Monday, September 30, 2013

Journey Church in Coralville to Celebrate "Blessing of the Animals" at 10:30 AM on 10/06/13

Journey Church (Coralville's new UCC church) will be hosting its first "Blessing of the Animals" worship service this Sunday, October 6, 2013, at 10:30 AM. All are invited to bring their pets (or a picture of their pet) to the church and participate in a blessing. Folks are also invited to place a picture of a deceased pet on a memorial table, if desired. Worship will be held outside, though things will move inside if it raining. There will be water and waste bags available for any and all worshipping pets!

The Blessing of the Animals service is modeled after the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. According to the Journey Church website, "St. Francis... is remembered for his generosity to the poor and his willingness to minister to the lepers. However, what many people recall about him is his love for animals and nature."

I have been meaning to check out this neighboring UCC church community and I had to miss my own church's "Blessing of the Pets" service last week, so I'm thinking that I will take advantage of the special occasion and visit Journey Church this weekend with my peke, Ms. Lion.

Science Fiction-Themed Zombies Invaded Iowa City!

Iowa City was invaded this weekend by a horde of zombies. I think the undead was trying to throw off the living to their true nature -- or else they were all infected at a Comic-Con Convention! -- because most of the undead ghouls were dressed in sci-fi costumes!

Check out this video snuck from the site of the invasion:

Apparently, this zombie invasion was successfully repelled as I'm alive to type out this blog article. Maybe someday we'll learn the full story behind this weekend's local battle.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Will New Jersey Become the 14th Marriage Equality State?

A Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that New Jersey needs to begin offering marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples within that state and that it should happen by October 21, 2013. Apparently, the state's civil union law isn't overturned, but same-sex couples must have the right to get married. This is partly the results of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Section 3 of DOMA and the federal government's decision to offer marriage benefits to married gays, but not civilly unionize gays:
The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts: civil union partners who are federal employees living in New Jersey are ineligible for marital rights with regard to the federal pension system, all civil union partners who are employees working for businesses to which the Family and Medical Leave Act applies may not rely on its statutory protections for spouses, and civil union couples may not access the federal tax benefits that married couples enjoy.

And if the trend of federal agencies deeming civil union partners ineligible for benefits continues, plaintiffs will suffer even more, while their opposite-sex New Jersey counterparts continue to receive federal marital benefits for no reason other than the label placed upon their relationships by the State. This unequal treatment requires that New Jersey extend civil marriage to same-sex couples to satisfy the equal protection guarantees of the New Jersey Constitution as interpreted by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Lewis. Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.
Governor Chris Christie has already announced that he will appeal this decision, so it's doubtful that the October 21st deadline will actually be met. But I really don't anticipate that New Jersey same-sex couples will continue being denied marriage for long -- especially since the state's civil union law was passed as a result of an earlier court decision requiring marriage or equal-to-marriage options to gay and lesbian couples. And civil unions are not equal to marriage.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Life With Archie" #32: Who in Sam Hill is Sam Hill?

I picked up my favorite serialized comic book coming out of Archie Comics earlier this week: LIFE WITH ARCHIE #32. It's a split comic book featuring two different visions of the future: one where Archie married Veronica and the other where Archie married Betty. One of the recent developments in the "Archie Marries Veronica" universe features the aftermath of a financial crisis that's devastated Riverdale's economy. Now much of Riverdale's citizens are unemployed or severely struggling and Veronica has been framed for everything by the real culprit: Fred Mirth.

This dual threat to Veronica and to Riverdale leads Mr. Lodge is seek the assistance of a old private detective who hasn't been published (minus one appearance in the recent "Night at the Comic Book Shop" storyline) in over 50 years: Sam Hill! Mr. Lodge wants Sam Hill to find the missing Fred Mirth and find out if he is behind all of Riverdale's woes.

We'll be seeing more of Sam Hill in future issues of LIFE WITH ARCHIE, as well as a Red Circle graphic novel in Summer 2014, but I thought it would be fun to explore Sam Hill's origins and find out why this private detective is being revived after all this time when so many other Archie/MLJ Comics characters have continued to linger.

Thanks to the power of the Digital Comic Museum, it's pretty easy to jump back in time to read all of Sam Hill's original adventures (circa 1950-1951). I think I've mentioned before that I am a huge fan of various old-time radio programs from the 30s, 40s, and 50s. There are a few comedies and westerns that I enjoy, but I primarily enjoy crime dramas featuring private detectives and cops. I read the first story featuring Sam Hill and it was quite evident that he was inspired by those old private detective shows, such as "Sam Spade" and "Let George Do It."

(Cover to SAM HILL #1 -- 1950)
Sam Hill is an interesting mix of contradictions. He's an Ivy League college graduate who lives the gritty life of a private dick. He's not above seducing (or striking) an attractive woman, but refrains from any drink with more kick than a glass of whole milk. He slugs villains. He gets into gunfights with the police. In other words, this isn't your average Archie Comics funny book character!

I mentioned before that this comic book was clearly inspired by the radio programs of its day. That includes a steady stream of narration to move the story along and to explain Sam's inner thoughts. Reading through issue #1, one could easily read this story word for word to a radio audience and not lose much in translation.

"The Cutie Killer Caper" starts out with Sam narrating his latest adventure to his "Gal Friday" secretary, Roxie. And in case you enter the story wondering who the killer will be, that little plot detail is spoiled on the first page -- along with the plot-point that Sam is to be framed for the murder. The real fun comes through in the story's execution.

Check out Sam's intake technique. He's figured out how to do what most of us have only dreamed about. He manages to bluntly insult his customer in one panel and then initiate a make-out session in the next. Smooth, eh?

After a brief smooch-fest, Mrs. Berkley invited Sam to her home to... discuss the case. She promptly puts on an attractive nightgown and puts the moves on our favorite gumshoe. But prospects of romance are interrupted when Mrs. Berkley discovers that all of her jewelry has been stolen... and the culprit must be her cheating husband! Can our favorite gumshoe help a lady out?

Sam agrees to check out Mr. Berkley's private apartment for his client. Unfortunately, his investigation finds much more than missing jewels -- mainly Mr. Berkley's body and a nasty bump on the head! Fortunately, he manages to find a few clues before escaping from some investigating police officers:

Sam uses the clues in Mr. Berkley's apartment to figure out that his client was framing him for her husband's murder with the help of her new lover. She tries to smooch herself out of a collar, but Sam Hill will have none of that sloppiness. Chop! Chop!

Hence, "The Cutie Killer Caper" is solved by Sam Hill with one smack to the head.

But I gotta tell you, this next panel was my favorite of the bunch. Sam Hill found himself framed for murder by his client and nearly shot by both her and earlier by the police. God forbid he doesn't get his $50 private detective fee! A man's gotta get paid! Classic!

I haven't yet read any of the other stories featuring Sam Hill, but this was a great story to get me interested in him and his methods. Now would a Sam Hill chop-chop-smack-down of Fred Mirth be in the cards for a future issue of LIFE WITH ARCHIE? That would be really cool!

Nero at Daycare -- 09/26/13

The weather heated up yesterday afternoon, but the dogs at Lucky Pawz still managed to pull it together to make their playtime count -- which is remarkable since none of them possess basic math skills! Check it out:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Barilla Opposed to Gay Adoption // Tells Gay Customers to Seek Other Pasta Brands

Do you eat Barilla pasta products? I don't. I buy Hy-Vee brand pasta products. But if I did buy Barilla pasta products, I would stop buying Barilla pasta products after learning today of a very recent radio interview with the company's chairman Guido Barilla.

For some reason, Guido Barilla began talking about why he would never feature a gay family in any of his company's advertisements during that radio interview:
Guido Barilla, whose firm has almost half the Italian pasta market and a quarter of that in the US, told Italy’s La Zanzara radio show last night: “I would never do an advert with a homosexual family… if the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand. For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the fundamental values of the company.”

He added: “Everyone has the right to do what they want without disturbing those around them”. But then the pasta magnate upped the ante by attacking gay adoption. “I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose," he said.
Guido Barilla issued a weak statement of apology ("I apologize if my words have offended some people...") after LGBT activists began calling for a company boycott.

Barilla US, the American division of the Italian Barilla pasta company, has taken to Facebook and Twitter to apologize for Guido Barilla's anti-gay family assertions:
At Barilla, we consider it our mission to treat our consumers and partners as our neighbors – with love and respect – and to deliver the very best products possible. We take this responsibility seriously and consider it a core part of who we are as a family-owned company. While we can’t undo recent remarks, we can apologize. To all of our friends, family, employees, and partners that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry.
I would really like to learn more about the original radio interview and hear what prompted Guido Barilla to spout off about why he wouldn't feature gay families in the company's advertising. I mean, has there been a huge push by anyone for such advertisements because I haven't heard it. And why did he feel the need to tell us about his utter disdain for those of us who are gay adoptive moms and dads? What the heck prompted that?

Before today, it is very possible that I might have grabbed a package of Barilla pasta. After today, I will never knowingly purchase any products produced by Barilla.

Archie Comics' Kevin Keller To Be GLAAD's Spirit Day Ambassador!

Kevin Keller -- Archie Comics' premier gay teen character -- will be going purple on October 17th when he -- along with several other corporations, national landmarks, celebrities, and schools celebrate GLAAD's Spirit Day. Spirit Day is an annual anti-bullying campaign that specifically shows support for LGBT youth.

But his role in this year's Spirit Day is quite special. Kevin Keller has been identified to serve as a "Spirit Day Ambassador" for 2013! That makes him the first fictional character to ever be selected as a Spirit Day Ambassador:
"We are delighted and thrilled that GLAAD has selected Kevin Keller as a Spirit Day Ambassador," said Archie Comics Publisher/co-CEO Jon Goldwater. "We have worked hard to make sure that Kevin stands for acceptance and equality and so this is a huge honor."
Check out this great pic of Kevin Keller and Archie Comics creator Dan Parent hanging out at the GLAAD HQ in New York City:

Nero at Church -- 09/25/13 // Faith UCC 3rd Annual "Blessing of the Pets" Service Held Last Night

(Originally written at 7:20 AM): Nero was one of five animals who attended the third annual "Blessing of the Pets" worship celebration last night at my own Faith United Church of Christ. He and Husband Mark were the only ones from our family able to attend (D' had tae kwon do practice and I had chauffeur duties). According to Mark, Nero was captivated by the rabbit in attendance (he hadn't yet had supper), but otherwise was quite shy.

This worship service is timed to coincide with the October 3rd St. Francis of Assisi feast day. He is the patron saint of animals and the environment. These services are usually short and sweet. Everybody gathers with their pets and offers introductions. A service is held with a couple songs and a brief sermon. Then each animal is blessed and gifted with a treat.

Pastor Bob Loffer led this year's service and explored why pets and animals are so important to us:
Loffer said he believes that animals are tied into his faith and a larger life cycle that is currently out of balance. “I do believe God is the creator of all things, and all things in God’s creation should be honored and blessed,” he said. “We should take care of our planet so it can take care of us, and we haven’t done a very good job of that. We need every creature, even mosquitoes. It’s all part of that cycle of life.”

Loffer said he believes that humans could learn a lot from their pets, from caring for our earth to appreciating where we are in life. “Patience, a little forbearance, and to make do with our surroundings,” he said. “All they ask for is to be fed and watered and cared for. All they want is your love.”
I missed this year's Blessing of the Pets service at Faith UCC, but there is at least one other UCC-led Blessing of the Animals service scheduled soon that I will likely attend instead. Ms. Lion didn't get to go last night. Maybe that will be a good experience for her.

Updated at 9:45 PM: Faith UCC's website updated its content today to include images and material from last night's "Blessing of the Pets" worship celebration:
Our liturgy began with a short verse: "How many are your works, O God! In wisdom you have made them all." (Psalm 104.24)

We sang "God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale," read scripture lessons from Genesis, Psalm 104, and Romans. We offered prayers of confession for our human failures to better tend to our pets and our planet.

We heard words of forgiveness and pardon for our shortcomings. We offered prayers of thanks and blessing for our pets. We sang "All Things Bright and Beautiful."

Pastor Bob then moved to each pet and each pet caretaker to lay hands on them, bless them in God's name and offer thanks for the gifts pets and pet caretakers give to one another.
Check out this link to see images of the other pets and people who attended last night's service -- including that rabbit whose very presence tormented Nero so much! Meanwhile, check out one more pic of Nero and Mark being blessed:

President George H.W. Bush Witnesses Lesbian Wedding

Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush celebrated the gay wedding of Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen this past weekend somewhere in Maine. Not only that, but Bush was one of the official witnesses! Check out this Facebook pic of the event:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Christian Couple Closes Bed & Breakfast After Refusing Rooms to Partnered Gay Couples

A Christian couple from Marazion, Cornwall, have made the public decision to close their bed & breakfast, Chymorvah Hotel, and are selling the B&B for £750,000 (currently about $1,205,600 in U.S. dollars). The couple, Hazelmary and Peter Bull, found themselves in trouble back in 2008 when they refused to rent a room to a partnered gay couple. They refused a shared room to the couple because of their religious beliefs. The couple filed a complaint with whomever one files such complaints in the UK and the couple was ultimately fined £3,600 British pounds. Since then, the Bulls have complained of ongoing threats, acts of vandalism, and a porn-corrupted website. The couple reports that the guest occupancy has dropped over the past couple years to the point that they can no longer financially support the business.

The Bulls operated a "married only" policy since opening their business in 1986. I guess that's fine, but the male couple, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, were indeed a married couple -- or the British equivalent. They are civilly partnered and should be treated equally. The Bulls disagreed and insisted on separating the couple, which ultimately led to their current predicament.

It is worth noting that online reviewers from TripAdvisor have complained about "shabby," not particularly clean," and strange smelling rooms. They complained about hostile looks from the B&B's ownership and about the limited vegetarian options. So it's likely that Chymorvah Hotel is struggling for more reasons than disgruntled gays.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nero at Daycare -- 09/24/13

Nero and his friends had a great time playing at doggy daycare earlier today. The weather was wonderful, which made it even more enjoyable. Check it out:

Cows Create Chaos for Cars

A herd of cows caused a multi-car accident on Interstate 380 near Gilbertville, IA, earlier today (which is a small community near Waterloo and Cedar Falls in Black Hawk County).

The herd was on Interstate 380 just south of  Highway 20 when one of the cows got smacked by a semitrailer. A second semitrailer struck two additional cows, which led to it crossing into the median, rolling onto its side and sliding into the Interstate's northbound lanes. This resulted in a car crashing into the second semitrailer.

Two of the drivers involved (presumably the second semi driver and the driver of the car) received minor injuries. The three cows did not survive.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Masked Student Arrested After Attempting to Bring Weapon Into Lone Tree School

(Originally written at 2:40 PM on 09/23/13): A masked student tried entering Lone Tree Community School in nearby Lone Tree, IA, with some sort of weapon. The weapon was not a firearm. Beyond that, it is unclear what kind of weapon it was. The masked student was wrestled to the ground by two or more school staff. The police were immediately contacted and the student was arrested.

Lone Tree Community School was on lockdown following the incident from 9:30-11:40 AM today.

I will post more as I learn more.

Updated at 5:00 PM: KCJJ posted more information about this incident. An 18-year-old male student was wearing a "Halloween" mask (presumably a Michael Myers mask) and was wielding a visible knife. The student was wrestled to the ground by the Superintendent and by the High School Dean of Students.

Updated at 7:50 PM: I was watching KCRG news tonight while at the gym and it occurred to me that I was reading too much into the Halloween mask comment. I have no clue what the mask looked like. Just thought I should get that out of the way.

Lastly, it appears that the 18-year-old student has not been charged with anything at this time. Instead, he has been admitted to one of the local hospitals for an evaluation. It's possible that he will be charged with a crime at a later date. It's possible that he had a mental health break and that charges will be waived in exchange for some sort of ongoing mental health commitment and/or treatment.

Jon Gosselin Fired Gun To Frighten Photographer Off His Property

Jon Gosselin, formerly of "Jon & Kate Plus 8", was followed home by a photographer from his waiter job this past Friday. He lives these days in a cabin in Pennsylvania. She followed him down his driveway, apparently trying to get a picture of his home. As soon as she began taking pictures, Gosselin began yelling at her for trespassing and then he pulled out a concealed weapon and fired a warning shot into the air (away from the photographer).

She left Gosselin's property and promised to file a complaint with the local police.

Gosselin admitted to TMZ that he fired a warning shot, but was unapologetic:
"I am licensed to carry a concealed handgun, which I withdrew and used to fire a warning shot AWAY from the paparazza" Jon says, adding, "It is well within my rights under Pennsylvania law when someone is trespassing on private property."
TMZ later reported that the photographer did go to the police, but opted out of filing a police report after it was pointed out that she would likely ended up being charged with criminal trespass. She asked them instead to make a note in their records that Gosselin fired a shot into the air.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Faith UCC in Iowa City to Celebrate Annual "Blessing of the Animals" at 6:30 PM on 09/25/13!!

Faith United Church of Christ will be hosting its annual "Blessing of the Pets" celebration this Wednesday, September 25, 2013, at 6:30 PM. All are invited to bring their pets (or pictures of deceased pets) to the church where they can look forward to a blessing and a treat.

The worship service commemorates the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment.

Faith UCC is located at 1609 DeForest Avenue in Iowa City. It's an accessible building and all are welcome to attend! Please call 319-338-5238 if you have any questions about the service or about the church itself.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Map of North American Bigfoot Sightings

I found this map earlier today pinpointing the locations of each North American Bigfoot sighting from 1921-2013. I was completed by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organizations. Can you believe there are only 3,313 sightings?

Check this out:

If you look at the map, you will notice that my own state of Iowa has a few blips, but not that many. The BFRO website has data about Bigfoot sightings and related reports from Iowa, as well as from each other state. But frankly, Bigfoot doesn't really seem to care about Iowa because he hasn't been seen much! Humboldt County appears to have the most Bigfoot listings.

Sadly, my own Johnson County only boasts two listing on the BFRO database and both of them were only Class B reports (i.e , less than clear first-hand reports).

The first report dates back to Summer 1973. Four young girls were riding horses near the Coralville Reservoir, IA, when they encountered a large and aggressive animal at the top of a nearby hill. It was growling and making other strange noises. "The witness stated that it was hard for her to describe the vocalization, but that it was as though an adult who couldn't speak or had brain damage was trying to communicate." The horses freaked the girls were unable to going any further. They later discovered that their playhouse had been destroyed (presumably by the creature). They had also been chased to a bunkhouse, though the creature couldn't get into that building.

The second report happened in Spring 2010. It was at Lake Macbride near North Liberty. Two people were there late at night feeding owls at the Raptor Center when they heard something or someone tramping about and making lots of noise. For some crazy reason, the two witnesses decided to chase the creature into the woods. The creature appeared to sound like it was taking long strides. Also, it had large red eyes.

Have you witnessed Bigfoot? I would love to hear your story. Feel free to share it in the comments section!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Iowa City Man Arrested & Charged With Stealing iPod After His Pics Automatically Uploaded Onto Victim's Facebook Account!

A 19-year-old Iowa City man has been arrested and charged with a simple misdemeanor count of 5th degree theft and an aggravated misdemeanor count of interference with official acts causing bodily injury after he was accused of stealing another man's iPod. How did he get caught? He allegedly (and accidentally) used the stolen iPod to take pictures which then uploaded onto the victims Facebook account:
The owner of the missing iPod contacted police in August stating that photos of Jones had been uploaded to the victim’s Facebook account via the stolen iPod, according to police complaints.

Police say the victim had encountered Jones at his place of employment and recognized him. Officers matched the photos with Jones’s driver’s license photo and a witness who knew Jones also identified him in the uploaded photos, according to police.

Jones was arrested Friday at his home on the 1200 block of Pine Street. According to police Jones resisted arrest and officers were unable to restrain Jones’s hands behind his back until after the use of pepper spray. One officer suffered abrasions to their knuckles during the arrest, according to police.
According to police, the accused thief acknowledged that those were his pictures, but denied any knowledge of the iPod itself.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Andy Herren Wins "Big Brother 15"

One week ago tonight, I made my prediction for the winner of Big Brother 15. Some of my reasoning was a bit wonky and some of the events played out differently than prediction. But my prediction came true.

Andy Herren is the winner of Big Brother 15!!

Lots of people have complained about his gameplay, but it worked like a charm.

Congratulations, Andy, on your win!!

Really Cool Upcoming Archie Comics Projects!!

I was checking out the December 2013 solicitations for Archie Comics last night and found myself really excited about a couple new projects. That got me thinking about several new projects coming out of Archie Comics that I'm really happy about (listed generally in order of release):

* AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE: This is the ongoing comic book that has everyone talking. Jughead talks Sabrina into resurrecting his dead dog, which initiates the zombie apocalypse. I initially thought that this series would be filled with campy dark humor, but it really sounds quite ominous. Archie Comics has been instructing comic book retailers to stack this comic book far away from its more traditional titles and artist Francesco Francavilla has been freaking me out for weeks on Twitter with all sorts of creepy preview art. I really believe that this comic book will change how people perceive Archie Comics -- for good or for bad. But I am really anticipating this comic book!

* ARCHIE DOUBLE DIGEST #244: Back in June, I shared that ARCHIE DOUBLE DIGEST #244 would be doing what I really wanted Archie Comics to do more of: publish new introductory stories in its double digests again. Don't get me wrong. I get that it's less expensive to publish reprint stories. And often times, I really like those old stories. And even more often, I get super-excited when they re-publish old stories featuring long-forgotten characters like Cosmo the Merry Martian, Dotty & Ditto, and Pat the Brat. On the other hand, there are a lot of great creators today and I want to see them write and draw new stories featuring Archie Comics' characters. ARCHIE DOUBLE DIGEST #244 will be starting out with what appears to be a brand-new story featuring Archie's new dog: Vegas! Looking at the solicits for the next couple months, it looked liked issue #244 was a fluke. But then I read the December 2013 solicits and saw new stories listed for ARCHIE DOUBLE DIGEST #247 and BETTY AND VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST #219!! Very exciting news!! I'm really hoping that this become a new trend!

* THE FOX: Archie Comics' action writers over at Red Circle are just about ready to publish this new super-hero comic featuring one of their Golden Age heroes: The Fox! I know a little about the character, but what I do know looks very exciting -- as does his first few antagonists!

* SONIC SUPER DIGEST #5: This is the one ongoing book featuring Sonic the Hedgehog that I regularly read. It has been a great introduction to the character and his adventures for me and it made it much easier for me to figure out what was going on during the whole Sonic/Mega Man "World Collide" cross-over story. Up until now, the book has been filled with reprint stories. But SONIC SUPER DIGEST #5 is advertising brand new stories based off the "Sonic Jump" video game. "Sonic Jump" is the one Sonic IOS game that I own. I will definitely be buying this book!!

* ARCHIE #650: ARCHIE #650 kicks off a four-part battle-of-the-bands-world-tour featuring all sorts of musical goodness including the Archies, the Pussycats, the Bingoes, and the Madhouse Glads! Plus Raj Patel will be showing up! And there will be international romance! And there will be visits to India and to China and to other exciting countries! There is something there for those who enjoy contemporary stories and for those who get off on nostalgia! I cannot wait!

* ARCHIE'S FUNHOUSE DOUBLE DIGEST #1: That is right! December 2013 will see the launch of a brand-new double digest published by Archie Comics. This is how the first issue is described:
ARCHIE'S FUNHOUSE DOUBLE DIGEST #1: BRAND NEW #1! When the gang takes a trip to the Lodge’s Lodge in the North Woods, they discover a nearby cozy cabin with a lot of personality—so much personality that it seems to even have a life of its own! When each trip to the cabin comes with a new historic surprise, Archie & his friends get a little uneasy. Is the cabin haunted, or is someone playing a clever trick? The answer may surprise you in “Fun House,” the crazy first story to this FUN NEW double digest series!
Can I stress again how exciting this double digest is to me?? Very exciting for those of us who love the double digests and who yearn for new stories!!

* SAM HILL!!: Sam Hill is this old 1950's Archie Comics private detective character that you don't see too much of these days. At least you didn't! There were rumors of a SAM HILL comic book back in 2009 or 2010, but nothing came of it. But then we learned that Sam Hill will be showing up in the next few issues of LIFE WITH ARCHIE. And then we learned that there will be a new SAM HILL graphic novel published by Archie Comics' Red Circle imprint next July!! I cannot wait for this book to come out. If it sells well, maybe we can look forward to other new graphic novels featuring other classic Archie Comics characters like Young Dr. Masters or Pat the Brat (I've got great ideas for these characters, Archie Comics. Contact me 'cuz I'd love to share them with you!!)

So those are some of the upcoming projects coming out of Archie Comics that really has me excited -- and I can't wait to review them on this blog!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nero at Daycare -- 09/17/13

Today was a great day to be a dog in a daycare. The weather was in the 60s -- which is great for those who find themselves covered from head-to-tail in fur! Check this out:

Man Arrested Following White House Firecracker Incident

Somebody thought it would be a really good time yesterday to toss a couple random firecrackers at the White House just hours after America's latest shooting spree. Turns out it really wasn't a good time to do so. He ended up getting arrested!:
A federal law enforcement official says the shoeless man was immediately arrested Monday. An Associated Press photographer heard what sounded like two gunshots outside the White House. Three uniformed Secret Service officers arrested a middle-aged man. The man was white, with dark hair, a blue shirt and white shorts. His white shoes lay on the ground near where the officer tackled him.
The arrested man is 52-year-old Alexander Sahagian. The Secret Service have indicated that he will likely be charged with illegally throwing a projectile. It's not clear yet why he threw the firecrackers at the White House.

Nero Does the Mambo -- Jon Trouten Style!

One of my frequent commenters is Stuffed Animal. He is an amateur artist who enjoys envisioning the adult lives (and loves) of the various Archies -- among other images. Nero got wrapped up in Stuffed Animal's artwork about a month ago. Usually, he can be seen making a catty observation about the scene around him. Some of Stuffed Animal's artwork is risqué. Some of his artwork is on display on the bulletin board in my office.

A couple days ago, I received the following picture of artwork starring Nero himself dancing the Mambo. Stuffed Animal told me that the drag performer dancing with my favorite poodle is somebody intimately familiar with me. In fact, it is me! -- Or Stuffed Animal's image of me in drag!

I asked Stuffed Animal if I could share this artwork on the blog and he graciously gave me permission. Check this out:

Thanks again, Stuffed Animal!

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Big Brother" Houseguests Lose Jobs Over Racist Slurs // Update: Another "Big Brother" Houseguest's Job in Jeopardy // Further Updated: "Big Brother" Houseguests Continue to Race-Bait // Further Updated: More Job Losses As Season Nears the End!

(Originally written on 07/04/13): I'm a fan of "Big Brother" -- though I've been slow to get into the season this year. The American version of the show is currently in its 15th season. You probably know all about it, but essentially the Houseguests sit around all summer, occasionally competing, always scheming, and generally getting on each others' nerves with hopes that they stay in the Big Brother House all summer and win $5000,000.

It's not unheard of for Houseguests to get caught on the live-feeds making racist, heterosexist, and ableist slurs. It's much more common for Houseguests to make sexist slurs about each other. The sexist slurs make it through editing and onto the show. The other slurs rarely do. The sexism usually comes early in the show. The other slurs usually come later after the Houseguests have become more cocky with their game-play and less aware of the live-feed cameras. Usually.

This season's Houseguests have quickly become known for their rampant racism. Check out this summary of racist, sexist, and heterosexist slurs happening within the Big Brother 15 House (pulled from the Jokers' website):
•Re: Candice: Be careful what you say in the dark, you might not be able to see the bitch (6/30 ~7:45pm)
•I want to put a washcloth over her face and pour water over it (6/30 7:42pm C1/2)
•Aaryn was complaining about the Asian women who do her nails and imitated their Asian accent. Helen was right outside too.
•Said she was so drunk she made Asian eyes (6/30 ~5:20PM)
•About Helen: Dude, shut up, go make some rice (6/30 1:14AM)
•Andy will get MVP because people love the queers (6/29 11:40PM)
•No one's going to vote for whoever that QUEER puts up re: Andy
•Quick to correct Candice's pronunciation of "ask" (as opposed to axe) but is fine with GM saying it as axe
•Bragged about making Asian eyes in the DR

•Says the C word at 6/29 4:35-4:36am Cam 3 and again 6/29 4:41am Cam 3
•Candice laid her head on Spencer's shoulder and he said "Sure you're not gonna get my shirt greasy?"
•Praised the Nazi doctors
•Called Helen "Kim Jong Un"
•calls Andy "Kermit the fag" to his face (6/29 ~4:40pm)
•Called women the c-word
•Says “Bitch, get your ass cooking” (6/30 ~1:57pm)

•Candice is on the dark side because she already is dark (6/30 ~7:45pm)
•Calls welfare "nig***" insurance (6/30 1:16PM Cam 1/2)
•Said blacks stick together and that they're "tokens" in the house (6/30 ~4:18AM)
•Candice's "blackness" is showing now that she's not on the block (6/30 ~4:20AM)
•They should make Helen's eyes "straight"
•Said something about weaves being ghetto and then looked at Candice (6/29)
•Helen should kiss their asses and serve them rice (June 29, 2:42pm Cam3)
•Told Nick in the lounge that the way Candice talks is fake because she talks too white (6/29)
•Said that Candice had that black thing going; intimating that she was getting ghetto (1st night of feeds)
•Mocked Candice's voice in a stereotypical fashion

•Said “nigga” but not in a reference to black people but more like “dude” (6/27 3:28AM C3)
•says Candice came at her acting aggressive and she was thinking Candice's black side was coming out (6/27 ~5:47AM)
•Said "Gays are untrustworthy in a game like this"

•Re: Kaitlyn’s vagina: wants to see what he’s working with, called it her meat wallet
•Re: Elissa, said he'd cut a bitch

•Calls herself the fag hag queen (6/29 ~5:30PM)

•said his sheets are dirty because "black Candice" was on them (6/30 3:05pm C1)
If you haven't guessed, Candice (as well as Howard) is black, Helen is Asian, and Andy is gay. Interestingly, I haven't heard of any slurs made against Howard. Maybe that speaks more to sexism. Maybe they're just afraid to anger the powerful black man in the Big Brother House?

So there has been a lot of pressure on the producers of Big Brother 15 to stop sanitizing the program and broadcast the racism that has been rampant in the Big Brother House. So far, the producers have refused, though they have admitted that there is a problem with prejudice in the House:
CBS has released a statement to TMZ ... saying, "We certainly find the statements made by several of the Houseguests on the live Internet feed to be offensive." However, The Eye points out that 24/7 live programming can sometimes reveal some bad things about people ... saying, "At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone."
But CBS has a long history of refusing to air any of those prejudices. So Aaryn can make openly racist assertions and jokes about the show's Asian and black women on the live-feeds, but anyone watching just the CBS television program sees her as your average twenty-something girl who's flirting with an innocent showmance.

Despite CBS' refusal to actually do something about their Houseguests' racism, others have been complaining about it in the media this past week and now we are beginning to see some blowback. I learned early this morning that two of those women listed above have lost their jobs because of their racist and heterosexist slurs:
Aaryn Gries... has been dropped by her modeling agency after dropping racist and homophobic comments in the BB house... Zephyr Talent in Austin, Texas says they've seen enough -- and have decided to DROP Aaryn from the agency because of her filthy mouth. "Aaryn, season 15 cast member of Big Brother, revealed prejudices and other beliefs that we (Zephyr Talent) do not condone." Zephyr continues, " We certainly find the statements made by Aaryn on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Upon much consideration, we have decided to release Aaryn from her contract with Zephyr Talent."
"Big Brother" contestant GinaMarie Zimmerman is gonna have a rude awakening when she leaves the house -- she's been FIRED from her day job after dropping the N-bomb... East Coast USA Pageant, Inc. is cutting ties with the 32-year-old pageant coordinator ... claiming they were shocked GZ could "display such acts of hate and racism..." East Coast USA says GinaMarie has been an employee for 5 years -- but insist, "We have never known this side of GinaMarie or have ever witnessed such acts of racism in the past." The pageant says, "We are actually thankful that this show let us see GinaMarie for who she truly is. We would never want her to be a role model to our future contestants."
I'm very curious if any of these other Houseguests will find themselves losing their jobs over their misbehavior? I'm also curious if Aaryn and GinaMarie will learn anything positive from all of this or if they will just blame Helen and Candice for their lost jobs?

Updated on 07/07/13: I learned late yesterday that another Big Brother Houseguest may find himself without a job after leaving the Big Brother 15 House:
The values represented by Spencer Clawson's comments during the Big Brother show do not at all align with Union Pacific's values. Mr. Clawson is on unpaid leave of absence while participating on Big Brother. Union Pacific does not condone his comments.

Union Pacific is acting in accordance with Collective Bargaining Agreement terms regarding Mr. Clawson.
Contrary to popular opinion, being a member of a labor union doesn't protect anyone from being fired. But it does protect him from being automatically fired for repeatedly making racist, sexist, and heterosexist comments in front of the entire nation. Assuming he wants to return to his day job when he leaves the Big Brother 15 House, I assume he'll find himself operating under some sort of corrective action plan for a while.

Updated on 07/12/13: CBS finally began addressing the racist slurs that have been too prevalent on this summer's Big Brother program during the past week. The Houseguests have been discussing some of Aaryn's slurs amongst themselves and Big Brother host Julie Chen even cryptically asked Aarlyn about how she's being received by the general public. Check out this pretty accurate Twitter summary from last night's show between Julie Chen and Aaryn, which was followed by another segment:

Anyway, Houseguest Nick got sent home last night. This upset Aaryn, GinaMarie, Jeremy, and Kaitlin, who were all expecting Elissa to go home instead. GinaMarie cried for roughly three hours and then she and the other two women began picking on Jessie and -- more pointedly -- Candice.

First, Aaryn flipped over Candice's bed against the wall and cause all her stuff to scatter. She and GinaMarie then got into a racially-tinged heated argument with Candice. The argument ended with Howard grabbing Candice and physically carrying her from the bedroom. Check out this partial transcript from the Joker's website:
HOWARD: What's going on...
CANDICE: I came in here and they flipped the mattress and threw all the pillows on the floor... so DO IT AGAIN Aaryan.... (Aaryn is starring at Candice with a smug look).
AARYN: Watchu gonna do girl... watchu gonna do? (same stereotypical black voice)

Howard looks in her in disbelief... and laughs.

AARYN: Class girl.... wheres yo class... (kaitlin laughing in background, GM smiling but silent)
CANDICE: Howie.... (she looks at him for help)
GM: Do you expect him to back you up at all (somewhat inaud)
KAITLIN: Okay, first of all, Howards a man...

GM: WHAT DO YOU WANNA SAY, WHAT DO YOU WANNA SAY... (gets in Candice's face)
CANDICE: I'm not gonna fight with you! I'm not gonna fight with you!
HOWARD: Candice... candice....
CANDICE: I'm not gonna say anything to you!
GM: Do you want the BLACK to come out... because the (inaud... blacks this way and the white's that way..?)

Howard jumps inbetween and grabs Candice.
You can read the entire transcript, complete with pictures at the above link. You can watch the entire exchange (plus some) in this video clip:

Both Candice and Howard spent much of the rest of the night sobbing, praying, and segregated in the HOH room.

Updated on 09/16/13: This particular post has been quite popular recently, but I'm actually behind with one report of a Big Brother 15 job loss, plus there has been one newer report this week.

First, the one I skipped (though I did mention it in this post). Amanda Zuckerman became known for being quite the bully towards the end of her time in the Big Brother House. Additionally, those who watch the feeds have seen her make racist comments (once again, read this post). Anyway, it looks like she lost her Florida realtor license during her stay in the Big Brother House:
Fans of the reality show are saying that couldn’t possibly be the case, as Amanda works for her mother. True. But while Amanda may have a partnership arrangement with her mother, according to the state license bureau, she was actually employed by Prudential Florida (technically by its subsidiary Watermark Realty Inc., which functions as the “sales service center” for Prudential Florida, and is apparently listed as the employer for all Prudential Florida brokers.)
Her website was taken down, and her presence removed from the Boca Raton Prudential Florida website (which is the office that she worked out of.) Prior, the state licensing board had her listed as “active”, and employed by Watermark Realty.  Today, her status is “inactive, current” and there is no reference to Watermark.
We just got off the phone with the Florida license authority.  In order for a license holder’s status to change, either they must request to become inactive, or the employer of record must notify the state that they are no longer affiliated with them. AND (here’s the kicker) it takes, at most, one week for a request from a licensee to be processed and their status updated.  It can be done within seconds, if done on-line, if a form is submitted, it takes a week.) Since Amanda has been in the BB house for well over a month now, and thus incommunicado, SHE could not have requested that her license status be changed.   The only other option (according to the person I talked to) was if “Watermark” notified the state that Amanda was no longer affiliated with them.
This is a bit of deductive processing, but there you have it.

And then there is my personal pick to win Big Brother 15, Andy Herren. He has spoken about being a professor/instructor at College of DuPage. In fact, he's spoken of returning there. Maybe not (from Facebook):
Andy Herren has formerly worked for College of DuPage as a part-time instructor. He does not currently work for the College. Any behavior or language he uses on the CBS reality show “Big Brother” does not represent the opinions or values of College of DuPage.
There was a link to a much more comprehensive article on the subject, but I don't have time this morning to search it out. I do know that Andy and the others have been running their mouths off and saying things on the feeds that they really should know better about.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

UCC Chaplains Free to Marry Any Couple They Choose -- Same-Sex or Otherwise!

The Department of Defense recently began offering equal benefits to married gay and lesbian couples -- same as married heterosexual couples. Before, they were kind of limited depending on which state the couple lived in. It was confusing. But then the US Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional and the DOD decided to open everything up.

As a result of these changes, the DOD asked each denomination to clarify the guidelines for their military chaplains. Will they or will they not allow them to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies for same-sex military couples?

The United Church of Christ responded and they responded with a resounding YES -- as long as the individual chaplain is okay with that:
If a member of the United States military wants to marry the person they love, regardless of their gender, United Church of Christ military chaplains can now decide to wed them. There are dozens of military chaplains endorsed by the UCC who represent the church with dignity and respect for all service personnel, regardless of their sexual orientation. The denomination expects that UCC chaplains will continue that same affirmation now that the federal government is recognizing same-gender marriages among those who serve their country...

(UCC minister for chaplains and specialized ministers, Rev. Stephen) Boyd explained that Department of Defense policy protects military chaplains from performing any religious duty they may not feel comfortable. Similarly, chaplains cannot be ordered to perform a service they are theologically uncomfortable performing, but chaplains are still obligated to assist military personnel in finding someone who can provide that service.
The UCC's national office and synod long ago came out in support of LGBT membership, ministry, marriage, and general equality. But individual churches are not bound by those decisions. As a result, there are UCC churches, leaders, and members who are very clearly anti-gay -- or at least strongly unsure. I worked as a UCC church secretary for a couple years back when marriage equality came to Iowa. We received referrals from several other UCC churches who were seeking gay-affirming churches who would marry same-sex couples because they wouldn't.

My point is that the military isn't -- and shouldn't be -- any different. I strongly suspect that there will be UCC chaplains who will opt out of services for same-sex couples. But it's good to know that the denomination has reiterated its support for America's LGBT troops and their families.

There are roughly 100 governments-endorsed UCC chaplains right now with slightly under half serving in the U.S. military.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

73 Cats Removed from Clinton, IA, Home

73 cats were removed this week from the Clinton, IA, home of Margaret Rettkowski. It was unclear how the police learned of this situation. But the cats were hungry and flea-infested -- but all very friendly!! -- when admitted to the Clinton Humane Society. Rettowski has been cited for failing to license her cats and for having too many of them.

Rettowsky claims, according to CBS2 and police reports, that she took in all of these cats because nobody else wanted them. Hopefully that's not the case because all 73 will be placed for adoption by the Clinton Humane Society (563-242-2457).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Archie Andrews Radio -- "Summer Heat"

It's been busy the past couple days and I'm not sure I'll be able to post anything later tonight so I thought I would share this great "Archie Andrews" radio program from 1948 -- in honor of our recent late summer heat wave!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My "Big Brother 15" Predictions

I've been watching Big Brother 15 pretty much all season. Judd got sent home tonight, leaving Andy as HOH, Spencer, McCrae, and Gina Marie in the House. Here are my predictions:

Andy will nominate GM and McCrae.

McCrae will most likely win the Power of Veto. GM's body is a mess because of a split knee and a broken toe. Spencer struggles in most competitions. Andy might win it, but McCrae will most likely get it.

If that happens, GM and Spencer will go up for nomination. Most likely, McCrae will vote out Spencer.

That will leave the Final Three competitors of Andy, GM, and McCrae. GM will most likely wash out due to her physical injuries.

That would leave Andy and McCrae left in the Big Brother House:
The Jury consists of Candice, Jessie, Helen, Aaryn, Amanda, Elissa, and Judd (and hypothetically Spencer and GM).

I could be completely out of my mind and I do believe it would be close, but I predict that Andy will be the winner of Big Brother 15 -- assuming that this progression of evictions actually follows through!

We shall see this weekend!

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics Not Billing Medicaid for Abortions, Instead of Sending Bill to Gov. Branstad

Earlier this year, Iowa changed the law to potentially make it more difficult for the state to pay for any abortions. Legislators voted in the spring to require the governor to personally approve any abortions billed to Medicaid.

It's not like Iowa has been paying for tons of abortions. But we pay for some, like if there are serious medical complications to either the mother or to the fetus or in severe cases involving rape or incest. There were 22 cases in fiscal year 2012 where abortions were billed (mostly by the University of Iowa Hospitals) to Medicaid. Fifteen of those abortions involved cases of fetal anomalies. Most of the others involved cases where the health of the mother was at risk. By April 2013, Medicaid had paid for seven abortions during that current fiscal year and all of those abortions involved fetal anomalies.

Anyway, it turns out there the UIHC has performed two abortions on Medicaid-eligible patients so far this fiscal year (since July 2013) and both of those abortions involved complications from fetal anomalies, but Gov. Terry Branstad hasn't been placed in the position of approving or denying payment. That's because the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics has opted against billing to Iowa Medicaid for those abortions, preferring to absorb those costs internally instead of dealing with the politics of this medical procedure.

Gov. Branstad's spokesman was pleased with the UIHC's decision. The taxpayers don't have to pay for these abortions -- not directly anyway -- and he didn't have to make a decision either way.

Check Out The Fox's Comic Book Trailer!

It seems like a long time since Archie Comic and Red Circle published their NEW CRUSADERS mini-series and graphic novel (here, here, and here), but next month we will get to read the comic book that caused the second NEW CRUSADERS mini-series to get pushed back several months: THE FOX! The Fox is a golden age comic book character who will get involved with the New Crusaders when they re-launch.

Red Circle launched a trailer for the Fox's new comic book yesterday and it looks pretty cool. It seems to be set in the 1940s and it looks like he will be going up against Madame Satan in his first issue, which is pretty cool!

Check it out:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Colville Tribal Council Backs Gay Marriage

Another Native American tribal council has voted to recognize marriages of same-sex couples within the past week. Last Thursday, the Colville Tribal Council in Washington state voted to recognize such marriages within the tribal members and to treat these families "equally and with respect":
The provision affects over 9,360 members who are descendants of 12 different tribes and are members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. About half of them live on the 1.4 million-acre Colville Indian Reservation.

Initiated by tribal council members, the action taken by the Council on Thursday amended the tribes’ domestic code to recognize gay marriages. Practically speaking, (Council Chairman Michael) Finley said, it will mean that gay partners can have the same rights as a married couple of different sexes. One change already enacted allows anyone who works for the tribe to add a spouse of the same sex to their insurance and benefits. He said the tribe will now begin modifying its other codes, plans and policies to make sure they agree with the newly passed amendment.
Several other Native American tribal governments recognize same-sex marriages, including the Coquille Tribe in Oregon, the Suquamish Tribe in Washington, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians also in Michigan, and the Santa Ysabel Tribe in California.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Trial Against Goddess Temple Leader Next Month // Accused of Running a Brothel in Phoenix, AZ

I wrote back in September 2011 about the Phoenix Goddess Temple, which was the subject of a 6-month undercover investigation for operating as a secret brothel. Several male and female church practitioners were accused of performing sex acts in exchange for monetary donations. The Goddess Temple argued that their neo tantric healing therapies were not acts of prostitution, but instead religious acts.

I learned this weekend that the founder of the Phoenix Goddess Temple, Tracy Elise, is scheduled to finally stand trial next month. She faces charges of prostitution, illegal control of an enterprise, pandering, and operating a house of prostitution. I also learned that she has fired her attorney and plans to represent herself in court.

Elise was interviewed by CBS5 out of Phoenix, AZ, and described the basics of her religious beliefs and practices:
It's called Tantra, and for Deanna Bennett, it's a way of life. After attending Tantra school in Hawaii, she found a home at the Phoenix Goddess Temple. "I found it an incredibly peaceful, beautiful place to be and was really enjoying coming there and experiencing what was going on at the temple," said Bennett.

Bennett said sensual touch is an important part of the religion. "My belief is that it's about love. It's about going in with an open mind and just being open to whatever healing is going to happen or take place in that space. It's like a priest going into confessional with somebody," said Bennett...

"It's very humiliating to hear the county prosecutor Bill Montgomery make the statement that when two people go into a room and there is some nudity and money is exchanged, it's prostitution. That's a huge dumbing down of what Tantra and sensual touch is all about," said Bennett.
I wrote back in 2011 that I was unsure how legitimate these tantric practices actually are. I also questioned why religious libertarians weren't out there defending the Phoenix Goddess Temple's practitioners. CBS5 interviewed one tantric healer back in 2011 who supported Phoenix's law enforcement officials for prosecuting Elise and her team. But even she admitted that she is in the minority among the tantric community.

According to this report, members of the Phoenix Goddess Temple sincerely believe that there are legitimate benefits to their sensual and sexual healing practices and predict that they will be open for business again very soon.