It's Halloween today! I love Halloween and hope everyone has a fun and safe time. Whether you are trick or treating (which you're never too old to do) or staying in and watching spooky movies, have a great day!
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Sometimes people go on dating reality shows because they want social media clout or money. A lot of shows avoid acknowledging this with, "The Bachelor/Bachelorette," emphasizing how everyone is surely on the program solely for love. This is one reason why I've always had a bit of a soft spot for, "Fboy Island," because it--and host/producer Nikki Glazer leans into the absurdity of dating on reality T.V. There are three women and a whole bunch of men competing for their love. The thing is that half the gentlemen are self-declared, "Nice guys," who want to find love and split a cash prize with the women, and the other half are happy to proclaim they are, "Fboys," who if chosen by a woman at the end can choose to share the cash prize or just take it all for themselves. This adds an exciting element to the whole program.
There are men on this dating show who really do just want the clout--with the clout in this case being cash. We generally only know if a fellow is a nice guy or a Fboy once they get voted out or win, but some will admit it to the camera every season and some are outright devious in their efforts. They know this is a reality competition and they don't give an, "Eff," about love so much as winning money. The women this season are an interesting bunch too. We have former Bachelorette and comedian Kaite Thurston who I like by virtue of her having more of a personality than many people who have been a Bachelor or Bachelorette. We also have two other women who haven't done reality television before, model Hali Okeowo and influencer (yeah, I don't get what that really means either) Daniella Grace. Between the interesting ladies and a wide range of fellows, you get many personalities on, "Fboy Island." At the end of the day, however, what really matters is if you think you want love or honestly just want cash.
"Fboy Island," never takes itself too seriously and host/producer Nikki Glazer is often around cracking some good jokes and pointing out the absurdity. Katie Thurston approaches everything pretty lightly too while Hali and Daniella are taking things pretty deadly serious to a degree where I worry they're going to end this season sobbing with heartbreak upon choosing an Fboy. Whatever happens, I'm having a great time watching the latest season of, "Fboy Island," and would encourage you to check it out as well. It's on the CW this season as HBO MAX/MAX purged it along with a ton of other stuff previously. The fact F-bombs have to get bleeped now aside, the show is as fun as ever.
5 out of 5 stars (for the first bunch of episodes so far this season).
Monday, October 30, 2023
I've read some of, "Void Rivals," which kicks off a shared, "Energon Universe," of new characters, G.I. Joe, and Transformers. It's an intriguing idea and when I heard the incredibly talented Daniel Warren Johnson was writing and illustrating the new, "Transformers,"-specfic book, that had my attention as the man is an absolute boss at making comics. Having dived into the debut issue of, "Transformers," it is superb
I won't pretend to be especially knowledgeable about the Transformers as while I've seen some cartoons and flicks with them, I would struggle to identify many of them besides the big ones like Optimus Prime. That said, this comic is perfectly friendly to use new readers (and even folks who haven't read the, "Void Rivals," stuff). Plus, it is just absolutely gorgeous.
Daniel Warren Johnson draws the Transformers with such care it is astounding. You just want to reach out and play with them as if they were real toys you could grasp. The details during a big fight scene are an absolute joy to drink in with one's eyes and I tip my hat to Johnson for making my jaw drop at his skill. There is a plot too, of course, and I am curious how the humans we meet will impact the Transformers and their long-lived war with the Decepticons. Johnson absolutely knocked this first issue out of the park, not that I expected anything less!
5 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, October 29, 2023
Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson originally got married back in 1987 and remained (mostly) happily as such until 2007. That year had the infamous, "One More Day," event where Mephisto/the Devil, basically, undid their marriage retroactively in exchange for saving the life of Aunt May--she'd gotten shot when someone was trying to kill Spidey. The whole thing also undid Spider-Man revealing his identity to the World as a bit of a soft reboot. Many fans hated it and demanded since it occurred that Marvel undo this change. A lot has changed since 2007, and Peter and MJ were a couple at points, but no wedded bliss occurred. Until now. Kind of.
The Ultimate Universe has returned in a tweaked form. The Reed Richards from that dimension was one of the few survivors of the realm (along with Miles Morales) and they came to the mainstream 616 Marvel Universe. He escaped to a new place and made some tweaks, however. A part of those tweaks seems to be that Peter Parker won't be Spider-Man until he's already older...and has a wife and kids. That's right, the marriage is back!
This is a big deal for those who grew up with Spider-Man married and even though the Universe and origins have been tweaked, that fact we've got a grown-up Spidey with MJ and kiddos is pretty cool. Plus, Jonathan Hickman is writing this and he's a stellar storyteller so that's awesome. Marco Checcheto is doing the art and I'm a fan of them as well, so this is shaping up to be another interesting piece of the newest iteration of the Ultimate Universe!
Saturday, October 28, 2023
McDonald's has released two new sauces known as Sweet & Spicy Jam and Mambo Sauce. I'm not sure how long they will be around as temporary flavors happen often. That said, I tried both flavors and have opinions--as always!
I first sampled the Sweet & Spicy Jam with some nuggets and liked it quite a bit. As it is jam that means it is obviously thicker than a, "True," sauce. That may put some folks off but I dug it. There is a delightful sweetness and a tiny bit of bite to the jam. Apparently, McDonald's intends this to be used with breakfast items too, and I could see that working well. I'd give it 5 out of 5 stars.
The Mambo sauce is fine, but a bit of a comedown compared to the delicious jam. It tastes like a spicy barbecue sauce and little else. Funnily enough, the Mambo sauce is spicier than the jam with, "Spicy," in its name. This sauce actually really hits you in the mouth, which is one thing I'll give it credit for. Otherwise, it is somewhat mediocre. This rates 2.5 out of 5 stars.
In conclusion, the Sweet and Sour flavor of the sauces will always be my favorite at McDonald's, but I can appreciate when other tastes are attempted and I'll be going back for more of that jam!
Friday, October 27, 2023
I wrote about when, "Max Payne," turned 20 years old and noted how I felt the second game was the absolute best of the three (I did like the 3rd a lot, though). Well, as of this month, "Max Payne 2," has celebrated its 20th anniversary. An amazing title that takes the fun-but-gimmicky gameplay of the first (with the slowed-down, "Bullet Time," effect) and added a bunch of layers while also giving us a damn good story about man--Detective Max Payne--struggling to come to terms with losing his family and finding a place in life, "Max Payne 2," is one of my favorite games ever.
I continue to be ecstatic that the first and second games are being remastered so that folks can play them with new graphical flourishes/bells-and-whistles or such. With the core gameplay being solid and the stories being great I bet the remasters will be a fantastic time.
Thursday, October 26, 2023
I've discussed AI-created, "Artwork," or writing, and how it doesn't impress me. Obvious flaws it often has aside, if someone can't put forth the effort to paint a picture or write an essay and instead want to feed a few ideas into a machine that makes it, why should I put forth the effort to read/observe it? Then we get to AI music and I feel the water gets muddy because a problem arises when the song actually sounds good. I don't know how much of a human soul it was--if any--but there it is, appealing to our ears.
"Heart on my Sleeve," is a song, "Created," by ghostwriter977. They used artificial intelligence to simulate Drake and the Weeknd's voices for a song. If it were absolute trash it would be easy to dismiss, but I finally listened to it out of curiosity and it is uncomfortable to admit it actually kind of bumps. The problem with AI music is what to do when it sounds good? This also leads to the question of how much credit does ghostwriter977 get and how much does the AI get? Listen to the song and then we can continue this post:
Suppose ghostwriter977 wrote the lyrics and made the beat but lacked artists to rap and sing the song. He/she/they made a good tune but then added famous people via AI in an unethical manner. Does ghostwriter977 still get credit for the work they did put forth to concoct this tune? I mean, I'm sure actual processes went into this beyond telling a computer, "Give me a great beat and some lyrics that sound like Drake," because if a prompt that simple could make this song then the computers really are about to take over and make all humans their slaves.
They say the cat is not going in the bag when it comes to AI and music. Do we need to use AI sparingly to help make some beats? What happens when we simulate the voices of dead music artists and suddenly Michael Jackson, Tupac, and Cardi B are all on a song that slaps and only Cardi B actually wrote and performed her lyrics? What happens when Tupac also starts promoting timeshares thanks to AI? We live in a dangerous time with artificial intelligence. I only hope we can weather the storm. Meanwhile, ghostwriter977 now has a song that simulates Travis Scott and 21 Savage titled, "Whiplash," and it is fun too...but how, "Real," is it? That's a question that is going to bug me.
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Every Halloween season folks like to post about their favorite Halloween candy and jokingly state how, "Candy corn is the worst and dead last on the list!" Well, it maybe isn't my favorite candy ever, but I actually am a fan of candy corn. I like how it is chewy and has a pleasing sweetness. It isn't some elaborate candy card filled with liquid caramel or another fancy feature, it is just candy corn. That simplicity is a part of the charm too. I know a number of people out there hate candy corn, but maybe if they looked deep inside, ignored the popular consensus, and were honest with themselves they'd realize it is a decent little treat.
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
I have enjoyed the, "Fallout," series of video-games over the years (and I just mentioned a Magic: The Gathering," tie-in happening yesterday). From the PC classics to the first-person titles that came to consoles, I enjoy the franchise set in a post-apocalypse following a massive nuclear war. Amazon Prime has a show set in that Universe coming and such news gets me a little intrigued. What gets me really interested, however, is seeing Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are the showrunners. I loved their take on, "Westworld," in the fantastic-then frustrating-then frustratingly fantastic television series. It was a bummer we didn't get a potential fifth season but if they're doing, "Fallout," then yeah, I'm down.
Apparently, a release date for the first episode has been revealed and it features the series fun mascot in a nice touch. Come April 12th, 2024, "Fallout," will be on Amazon Prime. I plan to tune in and know it will be wholly different from, "Westworld," as this is a totally separate IP, but I still kinda hope we get that magical weirdness, "Westworld," often gave viewers. Come April we'll know what exactly we're in for.
Monday, October 23, 2023
For years friends have tried to get me into, "Magic: The Gathering." I've explained how between my hobbies I have enough time and money sinks that adding a trading card game is not feasible. Back in the day, I played Pokemon cards but only 151 Pokemon existed then and now there are over 1,000 so the odds are zilch I'd ever try to dip my toe back into that metaphorical pool lest I drown (again, metaphorically). That said, I have seen news pieces at points about interesting collaborations between Hasbro (current owner of the, "Magic," game) and other entities. There were cards themed for, "The Lord of the Rings," that included a single card that had the ring (Post Malone bought it from the guy who found it in a booster pack), and the sci-fi series, "Fallout," is going to have cards too, funnily enough. Well, suddenly I'm a bit more interested in, "Magic," upon hearing of the latest collaboration. Yes, "Magic: the Gathering," and Marvel are teaming up.
The partnership was just announced today so there are not any cards to showcase or exact details to parse, but this much is clear: We're going to have, "Magic," cards with a Marvel theme. I can already imagine it will be neat to see various famous and infamous Marvel characters doing their powers within the setting/ruleset of, "Magic," and even if I don't play the game, I might be tempted to get some cards in an effort to find any that feature my favorite characters such as Moon Knight.
I've seen some folks express surprise that Marvel's owner, Disney, did not try to fold Marvel characters into their new trading card game, "Lorcana." That game seems more affiliated with the animated projects Disney has done, however, so perhaps this deal with Hasbro seemed more appealing. Whatever the reason that Marvel cards will now be in, "Magic the Gathering," it is going to be in stores before too long and for the first time ever I'm thinking about about maybe, just maybe, giving this whole, "Magic," card game thing a try.
Sunday, October 22, 2023
Today I attended the Quad Con for October up in Saint Charles and it was an outrageous amount of fun! I kicked things off by chatting with my friend, Jack Thomas, of Fortress Comics. He had a ton of amazing older comics for sale. Then I had the chance to chat with the delightful Spike of Lost in Space Toys and Collectibles. After catching up with some folks the line to enter the show had built-up and everyone was let in. The crowd was pumped:
The guys from Biff! Bam Boom! Comics had a both and I had a lovely time chatting with them and telling them about what was new with me--namely our new baby, Gibson! Tatertot comics and collectibles had a setup and I had fun browsing their wares. Brandon was kind enough to pose for a photo:
I met Galaxy Prop Productions and admired the awesome pieces of props/artwork for sale. Here's a picture:
STL Comics had a booth and I bought two comics from them! You can't go wrong with a first issue of, "Spawn," and a J Scott Campbell Spidey cover:
The owner of Endless Comics, Games, and Cards was at the show and we discussed how in addition to the Florissant shop location he would be opening a Saint Charles shop soon. I told him to keep me updated so I can make a post telling people to stop by once it has a grand opening! I snapped a pic of his booth too:
Bartertown Toys and Collectibles was kind enough to buy some comics I brought to sell or trade. They were really nice and posed for a picture:
I had a chance to admire the comics and fun props of Crystal Lake Comics. Here's a snapshot:
There were even more vendors and creators/crafters than I've mentioned--this is just who was eager to pose for pictures or didn't mind me writing about them! Quad Con was amazing with all the folks selling comics, toys, Funko Pops, vinyl records, things they created, and more. I can't wait for the next show in March of 2024 and will make sure to let all you readers know when it is approaching so you can plan on attending the next Quad Con too--this isn't a show you want to ever miss!
Saturday, October 21, 2023
|Samii and our awesome boys!|
Samii and I got married today back in 2015! These eight years of marriage have been wonderful. Since getting married we've had Clarkson, our baby who is with us in spirit, Shalom, and now Gibson's joined the family! I love my wife and kiddos so much and look forward to many more wonderful years. Happy anniversary, Samii, I love you!
Friday, October 20, 2023
As someone who loves video-games and greatly enjoys documentaries, I was intrigued when I heard about, "Pretending I'm a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story." The flick came out in 2020 and you can buy a copy on DVD or stream it on various platforms--which I'd recommend you do!
The movie gives a little overview of the rise of popularity of skating in the 1970s, how it faded in the 80s, and in the 90s gained more attention with, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater," coinciding with that and getting even more eyes on the sport. The development of the debut game and the later ones get covered, from the immense highs to the lows ("Tony Hawk: Ride," comes to mind). Everyone from skaters to the video-game developers are interviewed and the relatively short run-time of the movie (1 hour and 11 minutes) breezes by. The, "Main," person behind all this, Tony Hawk, is a bit of a narrator for the flick as he discusses a lot of what happened, but everyone else offers a lot of interesting information as well. If you have an interest in skating, video-games, or both, give, "Pretending I'm a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story," a viewing!
5 out of 5 stars.
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Wednesday, October 18, 2023
People know I write about World events that have a big impact in addition to popular culture. Some folks have asked me if I made a post about what's going on between Israel and Palestine since things have gotten quite deadly very fast in the past couple of weeks. I would tell them, "No," and they’d ask, "Why not?" Basically, I don't have anything to add. The whole thing is an utter unsolvable mess with any possible proposals being unrealistic, terrible, or both. I don't want any innocent civilians/bystanders to die in Israel or Palestine, everyone seems to agree on that. Everyone also agrees that Hamas doesn't represent all of Palestine and Israeli politicians don't represent all the people within that nation. That's about the only thing everyone agrees on.
Everything else regarding Israel and Palestine results in such vitriol that people are getting attacked simply for being Muslim or Jewish even if they have nothing to do with this war. Plus lots of people are getting fired for expressing an opinion their employer doesn't agree with (in favor of or against basically anything relating to this quagmire). I honestly feel there is no possible solution that can be achieved anytime soon. That's why I don't have much of a statement--unlike some issues which I can have an impact on (like all the American politics I write about and have voted on/canvassed for/etc.), there is nothing my words will do to impact Israel and Palestine and I lack any words beyond, "All this death is terrible." That isn't really a useful statement and contributes nothing to the discourse. That's why I haven't said anything until now to at least show folks this huge global crisis is on my mind, I just have literally nothing to offer
If Israel and Palestine were a puzzle it would be the, "Trick," kind that has no answer due to a piece missing. That, "Piece," would be a realistic solution, and we aren't finding that part of the puzzle in my lifetime, I'd bet. That said, I did notice a lot of people suddenly became self-proclaimed experts in global politics when this war started, or as Mark Twain (allegedly) once said, "God created war so that Americans would learn Geography." I'll finish this post on that point.
Tuesday, October 17, 2023
Take a bunch of reality television stars best known for being, "Villains," and throw them in a mansion where they will compete for $200,000. You'd expect fireworks to fly if we're talking, "Villains," but having watched the first episode things were relatively tame, putting aside one person who really is pretty damn evil of a human being--I'll get to that. But yes, "House of Villains," on E! is a reality-television hodge-podge of former Survivor contestants (Johnny Fairplay), 90 Day Fiance alums (Anfisa Arkhipchenko), well-known reality shit-stirrers (Tiffay "New York" Pollard) and more. I mainly watched because Joel McHale is the host and his trademark mix of snark and the, "I'm here but I don't honestly care," vibe he has mastered giving off helps emphasize how silly this show is. Joel McHale is in on the joke and wants us to be too--and that joke is, "We don't care about the actual competitions or who wins, we want to witness people known for being awful acting terribly towards one another."
That said, some members of the house would protest they are, "Misunderstood," and while some might think acting humorously can help them avoid looking too villainous (hey there, Johnny Bananas), then you've got the one person I hinted at earlier who lives up to the title. That's right, this show got Omarosa Manigault Newman. She's been on our screens for years either on, "The Apprentice," with Donald Trump, actually serving in his political cabinet, appearing on, "Celebrity Big Brother," or various other places. The show has a moment where she talks about a rough childhood that almost humanizes her, but when Corinne Olympios from, "The Bachelor," tries to introduce herself and Omarosa just freezes her out, it is brutally uncomfortable to witness. Then we witness Omarosa winning a big physical competition by not even really moving around, just cutting deals with everybody besides people she already dislikes and making it clear she'll be targeting. This woman is good at being bad and actually lives up to the title of the show.
Between some solid hosting and at least one person being properly mischievous, "House of Villains," is off to a decent start. I plan to tune into the next episode this Thursday and the, "This season on," teaser showed some possible guest, "Villains," I'd be interested in seeing too. This may not be the best new reality show ever, but I kinda dig it.
4 out of 5 stars.
Monday, October 16, 2023
Every year I see debates online about how old is, "Too old," to go out and say, "Trick or treat!" for some candy. I would argue you're never too old. I don't get why people get angry at teenagers who dress up and go door to door. Would you rather they be sitting at home on their phones or be out...but causing mischief? If someone wants to put forth the effort to walk around and show up at your house and request candy, give them the candy. Let folks enjoy things!
Sunday, October 15, 2023
A week from today a really fun event is happening at the Steel Shop Event Center in Saint Charles. The Saint Charles QuadCon will be occurring from 10AM-4PM and shall be packed with vendors, guests, and more! QuadCon is always proud of how it is a mix of comics, toys, games, and cosplay with the result being a stellar time. Be at 49 Lawrence Street in Saint Charles next week and be prepared for lots of entertainment!
Saturday, October 14, 2023
"American Psycho," is a great film (based on a book). It is kind of in the horror genre but is more of a dark comedy. It follows a gentleman named Patrick Bateman who is a narcissistic sociopathic serial killer, but he fits in perfectly within the world of business due to how empty and vapid he is. A new comic-book sorta-sequel (it draws from the movie) has just started with the same title, "American Psycho," and it has me intrigued.
I'm not super familiar with writer Michael Calero, but have been a big fan of artist Piotr Kowalski and colorist Brad Simpson since their work on, "Sex," with Joe Casey. The comic starts sort of weaving another character into the story (detective Donald Kimball) as he witnesses the events of the movie from a different perspective and it is made clear his character was actually quite possibly a serial killer too (and more aware of what was going on than the flick would hint). That was perfectly alright if a bit revisionist when it comes to the movie. However, my interest was really piqued when we jumped to 2011 and witnessed some 20-somethings at a nightclub including a girl named Charlene Carruthers who seemed to have her own psychotically violent urges. A few more twists and turns occur and I'm really curious about the 2011 element of the story and how that is influenced by the events of the movie in the 80s.
While I was a little thrown by the rewriting of Donald Kimball's character, if it serves the 2011 part of the story then perhaps tweaking the classic flick could be for the best. I noted back in 2020 how, "American Psycho," was uncomfortably prescient of what our World has morphed into. Therefore, a comic exploring how social media and our obsession with status (as the series hints it will be examining in future issues) mirrors the chasing of clout in the 80s makes perfect sense using, "American Psycho," as a foil. Things are only going to get more twisted. Buckle up.
5 out of 5 stars.
Friday, October 13, 2023
Today we have been enjoying/living through a Friday the 13th--in the month of Halloween, no less! October 13th hasn't been particularly lucky or unlucky for me but for those who are particularly superstitious, your mileage can vary. I randomly know 13 is actually Taylor Swift's lucky number and one reason the official release of her new movie about the latest music tour she did was today. She's doing pretty well lately, so I guess luck is in the eye of the beholder to some degree? Besides the concept of luck, "Friday the 13th," is the title of a run of some great (and mediocre) movies with popular slasher character Jason Vorhees. We've got a prequel series on the way about where the franchise (mostly) takes place, Camp Crystal Lake, so that's fun. I hope everyone has a good and spooky (if they want) day. Now we gear up for what is usually the scariest holiday of the month, Halloween!
I adore the movie, "Demolition Man." It is a bit of a sci-fi flick, has a lot of social satire, features plenty of action, and is good fun. It actually turns 30 this year. The movie's focus is how Officer John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) is framed by his archenemy, Simon Phoneix (Wesley Snipes), for a bunch of civilians dying in an explosion. They both find themselves frozen as punishment. Then we arrive at 2032 and Phoneix breaks out and starts a crime spree--something no one can handle as society has become watered-down, dull, and boring. Hence, Stallone's Spartan is thawed out and sent to capture Phoneix.
Some people argue the movie leans right and is a Libertarian's example of what they fear society becoming. There are tons of rules, people can't eat anything unhealthy because it is against the law, and swearing gets you a fine. Other people have claimed this movie is clearly Liberal in its focus, with the rebels who live underground and who claim to be, "Free," actually miserable and starving to death. In the end, the writers have said they weren't trying to be especially political with the true villain being a corrupt politician who doesn't represent any specific party and just wants power no matter what kind of dystopia he has to oversee for it. The real, "Evil," isn't left-wing or right-wing, it is any kind of extreme.
Besides Stallone and Snipes doing a great job in, "Demolition Man," it also was the breakout role for Sandra Bullock, and has Dennis Leary as the leader of the underground-dwelling rebels. Between a great cast, plenty of fun fights/explosions, and lots of humor, "Demolition Man," remains an underrated classic. You can buy/rent a copy on DVD or I believe it can be streamed on Amazon Prime. I'd highly recommend checking it out.
5 out of 5 Stars.
Thursday, October 12, 2023
Music artist Burna Boy has a new song out with a guest verse by 21 Savage titled, "Sittin' on Top of the World." It came out this year but upon hearing it I could've sworn it was some tune from the late 90's or early 2000's. I didn't know why, but it made me think of songs that had a bit of rapping and a bit of singing back then like, "What's Luv," by Fat Joe and Ashanti or the, "I'm Real," remix with Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule. There must have been a reason I thought this so I did some Googling and sure enough, "Sittin' on Top of the World," samples a song from 1998. "Top of the World," is a tune by Brandy featuring Mase. As a child of the '90s I knew the song and it must've implanted itself deeply enough in my brain that a brand-new production by Burna Boy funnily enough evokes my memories of past songs.
I don't think Burna Boy is engaging in weaponized nostalgia as he isn't trying to outright make us think of that older ditty--he probably just saw the sample worked perfectly for his song. Still, it is a bit of a paradox that a brand-new song made me think of old ones. Younger folks probably didn't have this occur to them as the 90s were decades ago now (I cringed typing that and thinking about how I'm old), but props to Burna Boy for making something new out of something from the past.
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Keith Giffen has died. Co-creator of Rocket Racoon, Lobo, and more. He was a masterful comic-maker, and Giffen was 70. I learned of his death late today, with the cause apparently having been a stroke he had on October 8th leading to his passing on the 9th. I'm saddened to learn of his death as Giffen made some stellar comics. He was always clever, further shown by how at his own request, his family put up a Facebook post Giffen had prewritten himself discussing how he was deceased. Observe:
I'm sad he's dead but laughing at how darkly hilarious Giffen is to request that be posted. It just shows he was truly a master of words to the end. He will be missed.
Tuesday, October 10, 2023
What happens when a dating guide service slowly turns into an expensive lifestyle program and then morphs even further into a cult? Well, you get the Twin Flames Universe. A fascinating three-part documentary series on Amazon Prime, "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe," features a journalist named Alice Hines delving further and further into a troubling, "Movement," spearheaded by Jeff and Shaleia Ayan.
Jeff and Shaleia seem like a fun married couple at first. They're a bit nerdy, kind of quirky, and tell great jokes. They start a community dedicated to the idea of Twin Flames and how your perfect soulmate is out there. They offer to help people get that special soulmate. Then these people who pay for Jeff and Shaleia's help get into legal trouble for stalking or other issues. Hence, Jeff and Shaleia start a matchmaking service within Twin Flames. However, 80%-90% of their, "Members," are heterosexual women. So they keep pivoting, demanding money, and presenting themselves less as friendly guides and more are religious figures who talk directly to God and are equivalent to Jesus Christ in their wisdom and power. Alice Hines explores all of this and just when you think things can't get any more disturbing or creepy the rabbit hole keeps descending further into creepiness.
As a, "Time," article about this documentary discusses, Twin Flames Universe still exists. It has locked things down more and their Facebook group is private, but they're still out there fleecing people for money. Is it a scam? Is it a religious cult? Could it be a bit of both? I'd recommend watching all three episodes of, "Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping the Twin Flames Universe," and finding out just how far folks will go for love, power, and (of course) money.
5 out of 5 stars.
Monday, October 9, 2023
When I was a child I loved going to Chuck E. Cheese. Back during the height of the pandemic I actually got some Chuck E. Cheese pizza to go but hadn't been in one to actually play since my own youth. Well, we were invited to a birthday party by some friends for their son and went today. It was lots of fun!
The Chuck E. Cheese we went to actually was not the one closest to our house, but up in Saint Charles. It had recently been renovated and looked pretty spiffy. There was a trampoline area that Clarkson loved jumping on and all the tickets were digitized. Instead of the animatronic band, there were huge screens (the size of a wall) that broadcast Chuck and his other animal friends singing songs and dancing around. One weird thing was when each character said the date of their birthday for a skit and Helen Henny randomly said she was born May 27th--the same day as me! There weren't ball pits anymore but tons of arcade games. The variety was impressive.
There was the pizza and we got some fries and boneless chicken wings too. At one point the screens celebrated our friend's birthday and Chuck E. Cheese himself came out to give everyone high-fives and do the dance party with folks. Clarkson wanted to be on the dance floor too but just wanted to kind of lay on it as opposed to dancing! Observe:
Chuck E. Cheese was fun when I was little and continues to be enjoyable now in a more modern incarnation. Clarkson had a lot of fun jumping in the trampoline area and hitting the buttons on the games. We will most likely go to the Chuck E. Cheese near us sometime soon too so he can have some more fun!
Shell is a big ol' fossil fuel company. It makes money off oil and gas--something younger folks worry about as the World's climate turns more and more into an apocalyptic Hellscape. Shell wants to appeal to younger folks who might otherwise buy electric cars or look into alternative fuels so Shell could've spent money diversifying into such tech. They didn't do that, though. They spent a ton of money paying influencers and video-game website IGN to make glowing web videos discussing how fun the Shell-inspired land in Fortnite (which they also put a bunch of money into) is. What's more fun than driving gas guzzlers in a video-game and fueling up at a virtual gas station? I mean, having an inhabitable planet might be more enjoyable, but shut up and take this check to talk about how much you love Shell! Obviously, criticism followed all this.
We Millenials are pretty skeptical and cynical about the World so I'm not surprised GenZ (as they are being called for now) are even more likely to question dumb B.S. like what Shell pulled. Did they expect putting millions of dollars into damage control in a video-game would salvage how bad fossil fuels are looking lately? I'd say this was one of the laziest-yet-most-expensive things an oil company could do, but I remember when British Petroleum (BP) made a big deal about changing their name to, "Beyond Petroleum," as if that made a difference. Masters of PR these companies clearly are not.
The moral of the story here is big oil paying influencers to say nice things about them is not going to solve how bad they look on the international scale. They're the bad guys and unless they put a concentrated effort towards doing things that don't destroy our planet, companies such as Shell and BP will be thought of as at best a necessary evil (I mean, lots of our cars do need gas) or treated with outright disdain.
Saturday, October 7, 2023
This week was dedicated to banned books. It is ironic that as information becomes more readily available efforts have increased to ban books or access to that information. Whether people want to keep children (or adults) from reading manga, fail to see the irony in banning a book about fascism such as, "Maus," or want to pretend LGBTQ people don't exist, efforts persist to ban books. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Throughout history those who tried to ban books/burn books/etc. were never the good guys. If you really are scared of your children learning about race or fail to see the irony in banning a title about censorship, ("Fahrenheit 451") then you're the problem. When they go to ban a book, that is a book you probably really should be reading.
Friday, October 6, 2023
I finally had a chance to watch the, "Barbie," movie at home thanks to it being possible to rent on the good ol' interwebs. It really was as good as people said and quite different from what one would expect of a toy tie-in flick. Everyone is absolutely amazing in their roles and the cast is stacked. Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu, Kate McKinnon, America Ferrera, Will Ferrell, Michael Cera, and more help this movie fire on all cylinders. It's hilarious, insightful, and makes you even choke up a bit at the end. Director Greta Gerwig took on a movie about a toy doll and made a masterpiece.
The general plot is that Margot Robbie's Barbie has to leave her World and go to the real World to address how she's been having strangely sad thoughts and developing odd body features like her feet going flat instead of their usual arch. Ryan Gosling's Ken tags along and develops a taste for the patriarchy in the real World and this leads to all kinds of trouble. That's a general summary, but there is a lot more to it. I also was amazed at how willing Mattel was to be poked at for fun and tip my hat to the company for giving everyone as much creative freedom as they did for this film.
"Barbie," made a ton (and I do mean a ton) of money at the box office and received glowing reviews. Besides some alt-right men whining about it online, it seems like basically everyone loved this movie. I know I was a fan. My only concern is movie studios will take the wrong message from this and try to churn out a bunch of toy tie-in movies while missing the point of what made this production great. Time will tell, but, "Barbie," will stand the test of time as a stellar movie!
5 out of 5 stars.