12th Sep2011

Book Report – Toyland: The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry

by Will

This will come as a surprise to no one, but I used to want to work in the toy industry. Yeah, I did the whole 10 years at Toy “R” Us, but I also chose my college major in the hopes of landing a position at Kenner (hey, it was still around then!) or Mattel. My major was early childhood development, with a focus on play and interaction. Since there was no real “toy curriculum”, I figured knowledge of how children go about playing would point me in the right direction. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out that toy companies want *designers*. Instead of trying to make educational toys that look pretty, toy companies attempt to make pretty toys that seem educational. Like with dating and job interviews, looks come first. I did, however, manage to snag an internship at a small specialty toy company in Chicago, called Manhattan Toy. Now, during my time at TRU, I’d learned that I didn’t really care about ALL toys – I just loved aisles 6D and 7D. So, when this small stuffed animal company came along, brash 19-year old me blew it off and jetted of to London. By the time I graduated, I started to realize my dream may not come true. Then came Diamond.

Many people may not realize this, but Diamond has a toy team. Sure, most of the focus is on comics, but they’re also the ones responsible for getting those overpriced toys and busts to your local comic shop. Sadly, the extent of Diamond’s toy decisions are usually something like “How can we get Kotabukiya to give us a great price on these Slutty Sakura statues?” By this point, I was already pretty much over the idea of working in the toy industry. I’d already been a brand manager, albeit in the comic world, and I was really just tired of the sense of entitlement. I didn’t wanna shift over to DST, ’cause a lot of those guys were asshats. Don’t get me wrong – like anything, there were some cool folks, but there were also quite a few douchebags. So, there ended my toy dream. Or so I thought. The moment I cracked open Toyland: The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry, it all came rushing back to me. This might sound like hyperbole, but I feel this book should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the business side of toys. If you ever want to bitch about Mattel’s distribution, or wondered why NECA picked up a particular license, or needed to know how toy marketing and development actually work, you MUST READ THIS BOOK.

Toyland, by Sydney Ladensohn Stern and Ted Schoenhaus, primarily follows the creation, development, and release of Tyco’s Dino-Riders toyline. Along the way, however, they provide a great history of the industry – citing major players, as well as the stories behind all of the major toy companies. Published in 1991, many of the companies have since merged or folded, but that doesn’t change any of the history. I got the book about 8 years ago at a used book store, but never really got into it as I didn’t have a lot of attachment to the Dino-Riders line. To be honest, I didn’t even remember it being successful. Now, I clearly see that I was wrong.

I don’t want to give away all of the good parts, so I’ll just give you a sample of what’s inside:

-Sure, you knew about Toy Fair, but did you know about “pre-Toy Fair”?

-Toy companies, while always looking for the next hit, do better with “staples”. In fact, a success could actually be detrimental, as they may be unable to keep up with demand – which is what drove Worlds of Wonder out of business following supply problems with Teddy Ruxpin and Lazer Tag. Hasbro’s acquisition of Milton Bradley helped them stay afloat in lean years, as board games are staples.

-Mattel was considered the “University of Toyland”, as many of its alums have gone on to lead other companies in the industry, bringing Mattel’s systems, terminology, and practices along with them. Most other toy companies ran like family businesses, but Ruth and Elliot Handler built Mattel into the first professional toy operation. Then, they were ousted for fraudulent stock claims, and Mattel eventually became the model of how NOT to run a toy company. Still, it’s nice to read about what it was like before it sucked.Due to its position in the industry at the time the book was written, much of the book serves as an “official history of Mattel”.

-It’s believed that Jem dolls ultimately failed because she was created in a different scale than Barbie. Had they been the same size, they could’ve shared clothes and accessories, despite coming from different companies.

-It’s somewhat amazing to read about the conception of Dino-Riders, and then follow along as it evolves into a completely differrent animal. By no means was the end result what the creators had envisioned, but it was close enough that they could still be proud that their idea ended in a finished product – something few can say.

– Of course a big chunk of the book is about how toy companies felt sidelined when home computing and video game systems came on the scene in the early 80s.

-While the Teddy Bear was originally seen as a fad named for Theodore Roosevelt, it was expected to be replaced by Billy Possum, named for William Taft. Apparently, Taft had eaten roast possum on a trip to Atlanta, but there was no demand for the product.

-When Stanley Weston invented G.I.Joe for Hasbro, the normal inventor’s fee was 5% of net wholesale revenue. Hasbro, however, cited high development costs and only offered Weston 0.5% . Weston countered with 3%, and Hasbro offered him 1% – prompting Weston to sue. In a private meeting before the 1964 Toy Fair, Hasbro asked Weston if they could just buy the concept from him outright, as they felt they were taking a gamble. Eventually, Weston agreed to sell for $100,000. Had he kept the original deal, he would’ve made $150,000 on the first year alone. Weston, however, wasn’t too upset, and had this to say: “I’ve been married and divorced twice. If I’d had all that money I probably would’ve been divorced four times instead of two.”

-Hasbro’s problems surrounding Flubber deserve an entire book of their own. Long story short, a massive Flubber recall resulted in the supply being buried under Hasbro’s parking lot, which has pushed the property about  2 inches higher than the rest of the site.

My Little Pony was the result of market research where Hasbro asked little girls “What do you see when you go to bed and close your eyes?”

-In the great GoBots vs Transformers debate, Tonka’s development team felt they were doing kids a favor by simplifying the transformations, while later research indicated that kids enjoyed the more complex transformations of the Transformers line.

-Toy companies seem to have more moles than a season of 24, which results in specs and samples being leaked to bootleggers and the competition. Most companies, however, take it as proof than they’re onto something big if other are that interested in stealing the idea.

-Xavier Roberts, creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids, is an eccentric genius. He was an artist first and foremost, making him a terrible businessman.

-There’s a goof chunk about the deregulation of the 80s, leading to the Program Length Commercial. It also into the deals that were cut between television stations and syndicators. For example, Lorimar syndicated Thundercats. If a station agreed to air the cartoon, they would get a percentage of LJN’s Thundercats toy sales.

-There’s a great comparison between the business practices of Toys “R” Us, Kay-Bee, and FAO Schwartz. Two of these companies don’t exist any longer, and the remaining one doesn’t look like it did then. Still, it’s an interesting snapshot in time.

Anyway, I’ve teased enough. If you’re interested in the business of the toy industry, I highly recommend Toyland: The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry. How do you get it? I dunno. Do I look like Barnes OR Noble? Maybe it’s on bit torrent or Amazon or something. Geez, I can’t do everything for you!

03rd May2011

The America Post

by Will

Well, as I’m sure you all know now, America finally got him. You know…he’s got a ZZ Top beard? Yeah, him. Anyway, I’m not really going to get into all that, but I did want to join in the widespread patriotism that’s catching like Pokemon fever! I support the troops, and appreciate all that they do for us. I kinda wanted to share what America means to me. Of course, things hold different meanings for different folks, so you may not agree. I still wanted to express myself in some way. In any case, I thought about doing another 5-part thing, you know, like “America Week”, but I can’t keep up that schedule (What do you think this is? Postcultural?) So, I thought I would just put all of my feelings in one post, and let the videos do the talking. Fly your flag, let your bald eagle out of its cage, and join me in celebrating the good ol’ US of A!

23rd Sep2010

Dear DC Comics: You’re Doing It Wrong

by Will

This week, DC Entertainment, announced a bold new organizational structure, deemed as a “bicoastal realignment”. The problem, however, is that there’s nothing bold about this whatsoever. When Marvel rocks the boat, you may not like it, but you’d better believe it gets people talking. DC, however, doesn’t seem to know how to make a splash – in the same pool in which they’ve been swimming for 75 years! Marvel has trounced DC in publishing, movies, and video games. By this point, DC’s got to be tired of losing, but they still aren’t taking many chances. With them, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Looking at Marvel and DC together, you start to see a clearer picture as to why Marvel shines, while DC rusts. Let’s take a look at what DC’s doing wrong.

1) Social Media: Marvel has readily embraced every technology, realizing the impact of what’s NOW. DC, seeing itself as some sort of “legacy publisher”, doesn’t readily embrace anything modern, so as not to date their product. The problem with that idea is that the product is already dated, simply through how it’s being mishandled. Sure, you may end up with a Marvel comic with a dated MySpace reference, but at least Marvel TOOK THE CHANCE.

This idea carries over into reality, where Marvel.com’s Editor, Ryan Penagos, was one of the first twitter users to cross 1M followers. Say what you will about twitter, but that’s quite a big deal, especially since it occurred in the age before many celebrities had embraced the medium. Sure, he seems like a nice enough guy, but he’s not doing anything special. The first, and most important step, was that he simply showed up for the party – which is more than could be said for DC at the time. Tweeting as @Agent_M, he’s engaging, and he’s a steadfast cheerleader for the Marvel brand, in the tradition of The Man himself.

Now, let’s look at DC: They don’t really have much of a twitter presence. There’s a @DC_NATION account, but it really just serves to tweet links to the DC site. After they realized how successful Marvel’s social outreach had been, DC decided to follow suit, creating their own blog, The Source. Manning the blog is Alex Segura, DC’s Publicity Manager. This is where the “small world” nature of the industry really hits home, as Alex is also the roommate of Marvel’s Penagos. Both guys came up through the ranks of Wizard Entertainment, so they’ve certainly got industry experience. The difference between how they embrace the power of social media, however, is the night and day. You’d think something would rub off on Alex when he and Ryan bump into each other in the kitchen, but he isn’t “bringing it”. Maybe he’s not to blame. Looking at how DC handles everything else, it’s possible that Alex is FULL of ideas, and he’s just being stifled from above. Either way, DC’s doing social media wrong.

2) Publicity: Following up on the social media differences, both companies are also VERY different in how they handle their big announcements. Marvel seems to have a pretty good relationship with mass media. Based on its success with movies, as well as the clout of their new owner, Disney, Marvel has no problem getting mass media exposure for its big events, both behind and in front of the scenes. DC, however, does everything in secret, and once things get out, the announcements don’t hold the level of “oomph” that you know the Warner Brothers executives had expected them to have.

Let’s look at this bicoastal realignment. For the past year, most people have expected Warner Bros to decide to move DC out west, so that they could synergize new ways to monetize the catalog. Fanboys and comic journos have been awaiting that announcement with bated breath, and the rumblings indicated that there would be an announcement this week. Well, the rumors were true, but the announcement was the bicoastal realignment. So, as if they feared rocking the boat, WB decided to move the core moneymakers (movies, multimedia, etc) out west, while leaving the comic arm in NYC. All that fervor and leaked info for such a dud of an announcement.

Further, it was announced that certain subsidiaries of DC, such as the Zuda webcomic site and the Wildstorm imprint, would be shuttered as a result of the restructuring. Now, this information almost got lost, as people were spending more time trying to understand how the bicoastal thing would be any different from how things already were. The thing that hit home for me, however, was that the demise of Wildstorm was ANNOUNCED. This is a 20 year old imprint that has resided at two different publishers, launched a few notable careers, and was still successful at publishing licensed comics. We weren’t talking about a relaunch or a move to a new publisher – it was CLOSING. Sure, the core Wildstorm Universe books had been rudderless for some time, but this still wasn’t the way to handle it. At least, wait a day or two to put it in a follow-up announcement. I know that Warner Bros is the parent company, but they do everything in a very formal, let’s not scare the shareholders, kind of way. That’s not how Marvel rolls.

When Marvel was purchased by Disney, there were no rumblings. We woke up one day to the announcement, and many of us had to check our calendars to make sure that it wasn’t April 1st. Marvel doesn’t let anything get out that they don’t want out. When they do announce something, they make it worthwhile. Here’s how Marvel would’ve handled the Wildstorm situation in which DC found itself: Instead of announcing via press release, Joe Quesada would’ve “let it slip” during one of his weekly “Cup ‘o Joe” columns. In the next issue of Previews, you’d see a surprise solicitation for Wildstorm Finale, 48-page special written by Brian Bendis, with art by Bryan Hitch, Frank Cho, Steve McNiven, and whichever Kubert answers his phone first. Sure, in execution, the book will end up being a piece of crap, but leading up to its release, you better believe that Marvel would do its best to convince you that this thing is gonna be on the level of The Bible II: Jesus Strikes Back. And you know what? That book would be the #1 book of the month! All of a sudden, people would be looking back fondly on Wildstorm, making up stories about how they learned to read from Gen13. The way Marvel works, they have a knack for making you care about things you really don’t care about. That’s how Moon Knight has been given more second chances than Robert Downey Jr. DC simply lacks Marvel’s “Huckster Pizazz”, which is why everything they do reeks of buzzwords like “synergy” and “value-added”.

Remember how I mentioned the build-up to the hypothetical Marvel release? Well, at least Marvel understands the need for HYPE. DC takes a different approach. Instead of telling you that something big is coming up, they wait and see if you’re already planning to buy it anyway. Then, as if to punish you, Alex routinely spoils big events on The Source, sometimes as early as Wednesday afternoon. DC’s feeling seems to be “We’re here, making these quality books, and it’s your own fault if you haven’t made it a priority to buy them on your lunch break”. Some character dies, and The Source is sure gonna let you know about it by midday Thursday. YOU’RE DUMB, DC, ’cause now you just lost a sale! Who thought that was smart? Sure, they tack on a line about how the book is “In Stores NOW!” but you already told me what happens.

3) Leadership: There’s a different organizational structure at each company, but both are controlled by larger, corporate entities: Marvel by Disney, and DC by Warner Bros. Disney’s acquisition of Marvel is still fairly recent, but there haven’t been many signs of editorial pressure handed down by Disney. If anything, that acquisition has opened doors, as Marvel products are now sold in the Disney Store, while Marvel has ramped up production of programming for Disney’s XD channel. If only the same could be said for DC.

DC Comics has always been seen as the redheaded stepchild of the Warner Bros portfolio. There were halcyon days in the mid ’90s, when you saw DC crossing into other media, mainly Batman-related. After that movie franchise went on hiatus, and the animated series moved off network television, things seemed to dry up. The Warner Bros Studio Stores closed, so they lost another outlet to sell product. For years, it seemed that Warner Bros was searching for a way to make some serious money off DC, but the comic arm just wouldn’t play ball. A lot of their efforts seemed to have been thwarted by former DC President/Publisher, Paul Levitz. While he could be blamed for keeping the characters in a vacuum, he did it for the best of interests. Like an overprotective parent, he didn’t want anything bad to happen to his properties. As a result, however, he also prevented them from being able to grow. The-Powers- That-Be tired of this, and he was replaced by media wunderkind, Diane Nelson.

For the past year, many have wondered what the Nelson Era would mean for DC Comics. At the outset, the whole division was renamed DC Entertainment, with DC Comics falling under that umbrella. This was to signal that they had set their sights outside of simply publishing comics – they were now aiming for the “real money”. It’s no secret that DC hasn’t come close to meeting Marvel’s success at the box office, as they don’t have anything other than the Batman franchise to fall back on. Even when people discuss the upcoming Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern movie, the discussion always ends up revolving around Deadpool – the Marvel comic movie with Reynolds attached. In the meantime, Marvel’s been building a movie universe with each film, opening the door for the next feature as they go along. So, DC wanted to be like Marvel.

Nelson was brought in, supposedly, due to her success with the Harry Potter franchise. That’s all well and good, but that’s also a franchise that didn’t exist 12 years ago. Nelson basically had to find ways to monetize a franchise that was spawned from 7 books. Enter DC – now, she has to figure out what to do with a catalog of characters, many of whom have been around for more than 50 years. It’s the equivalent of setting out to clean your grandparents’ attack, and not knowing what to keep, while knowing that your only cleaning experience is that you once did a really kickass job mopping a kitchen. Plainly put, these are 2 different worlds, but her approach has been “media is media”. Whenever people focus on the fact that she knows nothing about comics, she hems and haws, and says things akin to “I know what I need to know, and what I know is that comics aren’t making us money”. We’re supposed to hear the statements, and think “She’s got some brass ones!” Sorry, but I’m not buying it. For over a year, every decision has been a non-decision. Who’s going to be the new publisher of DC Comics? “Um…let’s go with Co-Publishers!” Clearly, Ms. Nelson hasn’t watched the most recent season of The Office. Is DC moving to the West Coast? “We’re going with a…hmm…’bicoastal realignment’. Yeah…” Everything she has decided hasn’t been an actual decision. Her newly-named executives were guys who had already been doing the work, so it was just a title change. The bicoastal thing really did more as giving an “official” reason to kill Wildstorm and Zuda, than anything else. It could be seen as “streamlining the brand”, but it was believed that DC had been looking for an exit strategy for both for some time. As far as leadership goes, DC’s doing it wrong.

Sadly, it seems that things are going to get worse before they get better. DCE wants to make money, and they want to find the best way to do that. Batman’s already on Underoos, but he might start selling you car insurance. There’s an anecdote traveling the ‘net about a recent WB corporate meeting. Supposedly, someone in that meeting was chastised for saying, “But Batman wouldn’t say that.” Apparently, in the immediate future of DCE, it doesn’t matter what Batman would say (that has more emphasis if you read it in the voice of The Rock). Hell, Batman will probably start endorsing live ammunition and clown college. It doesn’t seem to matter in the future of DC. It’s just another in a long line of things they’re doing wrong….

08th Mar2010

Power Rangers: Super Legends – AKA “I Saved Angel Grove, and All I Got Was This Lousy Game.”

by Will

I honestly only decided to write this at the behest of my TRU pal Mike “Special Forces” Johnson, but you’re all welcome to read along if you have even the slightest interest in the pop culture phenomenon known as Power Rangers.

Last weekend, I dropped by a Hollywood Video that happened to be going out of business. Their used games were 40% off, so $6 didn’t seem like to much to pay for Power Rangers: Super Legends. Released in 2007 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, Super Legends was released for Nintendo DS, PC & PlayStation 2. I’d never really heard anything good about the game, but I had a desire to use my PS2 as something other than a DVD player, and I’m a sucker for cheap Power Rangers merch. I ended up beating the game in 2 days, an amazing feat considering I haven’t beaten a video game in 10 years (and THAT was Super Mario Bros 2. Long story short: I like to take my sweet time). In the end, I’ve got a couple of issues with the game, but let’s have a Ranger primer before we get to all that.

Power Rangers debuted in 1993 as part of Fox Kids. It was basically the story of five teens, who were given powers in order to defend the Earth against evil space aliens – sure, there were some seasons when the number of rangers went up to 8, and there were times where the median age was about 25, but that was the main gist.

The first six seasons comprise the Angel Grove Era, as that was the name of the town where the Rangers lived. The show changed names a few times (Mighty Morphin‘, Zeo, Turbo and In Space), and the teens changed, but they all followed the same overarching storyline. Everything is pretty much wrapped up in the Power Rangers In Space finale, and the show changed its formula where each subsequent series only lasted 1 season, and they were only loosely related. Also, the rangers weren’t exactly teens anymore. This was basically the School’s Out Era, which included Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, and Wild Force.

In 2002, Disney purchased the Fox Kids holdings, including the Power Rangers franchise. Wild Force was the final series to air on Fox Kids, and it was believed that Disney would just shut down production, and sit on the library. Instead, Disney moved production to New Zealand, where it experienced higher production values including more wire work and special effects. Each incarnation still lasted 1 season, but seeing as how New Zealand only seems to have 25 actors, the same people kept popping up as different characters. From 2002 to 2009, The Disney Era gave us Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury and RPM. Power Rangers: RPM aired its last episode on the last Saturday of 2009, effectively ending the production of new live action Power Rangers series. Currently, they air “remastered” episodes of the original 1993 series.

So, Power Rangers: Super Legends follows a temporal plot, where second season villain Lord Zedd steals some time crystals and starts fucking up the timeline. This is noticed by Omega Ranger, who’s the curator of the Ranger Hall of Legends. Realizing that Zedd must be stopped, Omega visits various timelines, recruiting rangers to help with his mission. Since it’s a 2-player game, the plot has a built-in caveat that only 2 rangers can be active at one time. You’re given 2 preselected choices in each timeline, with the ability to unlock additional rangers throughout the game.

So, what were my problems with the game?

-Why is Zedd the villain? The game already acknowledges that he was “cured” of his evil in the PRIS finale. Plus, it’s not like he was the biggest bad the rangers ever faced to begin with.

The Angel Grove Era worked in a formula where each season presented a villain more powerful than the last. We start with Rita, who’s replaced by Zedd, who marries Rita in almost WWE fashion, who are then “replaced” by Rita’s father, Master Vile. Next, they’re all evicted by The Machine Empire, who are replaced by Divatox, and then we find out they ALL were working for Dark Spectre.

So, with that logic, shouldn’t Dark Spectre be the villain in the game? I mean, he was considered the greatest evil in existence! Also, they try to explain that the game’s Zedd is from an alternate timeline, but that just seems a little too convenient, especially once you get to the end of the game.

-Considering it’s the 15th anniversary of the franchise, not all incarnations are represented. I’ve noticed this happen in a lot of the post-Fox Kids merchandise. In fact, outside of Lost Galaxy, there’s not much emphasis on the Fox years. This can be understood, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s like the Zeo-Turbo-In Space seasons never occurred, and they’re just represented by MMPR. I realize it’s the root source of those jilted incarnations, but they’re still missed.

To compound the problem, Time Force, Wild Force and Ninja Storm are ONLY represented on the DS version.

The most glaring omission of all, however, is that of Tommy Oliver.

Arguably the Greatest Ranger of ALL Time, Tommy was originally the Green Ranger, who lost his powers only to return as the new team leader, The White Ranger. He went on to become the Red Zeo Ranger before his “retirement”. Years later, after the Disney purchase, he returned in Dino Thunder, acting as team mentor and black ranger. The man was FOUR different rangers, always with the best weapons and zords, and you mean to tell me they just FORGOT him?! It makes me wonder if Jason David Frank was on the outs with Disney at the time.

-The Zord battles are shit. They are puzzle/combo based, where you’re shown what’s basically a still image, and given a button combo to enter. Do it correctly, and you successfully attack/block. Considering that past ranger games included Zord battles that utilized the same fight game engine of most games in 1997, this is a step WAY back! At the bare minimum, I was looking forward to something akin to Killer Instinct. Instead, I got Power Rangers: Simon.

-Omega Ranger. I feel that if anyone should be the M.C. of this thing, it should be Zordon. Sure, he’s “dead” but when did that ever mean anything? Especially, since the time crystals you’re hunting are exactly like the kind at the bottom of Zordon’s tube. His whole schtick was that he was trapped in the space-time continuum, so it was a no-brainer. Instead, they give us Omega Ranger.

Now, I didn’t watch a lot of SPD, but I know that Omega Ranger was essentially the Other Ranger of the SPD team. He was composed of pure energy, so he never unmorphed. The thing is, the Omega Ranger in the game is NOT the SPD Omega. However, he ends up recruiting 2 rangers from the SPD timeline – one of whom is…the Omega Ranger? Huh? WTF? The SPD version shows some confusion, and they riff on that in the video interludes, but they never explain that whole thing. That confusions could have all been avoided if they’d just gone with Zordon.

– It lacks in geographical accuracy. In the Angel Grove levels, you fight in a bustling metropolis. In fact, a major fight takes place on the freeway, in the middle of rush hour. Angel Grove ain’t Gotham City. The only time Power Rangers ever depicted it as a bustling city was in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, and that’s, technically, not even canonical. Either fight in a park, a juice bar, down by the docks, or a quarry. Similarly, the Lost Galaxy levels take place in the innards of Terra Venture, when we never saw most of that on the show. Maybe the designers felt they were showing us a “different side” of the cities – one which we hadn’t seen in the episodes. Unfortunately, it just seems like they were reusing boards from other games.

So, there you pretty much have it. In what could have been a decent celebration of a (then) 15 year old franchise, fans were instead given a shoddily thrown together money grab of a game. Power Rangers is no stranger to the notion of nostalgia. Even in the Disney era, they continued the tradition of the crossover between different teams. They’ve also had several incredible anniversary episodes, like “Forever Red” (10th anniversary) and “Once A Ranger” (15th anniversary). Unfortunately, none of that was successfully replicated by this game. I understand that it was, essentially, made for younger children (otherwise, how could I have beaten it so easily?). After all, this is Power Rangers for a new generation. That said, if you’re not going to appropriately celebrate what came before, then why make an anniversary game?

09th Dec2008

Where Has Will Been Lately?

by Will

“She’s got her own thing; that’s why I love her.”

Man, I haven’t written one of these things in a while. Honestly, I haven’t really missed it, but it was brought to my attention that some people think it’s weird that I actually pay money for this site (‘sup, Jamie!). So, I’d better get my money’s worth.

I realized I don’t blog because I don’t really have anything to say right now. I’m actually really happy, so no angsty bitter posts. I hardly have time for TV these days, so no pop culture posts. And my internet is pretty limited to facebook on my phone, so I’m pretty sure no one wants to me to write about how Marcus Keith Dowling is attending Taxlo.

So, bottom line, I’m pretty boring, but it’s an awesome boring. Can’t knock it. It’s just funny to me how people can change. I stumbled upon Power Rangers: Jungle Fury last night, and didn’t know what the fuck was going on. Did that show ever make sense?! No, really, I hadn’t watched Power Rangers in 2 years, so I wasn’t sure if it was the show or me. I *am* almost 27, but I hate the fact that it made absolutely no sense to me. Felt like I was getting old.

Another odd twist is that I’ve become a bit of a gamer. No, not that D&D stuff the Diamond guys had me dabbling in (did I ever write about that?), but games of the video variety. To narrow it down, pretty much any game that involves a fake guitar is OK in my book. Sorry folks, but my commitment’s to my music & my band right now. Oh, you didn’t know I had a band? Yeah, it’s called Sex Corvette. I’d explain the origin of that name, but I’m not sure you’re all cool enough to handle it. I’ve also got a side band, Fornication Wagon, but that’s just really something to keep me sharp for the SC gigs. Gotta tell ya, SC is taking the world by storm! We’ve got a jet, a sound guy, and we’re about to get into the Hall of Fame. And don’t even get me started on the guitarist – she’s hot as shit. I can definitely see a Gwen/Tony thing brewing (you know, without the whole breakup & umpteen songs chronicling the ordeal. Seriously, I’m sure there had to have been concerts where Tony wanted to stand up during Don’t Speak & just tell Gwen to shut the fuck up. But I digress…)

Ok, where was I even going with all this? Oh yeah, I was explaining why I haven’t written lately. See, when I blog from TRU, I just lose all focus.

Speaking of Toys “R” Us, I had a situation that I’ve never experienced in all my years with the company. You see, I was on a ladder, stocking shelves, when a case of Wall-E robots tumbled over into the next aisle. I had just enough time to emit a telepathic “Ohhh fuuuck!!!” before it was too late. I got to the other side to find that the ghost of Walt Disney had used his ghost powers to clobber an old black lady. They always said old Walt was a racist. All kidding aside (you think I want the Disney corporation on my ass? We’re cool, Mickey!), it scared the shit out of me. First off, I really wanted to make sure she was OK. I was reared by enough old broads to have a soft spot in my heart for them, especially when they’re the first victims of the Robot Apocalypse.I was also scared that I was gonna get sued. Everyone asks,”Did you laugh?” I always *want* to say,”Hell, no! Don’t be an asshole” but instead it comes out as “Hell, no! I was too scared thinking about being sued!” Hey, at least I’m honest!

Anyway, I should probably get back to work. Then again, maybe the store is safer with me hiding in the back blogging.
I think this was just a long, rambling way for me to explain where I’ve really been. A few months ago, I met a really amazing woman. A few months after that, I actually met her (don’t ask…). Let’s just say that the whole experience changed my life for the better. So now I have an amazing person in my life, as well as a new reader, in the form of her younger sister (who I’m looking forward to actually meeting). Anyway, you truly are a blessing, Lindsay. I thought my 5 readers should know that 😉

21st Jan2008

Dr. 90210, Katie Holmes on BET, Natasha Bedingfield, and Kate Hudson

by Will

“Hey, did you guys see that fight outside?!”

I just had the kind of weekend that I just know I’m going to look back on and regret. I didn’t do anything wrong, but I just feel kind of…off about a lot of stuff. I know I’m being cryptic, but it’s really not that deep; I’m just the type of guy who tends to regret shit. As my friend Jenna would say, I’ve got to learn to let it go. Anyway, on to the randomness.

– I swear that Dr. Rey, from Dr. 90210 is the creepiest, sketchiest son of a bitch on television. Find me a creepier dude; I dare you. From his weird-ass gangster suits to the skeezy way that he speaks to his women patients, that guy does not put me at ease. And don’t get me started on all his martial arts bullshit. Out of nowhere, he’ll just pull out a pair of nunchucks and go at it. With the exception of Michelangelo & Panthro, nobody cool has ever wielded nunchucks. They’re that weapon that sounds cool in theory, but ends up looking stupid in practice. Then, there’s his home life, which just seems so fake. It’s like he’s actually gay, but they went out and cast an actress to be his wife, who is obviously uncomfortable in the role. Any scene with him and his wife is always so scripted and dramatic. The other day, he had to go to his birth home to Argentina (?), where he was determined to get his deathbed-ridden father to admit that he loved him. Meanwhile, Mrs. Rey (who looks as much like Skeletor as Finola Hughes), is bawling because she fears she’ll never see Dr. Rey again. Sweety, he’s just going on a trip. Stop your crying. Plus, I thought this show was about plastic surgery. Enough with the family drama and bring on the boobies!

– I’m about to declare the single of 2008. Yes, I know it’s early in the year, plus it’s not even an official single yet. That said, Jive would be foolish not to release it. What is it? “Break the Ice” on Britney’s Blackout album. It’s the hottest song on an entirely hot album. It’s impossible to not dance when that song comes on. It truly is the hotness. Yes, it has driven me to use the term “the hotness”. That song is so tight that I’ve actually choreographed a dance for it. I’m not talking about some little bullshit dance, either. This is a Fatima Robinson-level dance, and you better believe it won’t involve folding chairs!

– You know, Natasha Bedingfield looks great for a 37 year old. Wait…she’s actually 26? Oh

I mean, seriously, did ya see the heinous top she’s got on in her latest video? It just screams “Cougar Wear”. Get her out of Dress Barn, stat!

My deal with Natasha is that she still doesn’t seem to know what the Hell she’s doing. Her debut album was one of the most meta experiences in musical history, as she wrote an entire album pretty much describing how difficult it is to write an album. Have you ever listened to the words to “These Words”? It’s about how she couldn’t figure out what to write, so she’s just gonna sing about how hardthe process is. Really? Does that count? Is she just going for partial credit? Anyway, she’s got her new album that drops on Tuesday, and her big single, “Love Like This” features Sean Kingston. Really? Who’s bright idea was that? That’s the worst, most missmatched combo since the So So Def remix video to Jessica Simpson’s “Irresistible”, where Bow Wow’s scenes are just spliced in later, as it’s clear Jessica would never be in the same room with him. Also, Natasha’s song has no real tune. She’s just kinda screeching at notes, hoping that some of them stick. It’s like they want to present her as a singer with a 5-octave range, yet she’s not really exhibiting any control. Her manager needs to figure out what her gimmick is gonna be. What is it about Natasha Bedingfield that people should care about? What is there to kep her from becoming tomorrow’s Natalie Imbruglia or Robyn? That shit right thur is gonna be the million dollar question.

– Oh, thank all that is holy for the miracle of TLC’s Smash Lab. A show dedicated to blowing shit up and wrecking shit. You know, for science. For every Real Housewives of Orange County and Intervention that we have to put up with, every now and then someone presents us with shows we really want to watch, like this one.

– Speaking of smashing shit, Burnout is the best/worst therapy for social deviants. In fact, I’m starting to believe that video games really can corrupt today’s youth. I mean, I was never a gamer. Yet, I picked up Burnout 2, and found that I had an affinity for causing NASTY multicar collisions on the highway. Not only did Burnout allow it – it encouraged it. So, I found myself begin rewarded for causing property damage and killing as many school bus children as possible. And I couldn’t stop. I spent 8 hrs devising the sickest, gnarliest, audacious car collisions possible. And you know what? I’d do it again. I’m THAT sick. Thanks a lot, Burnout

– So, Katie Holmes was making the talk show rounds last week to promote her new movie, Mad Money. Best Week Ever made fun of the fact that she didn’t really have anything to say. She’d drop little worthless anecdotes about Suri which, as BWE put it, it sounded like she was describing a child that she had just met. “Oh, she’s got a good temperament.” What I felt needed discussing, however, was her surprise appearance on BET’s 106 & Park. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute. For the uninformed, 106 & Park is BET’s version of TRL, only people actually watch 106 & Park. So, Katie comes on to present her costar, Queen Latifah, with the Golden Globe she’d won a few nights earlier (ya know, since the strike pretty much killed the Globes ceremony). I have never heard of a more inappropriate person to be in the BET studio. Let me explain: half them folks ain’t never seen Dawson’s Creek. Nor have they seen Go. And she was the most throwaway part of Batman Begins. So, I’d just love to know how it felt to be in the middle of the collective “who the fuck does this bitch think she is?” mentality that must’ve been running rampant in the studio audience.

– This is going to be controversial, but I feel I have to go here. I’ve a theory on what must be the best part about being a gay male: the clothes. Allow me to explain. There’s some shit out there that a straight gay just isn’t allowed to wear. For example, I was at Busboys and Poets tonight, and there was a grown man wearing a vintage boy scout uniform, complete with bandana neck kerchief. That shit is bold. Now, I’m not saying I’d want to wear it, but I’d like to be able to should I so feel the desire. For a straight guy, you wear that, and people start to talk. “Oh, Will must be gay.” Or “What the hell was he thinking?” However, if I were gay, people would see me in that shit and just say, “Oh well, he’s gay, so…” It’s like a free pass. If I were a gay man, I could wear a picnic tablecloth as a cape, Adidas sweatbands on my ankles, along with a belt made of McDonalds ketchup packets, and they’d be copying that shit on Project Runway. You could be a gay guy with no fashion sense, and no one would know because stereotypes support that all gay men are fashion pioneers. That’s some bullshit and it needs to stop. Some of us straight guys wanna be fashionably daring, too. It just ain’t fair! Yes, I realize there are a ton of cons that are heavier than my shallow pro. I have a friend who said she wished she was Black just so that she would be able to get away with wearing bright colors. Yeah, I realize my argument is just as fucked up as her statement right there. Sure, it’s more about confidence than sexual orientation, but I just wish we didn’t have these hang-ups. Maybe I’m just looking for excuses. Look for my new line, Bromosexual, in Fall 2008.

– Am I the only one who finds it funny that Kate Hudson only gets the roles that would have gone to Goldie Hawn 20 yrs ago? What’s weird about that, you say? Well, it’s weird considering Kate’s Goldie’s daughter. I mean, has this ever happened before in Hollywood? Kiefer Sutherland sure as hell doesn’t play the same roles as Donald Sutherland. Charlie Sheen sure ain’t taking those Martin Sheen roles. It’s odd that Kate and Goldie are so interchangeable. Watch the trailer for Fool’s Gold. You swap out Matthew McConaughey with Kurt Russell and you’ve got Overboard. Think about that for a bit.

Anyway, Happy MLK Day to y’all with good, government jobs. While you’re drinking your lattes and catching up on your Tivo, I’ll be busting my ass making sure no comics get lost shipping from Korea. I have a dream, as well. I see Black children and White children holding hands, as the White children introduce their new Black friends to the magical world of comic books. And the Black children will fall in love with the medium and begin to buy comics for themselves. And enough comics will eventually be bought by these Black children that the industry will have to acknowledge this audience exists, and will have to shut down on MLK day for fear of backlash. Thank God Almighty, for fear of backlash…

20th Nov2007

Video Games, Tila Tequila, and Wedding Shows

by Will

“I can’t wait to get married because nothing’s better than the cheating.”

-How in the Hell does Mario expect to beat Sonic in a race?! And at the Olympics, no less! Sure, if they’re running through pipes, I could kind of understand Mario’s advantage. But he clearly has no clue what he’s gotten himself into. Doesn’t he know Sonic’s origin? The little guy broke the friggin’ sound barrier, which is why he’s blue. BLUE! A blue friggin’ hedgehog, who can break the speed of sound, and some overweight plumber from Brooklyn thinks he has a shot. That’s harder to believe than the Rocky story.

-Anybody been watching MTV lately? What’s the deal with Alicia Keys and the bunny? Sure, it was kind of funny when it turned out to be John Mayer, but what was the point? Was the bunny her stalker? And wow, was she a bad actress! Was she that bad in Smoking Aces?

-Speaking of those MTV bumpers, is there some kind of payola scam going on there? When they started the program, it was for smaller, indie bands & performers. They would let some little act take over MTV for a week, and you’d be bombarded by their crappy live tracks or hear the lame story about how they formed. I wanted to punch that orange-haired chick from Paramore in the face. Anyway, they had Paramore, Chromeo, Rilo Kiley, Teagan & Sara, Common…and Alicia Keys. “One of these things is not like the other”!

-OK, so I’ve found myself dragged into the Tila Army. The show is just so entertaining, but it’s sad when everybody’s more interesting than Tila herself. Every now and then, she’ll interject just so you’ll remember that she’s a part of the show. She’s so damn whiny. “Oh my God, I’m bisexual! You don’t know how hard it is for me.” Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, Tila, it sure looks hard. You’ve got to decide between a whole bunch of guys, and a whole bunch of girls. Plus, it seems like the deck is stacked, as the guys are pretty lame. they’re either gross and/or I suspect they might be gay. If she’s smart, she’ll choose one of the lesbians. Actually, if she’s really smart, she’ll choose Dani; I swear, she’s more of a man than I am, but there’s something likeable about that chick, and she’s got a good head on her shoulders. The hardest part for Tila has got to be the fact that she’s working under a time constraint. After all, who knows when the mothership is going to return to take her back to Tilatron 9?

-While I’m still on this MTV jag, why does everyone in the Real World: Sydney house hate Parisa?! Seriously, since the beginning, it’s been like the producers set forth an edict: make Parisa the bitch. Over the course of the season, we’ve seen multiple housemates get pissed at her, curse her out, and after last night, even knock her down. For the most part, she’s kept her cool. And the one time that she did fight back and stand up for herself, they acted like she was a “crazy bitch”. You know the sad realization? Parisa’s “the black one” this season. You see, every RW house has that crazy black person who either starts fights, refuses to be a team player, and/or gets arrested for public urination. There’s no black housemate this season so Parisa, as the de facto person of color, is now filling that role. The biggest revelation, for me, is that she has never really done anything to deserve this. Sure, she can be a bitch sometimes, but everyone in the RW house is asshole/bitch at some point. It’s called good television. It’s enough to make you want to rewatch old seasons and see if Syrus, Kevin, or Tyrie actually deserved the flack that they got in their respective RW seasons. OK, well Tyrie deserved his…

-Since I’m this far in, I think this is going to end up as a TV blog post. Nothing wrong with that.

-Let me preface this by saying that I am not a gamer. I’ve always seen video games as an expensive game of “Keeping Up with the Joneses”. I’ve only got time and money for one hobby, and that’s comics. That said, I want Assassin’s Creed. The commercial alone makes me want it. The same way the Harry Gregson-Williams’s score for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty made me want a PS2 (and the game), the commercial for Assassin’s Creed makes me want a 360 (and the game). One of the best uses of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” in recent years. Plus, it’s designed by Jade Diamond, and she’s hot. At least, that seems to be why UbiSoft thinks we should buy the game. (for recent, hilarious controversy, google: jade, ubisoft, cartoon.)

-For anyone who doesn’t know, I love wedding shows. For reals. It all goes back to my A Wedding Story addiction when I graduated college. that was soon folded into Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?, along with Married Away. Then, I Propose came along last Spring to cap it all off. Always a bridesmaid…Anyway, I’m having problems with Whose Wedding as of late.

I’ve written about this before, in that I believe Whose Wedding… is getting too highbrow for its own good. You see the same annoying planners (I’m looking at you, Donnie Brown!), and there’s too much crossover with Married Away. I get it. These are the favorite planners. Regardless, I still long for the old days, when there was a more eclectic mix of wedding planners. I miss Jim Rich, who runs a storefront wedding chapel in Texas. He’s the planner, minister, and MC of the reception. He does it all. Sure, most of his weddings were shotgun weddings between high school dropouts and Mexican immigrants, but they showed a different side of the wedding game. Lately, all of the weddings have been $90,000-$250,000 affairs thrown by professional New York couples who met in an elevator or the organic food market. The balance is completely thrown off now. And when they do have a “normal” couple, it’s such a hot ghetto mess that I’m ashamed that it’s even being shown.

My least favorite wedding planner right now is Linnyette Richardson-Hall. She handles weddings in the Baltimore area, and calls herself “The Wedding Diva” (Ugh, I hate when Black women call themselves “diva”. It’s SO “A Different World & Livin’ Single early 90’s” to me). She doesn’t like when the couple refuses to give her control, and she’s always cutting corners. She loves turning people away from the reception; it’s a necessary job, but she relishes it. She is not the chick you go to with an unlimited budget, because she’d just spend it all at the dollar store. I recognize that there’s a need for this type of wedding planner, as not everyone has an unlimited budget (I sure as Hell won’t!), but everything is so garish and cheap.

Typically, Linnyette caters to Black couples who’ve been together forever, and decided to get married before he cheats again/goes to jail. Seriously, here’s your average Linnyette wedding: bride and groom are about 32, and they were high school sweethearts. They’ve been on again/off again for the past 10 or so years, but they were on just long enough each time to spit out a few kids. So, now they’re planning the wedding, with their kids in the wedding party. The worst part, though, is their idea of a wedding has been tainted by the Jet Society Page, so they think a regal wedding consists of groomsmen, bridesmaids, junior groomsmen, junior bridesmaids, flower girls, and ringer bearers. All the while, the ceremony and reception are taking place at Bolling Air Force Base. They want to have a classy-ass affair, but we’re talking about a possible 20-person wedding party, for a dude who washes cars and a chick who works at the local check-cashing/seafood carry-out joint. Am I being too harsh? Maybe, but that’s what I do.

Anyway, if you’ve never watched the show, each hour is comprised of 2 different weddings being planned by different planners (although, they do have the rare case where one planner has 2 ceremonies on the same weekend, so she/he’ll get the whole hour). Now, it goes without saying that Linnyette’s weddings look even worse when stacked against a wedding being planned in Martha’s Vineyard, yet this happens more times that I’d like to recall. My problem with Linnyette is that I’ve never really seen her do anything that looked good. I mean, the couples seem happy with the result, and at the end of the day that’s what really matters, but I’ve never seen anything worthy of being televised. It’s almost like she’s an example of “wedding planning don’ts”. I get being “frugal”, but some of those corners. She’s the kind of chick where you’d say, “We need flowers”, so she’d swing by the funeral home and pick up any stray arrangements she found laying around. “We’re gonna need centerpieces”. Well, she’ll go to the dollar store, buy up a bunch of plastic candleholders, and then spraypaint them silver at home. She’s done it before.

A wedding’s a special day that, Lord willing, you’ll only go through once. That said, I wouldn’t want to cut corners. It doesn’t matter if the guests don’t realize the cake is day old from the bakery thrift shop. I would know, and that’s what counts. I feel you should plan according to your budget, and not try to cheat. Don’t try to have an elaborate high society affair in an Air Force bowling alley with some Rock Creek Ginger Ale. Know your limits, people. If you really don’t have a budget, well, that’s what Vegas is for…

19th Mar2005

Little Mac’s Boxing Diary

by Will

“Along the arduous journey, you’ll jog behind Reginald VelJohnson, win trophies, box hippos and punch a German in the stomach. Nothing would ever feel finer.”

That quote was about “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out”, one of THE legendary games of the NES. Been feeling kinda nostalgic for it lately, and I found this hilarious thing on x-entertainment.com:

I’d forgotten how great that site was!

05th Jan2005

I LOVE Mario’s “Turning Point”

by Will

Is there no stopping Mario?

First, he was saving the Mushroom Kingdom from the Evil King Koopa.

Next, he was lamenting the fact that he was “Just A Friend”.

Now, he’s beggin’ this chick to let him love her!

Those crazy Italian rappers, I tell ya!

Wait? What do you mean they’re not the same guy?!!! Then who’ve I been sending those meatballs to?!!! And what am I gonna do with this box of smiley stars & mushrooms? I really hope I kept the receipt for that Takooni suit…

Anyway, since I don’t have the luxuries to which you livejournal punks are entitled, I have to find places to inform you to what I’m listening.

Right now, the album du jour is Mario’s “Turning Point”. Yeah, that single is “off da hook”, as the young ruffians put it. But there’s an even better hidden gem on that disc. Please, use your file-sharing programs, or borrow the CD from that black chick who works in the mailroom of your place of employment. I say this because you MUST hear “Nikes Fresh Out the Box”!

Yes, folks. We all felt shoe-based songs had peaked with “Air Force Ones”, but Mario has done us one better. He compares the new girl he’s seeing to a pair of new Nikes, “fresh out the box.” Since most of my shoes have been stroke-of-luck finds from Marshalls, I have no idea what this feels like. If the song were “British Knights Straight Off the Shelf”, then we could talk.

I love the part where he promises “not to scuff her”. But I digress, this song is hilarious, plus it’s got a good beat. The feel-good song of January. Yeah, that’s a good description…

25th Nov2004

Harry Gregson-Williams Is My War Soundtrack

by Will

This goes out to all my serious gamer friends (Tarek, Austin, James, Davis…I’m looking at you guys!).

So, I’ve always said, “If you want me to go to war and kill for my country, you’d better have the theme from A) Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty or B) the Justice League playing in my helmet.”

Sounds stupid? Maybe. You can have your Taps & your Star Spangled Banner; in my opinion, there are no two songs that instill a greater sense of duty and honor in me. It may sound crazy, but if you’ve ever seen the opening sequence to MGS2, then you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re familiar with the work of Harry Gregson-Williams, then you’ll know he’s a composer who’s used to garnering emotional response in unusual places. After all, he composed the score for Team America. No, not the songs, but the background music. Remember the “Dicks, Assholes, and Pussies” speech at the Film Actors Guild gala? You probably weren’t listening to the music, but that was him. Say what you will about that movie, but you KNOW you were moved by that scene (Guess who I’m looking at now, Shorty).

So, if you’re still sitting there, thinking, “Will has finally lost his mind”, then I’ve got two things to say to you: 1) If you saw Marion Barry sing karaoke in a gay bar, you’d be questioning your sanity, too and 2) PLEASE download the Metal Gear Solid 2 theme or “Metal Gear May Cry”, which is an AWESOME remix of the MGS2 theme and the them to Devil May Cry.

After you’re done, I’ll meet you down at the enlistment office. What’s that you say? We’re in the middle of a war?!! Well, fuck that noise then. I’m gonna go watch “Platoon” or something…