01st Feb2013

West Week Ever – 2/1/13

by Will

oie_922142seDasWF9

This one is hard for me. West Week Ever started out as the weekly spot for me to not only ramble about pop culture, but also really delve into the “science” of social media. That’s never been truer than today. You see, this week I found out that I lost a dear friend. The problem, however, is that I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. You see, I’d never actually met this person. This was an online friendship. However, it was deep enough that it taught me that you can have actual, meaningful connections with people you’ve never met. It was my first such friendship, and it paved the way for a lot of the connections I have online today.

I’ve mentioned this person in the past. Back when I did Follow Friday, I was known to refer to her as “my favorite woman on Twitter” (it was cool – my wife didn’t tweet much at the time). It’s funny – when she first followed me, I thought she was spam. Non-descript avatar, seemed to be following a shit ton of people. Unlike a lot of people, I’m not waging a war against spammers, so I just let her be. Then, we actually started to interact. She was in grad school, while also working as a nanny. She loved that job and was always referring to her “girls”, like they were her own kids. She was curious about life and LOVED to dance. She fell in love, and shared her joy with me. When she dealt with something I had experienced, she came to me for advice. She was one of the first people to know about my engagement. She actually downloaded my a cappella mp3s from my college days, and was probably my biggest (and last remaining) fan. As sweet as she was, you’d never know about the things she had going on in her life. Eventually, because of those things, she kinda left the online world behind her.

Around the end of the holiday season, I started thinking about her. I remembered she didn’t celebrate Christmas (non-Jewish white girl, not celebrating Christmas? You’re missing out!), and that was always quaint, yet weird, to me. I remembered her last email to me, right after my engagement. It ended in sort of an ominous way. You know how when a TV show has a finale that’s not really advertised as a finale? Well, it was like that. She was going through her stuff, and I had a wedding to make happen, so I let it simmer. This was around the same time that Catfish on MTV was gaining traction, and while everyone online had jokes like, “Haven’t these people ever heard of Google?”, I started to wonder myself: was this friendship real? Was this person real? I had done my due diligence, so I managed to tuck it in the back of my head, and go on with life. So, when the holidays rolled around, I thought it would be a good time to check in. And that’s when I knew something was wrong.

Minutes after I emailed her, I got an auto response telling me that all inquiries about her should be forwarded to her sister, and it listed her email address. Whatever was happening here, I knew it couldn’t be good. Had something returned from her past? Was I really being  “catfished” and this person was simply tired of the charade and was ready to come clean? I wasn’t sure. I simply forwarded it to her sister, prefacing it with an explanation of how I knew her. And then I didn’t hear back. Until yesterday. In the middle of a work meeting, I saw that I had an email, and I knew who it was from when I saw the subject line. Something told me not to deal with it then. It would be there when the meeting was done. And I managed to stick to that for most of the meeting. Then, my mind began to wander and I gave in. After the first line, I wished I had waited.

The reply was from my friend’s sister. She was telling me that my friend had actually passed away back in July, from an aneurysm. I don’t get into this with many people, but there’s actually one thing off limits to me when it comes to joking around: aneurysms. It might seem like an odd thing to have off limits, but there’s a reason for it. You see, when I was 3 years old, my dad died from an aneurysm. Not only did that cause pain at a young age, and lead me to grow up without a father, but aneurysms have served as a sort of biological boogeyman ever since. You don’t know how you get them. You can just be living your life and BAM. And that’s what happened here. She had returned home from school, was getting ready to face the world as a grown up, and it all ended in an instant. So, as for my life’s scorecard, Will: 0, Aneurysms: 2. That’s two people who were very important to me, yet I didn’t know all that well, taken by aneurysms.

Again, this is a weird place for me. I’m not new to death. I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. Some random Alabama cousin dies every month. I’ve probably been to more funerals than birthday parties. It’s just amazing that someone you’ve never met can have that kind of effect on you. Before her, I was mainly following comic blogs, and not really interacting on Twitter. I really considered her a friend, as I consider many of you. You may see me as the obnoxious guy, telling bad jokes all the time, but I do it for you. I’m just the insecure guy trying to impress his friends in the lunchroom. It’s just that our lunchroom is digital. Whenever I think back to how stupid it might seem to worry about losing followers and whatnot, I think about situations like this and realize that many of you are so much more to me than that. And while that may seem sad, it’s the future. I know because AT&T commercials have been selling that dream for 20 years. Anyway, there’s no real conclusion to that. I just had to get it out. Maybe some of you will feel it’s a bit much, but I hope that maybe some of you can relate.

Whew!

50-funniest-women-all-time

OK, so I was also invited to participate in UnderScoopFire’s list of The 50 Funniest Women of All Time. This was harder than you’d think, and I even had to poll Lindsay for her opinions. Basically, each of us submitted our Top 25, and then Howie Decker used his trusted methodology to compile the list. At the outset, it was never meant to be a DEFINITIVE list. Anyone who’s been on the Internet for a week knows that these are great for generating discussion. Still, some folks on Twitter were all “Fuck yo’ methodology” and “Where’s Megan Mullally?” I don’t wanna sell out the system because I like how USF’s lists are done. All I can really explain is my thinking on the matter.

First off, Sarah Beattie is an actual comedy writer, so even if I disagree, I defer to the pro. That said, I feel the need to bring up something I discussed with Howie. This was a really hard list to make because you have to be honest with yourself and ask “Do I really think she’s funny OR do I just think she’s hot?” Yeah, this may seem crass and sexist, but it’s an important aspect of comedy to recognize. This list wasn’t limited to the world of standup, but let’s just look at that subset for a bit. Male comics aren’t hot. They’re typically shlubby, balding and/or insecure. Dane Cook was the first, modern-day standup heart throb, which I think is the source of a lot of the ire directed at him. Sure, he’s not the strongest comic, but I think guys in the audience never felt threatened by comics until him. With Dane,  here was a guy who could easily fuck their girlfriends. That’s threatening. Now there’s the flip side. There’s an up and coming crop of SMOKING female comics. This isn’t to say they’re all not funny, but it does mean they bring something extra to the plate to compensate for weaker humor, if needed. I think they use their looks as a crutch. Take Amy Schumer. She’s cute and witty, and she’s studied every rape joke that Sarah Silverman has ever written. Still, she’s too green to be on a list of the BEST OF ALL TIME.

To me, a few people on this list haven’t paid their dues enough to be here. Along with Schumer, that includes Plaza (she’s one of the Best of Right Now, but time will tell), Farris (she plays dumb girl roles, not funny girl), Fisher (she married a funny guy), Schaal/Lynch (future Hall of Famers, but not there yet), and McCarthy (still coasting off that ONE good Bridesmaids performance). And that’s not even taking into account the people I just never found funny; I can still recognize their contributions to the “art”. So, that’s the beauty of democracy: everyone gets a voice, but not everybody “wins”. Still, I was honored to have been chosen, and I just wanted to shed a little light on my thoughts of the final tally.

Before I go, HUGE shout-out to my man @RobotsPJs who hooked me up with some Hostess goodness. Be sure to check out his Snack Reports over at The Robots Pajamas!

This Week’s Post:

Thrift Justice: Bipartisan$#!+

And check out my current eBay auctions!

 

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…

14th Sep2012

LoEB Presents Thrift Justice: The Series!

by Will

My name’s Will, and I wish to be an extraordinary blogger. My pal Brian over at Coolandcollected.com came up with idea for the League of Extraordinary Bloggers a few months ago, and it has really taken off. Essentially, he lists a topic every week, and the members of the league run with it. I’ve never contributed, but I’ve lurked since the beginning, learning about a lot of great bloggers along the way. I’m not always the best team player, but when Brian suggested that we all present our ideas for a reality show starring ourselves, I had to jump on. I’m a bit narcissistic (williambrucewest.com, anyone), but not in the bad way. It’s not that I think highly of myself, but it’s that I’m always VERY self-aware. With that in mind, it’s not hard to spin that into how I would look in a reality show about myself.

So, recently I’ve been having discussions about the “reality” of reality shows in the comment sections of certain sites. To boil it down, folks are insisting that shows like Toy Hunter and Collection Intervention are staged, and that we’re fools for believing they’re not. I get this line of reasoning, but is it wrong to wish that they were real? I mean, there was a time, before the genre took hold, when what you saw was really something that had happened. No one looks back and says that Cops was fake. Was that not a reality show? Anyway, this got me to thinking about what my reality show would be about. They say that you should stick with what you know, but I decided to give it a TV twist. I give you Thrift Justice: The Series!

Archival set photo from unaired pilot

Here’s how Thrift Justice: The Series is structured. The premise is that I’m a lawman who hits thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets when he’s not hitting perps. Am I actually in law enforcement? No. Here’s what I’d do: I’d get in one of those programs where I’d become a sheriff’s deputy, but really only have to be on duty one weekend every six months. Remember how Shaq did that? Most of the time would be spent thrifting, but I’d still probably always have my taser and my Oakleys on me. The title has “The Series” appended on it to show that it’s a natural extension of the Thrift Justice segments that I already do on this site. Basically, I’d be creating cross-platform synergy, where the site feeds the show, and vice versa.

My cast of characters would include my common law wife Robyn, my thrifting pal “Special Forces” (not pictured, for his protection), and my mom, “Bruce” – who actually got me into the world of secondhand stuff, but now thinks I’m in too deep. Each episode would start with me coming off a bust (by framing it this way, it makes it look like I’m constantly bringing criminals to justice, though you’d rarely need to see them), and I’d stop by a thrift store or yard sale on the way home.

On location shot

I’d stick to my normal haunts, but sometimes there would coincidentally be a suspected criminal at these venues. I’d stumble upon something like a vintage Transformers Metroplex, and begin to educate the audience.

“Metroplex is one of the most sought-after Generation 1 Transformers. It’s rare to find him in such good condition. There’s even fan speculation that he was originally meant to be Optimus Prime’s father. (It’s good to throw in something false/outright lie to A: cause the fans to question my experience and B: it’ll fire up the message boards).

Watch the guy in the cowboy hat!

During my little soliloquy, out of the corner of my eye, I’d see someone notice me and they’d run. Innocent people don’t run. I’d have to run after him, catch him, AND hope that Metroplex is still on the shelf when I get back. Once the justice has been dished out, I’d return to my exposition:

“Manuel Garcia was wanted in 2 states for armed robbery. Based on the condition I left him in, he won’t be holding a gun for a long time. Anyway, I’m picking up this Metroplex for $5, but he easily goes for around $50 on the secondary market (note how I didn’t check anything to verify this price, plus I’m already suspect due to that incorrect nugget about him being Optimus’s father). That’s ten times my original investment, and I’ll take that kinda action any day of the week.”

My show would air on Spike or TruTV, as it would really appeal to the demographic that loves Bar Rescue and Lizard Lick Towing. In my mind, Thrift Justice will be Dog The Bounty Hunter meets American Pickers. I’d be followed on the schedule by Pegwarmers, starring my Twitter friend @Th0r4z1n3, a toy collector who runs a gentleman’s club. That’s actually a true story; follow him if you don’t already! The lineup would also include the following shows by fellow “extraordinary bloggers”:

What’s In The Box?: originally an adult program in the UK, the American version will be decidedly different.
Penny Hunter: during sweeps, they plan to have guest appearances by Kaley Cuoco, Cree Summer, AND Janet Jackson!
Mike’s Bunch of Crap: The #1 show amongst Yankees fandom!

01st Mar2012

Pimps Up, Toys Down

by Will

Ever since I opened Will’s World of Wonder, I’ve dealt with situations I never really thought I’d encounter. Since I don’t feel like writing about comics or thrifting, I thought I’d give you a peek at the travails of the online e-seller.

Surprisingly, the venture hasn’t required too much promotion, as the items appear in Google searches. Sales were amazing right before Christmas, as most of my business seemed to be stay at home moms doing online gift shopping. After the holidays, however, things slowed down. That’s when I explored other channels to get the word out – facebook groups, Craigslist, message boards, etc. Throughout these interactions, I’ve begun to realize that it’s not that much different from online dating or (so I’ve heard) dealing with a john. People wait til they see what they’re looking for, you strike up a conversation, and you hope to make something happen. Even though it’s toys and not a lifelong relationship (or easy sex), the highs and lows are still the same.

Recently, I’ve joined a SHITLOAD of online groups, from 80s toy collectors to toy traders to what I’ll call the “justified scalpers”. Oh, you don’t know what a justified scalper is? Those are what I call the folks who buy up all the good toys, and then pop online saying, “I grabbed all the Marvel Legends at Toys “R” Us, so let me know what you need.” They feel justified because they’re not necessarily charging a mark-up, but their actions are still preventing others from being able to buy the toys.

What gets me, though, is that they also don’t seem to understand supply and demand. They seem to think there’s a magical, neverending stockpile back at the warehouse just waiting to be shipped out. So, they hop on and say “Make sure to check your local Targets because mine had the latest wave of DCUC and I BOUGHT THE WHOLE CASE. I had them check the other Targets in the area, and I’m gonna make a few more stops on the way home. Hehe.” Thanks, asshole. You just cornered the market. Sure, it’s a small market, but it’s cornered nonetheless. If you live in a town with 2 Targets, and they’re the only ones carrying a particular line, if you hit them ALL and bought up all the cases, you have effectively cornered that market for your area. And it’s not like you have 64 friends who need the figures. No, you’re “just helping out fellow collectors” . The best way this plays out is if they return them after a few days, but most either keep them for trading fodder or, worse, end up charging $30 for a $15 figure. Oh, and did I mention that they’ve opened the figure, and removed the build-a-figure piece? Anyway, long and short of it is that I’ve interacted with a lot of different people.

It all starts about the same way. Instead of waiting for them to come to me, I go looking for them. I spend some time online, and when someone posts “I’m looking for a G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra Gunship”, that’s when I pounce. Send ’em a link, and tell them to PM me if interested. They message me, asking what I’m looking for in exchange, which always frustrates me because there’s clearly a price listed if they had simply clicked the link. Anyway, I do the dance, and repeat the price. Then, they ask about shipping. Again, the shipping is listed. If I can ship cheaper, I refund the difference, but I don’t have time to run searches on each and every zip code. OK, so after the volley, if everything goes well, you’ve got a transaction.

Sometimes, though, these people throw you for a loop. Everything is going well, and then they tell you “Oh, by the way, you’ll have to ship to The Netherlands.” THE NETHERLANDS?! I don’t even know where the fuck The Netherlands are! Do I look like Carmen Sandiego?! Why are you doing business with Americans? Why didn’t you tell me this in the beginning? It’s seriously like a betrayal. I thought we were gonna make things happen, and now I have to worry about this distance and whether or not you’re on board to do what it takes to make this work. Real grown folk drama!

Anyway, I’ve told you enough of my secrets. I think you should pay me back by buying something from me. Go, make it happen. Unless you live in the damn Netherlands. I’ve already been down that road.

01st Feb2012

Today In Black History…

by Will

So, if you followed me on Twitter at this time last year, then you’re already familiar with this whole process. I wanted to do it again this year, but I’m unreliable, and I’ll probably miss a day. Plus, as I’ve acquired more black followers, I’m learning that this isn’t so uncommon. Instead of looking like a “biter”, as they say, I wanted to show that I can roll with the big dawgs! So, I thought I’d blow it out in one fell swoop. Plus, at the end, you’ll find a handy, dandy PDF that you can print out and remember the great contributions that Ne..African Americans have made to our society. There’s a different event for each day, so share it with your white friends, and put a copy up on your Kwanzaa mantle. Yes, we can!


 

 

IT’S BLACK HISTORY MONTH, Y’ALL!!!

1) Today In Black History: Arnold & Willis Jackson became the first poor black kids adopted by a rich white person

2) Today in Black History: Jimmie Walker left his lucrative career in demolitions to become a comedian.

3) Today in Black History, The Eastland School for Girls admitted Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey as its first black student

4) Today in Black History, the Fresh King of Bel Air was assassinated. The throne remained empty until a long lost son was found in 1990.

5) Today in Black History, Kunta Kinte is accepted into the space program, and it only costs him his eyesight.

6) Today in Black History, the black girl became the Yellow Ranger, which was only slightly less offensive.

7) Today in Black History, boxer Cassius Clay was bitten by a radioactive Muslim, transforming him into Muhammad Ali

8) Today in Black History, the remains of the fabled “Caribbean Queen” were found in the trunk of Billy Ocean’s car.

9) Today in Black History, Devonté Henson became the first black person to scale the Aggro Crag.

10) Today in Black History, a young Tyler Perry put on his first dress. Years later, he would learn that he could be paid for it.

11) Today in Black History, scientists combined the DNA of Morris Day and a pony. The result was Prince.

12) Today in Black History, Mr. T pitied his first fool, which is still illegal in most states.

13) Today in Black History, Lt Uhura inspired a generation of black women to work for the phone company.

14) Today in Black History, DeBarge discovered a place where they could dance the whole night away. It was an abandoned T.J. Maxx

15) Today in Black History, the US Government cracked down on music piracy after Rerun snuck that tape recorder into the Doobie Bros concert

16) Today in Black History, the Negro Hockey League was founded. After everyone had a good laugh, the site was converted to a Popeyes.

17) Today in Black History, Magic Johnson opened the first movie theater chain where blacks were encouraged to yell at the screen

18) Today in Black History, George Washington Carver’s lazier brother, Jamal, invented crunchy peanut butter.

19) Today in Black History, Janet Jackson joined the cast of TV’s “Fame”. Critics declared this would be the lowest point for the Jackson family

20) Today in Black History, Dwayne Wayne discovered a parallel universe – a different world, where Marisa Tomei was the only white person.

21) Today in Black History, Frederick, MD was named for Frederick Douglass – known for his love of Walmart and the white women

22) Today in Black History, Aunt Jemima discovered Uncle Ben’s affair with Mrs Butterworth, thus splitting Black America’s first power couple

23) Today in Black History, Acorn Avenue -an all-black version of Sesame Street, debuted featuring NeGrover & Big Turkey. It would only air once

24) Today in Black History, 16 Soul Train dancers were killed in what has come to be known as “The Cabbage Patch Massacre of ‘91”

25) Today in Black History, Autobot Rosa Sparks gained attention when she refused to transform into the back of a bus. (Courtesy of @OAFE)

26) Today in Black History, Jesse Jackson formed the R&B group The Civil Rights. They were dropped from Motown before releasing a single.

27) Today in Black History, with Knight Rider & The A-Team, NBC became the first network to devote a night to shows starring black vehicles

28) Today in Black History, Republican scientists proclaimed “Shucky ducky!” as they successfully completed secret cloning experiment, Operation: Chocolate Cheney.

Be sure to celebrate responsibly, but let’s get it poppin’ like a Jackson Hewitt commercial! After all, it’s what our ancestors would’ve wanted.

Black History Calendar

 

 

 

 


30th Jan2012

Who’s That Guy?

by Will

My rants tend to take a nostalgic bent, but I find I try to stay away from the true “retro blogging” front. I rarely venture earlier than ’93, and there are so many bloggers that already have a handle on the ’80s stuff. That said, the folks over at UnderScoopFIRE! and ColdSlither Podcast have really kind of stoked the fires for my nostalgia. Having followed them on Twitter, and listened to their podcasts, I realize that they’re my kind of people. Every day, I can count on a great debate like “Stone Cold OR The Rock?” or “Ma’am and George Papadapolis OR “Philip and Maggie Drummond?” These aren’t the debates you get from CNN, but these questions must be asked! So, the wheels have been turning, and I’ve started thinking about 80s pop culture, and some of the quirk inherent to that era. One such phenomenon I’d like to refer to as “Who’s That Guy?”

Sitcoms have really evolved over the past 50 or so years. Before we settled on the whole single camera, no laugh track model (The Office), we had the multicamera, studio audience model (Three’s Company). In the beginning, these shows usually starred some comedian or variety act, maybe a husband and wife team. Then, we got to the 70s where things were a bit more politically charged, and sitcoms began to explore the workplace (Mary Tyler Moore). In the ’80s, however, shit got weird.

In the 80s, shows centered on a family model, and tended to have male family friend who Just Might Be Gay. Who’s that guy? Why is he here? What’s his motivation? He wasn’t just a wacky neighbor, as those had been around for years. No, this was something different. Of course, he couldn’t actually be gay, as Three’s Company showed us that you could only be gay if you weren’t (Ha! He’s only pretending). No, these characters seemed like they were testing the waters of America’s acceptance of the potential of a gay sitcom character. The role disappeared in the 90s when shows gravitated towards the Living Single model – centered around a group of friends who are primarily not immediate family; I’d say Friends model, but any black person under the age of 50 will tell you that Living Single did it first (Honestly, I think TGIF’s Going Places might have actually pioneered the whole thing, but I digress). It’s said that the funniest jokes have some truth to them, so it stands to reason that these roles were possibly meant to ease America into the idea of homosexuality, without fully understanding how best to accomplish that. After all, this was new territory for the era, so there wasn’t really a road map as to how to successfully pull this off. These characters were always played as “bachelors”, but little “bacheloring” was done on their part. It’s kinda like your middle-aged uncle who lives with his “friend”, Kevin. At most, they were played for comic relief. Still, their addition always seemed a bit off, as if mandated by the network. I want to take a closer look at some of these characters.

In the sitcom Webster, real-life couple Alex Karras and Susan Clark take in little Emmanuel Lewis, and hilarity ensues! Not really. Anyone with eyes knew that this was just a Chinese knockoff of Diff’rent Strokes. I wonder if white folks were as crazy about adopting black kids as TV led me to believe. Seriously, TV made it seem like a typical yuppie weekend agenda was:

_Play tennis at the club

_Brunch

_Detail the BMW

_Go down to the orphanage and look at the black kids

The saddest thing about Webster was that he wasn’t even a part of the original premise. It was just meant to be a show about the couple, but everyone was apparently riding the wave of black adoptions (gotta catch ’em all!), so Webster was pigeonholed into the show. And then he took over. And the real life couple wasn’t pleased.

Anyway, despite all the behind the scenes drama, something interesting was happening onscreen. You see, the show introduced Jerry (played by Henry Polic II – how do you even become a “II”? Don’t you have to be a JUNIOR? Anyway…), who was the male secretary to Katherine Papadapolis. Hold up, MALE SECRETARY?!! But that’s a WOMAN’s job, like housekeeping (little did we know the 80s would also turn that occupation on its head, too). Anyway, I’ve watched a LOT of TV. We’re talking a LOT. That said, I can’t remember an important episode featuring Jerry. I do remember him dressed up as Dracula once. Otherwise, I just remember him as looking like he could be Cousin Larry Appleton’s stand-in. As a child, though, all I could think was “Why is he here? They already want me to believe these rich white folks want Webster, and now I’ve gotta make sense of him, too?!” I don’t know if there were any episodes about Jerry going on dates with women way out of his league, or a rushed marriage storyline or anything. In hindsight, part of what taints my memory of him is the Britcom, Take A Letter, Mr Jones. In that show, John Inman (of Are You Being Served? fame) plays a male secretary, and I don’t think John Inman EVER played a straight character, so I guess I’m applying that bias to Jerry on Webster. Was Webster sending a message through established gender roles or was it trying to change established gender roles? Let’s move on to another example, shall we?

 

 

Another quirky 80s sitcom was Too Close For Comfort, starring Mary Tyler Moore/Caddyshack alum, Ted Knight. This show was all over the place, partly because it went from network to first-run syndication – changing plot points as it went along. Mainly, Knight played Henry Rush, a cartoonist whose most popular strip was Cosmic Cow. He lived in San Francisco with his wife and hot daughters. Oh, and Monroe Ficus.

Played by Jim J. Bullock, Monroe started out as a friend of Henry’s daughters. While he’s a klutz and always tends to gum up the works, his heart is usually in the right place. Over time, Henry becomes a bit of a father figure to him – especially once the daughters are written out of the show. The problem with Monroe, though, is that he’s a character that just doesn’t exist in that time period. I mean, in today’s vernacular, you would classify him as a manchild, but not in the Judd Apatow sense of the word. Those characters just don’t want to embrace responsibility, while Monroe just had a Peter Pan naivete about him. He never dated any of Rush’s daughters, nor did he even try. I’ve been watching the show a lot lately on Antenna TV, and he doesn’t seem to ever really have girlfriends. Then, there’s the “very special episode” where he’s raped during his shift as a mall guard. It’s played for comedic effect, even though there’s a buried message about how men can be raped, too. He’s embarrassed to go to the police, but Henry convinces him that he should. The whole message isn’t conveyed very well, and you find out he was raped by a burly senior citizen, so it’s still “Haha, poor Monroe!”

As a character, Monroe was a sweet kid, but what was his true purpose? Sure, he served as a foil for Henry (much like the Urkel and Carl relationship from Family Matters), there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered about the character’s motivations. Early on, we learn that his own parents don’t really even care about him, from dissuading him from visiting, to not even calling on his birthday. This is part of why Henry decides to make time for him, but why did the Ficus clan disavow him?

Then, there’s the fact that the character was played by Jim J. Bullock. A longtime HIV survivor, Bullock has never been shy about his sexuality, and he actually learned he had the virus during the final season of Too Close For Comfort. I often wonder if Monroe never chased women because they felt the audience wouldn’t believe it OR if Monroe was actually as gay a character as network TV was willing to allow at the time.

Here’s where I wanted to talk about Joey Gladstone from Full House. I’ve always had a problem with Full House because I don’t know why Danny Tanner puts up with all those freeloaders. Seriously, Joey wasn’t a blood relative, and it seemed like they were helping him more than he was helping them. Also, when you get married, it’s time to move out. When you have a baby, it’s time to move out. When you become a DJ, it’s time to move out. You do NOT move into the attic, expand said attic, or install a studio in the basement. As you see, though, most of my problems were actually with Jesse – Joey was just along for the ride. Plus, any theories about Joey were dispelled by Wolfgnards’s excellent takedown of what was really going on in the Tanner household.

So, we’ve gone over just a few examples here. There are others who fit the mold (Dexter on Silver Spoons, Ralph Simpson on Gimme A Break!, etc), while others don’t (Charley Dietz on Empty Nest). In fact, speaking of Charley, he’s indicative of what happened later on in the decade. Played by “Joe Isuzu” actor David Leisure, Charlie was an oversexed douchebag, much like a real-life version of Family Guy‘s Quagmire. In the latter half of the decade, most of the “Who’s That Guy?” characters would follow this path, as womanizing cads with little moral character. If psychology tells you anything, these guys are actually more likely to have issues dealing with their sexuality than the characters like Jerry and Monroe. But this has already gotten too cerebral, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna actually use my degree for a blog post!  Can you think of any other characters who fit the mold? Am I way off base here? Do you just want me to hurry up and talk about comics and toys again? Stay tuned!

 

18th Nov2011

Thrift Justice – Extreme Home Edition

by Will

Don’t worry, it’s not another spinoff. At least, I don’t think… Actually, come to think of it, that would be kinda cool. But I’m not committing to anything yet. After all, I’ve only done one Thrift Justice: YSE post, so it’d be a little audacious to come up with a second spinoff. It’s not like I’m Norman Lear.

Anyway, I tend to focus on toys and collectibles, but I thought I’d show a more practical application for thrifting. Sure a lot of people use thrifting to find collectibles and goods to resell, but others use it simply to survive. Their clothes, furnishings, etc come from thrifting, either because of financial constraints or the simple fact that they know a good deal when they see one. I like to think I’m a little of column A and a little of column B. So, I thought I’d show you a few of the ways that thrifting has added to my living space.

 First up, we have this full length mirror. I actually rescued this thing from next to the dumpster at my old apartment. I’m pretty sure that it was once part of a dresser or something, but this was all that I found. Now, I know that you can buy a full-length mirror from Target for about $9, but this thing is QUALITY. It’s solid wood and heavy as Hell, so it has lived on the floor most of the time that I’ve owned it. Seriously, I’ve had it almost 3 years, and we JUST hung it on the wall last month. Prior to that, you could only really see how you looked from the neck down.

Lindsay’s really into wine & wine decor, so we knew that my comic posters and figure displays would have to be balanced with something a bit…classier. Luckily, her stuff got banished to the kitchen! Everything you see in those pictures was thrifted. I got it all from yard sales and thrift stores, at different times. Basically, if I saw something wine-themed, I’d get it. It was only by chance and my keen eye that we were able to tie it all together into a configuration that makes sense.

This wine rack? Found in the trash room of Lindsay’s old apartment. Not IN the trash (I haven’t gotten to the dumpster diving level of thrifting…yet), but just in the room of stuff folks didn’t want anymore. Her old roommate, Dave, actually found it and thought I might want it. He thought right!

Speaking of Dave, he also gave us this bookshelf when Lindsay was moving out. He didn’t have room for it, and it was just heading for the aforementioned trash room. “One man’s trash…” So, it has now become the home of Lindsay’s Mighty Muggs collection. I may not have gotten her into comics, but I’ve found other ways to infect her with the collecting bug. Just the collecting bug, though. Honest! I got tested and everything.

As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of our thrifted goods end up in the kitchen. It doesn’t get more “kitchen” than the kitchen table. So, a little backstory: my mom plays Bingo every week at the local McDonalds. Don’t laugh – she’s 73 and can do whatever the Hell she wants! Anyway, one of her Bingo buddies is a master thrifter. He drives around a weird unmarked van, filled with stuff he’s found and wants to share. Every now and then, he’ll invite her out to his van to choose stuff. Hey…wait a minute…this guy is gonna be my new daddy, isn’t he?!! But I digress, he always come across the best stuff. For instance, she got a refrigerator from him for $80, which was just really the cost of moving it. Now that I think of it, yup, he’s definitely trying to be my new daddy. I’m not gonna mention the fact  that the fridge didn’t really keep stuff cold, and food would grow mold within 7 days; that would just taint the magic of the tale. Anyway, Mommy’s Special Friend came across this table in a house that was being torn down. We were looking for a kitchen table, and the comparable IKEA model was about $170. This table: $25, and that included the chairs!

My mom actually got Lindsay this microwave when she moved into her first apartment a few years back. I believe she got it from an estate sale, for about $5. They don’t make ’em like this anymore! You could put a whole baby in there. And I’m not talking about some preemie – I’m talking about one as fat as that cigarette-smoking baby from the news! Mmmm….smoked baby.

OK, this one is a bit hard to make out, so you’ll probably need to do some clicky and make it biggie. I came across this in a new thrift store at the end of the summer. It really caught my eye, and I thought it was a steal at $7, just for the size alone. It takes up a good portion of the wall as you enter the apartment, and we’d been looking for something to put there. So, what is it? Well, it’s an American flag, although it has the words to Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech written in the white stripes. Also, the stars have been replaced with “Yes We Can”s. I’m not about to get all political on here, and that’s really not the point. It’s meaningful because Lindsay and I officially became a couple on Election Night 2008. We, as well as a good portion of the country, were swept up in Obama Fever, and regardless of thoughts on the 1%, Obamacare, or longform birth certificates, this piece of art constantly reminds me of where we started. *studio audience awwws*

Anyway, that’s this week’s TJ post. It wasn’t quite a look at the West Cave, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get it clean enough for pictures, anyway. I just wanted to show you that my thrifting isn’t all about toys and comics, and that I also use my powers for practical uses from time to time. OK, seriously, next TJ will be that YSE post I’ve been promising, where I go into a lot of my recent thrift FAILS.

10th Oct2011

Fun With Android’s Voice Actions AKA Getting Acquainted With Our Future Robot Overlords

by Will

So, last week Apple revealed the iPhone 4s which, while fancier than the current iPhone 4, wasn’t the iPhone 5 that all the tech heads had been expecting. One of the best features of this new phone, however, is the addition of Siri – an artificially intelligent personal assistant. You can tell Siri to send emails, check the weather and perform searches – all via voice commands. Of course, Android owners started wondering if there was a similar program for their operating system. As a new convert to the Android way of life, I checked the review sites, and came across Voice Actions. While not as advanced as Siri, Voice Notes still accomplishes many of the same tasks through user voice interface. I’m of the belief that you should know your enemy, so I decided to familiarize myself with Voice Notes before the uprising of our robot overlords. By asking a series of questions, I began to learn more about Voice Actions’ capabilities.

Q: “What’s your name?”

A: “My name is Jeannie.”

Yeah, this default name wasn’t going to fly, as it just made me think of Major Nelson and all those old ass space capsules. As an aside, do y’all realize that Major Nelson and Jeanine “lived in sin” for the fist five seasons? I guess it was kosher, since she was a genie and more property than person, but I still find that odd. Anyway, I digress. I wanted my AI to have a cooler, more personalized name. It came down to D.E.C.A. (bonus points for anyone who gets that reference) and Oracle. I settled on Oracle, and made the change in the settings.

Now that we had the formalities out of the way, I jumped right in for the juicy stuff:

Q: “Where do babies come from?”

A: “Babies are the live young born to mammals, need extended care by the mother after birth, so that their bodies can complete their development. Ideally, babies are the result of a sexual union between two parents who love each other.”

I get the feeling that Focus on the Family snuck in that last sentence. Clearly, Oracle has never processed an episode of Maury!

Then, I wanted to test its political knowledge.

Q: “Who is Barack Obama?”

I was kinda hoping for some Birther nonsense, or maybe some juicy tidbit that only the machines might know.

A: “Barack Hussein Obama II, born August 4, 1961 – the 44th and current President of the United States.”

I had no clue he was a sequel!

Hmm…I want more.

Q: “Who killed John F. Kennedy?”

As you might expect, I wanted an answer like “The Viet Cong” or “ancient ninja warriors”. Again, I wanted info that only the machines might know. Instead I got:

A: “Lee Harvey Oswald, 1938 minus 1963 – the American activist and accused assassin.”

Ya see, I’d never heard of Oswald as an “activist” before, and it was kinda interesting how Oracle said “accused assassin”. I think she knows something. Also, it was kinda funny how Oracle interpreted the dash as “minus”.

I was already bored of the political stuff, as Oracle wasn’t quenching my thirst for conspiracy theories. I circled back around to the good stuff.

Q: “Does size matter?”

This is where things got interesting. Up until this point, Oracle had just been responding via voice, but now “she” only answered via text.

A: “It does now ;)”

Yes, “she” cryptically replied back in a flirty way, and included a winky emoticon! Shit’s about to get weird!

I decided to test Oracle’s true capabilities.

Q: Which one of Charlie’s Angels had the biggest breasts?”

Oracle was stumped. Suddenly, I was requested to clarify my question, as I was given a menu with several choices:

1) Which one of Charlie’s Angels had the biggest breast?

2) Which one of Charlie’s Angels had the biggest breasts?

#1 got me curious, as I wondered if one of Jaclyn Smith’s tits was larger than the other. I think Oracle just misheard me, though, so I chose #2. That just opened up a Google search with a bunch of fanfic. I wasn’t satisfied with this, so I asked again.

Q: “Which one of Charlie’s Angels had the biggest breasts?”

A: “The last one, I think.”

What the Hell kind of answer is that?! Have I finally found Oracle’s weakness? Is this how we will defeat the machines? Apparently, artificial intelligence, like men, is weakened by BREASTS! The Playmates and Hooters girls are our last line of defense! The war must be fought in the strip clubs, sorority houses, and amateur wet t-shirt contests of the world!

 

28th Sep2011

Thrift Justice – I Didn’t Put Away Childish Things

by Will

So, the whole Thrift Justice thing started off strong. I told a cute story about a little kid, and I reminded everyone about Stranger Danger. Then, I dropped the ball. Fear not, true believers! I’m back with more words and more treasures. Here’s what I got during last night’s trip to the thrift store (forgive the pics; couldn’t find my camera, so I had to settle for the phone):

As you can see, it was a run of the mill toy haul. Still, let’s take a closer look at what I got:

First up, we’ve got Apocalypse from the Super Hero Squad toyline. Basically, he’s the same scale as the Spider-Man and Friends line – Marvel heroes in the Rescue Heroes scale for younger kids. These, along with Mattel’s Super Friends, came out while I was working at Toys “R” Us, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay retail for these things that were clearly made for preschoolers. I have no problem, however, paying $1 for them.

Isn’t he the cutest little genocidal maniac you ever saw? I think I want to give Apocalypse a hug!

Remember how I mentioned Super Friends? Of course you do – it was just a few inches higher on the page! Anyway, here’s Lex Luthor from that line.

And the Spider-Man and Friends line? Yeah, this is Spidey #3. I also have a quick-change Peter Parker and a shiny suit Spidey.

So clearly I’m addicted to “toys made for preschoolers”. This is a new low for me. You see all these guys? I’ve acquired them all over the course of the last month. Still, never paying more than $1 for any figure, I don’t feel too bad about it. Hell, they’re so cute that I’m even mixing universes, and I’m a staunch comic segregationist!

I’m always fascinated by the wear and damage that I find on some toys. While a lot of stuff is in pretty good condition, there are also many items that look like they’ve been to Hell and back. What the Hell did they do to Raphael’s foot? Were they reenacting Roots? Sure, he was a dick, but DAMN!

This, my friends, is a Nerf scope. As my twitter followers know, I’m slowly building a Nerf militia. Ya see, I wasn’t allowed to have toy guns when I was growing up. The closest things I had were the Nintendo Zapper and an old hair dryer that didn’t work. So, when I struck out on my own, as a man, one of the first things I bought was the Nerf Nite-Finder. That didn’t quench my foam lust, however. Luckily, my lovely girlfriend (Lindsay/@specialEteacher for y’all playing along at home), got me the Nerf Raider for Christmas last year. This was soon followed by the Maverick, Long Shot, and Recon. And another Long Shot. Basically, if I found one at a yard sale or thrift store, I bought it. They all had a tactical rail for adding scopes, but you can’t find them in stores or the Hasbro website any longer. So, imagine my joy when I spotted this baby sticking out of the stuffed animal bin at a thrift shop! Lawdy, lawdy I can see! Anyway, got this baby for 69 cents!

Well, that’s enough rambling from me. I took more pictures, but I’ll save those for the next post.

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.

 

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