15th Mar2013

LOEB Presents West Week Ever RED – 3/15/13

by Will
Who had the West Week Ever? Keep reading!

Who had the West Week Ever? Keep reading!

This has been a week! First, the elephant I shoved into the room late Wednesday night on Twitter: I did undergo a “procedure” yesterday, but everything seems to be OK for now. I can’t say much about it, but I assure you that I’m still fat and my penis is the same size it was when the week began. I can say, however, that I was really touched by the outpouring of tweets I got. It means a lot to me that a group of “strangers” can basically become a digital family. Thanks to @OAFE @T16Skyhopp @MeisterShake @JohnDoctorKent @timdogg98
@avenuesalamode @exveebraun @MattGuzy @monsterfink @RavingToyManiac @LamarRevenger @teamhellions @thebrandi @classickmateria @Brock626 @howardthedeck @chapmanrunner and @ponderiss for their concern 🙂

I also wanna thank @sharepointjoe @smurfwreck and @T16skyhopp for the awesome packages they sent me. I’m building a Kre-O army!

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I’m gonna try something different here. I’m not even sure of it’s allowed, but we’ll see. I haven’t been as involved in posting for The League of Extraordinary Bloggers as I should be, and the weeks sometimes speed by. Since I’m contractually obligated to do a West Week Ever each Friday (my sponsors at Will’s World of Wonder can be a bunch of dickholes sometimes), the only way I can do this week’s LOEB post is to fit it in here. So, this week’s topic is a photo challenge called “I see RED”. I thought about doing a huge shot of all my Red Rangers (ya know, to pander to the demo that drives the most traffic to this site), but I really don’t feel like digging all those out. Then, it dawned on me. I could use this:

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You may remember this shot from earlier this week on Twitter/Instagram. Check them out if you wanna see my hilarious yet racially insensitive caption. Don’t worry – there’s a story here. Ya see, I went to college with the Arizona Iced Tea heiress. For realsies, she exists! And she had the biggest rack I’d ever seen. So big that I dubbed her “racktacular”. My buddy used to date her, and somehow felt the need to tell her of her new moniker. Instead of getting mad, she jokingly wore it as a badge of honor…until her later reduction. A moment of silence for those magnificent titties. I always think of her when I see any beverage from Arizona.

Anyway, I was thirsty and didn’t feel like soda since it was 8 in the morning. So, my inner Spirit Negro said, “Watuhmelon?! Lah-dee-dah!”, and I tapdanced my way over to the counter. I’d never had it before, so what did I think? It smelled like Fruit Rollups, which is ALWAYS a plus. I’m not sure of the taste, though. I tend to hate synthetic watermelon, but this wasn’t bad. Know what it tastes like? Stay with me here, as I’m about to lose a few of you. It tastes the way a female rapper would describe the taste of her vagina. You know, they’re always comparing it to something good like Pop Tarts or Pepsi, but you know the real deal. Yeah, like that.

Here are some other Leaguer posts on the topic:
21 Red-iculous, Random Things About Me – ShezCrafti
I’m Seeing Red (You Big Dummy) – Flashlights Are Something To Eat
I’m Seeing Red – Cool & Collected
Welp, if that was the first time any new Leaguer has stopped by, thanks for playing our game and I understand if you’d like to leave now. For the rest of you, we’ve still got work to do.

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I used to dream about working for Wizard Magazine, but I guess it wasn’t in the cards. Not that I really tried. I made it to Diamond, but had friends who’d applied to Wizard. Basically, you were lucky to make $20K, while living in Congers, NY (where the median income was about $75K). Looking back, this isn’t so odd when you think of it in terms of “start-up culture”: to get an idea off the ground, folks tend to work long hours for little-to-no paycheck. The thing with Wizard, though, is that even once it “made it”, it doesn’t seem like life got better for the employee. That’s all from an HR/contractual side, though. In practice, it seems like the bunker mentality forged a lot of great friendships, and seeded the comic industry with the PR power players that it has today. Anyway, with all this in mind, I really enjoyed this Where Are They Now? article about a few Wizard staffers.

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This may come as a surprise to some, but I’ve spent next to no time on TV Tropes. It’s a timesink, and it just seems too…easy. I mean, why read these things when you could just watch them and identify them yourself? Still, they put names on phenomena that otherwise didn’t have titles; I’ll give them that. So, I think I’ve boiled down the essence of the typical 80s/90s sitcomto 13 episodes. Think of it like the British TV model – even if it gets canceled after one season, it has accomplished its mission. Anyway, here’s how it would be mapped out:

01. Pilot Episode Where Illogical Conceit For Series Is Introduced

02. Episode Packed With Character Development

03. Episode Featuring Pillow Fight OR Argument Steeped In Sexual Tension

04. Episode With Appearance By Then-Contemporary Pop Star

05. Very Special Kidnapping Episode

06. The UFO Episode

07. Lie Told When Parent Comes To Town Episode

08. Episode Where Someone Ends Up On A Ledge

09. Episode Where Someone Gets Amnesia

10. Locked In Freezer Clip Show

11. Backdoor Pilot for Spinoff That Will Only Last A Fraction As Long As This Show’s Run

12. Episode Where Fan Favorite Supporting Character Leaves Show

13. Finale Where Final Scene Cleverly References Opening Scene In Pilot

I should do a Kickstarter, where I’d probably burn it off all at once on Netflix, cast Lena Dunham in it, and sit back to collect my accolades.

Links I Loved
Children Around the World Show Their Most Prized Possessions – The Robot’s Pajamas

Retcon – Hooray For the Bad Guy

“The Living Unicorn”.. when Ringling Bros. lied to me. – The Cold Slither Podcast

Have you cast your votes for Slither Madness yet?

This Week’s Posts
“I Wanna Xup, Baby” AKA Anyone Else Remember Xuxa?

This Week’s eBay Auctions

One put on his suit & tie to dust off SNL, while the other was ushered in with white smoke. One danced all over the Pandora’s Box of crowdsourcing, while another felt his heart go “pop!” Only one, however, could have the West Week Ever.

Grant, Hugh

Earlier this week, I was cleaning off the DVR and noticed I’d recorded Music and Lyrics. In my mind, I think I’d assumed it was American Dreamz (a lesser Hugh Grant vehicle spoofing reality shows), so I was never in a rush to watch it. Boy, was I wrong! To boil it down, Hugh Grant basically plays The Other Guy from Wham! who gets a second chance at his career when Not-Ke$ha asks him to write a song for her new album. He can’t nail down the lyrics until his neurotic plant waterer turns out to have a gift for words. Collaboration and romance ensue, yadda yadda yadda. I liked the movie because it kinda swatted away some of the romantic comedy tropes. I was left with a lot of questions that probably would’ve been poorly answered in a Nora Ephron film. I’ve always loved Hugh Grant, even if he does always play the same character. As the cool kids say, he “could get the D”. Well, on second thought, let’s strike that from the record. My rep is bad enough as it is. Anyway, his West Week Ever status was solidified the moment the movie started with this video:

I’m a big fan of parody done with heart. This video is PERFECT. From the actual song, to Hugh’s directional nod at the lyric “Let’s go”. The last time I’d seen something this reverential of 80s pop was the first Robin Sparkles video, and then it was all downhill after they repeated it without instilling any heart to the endeavor. Sure, the other people in the running may have had more real time success this week, but most of that involved stuff that made me mad. This video clip, however, brought me nothing but sheer joy all week. And since it’s my site, and I discovered it only this week, that’s why Hugh Grant had the West Week Ever.

25th Feb2013

Because Nobody Asked: Will On Comedy

by Will

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I like funny stuff. Not just “haha” funny, but “clever” funny. As such, I find myself sometimes studying the “science” of comedy. I think it started in college, as I hung out with the sketch group for a bit. I even tried out for improv (this was the height of the Whose Line Is It craze), but that didn’t work out so well. Anyway, I’ve recently been studying up on a lot of the hot folks on the comedy scene. What I’m finding is that my tastes run against the tide of the general public. I’m actually an apologist for some derided comics, while I’m over some of those folks that are adored. In light of last night’s debacle concerning The Onion (not a funny joke, but not as offensive as folks would like to think), I’ve been thinking about my feelings on certain things in the comedic sphere. This is kind of a bulletpoint, stream of conscious post about all of that.

Bossypants – Tina Fey’s book was the epitome of disappointing. If you want an enjoyable book by a “funny gal”, read Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). Bossypants is written for the person who discovered Tina Fey during the whole Sarah Palin thing and thought, “Huh. She’s kinda funny, you betcha!” It sold well because Tina Fey. Still, it’s probably as enjoyable as any of the movies she starred in. Yup, Date Night was boring, Admission looks trite, and Baby Mama was an embarrassment for both her AND Amy.

Dane Cook – Ya know, I get that he’s a “bro”. I get it. I know why some find him repulsive. BUT if you go back to Harmful If Swallowed, he’s actually pretty good. I think his fame kinda took over and he began to be associated with his audience. His crowd sucks. They just do. They’re frat boys and sorority girls, all drunk, not even getting his jokes. I think he started to pander to them, which was to his detriment. Still, to go back to the beginning, you can see how he made a name for himself.

Patrice O’Neal – Patrice was great. I’m late to that party, but he just told it like it was. He’s really just telling you the truth, even if it’s shit you don’t want to hear. He’s basically that friend of yours that your wife hates: mainly because he’s a bad influence, but also because she knows she’s not off limits. Comedy lost a great there.

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Sam Kinison – All that motherfucker did was scream. His background is more interesting than his comedy  Son of a Pentacostal preacher, with a weakness for booze and pussy. I’d read dime store novels about him, but I wouldn’t watch him scream at me from onstage for an hour. There are times when he makes Andrew Dice Clay look like Jon Stewart. I loved that episode of Married…with Children, though.

Kat Williams – it’s a shame he’s batshit crazy, because he can be hilarious. Maybe he’s hilarious because of the batshit. One word: “evuhreethang”. If you get that reference, you know what I’m talking about. He could say a lot with just inflection.

Chris Rock – This is going to be blasphemy to some, but Chris Rock has not held up well. AT ALL. At this point, Bigger & Blacker has the cultural relevance of a No Limit album. Sure, some of it is still being repeated today, but just to hear a whole bit on the reelection of Marion Barry, almost 20 years ago, combined with the fact that Barry’s STILL invincible in DC politics, it just doesn’t work as well.

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Jim Gaffigan – See pic above. There, that’s his whole act.

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Legit – This is an FX show starring Australian comedian Jim Jeffries. I’d never seen his act, but heard good things. Then, I saw the premiere and it made me want to slit my wrists. Sticking with the show, however, it’s got a lot of heart. In fact, it’s probably more going for it than Louie, but I don’t wish to rile the masses.

Seinfeld – I’m only just now comfortable watching the reruns again. I swear, that finale was some bullshit. I recently read Jason Alexander’s account of it, saying that he thinks he’s the only one who loved it. I’m glad someone did. Anyway, Seinfeld was a great show, and despite what some folks online think, I feel like Modern Seinfeld PERFECTLY captures what the show would be today. You can even hear the voices. Still, I’m torn on Seinfeld’s actual standup. It’s impressive he works clean, but the observational stuff is so common now that it’s almost like you needed to experience him when he was new to the stage. I’ll say this: to me, he’ll always be That Rich Old Dude Who Was Allowed To Date A 17 Year Old. Seriously, that’s when you know you’ve got money: banging minors and people ain’t saying shit. I’m glad that Shoshanna went on to a fashion career or whatever the Hell she’s doing now. Now, he’s just The Guy Who Stole His Current Wife From Her Husband While They Were On Their Honeymoon. Isn’t it funny how nothing negative about him ever really sticks?

Depression – In my quest to be accepted by The Cult of the Funny People, I’ve come to realize a common thread: depression. Now, everyone deals with this differently: meds, drinking, sticking it out, etc, but now I find myself asking “Are they funny OR are they depressed?” It’s almost like I expect depressed people to be funny. It’s like fat girls with big boobs; all that fat ought to be going somewhere constructive. Nobody wants to be the tiny titted fat girl. So, what does this mean? Do I feel like depressed people are just sublimating the depression into comedy? And if so, what would happen if they were avoiding meds but got then started taking them? What if comedy IS their medication? Lots of thoughts on all that.

Richard Pryor – Where Rock is a bit rough around the edges now, it’s amazing how timeless Pryor is. Maybe it’s because he was ahead of his time. Everything he said still works. It’s still just as funny as it was then. And to hear his account of the crackpipe incident is incredible. He turned something painful and embarrassing into such an engaging bit.

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Hannibal Burress/Wyatt Cenac – not only are these 2 dudes that I really admire, but they’re also the guys who made me think “I could do that”. Especially Cenac. It’s not that they made it easy OR that I thought I was somehow on their level. It’s just that I never really related to a delivery style until I found them. Cenac was the only thing I liked about The Daily Show, and even then it was hard to watch because I was sitting there, saying shit like “He stole my act!”

Ron White – the only member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour worthy of his fame, which makes it funny to me that they kicked him out. His approach appeals to most audiences, without the needless hook of a “Git-R-Done” or a “…you might be a redneck”. I almost feel like he’s “Kinison Done Right”‘.

Larry the Cable Guy – this one’s tricky for me. I get the problems with him. I get that he’s essentially a country minstrel act. That said, he’s so good at what he does. Most people wouldn’t even like to admit they’ve given him a shot, but for a certain set of sensibilities, he’s the real deal. I think satellite radio makes this dichotomy clear: There’s Blue Collar Radio and then there’s Raw Dog Comedy. What I’ve noticed is that “blue collar” essentially means “no Jews and no New York”. It’s a southern, working audience, and he’s their Louis CK. He’s basically the stand up version of Hee Haw, but there’s an audience for that. New York comics will talk about the news, or the girl who just dumped them. Larry will do a switcheroo that doesn’t require his audience to really think or feel too much. “I used to be a lifeguard until some blue kid got me fired.” That joke’s smarter than you’d like to admit.

Anyway, that’s some of the stuff that’s been on my mind. I might revisit this later. For those who were looking forward to some thrift store junk, I’m sure I’ll have something for you by the end of the week.

Before I go, here’s a list of Hollywood children who were actual cunts:

1) Dee from What’s Happening

2) Lucy from Peanuts

3) Margot from Punky Brewster

4) Jan Brady

5) Any character portrayed by Stacy Keanan

NO APOLOGIES!

14th Dec2012

West Week Ever – 12/14/12

by Will

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So, I can’t say this has truly been the WEST week ever. Last week was good, so I guess I had this coming. I’m just not “feeling” the internet right now. Between all the Gail Simone bullshit, and the endless speculation over things that are 1-2 years away, it just gets tiring. Plus, I’m slipping into my whole “Why do I do this?” thing again. I mean, seriously, I could switch to only doing Thrift Justice posts, and I’d probably be more popular. We don’t do this for “fame”, but I kinda wish I got more out of it. I’m not entirely sure what I want, but this ain’t it. I don’t get invited  to the reindeer games of the blogging world. Starting to think I need a team or an umbrella under which to do things. Just sorta tired of feeling like it’s Me Against the Net, in a battle that only I’m aware of. Anyway, the show must go on, and all that jazz!

 

Here’s something cool I found the other day:

Apparently, Pentatonix won the 3rd season of The Sing Off. I totally forgot there was a 3rd season. Anyway, that was pretty cool. Nice to see they pulled it off. Back in college, there was a 6-person coed group called RL Six (say it fast, and you’ll get the “joke”), and the rest of us swore that you couldn’t get a great sound from just 6 people. If you had 6 guys, sure. 6 girls, maybe. But a 6-person coed group would be missing too many voice parts. Pentatonix pull it off with 5, though the chick is probably the weakest member.

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Any of you kids of the 80s/90s remember ProStars? It aired on NBC Saturday mornings for a season, and it featured Wayne Gretzky, Bo Jackson, and Michael Jordan as a team of heroes who always helped kids who were in trouble. Lately, I’ve been watching it on THIS is For Kids (THIS is a free digital subchannel that probably hangs out near whatever channel is The CW for you), and it’s a shame it didn’t last longer so we’d just see the wheels fall off that concept. I mean, from what we now know about Jordan, he was way too much of an asshole to be a part of such an enterprise. Seriously, the show includes pretaped vignettes where Bo or Wayne describe the day’s episode. There’s pretaped stock footage of Jordan, but he’s usually shooting a basketball or saying something like “Stay In School”. He couldn’t even be bothered to record pertinent interstitials! I’d love a followup special, as Bo currently Knows Anonymity, Gretzky’s hot daughter is more famous than he is, and Jordan would’ve lost all of the ProStars tech to pay off gambling debts. I’m not really a sports guy, and I already asked this on Twitter, but who would be on a present-day ProStars team?

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Someone on Twitter recently said that, in Pokemon terms, Krysten Ritter was the evolved form of Zooey Deschanel. I kinda agree, but I think there’s more to it than that. Just like Pichu evolves into Pikachu who evolves into Raichu, Zooey evolves into Krysten, who then evolves into Lizzy Caplan. If you’re curious as to why, ask me in the comments…

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OK, so WordPress is being all weird, so I’ll wrap things now. Before I go, don’t forget to enter Geeks For Tots!

Also, check out this week’s posts:

Can We Talk About Gail For A Minute?

Thrift Justice – All Filler, No Thriller

Thrift Justice – We’ll Never Know What Might’ve Been

And if you wanna give me some money, or buy holiday gifts for the geeks in your life, visit Will’s World of Wonder!

24th Apr2012

Reflections At 30: My Life at H&M

by Will

 

Since I turned 30, I’ve become a lot more introspective. This came as a surprise, I didn’t know that I could devote any more time to thinking about myself. I mean, I’m fairly self aware. Not in the “I’m so awesome” narcissistic way (even if I do have a website named after myself) but in a “why are people friends with me?” kind of way. One thing that has occurred to me is that I’m a much more successful toy peddler than blogger. I mean, it’s nice to be good at something, but this isn’t necessarily where I wanted to be. Sure, 10 years ago, I swore I’d eventually work in the toy industry, but I didn’t think this would be how I did it. Honestly, I’ve done more with the toy industry in the 4 months of having Will’s World of Wonder than I did in 10 years at Toys R Us. Most of that time at TRU was spent hiding from customers, and engaging in debates as to who were the hottest female cartoon characters. Looking back, I also realize that I don’t much talk about my time at H&M anymore, which is odd since I have quite a few opinions about that time and that place.

H&M, in case you’re not a 17 year-old girl, is a retailer that basically exists to provide a “disposable wardrobe”. The clothes aren’t well-made, but you don’t care because you paid $7.90 for a shirt, and $29.90 for a blazer. It’s perfectly priced for college kids and recent grads who need to beef up their business casual work wardrobe. In recent years, they have been as plentiful as roaches in the ghetto, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, if you go back to the year 2000, there were only about 5 of them in North America. In college, we used to take road trips to Syracuse just to shop there, as one of those few stores was located in the Carousel Mall. As a Swedish company, it was basically The Gap abroad, but it was still a quaint treat here in the States. I loved all their clothes, and due to some freak weight loss junior year, I was actually able to fit into them. This was the beginning of my whole what they used to call “metrosexual” phase. I was shopping at H&M and watching Queer Eye. So, OF COURSE I’d want to work there, right?

If you go back in my archives, you’ll see posts I wrote during the time when I first came home from school. It was during a time when I wrote like no one was reading, so it reads like a goth kid’s Livejournal. That said, I don’t really talk about that era, as it was probably the worst time of my life. I was an aimless kid, working with a bunch of other aimless kids, thinking I was big shit. I guess I was a late bloomer, ’cause this was also the “You can’t tell me what to do!” phase that most people go through around 17. Anyway, how I started working for H&M …I saw an ad in the paper, explaining how they were opening a store in nearby White Flint (according to the property owner, it is NOT to be referred to as a “mall”). They were providing paid training, and they’d also handle any travel expenses, etc. I’d worked in retail before, but this seemed above normal. I mean, I’d never been a part of something on the ground floor, and I was also excited about the prospect of a nearby H&M.

I’d worked in retail at Toys “R” Us, but H&M is a different kind of animal. I can’t attest to how it is now, but it was a company that took itself way too seriously. It was something about that whole European thing, but I’ll get to that later. One unique part of it was that they really made you think you had a future with that company. That’s why you couldn’t tell me shit. I was convinced that in a year I’d have my own store in Brooklyn, and there’d be some kind of 30 Under 30 article about me. So many possibilities: you could be a Visual Merchandiser, which just meant you dressed mannequins, you could be an Admin and count the money, you could be a manager or even a store director. The fact that you could actually be promoted to manager from associate was foreign to me; at TRU, if they needed a new manager, you got some guy who just came from Foot Locker. At H&M, if you were feeling macho, you could join the Building Team to set up new stores. If you were really awesome, you could join the Support Team, which meant you constantly traveled to help out newly opened stores or understaffed store – kinda like a retail mercenary. I mean, this wasn’t just “retail” – we were changing how the world shopped! Oh, how young and stupid I was…

An interesting thing I noticed was that H&M wanted you to better yourself through them, and not elsewhere. I saw store directors try to convince people to drop out of college. I mean, who needs school when you could make $40,000 a year?! You could buy a fucking boat for that money! Wait, no, you can buy a lot of happy hours.  You see, that money sounds really good when you’re 22, but then you have to realize that it’s a bitter 42 year old divorcee trying to get you to take a bite of that apple -the one who’s wearing the same thing she wore the day before, and slightly smells of Hot Pockets and sadness. Still, I was certain I’d soon be working at H&M HQ in Europe, living in an apartment furnished by the good IKEA stuff (not the dreck that we get, but the stuff they put their hearts into making – ALSO, notice how I’ve already jumped from Brooklyn to another continent?).

The best thing about H&M was also the worst thing: customer service. In layman’s terms, their customer service policy was basically “Fuck the customer.” You see, in Europe, the shopping experience is a bit more…self-motivated. If you want something, you find it. When you’re ready, they’ll ring it up for you. When H&M came to America, they felt that American shoppers expect you to hold their hands, and that it was a pathetic way to go about the retail experience. Instead of adapting to America, they were determined to retrain the customer. So, there wasn’t a bunch of “Welcome to H&M. Can I help you with anything?” Nope. Instead, it was best not to make eye contact until someone specifically asked you something to your face. If they were in the fitting room and asked you to get them another size, the answer was, “I’m sorry but you’ll have to get it yourself. I can hold your room for you, though.” If Cornell had already given me a chip on my shoulder, this experience provided the entire Frito-Lay bag. Oh, to be young and smug! Those halcyon days, however, couldn’t last forever. Eventually, H&M got enough complaints that they realized they had to change to fit their customers.

I eventually made it to Admin, but realized I still had to do registers, but it also included counting money at the asscrack of dawn. Plus, the people were just kind sad. Such a transient bunch, and most of them not memorable. I’m sure they say the same about me. What an impetuous little shit I must’ve been! It’s like if Holden Caulfield actually had to read Catcher in the Rye and think to himself, “How did I not end up getting shot.” I hear a lot of people do dumb things in their twenties, but those things are usually fun. I can’t say that I had that experience. I had a few years of a grandiose sense of self worth, fueled by selling cheap blouses to trophy wives. Huh. Where was I going with this? Oh, who cares? I’ll write about some thrift store stuff next time for my regular readers. If you came here for my toy store, you’re on the wrong site, but you can still click that box up in the right hand corner of the home screen. Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.

 

18th May2011

This One’s For Andy Bernard

by Will


So, I’ve been feeling the need to post something, but nothing’s really ready for the site yet. Then, I came across this video on a facebook friend’s profile. I’ve never been Mr School Spirit – something my mother chastises me for on a regular basis. However, I am proud of the fact that I went to Cornell because I busted my ass.
Sure, I may not be a captain of industry, or the head of a cool new start-up, but I wouldn’t be where I am without that place. I loved this video because it showcased all of the things about The Hill that we miss once we’re gone. And no, it’s not lost on me that the instrumental is from a song toasting the douchebags and the assholes – they’re also part of Cornell’s charm.

29th Apr2011

Glee: The Music Presents The Warblers

by Will

 

I haven’t really discussed Glee much on this site. I actually wrote a pretty scathing review of the “sneak preview” that Fox aired back in ’09, but it’s still sitting in draft form. Basically, I didn’t think the show would last, but I wanted to give it a chance to prove itself. After a bit, I became happy with myself for not publishing that post, as I fell in love with the show.

Season 1 of Glee was this musical quirk fest that shouldn’t exist, yet somehow became popular – kinda like Lady Gaga. You’d ask anyone why they liked it, and you’d get the Apple Jacks response: “I dunno. I just do.” Glee launched a bit slowly, but then exploded after winter hiatus during its first season. Of course, the candle that burns brightest burns fastest. Season 2 started off contrived, and just continued to go downhill. In conversations I’ve had with folks, I’ve pointed out that I was driven away by how preachy the character of Kurt had become. If you want to know more about that viewpoint, we can handle that in another post. Mainly, I felt that few of the characters were likable, and it was no longer worth tuning in just to hear the gold that comes from Brittany and Santana’s mouths – especially when those lines will just end up on twitter.

My biggest problem with the second season, however, is the role that the music now fulfills: in the first season, the plot dictated the song choices, but now it’s the other way around, as the song choices have begun to dictate the plot. It was already illogical that these kids would break out in song this much, but now it’s harder to believe that they all suffered Britney Spears-centric hallucinations from a visit to the dentist. These are Sitcom Season 6 plotlines, when the cast is just trying to burn off some stories to add to the syndication count. Glee now feels like an odd combination of lazy/forced, as you can tell that a lot of work went into the musical aspect, but they’re just so lazy in setting up a *reason* for said music. So, I gave up on the show about 6 episodes into the season. However, one good thing did come from this season: The Warblers.

I dropped out of Glee just as The Warblers were introduced, so I don’t know the full story there (nor do I care enough to wiki it). I know Kurt was thinking of transferring to Dalton Academy, and his new school would feature this A-MAH-zing all-male group called The Warblers. While New Directions music contained instrumentation, The Warblers were full-on a cappella, bringing a new sound to the show while also showing people that not all show choirs are a cappella (and vice versa).

Once I gave up the show, I continued downloading the songs, as I still liked the music – especially the songs that clearly had unique arrangements and weren’t just karaoke versions of Top 40 hits. The tracks that never failed to impress me all came from The Warblers. Not only do they tackle some pretty intricate arrangements, but they also have a sound remiscent of late 90s collegiate a cappella, which was a time before technology came to dominate those recordings. Currently, as technology has become cheaper, a cappella recordings have started abusing autotune as much as Top 40 radio.

The main force behind The Warblers’ sound would be the Tufts Beelzebubs, an all-male collegiate a cappella group from Tufts University. The Bubs dominated a cappella during the late 90s/early ’00s with a clean blend that was achieved through talent and effective mixing, but didn’t overuse unnecessary effects. The current Bubs actually contribute the vocals for The Warblers, and it’s nice to hear that the group is still amazing at what they do. When you meet someone on the street and tell them you sang a cappella, they always ask “Oh, like Rockapella?”. Yeah, sure, but what we really wanted to be were The Bubs, The Derbies, The Crosbies or The Dukesmen. So, you could say I’m a fan.

I finally got around to listening to Glee: The Music Presents The Warblers, which collects the Warbler songs that have been featured on the show. I had heard tracks here and there, but after listening to them altogether, I feel that this is once of the best a cappella albums I’ve heard in QUITE some time. From start to finish, from song selection to blend, this is a nearly flawless collection. Plus, it’s nice that Chris Colfer has a platform where his voice can finally shine. He has that distinctive voice where, in an a choral setting, it would be a bitch to get him to blend, but the trade-off would be that he’s a dynamic soloist.

There are some real standout tracks on this collection. A cappella groups have done a good job reinterpreting Train songs, and that’s true here as they guys turn in a great arrangement of “Hey, Soul Sister.”You can also hear the fun in their voices in their cover of “Animal” by Neon Trees. Out of nowhere, they blow the doors off “When I Get You Alone”, originally performed by a “Robin-less” Thicke. Finally, I found myself really enjoying a simple, yet still moving, rendition of Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know”. If there’s one track that might go into the “miss” category, I’d have to say it’s their version of “Blackbird”. It’s not bad, per se, but it lacked the dynamics of the other arrangements. Other than that, it’s a solid collection.

If you went to a school that didn’t dabble in a cappella, or if you just want to hear what some consider to be the gold standard of collegiate a cappella, you can’t go wrong with Glee: The Music Presents The Warblers. I consider this a nice little “Bon Voyage To Glee” present for me. I came for the Lea Michele, but I left with the Darren Criss. Y’all let me know if they ever make a Warblers spinoff show.

07th Mar2011

5 Corners of Pop Culture That I Don’t Understand

by Will

Yeah, so I go around boasting that I know so much about pop culture, but even I have my blind spots. For example, I’m not much of a movie guy. I’ve never been one for going to movies, and I used to just tell myself “I’ll catch it when it comes on TV”. As a result, there are tons of movies that have become modern day classics (Titanic, Shrek, Avatar) that I’ve never seen. So, don’t recruit me for your trivia team if you need a Movie Guy. Outside of movies, though, there are 5 particular areas of pop culture that I just don’t “get”.

Now, I’m not exactly trying to be controversial, but I just know I’m opening the gates for a flame war. That said, I’m not necessarily saying there’s anything wrong with these five things, but they just don’t really hold much meaning for me. If you can think of a way to change my mind, or can point out great aspects that I’ve missed, then I certainly invite you to do so. This isn’t a bash session, but rather a cry for help: help me understand the big deal about these things.

1) The Big Lebowski – I’ve had people tell me “You don’t get The Big Lebowski ’cause you’re black.” Um, OK…That’s never really affected my interpretation of movies before (although Bamboozled did make me hate white people for a day or so). Since college, I’ve had people tell me that Lebowski is the most quotable movie ever, while extolling the virtues of The Dude. It was an entertaining movie, quirky in the vein of Fargo. It’s a fine movie, but I don’t get the *phenomenon*.  I don’t get why there are action figures of crew-cut John Goodman and Jeff Bridges looking like stoner Jesus in a bathrobe. I don’t get the uptick in White Russian consumption.

In terms of pop culture clout, The Big Lebowski has basically become the White Scarface. Scarface has become somewhat inspirational in urban circles, especially to a generation of rappers. Sure, Tony Montana ends up dead, but before that, he came from nothing and ended up having everything. With that, you can kind of understand why he has become the poster child for those who also come from very little. On the flip side, I don’t see anything aspirational about the story of The Dude. They occupy the same levels of pop culture, for different demographics, for different reasons. Maybe those folks were right: I understand Scarface, but I don’t understand The Dude. Maybe it is because I’m black…

2) The Muppets – Don’t get me wrong: I love Muppet Babies, and the Muppets version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. That said, I just never really got into the movies. In college, I spent time around a sketch comedy group, and that was the first time I learned how much comedy circles revered the Muppets. Maybe I haven’t seen the right movies, and I’m missing out. I just don’t get the appeal. In some ways, I think I may have the same issues with the Muppets that I have with Alvin & The Chipmunks – I can suspend my disbelief, but I have a problem with these “creatures” coexisting with humans. The same way that I’m slightly disgusted by the idea that humans girls have the same kind of crushes on 4 foot singing chipmunks as they would on Justin Bieber, I also can’t really deal with the Muppets gallivanting around the “real world”. Sure, it works for Sesame Street, but I don’t see why adults are entertained by this, unless they’re high. And yes, do understand the irony of this statement coming from the guy who still watches Power Rangers.

3) Jersey Shore – Sorry, folks. Watching the premiere of Jersey Shore felt like a chore. Everyone who knows my love of bad television thought that I’d simply fall in love with the show, but they were wrong. I think I may have a different threshold than others. It seems that Jersey Shore is a guilty pleasure for quite a number of young professionals who love the show, but would never admit to it. It also seems that quite a few educated people love tuning in. That’s great. It’s just not my cup of tea. I LOVED the True Life episodes that spawned the show, but I really found nothing likable or engrossing about the cast of Jersey Shore. I did, however, enjoy watching that guy punch the shit out of Snookie ’cause, really, how often do you see something like that?  Jersey Shore is like going to the zoo – people feel superior as they ogle the “dumb” animals, but that shit eventually gets old and you find yourself looking for the hot dog cart.

4) Harry Potter – They’re cute books. I get that. They’re not, however, a worthy basis of what has become a literary juggernaut. Let’s rewind a bit, though. I missed the genesis of the Harry Potter phenomenon because I was somewhat off the grid. I went to Summer College at Cornell the summer that the first book started picking up steam. Now, if you’re not familiar with Cornell or Ithaca, its almost like its own little world. Generally, you have to really seek out information from the “outside world”, or else you won’t know of anything outside the Ithaca city limits. These were the early days of the internet, and there was no social networking just pushing information at you. When I got back to civilization, I started hearing rumblings of this “Harry Potter” thing, but really didn’t know what folks were talking about.

A big reason that I was resistant to Harry Potter was that I didn’t like the caliber of the early adopters. Sure, everyone reads Harry Potter now, but in the beginning, it was a certain group of people: the kids who weren’t allowed to watch TV, who only played with no-name educational toys from mom & pop stores, whose parents drove hybrids. Mainly, Harry Potter was the entertainment of yuppie children, and I hated all that they stood for. I can’t ignore what the franchise has done for literacy, which has actually been a great by-product of the phenomenon. It truly got people into reading, and that’s the one thing I like about it. That said, I’ve never found it all that original.

I grew up in a Roald Dahl household, so it was quite obvious when I started seeing his ideas popping up in the Harry Potter books. The extent of most people’s knowledge of Dahl is typically Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, and maybe Matilda or James & The Giant Peach. If you’ve more than just those, however, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It angered me that people felt that Rowling’s ideas were so groundbreaking, when I’d seen many of them before. For the people who saw where I was coming from, they still brushed me off with a “Well, nothing’s original anymore” or “Well, Rowling did a great job putting all of those Dahl concepts into one series”. Whatever. Like I said, they’re cute books, but I don’t see why they took the world by storm.

5) Star Wars – Basically, this comes down to the fact that I grew up with the philosophy that “Trekkies Can’t Be Warsies”. I latched onto the late 80s Star Trek revival, and that was where I put my focus. Unlike the other things I’ve mentioned, I “get” Star Wars, but I just don’t have the patience for it, nor do I have the desire to learn.

Star Wars just feels downright inaccessible to me. A few years ago, the only stuff that was “canon” consisted of 3 movies (and a holiday special that no one likes to acknowledge). Later on, there were 3 more movies, which was still manageable, especially since the “real fans” hated the new films and flipflopped on whether they acknowledged the events portrayed in them. Then, however, there was the Clone Wars cartoon, which bothers me because you can’t get attached to any characters, knowing they’re ALL gonna die. Then, there’s all the Expanded Universe stuff (which may not be considered canon, but is still held in high regard amongst the hardcore fans) and don’t get me started on all the comic series. So, at the end of the day, it’s still just 6 movies and some shows, but it feels so much more daunting. In terms of fandom, I like to go ALL IN. You can’t just tell me, “Oh, there are these books, but they don’t count.” If they exist, I’m going to feel like I need to read them and decide for myself if they count. And it’s just too much. The same argument could be made for Star Trek, but I got in early on that stuff, while Star Wars got rolling before I was a gleaming “surprise” in my father’s eye. I know it’s all psychological, but it just feels like being a Star Wars fan requires too much damn legwork. If you’ve got an “Star Wars in 3 Minutes” primer you want to send me, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I don’t think I’m ever gonna have that soft spot for The Force that so many of you seem to have.

So, there you have it. I hope we can all still be friends. I didn’t set out to bash the stuff that people hold dear, but I simply wanted to give my impression of these things. I welcome you to try to convince me otherwise, as I will admit that I do feel a bit left out at times. However, I fear that I’ll just get a bunch of comments like “Ur a fuckin’ moron!” Oh well, at least you’re leaving comments!

18th Feb2011

The Digital Revolution Is Being Televised

by Will

I like to think of myself as an informed person. By no means am I a genius, but I like to think of myself as “Jeopardy Smart” – I know a little about a lot. There’s one thing, however, that I know a LOT about, and that’s television. I’m not just talking about shows and actors, but the behind-the-scenes aspect of television. I’ve studied the biography of Brandon Tartikoff, I’ve read everything I could about the Late Night Wars, and I recognize there’s more genius to Peter Engel than we give him credit for. So, with all this focus on TV, I’m always taken aback when something fails to make any real sense. One such occasion was the broadcast switchover from analog to digital. While we were given plenty of warning (and even an extension), it was never fully explained as to why the switch was taking place. For non TV folks, I’m referring to the fact that you can no longer watch TV with a simple antenna, but are now required to have a digital box in order to catch an over-the-air TV signal. Some explanations suggested that it would free up the analog airwaves to be used for emergency purposes. According to some accounts, the government plans to auction off the vacated analog spectrum. For whatever the reason, it was never clear, and it was a huge headache for the elderly population. Most of the folks reading this have cable, so y’all never noticed any real change. I, however, grew up without cable and I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. Preparing them for the switchover was akin to prepping them for potential missile attacks from the “reds”. What truly came as a surprise, however, was that the switchover would open a door to the past that I never dreamed possible.

It was like this, but picture them black

Here’s a little full disclosure for you: I’ve never had cable. My mom finally caved and got it once I moved out, but I have never lived in a place that had cable. To make matters worse, I have a basement studio apartment, so getting any kind of over-the-air signal was a bit of a challenge before the switchover. I’ve never minded a little static, though, as I grew up watching Baltimore TV through the static because their Channel 54 had better shows than our Channel 20 (syndicated Punky Brewster, son!). Nobody told me, however, that digital airwaves would do away with that ability! Now, if you don’t get a signal, the screen just goes blue or you get a “No Signal” message. Another part of my childhood gone. That damn digital box ruined my life, as it pretty much eliminated the ability to watch any local station. What it did provide, however, was a link to the past. You see, I now only really get 3 channels, but those 3 channels have turned out to be more awesome than I could have imagined. I tend to suffer from a pretty bad case of seasonal affect disorder where pretty much any condition makes me depressed. Yeah, I should probably see a professional about that, but my home remedy is regression. That was a big deal back in college: “Hey, it’s Finals Week, so come to RPU and join us for comfort food and your favorite cartoons!” It’s a remedy I still employ to this day, and it works. Apparently, “everything old is new again”, and the 3 digital channels that I manage to get actually do a pretty good job recreating my childhood. Let’s take a closer look at what we have here, shall we?

As I said, none of my local network channels seem to work any longer, but most of those channels have additional digital channels that the stations seem desperate to fill with programming. For instance, our local NBC station has a digital channel (4-2) that played nothing but old beach volleyball matches. Our local ABC affiliate, however, has something I actually enjoy. You see, they carry the Retro Television Network (Channel 7-2). In what could be considered a “Poor Man’s TV Land“, RTV focuses on showing hour-long dramas from the past. Stumble across the channel, and you’ll find yourself watching I, Spy or Magnum, P.I. The true beauty of the station, however, is that it shows Knight Rider and The A-Team every glorious night. It’s like I’m 3 years old again, and I ain’t complaining! Sure, those shows haven’t aged all that well, but I simply don’t care. Forget How I Met Your Mother 5 times a week – I’ve got the DVDs; when I’m rushing home in the evening, it’s to travel back to a time when bullets didn’t kill and a talking car was a rarity.

I first discovered RTV last winter when I was unemployed, and I pretty much thought that was as good as the retro television scene was going to get. Then, everything changed on January 1, 2011, when the local CW affiliate started carrying Antenna TV on one of their digital channels (Channel 50-2). While RTV is more of a TV Land clone, Antenna TV is more of a Nick at Nite clone. It hearkens back to the days when Nick at Nite used to play actual classics, and not The George Lopez Show and Roseanne. We’ve had a ton of snow days recently, and during that time I’ve seen shows that I haven’t seen in years – things like  Too Close for Comfort, The Monkees, and Gidget. What really put a smile on my face was when I read that Antenna TV would also be adding Three’s A Crowd to their schedule. I know it’s a terrible, formulaic show, but I’m a Three’s Company fanatic. It has always bothered me that spin-offs Three’s A Crowd and The Ropers aren’t a part of the syndication package. Antenna TV will be showing the entire franchise. I don’t care if it’s 4 in the morning, I’ll be watching.

I’ve been familiar with qubo for some time, mainly due to the fact that the qubo programming block took over the NBC Saturday morning timeslots formerly occupied by TNBC and Discovery Kids. My biggest gripe with qubo was that they focused on thinly-veiled Christian CGI cartoons, like Veggie Tales and 3-2-1 Penguins.  I actually enjoyed Penguins, but I felt they were hitting kids over the head with the Morals of the Week. So, when I realized that there was a qubo digital channel (66-2), I wasn’t exactly rushing home to watch it. Sadly, I get the strongest signal from that channel, so I find myself watching it more than I would like. Well, imagine my surprise a few months back when I caught something called qubo Night Owl. Apparently, qubo acquired the rights to the Filmation cartoon library, so starting around 1 AM, they show He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, Bravestarr, and (the “unreal”) Ghostbusters, with the gorilla. It’s not award-winning television, but it’s pretty cool to watch if you’re drunk and/or can’t sleep. You might, however, find yourself wondering if She-Ra’s skirt was always that short…

So, while I still can’t explain the reasoning behind the digital switchover, I found a way to turn a negative into a positive. I kinda proud of myself, as I tend to like to just complain about stuff. In any case, I’m just like you. I can drive a car and hold a job. I just can’t watch television shows when they air. Oh well, thanks to the internet, I can just watch them the day after. While you’re consumed with your DVR and your On-Demand, I’m taking a trip back to a better time. Everything old is new again, and I’ve got a front row seat. Don’t you wish you could be me? Ok, you can stop laughing now. Come on, that’s not cool. Stop laughing!

*channel numbers based on Washington, DC viewing market. Check your local listings for your own damn digital channels

01st Feb2011

My History with the Power Rangers

by Will

Every now and then, over the past 18 years, there have been certain points where I felt I had reached an age/level of “cool” where I probably shouldn’t bother with Power Rangers anymore. That said, you really can’t forget where you came from, so here I am talking about them again. While I don’t write about it often, I am a 29 year old Power Rangers fan. If you knew me growing up, you probably came to my house and saw my “shrine” of PR toys and collectibles. I know my love for Power Rangers isn’t natural, but it’s still there, and I’d like to try to explain why it exists.

Bouncing around the internet, I’ve found that I’m not alone in my love for the Power Rangers franchise. Allow me to say this, however: I’ve been involved in a LOT of fandoms over the course of my 29 years – from Trekkies to comic fanboys to a cappella nerds. Out of all of that, no one group scares me more than adult Power Rangers fans. This is probably why I don’t wear it on my sleeve like some. I’ve never posted on Rangerboard nor have I written fanfic to fill-in those missing years where Tommy apparently earned his PhD. I’ll admit that a part of me is probably jealous of their dedication. I mean, some of them track down the original Japanese shows and watch them with subtitles. Even yet, some learn Japanese just so they can watch *without* subtitles. A lot of what I’m mentioning could also be said about anime, but that’s still seen as this “fringe” thing, while we tend to think of PR as simply a “kids show”.

So, I can admit their dedication scares me. At the same time, they also tend to be some of the most socially awkward people I’ve encountered (and I worked in comics). A good example of this is the episode of MTV’s True Life which was called “I’m A Fanboy” (full disclosure: I actually applied for this episode, not even for Power Rangers, but for comics. After watching, I’m SO glad they didn’t deem me worthy). There, we met Jason, who was a 26 year old Power Rangers fan. I was so happy that I wasn’t alone! That is, until he met this sweet 16 year old at a convention, and then things got creepy. All of a sudden, he was trying to convince her to be his girlfriend, while she was telling him that she was too young and didn’t want to be tied down. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen a grown man get turned down by a geeky minor!

True Life: I’m a Fanboy from Punched in the Head Productions on Vimeo.

Sure, that’s just one scenario, but the point is that I haven’t seen many positive public depictions of adult PR fandom, so I’ve kinda kept it to myself, outside of a few tweets and the occasional blog post that I figure no one will read. They’re not all like him, though. as I’ve still got good friends from my Toys “R” Us days who enjoy a good Ranger conversation AND I don’t mind being seen in public with them!

Anyway, I find my interest in PR spikes whenever a new series is about to premiere. It’s like when your girlfriend gets new clothes, and you suddenly think, “Where have YOU been hiding?!” I tend to lose my connection with the franchise, but I always find my way back. It wasn’t always like this, though. Back in the early days of the internet, I believe I was one of the foremost PR experts in my age category. Yes, I’m audacious enough to say that. I mean, I was already on the cusp of being too old for it when it began, so I had this adolescent obsession driving me to learn more. I dunno. I remember I used a LOT of my school’s paper supply to print out anything and everything I could find about Power Rangers. I still have binders filled with printouts of old Geocities and Xanga sites. What can I say? When I get into something, I tend to go ALL IN.

Through all of this breaking of the ice, however, we still haven’t covered the “why” of my PR obsession. Mainly, and I’m not ashamed to say this, I like bad television. Sure, you’ve got your TV snobs who lament the loss of Arrested Development and Sports Night but that’s not me. I enjoy guilty pleasure TV. Hell, if Baywatch Nights was still on, I’d still be watching. I’m still waiting for Team Knight Rider to come out on DVD. I’m not looking for Shakespeare – I just like good escapist television. That’s what Power Rangers was in the beginning. Over time, however, the story actually got…good. Most people gave up after early Mighty Morphin’, so they wouldn’t know about this.

(As an aside, I’m a bit of snob when it comes to my hobbies. With comics, if you tell me that you love Batman, I’ll ask you “Who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents?” If you answer “the Joker”, we have nothing else to discuss. The same could be said about PR. If I mention Power Rangers, and all you can say is “Man, it was messed up how the black guy was the BLACK RANGER!”, I already know the extent of your Ranger knowledge.)

Anyway, for those of us who held on, the storylines got really good. Power Rangers in Space was more suspenseful and dark than many primetime dramas. Power Rangers RPM was set in a post-apocalyptic world, where most of humanity had been destroyed by a computer virus – and that shit was from Disney! Anyway, I guess you could say that I came for the schlock, but I stayed for the story.

I made a promise to myself that I would keep watching Power Rangers as long as they kept making it. I mean, who knew it would last this long?! As time went on, internet connections got faster, I went off to college, Power Rangers moved to cable, and my obsession somewhat waned as other fans began to outpace me. I was raised, however, to never make a promise that you can’t keep – for this reason, I don’t make many promises. I had made that Power Rangers promise, so I had to make good on it.

In college, do you know how hard it was to watch Power Rangers?! Kicking drunks out of the Common Room on a Saturday morning so that I could watch Lightspeed Rescue? Being laughed at by the Walk of Shame strumpets?! I held on, though, til Saban sold the franchise, along with the rest of Fox Kids, to Disney. Not only was it harder to find on the air (ABC affiliates tended to air it at odd hours), but Buena Vista TV had a mad on for going after piracy, so links were taken down almost immediately. As far as I was concerned, I had upheld my end of the promise: I was trying to watch, but Disney was thwarting me. So, I took a few years away from Power Rangers. Sure, I checked in when I could (how the Hell did Tommy ever become a doctor?!), but there are some incarnations that I’ve never even seen (I’m sorry, but Mystic Force just sounded dumb).

As for the toys and memorabilia, it really comes down to the fact that I’m a speculator. Sure, there’s no baseball card market anymore, and comics are just glorified toilet paper, but I didn’t know any better growing up. As far as I was concerned, I was gonna be a fucking Rockefeller in the world of collectibles. I jumped on every bandwagon that came along, and Power Rangers was no different. To be perfectly honest, I was like most of you in the beginning. I thought the first episode was kinda lame (“Day of the Dumpster” was dated even by 1993 standards), but I had seen some of the toy ads in the Fox Kids Magazine, and thought they looked kinda cool. Little did I know that they would reach Cabbage Patch/Tickle Me Elmo heights of popularity. They were THE toy of Christmas 1993, and my mom, for all of her fretting and evangelical ways, has always supported my pursuit of hard-to-find stuff. So, I got my first batch of Power Rangers toys as “an investment”. She made me keep all the boxes, since they might become “collectors’ items”. Over time, though, speculating gave way to sheer enjoyment. If you’ve ever enjoyed playing with Transformers, then you’d enjoy playing with Zords. It’s pretty much the same thing. Eventually, however, my collecting got out of control. I finally weened myself off of the toys once I went to college, but that doesn’t change the fact that I still have a shit-ton of Saban-era Power Rangers toys. And all their original boxes.

So, what’s the reason for this trip down memory lane? Well, as I mentioned, my interest spikes when the debut of a new Ranger series is upon us. Next Monday, Power Rangers Samurai makes its debut on Nickelodeon. When I first heard that Haim Saban had bought the franchise back from Disney, I felt that he was really just going to sit on it for the licensing money. Instead, it seems like he’s really putting a lot of effort into Samurai. It’s being heralded as a back-to-basics approach, as he has gotten the old band back together on the production side. Plus, not only is the theme a remixed version of the original “Go Go Power Rangers”, but they’ve even got Bulk back for comic relief! While young kids may just see it as a fun action-packed show, it’s really almost a homecoming for those of us who remember the early days of the franchise. Something that really should’ve been a flash-in-the pan fad has become something of a multigenerational franchise. It has reached that age where parents are watching with their kids, saying “I used to watch this when I was little”. Whether you like the show or not, that’s still an accomplishment worthy of applause. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight, as Japan is still cranking out the source material.  Anyway, I’ve spent a LOT of time and money on what most people consider to be “a dumb kids show”, but I’ve gotta say…I’m kinda starting to look forward to the day when I share it with my kids.

17th Sep2010

Origin: The Final Frontier

by Will

By this point, we’ve covered how I found comics, how I came to love comics, as well as the memories and experience they provided. Back in Origin Zeo, I mentioned the time I discovered the sense of community that surrounds comic books. That might sound lame to some, but it is almost like a family in itself. We rarely agree on anything, but we’ll defend the medium to the bitter end. For me, comics have been an important means of social outreach. I’m a bit introverted, though you might not think so, what with me having a blog named after myself and all. I’m actually pretty shy, so I don’t just put myself out there to make friends. I will say, however, that most of my enduring friendships have been the result of my love of comics.

When I was in middle school, I attended a school for 6 weeks before we all realized that it wasn’t “the right fit”. I ended up enrolling in public school (for the first time, mind you), 6 weeks into the semester. It was hard enough being the new kid, but it was even harder being the late new kid. As dorky as I was, I didn’t get beaten up or anything, but I can’t say I had any friends, either. That all changed when I noticed a kid from my church, and we found ourselves talking about X-Men and Power Rangers. That kid was Brett King, and that conversation led to 10 years where we dissected X-Men developments, and debated new Zord combinations. We traded Marvel Masterpieces, created our own battles with our action figures, and even attended Professor Xavier’s funeral together (it was an event sponsored by a local mall). Up through college, he was truly my best friend, and it was all built on the foundation of a shared love of comics. I don’t know how I would’ve survived that period without him.

Once I got to college, I met James Lamb. To call him “interesting” or “complex” wouldn’t even come close to describing the man, as he’s an enigma. Passionately political one minute, and hardcore Marvel fanboy the next.  He’s gonna kill me for this, but he’s basically an amalgam of Malcolm X and Stan Lee (“Excelsior, crackers!”). I always tell people that I majored in “A Cappella”, as that was my primary focus while in school. Sad, but true. When I wasn’t singing, however, I was with James, discussing the nuances of “Hush” and “The Age of Apocalypse”. Once we both graduated, and found that we weren’t the Captains of Industry that the world expected us to be, we had MANY 4 AM conversations where the topics would range from Jason Todd to Jim Crow. Those conversations kept me sane in my years as a “boomerang kid”, back living in the room in which I’d grown up.

Eventually, I found myself actually living the dream, when I was hired by Diamond Comic Distributors as a Purchasing Brand Manager. Basically, we created Previews – the catalog that all comic shops use to place their orders. My job was to gather information for a particular part of the catalog, while also seeking out new “small press” creators who might have projects that they’d like to have promoted to retailers.

Diamond was a great opportunity, as it allowed me to learn the other side of comics. Up to this point, I had simply been a reader/fan/collector, but now I was working alongside creators/publishers/newcomers. I had some great experiences, like hanging out with a former Batman editor, being starstruck at SDCC, and even being drawn into a comic. I felt honored by the opportunity, but I also met some great people from that job.  Jim Kuhoric: all-around good guy/comic creator (and greatest boss). Steve Leaf: the fanboy I’d like to be when I grow up. Jay Spence: the filmmaker who’s the gonna be the next Kevin Smith. Then, there’s one fellow who’s gonna need his own paragraph.

When I first met Keith Davidsen, I didn’t quite know what to make of him. He seemed to be vying for the “class clown” position, which made me a bit competitive, as that’s the slot I like to have. There was no rivalry, however, as we ended up as a pretty good duo. I can’t even remember our first “adventure”, as we basically lived at Diamond. We’ve had craziness from San Diego to Miami, but it’s all based on a shared love of comics. Nobody loves 90s comic gimmicks like this guy. Rob Liefeld, Ghost Rider, X-Force – they were all created for Keith Davidsen. Since these were prevalent when I was getting into comics, it’s almost like we grew up in the same town, but went to different schools. For the better part of 5 years, he has been one of my best friends, and that’s all traced back to comics.

After comics, I worked at one of the (allegedly) shittiest companies ever, where we were all basically telemarketers. Under the guise of “research associate”, I dealt with a lot of people who begged me to stop harassing them. My God, did I hate that place! Anyway, I had one real friend there, and wouldn’t you know, he was a comic fan: Jason Larbi. While this analogy might offend an actual veteran, working at that place was akin to being in battle, and Jason was right there in the trenches with me. Whether we were discussing “Old Man Logan”, or he was trying to make me believe he had found a copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 in his alley, he was the only thing that got me through the day. That was also the saddest part about leaving that place: I got discharged on Section 8, while he’s still in the fight.

I’d also can’t forget about Toys “R” Us. While I’ve written about it quite a bit, I worked at that place for 10 years. My first store was full of characters, but it wasn’t until I got to the Columbia store that I actually made friends. Once that happened, it didn’t even feel like “work”. Sure, it got rough during summer and right before Christmas, but most of the time it was just like hanging out at a friend’s house – except you wore a uniform, there were shelves, and strangers were constantly going in and out of the place. Anyway, I looked forward to going, and discussing Batman Begins and Iron Man with Amy, “Special Forces”, Patty, and the late, great Lenny. I really should have quit that place years before I did, but I kept going back for the camaraderie and the geeky atmosphere. It was my Geek Barbershop.

At the end of the day, what I’ve been trying to say here is that comics have been my gateway for the past 18 years. Whether as a form of entertainment, or as a source for conversation fodder, I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have them in my life. Some people might think it’s sad, but everybody’s got something. I just wanted to let you guys in on what comics have meant, specifically, to me. They started out as just “something to read”, but later turned into an instrument in the creation of a make-believe family, which eventually gave way to be replaced by a surrogate, comic reading family. We get a bad rap as anti-social nerdlings, but I think that’s incorrect. Comic fans are some of the most social people I’ve ever encountered. In some cases, they might even be too social. That said, there is an almost overwhelming sense of community that surrounds comics, and I think that’s a big part of their charm. Just like you can strike up a conversation with the guy wearing the McNabb jersey, I can do that with someone I see reading DMZ. For example, I recently started a job at a school, and one of the principals is a comic fan. We often have conversations about Wolverine or Walking Dead. Just another example of how pervasive the community can be.

This is the first time I’ve ever taken a look back over the course of my comic fandom. It was certainly more emotional than I ever thought it would be, but it included some stories that I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to tell. Taking it all in, it’s clear that comics have been very influential in my life, and I can’t wait to see where they take me next. Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four