Monday, January 30, 2017

Boy Scouts of America Okay with Trans Boys

Remember the case of the 8-year-old boy who was recently kicked out of a New Jersey Cub Scouts troop because he's a trans kid? Turns out that the Boy Scouts of America have come out as an organization in favor of letting trans boys into the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts:
The Boy Scouts of America announced Monday that it will allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys only programs... The organization had previously held a policy that relied on the gender listed on a child's birth certificate for those programs. Rebecca Rausch, a spokeswoman for the organization, emailed a statement Monday. She said the organization's leadership had considered a recent case in Secaucus, New Jersey, where an 8-year-old transgender child had been asked to leave his Scout troop after parents and leaders found out he is transgender, but the change was made because of the larger conversation about gender identity going on around the country. 
"For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual's birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs," the statement said. "However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state." Rausch said the enrollment decision goes into effect immediately. "Our organization's local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child," the statement said.
So individual troops still might oppose trans boys, but they are being encouraged to help these boys seek out and find troops that are fine with trans boys.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Iowa KidsNet: High Numbers of LGBT Teens are in Foster Care

Iowa KidsNet is the organization that's charged with recruiting, training, licensing, and supporting foster and adoptive families here in Iowa. The group was in the news last week and advocating for a special population of foster kids -- LGBT teens. Turns out that LGBT teens disproportionately end up in foster care in Iowa:
Iowa Kids Net says there are a disproportionate number of LGBT teens in foster care. Less than 10 percent of the American population identifies as Lesbian, Gay, bi-sexual or transgender. But 20 percent of teens who are in foster care say they're LGBT. Iowa Kids Net says it's something that's happening in homes throughout Iowa. "Typically if it's a situation where the parent is saying, "I don't agree with this", then you're going to have behaviors out of the child because of that conflict. Then at that point something erupts to require DHS involvement," said Iowa Kids Net’s Christa Hefel. That's when the LGBT child ends up in the foster care system.
Iowa KidsNet has begun including a video featuring a gay foster kid named Randy in its foster parent training sessions. They are hoping to recruit more foster families who are ready and prepared to take in LGBT foster kids.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The CW's "Riverdale" Debut Comes in 5th in the Ratings

I've got some not-so-good news. "Riverdale" didn't do too well in the ratings this past Thursday night. Here is how it breaks down:

1. "Scandal" (ABC) -- 7.67 million viewers
2. "Mary Tyler Moore: Love Is All Around" (CBS) -- 6.5 million viewers
3. "Chicago Med" (NBC) -- 3.98 million viewers
4. "My Kitchen Rules" (Fox) -- 2.19 million viewers
5. "Riverdale" (The CW) -- 1.37 million viewers

It's worth noting that The CW's "Supernatural" -- which aired previous to "Riverdale" -- had viewership of 1.71 million.

That said, don't let the ratings scare you away from "Riverdale." It's a good show and worth watching.

Coralville Man Arrested for Theft & Burglary // Police Found Him with Stolen Television in Alley

A 31-year-old Coralville man was arrested in Iowa City after being discovered by police walking down an alley with a stolen television:
The Iowa City Police Department received a call at about 11:03 a.m. Wednesday of a man walking down an alley in Iowa City with a stolen TV in his hands, according to Iowa City police complaints. The city has recently seen multiple daytime burglaries, police said... 

A police investigation found that the front door of a home on the 2200 block of H Street a few blocks away had been forced open and a TV was missing, the complaints said. The home owner identified the stolen TV through photographs and said it was worth $1,200.
The accused thief had multiple active warrants for his arrest for probation violation and failure to appear in court. He's been charged with second-degree theft and third-degree burglary. Both charges are class D felonies and are punishable by up to five years in prison.

Episodes of "Riverdale" to Begin Streaming Weekly on Netflix Starting Friday, January 27th! // Slight Correction: "Riverdale" Streaming on Netflix in the UK & Australia

(Originally written on 01/24/17): I was excited to discover earlier today that "Riverdale" will begin streaming new episodes weekly on Netflix, basically the day after they first air on the CW. Which is weird, because usually Netflix dumps an entire season all at once.

Not that I'm complaining!

I'm terrible about remembering to watch programs when they air on conventional television except for PBS shows that regularly air on Saturday and Sunday nights. Otherwise, it's way too easy for me to miss episodes of programs -- and this isn't a show that I'm going to want to miss!

Updated on 01/28/17: Starting early Friday morning, I kept checking Netflix to re-watch the first episode of "Riverdale." But I never found it there. Turns out that I was wrong. New episodes of "Riverdale" will stream on Netflix each week -- in the United Kingdom and in Australia.

It is anticipated that "Riverdale" will make its Netflix debut in the USA in April 2017.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Initial Reactions to "Riverdale"

I recently finished watching "Riverdale" on the CW -- and absolutely loved it!

Here were some of the highlights:

1. Veronica Lodge (portrayed by Camila Mendes) was probably my favorite character. She and her mother have moved back to Riverdale following a family scandal involving her father, who is in jail or on the run or something like that. Everyone is talking about her, but she's still somewhat on the outs. She once had it all and now that she's fallen a bit from grace, she's trying to become something better.

2. Veronica & Betty as BFFs: Veronica and Betty (portrayed by Lili Reinhart) gelled quickly. Betty has her own troubles (controlling mother, troubled sister, possible Adderall abuse), and of course she's in love with her best friend (AKA Archie Andrews, as portrayed by K.J. Apa). Betty helped Veronica fit into Riverdale High and Veronica got Betty onto the cheerleading squad. But largely, they like each other and it feels pretty natural. I can't wait to see their friendship develop.

3. Kevin Keller (portrayed by Casey Cott) is probably my second-favorite character. He starts as Betty gay best friend and quickly globs onto Veronica as well. Kevin probably had more lines in this first episode than Reggie, Jughead, and Moose combined. He's quick-witted and into everyone's business. This Kevin is pretty much how I wish they would have portrayed him in his comic book, with a few modifications. I can't wait to see more of him!

Here was the main lowlight from my perspective:

1. Not Enough Jughead (portrayed by Cole Sprouse). He's the opening and closing narrator and he's Archie's former best friend. He is pretty much isolated from everyone else and I really want to know why. I'm sure that we'll see more of him in the future.

Here are the main plot-points to follow:

1. Jason Blossom was murdered on the morning of July 4th. He was on a boat with his sister Cheryl (portrayed by Madelaine Petsch) and then he disappeared. His missing body is found at the end of this first episode with a bullet through his head. Who is the killer? And why? Those are the big questions that we will be exploring for the next nine episodes!

2. Archie and Miss Grundy sitting in a tree... Archie got hot over the summer. He did construction work for his father and got stacked. He started a secret affair with Miss Grundy (portrayed by Sarah Habel), his music teacher. They were making out near where Jason was killed. They heard a gunshot, but couldn't say anything. Because she's a teacher, because he's her student, and because they would have to explain why they were out in the woods alone together. The affair is supposedly over, but I can't help thinking that this secret tryst is going to bite them both in the butts before this season is over!

Anyway, this is what I thought of "Riverdale":

What did you think about "Riverdale?" Share your thoughts in the comments!

"Riverdale" Premiers Tonight on the CW // Plus: I Got Quoted in an Article for the "International Business Times"

"Riverdale" makes its debut tonight on The CW at 8:00 AM. Earlier this week, a writer named Asmita Kundu reached to a bunch of us "die-hard Archie fans" to see what we think about the upcoming television adaptation of the various Archie Comics characters.

My comments were among those chosen to include in this article for the International Business Times:
I'm really happy that CW got linked with the new Riverdale series. I think that they have done a great job adapting DC's various superhero comics such as The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. After watching several of the promotional clips, I have high hopes for Riverdale as a high-quality program. — Jon Trouten
Over all, the Archie fans are excited about the upcoming program -- either "excited" like me where they can't wait to watch the show or "excited" similar to watching a train wreck.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Utah's Polygamy Ban

Remember last June when Pat Robertson fretted that it was just a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court stuck down our country's laws against polygamy? Maybe not...

We learned today that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case from the plural family featured on TLC's reality show "Sister Wives" (Kidy, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown). The end result? Polygamy is still illegal in Utah:
After the Supreme Court's 2015 rulings that legalized gay marriage, some polygamists and libertarians believed polygamy was the next step in marriage rights. Some lawyers also thought the Browns represented the best chance in decades for polygamy to win in the courts because all five spouses were consenting adults with no taint of crimes such as sexual abuse or fraud. 

But the Brown's case was hampered by one problem — the Browns have never been prosecuted for bigamy. 

They contended the law on the books and a 2010 investigation by Lehi police was enough to constitute discrimination. The bigamy statute, when read broadly, could be used to prosecute unmarried couples who live together. Yet the statute, which makes polygamy a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, has only ever been used to prosecute polygamists. 

The Utah Attorney General's Office argued polygamy is inherently harmful to women and children and that the state has an interest in keeping it a crime if only as a way to help it prosecute more serious crimes within polygamous communities. 

In December 2013, federal Judge Clark Waddoups sided with the Browns and struck down the portion of Utah's bigamy statute focused on polygamy. (A portion dealing with having active, multiple marriage licenses remained.) 

In April of last year, the appeals court in Denver overturned that ruling. In finding the Browns lacked standing to file a legal challenge a three-judge panel considered a policy by the Utah County Attorney's Office limiting polygamy prosecutions to cases which also include offenses like sexual abuse, fraud or underage marriage. Other county prosecutors and the Utah Attorney General's Office have similar policies. 
In other words, polygamy is still illegal in Utah and illegal elsewhere in the country.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Riverdale" Debuts on The CW on Thurs, Jan 26th! Check Out this Clip Featuring Actor Casey Cott, Who Plays Kevin Keller!

Archie Comics has been posting a series of promotional videos online to promote next week's premier of "Riverdale," which makes it's debut at 8:00 PM on Thursday, January 26th, on the CW. I know that these promos are designed to suck you in and in this case it's totally working for me!

Here is one of my favorite promos: an interview with actor Casey Cott, who plays Kevin Keller. If you don't know, Kevin Keller is one of my favorite Archie Comics characters and I'm totally digging his portrayal here on "Riverdale."

Here is how Cott characterizes Kevin Keller on "Riverdale": He's kind of one of the only characters that is constantly saying the truth... Most of the time, he says things that probably everyone else is thinking too... I think he kind of enjoys drama."

He's good friends with Betty and is instantly adopting as her best gay friend by Veronica Lodge in this series. I really can't wait for "Riverdale" this week!

You can see the entire segment here.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Archie Comics to Publish Two New One-Shot Comic Books in April 2017! Which Is Your Favorite??

I wrote last month about Archie Comics' plan to publish four one-shot comic books in March 2017. Those comics -- JUGHEAD: THE HUNGER, THE ARCHIES, LITTLE ARCHIES, and SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH -- are to serve as auditions to see if there are enough orders to launch as ongoing comic book series. We learned yesterday of two new one-shot comic books that Archie Comics will publish in April. They are...

* BIG MOOSE (written by Sean Ryan, Ryan Cady, and Gorf with art by Cory Smith, Thomas Pitilli, and Wilfredo Torres): They don't really give any hints about the stories, though it appears that there will be two or three short stories in this book. All we know is that "Riverdale's resident jock gets the spotlight" -- though Midge appears to be central to this book as she appears to be central to all of BIG MOOSE's variant covers.

* LITTLE SABRINA (written and illustrated by Art Baltazar and co-written by Franco): This book gives us more story details. Little Sabrina struggles to use her magical abilities to send a bunch of doppelgangers of Salem the Cat back where they came from.

I tend to like plays on words, so a book called BIG MOOSE from a company with a long history of publishing stuff like LITTLE ARCHIE, LITTLE SABRINA, and L'IL JINX really just makes me want to get that new title all the more. Pathetic, isn't it?

Which one of these one-shot titles is number one on your list?

Trump-Supporter Pat Robertson Criticizes Hillary Clinton for her Husband's Affairs

I was watching the "Bring It On" segment on yesterday's "The 700 Club" on CBN and got annoyed by Pat Robertson's answer. Co-Host Terry Meeuwsen shared a question from a viewer named Carolina: "I am ready to file for separation. My husband cheated on me, and he does not want counseling. He also cheated a lot when we were just dating. I realize I made a huge mistake marrying him. Should I stay for my love and commitment to God, or should I go? He said they did not have sex. Is that adultery? I no longer trust him. We also have 2 sons."

Here is Pat's response:
It's a tragedy. It's a tragedy being played out thousands of times in our country. The sexual revolution and the infidelity, it's there. It's terrible. Listen... That is a grounds of divorce under what Jesus had to say. And what you've got is an intolerable situation. You have a philanderer as your husband. But there was a former president who was a philanderer and his wife stayed with him. But I think in your case, you're probably better off to finally get a settlement where you get your money... You get looked after and you get free because this thing will weigh down on you. It'll tear you apart and your ego, your psyche, your inner being will be damaged permanently. So I think get out of it. 
What the flip does President Clinton have to do with this woman's situation and why did Pat feel the need to get a dig in for Hillary for staying with her husband following his extramarital affairs? Pat Robertson is such a political tool. He criticizes Hillary Clinton for staying with her husband after adultery and saving her marriage but will actively and egregiously throw his support behind our new president, who is a non-repentant adulterer. Unbelievable.

You can watch the entire clip here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump Opponents Threaten to Boycott Girl Scout Cookies in 2017 Over Presidential Inaugural Parade Participation

Here is another thing about the presidential election and today's Presidential Inaugural Parade that got me steamed. I learned yesterday that there is an effort to protest the Girl Scouts because a contingent of the group is going to march in the parade. Here is how they justified their presence at the parade:
On Friday, January 20, approximately 75 Girl Scouts from the Nation’s Capital council will voluntarily march in the 2017 Presidential Inaugural Parade, as the council has done over the past 100 years. As part of this unique experience, these girls will gain insight into the time-honored democratic tradition of a peaceful transition of power. Then, the very next day, Saturday, January 21, women and girls, including Girl Scouts, from across the country will descend on Washington to participate in the Women's March and similar events in communities across the country.

At Girl Scouts, our Movement is made up of individuals who hold political beliefs and convictions as varied as our nation itself. And because every girl has a home at Girl Scouts, every girl in our Movement is allowed her own ideas, opinions, beliefs, and political ideology. Our fundamental value is empowering girls to be leaders in their own lives. By helping them build the courage, confidence, and character to lift their voices, champion their views, and be advocates for the issues and ideas important to them, Girl Scouts supports girls as they become catalysts for change who strengthen their communities.

Of course, we are a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that by law cannot take positions on political candidates or parties—and we take this very seriously.

At Girl Scouts it’s our goal to help girls be empowered, and we support them as they raise their voices to lead, every day. Girl Scouts have lent their voices to the fight for racial equality, advocated for a clean environment, invested in those less fortunate, and so much more. Girl Scouts also have a long history of taking the lead to create change by engaging in civic action. Empowering girls to forge their own paths and take action in their own lives is at the center of everything we do.

Being a leader means having a seat at the leadership table no matter what. It means being willing to work with whomever happens to hold political power. It means preparing girls not to run from the face of adversity, but to stand tall and proud and announce to the world, and the powers that be, that they are a force to be reckoned with, and that their needs, ideas, and views must be taken seriously. To do otherwise is to tell girls to sit down and be quiet—and that they don’t count.

Advocating for change on issues one cares about isn’t at odds with participating in a century-long tradition that represents the peaceful exchange of power.

Leadership. That’s what it means to be a Girl Scout. Leadership is why the impact of Girl Scouts remains so long after a girl leaves our Movement. So as we swear in the 45th president of the United States, it only seems fitting to celebrate more than a century of Girl Scout civic action.
I get that President Trump has been accused to pretty vile behavior towards women -- and he was even caught on tape bragging about getting away with sexually harassing women on the basis of his celebrity. But...

The Girl Scouts aren't marching for Trump. I suppose that some are, but most are marching for the country as part of a tradition. And the vast, vast majority of Girl Scout members and leaders won't be anywhere near Washington DC this week.

It wasn't that long ago that social conservatives began boycotting and abandoning the Girl Scouts over overblown stories that the Girl Scouts were shills for Planned Parenthood, not to mention because the Girl Scouts actually support gay and trans members. So why would we boycott people who stood up for us over their tradition of marching in the Presidential Inaugural Parades? I mean, pick your battles...

So I just want to put it out there that I'm not protesting Girl Scout cookies -- for those in my circle who sell such things. I have much bigger things to protest in my life than Girl Scout cookies.

President Trump Scrubs LGBT Page from White House Website Moments After Taking Charge

Earlier today, one of my high school friends told me that I should feel great about President Donald Trump because he's the first pro-gay president. Apparently forgetting President Barack Obama, but whatever. Which is one of my biggest pet peeves from my conservative friends and family. You should be happy about the new administration because Trump is pro-gay. Because I'm only about gay rights.

He should know better because I post all sorts of information about Medicaid privatization and income inequality on my Facebook page often. But I'm gay, so I'm really only a member of the Democratic Party because they're pro-gay. See how that works.

Let's assume that I'm only about the gays. The fact that then-candidate Trump held a ratty old rainbow flag at one of his rallies really means little to me given that his twinned himself up with people like Mike Pence, Jeff Session, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, etc. Plus, he's already announced his picks for US Supreme Court replacements and they are all on record for being hostile to LGBT people and our families. And then he's already won the praises of America's religious right for coming out in favor of federal legislation that would limit protections for LGBT people and our families.

But Trump held up an ratty old rainbow flag with "LGBTs for Trump" scrawled across it, so he's extremely pro-gay. See how that works. Once again, I'm not impressed along that front. But my high school friend was pretty pleased by that one moment in time.

Which set me off a bit when I learned that moments after Trump was sworn into office, his team scrubbed its LGBT page right off of the White House webpage, along with pages dedicated to civil rights and climate change.

But he held a rainbow flag, folks!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Radio Host Pastor Kevin Swanson: Which Is Worse: ISIS or "Highlights" Magazine for Picture of Gay Family?

Hopefully you remember this image from the February 2017 issue of "Highlights" that features a family with two gay dads in it. The image was accompanied by the following text: "Your Favorite Family Trip. Has your family ever taken a memorable trip? Tell us where you went and what you liked about it. Include a drawing, if you wish."

Apparently, that image is no better than ISIS, according to Pastor Kevin Swanson of the "Generations" radio program. Here is an excerpt:
Swanson said that while ISIS is releasing videos showing young children killing prisoners, Highlights is just as evil because it will “encourage the support for the sin of homosexuality among kids.”
“So now, here’s Highlights magazine, an American kids’ magazine promoting homosexuality amongst kids,” Swanson fumed, “and now ISIS is teaching kids how to kill people. Now, I got to thinking: Which sin is worse? Homosexuality or murder? Which is worse? Are we really that much better than ISIS?”
You can hear at clip at this website.

West High Students Featured on ABC's "The View"

(Originally written on 11/18/17): After the 2016 presidential election, Iowa City witnessed several protests that were initiated by students from West and City High School. The protests, in part, were to protest the results of the election. But there was an "anti-discrimination march" through downtown Iowa City on November 15th, as well as appearances before the Iowa City Community School Board and the Iowa City City Council, where students expressed concerns about reports of increased incidents of discrimination and bullying in the schools following the election.

The student activism at West High in particular attracted the attention of ABC's "The View." Recently, co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Clay Aiken traveled to Iowa City and interviewed eight students -- four Trump supporters and four Clinton supporters. And yes, it pretty much divided down racial lines. That segment aired earlier today.

It was interesting watching the pre-interview segment where the various students expressed incidents of bullying immediately following the election. Muslim students who were sneered at and called terrorists. The Hispanic boy who was asked about getting deported to Mexico. The white boy who was accused of being a Hitler Youth program. Aiken and Hostin then gathered eight of the students for a conversation where they were all given the opportunity to discuss their similarities and differences. Basically, they all are struggling to move on from the election two months later. 

You can watch the entire segment here.

Updated on 11/19/17:  The Press-Citizen reports today that the West High students featured in this program are not happy that ABC's "The View" focused too much of the political divisions when they came to the school. Then again, ABC learned of West High explicitly because of those political divisions. So...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

President Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's 35-Year Sentence

As one of his final official acts, President Barack Obama commuted the remaining prison sentence for Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst disclosed nearly three-quarters of a million classified or unclassified but senstive military and diplomatic documents via WikiLeaks. Manning was convicted by court-marital in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses and sentenced to 35 years in prison -- by far the largest sentence ever for such a conviction.

Manning is set to be freed from prison on May 17, 2017:
In a joint statement, two lawyers who have been representing Ms. Manning’s appeal of her conviction and sentence, and who filed the commutation application, praised the decision. “Ms. Manning is the longest serving whistleblower in the history of the United States,” they said. “Her 35-year sentence for disclosing information that served the public interest and never caused harm to the United States was always excessive, and we’re delighted that justice is being served in the form of this commutation.”
Manning was convicted as Bradley Manning and came out as a trans woman after her 2013 conviction.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Remembering When Eastland School for Girls Went Coed on "The Facts of Life"

I've written elsewhere that I've been binge-watching the final two seasons of "The Facts of Life" since Christmas. I finished up with the ninth and final season of this long-running sitcom -- and I was reminded of how it fizzled in the end. "The Facts of Life" ended with a two-part episode that attempted to launch a new sitcom starring Lisa Whelchel as Blair and a new generation of co-ed students at Eastland School.

The first episode -- titled "The Beginning of the End" -- informed us that Eastland School was closing. Most of the girls are disappointed in a nostalgic way, but these young women are busy with their new life journeys. Natalie has moved to New York City to learn how to become a starving writer. Jo just got married and is moving out to live with her new husband. Tootie is engaged, but also off to join an influential acting troupe.

Only Blair is ready to do something about Eastland. She cashes out her trust fund and purchases the failing school. Keep in mind that the school has already announced that it is closing. They don't have enough students to remain solvent. The headmaster has quit without notice. The teachers are all searching for new sources of employment. In other words, this wasn't one of Blair's wisest purchases.

The second episode -- titled "The Beginning of the Beginning" -- does three things. First, it installs Blair Warner as headmaster at Eastland School. Second, it addressed the declining enrollment by allowing boys to enroll at Eastland School. Third, it introduced a new core group of girls for the house (one snob, one loner, one everygirl, and one younger girl who's obsessed with her tiny breasts).

Let's get something clear. The way that the boys enrolled at Eastland made no sense at all. A large gang of boys descended on the dorm in the middle of the night -- mid-semester -- with no previous planning on where they would sleep, who they are, or what classes that they would be taking. Even worse, they pretty much showed up immediately after Eastland's board agreed to go coed. Can you imagine the amount of public rebranding that it would take to notify the existing students and parents that a group of boys were going to be enrolling? Not to mention the amount of recruitment that it would take for them to get the parents of male students with enough money to enroll at Eastland? At this rate, I can only assume that boys whose parents have the money and lack of attention to dump their sons unceremoniously on a boarding school's campus in the middle of the night are all going to be borderline delinquent underachievers.

The show ends with Blair making some inroads with the new core group of girls just in time to briefly run home and pose for a picture with all of her friends (minus Natalie, who couldn't be bothered to show up for the final episode of the program).

Looking back, it's interesting to see some of the young actors who would have starred in "The Facts of Life 2.0." There was Meredith Scott Lynn as the snobby princess (AKA Ashley Payne):

And Juliette Lewis as the depressed loner who's trying to get kicked out of Eastland so that she can save her parents' marriage:

And a very young Mayim Bialik during her pre-"Blossom"/pre-"Big Bang Theory" days:

And, of course, young Seth Green rocking that Nellie Olsen look that had the guys rocking back in 1988:

And that's how "The Facts of Life" ended its nine year televised history.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Squirrel Girl Celebrates Her 25th Anniversary in UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #16!

Hard to believe that it's been 25 years since Squirrel Girl made her debut in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES WINTER SPECIAL #8. I actually remember leafing through that comic book when it was first published. It was in the magazine rack at my hometown pharmacy, where I used to purchase most of my comic books back in the day. I honestly don't remember if I bought the comic book. It was pretty expensive for the time -- though much cheaper than pretty much any comic book that's published these days.

But I distinctly remember reading and enjoying that story by Will Murray and Steve Ditko. Iron Man teamed up with newbie superhero Squirrel Girl and her army of squirrels to defeat the dastardly Doctor Doom!

Back then, Squirrel Girl was a mutant character. More recently, she's been retconned into something undefined, but clearly not a mutant. She's still as lovable as she is unbeatable!

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #16 honored her 25th anniversary by highlighting her birthdays every five years from Day One to Age Five to Age 10 to Age 15 to Age 20 (now) to age 25 (the future!). Honestly, isn't newborn Doreen just adorable?? And yes, she was born with a tail.

Doreen was always an outsider. She struggled during her early years to connect with her peers and to accept herself. But a chance encounter with her first sidekick Monkey Joe on her 10th birthday helped her envision herself as a future hero. And a chance encounter with the Hulk and the Abomination on her 15th birthday initiated her first costumed adventure as Squirrel Girl.

She would have met Iron Man shortly after that. Which would have led to her stint with the Great Lakes Avengers. Which would have led to her being hired as nanny for the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Which led to the launch of her new comic book. Which led to her joining the New Avengers. Which led to the launch of her second new comic book. Which led to her upcoming role in the US Avengers.

I love Doreen's 20th birthday pic up above. Not only is she joined by her mother and best friend and c-list super hero friends (Brain Drain, Chipmunk Hunk, and Koi Boi), but her birthday is celebrated by honored heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, both Thors, Black Widow. Even Loki managed to show up for the festivities!

That's what I love about Squirrel Girl. She connects emotionally with so many different types of characters. Plus, more often than not, she defeats her enemies with something more than fists. She problem-solves and helps the villains to discover better ways to meeting their goals than villainy. Except on those occasions when she defeats them with her fists.

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #16 features story by Ryan North, story by co-creator Will Murray (during the 15-year-old sequence), art by Erica Henderson, additional art by Steve Ditko (Doreen's costume drawing), colors by Rico Renzi, and letters by Travis Lanham. Seriously guys. Go get this title if you're not already reading it. It's great stuff.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Gay Family to be Depicted in February 2017 Issue of "Highlights" Magazine

It's been a long time since I've read "Highlights." I have nothing against the magazine. My boys have just aged out of the target market.

Several months ago, a lesbian parent named Kristina Wertz shared her concern about the lack of LGBT families within "Highlights" or "Hello" magazine on their Facebook page:
My partner emailed you about the lack representation of LGBT families in Hello magazine last month and we have not received a response. Our one year old daughter loves Highlights! She carries her magazines all over the house and we read them countless times a day. One of the reasons we appreciate Hello is the diversity represented - families of all races, interracial families, and grandparents. We are consistently disappointed, however, in the complete lack of same-sex parents in Hello magazine. I think a lot about the things that create culture – the subtle and not so subtle messages that our kids get about how the world works. Since becoming a parent, I feel keenly aware of the messages kids’ books send to tiny minds. There is a deep need for books that positively reflect back the diversity of the world around us and I hope that Highlights embraces that diversity because we would love to keep it in our little one's life as she grows.
Highlights responded in a way that really didn't address Wertz's concerns:
We understand your wish to see your family’s situation represented in Highlights Hello. For much of our readership, the topic of same-sex families is still new, and parents are still learning how to approach the subject with their children, even the very little ones. We believe that parents know best when their family is ready to open conversation around the topic of same-sex families. 
Please be assured that it is very important to us that every child see his or her “face” in the pages of our magazines at some point—that every child feels that Highlights is truly for them. We will continue to think deeply about inclusion —specifically, how to address it in developmentally appropriate ways for our broad audience. Your note is a good reminder of how important it is.
They later apologized and came out with stronger support for all families, including those with gay or lesbian parents:
We want to reiterate that we believe all families matter. We know that there are many ways to build a family, and that love is the essential ingredient... This conversation has helped us see that we can be more reflective of all kinds of families in our publications. We are committed to doing so as we plan future issues... Whether incorporating families headed up by a grandparent or single parent, or including adoptive families, blended families, same-sex families, multi-generational families, and multi-racial families, our depiction of families is in support of our mission to help children become their best selves and understand that all families, including theirs, are important.
And that provides some context about the graphic at the top of this blog article. It features a pair of dads with their son and daughter flanked by the following text: "Your Favorite Family Trip. Has your family ever taken a memorable trip? Tell us where you went and what you liked about it. Include a drawing, if you wish."

It will appear on page within the February 2017 issue of "Highlights."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gay-Baiting Episode on Classic Episode of "The People's Court"

I was watching old clips of "The People's Court" from the era when Judge Wapner was still involved with the program -- mostly the 1980s. This one episode grabbed my attention. It featured the case of Snapp VS. Bohon.

Scott Snapp was suing Allen Bohon for $525 for rent, bounced check fees, and for the costs associated with changing the locks to the apartment. He had rent a room in his apartment to Bohon, who moved in and out on the first day of his tenancy -- but not before canceling the rent check!

Bohon claimed that he instantly felt unsafe in the apartment and accused Snapp of attacking him. Basically, Bohon accused Snapp of pushing him onto the bed in the hopes of either initiating a sexual relationship with him or possibly even sexually assaulting him.

Judge Wapner reviewed the evidence and ruled in favor of the plaintiff -- minus the expenses for changing the lock. Wapner really wasn't phased about Bohon's insinuations. He said that Bohon's accusation wasn't enough to get him out of the apartment without paying his portion of the rent: "There's no reason given to break this tenancy. If I believe the testimony that a sexual advance was made one time, it still would not be enough. If you say "No" and someone continues to persist in that kind of thing, then maybe you have a reason to terminate a tenancy."

Gay-baiting at it's finest. Fortunately, Judge Wapner didn't fall for it. That said, I'm pretty certain that both guys in this case were gay, judging by my gaydar response during the final interviews.

You can watch the whole clip here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Jersey: 8-Year-Old Trans Boy Kicked Out of Local Cub Scout Troop

There's a story going around about an 8-year-old trans boy named Joe Maldonado who was kicked out of his Cub Scout troop for being a trans boy:
After a month of science experiments and barbeques at a New Jersey chapter, he was told he's no longer welcome. The reason he was given: he was born a girl. Joe is transgender. Until two years ago, he'd gone by Jodi. "I felt very upset but then very angry because it's just not fair that because I was born a girl they won't let me in," Joe told CNN. Kristie Maldonado, Joe's mother, says she told the Scouts chapter before registering Joe that he's transgender. She says she was told the Scouts policy is to "go by birth certificate, what you're born with." 
The local Scouts counselor didn't respond to CNN calls seeking comment. But Effie Delimarkos, director of communications for the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement that Joe "does not meet the eligibility requirements to participate in this program," and that the Boy Scouts referred him to alternative programs. The statement added that the Boy Scouts "defer to the information provided for an individual's birth certificate and their biological sex" in determining who can join.
Our boy D'Angelo was briefly a member of the Cub Scouts. This was back when the BSA was much more against gay Scouts and Scout leaders. We also gave the troop leader advance warning that D' has two fathers and asked him to send us away before we got involved with the group. He told us that our involvement with our son's troop was technically against the rules, but we could remain involved as long as other parents didn't object to our involvement with our son's Cub Scout troop.'

But D' really wanted to join the Cub Scouts, so we did it. Fortunately, he lost interest within a few months.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Iowa Lawmaker Targets Universities with "Suck It Up, Buttercup" Legislation // Hangs Up on CBC Radio Interview When Challenged about Stories of Therapy Ponies in the Classrooms // UPDATE: Rep Kaufmann Drops Plans for "Suck It Up, Buttercup" Bill

(Originally written on 11/16/16): Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R) of nearby Wilton, IA, has grabbed some attention this week after presenting a "Suck it up, Buttercup" bill that essentially is used to financially attack Iowa's universities and student population.

Here are the two areas that it addresses: 1. It would penalize any university that establishes an election-related "cry zone" above what it normally available to the student body. The legislature would then budget-cut double the amount of money spent on such activities. (Jon's Note: According to university representatives, they've spent $0 on such activities.) 2. It would make it easier for law enforcement to criminally charge protesters who block a highway or roadway. Basically, the roadway aspect is a tool to gain popular support while farcical "cry zones" will be used as an excuse by the legislature to fiscally chip away at the state's university system for reasons that have little to do with "cry zones."

Keep in mind that we just wrapped up an extremely polarized election season. People from all walks of life are hyper-stressed and worked up right now. Plus, there are ongoing reports of minority and international students who are being targeted to varying degrees by others over the past week or so. So if group debriefing sessions are needed to help people move from one step to the next, then maybe it's better to allow a few opportunities. Just a thought.

Regardless, Kaufmann's bill has grabbed lots of attention and he's been all over the news. Including one of my favorite Canadian news/talk shows, "As It Happens." Carol Off interviewed Rep. Kaufmann for today's program. And it didn't go well for Kaufmann.

It seems that Kaufmann doesn't like to be asked for specifics. Orr asked him in the interview about who he's referring to when he talks about "Buttercup." He then goes off on a script about fragile university students who cannot cope with reality. He then relays vague stories that have supposedly been relayed to him by constituents, about professors who offer all levels of emotional coddling.

It went downhill from there:
BK: I'm not ready to point fingers on specifics but I think we've all seen the reports across the entire country. We've seen them live on reports from reputable media sources. I have people reaching out to me from different states saying, hey, my kid, at this particular college today, the professor was actively discussing the possibility of bringing in a pony — a miniature pony so that people could use it to feel better about the election

CO: Can I ask you where did that happen? Where was the discussion about bringing a pony to school?

BK: My job is to be finding this out. I'm not prepared to name names right now. I'm doing an investigation.

CO: I'm not asking you to name names — just where did it happen?

BK: Okay… [hangs up]
Kaufmann's interview with "As It Happens" lasted just over two minutes. It appears that he could not actually back up his tales of ponies in the classroom and wasn't prepared for an interviewer who actually pressed for details that could be researched and independently verified.

Suck it up, Buttercup. Indeed...

Updated on 01/09/17: Rep Kaufmann announced this week that he's no longer planning on moving forward with his "Suck It Up, Buttercup" bill. Turns out that the emotional coddling that he accused Iowa's universities of providing was largely nonexistent and exaggerated.

The best of the bunch? It was the University of Iowa here in liberal Iowa City -- usually the punching bag for otherwise red state Iowa:
“Out of the three regent universities, the University of Iowa acted the best and in the most responsible way when it came to handing the election,” Kaufmann said. “So I want to offer them some kudos.”
Kaufmann did indicate that Iowa State University pushed the unspecified limits when it came to post-election events, mostly because some of the students and faculty attended a rally in Ames. Which I thought was one of our legal rights.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Degrassi: Next Class" Explores Responses to Trauma in Season 3

Season 3 of "Degrassi: Next Class" dropped on Netflix yesterday and I've already watched every episode. First season was ultimately about online bullying. Second season was about subtle and overt racism. This season was all about trauma.

Last season ended with a serious bus accident that sent several of the cast members to the hospital. This season jumps ahead to the following fall semester as those students struggle -- some better than others -- with the aftermath.

First off, the one student most seriously affected by the accident was Tristan. He's been in a coma since the accident -- with boyfriend Miles sitting by his bedside all summer long. Miles finds out early on in the semester that the other students are struggling with his daily vlog updates. It's too much of a reminder of their own recovery. Miles finds himself struggling with holding onto his comatose boyfriend and moving on with life. He finally turns to playwriting, telling his story and sharing his grief.

Maya has fallen deep into the well of depression. Everything that excited and motivated her before -- her music, her friends, and family -- means nothing to her. She's become fixated on death and dying. Her decline literally left me in tears last night.

Meanwhile, a new group of Syrian refugee students have settled into the school. Goldi and Baaz have taken in a refugee teen named Rasha, who's really nice. But Rasha develops a crush on another student that's so counter-cultural that it threatens to destroy their new friendship if Goldi finds out!

And it wouldn't be "Degrassi" if we didn't explore the everyday trials of dating, sexual behavior, teenage pregnancy, and communication pitfalls.

Season 3 of "Degrassi: Next Class" was so overwhelming and exhausting -- in a good way. I vacillated between laughter and crying and seriously couldn't turn away.

Updated to Add: How many kids along the LGBT spectrum go to school at Degrassi?? I say this as a gay guy who was alone in the 80s. I get that this takes place in Toronto and that people tend to connect with those with similar interests and outlooks, but damn...

Friday, January 6, 2017

"Facts of Life": Remembering Over Our Heads

I finished binge-watching my DVD collection of "The Facts of Life: Season Eight" last week and quickly ordered "The Facts of Life: The Final Season." It's arrived and I'm now about halfway through that collection. This is the season that introduced an Australian teenage girl named Pippa (played by Sherrie Krenn) to the cast for some reason and then sent Blair, Natalie, Tootie, and Jo onto separate directions in life. It's also the episode where Natalie became the first "Facts of Life" girl to have sex in a very special episode that Blair-actress Lisa Whelchel opted out of because she disagrees with premarital sex.

But this post is about Over Our Heads. Back in 1985, a fire destroyed Edna's Edibles and caused massive smoke damage to the residential part of the building. Mrs. Garrett and the girls decided to pool their insurance checks together and start their own novelty shop -- complete with records, flashy t-shirts, greeting cards, gadgets, and inflatable penguins. They called their new store Over Our Heads, because they were in over their heads.

OOH was a great business idea. All five of the women were equal partners. This was an opportunity for them to make money while they attended college. They hired young Andy to help out in the store and eventually Beverly Ann Stickle joined the cast to take over as manager for the store.

But OOH gradually faded into the background. The girls would take off on random road trips to New York City or to go skiing. They overloaded with classes. Jo became a social worker at a local community center. Blair began law school and then began a heavy-duty legal internship. Natalie fretted over various jobs such as a construction road crew and managing a Mexican fastfood restaurant. Tootie disappeared for weeks at a time to do various acting gigs. And everyone seemed to disappear each summer on vacations.

And I was left wondering who was watching the store??

Which brings me to "Something In Common" from the ninth and final season of "The Facts of Life." This episode was primarily about Jo trying to smooth over the rocky relationship between her father and her new boyfriend Rick. But there was a secondary story line where the fate of Over Our Heads was finally sealed.

We already knew that Andy was sleeping in the basement. But then the girls brought Pippa into the household at the beginning of the season and -- instead asking her to share one of the two large bedrooms with Blair, Jo, Tootie, and Natalie -- had her sleep for months on the couch. I have no idea where Pippa stored her clothing or other personal items. Occasionally, when the living room was busy, Pippa would be allowed to take naps in someone else's bedroom. Which makes me wonder why they didn't send her to the dorms at Eastland School!

And then we find out what I've already noted before. None of the girls -- Blair, Jo, Nat, or Tootie -- are taking their business seriously. All four of these women should be invested in the financial success of Over Our Heads. Instead, they are ignoring their shifts and relying on Beverly Ann to keep the store in operations. We learn in this episode that the girls are ignoring inventory checks and not stocking enough merchandise to be marketable.

Finally, Beverly Ann tells the girls that Over Our Heads just isn't profitable anymore and makes the suggestion that they close Over Our Heads and convert the space into bedrooms for Andy and Pippa. The girls agree and Over Our Heads closed for good!

It just seems like a waste. They could have redoubled their efforts to improve inventory and shift attendance. They could have sweetened the deal a bit so that Beverly Ann felt better about running the store more independently. They could have kept things going in order to bolster their individual incomes. But they unceremoniously shuttered Over Our Heads over the course of one conversation.

At least it got Pippa off of the couch!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Former DNR Head Rich Leopold Launches Democratic Candidacy for Iowa Governor in 2018

Former DNR head Rich Leopold announced yesterday that he is launching his candidacy to become the governor of Iowa in 2018. Leopold describes himself as a conservative Democrat and he has a lot of good things to say:
In my experience working with Iowans, I’ve learned we want leaders who are clear in their beliefs but open about taking in new information that may change their minds. There has never been a moment in which fact-based, truthful leadership is more crucial. 
My focus as an executive on being candid, transparent, and fair, is both desperately needed and largely absent in today’s government. I don’t hold back my opinions and beliefs; I say what I mean and mean what I say. I believe Iowans deserve a government with backbone and character and I will work every day to provide it. Now, we all want great public education, roads and bridges, police and fire protection, clean air and water, a thriving economy, a productive ag, and competent and affordable medical care. Iowans are willing to pay for these things as long as we get what we pay for. State government, must be efficient, effective, and show results.
One of my biggest complaints about the Democratic Party in Iowa is that they have virtually given up on our rural counties -- and Iowa pretty much consists of rural counties. We don't run Democratic candidates in these counties. We don't go to these counties. And we don't do a good job of building relationships in these counties.

In his campaign launch video, Leopold specifically addresses this issue: "We hear a lot about rural Iowa being open for business. Is rural Iowa really open for business when there's thousands of people who have to actually leave their communities to get a good-paying job? Is rural Iowa open for business when it's harder and harder to send your kids to college because of low wages? What about attracting a workforce? So we want all these people to move to Iowa and help us when we have some of the filthiest water in the country. Now we all want the things that tax dollars pay for, right? We want a good education system. We want a clean environment. We want good roads and bridges. Thriving economy. Productive ag sector. And I believe as Iowans we are willing to pay for it if we get what we pay for, but we want our government to be effective, efficient, and results-driven."

Rich Leopold is the first Democrat to launch his gubernatorial campaign and I'm sure that he won't be the last. I'm definitely liking what I'm hearing already and would gladly cast my vote for him. But lots can happen during the next two years.

Check out his campaign video when you get the chance.

Iowa Family to Appear Later this Month on "Family Feud"

A family from Johnston, IA, will be competing on two episodes of "Family Feud" later this month. The family -- father Jeff Smaha; sons Ryan, Tyler, and Joshua; and daughter-in-law Amber -- taped their segments back in July. They will be appearing on the program on January 27th and 30th -- implying that they do well enough to win some pretty good prizes!

Apparently, the "Family Feud" producers continually used the "Iowa Nice" label with the family.

I'll do my best to watch the episodes and blog about them afterwards.