Sunday, July 31, 2016

Riverdale Podcast's Second Bookclub Episode: Featuring JUGHEAD Volume 1! // PLUS: Riverdale Podcast to End in September 2016!!

I had the pleasure of appearing on another Bookclub episode of the Riverdale Podcast. Riverdale Podcast is the best (and the only!!) podcast dedicated to Archie Comics! I joined the podcast's host Jonathan Merrifield and another friend-of-show Barbara Ann and we spent about an hour dissecting and laughing about JUGHEAD Vol. 1. This conversation takes place in Riverdale Podcast #230. You owe it to yourself to check out this podcast!!

But there's another big reason why you should check out Riverdale Podcast #230. Jonathan made a huge announcement towards the beginning of this program: The Riverdale Podcast will be ending in early September!!

There are various reasons for this decision, some of which have been articulated online and some others that have been shared privately. But a lot of this has to do with the fact that he's been doing this weekly podcast for 4.5 years and he's ready to do other things. He shared this with some of his Patreon supporters yesterday:
I'll be producing five more episodes after today, with the first episode in September being my last. It's been a blast and I'm hoping to go out on a high note instead of stumbling or fading out of existence with irregular episodes. I'll talk more about it, and answer questions, in the remaining episodes.
I will be sad to see Riverdale Podcast's end, but I completely understand Jonathan's decision.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Iowa City: Hillary Clinton and Cookie Monster Win the 2016 Johnson County Fair Mock Election!

I'm positive that you have been sitting impatiently to hear the results of the mock election at this summer's Johnson County Fair here in Iowa City. A record number of mock voters (1686 total) were asked to vote in two separate mock elections.

Adult voters were asked to vote for their preferred presidential candidate. Hillary Clinton won with an impressive 854 votes, followed by Donald Trump with 411 votes, Gary Johnson with 135 votes, and Jill Stein with 92 votes. I'm not terribly surprised that Clinton won here in Johnson County, but I am surprised that Trump didn't get as many votes. I'm also surprised that Stein didn't do better here in Iowa City!

Child voters were asked to vote for their favorite muppets. Cookie Monster won with 326 votes, followed by Miss Piggy with 247 votes, Kermit the Frog with 235 votes, Grover with 62 votes, and Gonzo with 33 votes. I guess there were more muppets to vote for, but the newspaper didn't list those candidates.

Trump Greeted by Protesters in Cedar Rapids, IA

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump visited nearby Cedar Rapids this evening, which means that tons of people showed up to protest. I was actually invited to join the protest by my son's birth father, but didn't go. But it was interesting to see on Facebook Live.

First off, I saw a lot of people lined up across the street from where Trump's rally was being held. From what I could tell, the crowd was loud but peaceful -- except for a few torn up protest signs.

Later on, I saw some video of Trump speaking in front of the Iowa flag. I'm not 100% certain if he was speaking in Cedar Rapids, or if this was from an earlier rally in Davenport. But Trump was very upset with the anti-Trump rhetoric at this week's DNC.

As opposed to the chaos at last week's RNC, where we were treated to plagerized speeches, chant's for Secretary Clinton's imprisonment and execution by at least two RNC speakers, conflict from Cruz, and an attempt to free delegates from actually having to nominated Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination.

Anyway, Trump was so upset with the DNC at this rally that he had to hold himself back from hitting others.

But some of his supporters showed up at the protest and received ample opportunity to speak out against the protest. For example...

This man wants you to know that he's not a homosexual because he's wearing a multi-colored shirt. He made a big point about this in his interview. He was upset because some of the protest signs say "Love Is Love," but he's not feeling the love. He did note that Trump was pretty upbeat and happy at tonight's Cedar Rapids rally.

Meanwhile, this guy reports that he was entertained at Trump's rally. When asked if he had a message for those who disagree with Trump, he chuckled and replied, "Probably shouldn't be alive!"

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Josie & the Pussycats Featured on This Week's "Cupcake Wars"

I finally watched this week's "Cupcake Wars" on Food Network. This episode was celebrating Archie Comics' 75th anniversary by featuring a Josie and the Pussycats theme!

I have to confess. I don't watch "Cupcake Wars" often. It appears that the current season features celebrities who are trying to raise money for the charity of their choice.

This week's episode featured...

Charlie and Max Carver, both from "Teen Wolf." They were supporting Team Rubicon, an organization that trains veterans to assist with disaster relief. Then there was Adrienne Bailon from the bands 3LW and the Cheetah Girl and from the talk show called "The Real" and her friend Julissa Bermudez, most recently from "Empire Girls." They were supporting World Vision and the group's ongoing assistance for earthquake relief in Ecuador. And then there was Katherine McNamara and Emeraude Toubia of "Shadowhunters." They were supporting Foster Care to Success, a scholarship program for foster children. And lastly, there was comedian Ron Funches, most recently from the film "Get Hard" and his assistant Randy Emmons. They were supported the Doug Fluties Jr. Foundation for Autism, a vocational program for teens and adults with autism.

The program's judges consisted of Elizabeth Chambers, owner of Bird Bakery; Florian Bellanger, owner of Mad Mac Macarons; and Archie Comics creative consultant, Jesse Goldwater.

Then we went through a series of elimination competitions, first a taste challenge featuring special ingredient options that "pop" in your mouth (such as popcorn, poppy seeds, soda pop, or pop rocks). That competition got McNamara and Toubia kicked off the show. Then there was a presentation challenge, where the celebrity bakers were asked to design cupcakes that captured the Pussycats' style. That ended the game for the Carver brothers.

The final competition was between Bailon and Funches. They were tasks with baking 1000 cupcakes. They were to be placed on displays of their creation that celebrated the Pussycats' rock & roll lifestyle. Bailon created a leopard-print stage mock-up and prominently displayed cut-outs of Josie and the Pussycats. Funches prominently displayed his cupcakes on a stage with a drum set and working microphone.

I won't ruin the winning entry, but I fully agreed with the judges' decision!

I'm sure that this episode of "Cupcake Wars" will re-air sometime in the near future. You should definitely check it out on Food Network!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Who is Freddy?

I've written several times about Charlton Neo, which is a resurrection of the classic Charlton Comics lines; as well as Pix-C Web Comics, which features public domain characters from Charlton Comics as well as a few other original characters. Pix-C Web Comics features strips from a variety of genres, including superhero, horror, action, and humor romance. Pix-C Web Comics recently launched two new strips. We're going to talk in this blog post about one of those strips: FREDDY!!

Freddy made his debut back in 1958 in a comic book titled FREDDY #12. Basically, he was one of Charlton Comics' attempts at capitalizing on the teen humor craze. I'm not 100% certain, but I'm fairly sure that FREDDY's sales were nothing compared to ARCHIE. But FREDDY was published sporadically through 1965.

And I'm pretty sure that Freddy hasn't been seen until he made his Pix-C debut this past weekend! This new version of FREDDY features writing by Paul Beale, pencils by Jenny Godin, inks by Donnie Willman, colors by Michel Plourde, and lettering by Paul Polley. Here is a brief snippet from the first two strips:

And so, who is Freddy? (I hear you cry.) Freddy is the teen next door. He has an on-again/off-again girlfriend. He enjoys going on adventures with his best friend. He suffers through all sorts of indignities. And he's just like you!

He even has his own version of Betty, Jughead, Reggie, Mr. Weatherbee, and Mr. Wilson:

I decided that I wanted to check out FREDDY #12 on Comic Book Plus. Comic Book Plus is an online collection of public domain comic books. I wanted to check out Freddy's first comic adventure. I discovered "Teacher's Pet Problem," where Miss Bunsen instructed all of the students to bring their pets to school so they could "fully discuss them."

I'm still not sure what class  Miss Bunsen teaches, but she really didn't think through this assignment. I'm sure she thought that everyone would bring their dogs and cats, which would be problematic enough. But these are weird kids! One of them has a pet bear and another one has a box full of bats!

Fortunately, the bear didn't eat anyone and all of the students got to go home early from school.

This is pretty standard humor when it comes to FREDDY. And I expect more of the same from Pix-C Web Comics' new FREDDY comic strip -- though with a 21st century twist! You too can keep up with FREDDY and the rest of these new weekly strips, but you first need to have access to Pix-C Web Comics' premium site if you want to see what's happening! You too can read FREDDY -- not to mention Yang, No NameTuffy Turtle, N.E.O., Kid MontanaThe KnightingalesDeathwatchThe SpookmanSadistikMs. Molecule, and several other great characters, by becoming a patron of Pix-C Web Comics. Those who become patrons (for as little as $1 per month) gain access to several weekly online comic strips. The more you pledge, the more perks you qualify for. I've been contributing $30 per month towards this venture. I encourage to you to become a patron too!

Incidentally,  you can now read older Pix-C Web Comics on this Free website. Becoming a Pix-C Web Comics patron will give you advanced access to new Pix-C stories that are not readily available to those who access the Free website (such as FREDDY), so definitely make your pledge today!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

KICI Radio 105.3 FM Hosted Successful Benefit & Donor Appreciation Concert!

I have written before about KICI Radio 105.3 FM. It's a new low-power FM radio station that will be debuting in Iowa City later this year. It's a community radio station that is a project of Uptown Bill's Coffee House and the Extend the Dream Foundation. It is dependent on the donations and sponsorships of others. I'm actively involved with getting KICI Radio on the air -- and I can't wait to begin actively producing content for the local radio audience.

Anyway, the folks at KICI Radio have been busy planning a Benefit & Donor Appreciation Concert. Steve Cook Sound Production teamed up with Jamie and Matt Kearney to organize an evening of live art and music, featuring Wandering PintJames TutsonCedar County Cobras, and Dave Zollo. We wanted to get the news out about KICI Radio and we wanted to publicly thank those individuals and businesses who have already stepped up with their tax-exempt donations and volunteer hours!

I reached out to a few local businesses for sponsorships, but otherwise didn't do much except show up for yesterday's concert and chat with people about community radio from our informational booth.

I was so impressed with the turnout for yesterday's concert. The weather was quite oppressive yesterday. It was hot and humid and muggy and we were treated to a heat index of close to 100 degrees! But we had a steady stream of people at the concert. And those people were so generous! We ended up receiving close to $900 in donations -- most of which came in the form of individual donations in the amount of anywhere from $1 to $20! That money will be extremely helpful towards our goal of purchasing an transmitter/antenna, as well as music licensing fees!

Several months ago, it occurred to me that we could fully fund KICI Radio for an entire year if everyone who liked the page contributed $20 to the station. My experience at yesterday's Benefit & Donor Appreciation Concert completely reinforced that belief!

Please follow this link to KICI Radio's Go Fund Me page and send a few bucks to our radio station. This is a project that I fully believe in. I have contributed my own time, energy, and money. And I really can't wait to get this station going here in Iowa City -- and online via web-streaming.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Clinton/Kaine 2016

So this happened today...

He's not my first choice. But I'll vote for them.

Details/Cast Images Released for "Young Hyacinth," Prequel for BBC's "Keeping Up With Appearances"

"Young Hyacinth": Rose, Daisy, Daddy, Hyacinth, and Violet
One of my favorite Britcoms is "Keeping Up With Appearances." It's the story of social climbing snob Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "Bouquet") and her hapless husband Richard. The show aired in the early 90s, but has re-aired on various public television stations here in the states continuously over the past two decades.

We learned last year that the BBC was rebooting several of their classic Britcoms and that one of those reboots is "Keeping Up With Appearances." We finally learned some details about this reboot, which is titled "Young Hyacinth":
In the new show, set in the late 1950s, young Hyacinth shares a cramped cottage with her down-at-heel family and is forced to work as a maid for her father’s wartime RAF squadron leader. And, in very un-Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) fashion, she even has to share a bed with her sisters Violet, Daisy and Rose. While Hyacinth has yet to meet Richard, her long-suffering husband played by Clive Swift in the original series, she is going steady with a young man called William.
"Young Hyacinth" will start as a one-time special on the BBC. It will air sometime in September 2016.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

North Miami: Police Shoot Group Home Therapist // Man Lying on Ground with Arms Clearly in the Air // He was with Autistic Client & Not Armed

The story of yet another police shooting involving an unarmed black man is going viral today. This shooting happened in North Miami, FL. The shooting victim is a behavioral therapist who works for a group home. One of the clients -- a largely non-verbal autistic man -- had left the facility and 48-year-old Charles Kinsey was trying to get his client to return to the group home.

According to the police, somebody called 911 and said that someone had a gun and was suicidal. They rolled up on the scene and began aiming weapons at the pair.

The autistic man was sitting on the road. He was perseverating. He was rocking back and forth and playing with a toy truck. His worker laid on the ground with both of his arms clearly in the air and explained the situation. He explained that the client did not have a gun, but instead a toy truck. He explained that he is a behavioral therapist at a group home.

In response, a police officer fired three shots at the men and ended up striking the therapist in the leg. The two men where then handcuffed and Kinsey was left to bleed out. He was eventually transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital for inpatient treatment.

It's unclear to me if the police charged either Kinsey or his client with any crimes.

North Miami Police have clammed up with details. They have not identified the officer and they have not issued any details outside of saying that the officer is currently placed on paid administrative duties. There was a press conference this morning, but little new was added to their response. Basically, they brought in another county to investigate the shooting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Married Gay Dads to Appear Tomorrow on Nickelodeon's "The Loud House'' // America's Culture Warriors Are Already Freaking Out!!

I really need to watch more television. There is a cartoon on Nickelodeon called "The Loud House," which features to adventures of Lincoln Loud and his ten sisters. I've never seen it, but I should! Especially tomorrow night (July 20th) when the episode "Overnight Success" is broadcast.

"Overnight Success" will feature a "bi-racial gay couple" on the program, apparently the first such couple to ever appear on a Nickelodeon program. The couple are named Harold and Howard McBride and they are the parents of Lincoln's friend, Clyde McBride.

You can watch a clip of their first appearance here:

In the episode, Lincoln will host his first sleepover with his buddy Clyde -- and the McBride fathers are completely over-the-top with their over protectiveness!!

Of course, the One Million Moms group is already freaking out. They are upset that this cartoon will feature a married same-sex couple and they want you to communicate your outrage to Viacom. Here's why:
Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage on a network that is designed for kids. Just because something may be legal or because some are choosing a lifestyle doesn't make it morally correct. Nickelodeon should stick to entertaining instead of pushing an agenda. 

Nickelodeon has decided to be politically correct instead of providing family-friendly programming. Families tuning in to watch a children's network may encounter a premature discussion on sexual orientation that is completely uncalled for. Conservative families need to urge Nickelodeon to avoid controversial topics that children are far too young to comprehend. This is the last place a parent would expect their children to be confronted with topics that are too difficult for them to understand. Mature issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, and it is extremely unnecessary.
My experience after sixteen years of being a gay dad is that most kids really don't freak out over gay parents. It's their parents who are uncomfortable about it and who project that uncertainty onto their kids. Kids get gay families. They understand gay dads and gay moms, just like they understand hetero parents.

Anyway, I would not have learned of "The Loud House" or the McBride dads if not for the outrage. So thank you, One Million Moms! I can't wait to buy the episode on iTunes and post a review!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Playboy Model Publicly Fat-Shames Showering Woman on Snapchat

Remember when everyone was freaking out over the potential for trans women to attack or video record people in women's restrooms? Turns out that women need to now worry about every woman -- cis or trans -- when they access a bathroom or locker room.

Last week, Playboy model Dani Mathers got in trouble for taking a picture of another woman in the shower at an LA Fitness gym. The other woman is slightly overweight. Mathers then posted the pic on Snapchat with the following caption: "If I can't unsee this then you can't either."

I haven't seen anyone stand up and defend Mathers. LA Fitness has revoked her membership at all of its gyms. "Our written rules are very clear: Cellphone usage and photography are prohibited in the locker rooms. This is not only our rule, but common decency."

Even the LAPD has gotten into the act. LA Fitness reported Mathers to the police and they are investigating her for "illegal distribution" of the other woman's image.

Mathers issued an apology on Snapchat and deleted her Twitter and Instagram accounts. "That was absolutely wrong and not what I meant to do. I know that body-shaming is wrong. That is not the type of people I am." Except when she is, apparently. It seems that she only meant to send the other woman's pic out privately, and not publicly.

Meanwhile, I haven't heard or read anyone railing against Mathers for her actions as I did immediately following this situation, as an example. But Mathers (presumably) isn't a trans woman. So her misdeeds are individual while this case represents the potential misdeeds of all trans people.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Scooby & the Gang Survive the End of the World in SCOOBY APOCALYPSE #1 & 2!

I was at my local comic book shop earlier today looking for a trade paperback that hasn't yet been released. Which was a bummer. I decided to poke around a bit and see if there's anything there that I haven't picked up that might interest me. So I picked up SCOOBY APOCALYPSE #1 and #2 today. SCOOBY APOCALYPSE is part of DC's effort to re-imagine the various Hanna-Barbera properties.

In this case, Scooby and the Gang are some of the very few not affected by nanites that transformed everyone into vicious monsters. Except that the Gang aren't a buds yet. They just met and they are pretty divided.

Velma is a member of the scientific cabal that created and released these nanites in the first place -- with the original goal of purging humanity of their baser instincts -- greed, anger, violence. She recently had a change of heart and sought to expose their plans. Too late, but at least she tried!

Shaggy is a dog trainer. He was hired to care for scientifically enhanced dog and test their sophisticated canine headgear. He had no clue of his employers' secret plans.

Scooby was the first of the "smartdog" program. He is considered a failure due to his lack of killer nature. He wears an "emotigoggle," which taps into Shaggy's contacts and assists with communication or something. Whatever. He and Shaggy enjoy each other's company and routinely break rules at the military facility.

Daphne is a fallen reporter, sick of corporate lies and forever chasing the latest conspiracy theory for her low-rent cable program, "Dahne Blake's Mysterious Mysteries." Velma reached out to Daphne to break the nanite story figuring that her bosses would be less suspicious than they would be if she'd contacted CNN. 

Fred is Daphne's ever-present cameraman. He worries that Daphne is killing her career prospects, but refuses to abandon her.

Velma sneaks the other four into a secret "Safe Room" and breaks that news about the nanites. The timing turns out to be perfect because the nanites are suddenly released within the unsuspecting population. Except instead of creating billions of docile zombie people, the nanites transformed pretty much everyone into cannibalistic monsters.

It's not clear why everyone turned into monsters, nor is it clear why some people were excluded from the transformation. It doesn't really matter since most of those unaffected are already dead and eaten by the end of Issue #2! Now Scooby, Shaggy, and the others find themselves banding together with a common goal: escape from the military facility and find out how to reverse the apocalypse.

I'm still not sure if I like this book or not. I like all of the new character designs except for Shaggy's look. And Scooby looks goofy this those little emogis popping around his head. But there's enough happening to keep me curious. So I'll likely pick up Issue #3 when it gets published next week.

"Waiting for the End of the World" and "Apocalypse Right Now" were both written by Keith Giffen, scripted by J.M. DeMatteis, penciled & inked by Howard Porter, colored by Hi-Fi, and lettered by Nick J. Nap.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

One Iowa Will Combine Pokemon Go with Trans Awareness on 07/20/16!

I'm not into Pokemon Go, but I know a lot of people who are. And I see a lot of people walking around Iowa City playing the game day and night. Now I'm learning that one group here in Iowa is combining this popular game with trans awareness:
One Iowa, an LGBT equality organization, is hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the app keeping people outside to inform players about the group's petition to have transgender protections under the state's legislation on hate crimes...

"Right now, people are protected by law based on their sexual orientation but not on their gender identity, so transgender people are currently vulnerable," Erica Barz, communication specialist with One Iowa said. "So we're trying to let people know that one, that is the case, and to have them sign our petition in support of that protection." 
One Iowa's Pokemon gathering will happen next Wednesday, July 20th, from 6-7 PM at the Pappjohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, IA.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Idaho Falls: Trans Woman Charged with Felony Video Voyeurism after Incident at Target Fitting Room

A 46-year-old trans woman named Shauna Patricia Smith (AKA Sean Patrick Smith) is in the news today after being arrested for video recording an 18-year-old woman in a women's fitting room. In a Target, no less.

It happened in Idaho Fall, ID, this past Monday. A woman called the police and reported that a "man, dressed in women's clothing, had entered a fitting room in the women's clothing section of the store" and "was seen taking photos of a woman in a stall next to him while she was changing." Smith was wearing a dress and a blonde wig. The victim's mother reportedly chased Smith from the store, trying to get her to erase any pictures or video.

The police were able to trace Smith's car to her home and confirmed Smith's identity through her roommate:
When an investigator arrived at Smith’s home, documents state “the defendant’s roommate told (the investigator) her roommate is a transgender male who identifies as a female, Shauna Smith.” The detective showed the roommate surveillance still photos of the suspect from Target and the roommate identified the suspect’s clothing as that of Smith’s, according to documents. Deputies interviewed Smith and “the defendant eventually admitted to me that she had made videos in the past of women undressing. The defendant told (the detective) that she makes these videos for the ‘same reason men go online to look at pornography,'” documents state. According to the affidavit, Smith told the detective “she finds the video sexually gratifying” and when the deputy looked at the camera roll on Smith’s iPhone, he “observed a video of a young adult female undressing in a changing room at what appear to be Target. The defendant admitted to me that this video was recorded at Target.”
Smith was booked as Sean Patrick Smith. She was charged with one felony count of video voyeurism. You can watch video of her first court appearance here.

Of course, this would involve a trans woman in a women's changing room. And it would have to happen at Target, which has been the focus of anti-trans culture warriors for months.

However, we've been told that "men in dresses" would use trans-inclusive policies to gain access to women and girls and that there would be nothing that the police could do about their bad behavior. Except that, assuming that Smith is actually guilty, she still managed to get arrested for bad behavior.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Josie & the Pussycat-Themed "Cupcake Wars" Coming to Food Network on 07/25/16!!

Remember back in March when Food Network did a special episode of "Cake Wars" that celebrated Archie Comics' 75th anniversary? The episode featured the company's co-CEO Jon Goldwater as a special judge. Contestants were challenged to design giants cakes that best illustrated the spirit of Archie Comics.

It looks like Archie Comics and Food Network are at it again! This time, they meet up on an episode of "Cupcake Wars" on Monday, July 25th at 7:00 PM CST! And it's a Josie and the Pussycats theme this time around!!

Check out this description:
Celebrities Adrienne Bailon and Julissa Bermudez, Charlie and Max Carver, Ron Funches, and Katherine McNamara and Emeraude Toubia fight to create show-stopping cupcakes for party celebrating comic book rock icons Josie and the Pussycats. If these stars are looking for VIP treatment, they've come to the wrong place, because they'll be eliminated one by one until the last celeb standing walks away with bragging rights and a donation to their favorite charity. Jesse Goldwater, creative consultant for Archie Comics, joins the panel as guest judge.
I'll admit that I'm only vaguely familiar with two of these seven celebrities. But that's because I'm middle aged and out of touch! But I love cupcakes and I love Archie Comics so I cannot wait to watch this program!!

You can guarantee that I will write up a summary and review of the program after the show premiers!

Whitney Thore Gets Fat-Shamed During St. Patrick's Day Parade on "My Big Fat Fabulous Life"

If you've read this blog enough, you will know that I watch reality TV shows frequently on TLC. One of the shows that I enjoy watching -- but don't get to watch very often -- is "My Big Fat Fabulous Life" featuring Whitney Thore. Thore has polycystic ovary syndrome, which has promoted severe weight gain. Thore is a fat acceptance movement activists and promotes positive body image. But the first season of her program also focused on her weight loss journey.

The third season premiered last month and -- judging from the commercials -- it seems that her weight loss has reversed and the people in her life are concerned because she's having more and more health complications as a result of this, including passing out during exercise and a back injury.

A promotional clip has been circulating this week on Facebook and YouTube featuring Thore at the St. Patrick's Day parade. As noted above, she hurt her back and is now forced to ride a mobility scooter in front of her Big Girl Dance Class group. This is upsetting and publicly humiliating for Thore, but it's made worse by the ridicule and fat-shaming that she encounters from the various parade-watchers.

The episode will air tomorrow. You can watch the clip here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Ark Encounter Opens in Williamstown, KY, Despite Controversy

Presumably, you have heard about the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, KY. It opened last week to the public. It is the creation of Ken Ham -- an Australian evangelical who is horribly anti-gay --, as well as Mark Looey and Answers in Genesis. They believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. They also believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that mankind lived alongside dinosaurs (and unicorns).

They spent $100 million to build their replica of Noah's Ark. It stands seven stories high and is the length of 1 1/2 football fields. They don't keep animals in the replica Ark, but there is a small zoo out back. And there are fake replicas of all of the animals and dinosaurs and unicorns that had rested in the Ark during God's 40-day flood.

The Ark Encounter has hired over 400 people. Those people must sign off on a very narrow Statement of Faith. Not only does it prevent non-Christians and LGBT people from obtaining employment in this small community. This faith statement is so narrow that it also prevents many Christians from being employed there.

The Kentucky legislature gave the Ark Encounter up to $18 million in tax breaks and incentives. Additionally, the land that it was built on was given to them for free and the town of Williamstown gave the project $62 million in bonds. Williamstown had to upgrade its electricity and build a new water treatment plant to accommodate the new ministry -- and those upgrades will be paid for by the community's local businesses and citizens, not the Ark Encounter.

A Facebook/GCN friend posted this comment earlier today:
I don't understand why folks are so negative on the ark encounter build. It's an amusement park, just like Disney, Dollywood, 6-flags ECT. Nobody criticized them for spending their money on amusement parks. It's just a religious themes amusement park. You don't have to go and spend your money if you don't want to. And I do believe this business should be taxed like any other business.
People kept saying that this is a nonprofit church group. So I posted this in response:
Let's set aside the fact that they will only hire Christians who affirm a narrow set of beliefs. They received $18 million in tax rebates and incentives. They will NEVER have to pay taxes. That's money that won't go to the state for school, roads, fire departments, etc. The local community had to totally upgrade its water systems to accommodate this park. And the local businesses and people will have to bankroll those upgrades. And please don't try telling me that this park is a nonprofit venture. Should I go on?
I did concede:
Granted, they'll pay payroll taxes. Because their employees won't get the same lifetime pass on paying taxes that their employer will get.
I've had more than a few people ask me why an atheist or someone else who doesn't share their belief system would even want to work for the Ark Encounter in the first place. This is my response today (here and here):
Maybe there's a recovering recession and they have bills to pay and a family to support. Just maybe...
So a Methodist or Lutheran who doesn't believe everything on that list or who might be divorced can't even be a janitor at this place, which is now one of the biggest employers in their small community?
Someone then told me that the Ark Encounter is just a teaching tool exhibit, implying that it makes sense that those teaching would need to believe what they are teaching. I then replied:
They have over 400 jobs, including food service workers and janitors and animal handlers, etc. they all have to fit the narrow faith statement.
Anyway, I have no doubt that people will go to the Ark Encounter. I have seen many of my FB friends express excitement about going to see the unicorns. Never mind that their own lifestyles and beliefs would prevent them from earning money from the project -- but not from spending money at the project.

Personally, I'm as likely to check out the Ark Encounter as I was to go see the Creation Museum. In other words, you'll need to leave a comment and let me know what I'm missing! Have fun!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Iowa Civil Rights Commission to Churches: Relax! You Can Still Legally Discriminate Against Gay & Trans People!

Earlier this week, Fort Des Moines Church of Christ of Des Moines, IA, filed a federal lawsuit against the Iowa Civil Rights Commission over concerns that they might be forced to allow a trans person to use their restroom someday. This concern comes from a 2008 brochure on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity that read:

This led to concerns that pastors aren't able to preach against gay or trans people anymore. And Fort Des Moines Church of Christ apparently wants to preach against gay and trans people.

In response to the lawsuit and the concerns, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission updated the language to its brochure to clarify the law with regards to churches:

Director Kristin H. Johnson of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission clarified in an article today that they have never been asked to consider any complaints of discrimination against any church during the nine years that Iowa has barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity:
"The Iowa Civil Rights Commission has not done anything to suggest it would be enforcing these laws against ministers in the pulpit, and there has been no new publication or statement from the ICRC raising the issue," she said.
Of course, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian legal defense organization that is representing Fort Des Moines Church of Christ still isn't happy, despite these clarifications:
“Cosmetic changes to the alarming language in one brochure won’t fix the unconstitutionality of the Iowa Civil Rights Act,” read a statement from Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom. 
“The change in the brochure doesn’t fix the inherent problem with the Civil Rights Act that forms the basis of the lawsuit — that the act gives the commission power to determine what parts of a church’s activities do not have a ‘bona fide religious purpose’ and are thereby subject to the act’s prohibitions.”

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Toledo, OH: Bakery Refuses Birthday Cake for Lesbian

Remember when Christian cake bakers were doing everything in their power to turn away money and refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples? Now there's a story out of Toledo, OH, featuring Take the Cake Bakery that canceled one woman's cake order because it was for her wife's birthday cake:
It certainly wasn't the text message Candice Lowe was expecting to get on her honeymoon. She says it came from the owner of Take the Cake Bakery in Toledo, canceling the order for her wife's birthday cake. Lowe says, "after she saw my Facebook page, she found out that I was in a same-sex marriage and she could not do my cake." "She did all of their effort to get a cake and gets a text message and has to tell me her surprise, it kind of ruined our day," Amanda Lowe said of her wife... "It wasn't a wedding cake, it was just a birthday cake," Candice said. "A birthday cake has nothing to do with your sexual preference." The Lowes took their frustration to Facebook where they received overwhelming support.
It does seem kind of weird that this baker stalked Lowe's Facebook page to see if she was a lesbian or not. Presumably, she does this for all of her clients.

Toledo bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, Lowe hasn't decided if she will file a complaint a discrimination against Take the Cake Bakery. She's mainly disappointed in the bakery.

Fayette County, IA: Man Placed Under House Arrest So County Won't Have to Pay for His HIV Medications

Ismael Alfaro has been in jail since May. The 34-year-old man from Hampton, IA, was arrested this spring after being accused of meeting a "younger than 18" girl online and then arranging a sexual liaison with her at a hotel in a nearby community. He has faces two felony charges: criminal transmission of HIV and third-degree sexual abuse.

He remained in jail after his bond was set at $50,000 cash only. A probation and parole officer with the Iowa Department of Correctional Services recommended that the courts do everything possible to keep Alfaro in jail until his trial, which is scheduled to begin on 07/27/16. He has been called a "danger to the community."

But the Assistant Fayette County Attorney petitioned the courts last month to waive forget about Alfaro's cash bond and to place the man under house arrest. Because Fayette County doesn't want to pay for Alfaro's HIV meds:
According to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Ismael Alfaro, 34, is under house arrest in Franklin County and wearing an ankle bracelet monitored by Fayette County Jail staff around the clock. He also receives periodic in-home and phone checks...

But Assistant Fayette County Attorney Nathan Lein about a month later asked the court to place Alfaro under house arrest. 

According to Lein’s motion, Alfaro’s HIV medication costs $3,000 a month. Under home detention, Alfaro, not the county, will pay for his medication.
I don't know how much of a risk Alfaro truly is. I do know that he's innocent until proven guilty. But I think that it's sad that Fayette County made this decision to release him from jail in order to avoid paying for his HIV meds. And it makes me worry for his medical health if he ends up spending eventually spending time in prison.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Toronto Gay Pride: Anti-Gay Activists Dress Up as "Gay Zombies" and Pass Out Graphic Anti-Gay Pamphlets

Life Site News reported earlier this week about a group of "gay zombies" that dressed in skintight green outfits and passed out "free condoms" (i.e., anti-gay literature) in the Toronto Gay Pride parade:
Half-a-dozen Christians led by activist Bill Whatcott paid the $100 fee to parade organizers to register "Gay Zombies Cannabis Consumers Association" so that they could move more easily along the parade route to deliver their message.

The group said their goal in participating in the event was twofold: First, to be a prophetic and unambiguous witness against the unfettered celebration of homosexuality, and second, to offer people caught up in the same-sex lifestyle a way out through a call to repent and to turn to Jesus Christ to be saved...

Whatcott said that as a street preacher in other Pride parades he seldom handed out more than a few dozen pamphlets. But this time, dressed as gay zombies, he and his crew managed to hand out thousands of pamphlets.

“I asked them if they wanted ‘Zombie safe sex.’ Everyone loved it. But, if you try to give out a Gospel pamphlet, they swear at you and throw slushies on your forehead. But, give them some wackadoddle thing that looks like a condom, and they really can’t grab it fast enough. I had three thousand out in 20 minutes,” he said.”
The Life Site News website has a link to Whatcott's blog, which links to the pamphlet. The front of the pamphlet features graphic images, including a picture of someone with a severe case of anal warts, a gruesome autopsy image of someone who died of AIDS, and the picture of someone who transitioned from male to female to male again. The back of the pamphlet attacks various Canadian politicians for their support of LGBT people and then wraps up with a Jesus pitch.

On the one hand, it's nice that they weren't screaming a parade-goers with a bullhorn. On the other hand, the pamphlets are nasty.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Henrytown Lutheran Church Being Rebuilt

Remember the Henrytown Lutheran Church of rural Canton, MN? It caught on fire on April 16, 2015, and burned to the ground. There were efforts to raise funds to rebuild the church. I donated $50 and promoted their GoFundMe page.

I learned today that the Henrytown Lutheran Church is being rebuilt:
Fourteen months after a devastating fire totally destroyed the Henrytown Lutheran Church of rural Canton, a new structure of worship is taking shape... 

At a time when many small rural churches are closing their doors, due to lack of members, the resilient Henrytown congregation began making plans almost immediately to rebuild. And now all that planning is coming to fruition...

Shortly after the fire, a building committee was set up... Following copious hours spent on research, discussion and looking at recently constructed churches, the committee agreed on a plan. 
The overall footprint of the new church is 110-feet by 70-feet. The total square footage of the building is 6,260 feet. According to general contractor Scott Campbell of Smidt Companies of Racine, the building is a “pre-engineered steel building with a 2,100-square foot sanctuary, a 2,400-square foot fellowship hall, with a kitchen, restrooms, an office, mechanical and storage areas. The exterior will be steel siding with stone veneer accents and a metal roof.”
Construction began on the church on 05/04/16. They hope to hold worship services at the new Henrytown church by Christmas 2016.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Stingers and Raya Debut in JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #16!

It's been a while since I've written about IDW's JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS comic book. It's still a great comic book. It's just gotten away from me. The "Dark Jem" story line just wrapped up with Issue #16. Basically, Synergy got infected by some corrupted virus called Silica. Silica was able to brainwash and mind control people using the Holograms' music. Fortunately, the Holograms and the Misfits were able to set aside their differences and save the day!

Not only that, but Pizzazz is back in control of the Misfits!!

But that's not what got me excited about JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #16! I am so excited because the Stingers were finally introduced to the comic book!!

The Stingers were a new band introduced to the "Jem & the Holograms" cartoon during its third season. Their membership consists of Riot (a sexually charged man who can win over most women), Minx (a flirtatious keyboardist who has a talent for causing trouble), and Rapture (a fantasy-obsessed guitarist who enjoys manipulating others).

I enjoyed Jem and the Holograms. I loved to dislike the Misfits. But I absolutely adored the Stingers!! The Stingers have the Holograms' style and the Misfits' need for chaos -- but with much more finesse! They were the best thing to happen to the cartoon (IMHO), but they unfortunately only had one season to shine.

But it wasn't just the Stingers who made their comic book debuts in Issue #16. We also met Raya in this issue!! Raya was the fifth Hologram. She joined in the cartoon's second season. She was the winner of a talent search who joined the group as their new drummer after Shana decided to switch to guitars.

New Raya // Original Raya
We don't see much of either the Stingers or Maya in this issue. They appeared on the final page of this issue, watching the joint Hologram/Misfits concert. We also got profiles for the four characters towards the end of the issue. There was no actual reference to the Stingers band name. And it's pretty obvious to note that Raya does not look much like her cartoon version. And I can't help wondering about her connection to Rory, Rapture, and Minx.

I can't wait for Issue #17, where these four characters will give more away about their lives and motivations, as well as their relationship to each other!

Happy Independence Day!

I'm back! I spent the past few days at the family farm with the boys and the dogs to celebrate Independence Day. Of course, given that July 4th falls on a Monday and I need to be working first thing Tuesday evening, it was necessary for us to do our celebrating on the 2nd and the 3rd.

The boys and Grandma and I spent most of yesterday evening gathering materials needed to create a bonfire. Once the bonfire was created, we made up way too many s'mores.

The boys then played around with sparklers, smoke bombs, and black snakes once the daylight dimmed.

We then were pleasantly surprised to discover that we could see firework displays from three different faraway communities. Well... we could see the essence of fireworks displays from two different communities, but we had a great view of one particular community's fireworks last night!

Anyway, the country is 240-years-old. And we commemorated that birthday with some fun family time.

Happy July 4th!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bad Ruling Involving Mistakenly Neutered Cat on Today's "Justice for All with Judge Cristina Perez"

I went to the gym this morning and watched an episode of "Justice for All with Judge Cristina Perez." This is a staged court show ("All characters displayed are fictional and any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental"). It's one of my least favorite court shows. But I like watching court shows when I'm at the gym -- unless "My 600-lb Life" is on!

Today's program featured a bogus court case involving a woman who took her kitten to her local vet clinic to have the animal declawed. According to the program, the woman left the kitten at the clinic and the clinic receptionist coded the procedure incorrectly. When she came to get her cat, she discovered that she had been neutered. The vet reimbursed the woman for the surgery and then declawed the cat at a later date at no charge.

The woman was suing the veterinary clinic for $800 -- the value of the cat. Because she had planned on breeding the cat and now couldn't do that. It wasn't spelled out, but it was implied that they got rid of the neutered cat.

Let's set aside the fact that it appears that this is a fake program (For example, this guy named Tavion was bragging to his friends that he landed a role as "Defendant Hank Johnson with Judge Cristina Perez" just a few months ago. And this woman played the roll of the nanny in another episode.) But I'm still wondering about the legal logic behind awarding the defendant $800 for the value of her cat.

She was made whole. The clinic refunded her for the incorrect surgery. And they performed the correct surgery at no charge. They didn't even balk at these payments, judging from the testimony.

But why pay for the value of the cat? The cat is still alive. The cat is property. Cats are not awarded awards for pain or suffering. And it's difficult to imagine that the plaintiff truly suffered any real emotional harm. And if she truly wants to teach her daughter about raising kittens, this world is full of kittens with no homes. Why not adopt or rescue one before its euthanized by some shelter?

Anyway, this is an example of why I dislike this court program.