09th Jan2013

Forgive Us Our Trespasses AKA Malled To Death

by Will

2013-01-02 10.34.38

A week has passed since this little episode, so I think The Fuzz is off my trail. Do people still say that? “Off my trail?” You thought I was gonna say “The Fuzz”, didn’t ya? That’s humor for ya, folks! So, last week, I accidentally found myself in the role of “trespasser”. In the beginning, I didn’t know I was trespassing. No, I just thought I was exploring a dead mall. For those not in the know, a “dead mall” is basically a shopping mall that has fallen into disrepair. I used to work in commercial real estate, and the final word on shopping malls is that they’re all on their last legs (some just don’t know it yet). For a few, all tenants have long since vacated, yet the structure still stands, waiting to be “demalled” (*sigh* “Demalling” is another CRE term, where shopping malls are gutted and redesigned as town centers, where you can add residential and office space to the preexisting retail. Strong anchors, like Sears, remain but as standalone stores). Anyway, dead malls have quite the following, kinda like those kids who explore old mental institutions and anywhere else the public isn’t generally supposed to go. There’s a website and everything! Well, we have a dead mall in the region, known as the Frederick Towne Mall. I’ve wanted to see the inside of that place for years, but I’m a coward. Seriously, I learned about it during a stint of unemployment 2 years ago, while Lindsay lived in Frederick, and I still didn’t go. I had NOTHING ELSE to do. Coward. Well, that all changed last week.

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It all started with Boscov’s. Ya see, a few days prior, I’d been having a twitter discussion with @Jordamus_Prime, and he mentioned how he used to find all sorts of awesome stuff in the Boscov’s toy department. My first question: “What the Hell is Boscov’s?” Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been going up to Frederick on comic/toy runs for years, but it’s entirely a different world up there. It’s north, but feels like the south. They have stores we just don’t have in these parts, like Giant Eagle, Weis, Waffle House, etc. I’d always seen Boscov’s, but I didn’t know if it was a grocery store, or a poor man’s Kohls (which would be a SAD establishment) or what. Well, it’s a department store. I was in the area…looking for stuff, and I noticed the Boscov’s and decided to check it out. It felt like a shitty Woodies. For those of you NOT from the MD/DC/VA area, Woodward & Lothrop was a high-end mall anchor, colloquially known as “Woodies” that went out of business about 20 yrs ago. Boscov’s is like Woodies, as it stood the day it went out of business, with no modern upgrades whatsoever. That alone should’ve made me run away screaming. No, I’ve never understood things like “common sense”.

2013-01-02 10.34.32

As I was leaving the store, I noticed an old man doing one of those “Old Folks Exercise Loop Walks” out in the mall area. I thought to myself “Self, here’s your chance to finally see that dead mall.” Oddly enough, the mall entrance in the Boscov’s was blocked. He had to have  gotten in there somehow, right? I went outside, and noticed a mall entrance just to the side of Boscov’s. Out of three doors, two were locked with caution tape through the handles. Door #1, however, was the door to choose. The first thing I saw was the view that opened this post. Foot after foot of vacant retail. The thing that really struck me, though, was the silence. For a place so large, with those acoustics, I was expecting to hear something. HVAC system, janitor loudly cleaning. SOMETHING. No, there was nothing. It was the eeriest quiet I’ve ever heard. No, strike that – when I was in Russia (for you newcomers, I was an exchange student at 13), we got lost near the Estonian border, in the snow, and that was the eeriest silence I’d experienced. So, this was a tie. Immediately to my right was the former site of The Ground Round. I’ve never had the pleasure of eating at The Ground Round, but I hear it was THE place to hold an ’80s birthday party. A great match for the 80s department store adjacent to it. Unlike the other stores in the place, The Ground Round looked like it could still be operational, but was just closed at the moment. The other stores wouldn’t look so fresh.

2013-01-02 10.35.59

This fucking store right here! If you’ve ever played a horror -themed video game, you’ve seen this kind of location. The lights kinda flicker, and your first thought is “Why the Hell are the lights on anyway?! What a waste of money!” If you just scroll past quickly, it won’t affect you. But I implore you to stay on this pic, and just look for a few seconds. Notice the vacant cash wrap, and the empty fitting rooms. Now, start to wonder if anything is hiding in them…

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Apparently, you can take it with you, as this Bath & Body Works looks like everyone was Raptured after filling their arms with all the scrub they could carry on to the Great Beyond. Who’s gonna return the furniture to Pier 1 Imports? I couldn’t get the right angle, but I wanted to capture how the name had been scraped from the window. It was done in such as sloppy manner that the remaining imprint has a ghostly slime quality to it. This was, like, the 3rd store I saw. I was getting more and more scared, yet was dumb enough to keep going.

2013-01-02 10.37.00

So…um…was the Frederick County School System using this space for finals week? This one really perplexed me.

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The deeper I got into the mall, the crazier shit got. Now, I just passed the “testing room”, and then I found this. Apparently, this was the site of a discount store called Joey’s Bargain Outlet. I don’t get the pallets, though. I’ve never seen pallets in a mall. Walmart, Ollie’s, Home Depot – all of those make sense; large stores use pallets to move/display larger items. Unless you’re an anchor store, retail space in a mall is somewhat confined, so pallets just aren’t a smart use of space. Maybe it’s just the retail in me, but this was such an odd sight to me.

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OK, are you ready for shit to get really weird? Let’s do this. This is as far as you’re allowed  to go in the mall. On the left is a shut down FYE, while I don’t even know what’s on the right. The point is that you can’t go past this point. This is when I started taking in my surroundings. Look past the rope, to the right. Need a closer look?

2013-01-02 10.37.30

Here ya go. OK, so why the Hell are those seats arranged like that? It’s like some kind of supernatural AA meeting. It also bothered me that I couldn’t see why they were pointed that way. Was there a stage behind that shrub? While we have established that a lot of the stores were vacant, some, like Hallmark, looked like people had just left in a hurry. Like this was the site of something really bad. Is there where the survivors meet to discuss their strategies? Is this where they choose the leader of their cannibal biker tribe?!! WHAT?!!!

2013-01-02 10.37.55

Can we talk about something for a minute. In case you haven’t noticed, I was WAY into the process of freaking myself out. I mean, I had already been scared to go inside, and now that I was there, I was just getting more freaked out. Now, I fleshed more of this out later when I told my mother about this, but stay with me here. I told her everything I’ve told you up to this point, and she said “What were you doing there?! You could’ve gotten killed!” That’s when I reminded her, “Don’t worry. There were those old people in there walking.” And that’s when it hit me. The old people. I didn’t mention this earlier, but along with the old man I had seen, there was also an old lady walking. They were not together. They also continued along the same circuit, at the same pace, without looking up. I only came closest to the man, and he never acknowledged me. When I say that, I don’t mean he didn’t say “hi”. I mean, he never lifted his head to even confirm we were on the same plane of existence. They also made NO noise. No scuffing of Rockports on the hard floor, no old person phlegm-clearing cough, nothing. WERE THOSE OLD PEOPLE GHOSTS?!!! All this was going on in my head, and if I were a mid-budget sci fi show, this is when you’d see the Stargate wormhole effect from inside my brain out my eye, where my gaze would fall upon the kiosk above. I hadn’t really noticed it before, even though it had been just to the left of me. I walked over, and that’s when I saw this:

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SHIT! I was in danger of being trespassed! Then I thought, “Wait, that’s not how English works.” I didn’t have time to be Ivy League Asshole, as I then noticed in bold “THE POLICE”, and there was no mention of Sting. Let me see…black male, in abandoned structure, clearly taking pictures of things he shouldn’t be taking pictures of. SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! Then, in my best Michael Westen, I try to figure out how long I’d been in the mall compared to my perceived response time of the Frederick Police Department. Then I remembered that I’m not Michael Westen, and I should probably get the fuck out of there!

2013-01-02 10.38.24

Well, the damage had been done by that point, so I figured “One for the road?”

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Then one turned to two, ’cause how often do you see a shut down Cinnabon? Or Fannie May? I haven’t really decided what I think this was. But it was GONE and it was CREEPY. On the way out, I almost ran into the old man, as I crossed over his circuit. Still, no response from him whatsoever. Yup, definitely a ghost. I made for the door, looking both ways for cops. I made it to my car, and got the Hell out of there. They weren’t gonna trespass ME!

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…

28th Dec2012

West Week Ever – 12/28/12

by Will

oie_922142seDasWF9

 

I wasn’t really sure if I was gonna post this week, but here I am – one year older, but not much wiser.

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Santa was good to me, as you can see.  No, I’m not crazy – “Santa” was ME. I found all these in the days just before Christmas and my birthday, and Lindsay wrapped them for me.

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She got me these items, as well as some nice and well-needed clothes. And please don’t start with the “Why didn’t you get the Blu Ray?” I’m not ready to upgrade my entire collection just yet. I wanted to keep things consistent!

2012-12-26 22.47.12

I also bought my first Transformer at retail in I don’t know how long. He just looked cool, and since I got his “predecessor” recently, I felt like this was a proper bookend piece.

Speaking of Santa, I’ve been thinking a lot about Die Hard. At the time of the first movie, Lucy and John Jr are still the right age to be doing the Santa thing. Now, if that’s the case, the Christmas depicted in the first movie would mean the jig was up. I mean, I’m sure they were glad their parents weren’t dead, but I’ll bet they also really wanted one of those Nintendos everyone was talking about. I’ve wondered before: at what point do the McClanes just stop celebrating holidays?

Ever notice how so many aspects of Christmas sound like drugs? “Yo man – I got that Kris Kringle, I got that Rudolph. You got the cash, I got that Good King Wenceslas!”

Got this from a Google+ pal (see, it IS good for something!): If you’re in the PA area, you MUST check this place out! It looks so awesome.

I wanna talk about Will’s World of Wonder. Someone recently asked me if I’m “still doing that”. The short answer is “yes” (and they clearly haven’t been reading these posts, where I pimp the site on a weekly basis). This is gonna sound like sour grapes, but here it is: I’m still selling, just as actively as ever. I just got tired of the hustle, especially when it wasn’t getting me anywhere. I currently sell on the site, Craigslist, and eBay. I made the decision to stop posting links on Twitter because it was really just spam. Twitter makes up almost none of my customer base. Plus, I felt like no one on there wanted what I was selling. I speak better in analogies: I’m Pepsi, but everyone keeps raving about how great Coke is – to my face, even. So, why continue the Cola War when I could just be Dr. Pepper? So, the store is still going strong, but at this point I figure everyone knows where it is and to check it at their leisure. And if you read West Week Ever, then you can always take the link at the bottom as your cue to check in and see what’s new.

Speaking of Cola Wars, I was recently introduced to Sarsi, which is a Coke product that’s essentially Filipino root beer. I have a Filipino godson, and his family is constantly introducing me to stuff I never dreamt I’d consume. Sarsi smells like licorice, which I hate, but tastes so much better. It’s like the Scotch of soda – you don’t guzzle it, but sip it. Nurse it. Think back to days gone by.

Last night, I had the pleasure of joining TimDogg98 and ClassickMateria for a Comic Book Chronicles episode of the Kliqnation Podcast. I’ll post a link when it goes live, but I’ll give ya a teaser: we discussed comics. What, you want more? Fine, more specifically, we discussed Amazing Spider-Man #700 and the events within. It was a great time, so I hope you’ll check it out.

Anyway, that does it for this week. Oh yeah, since the world was supposed to end last week, could we refer to every event going forward as “Post Crisis” now? No? OK. See ya in 2013!

11th Dec2012

Can We Talk About Gail For A Minute?

by Will

Picture borrowed from The Nerdy Bird, who would HATE this post!

So, did anyone miss me the past 24 hrs? Probably not, but I had to take a twiatus (I created that. No, honest) because I just couldn’t deal with all the kvetching about Gail Simone being fired from Batgirl. Every DC fanboy I follow started professing undying love and vowed never to buy another DC comic. I just can’t get down with that. The Gail Simone fan base is the comic equivalent of Neil deGrasse Tyson fans. My Twitter timeline is littered with RTs from her account where she thinks she’s being cheeky and they just eat it up. My problem with them is that they’re simply not objective. I’m not a Gail hater. In fact, I’ve enjoyed much of her work. That said, I’m willing to call a spade a spade. When Gail is on, she’s ON. At the same time, though, Batgirl simply wasn’t that good.

Sure, he’s smart, but he also kinda looks like the manager of an Old Country Buffet…

People are now praising the book like it was this shining gem in DC’s crown, but these were the same people upset by the idea that Barbara Gordon would walk again. These were the same people who, like me, were disappointed that they made it to #4 without really addressing how she was walking. Now, these people are telling me it’s the greatest book on the stands, and DC Editorial is full of morons for firing her. Yeah, I’m not buying that.

Comics currently cost $4 each, in a pseudo recession. Most of us buy monthly books out of some sense of loyalty, but as I said on Twitter, comics aren’t bullying. You can’t expect me to pay $4 a month on the promise of “it gets better”. If the book is good now, great. But she sure took her sweet ass time getting there.

And this is where the problem starts. I’ve read stuff like “Well, it probably wasn’t her fault it was bad.  It was editorial.” At what point does she share the blame for a failure? It’s always too easy for her. The All-New Atom sucked, and she walked so John Byrne would get all the blame. The Fury of Firestorm was HORRID. It was City Guys with nuclear powers. She walked, so Van Sciver got the blame. In those cases, it was never “Gail’s fault”. People love to laud her successes, but an oral report of her career would be so unbalanced you’d swear it came from Fox News.

Others want to see this as an attack of women on comics, but that’s too easy. That sexism stuff is only used one way. I remember when people felt that the only person who’d understand Wonder Woman would be a woman writer. This is after Rucka had already proved that wrong, but fangirls, right? So, along this line of thinking, only one person in DC’s camp could pull it off: Gail. And she embarked on a stint that no one likes to mention, like the retarded cousin peeing in the corner at Thanksgiving. Comics’ Great Female Hope failed where people thought she’d most succeed.

Yes, she was good on Birds of Prey, Agent X, and Welcome to Tranquilty, BUT she failed on All-New Atom, Fury of Firestorm, Wonder Woman, the second Gen 13 reboot. Hell, even her last stint on Birds of Prey was less “Birds of Prey” than Gotham City Sirens. Sure, people could say “Only focus on the positives”, but that’s not how this hobby operates. Two words: Rob Liefeld. So, why does Gail get special treatment? Let’s look at it from a business standpoint. It could be said that she just wasn’t justifying her current contractual terms. I’m not sure when she renegotiated, but when The New 52 launched, it was understood that she would be on two books: Batgirl and Firestorm. But, as she’s wont to do, she walked off Firestorm. Now, I can’t verify this, but it seems like she has a higher than average rate of walking off books than other creators on exclusive contracts. So, for the past 8 months or so, she was being paid to not go elsewhere, while delivering half of the originally expected work. When other creators walked off books (Judd Winick, Rob Liefeld) in the recent DC climate, that was the end of them at the company. This is just another case of that. It just so happened it occurred once her exclusive was over. It’s just business.

Look, I’ve already lost followers and made enemies, but this needed to be said. I like Gail’s work, and wish her well, but cut the fucking bullshit. Stop with the candlelight vigils and the ragetweets. Gail’s gonna be just fine, and you know it. She had a job, and from my perspective, she didn’t give it her best and got fired. Hell, I had a job where I didn’t give my best, and I got fired. It taught me to try harder next time. Maybe next time, she’ll try harder. Not a sermon, just a thought.

07th Dec2012

West Week Ever – 12/7/12

by Will

It truly was the West Week Ever! First off, y’all apparently had no thoughts on the Chris Brown post. Or you didn’t wanna share them. Either way, I felt what I said needed to be said. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming of pop culture and toy talk.

So, this was on the side of a site I was visiting:

I can’t hit her! She’s a girl! Yeah, Chris Brown sucks, but this doesn’t really send a great message, either. She’s not even wearing protective headgear!

I was on a podcast that went live this week, thanks to the guys at UnderScoopFire! That intro may be the best thing I’ve ever heard, and I plan to somehow make it my outgoing voicemail message. I had a great time discussing the aforementioned Breezy situation, spoilers, Twitter and more! I had no clue I’d trigger the shitstorm that arose in the comments section, but that was fun, too. His words ONLY MADE ME STRONGER!!! Anyway, be sure to give it a listen!

-Anyone remember when voice-tracking was the greatest kept secret in radio? Not sure what voice-tracking is? OK, basically, it’s when a DJ records a bunch of non regionally-specific banter between songs so that it can be used in another radio market. So, your favorite afternoon drive-time DJ actually does nights on a station in Arizona with the same format. It used to be kept quiet because it’s the boogeyman of the industry. I mean, why bring attention to the fact that a station owner could save money by hiring fewer DJs to man their stations? Anyway, this is how The Kane Show airs in DC, as well as 5 other stations. Or how Rob Kruz does night work halfway across the country. Nowadays, they talk about it like it’s nothing. That’s an important development, almost like when WWE finally pulled back the curtain to show how they did chair shots and table smashing. I mean, you do what you gotta do, lest you end up with a JACK format (no DJs, so no jobs), but I’m still surprised by how brazen it has become.

Speaking of radio, I just spent an afternoon studying how War of the Roses is made. It’s all fake! Why can’t ANYTHING in “reality programming” be REAL anymore?! I mean, there’s no way they’d get permissions from both parties, but still! It’d come off as more realistic if they didn’t have 2 different ones per week. Anyway, I stumbled upon this article that lays it all out.

 

So, I found this video this week. If you’re not familiar with the artist, it’s Shannon Bex – also known as “the white girl who wasn’t Aubrey O’Day in Danity Kane”. Don’t know who or what a Danity Kane is? You clearly didn’t watch Making the Band. Anyway, I’d heard that she wanted to go country, but I’m perplexed by this video. I haven’t watched CMT in a bit, but me thinks there be too many folks of color in this clip. I mean, it shows she’s “hip”, I guess, but the whole exercise just comes off as stilted. Also, she needs to go back to her old look, as the blonde think just makes her look like every other country starlet trying to fill the Taylor Swift gap.

Finally, something cool happened to me in the last week, as I got the attention of one of the writers of Power Rangers. Not just any writer, but the guy who wrote the anniversary episode “Forever Red” – Mr. Amit Bhaumik. His story’s pretty interesting, as it seems that he started out as just a superfan writing fanfic. Next thing you know, he’s working on the real deal. Anyway, last week he was talking about the change in Jason’s (original Red Ranger) personality from his last appearance in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to his return in Power Rangers ZEO. His character had been written out to go to an “international peace conference”, yet he came back like the conference was no longer an issue. So, I tweeted:

Shortly thereafter, I see this in my mentions:

He retweeted me! But that’s not all. Yesterday, I sent him the link to my Power Rangers theme post, and not only did he retweet that, but he also weighed in:

Look, I’m sorry I’m fanboying, but THIS IS A BIG DEAL TO ME! You’ve seen the Power Rangers posts! Anyway, that capped off my week on a good note.

I can’t go without mentioning Geeks for Tots. It’s a fun contest where you could win awesome prizes by donating to Toys for Tots. Some people resent the idea of “being rewarded” for doing a good deed, but you shouldn’t think of it that way. It’s a great cause, and you’ll be helping less fortunate kids to have a happy holiday season. Here’s an interview I did with the Geeks for Tots founder last year, and be sure to visit the site for more info. I’m not just a Geeks for Tots booster, but I’m also a sponsor. This is a VERY important weekend for the program, as the dropbox items will be collected soon. So, let’s get out there and put some smiles on some tiny faces!

Anyway, be sure to check out this week’s posts:

Comical Thoughts – When You’re A Spy…

Play It Again, Karone: A Look Back On 20 Years of Power Rangers Music

And feel free to buy something from me at Will’s World of Wonder!

05th Dec2012

Comical Thoughts – When You’re A Spy…

by Will

It’s been awhile since one of these. Actually, it hasn’t. I mean, my AvX post could’ve easily been a Comical Thoughts post, but I got lazy with my branding. Anyway, we’re back and I’ve got a great, new logo (courtesy of Brian over at coolandcollected.com). I haven’t been as knee-deep in comics lately, so I didn’t have much to say. I’ve been catching up recently, though, so a few things have occurred to me.

I was surprised to realize that one of my favorite books from The New 52 was Red Hood and The Outlaws. I mean, on paper, it’s a terrible idea, and the whole shitstorm surrounding slutty Starfire got panties in a bunch. Hell, I went on record saying I hated the first issue. Now, at issue #13, I can honestly say it has become a shining star to me in a sea of mediocrity. And now I know why: it’s Burn Notice.

I LOVE Burn Notice! If you’re not familiar with that show, disgraced spy Michael Westen tries to reclaim his life with the help of ex-girlfriend (and former arms dealer) Fiona and pal (and former Navy SEAL who did bad things) Sam. In RHatO, Starfire is clearly Fiona, while Arsenal is Sam and Red Hood is Michael. Sure, in this version, “Sam” is banging “Fiona”, but that’s only a minor difference.Formerly “bad” people just trying to do the right thing.  Once I realized that, it made it an even more enjoyable experience.

 

I do not like this new Iron Man series. I’ve never been a Kieron Gillen fan, honestly. He’s that indie wunderkind who got his break in the majors, while still possessing indie ideas. I read Phonogram. It was different. Quirky. Haven’t liked anything he’s done mainstream, though. HATED Generation Hope and dropped Uncanny X-Men once he came aboard.

I’ve been with Iron Man since the old Extremis arc through Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. on through all of Invincible Iron Man. Through all of that, I grew to like the character. I don’t like him now, and it’s not like anything has fundamentally changed. A big part of the problem is Greg Land. Who the Hell keeps getting him to “draw” like he does? Another problem is that the series launched into stagnancy. It’s like it’s in a holding pattern in order to sync up with the rest off the staggered MarvelNOW launches. You see, the Invincible Iron Man series ended with Tony needing new challenges, and taking off for the stars. the new series starts, and Tony’s already back on Earth. He’s not talking about space, and the main plot point is based on a 6 year old storyline. If not for the passing reference that Pepper is still CEO of Resilient, you could almost assume that Invincible Iron Man never happened. The space stuff is the SECOND arc, so that it matches with the launch of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. It also doesn’t help that I have no clue what color the suit is. Is that shading? Is it really black and yellow? Fraction did a lot with that character, and I can understand Gillen’s desire to do something new, but he doesn’t seem to respect what came immediately before.

I’ve still got some lingering Batman family questions:

– How/when did Lucius recover from his stroke?

– What exactly happened to Commissioner Akins?

– How did Jim Gordon & Bullock come back to the force?

– What was the fallout of Bruce Wayne announcing he was Batman’s financial backer?

– So, were there any repercussions for Leslie Thompkins?

If you read the Bat books for any length of time before the New 52 reboot, you’ll understand those questions.  If not, don’t worry about it.

Speaking of Batman, one of my recent favorite podcast discoveries is Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman. I usually tend to hate celebrity podcasts, which is why I only listen to this and Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy. However, Fatman on Batman is great if you’ve ever wanted to hear people get truly emotional about Batman. It’s a concept that a lot of people just don’t get, but the show features actors and creators as they really just talk about the profound impact that Batman has had on their lives and/or careers. It’s interesting to see equally important figures in the mythos have different opinions on things. For example, Diedrich Bader (voice of Batman in The Brave and the Bold) played up Batman’s sense of humor, and he said that during Batman’s inner monologues he would use the “Bruce Wayne” voice. This contrasts with Paul Dini’s take that Batman has no sense of humor, and the Batman Beyond reveal that Bruce doesn’t call himself “Bruce” in his head. Both takes are equally important, without one being “right”. They’re still Batman. It’s odd I feel that way, though, as I still feel that the Nolanverse is NOT Batman. The difference is that they animated versions pay homage to different renditions of Batman, while the Nolan Batman appends the name to a completely different construct. Anyway, I’m getting off topic. If you’re a Batman fan, definitely check out Fatman on Batman.

Finally, I’ve got a bit of a conundrum when it comes to how I go about reading comics. I read AvX on my Nook, but didn’t love the experience. That said, I’m getting tired of paying $4 an issue for something that just takes up space. I’m starting to wonder if I really need to keep the issues. Then, something else happened: I started going back to the local hotel comic shows, and there’s always a dealer with recent books for $1. We’re not talking about old books, either – these are books that came out that same week. I haven’t done the Wednesday ritual in some time, so now I’m trying to figure out if I should just wait for the hotel shows and pay $1. Sure, the important stuff will end up being spoiled online, but the really important stuff is gonna be spoiled by the publishers anyway.  So, do I just play the clearance waiting game? Thoughts?

 

30th Nov2012

West Week Ever – 11/30/12

by Will

Man, what a week it has been. I’ve gotten into a lot of Twitter beef this week. Whether it was about spoilers, Chris Brown, or the angry ladies of The Mary Sue, it has been a doozy! I’m not rehashing the spoiler stuff, but I was honored to be invited on to the Underscoopfire Podcast, so you’ll be able to hear my ramblings on it soon!

Chris Brown….so, I’ve been called a Chris Brown apologist, but that’s not the case. I just think people completely lose their shit when discussing him. It’s almost as bad as the folks who still call Michael Vick a “human piece of shit”. I say almost because Vick served his time, and you need to acknowledge that. There are people out here who are/treated worse than those dogs, and you don’t.give.one.shit. The problem with Chris Brown is that everyone expected some kind of social justice that never came to fruition. Folks hoped that Brown’s assault on Rihanna would end his career and send a message that such behavior won’t be tolerated. Instead, he’s more popular than ever, with the full support of “Team Breezy” turning every discussion of him into a “U Mad?” shitstorm. As Rod on The Black Guy Who Tips says, “People ain’t shit”.

I’m not on Brown’s side. I just don’t have the energy to stay mad at him. Hell, Rihanna doesn’t even care enough to stay mad. Now, we can get into the dynamics of “women return to their attackers all the time”, but it’s not my job to analyze that relationship. I simply don’t care. Because I don’t care, however, don’t expect me to side with you on shit that’s wrong. At the end of the day, Jenny Johnson was trolling Chris. She has a history of it, and has been doing it for over a year. Chris is just too dumb to realize he should keep his mouth shut. Had this happened to anyone else, folks would’ve gladly proclaimed it as trolling. For Brown, however, he apparently no longer gets rights because he’s no longer a human being. Whatever.

There’s also the flawed argument of “he never apologized!” BAM:

Now, we can discuss whether or not it was scripted by his handlers as a shrewd PR move, but the fact of the matter is that there was an apology that everyone has decided to forget. Once that’s produced, then it gets into “Well, he doesn’t act like someone who’s sorry.” What? Did people want him to join the priesthood? He answered all questions (that his legal team would allow) in the beginning, but that’s all people wanted to talk about. So, he got mad. Let’s get personal here – this may not apply to my geek friends, as we don’t really have a lot of skeletons; we weren’t popular enough in high school to get into any real trouble. So, this goes out to that one cool person reading this site: don’t you have something you’ve done that you’d rather not be reminded of every time you’re in public? Maybe you had an affair/drug conviction/rape charge/tax evasion/whatever. I’m not here to get into all that. Take your moment of silence, and think about that. Now, imagine trying to get on with your life, and that always coming up. What he did was atrocious, but I can also understand why he’s mad. And I feel like some folks take advantage of that because we all, deep down, know he’s not right in the head. Years ago, on this very site, before all this happened, I said he wasn’t right. So, that, then turns this into a matter of he’s sick and needs help, rather than he’s an asshole celebrity, right? Right?

I just feel like the digital pitchforks that people pick up whenever his name is mentioned aren’t really doing any good. If you feel bad about violence about women, get the word out, volunteer, DO SOMETHING. Twitter shit, however, is “slacktivism”. Jenny Johnson, while she might feel he’s a horrible person for what he did, just used you all to get famous. This was a lazy Sunday to her, that went viral. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear about a book/TV deal in the next few months. Believe me, meetings are happening. You aren’t stopping violence against women. You’re just helping the next quarter’s entertainment cycle. At the end of the day, there’s nothing that Brown could do or say to make what he did OK. He has no humility, and he doesn’t act like a person who’s sorry for what he did. Hell, he doesn’t act like a person who’s thankful that he’s somehow still successful. I get it. So move on. I’m a person who has harbored a lot of grudges over the years, and that’s against people I knew. That shit gets you nowhere. Let’s all try to be more constructive with our anger in the future.

06th Nov2012

The Podcast Post

by Will

So, I’m not just the zany guy with the blog – I like to TALK, too. A LOT. Thankfully, a few sites have allowed me to indulge in that hobby by inviting me on their podcasts. I think the last time I even mentioned being on a podcast on here was back when @marcuskdowling was writing about pop music and hadn’t had his nervous breakdown yet. More recently, I’ve been allowed to discuss my geekier pursuits on pods like the General Geekery Podcast, Superhero Time, Dave & Devall’s Toys & Collectibles, Nerd Lunch, Powetcast and the Cold Slither Podcast. Not only should you check them out (especially MY episodes), but you can now find handy dandy links to them in my new sidebar widget. Look out, world! I’m comin’ into your ear! Here are two shows I was on last week:

I had a great time with Dave and, my brother from another colored mother, Devall! We discussed vintage toys, antique mall price gouging, and the future of the toy industry!

 

They FINALLY let me on! After sponsoring Slither Madness earlier this year, I got to sit down with Classick, Tim, and Eclectik #appreciation. We talked about the new Spider-Man, Halloween memories, and Classick and I developed a reality show.

An odd thing I realized while doing this post is that I happened to be on Episode 44 of two different podcasts recorded during the same week. If there were a Pick 2 lottery, I’d certainly be playing that number.

So, check out the sidebar, listen to the shows, and tell me what you think. Also, if you’ve got a podcast, I’d love to chat with you. But you have to ask me. I’m old fashioned like that.

P.S. It would behoove you to listen, as I just might mention you. Yeah, @OAFE – that was directed right at you 😉

05th Nov2012

Failure To Launch: My Stillborn Parody Account

by Will

So, I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m trying to find my niche lately. I think a lot of websites like to put on bravado, acting like they get a ton of page hits, but I’ve never been that guy. I’ll be honest with ya: I don’t even check my Google Analytics, as I know it’s not worth it. For me to check my stats would be the equivalent of checking your mail when all you ever get is junkmail. I think I’m good at letting you in on my thought process, and giving you a glimpse as to “how the sausage is made”. I turned my focus to this question: How could I expand my online brand? There are memes, but I have neither the patience nor the graphics software to pull those off. There are podcasts, but if people won’t read me on a regular basis, why would they listen to me? Plus, I don’t want the added responsibility of yet another thing to have to maintain (I can honestly say that I don’t want a podcast. I do, however, enjoy guesting on them. I’ve said that I want to be the equivalent of the 80s standup comic who makes the talk show rounds, but continually refuses a starring vehicle of his own). What else do people like? Parody twitter accounts. Or so I thought. This is the story of how I screwed the pooch in the parody game.

I honestly couldn’t tell you when it all began. I’d actually always hated parody accounts, as they tend to be created due to some particular moment in time, and the joke gets dated FAST. Whether it’s @bindersofwomen, @angelinasleg or @fuckyoupenguin, these are all concepts that will be forgotten until Mo Rocca or Frangelina bring them up on a future edition of I Love The ’10s. So, instead of jumping on a bandwagon, I needed to go for a timeless concept. I was impressed by UnderScoopFire’s parody account for Aaron Neville, appropriately (especially to avoid prosecution) titled @NotAaronNeville. They’d really given a humorous voice to a figure who’s known for his stature, voice, and scars, but not his humor. I think I got kinda jealous of that, and in a Twitter conversation, I one day mentioned that I’d “rather talk to @SenileStan”. No, I don’t remember the context. I’m a really bad historian. I just remember my side of the conversation, because I am a narcissist (did you READ the name of the site?). But I got the same sensation Ben Franklin must’ve felt when he invented the electric chair – Stan Lee is old, has an interesting view of his own history, and is known for being over the top. What would happen if he were going senile (it’s still OK to laugh at senility, now that the world has Alzheimer’s)? So, I immediately secured the @SenileStan Twitter account and began to friend anyone and everyone who seemed interested in comics (except comics professionals – oddly enough, as much as I wanted attention, I was still kinda scared some industry pro would rip me a new one for mocking Stan and/or the possibility he might be losing his mind). Little did I realize that creating the account would be the easiest part. I guess it’s like conception – sex is easy, but raising that kid is HARD.

It started off funny enough. My first tweet was:

 

I was proud of that tweet. It was a little randy, a little edgy. The kinda thing your drunk grandpa might say. As time went on, though, I realized I kinda backed myself into a corner. Without knowing much about Stan (as much as we know, we don’t know much. His anecdotes change with the tides), I found myself deviating into a “lecherous old man” archetype, while trying to find ways to link it to Marvel. The main themes were that he was a pervert, with a selective memory, who was always running from death. I also wasn’t very prolific with the account. If I’d done more bombs, then I probably would’ve ended up with more hits, but I tended to only sign into that account when inspiration struck, which was rare. There were a few of my favorite tweets:

Now, a couple things happened here. Or didn’t happen. First off, no one wondered who was behind the account. It’s a known fact that whenever a parody count takes the world by storm, everyone’s scrambling to be the one to introduce the world to the face behind the account. I’m not sure if nobody knew it was me, or if they just didn’t care. Like, maybe I thought I was being sneaky, and folks were just saying to themselves, “Oh, I see Will’s blowing through all the Z-material over on the Stan account.” I mean, I was communicating with the same folks I normally do, and the “voice” wasn’t much different. I’m like the guy who falls asleep still in drag; I was just BEGGING to be outed. Plus, I slipped up a few times, and tweeted links to Will’s World of Wonder items from that account. While that didn’t immediately implicate me, there are only 2 other people on twitter who regularly tweet my links (@coldslitherpod and @lamarrevenger – thanks, guys!), neither of them is a parody account.

Then, real life happened. Just like “real life” can spawn a parody account, it can also kill one. Or drive the nail into the coffin. You see, a few weeks ago, Stan canceled all of his convention appearances, and news started circulating that his health was poor. People were being secretive, so we didn’t know how bad the situation might be. What was I to do? Luckily, I wasn’t sitting on any A-Material, but I still wondered if the site would be in poor taste. A mere 2 weeks later, we found out that Stan got a pacemaker, and he went back to making that money. Crises averted. Until last Friday.

While scanning my timeline, as I am wont to do, I noticed an RT of @BizarroStanLee. Not only did he have the same “voice” of my account, but he also used the same damn avatar. Oh, hell naw! Then, I noticed that the account had over 1,000 followers. Game, blouses. As the great Kenny Rogers said (ya know, before he messed his face up with plastic surgery) “Know when to walk away”. I have no problem doing something creative and not getting a ton of credit for it (you’re looking at proof of that), but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna look like some kinda copycat. I clearly lost that battle, and it’s not like it was my best work, anyway. It was a good learning experience, and it was fun feeling like I was being all sneaky. So, @senilestan’s final message to the world was this nugget:

I tend to hate when people make a big deal of deleting their social media accounts. It’s like the villain who gives a soliloquy before the killing blow. Just fucking do it already! However, I believe it was the great Depeche Mode, who said “things like this make me sick, and in a case like this I’ll get away with it.”

Le Senile Stan Est Morte! Vive Le Senile Stan!

12th Oct2012

LoEB Presents The State of the Site Address

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Finally compiled my Black History Month calendar

-Made lots of new friends

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

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

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

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

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