Monday, October 14, 2019

Amazon is Your Frenemy, Ad Nauseum

I mentioned part of this on Facebook a few weeks ago.  Anyway, another obnoxious tangle with Amazon's idiocy.

One night I noticed a couple of gender swap age regression books by another author that I thought were being listed as erotica despite that they obviously featured a guy being turned into a little girl, which is supposed to be against the Terms of Service.  I mean they blocked a few of mine early on I mistakenly put in there.  It seemed like the only reason those ones weren't being blocked was because they showed an adult on the cover.

So what do you suppose Amazon's response was?  A couple of days later I got an email saying they were blocking one of MY books.  Because they didn't think I had the rights to the cover image.  This cover image:

I don't know what the hell they were talking about.  I bought it from a stock image site like most everyone else, including big publishers, does these days.  If they want to question me, they should question everyone else.  Being Amazon they of course took down the book's page instead of just letting me tell them I had the rights or change the cover.

Not feeling like fighting them, I just changed it to a generic cover.  But...two days later the page for the book still didn't work!  So I emailed them and all some dumbass named "Noah" could say was to repost the book.

So thanks to Amazon's typical heavy-handed bullshit they broke my book's page and then couldn't even fix it.  Nope, I had to unpublish the original and republish it, only with a different cover.

And I didn't put it on Kindle Unlimited this time.  That way if Amazon does any more of their bullshit the book will still be for sale somewhere else.

It's sort of what happened with another book, Transformed for Mother's Day Too, where Amazon blocked a book that was perfectly innocent.  This story doesn't feature any sex or anything.  It's actually a really nice story.  Sort of like a Quantum Leap episode where this kid goes back in time in someone else's body (a girl's of course) and learns an important lesson.

On the plus side, Amazon's bullshit did wipe out a stupid "review" by this ass who calls himself "Bear Hunter."  I don't know why he even read this story since he usually whines about Eric Filler books not being sexy enough and this story wasn't sexy at all.  This time he whined that "This is mostly a story about bullies..."  It's not a story ABOUT bullies, you ass!  It's a story about a boy who's BEING bullied.  And becomes a girl who's also being bullied.  Both because they're new in town.  And then the boy realizes he's leaped into his grandma and it creates a new bond between them.  Huzzah.

For about the one billionth time I wish there were some better alternative to Amazon.  Maybe a place that doesn't irrationally destroy my books.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Shopping With the Grumpy Bulldog

Being poor I can't really afford to go shopping at high-end stores.  So I have to do a lot of bargain hunting at stores.  Here's just a rough guide to Grumpy Bulldog bargain hunting.

The local Walmart has a clearance aisle over by the home improvement stuff that can sometimes have treasures.  Most of what I've gotten out of there are toys like Transformers, Marvel or DC action figures, or Barbie dolls for the nieces.  But there's plenty of other stuff too.  I got a microwave from there that was 1200w for only about $100.  It had a little dent on the side but otherwise it was in perfect shape and works just fine.  It's a step up from the old 700w I had anyway.  One time I got Walmart brand Atkins-type shakes that were good.  I was bummed that I only got one four-pack because they were a good deal.  Of course the next time I was there they were all gone.  I also got this weird thing to make bacon in the microwave for only $5.  It does work but I don't make bacon a whole lot.

Meijer and Target often have stuff on clearance but it's not usually concentrated in one aisle.  You usually have to check the back end caps for toys, electronics, or household goods and they might have some stuff.  I've gotten a few toys from Meijer that way, including a Black Panther figure on clearance weeks before the movie even came out!  I've also got other stuff like sheets too.  In the Electronics section at Target I got a few of those Funko Pop things that were only like $2-$3 like two from Ash vs Evil Dead and a yellow Power Ranger and an Iron Man one from Civil War.

What you have to be careful of is sometimes they'll put something on "clearance" and it's not really marked down much.  The KMart in Waterford does this a lot where they'll put stuff on "clearance" and really only mark it down 50 cents or a dollar.  They're hoping that if they put a bright yellow tag on it and call it clearance people will buy it without realizing they're only getting 1% off.  Just another reason KMart is almost gone.  So it helps if you have some Price is Right skills to know how much stuff originally cost and how good of a deal you're getting then.

Sometimes if something isn't a good deal at the moment you can play the waiting game.  For instance Walmart put "Marvel's The Sentry" (not just The Sentry but MARVEL'S The Sentry, la dee dah) figure on clearance for $15, original price $19.99.  Meh.  A couple of months later it was marked down again to $9.99.  That's OK but it's not a character I care about, so the hell with it.  Finally it was marked down to $5.  At that point I'm like, OK, what the hell.  I did the same thing at Meijer with a figure of some chick from that Solo movie.  The original price was like $8.99 for a tiny 3-inch figure.  It had been in the clearance for a while but finally last month it was down to $2 and I'm like, OK, what the hell.  But that doesn't really work at Target because they generally don't keep stuff around long and I don't go to KMart enough to know how long they keep stuff.

Speaking of KMart, I never really understand people who buy stuff from a Going Out of Business sale for 10-20%.  At places like KMart or Sears at that price it's probably just as cheap to buy it from Walmart.  And you'd be able to return it if there's a problem.  I don't really do much shopping at those sales until it's 30-40% off.  I love going when it's down to 70-80% off just to see what's left, like the Media Play in Clinton Township that had this huge stack of Scott Stapp solo albums still left for like 80% off; they pretty much couldn't give them away.  But the point is you have to actually know when you're getting a good deal and not lose your head just because something is on sale or "clearance."

The discount store chains can be good for certain things.  For a while I've liked one specific brand of bottled water from Big Lots.  It's kind of irrational but I like the Crystal Geyser 24-packs because the labels are really easy to peel off.  Then I feel comfortable taking the bottles around wherever like Starbucks or Biggby and no one can think I'm shoplifting or anything, right?  And they're pretty much the same price as store brands so it's not like I'm laying out a bunch of extra money.  You can get six-packs of Crystal Geyser from Dollar Tree but if you do the math you'd realize it's four cents more per unit that way, though I might buy one if I don't feel like going to Big Lots since the nearest stores now are in Howell, Waterford, or Westland since they closed the one in Novi.

Besides that I buy generic Zantac 150 from Big Lots.  It's maybe not as cheap as Walmart but if I don't feel like going to Walmart then it's good just as a fill-in.  (I recently had to stop doing that because they recalled all the Zantac for containing a trace amount of a potentially cancer-causing chemical.)  They used to have cherry sugar free cough drops that I'd buy but now they only have honey lemon ones I don't like as much.

Mostly I buy DVDs and Blu Rays there.  Their movies are usually $3-$5 but sometimes they'll reduce them even more to as low as 75 cents.  So a movie like The Gunman or The International that I wouldn't buy even for $3 I might buy for 75 cents just to have something to watch on a slow day.  Or like when I go on vacation and I can't use my Roku, the TV in the motel is crap, and I forgot to bring any DVDs from home I can get something to watch and not have to worry about taking it back later like a Redbox.  The most I've spent on a movie there is I bought a used copy of Doctor Strange for $10 because I didn't feel like paying $20-$25 for that when it came out.  The fun thing is with Movies Anywhere you can also get the Digital Copy on a lot of the Blu-Rays, which makes it an even better deal.

Ollie's is another bargain outlet I sometimes shop at.  Last year they had a lot of toys from the closure of Toys R Us including Transformers like Trypticon, who retailed for $100 but was marked down to only $50!  That was probably as cheap as the original was back in 1986.
Far more terrifying than a giant T-Rex:  a giant Bulldog T-Rex!
They crowed about having new arrivals of toys every week but really once they sold out of the Toys R Us stuff their selection pretty well dried up.  Occasionally they have something like I got a Lando Black Series figure a couple of months ago but mostly it's just crap.  Still, it's a better selection than Big Lots and the prices are better too.

The other thing I've bought quite a few of from there are comic books.  I got a few random volumes of Deadpool, Justice Society of America, and Batman.  The problem though is like the toys after you've looked through there a few times there's really not much new being added.  And while you'd think a store like Ollie's would be a free-for-all like a flea market there's pretty much the same shit at every store whether I go to Farmington, Waterford, Westland, Utica, Roseville, or even Saginaw.  Big Lots is pretty much the same too, which is disappointing.

Besides toys and comics I've bought a lot of K-cup pods and paper coffee cups from Ollie's.  I got a copper French fry cooker thing too that's pretty good.  And one time I got a package of "irregular" socks for $2.  They're longer than normal tube socks but 6 pairs for $2 is still a good deal.  One time I found an old sharpshooting video game on clearance for 50 cents that provided a few hours of entertainment.  So there is some random stuff you can find, sometimes.  Like a few weeks ago among the board games I found a case of old Star Trek Customizable Card Game cards.  Those have been out of print probably more than 20 years so I have no idea how they ended up at Ollie's.  Someone probably found them in the back of a warehouse somewhere.  A whole box of 36 booster packs was $6, which was a steal considering they were $3-$4 a pack in the 90s.  And it was funny that the price tag said, "Their price $19.95."  Who's they?  No one except eBay and card shops have sold these for decades!

But for whatever reason Ollie's has a really shitty selection of movies.  They do have a lot of books if you're into paper books besides graphic novels.  I have a Kindle so I'm not really much into that.  By contrast Big Lots doesn't usually have much for books, so as far as media it's Ollie's for books, Big Lots for movies/TV.

Five Below is a smaller, more upscale chain that can have some interesting stuff.  I got a few Wonder Woman and Suicide Squad DC Multiverse figures from there and the one in Westland had some GOTG 2 figures one day; I wouldn't pay $20 for a tiny Rocket Raccoon figure but $5 is in my wheelhouse.  Recently I got three of the Shazam movie ones from there.  Besides action figures I like to buy the 10-foot USB cords they sell there.  They don't always last long but the range is really nice.  I've gotten some Sudoku books for my mom and a couple of Keto cookbooks for myself too.  If you want writing prompts or a journal you can find that stuff there for cheap too.

And then of course you have dollar stores.  A few years ago there were a few different chains but it seems now to mostly be Dollar Tree everywhere.  I used to have fun at XMas time buying people stupid little things from dollar stores like caffeine pills, a "spy radio," and some other random crap.  Mostly I buy the Ziploc-type bags from there because they're only $1 and even if you don't necessarily get tons I don't usually use a lot of them.  Other times I'll buy something like Werther's sugar free candies or sugar free cough drops (like Big Lots they used to have other flavors but now only have honey lemon) or pork rinds.

Though I also like looking at the books.  It's fun to see what ends up in the ultimate clearance bin.  There's some schadenfraude when I see a biography of Roger Ailes or Sarah Palin in there.  Or that book The Animators that I absolutely hated.  Other times I've actually bought something to read for real like a Timothy Zahn book and the sixth Hitchhiker's Guide book, the one that wasn't written by Douglas Adams.  Occasionally they have some movies like Cedar Rapids and the first five episodes of Transformers Prime, but not usually.  And if I need something like batteries or a big plastic spoon or whatever then I just go there.

But most food I'd just as soon go to Walmart as Dollar Tree, Ollie's, or Big Lots.  It's usually about the same price, if not cheaper and it's probably more reliable from an actual grocery store.  Mostly I just buy food from those places when I only need one or two things and I'm already there, so why bother going to Walmart or Meijer and waiting in line?

So if you want to save some money on shit, there you go.  If you wear somewhat normal sizes of clothes and don't care if they're used then go to a thrift store.  And you can look around those places for weird shit like old computer programs or 8-tracks and cassettes.  Just saying.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Page vs Screen: X-Men Dark Phoenix

Like most people I didn't bother watching Fox's last X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix, in theaters, but I did watch it on DVD.  And thanks to Amazon Prime Reading I did also read the comic collection of The Dark Phoenix Saga.  So let's do a comparison.

First off, for all its faults Dark Phoenix does incorporate more of the comics than The Last Stand did back in 2006.  So kudos for that.

Here are some of the similarities:  first off, there's a dark power from space that bonds with Jean Grey, super-sizing her psychic abilities.  This was not actually part of the Dark Phoenix Saga; it happened a bunch of issues earlier so I didn't read it but it was referenced in the comics I did read.  Basically there was some killer thing and by fusing with it Jean Grey was able to save the universe.  Over the course of a bunch of issues Jean's powers grew while in the movie it's a lot quicker.

Second, Jean does go to see her parent(s) and she learns they're afraid of her.  In the comics both of her parents are alive while in the movie it's only her father.  In both she uses her augmented power to read their thoughts and realizes they're scared of her.

Third, there is a throwdown with the X-Men.  In the movie it happens in Red Hook and (spoiler) Mystique is accidentally killed.  In the comics it happens in Central Park.  Beast comes up with some device to try to limit Jean's powers so the team has to fight her to get it on.  Though soon the device burns out.

Fourth, there is a fight in an opulent New York house.  But while it's at the middle-end of the movie between the X-Men, Jean, and the aliens in the comics it's actually near the beginning.  Almost half of "The Dark Phoenix Saga" is about the Hellfire Club led by Sebastian Shaw (who was played by Kevin Bacon in First Class and subsequently died in that movie) and an illusionist who is able to manipulate Jean into thinking she's his wife from a past life and the Hellfire Club's "Black Queen" who uses her powers against the X-Men, which begins unlocking the Dark Phoenix.  (In a particularly awkward moment brainwashed Jean sees the X-Men as 18th Century people from her fake past life with Storm as a slave.)  So just about everything is different between the books and movie, but still the core concept is there.

Fifth, there is a climactic fight with aliens.  Only in the Dark Phoenix Saga the aliens are not evil shape-shifters (or whatever) but the Shi'ar, whom the X-Men had helped in previous comics.  Xavier and their queen even had a thing.  The Dark Phoenix leaves Earth after her fight with the X-Men and destroys a star for fuel.  Then she destroys a Shi'ar cruiser, which prompts them to come to Earth.  But by then Jean is temporarily in control of the Phoenix power.  Still the Shi'ar want her dead.  To stop them Cyclops proposes a duel between the X-Men and the Shi'ar Imperial Guard.  In the movie it's just a fight between the X-Men/Magneto and the evil aliens on a train.  Again the two are pretty different but the core concept is there.

Sixth, they both feature the introduction of Dazzler.  She doesn't get much screen time in the movie but she's the blonde girl who sings and makes shit light up during the party after the space shuttle mission.  She's in a few early issues of The Dark Phoenix Saga as one team of X-Men is going to track her down to offer to take her to the school when they get waylaid by the Hellfire Club.  She helps to rescue them but then leaves.  The other mutant introduced during this time is Kitty Pryde, who would go on to become a featured player, especially in Days of Future Past.  But as far as I know she's not in the movie.

Something both Dark Phoenix and The Last Stand did is have Xavier put barriers in Jean's mind as a child to keep her from getting too powerful or unstable.  And in both cases eventually those barriers came down and she was rightfully pissed.  And especially in 2019 you can see this as a sort of mental rape.  Something similar does happen in The Dark Phoenix saga, but Xavier doesn't put barriers in Jean's mind until after the first time she's become the Dark Phoenix and fought the X-Men.  In the movies it was done preemptively while in the comics it was done once the threat was fully realized, which to me plays a lot better in modern times.

As for the ending the movie and comic are very different.  In the movie Jean essentially turns into a phoenix of energy akin to the Invid Regis at the end of the third Robotech series.  Then she flies away to do...something.  Whereas in the comics she finds an alien weapon during the battle with the Shi'ar and essentially commits suicide.  Until inevitably she came back.  And died.  And came back.  Ad nauseum.  Definitely score a point for the movie.

Often if a movie and book are close I say to watch the movie.  In this case I don't think they're that close, just similar.  The book is better on the whole, but the movie has its moments.  A few.  It's definitely not a great movie but it's not Wolverine Origins bad at least.  And a little less stupid than Apocalypse was.  I mean you don't have Jean and Magneto putting a house together like it's made of Legos.  And Magneto only kills a few people, not thousands.  So that's something.

On its own the movie has the same problem as a lot of the X-Men franchise in squandering some of its characters.  Storm and Nightcrawler really have no character development; the former just does weathery stuff and the latter mostly is a teleporting taxi service.  The Cyclops-Jean love story that had years and years to build on in the comics feels rushed and hollow in the movie.  And Xavier's kind of a dick most of the time.  What happened to Moira Taggart?  Were they still a thing?  Maybe that's why he's such a dick.

Then there are all the inconsistencies with this movie and the three previous ones vs the original three movies.  Especially why do Xavier and Magneto look like they're maybe only 40 when they should be in their 50s or 60s?  Meanwhile Cyclops, Jean, Nightcrawler, and Storm are supposed to be 25-26 but act more like teenagers.

Apparently Jennifer Lawrence agreed to be in the movie only if she didn't have to actually be in much of it since she's killed off in the first 45 minutes and really doesn't do more than talk.  I mean she only changes form once from blue skin to regular Jennifer Lawrence.  And she loved Beast?  And Xavier?  And Magneto?  Who the hell didn't she love?  And why did they bother setting it in 1992 and then used the original costumes (also used in Grant Morrison's run on the comic in the 2000s and maybe other times) instead of the iconic costumes from the popular cartoon and comics of that time?  And where was Jubilee, who was one of the more popular characters from that era?

But at least unlike some recent movies--Bumblebee and Captain Marvel for instance--there weren't a bunch of music cues and such to constantly remind us that it was the early 90s.  In fact if they hadn't put the date up early on it'd be hard to tell when it was happening at all.  I mean not even a Nirvana or Pearl Jam song thrown in there?  No one wearing a Bart Simpson T-shirt or MC Hammer pants or something like that?  No one carrying around one of those brick-sized cell phones?  The production designer was really slacking off.  You're supposed to pound it into our thick monkey skulls that it's the past!  Otherwise how will we know?  And why does Jessica Chastain look like an albino?  As far as I'm concerned you can't have enough redheads--women at least.  And didn't Hans Zimmer say he was done with superhero music after BvS?

OK, I think that's enough dumb rhetorical questions.  I think you get the point--if there was one.

Monday, October 7, 2019

HBO's Arli$$ Came Out 23 Years Ago and the Sports World is Still the Same

Back in 2015 there was an episode of American Dad on TBS where Stan and his daughter Haley are in New York and get tickets for "An Evening at Carnegie Hall With Robert Wuhl."  When they get to Carnegie Hall they find actor Robert Wuhl out front and he basically kidnaps them while he buys a lot of potato salad and eats it on the john.  When they make a break for it, he follows them with his pants around his ankles.

During all of this they made reference a few times to Wuhl's former series Arli$$ and joked how while it used to be on HBO, you couldn't even find it on HBO Go.  "It HBO Went," Haley jokes.  When I got HBO a few years ago I checked and it was true that Arli$$ was not on HBO Go--yet.

Fast-forward to this last spring when Game of Thrones was premiering the final season.  Sports comedian DJ Gallo Tweeted that if you watched a certain 4th season episode of Arli$$ on HBO Go or Now a glitch would start showing GOT hours before it was supposed to start.  I figured it was a prank--and it was--but it did tell me that Arli$$ had HBO Come to HBO Go.

Not that I really watched it at first.  I had some other stuff I watched until August when I finally got around to it.  And now finally we get to the title of the entry.  Arli$$ premiered in 1996 on HBO and along with some other show I can't remember was one of HBO's first forays into original TV series.  Before that they showed movies, comedy specials, and boxing but hadn't really done a lot of their own series.  So that other show and Arli$$ opened the doors for The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and of course Game of Thrones.

The premise of the show is that it focuses on Arliss Michaels, a sports agent who will do pretty much anything to get and keep his clients.  Not only does this involve negotiating with teams, there's also a lot of "servicing" to get them out of personal jams.  Those jams could be a cheating spouse, drug possession, a steroids test, or even hooking up with a transgender prostitute.

Arliss is aided by his friend Kirby, a washed-up former college quarterback with a gambling problem; his harried executive assistant Rita, played by Sandra Oh; and his head of business affairs Stanley, who frequently has to rein in Arliss's expenditures or money-making schemes.

And while the show is mostly a comedy and so the scenarios are punched up a bit, really the world of Arli$$ in 1996 isn't that much different than the sports world of today.  Athletes are still getting huge paychecks and with it comes the problems of living large:  groupies, kids out of wedlock, fans, and constant media scrutiny.  It's just that now thanks to social media there are even more headaches for an Arliss Michaels as athletes can get themselves into all sorts of trouble online.

Really the social landscape isn't all that different either.  In one episode Arliss is trying to get a contract for a black quarterback but no one wants him despite that he has good numbers.  He asks his "cousin" broadcaster Al Michaels if it's racial prejudice and Al tells him that teams think the quarterback is gay.  So Arliss stages a party that's raided by cops who conveniently find the quarterback in a hot tub with a couple of "underage" girls.  (The cops and girls all being set up ahead of time by Arliss.)  The next day the quarterback gets a big contract.  The moral of the story is that NFL teams would rather have a quarterback who bangs teenagers than one who's gay.  If you don't think that's still true, name one gay NFL player.  Yeah, there aren't any.  At least not openly.  A few years ago when college defensive star Michael Sam came out as gay he wasn't drafted until the last round and only then by his hometown team, the Rams, who cut him in the preseason.  Dallas picked him up for their practice squad as basically a favor to the league, but he never saw a minute of real playing time.  Was Sam, the Defensive Player of the Year in the ultra-competitive SEC, suddenly terrible at football?  Hurm.

In another socially-conscious episode in the 7th season Stanley's nephew (who was never seen or mentioned in the six previous seasons) is a top high school football player and has just about every college trying to recruit him.  A coach played by Keith David says that Stanley's nephew should play for a black coach because the way to get more black coaches is for a team with a black coach to win.  After the nephew commits to the school, though, the coach suddenly jumps to the NFL.  17 years later there still aren't many black coaches in college or the NFL.  And in fact hardly anyone complained last year when most of the black NFL coaches were purged in about 24 hours.  Or when the Lions fired their one black coach, Jim Caldwell, for an unproven white coach despite that Caldwell had the best record of any Lions coach in this century and his team was only a game out of a playoff spot.  And really this episode is a dual issue because you still have sleazy college coaches who jump to the NFL or another college, leaving the guys they recruited in a lurch.  Every year around bowl time you've got a new batch of coaches switching teams, leaving their teams in the hands of some assistant for their bowl game.  Yet of course players can't just jump from one school or the NFL whenever they feel like it.

The show even nailed fantasy sports, though at the time it wasn't done on computers.  Arliss and another guy in his league (played by Joe Pantaliano of The Sopranos) are so competitive that to keep his enemy from being able to use one really good pitcher, he arranges to have the guy traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, who at that time were in the American League, since their fantasy league only counted National League players.  The petty rivalry and obsession over stats and whatnot became a million times worse thanks to the Internet.

So basically while this show started 23 years ago it's still pretty relevant to today's world of sports.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially with sports leagues.

Anyway, this is a fun show not just for the humorous plots.  Since it was on HBO there's also boobs!  But I don't think you see any cock.  Sorry, ladies, you'll just have to look on the Internet for pictures of Robert Wuhl's dick.  But you do get to see his butt once or twice, so that's something.

While most of the time it's pretty much a sitcom (but without a laugh track) there were a few "very special episodes."  Like one where he helps an aging linebacker dodge a steroids test and then that linebacker nearly cripples a running back whom was about to receive a lucrative contract extension.  The fifth season premiere had Arliss passionately advocating a guy get into the baseball hall of fame because he played "the right way" but on the eve of the guy's induction his wife claims he hit her.  The guy's ex-wife comes forward to claim he was with her that night and Arliss works his magic to make the problem go away...except the ex-wife is really covering for him for the sake of their son.  And so at the end Arliss in a rare moment of conscience basically shuns the guy and refuses to go to his induction ceremony.  That same season there was one with Ed Asner as an aging baseball announcer whom Arliss finds out has Alzheimer's.  Eventually Asner decides it's time to step away from the mic; it made me think of those great old baseball announcers like legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who was in Cobb with Robert Wuhl.  Sometimes they'd split the difference and have one serious plot and one comedic plot in the same episode like one where Kirby finds out he knocked up a woman whose daughter is about to be an Olympic athlete; meanwhile Arliss is shanghaied by an offense lineman to take his dead mother's hearse back to Phoenix--except it's not his mother in the coffin!

The show is fun too if you have any familiarity with sports because there are a lot of athlete cameos.  Most of the athletes have since retired and a few like Dale Earnhardt, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, and ESPN's Stuart Scott have since died.  Others like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens went on to steroids-related infamy.  Some like Kobe Bryant and Floyd Mayweather were practically kids when they guest starred on the show.  Shaquille O'Neal was a hell of a lot skinnier too.  Since it was 1996-2002 you also have appearances from people who went on to other things like Michael Clarke Duncan as a Denver linebacker who gets stabbed by a Packers fan whose friend is played by Nick Offerman; Shannon Elizabeth played a young tennis player whom Arliss screws in the Biblical sense (not just the financial sense) until her coach-father fires him because she used two hands the racquet in a match; and if you watched the first season of Babylon 5, the psychic chick plays another of Arliss's conquests, a Madison Avenue exec who joins his team in the Biblical sense (not just the personnel sense).  Rifftrax favorite Wings Hauser appears in two episodes (including the series finale) as a former athlete turned coach--which wasn't really a stretch for him.  Star power!

It's ironic in one episode when Sandra Oh's character says she really wants to go to Napa Valley because just a few years later she was in Sideways, which was about wine tasting in the Napa Valley.  It's funny how things work out.

There are a few intentionally meta moments like when Arliss mentions in one episode he called the pitching coach of the Durham Bulls to try to get them to help woo a hockey team; Robert Wuhl played a Durham Bulls coach in Bull Durham.  In the penultimate episode of the second season Arliss undertakes a secretive mission to Atlanta to meet with Ted Turner to pitch a show based on his life for HBO; Turner sneers and basically says, "Who'd want to watch that?"  In another episode Arliss's brother is in a hospital and reading a Batman comic.  He asks Arliss what he thought of the movies and Arliss says, "I liked the first one but the rest sucked."  Because of course Robert Wuhl was in the first one but not the others.

Another Fun Fact is that Arliss's financial manager Stanley was played by Michael Boatman who appeared in most of the episodes but through the first four seasons was always listed as a "special guest star," probably because at the same time he was co-starring in Spin City on ABC with Michael J Fox and later Charlie Sheen.  And the weird thing is both shows ran for the exact same period, from 1996-2002.  That would suck to lose both of your paying gigs at the same time.  I hope he had a good agent.

Friday, October 4, 2019

If Joker Succeeds, It Could Open the Door to a Whole Universe of Villain-Centric Movies

Todd Phillips's Joker finally comes to theaters today and if it is a successful commercial venture, it could open the door for DC to make more movies from its huge stable of comic book villains.  I mean other than the 50 movies featuring Margot Robbie's tits Harley Quinn that are in development right now.  And naturally the Grumpy Bulldog has some ideas!

Actually I already did one (or two really) months ago in this post where I came up with two potential Lex Luthor movies with a black Luthor in mind.  And I think either idea would work.  Or maybe find a third and make a trilogy!  People love trilogies, right?  Like Todd Phillips's unnecessary Hangover trilogy?

Vengeance of Bane:  This idea comes from the Bane prequel miniseries that came out around the time of the Knightfall storyline.  The idea was to explain who Bane was and where he came from.  That story barely features Batman, hence making it easy to adapt into a stand-alone movie.

It'd be sort of like The Shawshank Redemption or Count of Monte Cristo meets a gangster movie like The Godfather or Scarface.  Bane is born in a prison in the fictitious island country of Santa Prisca and grows up there to serve the time his father couldn't serve.  He's taken under the wings of a couple of other prisoners (Trogg, Zombie, and Bird I think in the comics) and manages to grow to manhood.  All the time he reads lots of books to train his mind.  While in solitary he also trains his body and soon defeats the top convict to rule the prison until his escape.  In the comics he of course ends up in Gotham to destroy Batman, but a movie wouldn't have to do that.

Black Adam: The Dark Age:  Another miniseries that features a villain but not really a hero so it's easy to adapt.  Black Adam was supposed to be played by The Rock but I have no idea if that's still going to happen or not.  Anyway, Black Adam was given the ancient powers of Shazam but used them for evil to take over his own country in Africa or the Middle East.  He was married to Isis but then she died.  This story then features Black Adam after he's lost his power.  He tries to get back his power and his wife, going literally to the ends of the Earth to do so.  A lot of that journey could be changed but the gist is a great love story and non-traditional "villain" story.

Catwoman:  Obviously this has already been done--badly.  It's time to do it right!  First don't hire a stupid French director with a mononym that sounds like a rice dish.  And secondly don't come up with some stupid origin story about getting cat powers from an Egyptian goddess or whatever the hell it was.  Just stick to that she's a thief who sometimes robs rich assholes to help other people.  It should be easy enough with anyone competent at the helm.  Oh and no basketball scenes with Benjamin Bratt featuring gratuitous ass shots.

League of Shadows/Court of Owls:  These are two interchangeable ideas.  They're both evil organizations from the Batman comics that have been around for centuries.  So you can do a story in modern times or a story in olden times or maybe do a combo with some modern stuff as a framing device to flashbacks to older stuff.  A League of Shadows movie could focus on the rise of Ra's al Guhl while a Court of Owls movie could feature a plot to kill Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Talon:  the henchmen of the Court of Owls are these sort of Winter Soldier type guys called "Talons."  There was a short-lived New 52 series where one of the Talons went rogue against the Court of Owls.  So that could be a movie on its own or an extension of a Court of Owls movie.

Deathstroke:  He's not "the Merc With a Mouth" but he's a Merc and he has a mouth.  And one eye.  Another that should be really easy to do because there are tons of comics out there.  And as a super-mercenary there's no need for any superheroes to be involved; just find some run of the mill action movie baddies to fight:  drug lords, human traffickers, etc.

Lobo:  Similar to Deathstroke only he's an alien and probably about as crazy and unkillable as Deadpool.  It could easily be set in outer space to not involve any Earth-bound heroes.  Maybe a cameo by a Green Lantern or something.

Sinestro:  Speaking of space and Green Lanterns, why not a movie on the traditional Green Lantern villain?  There are a few ways to do this:  an origin story of how Sinestro came to be a Green Lantern.  A story about his time in the Green Lanterns.  A story about him breaking away from the Green Lanterns (something that was rushed into a cookie scene of the not-as-terrible-as-people-think 2011 movie).  Or a story taking place after he's broken away.  You could use the Sinestro Corps with its yellow fear rings or the more traditional solo blue costume.

Mister Mxyzptlk:  This would be a fun one for an animated movie.  You don't really need Superman since I'm sure the imp from the 5th Dimension could find all sorts of other hijinks around the universe.

Bizarro:  Similarly they could do an animated movie starring Superman's weird opposite Bizarro.  I didn't read it but there was recently a goofy series where Bizarro and Jimmy Olsen went around having fun adventures so that could be something to look into.  Or you could do a horror movie version based on B-Zero, a fucked-up clone of Superman made by Lex Luthor.

Penguin:  I think instead of the Batman Returns Penguin you'd use more of the Gotham TV show Penguin:  a weird guy who gets into a local Mafia outfit and winds up running it.  Since it'd be before Bruce Wayne becomes Batman you don't need him around.

I'm really just scratching the surface here.  There are probably a ton of other ones they can do.  But it's Warner Bros so they'll probably just fuck it up.

*BONUS:  COBRA Forbes Film Critic Scott Mendelson retweeted a post about a Cobra trooper figure and jokingly suggested that Paramount would make a movie about Cobra, the ruthless terrorist organization from GI JOE.  Which actually isn't the bad idea he thinks it is!  If you ask people like Tony Laplume they would mention that IDW put out some really good comics by Mike Costa focused primarily on Cobra that could make a decent movie.  So, yeah, it's really not as far out there as people would think.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

#5BDA The Wrap

Some people said I should make a book out of the Grumpy Bulldog Does America posts but the idea never really interested me.  There are a couple of reasons for this.

First off, the pictures were taken with my digital camera which is only a 12MP Canon that I'd bought a few years prior to that so it was not a professional-level camera by any means.  And a lot of the pictures were taken out of my car windows as I drove, so they aren't centered and sometimes you get a reflection of the window or the dashboard or seat or whatever in them or part of the window frame.

And the main reason is that it doesn't really work as a travel book or as a road novel.  If you watch travel shows on TV they don't just shoot a bunch of random stuff and talk about what they did; they do research on the history of the place and talk to a lot of people.  Which obviously I wasn't taking time to do tons of research or doing interviews of people.  I wasn't really trying to learn all about every place I passed through.

It also doesn't work as a road novel because it lacks much of a narrative.  First off you need to have some kind of goal driving the journey.  Usually it's someone going to a funeral or to see a birth parent or something like that.  Or like The Grapes of Wrath the Joads are going to California to find work.

Ostensibly I was a one-man Joad family, but I'd never really pinned it down to, "I was going to Seattle to find work."  I kept things loose without a clearly defined goal.  There was no Promised Land for me to find.

And to be a novel you need more interesting characters than me.  I honestly don't remember the name of one person I met besides Offutt and his friends, so it wasn't like I encountered a lot of colorful characters like you'd find in a book or movie.  No great romantic story either.

And in the end the response to this retrospective was so tepid that it really doesn't make me want to pursue the idea.  Thanks!

Monday, September 30, 2019

#5BDA Homeward Bound

I like the desolation of New Mexico but in November of 2014 I was running low on funds and New Mexico was not really the thriving economy where you try to get work.  The way I saw it I had a few options:
  • Go back to Michigan
  • Go to a big city nearish like Phoenix or maybe even Dallas
  • Go back to Salt Lake and see how long it takes me to wear out my welcome from Michael Offutt
Ultimately since Phoenix had been pretty nice, I went back there, to the same extended stay motel in Scottsdale.  Though I probably should have found a cheaper one.  I started applying for jobs and got a few interviews, though mostly at temp agencies who then suddenly didn't have jobs--for me at least.  It was a preview of the same bullshit I'd have to go through after I went back to Michigan.

After a fairly depressing birthday and Thanksgiving, I decided to just go back home once I had my latest severance check.

And so in early December I set out on the road again.  I had a couple of options on how to get there.  I could have taken I-10 through southern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, etc or I could take I-40 through northern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee.  I opted for the latter and took a short trip to Flagstaff to start it off.

It's colder in Flagstaff but not really cold.  It was more gloomy than anything.  It was only a couple of hours up there so I had time to wander around there and get lunch at the Sizzler and then go to the motel for the night.

The next day it was back to Albuquerque.  The drive there was pretty shitty as it rained pretty much the entire way.  Not a lot of good landscape pictures then.

The next morning when I was getting gas and breakfast I stumbled across the car wash from Breaking Bad, which was neat.

I drove back through Tucumcari, into northern Texas.  I stopped at a really shitty Knights Inn in Amarillo.  Hotwire had called it 2-stars but I'd say it was 0 stars.  Incidentally that's why I hate Hotwire.  I mean if 2 stars is a place with cracked windows and a mattress leaning against the window of one room what the hell is 1 star?  To cap it off I went to Whataburger and got a sandwich they drenched in mustard for whatever reason.  Yuck.

I was more than glad to leave Texas the next morning, into Oklahoma.  Around the time I crossed the border, though, the weather turned foul.  It wasn't raining but it was foggy pretty much from the border all the way into Oklahoma City.  So while I was in OKC I didn't really SEE much of it thanks to the fog.  I did hang out at a Panera Bread and Arby's doing some writing, so that was good.

Instead of Hotwire I used Orbitz and yet the motel in OKC wasn't much better.  They couldn't even find my reservation at first, the ice machines were broken, and someone had scribbled long division all over the bathroom counter.  Another "2 star" motel.  Ugh.

The next day I went to some town in Arkansas.  I got there early and bought a pizza from the local Pizza Hut to eat part of in a park while I waited to check in to a Super 8 that had been recently renovated and so felt like a 4 star motel compared to those last two dumps.  As you can see in the pictures there's not much to do there, especially on a Sunday.

Then it was off to Memphis.  I'm not a huge Elvis fan but I do like a lot of his songs and so I thought since I was going that way I might as well stop at Graceland.  I hung out in a nearby McDonald's for a little while that convinced me this was not the best neighborhood anymore.

Since it was December the King's house was all decorated for Christmas.  I got my tickets and then went over to the house in one of the tours.  You get to walk around the ground floor while John Stamos narrates the tour in your ear.

There was a pointless trip to the archives and then it was over to the garden with the actual grave for him and his mother.  I didn't have any offerings to put on the grave or anything stupid like that.

After that it was back across the street to the gift shop.  And they had a couple of private planes you could walk through, though everything was sealed off by plastic so you could only look but not touch.  It also made it hard to get decent pictures.

There was also a garage with a whole bunch of cars and stuff that he owned.  Probably not as big as Jay Leno's collection but much bigger than my collection of 1.

The most disappointing part of the trip was lunch.  I ordered a catfish sandwich and it was literally just a bun and a fish patty.  It tasted OK but still, kind of lame for what I paid.

That was it for Graceland.  It was probably around 3 by then so I thought I'd go to my motel and then maybe go back to do more later.  Except I didn't realize that Jackson, Tennessee is about 80 miles east of Memphis.  About the time I realized that I was halfway there so there seemed no point in turning back.  But it meant I didn't get to go Walking in Memphis on Beale Street like the song.

The motel in Jackson was pretty nice.  It was a Howard Johnson that looked fairly new.  A lot better than the old, broken down ones in Amarillo and OKC.

The last leg of the trip to Michigan wasn't a lot of fun.  Going from Jackson to Knoxville turned into a slog after lunch outside Nashville as the weather turned bad.  It was actually snowing!  Just flurries really but still.  Yuck.  I stayed the night in a Motel 6 that was adequate.

Then it was through the rest of Tennessee into Kentucky, where I was too early to get lunch at the original KFC but got lunch at A KFC so that's something.  I stopped in Dayton, but there wasn't time to go to the Air Force Museum or anything like that.  I've been there three or four times though.  The motel was a Red Roof Inn being renovated so it was not the best.  The next morning a couple of people got pissed at me because they had parked on the curb by the office and I asked if they could move so I could get my car out.

There was construction pretty much the whole way from Dayton to Roseville, MI on I-75.  And it was gloomy and sometimes raining so I didn't really get any good pictures or anything.

I went to a Super 8 in Roseville about a mile or two from where I used to live.  While there I got some shit out of my storage unit like some movies and my Blu-Ray player.  It turned out later I should have got some other shit out of there like towels and pots and pans.

I went across the state to a cheap extended stay motel in Kalamazoo.  They only had two locations:  one in K-Zoo and one in Grand Rapids.  I've been to Grand Rapids but I hadn't been to K-Zoo so I thought that would be more interesting.  The motel was fairly new but the first time I flushed the toilet the handle came off so they had to put a new one on.  They hardly give you any towels and unless you want to wash them yourself they don't change them often so I bought a couple extra ones for cheap at the local Walmart.  And a saucepan to cook hot dogs in because they didn't provide any dishes.

The worst part though was there were fleas or something in the room because around my ankles were itchy and there were little bites.  Maybe it was bed bugs.  I don't really know but once I left it stopped so it was clearly something there.

There's some stuff to do in K-Zoo but not tons.  I went to the Air Zoo, which has some neat planes like an SR-71 Blackbird and F-14 Tomcat.  Plus older ones and some space stuff.

I also did some writing and some XMas shopping since I had decided to be home for Christmas like the song says.

The last leg of the trip was on a drizzly Christmas Eve up to Saginaw.  I stayed at the Fairfield Inn only about 3 or 4 miles from my brother's house so if anyone had been looking they could have seen me.  But they weren't so they didn't.

In my head I had this great idea inspired by an old commercial that I'd just show up at home on Christmas morning before everyone got up and so I'd be waiting by the tree as a big surprise.  Just one problem--they changed the locks on me!  So instead of my big surprise I had to wait in the driveway.  So much for Christmas miracles.

And there you go, I had come full circle--and then some.


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