Category: Lifestyle

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #066: Black Lives Matter

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #066: Black Lives Matter

As I write this — on Sunday, June 7th, 2020 —  it comes on the heels of taking my family out to the park today for a walk. While I wish it was for just fresh air and sunshine… alas, today we walked alongside our community in a peaceful protest march. With masks adorned and side-by-side with people of all ages, creeds, colors, and religions, we took stride with signs in hand. My sons, 2, 4, and 8, marched alongside their neighbors, not wholly aware of the injustice that exists in the world.

My 8 year old grasps it a little. But he is still innocent at his core. This all seems to him like an odd off-shoot of a Minecraft or Roblox world. He doesn’t understand how his friends — those in his class at school, his teammates in baseball teams past, or even the girls who he plays with down the street — are treated unfairly in society at large because of the color of their skin. My wife and I explained it to him as best we could. And he could recite correctly the “hows” and “whys” of the situation. But I know behind his dark brown eyes, his thoughts and feelings are still forming. Meanwhile, my 4 year old was just beaming to have so many people to say hi to. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #066: Black Lives Matter”

Weird Scenes #092: Ask Mister Manners

Weird Scenes #092: Ask Mister Manners

National Brotherhood Week / National Brotherhood Week it’s / National everyone smile at / One another-hood week, be / Nice to people who are / Inferior to you. It’s only for a week so have no fear / Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year – written by Tom Lehrer, 1965

I’m hardly the poster boy for Miss Manners. I’ve been known to be disrespectful on purpose, as I hold a deep commitment to bringing offense to power. I am just sophomoric enough to call out assholes-in-power in language that projects my emotions. Hey, it’s a living.

So this might come as a bit of a shock, and it’s certainly going to sound very old school. I think we, as a species, need to be less preemptively judgmental. By “preemptively,” I mean we give people a certain amount of respect because they’re breathing, and they can earn more or lose some as you get to know them as individuals. If we find yourselves reflexively acting in an offensive manner because of our baked-in opinion of whatever group they represent, then you are guilty of prejudice. Pre-justice, if you will.

I realize usually we don’t think we’re victimizing anybody. We’ve got to keep an eye on our attitudes. Besides, it’s far more fulfilling to loathe somebody as an individual based upon your informed opinion.

I find it hard to believe that individuals only prejudge people of definable victimized groups, and there are those who hate people of all groups, sometimes even their own. We have a word for those people: misanthropes. They exist. I hate misanthropes. They’re very confusing. Focus, people!

You might find this hard to believe, but we used to celebrate something called “National Brotherhood Week.” Yeah, I know, that’s gender specific. It was the 1950s, when Westinghouse and General Electric made kitchens so marvelous that women never wanted to leave them. The slogan was — and you might want to sit down — “Take a Negro to Lunch.” Naivety, thy name is humanity.

Clearly, it didn’t work. Perhaps this was because it was co-sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, which certainly sounds like (and often is) an exclusionary organization. Would a Muslim feel comfortable advocating personhood from their platform? A Buddhist? A Satanist? An atheist? Head’s up, people, we do not all believe in the same god, or gods, or even any god whatsoever.

As Shylock sort of said, “Hath not a [fill in the blank] eyes? Hath not a [fill in the blank] hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a [fill in the blank] is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”

That particular scene-stealer is from The Merchant of Venice, and it was written by a bigot. But, here, Shakespeare seems to have moved past his environment. When you think of one of our victimized groups, think of Shylock… who, by the way, really wasn’t a very nice guy.

Among all the torment and horror it causes, at the root bigotry and prejudice is as disrespectful as it is a showing of a lack of manners. We came up with this whole manners thing out of self-preservation. It is thought that the handshake, now sadly banished for good cause, was created to flush out strangers who might knife you. We say thank you to people who help us because we don’t want them to think they’re being taking advantage of. We say please because we’re asking for that help and realize we are inconveniencing the other person.

We say “I can’t breathe” so that the asshole who has lost his bigoted mind might get his knee off of your neck.

It’s not just self-preservation. It is societal preservation. America is a cultural smorgasbord of infinite length, and that is what makes us unique. It’s the only part of American “exceptionalism” that is worthy of note. American enlightenment comes from a plethora of influences that, in combination, makes us smarter, more experienced, less bored, more entertained and much, much stronger.

This is not the Planet Kumbaya. We are going to hate people; that is what separates us from lower-form mammals. But, as noted, you should hate a person for his or her own actions and not because they’re members of a group somebody taught you were subhuman. Trust me, if you enjoy hating you have an arena full of nasty individuals from which to choose.

So if you’re going to offend somebody on purpose, at least do it with a smile on your face…and be prepared for Newton’s Law to kick you in your ass.

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”

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”

‘Dope Movies’ Debuts on YouTube; Forgets the Ironic Date.

Peanut butter and jelly. McNuggets and dipping sauce. Funions and… more funions. Pairings that bring to mind those fine flavors that bore benevolence into the baked brain. That, or I haven’t had breakfast yet, and I’m jonesing hard. Debuting on YouTube today, from Comedy Central and the original minds behind “Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles” (seriously, look it up) comes Dope Movies.

In the 6 minute clip, (perfectly re-watchable if you happen to accidentally eat one too many special gummies you just mistook for your morning vitamin…) actor and comedian Clayton English tokes up and recounts 1995’s action hit GoldenEye. In between the plumes of smoke, English waxes poetic on white privilege, James Brown, and the Sean Bean Death Rule. And while I wasn’t sitting back with an annotated script to check down English’s reminiscing… I’m near certain he recalls the best parts in spite of finding literally anything funny whilst filming.

If the format feels a little familiar? One might look only to Comedy Central’s other inebriation-based recollection show, Drunk History. Done with significantly less money, guest stars, and pomp-and-circumstance… Dope Movies hits the same laugh-center of the viewer’s brain all at a pandemically-friendly price-point. Especially for the millennial types who save their cord-cutting shekels for more Sour Diesel.

Check out the premiere episode below, and be sure to keep your eyes pink-free for Dope Movies’ take on Jurassic Park on 5/8, and Meteor Man on 6/5.

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!

Spotlight Interview with Ian McGinty and Eliot Rahal, creators of the new OGN, Robot’s Tale

Spotlight Interview with Ian McGinty and Eliot Rahal, creators of the new OGN, Robot’s Tale

Hey folks!

Welcome back to another spotlight interview.

This time we bring you an interview that we did with comic creators Ian McGinty and Eliot Rahal. They are the creative team behind a brand new Original Graphic Novel called Robot’s Tale. It is based on the music of the band Dance Gavin Dance and being published by Z2 Comics.

Ian is an artist who has worked on the Invader Zim movie and done work for Boom! Studios on the Adventure Time comics and Bee and PuppyCat. He also illustrated Poppy‘s Graphic Novel Genesis 1 which was also published by Z2.

Eliot is writer of such comics as Hot Lunch Special and Midnight Vista from AfterShock comics. He has done a bunch of work with Valiant Comics and besides this Dance Gavin Dance book is currently working on Bleed Them Dry from Vault comics.

We had a great conversation about this crazy story that they are creating. The audio recording has a lot more organic conversation, but we transcribed some of the most important parts below.

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Pop Culture Squad: We are very excited about this book you are doing with Dance Gavin Dance called Robot’s Tale. Before we get to what goes on in the book, why don’t you tell us how you guys got brought together on it?

Eliot Rahal: That’s all Josh Frankel. I know Ian has been doing work for Josh as Z2 for quite some time. I met Josh about a year and a half ago at New York Comic Con through a mutual friend. I immediately loved this man. He is such a unique person.

Ian McGinty: He is an insane human being. I don’t even know how to describe Josh, but he is a nutso person in the best way possible.

ER: He is great. How Ian and I got placed together is that I had been in conversation with Josh for over a year, trying to find a project, and this one lined up and he asked me to do it, and then he lined up with Ian’s schedule and here we are.

PCS: I have seen Robot’s Tale described as bat-shit crazy. So, what can we expect from this book? Continue reading “Spotlight Interview with Ian McGinty and Eliot Rahal, creators of the new OGN, Robot’s Tale”

Weird Scenes #081: What Goes Around… Goes Around… And Around…

Weird Scenes #081: What Goes Around… Goes Around… And Around…

Instant Karma’s gonna get you / Gonna knock you right on the head / You better get yourself together / Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead…

Welcome to our first edition of Weird Scenes Inside The Covid Mind…

Yin: According to published reports, crime is down about five percent; of course, your results might vary.

Yang: On the other hand, domestic violence is up 10%. Add that to the ridiculous increase of gun sales – what, you’re gonna shoot Covid-19? – and we might have a whole ‘nother problem real soon.

Wha?: The term “coronababies” is a thing. If you think diapers are hard to get right now, just wait until November.

Hmm: If we make it through this relatively intact, and keep a pleasant thought, we will have the internet to thank. It doesn’t prevent the stir-crazy, but it does mitigate it.

Feh: Bailout for Boeing? Well, I try to be loyal to my landsman companies, but these profit-over-lives money worshippers deserve to go blooie – even if they swear on a pile of Boeing 737 Max 8 parts that they won’t spend a penny of it on stock buybacks. I should point out that when the government bailout terms were near completion two days ago, Boeing’s stock skyrocketed. 33 billion dollars to the greatest gathering of corporate assholes in America – the airline industry – while the Blue states are given Green Stamps. And when it comes to buybacks… Continue reading “Weird Scenes #081: What Goes Around… Goes Around… And Around…”

Brainiac On Banjo 078: Self-Image For Fun & Profit

Brainiac On Banjo 078: Self-Image For Fun & Profit

Thank heaven for little girls / For little girls get / Bigger every day / Thank heaven for little girls / They grow up in / The most delightful way • Thank Heaven For Little Girls, written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe for the musical Gigi, 1958.

I was a wee child, a kitchen table conversation happened that, I gather, was not meant to include me. My sister, seven years my senior, was talking about some sort of a problem with body tenderness. My mother suggested perhaps she should use a training bra.

I was confused. I knew what a bra was, but I failed to understand the “training” part. As far as I could tell, breasts kinda grew all on their own and there was no need for coaching. I probably asked a lot of dumb questions, because, well, that’s what I do. I got a lot of blank stares. Hey, it was the mid-1950s; adults didn’t even admit to having bowel movements back then.

As I grew into my role as a hyper-involved pop culture historian, I came across various articles and resources that explained to me that “training bras” were sold to girls so that they might grow into the self-image of womanhood while they were awaiting the more physical image of womanhood. Like it or not, they were gonna become consumers and that was what the “training” part was all about.

According to JSTOR Daily, the period between 1921 and 1930 (when the middle class had a few bucks) clothing manufacturers started pushing age-and-gender specific clothing. In order to sell their phony-baloney products, they had to convince the customers that they really needed to buy that which they never knew they needed. That’s capitalism for you: we’ll talk you into overpaying for something you don’t need, and then sell you something else when you figure out you’ve been had. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo 078: Self-Image For Fun & Profit”

With Further Ado #86: Interview with Joel Meadows of Tripwire Magazine

With Further Ado #86: Interview with Joel Meadows of Tripwire Magazine

Tripwire was one of those magazines about comics that always made you feel smarter after you read it. Or maybe that conversion happened right when you bought it. It was a gorgeous magazine and always looked smart too.   I’m excited to say that Joel Meadows, the man behind Tripwire, is at it again and Tripwire is returning. I had a lot of questions for Joel, and he had a lot of thoughtful answers.

Ed Catto: The news that Tripwire is returning is just fantastic, Joel. But first, can you tell me, or remind me, how it all started?

Joel Meadows: Tripwire began way back in March 1992 – or actually it began the previous year. We published one issue of a magazine we called The Review, which was a very basic fanzine that I did with someone I went to school with. We printed about 100 copies, but it was fun to do. So, we came up with Tripwire in February 1992 and published our first issue in March 1992. At that point, I was doing it with a neighbour of mine and someone I went to sixth form college with. We launched the same weekend as Vertigo.

EC: I loved those Tripwire issues. In your opinion, what made it special and unique among all the Geek Culture magazines?

JM: When it started, we were a lot more sarcastic and a lot more irreverent towards our material. I was only nineteen when it began, and I learned a hell of a lot as we continued to publish issues. We had a very British attitude to our material, which initially was comics and music, but we dropped the music and replaced it with film and TV in 1999. We were prepared to take chances, and we were the first place to cover the Vertigo creators, like Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Peter Milligan, and Frank Quitely. I was a big fan of former UK magazine Speakeasy, and I think that had a big influence on me when it came to Tripwire. Continue reading “With Further Ado #86: Interview with Joel Meadows of Tripwire Magazine”