Category: Featured

Weird Scenes #090: Tweedledumbass

Weird Scenes #090: Tweedledumbass

Lies, dripping off your mouth like dirt / Lies, lie in every step you walk / Lies, whispered sweetly in my ear / Lies, how do I get out of here / Why, why you have to be so cruel / Lies, lies, lies, I ain’t such a fool — “Lies,” written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, 1978

We all have said things that are later proven to be mistaken, and I’m mouse enough to admit that on March 21st 2006 I fubared one right out of the park. Watching a CNET piece about Twitter, I proclaimed “who the hell wants to know what you’re having for lunch, and why it’s being served to you on such crappy plates?”

Of course, I was wrong to the tune of about sixty-five million American daily active users. One of those daily active users happens to be the President of the United States. He’s got 80 million followers worldwide, but that includes the media, other politicians, the curious and those hard up for light entertainment. Trumpsy loves Twitter because he has 100% control over his message… or at least he did until Tuesday. The Orange Fool repeated his completely baseless lie that mail-in ballots lead to vote fraud and forgeries. Twitter attached a warning to this and a couple other presidential fabrications suggesting readers fact check his claims.

Twitter did not say “This dipshit is lying again!” They didn’t even call bullshit on his bullshit claims. They just suggested people check it out, which they should be doing anyway… certainly by now.

Turns out, Twitter’s tweet hurt Li’l Donnie’s feelings. He tweeted “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen… Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

Four exclamation points!!!! I guess he means it. He repeated his threats to regulate or shut down social media companies for trying to silence “conservative” expression. In so doing, Trumpsy betrays his lack of faith in capitalism: such conservative voices, no matter how few, possess on average nearly two eyeballs each and internet content providers cover their nut with the number of eyeballs they attract.

Therefore, if you are a “general interest” content provider, you don’t want to chase away any noticeable group of followers. Even Trumpsters buy stuff… like, say, Clorox and hydroxychloroquine.

According to Reuters, after Orangey made his threat shares of Twitter and Facebook dropped – temporarily. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #090: Tweedledumbass”

With Further Ado #96: Heavy Metal – Your One Way Ticket To Midnight

With Further Ado #96: Heavy Metal – Your One Way Ticket To Midnight

Way back in the 80s, when I was in college, it wasn’t really cool to read comics. Of course, I didn’t stop reading them. Occasionally, I’d lend my comics to my classmates so they could read them, but for the most parts, Marvel-type superheroes were viewed as silly or childish by many college students.

It’s funny, but I still remember having to scold Brian Winke (he lived down the hallway of dormitory) when he bent back the cover of my copy of Avengers #217.  I gave him a friendly lesson on the tragedy of spine roll and how it destroyed the condition of comic.   Clearly, comics were important to me, cool or not.

The one comic that I was never paused to read ‘in public’ was Heavy Metal. It was filled with strong art and adult themes.  Although, to be fair, “adult themes” often translated simply to excessive violence and topless robot girls.

The story I really enjoyed back then was Jim Steranko’s adaptation of Outland. That was a science fiction movie starring Sean Connery that was essentially High Noon in space.  It was serialized over a few issues, and Steranko was delivering stunning top-of-his-game pages each and every time.

But I inevitably drifted away from Heavy Metal over the years. Somehow, I’d categorize it as something adjacent to comics, but not really include it as part of my core comics purchases.

Now, in 2020, that might all change.  There’s a new sheriff in town.  Matt Medney is the new Chief Executive Officer of Heavy Metal. I caught up with him and he pulled back the curtain to share his vision and his plans for Heavy Metal. Continue reading “With Further Ado #96: Heavy Metal – Your One Way Ticket To Midnight”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears

I recognize that having column inches such as I do grants me a public space to air my grievances. A place, in plain sight, to shoot straight and vent with hope in finding sympathetic ears. Such as it were, we all have these spaces — take the social media platform of choice, and let loose. But here, on Pop Culture Squad, I’m given a bit more leeway to stretch a would-be status message and let it get some height. Normally I’d save my ire for something specifically in the pop culture space (#relevancy), but, here I am stuck in quarantine — a nebulous vacuum of pop culture at present. So, I’m detailing several things in my life that are at very least pop culture adjacent that have been grinding my gears. Hopefully with a little venting, this tightening in my chest might relieve itself a bit. On with the ranting!

1. Virtual Events

With remote learning, and businesses needing to flock to tele-meeting spaces like Zoom, Facebook rooms, Skype, and the like… the population is tired of virtual fraternization. Save perhaps the concerts being put on by various musical artists who all happen to have sophisticated recording equipment in their homes… Zoom and the like are fast becoming tiresome. Yes, we all get it. You throw on a normal shirt, and keep the pajamas on under the gaze of your web cam. Ha ha. Woo. But every virtual event remains the same. We speak over one another, or have dueling monologues. Our kids crash in, and suddenly we’re juggling staying engaged, and remembering we’d literally like to be anywhere else. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears”

Brainiac On Banjo #086: We Can Be Heroes

Brainiac On Banjo #086: We Can Be Heroes

There goes my hero / Watch him as he goes / There goes my hero / He’s ordinary — “My Hero,” written by Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel and Pat Smear, 1995.

Memorial Day, which we celebrate today because usually more gasoline is sold over three-day weekends, was still called Decoration Day when I was a child. It didn’t become a federal holiday until 1971, even though Decoration Day became a thing after the first U.S. Civil War. According to History.com, one of the earliest Memorial Day remembrances was organized by a group of freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

In recent years, the definition of Memorial Day has grown to include all of those whose lives were sacrificed for the greater good. Today, we tend to call these people “heroes” and that would be okay had our definition of hero not been allowed to expand to those who do what all humans are supposed to do: help out those in need. That’s where I get a bit cynical. I’ll go along with the hero thing as long as we come up with an equally descriptive term for those who could but maliciously refuse to help out those in need.

I think you know the people I’m talking about.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran the front page I reproduced above. The story, of course, was continued on interior pages but I’m sure you get the point. This was one of the most appropriate front pages I’ve seen, and I’m the type of history freak that reads old newspapers for fun. I rarely go out of my way to praise the NYT, but fair is fair. It would take the effort of a much better writer than I to make the point any sharper.

Yesterday, I had an online conversation with a friend who is a veteran of our recent middle eastern activities, who, by the way, was wounded in the war. I don’t think he is a hero for having been wounded. I think he’s a hero for having been there in the first place.

Be that as it may, we discussed the Times’ use of the word “incalculable.” Obviously, if there’s a list, the number is calculable. That’s true, but I don’t think that was the point. I said it was the loss itself that was incalculable and not simply the number who have died thus far. For every name listed, there are an incalculable number of people who are severely impacted: friends, co-workers, family, online correspondents, vendors dependent upon their business, brothers and sisters in arms, teachers, nurses and physicians and others who have been there in your support system for years, and so on. The impact is truly overwhelming, particularly as it’s all been within the past ten weeks or so.

His initial thought was significant: we should be specific in our rhetoric. Damn near everybody has suffered a loss in this pandemic, and most of those who haven’t probably will before it’s all over. We bitch about our inconveniences, but we are still here to complain. In no way does that make the rest of us heroes. We are survivors, and we should be proud of that. Or, at the very least, appreciative.

We are living through a history we will tell our grandchildren about. My maternal grandfather died of the Spanish influenza that followed World War I, when my mother was about three years old. It took me quite a while to piece together that story. Today, history is no longer written by the winners — history is written every moment of every day, in print and online, with audio and video to flesh out the static pictures and provide a more accurate view, in the aggregate, for future generations.

I am fond of quoting philosopher George Santayana’s well-known aphorism “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I say “well-known,” but I remain amazed by how often I read the words of people in power who simply do not get that. I can’t understand why. Maybe power tends to erode reason.

Maybe it’s more the quest for power that erodes reason, particularly when that power is defined by money.

Yesterday, the New York Times made Memorial Day all the more memorable. Maybe we can’t avoid such disaster, but there is a great, great deal we can do to minimize the damage.

True to the present name for this holiday, we must never forget.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #064: Dear Mr. Cornette

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #064: Dear Mr. Cornette

Dear Corny,

Can I call you Corny? Probably not. I don’t know you personally. But I address you as such because you’re undeserving of a more formal address like Mr. Cornette.

I wanted to write you today to specifically respond to a few of your opinions you’ve infected the world with lately. Specifically these:

On WWE’s Becky Lynch (Rebecca Quinn):

“This is a multi-million dollar talent and she tells me she’s pregnant? What the fuck?” Cornette continues. “This is like one of the boys breaking his leg on purpose while he’s on top. You can control this, this is not like a fuckin’ injury. This could have been controlled. It’s not like I don’t never want them to have children, but when both of you have top spots where you can make seven fuckin’ figures a year and blah, blah, blah. Wait three years and have a fuckin’ baby.”

And on WWE’s Dana Brooke (Ashley Sebera):

“Her entire face looks like it was remodeled after somebody set fire to it and put it out with an axe. What the f**k has happened? Did she do that on purpose or was she in a horrible accident? What the f**k?”

Well, Jimmy? Let’s get a few caveats out of the way. You’re entitled to hold any opinion you want. You’re more than welcome to spread that opinion on any platform willing to present you. And folks who follow you have the right to agree with your musings. Cool? Cool. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #064: Dear Mr. Cornette”

Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless

Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless

That game of life is hard to play / I’m gonna lose it anyway / The losing card I’ll someday lay / So this is all I have to say / Suicide is painless / It brings on many changes / And I can take or leave it if I please — Suicide Is Painless (theme for movie M*A*S*H), written by Johnny Mandel, 1970

As tempting as it is, we just cannot go around saying “100% of us believe…” or “everybody feels…” We know that’s ridiculous; there are 7.8 billion people on this planet as of this writing, and most of us couldn’t agree on where to go for lunch.

So I will not state “100% are stir-crazy and would gnaw our right arms off to leave the house and go to…” whatever. However, I would not be the least bit surprised if 99% of us felt that way. Maybe we can get together and T-P the houses of that other 1%.

No. Wait. Is there still a toilet paper shortage? I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been permitted to enter any building other than my own for… jeez, about 10 weeks now. I did drive around the neighborhood last week, just to give my car some reassurance, and I was surprised at how little had changed. But I was more surprised at how few cars were on the road, how empty the parking lots were, and how easy it would be to park at the train station.

I’m also surprised at how clean the air seems. This figures — with fewer people driving, we have less ground dinosaur bits clogging our atmosphere. This latter fact frightens the crap out of the oil and gas industry, which has been hell-bent on choking us to death in the name of dividend checks and nine figure annual employment packages. Some of these greed-driven killers are down to their last 50 million bucks.

I have little doubt that this is one of the chief reasons we are being pushed over the brink of insanity with constant reminders of how wonderful it will be to get out of the house and go to restaurants, sports events, family reunions, and, I dunno, maybe orgies. Don’t forget your condoms; you wouldn’t want to catch a disease, would you? Continue reading “Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless”

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

We all know that phrase: Go Big or Go Home!  It’s a clarion call to seize the day and to live large. It’s not always the best advice, but sometimes it’s just what’s needed.  So during this crazy lockdown time, let me call your attention to a few treasures that literally decided to “go big!” while we all stay home.

 

Joker/Harley Quinn Criminal Sanity
Written by Kami Garcia
Art by Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew
Black Label, an imprint of DC Comics

While I’m generally not a big Harley Quinn fan, I’ve been a big Mike Mayhew fan ever since his days on Topps’ Zorro and Lady Rawhide with the incomparable Don McGregor.  Mayhew has gotten even better over the years, and today he entertains readers with his off-the-charts artistic talent in the new Joker/Harley Quinn series.

This story is a multi-part series told in thirty-two page increments in DC’s oversized Black Label format. To me, it has the feel of a European comic. Much of story is told in B & W , and that makes it so very, very  evocative of an old Warren or Marvel Magazine.

The “other artist” Mico Suayan, is just fantastic. I’ve enjoyed his work on Valliant’s Bloodshot. Suayan unfurls his artistic wings with majesty and grace in this larger-than-usual formal. Continue reading “With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home”

Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream

Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream

Star Wars! / Give me those Star Wars! / Nothing but… Star Wars / Don’t let them end — written by Nick Winters, 1977

With all the streaming at our fingertips, the entertainment business is making a lot of headlines promoting what they’re going to do once Earthlings return to mobility. But don’t get excited just yet: the only cameras operating right now are working Zoom and not Studio Binder. When Keith Richards self-quarantines, everyone should self-quarantine.

Next week’s launch of HBO Max has turned up the heat. Clearly, studios are concerned about competing for subscribers with promises of new content, which, at best, won’t appear until after the winter solstice. My take on HBO Max is simple: it’s goddamn expensive, and right now they’re running little but reruns. It’ll probably work out because they’re not promoting that fact. But reasonable bean-counters understand that few people are going to maintain subscriptions to HBO Max, Disney+, AppleTV, CBS All Access, Peacock Premium, and Amazon Prime – to name but a very few – all at once. That’s a lot of money, and it’s also more programming than one can handle. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream”

Weird Scenes #088: Every Cloud Has Its Tinfoil Lining

Weird Scenes #088: Every Cloud Has Its Tinfoil Lining

It’s good news week / Someone’s found a way to give / The rotting dead a will to live / Go on and never die — It’s Good News Week, written by Jonathan King, recorded by Hedgehoppers Anonymous, 1965

Ever since Benjamin Franklin gave up editing his newspaper, people have been bitching about how there’s nothing but bad news in our informative media. Well, I get that but it’s the bad stuff people want to know about, and often that’s the stuff people need to know about. Trust me, the day we’ve got an effective and approved cure or vaccine for coronavirus, it will be good news that will lead every newscast and probably every conversation.

Particularly if said cure contains bleach.

A good part of the problem is the attitude of the beholder. Our Great Pumpkin in the White House chirps out “good news” everyday, but the majority of humanity regards such prattling as our purest form of bullshit. Today, many people are avoiding the news because it’s all about the same subject and there’s little deployable information. I get that too, and I would feel the same way had the news not been my smack since we replaced a Klan member with a war hero in the Oval Office.

Nonetheless, it remains an attitude problem and, I dare say, people familiar with Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind have a pretty good idea of my attitude. So, with respect to Jonathan King (noted above), here’s some true — as opposed to truly — good news… as I see the world.

ITEM: Big business has seen measured success in the whole work-from-home thing. Many outfits are talking about shifting more office work to their employee’s home environment and cutting down on office rent. This, in turn, exacerbates the amount of unrented commercial property and drives rents down. If you like working from home, this is good news. It’s very good news if you dislike the annoyance and the cost of your daily commute, it has a nice depressing effect on gas prices, and leads to slightly cleaner air. Perhaps some of these cost savings might be passed on to us “consumers,” but let’s not get too high on that cloud of smoke.

The best news for those of us who drift towards jaded cynicism — a disease that spreads faster than coronavirus — is the impact this will have on the Shemp Howard of the Trump family, Jared Kushner, a man so unqualified to live that his very existence brings to mind the words uttered by Lex Luthor in Superman II: “Even with all this accumulated knowledge, when will these dummies learn to use a doorknob?”

ITEM: Speaking about getting high on that cloud of smoke, Colorado Representative Ed Perlmutter tweeted “I just learned the #SAFEBankingAct is included in the CARES 2.0 package. I have been pushing for this because the #COVID19 crisis has only exacerbated the risk posed to cannabis businesses & their employees & they need relief just like any other legitimate business. #copolitics risk posed to cannabis businesses & their employees & they need relief just like any other legitimate business. #copolitics.”

Many representatives and some senators have been working hard to get the laws changed to allow the greater cannabis industry to use our banking system — including credit cards and similar economic engines — the way all other legitimate businesses do. This will be a significant spur to our economy, increase employment, and reduce the overwhelming load of non-violent occupants of our prisons and jails in those states where cannabis use is legal. And, given the dearth of tax revenues, when all this Covid-19 shit is behind us we will see that list expand by necessity.

ITEM: We seem to have something of a resurrection of the movie drive-in. Now, that’s not necessarily important to our well-being as we seem to have gotten along just fine without them these last several decades and, surprisingly, there appears to have been no reduction in our birth rate due to such closures. But if you and your medically-vetted family want to share in the communal movie experience and you just happen to be living near one of the surviving drive-ins, soon you might be able to do just that. I recommend renting a 1956 Thunderbird with a functional AM-FM radio.

Fun Fact: I saw the movie Last Tango In Paris at a drive-in. We might want to consider the impact of X-rated movies that can be viewed from our Interstates. Yes, I’m talking about you, Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive In off of I-80 in North Ridgeville, Ohio!

See? It’s not all doom and destruction. There’s good news out there, if you pay attention.

But having a good sense of humor helps.

With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating

With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating

How much longer will this lockdown last?  The “snow day”-ness of it is getting old. I’m definitely ZOOMed out (even though I think these remote meetings are here to stay).  I can see the fatigue bubble up with debates about when to open up local economies for business. And I’ve also learned about the “epistemic dissidents” – those contrarians who choose to ignore established facts, and instead rely on fringe ideas and crackpot conspiracies.  If that sounds hard, it’s meant to be.  I am losing patience with these knuckleheads.

Recently, I pulled up to one local comic shop, Ithaca’s Comics For Collectors for some curbside comics.  Although the store is officially closed, I was invited in to browse a bit. I kind of felt like rock star who gets to shop privately when no one else is in the store.  Kudos to the owner who set it up so the experience was super- safe – social distancing, sanitizer, gloves and masks.  (Masks make sense for comic shops too, of course.)  I snagged the comics from my pull list, a few recent favorites, and even rescued some treasures from the bargain box.

It was a treat to get the VIP treatment from that store…but we’re all so tired of the pause. I don’t think I’ll ever fondly remember that private shopping trip.

There are other ways to support local stores. I’ve reached out to a few other retailers and purchased comics online or gift cards. I have been so impressed that in every case, these shops have sent me extra stuff with each order.  These acts of kindness, when the “other guy” is suffering, will not be soon forgotten.

Getting to Know the Publishers

During quarantine, I feel like I’m getting to know comics publishers better too. Continue reading “With Further Ado #94: Those Good Old Days… That We’re All Hating”