we as humans change, so too does our entertainment. Something may be different, but that doesn't automatically make it good or bad, its actual quality does that. Don't let nostalgia make you illogical and spiteful for moronic reasons.

Insane Conspiracy Videos
Apparently against all scientific proof and logic, the Earth is flat. Also, our United States Government which is so inept it can't keep track of wrongfully imprisoned children somehow masterminded a complex plot to attack itself on 9/11, which I assume they had been planning ever since we faked the moon landing--I guess we had to fake that due to Earth being flat, right? For real though, I am thankful we as a population now have the technology that anyone can make a video to express their views, but the downside to that is anyone can make a video and put it on the web, no matter how crazy they are.

Thanks to basic video-editing software being idiot-proof and how we almost all have a high-quality camera these days on our computers or phones, it is relatively easy to make a long or short video. The person making the video still needs attention-grabbing content however, so many people seem to think claiming something moronic is the way to go. That's why YouTube and other websites are full of supposed time travelers with dire warnings, people who think the Government fakes mass shootings, claims that vaccines cause autism, or anything else stupid you can think of. The one saving grace in all this is that I don't actually have to watch any of this videos if I don't want to, I just have to put-up with my friends sharing them on Facebook or the news reporting on them...so that's a bit better, but not by much.

List Articles
Yes, I am aware I just made a list article of sorts, and I have written for websites that make list articles in the past (I needed the money) so I am a hypocrite and will own it. I more-so mean list articles that require you to click to read every single entry, however. If it is something I am interested in reading but it is an article with ten entries and every single paragraphs requires I scroll past ads and click, "Next page," you can bet I'm going to bail. Please, can we stop having articles that do this, pretty please?

I Feel Better Now

Now that I have complained about my, "Top 5," of things I am sick of seeing online, I feel better. The internet has done something amazing in how it links the world, but it also clearly has a number of downfalls. Still, thanks to the internet I was able to complain (albeit about problems it created) so I guess that's good. Plus, without the internet, there would not be The Newest Rant, and that is truly a terrifying thought.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Mini-Run Review: "The Immortal Hulk," #1-#3

I've read comics from Marvel featuring the Hulk off-and-on for years, with some writers doing a stellar job writing about the not-so-jolly green giant and his alter ego of Bruce Banner, and some writers really struggling to find a good tone to go with. Al Ewing is a stellar writer however, so when I heard the latest re-launch titled, "The Immortal Hulk," would have more a horror-theme I was intrigued. The concept of the Hulk itself is quite scary after all, it is Banner's Id unleashed, full raw rage and violence that he can only hope is pointed in the right direction at the, "Wrong," people. Ewing has been driving this point home opening each issue with an assortment of quotes from psychological and philosophical texts. It's been good stuff. Oh, and the Hulk is moderately intelligent again, so he's even more dangerous.

The first two issues were from Bruce Banner and his alter-ego's point-of-view, covering how he is officially, "Dead," in the eyes of the world but now using this freedom to roam about the U.S. solving various mysteries that relate to the Gamma Radiation that gave him his powers and righting wrongs he encounters along the way. This in issue #1 has him attacking a biker gang and in the 2nd issue solving a grotesque case of anyone who mourns at a graveyard then getting sick and dying--a cycle of sadness and death quite fitting for a character like the Hulk.
Banner and a both metaphorical and literal dark reflection of himself.
The third and latest issue is quite interesting however in that it relays a number of people's perceptions of what occurred when the Hulk stopped a young man with gamma-based superpowers who was holding hostages at a church. It has a framing device of a reporter who has appeared in other issues (and who suspects Bruce Banner is alive) trying to get the bottom of what is going on, and interviewing an assortment of folk. They each tell the same story, but quite differently.

There is a policeman who relays the story as if it were a Golden Age yarn of heroics, a bartender who only saw a disheveled Banner, an older woman who recalls things with a rosy and romantic viewpoint, and a priest whose version of events paints a horror-story vibe. Each, "Take," on what happened has a different art-style that works perfectly with how separately everyone's recounting is. This makes a relatively straightforward tale of The Hulk bursting in to solve a problem a lot more complex and interesting. I'd say it is a high-point of the three issues so far.
"The Immortal Hulk," has so far been a fantastic comic thanks to the writing talent of Al Ewing and an assortment of great artists. The more horror-focused tone works perfectly for the character of the Hulk, and Ewing's clever story-telling techniques in the 3rd issue keep things rolling along delightfully. I'd say this series so far handily earns 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

I Was Oddly Fascinated by this Article on Washing Laundry in Cold Water

I like odd little random facts and information. My affinity for things that are strange is probably one reason I enjoy talking about Duck-Billed Platypus in all its idiosyncratic glory (a venomous mammal that lays eggs is quite quirky), or why I once spent hours reading-up on the complex ownership history of the Dr. Pepper brand (hence why sometimes places that only serve Coke or only serve Pepsi will both have Dr. Pepper). Therefore, when I saw this piece about why it is foolish to continue to wash clothes in warm water it caught my eye.

The article goes in-depth about concepts such as the energy conservation we can achieve from using cold water to wash clothes, how it helps protect clothes, and that while warmth is needed to clean things, advancements in all kinds of chemicals create the sort of, "Heat," needed by the friction of washing using something called surfactants.  The key surfactants not too long ago were created by Proctor and Gamble and appeared in the then-novelty, "Tide Cold Water," detergent that now lots of other companies have created versions of as well. The piece goes into polymers, enzymes, and is otherwise really technical about something most of us probably never consider when we toss our clothes in the washer, add some detergent, and start it up. In conclusion, I like weird bits of trivia, which the article is full of, and also illustrates why we should all wash our clothes in cold water. Now, if you excuse me I'm going to crack-open this book I got from the library about the history of pinball that I hope to enjoy reading for no other reason than it looks fascinating--at least I'll read it as long as my son continues to enjoy his nap.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

This Movie I Found at Walmart Looks Awesome and Terrible at the Same Time

This movie is titled, "The Jurassic Games," and basically is mash-up of, "The Hunger Games," (which is essentially a rip-off of, "Battle Royale,") with, "Jurassic Park," along with a dash of, "The Condemned," and the mostly-forgotten, "Gamer." Basically a bunch of convicts go into a virtual-reality world where they have to fight to the death and avoid dinosaurs. If they die in the game however they die in the real world, so they really don't want to get shot or eaten by a dino. It looks gloriously dumb and I might try to rent it sometime as I didn't feel like shelling-out a whole $10 at Walmart for it.

According to some reviews it actually is a lot better than one would expect thanks to some surprisingly decent special-effects and being relatively self-aware at how it is ripping off enough franchises to shake a stick at in the hopes that a random mixture of ideas will somehow work--and it seems it weirdly does! Perhaps this is a sign we should combine other popular film-concepts. Maybe a mixture of, "The Notebook," and, "Silence of the Lambs," with a tiny bit of, "Predator," plus, "Mad Max." It could work, right?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Comic-Con International/San Diego Comic-Con 2018 is Done. Here is Some News From It

As a Con Ends, I Have Mixed Emotions
Comic-Con International AKA San Diego Comic-Con is, "In the books." As happens whenever a huge comic-con concludes, I have mixed emotions. I am both exhausted from the deluge of news, toys, trailers, cosplay, and general stuff that occurs during a con but also enjoy how something that might be big news any other day is just a drop in the bucket of all the mayhem that occurs during something like San Diego Comic-Con (there was a lot of news). Plus, it can be exciting how busy I get between reading all the announcements, trying to get exclusive toys (I was busy every morning on the Funko Pop Up Shop website) and living everyday life too. That said, it is quiet and calm now, we can rest and reflect, and that is a good thing too. I get as excited for big cons (whether I attend them or just follow news about them) as I do about kicking-back once they are done, so yeah, its a mixture of emotions. Let's discuss some of the big news to come out of CCI/SDCC though, shall we?

News of the (Pop-Culture) World
Out of everything at the show, the most buzz seems to be dedicated to the unveiling of the trailers for two upcoming DC films, "Aquaman," and, "Shazam!," with folk surprised at the flicks look like they might actually have a solid dose of humor, something mostly unheard of in DC flicks unless you hire Joss Whedon to finish your movie. I myself am all for an action-packed production starring Aquaman, and have zero issues with Captain Marvel/Shazam being a heroic comedy. Also, the new, "Godzilla: King of Monsters," seems promising, speaking of other big trailers, albeit one without super-heroes.

Funko had yet another fantastic year at the show, selling tons of products both there and online. They also had their, "Fundays," event where fans who manage to get an exclusive ticket are treated to announcements, food, and of course free Funko-goodies!

Marvel is bringing back their, "Uncanny X-Men," comic which is fine news that doesn't really get my blood pumping, but hearing that Chelsea Cain will be writing a new mini-series focused on The Vision perks me right up!

"Black Lightning," had a panel at the show, and I for one can't wait for season 2.

Grant Morrison will be writing and Liam Sharp will be illustrating a new, "Green Lantern," series, and have it be like a procedural as mysteries are investigated. The creative team alone piques my interest enough I'll be reading it for sure!

As I talked about in a post dedicated to the subject yesterday, one of the biggest news stories that occurred about CCI/SDCC didn't directly involve it, with James Gunn getting fired for some decades old jokes he tweeted that an alt-right foe of his dug-up.

I'm fond of local publisher Lion Forge, and hearing that the talented Gail Simone will be spearheading a bunch of comic-books for the company is stellar news for sure!

One of the main actors on the television adaptation of, "The Walking Dead," Andrew Lincoln (who plays Rick) confirmed that the rumors were true and he is leaving the show. How it will work without him shall be seen.

There was new footage of the, "Venom," movie and it was confirmed the bad-guy was a lesser-known character named Riot. I like Tom Hardy despite all the hate he gets, so I hope this movie is good.

"The Batman Who Laughs," will be getting a mini-series written by Scott Snyder, which is something I normally would not care about as I feel, "Meh," about this character. However, the amazing artist known as Jock is illustrating it so now I feel like I have to read it and observe his brilliant illustrations.

The next season of, "American Horror Story," seems to be a bit of a crossover concerning the first and third season...so one of the best and one of the worst, I guess?

The cult-favorite show set in the Star Wars-universe known as, "The Clone Wars," will be back for a surprise new season. I never watched it, but know some fans who are screaming with glee.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

James Gunn Got Fired For Some Dumb Reasons AKA The Biggest News of SDCC Wasn't Even Planned

SDCC is wrapping-up and I'll have thoughts on that, but right now the biggest news to come out during the convention doesn't even involve the show directly. You see, James Gunn is a popular film director who started-out making really edgy, gross, and silly stuff for Troma, went on to do weird and enjoyable horror ("Slither,") and then made a lead to the mainstream while keeping a fun slight edge with his, "Guardians of the Galaxy," movies. Sometimes folk say a lot of the Marvel flicks seem alike except for the ones with directors who have a really strong voice such as Ryan Coogler (who directed, "Black Panther,") and the, "Guardians of the Galaxy," movies. James Gunn also was a known for his vocal distaste of President Trump and being pretty liberal. This recently resulted in some alt-right borderline neo-nazi named Mike Cernovich wanting to make things bad for Gunn. They found some jokes he Tweeted a decade ago, posted them online, and acted all upset despite their saying things ten times worse daily and not in a joking manner (Cernovich is one of those people who think all mass-shootings are Government plots, and that a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. is a secret pedophilia ring). Anyways, the crass jokes Gunn Tweeted a decade ago resulted in Disney/Marvel Studios firing him.

Look, I read the Tweets, the jokes are dumb, tasteless, and clearly meant to be jokes. I don't find his comments about rape and molestation funny, but they read like the kind of thing I'd expect from someone at a movie studio like Troma, which prides itself on being offensive for the sake of offense. Also, they are Tweets by a much younger and immature James Gunn back when he was simply, "James Gunn, a guy who works on movies," and not, "James Gunn, the super-popular director." I'm not going to defend the jokes as anything more than dumb and puerile, but if we all have to be wary of someone who dislikes us finding our old comments we made on the internet a decade ago, then I wonder how many of us are free of any embarrassing past statements or jokes? And again, some assholes known for being hateful and terrible are the ones who did this, adding insult to injury.
An example of an old Troma production James Gunn worked on.
Many people have come forward to defend James Gunn and say how this firing is absurd considering it all stems from a smear campaign, is based on dumb jokes from 10 years ago, and he has been nothing but professional and awesome to his cast, crew, and fans. I myself find it interesting that the very same conservatives so quick to defend Rosanne for making racist statements in the present suddenly are so offended at a liberal making jokes 10 years ago. Basically, be ready for anything you ever say online to be used against you by someone who disagrees with you, that's the era we are entering. Plus, now the question becomes if anyone will ever be able to make a, "Guardians of the Galaxy," movie nearly as great as Gunn created?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Funko Friday: I Tried Funko Cereal, I Barely Survived

Funko is of course a very popular brand and one I enjoy discussing on the blog. They recently have been releasing cereals that are exclusive at one store or another (e.g. you can get "Mega Man," at Gamestop, "Gollum," at Box Lunch, etc.) and I was able to purchase one found at Hot Topic, the, "Cuphead," one. I have never played the game, but know folk like it, and it was the only cereal for sale there, so I thought I would purchase a box and see how good or bad it tasted. I mean, I know most people are buying the cereals to either keep them sealed-up and display the box, or were going to open the box for the included figure but never touch the cereal, but I was curious. That was my downfall.

I opened up the cereal once it was home and the separately-bagged figure was taken out of the box by me as well--lest I get it wet. I proceeded to open the bag and was greeted with a smell similar to Fruit Loops yet somehow more artificial. I dumped it in the bowl and looked at the neon red mess contained within. Yes, I was staring into the abyss and the abyss stared back. I got my almond milk out of the refrigerator (as longtime readers know, I'm sensitive to dairy) and poured some in. I proceeded to walk into the living room and gave my wife a dry piece to try if she wanted. She bit into it and made a disgusted face. At this point I considered calling-off my plans to have a taste. I took a deep breath however, lifted the spoon to my mouth, and began chewing.
If you're expecting me to say the cereal was actually good in an astonishing turn of events, I'm sorry to disappoint you. It tasted like an utterly fake mess with the most plastic cherry you could imagine. It was just nasty, and I took extra bites just to be sure if I maybe simply needed to get a taste for it. I am not some kind of cereal purist, I love all kinds and flavors from Rice Kripies, to Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks, generic corn flakes, and everything from the more natural to significantly sugary. This cereal was just bad. Should anyone buy a box of this to display or get the figure out of I would strongly discourage you from actually eating it. I know that sounds odd about something that is supposedly a food item, but describing what I tasted as, "Food," is generous phrasing. Consider this a cereal 0.5 out of 5 stars, with the only saving grace being it wasn't so bad I threw up.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

In a Shocking Twist, Cardi B Has a New Song I Kind of Like

I have discussed before how I'm not really a fan of the newer female rappers such as Nicki Minaj and Cardi B who act as if they are trailblazers when really they are basically doing what folk like Lil' Kim and others did first. I mean, I even said how, "Bodak Yellow," was one of the worst songs I had heard in quite awhile. Therefore, you can color me surprised that a song with Cardi B (as well as Bad Bunny and J Balvin) was one I actually found kind of catchy and...good?

The song is, "I Like It," and features Cardi B doing her usual boastful raps, but she actually has some solid verses in this song, seems to adapt her flow to fit the song's pace, and as the tune is her with other artists she doesn't wear out her welcome. In another interesting twist, a chunk of the song is in Spanish with Bad Bunny speaking both it as well as English, and J Blavin rapping exclusively in Spanish. That delightful international flair mixed with the energetic horns and booming bass make a song that immediately catches your ear and makes you tap your foot along. I'm a surprised as anyone that Cardi B is on a track I quite enjoyed, but let's just enjoy this nice turn of events.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International Starts Tomorrow

So, the big ol' comic-con known as San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International happens tomorrow. As I remarked when it was a bit longer away, I won't be there. I mean, if I could get press access and have someone pay for my room and board I'd happily attend the show, but even if my little ol' blog is somewhat known these days, I doubt anyone is chomping at the bit to put-up a chunk of cash so I can offer my trademark snarky observations on a big comic-con (should someone want to do so though, feel free to offer to send me to NYCC). Anyways, preview night occurred today--e.g. the day that isn't open to the public--but starting tomorrow we will get all kinds of comic-book, toy, television, and movie news (oh, and video-games more and more lately too), and crowds will swarm to purchase those sweet, sweet exclusive goods.

Some of the biggest draws for SDCC/CCI in terms of products seem to be cool comic-book variant covers, Funko Pops, Lego, and basically anything that fits the three criteria of being cool, limited, and in high-demand. The show will also be packed with tons of celebrities and creators, cosplayers, and fans of all kinds of popular culture. I imagine it should hopefully be a good show and I'll of course discuss anything I find interesting enough to report on during as well as after the show.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ranking The Three New Snickers Flavors Because, Um, Why Not?

As I grow older and increasingly fragile I have tried to eat better and be more physically active lest I die while still too young to officially complain about, "Kids these days." Plus, I don't want to have eaten so much junk food my corpse is already self-preserved and so full of McDonald's debris even the gators at the zoo I've instructed to have my body thrown into the pen of shall refuse to eat me. That said, I still struggle to drink less soda and will enjoy a candy bar from time to time. One bar I am a fan of is Snickers. They recently launched three new flavors and I tried them all. I shall rate them from my favorite to the flavor I hope to never taste again.

1. Salty and Sweet
This is perfect. It still tastes like a Snickers bar but has just the right extra bit of saltiness infused within it to result in a bit of an extra kick. I was very pleased with this flavor and count it among my favorites now along with the regular flavor and the version with almonds.

2. Espresso
While not bad by any means, I find the coffee flavor overrides the taste of this candy bar being a Snickers and results in what feels more like a generic mixture of chocolate, caramel, and coffee flavors. It's okay, in other words, but I won't be rushing back to have more.

3. Fiery
I like chocolate with spice, having had hot coca infused with chiles and other things of that nature. That said, this is just terrible. It at first tastes like a Snickers with some extra spoiled ingredient mixed in and then your mouth feels kind of hot for a bit. It is just nasty.

So there you go, I ate a bunch of candy bars and made a blog post out of it as an excuse to not feel bad for eating all these Snickers bars. Feel free to follow my recommendations or ignore them completely. I personally will be eagerly picking-up more Salty & Sweet Snickers at the store when able and passing on the mediocre Espresso and atrocious Fiery, so now the real challenge is not downing a bunch of these in just one day.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Robert Kirkman, Comic-Books, Beyonce, and the Sega Saturn--The Article Helps the Title Make Sense

Robert Kirkman Had an Idea
Robert Kirkman is of course the slightly-known writer of some decent comic-books who then became one of the BIG names in comic-books thanks to the massive success of a series he wrote (and tried to screw-over his first collaborator, Tony Moore, on, before getting Charlie Adlard to do the art) known as, "The Walking Dead." Yes, the comic about zombies you may have heard of thanks to the massively popular television show that came out of it along with countless other merchandise tie-ins. Kirkman has become a pretty powerful guy at Image and had an idea that I'm still isn't sure is more genius and reminiscent of Beyoncé or sheer idiocy and like what happened with the Sega Saturn. What the Hell do my random examples have to do with Robert Kirkman? Let me explain...

A List That Makes More Sense With Each Entry
Ms. Beyoncé Knowles is of course a super-popular musician (and occasional actress) known for creating a variety of good songs both alone and with her husband and occasional collaborator Jay-Z since going solo from the group, "Destiny's Child." One thing she will do is suddenly, "Drop," an album without warning, having it go live on Tidal, Spotify, Pandora, or whatever else streaming service people enjoy. She and Jay-Z in fact just did this again less than a month ago. Whenever this occurs it will be a sudden surprise and always garners immense buzz. It is an example of doing something in a manner that is a shock to folk and having absurd levels of success at it.
Sega Saturn
The year was 1995. It was a simpler time when eBay was a brand-new website on the novelty that was, "The Internet," Michael Jordan came out of retirement for the first time, and, "Toy Story," showed that computer animation in films instead of hand-drawing everything was feasible. It also was arguably the year that started Sega's downfall. The Sega Saturn had been announced by Sega as the 32-bit answer to Sony's upcoming and highly-buzzed-about Playstaion. It was going to release in the United States on September 2nd of that year and folk were excited. Then at E3 (the big video-games electronic expo) in May, Sega announced the console would be available in stores early, like as of that moment in May of 1995. It was mayhem. Some units had been shipped to stores in anticipation of this, but there were shortages, not many games for it yet, and it was an example of when your surprise utterly backfires. Sega never recovered even with the release in 1999 of the greatest console ever (in my opinion), the Dreamcast. They eventually quit making consoles and now still exist but create their titles for a variety of formats.
Comic-books as a product are of course generally sold in comic-book stores and a lot of the business involves these stores pre-ordering the books from a distributor named Diamond. They order the books about two months in advance and by having customers with, "Pull-lists/subscriptions," who have guaranteed they are interested in the comic-books these stores know about how much to order based on customer desire and some extra books to throw on the shelves for folk who might walk into the store after a particular comic. Comic-books therefore are a field that tends to need to promote something and give an exact release date so as to build hype for a big release. Publishers will mount gigantic advertising campaigns about their latest mega-event or cool release, promote special in-store events the day it comes out, and otherwise bend-over backwards to get folk to tell stores to order their damn book. It is not a field that generally works well if you had book that just came out as a pure surprise, but then again, one day Robert Kirkman had an idea...

Back to Robert Kirkman and His Idea
As my list illustrates, certain people and companies have great success with surprise releases and others have it result in their eventual bankruptcy. Music and the way we can steam it results in some artists taking advantage of the, "Suddenness," of the format to drop an album without warning and let all the buzz and hype form upon its own. Comic-books are more of a format that needs a lot of lead-time to get that consumer interest. Robert Kirkman had an idea though, to take a comic he had announced as coming-out in the future titled, "Die, Die, Die," and one day have it suddenly just turn-up in stores without warning. Stores didn't even know it was coming, they would just get the comic at a level that matched how many copies they had ordered of another recent Kirkman comic, "Oblivion Song." The comics would just show-up as a total surprise, on invoices as a, "Thank-you," of sorts from Image Comics and Kirkman's sub-company within Image, Skybound. Kirkman said he did this because he wanted to be like Beyoncé, and I'm wondering if this is the kind of move that will turn-out with the success she sees for a surprise release, or if this will be akin to the Sega Saturn.

The comic, "Die, Die, Die," came to stores without warning, and had about 10 different variant covers with the characters stating different jokes in their speech bubbles (but with the same artwork otherwise). From what I read online some stores sold it as a normal comic, others gave it for free to anyone who had, "Oblivion Song," on their pull-list figuring those customers were the reason they got the comics, and would probably like it. Lots of stores did different things and this sudden crazy release got a bunch of buzz, but has threatened to overshadow the actual comic itself, it feels like. The comic itself is decent, a hyper-violent read full of dark comedy about a secret U.S. organization that is supposed to kill bad people, a twist here-and-there about extra relatives in the organization, and some thankfully stellar art from Chris Burnham to make-up for the fine-if-uninspiring plot. At this point in his life however basically any comic Kirkman makes is more of a storyboard for the eventual attempt at a television or film adaptation so maybe once we start seeing teasers for the pilot/movie it will be a bit more cohesive. Again though, at least Burnham is a spectacular artist.

Genius or Crazy? Time Will Tell
I will give Robert Kirkman credit where credit is due, basically no one saw this coming and people didn't know the book would be out until comic-book retailers started opening their deliveries on Tuesday and were greeted with an unexpected addition to their invoices and shipping-boxes. What Kirkman did may turn out to have been brilliant if the comic becomes a huge hit, or in retrospect come-off as foolhardy if the book ends-up bombing. Again though, at this point it is more about getting an adaptation made of whatever comic he created, so if that occurs and has a modicum of success Kirkman will be able to laugh even harder all the way to bank--I say, "Ever harder," as he's already laughing at the bank daily cashing those, "Walking Dead," checks I would imagine. Honestly though, besides CBR (remember them?) trying their hardest to fall all over themselves and fawn about how clever Kirkman is I haven't really read much else of note about the book besides some articles complimenting Kirkman on keeping this secret and a few reviews that essentially say what I did (the story is okay, the art is great). Time will tell how ingenious or insane Kirkman was for doing this.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Build-A-Bear and When Your Marketing Campaign is Too Effective

Build-A-Bear is known for having all kinds of cool stuffed animals you can, "Adopt," have stuffed in the store, and buy a bunch of accessories. It is a brand known for lots of cool characters and outfits, but not for being cheap. Hence, when a promotion was announced call, "Pay Your Age," which involved the person the bear is purchased for only having to pay what their age is in years, it got some buzz. I mean, if your kid is five years old you just have to pay five bucks for a cool bear--and then most likely more for all the outfits and accessories, but it's still a good deal, I would think. Everyone else thought so too because it was pandemonium at Build-A-Bear stores. People lined up hours before stores opened, lines of more than a 1,000 families, and before it even really got going the whole thing had to be shut down due to concerns for safety in regards to overcrowding and such. Build-A-Bear fell into its own trap of having too good a deal. Now everyone is mad and the company's CEO has been having to apologize on National Television for this fiasco.

The company has been offering various things to consumer as an apology, such as as $15 credit and continuing to offer, "Birthday Treats," bears to kids under 14 in the month of their birthday. Hopefully it will at least help a little bit to assuage the angered parents and their children who were let down after waiting hours only to go home empty-handed. This will probably cause Build-A-Bear to take a bit of a hit PR-wise, but in the end they can claim it was an effort to do something nice for customers that unfortunately backfired, so it isn't as bad of a look as it could've been. I mean, it was such an effective campaign consumers, "Went nuts," so I guess it shows there is plenty of demand for the product. The key element is to for the company to keep offering deals, just not deals so good it causes chaos.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"Westworld," Season 2 Reflections

Fantastic With Some Annoyances
Note: This review contains spoilers and assumes reader familiarity with the show and its characters

I recently finished catching-up on my DVR’d episodes of the 2nd season of Westworld. I was able to watch it on HBO thanks to giving the cable company Hell when it was time to renew our contract--in order to keep us as customers they threw HBO in for free for a year or so. I of course liked season 1 a great deal but my two biggest criticisms of it were that it was essentially all build-up and it spread 5 episodes worth of great content out over 10 episodes, making watching it feel at times like a slog—an enjoyable slog, sure, but a slog nonetheless. Season 1 ended with the long-promised robot rebellion we were promised kicking-off however, and answered a few big questions (e.g William WAS the Man in Black in the past, to name the biggest reveal) making it look like when season 2 began we would finally be getting the mayhem only hinted at in the finale of season 1. Well, having now watched all of season 2 I can state it is mostly what I was hoping for—a lot of enjoyable payoff from all the place-setting, and still some annoying aspects.

Westworld loves to jump around in time. It is like a little affectation it can’t quite help. It made sense in the first season as Dolores came to terms with being a Host who was accessing scattered past memories that were supposed to be locked-off, and helped to allow the kinda-shocking reveal that William was the Man in Black (it wasn’t a total surprise as lots of people saw it coming and I’m still amazed I didn’t predict it as normally I’m decent at guessing a twist). That said, this season we had the present with Bernard figuring out what killed almost all the hosts, a recent-past where the majority of the story takes place with the robots beginning to rebel, and then snippets of decades ago featuring when Logan became interested in Westworld, when Willam/the young Man in Black slowly consolidated power, when an Indian in Westworld realized it was lie, older William losing his wife, and of course a stinger after the credits of season 2 set apparently far into the future. Yes, part of the challenge of watching, “Westworld,” is just figuring out when the Hell a scene takes place.
Bernard's sense of time is all kinds of scrambled this season.
To the show’s credit it takes advantage of viewer confusion at times to make some clever moments occur (like when Bernard first realized he wasn’t really in a cave with Elsie but instead in a memory), and it was cool to flash way back in time to when Arnold was still alive and Westworld was a plucky startup, but the whole thing with, “Two weeks ago,” slowly catching up to the present felt a little like some unneeded chopping-up of that story. It resulted in the story-line for Bernard seeming a bit messy and at times more like it was a framing device for everybody else’s yarn. Jeffery Wright is such a good actor though that even when Bernard’s plot lagged it was entertaining.

Speaking of exciting stories, what Maeve (Thandie Newton) and crew were up to didn’t really intersect with anybody’s plot at all except right at the start and near the very end, but by being removed from a chunk of the time-jumping shenanigans it actually was allowed to be the most straightforward and entertaining story. While Westworld can at times be tricky to sum up, Maeve’s plot summary this season is an easy, “She wants find her daughter and will do whatever it takes,” that results in all kinds of wild events occurring from a visit to another park (“Shogun World,”) to the development of a fascinating new power to mentally, “Speak,” to other hosts and control them. It was some stellar stuff and possibly only rivaled in quality by the heartbreaking and mostly self-contained eighth episode that followed the sorrowful life of an Indian named Kiksuya (Zahn McClarnon) in Westworld.
William/The Man in Black
Now, in regards to an story-line that wasn’t necessarily entertaining/fun but was fascinating there is William AKA the Man in Black (played as suitably terrifying by Ed Harris). There was a bit more time-hopping than I would have liked, but his plot has the wildest developments that ended up of course having a great impact upon Dolores’ robot revolution and Bernard realizing some dark truths about the park. The plot basically draws a bit from the wackier sequel to the original, “Westworld,” movie, “Futureworld,” which creator Michael Crichton was not involved with, interestingly enough. Basically, we learn that there are motions in place to transfer human minds/consciousness into Host bodies by saving data about everyone who has ever visited the park, and a degree of success has been had, but its still quite buggy after years of efforts. William has been involved in this from the start, working for the corporation that owns the park, Delos.

One compliant I've often seen online is that there isn't much reason given throughout either season for why William is such a terrible person, but I actually am fine with the bare-bones attempt at clarifying his personality. He didn't have anything too specific occur, it is just a, "Stain," that has always been in him that he tries to deal with and hide. He's just a person who buries his monstrous nature as deep as possible under a guise of kindness and philanthropy. There isn't much too him in that sense, and that's the point. One character who ends up being straightforward to the point of becoming sadly bland however is Dolores.
Yes, I haven't spoken a ton of Dolores, who is a focal point much of the first season and in this one kicks-off the whole thing with robots killing humans. That's because her character seems like little more than a way to drive the story forward for a lot of the show, with Evan Rachel Wood's amazing acting as a conflicted young woman coming to nature with the dark truth of her reality in season 1 now relegated to 90% of the time being a bloodthirsty fiend willing to kill almost anyone--human or host--who gets in her way. That 10% I left out are for the few scenes she gets to emote anything besides anger and violence such as her sweet scenes with her, "Father," Peter, and with James Marsden's Teddy. Speaking of Teddy, he really gets a bum deal most of this season, hesitantly tagging along with Dolores, being reprogrammed by her against his will once she thinks he's too weak, and then killing himself before at least getting to go to the robot heaven at the end for all his trouble and heartbreak. Marsden is a great actor and always seems to get stuck playing characters who get the short-end of the stuck (Lon Hammond in, "The Notebook," Cyclops in the, "X-Men," franchise), just once I'd like to see him play a guy who comes out on top! Still, with him now gone along with some other characters we will be following what looks like a plot of Bernard versus Dolores for season 3. With the parks all seemingly closed will we see more of the real world now, or peek into the parks that maybe exist but we haven't visited? Time will tell.

The 2nd season of, "Westworld," gives me a lot of the action and plot development I felt the first batch of episodes lacked. Certain story-lines impressed more than others and the show's love of jumping-around through time is at some points a hassle, but overall it was a fantastic time and I loved it. I look forward to what season 3 holds for sure and hope at least some of the great characters who seem to possibly be dead (Maeve, NOOOO!) return. Oh, and if I may contribute to one ongoing internet debate, Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) clearly was stating he's secretly a host in his last scene. It explains a lot.
5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

I Attended the Toyman Today and it Rocked!

Today I was able to attend the Toyman show which I consistently try to make sure and get out to whenever it occurs. Put on by Chris, "Toyman," McQuillen, it is always full of vendors with toys, comics, and all kinds of goodies. He announced in the morning his plans to continue the long-running show into the foreseeable future and everyone gave him some much-deserved applause. With two floors and over 200 tables of awesome stuff (plus various snazzy guests) I unfailingly have a stellar time. Today was no exception.

Interestingly enough today I was after some particular Funko Pops a friend of mine asked me to search for as opposed to when I go to just browse. I had three Pops I was hoping to find and be able to buy or trade for, and I figured if any place was going to meet my needs it would be the Toyman show. Did I succeed? Well, I'll let this picture speak for itself:
Yep, thanks to the Toyman show I was able to acquire three specific Funko Pops from three different vendors thanks to a mixture of trading what I brought as well some good ol' cash too. I'm not sure if I would have been able to pull-off this task at any other event in the area, but I knew the Toyman show would be the perfect place for my mission--and it clearly was! If I had been after Legos, die-cast cars, or Star Wars memorabilia I would have been set as well, because there is just that much fantastic variety!

I went to the Toyman show and was very pleased the exact stuff I was after could be acquired. It just goes to show how much delightful selection there is at a Toyman show in addition to all the special guests, cosplayers, and creators of cool stuff. The next show isn't too far away, happening August 5th, 2018. I plan to be there and as always encourage anyone else who is able to attend to do so!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Steve Ditko Died Yesterday

Steve Ditko back in the Silver Age of comic-books.
Steve Ditko died yesterday, July 6th, 2018 at the age of 90. He is of course known for a lot of amazing comic-book work such as co-creating Spider-Man with Stan Lee, so that of course carries all the debate of who deserves more credit as fans always argue about. Plenty of people who know a lot more about Ditko and the amazing generation of comic-creators who seem to sadly be leaving us due to age and/or ailment have written about him in-depth so I'll just share some personal thoughts and opinions.

From what I know about Ditko he was a strong personality with deeply-beliefs and shunned the limelight in a way completely counter to his former collaborator Stan Lee. Ditko was Objectivist who viewed things as good-and-wrong, black-and-white, and created comics once he left Marvel which reflected these views. He refused to give interviews, saying his work stated everything that needed to be said, but wasn't a recluse by any means, still apparently living everyday life out-and-about in public and even responding to a young fan who wrote him a letter, which astounded everyone who thought him to be some kind of curmudgeon for one reason or another.
As for why he might've been thought of somewhat negatively...well, Stan Lee is the one who always likes to be in front of the camera, and Lee doesn't argue when folk want to give him credit for the success of a character like Spider-Man. It's a testy issue, and one of the few times I've ever seen Stan Lee break his character of, "Stan Lee, expert showman," is when he was interviewed by British talk-show host and comic-fan Jonathan Ross for the movie, "In Search of Steve Ditko." In that flick during an interview with Stan Lee it is apparent Lee truly feels he deserves the majority of the credit for Spider-Man's success, regardless of what Ditko contributed. Lee says he tried to appease Ditko by making it clear to everyone they were co-creators, but Lee clearly struggles to believe that himself. With Stan Lee always in the news it just became easy for folk to ignore or outright forget about Ditko as he kept mostly to himself, putting out the occasional self-published comic and just living life.

I by no means agree with Ditko's political beliefs (my being pretty Liberal is basically a polar opposite of Ditko), but I always admired his talent and skill. Plus, there is something impressive about a person believing in something so much they passed on the countless opportunities they could have had for further fame and fortune to just do whatever else they wanted. Ditko could have gotten so much further fame for simply creating Spider-Man if he had done nothing else--and he did plenty more, co-creating Doctor Strange for instance. Ditko could have been like Lee, appearing on the convention circuit, lending his name to television shows, getting cameos in movies, and otherwise making bank and becoming a household name. Instead, he believed his work spoke for itself, and kept creating it whilst basically just living a quiet life doing what he loved--making comics and sharing his views. Ditko lived life on his terms and no one else's--a totally Objectivist thing to do. Regardless of if other creators, fans, or anyone else agreed with that, I sure respected it--and now offer my respects in a whole different way as we all mourn Ditko's passing.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Funko Friday: Someone's Getting Fired For This Mix-Up!

This Pop Should Not Glow
See that Nearly Headless Nick Funko Pop right there? He isn't supposed to glow. You see, there is going to be a version on sale at San Diego Comic-Con that will have a full-body glow, and a shared exclusive is rumored to also go on sale at Barnes and Noble. The, "Common," version though? He ain't supposed to glow. I had heard rumors that some common versions had a glowing head or body, but wasn't sure of the truth. Then, a chum of mine from Pop groups named Antonius bought a Nearly Headless Nick at Hot Topic, took it home, and sure enough, his noggin glows as the above picture illustrates. Yeah, someone is getting fired at Funko for this mix-up!

Look, I get it, quality assurance is hard. That said, when the factory starts mixing-up the parts of an exclusive Funko that glow with the parts of the common version that don't, it just looks pretty embarrassing. I mean, this is a publicly-traded company worth millions and its fan-base knows to seek-out exclusives. Now we've got this Nearly Headless Nick who sometimes has one part of his body or another glow and now I'm wondering if the exclusive will end-up accidentally with zero glow, have only some parts glow like the common, or sport a full-body glow as Funko has promised, who knows?
The same Pop as above, no hint of its glowing-feature.
This isn't a huge deal, but it must make Funko feel pretty dumb. It's not going to be the ruin of the company, but who likes looking stupid/foolish? Hopefully a solution will be cooked-up to make everyone happy and this won't happen again. It is pretty funny to imagine collectors going to stores with a UV flashlight and asking to take the Nearly Headless Nick to the bathroom and turn the lights-off to, "Check something," however!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rant-Reviews of More New Comic Debuts

Always New Stuff
There are always new ongoing series and mini-series coming-out. With that in mind I usually am excited to try new comics out (I say, "Usually," because there is some stuff I'd dread, like perhaps anything drawn by Greg Land). Let's dive into some new books, shall we?

Debut Issues
Catwoman #1
After the debacle that was Batman's wedding in his book's issue #50, Catwoman seems to have fled quite far away and is dealing with a whole new assortment of foes, be they political figures, or posing as Catwoman herself! Joelle Jones is a stellar writer and illustrator as her past work such as, "Ladykiller," has shown, and here she provides amazing artwork to a story that has a little oomph but I feel ends on a cliffhanger right as the book starts getting interesting. Jones beautiful drawing makes up for any bit of short-changing I feel in regards to the plot however, and I imagine future issues will do a lot more to explain what is going on.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Unnatural #1
A new comic published by Image featuring both the writing and artwork of Mirka Andolfo. This is a very weird comic that also is really good! Both highly erotically-charged and quite humorous, it takes place in a world of humanoid animals who are taught to never seek-out romance from another species (same sex attraction is also verboten) but a pig-girl named Leslie keeps having these dreams of a mysterious and intriguing wolf-fellow. It's a little bit cheesecake-styled, has some interesting metaphors with its talk of how animals should only be with the, "Right," partner, and otherwise has me wondering where the story will go next. Good stuff!
4 out of 5 stars.

Project Superpowers #0
God, this comic feels like it just has so much to cover and can't quite manage to do so over the span of its pages. I mean, the comic only cost a dime so it is a decent enough refresher on all the past, "Project Superpowers," plot-elements that will, "Count," in this iteration as there have of course been takes on the property that clearly aren't in this continuity (Warren Ellis did an efficiently creepy mini-series some years ago, for example). Honestly though, in an era when comics sometimes feel too slow this one moves at a rate that could give readers literary whiplash with the mixture of backstory set in World War II, then the present, and a weird future. It make me curious for the main series though, and as I said, just cost 10 cents, so it accomplished its goal of being a taste of what's to come, I guess?
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Final Street #1
Written by Scott Schmidt and expertly illustrated by Brian Atkins, this comic is a clever take on a mixture of concepts. From 1980's action movies, to the, "Street Fighter," video-games, two friends unite to try to rescue one's boyfriend from a variety of gang-members and street-toughs. Things move at a good pace and the allusions to video-games come fast and furious in the form of fun illustrated SFX, and bright signs pointing out who a, "Boss," character could be. It is extremely clever and well portrayed by Atkins art. It's a great first issue and worth picking-up!
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Captain America #1
Skilled journalist and occasional comic-writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has begun his much-publicized run on, "Captain America," that appropriately enough was released on July 4th, and it is a excellent start! The comic thankfully doesn't try to ignore the debacle that was, "Secret Empire," and instead uses that as a stepping-stone to explore an America that doesn't quite trust its titular hero in much the same way a lot of us don't trust the Government lately. A new threat is introduced in the form of supposedly-patriotic terrorists wielding cybernetic enhancements and guns who think they represent the, "Real America," as opposed to everyone else. There also is a new threat introducing brewing cleverly enough within Russia. It's a good mixture of super-heroics, political  commentary, and is probably the first,"Captain America," I've read and enjoyed in some time.
4 out of 5 stars.

The Quantum Age #1
Another spin-off of the spectacular, "Black Hammer," comic Jeff Lemire created (he writes this too) that helps to flesh-out the worlds of the series, this book draws from moving the world to one set in the future (like the Legion of Heroes) where things have clearly gone wrong. Whereas the other, "Black Hammer," tie-in books have had a more immediate feel in terms of relating to the main series, this one being 1,000-plus years in the future results in the plot feeling a lot more removed from the main book. This isn't a bad thing as its an interesting take on the, "Futuristic team falls apart and is hunted and hated due to doing something terrible," but I'm more curious to see how it eventually most likely ties itself back into the original book.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

(Generally) Solid Starts
I always am pleased when a new comic impresses, and of course a little let-down when it disappoints. You of course can't judge something too much by its premiere but it always helps for getting an idea of what to expect.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

It's July 4th, Please Be Safe!

Happy July 4th, everyone! This is the day we celebrate America, or what we would like America to one day be (e.g. a land that lives up to its ideals but right now is struggling to meet them). I just wanted to encourage everyone to be safe as this holiday of course is notorious for everything from drunk-driving to fireworks accidents (and of course accidents from using fireworks while drunk). So please, drink responsibly or have a designated driver/Uber driver ready to help if you're intoxicated.

Also, use fireworks carefully and don't be that moron who lets their 4 year old shoot bottle rockets at people and then is surprised when somebody ends up at the ER. Basically, use your logic and have fun whilst being reasonable. Oh, and if you live outside of the United States and any of its territories or protectorates this is just a regular day for you, so feel free to carry on as normal.