03rd Jan2013

West YEAR Ever – 2012

by Will

intro

A year that began pretty shitty turned out rather well. I started the year with a bad cold, which led to me being sick every 3 months throughout the year. Then, I lost my job in May. Once summer hit, things started to get better. I got a BETTER job, I attended the weddings of 2 great friends, and I got married. Yay! I spend a ton of time online, so I figured we’d talk about that a bit, with a twist: we’ll cover the wedding in pics and the online in words. DEEP!

group

Don’t worry, black folks. There was another black girl. She was late. Go figure…

I no longer feel the need to be Top Dog in the nerd game. I was discussing this with someone who has ambitious goals to take over the internet toyverse. It’s admirable, but I asked, “What then?” It’s like the supervillain who wants to rule the world. What does he do once he gets it? I used to want to be Nerd King. I wanted to be America’s Next Top Blerd. Try as I might, no one was looking to fill that position. Hell, at this point, I’d settle for “Top Blerd of Lower Montgomery County Between The Hours of 6 and 8 PM”. I mean, I’ve worked hard, but there are others who have worked harder and longer. Plus, what’s to be gained at the top? It just makes you a target for others “gunning for the title”. It can be lonely at the top, the middle, AND the bottom.

crosse

I got to marry HER. I already won. 

I’ve been doing this 10 years. Some years were more active than others, but I’ve come to realize that I just want to carve out my own niche, rather than unseat someone. I think this has been more pronounced since the recent changing of the guard over at Topless Robot. When the job was posted, a lot of us started wondering if we had the chops. I thought I could do it, but I simply didn’t have the readership. Hell, it’s just 3 parts linkblogging, 2 parts snark. Still, no one knows who I am. I’m not active on any boards, nor am I a regular commentor anywhere; I tend to keep to myself. Also, I said it then, and I’ll say it again: I don’t wish that job on my worst enemy. There’s NO WAY you’re going to “properly” replace Rob Bricken in the eyes of fans, nor should you really be expected to do so. Still, that person is going to have to prove himself, as Luke Y. Thompson is learning. No matter how hard he works, for now, he’s simply “Not Rob”. Just look at the comments on recent posts. Rob-era posts had comment threads into the hundreds, while most recent comment threads max out at about 14. Village Media can’t be too happy about this, but I don’t think LYT is to blame. TR was popular BECAUSE of Rob. It WAS Rob. THAT is what we should be striving toward: creating something that is OURS. No more of this “I want to rule the toy internetz” stuff. I mean, do we even understand the scope of that goal?

noah

I talk to a lot of different people online, from those who used to run toy sites to those who currently run them. Do you realize how many “top dogs” on the toy scene aren’t even aware of each other? Everyone’s “winning” a race without even knowing who their competitors are. Isn’t that odd? Is anyone really leading or is it simply a matter of scope and perspective?

I’m not doing a What Would You Like To See More Of? post because I already know. I get it. You like Thrift Justice. The thing is, I’m kinda writing for me, and I’m inviting you along for the ride. There’s gonna be a lot of stuff coming up that you’re not gonna give a shit about, like when I looked back on lesser known TNBC shows. I can’t cater to a readership that I’m not even totally sure exists. Hell, I don’t know who all is reading this post. I don’t deserve to be top dog because I simply don’t know enough. Case in point: I still don’t get the reasoning behind website ads. I mean, sure, they can generate revenue for your site, but I’ve also heard too many stories of people getting $5 checks every three years. Why go through all that to make your site the equivalent of a NASCAR entry? Is it REALLY worth it? My site may look like shit to some, but I did that. I can’t blame Snorgtees for any of that. And how many people realize you’re supposed to clear your cookies for those Amazon Affiliate links to register?

Because there’s so much I don’t understand, I enjoy doing this as I also learn a lot from it. The internet is such a funny place, filled with fiefdoms and arbitrary measures of success. Page hit counts are whispered with the same gravitas as asking someone the size of their penis. We boast of having 10,000 followers, omitting the fact that we follow 9,000 (your follower/followee ratio is key). I dunno. I guess I’m just saying it’s hard to rule the world when you don’t even know how big it is. To me, my greatest challenge is getting people I KNOW to read my stuff, let alone strangers. Back to the follower thing, I have over 700, but I can count on about 25 of them to click any links I send out. And it’s FREE! I can’t imagine how it must feel to write and charge for a book. Anyway, that’s not “reach”. BUT it’s a small community that I cherish, and it should be nurtured. As I get older, it means more to me to foster those kinds of interactions than worrying that some Millenials aren’t sharing my post up on Digg.

I’ve already talked about future plans for the site, so I’m not gonna rehash that here. My main goal for 2013 is to build a sense of community. I’ve made a lot of friends online, and I’d like to do more of that. None of this “competition” stuff, as we’ve all got challengers of whom we aren’t even aware. And what are we trying to “win”? Anyway, if people want in, I welcome them. I’m just tired of pissing in the wind; ya just end up wet. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.

end

Funny Update: Just as I wrapped up this post, I got an advertising inquiry from a home furnishing firm. Clearly, they haven’t read this site…

09th Nov2012

West Week Ever 11/9/12

by Will

I find that I’ve compartmentalized myself into a corner. Now that everything has a heading (Thrift Justice, Comical Thoughts, etc), I don’t really have an outlet for just random thoughts. I feel like G.I. Joe, when Ninja Force and Star Brigade gave way to Battle Corps. Battle Corps was the basic line, but still had to be put in a “subset”! In the past, I’ve said that Twitter kinda killed these posts for me, as I just ramble over there even though I’m limited to 140 characters. Still, I don’t have an outlet to just talk about stuff going on unless I make a whole post about it. So, I feel like this will be a good platform for that.

It’s no secret that I loved Best Week Ever. I used to consider that my barometer of success: I’d know I’d made it if I got to become a pop culture talking head on a VH-1 show (I have low standards). I also love my name, as well as a good play on words, so I give you West Week Ever. I wanted to call it “Ashley Banks Is Week”, but I wasn’t sure anyone would get the reference (not only is that my favorite episode of Fresh Prince, but I also love that Tatyana Ali released an album around that time that tanked as hard as her fictional album). I also considered calling it Friday Chat, but that wasn’t flashy enough, plus I couldn’t guarantee I’d get any comments. Finally, I thought about Friday Monologue, but that was just a bit too “on the nose”. So, West Week Ever. That’s what it’s called. Random thoughts on Friday. Read, enjoy, comment. So, let’s get started!

So, there was an election this week. Let me start off by saying that I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican. You do what you gotta do. My issue is when people claim to dislike Obama because of “all the debt he’s leaving for our kids” when nobody gave a fuck about those kids prior to his presidency. When we were racking up debt from 2 wars! But I digress. If you honestly felt like Mitt Romney was the best choice for this country, fine. But if you were really grasping at straws to cover that fact that it really bothers you that Obama’s black, that’s when I have a problem. I kinda respect you more when you’re honest, even if your stance is deplorable. However, when you’re a 15 year old girl, upset that Obama’s “taking my money”, I think you’d better have a discussion with your shift manager at Dairy Queen, instead of worrying your little head about the national economy. Obama don’t give a shit about your overtime OR the fact that you covered Tori on register. I don’t need to see stuff like this from you.

Anyone been following the Ariel Winter situation? For those who don’t know that name, she’s Alex Dunphy on Modern Family. Allegedly, Ariel’s abusive mom caused her to be removed from her home. According to the mom, Ariel’s trying to be emancipated so she can live with her 18 year old boyfriend. Ariel is FOURTEEN. Talk about “getting in on the ground floor”! Sure, she’s cute and all, but what the Hell do they have to talk about? SHE ONLY KNOWS SEINFELD THROUGH SYNDICATION, FOR GOD’S SAKE!

It also seems that Brooke Burke-Charvet was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As sad as that is, my biggest question was “When did she take David Charvet’s name?” She’d been “Brooke Burke” forever, and David Charvet is SUUUUCH a douche. I mean, I think he was the first douche I ever encountered. I knew that’s what he was before there was even a word to describe it. Plus, if you’re known as “the douche” on Baywatch (!), something is seriously wrong.

I am ALL ABOUT Girl Meets World. I wish there were a Kickstarter, as I’d actually contribute to it. I kinda wish Disney Channel would attempt to rebuild TGIF, and that would be a great show for it. I’m not sure if people have realized this, but TV has evolved to the point where TGIF-caliber shows already end up on either Disney or Nick. That’s So Raven, iCarly, Cory In The House – the producers, directors, and writers of those shows are the same folks who were behind Full House and the like. People laugh at the idea that I like iCarly, but those jokes are just as lame as the stuff we laughed at in 1992. If TGIF came out today, most of those shows would go straight to SNICK. Not even ABC Family, as it’s trying too hard to be The WB circa 1999.

Here are my thoughts on the show: I totally think Cory and Topanga could have a 14 yr old, as that show was never really great at following a real timeline. They went straight from elementary school to high school. Then the whole college thing got fuzzy once they got married. Did they drop out? Who knows? Anyway, I kinda hate that the show will be on Disney because it’ll never follow the outcome I mapped in my mind. Let’s take a closer look at Boy Meets World.

Cory Matthews was what is known as a “simp” (see definitions 12 and 25). He went from being an intriguing, sarcastic grade schooler to being a head over heels schmuck. Seriously, watch any of the later seasons and Cory might as well be a 40 year old man, constantly frightened by the world, and worried that he was gonna lose Topanga. The “jump the shark” moment of that relationship was when Cory stowed away on a plane to surprise Topanga at Disney World (remember when Disney bought ABC, and every TGIF had to do an episode there?). While this was pre-9/11, I STILL couldn’t believe that he would violate FAA regulations for his puppy love.

A picture of ShaPanga that I totally stole off someone’s Tumblr.

This is my long and drawn out way of saying that there’s next to no chance that Cory and Topanga are still together. I’ll go as far as to say that Shawn Hunter is probably the real father of that baby. I mean, his character just became pure white trash by the end of that show, but he was a ladies man, and there was a brief spark between him and Topanga back when she first got hot in high school. In a moment of weakness, she gave in to Shawn, and Cory being the simp that he is, took her back. Everyone knows that Shawn’s the father of Riley Matthews, but they just don’t bring it up (think early Nip/Tuck) for fear that Cory would go out like Lane Pryce. If Cory and Topanga ARE still together, that shit’s over once Riley and her brother go off to college.

Anyway, this’ll be on Disney Channel, so it’ll be all laugh tracks and brightly colored interior decorating. I just have two requests: 1) I hope Uncle Eric lives in the garage and 2) FEENY!

 

 

12th Oct2012

LoEB Presents The State of the Site Address

by Will

It’s funny that this week’s topic for The League is a “state of the site” address. You see, about a month ago, I posted a total emo rant over on Tumblr during a bout where I wasn’t feeling so great. If you’re interested, it’s here, but it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. I think my problem is that I’m constantly trying to figure out that one thing that’ll put me over the top. I’m a funny dude, I’ve got a cool name, and I like the same stuff that you do. So, why do I not have disciples?! My blogging role models wouldn’t surprise you: X-Entertainment/Dinosaur Dracula was my first geek blog reader experience, and I admire the empire that Rob Bricken has built over at Topless Robot. At the end of the day, I want what they have. I want to be the defining opinion on nerd culture. I want to be a frequent guest on podcasts. I want to be able to throw up a Kickstarter and meet my goal in a matter of hours. I WANT POWER!!!! I’ve been striving to find my niche, like the period of time I decided I wanted to be America’s Top Blerd. Then, I stumbled upon Black Nerd hanging out with actual nerd-lebrities, and realized he’d already claimed the title.

Honestly, I think it’s a bit different than that. I mean, power sounds fun and all, but one thing that people don’t realize is that I live on the internet. Recently, I’ve come to realize that I have Aspie tendencies, and I don’t like reality too much. My IRL friends call me and I avoid the phone, for reasons I can’t really explain. Over the past couple of years, some of my most meaningful friendships have been online. For some, Twitter and Instagram and the like are just pastimes, but I honestly consider you people friends. When you disappear for a period of time, I worry. When you get married or have a kid, I celebrate. Sure, I’ve never met any of you, but that doesn’t matter. So, the blog is a bit of an extension of that. I’m sharing myself with you, so I like to know that it’s at least being accepted. Comments, retweets, blogroll addition – all of these make my day. Sure, that sounds sad to some, but that’s really where I’ve found myself lately. There’s always the whole “we can agree to disagree” thing, but if you reject my site, you’re rejecting me. I put more of myself into it than expressing myself in everyday life.

There’s a guy on Twitter. Most of you know him. Hell, he’s probably the coolest guy to you. He likes to tweet his thoughts, which range from “random” to running commentary. Recently, he thought it was deplorable that people would no longer care about your opinion if you unfollowed them. This hit close to home to me because he had unfollowed me, and his opinion had pretty much faltered in my eyes. Sure, Twitter doesn’t have to work both ways, but it should. Every now and then, you might accidentally follow the wrong person, and then have to come up with a digital equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me” to get out of it, but I can see that line of reasoning. If my words no longer matter to you/annoy you, then why should I put up with your words? We’re no longer having an exchange, so what’s the point?

All of this probably sounds like rambling, but this is what I think about when I think of the site: What is my reach? Have I done anything that has gained traction? Does this feel like it did when I started back in 2003? What do I get out of this process? Over the past year, a few things have stood out to me. I think I’ve settled into 4 basic themes/features that seem to work:

Thrift Justice/Thrift Justice:YSE – The place where I showcase things I find at thrift stores and yard sales. This has been more successful than I could’ve imagined. I’m far from the only one doing this stuff (Flea Market Finds over at Toy World Order, Goodwill Hunting for Geeks), but I certainly struck at the right time. With shows like Collection Intervention and Toy Hunter, it’s a good time to be in the “buried treasure” game. I could honestly write these forever, based solely on the amount of stuff I’ve already found. I could never set foot in another thrift store, and still keep that feature going for another 2 years.

Comical Thoughts – I’m hesitant to make this a “feature”, per se, but it serves as a nice umbrella under which to discuss comics. I’m not as comic-focused as in the past, as the thrift stuff has taken over my life. Still, I’ve been able to have some good, focused discussions on events in the comic industry.

Adventures West Coast – This one is harder to do than it seems. Ya see, I got laid off a couple of years ago and found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and a lot of unread graphic novels on my shelves. So, AWC was where I’d review all the graphic novels I read during that stint of “funemployment”. The problem is that I was reading more than I was writing. Once I started working again, if I read a graphic novel, I just folded it into the stack read during the unemployment. THEN, I got laid off again. Rinse and repeat. Long story short, I now have an IKEA Billy bookcase filled with books I’ve read but haven’t reviewed. Many of those books were terrible, while others weren’t memorable. I have a Gotham villain-like tic, where I swore that I HAD to review it if I read it, even when there wasn’t much to say about certain books. I’m currently trying to figure out where to take that concept.

Best of the West – I’m a collector. This comes as no surprise. This segment is where I showcase the absolute BEST of my collection. The holy grails, the white whales, the black Republicans – ya know, rare stuff. So, these shouldn’t be too frequent, but shouldn’t disappear altogether. I’m trying to figure out a logical schedule for those.

Upcoming Ideas

Track Star – I’ve really lost my grasp on bubblegum pop. Music has always been important to me, but it hasn’t been a big focus of the blog in recent years. The problem is that it’s hard to find people who actually want to read about “bad” music. Everyone wants to be ahead of the curve, blogging about The Next Big Thing, but I actually like to focus on gems that fell through the cracks. I dwell in the world of “guilty pleasure” music, like boybands, UK pop groups, and the like. My last attempt was Westlife Wednesday over on Tumblr, but I’d be lying if I said I’d ever figured out how to get Tumblr to work for me. I think I’ve come up with a great angle for this, but I’m waiting on the graphics department before I unveil it.

Book Retort – Contrary to popular belief, I do read “real” books. I don’t, however have an outlet to discuss those. Since I get my fiction from comics, I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction and biographies. Lately, I’ve been on an “autobiographies by comedians” kick, so a lot of Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, and Chelsea Handler. I need to find a way to sneak this into the rotation somewhere.

Real Life – yeah, this isn’t really a “feature”, but I don’t talk about my life much anymore. Despite the narcissistic nature of using all my name for all my screennames, I’m still a somewhat private person. Still, this flies in the face of the former nature of this site, as I jokingly say that it used  to read like a Livejournal. Then, I revamped the site, deleted about 100 posts to retcon certain people/events, and then threw myself into geekdom. I know that my wife (wow, that’s the first time I’ve typed that), Lindsay, would like to be mentioned more so I need to find a happy medium of “how much do you need/want to know about me outside of geek stuffs?” I think this will happen organically, but it’s still on my mind.

Visuals – I wish I knew graphic design, or at least had a designer in my pocket. I need a header, I need logos, and few people are willing to work for free. I really need to figure out what to do there. I’ve got ideas, but no way to bring them to fruition. I am, however, happy with the general layout of the site for the first time. I’d like to take that to another level.

Don’t let the introspection fool you, though – It’s been a good year online.

-Guested on the General Geekery, Nerd Lunch, Super Hero Time, and PowetCast podcasts.

-Launched my e-store, Will’s World of Wonder

-Finally compiled my Black History Month calendar

-Made lots of new friends

So, thanks for reading, and here’s to another year of this mess. 2013 marks my 10th year of blogging, so it should be pretty exciting. Until next time, check out these other great blogs to see what they’ve been up to recently:

http://shezcrafti.com/shezcrafti-then-now-the-state-of-the-site/

http://goodwillhunting4geeks.blogspot.com/2012/10/day-24-state-of-site.html

http://that-figures.blogspot.com/2012/10/feature-loeb-state-of-site.html

21st Jul2012

My Dark Thoughts *SPOILERS*

by Will

Like every other hardcore geek in North America, I had to do the midnight release of The Dark Knight Rises. I truly enjoyed the movie, but I’m not letting Nolan off the hook that easily. My thoughts in no particular order:
– So, how long til one of those orphans hits the right key combination on the piano?

– Who’s gonna clean up all those dead football players?

-Was that a legal touchdown?

-That’s not how Batman “ends”, but I’ll take your Hollywood ending

-No, he’s not going to become “Robin”. That’s what you call “fan service”.

-A good chunk of the movie depends on the fact that all of the cops are now supposedly “good”. This is trying, as Gotham’s known for the fact that about 30% of the cops are dirty. I guess The Dent Act got rid of organized crime, which meant there wasn’t anyone left to bribe the cops.

– The breaking of the bat, while a symbolic visual, came off lackluster. One thing people never realized about that whole sequence in the comic was that it’s not the knee to the back that fucked up Batman – it’s the fact that Bane, then, threw him off a building in the next issue.

– When Talia’s taking forever to die in the truck, keep in mind that Gordon has no clue she’s the villain, as he was in the back of the truck the whole time. Yet, he never asks anyone “What’s going on here?”

-I love Anne Hathaway. Always have. But she got the Venom treatment here. She really didn’t add much, and much of her interaction seemed shoehorned in at times.

-So, he runs off with a thief? Don’t get me wrong – she’s the type of person who could teach him to have fun and enjoy life, but it just seems too easy.

-I really thought Bane was gonna turn out to be Ra’s. You see, I figured the morphine and whatever else had kept him alive from the train disaster. And his voice had a Liam Neeson brogue to it.

-Of course it was Talia. Foreign white woman with a non-descript accent.

– Good to see Scarecrow again.

-Did no one care that Mayor Sanchez or Rodriguez or whatever is dead?

-I actually got my No Man’s Land movie, without the convoluted quake backstory.

– How big is the bay? I ask because Bludhaven could be dealing with the fallout, which alludes to the events of Infinite Crisis.

– Kinda nice of the people of Gotham to let Gordon keep his job, even after finding out he lied to them. Then again, are they gonna believe the rantings of a mad man?

-Batman fighting, in a riot, in broad daylight. Not sure people realize how big a deal that was. He was an urban legend in Begins, a shadow monster in The Dark Knight, and stands revealed in Rises.

-So, was the rope too short? No one made it out because there wasn’t enough slack in the rope. Sure, you could jump without it, but you’d die if you fell.

-Holly was just more worthless fan service.

-the missing No Man’s Land aspect is the fact that you had 1,000 freed criminals just running the streets, who did nothing. The downtrodden were the ones who were all about the Occupy Gotham movement,  but some of those prisoners were just straight murderers. I doubt even Bane’s martial law would’ve kept some of them in line. Why weren’t they causing any havoc?

-The Bat…unique design, but ultimately not impressed. Give me a Batwing any day.

-Can you even fly from bumblefuck desert to Gotham in the amount of time Bruce had at his disposal? It was like the time Jack Bauer came over from China one morning on a boat.

-Um, I get that you’re wearing a ski mask, but you’re also wearing what must be a $5,000 suit. It doesn’t take Columbo to solve this one. You better hope Gordon’s just hopped up on meds.

– Man, Catwoman sure did take to the Bat Pod like a pro. Sure, maybe she’s ridden a motorcycle, but the whole wobbly wheel direction change doesn’t seem like something that’s easy to pick up.

At this point, I went to sleep. I woke up with more thoughts.

I feel like “Batman” never makes an appearance in this movie. At the beginning, Alfred is telling Bruce that The Batman is behind him, and he’s not that guy anymore. For the next 2.5 hrs, Bruce does nothing to prove Alfred wrong. He HAS lost that zeal, and he appears more as a symbol than as a man convicted. Maybe it’s because Bale as Batman has been parodies so much over the years, but when Batman appeared, it was almost hard to even take him seriously.

The Batman mythos revolves around the fact that Bruce Wayne was a mask that Batman wore. This movie, however, seems like the first time that Batman was a mask that Bruce Wayne wore, and it shows.

Batman is driven to the point of insanity. Though he’s crazy paranoid, he’s not been driven by grief in years. He continues to be Batman because he sees a need, and he’s arrogant enough to think no one else can do the job. The Nolan Batman is different, however. He is always driven by the pain of loss, and is constantly looking for happiness. He thought he’d found it with Rachel, and when that was denied, he just ran from everything. This is reminiscent of the TV Birds of Prey Batman, who fled Gotham due to the grief he felt when Joker killed Catwoman. I said it then, and I’ll say it now: Batman is not a little bitch. Batman would NOT run and become a recluse. He would just fight harder. Also, Batman would not fake his death in the pursuit of a happy future. He’s beyond such fairy tale notions. There is no “happiness” in Batman’s worldview.

Don’t get me wrong – I have loved the Nolan franchise, but I’m not willing to call it the definitive Batman. It is merely an interpretation, like an Elseworlds story. That doesn’t ruin my enjoyment of the cinematic presentation, but it’s as “Batman” to me as the notion that Jack Napier killed Bruce Wayne’s parents.

26th Apr2012

You’re Gonna Love It In An #Instagram

by Will

Since this seems to be introspection week, I figured I’d check in and give a social media update. If you’re new here, every so often I like to take a look at the digital world, and explore how my role in it has changed. My entry to this world started with this blog, so it’s only fitting that I track my progress here. In the past, I’ve discussed Friendster, MySpace, Twitter, and the rest. This time around, I think I want to talk about Instagram.

First off, I think I’m over Facebook. Every change that’s meant to “enhance” the experience has really made it worse to me. Let’s get down to brass tacks: I like the “spying” aspect of social media. It allows me to keep tabs on people that I don’t really feel like calling on the phone. It’s nothing against them, but I just don’t like the phone. The latest change to Facebook has been the introduction of Timeline – a new profile design that essentially changes Facebook into a digital scrapbook. By grouping events and status updates by year, it has essentially changed the purpose of the site. In the beginning, Facebook was a connectivity tool – it allowed you to keep in touch with people and share moments/thoughts/pictures/jokes/etc with them. This change, however, really turns into into a digital equivalent of “This Is Your Life”. It turns the focus inward rather than outward, and I feel it’s more isolationist than communal. Of course people are upset about it, but people are upset about every change that occurs online. That’s just the Circle of Digital Life. This, however, is worth being upset about, as it basically changes the mission of the site. I don’t need a digital time capsule. I want to see pics of the skank that my friend met on Spring Break!

When discussing these changes with an online friend, he responded that it really shouldn’t matter, as social networking “can’t be taken seriously”. I was really struck by that argument, and I can’t say that I agree. I feel that an outsider would feel this way, but it’s so odd to hear that point of view from someone “within the system”. This person and I are connected over several different platforms, and I actually take it seriously. I don’t know if this is sad or just proof of how social media has changed interaction, but I talk to certain people online more than I talk to my family. I can go 3 days without talking to my mother (we’re close and she lives 10 minutes away), but I worry if someone hasn’t tweeted in 24 hours. I’d rather livetweet Star Trek with them than go out in the “real world”. That’s just how I am. I just feel like, considering some of my closest interactions now occur online, it’s definitely something to be taken seriously. When a popular platform, like Facebook, vastly changes its interaction model, that’s something to take very seriously. Hell, that’s a chink in the armor of the digital landscape. Anyway, with these changes, I’ve pretty much moved away from Facebook. Hell, I’d pretty much just used it for Farmville, but that’s a game I haven’t touched in months. It started out as fun, became an obsession, but then they expected me to manage 4 separate farms at once. Sorry, but I’m not a shut-in or a stay-at-home mom. Maybe I’ll go back one day, but I’m mainly just rocking Twitter.
I know I discussed it in the past, but I just haven’t been able to get Tumblr to work for me. Microblogging is not my strength, and I’m not mesmerized by gif files. Tumblr is the most ADD social network out there, and it seems like the “junior college” to MySpace’s “high school”. Lord knows I’ve tried to embrace it, but I haven’t figured out how to make all of my posts blink in glitter font.More recently, I dipped my toe into Pinterest, which is essentially a digital pinboard. Since I’m not really acquainted with the notion of “pinboards”, I think of it more like a “junk drawer”. We all have that drawer that just holds a bunch of random shit, like movie ticket stubs, and that thing from that time you went to that place with that chick. It’s all the shit that doesn’t fit neatly on a Splurgg from IKEA. That’s Pinterest. You find stuff online that you like, and then you “pin” it, which puts it in one of the folders that you publicly display on your profile. They say that 90% of its traffic is women, and I don’t doubt it. Unlike Twitter, where I feel I need to stay on top of updates, Pinterest is something that you just check in on while waiting for an oil change. There’s no real pressing content, but it’s a way to pass the time. While Tumblr has established a bit of a reputation as a porn portal, Pinterest has yet to really establish a niche to make it a worthwhile time sink.
We’re not here to talk about Pinterest, though – we’re here for Instagram. If you’re not familiar, Instagram is a social media platform that allows you to apply filters to photos you’ve taken, and then share them. In the beginning, this app was exclusive to the iPhone, so it had a hipster elitist vibe to it. Also, because these people seemed to ONLY use the “Toaster” filter, it gained a reputation as the “app that made new shit look like old shit”. We all had a good laugh, half because it seemed stupid, and half because it wasn’t compatible with our phones. About 3 weeks ago, that all changed when Instagram became available for the Android, and we all became a bunch of hypocrites. I downloaded it on Day 1, and haven’t looked back. I love, love, love this social media platform more than I ever thought I could.One of the biggest issues with Instagram was that it “made hipster douchebags think they were real photographers”. While  there are certainly examples of this, I think it also took mediocre photographers to the next level. I don’t toot my own horn, bu I’ve always had a keen eye. Whether I’m looking for a needle in a thrift haystack or noticing how the light hits certain things, I’ve had moments when I’ve felt “that would make a great picture”. Since I skipped photography class in high school, and I’ve never had what one might call a “good camera”, I never really got to take a lot of those pictures. I don’t understand the basic rules of photography, as you might notice from pictures on the ecrater site. A lot of it is due to ignorance, while the rest is due to lack of patience. I find that Instagram has bridged that gap for me. To real photographers, I might be “cheating”, but I’m finally able to realize a desire that I couldn’t really do anything about in the past. I enjoy trying the different filters, and it’s a great feeling to have someone “like” something that I’ve shared. There are some shots that I’m more proud of than a lot of the creative stuff that I’ve done. If that makes me a hipster douchebag, so be it. All I know is that this has opened a new door for me, as I’m interacting with artsy people instead of the usual comics/toy bunch. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of my pictures are of toys, but it’s helping me explore other facets of myself at the same time. So, if you’re on Instagram, I’m williambrucewest. If you’re not on Instagram, I highly recommend that you sign up!

24th Apr2012

Reflections At 30: My Life at H&M

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

09th Nov2011

Back & Fourth: The One With The Beyblades

by Will

So, just when I was settling into a groove with the whole lunch duty thing, The Man threw a wrench into our plans. You see, the kids used to eat in their classroom, which sort of made them a captive audience. Now, the multipurpose room is being used as a cafeteria for EVERYONE, so now I’ve got to deal with 5th graders, a different class of 4th graders, and the 4th graders I actually like. Today, I was finally able to sit down and have a tete-a-tete with “my” kids.

First off, an observation: I’m noticing these kids REALLY hate their school lunch. Now, I know the whole general cultural belief is that kids are supposed to hate school lunches, but I’m not used to that experience. I went to private school and our shit was catered. Then, I went to a college that was the home of the #1 dining hall in the country. So, I guess you can say I’ve been spoiled. I’m not gloating, though; I’m fat, so I got what I had coming to me. Anyway, it just sucks to see all the food these kids throw away. I’m not even one of those “think of the starving kids in China” people. I mean, a lot of these kids are starving, yet, they STILL won’t eat it. That’s some bad food. When the fat kid throws it away? That’s some bad food. I know the stuff doesn’t look appetizing. I mean, half the time it looks like someone took a shit in a Kid Cuisine tray. I’ve eaten some of it, and some of it wasn’t that bad, but I can see why the look might turn folks away.

I’ve also wondered if the kids might hate it just because it’s more nutritious than they’re used to eating. I am FAR from a bastion of healthy eating, but one chick’s lunch was comprised of two glazed doughnuts and a popped bagged of microwave popcorn. Another kid’s lunch was about EIGHT Fruit Roll-Ups and some Goldfish. This is the shit that happens when kids have kids! Kinda hard to give your kid a nutritious lunch when you still do most of your shopping at Five Below. Where’s the First Lady now?! She fucks up the Happy Meal, but doesn’t get to the root of the problem, the food that kids pretty much have to eat – school lunches.

Anyway, I sat down with the kids and we shot the crap. The kids had brought their Beyblades, and I was at a loss. I sold the things for years, but never really knew how they worked. It’s like if Scarface had never tried the coke! So, when Mike asked, “Mr. West, do you wanna rip my Beyblade?”, I saw it as my chance to finally learn what the whole thing was all about. For you old folks out there, let me just break it down for ya: “Beyblades” is just a fancy marketing word that means “fancy tops”. Ya know the shit your great grandpa played with on the Titanic? Yeah, those things. I’m just kinda surprised their still this popular. Shouldn’t they have been unseated by Bakugan? Has the Era of the Bakus gone?

I wasn’t gonna settle for kids being excited about an almost 10 year old toyline! No, I decided to take it to the next level. You see, there’d been some Twitter discussion about what might be The Toy of the Holiday Season this year. There’s usually an Elmo, and some other thing soccer moms are willing to shank each other over. So, I decided to take it to the kids. They’re at the “one foot out of the door of toys, one foot into the world of console games” age, so they’re the perfect audience. I also told them that they couldn’t name video games, so no Arkham City, Modern Warfare, Uncharted, etc. So, what did they answer? Beyblades! All of them. Really?! I kept asking about Bakugan. Seriously, I’ve asked them about Bakugans so much that you’d think I worked for Bakugan marketing, but those kids simply don’t give a shit about balls that open up into weeblesque “beasts”. No, today’s kids love the shit out of fancy tops. Sharpen your shivs, moms!

15th Aug2011

Introducing Thrift Justice!

by Will

Welcome to my newest feature on the site: Tales From the Thrift! As some of you may know, I spend a LOT of time in thrift stores. I tend to wonder what to write about sometimes, and I realized it’s been in front of me the whole time: thrift store visits.

Crazy stuff tends to go down at the thrift store, so the thing practically writes itself. If I’ve got no “stories”, per se, I’ll just show you some of the latest stuff I’ve picked up. Unlike other columns on the site, I hope this doesn’t get dropped after 1 or 2 posts (I’m looking at you, Best of the West). If ya like what you’ve read, leave me a comment so I know it’s not falling on deaf ears.

So, why “Thrift Justice”? As you know, I’m a big proponent of branding, and I wanted a title with a ring to it. I started out with “Tales From the Thrift”, but some dude uses that to post YouTube videos. Then, I thought I’d go with “Thrift Wars”, but some hipster chick…uses it to post YouTube videos. So, the brain started working, and it came to me: “Thrift Justice”. Let it sink in, and you’ll learn to love it as much as I do. So, come back tomorrow for our first installment!

29th Apr2011

Farewell To A Friendster

by Will

Considering the Twitter Whore that I’ve become, it’s hard to imagine a time when I wasn’t into social networking. This week, however, forced me to take a look back, as I learned that Friendster would be switching over from social networking to a gaming format. Many of you probably started your social networking with MySpace (or maybe Black Planet), but I started with Friendster back in ’04. That was such an odd time, as I remember I actually had to beg people to check it out and sign up. Nowadays, you get comfortable with a person, and the next thing is “I’ll friend you on Facebook.” Back then, I engaged in a lot of conversations that began with “Well, what is it?” or “Doesn’t that Classmates.com site do that?” Friendster had a small following amongst my meager social circle, but I saw big things in its future – or so I thought.

Eventually, I amassed about 50 or so friends – laughable by today’s social media standard, but quite an accomplishment for the time. Unlike the MySpace model, where you might end up friends with a bunch of strangers, these were 50 people that I actually knew from some walk of life. An interesting thing was that Friendster introduced the Wall concept on your profile. People have no problem throwing up a random “What’s up?!” or “Call me back, bitch!” on someone’s Facebook wall, but Friendster people seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the concept back then. It was called “Comments and Testimonials”, and people seemed to take that last word to heart. Most of the stuff on my wall (all 7 messages) read like something someone would write in my high school yearbook. Friendster eventually added more features which were already commonplace on MySpace and Facebook, like photo tagging, but most people had moved on from the site by then. I, too, had moved on to Myspace and, later, Facebook, but I’d still get messages from Friendster, saying “We Miss You” or telling me some random spam skank had sent me a message. It got to the point where I eventually forgot my password, and never really looked back.

This week, I got an email telling me that I’d need to export any personal profile data I might want to keep, as Friendster was switching over to a gaming format and would be deleting profile info. It was like hearing that an old friend with whom you’d lost touch was now dying. In any case, I decided I should take one last look around to see if anything was worth saving.

The layout’s already been changed, so Lord only knows what’s already been deleted. Plus, I’m apparently single. Last I knew, I was still “in a relationship” back when I last cared about that profile. Then again, that was back in ’05, and it wasn’t a very memorable relationship anyway, so…

Looking at the pictures, I apparently only had three uploaded to the system. I didn’t have many digital pictures back then, and I learned how to remove ex-girlfriends from pictures I had (Those were my best pictures, and it made no sense for me to have to get rid of them ’cause some broad made a stupid decision!). Nothing worth saving out of those three, so farewell visual representation of 2003/2004 Will!

Next, I move on to the messages. Apparently, there are 63 messages, but 95% of them are spam chicks. “Melissa”, “Sara”, “Jennifer”, etc – all sending me messages like “sjhsd ghfhd fs” while using the same avatar. No real loss there. Then, I go back to the first page. My first message was from my friend Tarek. I guess he invited me, as it’s one of those form letters that begins with “Welcome” and explains how the site works. Huh. I guess I forgot about that. In fact, it looks like most of my messages from those days are from Tarek. Kinda sad, seeing as how we don’t talk as much anymore. Then, I see a message from someone named “Alicia”. from Fredricksburg, VA. It seems she wrote “i love ur smile, it’s sexi.” That was nice of her. I hope she didn’t die in a meth lab explosion or anything.  Still, nothing worth saving there, either.

In all, there’s nothing very memorable about the whole Friendster experience. I remember trying to get people to join, and looking forward to messages, but that experience didn’t stand the test of time. All of that was replaced by glitter backgrounds and pokes. And one day, those won’t mean anything, either – especially considering MySpace is up for sale, and Facebook is more concerned with becoming Skynet. I remember enjoying Friendster, but looking back, there doesn’t seem like there was much to enjoy. It all just seems so…empty. Is that how I’m going to feel about Farmville one day? God, PLEASE tell me that’s not how I’m gonna feel about Farmville! In any case, I’m getting bummed out, so I’d better stop here. So long, Friendster. I’ll catch ya on the flipside, see ya at the crossroads, after ‘while crocodile, and all that other good shit. You were a fun whore at the time, but your pimp is blowing up your pager, and I’ve left your money on the nightstand. Thanks for the memories.

 

27th Apr2011

Comical Thoughts: Tits & Glass Houses

by Will

So, riddle me this: What’s the difference between this:

and this:

?

What irks me about the comic industry is that the first image gets derided. It’s for an upcoming IDW series spinning out of their Infestation event, but the comments on blog posts have been things like “Do her breasts have to be that big?” Nothing is known about the series at this point, but it’s already been judged by the size of her breasts. It’ll probably be written up as just another example of “cheesecake art”, or will be cited as another example of how comics are a male-dominated industry where women are objectified. Fine.

Now, let’s look at that second image. In case you missed them, her breasts are friggin’  HUGE. For some reason, however, this series NEVER seems to get bashed in the same manner as superhero comics. Whenever the sexuality of Love & Rockets characters is brought up, it’s just brushed off. I tried reading Love & Rockets, and I just didn’t get it; too much going on. First, there’s some lesbian motorcycle mechanics, and then there’s some kind of promiscuous, busty chick named Luba, and I’m not sure if the stories ever cross over. The series is the work of Los Bros Hernandez, and it’s revered by all those who like to spell out the genre as “comix”. You know – the high-brow set. A big reason I couldn’t get into the series was her giant rack. You open up a random Hernandez book, and you see some large-jugged chick in the middle of doggystyle, yet the busty zombie hunter is the one who gets all the flack? I’m not saying that one is necessarily worse than the other, but I wish they were treated according to the circumstances.

I get really tired of people assuming that hero comics are for the uncultured fanboy, while also assuming that everything the indie world puts out somehow lends a sense of cultural validity to the medium. You see Britt, and don’t like what you see, fine – it’s not for you. I read about Maggie and Hopey and Palomar and Luba, and decided I’d rather have a root canal. All I’m saying is you can’t act like you don’t see those things, when they’re just as prevalent as Britt’s. Are we saying Luba’s breasts are OK because they lend to her sexuality, therefore lending to the story as a whole? Are we saying Britt’s breasts aren’t OK because they would impede her zombie hunting abilities? Let’s get our stories straight, people!

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