Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My 28 Favorite Fictitious Black People

A heartfelt celebration of the greatest dark-skinned people who never actually existed. 


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@Jimbo___X

Every February, just about every website out there not operated by neo-Nazis scrambles to put together some kind of cloying "Black History Month" retrospective. Even the nichest of blogs try to cobble together something that highlights the impact/significance of black individuals on whatever random bullshit they cover, even when there's hardly any racial connections to work with whatsoever. Case in point? This dude who year in, year out, desperately tries to tack on a "Black History Month" angle to anime culture

Well, we here at The Internet Is In America are far, far beyond such half-hearted, half-assed displays of cowardly, politically-correct tokenism. By golly, if we're going to celebrate black people, we're going to go all out and celebrate black people as if we actually were black people (you know, because black people are known for being among the most festive of ethnic groups.) But why draw up yet another boring ass listicle highlighting why Martin Luther King, Jr. was literally better than Jesus and reminding people that a black dude invented peanut butter (even though some French Canadian fruit already had a patent on it?) Malcolm X and Booker T. Washington already get enough acclaim from us as it is, so howzabout we focus on that oh-so unsung, forgotten brotherhood of brothas' who exist solely in the realm of fiction?

If you ask us, make-believe black people deserve far more recognition, especially in this bitterly divided political climate. Sure, sure, the following pioneering black folks may not have corporeally impacted the world around us, but they sure as shit made an impression on ALL of our collective pop cultural upbringings. If blackness were a brand, consider the following 28 individuals to be among the best spokesmen the world of entertainment could ever hoist upon us - the melanin-challenged and the melanin-unchallenged, alike.  

So here's to you, unheralded fictitious black characters - this is a token of appreciation long overdue for both you and your peoples

01. Waldo Faldo (Family Matters) 


I've said it time and time again; Waldo Faldo was the absolute best thing about Family Matters, and considering this was a show that has an evil ventriloquist doll as a recurring character and people using the teleport pod from The Fly to turn into Bruce Lee clones so they can beat up drug runners easier, trust me, that's saying something. Give actor Shawn Harrison (who hasn't really done much of anything since the show got cancelled) all the credit in the world, because he absolutely killed it playing the Bizarro retard to Steve Urkel's boy genius Lex Luthor. It's hard to pick just one memorable Waldo moment from the show, so instead, I'll just recount my two favorite Waldo-isms: the time he took Laura to go see JFK (pronouncing it as "jif-kuh") and when after a bully told Steve to "put his money where his mouth is," he quickly interjected "don't do it, Steve, money's dirty!"

02. Arnold Drummond (Diff'rent Strokes) 


Diff'rent Strokes might just be my favorite sitcom ever, and a lot of that has to do with the little ball of delightfulness that was Arnold Drummond. Played by the greatest black midget actor of all-time (fuck you Emmanuel Lewis) - the inimitable Gary Coleman, who I think was about 40-or-something at the time the show was on - the character brought such an admirable air of pluckiness to the oft-heavy handed program, offering much-needed naivety and comedic relief whenever his best friend got molested down at the bike shop or his sister got abducted and sexually tortured by a guy who said he was an astronaut. Pretty much EVERY episode of Diff'rent Strokes holds up incredibly well today, making it one of the few shows from the 1980s that's not only watchable, but watchable in a non-smarmy, post-ironic way. And you can attribute most of the show's staying power to one thing, and one thing only - our adorable little buddy Arnold.

03. Demon (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning


Demon is my favorite victim in the entire F13 canon and don't nobody else even come close. Portrayed by Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. - yes, the same guy who played Spider in Return of the Living Dead, Dee Jay in the live-action Street Fighter movie and was the titular character in Juwanna Mann - Demon is a dude who lives in a trailer with a refrigerator filled with enchiladas, pizza and eggrolls who says "you're gonna' get it, bitch" to his girlfriend while she rocks him back and forth in a tin outhouse. Of course, this being a Jason movie and all, things don't exactly end well for him after he smokes weed and takes a shit will singing "ooo, baby" over and over again. Long story short? Let's just say the kind of penetration he gets prolly wasn't the kind of penetration he wanted.

04. Magneto Jones (Hamburger: The Motion Picture


Holy shit, if you've never seen Hamburger, you need to click out of this nonsense, mosey on over to YouTube and watch it right freakin' now. There are literally 9,000 things to love about this movie - from the scene where an old woman tells a drive-thru speaker "fuck off, pickle" to the part where Dick Butkus (yes, that Dick Butkus) calls a black cop "pecker cheese" and tells him to go pick up his check down at the welfare office to the grand finale where two dozen 400 pound-plus fast food patrons get diarrhea simultaneously. Alas, even in a movie jammed pack with highlights, the absolute best thing about Hamburger has to be Chip McAllister's performance as Magneto Jones, a Jermaine Jackson wannabe who's getting a free edumacation at Hamburger U just so the parent company won't get hit with a civil rights suit. Sure, he spends most of the movie handcuffed and kept in lockdown, but at least they let him out of bondage long enough to participate in this beautiful dialogue exchange:
Fred Domino: "All right, who ordered 60 Double Buster Burgers?"
Magneto Jones: "That fat motherfucker right there. That fat motherfucker right there. Them two giggling twin motherfuckers right there. And that skinny walnut headed motherfucker right there ordered 72."
And if you don't laugh your ass of when he receives a lifetime achievement award the minute he earns his diploma, you sir or madam, are not fit to live in our society.

05. DJ Professor K (Jet Grind Radio) 


The mastermind of the single greatest soundtrack in the history of video gaming (well, in-universe, anyway.) Kinda' sorta representing the post-corporate-apocalypse-takeover version of Samuel L. Jackson's character in Do The Right Thing, DJ Professor K operates the titular Jet Set Radio pirate station, which - in addition to slinging' the dopest electro-funk, J-Pop and indie hip-hop you'll find anywhere - also gives you crucial tips and info on overthrowing the man in your rocket-powered rollerblades. Considering how much I love both Jet Grind Radio and Jet Set Radio Future, I suppose you only imagine my exuberant joy when my girlfriend flipped on How To Get Away With Murder and the fucking detective WAS the same guy that used to scream "Rapid 99, gotta' FLAG!" on my Xbox. 

06. Roland Kincaid (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, 4) 


Kincaid is EASILY the best thing about the Elm Street movies, and that includes Robert Englund. Hell, if New Line Cinema had any sense, they would've had Kincaid break Freddy K in half Bane-style in the first 10 minutes of part 4 and the rest of the franchise just woulda' been him walking around all day calling people "motherfuckers" and telling him how bad he's gonna' whup their asses for trivial offenses. Ken Sagoes - far and away the greatest alumni of Kennesaw State University, and it's not even close - also gets bonus points for portraying yet another iconic black character, Darryl on the short-lived What's Happening Now!

07. Carl Carlson (The Simpsons)


You know, Carl Carlson may in fact be the most flattering depiction of the working class black man in any realm of fiction. Totally devoid of the hackneyed, desperate black mannerisms most African-American stock characters are saddled with, Carl actually comes off as a fairly relatable and respectable blue collar worker (despite canonically holding an advanced degree in nuclear physics) who is far more professional than any of his white coworkers. And if geographical diversity is one of those things you're keen on, the character may indeed be the only pop culture character in history ever described as "African-Icelandic."

08. Clubber Lang (Rocky III)


Forget Apollo Creed, forget Ivan Drago and forget Tommy "Machine" Gunn - the best Rocky "villain" has always been James "Clubber" Lang. Unforgettably portrayed by Mr. T - who is basically just playing a slightly more jazzed up version of B.A. Baracus - Lang actually had a pretty convincing argument for hating Rocky ... because the media was showering him with praise for being "The Great White Hope" and he kept ducking him, knowing he was the far better boxer. Sure, threatening to rape Rocky's wife at a press conference was a pretty bold move, but hey, it DID get him that championship bout, didn't it? That it took an ass whupping from Hulk Hogan and Rocky literally learning how to fight black to get the belt back shows you just how daunting a rogue this Lang fellow really is

09. New Jack (ECW Wrestling)


After making his debut in Smoky Mountain Wrestling - where he tried to win matches by "affirmative action" (that being, a win via two-count) and feuded with a guy named "The Dirty White Boy" - one Jerome Young packed his bags to Philadelphia, where he was soon transformed into a "singles" 'rassler whose entire shtick revolved around hitting people with staplers, cookie sheets and old VCR units while Dr. Dre and Ice Cube blared over the P.A. system for the duration of the bout. His career highlights include almost murdering a teenager before a live audience, LITERALLY trying to kill another wrestler by trying to impale him on a ringpost, getting arrested for stabbing a dude FOR REAL during a match and this one time he legit  beat the shit out of an old dude with a baseball bat while disgruntled Caucasian fans kept calling him a "nigger.

10. Tom Johnson (Shenmue)


Granted, a Jamaican hot dog vendor in rural Japan in the late 1980s may sound a little, uh, unlikely, but there's no denying the affable food truck owner isn't one of the most memorable characters from the Dreamcast classic. After all - the dude did let us borrow his ghetto blaster to play flowery Japanese pop music and taught us how to spin kick glass beer bottles, didn't he?

11. Freddy "Rerun" Stubbs (What's Happening!!)


You know how they talk about actors having their lives ruined by one acting role sometimes? Well, Fred Berry's life was totally destroyed by What's Happening!! and its less heralded late 1980s sequel What's Happening Now!! Until the day he died in 2003, he had to live in the inescapable shadow of "Rerun," the rotund, red beret sportin', hamburger-shirt wearing comedic fat-ass who ran around the hood yelling "hey, Hey, HEY!" and getting arrested for trying to bootleg Doobie Bros. concerts. But come on, was it really that bad of a hand in life if it produced one of the better black family sitcoms of the late 1970s? Eh - probably not, but at least he turned out better than Todd Bridges, I suppose. 

12. Grandma Turner (Fight For Your Life)


The only female African-American to make the countdown, but trust me, she fucking earned it. Longtime The Internet Is In America readers should already know plenty about the immortal blaxploitation/home invasion classic Fight For Your Life, and in a film LOADED with memorable moments, she might very well be responsible for the single best part of the entire movie. Say it loud and say it proud, kids: "don't move or I'll blow your motherfuckin' balls off!"

13. Jericho Jackson (Action Jackson)


Think, for a moment, just how incredible of a career Carl Weathers has had. What would certainly be the career highlights of a good 99.8 percent of the rest of the actors out there - roles like Dreamer Tatum in Semi-Tough - have all but been forgotten because of his even better performances in movies like Predator. Alas, as good as his portrayal of Apollo Creed may have been - and it's the epitome of fuckin' timeless already - the absolute zenith of Weathers' career HAS to be his performance as the eponymous Action Jackson in 1988. I mean, goddamn ... just LOOK at the trailer! There's no way a movie starring Coach as the evil antagonist should be this awesome, but trust me - it is

14. Tommy Gibbs (Hell Up In Harlem)


Picking my favorite Fred Williamson role is sorta' like asking me to pick my favorite testicle. Honestly, I'm fond of all of 'em, but if I HAD to save just one Williamson flick from vanishing off the face of the Earth, it would have to be Hell Up In Harlem. Why? Because it has scenes in which protagonist Tommy Gibbs does all of the following:

a.) he hangs an Italian mobster in a noose and says "I'm about to send you to wop heaven"

b.) he forces another Italian mobster to eat soul food at gunpoint

c.) he tells a preacher's daughter "whenever you get tired of talking to the Lord, come find me" and, perhaps most hilarious of all ... 

d.) while being pursued by the mob, he literally stops dead in his tracks so he can impale a dude at the beach laying on a confederate flag towel, even though he had nothing to do with why Gibbs was being pursued and didn't actually do or say anything to him at all.

So yeah, I need to do a review of this one, like, ASAP. 

15. Griff (Married ... with Children)


Al Bundy is one of the greatest TV characters ever, but it seems to me his supporting cast doesn't get anywhere near the appreciation they deserve. Griff was definitely one of the show's more understated characters, a fellow fatty-hating shoe salesman who, in many ways, represented an even better comedic foil than Jefferson D'arcy. And holy hell, could that guy sing, too!

16. FUCKIN' Dolemite!


As with Fred Williamson, I'm tempted to just include every single character Rudy Ray Moore ever portrayed. Shit, if February had 30 days in it, I prolly would have gone on ahead and done stand-alone entries for The Disco Godfather and Petey Wheatstraw. Alas, whenever you hear the name "Rudy Ray," the first thing that SHOULD come to mind, of course, is motherfuckin' DOLEMITE, the revenge-obsessed, impromptu crude couplet-forming pimp who fought a drug runner in cahoots with city hall in his first movie and then ran around slapping fat racist sheriffs with his pimp cane in the sequel. Yeah, Dolemite has been in some subsequent sequels and spin-offs, but really, you're way better off just watching The Human Tornado five times a day. I mean, just generally, in life. 

17.2 Cold Scoprio (WCW Wrestling)


Although 2 Cold wrestled in all three major U.S. promotions throughout the 1990s, his most memorable work was definitely at the beginning of his career in WCW. Shit, who could forget that time he unveiled his Tumbleweed finisher at Clash of the Champions, or that AWESOME back-and-forth match he had against Barry Windham that, even now, is pretty much the best "underdog almost wins it" bout ever? Yeah, he had some decent bouts in ECW, but don't even bother with all that Flash Funk nonsense in the WWF. Also: 2 Cold is single-handedly responsible for Arn Anderson being alive right now (as well as Sid Vicious not serving a life sentence for homicide.) 

18. Black Manta (D.C. Comics)


I think my favorite thing about Black Manta (besides the fact that he breaks a whole bunch of misconceptions about the black community and buoyancy by being an aquatic-themed African-American villain) is that D.C. just arbitrarily decided he should be black one day. The character had been around for 25 years before they decided to give him a proper backstory, and holy shit, did they ever - by making him a Baltimore youth kidnapped and sexually assaulted by pirates who hates Aquaman simply because he didn't rescue him back when he was eight. And if you're thinking to yourself, "you know, there's no way anybody can come up with an even worse way to retcon his origin story" - they turned around and made him an autistic kid with an affinity for cold water whose beef with Aquaman is derived solely from his desire to hold the nonexistent mantle of "Ocean Master."

19. Morris FUCKIN' DAY!


Yeah, there were some good songs in there (not to mention it was hilarious as fuck watching Prince try to act tough) but the absolute best thing about Purple Rain HAD to be Morris Day. The part where he walks by Prince's dressing room right after his dad attempts suicide, then walks backwards just to ask him "how's the family?" before shucking and jiving his way out of the building is pretty much the consensus pick for funniest dick move ever in the history of anything. However, Morris probably put in an even BETTER heel performance in Graffiti Bridge, complete with one of the greatest moments in the history of the motion picture - the infamous "you know, this plant looks kinda' ... thirsty" scene.

20. Ned Tiese (Brotherhood of Death)


Brotherhood of Death is actually one of the better "serious" blaxploitation movies of the late 1970s, but pretty much the only reason anybody remembers it is because its trailer - its glorious, glorious trailer - was included upfront on the VHS version of Faces of Death II. 'Tis a shame so few people have ever actually seen it, because it really is a well-made and entertaining little B-movie opus. And the only thing more hilarious than watching black vigilantes use an armored school bus to fight the Klan is when it suddenly dawns on you that the main character is played by the same dude who played Dudley's dad on Diff'rent Strokes.

21. Martel "Too Sweet" Gordon (Penitentiary)


Fuck Star Wars, the greatest movie trilogy ever HAS to be the trifecta of Penitentiary movies. You might be thinking to yourself, "old Jimbo, buddy, how exactly can you make a movie about the same character being wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit THREE TIMES and still make 'em entertaining?" Well, for starters, you make the entire franchise revolve around championship inmate boxing, which - as anyone who watched the great 2014 documentary Champs featuring Bernard Hopkins can attest to - actually exists. Secondly, you toss in a super eclectic cast of side characters, including but not limited to Mr. T and immortal WWF midget 'rassler the Haiti Kid portraying a coke-addicted butthole rapist who lives in the sewer. But most of all, you anchor the whole damn thing around one Martel "Too Sweet" Gordon - played with inimitable pizzazz by Leon Isaac Kennedy, who might as well be the Sir Laurence Oliver of blaxploitation movies - as he battles trumped up murder charges in the courtroom and both steroided up Ernie Hudson and a homosexual drug kingpin who makes Milo Yiannopoulos look like Brock Lesnar between the ropes. 

22. Papa Shango (WWF Wrestling)


There's never been a more terrifying/probably racist pro 'rassler than Papa Shango, and that's saying something when your competition also includes a fat black truck driver from Mississippi repackaged into a cannibal from Sudan with Lucky Charms marshmallows painted on his stomach. If you grew up watching WWF 'rasslin in the early 1990s, you no doubt have PLENTY of memories of this voodoo warrior, whether it was that time he set The Ultimate Warrior's boots on fire or made black sludge pour out of Mean Gene's sleeves on live television. Eventually, the suits at the WWF decided that showcasing a black man as a supernatural Haitian zombie prolly wasn't the most P.C. thing to do, so they did what any company looking to repair its image among minorities would do: the rebranded him as a street fighting thug with MMA skills and later, as an actual pimp.

23. "Black" Roper (Double Dragon)


There weren't a whole lot of black people on the NES, and even in the basketball and football games, they were usually more reddish-purple than any actual hue a black person has ever been. In that, the "black" Ropers from Double Dragon deserve some sort of mention for breaking the 8-bit color barrier. Sure, sure, they may have been nothing more than simple palette swaps of the "standard" Roper enemies, but hey - cultural representation has to start somewhere, even if it is in the form of barrel-throwin' ruffians. 

24. Kel Kimble (Keenan & Kel)


Let's end the argument right here and now - Kel was ALWAYS funnier than Keenan. Yeah, yeah, I know everybody remembers him from Good Burger, but the BEST incarnation of the character had to be the (slightly) more nuanced version featured on the mid-'90s sitcom Keenan & Kel - and the fact that he's the only black person I've ever heard of that prefers orange soda to the purple stuff is reason alone to include him on the countdown.

25. Russ Tyler (The Mighty Ducks 2, 3)


But, we will give Keenan his proper, dap, too. Perhaps noting that the original Mighty Ducks movie was - how to put it - whiter than a mayonnaise blizzard, the suits at Disney reckoned they needed to incorporate an African-American angle into their hockey comedy franchise. The end result? A scene where a bunch of inner city L.A. black kids are using a basketball court for a rousing game of roller hockey set to a song with the lyrics "getting' bent and bent and as a I puff on a dankt" and "uh oh, I crave skin, rip shit, find a honey to dip it in" with our main man Russ Tyler introducing his lethal "knuckle puck" technique ... which, of course, is illegal as fuck in real hockey, but seeing as how there's a redneck who literally "lassos" an opposing player in the movie's climactic championship game, it's not even the stupidest thing in the flick to complain about.

26. Peter (Dawn of the Dead)


While Night of the Living Dead gets all the credit for being the first horror film to (however inadvertently) drudge up the topic of racism, I think we can all agree that the black hero in Dawn of the Dead was way more memorable and likable - yes, even if he did look way too much like O.J. Simpson for my comfort. He's really the only character in the movie that seems to have his shit together, and he gives us the best line of the entire flick (you know, that whole spiel about "when there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.") Also, that look he gives that one bitch early on in the movie when she asks him if he has "real brothers or street brothers" is pretty much the funniest thing ever. 

27. Skeeter Valentine (Doug)


OK, so technically, Skeeter is more turquoise than chocolate, but goddammit, those mannerisms were straight up Afro-American. Even as a kid I knew that Doug's best pal was supposed to be black, even if the show took place in a world where purple and orange skinned motherfuckers were everywhere. And hey, don't accuse me of seeing things that aren't actually there - the creator of the show recently came out and said Mr. Valentine was indeed canonically a negro

28. Shaun King (The New York Daily News)


And last but not least, we have the greatest cultural satirist of our day, Mr. Shaun King. Shaun here has delighted readers coast-to-coast with his hilarious post-post-postmodern minstrel show, with only the absolute dimmest of the dim not picking up the surely intended comedy of a man whiter than lite mayo proclaiming himself a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement. Not since the heyday of Amos 'n' Andy has a white performer done so much for the art of racial imitation, and not since the heyday of Andy Kaufman have we seen anyone so committed to living out a public charade that anybody with two brain cells to rub together can figure out is a complete and utter ruse. There's no doubt about it - when it comes to fictitious black people, Shaun King is both our society and our era's literal poster boy, and to think anything less of him, naturally, is plumb preposterous.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Jimbo Goes To The Movies: 'The Lego Batman Movie' Review (2017)

Next to Batman and Robin, it's the funniest Caped Crusader flick to date. Except, you know, all of the humor is intentional this time around.


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@Jimbo___X

Did you people hear about the jury in Missouri that found a a former Dairy Queen manager guilty of involuntary manslaughter because one of her teenage employees committed suicide

Without hyperbole, this is the single most terrifying court ruling of my lifetime. It means we have a precedent now to legally punish people for the actions other people voluntarily decide to take. If the ruling stands, the floodgates of an absolute Orwellian nightmare will swing wide open, and there's virtually no limit to the amount of damage that can follow suit. 

Here's the thing about this particular case. We're not talking a wrongful death that came about because of gross negligence, an actual jury decided that some lard-assed 17-year old loser's suicide was DIRECTLY caused by one woman's actions - in this case, allegedly throwing a cheeseburger at him and supposedly forcing him to clean restaurant equipment on his stomach.

But that woman DIDN'T cause this sad sack land whale by the name of Kenny Suttner to off himself. What CAUSED Suttner to kill himself was Suttner consciously deciding to kill himself. Not only is the bulk of the blame for the suicide on his part, LITERALLY the only person you can blame for his death is his goddamn self.

The way this sorry assed jury saw it, though, is that this Dairy Queen bitch is RESPONSIBLE for tons of fun's death in the same way a drunk driver is responsible for the death of someone he rear ends in an accidental collision, or the same way a theme park with faulty wiring in its swimming pool is responsible for a guest getting executed. The actual physical harm that resulted in Suttner's death wasn't the consequence of his manager's actions, nor was his manager's gross incompetence and/or negligence physically responsible for Suttner's death. That's not opinion. That's a concrete, indisputable fact. 

So what the court decided was that even though Suttner and Suttner alone decided to kill himself via a self-inflicted injury, a person who had absolutely ZERO responsibility for the conscious, voluntary actions of somebody else WAS FOUND RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH.

Am I the only person who sees just how dangerous this kind of thinking is? This is a court of law in the United freaking States of America declaring that even though a person consciously, voluntarily decided to pick up a gun (again, of their own accord and sans ANY sort of coercion whatsoever) and then consciously, voluntarily decided to blow their own brains out, it was actually somebody else responsible for the actions that resulted in death.

What sort of doublespeak New Age hippie-dippie commie New World Order horse shit is this? It's LITERALLY as if a court of law decided that somebody possessed the body of another human being and "forced" him to kill himself. No jokes, no exaggerations - it's the SAME goddamned legal ruling. 

Just how the FUCK did the court decide that this manager bitch and this manager bitch alone was single-handedly responsible for that fatass twerp shooting himself, anyway? It was well documented that chubby tits was picked on at school, so how do you know some kid in geometry class calling him Jabba the Hutt wasn't the moment he decided to commit suicide? Or what if the "trigger" for his suicide didn't have anything at all to do with anybody picking on him? What if he just had an existential epiphany one afternoon that his life wasn't going the way he wanted it to go, he didn't really have a future to look forward to and recognized he had the freedom to end his pointless existence right then and there? 

The court can't possibly know what the kid was thinking before he committed suicide, and even if they did, the indisputable fact of the matter is that HE - not the DQ bitch, not any of the kids at school, not the man in the goddamn moon - was SOLELY responsible for shooting himself. He got the gun. He pointed it to his head. And he pulled the trigger. He's 100 percent responsible for his own demise, and to argue to the contrary isn't just illogical, its abandoning law and science in favor of some sort of metaphysical mysticism. "It's like the ghost of her bullying became a corporeal entity at that moment and TOOK CONTROL OF HIS MIND and MADE HIM self-harm," this jury LITERALLY fucking decided.

Shit, if that holds up in court, then does that mean that every time an employee gets laid off and kills himself, the CEO of said company should be found guilty of manslaughter? I mean, it's a pretty direct cause and effect there: guy A decides guy B should be fired, guy B is sad because guy A shit-canned him, so guy B kills himself because guy A hurt his feelings so much. 

Or what about college students that go crazy and shoot up the campus because they failed a mid-term? I mean, technically, what made the guy pick up an AR-15 and go Rambo III in the library was him getting a bad grade from one of his professors, so why shouldn't we make the professor who failed him legally responsible for the mass shooting altogether?

Hell, why not blame the NFL for domestic abuse incidents? Had the Falcons not blown that lead in the Super Bowl, old Jimmy John Del Ray down at Shady Oaks Mobile Home Community would've won $100, but because they hunched the pooch in overtime, it cost him $300. And, of course, that anger is what compelled him to slap his live-in girlfriend upside the head with a size 10 bowling ball - therefore, the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL should be held legally responsible for Brittani's broken orbital socket.

In all three of the scenarios above, anybody with half a fuckin' brain in their head realizes the free will element. A wholly unrelated thing may have made them angry or upset or suicidal, but the only thing responsible for the dire actions was the person consciously making them. But apparently, that's something the jury in Missouri just couldn't pick up on

Hell, why stop here? Let's say some radical racist motherfucker decides to shoot a mosque or something. How about instead of putting him in prison, we put the people who wrote the blog posts that "red pilled" him on trial for felony murder, since without their hateful rhetoric, he never would've become a rancorous racist killer to begin with

Or shit, how about putting online commenters who call a Tumblrina "fat" or "unattractive" in a federal super max because those hurtful, hurtful words caused her to develop "anxiety" or "depression" or any number of temporary emotions we've recently decided are actually terminal mental illnesses

In fact, simply not agreeing with some sort of LGBT activist on the proper definition of "biological" might be enough to make them feel "unsafe," which in turn could make them less cognizant of their surroundings. So when they trip over a sewer lid they weren't paying any attention to, YOU HOMOPHOBIC TWITTER TERRORISTS ought to be the ones paying for his medical bill. Hey, it's cause and effect, just like the Suttner case, ain't it?

For all the kvetching First Amendment lovers do over "hate speech" proposals, really, it's "anti-bullying laws" that pose the greatest threat to free expression these days. These utterly absurd laws literally reconstitute symbolic actions - i.e., formerly 1A-guaranteed right to speech, print and physical expression - as having the same legal weight as PHYSICALLY attacking someone. That means criticizing someone verbally can literally be reinterpreted in a court of law as the same thing as punching somebody, or shoving their head in a commode; under such horribly, horribly drawn up legislation, calling someone a "homo" or "baboon" can put someone in jail for just as long as someone who sets a car on fire, or even tries to stab somebody. 

And in today's victimization-obsessed society, we're TEACHING kids to soak up perceived persecution like a sponge. Instead of telling kids to overcome their adversities - or even telling them to suck it up and stop taking everything so personally - we're telling them that every teeny, tiny comment or action that makes them feel bad about themselves is a physical crime no different than being raped or whopped upside the head with a cinder block. Even in elementary school, we're telling kids to collect personal aggrievements like Pokemon cards, with the ultimate goal of legally weaponizing criticisms against them to silence anybody who dares disagree with their views.

Instead of telling kids to stand up for themselves, we're telling them to mire in their own pity. The whole point of existence, we're telling our gilded youth, is to purposely get people to feel sorry for you instead of making them respect you with your actions. And above all else, we are utterly hell bent on convincing every boy and girl in America that they are NEVER, EVER responsible for their own actions, and no matter how badly they fuck up, they can always find somebody else to blame for their own failures.

We live in a culture were people wear perceived oppression like merit badges, and you're actually SHOCKED when weak-willed, jelly-spined teenagers who never learnt the virtues of self-respect kill themselves just because some person in a paper hat told them they were making the French fries wrong?

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis warned us of the wrongheadedness of building men "without chests." Well, this lamentable little affair in Missouri shows us the dire consequences of raising an entire generation without testicles; our culture engineered a bunch of impulsive, wishy-washy little pussies deathly allergic to bruised egos, and if this ruling holds water, Uncle Sam's going to make all of us pay ... perhaps with the eradication of Constitutionally protected expression altogether.

Trust me - this isn't even the obscurest batch of bad guys the movie throws at us.

Speaking of things nobody really wants but we're getting anyway, the Caped Crusader returns to our cineplexes yet again in our flick of the week, The Lego Batman Movie. And to be fair, this is prolly the third best Bat-movie ever, after Burton's 1989 flick and The Dark Knight - unless you want to count the FIRST Lego Movie as a Batman film, at which point this 'un would get bumped down to No. 4 in my books. Then again, if we're also including straight-to-video Bat-movies, it prolly slides down another spot to make room for the criminally underappreciated Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero from 1998 - but hey, enough autism for now, 'cause we're about get hammered by an hour and a half of full-force Asperger's in celluloid form. 

In a lot of ways, this is the dream Bat-movie we've always wanted. It totally does away with all of the sad sack pity partying and clumsy sociopolitical allusions and forced romantic subplots and meandering existential soliloquies that dragged down all the other Bat-movies to give us pure, unadulterated, unfettered superhero carnage, complete with Batman laying waste to literally his entire rogues gallery in the movie's first 10 minutes (and yes, that DOES include a split-second cameo appearance by the Mutant Leader from TDKR.) Of course, this being a kid-targeted parody of the Batman mythos, it's all done firmly tongue-in-cheek, with a million billion Airplane and Naked Gun style in-jokes and sight gags stapling the wall-to-wall explosions and citywide kung-fu fights together.

Naturally, the movie hits some snags whenever its story is forced to resemble an actual plot, but thankfully, those unnecessary slivers of character development and exposition are kept to a minimum. Basically, the film revolves around a pastiche of the iconic Bruce Wayne/Batman dichotomy - specifically highlighting his blase egotism and borderline sadistic misanthropy all the other Bat-movies don't have the Bat-balls to acknowledge - as he slowly learns to work with others to defeat the nefarious Joker (whose latest scheme involves traveling to the Phantom Zone to free a whole bunch of inter-D.C. Comics villains to wreak havoc on Gotham City.)

In between the all-out crossover multiverse mayhem, though, we've (begrudgingly) gotta' do a little bit of story building, and it's glaringly apparent the makers of the movie had no idea what the hell to do when shit wasn't exploding left and right. Indeed, when he isn't punching the Riddler and King Tut in the face, the most interesting things the scriptwriters have Batman do is microwave lobster and watch Jerry Maguire on cable TV.

Things pick up a little when Barbara Gordon is brought in as the town's new police chief (right off the bat she voices concerns about "some guy in a Halloween mask beating up poor people" and how, despite the Dark Knight's vigilante efforts, Gotham City still posts the world's highest crime rate) and our protagonist unwittingly adopts an orphan solely for the purpose of using him as a decoy during a home invasion of Superman's place. But once that stuff's out of the way, the film kicks into hyper-drive, with the last 30 minutes of the movie literally abandoning any pretenses of plot for half an hour of non-stop, slam-bang, all-out "Apocalypse Porn" action in plastic block form. We're talking spaceship dog fights with Gremlins taking chomps out of the aircraft, a Godzilla pastiche tag teaming with Sauron from The Lord of the Rings to literally dismantle the whole city and - the clencher - a climactic Gangs of New York-like barnburner between virtually every Batman villain ever created and practically every bad guy who's ever made an appearance in the Warner Bros. film library. Sure, sure, there's not a whole lot of stuff here for you to think about in this one, but come on - you honestly think I'm going to give a "thumbs down" review to a movie that ends with Robin getting into a fist fight with Bruce the Shark from Jaws and Batman dropkicking King Kong so hard, his head literally explodes?

We've got no dead bodies (can Lego people even die, technically?) No breasts (and for God's sake, if you're looking for 'em in a movie like this, you need more help than I can give you.) One skyjacking. One nuclear power plant siege. Multiple automobile demolition derbies. More explosions than dialogue. Multiple frozen Lego. One karate fight set to a heavy metal version of the old Adam West TV show theme. Gratuitous guitar shredding. Gratuitous beat-boxing. Gratuitous "I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight." Gratuitous "Man in the Mirror." Gratuitous butler kicking. One cat immolated by a lava flow. "One time bomb activated doomsday earthquake. Kung fu. Over-sized wooden mallet Fu. Shark Repellent Fu. And of course, plenty of self-reflexive, self-deprecating, fourth wall shattering slapstick Fu.

Featuring Will Arnett as the voice of Bruce Wayne and Batman, whose dialogue includes such screenwriting gems as "Batman doesn't do 'ships" and uses the phrase "Iron Man sucks" as his computer password; Zach Galifianakis as the voice of The Joker, who's pretty much canonically in love with Batman in this one and refers to the rest of the Bat-bad guy staples as "human farts;" Michael Cera as the voice of Robin, who at one point asks "what's the vigilante policy on cookies?"; Ralph Fiennes as the voice of trusty butler Alfred (who actually breaks out the old 1960s TV show costume for the movie's grand finale); and Rosario Dawson as the voice of Commissioner Babs Gordon, who strikes a pivotal blow for women's rights when she asks Batman if it's OK to call him "Batboy" if he calls her "Batgirl."


Directed by Chris McKay, who helmed the first (and objectively better Lego Movie) and somehow managed to wedge in both a crypto-homosexual subplot and a "Rick-Rolling" joke in a kids' movie in the year 2017. And if you're wondering just how many people it takes to make a movie so gloriously disjointed? The correct answer is five credited screenwriters.

I give it three stars out of four. It's a considerable step down from the 2014 flick, but it's still WAYYYYY better than that three-hour long turd that was Batman v. Superman. Jimbo says give it a gander, as long as you don't mind dragging your date to a movie that's half and half elementary schoolers and stoned college kids.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Tribute To Ten Magazines That Shaped My Youth

A fond look back at the periodicals of yore that inspired my love of writing and continue to influence me (sometimes subconsciously) to this very day.


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@Jimbo___X

Growing up in a single mother family in a single-wide trailer, money was never something we had a lot of in my upbringing. I had to wear shitty shoes and hand-me-down clothing and while all the kids at school got to play with those newfangled Jurassic Park toys, I had to make do with whatever bullshit my mom could afford at the flea market (which almost entirely consisted of old He-Man action figures with various appendages missing.) So yeah, I never really got to do a whole lot of the regular stuff kids in the 1990s got to do, like visit Chuck E. Cheese's or go to Disney World or get a dentist appointment (seriously, I didn't get my first check-up until I was in my fucking early 20s.) 

For me, the written word was both an escape from the pains of an impoverished childhood and an economical way to stay abreast of the modern world. Back then, you could score yourself a 400-page magazine for about $3.99, and that shit would keep you occupied for at least a week. Before long, those monthly dispatches from the publishing world became my raison d'etre, that thing I looked forward to each and every morning. School may suck and we might be eating off-brand pork and beans for dinner again, but holy shit, the new Game Players issue is on sale at K-Mart, and that almost makes up for everything else. 

And because the publications were relatively cheap, I could engorge myself on a whole host of magazines covering all kinds of divergent elements of pop culture and modernity. Really, it was at this point in my life that I realized I enjoyed reading and writing about things more than actually experiencing them, and had it not been for the immense impact of the periodicals listed below, I probably never would've become a writer and gone on to do something stupid with my life, like become an investment banker or somebody who does I.R.S. compliance sheets for low-to-mid-range accounting agencies. More so than any other pop cultural construct, I'd say the monthly and semi-monthly publications listed below did more to frame my writing style - and really, my personality - than anything else in my youth. Wondering where my weltanschauung came from, admirers and haters alike? Ponder no more - for better or worse, the following publications are most responsible for forming me into the individual I am today...

Electronic Gaming Monthly


Well, this one shouldn't be surprising at all, considering my nomme de plume is an homage to the publication's most mysterious staff writer. More than anything, EGM - as well as its short-lived and much, much harder to find spinoff EGM 2 - is what got me into video game culture ... yes, even more than the games themselves, to a certain extent. Looking back on it, the writing does leave a lot to be desired (surely, after skimming a few back issues, I'd say that rival mag GamePlayers had far better content), but the way EGM was presented was just outstanding. Yes, it was a very, very aesthetically-driven magazine, but the way those flashy images, gaudy layouts and idiosyncratically curt columns were welded together just created a total sensory print experience that - to this day - I don't think has ever been rivaled. There wasn't a single element of the magazine that I didn't enjoy, from the reader mail section (who can forget the "Psycho Letter of the Month" feature?) to QMann's stream of consciousness gossip section to the 30 pages dedicated to Japanese-only Super Famicom games that people in the U.S. would never, ever get their hands on to the much imitated but never duplicated "Review Crew," whose infrequently syntactically-correct blurbs extolled the pros and cons of late-ass NES and Game Gear releases with a commixture of already passe Bart Simpson lingo and only barely gussied up marketing speak? I read the mag religiously up until the PS1/N64 era, where I lost interest in video gaming for a couple of years, but I resumed regular EGM consumption in high school (right smackdab in the Dan Hsu PS2/XB/GC era.) Since then, I've spent many a squandered weekend trying to fill the gap, which means I've got a good five years of Sega Saturn, Dreamcast and Game Boy Color coverage to joyously pilfer through when I can't sleep. But still, whenever I think EGM, I think of that wondrous 1991-1995 run through the Genesis and SNES years, and all those fabulous issues dedicated to Mortal Kombat II and Beavis & Butt-Head and Rocko's Modern Life. Shit, even combing through the old advertisements (which always comprised 60 to 70 percent of the bulk product) is an absolute delight, and every bit as enjoyable as the "genuine" editorial content. You university kids today have your online "safe spaces," and I've got my PDF copies of Electronic Gaming Monthly - and I'll gladly take my paper sanctuary of yore over your sanctimonious sociocultural sanctums any damn day of the week.  

The Weekly World News


There was an old Beavis & Butt-Head book in which the main characters said supernatural-tinged sensationalist nonsense like The Weekly World News was pretty much the reason they learned to read. For me, that actually was the catalyst for pursuing literacy. As a four-year-old, I desperately, direly wanted information, but it was a very particular kind of information. Since I wasn't even in kindergarten yet, the only two things that really mattered to me was what was on cable and whether or not monsters were going to get me, and with TV Guide fulfilling my fist hierarchical need, The Weekly World News did its part to complete the dyad of knowledge. All of those black and white newspapers at the cash register at the grocery store with aliens and Bigfoots and ghosts and shit on it certainly piqued my curiosity, so while everyone else was learning to read via Dr. Seuss, I was introduced to literacy via the apoplectic rants of Ed Anger, that one half-kayfabe wrestling article WWN used to publish up until the mid-1990s and, of course, following the saga of Batboy as if it were some kind of radio serial. People tend to forget, WWN actually did contain a pretty good chunk of actual news, mostly concerning particularly scintillating sex scandals and psycho murderers - which, naturally, captivated me even more than the clearly made-up bullshit about the Loch Ness Monster and George H.W. Bush getting a handjob from a Martian. Granted, a lot of the material was probably above my comprehension level - sure, any first grader can grasp the intricacies of Book of Revelation prophesies coming to life and made-up stories about women giving birth to half frog chimeras, but the less fabricated stuff about serial killers and husbands intentionally infecting their wives with AIDS? Yeah, that stuff may not have been designed with the Barney viewership set in mind, but by golly, it gave me a sociocultural leg-up on my grade school competition, for sure - indeed, I'm pretty sure I was the only kid in second grade that not only knew how to spell "lobotomy," but describe to you the most up-to-date technical description of the procedure. It was a mag worth reading up until 9/11, when the editors figured there was too much real-world spooky shit going on and they decided to make it way lighter and fluffier with a bunch of wishy-washy, more P.C.-friendly articles that felt more like PG-rated The Onion pieces than anything actually worth reading. Still, it ain't too hard to find old copies of the paper from its glory days circulating 'round the Internet - definitely check out the stuff from the late '80s and early 90s if you have a keen taste for the good sleaze

Wizard and ToyFare


Like everybody else in the early to mid 1990s, I bought a shit ton of comics because I was under the impression that my stockpile of Sludge and Major Bummer comics would someday be worth $300,000 and I could retire a millionaire before I was 20. The thing is, although I avidly purchased such funny books back in the day, I never really read them - even as a fourth grader, I knew the writing in X-Men and Spawn was subpar stuff, no matter how angular and pointy all the pictures looked. So outside of a couple of old Spider-Man reprints and stuff like Milk & Cheese, my treasure trove of comics mostly collected dust in bins in my closet, appreciating in value at about .0000000001 percent of a penny per year. Since I wanted to keep a close eye on the ebb and flow of the common market value of Young Heroes in Love No. 1, I was an avid reader of Wizard, whose price guide was considered the industrial gospel back in the day. The funny thing is, the price guide - the whole point of the magazine's existence - was probably my least favorite element of the publication. What really drove Wizard was this biting, self-reflexive humor that simultaneously celebrated and skewered nerd culture long before it was call to proclaim your geekdom publicly. Like EGM, the retroactive appeal of the magazine is mostly aesthetic, but it's hard to not reflect on their content-lite regular columns - like the Casting Call feature and a rundown of the ten most "popular" comic characters of the month, complete with a sardonic homage to a shitty forgotten character from yesteryear - and not smile. The articles ran the gamut from glorified P.R. (but you did usually get an exclusive "mini-comic" for free, though) to the fairly inspired (their top ten features were well worth reading) all the way up to legitimately great journalism, such as their piece on the arrest and conviction of indie artist Mike Diana for producing "obscenity" and their retrospective on the impact of Seduction of the Innocent. Oh, and their Halloween and April Fools editions were absolutely required reading, since they usually contained a fair amount of niche-interest snark and/or horror-tinged awesomeness. Wizard had several sister publications, but none were as memorable as their action figure-heavy magazine ToyFare, which in addition to featuring one of the best layouts of any nerd-interest magazine of the era, was also one of the funniest, thanks in no small part to the Mego Action Theater and price guide "one-panel" mini-comics. Shit - I have to find their special all-pro-wrestling-edition issue from circa 1998 now!

Mad and Cracked


It was until recently that I realized just how pronounced an influence the Mad and Cracked runs of the 1990s had on my subconscious. The same way I find myself almost instinctively trudging up the George Carlin/Richard Pryor/Bill Hicks party line when people ask me about abortion, gun control and eating pussy, it has dawned on me that pretty much EVERY opening paragraph I've written from the year 1997 on has been directly tailored around the tried-and-true Mad and Cracked article intro. You've got the table-setting opening sentence, the follow-up sentence that puts a spotlight on the target of satirization and then, you've got the final sentence that jerks open the curtain for your parody. It's such a perfect template, and one I'd advise all aspiring English majors to adapt for their term papers. As far as the content of the magazines, I think that even now these publications don't get the credit they deserve as social criticism. Remember, this shit was before Reddit and Voat and YouTube, so these magazines were pretty much the only media outlet out there specializing in niche interest humor. I thought Cracked did a better job lampooning popular culture while Mad did a better job overall making fun of general U.S. society. But more than that, I think these satirical publications wound up doing  better job encapsulating the 1990s zeitgeist than even the "legitimate" journalistic publications of the era. If you want to see the decade hive mind in action, feel free to comb through any back issue of Entertainment Weekly or Newsweek. You want to experience what it was TRULY like to live - and laugh - through the Clinton era? Hunt you down some old copies of these two mags and get to guffawing in no time

Pro Wrestling Illustrated (and all of the other Bill Apter mags)


What made PWI and its myriad spinoffs like The Wrestler and Inside Wrestling awesome was that they were basically monthly multiverse crossover spectacles. If you read the proprietary WWF or WCW magazines, they all kept it "in-universe," so all they ever did was talk about their own promotions and wrestlers. But PWI, though? They covered ALL of the 'rasslin promotions out there, including those weird beard promotions in Mexico and Japan. PWI introduced me to ECW (mostly, through those super bloody 1-800-Run-4-ECW ads on the back page) and the entire cosmos of puroresu, including such illustrious names as Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa and Toshiaka motherfuckin' Kawada. If you want to see an "event" issue done right, look no further than the annual PWI 500 issue, which was pretty much required reading for any 'rasslin dork worth his weight in Hulk Hogan apparel. Sure, by the time the rankings got into the 200s you had no idea who any of the people they were talking about were and I'm pretty sure they just made up the wrestlers in the 400-500 rankings, but still, you just felt like you had so much industrial knowledge pumped into your noggin just by perusing its thin, black and white pages. Oh, and for all you Johnny-Come-Latelies, yes, the entire PWI publishing armada - to this very day - keeps their writing entirely in kayfabe. You know, not that I trusted their old articles from the 1990s about the N.W.O.'s top secret plans to recruit Bret Hart and Sabu to their ranks, or that one piece purportedly penned by Shawn Michaels about how he would beat The Giant to be 100 percent legitimate journalism to begin with...

Fangoria


I was pretty late hopping aboard the Fango bandwagon (I didn't start reading it religiously until around 1996, a good 10 years' past the publication's heyday in the mid-80s), but there was still plenty of good stuff going on with the magazine in the great post-Scream, pre-Blair Witch boom period. When it comes to kitschy ephemera, this was a veritable treasure trove, from the cover stories about Resident Evil commercials to the full color ads for straight-to-VHS turdfests like Crinoline Head. Of course, you also had regular columns touching upon the "best" in recent horror videos, books and even video games, even though what Fango deemed "horror-worthy" was oftentimes debatable (uh, guys, is the original Grand Theft Auto on the PlayStation really a survival-horror opus?) And the features were usually pretty great, with the writers going into absurd detail about the technicalities of the gore effects in forgotten B-fodder like Aberration, The Ugly and yes, even that all-time celluloid classic, Revenge of Billy the Kid. Even though most of what they were covering was total crap, Fango managed to make that crap sound at least partially appealing; if you want to see journalistic turd polishing par excellence, check out any issue from 1997 or 1998.

Metal Edge


To be fair, I wasn't exactly a regular reader of Metal Edge - pretty much the only time I bought a copy was when they did their semi-regular "Top 100 fill-in-the-blank-specials" - but I knew enough to know they were way better than everything else on the magazine rack trying to cater to the metalhead demographic. Since this was the middle of the 1990s, the magazine was caught in this weird historical epoch in which a lot of bands that had lost a lot of relevancy at the end of the 1980s were still touring and putting out albums, so you'd just be flipping through stories about Anthrax and Slayer and then boom, you'd get hit with a spread about fucking Firehouse, Trixter and White Lion. Granted, it was a rather superficial publication - about half the content was just flashy poster dressings and catalog ads - but it did have some fairly decent material in it from time to time. My favorite? A recurring feature where the magazine dialed up random rock stars and asked them really stupid questions, like what was their favorite thing about Thanksgiving and what was the worst movie they had ever seen. I also recall a pretty entertaining column in which heavy metal staples "reviewed" videos receiving heavy rotation on MTV, but my memory is a bit hazy - it just as well could have been a feature in another heavy metal mag.

Black Belt


If nothing else, Black Belt deserves recognition for getting me into mixed martial arts. Dana White and pals may never admit it, but this kung-fu crazy publication did wonders for the UFC in the early vale tudo days, absolutely pimping the fuck out of their first couple of shows and dedicating huge chunks of their print space to event recaps. Of course, the primary intent of the magazine was to spread all sorts of nonsense about the practical applications of karate and Taekwondo and all those other totally useless disciplines that serve no purpose in legitimate combat, and the rag frequently dipped into "survivalist" fare (I remember one recurring column teaching you how to supposedly survive mass shootings and knife attacks, among other things) and some really, really questionable pieces about the "history" of ninjas and jujitsu. There was also a pretty healthy amount of page space dedicated to fisticuffs-heavy movies, so it had your pop cultural bases covered, too. Throw in the insanely detailed pictorial spreads on how to use nunchucks and a million billion ads promising to reveal you ancient Chinese techniques to get laid and deflect bullets with your pinkie and you have all the makings of one highly memorable - albeit highly suspect - martial arts magazine.

The Ring


I may have owned perhaps just three or four issues throughout the 1990s - and those were because they came on the heels of big fights and I thought they'd be worth major moolah someday - but The Ring nonetheless made a huge impression on me. I wasn't as gung-ho about boxing as a I was the fledgling sport of MMA and the long-established pseudo-sport of pro 'rasslin, but I definitely enjoyed the strangely acerbic tone of the planet's leading pugilism publication. Make no mistakes, The Ring was one cynical ass magazine, which went as far as to openly mock boxers in its pages as overrated and out of shape (keep in mind, this is the same magazine that refused to call Muhammad Ali "Muhammad Ali" until damn near the middle of the 1970s and also invented boxers to give their own championship belt greater cultural resonance.) This had to be the most blatantly confrontational sports periodical of the Clinton decade, and if absolutely nothing else? It showed an entire generation the proper way to write columns like a know-it-all asshole.

The Weekly Reader


And of course, it's impossible to talk about periodical print publications that immensely inspired me without bringing up the one that was state mandated. If you attended elementary school in the years between 1991 and 1997, surely you encountered this flimsy little reading material, which sought to turn really big, overarching sociopolitical issues - like unemployment and the War on Drugs - into semi-digestible, low-syllable count blurbs the Power Rangers set could kinda-sorta' comprehend (with plenty of teacher insight, naturally.) Sure, the content wasn't very good and the writing just barely skimmed the surface of highly controversial and deeply nuanced social issues - plus, the liberal bias was glaringly apparent, even to somebody who slept with Ren and Stimpy plushies - but I nonetheless looked forward to each and every issue. Even way back then, I grasped the real significance of the printed medium - their worth wasn't in being contemporary containers of up-to-date knowledge, but little slivers of history that combined the factual with the user-preferred version of what actually happened. Despite being painfully condensed and non-complex, I could take away some sliver of significance from each issue, even if the only thing that had any relative historical value were the ads (which, really, are just as important in encapsulating the times as the "proper" magazine copy - if not substantially more, in many instances.) Yes, even as a second grader I grasped the impending retro-value of the publication, and while all my classmates just discarded their copies at the end of class, I hoarded every issue given to me from the first grade to fifth grade graduation. I lost my treasure trove years and years ago, and while I can't for the life of me remember one single article from the publication (except for this one they ran that cut off in mid-sentence and a story about bullying that was a hoot to read because it had the word "butt" in it), the import of that cruddy little periodical on my life - and desire to write professionally - lingers on to this day.

So if any of you assholes take offense to anything I write, I say take it up with Scholastic ... after all, they are the ones that - advertently and inadvertently - got me into the publishing biz to begin with.