Tuesday, June 30, 2015

United Church of Christ General Synod Approves Resolution Supporting Boycott of the Washington Redskins // Renews Boycott of Cleveland Indians Over "Chief Wahoo" Mascot

The United Church of Christ is currently going through its General Synod, a gathering of UCC leaders and members from all over the denomination. Part of General Synod -- the more interesting aspect to me these days -- is the process of voting on resolutions supporting or opposing this cause or another.

The UCC's General Synod passed a resolution yesterday encouraging a denomination-wide boycott of the Washington Redskins football games and merchandise until the team finally dropped its "Redskins" name and mascot:
The Monday resolution takes the boycott national. It called on the NFL franchise to “change its team name and to refrain from the use of any images, mascots, or behaviors that are harmful or demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples,” said the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, a national officer of the UCC, in a press release.

“The use of the term ‘Redskins’ for the team mascot and nickname of the Washington football team is offensive and causes direct harmful effects to the public health and well-being of the Native American population,” she said.

In a joint statement about the resolution, Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and Jackie Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, representing more than 80 Native American tribes, said they were “honored” by the “effort to help relegate this offensive and outdated slur to the dustbin of history.”
The UCC's General Synod also passed a resolution, renewing it's long-standing condemnation of Native American imagery for sports teams, particularly the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo mascot.

There has been mixed reaction to the 1991 resolution against Chief Wahoo from within the denomination. But UCC member Toni Buffalo, a Lakota from Eagle Butte, SD, defended the resolution, stating:
"I am not a Redskin. I am not a mascot. That is not an honor. Do not try to honor me that way."
I originally wrote about the proposed resolution to boycott the Washington Redskins here.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mutants VS Inhumans (??) in EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN!

Marvel Comics put out all sorts of information today about their post-Secret Wars titles. Lots of changes coming up, but it appears that everything will be set eight months following Secret Wars. One of the rumored post-Secret Wars developments was an exodus of sorts for Marvel Comics' mutants from Planet Earth. The theory is that the Terrigan Mists -- which mutate the various Inhuman characters into their Inhuman bodies -- is toxic to mutants. Since Earth is now awash with Terrigan Mists, the mutants have to go!

One of the titles that Marvel Comics announced is EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN, which is supposed to be the new flagship "X-Men" title. The team consists of Storm, Old Man Logan, Iceman, Colossus, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and Magik.

We are being promised a conflict between the mutants and the Inhumans, which seems to bear out the toxic Terrigan Mist theory.

You can read the official story here and the gossip here /here.

THE BLACK HOOD #4-5: Black Hood Hunts the Connection!

THE BLACK HOOD's first story arc ended last week. This comic, the first title in Archie Comics' new Dark Circle imprint, features Officer Gregory Hettinger. This Pittsburgh cop made a name for himself by shooting the previous Black Hood and then getting shot in the face, effectively ruining his appearance and starting the downward cycle into the world of pain medication dependence and addiction.

In the first two issues of this series, we witnessed him falling into the darkest reaches of his life. He begins stealing prescription drugs from criminals. Not only that, but Hettinger began wearing the Black Hood's torn up masks around the house whenever he got high off of his stolen pain meds.

Eventually, Hettinger came across the mugging and impulsively beat the crap out of the muggers while wearing the mask. The Black Hood was reborn at this moment. Hettinger then kicks off a city-wide assault on the local drug community -- both as a dirty cop who didn't mind swiping the drugs and as the Black Hood who just liked kicking the shit out of criminals.

Of course, his actions have attracted the attention of the local kingpin, an unknown man of power known only as the Connection. The Connection grew tired of Hettinger's shenanigans and managed to very publicly frame the dirty cop by planting tons of stolen drugs in his apartment.

What follows next Hettinger's effort to clear his name and exposed the real connection. Issue #3 ended with Hettinger/Black Hood confronting two of the Connection's top men over the grave of the previous Black Hood.

Hettinger actually does pretty well against Graham and Savitz -- but he would have done much better (issue THE BLACK HOOD #4) if he'd confronted them one-on-one. It helps that Hettinger is usually hopped up on drugs when he goes out as the Black Hood. But he'd been trying to ween himself off them since his arrest. Plus, there's only so much that drugs can do to prop you up.

Hettinger ends up getting exposed during the fight. You have to admit that he's probably the most recognizable cop working for the Pittsburgh Police Department at this point. Hettinger quickly realizs that he has to take out these two guys permanently or else his entire life will be exposed and he ended up being executed by the media or by the Connection -- or both.

Unfortunately, the police arrive and break up the fight. Graham and Savitz are arrested, but Hettinger manages to escape. He manages to pull some strings to get the pair placed in lockdown for six hours. He hopes that this will give him the time needed to identity and expose the Connection. That way, even if he goes down, Pittsburgh's major crime boss will go down with him!

Hettinger can barely stand up by this point. He turns to his only friend for help -- speech therapist Jessie Dupree. She isn't happy to learn about his double-life as the Black Hood, but agrees to help him out. Basically, she drives him around town to track down a few final leads on higher-up stooges for the Connection.

The driver manages to get away, but Hettinger finally stops running and starts piecing together various clues from the past couple issues and figures out the Connection's identity without beating anyone senseless.

Hettinger tracks the Connection down to his base of operations. Just in time, because the Connection had used his... connections to speak to Graham and Savitz and learn the Black Hood's secret identity. This leads to a final confrontation that was actually pretty cool -- both in how Hettinger took care of the Connection, but also how he successfully cleared himself of wrong-doing over the drug-charges, as well as cleared himself of suspicion of being the Black Hood!

The final pages of THE BLACK HOOD #5 wrapped up some loose ends and finally got him addressing his addiction. He has a promising future ahead of him, both serving as a cop in good standing again. But also possible romance with the only other person who knows his biggest secret, Jessie Dupree.

That said, I can't help thinking that the Black Hood will return with new drug-involved adventures in the future -- most likely in October 2015 when the series returns!

I have really enjoyed THE BLACK HOOD. It is much darker and more violent than most of the comic book that I am used to reading. But it's also different. Hettinger's trauma at the beginning of this storyline, his descent into pain med addiction, and his reasons for becoming the Black Hood... It makes a lot of sense to me. Not to mention, his need to continue as the Black Hood in order to clear his name.

I'm really look forward to where this series is heading. Will be stay clean? Will Dupree continue to stand by him once it's clear that the Black Hood has return? I can't wait to find out these answers!

"The Bullet's Kiss" Parts Four and Five are both written by Duane Swierczynski, penciled/inked by Michael Gaydos, lettered by Rachel Deering, and colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Survivors" 40th Anniversary: Episode 13 ("A Beginning")

This is the thirteenth in a series of blog posts dedicated to the 40th anniversary of BBC's "Survivors" television series. Survivors followed a core group of characters who managed to survived a devastating viral outbreak -- one which managed to kill off somewhere between 95-99% of humanity. Society has crumbled and now those who remain must relearn the old way if they have any hope of surviving much longer.

Our last episode featured an armed stand-off between our group of survivors (particularly Greg Preston and Jenny Richards) versus a trio of traveling bandits over a tanker full of petrol. The petrol was needed to trade for food and seed in a neighboring community. Fortunately, Greg came out on the winning end of that stick -- even though the three deaths gutted him.

Unfortunately, we learned at the beginning of this episode ("A Beginning"), that the seed was spoiled and essentially useless. Everyone is fighting. They blame Greg for trading their petrol for bad grain. Arthur is complaining about the sheep. Paul is complaining about others not clearing out the pig slop. Emma is complaining that she always has to light the fire in the stove and that the children don't do enough work. Vic is complaining that John left the front gate open, which led to a fox killing off most of the chickens. And Greg is complaining that he's doing all of the work.

And everyone is complaining to Abby, because she's the go-to leader of the bunch.

And she's having none of it. It's clear that Abby is burnt out. Jenny suggests that she take some time off. Go search for Peter again or track down her old boyfriend, Jimmy Garland. Abby just doesn't see how the others can do without her.

The group is then confronted with a group of travelers. The group's leader tells Greg that they'd had a small farm about 50 miles from there, but they had been chased off by an armed militia. They are now looking for a new home. The travelers don't want to settle at the Grange, but they do have one concern: a very sick woman.

Our survivors have a powwow (minus Abby, who's hiding away in her room) and decide that they cannot risk allowing the sick woman in their settlement. They are afraid of infecting their group -- particularly the children. The travelers are sent away with the sick woman.

Our survivors then discuss the threat of outside "foxes" (i.e., armed bandits and militia), who would sneak into their proverbial hen-house and destroy everything that they have built up so far. They aren't too hopeful of their ability to defend themselves from a prolonged attack:

Everybody immediately agrees, which prompts Arthur to suggest that they send out a representative to each of the neighboring settlements with a letter of invitation. The groups would gather at the Grange in a couple days to iron out a mutual agreement of joint defense. They are hopeful that this "federation" could also turn to each other to meet everyone's shared trade and food needs eventually.

They pull out a map and Arthur agrees to bike out to all of the settlements and back first thing tomorrow.

That's when we discover that the travelers left something behind when they left. Meet Ruth (played by Annie Irving):

Abby, Emma, Charmian, and Jenny all pull rank on Greg and bring the sick woman into the building. They aren't sure exactly what she has, but she feverish and pretty much out of it. She won't survive if left on her own -- which is exactly what Greg wants to do with her. The women agree to take shifts caring for the sick woman.

Except that Abby doesn't show up for her next shift. She had enough after her last fight with Greg and decided to run off to find Jimmy Garland!

Abby learns that Knox got himself killed a few months ago. Knox's people didn't know how to function, so they turned to Garland to lead them. Thus, "Garland's War" was effectively ended! He now retreats occasionally to a little cottage whenever he needs to get away from the others. He takes Abby to this cottage and immediately seduces her.

Abby confesses that it has finally sunk in that everything from before -- society, her husband, her old life -- it's all gone. She also realized that she has given up on her son, which has been almost too much for her to bear.

Garland asks Abby to stay with him. He tells her that his group and her group will live on without them. He offers to help her start a renewed search for Peter. He tells her that she needs to live -- not just survive. This turns out to be a very tempting offer for Abby.

Meanwhile, Greg learns from Jenny that Ruth (the sick woman) is awake and doing much better. They learn that she had been training to become a doctor when the Sickness happened. She has been traveling the countryside and trying to help out ever since -- at least until she got sick:

It turns out that Ruth has gathered her own troupe of survivors. There's the other nurse, a woman named Peggy. There are a couple men, including a deaf headmaster. And three boys. Including one named Peter Clark... Or is it Peter Grant?

A whole season of looking for Peter and happen to stumble upon the one woman who's been caring for him -- just when Abby takes off! Not only that, but she'd have been dead if Greg had had his way!

However, subplots can wait. The first of the neighboring representatives has shown up for their little summit. S/he is quickly followed by the arrival of Jimmy Garland and Abby Grant. She tells him that she cannot run away with him. He tells her that she can always visit -- and I'm pretty sure that the two plan to introduce conjugal privileges in their new federation agreement!

Sealed with a kiss, Garland runs off to the summit and Abby is greeted by her post-Death family -- bearing gifts of Peter's survival!

And that's how season one of "Survivors" finishes -- with a promise of community, neighborly connections, and a reunion with Abby's long-missing son.

Looking back, it's interesting to watch how things shift midway through the season. The first several episodes focused on the Death itself, as well as the tentative steps that our group took to connect with each other and figure out a plan for survival. It also gave us a glimpse into what other settlements initially looked like -- from Wormley's ham-fisted governance to Garland's dream of a renewed feudal state and finally to Charles Vaughan's free love utopia.

Personally, I think I'd prefer to settle for a little bit of Wormley's organizational skills mixed with Vaughan's free loving ideas. But that's just me!

Then, starting in episodes 7 and 8, the show shifted to the growing pains of a new settlement. New people came. Some people left. How does our group -- made up mostly of urban dwellers -- adjust to a collective farming lifestyle? How do they handle setbacks? How do they handle things like theft and hoarding and murder?

"Survivors" definitely changed over time. And I definitely don't agree with many of the choices that these survivors made over the course of this series. But I love the Grange and I like the promise of communal life that they have slowly built up by the end of this season.

My plan is to write up one more blog post -- not specifically about the show, but exploring how I might try to shape the world should I find myself amongst the survivors of this type of horrible plague. After that, I plan to take a break. My plan is to review Season Two sometime in late July or early August.

I really appreciate the feedback that I have received to this blog series. I don't receive many comments on this blog, but I've received a lot of favorable comments from various "Survivors" fans -- both directly and on Facebook. It is great to know that others enjoy this 40-year-old cult classic television program just as much -- if not more -- than me.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Three LGBT Contestants on this Season's "Big Brother 17"

"Big Brother 17" started last week and we learned, among other things, that this is the most LGBT representative cast in American Big Brother history.

Here is what I'm talking about:

First, we have Audrey. Audrey is a 25-year-old digital media consultant from Georgia. She is athletic and appears -- from watching the feeds -- to be a bit of a trickster. Audrey is also the first transgender contestant to compete in Big Brother history. She came out to the other houseguests fairly early -- which was probably a wise move. Unfortunately, she had to come out twice as a second group of houseguests were introduced to the Big Brother House on the second night. So far, this revelation hasn't caused her any trouble. But we shall see how long this tolerance lasts.

Then there is Vanessa. Vanessa is a 32-year-old professional poker player from Las Vegas. In other words, she's all about the bluff! She is also fairly athletic and competitive. And, according to the show, was once engaged to a guy, but is now with another woman. I'm not sure if she's out yet to the house about being bi.

And lastly, we have Jason. Jason is a 25-year-old cashier who lives in his mother's basement. He's quick-witted and has a strong personality. This gay guy has already won one of the first two "Battle of the Block" competitions. As such, he gets to nominate two people for eviction. Normally, I think that it's crazy to get the Head of Household job during the first week, but Jason is pretty scrawny. He won his competition with pretty much no effort. This initial win might actually serve him well in the short-term.

Sabrina's Aunt Hilda Learns about Being Mortal in BETTY & VERONICA COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #234!

Archie Comics has a lot of great artists. One of my Top Two contemporary favorites (ties with Fernando Ruiz) is Gisele. She has great style that's both classic and unique. I just love her work. Anyway, I'm Facebook friends with her and have chatted with her a couple different times. A few months ago, she gave me a heads-up that she had been commissioned to do a couple different short stories for some of Archie Comics' digest comic books. Not featuring Archie or Jughead or Betty or Veronica, but Sabrina and Josie & the Pussycats!

I have been watching out for these stories and knew that they would be published soon. Her "Sabrina" short story just got published this week in BETTY AND VERONICA COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #234 -- and I almost missed it! Usually, Archie Comics puts their new stories in front of the digests. This time around, they lead with a George Gladir story. It's been particularly chaotic here at home recently, so I assumed that there were no new short stories in this digest and moved on!

I should have looked further in the book! About midway through, there were an assortment of stories featuring Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Most of them are classic reprints, but the first Sabrina story is brand-new. And it is funny!

This is classic Sabrina the Teenage Witch in this story. This isn't the darker version who's been showing up in CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA or AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE. It's also not the goth version who showed up briefly in ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR. This is the more traditional version of the character, complete with trouble-making Aunt Hilda and spell-induced gags!

Here's the nutshell: Aunt Hilda doesn't understand why Sabrina insists on hanging out with her mortal friends so she casts a spell on herself to look like an attractive teen girl. What follows is a series of run-ins with Sabrina's friends.

Harvey jokes about Aunt Hilda to "Cousin Hildy," and she casts a wicked spell on his chili! Amy attempts to play a prank on Sabrina, so Cousin Hildy uses her magic to teach her a lesson about being two-faced! And don't forget about Riverdale's resident blow-hard, Reggie Mantle!

This is a great story. Not only does it feature crisp, sexy art. But it features quick-paced story-telling with funny gags -- everything that I love in my funny books!

"Transformation Traumas" was written by Tom DeFalco, penciled by Gisele, inked by Rich Koslowski, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Digikore Studios.

Friday, June 26, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Rules for Gay Marriage! Gay Marriage Now Legal Nationwide!

Did you hear? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of marriage equality earlier today!:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate,  marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
This decision has less impact on me than others. I was married and have lived in Iowa for the past 6+ years. SCOTUS already ruled that the federal government needed to respect and honor our marriage.

But this is huge for those same-sex couples who live in other portions of the United States who have been denied the rights, responsibilities, and liberties of marriage. Additionally, it should provide portability of our marriages when we travel throughout our country.

This is a great day!