Saturday, March 25, 2017

Where Is Richard Simmons?

I decided to try out some new podcasts this past week and discovered a new one called "Missing Richard Simmons" by a director/producer/podcaster named Dan Taberski. This podcast explores the mystery behind fitness guru Richard Simmons' sudden disappearance from public life back on 02/15/14. Taberski was a Slimmons gym regular who found himself wondering what happened to his friend.

Keep in mind that Richard Simmons was a gregarious public figure for nearly four decades. He was known for connecting with fans at their home phone numbers for years at a time to assist them with their long journeys from obesity. He ran exercise classes every week at Slimmons gym for forty years, where he led combination workout/sharing sessions with as assortment of regular and gawkers. He connected with his fans in such an intimate way.

So for him to drop out of public life and to avoid all attempts at contact by all but his family and inner circle... Well, it's just nurtured whatever concerns that people who personally knew him but who existed outside of his very inner circle. Every unanswered email and phone call just prompt friends to begin wondering about every dark rumor surrounding his disappearance.

Is he sick or disabled? Did he really transition into a woman? Did he regain his weight? Is he the victim of elder abuse or financial exploitation?

I ended up joining this podcast just in time for it to wrap up. Which made for some interesting podcast-binging this week. Ultimately, Taberski did not connect with Richard Simmons. But he finally received enough reassurance from Simmons' people and from the police that he's okay. He's just done with public life.

That's ultimately what I learned from "Missing Richard Simmons" and the subsequent media reports. Richard Simmons, after forty years of public life, simply decided that he needed to shift gears and focus on himself.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Repressed Romance in "Riverdale" Episode 5 Deleted Scene

It's been a few weeks since the last issue of "Riverdale" aired and it will be another six days before episode #8. Fortunately, Archie Comics and The CW decided to treat us fans with a deleted scene from episode #5. This was the episode where Cheryl went a little nutty at her brother's memorial service. But it's also the episode where Archie gave up the quarterback position on the school's football team so that he could focus more on his music.

In this scene, Valerie interrupts Archie while he works on his song. He tells her that he turned down the quarterback gig so that he could focus more on his music. However, he confuses her because he's still playing on the football team -- granted, it's the junior varsity team and he's not likely to get much play-time anymore.

He explains that he's not a quitter. He doesn't want to give up on the football team, just like he doesn't want to give up on his song. And he really wants Val's help. Which she agrees to do.

You can definitely feel the romantic tension between these two characters in this scene. And I'm left wondering why it was excluded from the final episode. Still it's nice to get a treat after nearly three weeks without a new "Riverdale!"

You can watch the deleted scene here.

Muscatine City Council Begins Impeachment Effort Against City's Mayor // Updated Report: $100,000 in City Legal Fees May Be Used to Justify Impeachment Effort // More Updates...

(Originally written on 01/13/17): This is interesting. Last night, the mostly Republican City Council in Muscatine, IA, unanimously approved impeachment proceedings against the city's Democratic mayor, accusing her of unspecified incidents of misconduct and neglect, as well as making disparaging comments towards city employees.

I've been reading the sordid conflict between Mayor Diana Broderson and the Muscatine City Council with interest. She unexpectedly won an election against the incumbent mayor back in 2015 and has since struggled for achieve any of her limited mayoral duties, which pretty much consist of making appointments to city commissions, as well as appointing the Police and Fire Chief. In fact, the City Council voted last summer on an ordinance that stripped the mayor of those duties. Mayor Broderson challenged this new ordinance and received a decision from the state Attorney General's Office back in October 2016 indicating that the City Council lacked the authority to make these changes and that it was potentially criminal. However, the Muscatine County Attorney declined to act on the state Attorney General's opinion last month.

Which leads us to this week. The Muscatine City Council announced that it would vote on a request to impeach the city's mayor at its 01/12/17 city council meeting. According to the Muscatine Journal, none of the Council members wouldn't offer any explanation for this move and instead referred the reporter to the city attorney, who conveniently couldn't be reached for comment.

Last night, Councilman Michael Rehwaldt read the following motion:
An elected City official may be removed from office for, among other reasons, misconduct or maladministration in office, and willful or habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of the office; and

Willful misconduct or maladministration in office and include, but is not limited to, conduct such as repeated public criticism of the City or staff; repeatedly engaging in defamatory attacks against the City, staff or public; breach of fiduciary duties; or other conduct which tends to erode public confidence in the City or staff.

Habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of office an include, but is not limited to, such conduct as repeated breaches of the public official's fiduciary duties and/or repeated failure to follow established city ordinances or policies;

It appears the Mayor may have engaged in some of the foregoing conduct to the detriment of the City and in contravention of her established duties and, as such, written charges for removal should be filed to determine if the Mayor should be removed from office as a result of such conduct.

Therefore, the City Council of the City of Muscatine, Iowa, hereby motions to instruct the City Attorney to draft and file written charges for the removal of the Mayor as provided for by Iowa Code Chapter 66 and City Code section 1-7-6.
The Council members continued to avoid any specific accusations. Hopefully, they have evidence of willful misconduct or maladministration. Certainly something more substantial than vague suggestions that she "may have engaged" in detrimental conduct.

About 60 citizens attended the meeting and all appeared to denounce this impeachment effort.

I'm not a citizen of Muscatine, but this really doesn't pass the smell test. The Muscatine City Council better watch out or they might engage the citizens enough to vote out its incumbents -- particularly those like Councilmen Rehwaldt, Bynum, and Natvig -- all of whom are up for re-election later this year.

Updated on 01/19/17: We're beginning to get an idea about what the Muscatine City Council plans to use to support their impeachment effort against Mayor Diana Broderson:
The Muscatine city attorney said in an email to City Administrator Gregg Mandsager Wednesday that the city has incurred more than $100,000 in unbudgeted expenses in fighting what he says are "unproven claims and allegations" made by Mayor Broderson...

City officials said the official charges could be released as early as Friday.

City Attorney Matthew Brick detailed the 2016 attorney fees in an email to Mandsager. That email was in response to an inquiry Mandsager received from Broderson requesting more information about costs and attorney fees. Brick's email stated that complaints filed by Broderson against city officials, staff, contractors, and citizens resulted in about $64,000 in unbudgeted legal fees and $43,600 in staff time during the 2016 calendar year.

Mandsager had forwarded the email to the mayor and city council members early Wednesday morning. The email was also forwarded to the Muscatine Journal and Quad City Times.

As to the allegations that she caused funds to be spent by filing complaints, Broderson said she was just doing as the citizens asked...

Her reaction to the amount of costs paid to the city attorney was to wonder how much had been spent changing the city's appointment process. The council passed an amendment earlier in 2016 that created a nominating committee made up of the mayor, the city administrator or his appointee, and two council members to review candidates for city appointments.

"My take would be most of the money has been spent trying to reduce the office of mayor," she said.
By the way, I was listening to this Muscatine-based podcast earlier tonight and was shocked to learn that City Administrator Gregg Mandsager has apparently banned the city's employees from speaking or interacting with Mayor Broderson, outside of basic greetings. It's apparently been this way since shortly after Broderson's election in 2015.

Updated on 01/25/17: I'm not even sure that the Muscatine City Council actually has a clue about Mayor Diana Broderson's impeachable offense. Check this out:
Muscatine City Attorney Matthew Brick says charges for removal of Mayor Diana Broderson may not be filed for weeks, and the nature of the charges has yet to be determined. Brick said he will continue to investigate, and "slow equals fair. I want to make sure if there are relevant issues that they get looked at," he said. 
The Muscatine City Council two weeks ago voted to take the first steps toward ousting the mayor. Councilman Michael Rehwaldt cited "habitual neglect" and "willful misconduct or maladministration in office" as two possible reasons. State law says elected officials can be removed by two-thirds vote of the council. 
"It would be nice for not only me but for the people of Muscatine to know sooner rather than later so both sides could work to prepare," Broderson said. 
If evidence for removing the mayor under state law is not found, Brick said at the end of the investigation he would report back to council.
It sounds to me like the City Council members are just biding their time until after the next election cycle. Pretty shady, Muscatine...

Updated on 02/17/17: Muscatine City Attorney Matthew Brick filed a list of complaints early this morning, which are being used as the basis for Mayor Diana Broderson's impeachment:
Broderson is accused of ignoring Brick's legal advice when he told her that she was stepping outside of the boundaries of her power as mayor, listed in the document as "willful misconduct or maladministration … habitual neglect or refusal to perform the duties of her office..."

In the document, Broderson is accused of "making baseless complaints” that cost the city as much as $100,000 in legal fees and staff time to investigate, including asking for an investigation into whether she had been discriminated against on the basis of her gender and requesting investigation into actions of the city that were later determined to be unfounded.

Also outlined is an alleged breach of fiduciary duties, failure to comply with city code, defamation and/or false allegations and misuse of power and/or abuse of discretion.
These charges have been filed with the city and could appear on the agenda for the next Muscatine City Countil meeting. That is scheduled for 03/01/17.

Updated on 03/10/17: The Muscatine City Council scheduled the date for Mayor Diana Broderson's impeachment hearing at their council meeting last night. The hearing will begin at 8:00 AM on Thursday, March 23rd.

According to news reports, residents approached the Council and expressed disappointment with this whole process. One particular resident suggested that they should have waited until the next election when Mayor Broderson's term expired and just run a better candidate against her instead of going through the time, money, and embarrassment of impeaching her mid-term:
Although advised by City Administrator Gregg Mandsager to answer “no comment” to residents’ questions, Councilman Santos Saucedo responded to Nathan Baker, of Muscatine, after Baker said the recent actions of the council were making Muscatine a statewide laughing stock. Baker said that the mayor would not have retained her seat through the next election in November, and the council should have waited instead of trying to impeach her. "I wouldn’t vote for her again except for that you guys have created this problem," he said. "The right thing would be to let her finish her term, and for you guys just to do your thing." 
Saucedo was visibly upset after Baker’s remarks. Saucedo said he was doing what he felt was right and promised that the reasons behind the charges filed for the mayor’s removal would be revealed at the March 23 hearing. "All the information is going to come out," Saucedo said.
The problem is that the Muscatine City Council has been so cagey about why they are impeaching her that there is little else for residents to do except assume that there's something under-handed, political, and nasty about this whole affair.

Updated on 03/21/17: The impeachment hearing begins first thing Thursday morning. Here are some new details. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 8:00 AM in the council chambers in Muscatine. The hearing will be open to the public, but they will not allow any public comments at the meeting. They will not broadcast the hearing on their local government channel, so you won't have any televised footage for use during future campaign commercials (unless someone in the audience records something on Facebook Live).

Muscatine has brought a retired judge and mediator in to act as special counsel for the city and to act as prosecutor. Mayor Broderson will be represented by her own attorney, presumably at her own expense. Council members will hear the arguments for and against Mayor Broderson's impeachment. Two-thirds of the Council will need to vote for her impeachment. It's unclear if they will actually vote on Thursday or not.

The Muscatine City Council is walking on fragile ice here. This is the first case of a mayoral impeachment in Iowa history. There is an election in a few months and three of the seven Council members are up for reelection. There are already efforts to vote out all three Council members this fall.

Updated on 03/23/17: Mayor Broderson's impeachment hearing dragged on for eleven hours today. You can follow the #musmayor hashtag on Twitter, but it's not clear to follow most of the testimony because there's very little video or written coverage (outside of some tweets and 2-minute clips). Eventually, the hearing was postponed until 9:00 AM on Saturday, 04/01/17.

Updated on 03/24/17: Hear are some details on the testimony, courtesy of the Muscatine Journal. It offers more substantial reasons for the impeachment hearing:

Gender Bias Complaint: Mayor Broderson had initiated a gender bias investigation against the City Council and City Administrator Gregg Mandsager. It was later determined that there was no basis for her allegations:
When he was called as a witness, City Administrator Gregg Mandsager said he may have been negatively impacted by the investigation during a recent job search, because he was required to say he had been the subject of an investigation into gender bias. He also said his health had been negatively impacted by the investigation and allegations made against him and council members during her term.
Misuse of Campaign Funds: Mayor Broderson has been accused to spending $500 of her campaign funds to pay for her attorney. She is also alleged to have spent $1200 in campaign funds to send letters to residents that attack the character of Council members. For example, she referred to the Council members as "good old boys."

Complaints Against City Staff: Mayor Broderson allegedly claimed that two staff members violated Muscatine's Code of Ethics for negative comments made on Facebook about her during their free time. For example, she was called an "asshat" by a city accountant. She also questioned the employment status of a retired city engineer who was hired as a temporary independent contractor while also drawing from his IPERS pension.

Mayor Broderson still hasn't testified on her own behalf. She will presumably have the chance defend herself on April 1st.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Federal Court Okays Lesbian Mother to Sue Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, and Others for Role in International Kidnapping

It's been a very long time since I last wrote about the sad story of Lisa Miller, Janet Jenkins, their break-up, their decade-long child custody fight, and Miller's subsequent international kidnapping of the womens' daughter. Lisa fled to Nicaragua with their daughter Isabella in late 2009 after the Vermont and Virginia courts reached their final straws with Miller over her repeated disregard for shared custody agreements. Primary custody was to have transferred to Jenkins, but Miller fled the country with the assistance of others, including Pastor Kenneth Miller (who was sentenced to 27 months in prison for his role in the kidnapping) and Virginia businessman Philip Zodhiates (who faces eight years in prison for convictions of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy).

Yesterday, a federal court gave permission for Janet Jenkins to go ahead with a lawsuit against Lisa Miller and others who had conspired to assist with Isabella's 2009 kidnapping -- including Liberty Counsel, Liberty University, as well as Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen of Liberty Counsel:
This fall, Jenkins, represented by Sarah Star, Esq. as well as attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP, asked the federal court in Vermont to lift the stay, and, in light of new evidence adduced through the criminal prosecutions, to permit them to name Liberty Counsel, Liberty University, as well as Liberty Counsel lawyers Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, as defendants. On Monday, the court issued a 61-page order granting that request and lifting the stay. 
“I’m pleased that the court today expressly confirmed that the kidnapping was an affront to our client’s rights not just as a mother, but also as a former member of a same-sex couple whose rights the Constitution protects,” said Sarah Star, Esq., who also served as Ms. Jenkins' attorney during the custody dispute. 
“The court acknowledged its obligation to protect those rights and to ensure that we can pursue Ms. Jenkins’ claims expeditiously, which we intend to do.” “The court has given the green light to a full exploration of Liberty Counsel’s role in the kidnapping of Isabella, as well as the role of the Liberty Counsel lawyers,” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We are pleased the court recognized that our allegations suggested ‘significant wrongdoing’ by these lawyers, including Mat Staver, and we will move swiftly to learn more about their wrongdoing and to hold everyone involved in the kidnapping to account.” 
According to the court document, Jenkins' team alleges that Miller conspired with Liberty Counsel to raise funds with the intent of keeping Isabella separated from Jenkins. After legal attempts to keep them apart failed, the legal team conspired to facilitate their run through Canada and eventually to Nicaragua. You can read the entire decision here.

Major Character to Die in Upcoming Issue of ARCHIE

Comic book readers are encouraged to check out ARCHIE #20 and #21. The story line will feature a drag race between Archie and Reggie -- and one major Archie Comics character won't survive!:
“Up until now, Archie and his pals have led fairly untroubled, normal lives. Suddenly, in one horrifying instant, that all changes when one of the kids looks death in the eye — and death doesn’t blink,” Archie writer Mark Waid tells EW in a statement. “Who will it be? All we can tell you is that you’ll be shocked — and that no one is safe.”
The race on Dead Man's Curve will happen in ARCHIE #20. And the identity of the dead character will be revealed in ARCHIE #21. It's unlikely that Archie will die -- not unless they've decided to pull the plug on this series(!!). That leaves Reggie, as he's the other driver.

On the other hand, it's likely that some poor innocent will become the unexpected victim on a high-speed vehicle. That opens things up quite a lot: Moose... Midge... Dilton... Jason... Cheryl... Jellybean... Mr. Weatherbee... Ms. Grundy... Mr. or Mrs. Andrews... Or even *whimper* my beloved Kevin Keller!

Which Archie Comics character do you think will die in ARCHIE #20 and #21? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I Finally Saw "Damned," the Social Work Britcom

I wrote last month about a British television series called "Damned," which featured a team of children's services social workers. There was a lot of interest for this program within the online social work community given some of the early publicity.

However, there was more negative than positive once the series made its premier. There were complaints about the cookie-cutter characters with little depth or originality. There were complaints that "Damned" failed to portray the social work profession with anything remotely resembling professionalism. And there were concerns that it was overwhelmingly dark and depressing.

At the time, I pushed back against the criticism. Keep in mind that I was unable to watch "Damned" because it wasn't airing outside of the UK. But I figured, based off the pre-publicity, that the creators approached the social work profession with good intentions, while also acknowledging our warts. I also figured that they needed to come up with storylines that would entertain the masses.

Last night, I was on Vimeo and stumbled across the program's pilot episode from 2014. I still haven't seen any of the episodes from season one, but I'm left agreeing with the social work critics of "Damned." I'm also wondering why they expected anything different from the first season, after having watched the pilot!

The first four minutes featured the office staff ignoring calls and people pounding at the door while they complained about how nobody would answer the calls. They even turn away a woman who's trying to access the restroom for her child.

We're then introduced to Rose (played by actress Jo Brand), who managed to lock herself out of her house -- with her three very young children left behind. Keep in mind that Rose is 60. At least the actress is. And it's possible that she adopted three very young children. But it's very difficult to imagine that she's the single mother of three children under the age of 5 or 6. Anyway, she's late for work and is struggling to connect by phone with her own mother. So she -- the child services social worker -- leaves her children behind with hopes that their grandmother will eventually show up.

Let's go through the other characters. There's Al (played by Alan Davies), who spends his day planning a skiing vacation, avoiding his former client, and covering for Rose's child neglect. There's Nitin (played by Himesh Patel), a former cop who constantly spars with Al over workplace rules and conduct. There is Denise (played by Georgie Glen), the cold uncaring supervisor who lords over each morning's unit meetings. There is Nat (played by Isy Suttie), the temporary receptionist who's portrayed as incompetent, but who was never provided any training in the first place. And then there is Martin (played by Kevin Eldon), the former co-worker who washed out because of a mental break-down, but who still manages to hang out in the office and take calls when nobody is looking.

Finally, after spending tons of time in the office avoiding phone calls, Rose goes off to investigate reports of young 6-year-olds selling weed at their elementary school. She rescues three kids from a home-based pot farm. But that scene pretty much lasts 1-2 minutes.

Anyway, the pilot ends with two sets of children being hauled into the office by police officers for parental abuse and neglect. Fortunately, Al is around to pull some strings so that Rose's kids don't go into foster care.

I'm still curious about the first season of "Damned" and hope that it will eventually find itself on Netflix or wherever. But I will also be content if that day never happens.

You can watch the pilot for "Damned" at this link.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Remembering the Gay Waiter in "Archie Bunker's Place" (Episode 8: "The Cook")

I was on YouTube again this afternoon and was reacquainted with "Archie Bunker's Place," one of the many spin-offs to "All in the Family." The show featured Archie Bunker after he purchased a tavern with his Jewish friend Murray. I didn't watch this program too much when I was a kid, so my memories of the characters are kind of muddled. But midway through Season One of "Archie Bunker's Place," Archie and Murray decided to improve business at the bar by expanding as a restaurant.

Archie Bunker's Place, the restaurant, had its grand opening in "The Cook." The guys were struggling to find a cook for the restaurant. Either they wanted too much money or else they were foreigners. Finally, Veronica Rooney entered the restaurant. She was outspoken and pushy and didn't put up with Archie's guff. She managed to get the job -- with the condition that they would also hire her nephew Fred at a wage of $125 per week plus tips.

It's clear early on that Fred is gay. He's flamboyant and that makes many of the regulars -- Archie Bunker included -- uncomfortable. Archie insists that they fire Fred at the end of his shift. Of course, Veronica is threatening to quit if that happens and Murray really wants to keep her as their cook.

(Jon's Note: Keep in mind that Fred served beer to Archie's young niece Stephanie early in the show. If he'd been smart, he would have made a bigger deal over that and less over Fred's homosexuality.)

Everything works out in the end. Fred maintains his employment and Archie (eventually) gains some appreciation for his gay employee -- later... in his final appearance later in the season.

Check out Fred -- as well as some casual racism -- at this link.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Beauty and the Beast" Comes Out on Top During Its Opening Weekend // Plus: LaFou's Exclusive Gay Moment Revealed

Despite calls of boycotts by Christian conservatives, Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" movie has been best selling movie of its opening weekend, bringing in $64.1 million on its opening night and promising to bring in at least $173 million once the weekend is through.

As you know, people have been talking about LaFou's "exclusively gay moment" in "Beauty and the Beast" all month. I haven't seen the movie this weekend and I most likely won't get to see it. But I really want to know about this "exclusively gay moment."

So I googled around and found it out. It turns out that there are two moments. One builds into the other. Towards the end, Gaston leads the villagers in an attack against the Beast and his enchanted castle. During that battle, an animated wardrobe snags three of Gaston's men:
(A)n enchanted wardrobe attacks a trio of Gaston’s henchman, forcing them into powder, wigs, and dresses. Two are disgusted, but the third smiles — a sort of gender-bending moment.

Later on, as things are wrapping up and everyone is celebrating, LeFou starts dancing with some woman before turning his attention to the henchman who enjoyed getting dressed up in women's clothing by the wardrobe. LeFou and the Henchman then begin dancing together for one or two brief moments before returning to the larger "exclusively straight movie."

And that is what has gotten everybody so upset about this movie: two evil henchmen dancing for two seconds in a sea of straight couples.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Sad Story of James' Weight Loss Journey on "My 600-lb Life"

I tuned into TLC's "My 600-lb Life" last night in order to watch the story of Nicole's weight-loss journey. However, the show ended up not being about Nicole, but instead James.

I wasn't expecting James, but I couldn't turn away from his story.

But first... Spoilers!! It's extremely difficult for me to avoid spoilers, so be mindful of that fact before you read the rest of this blog post!

Now with that out of the way...

First off... When did "My 600-lb Life" become a two-hour program?

Second.... James struggled to lose weight -- any weight -- throughout that entire two-hour program. He's in his mid-40s and has gradually put on the weight over the years. When he was 42, he hurt his ankle and became bed-ridden. He hasn't been out of bed since then. His legs are covered by cellulite, which is weeping, raw, and painful. He survives through the efforts of his girlfriend and daughter.

Unfortunately, James has horrible eating habits, especially for somebody who doesn't move. And if his girlfriend doesn't cater to his food desires, he yells and screams at her. So nothing changes and he continues to consume more calories than most active people.

He eventually connects remotely with Dr. Younan Nowzaradan from Houston, TX, and is prescribed a 1200 calorie diet. The plan is for him to begin losing enough weight to travel more safely from Kentucky to Texas. Unfortunately, he doesn't lose any weight during the first four months of his diet. But he is able to eventually travel to Houston with some financial assistance from his family. Once he arrives in Texas, he discovers that he weighs 735 pounds.

Dr. Nowzaradan orders the family to a renewed diet after chewing out James and his girlfriend and after a short hospitalization. Unfortunately, James ends up putting on a huge amount of weight once he discharges back to his family's care. That part of the show made me physically sick.

James was hospitalized one more time, where he was able to lose more weight. He then went back home again and stalled with his weight loss -- though not as bad as the first time. By this point, Dr. Now gave up on his and discharged James from care.

This was probably the most depressing episode of "My 600-lb Life" that I've ever seen. Not every person featured on this program loses huge amounts of food, but I've never seen an episode where somebody ends up breaking even.

The program ended with one minor accomplishment: He's able to sit upright for the first time in years with help from two physical therapists and his girl friend. But he says that this is the motivation that he needs to restart his goal of getting his weight back down to 600 pounds.

Lastly, Husband Mark and I were talking about James' story tonight. We got to wondering about his severe celulitis and wondered if his cellulitis was preventing his weight loss later on. Like maybe he was absorbing fluid in his legs. Maybe.

Anyway, I hope that James is doing well. And I hope that he's finally begun losing weight so that he can finally get the surgical procedure needed to continue his weight loss journey and save what's left of his life.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

RIVERDALE ONE-SHOT Comic Book Offers First Appearance of Hiram Lodge

I picked up a copy of the RIVERDALE ONE-SHOT comic book last week (or was it the week before?) at my local comic book shop. It's an interesting story offering glimpses into the summer of Jason Blossom's murder and leading into the television series that we all know and love.

There are four short stories in this comic book. One is the story of Archie -- how he began working at his father's construction firm, how he began romancing Ms. Grundy, how he began nursing his interest in music, and what they witnessed on the day that Jason Blossom disappeared. One is the story of Betty and her summer away from Riverdale living with her aunt in Sacramento and interning for some publishing firm, and (more importantly) getting away from the house while her parents whisk Polly away to the home for troubled girls. One is about Jughead -- how he gradually became more and more distant from Archie and why he became so invested about writing about Jason Blossom's disappearance.

And then there is "Fall From Grace," the short story that told about Hiram Lodge's arrest on charges of fraud and embezzlement -- on the same day that Jason Blossom disappeared over in Riverdale, no less! Obviously, this story is about Veronica -- how she went from having it all to having it all taken away from her. After her father's arrest, she and her mother had everything taken from them and all of their friends turned their backs on them. That's why they moved to Riverdale. To live in the one property still in their possession.

More importantly, this short story offered us our first look at the new Hiram Lodge. He's a much different man in the RIVERDALE ONE-SHOT than he ever was in the comic books.

I checked out the "Riverdale" page on the IMDb website and did not find any information about the actor chosen to play Hiram Lodge on the television. So I'm really curious how much the Hiram Lodge in the television series will look like the Hiram Lodge in the RIVERDALE ONE-SHOT.

"Veronica: Fall From Grace" featured words by James DeWille, art by Thomas Pitilli, colors by Andre Szymanowicz, and letters by John Workman.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Iowa City's Temporary Winter Shelter Closes on Eve of Snowstorm

Iowa City's 2016/17 winter has been one of the warmest on records, but that did not stop the Shelter House from creating a temporary winter shelter from 12/12/16-03/12/17 at the site of the former Unitarian Universalist Society Church. Ironically, the temporary winter shelter shut down within hours of our first real snowstorm in nearly two months. This resulted in most of the former residents having to camp out in the regular Shelter House's lobby, as well as other hidden corners of Iowa City.

According to this article, the temporary shelter averaged 30 residents per night during those three months, which is an increase of nearly five residents per night from last winter.

Latest "My 600-lb Life" Episode Highlights Potential Child Neglect by Obese Parent

I've been busy watching superhero-themed television programming on the CW more and more when at the gym, so I totally overlooked that there appears to be a new season of "My 600-lb Life" on TLC. You may or may not remember that I used to watch the reality TV show during my evening work-out routine for months. But things change and I began neglecting this program. 

I was on YouTube this evening and saw a preview clip for Wednesday night's episode, featuring a woman named Nicole. I don't know much about Nicole, but I do know this. She has two young children, she lives with her parents, and her weight is getting in the way of her ability to safely care for her young children. 

Check out this video. Nicole's young child is bathing and her mother is insisting that Nicole actually supervise her child in the bathtub. Keep in mind that Nicole can barely stand for more than a few minutes without experience pain and fatigue. But that limitation is compounded the fact that Nicole cannot fit through the bathroom doorway(!!).

You read that correctly. Nicole is too large to fit through her bathroom doorway. 

I don't write this blog post to make fun of or to humiliate this woman. I write this because Nicole's extreme weight has created a huge risk in her ability to safely care for her children. Her two children are young. Maybe 1-3 years old. Can you imagine if one of them experienced a health emergency in the bathroom? Or if they needed her to help them clean up after a toileting accident? And how is she going to keep these kids safe if they decide to run off in some random direction -- out the door or into the street or through the park or whatever?

I feel horrible for Nicole and whatever challenges that she has experienced that have contributed towards her extreme weight. But there is no way that she can safely care for her children on her own. Sadly, this is something that she even acknowledges in the video.

I really hope that Nicole gained the skills and motivation to bring her weight down and to overcome whatever issues led to her putting on some much weight in the first place. Otherwise, I really don't see how she can safely parent these young children without significant supports.

You can watch the entire clip here. I will definitely be watching this episode!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

"Riverdale" Episode 7 Recap: #PollyCooperKilledMyBrother #NowhereToHide #SharpenYourPitchforks

The seventh episode of "Riverdale" aired Thursday night on The CW. This program continues to suck me in week after week. So here is a rundown of what you missed if you missed this particular episode. But first...

Spoilers!! Once again, it's extremely difficult for me to avoid spoilers, so be mindful of that fact before you read the rest of this blog post!

This episode was (mostly) about Betty's missing sister, Polly Cooper. We learned last week that Polly and Jason Blossom had been planning on running away together on the day that he disappeared. She was whisked away by her parents and placed in a girls home, where she was secretly pregnant and unaware of Jason's murder. She escaped from the facility at the end of last week's episode, just as the police found the burning remains of their escape vehicle.

So now Betty is trying to figure out where her sister is hiding. Unfortunately, so is the Blossom family. They overheard Betty conspiring with the Archie Gang and began rallying their troops. So now you have two search parties chasing after a pregnant, emotionally damaged 17-year-old girl in the woods surrounding Riverdale!

Hostilities seemingly come to an end once the Cooper family finally announces that Polly is pregnant. That changes everything. Now the Blossoms have a grandson and they will do everything they can to wrestle that baby away from Polly! Betty -- without her parents' knowledge -- manages to find Polly and -- with help from Cheryl and Veronica -- secures a hideaway far, far away from either set of parents.

Meanwhile, Jughead is still homeless. He's now sleeping at the school. Archie discovers his friend's new pad and offers him a place to sleep at his home. Which leads into a sad side-story featuring Jughead's broken family. Jughead's dad is struggling with addiction. Jughead briefly guilts his father onto the wagon, but things quickly fall apart.

Meanwhile, Veronica and her mother are feuding right now. Ronnie is pissed that her mother was kissing Archie's father. She then forged Veronica's signature to approve Fred Andrews' business working on the Lodge's new property. Thus begins a back and forth exchange between the two Lodges, until Hermione finally agrees to tell Hiram Lodge (who's currently tucked away in prison) about Fred Andrews and his involvement with their property.

Part of this fight resulted in Veronica treating three of her new friends (Josie, Kevin, and Reggie) to a dance excursion at the local club. It was a fun scene and it was good to see Reggie getting some screen-time and dialogue.

Incidentally, Casey Cott (the actor who plays Kevin Keller in "Riverdale") did a Facebook Live session before Thursday's episode. He revealed that this was his favorite episode of the season, particularly because the four actors were allowed to dance forever.

Those were the high-points of the program. Outside of this fabulous line by Cheryl Blossom about Polly Cooper:

Another great episode, but now we need to sit back and wait a few weeks for the next episode of "Riverdale." That right! No new episodes of "Riverdale" until March 30th! In the meantime, check out this episode of "Riverdale" on the CW website and stream it for free. It's so very good!!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Remembering the Creepy Stalker/Rapey "Love Boat" Episode ("Mike and Ike / The Witness / The Kissing Bandit")

My son is hosting a group sleepover at our home, which usually means that I'm holed up in my bedroom while they play video games and watch YouTube videos in the living room. I've developed this tradition of watching episodes of "The Love Boat." If you don't know, "The Love Boat" was this program that aired during the late 1970s and well into the 1980s that featured the captain and crew of this one cruise ship and their weekly interactions with various celebrity guest stars who experience a variety of romantic misadventures.

I received seasons one and two of "The Love Boat" for Christmas back in 2015. I was so excited to catch up on this favorite from my childhood. However, I quickly discovered that the story lines in "The Love Boat" are quite repetitive and cliched. I will watch an episode or two about every three to four months and that's about as much as I can handle. But it also means that I've managed to stretch out my viewing of this program for much longer than I'd originally anticipated.

Tonight, I watched one of the early episodes from season two, titled "Mike and Ike / The Witness / The Kissing Bandit" from 1978. This blog post will be focusing on the third story. Billy Crystal played Newton Weems, a terribly shy man who donned a mask and ran around stealing kisses from random women on the cruise ship. Seriously.

It turns out that Newton suffered from severe social anxiety, especially when it came to women. He hid in the bathrooms during school dances due to fear. He was convinced that no woman in her right mind would willingly kiss someone like him, so he invented a masked alter ego that would run around and steal kisses from the women around him.

Today, that behavior would be a form of sexual harassment and assault. Back then, the Pacific Princess' crew laughed it off. After all, none of the women were complaining!

In fact, the Princess' crew didn't do anything about the Kissing Bandit until he stole a kiss from Captain Stubing's date! Then -- and only then -- did he insist that they do something. And that something was using Cruise Director Julie McCoy as bait for the Kissing Bandit -- something she really didn't want to volunteer for!

Ultimately, Newton gets found out by Roberta, the one girl who wants him and not the Kissing Bandit. They fall in love overnight and he throws away his mask. And she's not at all concerned about his creepy stalker rapist behaviors.

But that's 1978 social values versus 2017 social values, I guess...

Remembering CBS' "Medical Center" ("Undercurrent")

I was exploring YouTube again today and discovered a medical drama series from my very early childhood called "Medical Center." It aired on CBS for seven seasons from 1969 through 1976. It featured Dr. Paul Lochner (played by James Daly) and Dr. Joe Gannon (played by Chad Everett). Each episode focused on the doctors and patients at some generic hospital in California.

This blog post is going to focus on the second episode of the second season. Titled "Undercurrent," this episode featured an anti-gay smear campaign against one of the hospital's medical researcher, Dr. Ben Teverley (played by Paul Burke). There was this 20-year-old patient with terminal leukemia. She needed some experimental treatment and Dr. Teverley seemed to have the right stuff, in the opinion of Dr. Gannon. Unfortunately, everyone began receiving anonymous letters accusing Dr. Teverley of all sorts of sexual deviancy.

As a result of the smear campaign, the hospital's decision-makers began turning to another less-skilled (but more heterosexually-inclined) medical researcher to treat the young patient. And they held to their decision even when it became clear that this was the wrong decision. Soon enough, Dr. Teverley's assistant quit to work with lesser-gay researcher and the hospital began threatening to pull all funding from Dr. Teverley's lab.

Dr. Gannon begged Dr. Teverley to stand up for himself. That's when he finally learns the truth:

Fortunately, Dr. Gannon and Dr. Lochner are eventually able to convince enough of the decision-makers to overlook their disgust with Dr. Teverley's homosexuality and his research is finally used to successfully treat the young woman. (And presumably funding doesn't get cut from his lab!!)

This show was pretty overwrought. It's difficult to imagine that people were this upset over this man's homosexuality, to the point that they would allow someone to die rather than face public scandal over his work. Then I remembered that it wasn't that long ago (early 90s) that a man was taking pictures of people that attended Pride events here in Iowa City and then sent those photos to their family and employers. Not that it really mattered back then to most of us, but it's amazing that someone would put that much time, effort, and malice into hurting someone else for being gay. (Incidentally, that local gay smearer now holds public office in a neighboring county....)

You can watch the entire episode here.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ex-Gay Champion Joseph Nicolosi Dead at Age 70

Ex-gay champion and NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi died earlier this week:
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a co-founder of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and a prominent figure in the ex-gay movement, has passed away, the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, where he served as clinical director, confirmed over the phone to The Daily Beast. Nicolosi, 70, was a practitioner of conversion or reparative therapy, treatments intended to change a person’s sexual orientation that have been widely denounced by major medical associations—including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association—and banned by legislation in five states: Vermont, Oregon, New Jersey, Illinois, and California. The Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic announced on Facebook Thursday afternoon: “We are deeply saddened and shocked to announce the death of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi yesterday in California from complications from the flu.”
Nicolosi was a proponent of the idea that childhood trauma causes homosexuality (i.e., distant father, overbearing mother, etc.).

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tulsa, OK: Equality Center Targeted with Vandalism & Refusal of Services

Police are investigating two separate acts of vandalism directed at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center in Tulsa, OK.

According to news reports, somebody driving a white trucks fired more than a dozen shots from a pellet gun at the building's entrance area at around 12:20 AM on Monday, 03/06/17.

Later in the day at around 3:00 PM, a man entered the building and began yelling at the people inside. According to reports, he "called them homosexual slurs and even said he wised they were dead."

The Equality Center was in the news late last week after the group's executive director complained that they were struggling to find any local contractors to provide plumbing or fire safety inspections due to their LGBT advocacy nature.

Oklahoma does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its hate crime laws. Additionally, the state's lawmakers are currently working to pass legislation allowing anyone to refuse services to anyone else on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Riverdale" Renewed for Second Season!!

Entertainment Weekly reports that "Riverdale" has been picked up for a second season!! Not only that, but EW reports that "Riverdale" has become one of the most streamed programs on The CW's digital platforms. Which is great news!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Archie Comics' Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa Speaks Out on "Riverdale" Plus the Future of AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE & SABRINA

Archie Comics posted a four minute video featuring "Riverdale" showrunner and Archie Comics CCO Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa. In the video, he discussed Season 1 of "Riverdale." He stated that we definitely will learn the identity of Jason Blossom's murderer by the end of Season 1. But we will also learn the identity of Season 2's "Big Bad."

I have two ideas about next season's Big Bad. I'm thinking Hiram Lodge. Or Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Hiram is an easy target. He's a shady businessman who is currently tucked away in prison. But it really wouldn't surprise me if the man who bribes politicians and makes deals with gang-members also has no problem with shooting low-level drug-dealers who get in his way and generally causing trouble for Riverdale.

Sabrina is trickier. After all, why would a witch with fantastic magical abilities need to shoot one of her victims. On the other hand, what if Jason tried shooting Sabrina and she used her magic to defend herself and turn his own bullet against him?

Of course, all of this assumes that we will actually have a "Riverdale" Season 2. I'm still not sure if this was an informal announcement or if Roberto is just experiencing a case of wishful thinking...

Also, Roberto reports that we will be seeing more issues of AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE and CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA soon. We've heard this before. I'm anticipating that the next issues of each comic book will arrive by early summer, to be followed by subsequent issues in summer 2018.

You can watch the entire video for yourself at this link.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"Riverdale" Episode 6 Recap: Veronica Joins the Pussycats & Betty Finds Polly!

The sixth episode of "Riverdale" aired Thursday night on The CW. This program continues to suck me in week after week. So here is a rundown of what you missed if you missed this particular episode. But first...

Spoilers!! Once again, it's extremely difficult for me to avoid spoilers, so be mindful of that fact before you read the rest of this blog post!

Once again, there are two separate stories happening in "Riverdale" -- at least when it comes to the kids. First there is the ongoing story involving Archie and his jump into song-writing and performing. Riverdale High is going to be hosting its annual talent show and he plans to showcase his music. Except that he's being overhwhelmed by stage-fright!

He decides to team-up with Valerie from the Pussycats to perform a duet, which ultimately leads to her being booted from her band! Meanwhile, Veronica is pissed off because she has planned to team-up with Archie for his performance. This leads to an interesting new rivalry between Archie & Valerie and the New Josie & the Pussycats (with new member Veronica Lodge!!)

Ultimately, Archie finds his courage and encourages Valerie to get back in with the Pussycats. Archie does excellently as a soloist and the Pussycats end up doing a wonderful version of "I Feel Love" during the talent show. (You can watch a clip of the latter song here)

Meanwhile, Betty and Jughead continue to investigate the mystery behind Jason Blossom's murder. Some quick sleuthing within her parents' financial records give them a clue that Polly is being treated at a home for wayward girls. Betty is reunited with her sister Polly -- and discovers that Polly is pregnant with Jason's baby! Not only that, but she doesn't even know that he's dead.

Turns out that Jason and Polly had been planning on eloping on July 4th. The Coopers learned of their plans before it could be enacted and Polly has been locked away ever since! Betty eventually confronts her parents and pointblank asks if they were behind Jason's murder. (I'll leave that up to you to find out if they did it or not!!)

Betty and Jughead decide to track down the car that Jason and Polly were reportedly going to use for their getaway vehicle. Luckily, it's still there! But it's loaded down with drugs and other illegal items. They rush off the police, but not before Juggy gets his prints all over the evidence! Too bad some shadowy figure sees what they're up to and makes sure that there's not much for the police to find when they arrive!

There was one last surprise that got the entire Internet excited: Jughead kissed Betty after their road trip to Polly's group home. Half of fandom loves this match. The other half is upset because Juggy is supposed to be asexual in the comic book and there's way too few self-identified asexual characters in the world. Still, they make a cute couple. And it's not like Archie is making much of an effort to share some romance with either Betty or Veronica in the TV show. So I'm all for this romantic match!

"Riverdale" is nearly halfway done. You had better be watching this great program. If not, you can still catch up with the program on the CW website and stream it for free. And then you need to tune in every Thursday night for new episodes of "Riverdale" at 8:00 PM CST!