22nd Mar2019

Thrift Justice – Physical Education

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes From The Road

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

 

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

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

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

22nd Feb2019

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

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

25th Jan2019

Thrift Justice – Operation Kondo

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18th Jan2019

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2018

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 In Movies

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

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

2018 In Television

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

2018 In Music

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

West Week Ever Recipients of 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/29/18 (TRU Edition)

by Will

I’m gonna take some liberties with the format this week, as it’s sort of a special occasion. I’ll cover this week’s news next week, and I hope you’ll forgive the departure.

As you probably already know, today is the final day of business for Toys “R” in the United States. Some stores closed earlier this week, but all will be closed by tonight. I’m still processing what this means to me. Sure, as a child of the ’80s, and a pop culture junkie, TRU has meant a lot to me over the years. I’ve touched on it here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever told you my Toys “R” Us origin story. So, there’s no time like the present!

I’ve been talking with a lot of “cohorts” lately, and they’ve said things like “It didn’t mean that much to me.” Or “The toys were too expensive.” They also say they don’t have any real nostalgic connection to the brand. I can’t diminish someone else’s experience, but that simply wasn’t the case for me. I will admit that Toys “R” Us has suffered from something of an identity crisis over the past decade or so, but I think we all remember the golden age of cartoon Geoffrey the Giraffe, and his extended family (Gigi, etc).

For me, TRU was a magical place that I always hoped to sneak off to while my mom and grandmother were visiting the garden center down the plaza from it. I also didn’t get many toys from TRU back in the day, because toys used to be everywhere: People’s Drug, Kmart, Sears, Woolworth’s. But getting a toy from those places was merely pedestrian. To get a toy from TRU was like visiting Mecca. It’s like the song said, “From bikes and trains to video games” – it was the biggest toy store there was!

You know how when you’re a kid, folks are always asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My blanket answer was “I want to own a McDonald’s and a Toys ‘R’ Us.” Yes, young Will didn’t know about franchising and commercial real estate leases. He thought you could own one of those just like some rando can own the corner store. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or cops, and I just wanted to work with Geoffrey. Can’t say I didn’t aim high!

As I got older, I learned that folks actually look down on McDonald’s as a place of employment if you’re not a teenager (which is pretty messed up, if you ask me!). Still, that kinda marred the brand in my mind, so I gave up on that dream. That became a dream deferred. I didn’t give up on Toys “R” Us, though. I decided I was going to work for Toys “R” Us corporate. After all, everyone respects a businessman, and I’d still be working with toys!

Unlike most teenagers, I didn’t have an afterschool job. No, I didn’t get my first job until the week after my high school graduation. Where? Toys “R” Us. I had actually applied during the previous Christmas season, when I handed my application to the store director, Erin. Of course they never called (‘cause they never do. The onus of the job hunt is on the hunter), but I tried again the following summer.

Now, if you’re new here, you don’t know much about me. My dad died when I was 3, and I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. To say I was a “Mama’s Boy” would be something of an understatement, but it gets the image across. So, while most teenagers would confidently saunter into a place and ask if they’re hiring, I had my mom with me, and I think she did most of the talking. So, they didn’t call me. However, when I went back the next summer, Erin recognized me because I was the one who had brought his mother with him to apply. She either thought it was cute or sad. I never did find out. Anyway, she hired me and put me to work the next day.

Yay, I was finally working with toys! My dream job! Oh, the smiles I would put on kids’ faces! The funny thing about TRU is that, once you work there, you realize just how big (and kinda unnecessary) that store truly is. I began to realize that I’d spent my childhood worshiping aisles 6D and 7D (action figures), not even acknowledging that there was a whole lot more store than that. More, for which I did not give a shit. They kept putting me in bikes or in diapers, but I’d find a way to sneak back to action figures.

Plus, because I was seasonal (I was leaving for college at the end of the summer), they never saw any need to train me on the register. I worked at that place for 3 seasons before they trained me on register. By the time I was in Year 8, they were like “Here’s Paco. It’s his first day, and we want you to train him on the register.” That was so weird to me. We don’t know that dude, so why are we so quick to let him near the money? Anyway, since I held no “floor value” for them, they had me unload trucks, organize the stockroom, and bring up any big ticket pickup requests, like bikes, swings, etc.

Here’s why TRU means a lot to me: as someone who grew up pretty sheltered, that job gave me a crash course on LIFE. The cute girls, the old ladies – those were the ones they put on the floor. The guys in the back, however, were a rougher bunch. Some of them were ex-cons, while some of them were clearly headed for incarceration. It’s funny looking back on it because I had two very distinct Toys “R” Us employment experiences: the Wheaton era, which was basically Training Day, and the Columbia era, which was Saved By The Bell: The New Class.

These guys were telling me stuff about the women they were seeing, as well as what they were doing to those women. They’d also tell me about their wives. Yup, same dudes. Seventeen year old Will would naively point out “But you’re married!” One thing I will never forget is when Ramone laughed at me, saying “Man, you don’t marry for love. You marry for security.” That was deep, especially at 17.

That place was filled with a cast of characters, and that television show, despite being set in a toy store, would have to air on Netflix or premium cable. There was chainsmoking mumbler, Garrett, who built the bikes. I was working there when JFK Jr. and his wife died, and Garrett was the one who offered up his theory that sky head was to blame. You’ve heard of road head? Well, same thing, but in a privately chartered helicopter. In the sky. Garrett loved his conspiracies.

There was David, the other bike assembly guy, who’d just gotten back from overseas, and was clearly going through some kind of PTSD. He either looked like a fatter Tony Hale or a skinnier Bubba Ray Dudley. The jury’s still out on that. His arms were covered in sleeves, so management made him wear a light blue Oxford to cover his arms so he wouldn’t offend the guests. I remember he was really blinky, and I was always expecting a Falling Down episode from him. He totally took advantage of me because I was young and dumb and had more money than I needed. He had brought some Pocket Monsters stuff back with him from Japan (remember, Pokémon had just hit the US, so this was the original, pure shit), and I remember him selling it to me for some price that really didn’t make a lot of sense. But I hate conflict, and don’t know how to back out of a deal, so “Here’s your money, David.” The sad post-script is that most of that stuff ended up going to my then-girlfriend’s little brother. Yup, I did it all for the nookie. Or was trying to, at least.

Barbara was the first Black lesbian I’d ever encountered, and she scared the shit out of me (not the first lesbian, though – I’d seen the Ellen Degeneres-starring Mr. Wrong almost a decade prior, and well, I just knew…). She was mean, and if she threatened to cut you, I truly believe a cutting was in your future. She had a nice side racket going, where the old White G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels collectors would pay her to put the new cases aside for them, so they could get the good stuff before it hit the floor. I’m sure they were terrified of her, too, but those Treasure Hunts weren’t gonna scalp themselves. Anyway, I clapped back at her one day about something trivial (I was young and stupid) , and stayed on her bad side after that.

Ron was one of the managers, and he made me question every naïve thing I’d ever thought about leadership. Later, in college, I’d learn the difference between management and leadership, but at the time I thought they were the same. He had come from Foot Locker, and I spent a lot of time wondering “What’s he doing here? Shoes have nothing to do with toys.” See, I hadn’t yet hit that realization that retail is just a job. As the youngest person working in the store, I never stopped to think that I was the only one who WANTED to be there due to a love of toys. It was hilarious, though, watching him pursue a phat ass through the store. It’s like he had a sixth sense for it, and then he’d get on the walkie, telling the other guys to meet him in whatever aisle she happened to be in. That shit was pure harassment, but I’d never seen anything like it before. And, to be honest, none of the women ever seemed that offended. If anything, they were just happy to receive some kind of customer service which, as you know, has been lacking in a lot of places in recent years.

Finally, as the ringmaster of this motley crew, Erin was a short woman who wore a tight French braid. In some other life, she was a detective or a parole officer, but here she made sure that Mr. Potato Head was “edged off” (the practice of pulling the boxes to the very edge of the shelf, to give the illusion that the shelves are more full that they actually are. Plus, it brings the item closer to the customer’s reach). You knew it was a rough day when she would pitch in with the clean-up, and release her hair from that braid. She was tough, but fair. She had a maternal, Captain Janeway quality to her, and we were all her Sevens of Nine. They’d eventually transfer her to the Frederick store. I saw her a few years later, and she barely had any recollection of me, my mom, any of it. Through squints, she seemed to sort of register who I was, but I’m sure so many folks had passed through her “finishing school” by that point that they all start to blend together. Still, thanks for not letting Barbara cut me, “Mom”.

In all, I worked for the Wheaton store over the course of 7 years, during summers and Christmas when I’d come home from college, as well as some stints afterward. In early 2006, the company announced plans to close 75 stores across the country, which we thought was unheard of at the time. Still, I didn’t think much about it until I came in one day soon after Christmas to see Store Closing signs hung everywhere. These days you’d probably at least get an email or something, but not then. Were we so primitive in 2006? So, I found out the same way our customers did – seeing the signage in the store.

I’ve already shared some stories about those final days in Wheaton, but that store just kept on teaching me things. In this case, I learned how fun retail could be if you simply didn’t give a shit anymore. Sure, it’s probably not best for the customer, but I had a lot of fun during that liquidation period. Still, it was a part-time job for me, so it didn’t hit me like it probably affected others there. By that point, all the folks I mentioned had already moved on. As I saw it, my education was complete, and I was fine with the store closing. Plus, there was still a TRU across town, so it’s not like we wouldn’t have a local store.

The Wheaton store closed, and I thought that was it for my Toys “R” Us time. In college, I majored in Human Development, with a concentration on early childhood. The whole “I want to work with toys” wasn’t just a pipe dream to me. I took courses on play interaction, and interned at a daycare to study how kids play with each other. The problem, though, is that there was no real career path for that at the time. Sure, now there are schools with toy curriculums, like F.I.T., but that wasn’t a thing in 2001. Once I graduated, nobody knew what to do with me. I sent a bunch of blind letters to Hasbro, TRU, Mattel, and more. See, it turns out toy companies care more about design than intent. It’s more likely they’ll make a cool-looking toy educational instead of making an educational toy cool-looking. If it teaches something, great, but the aesthetic came first. So, the folks who did gave me the time of day wanted to see my portfolio – a portfolio that I did not have. I remember I got a really nice letter from some VP at TRU corporate that was basically “We don’t know what to do with you, but don’t give up on your dreams.” Sorry, lady, but I gave up.

After a stint in commercial real estate, I got a chance to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. It wasn’t quite toys, but it was as close to the toy industry as I felt I was going to get. The sad thing, though, is that you have to sacrifice for your dreams. So, I took a huge pay cut and then found myself with a life I couldn’t afford anymore. My commute was 100 miles a day round trip (that’s not an exaggeration), and I could barely pay my rent. So, I was going to need a second job, and I realized the Columbia Toys “R” Us was halfway between work and home. It also helped that a few of the managers from the tail end of the Wheaton days had transferred to that store. I had an “in”.

Remember when Saved By The Bell: The College Years got cancelled, and Screech kinda crawled back to Bayside in Saved By The Bell: The New Class? That was pretty much my experience here. I had started my TRU career as the youngest person in the store, and now I was something of an elder statesman. Everyone I worked with now was somewhere between 19 and 22, and I thought it was going to be my turn to teach them life lessons. It would by my Training Day. Yeah…that didn’t happen. The Columbia staff had different interests and were in different places in their lives than the Wheaton staff. The Wheaton folks were just working there until a better retail job came along, while the Columbia kids were working their way through community college and didn’t see retail as the end for themselves. With my prior experience, I expected to walk into some kind of Degrassi environment, but it was a lot more madcap than that.

I’ll admit that I probably wasn’t the best person to manage at this point. I mean, I was a good worker – a hard worker – but I did what I wanted. I just kinda took action figures for myself, and made it clear “Don’t you even think about putting me somewhere else.” And I provided good customer service to folks in those aisles, but I did not give a shit about anything outside of Boy’s World. The location of the store made sense on weekdays, as it was on the way home, but it made no sense for me to drive 30 miles on a Saturday morning, to work 5 hours – I was just wasting gas at that point. So, I kinda did what I wanted to “justify” the inconvenience. Yeah, I know it’s a job, and it was my choice to make that commute, but they let me get away with “creating my own experience”, so I guess I “won”?

While my early time with the company was about life’s hard lessons, the latter time was really just about decompression. I looked forward to my Saturday shifts as “Wow, I really tricked this company into paying me to hang out with my friends.” We had a lot of fun, and I still think about a lot of those folks.

Patrick was an interesting kid. He was Chinese, but somehow had a redneck, Tea Party uncle whom he idolized, so he was basically a Chinese redneck. He never understood the contradictions in that, but he never let that stop him. Still he was a lot of fun, as we’d talk about cartoons and Power Rangers. We would team up in the boy’s department, and called ourselves Team Bumblebee.

Crystal was the sweetest girl you’d ever meet, which is why it was perfect that they put her at customer service. Customers loved her, while she had an apple bottom that some folks would’ve paid to take a bite out of. She was our Kelly Kapowski, hands down.

If Crystal was our Kelly, then Amber was definitely our Jessie Spano. She and Crystal looked like they could’ve been sisters, but Amber was the spitfire of the two. She had little Lisa Loeb glasses, and took her supervisor role seriously – almost too seriously at times. That’s why it was even more interesting when she lightened up, and found herself in a love triangle with managers Paul and Jesse.

Bryan was the most responsible 19 year old I’ve ever met in my entire life. He had actually come from the Wheaton store, and was one of the reasons I was looking forward to working at Columbia. He had a mad-on for law enforcement, though. His dream was to go to the police academy, and he’d go on ride alongs during his free time. In the grand scheme of the Columbia store, Bryan was “The Adult”.

Marvin was basically Lord of the R-Zone, which was the electronics department of the store. I never really got a read on him, despite working in his orbit for years. Was he shy? Did he just not like me? I dunno, but I still run into him at comic conventions, as he has segued into the life of a cosplayer in recent years.

The best of the bunch, however, had to be Mike, whom we affectionately called “Special Forces”. Ya see, when he started, he was seasonal and those guys didn’t wear TRU uniforms because A) I don’t think TRU wanted to “waste” them on seasonals, and B) they didn’t want them to be instantly recognizable as employees to customers, as customer interaction would affect their ability to move in the background of everything. So, he wore a black shirt and black jeans, which made him look like some sort of special forces agent, so… Mike’s still around to this day, as many of you know of him from my Thrift Justice posts. He’s one of my best friends, and definitely one of the better things to come from that last TRU stint.

As much as I wanted to think I was the oldest, non-manager there, that wasn’t true. No, that “honor” belonged to “Stanley” (Yeah, that’s not his real name. You don’t need to know that). I’m gonna level with you here: there’s a good chance Stanley was some kind of molester. He was in his 70s, creepy, and wore a Dora the Explorer cap that he found in a shopping cart one day. I know for a fact that he offered $50 to a young employee to have sex with him. I also know she strongly considered it. He knew where all the hooker pickup spots were, and he had some stories. Just as earlier in my career, TRU was still teaching me things. I learned how you can like people who are possibly horrible. Like, I didn’t have *proof* that he had done anything illegal, but I also didn’t have proof that he had not done those things. Still, something about him still came off as “kindly”. I still think about him, and wonder if he’s still with us.

I made it 10 years with TRU, and not much longer. They even gave me a catalog of shit to choose from for my anniversary gift. I never did get that cordless screwdriver… Anyway, I had my performance review, and found out I wasn’t good enough to receive my $0.25 raise. I took a long hard look around, and wondered why I was fighting for a quarter. I’d been raised with the “Every little bit helps” mentality, but here was a company that didn’t think I was worth an additional quarter. Yes, I know that adds up when it’s a quarter for everyone, but TEN YEARS! Call it “Millennial Entitlement” if you want, but that was it for me. I was tired of the commute. I no longer had the job that made this one convenient in the evenings, and I had pretty much just met Lindsay, so I had other stuff I’d rather be doing. So, I basically quit that day of the review. I’d worked out my schedule, and I didn’t owe them any time. I’d show them!

In the years since, I’ve sort of regretted how it ended. I definitely missed the excitement of the holiday season, and even wondered if I was rehireable. I once applied to the closer Rockville store, but never heard back. Ya know, ‘cause the onus of the job hunt… So, my TRU career ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. That’s not how I would like to have gone out, but that’s how life is sometimes. My time at Toys “R” Us was filled with those life-affirming moments, so this just seemed like a natural, if not completely satisfying, end.

As a customer, I’ll definitely miss Toys “R” Us. Sure, Target and Walmart have a foothold in the industry, but their 7 toy aisles don’t hold a candle to the selection at TRU. I used to stop and think about how almost unnecessary a store like TRU was. I mean, think about it: it’s a big box store devoted solely to toys. Only in a capitalistic society could that idea fly and, as we have learned, that same capitalistic society would be what killed it.

Still, folks don’t realize that the concept of “childhood” is fairly young. Before, say, the end of the Industrial Revolution, kids were just seen as tiny adults. Sure, take them to that public execution, nobody cares! So, it’s always amazing to me that, not only did the concept of childhood develop, but that successful businesses arose to capitalize on that. Folks say that toy sales are down, with the internet and other time wasters available, so I often wonder what that means for the evolution of childhood. I guess time will tell.

Anyway, we’re not here to forecast the future of the toy industry. No, we’re here to say goodbye to an old teacher, an old friend. I got to take my oldest to say “goodbye” a few months back, but it saddens me that my youngest will know nothing of Toys “R” Us. She’ll know nothing of the place that helped to shape her father’s worldview. She’ll know nothing of Geoffrey the Giraffe. I only hope that she one day experiences something that affects her the same way that my Toys “R” Us experience affected me. That’s why Toys “R” Us had the West Life Ever.

15th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/15/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM):

Chris Hardwick: Thank sweet Baby Jesus it’s finally acceptable to say Chris Hardwick is a piece of shit! I could’ve told you that from back during the Singled Out days. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, his former girlfriend, Chloe Dykstra, posted an essay on Medium detailing the abuse that she suffered during their relationship. Not only was he emotionally abusive to Dykstra, but he also regularly made her have sex with him when she didn’t want to do it. Then, when she finally left him, he used his sway in geek circles to have her blacklisted.

Now, I don’t want to make light of what he did for some personal vendetta. All I’m saying is that none of these allegations surprise me. He always came off as an insecure little man who never got over the fact he was bullied in school. He’s the kind of person who’d keep a Shit List to “get back at his enemies” once he was in a position to do so. I never liked the cut of his jib, and there was just something I couldn’t put my finger on. To say these things online, however, were a nonstarter, ’cause he has something of a deplorable fan base. You know how folks hate the Rick & Morty fans? Well, these are basically the same guys. Say something about him, and they come mock you. Why? Because they’re the guys who’d do the same shit in his position. Anyway, he recently renamed his podcast to ID10T and moved from the Nerdist Network that he created, to the ID10T company that he also created. The Nerdist brand now belongs to Legendary, but he remains the CEO even if it’s just a vanity title at the moment, as he has very little day to day involvement. Still, it will be interesting to see how many folks in the ID10T/Nerdist family leave over these allegations.

So, it ain’t looking good for folks who assumed the Disney/Fox acquisition was a done deal. On the heels of the court approving the AT&T/Time-Warner merger, Comcast has submitted an offer for Fox for $65 billion, in an all-cash deal. While the cash aspect might be unattractive, due to the taxes involved, the deal is still worth more than Disney’s offer of $52.4 billion in stock. Plus, to sweeten the deal, Comcast has offered to pay the $1.5 billion “breakup fee” that Fox would have to pay Disney for backing out of their negotiations. So, it’s currently Disney’s game to lose, as they’ll need to come back with a more attractive offer. There’s a chance, though, that the X-Men and Fantastic Four aren’t “coming home” as soon as many previously assumed.

While things for Disney/Marvel are sort of in a holding pattern, things over at Warner Bros/DC Comics are crazy sauce right now! First off, President of DC Entertainment and President of Warner Bros Consumer Products, Diane Nelson, has officially left the company. She reportedly went on a leave of absence back in March to attend to family matters, but now it appears she will not be returning to her post. Insiders stress that she made the decision to leave, and wasn’t ousted.

But wait, there’s more! Earlier this week, it was reported that the Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns, who worked closely with Nelson, would also be leaving the company. His CCO role will now be added to DC Publisher Jim Lee’s plate, while he’s being given something of a consolation production deal at Warner Bros, called Mad Ghost Productions. Unlike Nelson, it seems the writing was on the wall for Johns. The studio wasn’t happy with the response to Justice League, which he produced, not to mention the majority of the DCEU slate. In January, Johns sort of lost his seat at the table when Warner Bros promoted Walter Hamada to oversee the comic book movie division.

Still, I can’t help but think these two departures are related. Were they banging each other? Are they splitting off to form their own company, like Sterling Cooper did that time on Mad Men? I’m honestly not surprised about the Nelson thing, really. I have no clue what she’s going through, but I remember how…unprepared she seemed to be at the “DC in D.C.” event back in January. Sure, it was the inaugural edition of an untested concept, but her speech was more disjointedly off-the-cuff than prepared, and she struck me as someone who probably couldn’t have run a PTA meeting, let alone a company like DC Entertainment. Maybe it was just a bad morning for her, but it was clear that whatever she eventually left to deal with in March was already going on back then.

On the comics side of things, though, there’s some interesting things on the horizon. This week, we got more information about the upcoming event, Heroes In Crisis. Written by Tom King, who I hear has been doing some amazing stuff with the Batman book (and who I can confirm did an amazing job on Sheriff of Babylon), the story focuses on PTSD in the superhero community. In order to deal with it, and get heroes mentally prepared to get back on the streets, the DC Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman established Sanctuary. The facility is something of a secret amongst the hero community, and anonymity is kept because it keeps no patient records. Suddenly, however, some recent patients turn up dead, and a murder mystery is ignited.

I like the sound of this storyline because it’s something we don’t think about too often. Sure, there’s always a danger in incorporating real world events into comics (I’m looking at you, post-9/11 crying Dr. Doom!), but I could see how this would work. I also like how it seems like a more grounded story, where change might occur, but it isn’t necessarily on the “The Universe Will Never Be The Same!” level of most crossover events. It sort of reminds me of Identity Crisis, which is a story I didn’t hate as much as some others. Sure, I thought the ending/reveal was something of a cop out, but it also didn’t seem like a huge betrayal because I wasn’t all that familiar with the character. I kinda hate that they managed to slip “Crisis” into the title, as DC execs are bound to know how triggering that is for fans. Still, I like the more character-based stories, and I don’t feel you have to go to space just to make a storyline seem like it “matters”. So, I’ll definitely be picking this up. And then reading it 2 years from now, because that’s how far behind I am on my DC reading.

They said the Revolution would not be televised, but they were wrong. What they didn’t tell us was that it would end, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Yes, it is with heavy heart that I report that, after 28 seasons, production has ceased on The Jerry Springer Show. In a deal reported this week, The CW has acquired the show’s library to air in the afternoon spot being vacated by cancelled The Robert Irvine Show on their stations. While the door is open for possible tapings down the road, new episodes of the show are no longer in production. I will never fulfill a lifelong dream of sitting in an audience of drunken Spring Break college kids, yelling “Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!”

I mean, I get it. Jerry’s 74 years old, and he’s made his money. When the show hit its peak, the guests seemed like a weird microcosm of American society. We’d watch the show and ask each other “Where do they find these people?” Now, we look around us, and that IS America. We won! No, no we didn’t. We’re a heartbeat away from Idiocracy. You could blame Springer for ushering in this era, or you could credit the show for giving us a preview of what we would become. We had the chance to stop it, but we decided we’d rather laugh at the cousin-fucking chair throwers. This just led to not only the reality show craze, but also inspired the World Wrestling Entertainment “Attitude Era”.

What was always interesting to me was Springer’s pivot. I’ve been with the show from the very beginning, and you wouldn’t recognize those first few seasons, where he was doing his best Phil Donahue impression. He had serious, sometimes heartwarming topics, like little kids with HIV and how they were coping. Then, in the mid 90s, the fights began. The chairs took to the skies. The security budget increased. At some point, they redesigned the set to look like a back alley and installed a stripper pole. The lower they sank, the more popular they became. It was the smart, conservative diligent student who realized she’d be more popular if she said “Screw homework!” and showed a bit more cleavage. It got so bad that the show came under fire for its most outrageous bits, prompting them to do more cutaways, yet it provided more footage to fuel their Girls Gone Wild-esque Jerry Springer: Too Hot For TV video series.

I’ve often wondered which was the REAL Jerry Springer: the early nuDonahue OR the modern-day White Trash ringmaster? The man’s earlier political career was tarnished when a raid on a massage parlor revealed a check that he had used to pay for a prostitute (People used checks to pay for hookers? Can you imagine how many of those had to have bounced?! Man, I miss the old days!). So, was the gentle, caring early Springer something of an image restoration, and in his older age he decided he just didn’t care anymore? Or is he still that Springer, but he’s essentially doing all this because it’s what the people want?

I’ve also been impressed that the production aspect of the show is one of show business’s greatest kept secrets. I mean, it’s been almost 30 years, and we still don’t really know how they pull it off. We know how wrestling is done. We know how some of the greatest magic tricks are done. But we still don’t really know what goes into producing an average episode of The Jerry Springer Show. Where DO they find these people? Are they paid? Are they actors? If they are actors, none of them have ever made it big. There’s no footage of a young Benicio Del Toro on stage for his love of midget strippers. Sure, there have been stories. For example, Lunchbox, who’s a morning radio personality as part of country radio’s The Bobby Bones Show, went on Springer when he was in high school. He admits he lied, though, about his age and his reason for being there. So, that’s one case. From that, we learn they didn’t vet their guests that well, but then why would they? Some of those stories are so fantastical that you wouldn’t want to prove them false, and there’s no real legal ramification for putting it out there without researching it. I mean, it’s entertainment, not a scientific breakthrough needing FDA approval.

Anyway, it’s truly the end of an era, which may not be a bad thing. Nobody could really keep up with Springer’s outlandish show, even though they tried. Some eventually found their niche, like Maury ruling the paternity test roost. The latest trend in syndicated daytime talk shows are known as “conflict talkers”. This is your Steve Wilkos, your Robert Irvine, your Jeremy Kyle. It’s a genre of show where middle-aged White men (usually muscle-bound and/or former cops) yell at poor people. “You need to respect your mom!” “Close your legs and open your eyes!” “Why won’t you let him see his kids?!” In all honesty, it’s a natural progression from the Springer era. Everyone had their fun back then, and this is the wind-down, where you’re forced to look back at what you did. Meanwhile, the more outrageous Springerites have moved over to the world of court shows, just as they used to migrate to the dating shows back at the turn of the century.

My grandmother used to love Springer. She’d pretend she was appalled by it, but her 85 year old self loved to watch people fight. Not boxing fights, but visceral “real people” altercations. She also used to love any episode of Married…with Children when the Bundys grew closer by throwing down with another family. She was an odd bird at times, and I loved her for it. She’s been gone for almost 20 years now, but this is kind of the end of an era of something we shared. Thanks for the memories, Jerry. Until we meet again, you take care of yourself, and we’ll try to take care of each other.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of guesting on quite a few friends’ podcasts. One that was especially good to me was the Cold Slither Podcast Network. I was invited on pretty early, and they always supported me during the Will’s World of Wonder years. So, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that CSPN chairman/president/CEO, Classick Materia, announced his retirement from the network last week. Now known to the world simply as “Jamal”, his life is in a different place than when he started the Cold Slither Podcast, and then expanded it into a full network with a slate of shows. I’ve been on the flagship show, I’ve been on Comic Book Chronicles, and I’ve had some of the most fun on The Classick Team-Up. So, I do feel like I’m losing a small part of myself here. Still, I understand his decision and wish him well. And it’s not like the CSPN is going away. No, he’s leaving it in capable hands. Still, I don’t know those dudes, so they ain’t asking me on anytime soon!

It’s not all endings, however. We’ve also got some beginnings! My pal Kevin Hellions runs TeamHellions.com, and he’s got a new thrifting column called T.H.R.I.F.T. that you need to check out. When I was doing Thrift Justice, I always meant to do “Tips from the road”, giving folks advice on how to find stuff. Instead, it turned into “Look at my cool shit!” Kevin here has excelled where I fell short. Great stuff!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Remember when you bought a new outfit that really didn’t fit your personality, but were excited to wear it to school because you thought it would make you cool? But, instead, everyone just laughed at you? That’s pretty much what happened to IHOP this week, when they announced that they were temporarily changing their name to IHOb, for International House of Burgers. Apparently they’ve got some new steak burger line they’re trying to promote, and this is what their genius marketing people came up with. It’s sad because it shows a lack of commitment. Last week, when the change was teased, nowhere did they mention it was temporary. We got the impression they’d be updating signs, menus, etc. Now that we know it’s just a temporary marketing ploy, they just look sad.
  • Not everything in Washington sucks these days, as the Capitals won the Stanley Cup finals. There was a parade and everything. I’m not a sports guy, so I missed all that, but I know folks are happy. They’d be happier if it were football or baseball instead of hockey, but they’ll take what they can get.
  • CBS continues its retooling of the upcoming Cedric The Entertainer-starring sitcom, The Neighborhood. When I did my upfronts post, I mentioned that star Josh Lawson had been replaced by New Girl‘s Max Greenfield. At the time, my only comfort was knowing that Dreama Walker would be on the show. Well, that’s over, as she’s been replaced by 2 Broke Girls‘ Beth Behrs. I already had issues with the one-note nature of the show, and these recasts don’t fill me with any additional confidence.
  • Somehow, author James Patterson and former President Bill Clinton were paired together to write a novel. And someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea to send them on a book tour on the tail end of the #MeToo movement. I take it that person is currently looking for work. In a pseudo-contentious interview with NBC’s Craig Melvin, Clinton said that he never apologized to former intern/cigar holder Monica Lewinsky, nor does he feel he owes her an apology – all of this while Patterson sat idly by, with “I just wanted to talk about my book” clearly plastered across his face.
  • The Miss America Pageant will be eliminating the swimsuit competition, at which point I feel we should just call a spade a spade and get rid of the whole thing. It’s not that I feel women need to be objectified in swimwear, but it’s that I feel the pageant as a whole doesn’t really offer much more than that. It’s all just surface appraisals, so why start acting like you care about a woman’s character and all that? It was founded in 1921, so do it til 2021 and wrap that shit up with the rest of the historical artifacts.
  • FX has renewed Atlanta for season 3. I actually finally finished season 2 over the weekend, and I would have had no problem if it had ended as something of a 2-season “experiment”. I felt season 2 was weird solely for the sake of being weird. Glover deftly handles that sort of material, but I just wanted some episodes I didn’t have to analyze or Google to get the whole picture. Considering season 2 was “Robbin’ Season”, which saw everyone have something taken away from them, I really hope season 3 is a little more positive for all involved.
  • TBS reversed its renewal of the Conan O’Brien-produced sitcom People of Earth. It had been renewed for a 3rd season last fall, with the season already written, but the show’s creator took to Twitter to report that it wouldn’t be shot. This makes me worry for The Detour, which is a recently-renewed favorite of mine, also on TBS, which was never a ratings darling.
  • The Tony Awards were cattier than ever this year, as Robert DeNiro said “Fuck Trump” on the live telecast, while Neil Patrick Harris started a Twitter feud with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom. And a bunch of shows won some awards, but none of them were Hamilton, so nobody outside the theatre world cared.
  • Keiynan Lonsdale is leaving his role of Kid Flash on both The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, reportedly for “personal reasons”. Yeah, I’ve got nothing snarky to say there. He seems like a good kid.
  • Bill Cosby’s wife, Camille, is reportedly ready to file for divorce. Bitch, you had 30-plus years to leave him. Bye!
  • The showrunners for Star Trek: Discovery, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg, have been ousted, with Alex Kurtzman taking over as showrunner for season 2. Half of the season has already been completed, but the pair were accused of budget overruns, as well as mistreatment of writing staff. Akiva Goldsman, who came on as executive producer last season will also not be returning.
  • Silver & Black, the Silver Sable/Black Cat Spider-Man spinoff film that nobody wanted, has lost its release date, and has been delayed indefinitely. I guess they’re taking notes from the Universal Fancon folks…
  • It’s a confusing story, so I’m not even going to try to make sense of it. Let’s just say that Stan Lee has been granted a restraining order against his supposed business partner Key Morgan. Morgan has served as Lee’s “caretaker” since the death of Lee’s wife, but many suspect he is responsible for elder abuse of Lee. This story has been going for the last 6 months, and only seems to get crazier.
  • We got three trailers last week worth talking about. I’m running short on time, so I’ll use the In Living Color review scale. Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Hated it!); The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Hated it!); Bumblebee (Two Snaps Up!)
  • Speaking of trailers, though, here’s one for a movie, Hearts Beat Loud, that I’d really like to see. It’s out now, but nobody’s gonna see it, so hopefully it finds life on DVD/streaming.

Here comes the swerve! You know how one of the four in the intro pic gets the West Week Ever? Not today, suckas! I really should’ve written a post last week, ’cause I was scared I wouldn’t get to do this. I mean, nothing really happened in the world of pop culture last week, but this week was something of a shitshow. Still, nothing GOOD happened like this:

Charlotte “Charley” Bruce West was born last Tuesday at 10:33 PM, at 7 lbs and 1 oz. She was originally due May 30th, so you can see she’s pretty stubborn (she didn’t get that from me!). While her older sister took a good 24 hours to come put, this delivery was shorter than Avengers: Infinity War. Her mom didn’t even have time to get an epidural, ’cause she’s a warrior like that!

Anyway, I now have two kids – two daughters at that. I walk around my house, mumbling “Two kids…two kids.” It’s much more difficult than I thought it would be. I mean, changing a diaper while the older one is climbing on your back? It’s like a demented reality show! Anyway, I now have two kids. My mom only had one, so she can’t tell me shit. Every time she opens her mouth, I’m like “Two kids. I won.” So, to me, that’s the best thing that happened in popular culture the past 2 weeks. You can have your Stanley Cup and your CMT awards. I’ve got Charley, and she had the West Week Ever.

09th Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/9/17

by Will

 

In an interesting shake-up over at CBS, Erinn Hayes has been let go from her role as wife to Kevin James in Kevin Can Wait. They say that the show is going in a new direction, which necessitated the firing. But here’s where it gets interesting. Leah Remini, who played James’s wife on King of Queens, popped up in the season finale as James’ former cop partner. Well, just before announcing Hayes’s departure, CBS announced that Remini would be joining the show next season as a series regular. Now, if you’ve never seen Kevin Can Wait, Kevin James plays a former NYC cop who tries to figure out how to adjust to his recent retirement. Based on the season finale, though, it seems like James’s character might be coming out of retirement. It’s just a strange move, seeing as how the show ended the season as the #1 new comedy on network TV – hardly a situation that necessitated a retooling of the show. Part of what critics praised was Hayes’s portrayal of James’s wife of 20 years. How do you just gloss over that relationship? I mean, they’ve gotta kill her off, but unless you do a time jump, you’ve gotta slog through all the grief stuff, which doesn’t lend itself well to a multicam comedy. And if they’re gonna fast track a relationship between James and Remini, will the audience accept it? It really feels like they blew a sure thing and, if they wanted to recreate The King of Queens, thy should’ve just revived The King of Queens! I’ve said that online since Kevin was announced!

Speaking of Remini, I’m starting to think she’s a Scientology double agent. Bear with me here: Scientology is a well-connected organization in Hollywood that allegedly has the power to ruin your career with the information that they have on their members. If you ever leave the church, you’re pretty much done. Just look at the list of former Scientologists. On that list, Remini and Jeffrey Tambor are the one ones who even have a semblance of a steady career right now, and Tambor kinda skirted the issue by saying he never really joined the church. Remini, however, joined up as a child, and was a HUGE booster of the church. Then, in 2013, she turned on the church – not for its negative views on homosexuality (which is why Crash director Paul Haggis left) or its alleged illegal activities. No, she left because she got her feelings hurt after leadership clapped back at her. At Tom Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes, Remini asked why church leader David Miscavige’s wife wasn’t in attendance, and they basically told her she didn’t have clearance for that info (formal speak for “Nunyo Biznazz”). She didn’t trust that answer, and went further to file a missing persons report on Mrs. Miscavige. Then, she made it her mission to publicly discredit Miscavige, criticizing his leadership, citing reports of abuse in the Sea Org, and more. She went straight to the TOP with her blame game, yet NOTHING has happened to her. In fact, it’s probably rejuvenated her career. She got a successful show on A&E called Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, where she’s basically telling all their secrets. When the show debuted, the church issued a statement attacking her. Yet, she’s working more now than she was before. So, there’s two things happening here: either Scientology isn’t as powerful and litigious as we’ve been led to believe OR they’re in on it. It’s yin and yang. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. While Scientology has its critics, it never really had an enemy before. Why not create one where they could control the narrative? It’s like learning that Captain America has secretly been Hydra the whole time. Long story short, I’m not entirely convinced she’s left the church, especially over something as trivial as what’s reported to have started the whole thing. And she’s laughing all the way to the bank.

In other TV news, Tia and Tamera Mowry (yeah, they got married and have new hyphenated last names, but I ain’t got time for all that) are trying to get a Sister, Sister revival off the ground. And I don’t know anyone who wants this. If you were cool back in the 90s you probably never watched Sister, Sister, where a set of adopted twins didn’t realize they were twins until a chance meeting in a department store, a la The Parent Trap. Then they all move in together. It was the definition of “mediocre”, yet once ABC canceled it, it gained a new life over on The WB. The most memorable thing about it was that Marques “Batman” Houston, of the R&B group Immature/IMx, played their annoying neighbor Roger (kinda like a watered down Steve Urkel), and they’d constantly yell “Go home, Roger!” at him. Other than that, it was just a bunch of zany, mistaken identity twin shit – stuff that I’d hope adult Tia and Tamera had outgrown by now. What’s the story to tell? They both get divorced, and move in together with their kids? Sorry, Kate & Allie, Getting By, and the upcoming Raven’s Home have already covered that old chestnut. Are they single in the city, doing the same twin shit? Not interested. I don’t have a lot of faith in this one getting picked up, though, because they’re far behind where they need to be. Right now, they say they’re looking for a show runner to guide the project, but then they’d have to find a network. Sister, Sister was NO Full House, so I doubt Netflix would be interested. If anything, the only place I’d put it right now would probably be Freeform, even though the twins are slightly older than the target demo of that channel. Let this just be a lesson that not everything needs to be revived.

In other television news, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has cast Tala Ashe as Muslim “hacktivist” Zari Adrianna Tomaz for season 3. She’s a computer whiz from 2030, so basically the team’s got their own Oracle/Felicity now – not that they really need it, with Gideon and all. Anyway, in comics Tomaz is actually an Egyptian who uses the Amulet of Isis to transform into the hero Isis. Before the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe, Isis was an important character in the weekly series 52, as she was in a relationship with Black Adam, and her brother, Osiris, was eaten by Sobek. Oh, and she had a cheesy TV show in the 70s. None of that’s gonna be in the Legends, I’m sure. Given the current political climate, and how loaded the name “Isis” is right now, I doubt they’ll actually ever call her that onscreen, either.

Song of the Week

Today I give you “Vampires”, by The Midnight. My pal and thrifting partner, “Special Forces”, and I decided that this is the official theme song for Thrift Justice should it ever become a real show. Synthwave AND saxophone?! I wanna direct Skinemax movies just so I can score them with this entire album. So sexy. Right now, Thrift Justice is a USA drama circa 1990, and I ain’t got no problems with that!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland will guest star on Freeform’s Shadowhunters, which kinda sounds like a step back
  • Speaking of Freeform, they’ve ordered a pilot for an American adaptation of UK hit Misfits. The network is a good home for something like this, but I’m still pissed over the American adaptation of Skins, so…
  • Rudy Huxtable herself, Keshia Knight Pulliam, escorted TV dad Bill Cosby to the first day of his rape trial. Whatever. Call me when Lisa Bonet shows up.
  • In next level pettiness, Taylor Swift put her entire catalog back on Spotify at midnight – at the very moment Katy Perry released her album “Witness”
  • According to Dan Aykroyd, Paul Feig blew his chance at a Ghostbusters sequel because he overran his budget on unnecessary reshoots. Sony refuted the figures Aykroyd presented, saying the estimates were off by about NINETY percent. Woo!
  • Jennifer Connelly will join Daveed Diggs in TNT’s Snowpiercer pilot, playing the person who makes the daily announcements on the train. Exciting!
  • Tom Cruise revealed that the title of the Top Gun sequel will be Top Gun: Maverick. I wonder if John McCain has any feelings about that. Coherent feelings, not ramblings about the Diamondbacks…
  • Speaking of Cruise, his The Mummy reboot opens today, and reviewers have called it “the worst Tom Cruise movie ever”. Wow.
  • Singer/actress/sister of Ray J Brandy was found unconscious on a Delta flight, and the doctor who came to her rescue was reportedly Kim Kardashian’s uncle! Considering Ray J put that family on the map, I figure it’s time the Kardashians did something to return the favor.
  • Gotham stars Morena Baccarin and Ben McKenzie got married. Knowing that show, it’ll probably revealed that they’re Bruce’s real parents or some shit. It’s not like it pays attention to any of the rest of the lore, so why not?
  • Fox canceled 24 Legacy after a low-rated single season, but they’re still committed to the 24 brand. They’re reportedly developing an anthology series to take the show back to its real-time roots
  • Like Peter denied Jesus, Jerry Seinfeld denied THREE requests for a hug from Kesha. I don’t blame him!
  • In one of the strangest deals I’ve ever heard of, Epix has inked a deal to stream its content directly to 2018 Honda Odyssey  minivans
  • Sony will begin selling clean versions of some of their hit movies. If you’ve ever accidentally bought a clean version of an album from Walmart, you can see why this decision might anger some folks
  • Hank Williams Jr is back singing the opening to Monday Night Football for the first time since 2011. I guess all his rowdy friends will be over after they finish burning a few more crosses…
  • George and Amal Clooney welcomed twins Ella and Alexander
  • Former Power Rangers director/producer/fight coordinator Koichi Sakamoto will direct the upcoming Ultraman Geed series, focusing on the son of the evil Ultraman Belial. Yeah, those words mean something to someone out there.
  • Newcomer Blu Hunt has been cast as Danielle Moonstar in the upcoming New Mutants spinoff of the X-Men films.
  • A live action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is being developed, and my heart weeps. As one of the few anime series I’ve watched, and loved, I kinda hope this dies in development hell
  • Hackers released 8 stolen episodes of ABC’s upcoming game show, Funderdome, and nobody cared.
  • Donald Glover will be retiring her Childish Gambino hip hop persona after his next album.

  • We got our first poster for the Black Panther film.

Last week I gave my opinions and feelings on the movie. This week, I’m just gonna stick to the facts:

  • 92% on Rotten Tomatoes
  • $103 million opening weekend domestic box office
  • $220 million opening weekend global box office
  • Third highest opening for a DC film
  • Most successful female-directed film
  • Mot expensive female-directed film, with a budget of $150 million
  • Most tweeted about movie of 2017, with 2.19 million tweets
  • Won Best In Show and Best Fantasy/Adventure at the Golden Trailer Awards
  • Last Saturday, Wonder Woman Day was celebrated at comic shops around the world

You’ve seen it by now, right? RIGHT?! Then, what are you waiting for? For these reasons, and more, Wonder Woman once again had the West Week Ever.

06th Jan2016

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2015

by Will

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2015 was quite the year in pop culture. Adele broke all the records, Charlie Sheen got the HIV, Steve Harvey pissed off Colombia, and Star Wars came along and broke all the records that Adele didn’t touch. And some stuff happened in between all that, too. The Netflix series Daredevil, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Master of None wowed audiences,  Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary, and Marvel released a bunch of movies. Things were also pretty exciting here on the blog, too. power-rangers-legendary-battle-e1421106185742

I guest-posted over at The Robot’s Pajamas ranking the current star power of several Power Rangers alums

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I wrote about the best, and most underrated, pop album of 2014

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And because I can’t get enough Power Rangers, I wrote about Red Ranger turned Murderer, Ricardo Medina Jr

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To celebrate the release of their documentary, Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, I made a list of the best Backstreet Boys songs that you’ve never heard

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I got in a Twitter fight with American Idol season 1 alum, Justin Guarini

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In one of my most popular posts of the year, I had some controversial thoughts about Batgirl

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Thrift Justice: Yard Sale Edition made a lone appearance this year

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I got on the radar of Andre, The Black Nerd

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Bob Ross and his happy little trees

I attended DC’s Awesome Con for the first time, and got some cool cosplay pictures

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I had some random thoughts about some random comics

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I got my first Cease & Desist order AND I got killed in a comic book!

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My biggest post of the year explored the racial implications of Jurassic World

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I recorded a “backdoor pilot” for a podcast that’ll probably never get off the ground

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I got retweeted by adult film star Ryan Driller

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I defended Fant4stic Four

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I got my first verified celebrity follower on Twitter

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I applied to be on a game show

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I made my 3rd trip to Retro Con and took lots of cool toy pics

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I participated in a summer swap of nerd swag

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I went to New York Comic Con on a quest to see how much free swag I could get

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I got caught talking about a Jeopardy contestants boob’s on Twitter, and then we became besties

I’ve never considered myself a “movie guy”, but this year saw me watching 78 films. That’s GOT to be some kind of record for me. No, I’m not going to rank them, because I’m not enough of a cinephile, but I will list them so that you can see that I was all over the place when it came to what I watched:

  1. Obvious Child
  2. Live. Die. Repeat
  3. Wish I Was Here
  4. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
  5. Non-Stop
  6. The Skeleton Twins
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
  8. Man of Steel
  9. A Million Ways To Die In The West
  10. The Chernobyl Diaries
  11. Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of
  12. The Purge
  13. Bad Words
  14. Dredd
  15. Gravity
  16. A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce)
  17. Wet Hot American Summer
  18. After Earth
  19. Cloverfield
  20. The Marine
  21. Tammy
  22. Behind The Candelabra
  23. Choke
  24. St. Elmo’s Fire
  25. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  26. Tron
  27. The Purge: Anarchy
  28. The Babadook
  29. The Signal
  30. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  31. St. Vincent
  32. Top Five
  33. Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  34. The Wedding Ringer
  35. Seeking Asian Female
  36. Southern Rites
  37. Two Night Stand
  38. The Great Bikini Bowling Bash
  39. Kung Fury
  40. This Is Where I Leave You
  41. The Watch
  42. Hot Girls Wanted
  43. Jersey Boys
  44. John Wick
  45. Whiplash
  46. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
  47. The Duff
  48. Shopgirl
  49. Horrible Bosses 2
  50. Inside Llewyn Davis
  51. 2 Guns
  52. Toy Story 3
  53. Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
  54. Ant-Man
  55. Lavalantula
  56. Fant4stic Four
  57. Snowpiercer
  58. Spice World
  59. Fury
  60. Frozen (2010)
  61. The Inbetweeners 2
  62. Pitch Perfect 2
  63. Mad Max: Fury Road
  64. Dreamgirls
  65. Spy
  66. Vacation
  67. Get Hard
  68. Miss Congeniality
  69. Bernie
  70. The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
  71. Chaos on the Bridge
  72. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
  73. Here Comes the Boom
  74. Unfinished Business
  75. Dope
  76. Attack the Block
  77. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  78. I Smile Back

All of these were reviewed on the site, so just plug them into the search field up on the right to see what I thought about any particular one of them.

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West Week Ever Recipients of 2015 (with commentary)

1/9/15 – Agent Carter

In hindsight, this deserved to have the WWE even more by the end of its run than it did this week. It was a strong premiere, but I was still at a place where I didn’t feel the character could carry her own show. By the end of the 8-week run, I was a True Believer. I guess I just saw a lot of potential in that pilot.

1/16/15 – Empire

This show brought back the sudsy primetime soap, and was SO good for that first season. I definitely feel like it deserved the WWE at the time, but I don’t know if it’ll ever return to the dramatic highs of that first season.

1/23/15 – Marvel Comics’ Secret Wars

This was based purely on speculation, as the West Week Ever was essentially given to an *announcement*. The miniseries hadn’t even begun, and this was based on what was promised in the aftermath: A new Marvel Universe, the destruction of the Ultimate Universe, and the Miles Morales Spider-Man making the move to the mainstream “616” universe. All of this had the makings of something huge. As of this writing, the much-delayed miniseries STILL hasn’t finished, even though the regular Marvel books have relaunched and carried on with their business. From what we can tell, not much has changed in the regular universe, while Secret Wars as a miniseries has been something of a disappointment (with several tie-in miniseries that showed a lot of promise). The surest shot Secret Wars ever had of having the West Week Ever was by receiving it before the first issue even launched. Nothing about the actual mini has been worthy of the WWE.

1/30/15 – Fant4stic Four trailer

The trailer had me interested in the film – something that a lot of people couldn’t say because they were already pissed about reports of “Hacker DOOM” and other stuff. It was clearly a slow week for entertainment, but I really did like what I saw. More about Fant4stic Four later…

2/6/15 – Jimmy Fallon’s Saved By The Bell reunion

This is the kind of thing that West Week Ever is all about: those potential “flash in the pan” moments that embody a particular moment in time. Looking back, I’d like to think I chose things that made some sort of cultural impact, but at times it’s the small moments that also matter. Jimmy Fallon had been trying to do a Saved By The Bell reunion since his days hosting Late Night. He didn’t pull it off, but managed to do it for the cast of California Dreams instead. I loved that reunion and I loved this one, too. Fallon’s at just the right age where his nostalgia is my nostalgia, and as an unabashed fan of all things TNBC, this was certainly my favorite moment of that week.

2/13/15 – N/A

Sometimes nothing has the West Week Ever. This was one of those weeks.

2/20/15 – Saturday Night Live

This was the week after the 40th anniversary aired, and I definitely feel like it was deserving of the WWE. It was a great special, in a vain that you rarely see anymore. It was great to see all of those old faces return to the studio, including Eddie Murphy who hadn’t returned to SNL since his days as a cast member.

2/27/15 – Parks & Recreation

I didn’t love Parks & Rec in the beginning. I’ve often said that it was the show least deserving of a second season that I’d ever seen. That first season is HORRIBLE. After some cast shakeups and some creative tinkering, the show finally found its footing. While it never really hit the acclaim of its “brother” The Office, it certainly ended a lot stronger than that show did. I didn’t appreciate how NBC burned the show off during its final season, and I feel like that broadcasting decision caused a lot of folks to miss out on those episodes. Luckily, the season is coming to Netflix later this month, so hopefully they’ll get to see what I saw in the show. Those final eps had a lot of heart, and the characters all end up in a great place. This one totally deserved the WWE.

3/13/15 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

This one was tricky due to the “Here’s everything at once” nature of Netflix. Timing was on its side, though, as this was the best thing that happened that week I finally consumed the series. This was not only one of the bright spots of 2015 television, but as a Tina Fey project, it’s cemented its influence on popular culture. I’ll bet NBC is still kicking themselves for cancelling this thing before it even went to air, but more folks saw it online than would’ve seen it on NBC in the midst of its death throes.

3/20/15 – Community

Did it deserve the WWE at this time? I’m not sure. It was more a testament to its triumphant return from cancellation, as well as it was helping to launch the Yahoo Screen platform (which has just been shut down, as of this past Monday). We didn’t know much about what the season would bring as, unlike Netflix’s full-season dump, Yahoo Screen debuted new episodes every Tuesday.

3/27/15 – Evelyn West

I had a daughter that week. It was pretty cool.

4/3/15 – Going Clear

I love anything about Scientology, so this was right up my alley. The documentary premiered that week, so it was definitely the standout of what was essentially a slow week for news.

4/10/15 – Daredevil

The Netflix series got the WWE based on my watching the pilot alone. Sure, it was a great pilot to a great series, but here’s something to consider: that thing came out 3 AM EST Friday morning. This means that, had I not watched the episode, nothing would’ve gotten the WWE that week. Sometimes, it really is about being in the right place at the right time.

4/17/10 – Daredevil

I had finally finished the series, and was truly impressed by everything I’d seen. To me, this is the WWE that the series definitely *deserved*, while the previous week’s honor was really just me trying to make sure that something had the West Week Ever. That’s not to say that it was a bad pilot, but I feel a lot better about this week because the whole thing was a quality series, and it just means more to me that it maintained its quality across all 13 episodes. So, last week’s WWE for Daredevil was a bit of a fluke, while this is the one that “matters”.

4/24/15 – Iceman

This one is tricky. When it happened, it was definitely a hot topic that week. To me, however, it was a cop-out. Instead of them revealing that the “regular” Iceman was gay, Marvel instead said that it was teenaged, time-displaced, possibly from an alternate timeline Iceman. It was too much of Marvel trying to have its cake and eat it, too. So, imagine my surprise when Uncanny X-Men #600 came out months later, revealing that regular 616 Iceman is also gay, and that he hadn’t acknowledged it because he had enough of his plate, being persecuted for being a mutant and all. To me, that would’ve been a MUCH more important story to tell, but it got lost in the Secret Wars delay shuffle.

5/1/15 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

It was a big movie. In hindsight, was it a good movie? People seem to have differing opinions. At that point in time, though, it had a big opening and a lot of eyes on it, so I think it totally deserved the WWE.

5/8/15 – The New Hamburglar

This was quite the failed marketing push. It seemed like McDonalds was on to something, but this thing disappeared quicker than the Halloween Whopper that was turning everyone’s shit green. This hasn’t been a strong year for McDonalds, as they’re just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. This year saw the return of The Hamburglar, mozzarella sticks added to the menu, and even mac & cheese added in the Ohio test market. I think this was the victim of public backlash, as folks joked that the new Hamburglar looked kinda like a pedophile. Seems like McDonalds got antsy and canned the whole campaign. Out of everything on 2015’s WWE list, this was probably the biggest fail.

5/15/15 – Major Broadcast Networks

This one may feel like a cop-out, but it was warranted. This was the week of the Spring network upfronts, where we learned what was cancelled, what was renewed, and what new shows were coming in the Fall. This is always an exciting time for television, and I lost a few “friends” that week (ABC’s Forever, for instance).

5/22/15 – David Letterman

Never really been a Letterman fan, but the man was an institution. This was all about giving credit where it was due, and he deserved that WWE honor.

5/29/15 – Kung Fury

This was another example of a slow news week. If you read my thoughts on Kung Fury, I wasn’t actually a fan. I mean, I enjoyed it, but 90% of the “movie” (the thing is THIRTY minutes long!) was given away in the trailer. Seriously, the only thing in the movie that wasn’t in the trailer was the sentient arcade machine. I really expected more. I think I gave the WWE to the *idea* of the project rather than the actual finished product.

6/5/15 – Community

This was the WWE that Community truly earned. The season had concluded, and it was pretty obvious that the show wasn’t coming back. Sort of like Two and a Half Men, Community persevered whenever something happened that shouldn’t ended it.  It lost Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover, got cancelled by NBC, and got picked up by Yahoo for an untested platform. All of these should’ve spelled the end. To me, however, the Yahoo episodes turned out to be some of my favorites of the entire series.

6/12/15 – N/A

Not even a cop-out choice could save this week.

6/19/15 – Jurassic World

Universal had a great year, and Jurassic World was its crowning achievement. I also gave it the WWE because of what JW had done for me. After all, my post, The Price of Admission: The Socioeconomic and Racial Implications of Jurassic World, was my most popular post in years.

6/26/15 – N/A

I swear, I TRY to give something the WWE every week, but sometimes the world just doesn’t cooperate.

7/17/15 – Go Set A Watchman

This choice was kind of a betrayal of what I stand for. Typically, the WWE had to have had some sort of impact on me. I haven’t read this book, nor am I even that big of a fan of To Kill A Mockingbird. I mean, I understand its place in popular culture, and another book in the franchise seemed like a “sure thing”, right? Well, I’ve heard nothing but negative stuff about this book, and it has had the cultural impact of Joey.

7/24/15 – Ant-Man

Loved it, and it was probably a stronger movie than Age of Ultron. I’m a Marvel fanboy, though, so this shouldn’t come as a shock. For that point in time, it totally deserved the WWE.

7/31/15 – Rick and Morty

As much as I enjoy the show, this originally got the WWE because it was a slow week, and the second season premiere had aired that week. In hindsight, though, this was the beginning of what would turn out to be an incredible season. To cap it off, when I went to New York Comic Con later in the year, Rick and Morty cosplay was EVERYWHERE, proving to me that the show had made a bigger cultural impact that I had realized. Totally deserving of the WWE – I just didn’t know it yet.

8/7/15 – Deadpool trailer

The little superhero movie that could. This movie, by all accounts, shouldn’t exist. It’s based on a one-note appearance from the universally panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine, so it’s amazing it got made. Sure, Ryan Reynolds is the perfect choice for the role, but he’s also been box office poison for the past few years. This trailer, however, captured everything a Deadpool movie should be. I still don’t know if it needs to be rated R, as they’re cutting out a portion of potential audience members, but it seems to be everything Deadpool fans would want. The movie’s not out yet, and I still have my doubts, but I think they crafted a good trailer.

8/14/15 – Fant4stic Four

This movie isn’t as bad as your neckbeard friend keeps telling you it is. Most of the people running their mouths about it didn’t even see it. They checked out after the reveal of Black Johnny Storm and the rumor that Doom was just a message board troll instead of a sorcerer. I defended this movie because I think it’s worth checking out, if only to make up your own mind about it. I maintain that it’s 2/3rds a strong movie, while the final 1/3 is clearly a movie “made by committee”. It wasn’t even necessarily a slow news week. I just really thought that Fant4stic Four was deserving of more positive attention.

8/21/15 – Rte 29 Batman, Leonard B. Robinson

This one was a big departure. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve got a “No Death” policy for WWE. I don’t talk about deaths because if you talk about one, you’ve gotta talk about them ALL. And a ton of them just don’t mean that much to me. So, it’s easier to just keep things a death-free zone. That said, Rte 29 Batman was something of a local hero, who donated his time and money to visiting sick kids in the hospital dressed as Batman. He was killed returning from one of these trips, when he was hit by a car on the side of the road. I’ve often wondered why some rich guy hasn’t tried to be Batman, and here was one who had. Sure, he didn’t fight crime, but he wanted to make things better for kids. That’s the kind of thing that’s worth talking about.

8/28/15 – Aqua Teen Hunger Force

I loved Aqua Teen, and it was something of an Adult Swim institution. It was on for 15 years, so I don’t see it leaving the air anytime soon, but its ending was definitely something worth noting. Nobody ever seems to talk about it, so I wonder if it’s a show that wore out its welcome, or if it’s just not the kind of thing folks discuss at the watercooler. After all, most Adult Swim shows seem like stoner fare, so maybe there’s some 420 subreddit out there mourning its cancellation.

9/4/15 – Force Friday

Now that the movie’s out, it’s hard to remember that this was A BIG DEAL! The Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys were being released, giving us the first glimpse of the characters from the hotly anticipated film. I know I was at a midnight Toys “R” Us opening just to get the figures. So many questions: Who was the Black kid? Why did Kylo Ren’s lightsaber have a laser hilt? And who was this badass known as “Captain Phasma”? Sure, all of these questions have now been answered, but this was the beginning of the merchandising onslaught brought on by The Force Awakens. Totally deserving of the WWE.

9/18/15 – Ahmed Mohamed, the Clock Boy

Muslim kid made a clock, but folks thought it was a bomb. Big news story. I actually tend not to get “real world” topical, but it was just one of those weeks. In hindsight, this wasn’t “pop culture” enough for the WWE. Sure, he got a lot of notoriety and offers, but where’s he now? He’s seeking $15 million in damages. That’s not a happy ending. Nah, I wanted him to get a show on Nickelodeon or some shit. THAT’s what gets ya the WWE. I flew a little too close to the CNN sun on this one.

9/25/15 – Pope Francis

The Pope came to the US, and it was Beatlemania all over again. It probably would’ve helped if he had done the talk show circuit or something, but everyone had Pope on the brain. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s skilled at saying exactly what you want to hear. You want to know if the dinosaurs went to Heaven? Pope Francis will not only tell you they did, but he’ll also name some dinosaur species you’ve never even heard of. ‘Cause he’s got connections like that. So yeah, I think he deserved the WWE.

10/2/15 – Power Rangers

If this site had a subtitle, it’d probably be “Amateur Power Rangers fansite”. I maintain just enough of a connection to the franchise to know what’s going on, but I’m not so engrossed that I haven’t experienced the touch of a woman. Was that mean? Check out Rangerboard sometime, and then get back to me. Anyway, the franchise was celebrating its 800th episode, so it sure as Hell deserved the WWE. How many shows reach that kind of episode count? And it’s a 22 year old franchise that’s still going strong.

10/9/15 – New York Comic Con

It was convention weekend. The show hadn’t really gotten started yet, but I had high hopes. In fact, it’s pretty funny that NYCC got the WWE when SDCC did not. I think I gave it to NYCC because I was actually going to that show, and I had hoped to meet up with a bunch of Twitter friends that weekend. That, sadly, did not happen. So, this WWE was given out in the hopes of “what might’ve been, but was not to be”.

10/16/15 – The Nerd Lunch Podcast

As a five-time guest, and member of the Nerd Lunch Army, this totally deserved the WWE. So many podcasts come and go, but they don’t all have staying power. 200 episodes is nothing to sneeze at, and I always have a great time on that show.

10/23/15 – Back to the Future Day

This is one of those picks “for the fans”. I don’t really have a special place in my heart for Back to the Future. I haven’t seen the movies in a long time, so that could have something to do with it. Everyone and their bookie was losing their mind over Back to the Future Day, however, so I couldn’t let the week go by without acknowledging it. The wrong date had been faked on memes for years, so it was a pretty important event that the real day was finally upon us. As something that could only really happen once, and the fact that it resulted in mostly positive things, I think BTTF Day deserved the WWE.

10/30/15 – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This was based on a particular episode that aired that week, which I found to be incredible television. It’s amazing how far the show has come from that terrible first season, and I wanted to find some sort of way to give it its due. There was no better time than this week, which finally revealed what happened to Simmons on the alien world Maveth. Watch the episode and you’ll agree with me.

11/6/15 – Star Trek

This choice was due to the announcement that there would be a new Trek television series in 2017. That’s the end of the good news. There are too many caveats. It’s only going to air on CBS All Access, which is the CBS subscription service. Plus, the folks behind it are the same folks behind the NuTrek movies. After seeing the trailer for Star Trek Beyond a few weeks later, my enthusiasm for this project waned. Still, it was big news in the geek world, though the jury is still out on its execution.

11/13/15 – Master of None

The Aziz Ansari Netflix show kinda became a critical darling, and I was just bandwagoning. I enjoyed it immensely, but I don’t think I really changed the world here. If you were gonna watch it, you were going to before I chimed in. If you were not gonna watch it, I sure as Hell didn’t convince you to do so. Since the dust has settled, there’s been some controversy surrounding some of the race stuff in the show, but I still think it was a great season. This was truly the best thing in pop culture that week.

11/20/15 – Adele

She broke every sales record out there, and she delivered the kind of stuff you expect from her. This was a bit of a reach, as I don’t think my readership shares my musical taste. I like pop. I make no bones about that. Still, whenever I do music posts, they tend to fall on deaf ears, as I don’t have a high 14 year old readership. So, this is one of those WWEs where most of my readers couldn’t give a shit, but I definitely think she earned it.

11/27/15 – Captain America: Civil War trailer

Just when we were catching our breath from Ultron and Ant-Man, the Marvel hype machine cranked back up with this one. It was like a poorly kept secret show or something. Everyone knew Evans and Downey were going to be on Kimmel, and everyone knew why, yet everyone pretended to play dumb. And when it went live, it did what Marvel trailers do: it got you excited for the next chapter in their grand plan.

12/4/15 – The Flash/Arrow “Heroes Join Forces” crossover

Last year’s Flash/Arrow crossover also got the WWE, so I guess it’s a tradition now. The Flash was stronger than Arrow, but it was still entertaining television. DC should just hand their movies over to Greg Berlanti, but that’s another discussion for another time.

12/11/15 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows trailer

They finally seem to be making a movie based on that 30 year old cartoon that grown men love! I don’t know why grownups can’t just let go of stuff so that a new generation can enjoy it. I didn’t hate the last TMNT movie, and I know kids seemed to like it. Still, this sequel seems to be incorporating a lot of things that adult fans will love, especially Shredder’s goons Rocksteady and Bebop. It made me giddy to see them, but it really got me thinking about the legacy of franchises. Maybe there’s a post in there somewhere.

12/17/15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Um, the premiere of the next installment of a franchise that some fans have been waiting 30 years to see (if they ignore the prequels)? Yeah, this was a no-brainer.

12/23/15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

See above, and then add in the fact that it made a shit ton of money in a week’s time.

12/31/15 – Hoverboards

While these things popped up on Vines and YouTube back in the summer, they were atop the want lists of all the “normal” folks come Christmas time. And they became infamous. Charging them caused fires to break out, they were banned from most public places, and most retailers refused to sell them. Which only made people want them MORE. It’s somewhat unorthodox to give the WWE to a *thing* rather than a franchise or person, but this seemed fitting.

So, here we are. The moment you’ve all been waiting for: what had the West YEAR Ever? Well, looking back over the nominees, it’s looking like our finalists are the multiple WWE recipients Daredevil, Community, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The interesting thing here is how their “reign” kinda divided up the calendar year. Daredevil was great, but folks were basically done talking about it by Summer. Sure, some sites foolishly tried to do weekly recaps of the episodes, but seeing as how everyone binged that thing, nobody gave a shit about those. Community was around from Spring to Summer, but the season kinda flew under the radar for anyone but the most die hard fans. And once Summer ended, the ramp up to The Force Awakens began. So, what I’m saying is that nobody really carried the year on their shoulders – not like Taylor Swift did last year, or Breaking Bad the year before that. So, this is where I get to use my veto power (’cause it’s my site and all) and award a winner.

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To me, Evelyn West had the West Year Ever. Let me explain. I know some of y’all are “child free” and/or don’t give a shit about my kid, but she really changed my life. It’s not every day that you have your first kid, and stuff really does change. No, I’m not going to get into the mushy stuff. I’m talking practical stuff, like all your stuff goes off to a storage unit, and you’re on bottle-making duty every night. But oddly, you don’t really care. This is probably the worst way to describe a human being, but I sometimes refer to her as “my favorite toy”. She’s just so fascinating, and sometimes I have trouble fathoming that she’s a living, breathing thing. I just like to watch her crawl around and get into stuff she shouldn’t be touching. Plus, we’ve already instilled in her a love of superheroes, so she’s already on the right pop culture track. The clincher, though, is that she was born at the end of March, and has been here ever since. So, that’s more dominance of the calendar year than any of the other options I listed. Sure, you may have been looking forward to The Force Awakens, but I was looking forward to things like her crawling or learning to blow raspberries (which she does with precision). So, in a few days, West Week Ever will be back to normal, and something in the mainstream pop culture world will get the honor. And I don’t plan to have any kids this year, so I can pretty much guarantee that something in the mainstream pop culture world will get the 2016 West Year Ever honor, too. But for now, you’re just gonna have to bear with me, as my daughter pretty much had the West Year Ever in 2015. But if that’s not good enough for you, then you can tell your friends that it was Star Wars. It’s not like they won’t believe you.

04th Sep2015

West Week Ever – 9/4/15

by Will

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Snowpiercer-2

So, this week I finally got around to watching Snowpiercer. I’d heard nothing but great things about it, but it had taken me forever to finally sit down and watch it. I had a ton of work to do, so I figured I’d just have it on in the background, but it ended up getting my undivided attention. If you’ve never heard of the movie, here’s the deal: in the near future, scientists decide to combat Global Warming by releasing a chemical called CW-7 into the atmosphere. Well, the substance worked too well, and resulted in another ice age – and the extinction of humanity. So, the last bastion of humanity survives on “The Rattling Ark”, a train that traverses the globe annually. The train, however, is set up on a class system, with the rich up front, and the poor common folk in the tail section. The rich dine on steak, while the poor initially had to resort to cannibalism until they were given protein supplement bars. Well, the tail section decides to fight their way to the engine, in order to take control of the train. The resistance is led by Chris Evans, and the movie follows his group as they move forward, from car to car. I tend not to like End of The World/mass death movies, but this one was really good. And that ending! Anyway, I highly recommend this movie.

Spice World

A few weeks back, when I was on The Nerd Lunch Podcast, we discussed things that get a “bad rap”. One thing that was mentioned was the movie Spice World. I have always hated this movie. As I explained in the episode, it was the first movie I’d ever ordered as Pay-Per-View, and I was begging for it to be over. It just completely lost my attention. I mean, the biggest American star in the thing was George Wendt! Now, oddly enough, I was a big Spice Girls fans, so I should’ve been the target audience. Plus, I LOVE crappy movies starring pop groups (see: 2gether and S Club: Seeing Double). Since it was on a few nights ago, I decided to give it another chance. And the verdict? Still hate it. It’s got NO plot. I mean, there’s something about a British tabloid guy who wants to break up the group, and then they have this pregnant friend that they kept neglecting ’cause they’re too busy for her normal ass. And then Mark McKinney (remember him?) and George Wendt are American filmmakers who might be filming the movie that we’re watching, meanwhile Alan Cumming is a documentarian who’s also filming a movie about the group. And then the group breaks up for some reason. This is the part that got me, because it flashes back to when they were a younger, struggling group – like they all grew up together or something. It totally neglects to acknowledge that the group was formed like every other British pop group: they answered a casting call. Anyway, they come back together just as their normal ass friend is about to give birth, and then they all reunite for their concert at Albert Hall just in time to sing “Spice Up Your Life”. I did not like this movie. Love the girls (especially Sporty), and love the music, but did not love this film.

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I also caught the standup special, Jay Pharoah: Can I Be Me? If you watch SNL, then you know Jay Pharoah as “the Black guy who’s not Kenan”. He also does a pretty good Obama. Anyway, I guess he got this hour special off the back of his impressions, because his standup jokes need work. He can do a mean Denzel and Bernie Mac, but his jokes were kinda lame. Even the audience wasn’t really feeling it, but he always got a pop when he’d break out the impressions. If he gets another special, he either needs to hone his material, or just focus on impressions the way Rich Little does.

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Last week, I mentioned the McWhopper proposed by Burger King. Since McDonalds declined the invitation, a few other burger chains have approached BK about participating. So, now BK is proposing the Peace Day Burger, which would contain signature ingredients from Denny’s, Krystal, and some places called Giraffas and Wayback Burger. McDonald’s is still invited to participate if they change their mind, but now BK is courting other suitors. They plan to go ahead with the pop-up shop that was already under construction in Atlanta, so I really hope this goes through.

marvel studios

This week, it was announced that the film division of Marvel Studios will now report directly to Disney, in a move that was supported by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. Apparently, there had been some creative pushback from Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, and Feige had threatened to leave the company. This also means the end of the Marvel Creative Committee – the group comprised of Marvel Entertainment President Alan Fine, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, Publisher Dan Buckley, and writer Brian Michael Bendis – which has guided the Marvel Cinematic Universe since its inception. Folks are now wondering what this means for the future of the Marvel movies. Will the audience even notice a difference, or is this a major creative shakeup that will be felt at all throughout future movies. This especially makes things messy for the television division, which will reportedly stay under the direction of Marvel Enterprises. There had been rumors that Marvel Studios and Marvel Enterprises weren’t playing nice together, and this could affect the possibility of any of the TV characters making it into the films. Right now, only time will tell.

Superman 43 reveal

Speaking of the comic world, I finally got around to reading Superman #43, which is the issue where *SPOILER ALERT* Lois Lane reveals Superman’s identity to the world. It shouldn’t be too much of a spoiler, as every Superman book recently has revolved around the fact that the world knows his identity, and we were waiting for that golden moment where the reveal would be shown. Having read the issue, I can now say that this was a TERRIBLE idea. I’m not even talking about the repercussions of such an action. I’m saying that, from a story perspective, the threat level wasn’t high enough to warrant what Lois did. There was no alien invasion, there were no life or death stakes. No, Superman was being tortured by a tech collective called HORDR (think Evil Google), and they were blackmailing him. They want to test his new Super Flare (this stupid new thing where he basically explodes) power out on their energy siphoning creatures, and they torture him to see how much he can take. If he refuses, they reveal his identity to the world. Lois felt that by doing it herself, she would take away their leverage, allowing Superman to break free. OK, that’s really stupid. It was just torture. Superman has dealt with far worse. They didn’t even have Kryptonite or anything. It seems like she was just dying to tell the world (which was a dick move, considering she had just spent the earlier part of the issue promising to keep his secret). I really hope DC has some grand plan as to why his ID needs to be public, because this story so far sure hasn’t justified that decision.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

-The Summer of Breakups continues, as Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger announced they were separating after 2 years of marriage. I’m sure folks are gonna use this opportunity to make a bunch of Nickelback jokes, but I actually like some of their songs…

-NBC’s reboot of the sitcom Coach will not be going ahead at the network. It sounded like a terrible idea, but I was still morbidly curious.

Diggle Suit

-It appears that Diggle will finally be getting a costume on Arrow. As the internet has already pointed out, he just looks like Magneto.

-The MTV Video Music Awards were last Sunday, where host Miley Cyrus exposed her left breast, and Kanye West announced he’s running for President in 2020. For the record, Kanye was the bigger boob that night.

Marvel’s Luke Cage made 2 casting announcements this week, as Mahershala Ali will play Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, while Simone Missick will play Misty Knight.

force friday

So, last night I had dinner with my Thrift Justice partner, Mike (for those new to the site, Thrift Justice is the series where I write about all the cool stuff Mike and I find while thrifting). We had been a bit estranged lately because Mike’s lost his passion for the yard sale thing. This was a bum season, and it has kinda taken its toll. Anyway, we had dinner to catch up, and when the meal was done, we decided to check out Force Friday – the worldwide release of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys. This was going to prove a problem, however, as it was 9:30 PM, and the toys wouldn’t be released until 12:01 AM. So, how would we kill time?

At first, we were going to see a movie, but nothing good was playing. It had pretty much come down to Owen Wilson’s No Escape (which I’ll probably DVR when it hits HBO) or Transporter: Refueled. While waiting for the showtimes, I checked the Force Friday website to see what kinda swag was being offered. It turned out that only 207 Target stores in the country were opening at midnight, and the closest one to us was almost 2 hrs away in Hagerstown. Meanwhile, all Toys “R” Us stores would be giving away a free poster and commemorative LEGO brick to the people came to shop. Hagerstown started looking like the best option, since TRU is right across the shopping center parking lot from Target.

We got to TRU around 11, and sat in the car for a bit. Did we really wanna wait in line with this…riffraff? Eventually, we decided that we did. Standing in line, we reminisced about our days working at TRU, and chatted with the guy in line ahead of us. At 12:01, they opened the doors, but they treated it like a club. This burly guy in a TRU shirt acted as the bouncer, as he only let in a certain amount of people at a time. Instead of setting the merchandise up in the Feature Shop (the showcase at the front of the store), the toys were all located in the first boys aisle, on both sides of the aisle. So, you could understand why they were only letting in a few at a time, as only so many people could fit in an aisle. Their first mistake was this setup. Their second mistake was that they had a 3-per item limit on everything. So, for example, you could get 3 Star Wars Black 6″ Finn figures, and then move on and get 3 of something else, and so on. So, as you can imagine, the 6″ Star Wars Black line was the first to go. I stood outside, like a hungry orphan, looking through the window as other dudes were buying my toys. By the time I got to the aisle, all the Star Wars Black – the stuff I was specifically looking for – was gone. Meanwhile, this mom with a PHAT ASS was barking orders at her son, as she filled a cart with 3 of everything. Now, remember how I told you everything and everyone was crammed into one aisle, and she had the gall to navigate a cart into that madness! When I left the aisle, she was arguing with the employees because they didn’t have all of the items she had set out to by. I quickly grabbed a 4″ Finn and Captain Phasma just so that I could say I bought something on Force Friday. I went to the register, checked out, and got my poster and LEGO brick.

Next, we decided to hit up Target. As you can imagine, due to the proximity, all of the folks who were ahead of us in line at TRU had already beat us to Target. So, they were also out of Star Wars Black. They were having a drawing for 3 giant Wookiees, so Mike and I waited around, hoping to win the raffle. We did not win. And exactly the kind of guys you’re picturing in your head are the ones who won. Just a bunch of friggin’ neckbeards. Out of some kind of impulse, I bought another Finn (this one to keep in package. I know, I know…) and Kylo Renn’s three-pronged lightsaber. We didn’t even discuss hitting up the nearby Walmart, and we began the journey back to Rockville where I’d left my car. In all, I was pretty disappointed with Force Friday. Sure, I had walked away with a free tote bag (Thanks, Target!) and that disappointing LEGO piece (it wasn’t even a brick. It was more like a panel), but I still hadn’t found what I was looking for (cue U2). I went to sleep thinking that Force Friday, while interesting to observe, had been a bust as a participant.

This morning, however, I remembered that it’s still Friday. Sure, everything kicked off at midnight, but not every store had been open, so maybe the stores that were just opening this morning would have a better selection. So, I hit 2 Targets on the way to work. At the first store, the selection was almost better than what I had observed at the Hagerstown Target last night. I found some Star Wars Black, and walked away with a 6″ Kylo Renn and Rey. At the next Target, I found what I’d been wanting the whole time: Star Wars Black 6″ Finn. I know nothing of his character, and I know nothing of the actor, but I needed him for much the same reason a lot of Black folks voted for Obama: he was a Black dude. Outside of Lando, we don’t have a ton of representation in the Star Wars Universe, and Lando’s kind of a bastard. I mean, he sells them out, and suffers no real repercussions. Sure, he’s on the side of the good guys at the end, but his character is still kinda devious. I like Finn’s character design, and he’s probably the reason I’m most excited for The Force Awakens. So, with my grail piece in hand, I walked out of the store with a smile on my face. Force Friday had been redeemed!

Looking back on it all, I would’ve made out a lot better if I had just skipped the midnight stuff, and just checked the stores this morning. The selection was much better, and you didn’t have to deal with the smelly masses. Still, it was nice to be part of the excitement of the midnight release. I’m not primarily a Star Wars “fan”, per se, but I can appreciate that folks are excited about a new installment of this thing that they love. Force Friday represents our first official glance at the world to come, so it’s pretty important – even if its goal was just to sell a shit ton of toys. So, in my mind, Force Friday is having the West Week Ever.

18th May2015

Thrift Justice: YSE – Holy Deal, Batman!

by Will

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Well, welcome back to Thrift Justice: Yard Sale Edition. If it’s your first time here, this is where I share my hauls from yard sales, as opposed to the regular Thrift Justice, which is where I showcase my thrift store hauls. Anyway, I had a pretty nice weekend, so I thought it was time to dust off this column and get down to business. There are tons of yard sale haul posts out there, but there’s only one Thrift Justice. Well, two Thrift Justices. You know what I mean.

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The day started out slowly enough, as I found myself at a sale that looked promising on Cragislist. In the pics, I had seen a LEGO storage head and something that I was pretty sure was a Kenner The Real Ghostbusters Ghostzapper. I got there just in time to see a guy walk off with a Star Trek: The Next Generation Enterprise-D in the box. Curses! After looking around a bit, I realized that they weren’t exactly charging “yard sale prices”. I should’ve known when I saw a guy with a trailer set up in the driveway, selling antique dolls. Those never go cheap! The LEGO storage head was empty, and not much cheaper than retail. Oh, and the Ghostzapper was actually the Ghostpopper, but they wanted $8 for it without any of its foam ammo (which can’t really be replaced in 2015). They also had a bunch of Thermoses, but nothing too exciting. I didn’t want to leave emptyhanded, though, so I took a look at the books. That’s when I found this Marvel 75th Anniversary magazine. Apparently, it was free when it was originally released, but I’d never seen it before. I hate paying for things that were meant to be free. Still, I like a good anniversary book, so I forked over the dollar. Trust me, the day gets better after this.

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Next, I found myself at a church sale, which can really go either way. I find that church sales really depend on the denomination. Baptist sales won’t sell anything that goes against their beliefs. I once went to one that had taken some dinosaurs off the sales table because, well, dinosaurs. Luckily, this was not a Baptist church. I found these G1 Transformers in a quarter box near the door. What we have here are Insecticons Shrapnel and Bombshell. I wonder if I could’ve found Kickback if I had gotten to the sale earlier. Anyway, this was a good sign that I had stumbled upon something special.

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My latest thing is collecting really old games, especially board games. Even if the pieces aren’t all there, I’m fascinated by the box art. If you get them cheap enough, you can get a good pic of them and then donate them or something. This is Don’t Break The Ice, which was released by Schaper Manufacturing in 1970. The game is still being made, as part of Milton Bradley’s Cootie Games brand, but the box art isn’t nearly as groovy. I got it for a dollar, so it seemed worth it. Here’s something I find interesting: 45 years ago, this game was suggested for kids ages 5-10. Now, however, it’s recommended for kids ages 3-6. We’ve gotten smarter, America!

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The church had quite the vintage game selection, so next I picked up Tip-iT. This is the 1965 edition from the Ideal Toy Company. This game is still being made by Mattel, but it doesn’t look anywhere near this cool. That little girl is enthralled by what she sees happening, while the little boy is tackling the game with the precision of a bomb squad member. There’s another boy who apparently never learned that you never turn your back to the audience.  Meanwhile, Dad is just glad that Mom’s in the kitchen making his dinner. Hey, it was a different time!

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I love games like this because I’m a glutton for punishment. This Manhunt game is described as “The Electric Computer Detective Game”, but that probably means that the batteries have corroded in the “computer”, or it’s missing a battery cover or something. I have no faith that this thing works, but it’s like the lottery: you’ve gotta be in it to win it. Plus, look at the lapels on the kid on the box! I like how the box art is split between actual gameplay and the fantasy of gameplay. The left side looks nowhere near as exciting as the right, but they’re hoping you won’t figure that out. Anyway, it, too, was a dollar.

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This really isn’t all that special. I just kinda liked the 1970s idea of “wealth”. I mean, look at those skyscrapers! They were so state-of-the-art at the time, but so dated now. Again, I grabbed it because it was a dollar. I was making it RAIN up in that church!

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This I had to have because the box was huge by board game standards. It’s basically Battleship, but with a 3D board. Again, I have no idea if it’s complete, but it was so 70s that I just had to have it. Again, like the Manhunt game, I like the splitscreen showing fantasy versus reality. As big as the set up game looks, however, it actually seems to be more interesting than the fantasy of the gameplay. This was three dollars, but so worth it. At least, that’s how I feel without having taken inventory of all the parts. Out of all the games I bought, it has the most value on the secondary market, so I’ll flip it if it’s complete enough.

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I went hardcore on Saturday, going to nearly 20 yard sales once everything was said and done. As these things are wont to happen, my greatest item came near the end of the day. I found myself at a Knight of Columbus sale, where everything was being sold under tents. There was a little house on the property, which served as the “boutique”. Everything under the tents was some garbage, so I didn’t expect to find anything great inside. Looking around the little house, I was right. The most promising thing I found was the Double Dare home game, but the box was kinda busted up. So, I decided to take one last look around, and that’s when I found this high up on a shelf.

Yes, it’s the recently released complete DVD collection of the 1966 Batman television series. And it was still sealed. Of course, it had a $100 price tag on it, so they were going for close to retail. That just didn’t seem to fit with the general ambiance of the sale, so I grabbed it and held it tight as I contemplated my next move. The devil on my shoulder told me to just peel the tag off so they’d have to figure out a price on the fly. They had tons of stuff there, so surely they wouldn’t remember what they had on there, right? No, that wouldn’t have been right (and no, I’ve never done that before!). So, I decided to just check and see if it was their final offer.

I went up to the guy manning the cash register, and asked, “Is this really $100?” He said, “Well, that’s what they sell it for online. In fact, they ask $200 for it.” I pretended to be surprised. I’ve had my eye on the set for a few months, so I knew what it went for. As I was putting it back on the shelf, as he said, “You could make me an offer.” I said, “Nah, I trust ya.” That’s when he surprised me. He said, “I’ll tell ya what – I’ll sell it to ya for $20.” Yes, the bill that everyone wants to put Harriet Tubman on. TWENTY DOLLARS. Instead of ONE HUNDRED. That’s cheaper than one season of the series on DVD, and here he was offering me the whole series for $20! “SOLD,” I told him! I quickly fished a twenty out of my pocket, gave it to him, and shuffled to my car before he realized he’d made a mistake. My eyes darted both ways, as if I’d stolen something. I couldn’t believe it. I love me some Batman, and I’d pretty much resigned myself to never getting this set, since it was so expensive and I had a convention bootleg set I’d never finished watching. I drove off and met my wife and kid for some well-deserved Chipotle. I did the right thing, and I was rewarded for it. Or I kinda robbed that guy. I don’t know. I guess it depends on where you stand.

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