Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A Time For Reckoning/Dave Chappelle Always Told Us Who He Was

At the end of the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live, Dave Chappelle suddenly appeared during the good night segment. He joined the cast on the stage to seemingly everyone's surprise. He had not appeared in the episode at all but must have randomly been in the audience and got permission from someone--assumably Lorne Michaels--to jump on stage as the credits rolled. One of the cast members, Bowen Yang, was as far as one could possibly be from Chapelle while still remaining on the stage and looked visibly displeased. Yang is openly gay. At one point viewers could see Sarah Sherman go to talk to Yang as if to ask if he was okay. He gestured at Chappelle and it looked like she mouthed the word, “Oh.” This got me thinking about how Chappelle has become such a polarizing personality.

Dave Chappelle always told us who he was, there were just certain elements that were easier to ignore or overlook. I would say Chapelle has had some of the most insightful and concise commentaries on race I have ever seen delivered in a comedic manner. I would also say he is unquestionably transphobic and by no means an ally to lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals. The thing is, as early as, "Chapelle's show," first season there was one segment that I always think of when people talk about Chapelle and his regressive views on LGBTQ matters. That show launched him to superstardom and very early on he had a bit about how people don’t listen to him as a Black man but if he had a pretty White woman sing what he was thinking people would listen. Hence classically trained singer proceeds to come out on the stage. Here is a link. Chappelle hands her pieces of paper to read various statements. The audience is amused by it and then you can hear people get visibly uncomfortable when she reads a statement that he finds gay sex gross, and he’s sorry but he just finds it gross.

Chappelle's old segment.

The tension is quickly cut by having her read a piece of paper about how he does like lesbians followed by another piece of paper where he has her emphasize the word lesbians for a laugh. Still, as far back as those early episodes Chapelle made it clear that he was not necessarily aligned with LGBTQ individuals. Perhaps that was easier to overlook in the early 2000s when the idea of treating gay people with equal rights was somehow controversial and trans folks weren't even in the conversation. Now, of course, trans people have been around forever but it just was not getting much of any public coverage compared to lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. It was an awkward moment on his show that goes mostly forgotten compared to the amazing skits, but it still happened.

Chapelle captured lightning in a bottle with, "Chapelle's Show," on Comedy Central. He had astounding segments that cut to the core of our society and how it handles race and status among other elements. Then he basically quit the show due to a fear that instead of mocking stereotypes it was in fact perpetuating them. Many people were on Chappelle's side and when he did return to public life to do more standup specials everyone welcomed it! However, something hateful started to creep into every special more and more. It became clear that Chapelle was vehemently opposed to trans people.

Yang is as far from Chappelle as one can get.

I personally do not mind If comedy is offensive as long as it is funny. You can say almost anything and if you can make it funny or have it make us think then you’ve done some impressive. Some comedy is definitely a product of its time as well. Eddie Murphy himself has admitted some of his older stuff has not aged well because he made it when he was young and “...kind of an asshole. “That said, even viewing old comedy you can see a lot of people exercising their genius along with the stuff that fails to be funny nowadays. Chapelle‘s new material is not a product of its time. It just comes across as hackwork when I have viewed his jokes about transgender individuals. Sometimes he will still show that amazing flair for storytelling and insightful humor in his comedy but so much of it seems to be overshadowed by a focus on being anti-trans. Chappelle has morphed into an anti-trans activist who sometimes tells jokes. Plus, it is a shame how hacky it is. This man gave us some amazing segments on on his show and delivered what I would consider one of the best Saturday Night Live monologues back when Trump was elected president and Chapelle broke down all kinds of subjects relating to racism, classing, and more in our society. Those days are past.

People talk about Chapelle as if he has morphed into someone who is vehemently anti-trans. I would say he always was that way and many other people probably were too in the past but grew as individuals. He has not grown, unfortunately. He’s still that man who handed someone else a piece of paper so that they would say something anti-LGBTQ for him--but he's just outright saying it himself now. It’s a shame because there is so much genius in some of what Chapelle had done before and the new stuff would rather make an anti-trans statement than offer us good jokes.

Dave Chappelle always told us who he was--it just took a while for us to listen to everything he was saying. I and others have realized we need to reckon with the entirety of his joke catalog.  Whether we want to continue engaging with his work if he’s going to deliver mediocre material full of hateful opinions is what now must be pondered. We fully know who Dave Chappelle is. The question becomes what we’re going to do about that.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Television Tuesday: I Do Wish We'd Get a Real Housewives of Saint Louis Someday

Andy Cohen is a very powerful figure at Bravo and the mastermind behind a lot of the programming there. He is also a Saint Louis native and enjoys coming here to relax. That seems to be a major reason he has zero interest in ever expanding the, "Real Housewives," brand to STL. He's previously said this isn't a, "Slam," as his hometown is his favorite place and also stated you, "Don't poop where you eat," when asked about doing a show here. I get it, the man wants Saint Louis to be a place he can go to relax as opposed to another location he has to consider a work destination. That said, he has kind of bent this rule before.

Meghan King was a Real Housewife of Orange County back in 2015-2017. She was also a Saint Louis native, at the time of the show's filming married to a Saint Louis Cardinal (Jim Edmonds), and spent half her time in Saint Louis and half in California. She and Edmonds divorced in 2019 amid a cheating scandal (she literally found out about his texts to other women via tabloid articles). She now works in Real Estate here in Missouri and is dating a Saint Louis lawyer. I share all this to illustrate Ms. King is heavily enmeshed in Saint Louis culture but still managed to get on a Real Housewives show via technically living in Orange County 50%-ish of the time. If Andy Cohen could make an exception for her and kinda sort of have a Saint Louisan on a Real Housewives show why not just do one here at some point?

The man loves his hometown!

I don't watch all the, "Real Housewives," shows currently being made but have viewed various ones at different points in time. Lately, I've been a huge fan of the Salt Lake City iteration. It gets me thinking how fun it would be to see Saint Louis restaurants, landmarks, parks, and so forth as various women get into huge arguments that involve hurling insults (and sometimes drinks). Maybe when Cohen feels like he's nearing retirement he'll say, "Fine, here you go!" to all of us in the Lou and at least give us a season or two of, "The Real Housewives of Saint Louis," and it'll be more than a pipe dream. For now, however. It ain't happening anytime soon because I suppose Cohen respects his hometown too much to subject it to a Housewives franchise? Yeah, let's run with something heartwarming like that.

Amazon Made Everyone Mad By Implementing New Ads

I guess Amazon is having some financial trouble because they suddenly expect people to pay an extra $3 a month if they have Prime and want to enjoy movies or television shows without advertisements. Oh, what's that? Amazon's CEO is insanely rich and the company is among the most profitable and powerful around? Imagine that.

Seriously though, Amazon Prime did something other streamers do, but in a way none have attempted. They have advertisements, but not as a new subscription level you can pick to pay less (like with Netflix et. al); instead, Amazon just kind of put advertisements on Prime and let folks know they could pay more money if they didn't like them. There was some warning this was coming but everyone is still hot pissed. I get why. You can't give people something and then suddenly take it away and demand more money for it to come back. You need to offer more features for more money or let people know they can pay a bit less to lose some benefits. Don't let me into a buffet where everything is covered after I pay the initial charge and then some years later tell me drinks suddenly cost $3 extra. You can't expect me to just drink water when I've been downing unlimited Dr. Pepper! 

As Heather Kelly of the Washington Post puts it right in her headline, "The Dream of cheap, ad-free streaming TV is dead." Now we have a bunch of streamers with ads and even if you, "Cut the cord," with cable you end up paying the price of a cable subscription just to access a bunch of various apps/services that now have the very advertisements people quit cable to avoid. Streaming is a mess, and the era of prestige television seems to be fading away with, "Peak TV," now basically Unpeaked as some have put it. We were spoiled back when it was Cable and/or Netflix and that was about it outside of some premium Cable channels or Pay-per-view sporting events. Those days are long in the past, I suppose.

Monday, January 29, 2024

The, "Deluxe," Edition of, "Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League," Had a Horrible Pre-Launch

I am a huge fan of the, "Arkham," Batman games that were created by Rocksteady. When it was announced they were making a game set in that Universe featuring the Suicide Squad taking on a Justice League being controlled by Brainiac and turned evil, I was intrigued! Then more details leaked about it being one of those, "Live Service," games you supposedly play forever to get little updates, and my enthusiasm waned. Oh, and then it was heavily delayed to officially launch in February 2024. Rocksteady did ample damage control and emphasized even as a Live Service-ish game this won't take up too much of your time, and it will be fun, and any kind of game passes will be for cosmetic stuff so it'll all be fine, for real. Then people who paid for a deluxe version and were supposed to get access 72 hours early found the game taken down within an hour of its pre-launch due to a massive glitch. This game has more red flags than when someone introduces themselves to you at a coffee shop with a compliment and seems friendly but then follows up with what sounds like a pitch for a cult, MLM, or both (run away as fast as you can if you hear the word, "Downstream," said).

The glitch in question made it so that players logging onto the game for the first time were greeted with game text indicating they had already beaten the game in the sense of having at least played through everything once and unlocked all kinds of levels, cinematics, and the like. I understand if you let people play a game in early access they can expect bugs, but this wasn't (supposed to be) a glitchy game early in development, this is a title that is done and people paid extra (I believe this version was $100) to attempt and enjoy it early. If you're going to pull that kind of move your game should work, as Zack Zwiezen of Kotaku observed. I hate this trend of people paying more money to get access to a game for a week or some days and a fiasco such as this only furthers how I'd never pay extra cash for little more than the privilege of trying a game a little earlier. This is just another moment of chaos in what has been an utter wreck of this game's development. Hopefully, when it does work it'll be fun. Many reviewers were denied early access, unlike folks who ponied up a bundle of money, however, so who knows!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

The First Two Issues of, "Batman: Off-World," Are Extremely Entertaining!

DC puts out a ton of Batman comics. It oftentimes feels like more than half of what they release involves Batman or the Bat family in some fashion (I swear I saw stats once confirming this). Hence, when I saw there would be yet another floppy focused on Batman I wasn't that intrigued. Then I saw it would have Jason Aaron writing and Dough Mahnke on art. That got my attention as when Aaron is on he's on and Mahnke is a stellar artist too. Reading the synopsis sounded a bit interesting too, with the comic focusing on Batman relatively earlier in his career and the first time he heads into outer space. I blogged about being intrigued. Having read the two first issues, I am having a really good time so far!

Aaron writes Batman in his usual stoic and skilled manner but doesn't hesitate to emphasize this is a man out of his element whose usual tricks don't always work when an alien's pressure points could very well be a body part humans have never heard of. Mahnke's artwork is just gorgeous with aliens that look imposing and surreal in the best possible way. The story follows Batman as he discovers an otherworldly threat to Gotham and takes to the stars to figure out just what he can do to best counter any dangers. The plot itself isn't too elaborate but the characterizations of other friends and foes our hero meets are quite fun. A robot designed only for punching provides a lot of comedic relief in these first two issues and a mysterious reformed-ish bounty hunter makes a nice foil for Batman to interact with. It's good stuff.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the first two issues of, "Batman: Off-World," considering I've been burnt out on so many Bat-titles at some points. With a great hook and a stellar creative team, I perhaps should've expected this title would be a keeper! I can't wait for the third issue in this mini-series which is due next week!

5 out of 5 Stars.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Food Network Kind of Did Valerie Bertinelli Dirty

Valerie Bertinelli was a part of multiple programs on Food Network until one got canceled (Valerie's Home Cooking). Then another show she co-hosted, "Kids'Baking Championship," was announced to no longer have her involved after this season. Food Network has claimed talks with Bertinelli's team stalled, but she has posted there were no talks. She basically got radio silence from Food Network after she finished filming the most recent season of, "Kids' Baking Championship," in 2022 and has made it clear she holds no ill will to Food Network but is bummed. Her deal expired and Food Network didn't renew it, which is unfortunate.

By all accounts, Bertinelli is an extremely pleasant person and I enjoyed watching her on Food Network. It really seems like Food Network wants to blame Bertinelli for her no longer being involved at the channel, but she seems legit upset and was willing to do more shows. I wish Bertinelli well and hope she can find some other fun projects to work on.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

There is Little Reason to Care About Oscar Nominations These Days, or Any Award Shows, Frankly

These recent days the Oscar Nominations for the films of 2023 were announced. A lot of people were upset that the director of the, "Barbie," movie, Greta Gerwig, was snubbed for a, "Best Director," nomination and that Margot Robbie was overlooked for, "Best Actress." At the same time, Ryan Gosling received a, "Best Supporting Actor," nomination (America Ferrera did also get a nom for, "Supporting Actress," it should be noted). Many folks pointed out that a big point of the ,"Barbie," movie was that men get all the credit while women who work hard are overlooked. Then the backlash to the backlash kicked in too. Other folks said how the first ever Native American woman getting a nomination for, "Best Actress," in the case of Lily Gladstone for, "Killers of the Flower Moon," was impressive and that we shouldn't care about a movie based on a toy/that was an ad for Mattel/etc. I see both sides in this but have my own opinion that I will raise in the form of a question: Why do we ever care about the Oscar nominations much at all?

Award shows are fun and fine, but they are one big exercise in navel-gazing as Hollywood pats itself on the back and says what was the, "Best," movie in the opinion of people within Hollywood. It doesn't matter what the box office said, what audiences thought, or any of that. These big award shows for movies or television are the opinion of a small group of people--and that's okay! I am but an individual and I shared my opinions on stuff last year and actually said how the, "Barbie," movie was my favorite flick from 2023. I also know my opinion only counts for so much in the World. Still, why do we put much of any stock in the Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, or when it comes to music, the Grammys? If you loved a movie the fact it won an Oscar shouldn't make you adore it more.

Gosling, Robbie, and Gerwig.

I get why people are mad about various individuals getting overlooked in the Oscar nominations. I also understand why others are happy with the nominations. I don't get why people care so much when year after year the declining viewership and reduced social cachet of the Oscars makes it clear individuals could care less about the show unless somebody gets slapped. An Oscar is a fun little thing to note a movie received and signifies a certain group of people wanted to honor that film. That's it though. Let's not pretend these award shows matter to any greater degree than they actually do.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Future as Allegory and, "Avengers: Twilight," #1

Some people look at history these days and argue if the Nazis were really bad. It is among the most ignorant debates you could have with Nazis being one of if not the most evil groups seen on Earth. The Red Skull was a fictional Nazi and remains among Marvel's worst villains. A scene in, "Avengers: Twilight," sees an old (now physically as well as chronologically) Steve Rogers witnessing a television station advertising a new documentary about how the Red Skull was possibly not evil and Rogers finds himself disgusted. The comic is set in the future but a lot of, "Avengers: Twilight," could be looked at as an allegory for today, with that scene serving as but a single example of why.

The government always watching for dissent. Overpowered law enforcement abusing their power and preventing the public from taping any criminal abuses. The very folks pushing misinformation claiming their freedom of speech is being stifled when questioned about their beliefs in lies. These themes permeate, "Avengers: Twilight," as it reflects on what happens when a society refuses to consider a difference between heroes or villains and just considers anyone with power dangerous unless they toe the officially accepted line? Steve Rogers and all the other heroes are old in this unclear point of time but we have the son of Tony Stark and Janet Van Dyne--James Stark--and other younger folks given official designation to be heroes and make the powers-that-be look good. We aren't looking at a dystopian future in, "Avengers: Twilight," we are looking at an allegory for the World today, just with some superpowered folks and a few extra decades added on for cosmetic effect.

Speaking of the, "Cosmetics," for every great moment of writing Chip Zdarsky supplies, Daniel Acuna brings the most beautiful artwork. Acuna's visuals of a future overly busy with screens broadcasting ads and videos everywhere is a bit like our interconnected World cranked up to an insane (yet still depressingly plausible) degree. Everything is online, but how much of that so-called everything people are allowed to see of the truth of our World remains a sticking point. Acuna gives us a view of the future that is uncomfortably possible yet just extreme enough to feel distant and uncomfortably foreign. He does a stellar job, in other words.

To return to the politics of all this, arguments have been made that heroes are inherently a fascist concept. A superpowered man or woman emerges on the scene to maintain the status quo and beats up those engaging in questionable acts due to desperation brought about by a broken society. I've never really ascribed to that idea, however. Superman was himself fighting for the, "Little Guy," in his first appearances, beating-up slumlords and promoting equality for all. "Avengers: Twilight," looks at a World where heroes have been relegated to being little more than fascist figureheads, but gives us other superheroes ready to use any power they have to fight against such as corrupt and broken system. It's not a Conservative concept or a Liberal concept, it's a belief in the ideology of freedom for everyone--a dream that should transcend any political leanings.

Chip Zdarsky and Daniel Acuna have created a story about Steve Rogers and other old Avengers fighting against fascism in the future. Through the biggest superpower of all--allegory--it is clear that no matter when this story is set it is an agonizingly recognizable portrayal of our own World we live in today--just minus people in capes. I can't wait to read more issues of, "Avengers: Twilight," and think we've got the start of something really special here.

5 out of 5 Stars.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Saint Louis Got Pummeled With Ice Today

I'm a bit jealous of those of you living in warm or at least vaguely pleasant places as things were pretty gross in the Saint Louis region today. An ice storm came through in the early morning hours and persisted to the point schools were canceled, businesses kept closed till later and public transit ground to a halt. Anyone who did take to the roads found themselves skidding around as if they were on a poorly monitored carnival ride.

I sincerely hope anyone who could stay home during the first chunk of today did so and waited until this afternoon to go out as things got a little less wretched. When the weather is absolutely terrible the best option is always to stay home and stay safe. I'd say I can't wait for warmer weather, but usually by the time Summer arrives and it's ungodly hot, I find myself wishing for Winter. Basically, I like the two weeks or so of Spring weather and Fall weather we get at their respective times of the year and otherwise, it is always too hot or too cold. You've got to love the Midwest and the impact of climate change!

Sunday, January 21, 2024

People Are Really Ordering a Lot of the New, "Thundercats," Comic


I know that, "Thundercats," has a solid fanbase, but I didn't expect it to have as many copies preordered as it seems it has. Now, the publisher, Dynamite, is known for making tons of variant covers and ratio covers. That means some of the sales could be shops going heavy to get those limited covers. Still, over 170,000 copies of, "Thundercats," #1 are ordered by stores now. In the comic-book industry in 2024 that is quite a lot. Retro stuff is new and hot again, from IDW keeping the license for, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and apparently planning to relaunch it to Image/Skybound with that new Energon Universe containing G.I. Joe and Transformers. 

Declan Shalvey and Drew Moss are working on the new, "Thundercats," and that is a solid team, so I hope the book is as good as the sales seem to indicate people are hoping it shall be. With the comic-book industry having a lot of highs and lows lately I'm always pleased to see a title doing well. A rising tide raises all boats as they say.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

"Pocket City 2," is a Charming City-Builder

I'd seen positive buzz for, "Pocket City 2," and as someone who considers, "Simcity 4," one of their favorite games of all time I have a fondness for city-builders.  Having tried the game I quite enjoyed it! "Pocket City 2," has the usual routine of creating residential, commercial, and industrial zones which you then make sure have power, water, and fire/educational/safety coverage. The interesting part is balancing zones, extra stuff like recreational options, and continuously growing. I really like how you can go and walk around your city or drive about it too. There are lots of little stats and things to consider but the game isn't too difficult. For example, citizens in the more complex city-building games might throw a fit if a landfill is next to their house, but virtual folks in, "Pocket City 2," are cool with it.

"Pocket City 2," can be bought for your iPhone or Android device for about five bucks and has zero in-app purchases. You simply earn all the cool unlockable items in the game (or choose a sandbox mode to go nuts with all the doo-dads). It is deceptively cute with all the things going on under the metaphorical hood. I have had a lot of fun playing it for good chunks of time and would recommend if you've got a phone that it'll work with that you give it a try!

5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, January 19, 2024

When You Decide to Quit Being Famous But People Won't Let You Do So--On Richard Simmons

Richard Simons was a pop-culture icon in the 1980's and 1990's. Famous for his bright red hair, energetic personality, and for encouraging folks to exercise via videos he sold (he had all kinds of ages and body types in his exercise programs too), the man was very well-known. Then, in 2014, he just kind of decided he was done. Simmons withdrew from public life and by 2016 didn't do any big media events. This alarmed fans and the tabloids who concocted all kinds of rumors and scenarios from saying he was being held hostage by a housekeeper, to he had busted his knees, to he was getting gender reassignment surgery. Simmons would simply put out press releases saying he was living a quiet life and wanted to be left alone. People didn't like that.

It seems Richard Simmons did one of the worst things a celebrity can do besides committing a crime--he decided to quit caring about being famous. Human beings seem incapable of grasping such an idea. Many people yearn to achieve fame, those who do get popular and fade from the public eye grasp and claw at anything they can to stay relevant (many celebrities have made a career out of being D-list reality show contestants. How dare someone still be of interest to the public and then want to be allowed to live in his/her house unbothered, go get groceries without cameras going off, or otherwise be left alone! How could Simmons choose to quit entertaining us with his videos when we demanded such a thing? He owes us as fans! For real though, Richard Simmons wanted a private life and many people have at least respected that.

Pauly Shore as Richard Simmons in, "The Court Jester."

This leads to the latest news that Pauly Shore is playing Richard Simmons in a biopic (preceded by a short film) titled, "The Court Jester," and how Richard Simmons put out one of those rare press releases on his Facebook stating, "Don't believe everything you read...I just try to live a quiet life and be peaceful." It astounded people so much Simmons made this statement on his rarely-used Facebook he went on to clarify in another post the 17th, "Hello.  I have received quite a few media inquiries about the authenticity of my post.  I have not had a manager or publicist for years. If there are any more media inquiries, please email them through the contact page on my website at RichardSimmons.com. Love, Richard." He put it simply, but Pauly Shore and friends still made a short film about Simmons that will be premiering at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and then shall be expanded into a feature film, against Simmons's wishes.

I understand we want to talk about Simmons and I imagine he doesn't mind if we do so in the context of how much we enjoyed his past work, public appearances, and so forth. Plus, anyone who wants to make a movie about him can, but if he asks you not to do such a thing, I'd argue the ethical choice is to follow his request. I also am aware that it is a bit of a paradox that I am making a post drawing attention to the fact Simmons wants us to just leave him be. All of that said, Richard Simmons has told us he's happy with a life out of the public eye, doing whatever he wants to do without public scrutiny. Even if it blows our minds someone could want to quit being famous, Simmons did just that. Let's just let the guy be happy.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Hot Comics Revue 16--Baby, Come Home to the Ultimate Universe. No, the Other One!

When it was first announced how in the latest iteration of the Ultimate Universe Spider-Man would be married to Mary Jane with kids I wrote that it would probably appeal to folks who grew up back when Spidey was married (before the Devil/Mephisto undid it, it was weird) and younger readers curious about an older Peter Parker with kids. Talk about an understatement because, "Ultimate Spider-Man," #1 (2024 edition) is the first big hit of the year and Marvel's first (new) book to really strike a nerve and get hot in some time.

Cover A is normally priced at $5.99 due to being extra-big and such, but the book is now trending for $35-$40 online with other variant covers creeping up from their cover price too (a rising tide raises all boats, perhaps). People have been saying online the book is probably a hit because it features a great writer (Jonathan Hickman) a stellar artist (Marco Checcheto) and tells a story fans have wanted for some time (Peter Parker grown-up, married to Mary Jane, with kids). Who knew having a solid creative team telling a story people would like to read would make a comic popular (sarcasm intended)? Only the first issue has come out so the series could very well get even hotter or faceplant. Whatever the case, it is a bit funny to think the original Ultimate Universe had a very young Peter Parker and was incredibly popular for some time and this iteration has a much older Pete and is a hit now as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The Creature From the Black Lagoon is Getting a Sequel Comic!

Skybound (an imprint of Image) has been putting out a Dracula comic in partnership with Universal. Now, the latest horror movie monster to get a comic shall be none other than The Creature From the Black Lagoon! The sequel series shall be written by the stellar Ram V (whose Black Label Aquaman comic had a lot of underwater terror) in partnership with Dan Watters and Matthew Roberts shall provide art. I have a soft spot for the ol' creature and even own a Blu-Ray re-release of his classic picture from decades ago. I look forward to what will be titled, "Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives!," #1 when it is due to be released in late April. I wonder what other Universal monsters might get comics soon (the Invisible Man would be cool) and if we'll even see a crossover at some point? We shall see!

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Television Tuesday: "The Trust," On Netflix is a Fun Game of Greed

"The Trust," is a gameshow where everyone has already won. Seriously, everybody gets a cut of $250,000 just for showing up as long as they don't get voted out of the house. Ah yes, because there has to be a twist, and in the end, this is a game of greed. All the folks in the villa are quite different from each other too. We've got folks of assorted backgrounds, sexualities, races, and body types. Some people defy initial stereotypes you might have about them regarding how they treat others and the possibility of screwing over teammates for a bigger piece of the trust. Some contestants are eager to throw anyone they can under the metaphorical bus. It makes for entertaining television knowing all everyone has to do is basically nothing and they can all get a piece of the pie. Still, with only a single vote needed to eliminate someone (votes are anonymous too) and the fact that makes your chunk of cash bigger, you do the math.

"The Trust," is by no means perfect. Host Brooke Baldwin gives everyone little games to play that seem designed to piss everyone off with each other at a rapid speed instead of letting tension develop naturally (which it does too, thankfully). Some contestants are a bit bland and I practically forget they are on the show with how little screen time they get. Other contestants get more attention than they really need, with a vague romantic connection between two people being boring as Hell yet getting a bunch of minutes. That said, you quickly find yourself rooting for the individuals who seem genuinely kind and caring with an interest in sharing money and booing the others who have little hesitation in acting nefariously to get what they want. This is a reality show at the end of the day and it thrives off drama, but the concept that everyone has already won if they can just avoid metaphorically shooting each other in the foot is a great hook. That is because, of course, we as human beings are going to screw up something that seems simple. The first half of the episodes were released by Netflix with another chunk coming out this Wednesday, the 17th. I look forward to tuning in and seeing just how badly everyone continues to make a seemingly good situation worse.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 15, 2024

MLK Day and Dreams Deferred in a World of Strife

Martin Luther King Jr. fought tirelessly for racial and economic equality. In what is arguably his most famous speech delivered during the March on Washington, he discussed a dream where people are judged for things other than their race and we have achieved racial harmony. It's 2024 and that dream seems to be deferred in a Nation--nay, a World--full of strife. Within America itself we have a man who engages in racist rhetoric leading the shortlist to run for President as a Republican and while I'm not saying everything is Donald Trump's fault by any means, he serves as a prime example and symbol of how messed-up our nation currently is regarding a whole lot of social factors. Worldwide we see Israel at war with Hamas in a battle that has no easy solution with deep roots in racial and religious strife. I could run down a checklist of examples where we've failed to achieve what MLK was aiming for, but this is a day about honoring just how far we have come as well. 

It sounds almost defeatist to remark, "Things could be worse," but without people who worked (and continue to work) tirelessly for rights who knows how awful things could be. There is a long, long way to go, but thanks to individuals such as MLK, Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Malcolm X (a name not without some controversy to include), and more we as a society have progressed and have a blueprint to continue getting better. Whether we follow that blueprint or end up tearing down what we have accomplished becomes the big question.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Go Play! in Chesterfield is Immense Fun!

I enjoy taking our children to fun things for kids because I want them to be happy and it is a good way to burn all the extra energy the youth seem to have. Clarkson is six and loves any kind of play place/play zone where he can run, jump, climb, and so forth. I had heard from some friends about a new such location that had opened up called, "Go Play!" Located in the Chesterfield Valley, I decided to take Clarkons today to Go Play! while Samii and Gibson stayed home in the warm house due to it getting even colder than this morning and Gibson needed a nap. 

Go Play! has two time slots you can book and then come and go as you please during said time window. We did the 8AM-1PM and arrived around 11AM so that Clarkson would have a good two hours to play. He had a ton of fun! The space is really open and nice. There are plenty of places outside the play area itself to relax or have a snack (they provide free coffee and plenty of concessions). Everything felt really clean and employees were often going around sweeping up gravel from the pit (more on that in a minute) or wiping down the climbing structures. 

There really was quite a lot to choose from in the main play area or the side room for smaller children. From slides and ball pits to trampolines, a mini rock wall, those spider-web things you climb up/down in, things to roll balls, light-up toys, and more, this space was loaded with things for kiddos to enjoy! 

Clarkson has always been a huge fan of jumping and sliding so his favorite activity was doing the trampoline area, going up in the tower to come down the big slide, going back to the trampolines, up the tower to slide down, and so forth. When he would get tired of running or jumping he would chill in the gravel pit and scoop the pieces a bit in a zen manner that he appeared to enjoy as well.

Go Play! is a wonderful addition to the region and provides another fantastic resource for parents wanting to take their kids someplace fun. The play zone was really fun, the free coffee was lovely, and the employees were all wonderful; when I mentioned how Clarkson has Autism Spectrum Disorder and could potentially try to run out (which you have to go past the front desk to enter or exit) they said they'd keep him from doing so if he tried that--he didn't as he was so enthralled with the play space, but better safe than sorry!

You can book your timeslot at Go Play! in advance via their website or simply show up to play, but I'd recommend booking ahead as they can reach their maximum capacity (they try to make sure it doesn't get too crowded) on gross days where it is more fun to be inside.

The ToyMan Show for January 2024 Was Jam-Packed With Fun!

I missed the previous ToyMan show due to our children sleeping terribly (which was a precursor to everyone in the house getting sick shortly before the holidays, so that was fun). That said, even though it was a bit frigid today I made my way to the Machinists Hall in Bridgeton and enjoyed a fantastic first show of the year! There was a cool guest today in the form of Scott Innes, a voiceover artist especially known for his work in the Scooby Doo cartoons! Everyone really enjoyed meeting Mr. Innes and besides his presence, the show--as usual--was stacked full of awesome stuff to look at and buy!

I started the show off chatting with my friend John Chaffee of Bigfoot Comics and Collectibles. The always-lovely Bruce Reynolds was at the show with his usual stellar wares as well and I was able to chat with the fantastic folks of Tatertot Comics and Collectibles too. My chum Tim Metzger was nearby and is a fun fellow to converse with at every show too. I browsed the fun wares of Retro Resale and Vince of VK Toys had a lot of neat items too! Dustin and Tammy had brought some stellar comics and I was able to cut a deal with him and acquire a snazzy comics of, "Marvel Premiere, " #28, the first appearance of the Legion of Monsters! Give it a look:

Brian Lan and I talked about how life had been treating us and it was great to see him! Spike from Lost in Space Toys and Collectibles was at the show with a bunch of fun wares as were the folks of Alliance Comics, Toys, and Games. My friend Greg Madrigal had a booth with another friend selling a bunch of fascinating toys and comics, plus I saw Marcus Mosley with a lot of awesome floppies too! In the upstairs area, I saw my usual cool folks too! My author friends Jessica Mathews and Lindsay Hornsby had a ton of cool things they'd created for sale, plus I met some new folks like the guys behind My Big Fat Pullist, a podcast that I plan to check out! Heroes for Kids was upstairs too, raising funds for important causes. Back in the downstairs area, I met Meoldy Eye of CCPI who had a ton of 3D printer creations that were superb. I enjoyed chatting with her and she let me get a picture of her at her table:

Besides the vendors which I've noted there were a ton more and a bunch were new to this show. It was neat to meet some new folks selling everything from Funko Pops, to Legos, other random toys, and even Laserdiscs--plus I always enjoy checking out any booths with comics! I had an incredible amount of fun at the ToyMan show and am glad I was able to make it to this one. I strongly encourage anyone who is a fan of anything collectible to check the ToyMan show out as it is loaded to the brim with cool stuff to browse and buy. I almost always find something to purchase at the show and I do always see stuff I'd like to buy but maybe lack the funds for at the moment because I'm not exactly swimming in enough dough to buy an, "Avengers," #1--which I saw one or two of at the show! The next show is March 10th and I for sure hope to attend! Visit the show's website for any information you might need and I hope to see you there!

Saturday, January 13, 2024

The Hood to Become the New Ghost Rider

The Hood AKA Parker Robbins is a character with an interesting history. First introduced in a Marvel Max comic by Brian K Vaughn and Kyle Hotz, he went on to become a bit of a favorite character to write for Brian Bendis and popped up a bunch in New Avengers. Then depending on who was writing the character he was a bit of a Kingpin, almost heroic, straight-up terrible, insanely overpowered, or mostly powerless. He's bounced around Marvel and now it seems he will be taking up the mantle of the Ghost Rider, of all things. I don't love this and I don't hate it.

The Ghost Rider is not really a hero, but not a villain either. He does heroic things sometimes but he's kind of terrifying and his M.O. is punishing the wicked no matter what. He's one of the older-school anti-heroes like the Punisher. The Hood becoming a Ghost Rider seems like a way to make him a little less of a baddie and move him in the direction of being an anti-hero. We've seen that with a lot of characters who started out evil and now are vaguely good guys (Harley Quinn and Venom come to mind right away). The Hood will be appearing in, "Ghost Rider: Final Vengeance," and the current series' writer, Benjamin Percy, will pen this tale too ( Juan Ferreyra will draw the debut two issues). I'm curious how this will go as I've generally enjoyed reading The Hood's stories when he appears. We shall see when the first issue drops this March!

Friday, January 12, 2024

Gibson Loves His Book From the Dolly Parton Imagination Library!

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a cool program that exists in a number of states and sends free books to kids! Dolly Parton created this nonprofit and it has done a ton of good for children. We thought we'd sign Gibson up to get books as he is under the age cutoff and the program just became available in Missouri. The first book just arrived and it is really cute! The debut book is a retelling of, "The Little Engine That Could," and has introductory text discussing the Imagination Library and how this is always the first book before other ones arrive. Here is a closeup:

We are so excited to be a part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and appreciate that this program exists for us and everyone else who loves books, reading, and learning! Check out the program's website if you have little ones to see if you're in an area that qualifies!

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Goodbye, Fruit Stripe Gum

Fruit Stripe gum is being discontinued. This is a bummer as I always have liked Fruit Stripe gum. People would joke the flavor did not last long at all, but I enjoyed chewing it as I am a big fan of gums. Bubblegums are my favorite as I can blow amazingly large bubbles--this is not a brag, it is just a fact--but I try to avoid making my bubbles too big lest they pop and get all over my glasses and face. Even if Fruit Stripe gum was more of a chewing gum I had a fondness for it and especially enjoyed the cherry flavor. 

Fruit Stripe gum has been around for more than half a century, but the company behind it, Ferrara Candy, has decided to, "Sunset," the gum, which is almost as cute of phrasing as claiming a pet went to live at a farm upstate. Find yourself some Fruit Stripe gum at stores while you still can because soon it will be gone and only available on eBay for marked-up prices--yes, seriously. It was a good gum, though. I'll miss it along with other discontinued products like the beloved Kraft Fresh Take or mostly forgotten Mr. Green. Goodbye, Fruit Stripe gum. You were always enjoyable for the admittedly short-lived moments of flavor you provided.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

CGC is in Midst of a Big Crisis

In the past couple of weeks, YouTube videos started getting posted about how people had uncovered that scammers were taking advantage of flaws in CGC cases and the grading/reholdering/etc. process to pass books off as being a better grade than they were, or with special Mark Jeweler's insets, etc. It blew up into a huge thing that CGC was slow to respond to and other sites that normally love scandals were oddly slow to report on or downplayed (looking at you, Bleedingcool, but you do get a lot of ad revenue from CGC so hmmm). Comicsbeat--to their credit--has started trying to explore this complex mess. CGC has said they will correct any falsified slabs and have been vaguely apologetic while carefully wording things to avoid a lawsuit. It's been a slow boil of a controversy but it's reached a scorching temperature.

I don't know much about slabbing and wasn't sure what opinion I could contribute, so I was waiting to say much about this, but it clearly is a mess. CGC apologists are saying we are looking at isolated incidents and that CGC handled everything well. Other folks are saying that unless you basically have gotten your slab back from CGC yourself, almost any case you've bought from another person could be suspect. A vast majority of folks seem to be taking a, "Wait and see," approach where they aren't forgiving CGC for the oversights that made tricking the system possible but will wait to swear CGC off as well until the dust from all this settles. Will CGC recover because they are in some ways possibly too big to fail? Will this permanently tarnish their reputation or end up as a footnote of a scandal? Are employees at CBCS (the other big comic grading company) maniacally laughing about this behind closed doors? I plan to keep my CGC membership and use them for my comics (especially when I want to keep them safe in a case and such), but if I might be nervous to buy a slab for awhile. I imagine there will be a lot more on all of this as the story develops.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Television Tuesday: A, "Criminal," Show is the in the Works

"Criminal," is one of the best things Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have made. With current issues published by Image (it started as a creator-owned title under Marvel's Icon imprint), if it were any other creative team it might very well be the best comic they ever produced, but these are the guys who also made, "The Fadeout," "Sleeper," and other stellar series, so it is hard to pick a favorite comic by the duo. That said, "Criminal," and its various mini-series focusing on assorted characters dealing in all sorts of crime make for some stellar reading. Hearing that Amazon is going to make a series for Prime based on the, "Criminal," comics frankly makes perfect sense with various story arcs perfectly serving as seasons that can stand mostly alone but also intersect in little ways. I congratulate Brubaker and Phillips on their latest success!

Monday, January 8, 2024

IDW To Continue Publishing, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," Comics

On multiple occasions, I have written about my concerns regarding IDW and if it will be able to--basically--stay in business. Between losing several licenses, bleeding money, firing a lot of staff, and other things, I've had concerns. I read some good news about IDW today, however! They will continue to publish comics set within the IP of, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," as they've been doing since 2009. This means IDW will be able to put out a variety of titles celebrating how this year is the 40th--yes 40th!--anniversary of the debut of TMNT back in 1984 as a little black-and-white independent comic that became a smashing success. I like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and want any comic publisher putting out good stuff to stay in business so I'm pleased with this latest news--especially considering losing the TMNT license would be a horrific blow to IDW after it has already suffered a number of setbacks. Here's to the TMNT on their 40th anniversary and congrats to IDW for keeping the license and continuing to put out quality comics featuring the Turtles amongst other quality reads.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

"Hack/Slash: Back to School," Has Been Phenomenal So Far

Only two issues are out of the four-issue mini-series, but, "Hack/Slash: Back to School," is already fantastic. Following the popular character Cassie Hack of the various, "Hack/Slash," series earlier in her career of hunting down horror-movie-style monsters that kill people (AKA Slashers), the series is both written and drawn by the talented Zoe Thorogood. Thororgood's, "It's Lonely at the Centre of the Earth," was a favorite of mine back in 2022 as it told an autobiographical tale but Thorogood is killing it--pun intended--with this new mini-series that I've been excited to read since it was first announced.

The basic gist of this tale featuring Cassie is it takes place quite early in her career (as I said) shortly after she meets (now longtime) partner Vlad and she, "Enrolls," in a school of sorts for young women who are going out and putting a stop to the serial killing Slashers. The second issue features Cassie and some other girls getting sucked into an old-school PC game and Thorogood continues to show why she's an amazing writer and illustrator as the style shifts to pixels and then pseudo-3D artwork. It is astounding stuff.

I've been a fan of anything in the, "Hack/Slash," line of comics for years now and Zoe Thorogood's entry into the brand's legacy is already shaping up to be an immensely impressive one. Whether you're familiar with Cassie Hack and Vlad or a newbie to their tales, you really ought to be reading, "Hack/Slash: Back to School." I know I can't wait for the next issue!

5 out of 5 Stars (for both issues).

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Always Remember: They Attacked the Capitol Today in 2021

On January 6th, 2021, a group of people emboldened/encouraged by former President Trump attempted an insurrection of our nation's Capitol. It was a riot, it was a mess, and it continues to be a disgrace and black eye on our nation's peaceful transfer of power in a system of democracy. Thanks to a GOP that shrugged at this madness we still have Trump claiming the 2020 election was rigged and that he should be able to do whatever he wants without any legal consequences. Do not forget what they tried to do three years ago. While keeping that in mind, work to ensure Donald Trump never holds any kind of political power again, period. 

Donald Trump tried to overthrow the Government and the Constitution he was sworn to protect. Do not let anyone ever downplay how significant and terrible the events of January 6th those three years ago were and who was responsible for them. It wasn't the Liberals, it was the dye-in-the-wool Trump supporters and a GOP blindly loyal to him too. Remember all of that if you are a citizen who can vote this year when the election rolls around and Trump could very well be the Republican nominee despite any logic otherwise.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Flashback Friday: All These Years Later, Were We Too Hard on the Xbox One?

You all may recall how the PlayStation 3 was struggling to compete with the Xbox 360. Then, in May of 2013, Microsoft announced the Xbox One and everyone had a field day with how stupid it seemed (myself included) and I and others said how E3 (may it rest in peace) had a clear winner that June with the PlayStation 4 absolutely spanking the Xbox One and resulting in Microsoft tweaking a bunch of features to make it more palatable to gamers. Xbox's chief Phil Spencer fully admits they lost that generation of the console wars. What did the Xbox One initially plan to do that made us so mad?

A big sticking point was how the Xbox One was going to require players to always be online to play their games and would register a game to that specific console so you couldn't loan the disc to a friend as it would be assigned to your console. Well, now we've got Game Pass and an Xbox console that doesn't even have discs, the Xbox Series S, so that really is a minor thing. Physical media was a big deal in 2013, but now it is basically on its way out (somewhat sadly). Having your console always need to be online isn't a big deal either, so many games are online or have an online element these days. Yes, the Kinect they wanted to force people to buy with the console was lame but that feature was eventually dropped. Plus, we use our consoles to watch online streaming apps a lot now too, something else Microsoft touted with the Xbox One to jeers at the idea of using a console to watch television...which is now common with lots of folks using a console for Netflix or such (especially if the television isn't a newer smart T.V. that has the apps built-in).

We all mocked the Xbox One but maybe it was just ahead of its time? Besides the Kinect were the other elements as terrible as I and others wrote they were? Maybe for 2013, but not 2024, I suppose? I guess we were a little too hard on the Xbox One in retrospect, but who knew that online gaming and a lack of physical discs would become such a big thing? I guess Microsoft and its Xbox did, we just didn't want to listen. The Kinect was awful though, I will always harp on about that.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Two Comedians I Enjoy Are Feuding and it Saddens Me

In modern-day comedy, one of the tackiest things you can do is outright steal a joke. It's nearly impossible to actually sue someone for joke stealing but if it's known they've committed joke theft, it looks bad and tarnishes a reputation fast. Hence, I am saddened to see two comedians I enjoy feuding over whether one stole another's joke. You see, Katt Williams is stating that Cedric the Entertainer took one of his best jokes back in the 90's and ripped it off wholesale, only getting a, "Pass," for a decade due to apologizing for doing such a thing. Among other wild statements (like saying Steve Harvey stole from Mark Curry), the allegations against Cedric seem to be getting the most press. Cedric has said this is, "Revisionist history," and that reducing his career to a single joke that he did not steal is silly.

The exact joke hasn't been disclosed by Katt Williams or Cedric the Entertainer, but it seems it involves riding in a car (or spaceship in Cedric's version) and doing some funny poses. The jokes are a little different but have similarities so I understand where the feud is coming from. That said, I wish there weren't a feud, period. I have enjoyed watching both comedians in various specials, flicks, and shows. I would prefer they not be fighting as it just makes me sad to see two men who have done a lot of impressive stuff arguing about their jokes. I honestly hope the two gentlemen can come to some kind of reconciliation.