03rd Apr2015

West Week Ever – 4/3/15

by Will

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So, last weekend I finally got around to watching St. Elmo’s Fire. If you’re not familiar, it’s one of the Brat Pack films from the 80s, though it’s nowhere near as critically acclaimed as The Breakfast Club; I never realized that until I started reading old reviews after watching the movie. Anyway, if this movie were released today, it’d be called White Privilege. It’s the story of 7 college friends who graduate from Georgetown University and embark upon adulthood. The problem is that most of them suck at life, and aren’t very good at being “adults”. Emilio Estevez stalks Andie MacDowell, Rob Lowe sleeps with everything with a vagina, Judd Nelson cheats on his girlfriend in order to pressure her into marrying him (yeah, that plan makes no sense), Andrew McCarthy is obsessed with Judd Nelson’s girlfriend, Demi Moore sleeps with everything with a penis, Mare Winningham has NO self esteem, and Ally Sheedy is just there. I know it came out during the “Me Generation”, so I’m sure it spoke to a lot of people at the time. Looking back at it now, however, it’s just hard to like any of the characters. Living in the DC area, it was cool to see what Georgetown looked like 30 years ago. I also enjoyed seeing the Q107 sticker on the pay phone (Q107 was the predecessor of WRQX/Mix 107.3, which is now the struggling “DC’s 107.3”). From where I stand, the best thing about the film is David Foster’s “Love Theme”. Just listen to it:

Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Next up, I watched the documentary POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. From Super Size Me‘s Morgan Spurlock, the doc follows Spurlock as he tries to finance a movie completely from sponsored endorsements. Meanwhile, he delves into the practice of branding and how it affects our daily lives. For example, the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo has outlawed all outdoor advertising, so there are no billboards, no bus ads, and no corporate graffiti. As a result, local businesses have to rely upon referrals and word of mouth in order to stay afloat, yet everyone feels that the move allows them to fully take in the world around them without being assaulted by ads. I liked Super Size Me, although I completely sided with Big Mac (Spurlock’s girlfriend, now ex-wife, was a vegan chef. He got sick because he simply wasn’t used to eating meat. It wasn’t all McDonalds’ fault. Plus, nobody should eat that shit THREE times a day. Even I know that, and I DO IT). Anyway, it was funny watching the man who singlehandedly destroyed the Super Size option go out into the world and try to court sponsors. I mean, everyone’s already seen what he did to McDonalds, so how could brands be sure that he’d portray them in a positive light? As interesting as the movie is, it’s still built on a weak premise. It’s not like he’s actually courting brands to help finance some sort of Hollywood blockbuster. No, he’s courting brands to sponsor the documentary that you’re already watching. That is the movie. It’s very meta. It was definitely an interesting documentary, but I think I expected more from it.

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On the standup comedy front, I caught the Showtime special Jay Mohr: Happy. And A Lot. I’ve been fascinated by Jay Mohr ever since his stint as a featured player during the SNL dark years of the early 90s. I’ve even read his book, Gasping For Airtime: Two Years In The Trenches of Saturday Night Live. His body of work isn’t very memorable, but he did create Last Comic Standing, which has been pretty influential in the standup world for the past decade or so. Then, to cap it all off, he married Nikki Cox, who was quite the hot number in the late 90s. Anyway, I really enjoyed the special, which surprised me since my recent track record with standup specials hasn’t been so great. The material isn’t stellar, but some of it spoke to me. For example, he said that married couples don’t have to have shared interests, but rather need shared hates. Maybe my wife and I are terrible people, but that’s definitely true for us. Then, he capped off the special with a pretty killer Norm MacDonald impression. I’m not so sure I’d recommend it, but I enjoyed it.

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Ciara Renee has been cast as Hawkgirl in the CW Arrow/Flash spinoff, while Arthur Darvill has been cast as Rip Hunter. I don’t know either of those actors. I like what The CW’s doing with Arrow and The Flash, but I fear they’re about to dilute the brand by adding this 3rd show (possibly 4 if they keep Supergirl in-universe). As good as The Flash is, I feel like the quality of Arrow has slipped a bit, with the good stuff going over to the former. Maybe I’m just saying that because I’m used to binge-watching Arrow instead of consuming it on a weekly basis, and I’m not so sure that’s working for me.

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Meanwhile in live action comic adaptations, an April Fools video with Ryan Reynolds claims that the Deadpool film will have an R-rating. Now, I’ve heard folks longing for this in the past, and I don’t quite understand it. Why does it need to be an R? I consider myself a Deadpool fan, but I don’t go way back to his origins. I’ve been a completist since his series started during Secret Invasion, and I’d read some Cable & Deadpool before that. In all of my Deadpool reading, I haven’t experienced anything that indicated a film adaptation would need an R-rating. The comic is not for mature readers, so it seems like it would translate more to a PG-13, with one “fuck” thrown in for good measure (that’s allowed in PG-13 movies).

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The speculation surrounding a reboot earned Full House the West Week Ever back in August. Well, it looks like we’re closer to getting Fuller House (that’s the name they’re using now) after all. Reportedly, the show is headed to Netflix, and will focus on the friendship between Candace Cameron Bure’s DJ Tanner and Andrea Barber’s Kimmy Gibbler. Considering how much Candace has gone on the evangelical offensive over the years, I wonder if that hurts the potential audience for this show. Anyway, score another one for Netflix. Right now, I’m sure Yahoo Screen is looking into rebooting Empty Nest.

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-It was reported that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has been cast as Killer Croc in DC’s Suicide Squad movie. I have no clue how to say that dude’s name. If I ever met him, I’d have to play the “What’s up, my brotha?” card. Anyway, that guy from Latino Review who loves scooping stuff reports that Suicide Squad will take place between Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in the span of the DC Cinematic Universe. *Yawn*

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In the world of music, Jay-Z and his Illuminati friends announced the purchase of Tidal – a new streaming service that costs more than most other services because the artists want to make more money. There was a press conference and everything. It ended with them signing a document that you’d think was the Hip Hop Magna Carta or something. Anyway, the files are supposedly of a higher quality, but you won’t be able to tell the difference if you’re listening through headphones. Good luck with that, Hov!

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In the world of television, Weird Loners premiered on Fox Tuesday night. It feels like someone found some old Happy Endings scripts, but there were food stains all over the best jokes. Seriously, this show feels like it really wants to be HE, complete with the casting of Zachary Knighton, but the rest of the cast just isn’t that strong. Plus, I can’t get over how that one guy looks like Nick Swardson if he really let himself go. Anyway, I guess I shouldn’t expect too much from “The creator of The King of Queens, and the executive producer of New Girl.” What’s it about? Four people who are unlucky at love kinda band together as friends. Oh, and 3/4 of them are kinda assholes ’cause that’s how they make sitcoms now.

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Meanwhile, in the world of television, South African comedian Trevor Noah was announced as the new host of The Daily Show. And the people rejoiced…for about a day. Then, someone checked out his Twitter history and discovered that he’d said a bunch of off-color stuff. Ya know, like a comedian. You ever follow a professional comedian on Twitter? With the exception of very few, they’re all just throwing shit out there to see if it sticks. If it gets retweeted or favorited, excellent. A lot of them come off as insecure when they do this, and it’s not necessarily coming from some place of bravado. If anything, they’re tearing others down in order to feel good about themselves. Whatever. I’m not a licensed shrink. All I know is that Comedy Central decided they wanted to go the comedian route for the job, and they knew what they were getting themselves into. Comedy Central has already said that they stand by him, so I expect nothing to come from this. Plus, Stewart’s fans are gonna hate any replacement in the beginning, just because he’s not Stewart.

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This week also saw the premiere of the Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber. SNL‘s Pete Davidson was great (I had no clue his father was a firefighter who died on 9/11), but Martha Stewart was surprisingly brutal. My pal Chris Piers pointed out that there’s no way she wrote those jokes, but I just give her credit for saying them. The roast ended with a well-written, yet clearly staged, apology from Justin himself for his outrageous behavior. Even though it was somewhat canned, I felt like it showed a lot of maturity, and I’m eager to see where his path leads him. After all, Justin Timberlake was once just “that guy in that boyband”, and look at him now. I’m not saying Bieber is that multi-talented, but I’d really like us to get to a place where “Justin Bieber” isn’t an instant punchline anymore.

 

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I loved this article about the making of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. My favorite part is that they acknowledge that Raph has mental problems. I’ve always felt this, but had never seen it actually written anywhere. Seriously, if Raphael is your favorite turtle, I wonder about you…

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This week, I had the pleasure of joining Corey and Eclectik over on the UnderScoopFire Podcast. We discussed all of the pop culture stuff we’re looking forward to during the months of April through June, and it was a lot of fun. I was really starting to think that folks were tired of having me on their shows, so it felt really good to get back in the swing of things. Anyway, give it a listen!

Things You May Have Missed This Week

-Speaking of Turtles, Stephen Amell has been cast as Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. Sure, movies trump TV, so this is good for his IMDB page, but it almost feels like a lateral promotion.

-Hugh Jackman announced that Wolverine 3 will most likely be his last appearance as Wolverine, after 17 years in the role.

-It was announced that season 6 will be Downton Abbey‘s final season. I still have seasons 4 and 5 on my DVR, so I’m not quite sure if I’m saddened or relieved by the information.

-In other news about shows I need to watch, House of Cards has been renewed for a fourth season on Netflix.

Gnardians of the Galaxy, the porn parody of Guardians of the Galaxy, released its trailer. Nope, I’m trying to be Safe For Work, here!

Cougar Town‘s series finale aired this week. One day, I’m gonna have to catch up on that show.

-Fresh off the cancellation of What Not to Wear, Clinton Kelly will be getting a new show on TLC where he and Real World: Brooklyn‘s Devin Symone will give social media makeovers to folks looking for love. Think of it like What Not To Catfish.

-This week on The Today Show, Darius Rucker said that Hootie and the Blowfish would reunite, but it was simply a matter of timing. Uh-huh. He’s gone Full Timberlake but doesn’t want to admit it. I’ll believe this reunion when I see it.

Wrestlemania 31 was this week. So that happened. Technically, I’m a WWE guy whenever The Undertaker is involved, but even I couldn’t get excited about his match against Bray Wyatt. Anyway, The Dead Man won, so I guess I’m happy. I tend to care more about the Hall of Fame ceremony than the actual event; I’ve got it on my DVR, but haven’t had the chance to watch it. So, look for my thoughts next week.

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I love Scientology. Let me rephrase that: I love all secret society-ish things, and Scientology happens to fall under this banner. Over the years, I’ve read and watched a LOT of stuff about the religion, and I continue to be fascinated by everything that I discover.

I can be a Judgy McJudgerson at times, but I try not to criticize anyone’s religion. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make it in this life, one day at a time. Some folks need some sort of coping mechanism to do this, while others don’t. Plus, and some folks won’t like this thought, but all religions have their farfetched aspects. Yup, even mine. We criticize Scientology because our parents are older than the religion, and the idea of Xenu and whatnot seems hokey as Hell. The funny thing about Xenu is that that information isn’t even available to Scientologists until they fork over the money to learn it. It’s not like that’s their pitch to the man on the street. No, for that they use e-meters to give you “stress tests”.

Anyway, based on my fascination with all things Scientology, I knew that I’d have to watch the documentary Going Clear, based on Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.  It was SO GOOD! I was already familiar with the concept of Operating Thetans and the Sea Org, but the doc does a good job of explaining these things for the uninformed. Not only does it cover the celebrity aspect, like John Travolta and Tom Cruise, but it also documents the abuse and the living conditions suffered by the more common members of the religion. Tom Cruise may seem like an all-powerful supervillain, but that’s because he’s got money. If you or I joined Scientology, we’d be drafted into their space Navy on a billion year contract, doing menial labor and making about 40 cents a day. This is the side of Scientology that no one talks about.

I could understand the attraction to celebrities, but I’ve never quite understood why an average Joe would join up. For this, I’m not sure the documentary did the best job of explaining. I mean, it seems like a rich celebrity club, with tax-exempt status, but the celebrity aspect is so small compared to the men and women who raise their families in the religion. According to a 2008 study, about 25,000 Americans identified as Scientologists, and Tom and John are only two of them. Outside of the celebrity world, who are these people? What’s the draw? In the footage that they showed of the annual conference, there were Black people in attendance. How, pray tell, do you get a Black Scientologist?! The documentary focused on Hollywood members, like writer/director Paul Haggis, but I would’ve liked more info on “the little people”. I guess there’s only so much you can fit into two hours, so I’ll need to check out the book (Lindsay read it and highly recommends it).

If you have even a passing interest in Scientology, I really think you should give this documentary a shot. It’s worth it just for the story about how they “recruited” Tom Cruise’s new girlfriend. So, for being the most interesting thing I consumed this week, Going Clear had the West Week Ever.

13th Mar2015

West Week Ever – 3/13/15

by Will

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So, I had a bunch of snow days last week, and just didn’t have the motivation to write. We’re back now, however, and we’ve got a lot to talk about!

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Trying to clear off my DVR, I watched the standup special Sommore: Chandelier Status. If you don’t know Sommore, you’ve clearly never seen BET’s ComicView. You’re also probably White. Seriously, except for Celebrity Fit Club, Sommore really hasn’t broken out of the Black Comedy world. Still, I’ve found her to be hilarious in the past, so I thought I’d check out this special. It was really nothing to write home about. It was about an hour’s worth of “Black people do this, and White people do that.” That gets old fast. I think I laughed twice. Kinda disappointing, as I had high expectations for that special.

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While on the comedy topic, I also checked out Aziz Ansari: Live At Madison Square Garden. Now, I’ve gone on record to say that I didn’t like his last special, Buried Alive, because he spent too much time talking about grown-up stuff like having kids and his fear of marriage. Well, this special was really just more of that. I think I’m starting to realize that I like younger, less mature Aziz who talked about hanging out with Kanye and going to R. Kelly concerts. Older, wiser Aziz is WAY too introspective, and I don’t find a lot of *humor* in what he has to say. He’s more like a relationship guru than a comedian these days, and that’s just not what I’m looking for.

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On TV, I caught The Marine, which has quickly become one of those “I have to watch it whenever I see it’s on” movies for me. I can’t really explain it, but I think John Cena is a pretty good action star. And whatever happened to Kelly Carlson? After Nip/Tuck, she seemed poised for bigger things. Sure, The Marine is just a WWE Studios production, but it was still a job. Nowadays, I hear she’s acting in some online spinoff of Supernatural. Eww, a webseries!

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Speaking of disappointing webseries, this week saw the premiere of Powers on the Playstation Network. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s a police procedural based  in a world of people with superpowers, and it’s based on the comic of the same name from Brian Michael Bendis. Now, I have a complicated relationship with Bendis; I used to love everything he did, but then I met him. Don’t meet your heroes, kid. Anyway, as much as I’ve loved his work, I never really liked Powers. I felt it was overrated and moved WAY too slowly. So, I’m probably not the target audience for this show. That said, it was just as bad as I expected. The show had been in development for years, and eventually landed at FX with a pilot starring Jason Patric. FX passed on the series, but the creators were determined to get it on the air somewhere. So, they went back to the drawing board and gave us the show that we have here. The trailer for it made it look like a big budget fan film, and the actual product wasn’t much better than that. It felt like a really bad Canadian series that would air on Syfy. And no, not a American show filmed in Vancouver for budgetary reasons – I’m talking about a show made by and for Canadians, like Lost Girl or something. The effects are hokey, the casting is off (Sharlto Copley? Really?), and it just feels empty, though yearns to be so much more than it is. The series will air exclusively on Playstation Network, but the pilot is currently available on YouTube. If this show is indicative of PSN’s original programming capabilities, I am far from impressed.

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It’s not all bad news this week, though. I have a new favorite reality show: Kosher Soul. Airing on Lifetime, the show follows the relationship between standup comedian O’Neal McKnight and celebrity stylist Miriam Sternoff. He’s Black, she’s Jewish and hilarity ensues! When the series starts, they’re planning their wedding and O’Neal is starting the conversation to Judaism, as it’s important to Miriam that she marry a Jew. O’Neal’s a funny guy, though I’m not that familiar with his standup. He’s friends with other reality show stalwarts like Fonzworth Bentley and Russell Simmons. Meanwhile, Miriam reminds me a lot of Bethenny Frankel – who was my favorite of the Bravo Real Housewives franchise. Right after their wedding, Miriam wanted to start trying to have kids, so that’s where we are at this point in the show. O’Neal and Miriam seem to have great chemistry, and I can see how their relationship has endured for 9+ years. Hell, they may last and they may not, but they’re trying to make it work. I’ve seen no hype about this show, and only watched it because I ran across it On Demand. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet! So, with my luck, it’ll probably be canceled after one season.

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Had I done a West Week Ever last week, that honor would have gone to The Last Man on Earth. I never thought it had a chance to work, and the jury’s still out on it, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the three episodes that have aired so far. If you haven’t seen it, Will Forte stars as Phil Miller – the seemingly only survivor of a virus that has killed the rest of the world’s population. So, the pilot follows him as he gets used to the idea that he is, in fact, the last person on Earth. Then, at the end of the pilot, you’re thrown for a loop, as you learn that he’s not alone; he may be the last *man* on Earth, but there happens to be a woman – Carol Pilbasian, played by Kristen Schaal. So, then the show focuses on the relationship between the two, as Carol thinks she and Phil are meant to repopulate the world, while Phil really wants nothing to do with her. I thought this would work as a movie, but I had no idea how they’d get an entire series out of it. Three episodes in, and I’m still not sure where it’s going, but I’m enjoying the ride so far.

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So, I was busy on the Internet this week, and some might even say I was trolling. I didn’t think that was the case, but let’s take a closer look, shall we? So, on Monday morning, I was tweeting with a friend about American Idol, and he mentioned Kris Allen. I replied, “Man, where’d THAT dude end up?” And he replied, “In the scrap heap along with Taylor Hicks, Lee DeWyze, and Scotty McCreery.” And then the floodgates opened. We got tons of replies from obsessed fans who clearly set filters for anytime those guys’ names are mentioned. They insisted that Taylor and Scotty weren’t on a “scrap heap”. Turns out they were right. I mean, I already knew of Scotty’s country success, but who knew that Taylor Hicks made $2.5 million last year? Apparently, he’s the first Idol to get a residency in Las Vegas. Anyway, as I got sick of these grannies blowing up my timeline, I tweeted the following:

guarini 1If you’re not familiar, a “stan” is slang for an obsessive fan – based on the Eminem song of the same name. Oh, and Justin Guarini lost to Kelly Clarkson in the very first season of American Idol. I didn’t really have to call out Guarini, but he seemed like an easy target. Kick a man while he’s down, I guess. I was riled up by all the old ladies defending their favorite Idols, and I was really just trying to call out some more fans, as I was amused by their terrible misspellings and grammar. And since he has nothing to do with his time, Guarini responded. He has since deleted his tweets to me, so let’s see if I can do it from memory:

JG: “*stars *shitty”

This was his was of trying to correct me. He thought I meant to say “stars” instead of “stans”. He was also correcting the end of my tweet to read “Justin Guarini ain’t shitty”

And I replied:

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JG: “Hey fan. I know a fan when I see one, fan.”

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Then things took off. He tweeted his response with the period before the @, so all of his followers could see it. So then everybody started favoriting his tweets to me. And then one theatre groupie tried to say that I was kissing up to him. I actually wasn’t. While my tone might seem conciliatory, in my mind I wasn’t done. I didn’t appreciate him reaching out to his followers for support. What I said was true – I had voted for him, and an ex had given me From Justin to Kelly. I failed to add that I sold that DVD and that I thought his album was a piece of shit. Seriously, it’s terrible as there isn’t one commercially viable single on the entire disc. I didn’t add any of this, though, because I had been an asshole and it was probably best to let it drop. The next day, however, I listened to Kelly’s new album and I got the desire to tweet Justin and ask him what he thought of it. I was just about to hit send, but I thought better of it. I like a good feud, but I’m not particularly a fan of a situation where I’m the bad guy.

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Last time, I mentioned that I had a bottle of Pepsi True in my refrigerator. Well, I tried it. And it tastes like bilge water. In the Stevia flavored mid-calorie cola department, Coke Life wins the title.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

– Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lost a court case against the family of Marvin Gaye, who claimed that “Blurred Lines” ripped off Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”. This decision resulted in a $7.3 million payout to Gaye’s children. I get that they kinda sound similar, but I really don’t get this decision. Plus, it sets a really bad precedent for anything that remotely sounds like anything else. Thicke had kinda been a bit of a douchenozzle over the past year, so I wonder if that played into the jury’s decision.

–  a new trailer was released for the Netflix Daredevil series. For a great scene-by-scene breakdown, check out this post at The Robot’s Pajamas.

Rolling Stone had a great minute-by-minute breakdown of the We Are The World recording session on its 30th anniversary.

– Have you ever wanted to see Earl Sinclair from Dinosaurs rap Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize”? Who cares. Here it is and it’s awesome:

– My pals over at the Nerd Lunch Podcast did a musicals episode that you should really check out.

– At a Disney shareholder’s meeting, it was reported that Star Wars Episode VIII will be released May 26, 2017. Also, Felicity Jones to star in the Rogue One spinoff. I have no idea who she is…

– My pals at UnderScoopFire tackle the Pop Culture Alphabet

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I had no idea I’d love this show as much as I do, and I don’t know what I did with my life before it came along. Yes, I’m talking about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. Originally developed by Tina Fey for NBC, the show was picked up by Netflix with a 2-season guarantee. It stars The Office‘s Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt who, along with 3 other women, has been held captive in a doomsday bunker for 15 years. When the series starts, they’re liberated from the bunker, and Kimmy moves to NYC to start her life over. Since she was in middle school when she was first abducted, Kimmy’s missed out on a LOT, including current music and slang. Once she gets to New York, she moves in with flamboyantly gay Titus Andromedon who eventually becomes her best friend. Meanwhile, she works for a crazy rich lady played by 30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski, and tries to put her bunker life behind her.

If you loved 30 Rock, you’ll love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. They share a sensibility, and I’d even consider them in the same universe if it weren’t for the fact that Krakowski and Tituss Burgess are playing different characters. Whenever they watch TV on the show, I keep hoping for a mention of TGS, Bitch Hunter or MILF Island just to confirm that Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon are in the same city somewhere.

Part of what makes the show work so well is the casting. Kemper is simply adorable as Kimmy, as she manages to capture the wide-eyed wonder that the character would certainly experience by her new surroundings. She spent her adolescent years in the bunker, so her development’s a bit stunted. If you’ve ever seen 13 Going On 30, you know that Jennifer Garner was awkward as Hell as a 13 year old girl who magically becomes a 30 year old. This takes that formula and gets it right. Kimmy may be 29, but she’s still a 14 year old in many ways. And Kemper does an excellent job portraying that. Meanwhile, Tituss Burgess is AMAZING as Titus Andromedon. Everything he says is quotable, and he manages to straddle the line of self-serving and lovable. If you watched 30 Rock, you’ll remember him as D’Fwan – a hilarious member of Tracy’s wife’s entourage. Here, it’s like he’s playing the same character, but cranked up to 11. He and Kemper have great chemistry, and it’s fun to watch their friendship grow.

I don’t want to spoil the guest stars, or where the story goes, as that’s half the fun of the experience. The minute I was done, though, I instantly wanted season 2. I haven’t felt that way since Bojack Horseman – another Netflix series I fell in love with. All of my friends online have been talking about Kimmy Schmidt, so I see that I’m not alone in my love for the show. If you haven’t checked it out, remedy that soon. I’ve heard the first episode didn’t grab some folks, but stick with it. So, for being the belle of the comedic ball this week, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt had the West Week Ever. Troll the respawn, Jeremy!

25th Apr2014

West Week Ever – 4/25/14

by Will

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I took a week off, and no one seemed to notice. I’d love to say that I did it for Jesus and Lent, but I really just didn’t feel like writing. Nothing really happened last week anyway, so it’s all a wash. Anyway, we’re back and I’ve got things to ramble about!

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I got sucked into a 19 Kids and Counting marathon the other night. Ya know, as much as I wanna hate the Duggar family, I just can’t do it. Sure, they’re a little weird, but they seem like nice people. They just had too many damn kids! One of their older daughters, Jessa, was beginning a “courtship” with a boy, and it was kinda interesting to see what their rules are for such a thing. For one thing, they can only do sidehugs, and there’s no hand-holding or kissing. Their first kiss is saved for their wedding day! Now, this may sound crazy to most people, but I grew up in a bass ackwards conservative church. I remember one time in Pro Teens (yup, that’s what youth group was called), our youth pastor said “You should never tell the person you’re dating ‘I love you’ unless you follow it up with ‘Will you marry me?’.”Even the Duggars aren’t that strict, as their daughters throw around “love” like it’s nothing, so they’re even less conservative than the Wheaton Baptist Church. Anyway, as lame as it all sounds, it’s kinda cute watching the courtship unfold. Ben seems like a nice guy, and Jessa’s a beautiful girl – nothing like the pilgrims you’d expect from an ultraconservative, homeschooled clan. Anyway, the oldest Duggar boy, Josh, and his wife live in the DC area now. I MUST track them down!

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While we’re on reality TV, A&E ran a special: Brandi & Jarrod: Married to the Job, focusing on Brandi & Jarrod of Storage Wars fame. I took a hiatus from Storage Wars when Dave Hester left, ’cause that’s when all the allegations came out that it was fake. Plus, I think I’d just gotten tired of the characters. Now that Dave and Barry are gone, plus they’ve brought in Rene and Ivy, it’s fresh enough that I’m giving it another chance. That said, I’d LOVE a regular series just about Brandi & Jarrod as they run their shop and manage their family. It was so much more enjoyable than I thought it would be, and it was nice to see them away from the storage auctions. In the special, we find out that Jarrod celebrates his birthday all month long, and expects parties and gifts everyday. Everything comes to a head when he steals his mom’s pool, sets it up in his driveway, and throws an impromptu pool party that gets shut down by the homeowners association. It’s also funny to me that Jarrod makes his kid wear Outlaw Apparel – the cholo clothing line that Jarrod owns.

There’s been a lot of hoopla about Avril Lavigne’s new video, “Hello Kitty”. For one thing, it’s not Avril’s typical style, so it’s thrown a lot of her fans for a loop. Also, however, folks are crying “cultural misappropriation” about her depiction of Japanese culture. They think she’s being racist instead of it being an homage. Look, the way I see it, you can’t be upset about this if you gave Gwen Stefani a pass with “Harajuku Girls”. She did the same thing, with the same cultural misappropriation; the entire time she toured for L.A.M.B., she was followed by a cadre of 4 Japanese girls as her backup dancers.  Sure, there were people who got upset, but it was nothing on the level of how people are mad over Hello Kitty. I don’t really see the big deal, but I’m also not Asian, so…

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Speaking of Gwen, the rumor is that she’s being courted as Christina Aguilera’s replacement on The Voice. It’s not a bad choice, though I’m not sure I’d have thought of her.

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The Boondocks came back this week, and felt Hella dated. They decided to tackle the whole Chris Brown situation, which made me realize the show had been gone so long (the last season aired  in 2010) that it never had the chance to deal with that fiasco when it was fresh. Still, it felt rehashed, as it was the Usher episode and the R. Kelly trial episode mashed together. Sarah wanted Pretty Boy Flizzy (the Chris Brown stand-in) to meet Jasmine when it was actually because she was really attracted to him (just like the Usher episode), and women still fawned over Flizzy even after he was convicted of multiple crimes (just like the R. Kelly episode). I feel like we flock to The Boondocks for fresh, biting satire, and this just felt like old hat. If this is indicative of what this final season is going to be like, I already miss Aaron McGruder’s contributions.

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One of the oddest things about How I Met Your Mother was the fact that Bob Saget was the voice of Old Ted. Why? Why wouldn’t Old Ted just sound like TED?! Even Family Guy pointed out how it made no sense. I guess they felt they needed a “name” when they were launching the show, but I’m not sure Bob Saget had that kind of star power. Well, the spinoff, How I Met Your Dad is doing the same thing, as Meg Ryan has been cast as the voice of The Mom as she recounts the story of how she met the father of her children. I wish ’em luck, but I doubt I’ll be watching that show. I think they squandered a lot of goodwill with the finale of How I Met Your Mother, and I’m just not ready to get back on that horse anytime soon.

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I guess I should say something about that whackadoodle, Cliven Bundy. Ya know – the rancher who claims “the Negro” did better under slavery. On the one hand, that’s a crazy idea to state publicly. On the other hand, I really like saying the word “Negro”, and he’s enabled me to say it many times this week. So, I guess there’s that. But no, he did NOT have the West Week Ever.

Links I Loved
The Long Con: How the Undertaker Actually Passed the Torch to Cesaro by Losing at WrestleMania – UnderScoopFire!

Rush of Nostalgia: Burger King Kids Club – Crooked Ninja Turtle Gang

The 20 Weirdest TMNT Toys – The Robot’s Pajamas

Adventures at Steel City Con – Cool and Collected

In Case You Missed It
Adventures West Coast – Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. TPB

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We’ve got another repeat winner, as Lupita Nyong’o once again had the West Week Ever. A year ago, no one knew who she was. Now, she’s an Oscar winner AND People’s Most Beautiful Person. What a difference a year makes, huh?! Anyway, we’re still waiting to see what her next career move will be, as Oscar hasn’t been kinda to blacktors and blacktresses. In any case, all eyes were on her this week.

07th Jun2013

West Week Ever – 6/7/13

by Will

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This week’s gonna be brief, as I’m Westing from the road. This post explains where & why.

I loved this video I came across on Facebook. Any kid who grew up in the 90s knows Jason David Frank, aka The Green Ranger. Well, they’re filming a special anniversary episode of Power Rangers in New Zealand, and several past Rangers have agreed to take part. JDF decided to film a video diary of the affair, and this is the first part:

Is it just me, or does anyone else get the impression that Samurai Green and the redhead (Lightspeed Rescue Pink) smashed that night? Pretty sure she put a hotel key in his backpack…

This was an interesting read on young atheists, looking at how they came to adopt that philosophy. Even if I’m not a great one, I’m still a believer, though I feel there’s some great stuff in this article for everyone.

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Hop over to my Instagram, and see my Avengers Helicarrier pic. Funny thing about that. Back in this post you’ll remember that I was having trouble selling my Helicarrier on Craigslist. I guess everything happens for a reason, as I just couldn’t seem to move it. In the meantime, I decided to open e Helicarrier that I’d bought for myself. Turns out 1/3 of the parts were missing. All the missile launchers, stickers, and the instructions. Not there. I didn’t notice at first, as I didn’t really think about the stickers, but I knew I was missing the missiles. Then I noticed the missile launcher was missing from the pod module. I also found it odd there were no instructions, but it was fairly simple to put together, so I didn’t think much of it. When I was done, however, I also noticed there were flaps and storage doors missing. That was the one I had planned to sell! You can see that one on the right. I decided to check the other one, and it was complete, as seen on the left. I ended up keeping it and took the other one back to Walmart.

I had the pleasure of joining the guys over at the MadCastPodcast to discuss this week’s episode of Mad Men. We discussed Sharon Tate, dirty hippies, and cockpunches. Be sure to check it out here!

This Week’s Posts

Monday Musings – The Strange Politics of Hazzard County

Thrift Justice – One For Me, And One For You

 

Cornell_Big_RedPosting from an iPad is a bitch, so I don’t have my regular collage maker. Since it’s Reunions, and it’s where I am as I write this, Cornell University had the West Week Ever.

24th May2013

West Week Ever – 5/24/13

by Will
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Who had the West Week Ever? Read on and find out!

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Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting New Jersey. Could you hear my sarcasm? Anyway, it was a good trip ’cause I got to see my sword brother, Keith, but it had its highs and its lows. On Saturday night, we went to what was billed as “live band karaoke”, which sounded awesome! In reality, however, it was not what one might expect. There was a house band called Deep Fried Thorn, who didn’t suck, but they were mainly there to play themselves. If you wanted to sing a song on their setlist, you were welcome to do so, but their levels were off, and the music was too loud for the venue. I just didn’t feel comfortable there. While I’m used to all-white crowds, this one didn’t seem too welcoming. I guess I was standing too close to the pickup station, as a waitress pushed me out of her way and into a chair. This triggered my assholosity, and I looked for a way to take my anger out on the whole place. When it was my turn (I sang Ain’t Too Proud To Beg), I got to the mic, and said, “Hi, I’m Will, and I’ll be your black guy for the evening.” Yeah, that didn’t go over so well. Not knowing when to quit, I looked at the nearest patron (who was looking at me quizzically), and said, “Yeah, don’t think that I didn’t notice.” Anyway, the rest of the weekend was good. We ate lots of good food, we made plans for our joint venture, Kill Industries, and I got to see my bud.

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Oh, we also saw Star Trek Into Darkness. I really enjoyed it. It’s not “Star Trek”, but it was still enjoyable. Not even joining the Star Trek Alice Eve hoopla. I love Alice Eve in underwear – I think it’s in her contract. If you wanna be upset about something, be upset at how they depicted being attacked while in warp. That shit will fuck you up. They should’ve, at the very least, lost a nacelle from that. I mean, it should have been torn completely off its housing, and lost to space. They just don’t spin out of it like a car hitting a patch of black ice. That should’ve have been CATASTROPHIC. But whatever.

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I had a weird epiphany over the weekend. You see, I have this routine I do at restaurants: when I order Diet Coke, if they say “I’m sorry, but all we have is Pepsi”, I reply, “I THOUGHT THIS WAS AMERICA!” Only, last weekend, I realized that I prefer Pepsi – at least the diet variety. Maybe it’s because we’ve had SO much Diet Coke at home that its lost all appeal. It reminds me of college: I ended up kicking soda for a year and a half because it had lost all effect. I was drinking 2 liters of Wild Cherry Pepsi a day, and I eventually couldn’t even taste it anymore. I was just chugging it for the burn. So, I went cold turkey. Diet Coke has a similar effect for me now. So, for the time being, make mine Pepsi!

I also took on the Herculean task of getting one of my email accounts in order. In case you didn’t know, I own williambrucewest at everything except AOL. Well, I still have my college account redirected to my Hotmail/Outlook account, and it was at 78 pages. Yeah, I had stuff going back to 2006, which was the last time I’d even attempted to keep it under control. Now I’m at 4 pages, but I’m still striving for Inbox Zero. Over the weekend, I’m going to tackle Gmail.

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Anyone remember when I wrote about Xuxa a few months back? Well, I got the best comment on it the other day about America’s “cold and dirty minds”. Go check it out.

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Why has no one come up with the Jail Body Workout (#fitness)? I never, never, never, never, never wanna end up in jail, but if I ever do, three things will happen:

1) I’ll become well-read

2) I’ll get closer to God

3) I’ll get an amazing, jacked body

There should be a DVD for the Jail Body Workout, and it’d come with a pocket copy of the Qur’an (I used that spelling ’cause I’m really into apostrophes right now. So hot.). It can’t be hosted by Shaun T, though – his ass would never make it out alive.

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Haha, Morgan Freeman fell asleep during an interview! He also used to fuck his step-granddaughter, but we casually forgot that. Just like we forgot Jerry Seinfeld both dated a minor and stole his current wife away from her husband while she was on her honeymoon. Oh, but Michael Vick and Chris Brown are still assholes. God bless America’s selective memory!

So nice of the Boys Scouts to let in gay members, ’cause of course those kids’ll grow out of it by the time they’re scout leaders, right? Right? Ugh…

I ever tell you about the time I slept over at my ex’s parents’ house, and they put me in a room with several Rolexes sitting casually on a dresser. I’ve always thought that was a test. I passed. And now I ain’t got no Rolex. Random, I know.

Links I Loved
Taxi vs. Hill Street Blues: Battle of the TV Show Intros – The Robot’s Pajamas

A Raging Nerdgasm/Real Toy Hunting moment – my greatest wants acquired – Raging Nerdgasm

The Weekly Scoop: Underwear Uproar, Mini He-Man, and this Human Torch will not be denied a bank loan – UnderScoopFire!

What’s the most dangerous job in comics? – Cold Slither Podcast

A new podcast hit the streets recently, filled with folks I enjoy – head over to the Cold Slither Podcast, to hear Nicju and R2thaEdgy’s new show, “What’s The Tea?”

This Week’s Posts

Best of the West #3: Knight Rider Knight 2000 Voice Car

Collegiate Conundrum OR Reunited and Feels So Bad?

Thrift Justice – Hell Naw! Are You For Real?

One’s out of our league, while the others are too cool for school. One’s taking a nap, while the other’s taking a plea. Only one, however, could have the West Week Ever!

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Anyone who knows of my love for TNBC should’ve seen this coming. This week marks the 20th anniversary of the original Bayside gang’s graduation from high school. Yes, you’re that old! Like it or not, Saved by the Bell was a definitive pop culture milestone of the early 90s. For many of us, it gave us false expectations of what high school would be like. For others, it was our introduction to our first “feminist”. Either way, it’s been 20 years since they walked across that stage and got their diplomas from Mr. Belding. They’ve gone on to be strippers, game show hosts, cops, soap opera actresses, and more, but they’ll always be the Saved by the Bell kids.

I often wonder where they might be today. Lisa’s, no doubt, a fashion designer. If that didn’t work out, then she’s an on-air personality for E! Jessie’s an attorney, annoying the shit out of clients and judges alike. Slater blew out his knee and is probably an on-air personality for ESPN. Screech probably invented FaceSter, but Zack ends up with all the credit and the money. Speaking of Zack, he and Kelly have been divorced for about 12 years now. I know it was a kids show, but I never bought their whole “true love” angle. Zack was used to getting whatever he wanted, and Kelly was the one thing he had to work to get. He simply wanted what he couldn’t have, and once he got her, I’m sure he lost interest. Kelly, meanwhile, is a happy mom to 6 kids (remember, the Kapowskis were fertile) and is married to her second husband, Jeff. Yes, THAT Jeff. Oh, and The Max is now a national chain and can usually be found in the same shopping centers as Ernie’s Gym & Juice Bar franchises. Anyway, for touching our childhood (no MJ!), and for enduring all these years, the kids from Bayside High Class of ’93 had the West Week Ever.

27th Mar2013

Judging Bottles By Their Labels

by Will

I’m not much of a drinker. I’m not sure if this comes as a surprise to anyone, but I’m just not much of an alcohol dude. I tend to hate the taste, I’m a lightweight, and I’ve had some pretty bad experiences. Still, there are times in life that call for alcohol, like a wedding. When we were looking for beer and wine for the wedding, I actually had to taste the stuff, which wasn’t as fun to me as it might be for you. No, my favorite part of the whole experience was discovering new brands via cool labels. Since I’m a big fan of judging books by their covers (why else do they have them?), I thought I’d share some of the spirits labels that I thought were pretty cool.

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 In a former life, this was the last thing I saw before ODing at one of Andy Warhol’s parties.

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Simple and to the point.

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Put it on a wine bottle and it’s “cute and quirky”. Michael Vick does it, and still can’t live that shit down !

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This was the name of my Color Me Badd tribute band

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Based on the name, combined with the thickiosity of that chick, this was marketed to the brothas. She so fine, you wouldn’t even hide it in a paper bag. You’d just drink it right there on the corner, not caring.

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I love how majestic and wise he looks – like something you’d see on a Vision Quest.

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Somewhere out there, I hope there’s a porn star nicknamed “The Albino Python”.

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I wonder if Atlantis has laws against drinking & swimming…

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I knew a guy who did the “Chocolate Sombrero” on a chick. That poor girl never walked again.

2012-09-09 15.49.30Is this cow farting lightning?! And they managed to harness it in CANS?! SCIENCE!

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Why do we still doubt the Yeti’s existence? You can’t incorporate if you don’t exist. Duh!

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This what it looks like when your roommate gets super powers. Don’t fake – everyone‘s roommate looks like that dude.

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If it turns out Heaven is segregated, this is what Black Heaven probably looks like. I know one person who’ll love this. #appreciation

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Of course Moses was drunk. “Hey, watch this. I SAID WATCH THIS! I’m gonna command the sea. Watch! WATCH! YOU’RE NOT WATCHING!”

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What an unappetizing name for a beverage! It reminds me of this Lisa Landry bit:

Welp, there ya go. Oh, and you know what’s funny? I didn’t actually try any of them! Actually, no – I tried the one with the fox on it. It was NOT wise! So, for now I’ll just chill with my Redd’s Apple Ale, and wonder what might’ve been.

15th Jan2013

Thrift Justice – I Don’t Want No Scrubs

by Will

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Well, as we’ve covered before, I just can’t bring home everything I see. Sometimes this bothers me. At other times, I’m relieved. You see, I’m sometimes AMAZED by the lack of quality I see on shelves. Every now and then, I like to show you a few of those items, as we wonder what might’ve been.

 

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Originally part of the G1 Transformers Pretenders line, this guy looks like Reginald Denny. It’s been 20 years, so I’m fairly sure I can make that joke now. Bonus points is you knew that name without resorting to Wikipedia!

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This is another one of those supermarket toys we talked about last time. I actually kinda wanted this, though. It had a nice, shiny cockpit for two 3.75″ figures, and it’s almost like a bootleg Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors thing.

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AAHHHHH!!!!!! Gott In Himmel!! They look like they were in the tub too long (or, for you comic folks, like they were drawn by Frank Quitely). Do they even have tubs in Heaven? Are these things FROM Heaven? Oh, Jesus! Who would pay $81 for these?!

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Speaking of Jesus, what’s going on here? I’m pretty familiar with the Easter story, and I don’t remember the part where the Savior is crushed by a beam because the temple wasn’t up to code. Poor Jesus. He’s like, “Don’t mind me. Just got this beam on me. Yeah, no…can’t really help you with that pitcher of water over there.” I picture it like that old Will Ferrell/Rachel Dratch skit, where He’s probably really nice at first, but as people continue to ignore the beam, he’s all “My back, you bitch! MY BACK IS KILLING ME!” Yeah, I really need to get back to church…

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OK, one more for the road. I actually kinda considered getting this one. If you must know, I was never allowed to have Biblical action figures growing up because they were idols or something. It wasn’t that deep, but I think it was something along those lines. We used to go to this Seventh Day Adventist store for dried apricots or something. No, we aren’t 7DA (is that a real abbreviation? Looks like a boyband from the UK), nor do I know why we went there for dried fruit. In any case, they always had these 3.75″ Jesus action figures, but my mom wouldn’t let me get one. She was probably right, because I really just wanted him so he could perform battlefield resurrections for my G.I. Joes. “Fear not, Flint. Today is not the day that you meet my Father!” Anyway, I wasn’t paying $15 for this! They don’t even come with spring-loaded missile launchers!

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“Grandpa! Viacom’s on the phone! They say they wanna talk to you about our album! Maybe they wanna sign us!” No, they want to SUE you. What the fuck is this?! Talk about false advertising! There isn’t a Spongebob, or a Carly Shay, or even a pair of shorts being saluted here. If anything, this is some kinda of multigenerational CD released by the most boring white people who ever lived. And I’ll bet $20 that at least one of them is named Seamus.

Welp, that about does it for this round. Maybe next time I’ll show you something I actually bought. Or maybe we’ll talk about pop music. Ya never really know what you’re gonna get around here!

11th Jan2013

West Week Ever – 1/11/13

by Will

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So, I’m really into this app called Pocket (Formerly Read It Later). Yeah, you have to put in the parenthetical part, kinda like “Millionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne” or “The Artist Formerly Known As Mousecop”. Anyway, it allows you to save links for articles you’d like to read at a later date. The problem with the app, however, is that I never actually go back and read anything. I wanted to make a dent in the backlog over winter break, but I didn’t get very far. So, as I clear out the inventory, I’ll be sharing some of the most interesting stuff with you. Be warned: I’ve been using the app since July, so you’ve probably seen some of these already.

 

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I’ve always been fascinated by Scientology. It’s shrouded in so much secrecy, which only make me more curious. Unlike most people, I really try not to bash it because it’s really no crazier than most organized religions. And I say that as a practicing Christian. EVERY dogma requires you to sign on for some crazy shit. That’s where “Faith” comes in, and all that jazz. We’re all just trying to get through life the best way we can. Anyway, if you’ve ever been curious about Scientology, this is the BEST series I’ve ever read. It’s a 6-part essay written by a woman who was raised in, and later left, the church. If you’re just thinking, “Fuck them and their alien shit”, this isn’t the post for you. Skip to the next paragraph. However, if you have a genuine interest, click through as it’s a quick and engaging read.

I’m not even a Doctor Who fan, but I did get a kick out of Inspector Spacetime on Community. Well, as some of you may know, the guy who portrayed The Inspector used Kickstarter to fund a web series. So as to avoid litigation, the show is called Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time, and you can start watching the 6-episode first season here.

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Darius Rucker on Hootie and The Blowfish and his country career: “I think if we came out today, we would have to change the instrumentation on a few songs and rewrite a few songs,” he says.” We’d have to be a country band today. I thought we were as close to country music as you could be then. That’s why I thought when I started doing my country records that I wasn’t doing anything different.” I’ve been saying that last part the WHOLE TIME. He’s ALWAYS been country. (courtesy of Billboard). I like to think if I ever got famous, Darius and I would golf together, on courses where we shouldn’t be allowed to play.

Rachel Feinstein is my new comedic guilty pleasure, as she’s been cohosting mornings on Raw Dog Comedy. She’s a local girl, hailing from Bethesda, MD, but you may have seen her on Last Comic Standing. Anyway, she kinda reminds me of someone I used to know.

I’ve mentioned my disdain for the ending of Y: The Last Man, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the majority of the series. Compound that with the fact that I tend to HATE fan films, as their production values tend to be shit. That said, I would watch the fuck out of this movie.  Black men will recognize the lead Amazon (gang leader, not the mousy one) as Vida Guerra – the chick whose ass kept King Magazine in business.

 

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I said it was coming, and it’s here: I was invited to join @TimDogg98 of The Kliqnation and @ClassickMateria of The Cold Slither Podcast to discuss the events in Amazing Spider-Man #700. You can listen here, plus the link will be posted in the sidebar with the rest of my podcast appearances.

This Week’s Posts:

Thrift Justice – Sign Your Name Across My Art

Forgive Us Our Trespasses AKA Malled To Death

Oh, and buy my shit!

16th Jun2011

Mr Terrific?

by Will

So, according to a comment on my last post, I’m apparently deplorable for implying that the “DCnU” diversity books are simply that – affirmative action books to fulfill some diversity quota. If this revamp actually holds weight, more power to it. The thing is, I’m not new to this game. For all the changes of staff and direction, at the end of the day, the same people running the industry were running it 20 years ago. It’s a 4-color country club. That’s not to say that they don’t occasionally have good intentions, but they’ll always be thwarted by the baby boomer fans who don’t like change (remember the “Donald Glover for Spider-Man” debacle?). Sure, those fans will die out, but is there enough of a new generation to take their place? That, in essence, is the point of the DC revamp. I get that. I just don’t know if there’s as much an audience for that as one might think.

With all of this going, I decided to look at the matter from the perspective of the “black comic reader”. That’s not a normal thing for me, as I tend to just think of myself as “comic reader”. It rarely hits home that the heroes “don’t look like me” ’cause it’s fiction. A lot of people in real life “don’t look like me” either, as I’ve had a few unique experiences. Then again, I got into comics at an age when I was no longer looking for heroes, so maybe that has colored my view. In any case, I can turn a blind eye to a few things as simply “comic reader”. I find, however, that’s it’s when things are targeted directly to “black comic reader” that I have the most problems. One particular example of this is Mr. Terrific.

As the second person to go by the name “Mister Terrific”, Michael Holt has genius-level intelligence, and he’s an Olympic-class athlete. He became a self-made millionaire through his company, Cyberwear. After his wife and unborn baby were killed in a car accident, he contemplated suicide, but was stopped by The Spectre.  The Spectre told Holt of Terry Sloane, the original Mr. Terrific, which inspired Holt to want to follow in his footsteps. Not only does Mr. Terrific eventually become chairman of legacy group, The Justice Society, but he also becomes a ranking member in the Checkmate intelligence agency. Sounds good, right? Well, not so fast.

First, I’ve always had a problem with the fact that his intelligence is ranked. According to the comics, Mr. Terrific is the 3rd smartest man in DCU. Why does his intellect need to be qualified? Some might see this as a great advancement for a black character, but I always saw it as “Well, there are 2 people smarter than him, and I’ll bet they’re white.” If this were a race, he’d be the 2nd loser. Marvel did this with Amadeus Cho, who was the 7th smartest person in Marvel Universe. In both situations, all this does is point out that “he’s good, but he’s not the BEST”. Can’t he be brilliant without a rank? It’s bad for public schools, and it’s bad for super heroes.

Second, Mr. Terrific suffers from what I’m going to ignorantly refer to as “Doing-Too-Much-Itis”. This is one of the reasons that he always came off as a pandering, “diversity” hero, as there are 2 ways to play this: 1) make him a street-smart stereotype OR 2) go WAY overboard in the opposite direction. With Mr. Terrific, #2 is flying the plane. You see, it’s not enough that Holt is a genius and a successful businessman. No, he created T-Spheres which hover around him, and do whatever the story needs them to, and he’s also invisible to electronic detection. Plus, he’s an Olympic decathlete AND he holds 14 PhDs. FOURTEEN PhDs!!! In my best Seth Meyers voice, “Really?!” They couldn’t take one thing and stick with it? Now, my commentor would probably say something like, “Well, Batman’s smart – are you trying to say that a black man can’t be just as smart?” Here’s the difference, while Batman probably could’ve earned 14 PhDs, he DIDN’T. Ya know why? He didn’t need some institution of higher learning to qualify what he’d learned. He was too busy being trained by ninjas and shit.

It’s like comic book writers haven’t figured out how to handle the black middle class. It’s not all Sweet Christmas and Uncle Toms. There is a middle ground. Two great examples of this are Steel and Static. Both started a bit rough, as they were mired in the early 90s culture in which they debuted. Over time, however, they carved out identities that weren’t so stereotypical, and were something we hadn’t really seen before in comics. Steel became a trusted ally to, and engineer for, Superman and the Justice League. Static, if handled probably, could be the Peter Parker for a new generation. The key to both is that, to me, they’re relatable. I can’t relate to a dude with 14 PhDs. Mr. Terrific should be out teaching college courses or curing diseases instead of fighting Black Adam.

Finally, another thing bandied about regarding Mr. Terrific is his atheism. He has fought alongside the Wrath of God, but still isn’t a believer. Um, OK.

Let’s forget the fact that throwing real world religion into comics was a notion bound to fail. Some could say that the existence of a deity is more plausible in a comic universe than in the real world. So, by the very structure of his fictional world, Mr. Terrific is already unnecessarily outcast. Now, let’s add to it that the church is one of the cornerstones of what one might consider “the black experience”. His stance, therefore, distances him from many of  those for whom he was most likely created. While we live in the age of the rise of the “Blatheist”, this was just another Terrific aspect to which I couldn’t relate.

Now, let’s take another stance. Let’s assume Mr. Terrific wasn’t created for the black comic reading audience. Instead of appealing to the “black comic fan”, what if he’s meant to appeal to simply the “comic fan”? Let’s take the aging fanboy of the old school persuasion; I dealt with a lot of these back when I was with Diamond. In this situation, Mr. Terrific would still be fail as a concept. You know why? He’s an uppity, rich, intelligent black man, who doesn’t believe in God. Oh, and he dates white women. But he runs real fast (don’t forget to include a stereotype that they do believe in, ya know – so they can relate).

So, for whom was Mr. Terrific created? To whom does he appeal? Are any of you Mr. Terrific fans? With the DC relaunch, he’s slated to have a higher profile. As one of those old school fans pointed out on The Beat, the series will be “written by a black”, so who knows if I’ll find myself liking him more. If there are more fans like that Beat commentor, then the future doesn’t look too terrific to me after all.

28th Mar2011

Why Starfleet?

by Will

Yes, this began as a late night Twitter rant last week, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized a full blog post would give me a reason to play with MS Paint.

As some of you may know, I’ve been a Star Trek fan for most of my life. Back in middle school, my friends and I had the Star Trek Encyclopedia, as well as any tech guide or manual that Simon & Shuster decided to put out. We were the ones watching all those Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns that used to clog up Channel 20’s schedule. As I got older, however, my pallet began to prefer more mature tastes, such as Power Rangers and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I gave up the ghost during Voyager, and I’ve only seen a handful of Enterprise. That said, you can take the boy out of Trek, but you can’t take the Trek out of the boy. My brain’s still full of a lot of useless 24th century knowledge, and every now and then I find myself trying to make sense of it. During an usual bit of insomnia last week, I found myself wondering why, exactly, a human would even want to join Starfleet.

For those not in the know, in the Star Trek Universe, Starfleet is the “Space NATO” to the United Federation of Planets’ “Space UN”. Its members are predominantly human, and it is headquartered in Fort Baker, California. While Starfleet’s primary mission is to explore and seek out new life, things can get pretty tense out in space. Between wars with Cardassians, or lethal electrical feedback, there’s no shortage of danger for a Starfleet officer. Based on current economics and world affairs, I find myself wondering what would inspire a human to join an outfit like Starfleet, as the risks seem to outweigh the rewards. Let’s take a closer look at a few things.

Money: In today’s society, a big reason that people enlist in the Armed Forces is money. Whether they want to provide for their families with their signing bonus, or get in on some of that G.I. Bill money, the financial benefits entice many into joining the service. This, however, isn’t true for the Starfleet cadet. You see, the 24th century is based on what has been called “The New World Economy”. For all practical purposes, Earth has done away with poverty and hunger, but it has also done away with currency. As a sidebar, I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. Whenever I’m looking for work, people always ask me “Well, what would you want to do if money weren’t an issue?” I HATE this question because money is ALWAYS an issue. I just can’t wrap my head around that not being the case. I know that there are people who can, and God bless ’em, but that’s just not me. So, that’s why I have a hard time understanding why you’d want to go out in space, and risk getting tubes shoved in your ass and ear holes by a bunch of space zombies if there’s no financial gain. That’s too much danger to just write off as “the cost of exploration”!

Sex: Could the lure of Space Pussy be enough to get you to join up? But could you imagine the STDs out there? Or will a hypospray just clear that right up? Also, note that I said Space Pussy and not Space Dick, because the future doesn’t seem too bright for women – utopia be damned. If you’re a young, single woman in Starfleet, you’ll end up phasing through the floor or being killed by a large sentient oil spill. And don’t even try to be a gay male! Over the 40 year franchise, we’ve seen men in miniskirts (the “skant”) & go-go boots, but we were still led to believe that they liked the minge. Have they ever shown a homosexual on Star Trek? The closest they got was that androgynous race, and Riker still couldn’t help himself from giving one of them a bunch of confusing urges. Otherwise, the only gay icons of the 24th century were Major Kira, Tasha Yar, and Harry Kim. No, they never confirmed this, but c’mon…

Technology: If you’re a tech geek, then Starfleet is probably a dream come true. You could join Starfleet Engineering and test out all of the gadgets that you used to read about on your PADD before mandatory lights-out at the mining colony where you grew up. There’s a lot of leeway for experimentation, and there’s no battle for patents and ownership ’cause there’s no money to be had. The worst part, however, is when that technology backfires on you. I’m going to go with the simplest case here. You see, during space battles, the ships are protected by shields. When those shields are struck, it results in electromagnetic feedback that sometimes shoots out of the ships consoles and control panels. Many a Starfleet officer has been killed while simply sitting at his station during the wrong battle. When you graduate from the Academy, they might tell you to watch out for The Borg, but you’ll find that you risk your life just by simply walking down the hall. Observe (the fun starts at 01:18):

Meeting New Races: It might sound exciting to meet a new race of beings, but some of them have some crazy beliefs that you have to put up with. Sure, we’ve got the Scientologists and the vegans, there’s one 24th Century-era race that will KILL YOU IF YOU STEP ON THE FLOWERS! Did I also mention that they worship a giant space chandelier? Aside from little quirky things like that, sometimes you just deal with some straight up, fucked up shit:

Supporting Your Government: OK, I get it. There’s no money to be had, you’re not that into green chicks, and you don’t really mind phasering giant space slugs. Then, what is your incentive? Oh, maybe you’re just really patriotic. After all, your government (which now commands a network of planets rather than just Earth) has created a society in which you are taken care of, and given a chance to be a tool of discovery. Why wouldn’t you want to support a governing body like that? Well, maybe it’s because the United Federation of Planets is just as shady as today’s governmental bodies.

First off, there’s Section 31, which is The Federation’s version of the CIA. Nobody talks much about them, as very few people know that they exist. Not only do they exist, but they’ve had their hands in everything from the Temporal Cold War to the outlawed genetic enhancements that were performed on humans, like Dr Bashir. You may think everything’s well and good, but your government still doesn’t trust you, even in the 24th century. Also, their tactics are questionable, as they engage in full-scale, Jack Bauer level torture. They ended a war by eradicating an entire race. For Section 31, no one is off limits, so they might come for you one day.

On top of that, there’s all the shady stuff that the Federation does to coerce non-member planets into joining. The sheer existence of a bunch of space hippies like the Maquis proves that not everything that the Federation does is liked by all. Sure, you can’t please everyone all of the time, but the Star Trek Universe is based on the assumption that you not only can, but you have. So, why are The Maquis so mad?

So, I know it’s science fiction, and I really shouldn’t overthink it, but I’m just starting to think that the Star Trek Universe posed more questions than it answered. When I was 5, I used to weep at the fact that I’d never live to see the creation of Starfleet. I mean, even if I did, it would’ve been the crappy, Kirk-era Starfleet, and I don’t get down with The Original Series. After some careful thought, however, I’ll take capitalism, with its non-exploding walls and curable-by-penicillin-STDs, any day! The future’s just not for me, but I hope my great, great, great grandson, Hyperflex Westion IV, is a better man than I am, and will find a reason to beam up.

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