Disney+ has arrived, here is a quick overview and first impressions

I was skeptical at first when I heard Disney was getting into the streaming business. My first instinct was the company’s existing catalog would not contain enough content to keep me interested. Even with the prospect of all the LucasFilm and Marvel Studio’s stuff I felt it would have a hard time filling all the gaps. Things turned around slightly when I discovered Disney had finalized its purchase of 20th Century Fox and its vast back catalog of quality content. This had me optimistic the service would truly offer something for everyone. As of right now, sadly, that is not exactly the case.

First up is the interface. Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. It works quite well. Polished and new yet very familiar it sports the features you would expect, a watch list, search function and category browsing. They even do the courtesy of lumping certain things together by topic, such as Disney Princesses or By the Decade. This was fine yet it made the library seem thin as each highlighted topic only focused on the most popular stuff.

Next up is the library.

This is what people care about. In terms of catalog content, there’s a little bit of everything surely to provide a good starting ground for those looking to sink their teethe into the Disney Vault. Yet, there is notably a few genres entirely lacking from the service. Horror, Science Fiction and Anime are notably scares, if non existent. I have yet to locate a single r-rated film, even from the Fox library. I searched a few I was familiar with and nothing came up. I did some digging and discovered there aren’t many, if any at all, currently scheduled to arrive either. I didn’t look too deeply but as of right now there aren’t any horror movies to speak of. Not even something as relatively tame and Disney produced as Something Wicked This Way Comes. In fact I couldn’t even find any articles online saying if the film was potentially coming or not. It could be the plan to keep the “adult” stuff like horror, anime and hard science fiction over at Hulu for the time being, which could explain the absence of those products on Disney Plus.

Being bundled with Hulu not a great way to satisfy a customer base constantly being asked to choose from streaming services. Sure, a bundle will offer a truly robust offering of quality content ranging from old animated shorts from the 1920’s up to current stuff airing on network TV today. Yet on it’s own the target market is most likely families with children and die hard Disney fans. I am neither. I am satisfied with all the Marvel animated content. As for Star Wars there is one obvious omission I felt should be there in the future, no not that terrible Holiday Special, that needs to be forgotten. I am talking about Ewoks.

Originals

Not great, not bad. I don’t care for remaking old Disney movies especially if the original is not available. Luckily in most cases if there is a remake the original is available for comparison’s sake or just posterity, which I support. Yet there were a couple of originals I did browse that caught my eye. The first is The world According to Jeff Goldblum. I gave this all of five minutes, if that, before I realized there was nothing there but an offhanded joke in some board room that was taken way to literally. Oops. Mistakes are made.

Then there is the big one everyone is sure to be talking about. The Mandalorian. This is one of those things I will devote an entire review to so all I will say now is this is the real hook of the service at this time. If you have no interest in this show but love Star Wars, I would highly recommend giving the 7-day free trial a shot just to check this out. It might be worth it to wait a week or two for a couple more episodes to be out if this is the only thing you might be interested in. However, I believe it was a highly entertaining series with fantastic movie-quality production values and the kind of Star Wars story-telling a huge fan of the Legends Expanded Universe is fond of.

Overall I give the service a B+ for its current offerings, but only if you bundle it with Hulu. Otherwise on its own merit I drop it down to a still solid but not excellent B-. I hate giving things letter grades, I prefer the star grading system for movies and video games but this felt like the best way to really convey how I felt about it currently. It has great potential. If they open the library up to R-rated movies, even PG-13 horror movies would help, they need more horror movies either way you slice it. That being said if you don’t care for horror movies at all or if you can get your horror fix from Hulu it’s worth the price of entry. It has a nice interface, decent family-friendly catalog and is priced fair for what you get, especially if you bundle with Hulu. That bundle is the catch though, without it the service has less inherent value and this could be a sticking point for some in the future, especially those who despise commercials or things expiring all the time. I did have some fun revisiting old Simpson’s and DuckTales episodes so the product has a place, at least for now, in my world. Stay Cool.

The Spiders Lair’s media picks for cross dressers

Ever since I was a kid I would play dress up with my sisters. As I was the only boy it was easy for me to find myself lured into the seductive world of the mysterious female creature. Not that I want to belittle women, on the contrary I am not only fascinated by femininity on a personal level, I have a deep respect for what females go through. Over the years there were a number of movies, TV shows, cartoons, toys and even video games that either inspired me or motivated me in some way as I explored the feminine form through cross dressing.

Below are a few of the different works that shaped my world.

Boy Meets World

It was season 3. Corey Mathews and Shawn Hunter were doing a class project to become a female in order to experience dating from the eyes of a girl. It was an eye-opening episode that stirred things not only in myself, but clearly in the writers as it really cemented the comedic running gag of the adoration the two friends had for one another.

It wasn’t the Girl Like Me episode that really tickled the girl hiding inside’s fancy. It was actually the later episode where Joey the Rat and Frankie the Enforcer dress the two boys in cheerleader outfits. By the time I discovered this episode I had already stolen my sisters discarded cheerleader uniform and claimed it as my own. Oh I wore that thing out with my secretive dance routines. Not for nothing but it was glorious for me to see my role models strutting their stuff on national TV in front of all my peers quietly reaffirming my own feminine desires. I experienced a similar incident when one of my male friends dressed like a girl to school for a class project and one of the boys in class commented how nice his ass looked in girl pants. I wasn’t in his grade, I was a couple years older but when he relayed the story to me I immediately mentioned our mutually favorite TGIF sitcom to which he smiled and got into the spirit of it.

Super Mario Bros. 2

This one is two fold. First it was the perfect opportunity for me to play a video game as a female character. It was a way to cross dress in plain sight, even if it was only virtually the case. Still playing the game as Princess Toadstool (peach) was such a revelation for me. I enjoyed it a little too much at times I must say. It quickly became one of my favorite video games of all time. It was easy for me to justify picking the princess too because she had that floating jump that made her useful as a character.

In later years I would learn to use video games to express my girly side more often. I had to be sneaky at times with some games but it started with me running around Subcon as the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom on a quest to return home.

All of that by itself was easily enough to stir things in me. However Nintendo Company Limited, or NCL, the Japanese parent of Nintendo of America, sneaked a nifty little cross dressing surprise in the game just for “girls” like me. Birdo is a pink bird enemy boss in the game that shoots eggs at the player. Fortunately in the official lore Birdo is actually a cross dresser pretending to be a girl bird but is really a guy bird. They never explain how he/she is able to shoot/lay eggs but that’s not too important, after all it is a fantasy game.

Being John Malkovich

I cried. I literally cried when I got to the end and heard the voice over of the adult male swimming in the pool inside the body of the young girl. I had long desired to not only look and act more like a girl but there was always this part of me that really wanted to have a female body, complete with all the stuff most girls complain about.

The movie itself is very weird. At first I was only passively into it out of morbid curiosity. However as the story progressed it captured my imagination and held my attention until the very end. To this day I feel a stirring whenever I think of this movie. In fact it was such a powerful feelings I’ve since decided to ration my viewings of the film in order to preserve some of that mystery. I would hate to watch it too much and wear it down.

Mrs. Doubtfire

If this movie didn’t make a list of a budding cross dresser as something to explore I’d say that person isn’t digging deep enough. A combination of heartfelt, awakening and a little on the creepy side, it has that perfect blend that makes you just uncomfortable enough with how comfortable it makes you feel about cross dressing, transgenderism and even homosexuality if you go that route. It was one of those movies that was hiding some subtext I picked up on quickly under that mask of a kids show. Don’t think that was lost on someone like me who enjoyed heavily seeking out forms of entertainment that either normalized, if not glamorized the ideas I was fostering.

The Sims

This. This game was heavenly. The first time I realized I could create an imaginary world where I could live out my fantasy of being a woman entirely from childhood into adulthood was mesmerizing. Of course I was already a fan of sim type games, Sim City, Sim Earth, Sim Ant, etc., but to get to create a female character with her own hopes, dreams, personality and style and then set her on the path to success, OMG it was beyond heavenly, it was absolute ecstasy.

Chasing Amy

This one falls more under the category of exploring lesbianism as a potential lifestyle. Still, as someone who was fascinated with all aspects of femininity I couldn’t help but consider the need to also learn about the females who were sexually attracted to other females.

The movie is considered archaic today by the LGBT community for it’s stance on being gay being a choice which is not the common view point held by many in the community. Still, it was one of those movies that, at the time, did a lot for breaking down walls and getting people like me to ask the questions my parents were hoping I would avoid.

The movie itself doesn’t really do much for a cross dresser but it still helps normalize the alternative lifestyles as they call it which something.

The Secret World of Alex Mack

This one isn’t so much about cross dressing in particular but it was one of the earliest examples of a female super hero that really stuck with me. It was a teenage girl trying to live her normal life while being granted super powers. Of course the far superior and vastly more popular Buff the Vampire Slayer would soon replace it in the cultural lexicon but you have to give it props for being able to lure young boys into a watching a TV show where the main character is sort of an action hero and totally a chick.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I already mentioned it above but this show broke down barriers. It obviously left a mark on me. Now truth be told I already had a crush on the young Alyson Hannigan from her appearance in My Step-Mother is an Alien a few years prior. It was easy for me to get into this show as it featured her as one of the prominent characters throughout.

FRIENDS

This show started off with the lesbian leaving Ross for another woman right off the bat. It also sported three equally interesting and very strong female leads who carried the weight of the show as much as, if not more than, their male counterparts.

Over the entire course of the show’s run I took flack for liking it so much from many of my male compatriots. It was called a show for chicks, a show for gays, or both. I didn’t care I replied, Rachel is hot so whatever. Hey, Rachel was hot so there is that. Nobody needed to know I was equally checking out the cute outfit she was rocking each week while also appreciating the rest of her beauty. There was also the episode with Ben playing with his Barbie. Obviously this stirred things up in me as well.

Rainbow Brite

I know I’ve talked about this a lot but you know what, if my older sister hadn’t introduced me to the lovely world of this amazing super hero with her cast of colorful friends, who knows what I might have ended up liking. The toy and cartoon both had an impact on my interests in life early on. I especially liked the purple girl that wore glasses. She was my favorite.

There are many others, too many for an article such as this. Here are a few quickies to round out the spectrum.

G1 Transformers and Arcee, a female robot made by male robots to understand females.

Super Metroid for staring a bad-ass action hero that looked somewhat masculine to trick boys into playing but was totally a woman underneath it all.

Clueless, a teen comedy all about fashion and shopping. What’s not to like.

Herman’s Head. He had a chick living inside his head controlling his sensitive side.

And there you have it a brief list of movies, cartoons, video games and toys that either inspired or influenced the cross dresser in me. Stay Cool.

What’s New to YouTube?- A Review Show!

Welcome back to another article here at The Spiders Lair, Where Chaos Resides. This time I am happy to announce I am starting a new video series called “What’s New to YouTube” where I will talk about newer, smaller channels.

Each week I will shoot out a Tweet and Facebook post inviting YouTube Content Creators to recommend their channel for review. I will select one channel based on the following criteria.

1. The show must be active

The creator needs to be making new videos semi-regularly, once a month will do. They must also be actively promoting the channel. This can be social media, podcasts, other means. As long as the creator is trying to grow his or her respective show I will check it out.

2. It must be a small audience.

The purpose of the show is to help get exposure to new, smaller channels while creating quality content that other YouTubers will enjoy. The channel cannot have more than 100 subscribers.

3. It must be relatively new.

This is subjective but if the channel was created in the last year and is actively growing it is eligible. If the channel was created some time ago and only posts sporadic content on rare occasions it is not actively trying to grow and is not eligible.

4. There needs to be some proof of commitment.

This is also subjective but I am using 20 videos as a minimum threshold. The most current video cannot be older than a month or else it won’t be considered active.

5. It has to be quality content.

This is very subjective but Let’s Eat, prank shows, conspiracy theorists, hate speech, personal diary style vlogs etc., will most likely not make the cut. But don’t hold back submit a channel and see if it gets featured.

I will feature one channel a week. I will look at the content, I will reach out to the creator on social media and I will link back to the channel and creator’s social media once the video is live on my channel. The creator is free to share the video and discuss it in their own content; blog, podcast etc., but they are not allowed to upload it to their channel or spam the comments of the video.

I am trying to make a series of magazine/TV style videos similar to Entertainment Tonight or TV Guide that brings attention to quality, but unknown, content.

I have a companion show called What’s Streaming. There is absolutely NO criteria for this show, I decide which videos or channels to feature.

What’s New to YouTube will ONLY review YouTube channels. I am not interested in Twitch or similar content. What’s Streaming can be anything, from YouTube, Twitch or podcasts to Hulu, Netflix and the like.

If you want to submit your channel for review on this exciting new series feel free to respond to one of the social media posts on Twitter @ phatrat1982 or Facebook @ thespiderslairblog. As always, Stay Cool.

The Iron Spider stops Mr. NotSoStrange: A review of Spider-Man Far From Home

The newest Iron Man movie starts off with a half-assed high school tribute to the founding Avenger Tony Stark. Then it quickly devolves into a 2-hour quest for Little Tony Junior to discover his inner Iron Man before he can defeat the newest Dr. Strange knockoff in the latest Marvel movie masquerading as a Spider-Man flick.

I have been far too soft on the Avengers films. In fact I have sung their praises individually while maintaining my displeasure with the shear amount of films required to follow the massive cinematic universe Marvel Studios have crafted under the heavy hand of The Walt Disney Company. Yet as I sit in the theater enjoying easily my favorite stand alone, solo Marvel superhero go on his latest adventure I can’t but wonder when are we going to get a Spider-Man film that doesn’t have ties to either the Avengers, SHIELD or Tony stinking Stark. Don’t get me wrong this is not an attack on the film, I enjoyed it, nay I loved it. Save for a few heavy handed references to that industrialist whom I have grown to detest, loath even. To the point I am willing to revert to cliche’s in an attempt to accurately convey my disdain for the fact that nobody has a problem with any of these movies because godforbid you  have your own opinion. No if you stray from the message of Marvel Rules and the MCU is cinematic perfection, then you will bring the wrath of the nerds down upon your sorry ass faster than Thor can throw a thunderbolt at Loki.

The plot

This is my sticking point. The movie is utterly fantastic, through and through, no question there. I loved this portrayal of Peter Parker, his friends and even the very adorable Mary Jane. I was annoyed at first that there were obvious alterations from her comic book appearance but the actress handily won me over and made my heart flutter, yes that is in deed the woman this version of Peter Parker would fall madly in love with.

The parts of the story that focus on Peter and his friends and teachers is absolutely brilliant. I loved it. It really captured the essence of a high school field trip gone awry. As a former high schooler who experienced many failed attempts at following the itinerary the adults were amusingly trying to force upon us this film encapsulated that perfectly.

The downside is the movie relies heavily on SHIELD interfering to bring Spider-Man out to play while once again making Tony Stark the central force not only tying the plot together but serving as the entire motivation for the villains. Every single person who sides with Mysterio does so exclusively because of their respective desire to destroy the legacy of none other than Mr. Stark himself. By the time the film gets Peter on a plane waving his hands around at his version of Jarvis, now named EDITH (Even in Death I’m The Hero) a not-so-subtle reminder Stark is still running the damn show. Seeing Spider-Man replicating the motions of the man who wore the Iron Man suit, while constructing his own Iron Spider suit, just goes to show had desperately the MCU has come to rely on a single man. Now, don’t get me wrong I can handle a reference to Stark, I can surely accept these movies are in the same universe, but when the entire film centers entirely on Tony Stark as the motivator for the plot, the reason for the antagonist and the solution to the problems created throughout it only makes me wonder who, behind the scenes, is infatuated with either the character, or the actor who played him? Even in death Robert Downy Jr’s Tony Stark was seen throughout the film, on multiple occasions.

There was even a point where Peter suggests he doesn’t want to be the next Iron Man, he just wants to be Spider-Man. YES, that is exactly what I want too! I want a Spider-Man movie more akin to the very faithful adaptation Sam Raimi provided more than a decade ago.

The characters

I can’t spend too much time knocking the characters. In fact I literally want to do the opposite. The kids were fun. The adults were fun to laugh at. The villains were exactly as expected and most importantly Tom Holland nailed his portrayal of Peter Parker both in and out of the Spider-suit.

I haven’t seen the previous film so I didn’t spend enough time learning the names of the new characters. I will say that each one served a purpose and was exactly as entertaining as I expected. I honestly have no complaints. I was, at first, annoyed our beloved Mary Jane Watson was not a red head (especially as someone who is fond of red heads just look at my Jean Grey obsession) but I can honestly say this interpretation won my heart. She really was the object of Peter’s affection and she nailed her performance. The other characters were as aptly acted as I expected and nobody stood out as off putting. For everything I love about the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film, the one thing that I don’t like is Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Miss Watson.

The only characters that did annoy me were the Avengers characters that I felt were out of place in this picture. I don’t need to see Nick Fury sending Spider-Man to Proq to fight Mysterio, I want Mysterio to hate Spider-Man for his own personal reason without the need for Stark Industries or SHIELD to be involved what so ever. Still, the Mysterio parts were totally amazing.

The action

This takes me to the best part. As is to be expected the action sequences handily deliver an experience that is very much worth seeing in the theater. In fact, I will say that as much as I absolutely love the original 2002 Spider-Man, this movie was clearly the more cinematic picture. Sure, times have changed but still this movie jumped off the screen whereas that previous film merely did the job it needed to at the time.

Really the only complaint I will voice here is how Spider-Man’s suit looked too high tech. Again I am more than happy with a spandex wearing super hero I don’t need my Spidey running around in Stark Industry gear. However, Disney apparently disagrees so here we are.

The fight scenes where Mysterio are giving Spidey the beat down of his life are just amazing. The illusions were perfectly crafted to confuse the audience while disorienting the wall-crawler simultaneously. I can’t think of a single action scene that didn’t work for me. For the most part the action tends to be the best part of these films anyways so I have no complaints.

Scenery

I don’t normally include this category in a review but this film went out of its way to ensure every shot was breathtaking. The cinematographer deserves an academy award I think. This movie made me feel like I was web slinging with Spider-Man. It made me feel like I was on a bus going down the country side of some distant country I’ve only heard about in movies. It was a very beautifully shot film that really brought the characters to life and made the settings pop.

Overall

The movie is a very enjoyable ride. From start to finish the movie goer is sure to get a thrill ride easily worth the price of admission. While Spider-Man is absolutely my favorite solo superhero in the Marvel battalion, his films have been largely inconsistent. There is usually a great film thrown together with a few minor details to nitpick. In the 2002 picture the movie was mostly perfect with a few cheesy one liners and a terribly cast Mary Jane. The Amazing Spider-Man had some of the most exciting action scenes and took the character in a much darker place but fell short on the charm that makes the character so like able in the first place. This film is no exception. It was a damn near perfect movie only tainted by the overwhelming and very in-your-face references to Tony Stark and the Avengers. Other than that it was perfectly cast, perfectly acted, beautifully shot. It more than capture the essence of the character and the plot, while a little contrived, fit the film nicely. All in all I had a blast and most fans will too.

I rate it a solid 5 out of 5. The minor flaws are just not nearly enough to take away from an absolutely spectacular Spider-film.

A list of every PS1 Greatest Hits title

I wanted to share a list of the Playstation 1 Greatest Hits titles. I compared multiple lists and this is the most complete one I could find. Enjoy.

I will be compiling a few more lists for reference. I hate how Wikipedia and GameFaqs make it difficult to copy/paste these types of things. I hope someone can find this useful.

007: The World is not Enough
007: Tomorrow Never Dies
1Xtreme
2Xtreme
A Bug’s Life
Activision Classics
Air Combat
Alien Trilogy
Andretti Racing
Ape Escape
Army Men 3D
Army Men: Air Attack
Asteroids
Battle Arena Toshinden
Casper
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Chrono Cross
Cool Boarders 2
Cool Boarders 3
Cool Boarders 4
Crash Bandicoot 1
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
Crash Bash
Crash Team Racing
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
Dance Dance Revolution Konami Mix
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX
Destruction Derby 1
Destruction Derby 2
Die Hard Trilogy
Digimon Rumble Arena
Digimon World 1
Digimon World 3
Dino Crisis
Disney’s Tarzan
Doom
Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22
Driver 1
Driver 2
Duke Nukem: Time to Kill
Dukes of Hazzard: Racing for Home
Fighting Force
Final Fantasy 7
Final Fantasy 8
Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy Anthology
Final Fantasy Chronicles
Final Fantasy Origins
Final Fantasy Tactics
Formula 1
Frogger 1
Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge
Gran Turismo 1
Gran Turismo 2
Grand Theft Auto 1
Grand Theft Auto 2
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing
Jeremy McGrath SuperCross ’98
Jet Moto 1
Jet Moto 2
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Legend of Dragoon
Loaded
Madden NFL 98
Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX
Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor: Underground
Mega Man 8
Mega Man Legends
Mega Man X4
Metal Gear Solid
Monopoly
Monsters, Inc. Scream Team
Mortal Kombat 4
Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Namco Museum Volume 1
Namco Museum Volume 3
NASCAR 98
NASCAR 99
Need for Speed 1
Need for Speed 2
Need for Speed 3: Hot Pursuit
Need for Speed: High Stakes
NFL Blitz
NFL Blitz 2000
NFL GameDay
NFL GameDay 97
NHL 98
NHL FaceOff
NHL FaceOff ’97
Nuclear Strike
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Pac-Man World
Parasite Eve
Rayman
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
Reel Fishing
Resident Evil 1
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 3
Ridge Racer
Road Rash
Road Rash 3D
Rocket Power: Team Rocket Rescue
Rugrats: Search for Reptar
Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase
Silent Hill
Sim City 2000
Sled Storm
Soul Blade
Soviet Strike
Spider-Man
Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro
SpongeBob SquarePants: SuperSponge
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!
Spyro the Dragon
Spyro: Year of the Dragon
Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Star Wars Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire
Star Wars: Dark Forces
Street Fighter Alpha 3
Stuart Little 2
Syphon Filter 1
Syphon Filter 2
Syphon Filter 3
Tekken 1
Tekken 2
Tekken 3
Ten Pin Alley
Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Test Drive 4
Test Drive 5
Test Drive Off-Road
Tetris Plus
The Lost World: Jurassic Park – Special Edition
TNN Motorsports Hardcore 4×4
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
Tomb Raider 1
Tomb Raider 2
Tomb Raider 3
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear
Triple Play 2001
Triple Play 98
Twisted Metal 1
Twisted Metal 2
Twisted Metal 3
Twisted Metal 4
Vagrant Story
Vigilante 8
Vigilante 8: Second Offense
Warhawk
WCW Nitro
WCW vs. the World
Wheel of Fortune
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: 2nd Edition
Wipeout
WWF SmackDown!
WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role
WWF War Zone
WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game
X-Men: Mutant Academy
Xenogears

Favorite Strong Female Comics Characters

I was about 12 years old when I really began getting into comic books and comic book culture. It was around this time I started reading Wizard magazine and other comic related publications. I can’t remember the name of all of the different magazines, back in the 90s there was more than one magazine floating around on any given topic.

During the transition phase of going from a child to adolescent I began to notice my interests were changing. It’s only natural at this stage in life. One area I became more interested in is discovering the artistic expressions, in comic books and other media, of the female form. I struggled as a Christian with the balance between being able to appreciate a woman for her beauty without over sexualizing her in the process. I will say it was a battle I sometimes lost due to the nature of being bound to a fleshly body. That being said I often did let my eyes decide which female characters in the comic medium to investigate whether it be based on a costume, the way she presented her self or something else. I also grew up the only male child in a house full of females. It was a unique experience to say the least.

This is a list of some of my favorite strong female comics characters.

Early on my favorite female comic book characters began to take on a certain theme. They were the types of women, like myself in many respects, that didn’t fit into the typical roles. Often they were a super hero with a power that set them apart or they were a character with some sort of personality disorder. It never failed, despite the physical attractiveness one might find as drawing to a character, the traits of independence and being powerful figures in their respective story lines were most often what determine which characters I was drawn to. This was not always the case with male characters, so I can now take a look back and analyze this more.

My first love when it comes to comic book characters is the goddess Dawn from the Cry for Dawn comics and later other mini series. It original attraction was her depiction the artist drew her in the comics as well as the magazines. She was always looking at the reader in a way that suggested she was self aware of her comic book existence. Truth be told the character herself was rarely used in the stories of the books I managed to read. In fact, she was hardly even a narrator for all intents and purposes. Still, the image of a seductive but powerful female demon type was a character I found myself drawn to.

If I were to go so far as to admit to having had a crush on any single comic book character as depicted it would be Marvel Girl, aka Jean Grey. More specifically her Original Team interpretation and her later post-Phoenix Saga rebirth. I was always drawn to Jean for a number of reasons. Primarily she was by far the most powerful of the X-Men. She was romantically attached to my favorite of the X-Men male characters, that being her lover Cyclops aka Scott Summers. I even picked up the Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix mini series due to my appreciation for those characters. Not to mention the wedding issue I cherished for a many number of years. I was also kind of a trading card collector so I made the mistake of cutting out the 3 cards inserted into the middle of the issue, a regret I maintain to this day especially after I purchased for mere dollars a complete set of the series those cards were from. Jean became even more of a character I admired once her movie adaptation breathed a new life into the character. I didn’t care for every story line they put her in, but I was more than happy just seeing my favorite of the female X-Men sticking around.

Then there was Rogue. She was definitely the character I was not letting my eyes trick me into discovering. Her character was, shall I saw, not depicted in a manner I found even slightly attractive. I felt she was too muscular and her stripped hair, frizzy hair was a turn off. I don’t mean to completely let the characters physical appearance determine my interest, I was a pre-teen boy raised in a sex-obsessed culture after all cut me some slack. However I became intrigued with the Rogue character more and more over time. I began to realize the complexity of her character was a major draw to the stories she was involved in. I didn’t care for every aspect of her personality, or her falling for that slick Cajun card hustler, but I was still able to really find myself strongly interested in the fact she was raised a super villain who turned hero and had such a tragic story tying her to everything. She was a lot more interesting as a person than Jean.

Next up is Kitty Pride also known as Shadow Cat. She was a character I was originally adverse to. She was young and annoying. Not unlike Rogue herself but I was introduced to the 90s adult Rogue and an early 80s annoying teenager Shadow Cat. Still what drew me to the character more than anything was her struggle with fitting in. The whole purpose of the X-Men is finding a place for misfits to find their place in society. Being a mistfit among freaks is even more difficult to deal with. Shadow Cat never really grew into a main stream character but I eventually developed a fondness for her and began looking into her other books. My favorite was the Wolverine and Kitty Pride mini series.

For reasons I don’t have time to dig into, I eventually branched out and began discovering other female characters in comic books I found appealing for some reason or another. As someone raised in the male world of men are strong women are not but the changing perceptions of the 90s to today, I had to cope with a lot of breaking the rules and allowing myself to like characters I wasn’t supposed to. Of course in the Batman universe it was Harley Quinn that caught my eye. This time it wasn’t her appearance so much as her costume but even more so, her obsession with Joker. Like most Batman fans the Joker is naturally one of my favorite characters. It is no surprise I would begin to develop an interest in a character who struggled with her desire to love the crazy clown, while also exploring other possibilities of self fulfillment. In the end her character became larger than life in many respects but I still enjoy reading a good HQ centered story from time to time.

Everyone has their guilty pleasure character. That one character you know you shouldn’t admire but you can’t help but worship in some way for reasons beyond critical thinking. In terms of comic characters for me it was Wendy from the Casper series. I didn’t read many Casper comics and truth be told he was pretty far down my list.When I did however I preferred the ones with his little witch friend.

I always had a sort of fondness for Wendy despite knowing better. I can’t quite explain it but something about her always made me drawn to the stories she was in. I suppose there is a part of me, as an over protective big brother, who saw a resemblance to her in some respects to my baby sister. Still, I shrug that off as only a surface level explanation for why I would be drawn to that character.

Although it was far from sexual, I did have a strong affinity for Batgirl as my other DC female I admired fondly. Why? Because much like the awesome Batman himself, Batgirl kicked ass and was a fantastic detective. Unlike the annoyingly cheesy Boy Wonder, I always wished Batman and Batgirl would become a permanent team replacing the sparrow-inspired lame duck with a superior character that made a whole lot more sense.

If there was a character I was drawn to for, shall we say carnal reasons, it would most certainly be White Queen from the X-Men. Of course, well for very obvious reasons she was drawn in such a way to make her seductive. She also was the anti-Jean having largely the same powers but was far more flexible in her morals, if you could argue she even hard morals. It didn’t help any when they cast a woman actress who portrayed one of my favorite characters in the highly sexualized drama Mad Men to portray her in the X-Men film franchise. Needless to say they were spot on in that regards. As far as her character as a person, this is probably the one I can say I know the least about as a person, going back to that maleness in me that didn’t even bother taking the time to get to know her more. Oh well, everyone has their fling. She was not my true love however.

In terms of comic characters the one I would give my heart to, if she were real, is none other than the beloved story book character Alice from the Alice in Wonderland series. I have been drawn to so many comic book interpretations of Alice I can honestly say as a sales gimmick the best way to get my hard earned dollars is to make some variation of the character in comic book form I have yet to experience and chances are I will be there.

The last character I want to briefly discuss is going to be controversial to some. She is the heart and soul of the Scooby Doo franchise and the one female character I think really pulls the entire show together. Of course I am referring to the great Daphne. I know there are weirdo’s out there who like the glasses wearing geeky Velma. Not me, she was just annoying. I don’t pick Daphne based purely on looks however. I always felt she was a far more important character than she is often remembered. Sure she is usually the damsel in distress but what’s wrong with that? So is Princess Toadstool and she has been quite the success in the video game arena. Okay sure there is the whole stereotype argument but what can I saw, I don’t let that ruin a perfectly good character for me. I love Scooby Doo as a franchise. I certainly believe the entire team brings their own skills to the table, Daphne is still the one who ties the group together. She is, to use the cliche, the glue. It also didn’t hurt any she was the one carried over into the 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo when that annoying nerd got booted off the show. To top it all off the highly admirable Sarah Michelle Geller, who portray the very popular Buffy, was selected to bring Daphne to life for the live action film, of which I am one of the rare fans.

This is far from a comprehensive list of the female comic book characters I have been interested in, this is largely the ones I consider the most intriguing for some reason or another. Stay Cool.

Pokemon blues

The first time I heard about Pokemon was through a trading card magazine I used to get in the mail back in the late 90’s. If I am not mistaken it was a one off done by the folks at either Toy Fair, Wizard or one of those other hobby magazines I used to subscribe to in the days before the dominance of the web.

What I remember reading about was not the Game Boy game, but rather the exciting new trading card game taking the country by storm. The country, at that time, meant Japan, and the article was about how it was getting ready to invade the states. Invade was not strong enough of a word. Pokemon completely changed everything.

I had a friend who opened up a trading card shop in the early part of the decade during the rise of the Magic the Gathering craze. Magic was a great game and all, but me, I was more into Star Wars CCG. That’s Customizable Card Game for the uninitiated.

One thing he told me, at the time, was card games come and go. He believed Magic had longevity because of the cross over between D&D fans. I was more skeptical. See, I bought Marvel OverPower, Star Wars CCG and Spell Fire (the D&D game) so maybe I was a little biased. However, neither of us expected Pokemon to stick around longer than a few seasons, the card game that is. At the time there wasn’t a video game or cartoon in the states just yet. The oncoming storm was brewing, we just weren’t fully prepared for it.

I remember right after my younger sister started showing me her Pokemon cards my first reaction was to roll my eyes. I already started getting into Dragon Ball Z TCG and the Digimon cartoon was starting to pique my interest. I thought Digimon was so much better than Pokemon, it would only be a matter of time before it supplanted Pokemon and the ‘Pikachu and Pals’ craze would fade into obscurity.

It was around the time I picked up a Game Boy Pocket that I got my first taste of the Pokemon video game. A friend at school sold me his Yellow Pocket so he could buy a Green Game Boy Color. He gave me two games with it, Wario Land, Super Mario Land 3, and Pokemon Blue. Needless to say I didn’t even insert the pokecart into my machine. I traded it to Software Etc., the game store in our mall before it turned into a Game Stop. That was it, no more Pokemon for me. I bought an N64 earlier in the year, along with a PS1. I started to realize there were Pokemon games showing up on the N64 and then, seemingly out of the blue a movie gets announced.

I continued to resist. I was too old to get into that crap. I was 16 when it came out and I had already upgraded to Playstation and Mortal Kombat, I wasn’t even spending much time playing Sonic or Mario games at this time in my life. Pokemon was certainly, I thought at the time, beneath me. Especially with my younger sister, six years below my age, being so into it. Of course she didn’t have a Game Boy, for  her it was a card game.

One day I came home from work. I worked at the buffet in the casino. I discovered all my tip money I had been saving up was missing, around $40 or so. By the end of the day I discovered my sister and one of her friends had taken my money and spent it. They played games at the arcade, rented movies at the video store, bought a pizza and to top it all off they brought home a few packs of those silly Pokemon trading cards. I was furious. At this point I had enough. I made her and her friend sell their Pokemon cards to pay me back the money they stole. I wasn’t going to be too harsh on my ten year old sister, so I ended up taking her and her friend out to the buffet for supper to say no hard feelings, but I insisted they sell those damn cards to pay me back. I learned in the trading card business how quickly a hot card can rise in value and then plummet so I knew we had a narrow window to sell them for cash. She ended up paying me back every penny, and I washed my hands of that fifthly game for good. Or so I thought.

The years would go by and I would continue to resist. Every time a new game came out I grew increasingly hostile towards Nintendo. They never released those stupid things one at a time. They always came out in pairs along with some console tie in or spin off, which meant they were devoting a lot of resources to that game not making games I would have bought. This resentment carried into my interactions with fans online. I instantly attacked, berated and dismissed the opinions of anyone over the age of 7 that talked about Pokemon. I was really harsh. I really hated that game.

Things began to soften up a little bit once I got a Game Cube in 2004. I purchased a copy of Super Smash Bros. Melee and quickly learned Pikachu was a pretty good character to win matches. I chalked it up to him being the most recognizable character in the franchise so I never really let it lure me into trying the games. It wouldn’t be until 2010 when I downloaded the Pokemon Blue rom for GB and played it on my Windows PC before I ever game a proper Pokemon game a chance. If this is the part in the story you were expecting me to say, wow, what was I missing out on all these years, wrong. All it did was confirm my suspicions.

The game was just a watered down, RPG knock-off with the most obnoxious collect-a-thon mechanic at the entire heart of the game. Not something like a RareWare platformer where the core game play was at least fun. It wouldn’t be until Pokemon Go before I would give a video game in the franchise a serious chance. This time it was for work. I was working at a newspaper at the time of the games launch. Of course all the other media outlets were doing stories on people walking into traffic or walking off a cliff or similar stories. I decided to write safety guide and how to column for the newspaper where I worked. I order to be informed, I downloaded the app and tried it out.

Now you are thinking a-ha! Finally that sour puss converted once he saw the true light! Wrong again. I ended up keeping the app installed for a little over 2 years, but only to let me nieces and nephews walk around catching Pokemon and hatching eggs. Eventually I lost interest and walked away.

Now why am I writing an article about how I missed out on the Pokemon craze if I continue to have disdain for the video games and cartoons? After all, at this point if nothing has converted me nothing will right? Wrong. Or slightly incorrect. You see I have converted, sort of. Recently the collector in me- especially the kid who was big into collecting trading cards in the 90’s- has started to have a desire to get back into collecting trading cards. Again as a window to bond with my sisters kids I thought I might give collecting the cards another go round. Not that I want to look for rare or valuable cards though. I thought maybe I will pick up a few packs and see what kind of a set I can get going.

Along the way I sampled the anime when it came to Netflix. I even tried out some of the other games, including Coliseum on Game Cube. The only one I ever enjoyed even slightly was the original Blue. I liked the e-Reader stuff and have considered collecting Pokemon-e  but I suspect that would be cost prohibitive at this point. These days I play the Blue Rom on my laptop and wonder what it would have been like had I discovered this franchise 2 years earlier in life, or maybe not had the negative experiences to associate with it. Needless to say my Pokemon blues today manifest in the form of a what-if scenario I will play in my mind. At least once in a blue moon, as they say.

Why HOUSE music is NOT TECHNO music

The birth of Techno music is often attributed to an isolated DJ in the slums of Detroit while it’s counter-part, “house music” is attributed to an isolated DJ in the clubs of Chicago. Both alleged movements describe their music as the definitive origin of modern Electronic Dance Music. These distinctions are often very divisive among aficionados of electronic music. However to divorce both techno and house from the origins of Hip-Hop is doing a disservice to the pioneers of the techniques that would evolve into the diverse strands of EDM music techno-nerds constantly fighter with each other over on the interwebs to this day.

This is an analysis of the evolution of the terms as they relate to the styles of music we have today. This is all from the perspective of a lonely DJ whose understanding comes from the studying of the roots of the movements, independent of any agenda, or even more importantly, ties to a movement.

The claims go as such. Someone in Detroit was mixing disco records with electro records and developed this into the musical style techno-nerds will call “techno” music. The so-called attributes of the music are singled out as they are defined solely by how closely they resemble the benefactor with no regard to the reality of the techniques being developed for nearly a decade previously by DJ’s in the Bronx, Southern L.A. as with elsewhere. The so-called purists make every attempt to white-wash Techno music by making the claims it strictly evolved out of the ashes of the discothèques from the late 70’s who’s audience had moved on.

The addendum to this alternate reality account of the rise of the dance music disregard the techno moniker entirely, going out of their way to stringently insist it only applies to a very narrow, very precise set of rules determined arbitrarily by the followers of a cult-like DJ who they credit with creating, what they refer to as ‘house’ music, which bears a striking resemblance to the music the uninitiated refer to as ‘techno’, which they deem either unworthy or inferior to their beloved house term. Both sides equally ignore the development of the music Hip-Hop DJ’s were doing elsewhere, while simultaneously accrediting, incorrectly, developments to DJ’s who severe ties with the urban roots of Hip-Hop. This is not to say the author himself believes white washing is inherently a sin. However, in the context of the evolution of electronic music, it is a disservice to blatantly neglect the work of the ghetto disc jockeys and their obnoxious rhyming emcees who popularized the music being created by mixing records on turntables. This, in fact, requires a serious bending over backwards on the logic of those holding to the false narrative.

Thus it is now THE RAT, who shall bear witness the truth of the birth of electronic music, henceforth correctly identified as Techno for all purposes. Partially based on the erroneous neglecting of the connection to Hip-Hop music the cult followers of the Detroit/Chicago narrative stubbornly adhere to. Also partially birthed in the fact that words actually matter but only in that they are defined. Consider this. Rock N Roll music is the bas moniker for Hard Rock, Punk Rock, Heavy Metal and Speed Metal. Yet, none in the rock community disregard the black roots of their music. The undeniable reality is Rhythm And Blues, born out of the same ghettos that would give rise to rock n roll, bears little sonic resemblance to modern rock n roll to the uninitiated. Still, those who can rightly follow the path from blues to rock to metal ought to also be able to follow the same path from R&B, to funk/disco to Hip-Hop/Techno. It’s not exactly rocket science. Of course ignore the obvious auditory similarities still requires one to disregard the science of linear time. That is, Chicago House and Detroit Techno could not exist in a vacuum with no ties to the developments of electronic music taking place in the Hip-Hop community. Rather it allows certain individuals to disconnect their beloved ‘European-based’ music from the taint of American urbanism. That is to say, a narrative that proclaims techno or even house, began in the white suburbs of the Midwest completely ignores the existence of the disc jockeys mixing disco and funk records into what would become colloquially as rap music.

Disco music itself was a white-washing of the funk music being produced. There are two different paths which interconnect, dissect and reconvene throughout. The short version is this. Funk was stripped of its hook and verse, reduced to the simple break, then mixed with another break, layered upon with scratches, 808 drum beats and other elements to become Hip-Hop music, one of the four elements of the Hip-hop culture.

Disco music began winding down in the cities as rock n  roll was making a resurgence. Clubs and radio waves were cluttered with New Wave bands and imitators who were mixing pop, rock and electronic music to form the basis of the synth pop that dominated the decade. Eventually disco was also stripped in a similar fashion and also layered as funk was being turned into Hip-Hop, disco underwent the same process becoming what those who are not afraid of the cult followers simply call techno. Techno music became an offensive term as it was entered into the lexicon and became short-hand for all electronic produced music. Thus in retaliation the cult followers began impressing upon society an effort to restrict the usage of the term until such time as nothing left could be classified as “techno”, they were so offended by the utterance of the word they not only cringe upon hearing it they shift into belligerent attack mode in an effort to contort history to belittle the pour soul who elected to mistakenly use the word they fear so much. Thus the re-writing of history ensues in an on-going barrage of misinformation used to scare people into accidentally using the wrong term. Coupled with a culture born from being as Politically Correct as humanly possible and this fear of words limits their ability to express themselves without accidentally offending those who adhere to the cult.

This is the truth. Electronic music created using the same methods as Hip-Hop, be it old school turntables with mixers and the like, or combined with synthesizers or even created using loops, if it is in fact electronic and is produced in the same manner at all, as in NOT by playing of actual instruments to create new, original compositions, it is in fact Techno. House music does not exist in the mind of this technophile. It is a make believe term retroactively applied, falsely to a genre of music whose very existence has been under attack by the cult of a single DJ from Chicago.

All of this can be proven by listening to a handful of Hip-Hop acts Break Dancers cling to, mostly who fall under the banner of Electronic Funk (a cousin of Hip-Hop) which is what the cult of house followers will point to, falsely, as what they call ‘Techno’. If one listens to Soul Sonic Force “Planet Rock” and calls that ‘techno’ then listens to TECHNOtronic and calls that house, dismiss their unsound logic and believe the truth, Techno is what they cult of house refuse to utter for some weird hang up. Techno Syndrome is not even correctly label a “techno” song on wikipedia because the cult of house are hard at work scrubbing all references to the word, even when used itself by those making the music. They adhere to a false doctrine perpetuated by a lie to hold up their weird, twisted belief that some disco DJ sitting in Chicago was somehow insightful enough to create his own style of music with absolutely NO prior knowledge of what was already being done elsewhere in the country at a time when radios and MTV were prevalent. Let the haters bring their wrath upon the one delivering the truth. Stay cool friend.

–THE RAT

Best 80’s Trucker movie?

Here is the contest. Which of the following three 80’s films represent the truck driver spirit best? The films are Over the Top starring Sylvester Stallone, Big Trouble in Little China starring Kurt Russell, and Maximum Overdrive starring Emilio Estevez.

Each of these three films presents a different aspect of the truck driver world. Big Trouble focuses on a loner truck driver making his way in the world. Maximum Overdrive centers on a group of survivors at a truck stop being attacked by possessed trucks. The last film, Over the Top, digs into some of the sub culture of the trucker lifestyle.

The great American road trip has been a staple in American culture ever since the beginning of time for this young nation of diverse people. Even before there were automobiles there was the famous wagon trains exploring the American frontier of years past. Also there are the lone riding cowboys who hit the dusty trails of the American wild west. All of these people have one thing in common, leaving their world behind to seek adventure on the open road.

The road trip movie is one of the most iconic sub-genres of the adventure film in American cinema, birthing such classics as Easy Rider, The Blues Brothers, Dumb & Dumber and Tommy Boy.

The truck driver culture, or truck stop culture, of the road trip is a great staple.

This is a look at three feature films each presenting a different aspect of the trucking/trucker culture. As someone who has several family members who either are, or were at one time, truckers or aspired to be truckers, this topic is one I have been holding onto for a while.

It’s going to be written in four parts. Following the reviewing of each movie with the focus on how well does it capture the trucker spirit, then a final review pulling the information from each film onto a final article deciding which of the three is the best trucker film.

This is going to be an ongoing series. It will require the re-watching and taking of notes for each film. Sit back and enjoy the sure to be bumpy ride.

Transformers Star Trek crossover

Crossovers have been a big part of the comic book and sci-fi/horror genres for decades. Sometimes crossovers make fans excited, other times they make fans angry.

Learning about a Star Trek meets the Transformers crossover sounds like the kind of fan service, on the surface at least, fans of both franchise should be excited for. If you consider the Transformers are sentient alien robots while the Borg, a race of sentient alien robots, exists in Star Trek the two certainly do have some room for crossing over.

The problem I have is based on the roots of the franchises. The issue for me goes back to the Marvel Comics days. Under the old Transformers comics published under Marvel the Transformers were grafted into the Marvel Universe. Numerous references, including a Spider-Man appearance early on, cement this point of view. Now Star Wars was a part of the Marvel Universe during the same time period and now, under Disney, they are also under the Marvel Universe officially now.

If this crossover takes place it could bring Star Trek and Star Wars into the same multiverse. This is problematic when you consider DC comics published Star Trek comics once. Paramount wants to launch their own shared universe. Their most popular science fiction properties are Transformers and Star Trek. Although G.I. Joe is popular, they’ve already done plenty of crossovers with the Transformers.

From a purely story-telling standpoint there is plenty of room for the Robots in Disguise to exist in as many science fiction multiverses as those with the property rights desire to allow. The only issue I see is them falling into the trap of tying the Cybertronians to the Borg in a weird way. I would hope they find away to insist they aren’t the same but the robots have to prove this fact to the crew of the Enterprise first.

The next issue that I see is which incarnation of each fiction does this take place within? For example would it be Next Generation crew going up against Beast Wars characters? What about Voyager crew facing the G1 movie team? Or the worse match up, Original Crew facing Armada characters. There’s so many possibilities. Of course I haven’t read the entire details on what could be coming all I know is the announcement alone has me curious. It’s one of those annoying crossover stories that will probably end up being a highly sought after one off or mini series collectors and fans of both franchises must have. As an avid Transformers fan and passing Star Trek viewer I can say it certainly sits on my list of comics I might pick up down the road.