Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TLC Debuts "Big & Little" Tonight About Obese Little People

There's a new show debuting on TLC tonight called "Big & Little." It's about little people who are obese and who need assistance because of their unique needs.

Case in point: Chuck is a 31-year-old guy who weights 164 lbs. Most of us would love that. Except that Chuck is only 3'6' tall, so this weight is way more than his body can handle. At his current height and weight, Chuck is currently wider than he is tall. His back hurts. His knees hurt. It's a challenge to walk down the hallway, much less dress himself. He's socially isolated and has very little to look forward to in his life.

"Big & Little" will follow Chuck's life and the life of another little person as they reverse their weight gains and get back into a healthy way of living.

I'm pretty interested in this show and plan to watch it. You can catch Chuck's clip here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Matt and Sabrina Continue to Commiserate on "Return to Amish"

So I finally got to watch the latest episode of "Return to Amish," which followed up on Sabrina's court battle for her baby girl. I've learned that Sabrina's parents were going through the foster parent training program in Pennsylvania, which would allow the state to place the baby in their home. Unfortunately, Sabrina's unexpectedly early childbirth messed up with their plans as they hadn't yet finished the classes or their home study.

Which leaves Sabrina in a shaky place. Fortunately, she has her gay friend and fellow ex-Mennonite Matt Bristol to show up out of the blue for a cup of coffee. Frankly, it's nice that Matt keeps showing up given that Abe and Rebecca want absolutely nothing to do with Sabrina these days! To a point, I don't blame them. Their last interactions with Sabina weren't terribly positive. That said, one of the negative aspects to Amish culture is the shunning of those who don't toe the line. And Abe and Rebecca -- despite being ex-Amish -- are great as shunning poor Sabrina!

I'm half convinced that Matt and Lizzie keep popping up on the show to make up for Abe and Rebecca continually refusing to interact with Sabrina, despite them being relatively close to each other. I mean, there's only so many times that cash-strapped Jeremiah and Carmela can believably show up at Sabrina's door from Florida!

But have you noticed that "Return to Amish" identifies Matt as "Sabrina's friend" or "ex-Mennonite" (except for that one first time when he was ), but Lizzie is always identified as "Breaking Amish: LA?" I'm not sure why that is. I'm half convinced that they are auditioning Matt and Lizzie for future seasons of the program. I mean, they've already lost Kate. Who is to say that Jeremiah or Sabrina will be back for future episodes given all of their repeated legal problems? Or maybe the show's producers are just looking for fresh talent who aren't completely shunning one of the show's primary characters?

I'm just happy that Matt keeps showing up, even if it's just for five minutes or so each episode! In this episode, he showed up and reminded poor Sabrina that pregnancy gave her a gut! I'm sure he meant well, but it really made me laugh!

They then sat around and chatted about Sabrina's ongoing woes. Sabrina told him about her kids being removed from her care and Matt incredulously noted that they would be so much better if they ended up in her parents' home and raised Mennonite because of that great upbringing.

Have I mentioned lately that it's hard to take their devotion of Mennonite culture too seriously given that both of them left as soon as they could and neither plans to return? But I digress...

But I'm glad to see Matt there supporting his childhood friend and fellow reality TV personality. I just hope that their friendship doesn't just exist for Sabrina to vent about the horrible things in her life. They need to expand their friendship to include some fun stuff too. Otherwise, this friendship isn't likely to last.

It's hard to believe, but there is only one more episode left to this season of "Return to Amish." The gang -- minus Matt and Lizzie, of course -- will travel to Las Vegas for some fun and excitement -- not to mention some heart-wrenching confrontation. I really hope that it doesn't end with Sabrina and Rebecca screaming at each other again. They really need to find some amount of peace. Even if they don't become best friends again, they should be able to be in the same room again. Otherwise, what's the point?

Monday, May 29, 2017

"Return to Amish" Catch-Up: Mary Throws a Baby Shower for Sabrina // Real Life "Amish" Update: Sabrina Burkholder Arrested/Pleads Guilty to New Drug Charges

I continue to find myself sucked into the current season of TLC's "Return to Amish." The stuff featuring Abe & Rebecca and Jeremiah & Carmela are definitely interesting -- particularly the scenes that focus on Abe's mother, Mary. But I'm all about Sabrina, who is largely on her own battling for parental rights over her unborn daughter.

For whatever reason, TLC hasn't posted last night's episode on iTunes yet. But this gives me the opportunity to talk about last week's episode.

Sabrina just lost parental rights for her older daughter -- reportedly for allowing unsupervised contact with the child's father, which very well might be the entire story. Most likely, she continues to struggle with addiction and interact with other know addicts as well. Anyway, Sabrina is doing her best to arrange for her Mennonite parents to become guardians for her unborn daughter, knowing that CYS will act quickly to place the child into foster care once she is born.

Mary decides to rally the rest of the "family" around Sabrina in last week's episode and organizes a baby shower. Of course, Kate quit the show and Abe/Rebecca have gone all Amish on Sabrina and shunned her from their lives. So the baby shower ends up consisting Mary, Jeremiah/Carmela, and Lizzie & Haj from "Breaking Amish: LA" -- plus a handful of stragglers.

Sadly, Sabrina goes into labor nearly one month early, which messes up the timelines for her parents to get ready and apply for guardianship. The state ends up placing the baby in foster care and the episode ends with Sabrina going to court in a last-ditch effort to maintain parental rights for her baby. I have an idea about where this is heading, but I haven't yet actually seen last night's episode.

I have no clue where things might be heading with Sabrina, but I do know that she hasn't had her older daughter for nearly a year and she hasn't had her baby since late November. It's possible that she's had visits, but my impression is that he hasn't had any physical contact with the girls outside of a few letters.

I just learned from tabloid news that Sabrina was recently arrested on 05/11/17 following an 04/23/17 incident. She was on probation at the time and ended up getting charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance, Driving an Unregistered Vehicle, and Use/Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Sabrina ended up pleading guilty to all three charges. She is now out of jail.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Christian Colleges and Gay Marriage

I recently pulled out the alumni magazine for the college that I once attended -- which is a liberal arts college in Northeast Iowa that is affiliated with the ELCA. I got to the update section of the magazine. It's the place where people share their job developments, as well as their marriages, births & adoptions, and their obituaries. Leafing through the three columns of marriages, I noticed four particular gay marriages among the group -- two female couples and two male couples.

It's not the first gay marriages that have appeared in our alumni magazine. My own gay marriage was once reported -- though it took a while before they would publish information about it. They wouldn't share when we had our commitment ceremony in the late 90s, but they did include our marriage when we got legally married in 2010.

I try to notice when there are gay marriages reported among the alumni and a lots of times there are names where it's just not clear. Stuff like Pat and Alex Smith. That sort of thing. But the four couples included in this latest alumni magazine all possess gender unambiguous names, so there's no wishful thinking on my part happening here!

I share this story because I often hear from LGBTQ people who attend Christian colleges or universities or who want to, but then they get trapped in a cycle of needing to remain closeted or else risk being suspended or expelled or have their credentials withheld. I want people to know that there are Christian alternatives to anti-gay/ex-gay colleges and universities. There are Christian colleges where LGBTQ students are welcomed, affirmed, and included and whose families are not swept under the rug for the sake of appearance.

Don't settle for less.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Ryan Buell of "Paranormal State" Out of Jail and In Rehab

Remember how Ryan Buell, formerly of A&E's "Paranormal State," was arrested recently and charged with simple assault against his boyfriend? This came month's after his arrest and felony charges for theft and receiving stolen property. But, more relevant to this blog post, days after this uncomfortable series of Facebook Live sessions featuring a messed up Ryan Buell.

I began reading reports that Buell had been left go from jail and sent to rehab last week. I didn't share this information at the time because the particular source seems a little flaky at times. But it appears that he had good info, as evidenced by this Facebook message that was posted earlier today:

Judge Millian Schools a Clueless Landlord on Yesterday's "The People's Court"

I listen to podcasts and play YouTube videos in the background sometimes when I'm doing paperwork. One program that works well for this type of passive viewing is "The People's Court." I rarely get to watch this show in person, so it's nice that others upload the program regularly.

Yesterday's program was a great episode. Not only did the defendant try claiming the cost of a pot-deal in his counter-suit(!!), but the best case happened in the middle of the show. This couple was moving out of their apartment and found that $1005.50 of their security deposit was withheld due to cleaning expenses. Basically, the landlord spent 64 hours cleaning the stove and the toilet and charged a rate of $20 per hour for the cleaning.

The plaintiffs disputed that their place was that dirty and provided an exit video as proof. The were gently chided for recording everything quickly so that the judge couldn't see much detail, but the place looked pretty good.

Meanwhile, the defendant didn't have any pictures, but he had 60 years of experience as a landlord and a checklist that his cleaner (AKA his girlfriend) completed while she cleaned the place. The defendant was incredulous that the Judge Millian brought up the fact that he didn't provide any proof (such as pictures) to back up his damage claims and that she didn't automatically trust his experience or his word. He also told her that it was inappropriate to ask if the cleaner is his girlfriend and disagreed that her credibility here might be more skewed if she was romantically attached to him instead of just professionally attached to him.

It came to a head when the cleaner/girlfriend was explaining the state of the apartment to Judge Millian. The defendant began chortling during one of Judge Millian's interjections. It went downhill from there:
Judge Millian: Are you mocking me?

Defendant: No. 

Judge Millian: It looked like you were. 

Defendant: I'm amazed at the questioning.

Judge Millian: Why? Why are you amazed? You think you're beyond having to prove your case in court? You're being sued? Why would you come in without a single picture? I don't mind that you didn't come in with a single picture. It's not good for you, but I don't mind that. 

Defendant: I'm a successful landlord and I've never...

Judge Millian: "I'm a success... I've been doing this 60 years..." And what? I'm an idiot? I'm the trier of fact here, pal. And you need to prove your case or you lose. That's how it works. It's so simple. What I am not used to... I'm used to litigants coming unprepared. I'm not used to litigants mocking me for asking you, "where's your evidence?" That I'm not used to. 

Defendant: Well, you repeated it several times, ma'am.

Judge Millian: I repeated what several times? 

Defendant: The pictures.

Judge Millian: Right. 

Defendant: *Shrug*

Judge Millian: That's right. 

Defendant: I don't think that's appropriate. 

Judge Millian: You don't. You know what I don't think is appropriate? I don't think it's appropriate for you to keep $1005.50 without proof, so I'm ordering you to return it to them.
You can watch the entire delicious court case here.

Muslim Man Sues Little Caesars for $10 Million Over Pizza Mislabeled as "Halal"

There is a news story circulating coming out of Detroit, MI, involving a Muslim man that filed suit against Little Caesars for $100 million for serving them pepperoni pizza containing pork. According to the complain, the man purchased some pizza on March 20th and requested halal pizza. The pizza box was labeled "halal" and he and his wife ended up eating most of the pizza before realizing that the pepperoni contained pork. (He knows that it's pork because he used to work in a pizza restaurant and knows all about the different types of pepperoni.) They filed a police report three days later. They then returned to the Little Caesars restaurant on May 24th and ordered more pizza. That pizza was also allegedly mislabeled as being halal.

His attorney then filed the lawsuit on the eve of Ramadan, with the intent to warn observant Muslims against accidentally ordering pork products from that restaurant. As noted above, they are suing for $10 million and are alleging breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and fraud. The lawsuit was filed against Little Caesars Pizza, Little Caesars Enterprises, and the employees in that particular restaurant. Lastly, they are seeking class-action status of this lawsuit.

Assuming that the accusations are correct, the company appears to be in the wrong if they served these pizzas while labeling them as halal. But I question whether it's worth a lawsuit, much less a $10 million class action lawsuit. It's definitely worth a refund, or a replacement pizza plus a little extra to make things right. Beyond that, maybe a few hundred or a couple thousand in punitive damages. But ten million bucks?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Speed Demons Across Iowa!

Iowa was full of speed demons this morning. If by "full," one means three drivers drove really fast on our highways this week!

First is Mason City, somebody was clocked at 117 MPH. He or she was reportedly late for work yesterday and got pulled over by the Iowa State Patrol.

The officer took a moment from issuing a speeding ticket to post the moment on Facebook and remind "drivers to obey all posted speed limits." This person face

And then today, the Iowa State Patrol reported via Facebook that they pulled over a driver near Denison, IA, who was traveling at 124 MPH. It seems that the driver was running late this weekend for a graduation party and ended up receiving a $424.50 speeding citation.

But the prize goes to this person over near Stockton, IA, where this driver got caught driving last week at 144 MPH (!!) on Interstate 80 in the middle of the night. According to the media, this driver should have received a $559.50 speeding citation and a possible licenses suspension.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Women at the Well

I haven't been to the blog much this week. I've been extremely busy recently due to work, plus I've been working on a new powerpoint for an upcoming convention panel on "Midsomer Murders."

Then this past Thursday, I got joined a group of people from my church and took a road trip to Mitchellville, IA. More specifically, we went to the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women to participate in a worship services as part of a ministry called Women at the Well. Women at the Well is the church community at the Mitchellville prison that worships every Thursday evening. It's a United Methodist congregation, but remains open to people outside of that denomination.

Which doesn't explain why I was at the prison. Women at the Well actively invites visitors from other churches and organizations to fellowship with the women who worship there every week:
Jesus tells us that sometimes the greatest gift we can give to another person is simply to be present. As a visitor to Women at the Well, your presence is your gift. It reminds every woman incarcerated at ICIW that someone cares, that those outside the razor wire have not forgotten them. It reminds all of us that, through us, Christ is a very real presence in our world.
Worship visitors go through a screening process and are given a list of strict rules before we visit. We are reminded that we aren't allowed to touch the residents and we need to be careful about what personal information we share. I have had some not-so-pleasant experiences with prison employees as a visitor in the past, so I was a bit leery about what to expect this past Thursday. But the prison staff were respectful and the ministers and volunteers were all warm and inviting.

Frankly, I'm still processing my experience with the Women at the Well. The members of my church were encouraged to spread out in the congregation and resist the urge to clump together. There were probably 75 people in the room. Maybe more or less. It was a contemporary worship service, mostly with praise music. But the sermon was meaty and the women were definitely feeling the Spirit. And their choir was amazing!

Part of the service was a presentation by the director of Youth & Shelter Services, Inc. and Teens Against Human Trafficking. Get this. The women raised money over the past two weeks to benefit YSS and managed to raise roughly $93. Keep in mind that they earn roughly twenty-five cents per hour for the work that they do in the prison. That's digging in deep!

In the end, it was humbling to be included in the residents' worship service and to witness their ministry. I anticipate that members from my church will look into ways to maintaining ties to this ministry in the future.

Friday, May 19, 2017

ARCHIE #20: Which Major Character Went Over the Edge: Betty or Reggie?? // UPDATED Below

(Originally written on 05/19/17): It's been a pretty busy week because of work and some extra stuff that I'll probably write about later this weekend. I've got the day off from work and need to run to the gym, but I wanted to write about ARCHIE #20, which kicks off the three-part "Over The Edge" story line. This is the story that's going to kill off -- or at least permanently change -- one of Archie Comics' core five characters

Here are the basics. Archie and Veronica are struggling right now with their relationship and Archie doesn't want anything to shake things up too much. Reggie threatens to share some info that might make Veronica think less of Archie. In exchange for his silence, Archie agrees to drag race on Serpent Hill. Keep in mind that Archie is also racing for continued ownership of his 1969 Mach 1 Cobra Jet. (That's a car.)

Without getting too much into the details, the race began. A third car got in the way of the drag racers. An oil slick happened. And all three cars got crumpled.

Archie Comics wants you to know that Archie himself is safe. They're not killing off their star character again! Also, Veronica and Jughead are safe. They weren't at the race. Heck, Jughead was hardly in the book!

So it comes down to Betty and Reggie. I honestly don't see Archie Comics killing off Betty Cooper. After all, she's the co-star of at least two comic book digests and of a comic book that sometimes gets published! Meanwhile, Reggie is the bad boy that everyone includes in their list of core five characters and yet he's completely on the outskirts of life in Rivedale.

Plus, check out this image from the upcoming ARCHIES one-shot:

In other words, it's not looking too good for Reggie Mantle...

ARCHIE #20 is written by Mark Waid, with art by Pete Woods, and lettering by Jack Morelli.

Updated later on 05/19/17: I thought that the bass player in the above pic is Chuck Clayton, given the skin coloring. It's been pointed out by more than one person that I was stupid for looking at that pic and seeing Chuck. So there you go.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Christian Blogger Publicly Excommunicates Her Gay Son on His Wedding Day // Complains About Her Grieving Process

I learned today about a Christian preschool blogger named who decided to take a break from her traditional blog topics to write about how she and her husband surrendered their son to the Devil:
It has been said that in marriage, the pain and stress of divorce is greater than even the pain of losing a spouse to death. I believe the same can be said of breaking ties with your child. Unless one has experienced this kind of loss and grief, they cannot fully understand the depth of pain experienced by a parent.
Someone may ask, “Why would anyone break ties with her own child?” The answer is, “loyalty to Jesus.” Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children (Matthew 10:37).
It seems that their wonderful son -- her son with an infectious laugh who sang beautifully and spent time bonding over cooking projects and home schooling activities -- succumbed to some unspecified sin. What's the sin? It doesn't matter, according to Blogger-Mom. Sin is sin. Her beloved son gave in to sin and that's enough to cut him off. Meanwhile, she wants the world to know that she is grieving for the son that exiled.

Here's the deal though. It turns out that the world actually knows about her son's secret sin. He's a gay man. In fact, her son just got gay-married. And Blogger-Mom wrote her article about surrendering her son to Satan on his wedding day.

I'm piecing together stories, but I'm learning that Blogger-Mom kicked her son out of the family home when he was a teen. According to one source, he ended up being raised by a friend's family. According to Blogger-Mom's new son-in-law, they maintain an open-door invitation to the son's family. But they have no real relationship with Blogger-Mom or the rest of the family.

I was recently on GCN and read a question about LGBT people and allies boycotting events at anti-gay churches. For example, refusing to go to a child's baptism when invited because it is taking place at an anti-gay church. On the face of it, it seems rude for LGBT people and allies to refuse these types of invitations.

On the other hand, it's actually pretty rare that gay-affirming people "boycott" non-affirming events. Much more often, it's the other way around. For example, at least two relatives did not attend my own wedding because of religious disagreement. I wasn't happy about it, but was told to suck it up. Which I have, but it's still one of those festering irritants for me.

It's actually pretty common -- though not quite as much, fortunately -- for people to "boycott" gay weddings because of religious disagreement. I'm aware of funerals where people have "boycotted" or where venues have canceled because they learned of a gay spouse, or because the person had AIDS, or because the person was a trans person. I'm aware of churches that refuse to baptize our kids. I'm aware of religious schools that expel our kids because they have gay kids.

LGBT people routinely get "boycotted." And while it's largely okay to do, we need to do more to remind people that it's really not *okay* to do. It's rude. It's hurtful. It's shameful. And you shouldn't get patted on the back because you're upset over your gay son's wedding ceremony.

Here is some advice, Blogger-Mom: Time is short. You have cut your son out of your life. You have missed his wedding. You are missing out on developing a relationship with her new step-daughter. You are missing out on every future milestone and achievement in his life. You can blame him for your decision to cut him out, but the end result is that he is gay and he is married. And even though things didn't turn out the way you envisioned, this is the reality of his life. And no amount of public pouting and public shaming will force him to come crawling back into your life.

You should seriously take stock of your own life-choices and beg your son for forgiveness.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sabrina's Life Continues to Implode on "Return to Amish" -- Fortunately, Her Gay Best Friend Matt Is There to Support Her!

I've really gotten sucked into the latest season of "Return to Amish" on TLC this month. Most of the season has circled around Abe, Rebecca, Jeremiah, Carmela, and Mary. Kate -- arguably the most stable and successful of the original "Breaking Amish"/"Return to Amish" bunch -- finally left the franchise this season.

And then there is Sabrina all by herself.

The others are raising their families and building houses and teaching each other to drive. Meanwhile, Sabrina is back in Pennsylvania fighting the state to retain her parental rights over her young daughter and her unborn baby. Sabrina is barely an afterthought to most of the rest of the cast -- except for Mary. Otherwise, she's pretty much on her own.

Fortunately, TLC decided to re-introduce Matthew to the "Return to Amish" franchise. Matthew was a cast member for one season during the "Breaking Amish: LA" spin-off series. He was conveniently invited to Mary's tupperwear party last week and reunited with childhood friend and fellow fallen Mennonite, Sabrina. He finally came out as a gay man after years of struggle.

At the time, I thought that it would be nice if Matthew was brought into the fold full-time. Or at least regularly. And it looks like someone else had the same idea. Matt spent some time again with Sabrina this week, making her some special Mennonite spaghetti and listening to her tales of woe. And woe is me! Sabrina's life is heart-breaking right now!

Sadly, Sabrina learned that her parental rights over daughter Oakley were officially terminated. She made some really bad choices early in Oakley's life, which led to her daughter being placed in foster care. She stabilized enough to regain custody of her daughter, but then made some no-so-bad choices while caring for Oakley. Unfortunately, her choices were being overly scrutinized by this point in their lives and Oakley was returned to foster care. She struggled to regain custody of her daughter, but it was too late.

Now Sabrina is pregnant and doing her best to prevent DCFS from taking her unborn baby from her as soon as the child is born. Her original place was to do a home birth, but the pregnancy was too high risk to risk delivering outside of a hospital. Now there is a strong chance that the hospital will notify DCFS social workers of the baby as soon as Sabrina gives birth and the child will be removed from her care and parental rights immediately terminated.

Matthew did a good job of listening to Sabrina's struggle and offering support -- even though it was clear that he was struggling with what to say. But he did okay. Sometimes you just gotta say something like, "I don't know how to respond, but I just appreciate you trusting me enough to share," y'know?

He did encourage Sabrina to keep fighting for her unborn child and even offered to rally behind her along with her other friends. But Sabrina's main goal right now is to get her parents to agree to adopting to the baby. She would rather the baby be raised in the stability of the Mennonite community as opposed to the instability of the English world.

That was the interesting thing. Both Sabrina and Matt gushed about life as Mennonites, but they both rejected that life for themselves and neither is allowed to return. Sabrina because she got divorced and Matt because he's gay. But they both say that they prefer that life to the English world.

Sabrina said that life has been a mess since leaving the Mennonites to become English. And it's true that she's led a horrible life: Drug addiction, homelessness, loss of her children. disrupted marriage. But that spun out of a series of bad decisions that Sabrina made when she was in her early 20s. It's too bad that she blames the world for her own choices.

Anyway, Matthew took off after the spaghetti was made and hasn't been seen since. It looks like Mary will be hosting a baby shower next week and it looks like some of the other "Return to Amish" folks will be attending. Maybe Matt will get introduced to the group to further cement his presence on the show?

One can only hope!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Casey Cott -- Kevin Keller on "Riverdale" -- Promoted to Series Regular for Season Two!

One of my favorite characters from The CW's "Riverdale" series is Casey Cott, who portrays gay teen Kevin Keller. Kevin always has the perfect quip for every occasion. And his romance with Joaquin -- the undercover Southside Serpent gang-member -- was one of the hottest hook-ups of the season!

But for all his prominence on the program, Kevin Keller has remained a "recurring character" throughout Season One. But not anymore!

We learned this week that Casey Cott has been promoted to series regular just in time for Season Two!! It's a well-overdue promotion and I can't wait to see more of my favorite "Riverdale" actor!!

Ross Butler (AKA Reggie Mantle) Being Recast on "Riverdale" in Season Two

(Originally written on 04/25/17): Fans learned that Ross Butler, known for his portrayal of Reggie Mantle in "Riverdale," will not be returning to the program when the program returns for its second season:
TVLine has learned exclusively that producers of The CW’s rookie teen drama have decided to recast the role of Archie’s foe Reggie ahead of Season 2 as a result of scheduling issues with the character’s portrayer Ross Butler. 
“We love what Ross did with the role of Reggie [this season], but because of his commitments to other projects, we couldn’t use him nearly as much as we would have liked,” series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa said in a statement to TVLine. “[Next season], we want more Reggie on our show — he’s Archie’s rival! — and because Ross is unavailable to come back to Riverdale, we’re looking for a new Reggie. Those are big shoes to fill, but we’re confident we can find an actor who is as funny and sexy as Ross. And of course we all wish Ross the best.”
Charles Melton
Ross Butler has seen a lot of success this year in Netflix's "13 Reasons Why," which will most likely be picked up for a second season. He's been the one character with the most potential who's barely seen any screen time on "Riverdale." Hopefully his successor will become a much more active character on the program.

Updated on 05/13/17: "Riverdale" has its new Reggie!! Charles Melton has been cast to play the role of Reggie when "Riverdale" returns for Season Two. Melton's previous experience includes roles in "American Horror Story: Hotel" and "Glee."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

SUPERB Comic Book To Star New Superhero With Down Syndrome

Comic books frequently feature characters with disabilities. However, there's usually a common theme when it comes to those disabled individuals. Their disabilities usually limit their mobility. Usually that means that they get around in wheelchairs. Occasionally someone gets introduced who uses braces crutches or leg-braces. Or you will meet a character who is blind or deaf.

But it's not terribly common for a mentally disabled character to show up as a regular character. I can think of characters offhand. The Penance twins from Generation X -- who sometimes seemed autistic to me in their portrayals, though I don't think that this was ever spelled out -- and Shape from the original Squadron Supreme -- who was portrayed as someone with an intellectual disability of some sort. I also remember an X-Men back-story from sometime in the mid-90s featuring Magneto and a young mutant with Down Syndrome who was never heard from again.

I've yearned for stories featuring heroes with mental disabilities for a long time -- whether they be folks with costumes and super-powers or funny characters by a company like Archie Comics. But life hasn't caught up with my desire... Yet!

I learned today of an upcoming comic book called SUPERB that stars a young hero with Down Syndrome! SUPERB was produced by partnership by Lion Forge Comics and the National Down Syndrome Society.

The hero in question is a young man named Jonah. I'm not certain if his code name is Superb or if he just goes by the name Jonah. According to news reports, Jonah is trying to figure out what to do with his new superhuman abilities -- strength, telekinesis, and telepathy:
“Everyone faces different challenges in life, but those challenges don’t prevent us from wanting to be heroes,” Lion Forge head Geoff Gerber told The Hollywood Reporter. “Superb is a story about two young people faced with challenges who struggle to understand one another and what it means to be heroes. But some challenges are more difficult for many of us to understand.”
I'm assuming that the second young person is the black girl on the cover, who possibly has Down Syndrome herself. It's not clear to me from the picture. It's also unclear to me if she has powers of her own or a costumed identity. But I'm really curious to find out!

SUPERB is being written by David F. Walker and Sheena C. Howard with art by Ray-Anthony Height, Le Beau L. Underwood, and Veronica Gandini. The first issue is scheduled to arrive in stores in July.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Giant Rabbit Died While In Transit from London to New Home in Iowa // Updated: Simon's Owners Accuse Airlines of Killing Rabbit by Placing It In Freezer for Hours

(Originally written on 04/27/17): You might have heard about United Airlines' latest public blunder. United Airlines has egg on its face again after news broke that a rabbit -- a 3-foot giant rabbit named Simon flying from London to Chicago -- ended up dying while in their custody.

You might not have known that this story has an Iowa connection. Simon was purchased by an Iowan for about $530 and they paid roughly $1800 to fly the giant rabbit to America. The giant rabbit was going to settle into a luxury pen in Norwalk, IA, which is right near Des Moines in south-central Iowa.

Simon was successfully flown from London to Chicago, but then died while at a pet holding facility at the airport. United Airlines has reportedly offered compensation to the rabbit's breeder, but apparently not the new owners.

Simon was the son of the largest rabbit in the world. He came to America where his new owners planned to exhibit him at the Iowa State Fair later this summer.

Updated on 05/08/17: This is messed up. It's now being alleged that United Airlines staff placed Simon in a freezer for hours and then cremated the rabbit without permission:
A 3-foot giant rabbit that died last month following a United Airlines flight from London may have mistakenly been placed in a freezer by airline employees, a Des Moines attorney announced Monday. 
Simon, a Continental Giant rabbit, was purchased by an Iowa-based ownership group with hopes that he could win the Iowa State Fair's biggest rabbit contest in August and be used to help raise money for the fair and its Blue Ribbon Foundation. But the giant rabbit was found dead following a United flight from London to Chicago. 
Des Moines trial attorney Guy Cook announced at a press conference on Monday that the owners are demanding an independent investigation into Simon's death. At least one airline employee has reportedly said that Simon may have been inadvertently locked in a freezer for up to 16 hours after arriving in Chicago. Additionally, the rabbit was cremated by United following its death, making an autopsy to determine what exactly happened impossible, Cook said. That action by the airline was tantamount to "destroying evidence" in the case, he said. The airline cremated the remains without the permission of the ownership group, he said.
The Simon Group is demanding reimbursement for the rabbit's purchase price, as well as shipping costs and the "economic loss" from the rabbit's death.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Matthew Bristol (Formerly of "Breaking Amish LA") Comes Out as a Gay Man

I was watching the first half of tonight's "Return to Amish" episode, which was interesting -- though the episodes run so long these days! It would be so much nicer if they cut them back to one hour in length again!

Anyway, there was one part of the program where elder cast member Mary went to Sabrina's home to see how she is doing given her pregnancy and the stress of her involvement with DCFS. While she was there, Mary decided to host a tupperware party at Sabrina's home so that she could spread a little money and tupperware Sabrina's way.

We were treated to a reunion of sorts at the party. Two cast members from "Breaking Amish: LA" -- Lizzie James and Matthew Bristol were among the Tupperware guests! It was nice to see them, though Lizzie barely said a word the entire time.

Later on, Matthew scheduled a private moment between him, Sabrina, and the production crew to share a little bit of truth about his life. Matthew wanted Sabrina to know that he's finally come out as a gay man!

That's right! The former Mennonite who left the religious community to design clothing finally admitted to the world that he is a gay man. Plus he has a boyfriend in NYC. Sabrina was super-excited to have a gay friend in her life and then began grilling him about guys, bears, and how gays handle it when two tops get in the same room!

And that was pretty much Matthew's contribution to the program. I'm not sure if he'll return to the program again or not. Frankly, it would be nice if he stuck around for a while -- especially since Kate isn't coming back. They could trade a female model for a gay designer! Otherwise, it just seemed like an odd interaction for a character who hasn't been around since 2013!

RIVERDALE: Jason Blossom & Polly Cooper's Romance Was Tainted By Third Cousin Incest // How Scandalized Is This?

We all now know who killed Jason Blossom on The CW's "Riverdale." One of the show's mysteries was also explained in this week's episode. I had Hal Cooper as one of my prime suspects because -- among other things -- he broke into Sheriff Keller's home and stole all of the evidence, pictures and video interviews.

I just couldn't wrap my head around why he would do that. I now know.

We learned that he was trying to get rid of evidence that would lead to awkward questions about the Blossom and Cooper families.

We learned in this episode that Great-Grandpa Blossom was not just a business partner with the man that he killed way back in the day, Great-Grandpa Cooper. It turns out that the two men were brothers. That means that Jason Blossom and Polly Cooper were related to each other. Distantly related, but still related. Hal didn't want the world to find out that Polly committed incest or that their children were the product of incest.

Ew! Incest, right?

Then you think about it and they're not that closely related. Jason and Polly were third cousins to each other. If they wanted, they could get married in any state and it would be completely legal. And any genetic problems that might be encountered because of incest? Well, they're really not that statistically prevalent in this type of situation.

I've pointed this out a few times in online places where "Riverdale" fans congregate. It's earned me a few "likes," but I still find myself in the odd place of defending third cousin incest! How did I get here??

Part of it's because I come from small town America. Where I come from, it's not completely foreign for people to date or marry distant cousins. The joke in smaller communities is that you're somehow related to most people around you. And third cousin relationships are probably more common than most people would expect, even in larger communities.

I mean, think about it. Do you know who your great-uncles' and great-aunts' great-grandchildren are? Do you even know who your great-uncles or your great-aunts are? I'm sure that I could find out, but I really don't know. So how easy would it be to connect with one of your classmates who also happens to be a forgotten third cousin?

The situation is slightly scandalous, but not that scandalous. Certainly not work stealing police evidence and risking a conviction and jail time. At least from my perspective.

What about you? Were you sickened to learn that Jason Blossom and Polly Cooper were third cousins? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Iowa City's Press-Citizen Highlights Community's "Only Practicing Psychic" // Conveniently Ignores Iowa City's Other Psychics

I read with interest yesterday an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen about "Iowa City's only openly-practicing psychic." The writer interviewed Stephanie Prier, who operates a business in downtown Iowa City with a big sign that reads "Psychic Readings." I've driven past this sign many times and have been curious about the business.

According to the article, Prier has been running her psychic shop for the past year. She identifies as a psychic and intuitive energy healer. She does palm reading, Tarot card reading, psychic evaluation, and chakra balancing. She meets clients in her office, over the phone, and online.

That said, Stephanie Prier is far from the only psychic in Iowa City. There are practicing psychics at PrismsScape. I know people who do Tarot and Oracle card readings. And I've met several Iowa City psychics and energy healers at various metaphysical expos over the past 3-4 years. Heck, we even had our own psychic animal communicator for a while.

So interesting article for learning more about that "Psychic Readings" sign that I drive by every day. Not so interesting article when it comes to learning about Iowa City's other openly-practicing psychics.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Riverdale" Episode 12: Jason Blossom's Killer Revealed!

Last weekend, I shared by top three suspects in Jason Blossom's murder over on CW's "Riverdale" -- and I struck out in all with all three suspects!

It wasn't Cheryl Blossom. Hal Cooper was innocent. Not even Hermione Lodge nor poor Smithers pulled the trigger that killed the heir to Blossom Maple Farms!

SPOILERS... (And yes, I'll wait until the show wraps up in the west coast...)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Venice Beach Freakshow Closes After 11 Years of Freaky Entertainment

I can't believe that it's been nearly three years since I wrote about freak shows on this blog!! Back then, "American Horror Story: Freak Show" was debuting and I couldn't get enough of it. I decided to highlight my favorite five freak shows in this blog post and freak show #4 was AMC's "Freakshow" reality TV show, featuring the real life folks at the Venice Beach Freakshow!

I learned late Sunday night that the Venice Beach Freakshow sadly put on its final show this past Sunday night.

Based in Los Angeles, CA, the Venice Beach Freakshow featured a wide range of acts, including body-puncturing, sword-swallowing, and fire-play. Some of its acts included little people, a bearded lady, a wolf boy, and a lobster boy. I've never been to the Freakshow -- heck, I've never been to LA! --, but I followed their activities on Facebook.

According to news reports, the freakshow's owner, Todd Ray, learned six months ago that their lease wasn't being renewed. The building was purchased by Snapshot Partners and all of the tenants found themselves without a home -- exception for Snapchat, which just happens to be on the third floor of the building. Ray is still searching for a new home for the freakshow on Venice Beach, but hasn't had any luck yet.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Iowa AG Office Rejects Petition to Remove Muscatine City Council

Here is another story that I didn't notice when it began. I've written quite a lot recently about efforts by the Muscatine City Council to impeach Mayor Diana Broderson (read here for more details on that mess).

Back in mid-March, the Muscatine City Council was informed that a group of citizens were gathering signatures for a petition that they planned to deliver to the Iowa Attorney General's Office and to the Office of the lieutenant governor.

The petition accused the Muscatine City Council of violating Iowa Code 66.3 and asked for the state's assistance with removing the Muscatine City Council from power.

According to the petition:
We the undersigned believe that the Muscatine City Council along with the Muscatine City Administrator have failed in their duties to serve the citizens of the City of Muscatine, Iowa resulting in a lack of confidence in the governing body. Furthermore, we the citizens of the City of Muscatine Iowa believe that the City Council have violated laws in regards to the Mayor Diana Broaderson.
We learned yesterday that the AG's Office has declined to move forward with the petition to remove the Muscatine City Council from power:
On March 16, Muscatine resident, Ann Brumback, delivered the petition, with allegedly 1,100 signatures, asking the Attorney General to remove the city council pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 66. Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown responded to the petition April 18, claiming the instances cited "failed to meet legal criteria," and ruling the office would decline to pursue action on the petition. In an interview, Brumback said she is working with Jim Merideth, a Muscatine County resident, to review the Attorney General's letter and consider their options, which could include taking the case to court. With the petition, Brumback sent a packet of complaints, including allegations the council has made "disparaging remarks about the mayor's decisions" and making allegations "regarding nepotism by the Muscatine city administrator that were approved by the council," according to Brown. In response, Brown wrote, "there is insufficient proof that the council members acted with an evil or corrupt motive or acted in a dishonest or fraudulent manner."

Monday, May 1, 2017

Jeremiah Raber of TLC's "Return to Amish" Arrested & Charged with Domestic Violence

I was feeling under the weather yesterday, plus it was raining all day. As a result, I spent way too much time watching episodes of last season's "Return to Amish" reality TV show, plus most of last night's season premier on TLC.

Here's the gist for those who are unfamiliar with this program. A few years ago, TLC gathered five Amish and Mennonite adults and transplanted them into NYC to live as "English" people and struggle to cope. Keep in mind that most of these TV personalities (Jeremiah, Kate, Abe, Sabrina, and Rebecca) had already lived lives away from their conservative religious communities. But the show took off and these folks continue to reunite every few months -- along with Abe's mother Mary.

Over the years, Abe and Rebecca have married and had kids. Kate has increasingly distanced herself from the program and the others due to her growing modeling career. Sabrina has struggled with drug abuse and homelessness and is now in the process of losing parental rights of her young daughter. And Jeremiah continues to have run-ins with the law for a variety of reasons.

Case in point...

Last season ended with 37-year-old Jeremiah Raber marrying his new love, Carmela. News broke late last month that Jeremiah getting arrested on 04/22/17 and charged with domestic assault against his wife.

According to the arrest report:
During a verbal dispute the defendant did purposely throw hot coffee onto the lap of his wife. The defendant did make several threats to cause harm *REDACTED* during the argument. The victim did show me several large bruises on her legs and arms that were caused from the defendant striking her with a closed fist. The victim stated that the defendant strikes her on a daily basis.
Raber told Radar that he has "evidence" to prove that he is innocent of these charges, implying that the abuse in their relationship goes both ways.