Category: TV

With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident

With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident

As we bring you some of the highlights of the writing assignments from my Ithaca College Promoting and Managing ITHACON class, this week is the first runner-up by Maya Lewis.

Maya’s column spoke to us from the a very emotional and introspective place. Some of the things that good media can do is promote introspection and inspiration. Maya found that in the HBO show Insecure. The way that she relates to the show and how it has affected her are what we are looking to promote here at Pop Culture Squad.

Insecure Made Me Confident

by Maya Lewis

Growing up, my mother was always against me watching copious amounts of television, to the point where she had me convinced that if I watched too much TV, I would lose brain cells. And I believed her, that was until I got older.

I started to find a comfort and joy from bingeing shows and fell in love with the feeling of immersing myself into the lives of different characters and their storylines, both emotionally and mentally. It was both therapeutic and freeing, and nothing compared to the feeling I felt, when I was able to recognize parts of myself within certain characters, allowing me to form a deeper connection with both them and the show itself. Unfortunately, this feeling did not occur often, as I rarely encountered shows that starred young black women as leads, who did not play into stereotypical tropes. However, this feeling changed during the summer of 2017 when I discovered Insecure, which is a comedy-drama television series set in Los Angeles and stars Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji, who plays her best friend, Molly. The show is centered around these two women, who are both in their late 20s, navigating through different aspects of their lives. Continue reading “With Further Ado #144: Guest Column First Runner-Up – Insecure Made Me Confident”

Snarky Six: Gorilla My Dreams

Snarky Six: Gorilla My Dreams

With Kong v Godzilla lighting up movie theaters real and virtual, it’s time to revisit that wonderful phenomenon, our gorilla-laden comic books.

The big apes have been a cultural force since staples started to bend and popcorn started to pop. I’m sure there have been thousands of doctoral theses written explaining why people are so attracted to our simian brethren, but I am certain about one thing: in the 1950s and 1960s, when you slapped a gorilla on the cover, you sold comic books.

By the time the Comics Code came into being, publishers were trying to cater to their horror-story-loving audience by deploying these colossus of sinew and fur as the Big Bad. Fine. But, just as those horror comics before them, things started to get kind of weird – particularly at DC Comics, and then, particularly when editor Julius Schwartz was involved. Here are six stunning examples of the form, each completely lacking in the type of realism that readers of the time demanded.

6. Tomahawk. As we began to realize the whole cowboys-and-Indians thing was exploitative, inaccurate and bigoted, Tomahawk — one of DC’s longer-lasting features — switched from chasing native Americans to protecting America from the evil British. It’s nice to see that by this time Tomahawk and his Rangers opened their ranks to the people they conquered. Obviously, when you’re taking on a gorilla so huge King Kong would cross his legs in shame you need all the help you can get.

5. Strange Adventures. I haven’t counted, but it’s possible that this particular s-f title had more gorilla covers than the Planet of the Apes. This one is my favorite, as it explains exactly why reading is, indeed, fundamental. I should point out that the covers to this Julie Schwartz title were by and large quite compelling. So compelling, in fact, that the actual stories rarely matched their impact.

4. Judge Dredd. The big ape thing was not just an American thing, to be sure, but in the world of Judge Dredd having a big ape Judge was just another day in Mega-City One. In fact, I’d say it was about as surprising as the sun coming up. Note that this guy is called “Judge Heston,” in tribute to the astronaut who inspired one of Jack Kirby’s best covers. Take a closer look and you will see the name “Heston” was engraved on the badge by, evidently, someone who’s penmanship was lacking in an opposable thumb. Evidently, Judge Heston had a thing for doing Batman-like poses.

3. Bizarro Titano. If all you know of Bizarro is the current not-well-defined Solomon Grundy pastiche, you’re missing out on “Tales of the Bizarro World,” one of the most unusual, bizarre, and clever volumes in the greater Superboy oeuvre. The original Bizarro was manufactured by a malfunctioning duplicator ray that was shined upon the Boy of Steel. Bizarro wasn’t an ape, but he sold comics during the JFK administration as though he was. Before long, there were Bizarros made of all the members of the Superman family and many of the members of the DCU at the time… not to mention a Bizarro Marilyn Monroe hanging out with a Bizarro-President Kennedy. God, those were good times. It wasn’t too long before Superman’s simian foe Titano got his own Bizarro doppelgänger. Fair is fair. Which leads me to…

2. The Real Titano. Talk about upping the ante: Not only was Titano a truly great ape, but he had Kryptonite rays beaming out of his eyes. This made Superman’s day all the more difficult. Like the original Superboy Bizarro story, Titano’s initial appearance ended quite nicely and in a laudable, humane fashion. But, as noted above, later somebody found that Bizarro duplicator ray. I loved this story, and I even remember where I was when I first read it

1. Grodd. There’s no contest (in my feeble brain, at least) that Gorilla Grodd is the most impressive ape in all comics gorilladom. He is one of the most evil of all the DC villains. He’s got one of the best backstories in all bad guy history, and his world (Gorilla City; I would have given it a more impressive name) is fully developed, fascinating, and fodder for many a good subsequent story. Grodd looked great in The Flash comics, and he looks even better on The Flash television series. In fact, he’s one of the three reasons I still watch that show. I don’t think he’s in next year’s movie (the one with several Batmans), but I’d hardly be surprised if he shows up. Just as long as you’re not sitting behind him at the theater.

Honorable Mention. There were plenty of gorilla covers in the pulp days. This particular one deserves notice because the name of the magazine is Zeppelin Stories and, therefore, the stories therein are built around zeppelins. Those things were to biplanes what King Kong is to Detective Chimp. So, yeah, that’s a gorilla hanging from the ladder hanging from the gasbag, which is why the story is called… “The Gorilla of the Gas Bags.”

I swear, if there’s just one more comic book in me and I can find the right publisher, it will have an absolute killer gorilla cover.

Thanks to my pal Marc Alan Fishman for unknowingly yielding me his snark space.

Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me

Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me

Don’t you ever miss your house in the country, and your hot little mamma too? Don’t you better get a shot from the doctor, for what the Road Ladies do to you? – Frank Zappa, Road Ladies, 1970

I was just 21¼ years old. Old enough to know better. And, well, I did know better.

I had started on the radio about two years earlier, doing freeform “underground” shows overnights on Chicago FM stations. Back in those days, FM wasn’t on most car radios and station owners bought them just so that their competitors could not. At that time, nobody made money on overnight FM except for those slots that were purchased — brokered — by churches, far-right-wing political howlers, and foreign-language shows. That is, nobody made money until we came along.

In short order, my peers warned the 19-year-old me that, from time to time, women would call the studio in the middle of the night and make it clear that a personal appearance need not involve guitars and amplifiers. Remember, this was during that hallowed time between the invention of the birth control pill and the onset of HIV, and it was a wonderful period to be a 19 year old with Y chromosomes that screamed louder than a pack of shock-jocks.

My peers pointed out that these ladies had never seen me, and that I had never seen them. All they knew was I was on radio which, admittedly, can be an intimate experience at 3 in the morning. According to my instructors, other than an hour’s pleasure nothing good could come out of such parlances… and quite often there’s a world of hurt around the corner.

Yeah. Right. I was pushing 20 and I was full of three things… one of which being myself.

I had just started at a station in Evanston, Chicago’s northern neighbor and their studio was along the Chicago River about two miles from the fabled “L” trains. As is wont to happen, one night my car broke down in their parking lot and I had to choose between a long walk or an even longer wait for repair. I was three hours into my five-hour shift and I knew that walk would be annoying. I mentioned my situation on the air. At three in the morning. Sadly, my “Uh-Oh Sense” declined to stop me. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me”

Brainiac On Banjo #107: This Is It! The Knight of Knights!

Brainiac On Banjo #107: This Is It! The Knight of Knights!

“Overture, curtains, lights / This is it, the night of nights / No more rehearsing and nursing a part / We know every part by heart / Overture, curtains, lights / This is it, you’ll hit the heights / And oh what heights we’ll hit / On with the show this is it / Tonight what heights we’ll hit / On with the show this is it.” This Is It, Theme from The Bugs Bunny Show, 1960, by Jerry Livingston and Mack David

Oh, boy! Those of you who have been waiting with bated breath to see Zack Snyder’s “version” of the “original” Justice League movie can thank your lucky stars for the Covid quarantine. Otherwise, it might be difficult to find 242 consecutive minutes to watch the thing uninterrupted… although your bladder might have other ideas.

In the spirit of that observation, the question is “Is Zack Snyder’s “version” of the “original” Justice League movie worth the additional bladder control?

Snyder: No, really! Look! Up in the sky!

You might have seen this production by now. Seeing that I’m writing this yesterday and I was Covided out of any screening, I have not. I probably will – for several nonsensical reasons. First is that I like Darkseid and even the mandatory guest appearance of the Joker doesn’t countermand that. Second, someday I’ll see humans once again and I like offering an informed opinion. Third, I remind myself that even in the worst possible case I do slow down at Gaper’s Blocks to see the accident that has reduced my life to still another challenge of bladder control.

I have read several reviews from those who were so committed to their jobs they risked life and limb to see a screening. I figure that’s the least I can do. I know it’s the least I’m going to do. Many note that this movie follows nicely in Snyder’s DC chain of duels, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Well, that’s nice but in my book, it’s hardly a compliment. There are things I like about Man of Steel, but neither are good movies according to my personal taste. I came to the opinion after watching Watchmen – also directed by Zack Snyder – that superhero movies are best directed by people who seem to enjoy the superhero milieu.

This is the man who, after making Watchmen, said “if Superman really existed, he’d grab all the world leaders together in a room and say, ‘Behave or I’ll kill you.’” Yup, Zack misses the point of the whole thing.

I have read even more reviews that state, quite early on, this is a movie superior to the version that escaped to the theaters a few years ago. Again, to me, this is not praise. Offhand, I can only think of two movies I’ve seen that are worse than Justice League – The Release Cut, and those are Skidoo and Myra Breckenridge.

Please note I did not say Plan Nine From Outer Space. That was a more enjoyable experience than Justice League – The Release Cut. Not only did I want my money back, but I also wanted them to pay me for my time, my gasoline, and my popcorn. To be fair, the popcorn was far better than this insult to my DNA.

By and large, those reviewers who did not compare Snyder’s marathon to its disgusting predecessor thought the movie to be… okay. Not great, not horrible. “Okay” is a word commonly used in summing up many of the DCU films of the past decade or so.

I am concerned that Leonard Cohen’s Halleluiah was deployed as a theme song within the film. Yeah, that’s gotta be the feel-good tune of the 20th century. Perhaps suicide hotlines should be alerted for a potential upsurge in business.

OK. Now that I’ve got all that out of my system, I’m ready to see Zack Snyder’s “version” of the “original” Justice League movie with a propped-open mind. If it’s at least as good as the 1997 movie, I’ll be… vaguely content. As Mel Brooks sang, “Hope for the best…”

With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!

With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!

As a kid in the mid-sixties, it was a big deal when there was going to be a new Superman show on TV.  Batmania had taken hold, and there was a ravenous hunger for more superhero stories. I loved the Justice League comic of the day, which had one dominant message for young readers – if you like Batman, he has a bunch of friends and you should buy their adventures too!

Filmation’s The New Adventures of Superman debuted on Saturday mornings, and it was a must-see. Never mind fellow-comic book alumni Casper on the opposite channel (although Secret Squirrel looked kinda cool). That was the show for me. Even though it was, in many ways, a retread of the old Superman radio show, we just knew these NEW adventures presented to best version of Superman ever! Continue reading “With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!”

Brainiac On Banjo #106: “Be Original?”

Brainiac On Banjo #106: “Be Original?”

Having spent the better part of my life in the comic book field – define “better” as you wish – one might think that I wouldn’t be so hung up on originality. After all, when it comes to those companies big enough to hoist a catalog, for 60 years now the orders of the day have been “reboot, relaunch, revise, and retread.”

Those are my words and not those of any marketing whiz. I am reminded of one of the medium’s great intellectual property redevelopers, editor Julius Schwartz. His nickname was “B.O. Schwartz.” The “B.O.” part stood for “Be Original.”

But, for the purpose of this treatise, let’s put aside four-color history and, instead, let’s talk about television. Or streaming. Or whatever we’ll wind up calling what’s been flickering between those programming arms on either side of the big glass teat.

Take a good look at some of the new fodder that’s been appearing on the boob tube the past decade and what’s in the pipeline for the immediate future, and you’ll see the orders of the day are now “reboot, relaunch, revise, and retread.” Why? Because it’s worked so well for comics?

Nudging aside my sarcasm (no easy feat), look at some of the recent programming options we have been given in the fantasy drama field. We find the reassembled return of Walker, Hawaii 5-0, MacGyver, Star Trek The Red Shirt Years, Doctor Who, Battlestar: Galactica, Superman, and many others that walk in the shoes of others. If it was once extremely popular and it wasn’t a western set in the old west, chances are it’s been or about to be rebooted, relaunched, revised, and retreaded. A new coat of paint and you’ve got yourself a franchise.

So, what do we have in that ever-widening pipeline right now? Law and Order SUV Mach II. The return of Criminal Minds. Yellowstone The Prequel. CSI (OG). Even Frasier. One might quibble that the upcoming return of Sex and the City is not drama per se. I don’t have a fully informed opinion about that, but to the extent that I am aware that program has been dramatic and certainly quite fantasy-oriented.

I could offer the argument, one that was standard in the comics field until maybe the early 1970s, that there’s an audience turnover and thus, for today’s viewers, these revivals are something new. Except they are not. Television has been swimming in reruns since Ampex invented videotape recording in the 1950s. Just about everything broadcast on network television since their videotape recorder was first installed has been broadcast and rebroadcast ad infinitum ever since. DVDs gave all that another platform, digital television, and the decimal television stations have expanded that, and now streaming has turned such accessibility into an ocean of nostalgia.

(A digression: the history of Ampex, which heavily involves Bing Crosby, Les Paul, and Ray Dolby, is quite interesting to those so inclined, as well as to those who have worked for ABC-TV during the past 60 years.)

Ampex-AVR-2-Quad-TVR

I’m not suggesting that all these reboots suck, or even most of them. But there’s no catharsis in “been there, done that.” It used to be each market had between three and five television outlets; today the only restraints are bandwidth and speed (both are increasing) and the consumer’s willingness to subscribe. That creates a lot of opportunity for all sorts of stuff, and there is more good stuff on “television” than one could have been imagined back when FCC commissioner Newton Minow called the medium a “vast wasteland” in 1961.

Nonetheless, Julie Schwartz’s admonition to “be original” is just as valid today as it was back in the day. If watching images float rapidly as viewed between our toes continues to be a thing, it is impossible to offer enough originality.

Sorry, Stabler. I’d rather see a bit more innovation.

Weird Scenes #121: This Is America Burning

Weird Scenes #121: This Is America Burning

“Five to one, baby, one in five. Nobody here gets out alive, now. You get yours, baby,
I’ll get mine.” – Five To One, written by The Doors, 1968.

For a century, the United States’ foreign policy was built around the concept that, to paraphrase Field of Dreams, “if you build them democracy, they will come.” It was the cornerstone of our actions in Iraq, by way of example, during our 2003 invasion. Shock, and awe, and then democracy. We quickly discovered that “democracy” is a concept that many people did not understand, believe, and/or trust. A whole lot of brainy Americans on all points of the political spectrum had a very hard time understanding what, to them, was simply a matter of logic.

Well, logic is overrated; more so than our worst fantasies might divine. A whole lot of Americans do not understand democracy, believe in it, and/or trust it. Approximately 37% feel that way if you look at the percentage of Trump supporters over the past four years. We — those of us who equate democracy with patriotism — saw that number and said “37% is a ridiculously low number; in a democracy, 37% means they lose.”

Yeah. But the ghost of Santayana rattles very heavy chains. According to many historians, only about one-third of the colonists in what is now the United States of America supported the American Revolution. If that had been a democracy, we’d have Queen Elizabeth’s face on our one-pound notes.

I don’t think logic wins battles, although I didn’t realize it scares so many people out of their wits. I remained optimistic about the human race until sometime late in the pre-Covid era. I thought we were inherently good. Sure, we have our faults and some of them, as evidenced by Hitler, Mao, Trump, Manson, and McVeigh, are mindlessly horrible. But by and large, I felt that, as a species, we were pretty okay. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #121: This Is America Burning”

With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession

With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession

One of my friends, prolific author Jim Beard, has been documenting (via social media) his episode-by-episode viewing of the old Gerry Anderson show, UFO.  When I was a kid, it was a favorite. They re-ran this British series on Saturdays in syndication, and my brother and I loved it.  UFO detailed the efforts the efforts of a secret organization called S.H.A.D.O. and their clandestine efforts to save the world from an ever-imminent alien invasion.

There’s so much to like about this 70s show!

  • There were cool vehicles (submarines, jets, tanks and even spaceships) they’d employ every episode (who cared if it was always the same stock footage shots).
  • It was set in the “future” – in the 1980s! And the future never looked better with the cool cars, slick hairstyles, and engaging “at work” attire. (The women’s work attire is a bit prurient, to be fair.)  And they even got some of it right.  Various episodes explored  the reliance on computers, wireless communications,  the frustrations of bureaucracy and fingerprint/voiceprint databases.
  • The brilliant theme song by Barry Gray was like no other. It’s an engaging, swinging call to arms, heralding the idea that “now we’re going to get down to business!”

Let the Music Be Your Guide

The theme song always stuck with me.  A few years ago, when I was working for the Reed Elsevier division that would become ReedPop (the group that manages New York Comic Con, Emerald City Comic-Con, PAX and more), I was attending a business meeting in Berlin.  I don’t speak German, but prior to the trip I had been diligently listening to language tapes. The idea was  to try and absorb some of the simple phrases that would facilitate rudimentary communication.

One night, walking back to my hotel, I heard a familiar song. It was a funky variant of the UFO Theme song! Like Ulysses being lured by a siren call, I followed the music to an urban park where an outside bar had created a “pop-up shop”, complete with a DJ. Our mutual appreciation of, and passion for, the UFO theme song allowed me to communicate with, and be accepted by, the locals.  I guess I didn’t need those language tapes after all. Continue reading “With Further Ado #130: Unidentified Flying Obsession”

Continued After the Next Page #017: Looking Back At The Good In 2020

Continued After the Next Page #017: Looking Back At The Good In 2020

Well, we made it to the end of 2020. I am sure that it didn’t turn out like any of us expected. There have been plenty of low lights, and there are too many people who have been irrevocably harmed by the local and global tragedies that happened this year. That is awful.

However, someone told me something recently that stuck with me. Despite the horrible dumpster fire that 2020 has brought, your mental health can benefit from the activity of looking at the good things that happened in this past year. So, that is what this final post of 2020 will be about.

The SquadCast

This year I finally got off my tush and started presenting the interviews that I do with comic book professionals in a podcast format. In the past, I had merely transcribed the interview, but I found that there was more interesting content in the discussions that people would enjoy that didn’t quite fit in a text post.

So, I went to Buzzsprout and created a hosting site for the Pop Culture SquadCast: Interview Edition. I learned enough of Audacity to edit the interviews and splice some sound together, and here we are.

I need to say thanks to our artistic genius Marc Allan Fishman for the logo and episode art. Also Space In Time is the band that we use for the intro and closing music. You can check there music out at Bandcamp.

And of course, thanks to the pros who to took the time to talk to me about their work.

The Books

While all of you Pop Culture Squad Members know about our digital presence here on the site and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there is now physical printed evidence that Pop Culture Squad exists. On the back covers of two trade paperback collections, I have blurb quotes for reviews.

I cannot tell you how awesome it is to see my name on a comic book. I could not even have ever imagined that five years ago.

Both of these books are special to me. Hyperbreed from Louise Simonson and Guy Dorian is a fun YA space story from Storm King Comics. Did you notice that? My name is on a book written by THE Louise Simonson!!!!

I have been following the Love and Capes stories that Thomas Zahler creates for years, and when he told me last year that he would be coming back to that universe, I was stoked. He totally made it work, and I am grateful for his putting my review blurb on the back of the book in some seriously impressive company.

The Comics Industry Adapts and Supports Itself

This year has hit the comics industry hard. Publishers and retailers had to deal with a nearly two month shutdown of new comics distribution. But through it all, people worked hard to support each other and save the industry that relies a lot on in-person contact.

So many great new comics were made and you can check out our list of the years best here.

Fundraisers and charity auctions popped up all over the place. We detailed some of those as they occurred.

Give Comics Hope is one of the charities that we highlighted through the year and will continue to do so.

There were plenty of Kickstarter campaigns launched to find different ways to publish and create comic book content. You better believe that we covered them.

Conventions Happened… Sort of

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit America hard in March, comic conventions were scrapped as we all needed to isolate to stop the spread of the dangerously contagious disease. But plenty of talented people scrambled to turn the experience of seeing pop culture personalities and comic creators in virtual cons.

Some were better than others, and none truly replaced the experience of strolling down artists alley and chatting with creators and friends. However, they were good enough to be a decent placeholder for the time that we will be able to be vaccinated and able to go out and see each other in person.

Geek Culture TV

There was a massive amount of quality television programming that was produced and broadcast this year. There are more outlets, streaming and otherwise that are now committed to delivering high quality shows. Here is a list of some of our favorites in no particular order:

  • SCHITT’S CREEK: SEASON 6 – AMC
  • WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS: SEASON 2 – FFX
  • HARLEY QUINN: SEASON 2 – HBOMax
  • THE BOYS: SEASON 2 – Amazon Prime Video
  • THE MANDALORIAN: SEASON 2 – Disney+
  • LOVECRAFT COUNTRY: SEASON 1 – HBOMax
  • THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: SEASON 2 – Netflix
  • STARGIRL: SEASON 1 – CW
  • I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS: SEASON 1 – Neflix
  • STAR TREK: PICARD: SEASON 1 – CBS All Access
  • KILLING EVE: SEASON 3 – BBC
  • PERRY MASON: SEASON 1 – HBOMax

And don’t forget there were some other shows like Tiger King (Netflix) and The Vow (HBO) that left us captivated, or horrified, or both.

Based on the announcements from Disney, Warner Bros, and others, it looks like this trend of high quality serialized episodic programming with continue.

Pop Culture Squad Thrived

Even before the pandemic shut down a lot of the world, we worried that this would be a slow year for PCS. However, we persevered and continued to bring you content as best you can.

If you are not a regular reader of Mike Gold‘s two columns here, you are missing witty and entertaining stories and opinion.

Ed Catto’s regular With Further Ado column finds new ways to look at comics, books, film and other cool stuff.

While we have bigger dreams for what is to come, it was a pretty good year for Pop Culture Squad and we are excited for making them happen in the next year.

Thanks for being here, and READ MORE COMICS!

Weird Scenes #119: Spaaaaaaaace Farce!!!

Weird Scenes #119: Spaaaaaaaace Farce!!!

Oh, holy crap!

Last week, outgoing Vice President Pence proclaimed “We just returned from the Oval Office and so it is my honor, on behalf of the President of the United States, to announce that henceforth, the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as ‘guardians.’” Hmmm. From this, I gather our soldiers, sailors, air people, and Marines no longer have to be troubled with guarding anything.

Upon hearing this pronouncement, Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn whimsically tweeted, “Can we sue this dork?” Others — many others; maybe everybody who ever saw these movies or and/or have ever read the very long-running Marvel comic books of the same name — asked if either Groot ( the tree who only says “I Am Groot!”) or Rocket Raccoon (who is a raccoon) would be the United States Space Force mascot.

The government pointed out that they’ve been using the term since 1983 when they appropriated the name “Guardians of the High Frontier.” That’s nice, but the Marvel Comics trademarked property “Guardians of the Galaxy” debuted in 1969. For that matter, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created a super-hero for DC Comics named “The Guardian.”

This is hardly the first time the United States Space Force has been accused of purloining intellectual property. Their logo is a pathetically obvious (or hysterically oblivious) swipe of ViacomCBS’s Star Trek, which has been in continuous use since 1966 and, as of this writing, is in use on five separate current and ongoing television productions.

The United States Space Force already has a major problem: many people, including this cynic, find it impossible to utter the name without triggering the giggle-reflex. That’s a really dumb name for what we’re told to accept on faith is a serious use of 16,000 troops and a 2021 budget of $15,400,000,000.00. Prior to their creation on December 20, 2019 (happy birthday, I guess) “Space Force” had been used as the name of the new Steve Carell / John Malkovich situation comedy, which is presently filming its second season. This television series was green-lit by Netflix in January 2019, almost a full year before the creation of the United States Space Force.

Carell’s character, General Mark R. Naird, doesn’t seem to know the details of the Space Force’s mission. What a coincidence! We’ve never been told what purpose is served by the United States Space Force, if any. Is there reason to believe we will be fighting some sort of war in space? With whom? The Russians? Japan? The Klingon Empire? As an occasional tax-payer, I’d like to know something about what we’re getting for our bucks, other than a big wet kiss on the ass of our outgoing Idiot-In-Chief.

There’s good reason why we should take our sundry defense services seriously. Combined, they provide the security blanket for the United States of America, which is a lot more than I can say for our current president. To put a decimal point on this, the budget for our Department of Defense for Fiscal Year 2020 is in the neighborhood of $721.5 billion — not counting the black budget stuff. In real estate parlance, that is known as a high rent district.

I guess that compared to $721.5 billion, $15.4 billion is just a fart in a blizzard. Sure, we’re spending a hell of a lot more than all that on Covid research and relief, but we’ve already lost almost as many Americans to Covid as we did in World War II, and it’s disgustingly likely that before this is over that number will eclipse American WWII deaths. So I understand where that money is going. Such expenditures are understandable and clearly benefit the greater good.

Until we have evidence to back up both the concept and the expenditures, the United States Space Force will be commonly perceived as Donald Trump’s vanity project with its marketing elements ripped off from those who have been fostering our sense of wonder without the benefit of any tax dollars whatsoever.

In other words, the United States Space Force is little more than a joke.

But the joke is on us.