19th Apr2019

The Great Sitcom Fires of the 80s & 90s

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Allison’s Written Words

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

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

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

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

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

 

05th Apr2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/5/19

by Will

I took last week off, and the week before was a Thrift Justice, so I guess we’ve got a bit to cover, huh?

So a couple of weeks back, there was hubbub from a screening where Zack Snyder sort of kirked out and implied that anyone who expected a character not to kill was living in a fantasy world. Yeah, I’ve got to disagree with that.

First off, there’s a danger in applying real world politics to comics because, at the end of the day, comics are just what my friend James calls “White Male Power Fantasies”. They exist in a theoretical vacuum, so the minute you try to say “Look at the world around us! How would Batman interact HERE?” you’ve already broken the rules.

To think Batman should kill is a gross misunderstanding of what Batman is about.

Ya know, just because Keaton did it in Batman (1989) doesn’t make it *right*. Burton was railing against the most recent depiction of Batman at the time, which had been the ’66 Batman. So, he kinda went to extremes. Now, I wasn’t in theaters in 1989, but I still knew it was messed up when I eventually saw the movie on VHS. Keaton doing it doesn’t mean that Affleck can do it.

To think “Batman should kill. So effing what?” is a such a binary way of looking at things. You all feel he either should or shouldn’t do it, without factoring in the gray area where some outcomes are worse than death. Part of the thing about Batman is the power given to him by his urban legend status. He doesn’t HAVE to kill, because there are enough two-bit hoods out there telling folks they’ve seen him kill. Meanwhile, because of this storytelling, you never quite know WHAT you’re going to face if you even encounter him. And sure, he probably WON’T kill you, but he’ll make it so you walk with a limp for the rest of your life or can’t feel your right arm any more.

Also, let’s think of some other ramifications. If Batman were to kill, that would be terribly taxing on his relationship with the GCPD, who pretty much allow him to operate on their behalf. Sure, real world cops kill people all the time – in a lot of cases where it seems senseless but, again, you can’t “real world” this stuff.

Oh, and if Batman killed, then that would be the end of the villains you love so much. “Why doesn’t Batman kill the Joker?” Probably because that would be the end of the Joker, and all storytelling regarding him. These are the same people who are mad at Peter Quill for screwing up the fight against Thanos. Um, they have an entirely separate movie to pad out so, no, they couldn’t allow Thanos’ defeat that easily. Sometimes you just have to think of the business aspect of things. Companies need you to come back every month, so how are they going to build any sort of drama or suspense, if you just know he’ll mow down that month’s villain, and then do the same to whomever pops up next month? You don’t want Batman. You want The Punisher.

For Batman to kill would make him no better than his rogues gallery, so who’s the “hero” in that case? These were originally considered aspirational characters in certain aspects. Sure, your parents may not get gunned down in an alley leaving you millions, but if life deals you a bad hand, you make the most of it and don’t just go out murdering people. Because that’s what that would be: murder. Now, there’s the argument that maybe he kills in self defense. Maybe, but he’s also been written as such a skilled tactician that it should/would never get to that point. I will say, though, there is a difference between killing and letting someone die. Take Batman Begins, for instance. He doesn’t kills Ra’s, but he sure as Hell doesn’t save him, either. I do think Batman would do that.

I know there are a bunch of y’all who grew up at a certain time, thinking Burton is gospel, but this is the same incarnation that says Joker killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. Sure the movies have shown us a Batman who kills because they wanna be edgelords, but at the end of the day, BATMAN DOESN’T KILL.

I’m about 2 years behind, but I binged the Dirty John podcast a few weeks ago, and now I want to talk about it with someone – primarily the fact that I don’t believe it. I mean, sure, it’s based on a true story, but that finale was so far-fetched that even Uwe Boll is somewhere saying “Yeah, I’m not sure if that’s believable.”

If you’re not familiar, Dirty John recounts the story of John Meehan – a con man with a history of wooing women and then taking them for all they had. Based on reporting from The Los Angeles Times, the podcast focuses primarily on Meehan’s relationship with successful interior designer Debra Newell, and how he basically psychologically abused her, while forcing her to alienate anyone in her family who he didn’t like. It’s a whirlwind courtship, followed by a quickie Vegas wedding, and then the craziness starts. Newell realizes that she doesn’t truly know the man she married, and begins to fear for her safety, as well as the safety of her loved ones.

I know there’s an adaptation on Bravo, starring Connie Britton, right now and, while I’m curious to see them reenact a lot of this stuff, I think I’ll just wait until it’s done to binge it at once. And I really hope they don’t try to make a season 2, because HOW? Then again, based on the ending of the podcast, I could see it and it wouldn’t be any less credible than that.

The always wonderful John Oliver devoted this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight to the working conditions in the WWE. If you didn’t know, wrestler’s contracts are structured where they are considered “independent contractors”, so they’re responsible for their own health insurance, while the company only covers injuries that occur in the ring. I’ve heard of stories where a wrestler might have a motorcycle accident over the weekend, but drag himself to work so that he can claim the injury happened in-ring just so it’ll be covered. This sort of thing might have flown back in the carny days of wrestling, but WWE is a billion dollar corporation, so this is pretty unacceptable. Past attempts by wrestlers to unionize haven’t gone anywhere, but Oliver points out that Vince McMahon does listen to the fans – the WWE Universe – so if there’s enough pressure from them, then things might change.

So, some interesting stuff is going in the world of music, as Lil Nas X went to #1 on the country charts with “Old Town Road”. The problem, however, is that many consider it a rap song instead of a country song, despite it having “country elements” as well as subject matter. So, after some outcry from labels, the song was removed from the charts.

Well, not to be outdone, Lil Nas X re-released the song last night, with an assist from Billy Ray Cyrus, who’s always down to make some coin. And the result still isn’t anywhere near as embarrassing as “Accidental Racist“.

I mean, I get it, but there does seem to be some shady stuff going on here to get it removed from the chart. And most folks are saying it’s based on race. It’s not easy for a Black man to chart in country music, as it’s still a recent phenomenon thanks to Darius Rucker and Jimmie Allen. Also, if you listen to anything by Sam Hunt or the Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem“, and you’ll hear that country has been biting hip hop beats for quite some time.

On the flip side, I don’t feel like this was a genuine effort. I mean, for one, the thing is about 2 minutes long. That’s not a song. That’s a snippet. Plus, what Lil Nas X did here was spit in the eye of the country music establishment. It’s not common knowledge to folks who don’t follow the industry, but country radio charts kinda come down to whose “turn” it is. Labels get together and sort that shit out instead of it actually being based on sales or anything. They’ll say “Well, it’s Blake’s turn”, so stations will follow suit and increase the number of spins that Blake Shelton gets that week, and voila #1. Then, the next week, it’ll be Jimmie’s turn. This is why nothing on the country charts sits like songs do on pop charts. You get your week and then you’re cycled out for someone else, which is why charting means SO much less in country. It means you got the seal of approval from the industry, but it’s not reflective of public opinion. It’s simply the labels telling you who they’re backing.

Since nobody actually cares about charts, this was just a publicity stunt, and a damn good one. I say let the song stay. Think of all the flukes and garbage that has made it to #1. Just let it go ’cause there’ll be a new Florida-Georgia Line single up there in about 3 weeks, and nobody will even remember this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • John Cho has been cast as Spike Spiegel in Netflix’s adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. I still think it should’ve gone to Ben Schwartz, but I don’t hate this.
  • Since the Disney acquisition of Fox, there are rumors that Disney might be in talks to revive the failed baseball series Pitch in an attempt to keep creator Dan Fogelman from jumping ship when his contract is up. Oh, I should mention that Fogelman also created the smash hit This Is Us, which is why folks would want to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.
  • Emily Bett Rickards announced that she’ll be leaving Arrow prior to its truncated final season, leading me to wonder “WHY?” She couldn’t hang on for 10 episodes? Is she THAT eager to jump back into pilot season?
  • Speaking of The CW, Lucifer finally decided to come collect the souls of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, as Supernatural will finally end after its 15th season. Don’t cry for these guys, though. They’ve got a long future of MonsterMania and other assorted pop culture conventions ahead of them – which I’m sure is their own personal version of Hell.

There’s nothing quite like going into a movie with ZERO expectations, but that’s exactly what I did last night with SHAZAM! While a lot of folks have already written off the DC movies, I’m still willing to give them a shot. I know almost nothing about the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel, and most of what I know is from Geoff Johns’s New 52 reboot of the character – which old time fans tell me is something of a travesty. Still, Johns has rarely steered me wrong, and I actually enjoyed what he was doing with the character. It was originally presented in back-up stories in the relaunched Justice League, but then the books hit the “Throne of Atlantis” storyline, and I stopped reading for whatever reason. So I never did see the tail end of what he was doing there. So, without too much continuity and prior knowledge to bog me down, I went into the theater last night not really knowing what I was about to see. And I am SO glad that I did. I REALLY enjoyed the film, and I think it’s more of a course correction for DC than Wonder Woman was.

If you’re not familiar, this take on the character is basically a superhero adaptation of the Tom Hanks classic Big (there’s even a call-out to the most famous scene from that movie). Fourteen year old Billy Batson encounters the wizard SHAZAM, who bestows his powers upon Billy once he says the wizard’s name aloud. He gains a different power from each of the gods. Flight from Socrates, Strength from Hephaestus. Electricity from Aesop, Anger from Zeus, Speed from Archibald, and Punching from Michael. Yeah, clearly I don’t know the pantheon nor do I know his entire power set. It don’t matter – ain’t nobody got time for that! He gets his magic from a wizard, says a magic word, and changes from Boy to Man. A Super Man (but not THE Superman. Yeah, they’ve already been to court about that). Meanwhile, the evil Dr. Sivana had been considered to assume the wizard’s power when he was a boy, but was deemed unworthy, so he’s spent his life and fortune trying to find a way to rectify that situation.

This story plays out over a backdrop showcasing the current foster parent situation in the country. Billy is taken into a group home, run by a married couple of former foster kids, filled with 5 other foster kids. There’s smart ass Freddy, adorable Darla, quiet Pedro, that kid from Fresh Off the Boat Eugene, and the pretty pretty Mary. It deals with what the notions of “home” and “family” mean to Billy, as he hasn’t been able to stay anywhere due to his unending search for his mother. Plus, just as American Pie introduced us to the MILF, Showtime introduced us to the SMILF, this film introduces us to the FMILF (*chef’s finger kiss*).

The thing I loved about the film is that it really doesn’t waste a lot of time world-building. It might be in the DCEU and it might not. There are signs that it could be, but they don’t beat you over the head with them. It’s a movie that pretty much gets in and out. Sure, there’s the obligatory stinger to tease a sequel that may or may not happen, but it didn’t exactly get me excited or anything. I’d be happy for this to just be a one-shot kind of deal, but Hollywood likes money, so it’ll probably, unwisely, become a franchise.

I was surprised by the level of violence in the film. From a special effects standpoint, I feel like the designers took a lot of visual cues from Infinity War, as the Thanos Snap “dusting” effect was employed quite a bit, while the embodiment of the 7 Deadly Sins looked a lot like Cull Obsidian. Still, even though it’s a fun movie about “family”, I don’t know if you want to take young kids, ’cause those monsters…WOW.

Did it have problems? Sure. Like most DC movies, it had a weak 3rd act. I didn’t even realize it was over when it was actually over. It went to the next scene, and you’re like “Oh. Oh, so that was it?” I’m also not sold on Zachary Levi as Captain Marvel. Maybe that’s part of the character, that he’s always 14 years old inside, but I didn’t feel like he ever really became a hero. He was a guy who did heroic things, but – at his core – was a HERO? Even by the end, I wasn’t too sure. He spends a good chunk of the movie Tony Starking: cleaning up problems that were of his own making.

My biggest issue with Levi, though, concerns the potential sequel that would most likely feature Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Captain Marvel’s nemesis, Black Adam. If you don’t remember, Warner Bros announced a Black Adam film WAY before they started any of this other stuff. Before Aquaman, Wonder Woman, or even Justice League had filmed, Black Adam was on the schedule because they wanted in on that hot D.J. action. The problem I had with it then is even exacerbated now that he’s MUCH more famous than he was when that deal was signed: NOBODY has the charisma to go toe to toe with him, especially with him in a villainous role.

Black Adam in the comics, especially around the time of Infinite Crisis, tended to go back and forth between villainy and being on the side of angels. He’s basically DC’s Namor. He’s on whichever side suits him best at the time. So, it’s unclear which side he would’ve been on for Johnson’s movie, though it was uncharacteristic at the time for DC to center movies around villains (that has since changed, as we saw from this week’s teaser for The Joker). SHAZAM!, however, not only sets up Black Adam as a villain, but states that he was a “mistake” made by the wizards when choosing a champion. He’s apparently still out there, so he’d likely butt heads with Levi’s Captain Marvel. My question is this: Is the audience prepared to accept The Rock as a villain, and actively cheer against him in favor of Levi’s Captain Marvel? I’m not so sure, which is probably what has held up the project for so long (though they always say it’s due to “scheduling conflicts”. The man makes a movie every 6 weeks, so I hardly believe that).

All that aside, I had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s highly entertaining and might be my favorite DC movie from their modern slate (NOTE: I have yet to see Aquaman. “Scheduling conflicts”). If DC continues just focusing on character instead of world-building, they might be on to something. There’s no need to try to follow the MCU formula, especially when there are other options. It’s got something for everyone, and even a little bit of representation snuck in there that I can’t say more about without spoiling the 3rd act. SHAZAM! was a great way to end the week, which is why it had the West Week Ever.

 

22nd Mar2019

Thrift Justice – Physical Education

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes From The Road

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

 

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

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

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

15th Mar2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/15/19

by Will

Some weeks, when I know I’m gonna be “on the wrong side of history”, I really don’t want to write this post. This is one of those weeks. Why do I say that? Well, it’s because of Captain Marvel.

As I was saying online last week, it sucks when you dislike something, but can’t vocalize your dislike because there’s a group of folks out there who dislike it for the “wrong” reasons. Ya see, there are all these Men’s Rights Activists upset about how the film’s star, Brie Larson, was regarding them on her press tour. Ultimately, she remarked that she didn’t want everyone reviewing the film to just be straight White guys. She was basically calling for more diversity, but didn’t sugarcoat it, so it was east for some folks to turn it into “Marvel didn’t slap her down, so they’re in on her anti-Male agenda!” They started leaving negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and spreading lies about how there were all these empty theaters where folks had claimed the movie had sold out. It’s so exhausting.

Meanwhile, I’m over here, not excited for the movie because I’ve pretty much always hated the character. I’ve gone into detail about it here before, so there’s no need to rehash all that. Basically, I’ve never found her likable, which is something I look for in my heroes. I’m sorry this skews awfully close to making women want to ask “Why does she have to be likable?”, almost like I’m saying some shit like “You know, you’d be prettier if you smiled more.” That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is Captain Marvel (in the comics) in recent years has been equal parts Bitch and Fuck-Up. Just go re-read Civil War II to get a taste of what I’m talking about. So, when I heard they were gonna make a film about her, I wasn’t exactly clamoring for it. When it was pretty much insinuated that she was being introduced now, in order to be the Deus ex machina in Avengers: Endgame, my reaction turned to “Come the fuck on!”

Anyway, like a good little fanboy, I was sitting in a theater last Thursday night, with my trusty buddy Mike. At the end of the day, I liked it, but didn’t love it. I found it to be kinda “meh” as far as Marvel films go. I mean, it’s decent, but we’re at a point where the films have become so epic that “decent” isn’t good enough anymore. I hate ranking things, but it’s easy to place stuff when it disappoints you. To me, this movie is on the level of Doctor Strange. It simply exists, but it’s not something that really left much of an impression on me. My biggest issue, and I’ve gotten in trouble on some message boards for using this language, is the virtue signalling of the whole matter. Like, you wouldn’t believe how many folks I’ve seen who are like “It wasn’t excellent, but man am I glad it’s sticking it to those manbabies!” Or “Incels”, or whatever it is we’re calling the people we dislike this week. I’m not about to act like a “meh” movie was excellent just because of some schadenfreude that it might produce. For all of you cheering this, you didn’t “win” anything in this scenario, and you’re kinda screwing with your own integrity.

The problems…where to begin? OK, let’s get this out of the way: the whole heel turn of the Kree doesn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as how Djimon Hounsou is playing the same character from Guardians of the Galaxy, and you see Starforce communicating with Ronan The Destroyer (who we KNOW is evil). Sure, they’re calling him off from doing what he does best (nuke the Hell out of planets), but they’re still keeping him on the bench, just in case. So, I guess this is one of those moments where the audience is meant to know more than the protagonist? I dunno, but I’ll chalk it up to that if I have to.

Then there’s the setting. The movie never feels like it takes place in the 90s, and they basically clobber you over the head with references like a late night CD infomercial. “Remember No Doubt?! Remember grunge?! OMG, remember BLOCKBUSTER?!” The setting just felt more forced than organic. The 90s are a hard decade to capture, so I get it, but it quickly became Family Guy‘s opinion of Robot Chicken: “Look! G.I. Joe, Transformers, ThunderCats, He-Man! Yay, those shows existed!” You know how a lot of folks hate Ready Player One because it’s just nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake? I felt that here. It’s like “Ooh, she hacked a pay phone with a Game Boy.”

I was also disappointed in Larson in the role. I know it’s hard to play an amnesiac, but she seemed so wooden at times. And I know they skewed younger, since the future of the MCU rests on her shoulders, but I’ve never been on board with her casting. I feel like Captain Marvel should’ve been an older, “worldlier” actor, like Charlize Theron. Someone with some “miles on her”.

One thing that stuck out to me is that it’s a movie built on the notion of platonic friendship, released in an age where everyone seems to have an ulterior motive. I’m not about to get into the sitcom trope of “Can Men and Women Be Friends?”, but there’s a weird subcurrent to the movie where you just never quite understand a LOT of the relationships on screen. I like how folks have pointed out that it’s the first Marvel film without a love interest, but is that completely true? There were quite a few scenes, whether between Carol and Fury, Carol and Space Jude Law, or Carol and Maria, where I’m like “So…they fuckin’?” I can completely admit that’s probably a personal issue on my part, but I still felt that, so I wondered if anyone else felt it, too.

Finally, and this is a big nitpicky thing but it’s my site and I do what I want, I HATED the thing with Fury’s eye. Now, I’ll completely take the blame here because a lot of us have our fan theories and start speculating about stuff with no real proof, and then we’re disappointed when faced with reality. For the past 11 years, I’ve been thinking he lost that eye in some bad ass op that we might one day see in flashbacks. After Winter Soldier, I kinda thought Pierce had something to do with him losing the eye, or was at least present when the shit went down. But, after all this time, it was the Flerken?! He got fucking scratched by a space cat, and I guess he let it get infected? What a letdown!

Anyway, it’s not all bad. I frontloaded this thing with the negatives, but there were things I truly enjoyed here. We got a Nick Fury movie without ever actually getting a Nick Fury movie. I’d love to see one where he’s actually seen some shit. I mean, here he’s like a cop who’s a few months from retirement. I know he works for S.H.I.E.L.D. but I’m not getting a “bad ass” vibe off of him. Maybe that comes once the eye is gone? Who knows? Anyway, I still like him here for what he was.

I also really loved Maria Rambeau, especially when she and Fury got to play off each other in space. We rarely get the experience of two Black people looking at each other like “Do you see this shit right here!?” in the MCU, so that was a rare treat.

And my favorite, favorite part that I loved, loved LOVED was Talos. I never knew I could love Ben Mendelsohn so much. I mean, I even liked him in his S.H.I.E.L.D. director Brick Tamland disguise, but it got so much better at the farmhouse, when he was just allowed to cut loose. He was SUCH a great character. Shit, I’d have preferred the movie have just been about him. He was just so damn entertaining!

Anyway, I can’t write the character off completely, ’cause I guess we’ll need her against Thanos, but I’m reserving judgement til I see what happens after that post-credits scene we got. I know a lot of people got a lot out of this, from the joy of representation, to the feeling of empowerment it provided. I’m glad it affected so many people positively, and I’m not trying to take away from that for anyone. I just wish I could join ya, ’cause it just kinda felt flat to me. Your mileage may vary. I give it 3 out of 5 Stan Lees.

Speaking of Marvel, we got another Avengers: Endgame trailer. Yeah, it’s nice and all, but I’m just ready for the movie already. I kinda hate how every trailer gets dissected and the fan theories run rampant. I mean, we all do it, but I at least try to keep mine to myself. Not record a 90-minute YouTube video about it. I’ve got no nitpicks here, and no fan theories. My body is ready!

Do we really have to talk about that college scam bullshit? OK, for anyone not in the know, a bunch of folks were rounded up and arrested for bribing college officials and testing coordinators to help get their kids into prestigious schools. Amongst that group were Felicity Huffman, and Mrs. Rebecca Donaldson-Katsopolis herself, Lori Loghlin. We’ve all fired off our “Aunt Becky” jokes on social media, but my final word on this is that it’s a New Money problem.

Did you ever read The Great Gatsby? It delineates between New Money and Old Money. If you won the lottery tomorrow, you’d be New Money, because you’re not used to wealth, and you’ll probably do stupid things with it, like trick out an Escalade or make it rain at the local strip club. Old Money, however, is institutionalized. Old Money have buildings named after them, they have rare and exquisite art collections on loan to the world’s biggest museums. New Money spends, while Old Money invests. Old Money knows how this college system works because they’ve been doing it since the beginning of higher learning. You donate enough money to have a library named after you, and the school really can’t say no. I mean, why risk you taking back your generous gift when all they have to do is open up a seat for your kid? Easy math.

New Money, meanwhile, is up to stupid tricks, like bribing test prep folks, and having coaches create spots on athletic teams for sports the kids don’t even play! Y’all were doing too much and, in the words of DJ Khaled, “Ya played yaself!” Loughlin allegedly paid close to $500,000 to get her Instagram influencer daughter into USC. Half a million dollars for USC?! Look, when I graduated from Cornell, they sent us a catalog detailing what we could get for each level of donation. Think of it like the PBS pledge drive, but with real estate involved. For example, $10,000 got you a practice room in the music hall, without a piano. Meanwhile, $30,000 would get you one with a piano. I remember somebody donated for the piano room, and they dedicated that shit to Jerry Garcia. There was a plaque and everything. And it still both bewilders and angers me that someone had enough money to just throw it away like that. Sure, maybe he’s a big fan of The Grateful Dead, but if I’m throwing $30K at something, I’m either naming it after my mother or Maria Stark.

Anyway, this group of “elite parents” really need some Old Money friends, ’cause there were a ton of folks, laughing their asses off, while greasing the right palms this week. I’d recommend everyone find them an Old Money friend, ’cause it’ll teach you wonders about money.

It was announced last night on The Tonight Show that YouTube star Lilly Singh will be taking over the timeslot being vacated by Carson Daly’s Later. Her show will be called A Little Late with Lilly Singh. Is that where all the hosts of the future will come from? YouTube? I mean, they got the new Double Dare host from there, and now this. Meanwhile, I’m just becoming an old man, and all these kids have names like Chad Zachary Chad and I can’t tell them apart.

In the world of comics, I’m sort of surprised that DC Comics had a bit of a Come to Jesus moment all due to the Bat Penis. If you weren’t aware, DC launched this edgier imprint, called Black Label, last year that was going to take their signature characters in some interesting directions. Well, in the first issue of Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo’s Batman: Damned, you can see Batman’s penis. I have the issue, but haven’t read it. Haven’t even seen the panel in question online. Still, it caused quite the stir, forcing delays on the rest of the series for it to be rewritten. At a comic retailer summit last weekend, DC co-publisher Dan Didio said the whole incident made them question who they had become as a publisher. Even though the image was waved off by co-publisher Jim Lee as a result of lightening the page, Didio felt like they had done some damage with their relationship with retailers, and that they had to take a step back and really think about where they were headed. Now, this is a summit for retailers – some of the most cantankerous folks alive – so of course Didio is going to try to sweet talk them. Still, I always find it refreshing when a brand openly admits “We made a mistake.” Learn from it and move on. So few companies, OR PEOPLE, seem to be able to do that in this day and age.

Finally, social media was ablaze yesterday as folks voiced their displeasure in Netflix cancelling the critical hit reboot of One Day at a Time. With this incarnation of the show focusing on a Cuban-American family, it had become quite the beacon of representation in media. So, folks felt that Netflix had a commitment to keep this show going, even when Netflix said that the audience wasn’t large enough to make a 4th season viable.

Have a seat. Let’s chat. I know you’re upset about losing a show you liked, but it’s just business. Ratings are funny because we ultimately don’t need to see them. Folks are always like “Well, what were the ratings?” when their favorite shows are cancelled. Ratings are used to SELL ADS. It’s why streamers don’t have to give us viewer numbers. We don’t know what a network has invested in a show, so we can’t really sit back and ask “Oh, you mean that wasn’t enough people watching?” And if we DID get the ratings, and they were, like, a million viewers short, what then? You gonna call a million of your closest friends? Is a network really supposed to take a loss for “representation” when the represented don’t show up to support it?

Why spend money on a show that has no audience? It ain’t a charity. Now, sure, we don’t know streaming numbers, but they weren’t enough to make them keep the show. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Folks want them to keep airing the thing so they get some kind of “brownie points” in their “commitment to diversity”. They’re just gonna create a diverse show, in house, that they’ll OWN. See, that’s the clincher right there: Netflix has to pay the show’s production studio, Sony, a pretty hefty licensing fee to carry the show. This is why Netflix has been cancelling most of the shows they don’t own, like the Marvel series. Still, some folks didn’t like that Netflix didn’t mention this in their statement. What, throw Sony under the bus when they may have to do business with them in the future?

Then I’ve seen folks use the argument that “Well, they could afford it if they hadn’t paid $100 million for Friends!” No! Stop using that defense. They threw $100 million at Friends because White people STILL love Friends and it performs well in syndication. Were that not the case, they’d have paid a lot less than $100 million. Friends is basically a “loss leader”. It cost them a lot on the front end, but they hope it’ll be an investment that brings eyes to the service. It’s not like they just flushed $100 million down the drain. The mentality is basically “Come for some familiar flavor that you know you like, and then try something new.” You need a big show for that to work, not some middling critical darling.

I know y’all out there loved the show and, no, I never saw it. I haven’t fired up Netflix since 2017. There’s just too much shit to do and watch these days. Still, I heard great things so it seems like it was quite a loss. That said, stop taking all this business stuff personally. Channel that anger elsewhere. Create your own stuff. This isn’t the end of representation and it’s possibly not even the end for this show, as Sony plans to shop it around. Based on the groundswell of support it’s gotten over the past 24 hrs, a network would be a fool to instantly pass on it. Only time will tell, but there’s more to these decisions than we like to believe.

OK, it may not have knocked my socks off, but I still know a cultural phenomenon when I see one. Captain Marvel had the highest grossing opening for a film with a female lead. It’s already crossed $500 million. And it put us at the doorstep of Avengers: Endgame. So, giving credit where credit is due, Captain Marvel had the West Week Ever.

08th Mar2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/8/19

by Will

 

There’s quite a bit of pop culture-y goodness to discuss this week, which is a welcome change of pace.

First off, yeah, I’ve seen Captain Marvel, but we’ll talk about that next week. Give y’all some time to see it, ’cause I’ve. Got. Thoughts.

In movie news, Warner Bros announced a new animated Scooby-Doo film, that’s to kick off the shared Hanna-Barbera Universe, with the gang taking on Dick Dastardly. Well, in a controversial move, WB replaced Matthew Lillard as the voice of Shaggy, recasting him with Will Forte. It left a bad taste in folks’ mouths because 1) Lillard found out about the recasting along with the rest of the world, and 2) he’s been voicing Shaggy since Casey Kasem stepped down from the role in 2009 (plus he starred in the role in the 2 live action films). So, if you’ve seen Scooby-Doo and the Dairy Queen of Death or whatever the fuck straight to video thing they’re slinging, that voice you heard was Lillard.

I get that Lillard’s had the role for a bit, but I can also see WB wanting more of a “name” for their Hollywood offering, since it’s going to be positioned as a bigger deal than the Warner Home Entertainment releases. And we just happen to live at a weird time where Will Forte can pull up on Matthew Lillard. What’s next? Michael Pena taking roles from Freddie Prinze Jr? Anyway, I get it. It sucks – especially for voiceover actors – but that just seems to be where Hollywood is headed. Tara Strong has voiced Harley Quinn forever, but the upcoming DC Universe animated series has tapped The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco for the role. Why? Because TBBT is the #1 sitcom on television (cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth). I’m not saying the practice is right, but I’m not surprised by it in the least.

Sticking with Warner Bros productions, it was revealed that Arrow will return next Fall for an abbreviated 10-episode final season. Ten episodes would take them right up to next year’s crossover, so I guess we know who dies in “Crisis”? Which, ya know, would be a fitting sacrifice. He’s more than avenged his city, and has grown in his quest. He’s no longer about simple revenge, and he’s inspired countless others. It works. I guess this means I’ve got to catch up on the show now, as I fell off early last season.

And one last, BIG, WB tidbit: Idris Elba is reportedly replacing Will Smith as Deadshot in The Suicide Squad. Frankly, I think Idris should actually play Bronze Tiger. I’m not one of those who feels like Deadshot HAS to be on the Squad. In the comic series, he and Harley are mainstays, which kinda throws a wrench in that whole “Anyone could die on any mission” threat. If he’s killed – even if offscreen – it proves there are actual stakes to the team. And it’ll be the second time Will Smith gets killed off a sequel off panel

 

I give you the most boring toy commercial I’ve ever seen. It lacks energy, and it’s almost like they don’t know their audience. Kids commercials have to be loud and bombastic. Make the kids WANT the shit. This voiceover sounds like she’s my therapist. The movie will do just fine, but I’m not sure the merch sales are gonna be so hot for Captain Marvel

The Kickstarter went live this week for WHITE, which is the sequel to the critically acclaimed graphic novel BLACK, which came out a few years ago. That story dealt with a world where superheroes exist, but the powers are only available to Black people. This sequel (the second part of a reported trilogy) appears to follow how White folks are coping with the fact that they can’t have powers. Well, just looking out the window, I can assume they ain’t gonna be too cool with that.

I’m tempted to pledge to this project, as I did support BLACK. That said, I also find BLACK in the $5 bin A LOT, making it hard for me to justify the $30 pledge when this volume is likely to experience a similar fate. Plus, while I haven’t read the entire story yet (despite having 2 years to do it), I did read the first issue, and it wasn’t very…good. Add to the fact that the Tuskegee Heirs Kickstarter has pretty much killed my faith in that platform for promoting new creative endeavors.

Speaking of comics, this tweet went viral from creator Jimmy Palmiotti, and I couldn’t disagree more. Looking at a lot of the replies, I’m not alone.

Nope, nope, nope! It’s NOT our job, as fans, to provide a living wage for comic professionals, and it’s wrong for said industry to try to guilt us into doing it. Palmiotti’s own friends, like Joe Quesada, prop up an industry that underpays their talent, and then goes out and expects fans to make up the difference. If you wanna give a little more to comics, that’s your choice, but it’s not your job or role to make sure Johnny Comic Book Artist can pay his bills. That’s on his publisher.

Meanwhile, it’s such a tacky ploy to try to pit fans against the “millionaire actors”, who are also there to give back to those fans/make their nut. There is NO money in comics. Most of us, regardless of our place in the pecking order, went into the industry knowing that. Whether the Diamond customer service rep, or the newbie Marvel artist, everybody’s just trying to get by. And it’s the individual’s choice as to what they should do with their money.

This song – “Ladies in the ’90s” – was actually released by Lauren Alaina back in October, but it’s just starting to gain traction with airplay. Seeing as how it’s been out so long, I think this lyric video is all we’re gonna get, which is sad because I can think of a lot of fun stuff to do with this concept. Anyway, the song has been stuck in my head all week, so maybe you’ll find it as fun as I do.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Alex Trebek announced that he is fighting Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In a recorded message, he jokingly said that he’d have to beat it, as he still has 3 more years on his contract. I’ll say this: when Trebek is done with Jeopardy! I want them to put it on ice for a few years. Family Feud disappeared after the Ray Combs era, and it had to slog through Richard Karn, Louis Anderson, and J. Peterman before they hit pay dirt with Steve Harvey. I’d rather not endure that slog with Jeopardy! any time soon. Let it stand as a monument to the man’s work until quite some time has passed.
  • The Mad About You revival has finally found a home on Spectrum, along with the Bad Boys spinoff, LA’s Finest. The 10-episode “event series” will focus on Reiser and Hunt’s characters dealing with “empty nest syndrome” as their daughter goes off to college. And I don’t know a single person who wants to watch this. I was a Mad About You FAN, and I don’t want this. All I know is Ira better be there, or they can go straight to Hell.
  • I don’t normally cover death here, but Luke Perry sadly passed away earlier this week after the massive stroke he suffered last week. The thing that’s been most surprising to me, however, are all of the great stories folks have shared about his kindness. I always kinda figured the former 90210 star was something of a douchebag (though I had absolutely nothing to back that up), so it was great to hear that I was wrong and had judged him too quickly. It doesn’t seem like Hollywood is filled with NICE people, but it certainly sounds like they just lost one with the loss of Perry.
  • The Twitter Sleuths are on the case! Between the release of the documentary Leaving Neverland, focused on the Michael Jackson sexual assault allegations, and the Gayle King/R. Kelly 2-day interview, folks got their fill of juicy morsels to dissect and try to figure shit out. Nevermind the fact that these are situations that ruined kids’ lives. I blame Serial for this, but it’s also 2019, which is a blanket excuse for anything these days.

  • I’m not really one to do food reviews, but I HAD to grab the brand spanking new Orange Vanilla Coke Zero. I don’t taste even a HINT of Coke. It might as well just be some Orange Fanta with some vanilla syrup in it. It’s not to say I don’t like it, but it’s not something I can guzzle back to back. I can tear through some Vanilla Coke Zero, but I need something of a refractory period after drinking just one of these.

I am a Power Rangers fan. That’s no secret to anyone who’s been to this site before. Still, being a fan of that franchise for the past few years has been like cheering on a losing sports team. I’ve checked in every now and then, but nothing really piqued my interest. I made a promise to myself, some 20 years ago now, that I’d watch the show as long as it was on the air. It had been good to me in rough times, so I would never leave it. I had no idea, however, that the friggin’ thing was gonna follow me to the grave! Over the years, watching every episode became watching every premiere and finale, which became watching every premiere. It was just enough to keep my promise to myself, but it kept me from getting engrossed – a good thing, since I would just end up focusing on how bland the Neo-Saban era of Power Rangers had become. Last year, however, toymaker Hasbro purchased the franchise from creator Haim Saban, with a desire to breathe new life into the property. Now, suddenly I realized I didn’t have to be an Orioles fan anymore because now we had the Nationals (did I do the sports right there?)!

Hasbro’s first offering premiered last Saturday morning, as Power Rangers Beast Morphers. I was cautious. Not cautiously optimistic. Simply cautious. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew everything about what had come before. So there was an uphill battle ahead of Beast Morphers. That said, this was the first time I’d felt open to a new incarnation since Power Rangers Samurai, which was a disappointment out of the gate (WHY didn’t Nick air the PILOT as the first episode?!).

As the show began, I was already seeing some familiar tropes. A gym & juice bar, and a young White guy leading a Karate class? Is it 1993 again?! OK, I was settling in. As the show went on, what I found I really enjoyed about it was how it honored and embraced what had come before. In the first episode, we not only get a reference to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain Rita Repulsa, but it was also tied to the most recent villain – a show of support for the continuity that Saban had dodged so deftly. This was a show that was built on what had come before. Sure, it was a clean slate, but it wasn’t a jarring hard reboot.

Plus, there were quite a few swerves when it came to the characters. This is the first group of Rangers, in about ten years, that I have actually found likable. I already care about them and want them to succeed. They’re not just bland pretty kids, which was the call sheet description from the past few seasons. AND (and this is a BIG and) it’s the first time in a very long time that I even liked the supporting characters. The wacky brother and sister who run Grid Battleforce security, the teen prodigy who has figured out how to tap into the Morphing Grid, even the stern, with a heart of gold, commander of Grid Battleforce – I loved them all.

It’s still early, and strong pilots can quickly turn into mundane series, but I think we might have a winner here. I think Power Rangers is actually GOOD right now, y’all. That’s CRAZY! Anyway, this is why Power Rangers Beast Morphers had the West Week Ever.

22nd Feb2019

Thrift Justice – Let’s Get Physical! Physical! Media!

by Will

 

“The world is a trash fire…” (in the style of Billy Corgan)

Yeah, so this is another one of those weeks where I don’t feel like writing about pop culture. Thanks a lot, Jussie Smollett (womp womp) and Robert Kraft (LMAO!). So, that means I have to reach into my bag of tricks and pull out something else to entertain your eyes and your mind this week. And since errbody seems to love Thrift Justice, Thrift Justice is what you shall have!

So, in recent years, my bread and butter has been to flip physical media – primarily DVDs and Blu Rays. Sure, everyone is all on a streaming kick, but they’re the first ones to whine when Netflix threatens to take Friends off the service. Oh, you mean the complete series of Friends, which I routinely sell for $30? Basically, there’s still a market out there for a lot of this stuff, and I’ve spent the time finding these people and studying their whims.

As I said on Twitter the other day, it’s to the point where I could teach a class on selling physical media. First, nobody is meeting you at the library to pay you $3 for Road Trip. Sell that shit in a lot. Next, nobody is paying $1 per disc in said lot. You’ve got to sweeten the pot. 100 discs better not be > $50. Now, the rules can change if the stuff is 1) out of print or 2) Criterion. But that’s not what most folks are selling. They’re selling Band of Brothers, Entourage Season 1, Serenity, and the Matrix trilogy. You should be paying ME to take that shit from you not vice versa.

See, places like FYE messed with folks’ heads, so pricing is all over the place. Let me also remind you, though, that most FYEs are on their way to Hell to meet their uncles Sam Goody and The Wiz. Common DVDs basically have a resale value of about 50 cents when sold in a lot.

Anyway, I spend a lot of time scouring Facebook Marketplace, letgo, and OfferUp (we’ll get deeper into those in another post), looking for people off-loading their physical media. “Moving, and can’t take it with us.” Or the ones trying to be funny with, “Does anyone even use DVDs anymore? Then come get these!” I’ll pretty much go as high as $40 as long as the selection is right, and the the quantity is there. I can pull some from the lot to sell separately (especially if there are any complete series of any television shows), which make up what I initially invested, and then flip the rest for pocket change. Let’s be real here: I’m not paying my mortgage with this, but it’s an easy way to get some “walking around money”.

Take this lot, for example. I found this on letgo, and the listing said there were “About 300 movies”. The pic wasn’t great, and looked kinda like the aftermath of an earthquake, so I just figured maybe everything wasn’t on film. The only thing I could see in the image was Charmed, and I thought “Well, that’s a start – especially if they’re all there.” The clincher, though, was that the entire lot – however many were there – was only $5. SOLD! It could’ve been nothing but 300 copies of Hitch, and I knew I could get more than $5 for it. Might take a while, but I could do it.

So, after some back and forth (it took this chick hours to reply to messages), I set off for the meeting spot. Turns out it was located near my job. Oh, shit. We were going to the ghetto.

When she finally came out of her building carrying the box, I thought “There’s no way this is 300 movies”, but it was still only $5, so I kept that sentiment to myself. Once I got home, I counted everything, and there were 97 movies – less than 1/3 of what I expected. Or so I thought…

This stack of 13 was comprised of nothing but bootlegs. Sure, from a distance, the art looks OK, but trust me when I tell you it’s not simply faded, but rather printed off a home printer. The discs are just plain, unmarked DVD-Rs. So, can’t do anything with these. I won’t even donate these, ’cause I don’t need the local thrift store thinking I deal in shit, so into the trash these went. Seeing as how Charmed – the one that had led me to buy the lot in the first place – turned out to be fake, it wasn’t looking good for the home team.

This stack is comprised of the movies that were instant flips for me, not because they held any real aftermarket value, but rather because I either already owned them or had no desire to own them.

OK, don’t judge me, but this was the Keep stack. Either I’ve never seen these before, or I have seen them, but never felt like buying them (looking at you, We Own The Night!). After taking this pic, some of these would make their way over to the Flip stack (Like Mercy. Who needs a one-season NBC medical drama when current network TV is LITTERED with medical dramas?!).

This is the Womp Womp stack. Why? Um, because THEY WERE ALL EMPTY CASES! And I was really looking forward to watching Hustle & Flow, mayne…

So, from a promised lot of 300, I ended up with 71 actual, commercial discs that could be kept or flipped. Then, this is where the science happens. You see, I bought a similar lot a few months back, for $40, where the highlights were the complete collector’s edition of Seinfeld, as well as complete series of The Wire. I sold Seinfeld for $50, and The Wire for $35, so the rest of that box was just “pot sweeteners”, waiting for a lot like this to come along.

That created THIS lot, comprised of 84 commercial releases, ready to be flipped. You’ll notice the “dogs” are conveniently lost within bigger movies, like Baby Driver and Jaws. The eyes are drawn to those bigger titles when these listings go live. I could’ve pushed my luck and asked for $40, but I really wanted to move them in about 12 hours. So, I put them up for $35 late Saturday afternoon, and sold them for $35 Sunday morning. To borrow from Storage Wars math, without having to account for the cost of the 2nd lot (which was more than taken care of by the Seinfeld/The Wire sales), I made 7 times my initial investment in the ghetto lot. Sure, it’s only $35, but that’s $30 more than I had when I got into this whole mess. Oh, and I totally didn’t miss the irony that this lot includes Band of Brothers and The Matrix. You CAN sell these as long as you bury them in a lot, and price accordingly.

Before closing, there’s something to be said for stereotypes. They can be dangerous, yadda yadda yadda, but I employ them from time to time because they tend to be rooted in some semblance of reality. I call this the “ghetto lot” because that’s exactly from whence this lot came. And while there were a lot of things you’d come to expect (horror and movies starring rappers), there were also some surprises:

“Yo, son – what you know ’bout The Hours?”

“Yung, you mean the veritable tour de force, starring Streep, Moore, AND Kidman? That’s my shit, yo!”

I really hope that conversation took place. We have a lot of fun around here.

Anyway, those are the inner workings of the physical media trade in 2019. You ain’t gonna get rich, but it generates an income flow you can hide from your wife when every other red cent is diverted to bills and feeding your kids. I know some folks would look at this and think it’s too much work for the payoff, but I kinda find it fun, and I’m clearly not doing it for the money. If anything, I do it to bolster my own DVD collection, and the surplus is used to generate money. So, I’m killing two birds with one stone. Pesky birds! I saw this as a surefire way to turn $5 into a minimum of $30, and the odds were better than a scratch-off ticket. Your mileage, however, may vary. So, if it’s not your “bag”, then that’s awesome because it means you’ll stay the Hell out of my way!

 

15th Feb2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/15/19

by Will

No real rants this week, but I guess we should talk about the Marvel/Hulu deal. Hulu announced 4 upcoming Marvel animated series, including Howard the Duck, M.O.D.O.K., Tigra & Dazzler, and Hit-Monkey. Now, for some reason, folks are excited by this announcement. I, however, do not understand why.

There’s nothing amazing here. No marquee characters. Sure, it’s been pointed out that this is Marvel’s first crack at working with a former Fox character in Dazzler but, I mean, it’s Dazzler. The biggest aspect is probably the folks behind the scenes: Kevin Smith will executive produce Howard the Duck, while Chelsea Handler will be the EP on Tigra & Dazzler, and Patton Oswalt will be EP on Hit Monkey. Still, so? I haven’t really liked anything Smith has done in a very long time, while they’re describing Tigra & Dazzler as “woke” which is a buzzword that’s polarizing to some. Put them all together, and it just sounds like a UPN fall schedule circa 1996.

Anyway, all 4 shows will culminate in a crossover called Marvel’s Offenders, which is a clear rub against the Netflix deal, where the initial four shows culminated in the poorly received Marvel’s The Defenders. Hey, you can’t like everything, nor can everything be tailored to you. That said, I won’t be subscribing to Hulu for these.

Trailer Park

MA

I’m not a horror guy, and if you’re a regular reader, you probably already know that. Still, something about this intrigues me. I figure Octavia Spencer is just getting revenge on the people who bullied her in high school by fucking with their kids, but maybe there’s something deeper to it. Still, definitely intrigued.


Yesterday

A world without The Beatles? WHERE DO I SIGN UP?! Yeah, yeah, I know that just triggered some folks, but I maintain that they were a boyband who eventually got into some psychedelic shit. Anyway, this movie looks really good, and I will definitely be seeing it…on Netflix.


Aladdin

During Sunday’s presentation of the Grammys, we got a “Special Look” at Disney’s upcoming live action adaptation of Aladdin. A few months ago y’all complained that Will Smith wasn’t blue in the Entertainment Weekly spread. Now, folks are complaining that he is blue. As I said on Twitter, there’s just no pleasing you motherfuckers. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll make a ton of money, but this isn’t my kind of film. Honestly, I wouldn’t watch this thing it it were free on the Disney Channel. This teaser does absolutely nothing for me.


Frozen II

I’m loath to admit this, but I’m beginning to realize Disney just doesn’t make movies for me – a difficult position to be in when you have 2 small children. There was a day, about a year ago, when we “watched” Frozen about 7 times. At no point, however, did I make it through the entire thing, instead just seeing disjointed scenes. What I saw, though, did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t wanna be one of those “Back in my day, we had The Lion King” folks, but I find it necessary to remind young’uns of that when they start spouting off about The Lion Guard. Anyway, since everyone loves making money, there’s a sequel coming. Based on this teaser, Girl Jesus steels herself to go up against her archnemesis, The Wave. I guess? I dunno. I just hope there’s a song called “Still Letting It Go”.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Echo Kellum is no longer a series regular on Arrow after this week’s episode, where his character Curtis Holt/Mr. Terrific moved to Washington, DC. Meanwhile, there are rumors that Carlos Valdes will be leaving his role as Cisco over on The Flash by the end of the season.
  • After 17 years, Carson Daly will be stepping down from his late night NBC series, Last Call, at the end of the season. He says that “It’s time”, and that he wanted to give the spot up to a younger voice. Look, I know how Hollywood works Nobody leaves a paying gig, where they’re pretty much left alone, on their own accord. That’s the kind of job you do until they pull the rug out from under ya, which I believe is exactly what NBC did. Still he had a good run, and he met his wife on the show, so it was a fruitful enterprise for him.
  • Even though it was always reported as returning “Summer 2019”, it was revealed this week that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s 6th season will premiere sometime in May, and will be set one year after the events of the season 5 finale.
  • Fox renewed Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy for next season, surprising no one. Oh, and The Simpsons was renewed for 2 more seasons, despite the fact that there are reports that Disney could make more money off the franchise by cancelling it, as the original syndication deal was made early in the show’s run and could be renegotiated at a higher rate.
  • Considering the new president of Nickelodeon is the creator of All That, it’s no surprise that he’s going back to the well in his attempt to get the channel back to its roots. Brian Robbins announced he is developing a reboot of the tween sketch show, with breakout former star, and SNL veteran, Kenan Thompson as an executive producer.
  • Marvel announced the upcoming Savage Avengers comic series, which will see Conan the Barbarian join the Marvel Universe. This is a confusing thing to me, from a business standpoint, because what happens when Marvel loses the Conan license, yet certain events will have been propped up from his time in the MU. I mean, ROM: SpaceKnight anyone?
  • In the wake of recent sexual misconduct allegations against director Bryan Singer, his adaptation of Red Sonja has been shelved by Millennium Films AFTER they had sworn their support of him and the project.
  • It was announced that McFarlane Toys has acquired the license to make collectible toys based on DC Entertainment properties. Personally, I feel like they squandered too much goodwill 20 years ago with their “staction figures”, but folks seem to love their recent Fortnite toys, so maybe that’s an indicator of what we can expect?
  • It was announced today that the next iteration of Power Rangers, Power Rangers: Beast Morphers, will premiere on March 2nd, at 8 AM (the franchise’s new timeslot). 8 AM is where you’d need to air Power Rangers to get kids to care about it live. I mean, by that noon timeslot, they were already at soccer or whatever.
  • I’m no longer wasting the time to document the many returns of Toys “R” Us, so NEXT!

  • As I get older, it’s harder for me to tell these pop starlets apart. Between Halsey and Charli XCX, I remember that Halsey is the Double Bi one (bisexual and biracial), while Charli XCX is “The Other One”. That’s not really a knock on her, but rather the fact that I feel they have similar “gimmicks”. Anyway, I caught the video for Charli XCX & Troye Sivan’s new song, “1999”, which was pretty impressive. If I wanted to nitpick, I could point out how most of this stuff actually took place around 1997, but I’ll give her points for effort and attention to detail. Also, I feel like Sivan, an openly gay man, impersonating Eminem, one of pop culture’s most notorious homophobes, is about 1,000 thinkpieces waiting to happen.

So I first learned about Instagram user HardRockNick, AKA Nicholas Rock Johannsen, last weekend while surfing Twitter. Someone had come across his profile, and basically commented that they had found The One in him. Of course, they were being facetious, but it led me, and scores of others, to check out his account just to see what they were talking about. And it did NOT disappoint!

I don’t even know where to begin with this guy. He’s allegedly a multimillionaire casino owner. His likes include banging porn stars, Trump, and Pure-White women (“not mixed with Mexican or Israeli and shit”). I watched as his followers went from about 500 to 10,000 over the course of the day. Of course, there’s the whole sentiment of “Stop Making Stupid People Famous”, but I was getting tired of hearing about the Andy, the Blowjob Guy from the Fyre Festival documentary, so I welcomed a new butt of jokes.

Everything about him is sad-funny. Whether it’s him trying to impress us by the fact that he found a “great little burger place in my neighborhood”, which is actually a Shake Shack, or him showing off the breakfast made for him by his “personal chef”, when the picture is clearly taken at an IHOP. Was he real? Was this performance art? That’s what we all wanted to know.

Any time you encounter someone just so obnoxious, the first question that comes to mind is “Who hurt you?” Well, after some sleuthing, a story began to take shape. HardRockNick at one time was also known as Aly Ashley Jash, who ran a pet grooming business with his wife, stage actress (and former fiancee to Jeff Goldblum) Catherine Wreford. As the business began to go downhill, Wreford allegedly had an affair with an insurance salesman. Jash, however, would have the last laugh, as he broke into Wreford’s house and took a shit in her kitchen sink (this event can be confirmed by court documents found online). The story, however, doesn’t have as jokey of an ending. Jash went on to become whatever it is you can call him now, while Wreford was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Then, we got the WHOLE truth. I’m not even gonna spoil it here. Click that link and go to town. However, if you’re like Lindsay – who was disgusted just looking at the guy – then you can hop off here. All I know is the internet had a nice little time following this guy’s story, even if it paled in comparison to that week when Pokemon Go brought us all together. In my mind, however, HardRockNick, AKA Aly Ashley Jash, had the West Week Ever.

08th Feb2019

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25th Jan2019

Thrift Justice – Operation Kondo

by Will

I miss writing, and by that I mean that I miss writing about more than just the week’s pop culture news. If you look at the slider on the homepage, there used to be other columns here: Adventures West Coast, which was my graphic novel/trade paperback review column; Best of the West, which showcased the jewels of my various collections; Track Star, which was my music post that sadly never really found its identity. And, of course, my baby – Thrift Justice, where I showed you all the stuff I managed to find while scouring the local thrift stores.

As I was telling some friends recently, Google killed blogging. When Google Reader was taken out behind the shed, nothing came along to capably take its place. Yes, I said capably, just to ward off all of y’all who are about to go, “Well, Feedly…” A lot of folks quit, while others pivoted to other media, like video or podcasting. I, however, am still a fan of the written word. I feel a lot of videos could’ve been blogs, and that also goes for a lot of podcasts (especially the short ones). I’m too old and fat to move to video, so blogging is where I shall stay.

So, this is all a long-winded way of bringing us to why we’re here today. I’ve been sitting on this idea for about 6 months, as I know it should probably be a video, but that’s just not my bag, baby. Instead, I feel like this would be a great way to bring back Thrift Justice: We’re going to liveblog an unboxing. This could be really interesting OR it could end up like that time Geraldo found Al Capone’s vault. Either way, it’s new content, so yay? But first, some backstory.

Back on the 4th of July, I was at a family cookout, when a cousin of mine told me she had something for me in her car. Apparently, I had let her borrow some toys when her nephews came to town, and she had run across them while she was cleaning her house. There are some very important things you should know here, though. First of all, those nephews are about 18 & 20 now, so if I’m doing my math right, this took place around 2004. Secondly, I’m not exactly the world’s greatest sharer, as I’ve had a bad track record of visiting relatives breaking my shit. So, one of two things happened here: 1) I let them have some stuff about which I didn’t give two shits OR 2) my mother gave them some stuff behind my back, which I clearly didn’t care about if I haven’t missed it in 15 years.

Anyway, for the life of me, I could not remember what these kids had of mine. As I followed my cousin to her car, she handed me a shoebox (think Timberland size) in a shopping bag. I’ve got a toddler, and the last thing I need is to be opening toys around her, so I figured I’d just get around to checking out the contents once we got home, and she went to bed. Instead, the box rode around in the back of my wife’s car for months until she eventually had to put it into the shop for body work. So, there’s no time like the present, right?

Here’s how we’re going to make this interesting, though. Thrift Justice is usually about the stuff I get from the thrift store, but this installment is going to be about stuff I’m sending to the thrift store. Everyone in the world is Marie Kondo-ing, by reducing the clutter in their lives by ridding themselves of the possessions that fail to bring them joy. Will anything in this mystery box bring me joy? Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

Somebody call Geraldo, ‘cause I think I’ve got him beat. Man, what a box of garbage! Ugh, let’s take a closer look, though. I mean, we’ve come this far.

So, first up we’ve got Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, along with his…friend? Enemy? Anyway, let’s call him Pinkeye McGillicuddy. I vaguely remember buying this set because I thought Aang’s wind blaster pack was kinda cool. I’ve never seen one episode of Avatar, but I knew it was one of the hip things back then, so I guess I wanted to gain entry by getting the toys. Plus, when I first got it, Aang’s pack lit up or made noise or some shit. The batteries are dead now, and I’m too lazy to change them.

Look at Aang’s eyes, though? It’s like he’s been radicalized. What the Hell was that show even about?! Isn’t “air bending” just a polite way of saying “farting”. I’m bending air as I write this.

Next up, we’ve got these Masters of the Universe 200X Happy Meal toys from McDonalds. I remember these being pretty cool because they were decent action figures, in a 4-ish inch scale, with just a hint of an action feature. They were highly detailed, and we’d kill for something like this today. Sadly, though, nobody gave much of a shit about that show, as the Internet had yet to evolve into the geek hive of scum and villainy that it is today. Thrift stores are littered with these figures, and they’re about to get 4 more.

What the Hell?! Is this alien being LYNCHED?! I don’t even know what this is. It’s the same texture of those spiders you throw at the wall in order to watch them crawl down, but I don’t know what the goal is here. Do you swing him around by the loop? You can kinda yo-yo him, but that doesn’t feel right, either. This is like 2 of the darkest periods of American history rolled into one pathetic gashapon toy.

Gather ‘round, kids, as I tell you a tale from the turn of the century! You probably know (recently deceased) Stan Lee as That Old Man Who Keeps Popping Up In The Marvel Movies, but this wasn’t always the case. Back around 1999, ol’ Stan wasn’t exactly on the best terms with Marvel. Sure, he was getting an annual salary for being the company mascot/cheerleader, but he wanted MORE. So, he decided to start Stan Lee Media, which would go on to inspire a quagmire of lawsuits that continue to this day. From this venture, nothing they threw at the wall stuck, but one of the highest profile creations was The Backstreet Project.

Starring boyband The Backstreet Boys, The Backstreet Project was a comic concept that envisioned the group as superheroes. Remember, this was 1999, and things were different. The Backstreet Boys were one of the biggest pop acts in the world, while comics were on the decline. In 2018, you’d ask “Why would anyone make a comic about the Backstreet Boys?!” but in 1999, it would have been more fitting to ask “Why would the Backstreet Boys slum it in the comic industry?” Since Stan Lee Media was poised to harness the true potential of this newfangled thing called The Internet, the focus was more on webisodes than print.

Anyway, Burger King somehow found itself as the official restaurant of the Backstreet Boys, as they were selling CDs and VHS tapes to go along with your diarrhea-inducing Whopper. And for the kids, they had Backstreet Project toys in the Burger King Kids Club Meals. I actually had the entire set at one point in time, as I thought the concept was pretty cool, plus I had a mad-on for any boyband. If you’ve been to this site before, none of this is news. Hell, a friend of mine was actually working at Burger King at the time, so I just asked him to grab the stuff for me from his job. I wasn’t eating that shit! Because I was a huge BSB fan (until Brian had to go and get all political), there was no way I was letting those kids have my prized BSB toys, so these were probably my doubles.

Here you have Brian (the one holding the basketball), as “Top Speed”, while Nick is the one dressed like a ninja, named appropriately enough “Ninja Man”. Jesus, Stan. Were you even trying? Anyway, the gray thing in the middle is some sort of stasis tank that Brian breaks out of. I have to remind myself that this was an era when these guys could’ve pissed in a Sprite bottle, and it would be distributed all across Europe, but in hindsight there’s not a lot of care or attention invested in this concept.

 

Another Burger King premium. Who was eating all this Burger King? It sure as Hell wasn’t me. Anyway, this is some Dragon Ball thing. I don’t know if it was Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, or Dragon Ball GTFO. I know nothing of that franchise, but I know this little guy does some sort of balancing act. I just don’t seem to have the base upon which he does the balancing.

My Ronin Warriors! Man, I loved that show. That might’ve been my first anime, come to think of it. Anyway, I used to have the whole team because when KB Toys was in their death throes, Ronin Warriors were a mainstay in the 3 for $10 bin. Sadly, I donated mine some years back because I couldn’t find them all and didn’t feel the need to keep an incomplete team around. Well, I couldn’t find them all because they were chilling at my cousin’s house. As you can see, they lost a good portion of their shit, as well as a figure (where’s the White one?). These are probably the best thing in the box, but I’m met with the fact that I don’t want an incomplete team, so maybe these figures will be reunited with their brothers in the thrifting afterlife.

Ooh, this one tickles me to no end. If you know me, then you know I don’t give a shit about Harry Potter. In my mind, JK Rowling just stole all of Roald Dahl’s best ideas, and nobody’s called her on this because they teach the wrong things in school these days. Anyway, my hatred aside, I’m a sucker for a good, translucent action figure. Whether it’s the Spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi that I got from Lays Potato Chips, or this boy wizard I picked up from Toys “R” Us (a moment of silence, please), I love them all. The reason this is funny to me, though, is that those boys’ mom is really pro-Black and pro-Jesus. If she knew her boys were playing with a plastic representation of the White Devil, slinging his witchcraft around from his cloak of invisibility, she would shit a brick. I’m actually gonna see her in about 2 weeks, so maybe I’ll just drop that into conversation to see what happens.

This is probably the worst Optimus Prime toy ever made. I tend to think of Happy Meal toys along the lines of rack toys, as they’re all “toys for poor kids”. But this Transformers Armada Happy Meal toy is so bad that even a poor kid would say, “Man, get that shit up out my face!” There have been many bad Transformers Happy Meal toys over the years, and this is merely one of them.

This isn’t even a quality yo-yo. This is no Duncan, and is more like the kind of thing the dentist gives you at the end of your cleaning if you were a good boy.

Good old little green army men. A true classic. Hey, wait a minute. What the Hell happened to the dude in the middle at the top?! He ain’t got no arms! What did my cousins DO to him? I hope they at least said a prayer over him. It’s what their mom would’ve wanted.

“How are your crayons hanging?”
“Low, and to the left”

How does this happen? I mean, I guess they got hot or something and then cooled down, but they’re all curved like that. It’s eerie. It’s somewhat perverted. I have questions.

This is a Wild Planet motion alarm. Whenever there are commercials for things like this, it’s always some little boy trying to protect his worthless shit from being touched by some bratty little sister. I don’t think they really work like that. I’ve never actually used it, but my pal Tarek got it for me in college on an a cappella gig I wasn’t able to attend. Looking back, though, I could think of quite a few uses for this thing for a growing man…

Ah, we come to the end, featuring a pair that will set off all your nostalgia boner alarms. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow here were from a G.I. Joe two-pack that I think contained a DVD. I remember they were on clearance, and I think I only bought them for that DVD. I don’t even collect this scale, ‘cause these are just “dolls” at this point, but it must’ve been quite a good price, because here they are. They came with a shit ton of accessories, half of which you see strewn about here. There are also a lot missing. Like, where are Storm Shadow’s ninja booties? I’m not even gonna try to put this stuff back on them. To the thrift store they go, and their next owner can worry about all that.

So, there ya have it. My journey back in toy time ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. You win, Kondo!!!! None of that brought me any joy. Still, it was nice to take a stroll down memory lane, thinking of all the terrible ways and reasons I’ve wasted good money. I hope you’ve gotten some kind of enjoyment out of this, and if you want more like it, then leave a comment below. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe! I don’t know what I mean by that…I just hear the YouTubers saying it all the time.

18th Jan2019

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2018

by Will

2018 was the longest year in the history of years. It’s funny – I always look at past posts to figure out if I ever decided on a format for this wrap-up, and the past few years all start with “Man, this year SUCKED!” So, I guess things are just getting worse, huh? Anyway, when I first started doing West YEAR Ever, it was two-fold: 1) to bring attention to some of the “evergreen” posts I’d written throughout the year that you might have missed and 2) provide something of a director’s commentary to the West Week Ever choices I’d made over the past year. Here’s the rub, though: I didn’t really write any evergreen posts this year. Nope, my focus was pretty much solely on West Week Ever, which are totally disposable posts – which is a great way to think of 2018: disposable.

Between HarassmentWatch(TM), Trailer Park, Things You Might Have Missed This Week and, of course, West Week Ever, we talked about the celebrity wang danglers (reigning WYE Champ of 2017), looked at some movie trailers, I gave you bulletpoint news, and then I tried to point out something about the week that stood out above everything else. That’s the West Week Ever formula you’ve come to know over the past 6 years.

The most interesting stuff about the year is probably the stuff I didn’t write about. For example, I was interviewed by Vulture in anticipation of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as I was considered a Miles Morales “superfan”. I sat on that chestnut for a couple months, anxiously waiting for the article to come out. Finally, my views on something would get more exposure! Well, it came out, and none of my contributions made the finished article. Womp womp.

Or the fact that I won a $50 gift card at the county fair by DOMINATING at 90s song trivia. I promptly used it to buy a gaming chair from Staples. I’m not even a gamer, but that’s a sweet ass chair!

Or the the fact that I won a pair of Google Home Hubs the week before Christmas, because I was miraculously caller #9 to a radio station (Thanks, WMZQ and iHeartRadio!).

Nah, I didn’t write about any of that. Probably should have. Oh well. Hindsight, and all that.

Anyway, let’s take a look back on 2018, and see if anything really stood out about it.

2018 In Movies

As far as movies went, I only saw 15 – down from last year’s 18, and WAY down from 2015’s 78.

1. Gotham By Gaslight
2. Black Panther
3. Ready Player One
4. Blockers
5. Avengers: Infinity War
6. Pitch Perfect 3
7. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
9. Sorry to Bother You
10. Teen Titans Go to the Movies
11. The Meg
12. Venom
13. Megamind
14. The Christmas Chronicles – I have to review these last two here, as I watched them in that gap between my last post of 2018 and my first of 2019. This was a cute movie. Kurt Russell as Santa actually works, but I have SO many questions about the universe in which the movie is set. I mean, Santa is real, but he only comes to Believers. Are we sure this thing wasn’t sponsored by The 700 Club?
15. Commando Ninja – I didn’t know anything about this movie until someone in a Facebook group mentioned it. After about 5 minutes of research, I felt like it looked like Kung Fury, so I was immediately on board. I think I’ve said it before, but I didn’t grow up watching 80s action movies. And I still haven’t seen most of them. So, I’m sure this thing hit all the right notes for some folks, while some of it just goes over my head. Still, it was hilarious, it was free on YouTube, and it was short. What more could you ask for?

2018 In Television

  • Roseanne announced that her character would be a Trump supporter when her show returned. She subsequently said some dumb shit and the show got cancelled. Then her TV family made deals to return to the show without her. Awww, family!
  • Murphy Brown also returned, to the delight of…well, nobody, really. She fired off her Trump jokes, and will probably be put back in moth balls by CBS.
  • ABC pulled an episode of Black-ish that would deal with the NFL kneeling issue. While it was reported as a “mutual decision” between the network and series creator Kenya Barris, Barris would go on to leave ABC for a 7-figure deal with Netflix.
  • The Fox adaptation of Lethal Weapon was a hotbed of problems. First there were reports of misconduct by show star Clayne Crawford, which put the show’s renewal chances in jeopardy. Then, Crawford was fired and replaced by Seann William Scott (the extra “n” is for flavor!). Then the show’s other star, Damon Wayans, announced he was leaving after fulfilling the season’s original 13-episode order.
  • The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running, scripted primetime series on television, with 636 episodes.
  • After 27 scandalous seasons, The Jerry Springer Show went out not with a bang but with a whimper.
  • The Sharknado franchise came to an end with The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time. Yes, it was time.
  • The Power Rangers 25th anniversary special aired, with obligatory Jason David Frank cameo. Hell, the whole thing was a JDF wankfest.
  • Brian Robbins was announced as the new head of Nickelodeon, which is significant since he and his former Head of the Class costar, Dan Schneider, got their behind the scenes careers started by creating All That for the network back in 1994. It’ll be interesting to see if he throws any work to Schneider, whose Schneider’s Bakery production house was sent packing by Nickelodeon earlier in the year after allegations surrounding Schneider arose.
  • DC Comics debuted the DC Universe streaming service, which is still struggling to find subscribers
  • Kanye West went on TMZ to declare “Slavery was a choice!”
  • And, of course, I wrote my annual Network Upfronts post, with my thoughts on the upcoming TV season.

2018 In Music

Yeah, I already covered that. No, you didn’t read it because you’re scared of the unknown!

West Week Ever Recipients of 2018:

1/12/18 – Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
1/19/18 – Black Lightning
1/26/18 – Vince McMahon
2/2/18 – WWE Royal Rumble
2/9/18 – Quincy Jones
2/16/18 – Black Panther
2/23/18 – Black Panther
3/2/18 – Atlanta
3/9/18 – DC Black Label
3/16/18 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer
3/23/18 – Nothing
3/30/18 – Roseanne
4/13/18 – Wrestlemania 34
4/27/18 – James Shaw Jr.
5/4/18 – Avengers: Infinity War
5/11/18 – Donald Glover
5/18/18 – CBS
5/25/18 – The Middle series finale
6/1/18 – Solo: A Star Wars Story
6/15/18 – Charley
6/22/18 – Nothing
6/29/18 – West Life Ever: Toys “R” Us
7/13/18 – Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
7/20/18 – DC Entertainment
7/27/18 – Teen Titans Go to the Movies
8/3/18 – Lebron James
8/10/18 – Patrick Stewart
8/17/18 – Omarosa Manigault Newman
8/24/18 – Crazy Rich Asians
9/7/18 – Nike
9/14/18 – John Legend
9/21/18 – Marvel Studios
9/28/18 – Lady Gaga, “Shallow”
10/5/18 – Venom
10/12/18 – Kanye’s MAGA Hat
10/26/18 – Roman Reigns
11/9/18 – Jeopardy! Champion (and friend of the site!) Mary Ann Borer
11/16/18 – West Life Ever: Stan Lee
11/30/18 – Wolverine: The Long Night
12/7/18 – Avengers: Endgame trailer
12/14/18 – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
12/21/18 – Nothing

This is normally where I’d give you some insight on my thought process, but I feel like a lot of this needs no explanation. It’s either obvious why it was chosen, or it’s indicative of just what kind of a shitshow pop culture was for that particular week. I’m particularly proud of my West Life Ever posts, for both Toys “R” Us and Stan Lee. Unbeknownst to most, the West Life Ever distinction was created with Adam West and Stan Lee in mind. As they got older, we all knew it was only a matter of time, and they both meant a lot to me. While the designation has been given to a few other things, (like TRU), it was custom made for those two, and I don’t know when, or if, it’ll ever be used again. I can’t think of anyone else in pop culture that meant as much to me, but I guess time will tell.

The year basically started with Black Panther and ended with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In between the two, we all lived about five lifetimes and have the scars to prove it. I spent a lot of time thinking about what this is all about, and why it is that I do it every week. In the end, I guess I want to make some kind of an impact – leave something behind. While pop culture is fleeting, I pour a lot more into “disposable” posts than makes actual sense. I know I’ve said that I stop caring about these things once the clock strikes 12:00 on Saturday morning, but up until that time, I’m as wired as a kid waiting for his dad to come back from “going out to get cigarettes”. “Are they reading it?”, I anxiously wonder as I constantly retweet the links and look for engagement. Like the aforementioned kid, whose dad is never coming back, the audience never really comes. It leads to a lot of existential questions, like “Well, who am I?” and “Why would anyone care what I think?” Maybe the posts were too long. Everyone’s in a hurry, and don’t like reading long things. I don’t want to contribute to “Hot Take Culture”, and I try to write reasoned arguments for my opinions. Yeah, yeah blogs are dying. I get it. Maybe I need a podcast, ya know, ’cause everybody has a podcast. Maybe this should be video, but that hardly seems worth the effort. Still, in all this introspection, one thing stood out – one thing that proved my “impact”, and would withstand the test of time.

If you’re a longtime reader, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, ’cause I did it for my first kid, and I don’t need to look like I’m playing favorites. Still, the best thing about 2018 was Charlotte Bruce West. I know it’s the hip thing now to hate kids and love the Hell out of dogs instead, so if that’s you, then you should probably stop reading.

This was not a fun year for anyone, and some days were harder than others. The thing about Charley, which was so surprising to me, is that she’s such a happy baby. Sure, those first few months she didn’t realize she was smiling, and it was just something her mouth was doing. Over time, though, they became genuine smiles. Smiles that could make a bad day better. She’s just such a happy baby. Where does she get that from? Was I ever that happy? If so, what happened? I only hope it’s something she can hold onto throughout life. I hear a positive attitude can take ya places, and I sure as Hell wouldn’t know. I’m not one of those parents who’s all “She’s going to be President someday.” She could be a blogger with readership in the double digits, and that’d be just fine. At least she came by it honestly.

I read this Conan O’Brien interview in The New York Times the other day, and it really resonated with me. If you’ve run out of free NYT articles for the month, or just don’t feel like clicking, it’s him discussing the decision to change his TBS show from a full hour to a half hour format. After 25 years in late night, he looked back on what he had done, and thought about how he would like to go forward. He said that, while it might seem selfish, he wanted an experience that allowed him to have the most fun because, in the end, none of it matters. “This is going to sound grim, but eventually, all our graves go unattended.”

On the worst days, I can come home and play “Grocery Store” with my oldest, while keeping the youngest from swallowing a Hatchimal. I’ve made, and continue to make, my impact on them, and that’s what matters. As for this, let’s make it fun again. No more “writing for the audience”. I want to be as blissfully happy as a 7-month old baby, and that’s accomplished by focusing on things a lot of people don’t care about, like 90s boybands and forgotten teen sitcoms. Let’s bring back Thrift Justice! Let’s dive into that backlog of comics that’s only been growing. No more expectations, as I’m leaving that mentality in 2018. It won’t be an overnight process, but it’s the destination I’m working towards. I’ve already made a mark somewhere, so let’s see where that takes us. As a great, rich man once yelled, “You wanna get nuts?! Let’s get nuts!” Let’s consider 2019 the year of How Will Got His Groove Back. In the meantime, let’s leave 2018 behind like the garbage year that it was.

So, for being the best thing to happen to me in 2018, and for inspiring this introspection, Charley West had the West Year Ever.

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