27th Sep2019

Kickin’ It Old School at Retro Con 2019

by Will

That’s right, folks – we’re putting West Week Ever back on the shelf this week for me to, instead, regale you with my trip up to Oakes, PA two weeks ago for Retro Con 2019. Now, this was far from my first trip to Retro Con, as it’s been something of an almost annual excursion for me since around 2012. Oh, wait. You haven’t heard of Retro Con? Well, the official website describes it as a pop culture and memorabilia show catering to anything considered “retro”, especially the 80’s! Transformers, Star Wars, GI Joe, Ghostbusters, He-man, classic video games, etc.. We’ve got 215+ tables of collectibles and art for sale, special guests, video games, a costume contest, raffles, a trivia contest, panels, replica props, and much more! Basically if you answer “yes” to the questions “Do you like old toys” AND “Do you wonder what happened to that character actor who was on The Fall Guy that one time?”, then Retro Con is the place for you!

I’m not trying to knock their guests, but they certainly are not the draw for this show. The guest list tends to be comprised of voice actors from classic 80s cartoons, and they had a couple of guys from The A-Team last year (ya know, the ones who either aren’t Mr. T or dead). Throw in an old school WWF wrestler who never really held a belt (in the past, Sgt Slaughter; this year, Hacksaw Jim Duggan), and you’ve got the Retro Con guest list!

No, if you’re making the trek to Oakes, PA, then you’re headed there for the TRUE stars of the show: the collectibles! The show never disappoints, and it is THE destination for anyone looking to fill some holes in their vintage collection. While you’ll still find convention mainstays, like Funko Pops and seriously overpriced vintage comics, you’ll also find guys with bins who’ll practically say “Make me an offer ’cause I don’t want this shit in my garage anymore.” I will say, though, that the sliding timeline of what it means for something to be “vintage” sort of changed the makeup of what was available for sale. For one thing, there were fewer G.I. Joes and Transformers, and a LOT more Power Rangers. While there were recent Rangers, the sweet spot of what was there were the toys from Mighty Morphin‘s peak, around ’94-’95. Also, the bootleg video guys have upgraded to Blu Ray, which is somewhat puzzling, since that just means their substandard rips are just gonna look like shit in High Definition. Still, there was cool stuff to be found on the showroom floor, so sit back and take a gander at my award winning* cell phone photography!

As the original 8′ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers figures were almost impossible to find for most early collectors, the 5.5″ Auto Morphin line (disgustingly referred to as “Head Flippers” by some Troglodytes) became the line that most people flocked to. Flick the morpher on their belt, and the human head would flip into the figure’s chest to reveal a helmeted head. I always thought that was a concept that had originated with Bandai of America for the US line, and had no idea that Bandai of Japan had used the same feature on the figures for Chouriki Sentai Ohranger (which would be later adapted here as Power Rangers Zeo).

They don’t make playsets like this anymore! Despite the fact that you can get Playmates Star Trek figures for essentially pennies on the dollar now, that’s less true for the playsets and vehicles. Galoob had designed an Enterprise bridge playset for their own Star Trek: The Next Generation line, but it never made it to retail. This Playmates one, then, became one of my grail pieces while I was still into that line. If I had the room for it, I probably would’ve tried to swing a deal. I mean, I’ve still got the figures, and I currently have the Transporter playset sitting in the middle of my basement floor, waiting to be tested.

There was once a time when kids WANTED to dress up like a disgruntled Vietnam vet with a penchant for urban terrorism. Yet they say THESE are the end times we’re currently living in! Pfft!

I’m not sure what’s more interesting to me in this pic: the fact that the Burger King predates my recollection OR the Rambo villain who looks like Vladimir Putin cosplaying as Die Hard‘s John McClane. “Yippee Ki-Yay, Comrade!”

I love those M.A.S.K. boxes so much! And there were toys in them, too!

Whatever’s happening with Slimer here, he’s clearly having an amazing time!

Sometimes you see things and wonder “Where has this been stashed for the past 30 years?!” This is one of those things.

Things of which I am a huge fan:

  • Batman
  • Super Powers
  • The condition of this packaging

Things of which I am NOT a huge fan

  • These prices

I know @DorketteTweets will get a kick out of this Spectra stuff they had.

It ain’t a convention without old lunchboxes, and I would love to meet whomever owned that Fame lunchbox, merely to commend him/her/them for their bravery.

Just look at the condition of this box! This is an almost 30 year old toy! Looking back, I probably should’ve just thrown the $10 at it.

This figure brought back fond memories as to how I’m bad with money. You see, this was the first time I ever overdrew my checking account, buying this figure at a Spencer Gifts when I was in college. I didn’t really know how “balancing checkbooks” worked yet, and this $5 figure ended up costing me about $35. That was a quicker financial lesson than Suze Orman could’ve taught me!

I actually really like the simple packaging design of vintage Barbie, and I’d never heard of Dazzle until that day. I guess it’s an equestrian line?

Ya know, John Rambo deserves to treat himself every now and then!

In hindsight, this was an amazing concept and design. I think we took it for granted at the time, but they managed to shove entire games into a shell the size of a “regulation” cassette tape! It deserves to be in the Toy Hall of Fame!

They were selling their vintage $400 Fireball Island around the corner from the Kickstarter $70 repro Fireball Island. So, um, yeah. Good luck with that…

G.I.Joe charitable group had a nice U.S.S. Defiant on display.

Another HTF vintage piece in BEAUTIFUL shape!

I don’t care if it’s 90% complete. I’m more fascinated by the fact that the box survived this long and doesn’t look any worse than it does!

I was late to Ghostbusters toy fandom, so I missed out on the original suit Real Ghostbusters. These guys here were more my speed, with their track suits and their wacky action features.

While not a “vintage toy”, this was a cool 3-D collage that someone created using parts of the recent Fisher Price Imaginext line, as well as panels from the Boom! Power Rangers comic series.

As a huge Baywatch fan, I’ll admit that it was a little hard leaving this guy behind.

Plus, it’s not a modern-day pop culture convention without cosplay, and the following folks did not disappoint!

So, there ya have it: Retro Con 2019. While it’s always cool to see all these random toys, the best part of the weekend is that it has become something of an annual meetup between my online friends. This year was no exception, and it was great seeing Dean, Jordan, [REDACTED], Jason, and Wyatt!

Oh, we also can’t close out without showing what I got. I’m proud to say that I played it cheap this year, and didn’t pay more than $5 for a single thing you see here. That’s how you con!

Anyway, thanks for taking this look back with me, and be here next week, when West Week Ever returns!

*No actual prizes have been awarded to Will for his photography, but it’s 2019 and people don’t fact check shit anymore, so…
20th Sep2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/20/19

by Will

So, my whole two weeks on, two weeks off schedule went off the rails last weekend, but there’s been a lot going on in my world, so forgive. Or not. Whatever. You own me. Anyway, I better get all this out before Tekashi 6ix9ine flips on me for the crew that I rep!

About a month ago, I cared absolutely nothing about the Rambo franchise. I’d never seen any of the movies, despite the fact that it was this FORCE in 80s action movies. Still, I have a lot of pop culture blindspots, and most action “classic” action movies fall into that category. So, I was probably the wrong person for my buddy @michaelmaycomix to ask to guest on the Rambo episode of his Nerd Lunch: Fourth Chair Army Invasion! Podcast. Still, I saw this as a challenge, and proceeded to binge the Rambo franchise over Labor Day weekend. We won’t get too into my thoughts here, as you should definitely go check out that episode, which dropped last week. All this is to say that I walked away from the experience with a newfound respect for those movies, and the 5th installment – Rambo: Last Blood – went from a movie that wasn’t even on my radar to one of my most anticipated movies of the fall. So, I found myself in the Alamo Drafthouse last night, with my buddy Brock, watching a Rambo film on OPENING NIGHT. I only do that shit for things with Stan Lee cameos, but I guess we’ve entered a brave, new era.

I know that not everyone can see a movie on Thursday night, and I know this movie isn’t a priority for most folks, so I won’t spoil anything here. I’ll just say it’s something of an uneven film, which doesn’t even feel like a Rambo movie until the second half. Still, it does a lot with its 89 minutes, with not a single one of them wasted. As I said on Instagram, if you’ve ever thought to yourself “I wonder what a Home Alone remake would be like, starring an old man seeking revenge”, then THIS is the movie for YOU! In the end, I totally enjoyed the film, but I also kinda think there’s a schism in the franchise that occurs around the 3rd film. While the first 3 are about Vietnam vet John Rambo, forgotten by his country, used as a tool of warfare, the last 2 are about a stoic old man who kills the shit out of his enemies with EXTREME prejudice. Even the gore of 2008’s Rambo made sense because it took place in the middle of Burma’s civil war, but the battle here takes place in Arizona, and there’s no real excuse or precedent for that level of violence.

Anyway, if you’re a Rambo fan, maybe check this out. If you’re a fan of Taken/Death Wish, definitely check this out. Oh, and make sure you stay through the first round of credits. There’s a nice montage of scenes from the last 4 movies, and then they sneak something in where you’re like “WHAT?!”

Whew, boy! It’s been a shitshow in Studio 8H, as it’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Saturday Night Live since last we met. First, there was the news that Kate McKinnon – whose deal had expired in the Spring – would actually be returning to the show. Meanwhile, Leslie Jones would not be coming back, with folks wondering if she’d been fired. Well, not even 2 days later, it was announced that she would be hosting (and serving as executive producer of) a revival of the game show Supermarket Sweep. As she put it on her social media, she wasn’t leaving but merely “graduating”, which was a nice way to look at it. I know a lot of folks who’ve left SNL over the years, however, who couldn’t say that.

Next, the show announced the new Featured Players for this season, and there was much rejoicing as Bowen Yang was hired as the first Chinese-American/third openly gay cast member on the show in its 45 seasons. They also hired Shane Gillis, a comedian who just might happen to dislike Asians and gays. Womp womp! If it weren’t for the fact that it’d probably cause a toxic work environment, this arrangement would make for a FIRE reality show! You see, Gillis has a podcast where he’s said some juvenile and inappropriate things about Asians and gays, and those recordings surfaced just as the news broke of his hiring. Then it turned into this whole thing about free speech vs cancel culture, as comedians felt he should be able to say whatever, and “civilians” wanted him fired because his hiring hurt the integrity of SNL. Immediately, Gillis issued a non-apology, saying he’d apologize to “anyone who was actually offended”. Gotta say, it was a shit statement, but I kinda commended him for not going with the boilerplate insincere apology. After a week of unrest, however, Gillis was fired from the show last weekend. His statement after the firing was still on brand, where he said he was disappointed, but was “always a MADtv guy anyway”. I’m sorry, but he kinda had the last laugh with that burn.

Here’s my take: Lorne and everyone else knew about this dude before hiring him, and any attempt to say otherwise is a lie. You know how I know that? The past 2 weeks, everyone is like “Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of him.” Well, I’VE heard of him. See, I’m a big fan of The Bonfire, which is a SiriusXM show hosted by comedians Dan Soder and Big Jay Oakerson. Gillis is a frequent guest, so I already knew his humor. He’s that doughy goof from high school who was always trying to be the class clown. He’ll just say whatever he thinks will make you laugh. No filter. It’s not hard to find his material, so I refuse to believe SNL fell asleep at the wheel in the vetting process like they’re saying. They saw his stuff, and didn’t care, because they didn’t expect it to blow up like this. You see, SNL still likes to believe that they’re this subversive Bad Boy of Comedy that consistently has edge, but that hasn’t been true for a LONG time. No, they’re a very important brand to Kabletown, and corporate, like the house, always wins. Plus, it leaked that Lorne only hired Gillis to court conservative viewers, but look how that turned out. In the words of DJ Khaled, “Ya played yourself!” SNL can’t play both sides against the middle. Having one Affirmative Action conservative hire is not going to open up this untapped fan base waiting to see themselves onscreen. Meanwhile, they just did a bunch for Gillis’s career, as he’s now a household name, even if he’s infamous instead of famous. I never really saw him breaking out of Featured Player status, so it’s probably for the best all around.

So, NBCUniversal revealed that their upcoming streaming service will be called peacock. One of the first shows announced for it sounds like a fever dream. They announced a revival of Saved By The Bell, where Zack Morris is the governor of California and he’s closing all of the low-income schools. As a result, those kids are going to be bused to more affluent schools, like Bayside High. Huh. That seems kinda heavy for the format. Even more odd to me is the casting. While Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tiffani Thiessen reportedly weren’t even contacted, Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley are expected to appear. That last one is the one that gets me: I mean, Berkley did Showgirls to distance herself from that show, and now she’s going back? Has there even been a precedent for this kind of return? Has anyone ever done a kids show, done something risqué, and then RETURNED to the kids franchise? I mean, I remember when Jessica Biel took those nudes at 17 so she’d be released from her 7th Heaven contract, but that wasn’t nearly as revealing as Showgirls was for Berkley. Is this show even considered for kids? I have so many questions! I mean, it’ll depend on the execution, but this doesn’t exactly sound *fun*. Just sounds like class warfare, but what do I know?

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There’s a rumor floating around that Marvel Studios is considering going with an actor of color for Magneto when the X-Men are introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This quickly turned into “DENZEL WASHINGTON IS GONNA BE MAGNETO!” I will say that I don’t totally hate the idea, mainly because it’s becoming increasingly unrealistic, just from a timeline perspective, for Magneto to continue to be a Holocaust survivor when the MCU doesn’t have the same established rebirths and resurrections that he’s experienced in the comics in order to make that possible. Plus, there are other genocidal conflicts that could stand in, just as Tony Stark’s origin has slid to more modern conflicts. Still, I don’t wanna live through the online shit storm such a move would trigger, so I’ll gladly pass.
  • Speaking of Marvel, word on the street is that the New Warriors series (ya know, which was gonna star Milana Vayntrub, AKA Lily The AT&T Girl, as Squirrel Girl) is basically dead because it couldn’t find a home. It’s a crying shame when a Marvel show “can’t find a home”, and Disney’s got a whole damn streaming service coming. That’s what it gets for being from Marvel Television and not Marvel Studios like the other shows. Sucks, though, ’cause I was looking forward to it.
  • Across the aisle, it was announced that Tom Welling and Erica Durance will reprise their Smallville roles as Clark Kent and Lois Lane, respectively, in the Arrowverse “Crisis”. I say Clark Kent because, true to Welling form, it hasn’t been confirmed that he’ll be in the Superman suit.
  • After 4 seasons, TBS has cancelled The Detour. It was a really good show that I, for whatever reason, dropped after S1. I need to catch up, but now I’m like “Should I?”
  • Netflix announced that GLOW has been renewed for a fourth and final season. I need to give that show another chance, but it’s in the middle of a very long To Do list right now.
  • My good online pal @thesurfingpizza masterminded the Taco Bell Quarterly literary zine which is such an insane undertaking that I can only look on with awe. If you love Taco Bell AND the arts, then you can’t do better than this collection. I wish I had some kind of connection to that brand to have contributed but I was a latecomer to Taco Bell. My mom always felt that tacos “don’t make no sense”, so…

I’ve got a confession: so, I went to Retro Con last weekend, and was going to do a whole recap post for it. Then, as time dwindled, I was like “Eh, I’ll just give it the West Week Ever” and kill two birds with one stone. Then I started writing this and it got pretty long on its own, so I started thinking it should have its own post again. So, long story short, Retro Con would have had the West Week Ever. Instead, I’m giving it to something else that has brought me joy since we last spoke.

When I first heard Taylor Swift’s Lover, I wasn’t impressed. I thought it was an album of vanilla Muzak that you’d hear while shopping in a Target – fitting, since Target has a massive display for the album, as they’re selling 4 (!) different special edition versions of it. It was a relatively quick listen, though, so I let it loop. And I kept it on loop. And then I fell in love with, basically, every song on that album. I considered doing a track by track review, like I’ve done with some boyband releases in the past, but my target audience doesn’t care what I think about Taylor Swift (then again, y’all didn’t care about Backstreet Boys, and I still did that, so…). So, I’ll spare you the nuanced “I see what she did here” review, and just point out some MUST HEAR tracks:

Cruel Summer

The Man

Cornelia Street

Death By A Thousand Cuts

Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)

False God

ME! (feat Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco)

Daylight

Honestly, I love the whole album, but those listed above are the best of the best. I spend so much time griping and bitching about stuff I don’t like that it’s nice to share something that I did truly enjoy. I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re just looking for a good, pure pop album, you really can’t do better than this. This might go down as my album of the year, but time will tell. In any case, for all these reasons, Taylor Swift’s Lover had the West Week Ever.

 

23rd Aug2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/23/19

by Will

 

Do we have to talk about the Spider-Man/MCU thing? ‘Cause I really don’t wanna talk about the Spider-Man/MCU thing. Let’s do it Lightning Round style, shall we? OK, imagine Michael Pena’s Luis going through all this, as it’ll make it a lot more entertaining.

*Deep breath* Prior to the establishment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, long before Disney even purchased Marvel, Sony acquired the Spider-Man film rights. This deal gave us 2.5 good movies with Tobey Maguire and 2 movies starring Andrew Garfield that nobody really talks about. Then came the MCU, and it was good. So, Marvel Studios was able to strike a 5-movie deal with Sony that allowed them to use the character in their universe. It started with Captain America: Civil War and ended with Spider-Man: Far From Home. Everyone assumed a renewal of the deal was a foregone conclusion, but two things happened: 1) Venom, a Spider-Man spin-off NOT connected to anything the MCU was doing with Spider-Man, somehow made close to $1 billion worldwide and 2) Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated feature (without any major input from Marvel Studios) won Best Animated Feature Academy Award. So, now Sony’s shit don’t stink.

Fast forward to this week, when it was reported that Sony and Marvel couldn’t come to a deal, and that the character’s involvement in the MCU was most likely over. This spawned so many questions: How do you explain anything about this Spider-Man without the MCU stuff? Would Tom Holland still play the character in Sony’s standalone films? Did Tony Stark die for nothing (like Zordon did in Power Rangers In Space)? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS – which spawned SO MUCH NERD ANGER. OMG! It was nothing but hashtags about leaving Spider-Man in the MCU, and everyone took a side: Disney/Marvel’s being greedy because they don’t deserve a 50/50 split (later reported to be closer to a request of just 30%), while Sony’s being dumb because Disney/Marvel did all the heavy lifting to make the character worthwhile, so Disney/Marvel deserved anything they were asking for.

Listen here, young person! Come close, ’cause I’ve got something important to tell ya: There are no heroes here. These are both multi-billion dollar companies that have you crying crocodile tears for them. People want to start throwing around how Disney is a growing monopoly – something nobody cared about with the Fox deal, but now that their precious MCU is in danger it’s suddenly a concern. Well, I hate to break it to ya, but it’s not a David and Goliath story. Sony isn’t some little upstart studio like A24. And the problem with a David and Goliath story in 2019 is that everyone wants Goliath to win, and luckily for them, this is Goliath vs Goliath. Ya can’t lose. And, really, you can’t because this will shake down one of two ways: 1) Sony does their own thing, without Disney’s assistance, and you’ll still go see it OR 2) The two companies strike a deal, and you’ll still go see it. At the end of the day, you’re gonna see whatever it ends up being regardless. And if you all could just calm the fuck down, you’ll realize this is more than likely going to end up in your favor. In the meantime, I ask that you have some decorum, as you’re making those #ReleaseTheSnyderCut people look good.

So there’s a Variety article this week about podcasts that has ruffled some feathers. You see, after only 30-something weeks in the mines, Conan O’Brien has been crowned the new golden boy of podcasts. And the folks who have been podcasting for years are feeling some kind of way about this. I totally understand why folks would be upset, as it’s a poorly-written, somewhat naive, piece that acts like podcasts are these newfangled things that just hit the streets. If this were Parade Magazine, I’d understand this kind of take, but this is Variety! I’ve been guesting on podcasts for TEN years. They are NOT new. Still, like most things, a celebrity endorsement gets it in front of more eyes, and celebs are turning to podcasts in order to “diversify their bonds”. It also doesn’t help that Conan was a reluctant host, who basically told his staff “I have a TV show. Why do I need a podcast?” whenever the suggestion would come up. Meanwhile, there are folks putting their blood, sweat, and tears into shows and aren’t blowing up anywhere near as much as Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend has in the past year. So, it’s more than just “sour grapes”.

At the same time, though, there were some folks who were just never going to listen to a podcast. They just weren’t. It’s like me with videos. With very few exceptions (and you know who you are), I am not a YouTube guy, and there’s very little chance of me becoming one. Believe it or not, that’s how some folks feel about podcasts. But then someone they enjoy, like Conan, comes along and introduces them to the medium. Next thing you know, he’s served as a gateway to other podcasts out there, possibly even yours. “A rising tide lifts all boats”, right?

Then again, it’s like being the best football player in Baltimore circa 1994, but it didn’t matter because there was no professional team. So, you toil away in some shitty after work/weekend league only for the Browns to sneak into your city under the cover of darkness (That really happened!). A lot of folks had these dreams that their shows might grow and become these breakout hits, and now they’ve been knocked down a few pegs by celebs who see the medium as a way to supplement their income. I mean, Conan even has a bit on his show when he does ad reads, saying that he’s doing this to pay the mortgage on his expensive beach house. So, it might rub some folks the wrong way because Conan sometimes doesn’t come off as genuine, even though the show is enjoyable. It’s just it feels like he’s not doing it for the “right” reasons.

In any case, I think this might serve as a reality check for some, while it might inspire others. I’m not really sure which way the wind is gonna blow here. Some pods are packing it in, while 5 more have popped up to take the place of each. It’s so 2019 to have a podcast now. You listen to a podcast, and every guest is like “Oh, and listen to MY podcast, which is yadda yadda yadda.” The problem with the rising ships thing is that every show IS competing for the listener’s time. With only 24 hours in a day, choices must be made, as well as sacrifices. Anyway, as someone who weathered both the rise and fall of blogs, I only offer this piece of advice: stay away from Hulk Hogan’s penis, and you should be fine.

Trailer Park

Bombshell

This looks SO good, but it doesn’t feel like a theatrical release. No, this feels like something that would premiere as an HBO Original Movie. I hope they follow Megyn up to her time at NBC just so there’s chance of us getting Aisha Tyler as Tamron Hall.


No Time To Die

Formerly referred to as “Bond 25”, there’s not a lot to chew on here. Why’d they use the font from The Love Boat? Is this movie gonna be set on The Love Boat?! Anyway, that’s probably the only way I would be excited for this, as I’ve actually never seen a Daniel Craig Bond film. He just always seemed humorless, and every time I see him, it’s like he’s still just playing his character from Layer Cake.


The Morning Show (Apple TV+)

Sure, looks good, but it’s not what I was expecting. We all know Carell has range, but I was hoping for something humorous instead of an SVU-esque retelling of the Matt Lauer saga. I’d watch it were it on Netflix, Amazon – Hell, even HBO, but – and mark my words – there is no way in Hell I’m subscribing to this service. And I don’t particularly have an axe to grind with Apple, but I’m also not a devoted disciple that partakes in all of their products. I just see no draw to this service other than this show.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • After 11 years of cohosting The Country Music Association Awards with Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley has seemingly been ousted, as this year’s awards are being touted as a “Celebration of Women”. Underwood, will instead, be joined by Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire.
  • It was an expensive week for Hasbro, as they revealed they had acquired the Ghostbusters license from Mattel, and they also became the new owners of Peppa Pig and PJ Masks by paying $4 billion in an all-cash deal for studio Entertainment One. Bet they kinda with The Hub was still around now, huh?
  • Original cast member Brandon Routh will be leaving DC’s Legends of Tomorrow after its upcoming fifth season. Guess he’s gotta free up some time for all those conventions he’ll probably end up doing…
  • The show that nobody besides Elizabeth Warren admits to watching, Ballers, will be ending after its upcomign fifth season. I really hope The Rock’s been saving his money, ’cause it’s not like he’s in every other movie that comes out these days.
  • Most of the gang’s going back in the goo as a fourth Matrix film, starring Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, was announced. This makes me wonder about the status of the rumored Michael B. Jordan-starring Matrix film which sounded a lot more interesting to me.
  • Move over Monday Night Wars, as Wednesday is about to be the new wrestling battleground when WWE moves their development show, NXT, to USA in September – opposite All Elite Wrestling (AEW) on TNT, which will debut a few weeks later. Damn, that was a LOT of letters!
  • Speaking of USA, all the shit going down with Chrisley Knows Best, and USA hasn’t even hinted at cancelling that show. Surely the ratings can’t be THAT good, right?
  • If you’re a fan of the He-Mans, there’s a whole lot of He-Manny goodness coming your way out of last weekend’s Power Con. First, there was more info about the Masters of the Universe Origins figure line, which will be updates on the classic figures at retail for $14.99. Then, it was announced that Kevin Smith (yup, THAT Kevin Smith), would be working on an “anime” MOTU series for Netflix, set after the original 80s cartoon.
  • Dancing With The Stars skipped a cycle because they felt the show was broken when “dark horse” Bobby Bones wrangled his radio fan base to help him win. They ain’t seen nothing yet, as former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has joined the cast in a controversial move, He doesn’t make it past Week 1.

Alright, y’all – this chicken sandwich shit has just simply gotten out of hand. Last week, I declared that the Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich had the West Week Ever, but I had no clue just how crazy things would get. The memes! The pics of Chick Fil A employees eating at Popeyes! The other chains, like Wendy’s and Shake Shack, trying to “Catch that smoke”, as the kids say! There are lines out the door at Popeyes locations, and many have sold out of the sandwich until the weekend. It’s kind of hard to believe. And then, at the same time, it isn’t.

I don’t want to go all “preachy Hotep” on folks, but Black people are going crazy over a chicken sandwich. In the year of our Lord 2019, my people are living out a racist caricature. Sure, folks will chime in “Just let people enjoy things”, but surely you’ve got to acknowledge the optics of this whole thing! It looks horrible, and it’s all for WHAT? Even HIGHER blood pressure than we already have? As I joked on Twitter, if you turn these Popeyes locations into polling places, then we might actually be on to something. Put that energy into something constructive. And this isn’t me judging someone for their hobbies or extracurricular activities, No, this is me judging you for acting like you’ve never had a damn chicken sandwich before!

Anyway, I can’t act like anything else took the pop culture world by storm this week quite as much as Popeyes so, once again, *sigh* the Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich had the West Week Ever. PLEASE let something amazing happen next week, ’cause I can’t keep doing this. Then again, we’re only about a week away from finding out that Popeyes is the exclusive food vendor to ICE agents, and this shit will all blow over.

16th Aug2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/16/19

by Will

I’ve come to realize that my Nerd Boner Refractory Period (NBRP)™ is about 2 weeks these days. It takes me about 2 weeks to get excited about anything going on in pop culture, I can keep it up for an extra week, and then I need another 2 to recharge. So, here we are, 2 weeks after we last got together. How have you been? I like those shoes. Are they new?

Since we last spoke, I finished my binge of NBC’s Superstore. If you’ve ever worked in retail, you will COMPLETELY relate to this series set in the Cloud 9 big box store. Clocking in at 4 seasons, it’s not too much of a lift to get through, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I will point out, though, that it takes a turn in season 3. Like, the first 2 seasons are pretty run-of-the-mill single cam sitcom, but in season 3 it gets more…mature? I’m not sure that’s the right word, but the language changes, like they say “Jesus Christ” and “dick”, which were formerly reserved for things like basic cable. Most network shows still censor “Jesus Christ” to this day, in 2019! The only downside to the binge is that I watched it on the NBC app, where they also included the Superstore panel from SDCC. The general vibe I got off that was that this show is another Seinfeld, where the actors only pretended to like each other. A friend of mine pointed out that this is exactly like working in retail. In any case, It felt like America Ferrera kinda runs that set, and they all just sort of work one rung beneath her. Maybe it was just convention panel jitters, but it didn’t come off like “These are people who enjoy each other’s company”. I want to believe they’re really friends! Anyway, if you’ve ever been curious about the show, I highly recommend it.

In movie/TV/80s/cartoon/toy news, Hasbro is moving forward with a G.I. Joe spinoff film starring Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding as Snake Eyes. I find that character exhausting, which is why I’m much more interested in another Joe spinoff that was announced, which would focus on the character Chuckles. As the Joes’ undercover specialist, his sole animated appearance was in G.I.Joe: The Movie. As such, he’s never been taken that seriously by the fandom, so this announcement comes as a surprise to many. I, however, am not surprised because I read the IDW comic miniseries G.I. Joe: Cobra, which focused on Chuckles being sent on an undercover mission to infiltrate Cobra. Not only did I enjoy that series more than the regular Joe book at the time, but I also saw the character in a whole new light. That series felt like a dark Showtime/FX series, so I could definitely see it as the source for a good movie. I mean, it’s Paramount, so we can’t really hope for too much, but all is not lost!

Speaking of old 80s properties, I posted that tweet last night and was pretty surprised at the response. It was the result of a random tweet that popped up on my timeline, of someone swearing the Are You Afraid of the Dark? reboot better be good. Now, he clearly wasn’t the target audience for this show, so why was he so invested in it? A lot of folks asked me which show I was referring to, but the sad thing is that it didn’t matter. You could plug any old property into that blank, and you’d get the same response. There’s something about 80s and 90s kids who think these properties were theirs and theirs alone. Every generation needs their own stuff.

I’ve been saying for years that Hasbro should move away from the Duke/Destro iteration of G.I. Joe. It has its time and place, but too much has to be changed to work now. Can’t call Cobra a “terrorist organization” anymore, for one thing. Plus, kids really don’t give a shit about G.I. Joe anyway. Even if you tried to modernize it, they wouldn’t care. Is it a mobile game now? Maybe. Other than that, nope. A lot of this stuff is only loved by 40 year old men, and you can’t make them happy anyway. Between sexless marriages and prostate exams, they’re always gonna be full of piss and vinegar. I’m also talking to you, 40 year old men. You’re not really mad that She-Ra “looks like a boy”. No, you’re upset you got passed over again for a promotion, or you’re upset you can’t see your penis anymore. Let’s let kids have shit. Is that too much to ask? If you also happen to enjoy it, great, but Hollywood can’t keep catering to your old ass.

Trailer Park

Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix)

I never thought I would see Rudy Ray Moore as a sympathetic character, yet here we are. This looks so good to me. And that cast! I haven’t seen a Dolemite movie in, maybe, 25 years and it was an edited version on Channel 54. I’d like to check out the full, uncensored stuff, but I know that box set I used to see at Walmart is probably going for 3 figures on the secondary market as everyone jumps on the bandwagon in anticipation of this film. And the best part? I won’t even have to leave home to watch it!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Verizon, which paid an estimated $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr, offloaded the site to WordPress’s parent company, Auttomatic, for a mere $20 million. Womp womp. That’s what you get for getting rid of all the porn! As someone once put it, Tumblr was the world’s most efficient porn delivery service, and they just threw that all away.
  • The X-Men adjacent series Legion ended on FX this week after three seasons. I’m sure one or two of y’all care about that.
  • Did we ever talk about the fact that the Mad About You revival got picked up by Spectrum? So, yeah, nobody’s gonna see it. In any case, actress Abby Quinn was cast as Paul & Jamie’s daughter, Mabel, who’s heading off to college. Who, besides Paul Reiser, wanted this show?
  • NBC is in talks to modernize ’80s Brat Pack film St. Elmo’s Fire and adapt it into a TV show. I remember watching this movie in the hospital room when my oldest was born. Despite being set locally, I could not relate to it, and couldn’t even tell you what it was about if ya asked me. That song, though, is iconic.
  • After 13 years apart, CBS and Viacom have resolved their differences, re-merging as ViacomCBS. On the upside, as my friend Zac put it, this means the Star Trek film and TV rights are now back under the same umbrella, which had been a source of problems over the last decade.
  • Speaking of CBS, there are reports that Drew Barrymore is in talks with the studio to develop a daytime talk show. I see that lasting about a season, if she’s lucky.
  • So, I guess Ewan McGregor is getting his Obi-Wan show on Disney+? I can’t even keep up anymore. I know there reports of it, but it still seems “iffy” right now. I just find it funny that the Star Wars fans want this, even though he’s a reminder of how much they supposedly hate the prequels (though 2019 revisionist history claims “They actually weren’t that bad”).
  • Some feel Jay-Z has sold out with his Roc Nation’s recent partnership with the NFL. He has argued that he can do more work to effect change from the inside, but that’s not enough for many. At the end of the day, rich folks gonna rich, so…
  • Chrisley knows best? It sure doesn’t seem like it! Reality stars Todd and Julie Chrisley were indicated this week, before a federal grand jury, for tax evasion, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States. WOW! And, to top it off, Todd tried to extort his daughter Lindsie by threatening to release a sex tape of her. I see the Chrisleys are trying to go FULL Kardashian! Let me know how that works out for you, Todd. In any case, the Chrisleys are facing up to 30 years in prison.

So everyone on Black Twitter this week seemed captivated by this new creation brought into the world by fast food fried chicken chain Popeyes. Now, I can’t even get arrested on Black Twitter, but I know people who know people, so I get the info I need to get. Apparently the chain had debuted a Chicken Sandwich, which was available in regular or spicy. I didn’t see a single person who didn’t get spicy. I wanna be hip. I like chicken. The problem, though, is that I HATE Popeyes.

You see, a few years ago, there used to be a Popeyes behind my then-job, and it made me sick every time I ate there. Not to mention the chicken never really looked right. You know how *done* fried chicken looks? Yeah, it didn’t look like that. It was always kinda pale looking. Anyway, that helped to reshape my chicken eating habits. Growing up, I always said I liked KFC’s chicken, but Roy Rogers chicken skin. I always wished there was some way to merge the two. Then Roy Rogers disappeared for about 20 years, so then I was pretty much just left with KFC.

When it comes to the chicken sandwich, however, there’s one chain that reigns supreme: Chick Fil A. Yeah, we all know about their politics, and they’re terrible, blah blah blah. But they sure make a damn good chicken sandwich. It’s the reason why so many people are conflicted: “My sister’s gay, but GODDAMN is that a good sandwich! Sorry, Christy.” So, in our new era of wokeness, everyone has been wanting that same experience, without all the guilt. Some will say “Wendy’s has a Spicy Chicken Sandwich that’s just as good!” No, they don’t, and you’re just playing yourself. Whenever a new chicken sandwich hits the streets, the Left (yeah, it IS a partisan matter at this point) can’t wait to see if there are guilt-free chicken sandwiches ahead for them. And there never are. You see, people are so desperate to replace those hate mongers, but they don’t realize that hate is their secret, tasty ingredient. Everyone knows it, but they can’t bear to admit it. I mean, that’s GOT to be it, right? Other than that, it’s just chicken and peanut oil. It’s not like there are 11 secret herbs and spices. Nope, gotta be the hate.

Anyway, I got sidetracked there. So, the Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich is a large boneless breast of chicken, on a plump brioche bun, accompanied by thick pickle chips and a reddish Cajun sauce. Sounds good to me! So, I went to the Popeyes nearest my job for lunch yesterday, and placed my order for this thing all the cool kids were raving about. I, then, proceeded to eat it in a parking lot in a safer neighborhood, ’cause this place is dangerous! What did I think? OVERRATED. I pretty much only tasted bun and pickles, which is odd because there was a sizable piece on chicken there. It was very crispy, but almost at the expense of juiciness. I can’t say it was “dry”, but it wasn’t exactly juicy and succulent. It’s certainly a filling sandwich, and I didn’t feel like “Huh, I could eat another one of those” when I was done. Still, I came here for the full chicken experience, and not just a brioche bun. I’d go to Panera if I wanted that. The chicken didn’t have much taste to it, while the bread and pickles were the only things that had *flavor*. Meanwhile, I thought the Cajun sauce would be doing the heavy lifting, but it’s just there, as a runny, mayo-based sauce. I’m willing to give it another chance, but I don’t think it’s exactly the King of Chicken Sandwiches. Not yet, at least. Still, nobody has cared this much about Popeyes on social media since we were all trying to decide who that Black chick was supposed to be in their commercials (does she own a franchise? Is she Mrs. Popeyes? Who IS she?!). That’s why the Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich had the West Week Ever.

 

19th Jul2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/19/19

by Will

Howdy! I take so many breaks that I’ve run out of clever ways to announce my return. I swear this is supposed to be a weekly thing, but it’s been a little over a month since I last wrote something. I’d say that nothing really happened in pop culture during that time, but it wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is that I didn’t really want to talk about what was happening in pop culture. There’s been a shift lately, and I don’t like what I see.

On the one hand, you’ve got the political stuff, which just seems to get worse by the day. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. I don’t really do a lot of politics here anyway, so there’s no real value about talking about kids in cages. You already know about that, and you’ve already made up your mind as to how you feel about that. On the other hand, though, there’s a HELL of a lot of regression going on. There’s this retro movement that I can’t really get on board because, if we’re being honest, a lot of that stuff was really bad. I get why it’s happening: things are so bad now that you’d rather retreat back to a simpler time when things didn’t seem so bad (Psst! We were in the middle of the Cold War, and Radon was threatening to kill you in your sleep every night you laid down your little head). I get that whole “safe haven” approach, but it’s become something of a crutch. A lot of folks are going so retro that they have no real ties to the present, and that’s dangerous.

On top of that, it feels like there’s some unspoken competition to see who has the most raging nostalgia boner. It started out as posts about Ecto Cooler, but somewhere along the way it has evolved (or devolved) to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone tweet “I traveled back in time and sucked New Coke out of Mac Tonight’s dick while ‘Sledgehammer’ played on my Pocket Rockers.” It has gotten THAT bad. If you don’t realize it, then you’re in the thick of it, and part of the problem.

Now, a lot of this comes from the place of me not being able to relate, as I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for a lot of the stuff folks hold dear. So, when something like Stranger Things comes along – a property that relies on the nostalgia of an age I’d prefer to not relive – I’m just left thinking “Come the fuck on! There are important things that need your attention.” But that presents another problem: not everyone needs to worry about the “important” things because many of them aren’t informed enough to weigh in. So, my whole stance the past month was basically “I can’t make you care, but I sure as Hell don’t feel like playing into Little Mermaid race hysteria when it all seems so stupid.”

Also, there are various versions of the above meme floating around social media which I just find to be abhorrent. Sure, your dad used to beat you, and your mom had a drug problem, but it’s the fact that you didn’t watch ThunderCats that your childhood sucked. Got it. That’s the problem with nostalgia: the oversimplistic notion that everything was right in the world because these random things existed. If that’s all that equated a “great childhood” to you, then you’re a lucky SOB.

There is a problem with living in the past. Things change, people change, the world changes. Take music for example. I strive REALLY hard not to be that “Music sucks nowadays” guy. There is still good, NEW stuff out there, even if you have to work a little harder to find what you like. I don’t want to get stagnant, even though age and life would like to say otherwise. Nostalgia is the easy way out. And it may make you feel good, but it also, somewhat unknowingly, disconnects you from the present. Everything is fine in moderation, but from what I see online, “moderation” is a concept that 2019 stabbed through the heart.

Anyway, this isn’t a “subtweet” about any particular person or site. There’s just too much goddamn retro/throwback stuff. Some do it better than others. All I’m saying is I’m seeing more of the past than of the present, and I know there’s some good, modern-day stuff out there so I’m going to try really hard to find it and bring it to this column. Fondly looking back on the past every now and then is fine, but stop using nostalgia as a crutch. Life was not necessarily better just because Knight Rider and ALF were on the air. There’s a great episode of Teen Titans Go! that kinda slams things like the aforementioned Stranger Things in its title alone: “Nostalgia Is Not A Substitute for An Actual Story”. Words to live by.

So, I saw Spider-Man: Far From Home a few weeks ago, but it was the first MCU film in years that I didn’t see on opening night. Maybe back to Thor: The Dark World? Anyway, I really enjoyed it, even though I’m burnt out on the MCU. There’s pre-Endgame and post-Endgame, and the world seems a bit less magical post-Endgame. I don’t have a ton of gripes about it, except for the fact that it does not, in fact, set up the multiverse. I mean, I don’t doubt that there is one, but this movie was sold as “The Snap introduced the concept of the multiverse”, and that was not true. Plus, I need to watch it again because the end credits (not the mid credits) scene kinda changes how you look at the movie. It answers some questions while posing a few others. I love the actors and the characters, though, and I don’t really have many fanboy nitpicks about the film. I may have been more passionate about it 2 weeks ago, but that’s the stuff of hot takes, so I’m glad I got to sit on it a bit before writing about it.

Diddy (is that what he’s going by this week?) announced on Instagram that music reality show Making The Band would be returning. If you don’t remember, the show gave us such chart-topping acts as O-Town and…O-Town. In fact, there were 2 eras of MTB: The original ABC/MTV version, produced by Lou Pearlman, which saw the creation of boyband O-Town, and then the Diddy/MTV version, which gave us hip hop group Da Band, R&B male group Day26, solo artist Donnie Klang, and girl group Danity Kane (There must’ve been some contractual thing that every group had to start with “D”). Looking at that list, I think you can figure out which era was more successful. So, excuse me if I’m not too excited to see what Diddy’s got cooking for this revival.

Elsewhere in the TV world, it was announced yesterday that next season would be the last for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. As one of the biggest cheerleaders of the notion of “Guys, this show is really in the MCU!”, I have to say that it lost me when it refused to acknowledge the events of Infinity War/Endgame. Yes, I understand that they weren’t sure when ABC was going to air this season, but that’s not good enough for me. In a perfect world, this season of S.H.I.E.L.D. would have been set during the five year post-Snap world. It would’ve been interesting to see S.H.I.E.L.D. as the main line of defense in a world that has lost all hope. Instead, they decided to do their own thing, thereby establishing a different timeline for the show. So, as far as I’m concerned, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ended last season, with Coulson and May on the beach together. I haven’t even given it a chance since then because, good or not, I’m a guy who only likes to invest in things that “matter” in the grand scheme of things, and AoS no longer fits that description.

Speaking of shows ending, it caught me by surprise a few weeks ago to learn that the episode of The Amazing World of Gumball that I’d just watched was actually its series finale. To make matters worse, Cartoon Network had failed to promote it as such. I only realized it after the creator tweeted some art, thanking the crew, and a little Googling later, I found out that was it. The End. I figure, considering that Gumball is about 40% of their schedule, Cartoon Network can’t really afford to make it known that there’s nothing left in the tank. Still, while people complain (rightfully so) about Cartoon Network’s scheduling practices, I stand by the opinion that Gumball was one of the smartest shows on television. There’s a great episode about privilege and the “glass ceiling”. There’s a scathing episode about homeschooling flat earthers. There’s even a House of Cards parody. For all of its wackiness, there was a lot of heart and intelligence in that show. The episode “The Choices” is just as emotional as the opening of Up! It also doesn’t help matters that the episode was a cliffhanger, insinuating that something bad was headed to the town of Elmore. There are talks that a movie might happen, which would tie things up, but I’ve learned not to put much stock in the “wrap up movie” promise. So, let’s pour one out for Gumball, Darwin, Anais, Mr Dad, and Nicole. May you forever live on in reruns.

Out in the toy world, we got our first looks at 2 high-end products that require fan input to make them a reality. For those not in the know, Hasbro has a concept called HasLab, where they run a crowdfunded, Kickstarter-like model to fund products that wouldn’t normally make it to stores, either because of size or price point. The first HasLab item was the Star Wars Jabba’s Sail Barge, which clocked in around $500. Despite that price, it was pretty popular amongst Star Wars toy collectors. Well, last week, Hasbro debuted the next HasLab item, which took folks by surprise: a $300 Cookie Monster doll. While it seems they’ve nailed the googly-eye tech, it’s surprising that there aren’t any animatronics given the price tag. As you can probably imagine, this didn’t sit well with “hardline” toy fans, so they had their day this week, when Hasbro also revealed the Titans scale Transformers Unicron, which will cost about $575. That mother is HUGE, and most of my timeline is all “I wish I could afford it…” There’s even a hole on the back in which I’m CERTAIN some fans will be inserting their penises. However, as I said on Twitter, for $575, I’d be disappointed if you DIDN’T fuck it!  I’m just glad HasLab focuses on properties I don’t care about. It’ll be a different story when they’re like “Here’s a 6″ scale Avengers Tower.” Then you’ll see me on the news, after I’ve robbed a check-cashing joint.

Trailer Park

The King’s Man

Originally called Kingsman: the Great Game, this is the prequel to the Kingsman franchise, and I’m pretty excited. I loved the first movie, though still haven’t watched the second. This one, however, seems to be playing it more straight than the past 2 installments, as I don’t see the same brand of humor in it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, as some of the humor was really distracting in the first one (the whole bit about Eggsy “buggering” the blonde at the end comes to mind). Not sure I’ll see this one in the theater, but we’ll see.


Legend of the White Dragon

Former Power Ranger Jason David Frank just can’t give up the ghost, so here he is, trying to fund a Kickstarter for what’s basically Mighty Public Domain Rangers. It was one thing when it was just JDF, but now there’s a cottage industry of former Rangers who just can’t seem to shake the morpher. And they’re ALL in this film. Now, I don’t do Kickstarters anymore because I’ve been burned too much, but I’ll definitely watch this if it’s funded. It’s apparently a “movie”, but I’ll bet it’s one of those things that’s gonna clock in at an hour when all is said and done. That’s not a movie. That’s a “special”. If a movie is an LP, this thing will be an EP.


Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans

Yeah, I know this was teased at the end of Teen Titans Go to the Movies, but I’m left wondering: Who’s this for? I find there is very little crossover between audiences for both shows, and this certainly isn’t the “return” that Teen Titans fans were expecting. If I were a fan of the original Teen Titans show (which I’m not), I’d kinda find this whole enterprise offensive. Hell, as a fan of Teen Titans Go! I find the whole thing offensive. I also find it interesting that it’s straight to DVD. It’s not like it’s worthy of a box office release, but considering it is the “return” of that incarnation of the team, I figured DC/WB would’ve found some special way to debut it. I no longer buy those DC direct to DVD movies, so I don’t know how I’m ever gonna see it unless Cartoon Network decides to air it one Saturday (which wouldn’t be that much of a surprise).

Jay & Silent Bob Reboot

“Daddy, put me in a movie! A real movie. Not some shit like Yoga Hosers!” Man, I’m old enough to remember when Harley Quinn Smith was born, and now she’s in her dad’s vanity project. It’s funny how all the “stars” from the last Jay & Silent Bob movie are has beens now. I guess that’s the joke, huh? And please don’t make me have to look at 2019 Shannon Elizabeth! See, this is what I was talking about earlier, about digging up the past! Anyway, I’ll see it, but not in a theater unless I somehow decide to try to go to that traveling roadshow thing they’re doing.

Top Gun: Maverick

Does this movie hold the record for longest amount of time between sequels, featuring the original star? It’s GOT to, right? Anyway, I have no real affinity for the original, but this kinda got me curious. I always thought Top Gun 2 was gonna be about Maverick instructing the next generation of flyboys. Instead, it’s just about some 50 year old dude who doesn’t know how to land the plane. I guess you’d pretty much have to see this one on the big screen, with all the planes doing plane shit and stuff.

CATS

Um, so many confusing and conflicting emotions inside…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Netflix has decided to remove the controversial suicide scene from season 1 of 13 Reasons Why, which I guess would be 1 reason why I’d not want to waste my time watching this series, seeing as how that’s what the whole thing is about.
  • Comic writer/artist/Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld will be doing a G.I. Joe Snake-Eyes comic, so queue up all your “He can’t draw feet” jokes!
  • “Mumblecore” screenwriter Greta Gerwig is reportedly writing Margot Robbie’s Barbie movie that’ll never be made.
  • Controversial country star Lil Nas X came out as gay to cap off Pride Month, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knew that he was kicked off Twitter back in the day for violating the terms of service with a Nicki Minaj stan account.
  • Hasbro is apparently preparing to reboot the Power Rangers movie franchise with an entirely new cast from the one that starred in the underperforming 2017 outing.
  • Black UK actress Lashana Lynch will reportedly play 007 in Bond25, which will require Daniel Craig’s James Bond to come out of retirement. And the folks, of course, are losing their shit. Or so the Russian bots would lead us to believe!
  • Call up your alcoholic uncle, because his favorite show, Nash Bridges, is being revived with Don Johnson for USA Network!
  • Someone needs to rein in America’s White Trash Food Scientists as, between Burger King’s $1 tacos and KFC’s Cheetos Sandwich, the nation’s colons don’t stand a chance!
  • This is 5 years old, but I just discovered it yesterday, so now you have to join me on this adventure:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in an ICE cage), then you couldn’t get through this week without coming into contact with the FaceApp. Somewhere, on one of your social media feeds, you saw someone laughing along to a pic of them looking like some elderly ghoul. I say that because nobody looked *good*. I hate to break it to you, but you’re all gonna age poorly, looking like Miss Jane Pittman. I didn’t join in the fun because it just seemed too…easy. You’re just letting this random ass app access your photo for…what? To see what you’d look like as a baby? I already have baby pics for that. To see what you’d look like as a woman? Yeah, I’m not about to catfish anybody any time soon. So, it certainly didn’t come as a surprise to me when it was revealed that the app was developed by our good friends, the Russians.

Wireless Lab is the Russian company that created the app, and Lord only knows what’s going to happen from that. It’s been reported that it accesses your entire camera roll and not just the pics you’re editing. And take a gander at the terms of service:

You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you. When you post or otherwise share User Content on or through our Services, you understand that your User Content and any associated information (such as your [username], location or profile photo) will be visible to the public.

Some folks thought the app would be used to hone facial recognition software, but this seems far worse. You’ll notice I haven’t included any pics with this entry. Yeah, I’m not gonna be a party to that. I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that I don’t believe in privacy. It’s why all my screennames are my real name. Anyone can get anything they want about you if they try hard enough. I recognize this, but I’m not going to make it easy for them. We live in a world where folks will record an entire sex tape on their phones, willingly give access to the camera to a random ass app, and then get surprised when their sex tape “leaks”. Not so good at the math, are we? We complain about “privacy”, but we have open mics in our homes just to turn on the lamp ’cause, well, “it’s way over there”.

A friend online mentioned that there are other apps with far worse ToS than FaceApp, but that they weren’t getting nearly as much attention. That may be true, but that doesn’t make it right. Plus, the other sites probably give you an experience to make it worthwhile. I always say Michael Jackson got off all those years because he gave the world Thriller. Same situation here. Facebook’s ToS are pretty bad, but it at least allows me to stalk strangers and look at pics of my enemies’ ugly kids. To me, there’s a worthwhile trade-off there. Not with FaceApp.

If there’s a pic of me floating around out there it’s because someone uploaded one, but it sure as Hell wasn’t me. If the Russians want my secrets, they’re gonna have to do it the old fashioned way: get me into a motel room, and film me being peed on by one of their whores as a means of extortion. It won’t be from FaceApp. Still, can’t knock the hustle, so that’s why FaceApp had the West Week Ever.

Also, before we wrap up here, this week marks the 16th anniversary of the site. While I know that absolutely none of you have been along for the ride all 16 years, I appreciate each and every one of you who has jumped on along the way. If we’re being real, it only got “good” about 10 years ago, but there’s some good H&M drama in the early days if you’re into that sort of thing. Either way, this started as a means to pass the time when I got my first boring ass job. And here we are, many boring ass jobs later, and I don’t know what I’d do without it. Sure, I’ll take the occasional break – either when pop culture fails to produce OR I fear I’m about to burn some bridges – but I always come back. As long as there’s at least one of you out there, I’ll always come back. And probably even after that last one of you gives up. This is because I don’t know how to quit. So, this is my way of saying you’ll never be rid of me. Muhuhahahahahahahaha! But seriously, thanks for giving me something to look forward to every Friday.

24th May2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/24/19

by Will

Welcome to a special PRIME TIME edition of the post! I didn’t want to skip this week, and I had a ton to do today (I don’t get paid to blog!), so we’re doing this a little later than usual.

Did any of y’all watch the Norman Lear/Jimmy Kimmel Live In Front of a Studio Audience special this week? In case you missed it, an all-star cast (and some lesser stars) were assembled to recreate episodes of classic TV series All In the Family and The Jeffersons. Since the All In The Family episode was the first appearance of George Jefferson, it served as something of a crossover into the next installment, with Jamie Foxx in the role of George.

I’m still on the fence as to what I thought about it. Some folks were surprisingly good, like Kerry Washington and Will Ferrell as Helen and Tom Willis. Meanwhile, some were grossly miscast (Ellie Kemper as Gloria Bunker? Stephen Tobolowsky as Mr. Bentley?!). Meanwhile, some of the actor brought out new sides to the characters. For instance, Jamie Foxx couldn’t seem to nail down the seriousness of George, and instead played up the funny aspects of the character. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson’s Archie was a little darker than Carroll O’Connor. Like, I could almost believe that he hit Edith a time or two, and I never got that vibe from the original series. Did Woody need to tone it down a bit? Was he miscast? Or did I completely miss something about Archie that was always right in front of me? Anyway, we can all agree that J.Hud appearance was FIRE!

In the end, it was a neat little experiment but, as I said on Twitter, I don’t want ABC to learn the wrong lesson here. The ratings for it were great, but I don’t want this to be a regular thing to the point where it’s 2035, and we’re waiting to see Tom Holland star in a reenactment of the ALF series finale. ‘Cause I know I’ll watch it, but I’ll hate myself the whole time.

In comics news, word on the street is that current Batman writer, Tom King, will be off the book by issue #85 – contrary to the fact that he had frequently mentioned that he was telling a 100-issue story. A lot of folks believe it could be due to this interview he gave The Hollywood Reporter, where he mentioned wanting to do something to leave his mark on the character. Yeah, other folks don’t like it when you write on their toys, Tom.

I like King. He’s a good writer who’s always been nice to me. I haven’t read his critically acclaimed stuff, like The Vision or Mister Miracle, rather I actually discovered him through his Middle East-set Vertigo comic, The Sheriff of Babylon. I used to find him at cons and say “I may not understand what’s going on half the time, but damn do I enjoy your book.” It got to the point where he started to recognize me. So, that said, it’s been interesting watching his career trajectory.

He’s a lot like Gwenpool, who is a character I love, with a lot of potential, who got a big push too soon. It wasn’t handled well. Marvel was determined to shove her down our throats. Like, have you seen a new character get a Marvel Legends figure that quickly? King got a lot of acclaim for Mister Miracle, but then seems to have lost all that goodwill with Heroes in Crisis. But to lose Batman from it?

It might not just be that, though, as I know some folks didn’t appreciate his bait & switch with the whole marriage to Catwoman, but did anyone really think that wedding was gonna take place? I have to admit that I haven’t read a single Rebirth-era Batman comic, so King’s run is foreign to me. I heard good stuff in the beginning, but not as much good stuff after the wedding point.

I feel DC put too much pressure on King, especially when the gamble that was the hiring of Brian Michael Bendis away from Marvel didn’t work out as well as they’d expected. It was unfair, and now King’s paying the price. The only other person who could get Batman right now is probably Bendis. So, congrats to anyone happy about that. That’s gotta be the worst thing about working in comics. You’re just plugging along, plotting your book, and then the publisher nabs some big name in a major coup, and that name is gunning for your book. They smile at the summits, but it’s been their dream to write your book. Anyway, DC hasn’t released an official statement yet, so here’s hoping for the best for all involved.

UPDATE

Here’s one of the perks of a later post. So, it was announced this evening that King and Clay Mann would be moving over to a spin-off title called Batman/Catwoman. Meanwhile, the Batman title will move back to a monthly schedule, so that it can more closely align with DC continuity. This is basically them saying, “Here’s some bullshit title for you to finish your little story while we clean up the mess you made.” So, since BM/CW is a 12-issue series, and King’s Batman run ends at #85, he’ll basically be getting his 100 issues, but they can easily say anything he does in it “doesn’t count” since they’ve committed the main Batman book to being all about continuity. Kinda sucks, but that’s the business, I suppose.

Trailer Park


Terminator: Dark Fate

One of the biggest issues Terminator fans seem to have is the matter of continuity. Basically, there’s always the question of When Does This Take Place? Seeing as how this is considered a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that question is pretty moot for the other sequels in the franchise now. And, seeing as how I’ve never been a “Terminator person”, this won’t be an issue to me, as I’ve only ever seen Judgment Day. Never saw Rise of the Machines, Salvation,nor Genisys. Hell, I’ve never even seen the original. So I think I’m in a pretty good place. I’ll see this, but probably not in a theater. The trailer, though it ends on a cool airborne scene, feels pretty flat to me. Am I alone there?


Star Trek: Picard

I’m gonna upset some people here, but I’ve got to be true to myself. This looks like a commercial for erectile dysfunction meds. It has all the hallmarks of one: older White man, taking part in some hobby out in nature, somewhat soothing voiceover. ED drugs always have to show active White men. It’s like “Look, Trevor! You can still go sailing!” They don’t do that for us. The most active Black folks get in medicine ads is we might be playing basketball. Otherwise, we’re sitting somewhere, with a hat on, maybe playing checkers. But I digress…

This is NOT a very good teaser, but CBS knows that they can pretty much give us anything with Picard in it, and folks will get excited. This doesn’t feel…organic. It definitely feels like a fake ad that was created within the world of a television show. It’s just odd to see something of a news teaser in a society that I thought had long moved past such things. I know they have reporters, as Jake Sisko was one, but we’ve never really SEEN what a reporter does in the world of Star Trek. Anyway, I’m still not sure this is gonna get me to pay for CBS All Access, especially hearing the behind the scenes issues the show has been having.

Links I Loved

  • This is pretty self-serving of me, but I was a guest on the Nerd Lunch Podcast this week, as we revisited the Amalgam comic event, where popular Marvel and DC characters were mixed together, and came up with some of our own. It was a really fun show, so you should give it a listen.
  • My good buddy Tim got a chance to interview writer Jonathan Hickman about his upcoming X-Men run. I don’t care much about the comics, as they relaunch the X titles every 18 months. I’m more impressed by how much traction Tim’s piece is getting, even linked to by Marvel.com.
  • My other good buddy, Kevin, has launched a new podcast, The Team Hellions Podcast. It’s still in its infancy, but one day you’ll be able to tell folks you got in on the ground floor of something great. He’s a great storyteller, and it’s been fun seeing him make the jump from blog to pod.
  • Unless you’re new here, you already know about The Surfing Pizza. Well, good ol’ SP is creating Taco Bell Quarterly, which is a literary zine dedicated to the love of Taco Bell. Well, it’s so much deeper than that, actually. Yeah, I know. It’s gonna be awesome!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Adam Levine has decided to stop pretending to give a shit about discovering new pop stars, and will be leaving The Voice.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog movie has been moved to 2020 so they can continue to “fix” it. Ugh, the “Bad Guys” won on this one…
  • It was Ecto Cooler Mania all over again, when folks learned that the 80s New Coke formula would be revived as a tie-in with the Netflix series Stranger Things. Coca-Cola lovingly gave fans the opportunity to pay $20 for a pack of the stuff that nearly drove them out of business 35 years ago. Ain’t nostalgia funny?
  • WWE, always with their finger on the pulse of what fans want, had Brock Lesnar – part-time, half-hearted wrestler – win Money in the Bank. Needless to say, the fans were livid, but they’re always mad about something.
  • Game of Thrones ended this week. The less said about that the better. Ya know, until 2027, when folks start lauding the finale as some kind of masterpiece, sorta like they’re doing with The Phantom Menace right now.
  • Despite seemingly getting that axe before last week’s Upfronts, there are rumblings that ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier may get a stay of execution.

So, if you were on Twitter this week, you sure read the EPIC thread by web designer Shane Morris. You see, he recounted the tale of the time he found a brick of heroin in a used van he’d purchased, and then proceeded to “move weight”, as the kids say, through a friend. Oh, and to make matters worse, he then told of how he ripped off the son of the original van owner – ya know, the guy whose heroin he’d sold – who also just happened to be a member of one of the worst gangs in the world. And he lived to tell about it.

I don’t want to paraphrase anything. You should just go read the thread for yourself.

Shit is CRAZY, right?! So, that’s why Shane Morris had –

Wait. We’re getting a live update as I type this. Apparently Shane has responded to the story with this:

WHAT?! YOU DON’T SAY!

Here’s the thing: after publishing that story, one of two things was gonna happen: 1) he was telling the truth, and he was gonna be murdered OR 2) he was lying, and he was gonna be murdered. He mentioned, by name, a gang that I don’t talk about in conversation. It’s THAT bad. They don’t just kill you. They kill everyone close to you. And he did this shit to sound like a big man on Twitter? Whew!

If you don’t feel like clicking the link, he basically said he did it in an attempt to see if he could top his own story about the time he ate 8 grams of mushrooms. When he saw how that had blown up, he just wanted to see if he could outdo his own story. Basically, he’s just a boring, 30-something, married software developer who wanted to have some Big Dick Energy for a bit. And I’ve GOT to know how his wife feels about the whole thing, now that they’re fearing for their lives and all.

I really hate to go there, but there is a hint of White Privilege at play when you think you can spin a yarn like this, citing one of the worst organizations around, and think there’ll be no repercussions. I’m not saying he thought he’d get away with it because he’s White, but I AM saying his “aloofness”, by virtue of his Whiteness, is why it never even occurred to him that some folks are not to be trifled with. At first I wondered if I was alone in that thinking, until in his confession, he states that his weed man even says to him, “Bro, that is the fucking whitest shit I have ever heard in my entire life.” Vindicated!

Morris went from being cock of the walk, with a movie deal in place for his story, to hiding on a friend’s couch, all in the span of 72 hours. That internet: she’ll make ya and then she’ll break ya!

I will say that I have never felt more seen than by this statement: “You might not understand this yet, but there’s a point you reach in your early 30s, after you get married, when you stop showering for 3–4 days sometimes, and you’re watching yoga videos, and you’re like, ‘Holy shit. What the hell happened to me? I feel like the least cool person on the planet.'”

I feel ya, Shane, but I’ve never woken up from that to the realization that I should start a gang war. So, you’re on your own now, buddy. Let this be a cautionary tale for you kids out there: don’t court trouble to impress strangers!

So, Live In Front Of A Studio Audience had the West Week Ever.

03rd May2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/3/19

by Will

Well, would you look at this! A whole post dedicated to recent happenings in pop culture! Been a while since we’ve had one of these, huh? I took last week off because I knew a lot of folks had gone dark so as not to have Endgame spoiled for them. And the week before that, I took you back to some of the great fires in sitcom history (and the stats showed me you care for stuff like that WAY more than this post! Guess I ought to do something about that). Anyway, I’m back to pop culture because, honestly, I need the practice. My annual TV network upfronts post is coming in 2 weeks, and I’m actually pretty scared. Not only am I somewhat out of touch, but it’s looking like this was a terrible pilot season. How bad was it? Well, The CW cancelled NOTHING. That…that just doesn’t happen. This means there was nothing in development that they felt was strong enough to join their schedule. The CW. So, if things are this bad for them, I can only imagine how bad it’ll be for the big boys. One doesn’t simply walk into an upfronts post – especially in a year full of dogs. So, I’m here to brush off the cobwebs.

Didn’t really expect to spark the CGI Furry Civil War this week, but it almost happened. Late last week, I tweeted that I didn’t really understand for whom Detective Pikachu was made. I mean, sure, it’s an engaging world where Pokémon are just regular creatures, but there are certain choices that don’t make sense to me, like Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu. Did Tara Strong turn them down or something? Reynolds is not the voice I’d imagine coming from Pikachu, so it makes me feel like they’re going for that Deadpool sardonic wit as opposed to cutesy. Anyway, after posting that, a bunch of 40 year old men came to the movie’s defense, like “This movie is for ME!” Okie doke.


So, imagine my surprise when there was such backlash to the release of the Sonic the Hedgehog trailer this week. The world that had embraced Detective Pikachu with open arms was shitting all over Sonic. I mean, I get the complaints. He looks weird, it’s a tired “CGI character in the real world” plot, it looks nothing like the games, and then there’s the reemergence of 90s Jim Carrey. It’s a lot. But you’d think the trailer jumped out of the computer and shot folks’ grandmothers in the face. Some Poindexter online tried to argue that Pikachu was clearly a universe crafted with care, where the characters are accepted residents, while Sonic is just lazy by throwing him into our world in a tired battle against the military. I told this person they sure knew a lot about a movie that wasn’t even out yet. Got blocked.

My argument is, at the end of the day, it’s the same shit. It’s all part of a new “genre” that you might as well call “CGIve Action”, and there’s a spectrum. You can have CGI creature in human world, like these two movies, and it runs all the way to Disney’s upcoming “live action” The Lion King. This is just the world we live in now. But to argue if one furry property is better than another just seems stupid. It’s really just a popularity contest. In 2019, Pokémon is more popular than Sonic. It’s really that simple, though folks will come up with all sorts of reasons as to why I’m wrong. It’s a lot like the concept of harassment. It’s “harassment” if you’re not attracted to the harasser. Otherwise, it’s simply “courting”. Everyone wants to be “booed up” with Pikachu, while Sonic is the ugly girl they hooked up with at camp but won’t acknowledge when they’re all back in school.

Anyway, the Let People Enjoy Things! crowd is real vocal until it comes time to shit on something they don’t like. I got response after response from strangers with anime avatars about how lazy Sonic looked, while so much care had clearly been put into Detective Pikachu. I just stopped responding after a while because life is short and I was never gonna get back that time I was wasting. I thought that would be the end of it, until last night, when reports started coming out that Paramount was going to “fix” Sonic’s design.

Like the movie, hate the movie, this is a terrible decision by Paramount. A project was changed due to audience backlash. Whatever happened to creative and artistic vision? For all we know it was a very vocal minority. Sure, you might support this decision because it’s for something you didn’t like. However, remember all those folks who hated Rose Tico? Or the Release the Snyder Cut folks? This just emboldens them. Seriously, whoever made this decision at Paramount needs to be fired, because this gives hope to every Fuck Star Wars or Fuck Captain Marvel psychotic out in these streets. A studio bowed to the pressure of a vocal minority who’ll swear they were the majority. I can’t even begin to fully capture how horrible a precedent this sets, yet here we are. The funny thing is, though, there simply isn’t enough time to fix anything. Even if the VFX team works overtime, it just means they’re screwing over all the licensees, as Sonic’s appearance will no longer match any of the movie merch that’s already been created. Paramount should’ve just taken the loss and moved on to the next thing. To be honest, outside of their cable channel that no one watches, I didn’t even realize Paramount was still a thing. If they keep making decisions like this one, they won’t be for much longer.


Burger King was trending on social media for this video yesterday. There’s been a lot of chatter online about their new marketing campaign addressing mental health. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety (“Not YOU, Will!”), the campaign speaks to me, but probably not in its intended fashion. You see, when I was in 7th grade, it was my lone year in public school. I remember that someone put snot on my locker in much the same way the “skank” finds gum on hers. I’m sure it was one of the kids who routinely called me “faggot” that year. Ain’t kids a buncha stinkers?

Anyway, I feel like the commercial would’ve worked without the associated boxes. Instead, like my pal @thesurfingpizza said, I just wanna collect the boxes. Can you choose a box or is it at random? Can I just go up and order a DGAF Meal? Plus, it feels kinda juvenile. Case in point: the wife and I toured a preschool over Spring Break, and they had this thing where the kids come in and put a clothespin on the emotion board to show how they’re feeling that day, so the teachers will know how to approach them. This feels like that. Like, if I come home with the PISSED Meal, and slam it on the table, the family is gonna go “OH SHIT!” and scatter immediately. Actually, that might be kinda cool…

Trailer Park

The Righteous Gemstones (HBO)

This show is sure to ruffle some feathers when it premieres, but it looks SO GOOD. The only people offended will be the folks who need a wake up call from megachurch-owning televangelists, but it’s also gonna give cynical atheists quite a bit of ammunition. I don’t even have HBO, but I love everyone in this, so you’d better believe I’m going to find some way to watch it.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 6 (ABC) 

I just can’t get excited about this show anymore for 2 reasons: 1) the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame are pretty much a big “Fuck You” to this series (I’ll get more into this later) and 2) the show’s inability to let go of actors is really starting to grate on me. I love Clark Gregg as much as the next guy, but let the dude go. This whole “He only looks like Coulson, but isn’t Coulson” is just the Ward saga all over again. I don’t feel like sitting through that again. Plus, it can only end one of two ways: he truly is evil and gets defeated in some ambiguous manner (he totally gets defeated ’cause the show has already been picked up for season 7) OR he’s redeemed somehow. Knowing the show, and the Whedon DNA in it, I’d bet on option #2. I know folks say last season was great, but I didn’t even make it through the 2-hour season premiere. I’ve fought long and hard about “No, guys! This is the show that actually matters to the MCU!”, but I no longer see how that’s possible. I feel like it’s overstayed its welcome at this point, and if everything truly isn’t connected, then I’m ready to get off this ride.

Will’s Jukebox


“More Hearts Than Mine” – Ingrid Andress

The gist of this song is to not bring anyone you’re dating home to meet your friends and family. Why? ‘Cause if/when y’all break up, they’ll be breaking more hearts than just yours. Actually, the chick in the song is pretty resilient, ‘cause she’s like “I’ll get over it, but you’ll be hurting these other people.” It’s more about protecting your loved ones than the other way around. I just found it an interesting angle for a song. And I know folks think I skew too country, but I’d say this song is without genre. Seriously, in the early 00s, there were all these artists like Jem and Nellie McKay and Rufus Wainwright who really didn’t fit standard “genres”. I loved all of them, and I’d put this in that club.


“Late Night Feelings” – Mark Ronson ft. Lykke Li

I liked Lykke Li’s “Little Bit”, which is now about ten years old. Damn. And in ten years, she still hasn’t really become a household name. That’s really a shame. In any case, on this song, she sounds like she’s vying for the Gaga Belt, which Stefanie vacated when she went off to bang Bradley Cooper. I love the vintage feel of this one, but I wonder if I’d love it as much without the visuals of the video. Seriously, she even kinda looks like a Gaga impersonator here. Anyway, it’s actually Mark Ronson’s song, and I’m convinced he’s a goddamn Time Lord. He has mastered these long gone genres that don’t really get a lot of play these days. Remember that Amy Winehouse’s 60s-tinged Black to Black was pretty much masterminded by Ronson. I swear that, without Ronson, she would’ve died an unknown. Or she might still be alive, struggling along, ‘cause she wouldn’t have had the fame she got following the success of Black. Want proof? Check out her Ronson-less debut, Frank. Anyway, with this song, I see Ronson’s managed to move up a decade.


“Me” – Taylor Swift ft Brendon Urie

I haven’t really fucked with Taylor since 1989. I only saw this video because it auto-played as an ad following another video I watched. That’s shifty! Or is it SWIFTY? Anyway, this song is saccharine but does little for me. Honestly, in this pairing, I’m here more for Panic at the Disco dude than Taylor. Such an odd choice to have him here, but it works. This is the kind of song that will be a hit merely because it’s Taylor, but isn’t really a “hit song”.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Did you know that great storytelling doesn’t rely on gimmicks and can’t be ruined by “spoilers”? No? Then you clearly haven’t tweeted this week with someone who self-published a fantasy novel!
  • So, get this: Hulu has picked up 2 Marvel series, including Ghost Rider and Helstrom. To even put the cherry on top, Gabriel Luna, who played Ghost Rider on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be starring in this show. HOWEVER, this show will not be related to the character he played on AoS. HUH? Meanwhile, Helstrom is the Son of Satan, so I can only imagine they’re trying to tap into that Lucifer fanbase.
  • At some point during my hiatus, retro channel MeTV started airing their first original program, Collector’s Call. Hosted by Lisa Whelchel of The Facts of Life fame, each week focuses on someone’s strange and interesting collection. I don’t think MeTV even airs in the DC market anymore, but you can watch past episodes on the channel’s website.
  • The -ish empire is growing, as not only has Black-ish been renewed for a 6th season, but its prequel, Mixed-ish just got the greenlight from ABC, which will focus on Tracee Ellis Ross’s Rainbow growing up in the 80s/90s.

Links I Loved

This used to be a regular part of West Week Ever, but y’all weren’t clicking the links, so I killed it. Still, there’s so much great writing out there that needs to be shared, so let’s give it another shot.

Avengers: Endgame. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? Or felt? By now, most of you have seen the film, so we can now relate to one another on that level. Sure, it wasn’t the best movie ever made, but considering it was the endcap to 11 years and 21 movies, it was a friggin’ masterpiece! So many moving parts, so many characters to showcase. And it did the damn thing. The way I see it is, if you never really cared for the MCU (I see you, James, Jenn, and Chad), this movie ain’t gonna be the one to convert you. However, if you’ve been a fan for most of this journey, then you’ll be pretty satisfied by what Endgame delivers.

Since everyone and their father has opinions on this film, I’m not gonna review it, per se. Instead, I’m just going to share the thoughts that went through my head following my two viewings of the film:

  • Hated Smart Hulk. Was really expecting a moment where he would forego that and truly HULK OUT
  • Not a fan of John Slattery as middle-aged Howard Stark. I know they don’t like to reference the TV shows much, but I feel like Dominic Cooper should’ve reprised the role, as he was Stark on Agent Carter, during this phase of Howard’s life. Plus, they had TV’s Jarvis! It just would’ve made sense.
  • Speaking of TV, we’re on a 24 timeline now. Despite the fact that 24 lasted 9 seasons, the seasons were set some distance apart – some as little as 18 months, while some were around 5 years. That means that the 24 timeline, once said in done, spanned about 17 years. What I’m getting at is Where does this leave Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Since it seems to take place in “real time”, and premieres in about a week, is it now set in the post-snap 5 year period? And, if they are gonna acknowledge that aspect of Endgame, how are they gonna explain how NONE of the team got dusted from The Snap?
  • I thought it was a bad move to just bring everyone back in the present day INSTEAD of backing up the clock 5 years. That leads to so many problems in the “real world”. Did insurance companies go bankrupt from all the payouts from The Snap, and did they get that money back when everyone returned? So, Peter Parker is just gonna go back to school, with a bunch of kids who were in elementary school when he disappeared? Think of all the folks who died during that period of time, either through suicide or natural causes, who still won’t see their loved ones again.
  • Great character work from Thor
  • So, a lot of the Timey-Wimey stuff didn’t make a lot of sense. We start with time travel, then we move to predestination paradoxes, and then we get to branch off into alternate timelines. In standard science fiction, Present Day Nebula would’ve disappeared when she killed Past Nebula because killing herself in the past would prevent her from existing in the present. This, however, was not “standard science fiction”, and I guess all of our time travel knowledge truly was shaped by Back to the Future.
  • As cute as the A-Force scene is, can we admit that Hope Van Dyne is hopelessly outclassed in this fight, and probably should’ve died on the battlefield? What makes it even funnier is how she’s the one with the most swagger as they’re slow-walking into battle.
  • Um, Clint murdered a LOT of people. Sure, they were “bad” people, but he straight up murdered them. Is he not gonna pay for those crimes?
  • Howard Stark says that he rarely chooses the greater good over self interest, and that shows in Tony, as well. Think about it: the only reason he doesn’t want to turn back the clock is that it would erase Morgan from existence. He told Cap and co that he had too much to lose from the time heist, but let’s be honest that there’d be a lot fewer questions to answer had they just reconstituted the universe at an earlier point in time or some shit, instead of just bringing everyone back to life five years later. Sure, his sacrifice is selfless, but the timeline, man, the timeline…
  • The Morgan stuff really got to me, since my oldest is her age. I’m not about to go die to save the galaxy, but it was still like “Huh, Tony Stark and I have something in common.”
  • I said this on social media, but it’s still true: In the MCU, after his Winter Soldier programming is broken, Bucky’s characterization can best be described as “Older brother, just home from rehab, who really hopes the treatment sticks this time”.
  • It’s interesting to see what Steve Rogers will look like when he’s addressing an empty chair onstage at the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Anyway, all these thoughts aside, it was such an amazing experience. It’s also a film that you MUST see in the theater. Now that the spoilers are out, I’m not sure if it’ll have the same effect, but it was transformative sharing those emotions and twists and turns with a room full of strangers. I had never given much of a shit about the “movie-going experience” until I saw this film. It just… *chef’s finger kiss*. As you can probably figure out by now, Avengers: Endgame had the West Week Ever.

19th Apr2019

The Great Sitcom Fires of the 80s & 90s

by Will

In today’s crazy world, it’s hard to imagine there was once a simpler time. You didn’t have to worry about collusion with foreign powers or the reemergence of diseases long defeated. No, if you travel back to the 80s, there were 3 big things you had to worry about if you were a kid:

  1. Kidnappers: If there was a pirate flag for the decade, it would be emblazoned with the silhouette of a van and a bowl of candy. To hear grownups tell it, kidnappers were everywhere. They were watching you at the park, they were scoping you out in the supermarket aisle, and they were waiting for you to get lost at the mall.
  2. Radon: an odorless, colorless gas that could kill you at ANY TIME?! I’m amazed we don’t still talk about this silent murderer, but I guess carbon monoxide had a better agent.
  3. FIRE

Yeah, #3 is what we’re going to talk about today. In the America of the 1980s, fire could strike at any time. You could just be enjoying your fresh pack of Bonkers, and burst into flames right in front of your friends. Yes, it was THAT dire! As with all things dangerous, the anti fire lobby teamed up with Hollywood to give us a bunch of Very Special Episodes of our favorite shows to drive home just how important it was to be prepared for fire to strike. Every school class did the field trip to the fire house where, if you were lucky, you got one of those red fire hats made out of the same cheap plastic as a Ben Cooper Halloween costume mask. We were all instructed to have a fire evacuation plan at home, where you were supposed to have those little rope ladders ready to go if you lived above the ground floor. The bottom line is that in the 1980s fire, like the Wu-Tang Clan, was nothing to fuck with. Fire was so prevalent that Billy Joel released a public statement to let people know that he wasn’t the one responsible for all the blazes.

As I was raised on all things television, a lot of these episodes have stuck with me over the years, and I thought we’d take a look back at them and see if any resonated with y’all, too.

When I think of sitcom fires, the first one that comes to mind is from Webster. If you don’t remember Webster, it was ABC’s Great Value version of NBC’s hit Diff’rent Strokes. Instead of little person Gary Coleman being adopted by a rich White man, little person Emmanuel Lewis was adopted by a White yuppie couple, whom he affectionately called “Ma’am and George”. Webster’s parents were killed in a car accident, but he’s taken in by George, who was both his godfather and one of his father’s old NFL teammates. Kinda like if OJ took in one of Al Cowlings’ kids. So, when the show starts, Ma’am and George live in this swanky Chicago condominium – until shortly into second season. You see, Webster gets a chemistry set, and he defies his parents’ wishes by messing with it after bedtime. Well, the whole thing gets away from him rather quickly, and he ends up burning up the apartment.

Let’s look at a few things here, because there’s a lot to unpack. They weren’t in a single family residence, but rather an apartment. That means when fire strikes one unit, it affects several others. And whatever isn’t damaged by fire is damaged by the water used to put it out. I remember Webster didn’t really seem to get in trouble, and the family moved to a house out in the suburbs where he had a sweet dumbwaiter he could use to go up and downstairs. Now, I don’t know what the appropriate punishment is for destroying an apartment, as well as several adjoining units, but whatever it is, Webster sure as Hell didn’t get it. If anything, it seemed like this actually made his life better. I’m supposed to be scared of fire, right? ‘Cause it’s deadly and causes a lot of destruction? Instead, it just made me terrified of chemistry sets. Try harder next time, Hollywood!

So, next on the docket of memorable sitcom fires was Punky Brewster. If ya don’t remember Punky, she was an orphan (the 80s were big on orphans – probably because all these kids had run away from their kidnappers) who was taken in by cantankerous widower Henry Warnimont. Punky was a free spirit who marched to the beat of her own drum, with her trusty dog, Brandon, at her side. Henry made a living running a photography studio at the mall. What’s that, young fella? Oh, well, before digital cameras, people actually used to get their film developed down at the mall. Huh? Oh, well, a mall is a big building with lots of stores where people used to shop? Well, yeah, I guess it was like a brick & mortar Amazon. Can I finish my story here?

So, Henry ran the studio but, just like Webster‘s second season retool, Punky Brewster also resorted to fire to shake things up. And it sparked an INFERNO. It all happened at the worst time, as Henry was only Punky’s foster parent at the time, so when the fire resulted in him hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer, Punky found herself placed into Fenster Hall, which was the local orphanage. In a five-part saga that wouldn’t be topped until Mighty Morphin Power Rangers‘ “Green With Evil” story arc, Punky tries to escape from Fenster Hall, she’s placed with a wealthy foster family, and she’s finally adopted by Henry by the end. All of this because of one fire. Everyone remembers the series for one particular episode. Yeah, that one. The one with the refrigerator. But this saga ranks right up there with that one for me, as I was a big Punkyhead. Was that a thing? Let’s see if we can make that a thing.

 

The most memorable sitcom fire is one I’ve discussed before, and it took place on The Facts of Life. A spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes, the show began set at the Eastland School for Girls. As the series went on, through some sort of slave labor/internship program, the most popular girls ended up working for house mother, Mrs. Garrett, in her baked goods shop, Edna’s Edibles. In 2019, this name would indicate an entirely different type of business, but I assure you Mrs. Garrett’s brownies weren’t the “special” kind. Introduced in season 4, Edna’s Edibles was one of the main sets of the show until season 7, when a fire destroyed the fuck out of that store.

This kicked off a three-part saga (very rarely could a sitcom fire and resolution be contained to just one episode), where the store was reborn as a prototypical Gadzooks/Spencer wacky gift shop, called Over Our Heads. Need a giant prop pencil, or an ironic pink flamingo, or just a piano necktie? They’ve got ya covered. It didn’t get more 80s than Over Our Heads, and it was a very forced gesture to bring the late 70s series into the then “NOW”.

Here’s an entry that most folks never talk about, but seeing as how it aired in the same block as ALF, I know more folks saw it than probably realize. Yeah, I’m taking about The Hogan Family. Launched in 1986 as Valerie, it starred former The Mary Tyler Moore Show/Rhoda actress Valerie Harper as the matriarch of a middle class Chicago family. She had three sons (one of whom was played by Jason Bateman), and she was married to an airline pilot, played by Josh Taylor (also known as Jack McKay from Beverly Hills 90210). It was a fairly popular show, especially when it was moved to the post-ALF timeslot. And that’s when the trouble started. You see, Harper attributed the increase in ratings to her performance, so she felt that she deserved a pay increase. She just stopped showing up for work, as similar tactics had worked in her favor back on Rhoda. Well, then-Head of Programming at NBC, Brandon Tartikoff, didn’t have time for her shenanigans. Between the second and third seasons, they killed off her character in a car accident, and renamed the show Valerie’s Family: The Hogans, where Sandy Duncan and her glass eye move in to help her newly-widowed brother take care of his sons.

Photo courtesy of Allison’s Written Words

By this point, you’re probably like “Where’s the fire, Will?” OK, I’m getting to that. You see, in a third season episode called “Burned Out”, the sons are playing around in the attic, and stumble upon an old lamp. They try to turn it on, but nothing happens, and they go on about their business while forgetting to unplug it. Well, it begins to spark, one thing leads to another, and it burns up the house. What’s memorable about it is two-fold: 1) it was something of a Scorched Earth Protocol, as the fire basically wiped any trace of Valerie that was left in the house and 2) It made me deathly afraid of faulty wiring. Like, I unplug EVERYTHING because I’m always scared it’s going to start sparking when I leave the room. 75% of my possessions are paper. You know how much I’d have to lose if something like that occurred?! That’s right: 75% of my stuff. I’m glad to see y’all excel at critical thinking. In an interesting twist, apparently McDonald’s sponsored that episode to spread the word about fire safety. In fact, they covered the bills for the fire damage to the set, and they also aired fire safety ads during the episode. Anyway, the next season, the show was officially renamed The Hogan Family, as the fire had successfully removed Valerie from the equation once and for all.

Sometimes a sitcom fire isn’t really a scary thing, but rather a plot device to give purpose to a secondary character. That was certainly the case with Family Matters. If you don’t know what Family Matters was, then you’re too young to be reading this site, but here’s the gist for the cheap seats in the back: a spinoff of Perfect Strangers, Family Matters was a staple of ABC’s Friday night TGIF lineup as it originally followed the lives of Harriet and Carl Winslow, as well as their kids, all living in the suburbs of Chicago. Then lighting struck with Steve Urkel – originally planned to be a one-off character, the stereotypical nerd was so popular that he eventually took over (and some might argue ruined) the series.

Anyway, on the road to becoming The Urkel Show, the series had too many characters that it didn’t know how to handle. The first to go was younger daughter Judy, played by Jaimee Foxworth. As the scythe kept swinging, it appeared that the target was gonna land on Telma Hopkins who played Rachel – sister to Harriet, and mother to Little Richie. You don’t just fire a member of Tony Orlando & Dawn without cause, though, so the producers gave her something else to do.

In the second season (there’s that season two retool again!), Laura Winslow and Urkel were working at Leroy’s, which was basically the Family Matters version of The Max. Well, Urkel being Urkel, he burned down Leroy’s, with Leroy deciding he had no desire to rebuild. At this point, Rachel decides that she can use the site to open a restaurant. Unfortunately she doesn’t have the funds until Mother Winslow decides to kick in some coin. The former Leroy’s is rechristened Rachel’s Place and, just like Webster, Urkel is rewarded for his involvement instead of punished.

You don’t get episodes like these anymore. I hesitate to say “They don’t make ’em like they used to”, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a devastating fire used as a plot point in a sitcom. While kidnappings still occur, I almost wonder if Y2K retconned Radon and fire threats in some strange, Flashpoint-like fashion. Have there been some sort of anti-fire advancements made in the past 30 years? Nothing really comes to mind, but we really stopped sounding the alarm bells on that one. If it weren’t for the 25 fireman procedurals in primetime, you’d almost think firefighting was an antiquated profession, like blacksmithing or pager salesman. Anyway, heavyhanded as they were, these episodes have stuck with me for +30 years, so I guess they did something right. And no fires yet to speak of in my neck of the woods, so let’s keep our fingers crossed!

 

22nd Mar2019

Thrift Justice – Physical Education

by Will

I swear, I’ll eventually get back to pop culture ephemera and old toys, but I’ve spent so much time taking in physical media “strays” that I still have some stuff to say on the matter. I know folks love seeing crazy “Oh my gosh! Can you believe it?!” stuff, but I also know folks like to see complete busts, because it’s 2019 and schadenfreude rules the day! Here’s a situation that falls somewhere in the middle.

While I pick up a lot of stuff from thrift stores, during my Thrift Justice posting break, I adopted a new approach, where I scour yard sale apps for deals. I mean SCOUR! You know how folks spend a ton of time on Twitter or Instagram? That’s me on Facebook Marketplace. My wife says that I have an addiction, but I don’t think I’d ever perform oral sex on a stranger in a dark alley for any of this stuff. THAT’s addiction! So, to her, I say “Whatever”.

I already explained my strategy last time, so you should now be familiar with the stuff that I feel looks promising and what kind of stuff I’d pass on. Let’s talk about a recent example, where I initially passed, eventually caved, and then learned a valuable lesson.

I saw these pics on OfferUp a few weeks ago, and there was some pretty interesting stuff there. Just at a glance, you see the complete Six Feet Under, the complete Sex and the City, the complete 24, most of Nip/Tuck, and some Star Trek: Voyager seasons sticking out here and there. Not a bad lot. The bad thing, however, is that this fool wanted $200 for everything. Yeah, unless your name is Samuel J. Goody, you have no right asking for that kind of money for this – especially when it’s all used. Here’s the thing, though: with all the stuff I listed, it was definitely WORTH $200, but here’s where psychology comes into play: This is a great profit for a reseller, but it’s a terrible price for a reseller to PAY.

If you’ve watched American Pickers, or any show like that, you know that you’ve got to be able to make some money on your acquisitions. There needs to be “meat on the bone”. There’s not a lot of meat on that bone at $200. A used complete series of most television shows is in the neighborhood of $30-40. You can get a bit more if it’s out of print (For example, the season 1 & 2 set for California Dreams will still net you about $40 by itself. No such thing as a complete run, as they never released the final season. Not even in one of those on demand programs). Keep in mind, though, the series needs to have at least 5 seasons. Don’t expect to make any money off Da Ali G Show or something like that (for example, Chappelle’s Show is borderline worthless because everyone owned it at some point. They might as well have given it out at stoplights). So, just looking at the series I mentioned above, that’s a good $150-200 right there, and those were just a fraction of what I saw.

I saw the listing, but it was too rich for my blood, so I passed on it. I knew he was never gonna sell it at $200, though, and that was proven by how it just sat for weeks. So, I wasn’t surprised when one night I noticed he’d slashed the price to $50. Now we were in business! I messaged him, but we were also in the middle of a snowstorm and my car was in the shop. I wasn’t gonna miss out on dis bitch, tho!

I manage to get over to my mother’s house, and steal her car while she’s still asleep (CRIME!). I drive down to the guy’s apartment, which is in complete disarray. Ya see, he’s actually moving to Richmond that day, which is the reason for his desperation price drop. He can’t take the stuff with him, so he dropped it to fire sale prices. There are boxes everywhere, as he’s waiting for the movers to come. Still, on the far wall, I see that familiar media case, with the Star Trek: Voyager sets on it. He’s out of boxes by this point, and apparently expected me to bring my own. I did not, so he hands me some garbage bags. And I start bagging. He tells me that everything on this side of the apartment is up for grabs, ’cause it’s not coming with him. I don’t know if that means I’ve got to pay more or that he’s throwing it in with the DVDs. We’ll come back to that.

As I’m bagging, I’m kinda overwhelmed by everything he has. I mean, for one thing, there are about 25 travel DVDs and Blu Rays. I don’t even know who would watch those things, and he clearly wasn’t the type, as none of them had been opened. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, they’re the kind of video you’d play for ambiance if you ran a nail salon. Top 10 National Parks and Europe In A Day. Stuff like that. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice that 24 season 7 is on the floor, off to the side of the case. I didn’t think much of it, as the rest of the series was in one of my trash bags, so I just grabbed it and threw it in.

He also had quite a few collections from motivational speaker Anthony Robbins, and I wasn’t sure if they were included in the sale. I’ve had a strange fascination with Tony Robbins over the years (Does that stuff really work?), but I knew I probably couldn’t sell it, ’cause that Guthy-Renker/BeachBody infomercial stuff is always covered by copyrights that can get your eBay account deleted. Anyway, I said “Screw it”, and threw them in the bag, as well.

As I’m shoveling stuff into bags, I start to notice all the stuff I hadn’t been able to see in the pics on the app. For one, dude really loves musicals. And the Royal Family. So, if I had to do a sidewalk assessment of the guy, I’m picking up “gay man who learned to love himself through the power of Tony Robbins”. I start looking at other stuff over on the side, but nothing really catches my eye other than 2 things: a new Xbox One remote/keyboard, and a new pair of furniture covers to protect your couches from pets. You see, we were headed to Richmond that afternoon to go check out the dog that would eventually become ours. Oh, I haven’t mentioned we have a dog now? Yeah, he shits in the house and terrorizes the children. I’m not a fan right now. Anyway, I knew I didn’t want this potential dog messing up my furniture so I grabbed those covers. I had already thrown the Xbox remote into one of the bags, but I actually showed the covers to the guy, ’cause I wanted him to know I was taking them, and didn’t want to get shot in some stranger’s apartment over a pet cover dispute (You laugh, but a guy in TN was murdered by the guy offering him $200 for his Xbox One from Facebook Marketplace just a few weeks ago). At that point, he’s like “OK, how about $10?” Oh, so he’s gonna monetize everything he’s got, huh? Should I tell him about the remote? I think NOT. So, I only have $5 left after the DVD purchase, and tell him I’ll only take one since that’s all I’ve got. Some folks might be like “Don’t worry about it. Take both.” He was not one of those folks. So, I shove the cover into one of the bags, give him the $5 bill, thank him, and leave.

As I’m driving home, I’m giddy about these 2 giant trash bags of physical media that were going to make me a mini fortune of “walking around money”. Maybe I can finally show my face at the comic shop that’s been holding merchandise for me since October. I’m kinda hoping they think I’m dead by this point. Then, as I’m driving, I’m starting to have my Usual Suspects moment. I’m piecing together all the Keyser Soze stuff in my head, reliving the past hour or so. And it starts to occur to me all of the stuff I don’t remember seeing. Despite what I had seen on the app, I now couldn’t remember actually putting Six Feet Under in one of the bags. Or even Sex and the City. As I kept driving, other stuff was now apparent that it wasn’t actually there when I got there. No wonder he had dropped the price – THE MOTHERFUCKER HAD PULLED A BAIT & SWITCH AND REMOVED ALL THE VALUABLE STUFF! At this point, the lot was basically worth the $50 he was asking.

You’d think I’d rush home and immediately take inventory, but you would be wrong. I kinda stewed in it for a while. Life got in the way, we got this shit machine of a dog, and the bags sat in the back on my car for about 2 weeks. When I finally got around to seeing what it was I’d actually gotten, my theory became truth. There was no collection about a sad looking White family that runs a funeral home. There was no collection about Carrie Bradshaw and her antics in a pre-cell phone New York City. There was no collection about plastic surgeons with no moral compass. Don’t get me wrong – there was still stuff there. I mean, he had all of Prison Break, and most of Oz and 24 – all still sealed. He had some new Martha Stewart collections, for the DIY folks out there, as well as some rare Wilton cake decorating tutorial DVDs. He had some musicals I could add to the personal collection. But the lot was no longer the goldmine it was teased as being.

This was a “teachable moment” to me, as it made me aware of some things I do in these transactions that probably need to change. For one, when I make a sale, I never count the money in front of the person. I think it comes down to not wanting to insult them, and then have that escalate into me being shot. I’ve never been stiffed, but I just try to be “Cool Dude” who’s all “Oh, it’s no problem. Thanks for meeting me!” Another thing I need to do is take my time and really assess what it is I’m buying in these transactions. I used to forget to do this when I first started reselling. I’d go to the thrift store, find something like an old G.I. Joe vehicle that was about 70% complete, and swear there was a buyer out there for it. Sure, maybe ONE, but I wasn’t on his radar, and I’d end up sitting on junk. In that setting, I learned to take my time and really inspect the stuff I was buying, so I wouldn’t end up with a ton of Beast Wars Transformers, with exposed ball joints indicating there were limbs missing. Here, I should have at least glanced before I started just shoveling into bags, and I should’ve had the balls to ask about the missing stuff had I noticed it while I was still in the apartment.

For a brief moment, I considered messaging the guy to ask “Hey, what the Hell?”, but I didn’t really think that was the best approach. Plus, Tony Robbins might have instructed him to stand his ground and curse me out, and I simply couldn’t have that! He didn’t mark the lot as sold on the app for weeks, so I wasn’t being asked to leave a review for how the transaction went, which was actually a relief. I mean, I don’t blame him for removing the more valuable stuff if he had another channel to sell where he’d make more money. No, I blame him for not updating the pics on OfferUp, making it seem like I, the buyer, would be receiving things I did not, in fact, receive. To borrow from the vernacular of the day, his ad was simply FAKE NEWS!

I’ve already flipped Prison Break for $35, and the Xbox remote for $25, so I’ve gotten my money back, but 24 was missing the final season, and one of the Voyager seasons was missing a disc, so it’s gonna be an uphill battle unloading some of this stuff. Look before you leap, True Believer!

Notes From The Road

When I first started Thrift Justice, it was supposed to end with this little segment where I give a little tip or trick that I’ve learned while thrifting. Since this whole post was something of a cautionary tale, however, I figured it already took care of that. So, instead, I wanted to connect you to some others out there with thrifting experience.

 

First up, there’s my brother from another mother, Team Hellions. He’s got quite the reselling cottage industry going, where he specializes in anything from VHS to old print ads. He’s also one Hell of a writer, and he just celebrated his 10th blogging anniversary. Visit his site to see the massive magazine lot he probably just acquired, but stay for the in-depth coverage of his latest project: the pop culture of 1983!

Also, be sure to check in on The Surfing Pizza. When I discovered this site, it was incredible writing about nostalgia – ya know, “Here’s something you probably remember.” In recent years, however, the focus has changed into “Here’s something that you probably remember, and here’s how it affected me.” That personal touch made all the difference, and the site has been firing on all cylinders ever since!

They’ve both got some thrifting stories to tell, so be sure to check them out!

08th Feb2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/8/19

by Will

So, is this a monthly thing now? I’m not entirely sure. I mean, I was thinking of ways to kind of retool this feature and make it more engaging. I know folks don’t like to read, so I thought in terms of stand-up comedy, trying to come up with my “tight 15”. However, that plan isn’t gonna work this week. There’s quite a bit to talk about, but I’m gonna be selective. We’re not gonna cover everything from the week ’cause, well, it was a dumpster fire.

I’ve been wavering about whether to address this, but I kinda feel like I owe it to some folks. You see, almost ten years ago, I did this thing on Twitter for the month of February, chronicling great moments in Black History. A year later, I kinda refined it and made it into a blog post. I had a lot of fun writing those things, and I guess it was some ploy to try to go viral. Over the years, February would roll around, and I would start with the tweets again. Some of them I LOVED, while some were just kinda “meh”, and I swore that I’d spend the next year thinking of better things to supplant the weaker jokes. However, the next thing I knew, February would roll around again, and I’d have nothing to show for that promise of new tweets. About 2 years ago, something changed.

I don’t really need to rehash politics on here, as y’all have eyes and ears. You know what’s going on in this country. Anyway, back when those seeds started to bear fruit, I kinda noticed a change in what I was seeing when those tweets went out. Now I’m not trying to say I’m on his level at all, but I had what I called my “Chappelle Moment”. If you don’t know, back before he infamously walked away from his Comedy Central show, he said one of the reasons was that he noticed that the laughter had changed. He found certain crowds were laughing at him rather than with him. It was like he had lost control of the audience, and I completely felt that. I noticed folks with MAGA accounts retweeting the stuff, and I wasn’t really liking the interactions I was seeing. So, that kinda put a bad taste in my mouth. However, we’re about to employ that “both sides” argument that’s so popular these days.

While this was going, there were other changes going on across social networks. #BlackTwitter was becoming something of a monolith, but I can’t get arrested by that crowd. They have never given a shit about anything I’ve done unless I’ve “caped” for a White man that had fallen out of favor for that particular period of time (this was prior to the rise of Cancel Culture). What I was doing was far from original, but just as the 1 Gotta Go dude saw a bunch of imitators rise up, I was seeing the unfunniest “Today in Black History” tweets going viral over there, and I guess I was like “Why are you drinking Dr. Thunder when you can have Dr. Pepper?” On top of that, this “friend” from high school had a moment on Facebook, where she felt the need to ask me why I only refer to Blackness to poke fun at it. “I only see you talking about Black people when you’re making jokes.” It’s like, “C’mon, Stephanie. We were all having a good time til you showed up with your bullshit.” So, I did a lot of thinking.

The whole “Why aren’t they retweeting MY stuff?” is clearly sour grapes, but at the end of the day I felt I’d lost control of the thing anyway. People would retweet them out of order (there actually is an ebb and flow to them), or blast them all out on one day. It wasn’t “mine” anymore. So, I stopped. I might do it again one day. Maybe I’ll keep my promise and actually spend the next 11 months thinking of new stuff for a grand return. I really don’t know what will happen, but all of that is why there are no Today In Black History tweets this year.

So, enough with the narcissism. Let’s take a look at the what happened in the world this week.

Oh, WORD? Blackface? He wanted to kill a random Black man? THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER IS BLACKMAILING THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD?!

OK, if you follow me on Twitter (@williambwest), I’ve already addressed some of this. Can’t look at the past through 2019 eyes. Northam was in blackface in 1984, yet the movie Soul Man, in which C. Thomas Howell dons blackface in order to scam an affirmative action scholarship, made $35 million (approximately $84 million today) just 2 years later. My thoughts have changed over the week regarding Neeson. Might talk about that another week. Might not. No, today, we’re gonna talk about Jeff Bezos. Again, this thread was on Twitter this morning, but I feel it needs to be restated here.

Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, is being blackmailed by the National Enquirer‘s parent company, American Media Inc (AMI). See, Bezos has been poking the bear into AMI’s ties to the Saudi Arabian government, so AMI (believed to be acting under direction from their ally Donald Trump) tried to persuade Bezos to drop his investigation by threatening to release some salacious texts and pics that he may have sent to his new girlfriend while he was still married. Oh, did I mention that his private investigator believes these texts were intercepted by a government entity, possibly indicating that Trump is using the governmental tools at his disposal to target his enemies? Anyway, Bezos decided that he wouldn’t be bullied, so he got in front of it and revealed the whole thing, including the emails that AMI sent him. Wait a minute, though – he didn’t reveal the WHOLE thing. He never said “I sent these texts while I was still married, but that is a personal matter.” So, maybe AMI actually was on to something, but he burst their bubble.

Yeah, it’s fun to watch powerful people fight each other, but let’s not forget that some bystander always gets killed by debris. I’m not about to be so quick to cheer on Bezos, even if he IS “standing up to a bully”. To continue my comic analogy, this is like when The Hulk fights Namor. Sure, they’ve both been on the side of angels at one time or another, but it’s not always clear which one is the “good guy” in any given engagement, at first glance.

Of course we want Bezos to “win”, ’cause fuck the National Enquirer. However, when it’s all over, Bezos will still go back to being the richest man in the world, giving pretty much nothing to charity, and continuing to subject his employees to harsh working conditions. Not to mention the little alarm bells the letter set off for me. For example, sure, we encounter folks from all walks of life in our travels, but why has Bezos known the best private investigator in the business for 20 years? What else has that guy done for him? Or the fact that he takes credit for delivering all of Amazon’s initial orders to the post office HIMSELF, when it’s been confirmed many times over the years that his soon-to-be-ex-wife did a lot of the “courier” work in those days – the same ex-wife who’s kinda being slighted if the AMI narrative of “Married Executive Cheats on Wife and We’ve Got Proof!” turns out to be true.

At the end of that day, that’s none of our business. Nobody should be extorted. I’m just saying look at the actors in the roles before you decide to buy tickets to the show.

I’ve been watching a lot of television lately, and saw some stuff I wanted to discuss with you beautiful people.

I’ve got to admit that I kinda betrayed Conan O’Brien when he lost The Tonight Show. I’d been by his side since his NBC debut, yet while he was at his lowest point, I was kinda like “Eh, it wasn’t a great fit, so get over it.” When he and Andy moved to TBS, I never watched the show, and as he never entered the next morning’s watercooler conversation like his contemporaries, I found myself wondering why he was still doing this to himself. Just quit, and go fishing.

However, Conan recently entered the pop culture conversation as it was announced his TBS show was being retooled into a 30-minute format, forgoing suits and the band. I read a bunch of interviews with about about what we could expect from the new format, and to get a “temperature check” on where his head is at right now. I was really intrigued by a lot of what I read, and found myself checking out his Conan Without Borders travel specials on Netflix. This led to me falling down a YouTube rabbit hole, watching clips of the TBS show that I’d ignored the past 10 years.

Oh my God! What was wrong with me?! This stuff is so good! From his ribbing of associate producer Jordan Schlansky to the wacky adventures he gets into with his assistant, Sona, it felt like Old Conan. Late Night Conan, and not the guy who was trying to be “normal” for the earlier timeslot. I’m sure it’s documented on here, but I ALWAYS felt The Tonight Show was the wrong move for him. I understand it’s The Big Chair, and I was proud that he was “graduating”, but a lot of what made him special was not going to work in that timeslot. You think Leno could’ve had the Masturbating Bear? I’m sure he would have LOVED something that risky, but instead he had to stick to Jaywalking, asking randos stupid questions on street corners.

Anyway, all of this primed me for the debut of the new, sleeker Conan, and so far I’m not disappointed. Still get a monologue. Only one guest per show. There’s no padding. Still has that “We’re figuring this out as we go along” feel that he originally had on NBC – the same feel that made me a fan. So, if you haven’t checked it out, definitely catch up on Conan (we’re only 3 weeks into the new format).

Tropical Cop Tales – I don’t even know where to begin with this. Airing Fridays at midnight on Adult Swim, I can’t describe it. On the surface, it’s about 2 city cops who transfer to an island, and the crazy adventures that ensue. That’s basically all I can say. It’s, by far, one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. When it started, I immediately wondered “What the fuck am I watching?” In fact, it gave me an appreciation for drug users, ’cause I know they would embrace the shit out of this show. By the end of the second episode, though, I found myself loving it more than I ever thought possible. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it. It has to be seen to be believed. Oh, and I had a nice chuckle when I realized the title was a play on “tropical cocktails”.

Teen Titans Go! Three of the shows I regularly watch on Cartoon Network had some great “homage” episodes this week. It kicked off with TTG, where the writers throw some MAJOR SHADE at Stranger Things. In fact, the title of the episode is “Nostalgia Is Not A Substitute For An Actual Story”. Fuuuuckkkkkk. I should point out that this kinda aligns with my initial impression of the show, which is why I’ve never cared to watch it. Anyway, it’s a time travel episode, where the team goes back to the 80s. If you loved that part of Teen Titans Go to the Movies, then you’ll LOVE this episode.

Then, We Bare Bears had a Power Rangers homage, where the bears are using their imagination to become a part of their favorite show, Ultra Meteorite Fighters. Since that show features 4 teens, and there are only 3 bears, they use their imagination to conjure up a 4th team member, Silver Bear, voiced by the Greatest Power Ranger of All Time, Jason David Frank (original Green Ranger). In a flip of the original Green Ranger Saga, Silver Bear starts out as the Bears’ ally, until they realize he’s out of control and try to cut him loose. That’s when he becomes the evil Black Stone, and they have to take him down. There’s Zord battles, and a Dragon Dagger. That 12-minute episode, though “unofficial”, was the best episode of Power Rangers I’ve seen in the past 10 years. Not even lying.

Finally, if you weren’t aware, Unikitty from The LEGO Movie has her own cartoon. I kinda hate it. It’s just got TOO much going on, and it gives me whiplash. Still, in the episode I saw the other day, Unikitty finds Batman’s suit at the laundromat, and proceeds to put it on and patrol the city. The entire time, LEGO Batman (again voiced by Will Arnett) keeps calling her, demanding that she return his suit. There are some funny in-jokes if you’re a Bat fan, and it was certainly the first episode of that series that I enjoyed.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the world of podcasts. First off, the guys over at Nerd Lunch announced that they’ll be winding down…soon? I really don’t know. They have a date in mind, but they’re not going to tell us until it gets close. This hits a bit close to home for me, as they’re probably the last show standing that invites me on as a guest. So, I guess I’m retiring from podcast guesting soon? I guess we’ll have to see.

Since I totally made their swan song about me, let’s continue on the narcissistic train, shall we? I kinda have this unspoken (until now) rule that I don’t listen to podcasts that have never had me on as a guest. It’s not that I’m so important, but I like having that relationship with them. I like that, instead of yelling at my phone or the computer, I can email or tweet them and say, “You meant to say ‘Hugo Weaving’.” Yeah, I’m an asshole. Plus, there are just WAY too many podcasts out in the world (approximately 630,000, according to CBS), so why waste time on something where I don’t have a personal connection? Anyway, with all “my” shows coming to an end (Did *I* kill them?), I’ve had to “diversify my bonds” when it comes to podcasts. Let’s see where that’s taken me, shall we?

Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend – This was discovered during my personal Conan Renaissance. Launched back around October, there are only about 15 or so episodes at this point, and I binged them all last week. the premise is that Conan is so busy working that he doesn’t have any friends. So, he invites former show guests/people he’s always admired to record with him, to see if they might become friends. I like it because it’s all surface. It’s none of that “What was your motivation when you played this role?” Instead, it’s like “So, back when we were at SNL, I remember you used to love eating White Castle while wearing gloves.” I like funny anecdotes more than critical analysis. If you’re in that boat, then check it out!

Gettin’ Better – This one is hosted by comedian Ron Funches, and I learned about it when he was a guest on Conan’s podcast. If you’ve ever seen Funches, you already love him. It’s impossible to hate that guy. From his voice to the fact that he just comes off as “huggable”, you’ll be an instant fan. Anyway, his show features his friends who come to discuss ways in which they’re trying to better themselves. For example, Funches has lost over 140 lbs over the past 3 years, so he’s just brimming with positivity and what’s people to find their “thing”. It might sound “self-helpy”, but it’s a really good show typically featuring fellow comedians (and X-Pac!), talking about how they’re trying to “get better”.

The Ron Burgundy Podcast – It’s funny how “exclusive” means nothing anymore. iHeartRadio spent the whole holiday season bragging that they were gonna be the exclusive home of The Ron Burgundy Podcast, with Will Ferrell reprising his role from the Anchorman films. It was gonna debut Jan 31st. Then, they bumped the debut a week and the next thing you know, the ads changed to “Available wherever podcasts are found”. So, it’s basically like “Thanks, iHeartRadio for handling the marketing work for your competitors!”

Anyway, that unsteady marketing plan seems to be a good measure of the show itself. I was really wondering how it was gonna work, because there’d have to be some degree of “time displacement” for it to work, since podcasts didn’t exist during Ron’s heyday. Would he be in modern times? Would it be more of a radio play? Whatever it is, it doesn’t fully work. Yet.

The first 20 minutes are basically Ferrell stretching the joke that Ron doesn’t exactly know what a podcast is. He’s got this weary producer named Carolina where it’s not clear if she’s real or a character. Her delivery is forced, and by the end of the episode, you’re not entirely sure whose side she’s on. Meanwhile, the premiere episode had Ron tackling the True Crime genre. Basically, think of what you’d get if Ron Burgundy hosted Serial. Yeah, that idea works for about 10 minutes – not the 49 minutes that we get.

I’ll stick with it, ’cause I love Ferrell, and I love that character. Still, I’m not sure I’d recommend it yet. Anybody else listen to it and has any thoughts?

There’s no Things You Might Have Missed this week. Maybe next week. We’ll see. And nothing really stood out this week as being the BEST thing, so there’s no West Week Ever this week. Hang on, though, as we’re still getting our 2019 sea legs. We’ll figure this all out together. Anyway, leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe!

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