Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Behold! The Hipster Nativity!

I just got back from Church Council tonight. I approached our Worship Committee member and showed her something that I would absolutely love to see in our sanctuary: a Hipster Nativity!

It's a 10-piece nativity featuring a solar-powered manager, Joseph taking selfies of Baby Jesus and Mary with his iPod, Segway-riding wise men with presents, and an iPad-watching shepherd. The nativity costs $130 -- and it's apparently already sold out.

The Hipster Nativity was well received at my church and may have inspired some of next year's Christmas decorations at our church!

According to the creator, the Hipster Nativity has been a lightning rod for attention this year:
“We have quickly found out that this product is very polarizing,” Casey Wright, a co-founder of Modern Nativity, the single-product company behind the idea, told CNBC. “It’s usually, ‘This is hilarious, I need one,’ or ‘This is sacrilegious, I hope you burn in hell,’ and almost nothing in between those two extremes.

“Amazingly,” he added, “a lot of people seem very concerned about the proper definition of a millennial and a hipster, too. We get comments like, ‘Segways aren’t hipster. They’re technically early-stage millennial with a tinge of East Coast liberal.'”
In other words, you either love it or hate it.

(I kind of love it...)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Decatur, IN: Catholic Priest Refuses to Allow Gay Man to Sing at His Grandmother's Funeral

Yet another story has gone viral involving a gay man being discriminated against by church leadership during one of his most challenging moments.

A man named Connor Hakes from Decatur, IN, was preparing for his grandmother's funeral early last week, which was to be held at St. Mary's of the Assumption Catholic Church. The plan was for Hakes to sing a song at the funeral. But the priest denied that request because Hakes attended a gay pride rally at some point in the past:
I can no longer sing at my Grandma's funeral, because I attended a gay pride rally and a picture was posted publicly (years ago). The priest's reasoning is by attending such event, I am opposing the Catholic Church's fundamental marriage belief. Both my Grandma and Grandpa would be disgusted by their parish. Their compassion and empathy was abundant, no matter who you were. They saw beyond race, religion, sexuality, and social class. They loved everyone. That is what is means to be a Christian. That is what it means to be Catholic.
Hakes then posted a copy of the letter that he received from Father Bob J. Lengerich of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church. You can click on the image to make it larger and more readable, but the condensed version is that Father Bob was worried that allowing Hakes to sing at his grandmother's funeral was create a situation that "could scandalize our congregation and neighbors." Because Hakes is gay, he isn't allowed to sing at the funeral. And because of the way that the church structured the service and the burial, it would be impossible for them to insert Hakes into another portion of the funeral.

This went over like a lead balloon, of course. Father Bob denied the request to sing a song via letter, which then got posted online by Hakes. The letter went viral and is all over social media and in the general media. And any sense that Hakes had that Father Bob was actually concerned about him was completely missed:
“This Priest had judged me and really formed an opinion about me without ever communicating with me,” said Hakes... “This was coming from a man, a priest out of my home Parish that I have always felt very loved and welcomed in... All of a sudden I felt very ostracized.”
Keep in mind that Hakes wanted to sing a song as his grandmother's funeral. Nothing more.

As it is, Father Bob missed a great opportunity to represent the Christ to this grieving man. And he's probably done more in one letter to make sure that Hakes and others like him will never return to the Church, Catholic or otherwise.

Meanwhile, St. Mary's Parish is trying to do some damage control with this statement:
Having become aware of the painful situation at Saint Mary’s Parish in Decatur, the diocese is working on fostering healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. We encourage all to move forward with genuine Christian love and mercy and with respect and prayer for one another.
Good luck with that. Hakes and his family have filed a formal complaint with the Diocese.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Check Out the "Riverdale" Television Trailer!

Archie Comics and The CW launched the first trailer today for the new "Riverdale" television series, a "subversive take on the classic Archie mythos."

This live-action series features KJ Apa as Archie Andrews, Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper, Camila Mendes as Veronica Lodge, Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones, among countless other folks.

I've purposely kept myself in the dark when it comes to "Riverdale." I know that Archie bulked himself up between his high school sophomore and junior year -- and I also figured out why all of the girls are throwing themselves at his feet -- including Miss Grundy!!

I know that the first season will focus on the mystery of Jason Blossom's murder. I know that Josie and the Pussycats are all black singers. I know that Riverdale will be awash with sex and teen drinking. And I know that Jughead will still wear his beanie from time to time.

You can watch the first "Riverdale" trailer here.

"Riverdale" will make its debut on The CW at 8:00 PM on Thursday, January 26, 2017!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Who Is Miss Muscles?

I wrote last night about Mr. Muscles, his short-lived Charlton Comics comic book series, and Kid Muscles. Mr. Muscles is the "world's mightiest man" and he has dedicated his life to achieving physical and mental perfection.

MR. MUSCLES was a two-issue comic book series consisting of several short stories. It mainly featured Mr. Muscles and, to a lesser extent, his teen sidekick Kid Muscles.

But we were introduced to a third character in MR. MUSCLES #22 named Miss Muscles. No clue what her real name is, but she's apparently a member of Mr. Muscles' gym. And she's very strong!

The women who belong to Miss Muscles' gym are very catty. Two of the women learned from the local gossip column that our heroine. Upset that Miss Muscles gets all of the breaks, they wonder if she would be able to make it to her date with a broken bone or leg! They attempt a sneak attack -- which doesn't turn out in their favor!

And that's pretty much Miss Muscles' one and only appearance. She drives by the gym and shows off her hotshot Hollywood hunk to the two bruised and battered broads!

As far as I can tell, Miss Muscles only appeared in that one two-page short story. Which is a shame! I keep thinking that it would be great to read more stories about Miss Muscles. I mean, her print adventures only provided a template about what could have been! I have an idea for a story that includes Miss Muscles, inspired by CW's "Legends of Tomorrow." Maybe...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Who Is Mr. Muscles?

I was reading through some old Charlton Comics online when I discovered a short-lived comic book series from 1956 titled MR. MUSCLES! Mr. Muscles is "the world's mightiest man... The most perfect specimen of manhood alive!" He's dynamic! He's vital! He's powerful! He's pretty darn strong! And his real name is Brett Carson.

Mr. Muscles' comic book numbering was odd, which isn't unusual for Charlton Comics. He appeared in MR. MUSCLES #22-23. No clue what comic book titles predated these numberings. But, again, that's pretty common for Charlton Comics.

MR. MUSCLES #22 started with an introduction and origin for our title character. The first story in that book had our hero performing all sorts of "astounding feats of physical strength" at a public event sponsored by the City Civic Associations. Men and women alike were oohing and ahhing over his "rippling muscles," his "magnificent body," and his Apollo-like appearance. Except for one man -- but more about him later!

Later, we readers are taken to Mr. Muscles' gym where he trains dozens of young men to become as physically fit as he is. Suddenly, he is called away to the local zoo to help with some unspecified emergency. He rushes away to save the day with the assistance of his young sidekick, Kid Muscles!

Yes, Kid Muscles. Because every hero needs his youthful companion:

It turns out that the Zoo-Keeper sent a fake alert to Mr. Muscles. He temporarily incapacitates our hero long enough to toss him in a cage full of tigers! Why? Because of Mr. Muscles' splendid physique! In comparison, the Zoo-Keeper is a twisted, skinny man. Why wouldn't he hate our hero??

Fortunately, Mr. Muscles is able to use his athletic abilities to repel and defeat the tigers. And then he is able to use his muscles to bend the bars in the cage, and throttle his captor!

Instead of calling the police, Mr. Muscle decides to share his origin tale with the Zoo-Keeper. He reveals that he too was a skinny weakling. Not only that, but he was paralyzed following a nasty case of polio! His doctors told him that he's never leave his bed.

But Brett Carson refused to allow something like polio to control his life! Using his enhanced powers of mind-over-muscle, Carson managed to move his fingers. He was congratulated by his doctors, who immediately told him that he'll never gain the ability to sit upright. Duly challenged, young Mr. Carson managed to rise up in his bed. Soon enough, he was out of bed and walking about like nothing had ever happened!

The man who would become Mr. Muscles decided right then and there that he would use the lessons learned from his deathbed to rule his future lifestyle. Never again would he allow any weakness to control his destiny. He would develop his body and mind into a state of absolute perfection!

Mr. Muscles' origin story inspired and challenged the Zoo-Keeper. Mr. Muscles gave the villain two choices: Jail or the Gym! The Zoo-Keeper chose the gym and began a rigorous process of body-building until he too transformed his scrawny limbs into muscular perfection!

I keep thinking that it would be great to read more stories about Mr. Muscles. He has the potential to be something big. We have a template here, but not much else. Somebody could do something really great with our hero and his teen sidekick.

Maybe that somebody could be me...

RIP: Florence Henderson of "The Brady Bunch"

I was traveling yesterday, so didn't have the opportunity to share the sad news: Florence Henderson died on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 82. She died from heart failure. Her friends and family surrounded her bedside.

Henderson was one of my childhood heroes. She played Carol Brady on "The Brady Bunch," not to mention "The Brady Bunch Hour," "The Brady Brides," and "The Bradys." She also appeared in "The Brady Bunch Movie" as Grandma Brady.

I watched "The Brady Bunch" throughout my childhood. I daydreamed about playing with the Brady kids and living in the Brady home.

Florence Henderson's passing was like a gut-punch to me.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Canada: Woman Conned into Buying Fake Hairless Cat // Kitten Was Shaved Hairless & Whiskers Plucked by Scam Artist

You may remember that my beloved cat died last month. Husband Mark and D'Angelo have been trying to get me in the mood to get another cat. Here's the thing. I'm not a big fan of cats. I loved Calliope Jane dearly, but I hated cleaning out her litter box and hated when she would wake me up every morning at the break of dawn. So I told Mark and D' that I would only get a cat if they found me a hairless sphynx cat that I could dress up in sweaters. Which they won't do because they're not fans of the breed. But it's a holding pattern for now.

Anyway, there's this horrible story coming out of Red Deer, Alberta, where a woman is reporting that she purchased an 8-week-old hairless sphynx kitten from a unscrupulous breeder. Turns out that it wasn't a sphynx kitten, but just an everyday kitten who was shaved hairless and who had all of his whiskers plucked out:
One week later, the cat had grown a coat of orange hair. "I thought he was crying for his mom, but he probably was in pain," said Dyck, who paid $700 for the kitten. "Regular sphynx kittens would want to be held and would want to be warm and touched, but he didn't want anything to do with us. He probably didn't want to be touched because his hair — it wasn't supposed to not be there."
The kitten has cuts all over his skin, presumably caused by razor burn. The kitten's tail ended up getting infected and eventually had to be infected.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving Day! OR... Where Can I Hear Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" Today?

It's Thanksgiving Day. Every year at this time in November, I get in the mood to listen to Arlo Guthrie's 18:34 minute-long classic, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." It's a classic song dating back to 1967 about his 1965 Thanksgiving Day visit to his friend Alice's home. He and some friends dumped a pile of trash along the highway, which led to his arrest and conviction for littering. This criminal conviction ultimately protected him from the draft, as discussed here in the song:
I'm sittin' here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the Army—burn women, kids, houses and villages—after bein' a litterbug.
Listeners are encouraged to join together and sing along with the chorus, to resist the Draft, and to achieve world peace.

It's a classic. I've heard four variations of the song. I'm sure that there are more of them out there. But I really cannot wait until next Thanksgiving when KICI Radio is on the air and I can broadcast all versions of the song here in Iowa City!

Speaking of which, have you donated to the cause? Visit our Go Fund Me page and give us a tax-deductible donation! My plan is to post links on this blog of my radio programs once they begin.

That said, you can't listen to the "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" on KICI Radio in Iowa City this year, but here is where you can listen to the song in other corners of the world:
KBCO 97.3 FM (Boulder, CO): Is playing “Alice’s Restaurant” twice on Thanksgiving: at noon and 6pm.

KPIG 107.5 FM (Freedom/Santa Cruz, CA) and 94.9 FM (San Luis Obispo, CA) : Will play Alice’s Restaurant at 9am, noon, 4pm and 9pm on Thanksgiving.

KRNN 102.7 FM (Juneau, AK): Will play Alice’s Restaurant at 9am.

KSHE 94.7 FM (St. Louis, MO): Plays Alice’s Restaurant every Thanksgiving at noon.

KSUT (Ignacio, CO): Will play Alice’s Restaurant at 9am. The station will also air additional Thanksgiving-themed programming, including a segment on Native American cuisine.

KNBA 90.3 FM (Anchorage, AK) : Will play Alice’s Restaurant at 5pm on Thanksgiving.

KKFM 98.1 FM (Colorado Springs, CO): Will air at noon and 6pm.

KFMH 99 Plus (Iowa City, IA): Will air it three times on Thanksgiving, however the times aren’t given.

WFUV 90.7 FM (Bronx, NY ): The epic will air at noon on Thanksgiving Day and will be surrounded by broadcasts of recordings of a variety of live concerts throughout the day.

WCMF 96.5 FM (Rochester, NY): Will air at noon and 4:30pm on Thanksgiving Day. This tradition has been going on for at least 36 years there!

WTTS 92.3 FM (Bloomington, IN): Alice’s Restaurant will air at 6am, noon, and 6pm as part of a day of mellow rock music.

WXPN 88.5 FM (Philadelphia, PA): Will air it at 12noon.

WEXT 97.7 FM (Albany, NY): Airing at 6am, 9am and noon on Thanksgiving.

WJCT 89.9 FM (Jacksonville, FL) : Will play on Thanksgiving night at 9pm, as part of a long-standing tradition on the station. The station is also airing other holiday programming this week, including Orson Welles’ radio version of “A Christmas Carol.”

Boss Boss Radio: Plans to play the track at noon Pacific time and noon Eastern time.

Wyoming Public Radio (various channels throughout Wyoming): As part of its special programming on Thanksgiving Day, Wyoming Public Radio will air Alice’s Restaurant at 11am during the Morning Music show.

MVY Radio (88.7 FM Martha’s Vineyard, MA and 96.5 FM Newport, RI): Will play at noon on Thanksgiving.

WUMB (91.9 FM Boston, MA): Will air Alice’s Restaurant at 9am, noon and 3pm.
It's worth pointing out that it will be playing three times today on KFMH 99 Plus here in Iowa City.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Marvel to Launch New Inhumans Comic Books: ROYALS and SECRET WARRIORS

Marvel Comics keeps launching new titles featuring the Inhumans. Next month, there will be a "Inhumans VS X-Men" mini-series, featuring the final battle between the Inhumans and the mutants after Beast discovers that the Terrigan Mists will swell to toxic levels within a few weeks. I've read some of the solicits. It looks like the Inhuman Royal Family will be captured and imprisoned in Limbo, Magneto will occupy Attilan, and someone might actually do something about that damn toxic cloud of gas that's killing off the X-Men!

Afterwards, Marvel Comics will launch a new label called "ResurrXion," which will result in some new x-titles (touched on here). Now it appears that the Inhumans will get some new book as part of "ResurrXion" also!

One of them is a BLACK BOLT title, which really doesn't interest me. One that does interest me is ROYALS. It will feature most of the Inhuman Royal Family (Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, and Gorgon) and some of their newer Inhumans (Flint and Swain), plus Marvel Boy!

Incidentally, this would be a great opportunity for the Guardians of the Galaxy to leave Earth instead of moping around about their destroyed starship. Just saying...

The Royals will travel deep within the former Kree Empire to discover the secret of Terrigenesis. Nto that they haven't already gone deep within the former Kree Empire in the recent past, but I guess they'll go even deeper this time around!

There's another new Inhumans title that also grabbed my attention: SECRET WARRIORS! The original secret warriors were a group of covert super-spies who were being manipulated by Nick Fury into doing all sorts of covert and nasty things. This new group is also supposed to be clandestine and spy-centered and such, but I'm dubious.

After all, this team consists of Quake, Karnak, Inferno, Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl, and Devil Dinosaur! There apparently will be some other non-Inhuman team members on this team (besides Devil Dinosaur -- who used to be a mutant, but not for a while!).

So I'm torn with SECRET WARRIORS. I enjoy Moon Girl and Ms. Marvel (not to mention Devil Dinosaur) but I really don't like SHIELD or spy stories or stuff like that. So I'm not sure if I will get this book. But I really want to give it a try!!

These new books are scheduled for release in early 2017.

Cyclops Declares War on the Inhumans in DEATH OF X #2! (I've Got a Theory About That) // Updated 11/23/16: And My Theory Is Correct!

(Originally written on 10/20/16): I'm two issues into DEATH OF X. This is the 4-issue mini-series that took us readers back to the day that the X-Men realized that the Terrigan Mists are toxic to mutants. Jamie Madrox was supposedly killed on that day (along with countless other mutant researchers who shall forever remain nameless) and others like Goldballs became very ill very quickly. This is also the story that will tell us readers what Cyclops did to become the most hated mutant alive. He supposedly did something so terrible that humanity's fear of mutants went through the roof and Inhumanity declared war against anyone with an x-gene. Pretty much.

Turns out -- unless something really awful happens in DEATH OF X #3 -- that Cyclops mentally projected a warning into the minds of everyone on the planet, with help from Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos. He told everyone that the Inhumans dropped a Terrigan bomb on the planet that is toxic to mutants -- and probably toxic to humanity as well!

The result of this warning resulted in horrible riots and mass panic. It resulted on attacks against the Inhumans. DEATH OF X #2 ended with a new Inhuman named Daisuke using his powers to put hundreds of mutants to sleep -- along with several unsuspecting X-Men. It appears that Cyclops, Emma, and their forces will use footage of that defensive attack to spread more fear and to promote further retaliation by meaner mutants like Magento.

Anyway, I have a theory about Cyclops in this mini-series and I'm going to put it out there. But let me lay out some scenes first.

In DOX #1, Cyclops went to answer a distress call along with several other X-Men, including Emma Frost, Iceman, Magik, the Stepford Cuckoos, and Goldballs. They found the island enveloped by a cloud of Terrigan Mists and everyone on the island was dead, including Jamie Madrox. Goldballs got sick and was evacuated to a hospital -- though he apparently got better, because he's become a supporting character in the SPIDER-MAN book -- unless the editorial staff forgot about this. Cyclops, Beast, and Emma confirmed that the Terrigan Mists are toxic to mutants -- and then Cyclops gets sick and collapses on the floor!

Fortunately for his fans, Cyclops recovers and manages to greet Iceman and Magik with Emma upon their return to Muir Island. He might not be feeling very well, but he is pissed...

... at the Inhumans for their purposeful attack on mutantkind!

Then in DOX #2, Cyclops -- with some telepathic assistance from Emma Frost and the Stepford Cuckoos -- warns the world about the dangers of the Inhumans and their Terrigenic death-clouds: "The Terrigan Cloud is toxic to mutants. And it is likely just as fatal to humans. We can no longer trust the Inhumans. And we can no longer allow this danger to us all to exist. For too long you have all feared and hatred mutants... All the while, Inhumans were releasing the real threat into the very air we breathe. The Inhumans lied to you. The X-Men will save you."

This is where my theory becomes really obvious. Maybe you've already caught a whiff of where I'm going with this. The Stepford Cuckoos are responding to something odd here, but Emma Frost hushes them before they can articulate their own concerns for the readers:

Magik tries to figure out where Cyclops is taking all of this, but he and Emma rush off alone into the research facility:

Fast forward several pages and Emma is fretting in her new office, trying to draw strength from Cyclops. "There's no turning back!!"

Cyclops then steps forward and reveals Magik and Colossus that he's pulling in Earth's most powerful mutants to push back against the threat of the Inhumans. "You can fight with us, or you can sit back and die!" (I'm paraphrasing.)

And here is the first of Cyclops' powerful new allies, who doesn't seem to be chatting it up with Scott, but someone else...

I know what you're thinking. Cyclops is delegating responsibilities to Emma Frost. Rights?


Here's my theory. Cyclops is dead. He was killed in DEATH OF X #1 in the panel way up above towards the beginning of this post. At the very least, he's comatose. Emma Frost -- whacked from grief and anger -- has made Cyclops into a meat-puppet. Essentially, she's animating his body and speaking through him.

Emma has launched this revenge-filled war against the Inhumans using Cyclops' body as the public figurehead. And things will never be the same again -- at least, until Marvel Comics rehabs Scott Summers' image at some point in the future!

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!

Updated on 11/23/16: I was right! Cyclops was killed by the Terrigan Mists in DEATH OF X #1 and Emma has been using her telepathic abilities to make his death mean something and to inspire mutants everywhere to rise up against the Inhumans!

From DEATH OF X #4.

Nero at Daycare -- 11/22/16 // Plus: Nero & Chevy at Pre-Thanksgiving Day Fest!

Nero continues to go to doggy daycare, but doesn't show up too often these days on their blog. But he showed up on the blog yesterday -- and it was a pretty good pic of him! Check it out:

Last night, Husband Mark and I hosted our annual pre-Thanksgiving Day meal. It goes back to the days when Mark used to travel out east alone for Thanksgiving Day, so we would invite over friends and have a Tuesday evening feast of our own. We had about six people over last night and it was a pretty good feast!

Once the food was eaten and cleared out of the area, Nero and Chevy got to join the party -- and they did their fair share to keep our guests entertained! Especially when Nero decided that he wanted to become a lap dog with me! Check this out:

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Salvation Army's Red Kettles Are Out Again

I have been skeptical about the Salvation Army for many years. They have a long history of serving the poor and needy. They also have a long history of anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination and a desire to remain allowed to legally discriminate against poor people and employees who belong to the LGBT communities (see here for more information). In fact, they have been highlighting LGBT people connected to their ministry in various ads over the past year, including this one.

And there's no doubt that they have been doing good in my local community. They offer free meals and outreach opportunities. They assist people with paying bills, repairing vehicles, and purchasing bus tickets. Last winter, they provided space and warmth for homeless people who would otherwise be forced onto the streets during the frigid daytime weather.

So I took a step yesterday. And I left a dollar in the Salvation Army kettle at my local grocery store.

Which seems like a tiny thing. Which it is. I give much more to other charities. But I'd once vowed to never support the Salvation Army because of its anti-gay policies. It's taken a while -- and I'm still a bit dubious -- but I'm willing to bend slightly. Which sounds horribly selfish, which it is. But in a world of charities, I'm allowed the ability to use anti-gay discrimination as a factor for narrowing down my charitable choices.

Anyway, here is where you can learn more about the Salvation Army and the "Red Kettle Reason."

Saturday, November 19, 2016

One Iowa Announces Its New Executive Director: Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel

Donna Red Wing recently announced that she will be retiring as executive director of One Iowa, Iowa's chief LGBTQ advocacy organization, next month. Right away, One Iowa began the search for their new leader. They made the big announcement yesterday:
We are thrilled to announce that after a national search, our search committee named Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel our new executive director. Daniel will begin leading One Iowa in January 2017.

A native Iowan, Daniel has worked with the state’s LGBT community for more than eight years. He’s worked extensively with One Iowa, cofounding the LGBT Health and Wellness Conference with members of the LGBT and Wellness Initiative coalition, including our current executive director Donna Red Wing. He has trained more than 1,000 health professionals, providers and others on LGBTQ inclusivity and presented at local, state and national conferences on the subject. Most recently, he presented the keynote address at the Eyes Open Iowa Conference.

Prior to joining One Iowa, Daniel served as director of education and leadership at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and as a respite provider at Lutheran Services in Iowa. He holds a doctorate of education in leadership from Creighton University and an MA in health studies from the University of Alabama. He is a 2015 Des Moines Business Record Forty Under 40 honoree and current class member of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.

Daniel and his husband, Charles, have been together for more than ten years. They married at Urbandale United Church of Christ in 2010 and recently moved to a new home in Bondurant with their three dogs. Together, they enjoy cycling, kayaking, and social justice.
Hoffman-Zinnel will make his first big public debut as One Iowa's new XO on 12/07/16 at Red Wing's retirement party in Des Moines.

Friday, November 18, 2016

USAvengers: Who Will Be the Avenger of Your Home State? // Updated Below: Iowa's Avenger Revealed: Hawkeye! // Further Updated: All 50 Avengers Revealaed!

(Originally written on 09/01/16): A few months ago, a new comic book that grabbed my attention: U.S.AVENGERS featuring Sunspot, Red Hulk, Captain America (Danielle Cage), Iron Patriot, Cannonball, Pod, and Squirrel Girl! It's an oddball team, but I like several of the characters and the art's pretty good also.

I was on the Bleeding Cool website earlier tonight, where they have been pumping out future info being revealed at the Baltimore Diamond Retailer Summit. This particular article got me pretty excited:
More from the Marvel presentation at the Baltimore Diamond Retailer Summit, with the news that USAvengers will be launching in the first week of January, with a special promotion in which each state will get a different Avengerand a different cover
I can't help wondering which Avenger will end up in Iowa? One could hope for Squirrel Girl, but I'm sure that we'll end up with someone like D-Man...

Updated on 11/12/16: Marvel Comics just released several of their U.S.AVENGERS #1 variant covers, featuring each state's Avenger, including Iowa. We didn't get D-Man, but instead got assigned to Hawkeye, presumably because of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes:

That's right. We were assigned to the guy who just killed Bruce Banner and who got off on murder charges using a defense that his highly trained eyesight noticed a slight green glow, signalling a Hulk transformation that might have killed all of the Avengers. "Might have," based off some new Inhuman's clairvoyant vision. It doesn't matter that Iron Man's sensors didn't pick up on the transformation. Or that Spider-Man's spidey-sense didn't pick up on anything. Or that any psychics nearby didn't pick up on anything. That's Iowa's Avenger. Thanks Marvel Comics...

Speaking of the Hulk/Bruce Banner, Marvel Comics must really hate New Mexico. They assigned a dead Avenger (AKA Hulk AKA Bruce Banner) to New Mexico. Because who why wouldn't you want a dead Avenger to protect you? Missouri is in the same boat (they got assigned to the WWII hero, the Whizzer).

Updated on 11/18/16: Marvel Comics revealed all 50 Avengers earlier today. It was interesting to explore.

I noticed at least one other dead Avenger. This one is the Irredeemable Ant-Man, who has been assigned to Vermont.

One of my favorite lesser-used Avengers, Quasar, has been assigned to Wisconsin. Which makes sense since this was his home state.

Lastly, Iowa didn't get assigned to Demolition Man (AKA D-Man). But my home state of Nebraska did! It actually brings a perverse smile to my face to know that Nebraska is linked to a gay hero with a history of homelessness and a traumatic brain injury.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Gay Parenting Shows Up Unexpectedly on Episode of "Judge Judy" // Mirrors Random Real Life Encounter

I spend a lot of time in an office writing. I'm one of those people who needs background stimulation to help keep me on-task. I listen to the radio. Or I listen to podcasts. Or (when I'm tired of post-election reflections, such as this past week) I play episodes of "Judge Judy" on my iPad.

One episode that played this morning involved some adult teens who created a late-night ruckus in a neighborhood, resulting in damage to the owner of a car. The car (which was being driven by one of those teens) was owned by the step-father of the other teen. The step-father was suing this guy who got upset by the teens' antics and who threw some object at the vehicle, which resulted in some damage.

My passive listening spiked towards the end of the case when this exchange occurred between Judge Judy and the Plaintiff:
Judge Judy: What kind of car do you drive?
Plaintiff: I have a Volvo SUV.
Judge Judy: And your wife? What kind of car does she have?
Plaintiff: I don't have a wife.
Judge Judy: You don't have a wife? So he's your stepson... How?
Plaintiff: His father.
Judge Judy: *Pause....*  *Slowly nods.*
Plaintiff: He drives a Jaguar.
And the case went off. To their credit, the audience rolled with this bit of revelation without any visible smirks or snickers. Which I've seen on these types of shows in the past. But it was an unexpected revelation.

It actually reminded me of an incident that happened here in Iowa City last night. I was at Hy-Vee last last evening to grab a few extra groceries. The cashier -- a lovely young lady who's way more chipper on her worst days that I ever am on my best days, more assuredly -- was chattering along with all sorts of off-hand questions and observations.

She asked me if I like the Slim Fast diet shakes that I was purchasing because her coach and her mother had recommended that she give them a try. I told her that I don't like them, but they're for my husband. I also noted that it was good to see the packaging size in-stock that he prefers, which doesn't always happen.

There was a bit of a empty pause while I started my credit card purchase before she blurted out with, "That makes me so happy, you talking about your husband! I have two moms!" And truly, she was beaming.

Both incidents just highlight how some offhand comments can bring about a sense of happiness and connectivity to random strangers -- when he lease expect it!

Incidentally, the ruling turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. You can watch the whole episode here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Iowa City Family Finds Racist/Anti-Muslim Note Taped to their Front Door

There is a Sudanese-American family that lives here in Iowa City. There's actually more than a few, but we're focusing on this family right now. They are Muslims. They are U.S. citizens. And they've lived in Iowa City since 2009.

They've lived here in Iowa City without conflict for nearly a decade. And then late last week they woke to find a note with the following message taped to their front door:
You can all go home now. We don't want n------ and terrorists here. #trump
The note was posted on social media and the community has fortunately rallied behind the family.

As of right now, there are no suspects.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

So I'm At The Gym This Morning... OR Community Integration Tips for Mentally Disabled Individuals

I mentioned earlier this week that one of the for-profit managed care organizations (MCOs) that took over Iowa's Medicaid system earlier this year just provided free gym membership to recipients covered by them. Many of these Medicaid recipients are mentally disabled individuals whom I know (my oldest boy included) and the gym happens to be the one that I belong to. It's a good idea, in theory. The MCO is banking on the idea that it will be cheaper for them to purchase several gym memberships (presumably at a reduced group rate) and less money on medical costs related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.).

The problem is that most of the people that I know who are on Medicaid are there because they have chronic and lifelong disabilities. Including -- and most significantly -- intellectual disabilities. In other words, these are folks who have IQs at or below 70. Most of them don't read or write. Their ability to problem solve and process situations isn't always the greatest. Some don't speak. Most require supervision most or all of the time at home or at work. And the system doesn't want to pay for that supervision, so most of them go with less than they need and are left to the mercies of the general public.

So I'm at the gym this morning. A clearly disabled young man was attempting to take advantage of his new MCO-funded gym membership. It's clear that nobody walked him through with his new membership or helped him prepare. He was wearing jeans and a shirt. He showered before his workout -- while wearing all of his clothes. He had no towel. He had no change of clothing. He had no staff support. The gym ended up pulling him off of a machine and sending him away for a while because he was leaving a trail of water behind him. Unfortunately, he left before I could get involved.

Let's get this clear. I'm not blaming the gym. They were trying to get the young man to identify a phone number for a family member or support staff, but he couldn't provide them with that information. And they couldn't let him run around dripping with water. It wasn't safe for him or anyone else at the gym

I don't know this young man. I don't know if he has case management services or if he has a supported community living (SCL) provider or if his SCL provider is an hourly provider or if it provides daily supports. I do know that he belongs to an MCO and that he just joined my gym because of this value-added benefit. So I don't know if he has an individual case plan that addresses going to the gym.

But it should. He needs help right now. Maybe someday he can be independent at the gym. But he's not now.

So here is my sample ISP goal for those whose clients just joined the gym for the first time. I use the name "Joseph" here, but it could be any name. I don't do case management anymore, so some of the wording and structure might have changed over the past five years. Adjust accordingly.

Goal #1: Joseph wants to learn how to fully access his new gym membership on his own by November 30, 2017.
Objective #1: Joseph will independently pack his gym bag and take it with him to the gym every time by January 1, 2017.
Action Steps: Joseph will do an inventory of his gym supplies (i.e., t-shirts, shorts and/or sweat pants, tennis shoes, deodorant, padlock, towel, gym bag) by 11/30/16 with help from his SCL staff. He will contact his payee for spending money to purchase any needed items. Joseph will develop a list at his home and review it before each trip to the gym to make sure that he doesn't forget anything. Staff will assist Joseph with finding a padlock (preferably one with a key instead of a number key) and will help him develop strategies for keeping his padlock key safe and secure during workouts.
Objective #2: Joseph will learn how to independently access the gym locker room by March 1, 2017.
Action Steps: With SCL staff assistance, Joseph will learn how to use the locker rooms at the gym. He will change from his street clothes to his workout clothes in the locker room and then place all of his items in a locker. He will secure his personal items in his locker with his padlock and place his key in his pocket. After working out, Joseph will undress and take a shower. He will use his towel to dry himself off and change back into his street clothes before leaving the gym.
Objective #3: Joseph will learn how to safely utilize the exercise equipment, gradually reducing his reliance on SCL staff by November 2017.
Action Steps: With the assistance of SCL staff, Joseph will schedule a time with one of the gym's personal trainers. He will use the trainer to learn how to safely use the exercise equipment -- both the weights and the machines. Joseph will access funds from her payee to pay for time with the trainer if this is not a free service offered by the gym. Joseph will develop a workout schedule with the help of his SCL staff and utilize his equipment. His SCL staff will provide verbal instructions and reminders on how to safely utilize exercise equipment, gradually reducing the number of prompts over the course of the year. Joseph will schedule refresher appointments with the trainer if he or his staff observe areas where he struggles with using the equipment.
Objective #4: Joseph will receive ongoing input from his service team regarding his progress and challenges. This will continue over the course of the year.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

So There Was This Election...

Tuesday brought about nearly the worst possible election results for me both nationally and statewide (with very few silver linings) that I could have hoped. I say this as a county employee who works with poor and disabled populations within an increasingly fractious state mental health system. I say this as a union worker. I say this as a married gay man. I say this as the father of a young man with a congenital disease that will require medical treatment and monitoring for the rest of his life. And I say this as the guardian of a mentally disabled man who depends on Iowa's messed up managed Medicaid and mental health system for all of her services. Plus my retirement savings took a nosedive that night.

I was a bit grumpy yesterday. And I went to bed quite early -- largely because I couldn't sleep much the night before. I didn't protest the election. I didn't get into any fights -- though I did tell one of my high school friends to back off. I didn't threaten to leave the country if Trump won -- though I did check out the Canadian immigration website before it crashed. (Spoiler: They don't want me. I'm too old.) I didn't rage against my Green Party friends. I didn't even rage against my Republican friends and family members. Basically, I slept for about twelve hours and got refreshed for another day of work.

For the record, I'm disappointed that Trump lost. I'm still pissed that the GOP obstructed President Obama's Supreme Court nomination. That's what really pisses me off the most when it comes to the federal election scene.

But I'm much more upset that Iowa just lost our balanced legislature. For close to a decade, the Democrats have (barely) held onto the Senate. It kept Iowa helped maintain balanced decisions. And it helped Iowa maintain its status as a marriage equality state. Now it's all up in the air. There's no balance. It's all one-sided. I get that some people like this. I get that some people don't care. But it's strongly affects my career. It strongly affects my family. And it strongly affects my retirement.

Over the past five years or so, Iowa has gradually messed around with its mental health system -- and not for the better. It got rid of county case management for mentally ill adults with Medicaid and replaced it with integrated health home care coordinators. IHH care coordinators basically work for less money and with higher case loads. The state has gradually lost more and more inpatient psychiatric beds so you can only get emergency treatment if you are actively suicidal or homicidal. If there's a psych bed. Often there's not. Because the governor has gradually cut down the census at the state mental health institutions and then used those lower census numbers to justify closing down two of the four MHIs. The state juvenile facilities have also been closed. I anticipate that the other two MHIs will be closed by the end of June 2017. Then last year, Iowa's governor started a process of giving the state's entire Medicaid system to three different for profit managed care organizations. In addition to ongoing reports of under-payments and denied payments and nonprofit medical and service organizations closing down as a result of the MCO process, what's left of the county case management program is all but gone. And then there are the regions, which I won't go into here.

Let's just say that it's all been very overwhelming for a while.

Here is what helped me get through the MCO process and what will help today:

1. The election happened. The MCOs were going to happen somehow or another last year. I knew that. I couldn't change that. I had to accept that. Trump will be our president. Pence will be our vice president. The GOP will control all branches of the US federal government. The GOP will control all branches of the Iowa government. At some point, you have to accept that this will be the scene for at least two years. It will drive you crazy if you don't accept reality.

2. Pick your battles. I couldn't stop the MCOs, but I could network. I could stay informed. I could write letters and make phone calls to various legislators and to CMS. I could attend rallies. I could attend public hearings. I could even volunteer to speak at hearings if I wanted, which I didn't -- but I learned who to cheer on! Even though we didn't stop the MCOs, we managed to get attention. We managed to delay the MCOs and bring about some positive changes. And we got the media to pay attention -- enough attention that they continue to report excellent critiques of the MCO roll-out. There will be plenty of battles to pick nationally and statewide. Get involved. Learn who to call, who to write to, and who to support. And realize that you might not win most battles, but you can still bring attention to your battles and even bring about some modifications.

3. Take care of yourself. Over the past year, I realized that the system is going to continue twisting and turning in horrific ways. I don't have a lot of control over much of it. I'm just there for the ride and hoping that things will gradually twist and turn into something more humane. But I have embraced the joy of funny memes. I've learned to get up from my computer when something causes my blood pressure to spike and take a lap around the office. I have learned the benefits of slow, deep breaths. I hug my dogs. I read comic books. I binge-watch shows on Netflix. I dream about community radio or running my own show. I exercise. And I will keep doing these things to keep myself as sane as possible.

4. Forgive your lapses. Sometimes things will get overwhelming. You will get pissed off and break into tears when things appear bleak. Allow yourself to break down and then build up your resolve again.

5. It's not all bad. I might not like the MCOs, but they do good. My oldest boy will soon join a gym with help from his MCO. There are better non-emergency medical transportation services right now (in some corners of Iowa) than before the MCO change. I am positive that Trump and Pence and Branstad will do some positive things also. Welcome improvements when they appear.

That's how I got through the MCO transition. That's how I've continued to adjust to the MCOs (not to mention the regions). And that's how I plan to get through the current political changes while working for balance with others.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day 2016: Get Out And Vote!

It's probably too late for this, but...

It's Election Day 2016. I voted.

Did you?

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Day at the 2016 Iowa City Metaphysical Expo // Updated Below

(Originally written on 11/06/16): I spent most of yesterday at the Johnson County Fairgrounds attending the Iowa City Metaphysical Expo. This is my third time attending the expo. I went in 2014 on a whim -- mainly to see what happens at such events. It was interesting enough the first time, so I kept the 2015 expo on my calendar and ended up having a really good time -- chatting it up with medium Don Marlette, the paranormal investigators from Unknown Darkness, and Lynn from the now defunct Prairie Land Pagan Radio. On top of that, I received one gallery reading and one full psychic reading. I did a bunch of other things, but I was pretty much hooked by that point. In other words, I'd been waiting patiently over the past year for yesterday's expo to arrive!

As always, the admission price was extremely affordable -- $5, plus plenty of free parking! The exhibition hall was full of everything from psychics to ghost hunters, Reiki practitioners to chiropractors, shamanic healers to aura photographers, and several shops that specialize in oils, crystals, wands, books, and DVDs. About a month ago, I ended up winning an online contest that earned me a four free tickets! Do I didn't even have to spend any money this year to get in the doors!

Once again, the Iowa City Metaphysical Expo had a variety of speakers scheduled throughout the day. My biggest complaint about the expo is that there are two rooms where speakers do their thing, but the start and end times in the two rooms don't mesh. So I might go to see a particular speaker at 10:30 AM, but then find myself deciding if I want to leave his show midway through his talk so that I can see the 11:00 AM speaker in the other room.

The first program that I attended yesterday was by Don Marlette, Psychic Medium & Spiritual Advisor: "Beyond the Veil" Gallery Readings. He was one of yesterday's Keynote Speakers. Don shared his story and his background. He then led a gallery reading that was actually pretty fun to watch. I didn't get a reading, but my co-worker Kelli ended up chatting with him for a few minutes about her dead brother. He made a strong enough impression on her that she ended up reserving time for a private reading later in the afternoon!

I then attended a program by Sylvia Runkle Hypnosis: "Awaken the Depths Within." I came to this program a few minutes late, but Sylvia briefly discussed a revelations that others had provided to her while under hypnosis. We did a brief group hypnotic session. The goal was for us to receive our own revelations, but I'm not very good at this type of thing. I just couldn't remain in a hypnotic state in that setting. But it was still pretty interesting stuff.

After some lunch and a chat with my chiropractor at Total Health Chiropractic, I did a bit of shopping. Nothing much, just some oils to assist with mild pain relief.

I then went to the other Keynote Speaker: Beth Peterson. She is a writer and motivational speaker who survived getting struck by lightning... twice! Her two books are "Life After Lightning" and "Destination Heaven." She described her death and afterlife experience. She went to Heaven after her first lightning strike and was allowed to return to life after promising to help others. Frankly, just hearing her experience of overcoming the ongoing effects of being hit by lightning, including years of depression, PTSD, skin ulcerations, brain injury, and chronic headaches, was worth listening to! But she's a good speaker and tells and engaging tale.

My last expo program was "A Witch, Shaman, and Light Worker Walk Into a Coffee Shop" by two of the women from Wild Indigo Coyote. Basically, we were offered a primer into the differences between the three types of people -- and learned that sometimes there's not much difference!

It was nearly 4:30 PM by this point and I decided that I had had enough for the day. I was exhausted! As always, the event was lots of fun and well organized. I just saved the date on Facebook for the Fifth Annual Iowa City Metaphysical Expo -- October 21, 2017!

Updated on 11/07/16: This year's Iowa City Metaphysical Expo was featured in today's Daily Iowan. They didn't interview any of the expo's organizers, but checked in with representatives from Unknown Darkness and Total Health Chiropractic, as well as author Lesa Kay Smith, writer of "Beautiful Gift -- How I Found My Son In The Afterlife."

You can read the article here.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ames, Iowa: ISU Bernie Sanders Club President Agrees to Speak at Rally for Hillary Clinton // Uses Podium to Start Anti-Clinton Rant

Here's another interesting story coming out of Iowa during the last days of the 2016 Presidential Election. There was a rally at Iowa State University in Ames, IA, supporting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton earlier today. It featured her chief primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders.

One of the first speakers was Caleb Vanfosson, the president of ISU's Bernie Sanders Club. He was supposed to get people fired up about voting for Clinton. Instead, he railed against the Democratic candidate:
But unfortunately, Hillary doesn't care about this issue either. The only thing that she cares about is pleasing her donor, the billionaires who fund her campaign. The only people who really trust Hillary are Goldman Sachs. Citigroup can trust Hillary. The military industrial complex can trust Hillary. Her good friend Henry Kissinger can trust Hillary... She has completely lost grip with what it's like to be an average person. She doesn't care. Voting for the lesser of two evils? There's no point. 
Vanfosson was then walked off the stage by one of the event's organizers. Senator Sanders later came on stage and encouraged the audience to vote for Clinton.

Vanfosson later said:
"They were wanting me to be this puppet boy that they could use to show that hey, Bernie people are bowing down to the establishment now, we’re all good, but we’re still angry, we’re still tired of this system of oppression that we live under and I knew I had to do it the moment I got the call."
Vanfosson could have said "No" when asked to speak at a campaign rally for Secretary Clinton. He didn't have to be a puppet. He just could have demurred. Instead, he came off as a bit of a jerk.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Transit Officer Fines Blind Woman for Using Disabled Bus Pass // Didn't Believe that She's Actually Blind Even After She Offered to Remove her Prosthetic Eyes

Just read a story about a woman in Milwaukie, OR, who received a $175 ticket and got kicked off the local train after enforcement officers refused to believe that she is blind.

Cheree Heppe receives a monthly "Honored Citizen" pass to receive unlimited rides on all of TriMet's buses, trains, and streetcars. Earlier this week, two TriMet fare enforcement officers asked to look at her pass. They then asked for a second for of identification after she showed them her pass. It turns out that she was supposed to ask for an "Honored Citizen ID" to go with her monthly passes. She told them that she didn't know about this.

They told her that it's clearly written on the back of the pass. She pointed out that she is blind. They didn't believe her. She pointed out her seeing eye dog. They didn't believe that her dog is an actual service dog -- even though she had the dog's certification paperwork with her. She then offered to take out her prosthetic eyes in order to prove that she is blind. They declined this offer.

Long story made short, they kicked her off of the train, but not before fining her $175.

She ended up walking to a relatively nearby TriMet office and got her TriMet Honored Citizen ID card. But that didn't stop her from complaining to the local media. TriMet offered this response to KATU News:
Ms. Heppe talked with our customer service staff yesterday and was informed that a separate ID is required to qualify for the discounted Honored Citizen fare. When she went to the TriMet Ticket Office yesterday, she was issued a permanent Honored Citizen ID. We regret that she was unaware of the requirement for a separate ID, and have voided the $175 ticket.
Ms. Heppe has also complained to the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind about this situation. She noted that she is hoping to help TriMet become more ADA compliant with their policies and public interactions. For example, the TriMet enforcement officers could have recognized her obvious disability and provided her with instructions on how to remedy this error before giving her a stiff fine and kicking her to the curb.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Johnson County Election Leaders to Public: Stop Destroying Each Others' Signs!

It's the rare election where I don't get out and cast my vote. And I'm generally aware of what's happening politically around me. But I never put political stickers on my car. And I never post campaign signs in my yard. In my mind, it just invites people to vandalize your property.

It's no shocker that the 2016 President Election has been particularly polarizing. And I've heard stories of stolen and destroyed campaign signs repeatedly over the past few months. But this campaign has apparently been worse than previous years. It's bad enough that Johnson County's Auditor and the local Chairs of both major political parties got together to tell people to take a collective chill pill:
The Johnson County Auditor and the chairs of the Johnson County Republicans and Johnson County Democrats are asking the public not to damage or vandalize campaign signs. 
The Auditor’s Office has received more complaints than usual about damage to signs this year, and it needs to stop. Emotions are high and opinions are strong in these last days before the election, but everyone’s First Amendment rights should be respected. 
Voters who have had their signs damaged should not hesitate to contact their city police department or the Johnson County Sheriff. 
This reminder was jointly written by Martha Hedberg (Chair of the Johnson County Democrats), Bill Keettel (Chair of the Johnson County Republicans), and Travis Weipert (Johnson County Auditor).

Who's the Smartest Person in the Marvel Universe?

I learned the identity of the smartest person in the Marvel Universe yesterday. It's 11-year-old Lunella Lafayette (AKA Moon Girl) from Marvel Comics' MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR comic book! 

She's an inventor with an affinity for Legos. She also recently learned that she is an Inhuman with the uncontrolled ability to mind-swap with Devil Dinosaur.

Not cool for her, but it's fun to read about each month!

Anyway, I know that she's the smartest person in the Marvel Universe because Amadeus Cho (AKA the Totally Awesome Hulk and the sixth-smartest person in the Marvel Universe) said that she's the smartest in MG&DD #13. And because she did something with this device:

I'm not sure what the device actually is. That's probably because I'm not the smartest person in the world. I'm closer to being the 34th-smartest person in the world. But I do know that the device is a test of some sort. See?

A few boops later and Lunella managed to make the green lights change shape.

It takes a very special person to boop-boop the lights into the correct configeration. And that's how I know that Lunella Lafayette is the smartest person in the Marvel Universe!

(Presumably we readers will gain better insight into the nature of her genius.)

"Cosmic Cuties Part Six of Six: Unrequited" features words by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, art by Natacha Bustos, colors by Tamra Bonvillain, and letters by VC's Travis Lanham.