09th Feb2021

A Farewell To Farms: Bidding Adieu To My FarmVille Empire

by Will

I’m not much of a “gamer”, which has left me out in the cold as my oldest daughter has gotten sucked into the worlds of Roblox and Among Us. Every evening, she tries to tell me about that day’s exploits, and I just have no clue what the Hell she’s talking about. Who cares? Who gets that obsessed with an online world? I just don’t get it. Then I took a look in the mirror, and realized I didn’t recognize who I had become. You see, while I was never really into video games, I did have a stint where I was totally immersed in the world of social gaming, in the form of FarmVille.

Launched by Zynga in 2009, FarmVille was a Flash-based browser game that you could play via Facebook, which somehow made the world of agriculture seem exciting. And I was OBSESSED! If you were a Facebook friend of mine at that time, I undoubtedly asked you to send me some crops at one point or another. In fact, seeing as how the game tricked users into thinking their friends were active players of the game, these crop requests probably came across as harassment, and you most likely unfriended me because of it. Still, I didn’t care – I had candy canes to grow! While the game has somewhat been forgotten in recent years, I can’t stress how big FarmVille was for this brief moment in time. There were 7-11 tie-ins, with Farm Cash and Slurpee cups! For 2 years, it was the MOST popular game on Facebook. Do people even play games on Facebook anymore, other than “Spot the Q-Anon” or “How’s Your Racist Aunt?” A different time, I guess!

Like a real farmer, I used to start and end my day tending my farm. I’d milk the unicorns and pick the starfruit, while planting a bunch of carrots to pick later that night (If I’m not mistaken, carrots were one of the faster growing crops, with a decent ROI). Yeah, unicorns and starfruit. If you were looking for realism, I guess you could’ve gone that route, but FarmVille basically had a “climate be damned” mentality to it, where you could grow stuff that never should have been grown on a midwestern farm. As the game went on, they added new farms for you to add to your agricultural portfolio. At one point, I had a base farm, a farm at the North Pole, and I had a farm in England. Digital Me was jetting back and forth to tend to these multiple farms, and that’s when the cracks started to show. It was hard enough with one primary farm. I mean, you celebrated the successes, but you also felt the losses, like when you didn’t come straight home from work, only to find your crops had withered and died.

I wasn’t an immediate convert, though. My girlfriend at the time (now wife) was into it, and I was just kinda condescending about the whole thing. “Oh, you’ve got to get home to tend to your farm?”, I’d ask, dripping with sarcasm. I’m not sure what finally did it for me – maybe it’s because our relationship was still new, so we were still willing to lie to each other, kinda like how she pretended to like comics – but I eventually gave the game a shot, and never really looked back. She would soon get bored of it, but I was ALL IN. I’d beg her to log in, just to send me crops, but her heart was no longer in it. It didn’t matter, though, as I tracked down every FB friend who was an active player, and proceeded to beg them for crops.

Don’t get me wrong, though – it wasn’t all begging. It truly was a communal experience, where you helped each other out, like good “neighbors”. As I said before, though, the game had a habit of making you think some of your FB friends were active players, when maybe they had just opened the game once in the past. Didn’t matter to FarmVille; this person was now your neighbor, and fair game for asking for shit. Yeah, I rubbed some folks the wrong way because of that. To quote Wedding Crashers, “We lost a lot of good men out there.”

Anyway, as big a part of my life as FarmVille had become, one day it all just…stopped. Like I said, it was becoming too time-consuming managing 3 farms in different parts of the “world” (No, really. When you moved from farm to farm, you’d actually board a little plane that would fly you across the ocean!). It also didn’t help that there was no mobile counterpart for the game, unless you had an Apple product, so it pretty much demanded you be in front of your computer at designated times. Then I started hearing rumblings about a FarmVille 2 on the horizon. A NEW GAME?! But what about my current farms? My crops? All my investments? Nah, son. It was time to get out of farming. I would go on to channel all that time and energy into Twitter instead. I got married, had kids, worked some jobs, and never spoke of my farming days again.

While I did walk away from the game,  I never completely forgot about it. I had a morbid curiosity about the sequel game, but never enough to play it. I also wondered if my old farms still existed. I actually romanticized a blog post where I would “go back to the family farm”, and see what sort of emotions it would trigger in me. If nothing else, it would make for a good excuse to fire up the game again, and it seemed like it would be a funny post. I wouldn’t get that chance, however, as Zynga announced last September that the game would close up on December 31st, 2020, to coincide with the retirement of the Adobe Flash Player, which was integral to the browser-based game. September to December seems like enough time to get something like that done, right? Too bad I didn’t read about it until December 30th 2020. Yeah, I wouldn’t be able to revisit paradise before it was paved to put in a parking lot.

I’d like to say I made a bunch of friends playing the game, but I never really broke out of my circle of “knowns”. I’d love to say I gained a newfound appreciation of farming, but I know it’s a much harder industry than clicking a 4×4 plot of land. No, I didn’t really grow as a person from the game, but it gave me something to look forward to at a time when I needed it most. I haven’t transitioned very well to The Real World. I spent my college career singing every weekend, while dressed like some kind of waiter. Sounds kinda dumb now, but I thought I was cool. So it wasn’t easy to go from that to being a 9-5 cog in various jobs that didn’t depend on any “specialness” that I brought to the table. So FarmVille gave me something I could control. I could see the fruits of my labor. I got just as much back as I put into it. For that, I’m thankful. There are a ton of social media influencers who’ll tell you that people and things come into – and leave – your life for a reason. I guess I now have a better understanding as to why FarmVille came into mine. As an extension, I can also understand why Roblox has come to mean so much to Evie. Here she is, a 5 year old, starting school in the middle of a pandemic, and having to do Kindergarten over the internet. These games are the socialization that she needs right now, even if she can’t read, so the Among Us players keep ejecting her for being “sus”. It’s nice to see her really excited about something, which isn’t an easy feat in this day and age. So, I’ll try to be more understanding, knowing that this, too, will pass. Plus, I’ll probably look back one day and long for the innocence of this time, compared to what will come. I just wish I could have have shown her the family farm. I think she would have liked that.

04th Jan2021

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2020

by Will

Welcome to the WBW40! To say that 2020 was a “challenging year” would be an understatement. That said, there was a silver lining in the form of music. A lot of great songs came out this year, and I just wanted to take a look back at the 40 that I enjoyed most. Some of these songs weren’t necessarily released in 2020, but they made the greatest impact on pop culture during that year. If you’re new here, a guiding principle of this post is “Genre Is A Social Construct”. A lot of these blur the lines of classification, and are sometimes ghettoized because they are played predominantly on one radio format over another. All I ask is that you try to go in with an open mind, and maybe you’ll find your new favorite song!


40. Britney Spears feat. Backstreet Boys – Matches

There’s something about this slot on the countdown that tends to skew “Retro”. Last year’s #40 was Backstreet Boy AJ McLean with “Boy and A Man”, and he’s back with the rest of his squad this year, featured on a Britney track. This is the closest thing to a participation trophy as you’ll find on this year’s countdown. The song is here due to my unabashed love of late 90s bubblegum pop, but there’s nothing really great here, and the collaboration is about 20 years too late. Considering this is the first collaboration between the former powerhouse franchises, I’ve gotta say that I expected more.


39. Parmalee & Blanco Brown – Just The Way

This is Blanco’s second time on the year end countdown, as his song/dance “The Git Up” was #38 last year. I like this song because it’s something of a modern-day reinterpretation of *NSYNC’s “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You”. with a dash of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”. It’s got the same basic message of “What you perceive as imperfections are the things that make you who you are”. Plus, Blanco serves as something of a South of the Mason-Dixon Line T-Pain here, which works when it totally shouldn’t.


38. Parker McCollum – Pretty Heart

This song appealed to me because it sounds like something we would’ve gotten in the late 90s from The Wallflowers.


37. Niko Moon – Good Time

This is just the most laid back song, and Moon comes off sounding like a country Jack Johnson.


36. Trey Lewis – Dicked Down In Dallas

This song…wow. I had already come up with the list for the countdown when my good friend Marcus Dowling introduced me to this song. It’s crazy because it’s the last thing you’d expect from country, even though it follows the “I lost my woman” trope common for the genre. No, the problem is that Lewis went balls out on a song that can’t get mainstream radio airplay, nor do I think CMT is rushing to play the video. I mean, just listen to that chorus! The song basically JUST came out, but once we get clear of COVID and folks turn their attention to it, I think you’ll be hearing a lot about this track.


35. Rascal Flatts – How They Remember You

The farewell song from one of the biggest acts of the past 20 years. Their farewell tour was cancelled, so this is pretty much how they’ll go out: with a song that grapples with how one leaves a legacy behind. I gravitate toward meta stuff like that. For a lot of folks, Rascal Flatts will probably be remembered for their cover of “Life Is A Highway” from Cars, which is a shame because there was so much more to them than that, but that was the song that crossed over the most for them.


34. Rina Sawayama – XS

I kinda cheated here, as I had never heard of the song or the artist until I saw someone else’s year end list, and I immediately fell in love. It’s got that early 2000s pop sound that I love. I’ll definitely be checking out more from her.


33. Thomas Rhett – What’s Your Country Song?

The basic gist of this song is that there’s a country song for everyone out there, and you just have to find it. The driving force behind it, though, is the fact that Rhett drops little references to classic songs here. I like corny stuff like that. It’s not a number 1 song, and it’s sort of odd that a star at TR’s level would waste a single slot on a song that everyone on his team had to know was a #2 song AT BEST. It’s a cute little ditty, but this is why it’s so low on the countdown.


32. Lady A – Champagne Night

What a year they’ve had, huh? Things haven’t been great for ol’ Lady A. First they decide it’s time to change their name, as the old one (Lady Antebellum) conjured up images of the slavery South. So, they chop their name down to Lady A – without doing their research. Turns out there’s already a blues singer named Lady A. So, both sides sue each other, which is still ongoing. Seems like that drama affected the music, as they dropped from #2 last year to #32 . The song is serviceable, but I think I like the chorus here most of all.


31. Darius Rucker – Beers and Sunshine

I think I’m always going to be a Rucker fan, mainly because I’m impressed that he figured out a way to lengthen his career by changing almost nothing about his act. I maintain that Hootie Rucker and Solo Rucker are the same dude, but he just started sending his songs to different radio stations. The sound, however, is the same. This isn’t one of his better tracks, but it’s got a catchy little beat. Would’ve been a nice summer song, had we all actually experienced a typical summer.


30. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

That voice! This is a man who’s seen some stuff, and felt some things. While I don’t love this as much as I did his “Broken Halos”, it’s still a great song. I’m not alone in thinking that, as it made Barack Obama’s end of year playlist, as well.


29. Conan Gray – Heather

This year there were two songs that stood out to me as telling a story of a love triangle. First, there was Taylor Swift, with “betty”, which wasn’t initially clear as to what it was about. Was it a lesbian anthem? Was Taylor the “boy” there? I had to look it up to find out what it was about. Well, this is the other song, where Conan is in a love triangle where the person he loves is in love with Heather, causing him to develop a somewhat irrational hatred of Heather for getting in his way. Even without all the backstory, though, I think you can agree that it’s a beautiful song.


28. Matt Stell – Everywhere But On

This is Stell’s second time on the countdown, as his debut, “Prayed For You”, came in at #24 last year. I honestly like this song more, but that just goes to show how great the songs are on this year’s chart.


27. Thomas Rhett featuring Jon Pardi – Beer Can’t Fix

“Ain’t nothin’ that a beer can’t fix.” This song came out the second week of 2020, and the year replied “Oh, really?” What would’ve just been a run-of-the-mill country drinking song took on new meaning in the quarantined existence of 2020. This is TR’s second appearance on this year’s countdown, and I doubt he realized just how necessary this song would become in the months ahead.


26. Sam Smith – Diamonds

I love Sam Smith, and this song is a good example as to why. It’s the kind of thing you hear in a department store and instantly have to Shazam so you can download it later.


25. Luke Bryan – One Margarita

Poor Luke Bryan! He had what was probably meant to be THE Spring Break (and possibly Summer) anthem about relaxing at the beach. The problem? He released it March 13th – the day the world stopped. It’s a fun bop, but it was marred by the fact that you couldn’t really relate to the song unless you were blatantly breaking COVID travel protocols. Oh, what might have been…


24. Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande – Rain On Me

This should have had more of an impact than it did. Chromatica was supposed to be Gaga’s return to the Weird that built her career. She’d spent the past few years acting and singing with Tony Bennett, and this was supposed to be a return to her “roots”, so to speak. Well, it came out, and then sank like a rock. I still haven’t listened to the whole thing, but this song was inescapable, as it was used in ad campaigns all over television this year. It’s no “Bad Romance” but, really, what is?


23. Luke Combs featuring Eric Church – Does To Me

Why isn’t Eric Church a bigger deal? Does he not play by the rules? I get the feeling he might be difficult. Anyway, it’s odd that a relative newcomer like Combs has a feature from Church rather than the other way around. To be honest, Church puts in a serviceable verse, but it doesn’t make or break the track. It almost feels like a waste of his time. Still, I love the song, and it’s got a catchy hook.


22. Dua Lipa – Break My Heart

She’s an artist I’d heard by name all throughout the year, but it was much later when I could actually name one of her songs. This is such a great song, as it reminds me of a UK sound that doesn’t typically float over here. I’m glad to see it caught on and that she’s experiencing the success that she is.


21. Mickey Guyton – Black Like Me

You may not know this, but there is a Black woman fighting her way through the White world of country music. She gets almost no airplay, but she’s still nominated for awards, so the folks that matter have noticed her, even if the general public has not. This is a great track where she tries to convey to her audience what it’s like to be Black like her. I’m not really surprised this isn’t getting a ton of spins, but could you imagine what would happen if it did? It might feel more genuine than Jimmie Allen thanking Charley Pride every time someone hands him a mic…


20. Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion – WAP

OK, we’re into the top 20 now, which is where the titans come to spar. I’ll admit that this isn’t necessarily a “Will song”, but it was hard to ignore, especially on social media. I’ve seen way too many videos of moms rapping to it, moms reacting to their daughters rapping to it, etc. You couldn’t really escape this song this year, and it sparked a lot of dialogue as to whether folks were comfortable with women being so up front about their sexuality. I’m sure there’s some college course discussing it next semester


19. Eric Church – Stick That In Your Country Song

Oh boy! Eric Church is back, and now I can understand why he’s not a bigger name. He does NOT play by the rules. This song is a full-on pro-BLM, your country isn’t as great as you think it is, ANTHEM. He’s basically taking the country music industry to task for ignoring what’s going on in America, and I am HERE FOR IT. You’ve got to blast this song to get the full effect. Crank that thang up to 11!


18. Keith Urban featuring P!nk – One Too Many

P!nk is a freaking chameleon. She started out with her whole party girl R&B routine, then she morphed into “What If Gwen Stefani Actually Grew Up?” In recent years, however, she’s dipped her toe into the country world. Her first collaboration was with Kenny Chesney on 2016’s “Setting The World On Fire”, which predates the WBW40 but certainly would’ve been on there. This track actually had to grow on me, but I think the chorus is what really does it for me, with the backing choir. This is a great song with a lot of crossover appeal.


17. Shawn Mendes – Wonder

This is such a great power ballad, which was inescapable if you’d set foot in a Target this year. I don’t know a ton about Shawn Mendes, as I tend to confuse him with Charlie Puth sometimes, but I know he’s dating Camilla Cabello. This is just a top notch soundscape, which has me wanting to check out more of his stuff.


16. Dua Lipa – Levitating

Is that disco I hear? Is Dua Lipa helping to usher in a new wave of disco? Just close your eyes, and you’ll be teleported back. This song is “The Sex”. Do kids still say that? Did they ever say that? Let’s get that going!


15. The Chicks – Gaslighter

I love how, all these years later, they’re STILL not ready to “make nice”. This was the year that country radio seemed to finally forgive The Dixie Chicks – a mere 17 years after they were blacklisted for their views on then-President George W. Bush. This song was never really in heavy rotation, as it peaked at #36 on the US Country Airplay chart. When I put these posts together, I tend to opt for the lyric video as opposed to the official video, as I don’t want the visuals to take away from the song. In this case, however, I love how the song and visuals are woven together to get across the warning against propaganda.


14. Brad Paisley – No I In Beer

Well, first of all, Paisley clearly doesn’t know German. I shouldn’t like this song. It’s corny, It’s a little too “retro country”. All that said, I LOVE it. It was one of the first songs put out after the lockdowns, in the spirit of “We’re all in this together”. He crafted a drunken singalong for the Zoom generation, and it doesn’t get more 2020 than that.


13. HAIM – The Steps

I LOVE HAIM. They didn’t make it onto last year’s countdown, but they made it the year prior. Seriously, the only time they’ve ever disappointed me was on their collab with Taylor Swift, “no body, no crime”. “The Steps”, however, is reminiscent of Sheryl Crow at her All I Wanna Do-est, which is my favorite Sheryl Crow.


12. Morgan Wallen – More Than My Hometown

This is SUCH a country song. Small town couple has the whole town rooting for them to make it, while her big city dreams are in contrast to his love of small town living. Ultimately he chooses to stay because, well, he can’t love her more than his hometown. Wallen became a household name this year when his Alabama maskless makeout sesh got him booted as the SNL musical guest, for violating COVID protocols. He would be invited back on later, at which point he would NOT perform this song – what I considered a misstep, since this was his biggest song of the year.


11. The Weeknd – In Your Eyes

I should just cut and paste what I end up writing about The Weeknd’s songs every year: WHY DON’T I LISTEN TO MORE STUFF FROM THE WEEKND?! Seriously, I am absolutely in love with his sound, with every hit sounding like What If Michael Jackson Had Leaned More Into Synthwave? This isn’t the last time we’ll see him on this year’s chart.


10. Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky

The 80s are BACK, baby! Seriously, between Miley, Dua Lipa, and The Weeknd, I have to constantly make sure I wasn’t sucked down a warp zone back to 1986 or something. I was saying on Twitter the other night that it’s a shame that Miley has so much baggage because I don’t think we give her enough credit for her talent. Just the sound of her name conjures up memories of “The Climb” and “Party In The U.S.A.”, when it should make you think of her cover of “Edge of Seventeen” or THIS song right here. This song is so damn good. I can’t wait to hear this entire album.


09. Blake Shelton & Gwen Stefani – Nobody But You

This is the kind of collaboration that I feel should be avoided. Sure, they’re a high profile couple, and they’re both judges on The Voice, but I feel like recording a song together is the music industry equivalent of tattooing your spouse’s name on you. Kiss of death. And these two gumps went and released TWO duets this year! Still, this is by far the better of the two, and it grew on me pretty quickly.


08. Jake Owen – Homemade

I feel like Jake Owen came almost out of nowhere. I mean, he’s been on the countdown in the past, with “Down To The Honkytonk”, but before that he really wasn’t a “name”. With this song, he just kinda knocked it out of the park. Like Morgan Wallen, it’s another song about loving your small town existence. It’s funny I love these songs so much, seeing as how I can’t really relate. I guess it’s that part of me that wants to live on a farm, where my nearest neighbor is “down the road a few miles, past the old Coke sign”.


07. Blackpink featuring Selena Gomez

I have to admit I missed the entire K-Pop boat. I knew it was happening, but I didn’t know where to enter, who were the hot groups, etc. The girls of the world were screaming for BTS, meanwhile I was introduced to Monsta X on an episode of We Bare Bears, and I thought I was doing something. This song, however, is AMAZING. This won’t be the last K-Pop entry on the chart, either.


06. Sam Hunt – Hard To Forget

I was scared we’d heard the last from Sam Hunt. He had that Alanis Morissette career trajectory, where his debut album, Montevallo, was huge, but his follow up stalled out of the gate. He was the first male country solo artist to have 4 songs from his debut album go to #1. Then he released “Downtown’s Dead”, which did nothing for anyone, peaking at #96 on the Hot 100 chart. He seems to have gone back to his roots with the wordplay, which makes him something like a southern Jason Mraz, and he hit pay dirt with this song.


05. Gabby Barrett – I Hope

This song is SO good. It’s hard to believe she’s only 20, as this sounds like it’s coming from someone with some miles on them. She’s one of the rare success stories from American Idol 2.0, as she came in 3rd place in season 17 of the show. There’s a crossover remix that was sent to pop stations, making it a duet between Barrett and Charlie Puth, but I feel the solo version is the superior edition. I can’t really explain it but it almost sounds like a spiritual cousin of Alannah Myles’s 1989 hit “Black Velvet”.


04. Brett Eldredge – Gabrielle

I wrote about this song before the earth stood still, but it has stayed with me the whole year. To me, it’s the best song that Bruce Hornsby never wrote. You might only know Hornsby and The Range from “The Way It Is”, but between that and “Mandolin Rain”, I’m definitely hearing some Hornsby here. And ain’t nothing wrong with that!


03. BTS – Dynamite

I told you there’d be more K-Pop! How many of them are there? I feel like I’m watching the Boyz12 episode of American Dad. At least 2 of them are girls, right? They’re breaking all the boyband “rules”! But I don’t care because this song is so damn catchy. I’d heard it in commercials before I finally sought out the source, and I was not disappointed. This is the kind of fun pop that the Britney/BSB collab SHOULD have been, but wasn’t. I couldn’t ask for anything more in a pop song. This song delivered.


02. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

This is a first, as we have a holdover from last year’s countdown, and it has jumped from #22 to #2. In case you’re just skimming the list, let me remind you that I LOVE THE WEEKND. When they were trying to say he was snubbed by The Grammys, I didn’t really think much of it at the time. I’m here to say, however, that he was totally snubbed by The Grammys. This song was inescapable due to Tik Tok challenges. During the earlier days of lockdown, families were going viral to dances they’d choreographed to the song. All that aside, it’s just such a great song. The synthwave makes me want to just go speeding down a dark highway.


01. Dan + Shay – I Should Probably Go To Bed

Another amazing song that didn’t get the airplay it deserved. iHeartMedia does this thing, where they debut a song and play it at the top of every hour for the whole day. They gave that treatment to this song, and then I basically never heard it again. I don’t know if program directors hated it, or if there was some other conspiracy against the band. Maybe they flew too close to the sun with their Justin Bieber collaboration last year. I don’t know what it was, but radio did not love this song, which just made me love it more. I’d find it in the weirdest places, like how they bought a YouTube ad which was the entire music video. I wish I could take credit for this assessment but I think it was Billboard that said it sounded like something off the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, and that’s a perfect description for it. It’s got that Wall of Sound all over it, and it’s just such a beautiful, enveloping song. I’m about 17 years removed from a cappella, but I immediately thought “This would make an incredible arrangement.” I know this is the first time a lot of you are experiencing it, so I hope you can understand where I’m coming from, as this was, hands down, my favorite song of the year.

So, there ya have it: my top 40 favorite songs of 2020. How many of these were on your list? How many were new to you, but you kinda dug? Let me know in the comments below!

31st Dec2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/31/20

by Will

Yeah, I couldn’t let this godforsaken year end without one last post, could I? I know it’s not Friday, but hopefully you’ll all still be hungover/still drunk tomorrow morning. It’s been a somewhat busy week for pop culture, and I didn’t want this stuff to get lost in the shuffle of year end wrap ups.

 

First off, Alec Baldwin’s been helping his wife “Rachel Dolezal” us all for the past decade. You see, HILARIA Baldwin is actually HILLARY Baldwin, née Hillary Hayward-Thomas. Yes, the whole time she’s been in the public eye, she’s been faking her accent and Spanish heritage. I can’t even believe this is real. What commitment! Even Sacha Baron Cohen is like “Son of a bitch!”

Baldwin has claimed she came from Mallora, Spain, but she actually grew up in Massachusetts and went to a pretty exclusive private school. It’s her former classmates who helped blow the whistle on the whole thing. Apparently, her parents now live in Spain, so she felt that she could just kind of appropriate the culture through them somehow. She went on to post some halfassed explanations on Instagram about how she is, in fact, “a White girl” who grew up in Boston, and her connection to Spain is that her family used to vacation there every year.  She believes that the assumption that she was Spanish is the result of other people misrepresenting her. She insists she’s done nothing wrong (though she has been profiled in Latinx publications due to her assumed heritage), and she’s raising her kids bilingual, so we should just leave her alone. As I said on Twitter, it feels like Tina Fey is behind this, as it’s exactly the kind of storyline she would’ve written for Jack Donaghy to deal with on 30 Rock. It’s not like anything is gonna happen. Alec will probably punch a couple of TMZ photographers, as he is wont to do, and it’ll be quietly settled in court. We’ll have all forgotten it by the time Miley has her next breakdown.

A few weeks ago, I hunkered down and binged the new Saved By The Bell in a day. It’s only 10 episodes, so it’s not a Herculean task or anything. I’ve gotta say that I didn’t really love the pilot. Written by Tracey Wigfield, who has 30 Rock on her resume, it felt like a parody of Saved By The Bell. For the first 3 episodes or so, I really struggled to figure out who the audience for this show was supposed to be. It wasn’t for today’s teens, as it wasn’t their style, but it also wasn’t necessarily for a grown audience. No, it was clear that this show was meant for those of us who grew up on the original series, and have had 30 years to cynically reflect on what we watched. That might make for an interesting special, but could an entire series be built on that assumption?

If you haven’t had the chance to fire up Peacock to watch the show, here’s what it’s about: Picking up 30 years since the premiere of the original series, professional schemer Zack Morris is now the Governor of California. What started as him refusing to pay a $75 parking ticket set into motion a series of events the led him to becoming governor. He’s still married to Kelly (Yeah, right. Even original series producer Peter Engel has said that marriage probably didn’t last), while their old friends Slater and Jessie work at Bayside High, as the athletic director and school counselor. I won’t spoil the surprises surrounding the 2 friends I didn’t mention.

Anyway, to make room in the state budget, Governor Zack shuts down the poorly performing schools in the underprivileged neighborhoods, and buses those kids to more affluent schools, like Bayside. So, while Zack’s son, Mac, is a student at Bayside, he is not our protagonist, as he’s just like his father, and we’ve had 30 years to realize Zack Morris is trash. No, instead, we follow Daisy, a Latina honor student from the other side of town, who just can’t fathom how rich and privileged everyone seems to be at Bayside. Along for the ride are her best friend (and football star) Aisha, and Devante, a musically-inclined kid who has a history of schemes himself. They’re paired up with Bayside Buddies, in the form of the aforementioned Mac Morris, Jessie’s son, the bumbling athlete Jamie Spano, and trans reality star/cheerleader Lexi. The kids scheme against their parents and principal and get into misunderstandings, while a group of concerned White parents are doing everything in their power to get the bused kids sent back to their old schools.

It’s not a terribly original concept, as it loosely adapts a lot of Saved By The Bell: The New Class (which is no longer considered canon by this team). While the first two seasons of that show were basically “How can we reuse old scripts with new kids?”, at the beginning of the 3rd season, Bayside rival Valley High is shut down, and its students transfer to Bayside, including street smart Latina Maria Lopez, blonde schemer Ryan Parker, and musically-inclined RJ. That show would last another 4 years on that premise, so I guess they were on to something.

Here’s how I watched the new series: I watched the pilot when the whole season debuted the day before Thanksgiving, and thought to myself “This is fast-paced like 30 Rock“, and it had been a while since I’d been in that headspace. I was missing jokes, as they were coming at me in a rapid fire sort of way. Luckily, E! aired a marathon of every episode of 30 Rock that same weekend, and watching that kinda helped me recalibrate to that “type” of humor. Then I revisited the Saved By The Bell pilot, and it was a much more enjoyable experience. I know not everyone else has the time to go through all that, but I definitely needed to “get my mind right” to fully appreciate the show. After all, I’m something of a TNBC purist. I watched Saved By The Bell, California Dreams, Hang Time, City Guys, etc. I know the formula as to how that kind of show works, and that sort of show only lives on Disney Channel these days. So, no, this revival wasn’t what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it as its own thing.

Anyway, if you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts on the first season of the new Saved By The Bell, check out this podcast I did with CJ of 3BlackGeeks.

Trailer Park


Coming 2 America (Amazon Prime)

I can’t tell you how glad I am that this is coming out on a streaming service, as I probably wouldn’t have seen it in a theater, even without COVID being out there. I have a morbid curiosity, but it just feels like a cash grab. And can someone explain to me how those barbershop guys are still alive? They’ve got to be around 100 years old by now. Anyway, the original is a classic, and I’m getting shades of Anchorman 2 from this…


Superman & Lois (The CW)

If this teaser was meant to get me excited about this show, it failed miserably. They’re really playing up the family angle here. Is it Superman or 7th Heaven? I couldn’t tell ya at this point. Anyway, I never watched any of his appearances on Supergirl, so I doubt I’m the target audience.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Ray Fisher has seemingly left his role as Cyborg in the DCEU, stating that he wouldn’t participate in any DC films as long as DC Films President Walter Hamada still has a job. I will admit I don’t know the whole situation with Fisher, but as you can imagine some are applauding the decision, while others are saying “Ray WHO?”
  • Determined to mine every 80s hit NBC had, it was announced that Peacock is working on a Night Court revival, focused on a returning John Laroquette, as well as Judge Harry Stone’s daughter.  Call me when the cowards get around to a MAGA-inspired The Torkelsons reboot.
  • New streaming service Discovery+ launches on Monday, and it will be the streaming home of the 90 Day Fiancé franchise, as well as whatever else Discovery airs. Dr. Pimple Popper and all those morbidly obese and little folks will be there, too. Maybe Discovery will hook me up with a free sub for the plug? Wink wink!
  • In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, Karate Kid spinoff Cobra Kai season 3 goes up on Netflix tonight, so I know what a lot of y’all will be doing this weekend.
  • Brace yourselves for Menopause and the City, as there are talks of a Sex and the City revival, without Kim Cattrall, for HBO Max. I’m fine with this, as I’d rather not see Samantha Jones become Blanche Devereaux.

Warner Bros made the announcement that they’d be dumping their 2021 film slate onto HBO Max in the US, where the films would be released at the box office, with a 30 day window on the streaming service. Of course, this was announced after they had already decided to do this with Wonder Woman 1984, which I guess would serve as a test drive to see if the model could work. Well, the movie was released on Christmas day, and it appears to have been a success, as it has made over $85 million internationally, on top of the streaming views – well enough that, earlier this week, Warner Bros announced plans for a 3rd WW movie starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins.

Despite all this money news, anyone who popped on social media last weekend would swear that everyone hated the film. I mean a LOT of people were disappointed by it, and made their displeasure known. For the first few days I didn’t really have a horse in that race, as I hadn’t seen the film, and wasn’t really raring to see it. Finally, with a Saturday night with no new SNL, I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

I liked it. It’s not a perfect movie, but I enjoyed what I saw. It’s a little long at 2 and a half hours, but it didn’t drag as badly as I’d heard. The “84” is more than just a setting, as it *felt* like an 80s movie. A lot of stuff folks love from that era is the same, but clouded by nostalgia. Since folks don’t have that same nostalgia here, it leaves them looking for plot holes and whatnot. The old women in my family have a saying that “Man has become too smart for his own good”, and I feel that sentiment certainly applies here. We’ve come to expect certain things from our comic book movies and our shared universes, but the 80s were a much simpler time.

Sure, I have my nitpickety issues. ***SPOILERS*** I don’t understand how the framing device of little Diana cheating at the Amazonian Games tied into the overarching plot of the movie. Sure, Themyscira is cool and all, but I could’ve done without all that. Why did Steve Trevor come back in another man’s body? And what happened to that dude’s consciousness/soul while he was being occupied by Steve? If Diana hadn’t renounced her wish, Steve would’ve just kept on wearing another dude’s face, sexing her with another dude’s penis? The gold armor was useless. Someone just picked up a copy of Kingdom Come and thought “Hey, that looks cool.” Why did Barbara turn into an actual cheetah? I mean, Lord was into wish fulfillment, not genetic tampering. And what happened to her at the end? Would she have gone to jail? All she really did was beat up some inept White House security guards. And what happened to Lord? While I’m glad they didn’t go for the controversial neck snap from the comics, I probably would’ve bought that more than the idea that everyone on Earth selflessly renounced their wishes for the good of humanity. As I said on Twitter, It’s really hard watching a movie where the fate of the world depends on the underlying goodness in people. Especially in 2020. People ain’t shit. Still, that’s all seen through 2020’s eyes. Try watching it through 1984 eyes, and none of those thoughts will even occur to you.

Whether you liked it or hated it, chances are you were talking about this movie this week. That’s why Wonder Woman 1984 had the last West Week Ever of 2020.

Well, that does it for this dumpster fire of a year. Come back Monday for the annual WBW40 countdown of my favorite songs of the year. Then, come back later in the week as we look back on 2020 to find out who, or what, had the West YEAR Ever!

 

13th Nov2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/13/20

by Will

I’ve come to realize I’ve now entered the Britney Spears era of my blogging career. No, I’m not trying to get out of a conservatorship. It’s just that I’m so inconsistent with releases that every new post is billed as a “comeback”, and then I disappear for an extended period of time afterward. Looking at my records, it’s been about 4 months since my last confes…post. A LOT has happened in the world since then. No, we won’t be talking about it. Well, not all of it.

Since we last met, I did a rewatch on the FXX series You’re The Worst. Regular readers might remember I talked about the show quite a bit while it was on, but I missed the last 2 seasons during its original run. Instead of picking up where I’d left off, I decided the best course of action would be to start at the beginning. Everyone has their show that they can watch all the way through countless times. For some, that’s The Office. For my wife, it’s The West Wing. For me, it’s probably You’re The Worst. I love the writing, the characters, everything. And it probably has one of the most appropriate-for-its-characters finales that I’ve seen in a long time.

If you’ve never heard of it, You’re The Worst follows Gretchen and Jimmy – two horrible people – who end up hooking up after a wedding, and then navigates their developing relationship, as they insist that they’re not “Relationship People”. It’s really more of an ensemble show, though, as their best friends, Edgar and Lindsay, figure into their antics, as well as supporting characters like Vernon, Becca, Paul, and “Shitstain”. I highly recommend it, and it’s been a bright spot in this crazy world recently.

I was right there with y’all on the front lines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but whenever I hear an update now on something like WandaVision, my immediate thought is “We’re still doing this?” Say what you will about the quality of the films, what they pulled off, with a commercially successful interconnected universe, was incredible. And it shouldn’t be attempted again. I don’t wanna get on that ride again. Ready to move on.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think the MCU will ever really recover from COVID, and there’ll be tons of thinkpieces about what REALLY “brought down” the MCU. If you look at Phase 4, they were really counting on goodwill built up from Avengers: Endgame, which has dissipated by now. No heavy hitters. Phase 4 is chock full of unknowns. Eternals? I don’t even know who the Hell they are. Shang Chi? Gonna be hard to get it right without coming off as Orientalism. Thor 4 was the biggest bullet in the chamber. Even Black Widow was about 7 years too late. The entire phase is just a mixed bag of Meh. No Black Panther 2, no controversy generating Captain Marvel 2. No Guardians Vol 3. You’ve just got Dr Strange and Thor doing the heavy lifting.

Five to ten years from now, I think the MCU will still be a thing, but it’ll be looser, less interconnected. Probably more like what DC is doing now, especially if they introduce the Multiverse.

At the end of the day, Money is always going to win out. Doesn’t mean, as an audience member, that I can’t feel a bit of ennui about the whole thing. Anyway, this is a long, drawn-out way to announce that WandaVision will be premiering on Disney+ on January 15th.

In the time since I’ve been away, I joined TikTok. I only have one video up now, but I think it’s funny. I don’t really know what to do with that account, as I’m not an egirl with an OnlyFans, so I’m open to suggestions.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fox’s primetime schedule is imploding when it comes to anything not featuring Ken Jeong. They’ve cancelled L.A.’s Finest, Filthy Rich, and Next, but all 3 will finish their original orders, as there’s nothing on the bench to replace them with.
  • There were rumors that country chart toppers Florida Georgia Line were cruisin’ for a breakup, due to differing politics. Left-leaning Tyler Hubbard and his wife unfollowed bandmate Brian Kelley on Instagram, and Kelley’s wife responded with a salty post about how we live in a democracy and are entitled to a difference of opinion. Supposedly a refollowing has occurred, but this is how we fight in the year of our Lord 2020.
  • The Weeknd will headline the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Ya know, for whatever teams aren’t sidelined by COVID by then.
  • The Friends talking heads “reunion”, which nobody really asked for, has been rescheduled to March for HBO Max
  • John Mulaney has joined Late Night with Seth Meyers as a staff writer, so I guess I’ll have to start watching that show now.
  • As a result of their contentious divorce, Johnny Depp was asked to resign from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, yet Amber Heard will still reportedly star in Aquaman 2. Huh.
  • Reportedly, the new Blumhouse film Freaky will debut on VOD only 17 days after its theatrical release today. That’s good, ‘cause I wanna see it, but I won’t be going to a movie theater anytime soon.
  • The Undertaker’s “Final Farewell” is set for Survivor Series, which makes this around his 3rd retirement.

Ugh, this is really hard to write. It’s odd that the very last time I wrote this column, I gave Jeopardy! the West Week Ever for captivating me with a reairing of Alex Trebek’s first episode, and here I am, talking about the show again, but for sadder reasons. If you didn’t already know, Alex passed away on Sunday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. While everyone knew he was sick, as his fight had been documented the past 2 years, I don’t think anyone really thought he was as close to the end as he was.

I’ve written before about my dream of competing on Jeopardy! It, and Alex, have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. He and the show also touched other facets of pop culture, popping up in shows like Cheers and Mama’s Family. After meeting Stan Lee and Adam West, I always boasted that I had met everyone I’d ever wanted to meet, but that wasn’t entirely true, as I never met Alex, and now I never will.

To me, and many others, Alex Trebek WAS Jeopardy! and he had some pretty big shoes to fill. If I’m being honest, my dream of competing sort of died along with him. There’s some petition going around to get Levar Burton as the new host, but I think we’re all kidding ourselves if we think that job’s going to anyone other than Jeopardy! GOAT Ken Jennings. They have clearly been grooming him for it, even bringing him aboard in a producer and regular on-air capacity this season.

Based on everything I’ve watched and read this week, no one can seem to say a bad thing about him, which is refreshing in this day and age. They say “Don’t meet your heroes”, for fear that they’ll disappoint you, but it seems like former contestants loved meeting him, and he was described as a consummate professional. Over the course of 37 seasons, Alex hosted more the 8,200 episodes of Jeopardy!, surpassing Bob Barker who previously held the record for most number of hosted game show episodes. His last day in the studio was just 2 weeks ago and, at the time of his death, he still had 35 episodes that had yet to air.

I know a part of my daily routine is changed forever, and weeknights at 7:30 just won’t be the same to me. I guess I’ll have to really get into Access Hollywood or something. Anyway, Alex Trebek was like a member of our family, coming into millions of living rooms every night. It’s like losing a really smart uncle. I guess I’m just rambling at this point, but I’m still processing it. In a year in which we’ve all lost so much, this was just another blow to the gut. In any case, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Alex Trebek had the West Life Ever.

18th Dec2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – I Love The 80s REMIX!

by Will

As we head into the holidays, I know fewer folks will be online (especially those avoiding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker spoilers), so I thought I’d give you an early treat. Now, I briefly considered a West Decade Ever, but I really don’t have that in me. Instead, I kinda wanted to dabble in something different. You see, I don’t really get too musical on this site because I have the musical taste of a 15 year old White girl from Norfolk, Virginia: just enough pop knowledge, with a heavy dose of Tim McGraw sprinkled in there. Since I can’t attract that demographic without ending up on some sort of watchlist, I keep most of the music to the WBW40 post at the end of the year. That said, most of us here are Children of the 80s, and if Stranger Things has taught us anything, we eat that nostalgia shit right up! So, I thought I’d mix a little then with the now, and showcase some amazing 80s remixes I found of recent-ish songs. Some of these might not be new to you, but cut me a break, as I’ve been listening to Darius Rucker and Florida Georgia Line the past few years. This year, my holiday gift to you is a musical trip through time, where hopefully you’ll discover something that knocks your socks off as much as these did mine.

In my albeit brief research, one of the kings of this 80s remix movement seems to be a guy named Johan Olsson. If Max Martin, ABBA, and Ace of Base taught us anything, it’s to never rule out the Swedes when it comes to an earworm. He doesn’t do much to the existing songs, but what he does is SO spot on to the era. He basically isolates the original vocals and puts them over a standard 80s synth beat, but the end product sounds like something that actually charted 35 years ago.  Here’s a few of his best tracks:

“Helena” – My Chemical Romance

This was actually my introduction to this whole scene, when a friend posted the link on Facebook (See, Facebook isn’t ALL evil these days!). This could totally have been a hit by Breathe (of “Hands To Heaven” and “How Can I Fall?” fame). This has got “Awkward Slow Dance at Homecoming” written all over it, which is saying something since you can’t really dance to the original. And that sax solo! I thought it was a perfect homage already, and then that sax kicked in. And then the overlay of the sax on the final chorus? *Chef’s kiss* I would totally do this for karaoke if it were an option.

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down” – Fall Out Boy

If you’re new here, then you don’t know much about my love of California Dreams. An early staple of the 90s TNBC Saturday morning lineup, it was basically Saved By The Bell with a band (a REAL band, and not that Zack Attack crap). I would go so far as to say that I love California Dreams MORE than Saved By The Bell, primarily because of the music. Now, even though the show debuted in 1992, much of the music had that laid back, beachy sound that gave it something of a late 80s vibe. This rendition, right here, is a California Dreams song. Hence, I LOVE it. I already loved Fall Out Boy since their album Infinity On High. Loved them even more when they were part of the Teen Titans Go! The Night Begins To Shine special. With this, I don’t think it’s possible for me to love them more. Sure, they didn’t have a part in the production of this, but they provided the main ingredient, and that’s enough in my book!


“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” – Green Day

This has that dark, pulsing beat of a Pat Benatar song. If it were used in a movie, it would most definitely be during a driving sequence through the “bad part of town”. Maybe 80s Times Square, before Giuliani came and supposedly cleaned up the streets.


“Dani California” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

I can’t help but feel like this version would’ve been a great song to use in Beverly Hills Cop, just as Axel arrives in California. They could just use a bunch of standard California B-roll, with bikini girls rollerskating down the sidewalk and beautiful people playing beach volleyball.


“Side to Side” – Ariana Grande feat Nicki Minaj

Coming to a shopping mall near you is this new hit singer, Ariana Grande, and her bouncy hit “Side to Side”! This version puts a happier spin on the song, as the original sounds like snake charmer music. I will say that the Nicki verse doesn’t work as well with what Olsson is trying to emulate, but he kills it on the Ariana parts.


“Perfect” – Ed Sheeran

Know what’s funny? If this had come out in, say, 1986 Sheeran would’ve probably been a One-Hit Wonder, but this song would still be played at Black family reunions to this day. Instead, in the wacky world of 2019, he’s been named the Artist of the Decade! Not Olsson’s strongest offering, but he makes it work. This is actually one of his earliest remixes, so you can contrast this with “Helena” to see just how far he’s come in only a year at doing these.


“Symphony” – Clean Bandit feat Zara Larsson

I actually wasn’t familiar with the original in this instance, so I discovered TWO songs in this case. Immediately took to the Clean Bandits song, especially with that powerful music video that accompanies it. Still, I really like what Olsson does here. It’s understated, but could easily play over the end credits of some 80s thriller about a dystopian future. Anybody ever see that Tom Selleck/Gene Simmons movie, Runaway? Yeah, that movie would’ve been perfect for this. Again, this is one of Olsson’s earliest, but he stuck the landing on it right out of the gate.


“Poker Face” – Lady Gaga

Rest assured that Olsson isn’t the only one out there, doing the Lord’s work, and some artists just lend themselves well to the 80s remix treatment. One such artist is Lady Gaga, and this mix by D.A.M.I.A.N is pure perfection.


“Wrecking Ball” – Miley Cyrus

GK Starwalker turns in this “1987 Version” of Miley’s hit, which fires on all cylinders from the first beat. Nothing crazy is really done here, but it’s a great alternate take on the haunting song. A good, by-the-numbers 80s conversion.


“We Found Love” – Rihanna feat Calvin Harris

I really love what Rath Remix did with his one, and I’m a big fan of the original. I love how the synth comes in at the pre-chorus. This kinda sounds like Saved By The Bell music in a weird sort of way. It even ends like a TV theme song.


“I Want It That Way” – Backstreet Boys

I’ll close things out with one everyone knows. Here, Mohamad Shaxi delivers the song you hate to love, but can’t help but sing along to. You could almost call this the “GTA Mix”, as I feel like it would play in the in-game car, as you’re going to collect money from your bitches. It’s a standard synth beat, but it works. Back when I used to buy maxi singles, I could totally hear this being one of the remixes on there. After all, there wasn’t a ton of difference between late 80s pop and early-mid 90s European disco.

Well, there ya have it – 11 songs you didn’t know you’d hear when you woke up this morning. I fell down quite the rabbit hole, and I thank you for coming along with me. Which were your favorites? Do you know of any good ones I need to check out? Do you want posts like this in the future? As they say in my kids’ YouTube videos, leave a comment below! In the meantime, have a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, and a Kickin’ Kwanzaa!

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.

 

26th Jul2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/26/19

by Will

Look at that – I’m back a week after my last post! Speaking of that post, I had a lot of good engagement. I reconnected with old friends, and another good friend even wrote a response piece. That’s what I like to see!

I’ve been really slacking in the movie-watching department ever since my second daughter was born. I think I watched something, like, 13 movies last year. The year my first was born, I watched around 71! So, I’m trying to work on that, which is why I sat down and watched Barbershop: The Next Cut when I caught it on TV last week. Luckily it was only rated PG-13 in theaters, and you can get away with murder on basic cable these days, so it was hardly edited.

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for years, as I was a big fan of the first one (I barely remember the second one), but just never got around to it. At the end of the day, the plot isn’t what these movies are about. No, the star of the franchise is the barbershop itself, as a safe haven where Black men (and now women) come to learn the news and gossip of the day. It’s akin to a community center and church, but you can also get shape-ups. The thing about these movies is that I always felt on the outside looking in, as I haven’t traditionally had the Black barbershop experience. When I was much younger, my mom would take me to Mr. Bill’s, which was a traditional Black barbershop just over the DC line. Shit was dangerous and inconvenient, though, so I ended up at the Hair Cuttery near our house for the next few years. Then, there was the stint where she’d just cut it herself, as it’s pretty easy to just do the same length all over with clippers. So, it wasn’t until college that I got the TRUE barbershop experience. And, in true Will fashion, I fucked it up. Gather ’round, children, as I’m gonna tell you a lost adventure of which I’m not very proud.

So, at Cornell (did I tell you I went to Cornell?), there were really only 2 ways to get a haircut if you were Black: 1) you got it cut by someone at Ujamaa (the Black dorm – no, dorms weren’t segregated, but it was an option if you wanted to live amongst your people. I did not live in Ujamaa. I lived across the street, and looked at them from my window like a Jewish kid looking at the Christian family on Christmas morning) or 2) you went to JC Knight downtown. Every time I went over to “The Uj”, the reception was basically “Who the fuck are you and why are you here?” So, JC Knight it was. Knight’s shop was downtown, just off the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall, and was highly popular. Every Black person in town knew him and his shop. So, one day I went down there and sat down waiting for my turn. Bad move. At the Cuttery, you just took whoever was available, so I didn’t understand the politics that I needed to request someone. So I think I sat a good hour before they even acknowledged me and were like “Um, you waitin’ for somebody?” I meekly said “Anyone who will take me.” Thus began my immersion into the Black barbershop experience.

I would go down to the shop about once a month (or whenever I hadn’t blown all my money on comics), and learn what had been going on in the Black world while I’d been studying up on The Hill. Sophomore year I started going less and less because that was the year of my S-Curl Experiment. Oh, you don’t know what an S-Curl is? Ugh, I need more Black readers.

So, an S-Curl is kinda like a Jheri Curl, in that your hair is processed, and you keep it wet looking by spraying “activator” on it every now and then. Think 80s Michael Jackson. It’s a lye process that basically straightens Black hair, but then you can do shit to it, like style it with gel and stuff. So, in my “Man, I sure would like to look like I’m in a boyband” year 2000 desperation, I did this to my hair. As such, I didn’t need as many haircuts because you wanted it to get long so you could do more with it. Every now and then you’d just need the sides touched up. And this was the beginning of the end.

You see, Knight and his boys knew I was sheltered and really didn’t have much “street cred”. I was just some innocent kid from Wheaton, Maryland, but I’m sure they probably said stuff like “He thinks he’s White.” People always said shit like that when I was in predominantly Black situations. It has taken me years to come to this realization that I’m about to share with you, but it just goes to show that I’m somewhere on the spectrum that it never occurred to me sooner. So, one time he cleaned up my sides, and when he was done it was time to pay him. God…I hate just thinking about this now. You know how you MEAN to say one thing, but something else comes out? OK, so the haircut was $20, and I wanted to tip, but I only had two $20 bills. I gave him both, and he was like “Are you sure?” *Sigh*

OK, like I had said above, I was spending every last cent on comics, because I could Cornell Card anything else I needed, and just charge it to the bursar. So, I knew that money in my hands would be a bad situation. What I MEANT to say was “Hey, it’s better in your hands than in mine.” However, I’m awkward and nervous at times. What I DID say was “Hey, you probably need it more than I do.” FUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKK. I basically pulled a Rich Frat Boy on him, and the saddest part was I didn’t even realize it at the time. It was years later when I was like “Oh, wait, that said in that way is pretty fucking bad.” I just walked out of the shop, thinking everything was hunky dory. So, the next time I went, nobody could fit me in. I had been blackballed by the barbershop. Knight DID do me a sold, though, by giving me a referral. He wasn’t gonna mess with me anymore, but his friend Carol, this White lady who worked at the salon in the mall, could cut Black hair. I think he played it off as not knowing what to do with the S-Curl, but we know what the real reason was. So, cast out of Black Eden, I proceeded to get my hair cut by Carol until I graduated.

About 10 years ago, I tried to reenter the barbershop world. I found a place in Silver Spring, but there are so many unspoken politics of the shop – not only the different ways to get into someone’s chair, but also learning what you can and can’t talk about. Does this shop think Obama does enough for Black people? Does this shop think Obama is a sellout? What about the Hotep guy in the corner? He’s probably got some off-the-wall thoughts on things. That stuff was just tiring, so I retreated back to the Cuttery, where some woman asks me how I’m doing, in broken English, and leaves it at that.

Anyway, Barbershop: The Next Cut was like revisiting an old acquaintance. We were never close enough to be friends, but our association was enough that I could wonder what might have been. If you’ve never seen this one, the gang violence around the shop in the south side of Chicago has increased, and Ice Cube’s Calvin struggles with the decision of whether or not to move the shop to the north side. Meanwhile, a bunch of stuff is going on in the shop, like Common is married to Eve, but Nicki Minaj is trying to break up their marriage (why did it take this movie for me to finally see Nicki and say “DAMN!”?). There are new barbers, played by New Girl‘s LaMorne Morris and The Mindy Project‘s Utkarsh Ambudkar added to the mix. When the violence reaches its peak, the shop decides to sponsor a weekend ceasefire to bring to community together. Meanwhile, you got all that good barbershop banter: What did Obama do for US? Can you blame THOTS for unfaithful men? And to quote a deplorable man, “There were good people on both sides.” Anyway, it was an enjoyable little movie, even if Hella predictable at times (that straight-laced, good boy didn’t stand a chance).

This week in comics, the X-Men franchise got something of a housecleaning when Jonathan Hickman took over, with House of X #1 as the start of his run. Now, I’m always apprehensive when Marvel starts touting a grand plan for the X-Men because of two reasons 1) I tend not to like those grand plans and 2) I feel it shits on the journeymen who were struggling to keep the books afloat between grand plans. Imagine you finally get your dream job of writing X-Men, only for your run to be forgotten as some palette cleanser between 2 big name writers. You either die Grant Morrison, or you live long enough to become Chuck Austen.

Now, one of the biggest X-Men relaunches was when Morrison took over “adjectiveless” X-Men and renamed it New X-Men (meanwhile, Chuck Austen was cranking out massive turds over in Uncanny X-Men). Morrison had a grand plan where humans discovered that they would be extinct in a few generations and mutants would become the dominant species. Characters were experiencing “secondary mutations”, resulting in newer appearances and powers. In true Morrison fashion, his ideas were “out there” and, while they brought a lot of attention to the line, Marvel proceeded to spend the next 5 years following his run undoing everything he had done. As then-Editor in Chief Joe Quesada said, they “had to put the genie back in the bottle”. So, enter Scarlet Witch, whose utterance of “No More Mutants” reduced the Earth’s mutant population down to a mere 198 characters. There goes any designs of taking over humanity when your entire species could fill a 737. Secondary mutations? Fake. Sure, a few characters from his run remained, like the Stepford Cuckoos and Xorn, but Marvel did their damnedest to erase the broad strokes of his story.

So, imagine my surprise when they started touting Hickman’s upcoming run as the most drastic, sweeping thing they’ve done since Morrison’s run. Well, first of all, RIP to all the writers who’ve manned the books since Morrison’s run ended in 2004. And next, I already know how this is going to play out. My fears were confirmed when I went to a midnight release for House of X and read the book. Verdict? NOT FOR ME. It really does feel just like a remix of the Morrison run, even though I’m sure there will be Hickmanian twists and turns. I can’t do Mutants Have The Upper Hand because I always wait for other shoe to drop.

In the book, it appears that Xavier and Magneto’s dreams have finally learned to co-mingle, and Xavier has a bunch of wonder drugs he’s willing to offer to humanity in exchange for them recognizing his sovereign nation of Krakoa (yeah, the island from 1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1).  We learn a lot about what the drugs do, and how the world’s governments feel about them. In true Hickman fashion, there are charts in infographics, so reading it makes you feel like you’re studying for a final, trying to glean every important detail from the page. Once again, we discover that not only is humanity on the verge of extinction, but that it’s approaching more rapidly than previously thought. The book ends with Magneto introducing mutants as the new gods of Homo Sapiens.

As we saw in Avengers/Secret Wars, Hickman is ALL about playing the long game. He will mine history and go for some deep cuts. It’s probably a rich experience for those who really commit to it, but I found myself bored early on with his Avengers run, and only came back for the pseudo-satisfying Secret Wars. I’m sure y’all are in for an interesting 4-5 year ride, but I don’t think I want a ticket for it. It’s a pretty sizable dose of Been There Done That, with more than a dash of I Simply Don’t Care. Not trying to be cynical because I WANTED to like it. It’s just not BOLD enough.

Meanwhile, characterizations didn’t feel right. Other than the Magneto/Cuckoos scenes, everyone else felt strangely out of character. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I’m not sure I care to invest 3 months in finding out WHY. Because we ALL know that the only way to get this genie back in the bottle is gonna be to have some kind of devastating No More Mutants event around 2024. If comics are still around by then…

The problem with comics is that they’re cyclical. They have to give the appearance of change without offering actual change. And I’ve often said that the average life cycle of a comics fan is about 15 years. Marvel’s counting on folks to have not read the Morrison run because, well, it was 15 years ago. So it’s not really a “crime” that Hickman seems to borrow heavily from it, as the fan base that read that story should have already cycled out of comics by now. Sure, some have stuck around, and they might be as vocal as I am about it, but I just feel it’s kinda cheap to go back to that well, no matter how much time has passed. It’d be like trying to mount the full-on Age of Apocalypse again (which would be nigh impossible in the Internet Age).

At SDCC, it was announced that the House of X/Power of X miniseries wrap up in October, at which point the actual ongoing series will launch. Maybe the dust will settle by then, and I’ll check out the franchise at that point. House of X, however, didn’t grab me enough to come back to this party on a weekly basis. If anything, I’ll read it once it’s collected.

Over the weekend, I took on the Herculean task of cleaning out my Gmail. I’m terrible with email, and I often say if you want to get in touch with me you’d better just tweet at me. On Saturday night, my inbox was over 7,000, but I got it to 198 by Monday morning. The biggest problem is that I don’t delete the junk immediately when it comes in. It also doesn’t help that I have Twitter set up to email me whenever I get a DM or a Like/RT.

The DM thing is funny because I have a record of conversations long after some folks have unfollowed me. If you’ve ever DMed me, I still have it in Gmail. And it was quite the trip down Memory Lane. People I’d forgotten about, who just, one day, stopped tweeting. Did they die? Were they deported? In most cases, I’ll never know. In a lot of ways it was sad. “Oh, here’s that trans gal who I supported during her difficult transition, but unfollowed me out of the blue.” Or “Oh, here’s the girl who might’ve catfished me, but I’ll never know because her sister now says she’s dead”. Yeah, I’ve lived a crazy life online. It’s just interesting how people can come into your life, and you make what you consider to be meaningful connections with them, and then they can leave just as easily as they entered.

Trailer Park

Ready or Not

Man, White people won’t let us have anything! This is just White Get Out.

Zombieland: Double Tap

I honestly didn’t care about this thing until Rosario Dawson showed up. I mean, I enjoyed the original, but it really doesn’t hold a special place in my heart, nor did I just love the characters. I guess it’d be interesting to see what they’ve been up to all these years, but this is not a theater movie for me. I’ll be streaming it somewhere.

Playmobil: The Movie

First and foremost, I’m just bracing myself for folks to mispronounce the brand’s name. It’s Play-mo-BEEL. It’s European, you uncultured swine! Second, this is just sad. We all know WHY they’re doing it, but they never seemed to stop to discuss whether they SHOULD. They’ve kinda sold out, and this is a prime example of that.

When I was growing up, Playmobil was a high-end brand, bought by upper middle-class White parents who wanted their kids to have the “action figure experience”, without it being tied to some sort of cartoon or movie. It promoted creativity and, while not a brick system, its pieces were modular. You know the kids who had Playmobil: unless their parents were European, it was usually that kid who was allergic to something weird, like foods that were red. And he always wore corduroy. In recent years, however, they’ve tried to “diversify their bonds” by taking on licenses, like Ghostbusters and How to Train Your Dragon. I get it. Gotta do what you can to survive. But a movie? One that doesn’t even look remotely GOOD? PASS. I just hope this thing doesn’t drag the toys down with it.

The Rocketeer (Disney Junior)

Surprisingly no one is talking about this trailer that debuted last weekend at SDCC. OK, honesty time: I’ve never seen The Rocketeer. Based on the ratio of Likes to Dislikes on YouTube, those who have seen it aren’t too keen on this show. I think it looks cute, and I know my girls would enjoy it. This might be as close to superhero stuff as I’m gonna get with Evie, so I’ll take it.

Power Rangers: Beast Morphers (Nick)

Though the show is currently on hiatus, this trailer that also debuted at SDCC confirmed a longstanding rumor: original Red Ranger, Jason (played by Austin St. John), would be returning to the franchise next season. Now, I always felt that Austin AND his character had the charisma of a wet paper bag, but I think everyone is tired of Green/White Ranger Jason David Frank, so I’ll take it.

Harley Quinn (DC Universe)

I enjoyed this sizzle reel of the upcoming series, but not enough to actually subscribe to the DC Universe streaming service. The animation looks choppy at times (see the scene where she’s flossing out of the room), and I think I’d prefer Rauch to Cuoco if we HAD to cast a Big Bang alum. I don’t think the service is long for this world, so hopefully this show doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, and at least comes out on Warner’s streaming service, HBO Max.

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE? TAKE IT!

I have been adamantly against the CBS All Access “experiment”, and my love for Trek wasn’t strong enough for me to subscribe for Discovery. But THIS?! Seven of Nine?! And Sirtis and Frakes have confirmed that Riker and Troy are coming back?! Oh, sign me the fuck up! You got me, CBS.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In a surprising move, Seth MacFarlane announced that his sci fi drama The Orville would be moving to Hulu for its 3rd season. Apparently he needed more time to deliver the episodes, while Fox needed to fill its schedule. So, with the Hulu arrangement, the show won’t return until late 2020.
  • Thank you, Yahweh! Avengers: Endgame has finally unseated Avatar as the highest grossing movie in the world. Now, I’ve actually never seen Avatar, but it always bothered me that something with absolutely no pop culture footprint sat atop that chart. Yes, I know the film was responsible for advances in film making, but that’s not enough for me. I want lunchboxes! So, bye, Avatar!
  • It was announced yesterday that the Will & Grace revival would end after this fall’s 11th season. I guess that’s sad news to someone, but I never acknowledged the revival since it would have to retcon the show’s original finale.
  • Damon Lindelof has clarified that the upcoming HBO Watchmen show is NOT a reboot of the classic comic miniseries, but rather a sequel set 30 years after the original.
  • It was a big week for comic adaptations, as AMC is developing a series based on Image Comics’s Farmhand, meanwhile Amazon is developing a series based on Image’s Paper Girls.
  • Brandon Routh will be suiting up again as Superman for the first time since Superman Returns, in The CW’s “Crisis On Infinite Earths” event this fall. Since they can’t use the Returns suit, he will actually don the “S” of Kingdom Come Superman.
  • After “saving” it following its cancellation at ABC, Netflix has cancelled Kiefer Sutherland’s Designated Survivor. It’s almost like it was based on a shaky premise with no real longevity, huh? Look for talk of that 24 movie to heat up in the next few months…
  • Lifetime is prepping a movie based on the Lori Loughlin college bribary scandal, and I’m left wondering if she can play herself. I mean, who else is a “Lori Loughlin type” whose quote is in line with what Lifetime is willing to pay? Some good recommendations from Twitter were Dina Meyer, Paige Turco, and Jennie Garth.

It was a huge week for Marvel Entertainment, as they revealed a ton of things during San Diego Comic Con last weekend. First, we got new Marvel Legends toy reveals, including some figures a lot of folks had been clamoring for, such as Squirrel Girl, a redesigned Jean Grey and a beautiful Doctor Doom.

And for their MCU figures, they revealed that “Dude” Thor would be the Build A Figure for an upcoming all MCU wave of figures:

For a full list of what’s coming out from the line, check out my pal over at AwesomeToyBlog!

But the excitement didn’t end with the toys. Marvel also unveiled their Phase 4 slate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We already knew about the Disney+ shows, including WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If? and Hawkeye. No, the real surprises were the film reveals, including Eternals, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Widow, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings. And just when everyone thought they were done, they announced Mahershala Ali would be starring in a new Blade film.

While these announcements took folks by surprise, there were some glaring omissions: Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, etc. Kevin Feige promised, however that these are still in development, as well as plans for the Fantastic Four and the mutant contingent.

Quick thoughts on each film:

Eternals – I know nothing of the source material, but it’s got Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and Brian Tyree Henry in the cast, so that’s good enough for me. Maybe it’ll take us by surprise, like Guardians did.

Thor: Love and Thunder – I don’t really know if we needed Thor 4, but I guess they’d be leaving money on the table by not doing it. The biggest surprise is that Natalie Portman is returning as Jane Foster, who will also become the Mighty Thor, just as in the comics a few years back. It’s just funny that, for years, I heard Portman was difficult to work with, but apparently not that difficult if they’ve brought her back.

Black Widow – I still say this thing is a day late and a dollar short. Plus, if Scarlett keeps opening her damn mouth, she’s gonna kill any goodwill folks have towards this movie.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Finally, a movie that will do what Far From Home did not: explore the Multiverse. Still, I felt Doctor Strange’s first movie was “meh” (It was basically a remixed Iron Man, with half the charisma), and it’s being billed as the MCU’s first horror film, which ain’t exactly my genre. I’ll still see it, though.

Shang Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings – This one was somewhat surprising in that it actually seemed to confirm a fan theory that I’d seen online before it was announced. Someone had said “What if Shang Chi’s father is the REAL Mandarin?”, instead of the fraud we got in Iron Man 3. And while that’s not necessarily the plot (that we know of), it does seem to be headed in that direction, with the mention of the Ten Rings.

Blade – I don’t love those Wesley Snipes movies like the rest of y’all. I think I only saw the first one anyway. So, I welcome a change. Snipes is too old anyway, but I’m sure they’ll work him in there as something. Maybe a mentor character or something.

So, while they walloped us with surprises, I still feel like the slate is missing a bit of Wow Factor. With Thor as the elder statesman of the MCU, I’d like a few more familiar properties to anchor this phase, with the newer stuff sprinkled in. Like, it’s time for Doctor Strange 2, but Blade could’ve waited, as could Eternals. I guess they’re trying to get a new trilogy off the ground, but there are a lot of untried concepts here. It’s not like they can easily make a Black Widow 2 by just shoving the movies between preexisting films, as there are no stakes if we already know how her story ends. I mean, Chadwick Boseman is already 41. We need to crank out 2 more Panthers while he still can! Anyway, they’re taking a lot of chances here. It’s not that it’s unearned, but it does feel a bit like hubris.

At the end of the day, I think it’s safe to say that Marvel won Comic Con. Back in the day, that was a thing. “Who won SDCC?” This year, I couldn’t even tell you any comic news that was announced, other than some auxiliary X-books that don’t sound too interesting. Did DC even show up? So, some might say it wasn’t even a competition this year, but whatever. Marvel came away from the show on everyone’s lips, and that’s why Marvel Entertainment 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.

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