RE: A pandemic Dragon*Con

Over the weekend, I observed over social media as people converged on Atlanta over Labor Day weekend for Dragon*Con.  Obviously, my complicated relationship with the con and cons in general notwithstanding, I’m happy for the people who still get tremendous amounts of enjoyment them, and I’m a little envious that they’re able to get to a place where they can, because I sure as shit couldn’t seem to anymore.

Regardless, I couldn’t help but observe with, for lack of a better term, fascination at the fact that it was still going on.  Last time I checked, the world is still very much in a pandemic, coronavirus is never going to go away, and even in spite of people getting vaccinated, there are still hundreds of thousands of people in the world, hidden in plain sight, that are among us, unvaccinated, uninterested in getting vaccinated, and content with being vulnerable and spreading sickness.  And contrary to the belief that all Dragon*Con-going geeks are all liberal vaxxers, there are obviously going to many among the throngs of people attending the con, who aren’t, whom might be carrying, and whom could be the ones to turn the whole thing into a giant tragic superspreader event.

Anyway, throughout the weekend, I’d see various people doing the usual spiel of posting their photos, be it of themselves in costume, drunk selfies, the usual humblebragging of I’m here you’re not, and all sorts of glimpses of what’s going on downtown.  And depending on the source would determine just how many masks were seen, or not seen, and I have a hard time wondering what I found more sad: all the people running around the convention without masks, or all the people with them, having to add them to their costumes, preferring to look a little out of place, but considerate to the health of others.

Like I’d see pictures of Starlight from The Boys wearing a mask, or Batman wearing a mask over the cowl, obscuring 100% of skin at that point, and I’m thinking, kind of weird, but at least they’re taking health rules as serious as voluntarily going to an event that draws well into the tens of thousands.

But then I’m seeing photos of people in room parties where nobody’s wearing a mask, or the usual mish-mash of humanity that all conglomerates at the Marriott or the Hilton, and my skin is crawling at the idea of so much regurgitated air being cycled among people, potentially spreading disease.

But that’s just the shit going on through my head.  Obviously, I wouldn’t have gone to the convention even if there were no pandemic, but there’s absolutely no way in hell that I would have gone, even if I were still gung-ho about conventions.  All the same, I still hope all of the friends of mine who went still had good times, and are hopefully healthy and symptom free in the weeks after the con.  If conventions drove me away without a pandemic, who knows if and when I’ll ever get back into them in the future again.

Love it, and I’d totally use it

Targeted ads are a funny thing.  I have no idea what was ever said, written or searched for, in proximity of my phone or internet browsing history, but I got this ad on theFacebook for this product that’s basically a giant helmet, meant to be the alternative to wearing face masks in the current world we live in today.

Called the VYZR or some shit, because vowels are so fucking overrated, it’s a giant bubble that straps underneath your armpits, but completely encases your head, neck and shoulders, and has all sorts of filtration and air flow capabilities, but most importantly, allows the rest of the world to see your whole face in its unmasked glory, without compromising the safety of everyone around.

It’s the epitome of ridiculous, but at the same time, I fucking love it, and if they weren’t like $400, I’d totally be interested in it.  Sure, it would basically make me look like the Intel Pentium mascots from the late 90s, but I wouldn’t have to have a piece of fabric strapped to my face, smelling my own breath, hooking on the arms and fogging up my glasses all the time.

And I already know how it would feel, because the general connection apparatus of it is nearly identical to the Mini Mei baby seat for shoulders that mythical wife got me for Father’s Day, and it’s pretty tolerable, and for the sake of being able to safely breathe out in public, I’d gladly strap a giant bubble to my head.

The new era of college sports

A while back, I used to have the attitude that agreed with the notion that college athletes shouldn’t be getting paid to apply their talents under the banners of their respective schools, and that the education that they receive, should they actually choose to accept them, was compensation more than adequate in the tradeoff.

Things change though, and for every Cardale Jones that flaunts his hired gun status that gives no shits about a college education, are still countless other student athletes who are stalwarts at the college level, but the harsh reality is that they have very little to no actual future in professional ranks.  It’s those guys that that have helped change my tune when it comes to compensation for student athletes, because college is most likely going to be the pinnacle of their athletic careers, and it would be great if they could cash in on a modicum of it before their window of opportunity to earn, is shut.

So the news of the NCAA now allowing student athletes to start making money on their likenesses, endorsements and social media accounts is definitely a positive step in the right direction at a knee-jerk reaction, but at the same time, there’s a lot of gray area and things that could potentially go in an unsavory direction, that spurred this train of thought post.

Like I said, my knee-jerk reaction is one of positivity, and general happiness for all student-athletes who will now start to be able to make some money off of their sweat, efforts and contributions.  They won’t be explicitly being paid by their schools, which is still something that I agree should not be allowed, but it’ll be nice to know that an innocuous autograph session or them showing up to a local car dealership or restaurant to make an appearance can get them some punishment-free cash, just because they play some sport for their school.

The one thing I like the most from this is that I think it will help curb the culture of one-and-dones, in mostly basketball and football.  Fringe prospects that aren’t Zion Williamson or Trevor Lawrence-good might actually stick around for another year or two, and now have options to choose from whether or not it’s worth becoming a benchwarmer in the pros versus remaining a god on campus and cleaning up on endorsements and other profitable endeavors.

College-good athletes will be more likely to stick around four years, and not only will their teams benefit from having physically and mentally matured juniors and seniors on their squads, the ones that actually take life seriously might actually get educations and graduate legitimately, instead of a parade of paper African-American studies majors trying to survive illiterately in the world after college.

The benefit to this is that fringe contenders’ windows of contention might remain open a little bit longer, because key members of contending teams might stick around longer if they’re capable of earning while in college, instead of bolting for any Euroleague hoops or XFL or CFL if they can’t make it to the bigs directly. 

And it goes both ways when it comes to the power schools in the nation, because obviously schools with preexisting relationships with major companies will still get the lion’s share of top prospects, but if programs start to get a little crowded with upperclassmen staying in school, it’s going to funnel prospects or force incumbents into the transfer portal to go to other schools, which may or may not raise the amount of parity throughout college athletics.

But like I said, it’s not a perfect solution, and for all the good that’s possible, there’s still a lot of room for negative things to be or remain the case; like the aforementioned obvious aspect that the major schools with preexisting relationships with companies like Nike, UnderArmour and other relationships are still going to get the best prospects, due to their now-available opportunities for endorsements, so it will still probably feel like the rich will remain getting richer, while all the other schools will feel like they’re fighting over scraps.

And foolishly counterpointing one of my positives, programs like Duke will be tailor-made to probably do well under this new era of college sports, because as much as everyone loathes Duke, Duke is great at producing college talent.  Sure, a lot of it has to do with Coach K’s brainwashing, and he is allegedly on his way out, but the fact of the matter is that Duke rosters historically have been loaded with well-built teams that dominate the college level, and keeping these rosters mostly together for 3-4 years at a time might result in some return to prominence by the Dukes and other programs that operate in similar manners.

Finally, let us not overlook one of the more annoying outcomes of this development: the era of self-promotion and rise of obnoxious social media presences of student athletes now who are going to embark on missions to promote themselves, develop personas, brands and identities to try to monetize and make bank while they’re in college now.  If I had as much time to fart around on the internet and sports websites as I once did, I can only imagine how obnoxious things have the potential to be as college athletes across the nation will be getting up in our virtual faces trying to become famous so they can make money.

Either way, it’s ultimately a step in the right direction, with both positives and negatives up in the air, and the fact that it’s so new and unrefined, it’ll take all of two seconds for college athletes and the inevitable wave of agents that will prey on them, to find all sorts of loopholes and gray area for things to get muddy really fast.

But man, how much must it suck to be the graduating seniors of 2020/21’s NCAA athletes?  Sure Najee Harris probably was cleaning up on all sorts of under-the-table non-monetary compensation while winning a national championship for Alabama, but how salty do you think he’s going to be knowing that all the freshmen coming in are going to be able to make money without needing to hide and be as secretive as he once was?

Oh, Atlanta #376

It’s been a while since I last did one of these, yeah?  Mostly on account of the fact that in all the time between the last one and this one, the chance were pretty high that I simply just wasn’t checking any news, local or national, because I simply did not have the time and/or capacity to do so, and potentially run into something that makes words roll off the tongue (or fingertips) to brog about in the first place.  But sure as the rain falls in Georgia summers, I check the local news, the chances are high that I’m going to see something stupid that warrants some word barf.

Like these billboards that have been hung up in a few places in Greenville, South Carolina and now making their way into Atlanta, that supposedly are trying to send a message to the youths of these areas, to put guns down and presumably stop shooting other people.

At the core of these, the message is noble, and something that I do support; reducing gun violence.  But when it comes down to branding, awareness, the execution of a billboard, there’s just so much more wrong that I just can’t help but clown on it.

Like, I don’t know where to even start.  Do I go on about how the focal point of the message is all jacked up and could lead to misinformation, because GUNS NOW is all huge, that someone zipping by I-85 in Greenville or Atlanta, where the posted speed limits are anywhere from 55-70 mph with actual motorists usually going 80+, might not see the smaller text and just see GUNS NOW and become motivated to arm themselves?

Or that maybe in Atlanta where the gun violence is high but the education is low in the areas in which these billboards are up, the order of the messaging isn’t comprehended appropriately, and the wrong people read it as “put down the young people, GUNS NOW” and then they start breaking into other peoples’ cars to find guns, succeed, and then start shooting, young people.

Perhaps it’s the fact that “like” is in quotation marks, as if to encourage people to tongue-in-cheek, air quotes like them on, presumably, Facebook, because there’s a tiny-ass logo, but really don’t.  The use of quotation marks creates more confusing to their message than clarity, and confusion usually leads to harm.

The best part about it is that there’s no actual call to action on the billboard itself; I guess the closest thing is the fact that there is a Facebook logo, but really it’s up to Google to find this organization for you.  To its credit, it wasn’t that difficult to find a Facebook page of the same name which appears to be one and the same, but then there are all these visuals of inconsistent naming; the billboard says “Put Down the Guns Now Young People” but then there’s a bigass banner where the gun is no longer plural, and as someone in marketing, all I can do is shake my head and wince at the inconsistent use of messaging, which is among the top three faux pas when it comes to any sort of establishing brand voice.

Either way, although the message is noble and one that I could get behind, the execution is just far too shoddy and ineffective at getting its point across that I’m afraid I might be more encouraged to get a GUN NOW, because seeing those words in a giant splatter of blood makes me feel like I might need to arm myself to protect myself from those vile young people.

Let’s talk about Love Death + Robots S2

I was excited when I saw that Love Death + Robots season 2 had a formal drop date.  I enjoyed the first season tremendously, even if there was a lot of controversy around the perceived subject matter of two specific episodes, and regardless of what a bunch of SJWs on the internet felt, I still loved the first season, as it was an enjoyable, fast-paced anthology of short and sweet stories that paraded a myriad of animation styles, which touched all spectrums of the heart and mind, and was over in the blink of an eye because every episode ranged between 7-15 minutes.  So when I saw that more LD+R was on the way, I was quite pleased, and made sure to earmark some of my limited daily time to indulge.

At just eight episodes, S2 was over in the blink of an eye as well, if not shorter, and I watched all eight episodes in two short sittings, although I could easily have done so in just one if I timed it correctly.

I will say, I think that the polarizing reception of the first season probably had some influence on the second, or maybe it’s because it was a shorter season, but I felt like S2 didn’t have quite the bite that the first season did.  I’m not saying I require gratuitous violence or violence towards women specifically, but I felt that there was a little bit of edge lacking in this second season of the show.  The subjects of the episodes were more abstract and broad, and in most cases, did not seem to contain all three of the requisite love, death or robots, not that such was ever an established rule to begin with, but seemed to be better adhered to in the first anthology.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t like S2 at all, but after I had finished all eight episodes, there wasn’t one in particular that I was enamored with and could gush to anyone who wanted to talk about LD+R that it was my favorite.  But for all intents and purposes, this is how I’d rank the episodes (in parenthesis, according to Netflix’s order)

  1. Pop Squad (#3)
  2. The Tall Grass (#5)
  3. All Through the House (#6)
  4. The Drowned Giant (#8)
  5. Automated Customer Service (#1)
  6. Ice (#2)
  7. Snow in the Desert (#4)
  8. Life Hutch (#7)

Really though, it would be my top three, and then the rest were just kind of there, interchangeable in rank depending on the mood I were in, which is to say that they were all kind of okay, and not particularly close to standing out above the others.

I would however, like to talk about Pop Squad; the reason I would say it was the best episode of the season was not necessarily because I liked it the most.  In fact, the theme of the episode is completely horrific and I kind of hate it, but it was one of the episodes of the season that invoked all three love, death and robots, and frankly evoked the most emotional response out of me, which whether I liked it or not, makes it successful all the same. 

**Spoilers ahead, that being said**

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Why are people still inspired by Anthony Bourdain?

Every now and then while scrolling through theFacebook, I occasionally get a glimpse of someone posting some picture of Anthony Bourdain with some evocative quote he said at some point during his living life, probably from one of the television shows he hosted throughout his career.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the things he was paid to say on television were pretty good things and sounded pretty inspirational, but when the day is over, what perplexes me is why people hold him in such high regard still – last time I checked, the guy committed suicide; I’m not entirely sure that I’d want to take any sort of influence from him anymore.

If it’s something I haven’t said before, I personally don’t really have a lot of respect or sympathy for those who kill themselves; sure, every case is different, any maybe some people have such miserable lives that suicide is somewhat of a mercy, but in the cases like celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, who had celebrity, had money, influence, access and basically the easy life, all I can really do is shake my head and tilt my head like a confused dog at notion that their lives were so difficult and nobody understood them that they somehow rationalize that the only logical thing for them to do next is to kill themselves.

That being said, I’m often wondering why people still hold him, or at least the shit he’s said to such reverence as it’s done to this day?  Not that I had a tremendous amount of respect for some celebrity whose shows I never watched, but I didn’t really have any opinions against the guy, until I heard that he hung himself.  All I really wanted to ask was if his life were really that tormented and baseless that the only possible next step was to leave it?

It then got me thinking about the finale to The Good Place.  And as much respect and admiration I have for Mike Schur for having created Parks & Recreation, I did enjoy The Good Place, but the ending really got me thinking about the metaphorical implications of the finale, especially in comparison to the topic before.  Requisite spoiler warning ahead:

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This is really the state of America in 2020

No matter how much I never liked to admit to feeling it, now that the faucet’s been turned, it seems like not a day goes by where the words don’t pass through my lips, and it doesn’t make me feel any better verbalizing it now as it did when I first came to the realization that right now, America sucks.

Talking with a friend about the state of the world, I found myself saying things that I’d never said before in regards to how I felt, mostly because I’ve been isolated, and mythical wife and I try not to talk about things too much because they really are that depressing, but what came out of my fingers in text is that I don’t think it’s ever felt so physically possible to feel just how much our country is letting us down, the way America is completely and utterly failing the American people on a daily basis right now.

It really is becoming impossible to keep up with all the ways things are fucked up, at least for me, who likes to jot down notes on a daily basis so I can remember the things happening in history for another day, especially in case I feel inspired to write about them at some point.  But it’s downright sad and pathetic the things that emerge on a daily basis about the state of America in the state of the world currently, and I realize that it becomes a little more difficult every day to not grow more jaded and nihilistic about how things are, which are definitely things I don’t want to be happening when I’m in a period of my life where I’m trying to enjoy and savor the time of new fatherhood and spending time with my baby.

It’s kind of not fair that America is in such chaos and forced to hunker, when all I want to do is show my kid the great big world and can’t, because neither of us want to get the coronavirus that’s fucking everywhere and risk our lives.

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