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.

New column on the way!

Stephanie Bri is here to stay. As a result I fully intend to write a column entirely from her perspective in the near future. Obviously I’ve been letting her voice take over more lately which has been very helpful in getting me aligned properly.

It won’t mean much but what I will do is create a column just for Stephanie. It will be a combination of gaming and nerdy topic gossip, rumors and such with a mix of editorial and some fashion/cosplay advice. Basically the bitch is out of the closet and she’s going to be taking over this site. Stay Cool.

Retropalooza is next weekend: Thoughts, hopes and expectations!

Alright friends I am excited to say that next weekend I will be heading to Arlington Event Center to attend my first ever convention. I am looking forward to attending Retropalooza. I am not sure what to expect because this is my first convention but I wanted to outline my hopes ahead of time to compare this to how the actual experience turns out. This way I can see if I had realistic expectations or not.

1. Food

I am expecting this to be like any other flea market or festival I have attended which means there should be food vendors selling home made stuff right out of the food truck. I am not sure if this is a realistic expectation as I have never been to one but I am hopeful this is the case. I would love to get some street tacos made fresh on the spot.

2. Toys and games

Specifically I am thinking the vendors or sellers. I am fairly certain there will be some video game sellers. I am hopeful there will also be retro toy sellers. Specifically I am looking to dig through a big bucket or tote of random Transformers, TMNT, and GI Joe action figures, all reasonably priced I would imagine.

I am not sure what to expect but I would think there would be a sufficient variety of sellers to choose from. As for video games I have my hope list narrow down to what I will buy from a convention. Since it is a retro gaming expo I am not going to buy anything new. The newest device I would consider is a PSP because I have an overwhelming desire to get one eventually and now is as good of a time as any.

I would contemplate a Dreamcast, 3DO. 32X or Virtual Boy as those are harder to find in the wild. I thought about a Sega Saturn but that’s a pipe dream so I will lower my expectations.

3. Autographs?

I am not sure I want to buy an autograph of anyone who is attending but I might try to grab a selfie with Boogie or Wood if I can. But the real reason I am going is to have fun, meet people and maybe do some networking. I am also planning on filming some footage for a video and naturally a podcast.

4. Cosplay!

I am not sure if this is the type of convention that people normally cosplay to but if so I already have a costume purchased and ready to go. It will be my first public outing in drag as Stephanie so I am really looking forward to that. If I arrive and nobody is cosplaying then I will either feel like a fool or suck it up and stand out. Either way I am looking forward to dressing up even if nobody gets to see the costume live on scene.

5. Road trip

No matter how the day turns out it will at the very least be a nice little road trip and those are always fun. I can always use a good excuse to eat some jerky. I am not looking forward to fighting the city traffic but it’s a small price to pay for a day of fun.

That’s about all I have for now. I am hoping this experience is memorable and I can’t wait to share how it turns out. Stay Cool.

OMG I made my first public debut!

It was scary and thrilling at the same time. I put on my make up, dress and cute witches hat, sat down and recorded an entire episode of my podcast not as him but as me. It was hard. It was exciting. It was fun!

I knew someday Stephanie was going to be out. I don’t know if she will ever get to take over our life but I want to ensure she gets to be herself more than ever before. It hasn’t been easy for me getting to this point. In fact it’s been extremely tumultuous. No agonizing. No, oh there probably isn’t a word for it. Is there a word for this feeling you have doing the absolutely most terrifying soul-crushing thing that is at the same time the most liberating and soul-freeing? I don’t know whatever that word is, that’s how I felt.

I made my first full public appearance in drag on The Dark Web Podcast. I told my audience Stephanie was coming a few weeks ago. I said she is real, she is me, but she is shy. I finally began making strides towards this about a year and a half ago when I came out officially to a female friend of mine. I decided I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Ever since that day I have been slowing giving in to being more and more Stephanie each day.

I finally got to wear I am comfortable enough painting my toe nails and wearing my flip flops sans socks in public. I’ve done that two weeks in a row now and pushed past the gut-wrenching fear. I’ve slowly begun getting used to clothes shopping, although when it comes to under things well I am still overly discrete. Dresses, blouses and even skirts I can grab without too much agony but panties and bras, well I still have a ways to go.

Things are improving. But last night I sat in front of the camera and was doing so, for the first time, comfortable in my skin, comfortable with who I am and who I’ve always wanted to be.

I will be defining more what the limits of Stephanie are in the coming days and weeks. I suspect I will set some boundaries but there is a very real chance, well now that she is out she isn’t going back in so there is a chance I let her live a little and take a back seat for a while.

If this sounds confusing trust me it is for me too. It’s not like she is a voice inside my head or a separate person or anything like that. She is me, I am her. But, well I’ve had to live a certain lie, build a life around a mask. Therefore Stephanie has a right to live, and she will! But The Rat also has to manage thing for her out of necessity for the time being.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffVemmSPh2Q

Anyways, hey check out my video where I am totally rocking that cute dress I spent all friggin day shopping for. Stay Cool.

Is Star Wars toy collecting really in trouble?

The other day I was watching a YouTube video depicting the scarcity of Star Wars action figures. But the video didn’t focus on how hard items are to find, but how many where sitting in clearance bins. I was at a loss for words at first thinking this must be wrong. Then I decided to check out a few of my local toy shops. needless to say I didn’t find much at all in the way of Star Wars product on shelves, clearance or otherwise.

I have always attributed Star Wars action figure scarcity to the massive number of collectors in the world seeking a limited supply of product. At first, my explanation was simple, most other people are like me not interested in the spin off or animated stuff so naturally those toys aren’t selling. But then it occurred to me, when I was shopping for Phantom Menace stuff it was everywhere and retro stuff was hard to find. The collectors were very vocal about how they just wanted OT toys nothing from the new movie. I have felt this way myself about the Clone Wars, Rebels and other animated programs. Frankly I refuse to buy any product branded with the name Star Wars that features those designs and characters. For me, it’s obvious that is not my Star Wars.

But the animated shows remained popular as do the new Disney movies. Since the individual making the toy video I saw made really negative comments about the Disney Star Wars as a whole, indicating to me there was some bias, I decided to dismiss it as such and move on. My instinct was kids today will see this as their Star Wars and buy the toys accordingly. But I did notice something unusual. If the trend is for collectors to snatch up retro stuff and young kids to snatch up the new stuff, it would stand to reason the retro stuff would also be scarce. If, on the other hand, nobody was buying Star Wars stuff, or if the retro collectors were as they say burned out, then it would stand to reason the new stuff would be hard to get and the retro stuff would be in the clearance bins.

That was it. I decided to investigate. I didn’t come to the same conclusion as the person making the obviously biased, entirely negative video, but I did notice a trend. The stores I went to had an equal number of PT, OT, and Disney Trilogy toys for sale. The characters from the animated shows were nowhere to be found with only a few side characters from the new films available. My initial conclusion, based on this being the first day the toyline was refreshed and there was new stock in store made me question a few things.

I was shopping early in the morning. I headed to Walmart around 7:30 a.m. If the new toys were put out around say Midnight then the collectors must have camped out and picked them bone dry. All that was left were a few of the side characters I am sure nobody cared about. The one thing that stood out was the Return of the Jedi Skiff vehicle retailing for just under $40. That seemed excessive for me considering what it was. Especially since I recently picked up a decked out Rise of the TMNT Turtle Tank for about that and even a Scooby Doo 50th Birthday Mystery Van with Fred for half that price. This told me that the OT stuff still fetches a premium price tag and that the collectors were on the ball.

If there was a shortage of toys the first day it came out that doesn’t indicate to me a lack of interest, on the contrary it tells me the collectors, or at the very least scalpers, are out in full force. I will be keeping an eye on this trend now that it’s been brought to my attention. Of course, keep in mind I am only now getting back into toy collecting so my knowledge of the current landscape is fairly limited. Stay Cool.

Retropalooza is now two weeks away

I am two weeks away from attending my first ever convention. This year I will be going to Retropalooza, a retro video game convention held in Alrington, Texas. I chose this one to be my first because it was the easiest one to get to considering I am about an hour away from Arlington.

I decided since this will be my first convention I would double it as an opportunity to do my first cosplay. Since that is the case I will be going both as THERAT and Stephanie to this thing. I am not sure what it will be like walking around in public for the first time dressed as a woman but I am excited for it. I am trying to build up anticipation so that I don’t chicken out.

Gearing up for the trip I have set up an interview with a YouTuber who is known as a Transgender gamer. She will be making an appearance on my podcast to talk about being trans and a geek, plus gamer stuff and other topics. I am so looking forward to this much needed vacation. Stay Cool.

Displaying painted nails in public, a personal breakthrough

I will keep this short and sweet. Saturday afternoon I drove to town on three different occasions wearing flip flops without socks. This isn’t a particularly out of the ordinary thing for me, except I had previously painted my toe nails purple and decided I wasn’t hiding it anymore.

It was a little awkward walking around town displaying my painted toes. I tried to hide them by curling my toes everywhere but by the time I got to the third store I had stopped doing this. I decided I wasn’t looking at other people’s feet, why would they be looking at mine? Well that was how I got through it. I even walked over to my sisters house that same day still displaying my painted nails. It was a small breakthrough for me. Consider it a minor victory for Stephanie Bri. Stay Cool.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 1993 Mega Zord Dino Zord Deluxe Set, IN BOX!

Okay so I suppose it would be fair to say I splurged. It would be more accurate to say I mortgaged my future for a toy. Either way you look at it I bought the single most expensive toy or collectible I have ever purchased recently, a complete, in BOX, Deluxe Mega Zord set from 1993. That’s right the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Dinozords are now safely sitting in my collection protecting my other toys from the forces of evil.

I’ve owned combiner sets before. Namely Devestator and most of the original G1 Scramble City combiners, or gestalts as they are known in the Transformers community. The largest single figure I have ever owned previously was Unicron from Transformers Armada. Behind him was Trypicon and Metroplex from Generation One.

This toy though, is massive. A lot more massive than I pictured. I haven’t yet stood it up next to a Unicron to compare size but I imagine the Mega Zord could give that toy a run for his money. Toy mind you, I’m not sure if the Dino Zords could defeat the chaos bringer on their own, at least not without the help of Ultrazord. Even then I’m not sure.

In 1993 I instantly fell in love with MMPR. I love the toys, the TV series, video games and yes, even the live action movie from 1995. It sure gets hated on my modern audiences but it was actually a ton of fun for me back then.

Over the years I have gone through cycle where I would pick up items that meant a lot to me because I had them as a kid and wanted to connect with my childhood. Then there have been pieces I picked up because they were just cool looking. My favorite pieces are the ones I obtain as a n adult that I never had as a kid, but always really wanted.

I had never even seen a Mega Zord in the wild back in the 90s. I had a friend who had the Thunder Mega Zord which I still thought was pretty cool itself. But even he didn’t have the original five dinozords. This was a terrific purchase for me because it gave me a rush of emotions ranging from the memories of desperately wanting one all this time to getting to explore a toy I never had as a kid but was familiar enough with due to its depiction in the TV series.

My favorite thing about it so far is how big and detailed it is. The individual zords aren’t that spectacular on their own that much is clear. Even so the combined form is so awesome it more than makes up for it. The toy looks amazing at a team of five robots as well as tank mode, too. I love this action figure set quite a bit. I do wish I could have owned one as a kid. But, knowing how my toys from them didn’t survive into adulthood maybe it’s better this way.

I didn’t commit the unforgiveable sin toy collectors fear of buying an unopened box and then opening it up. Not that I wouldn’t consider doing just that, it’s just this was already priced well above what I should have paid for any individual toy anyways. I did end up getting a complete in box set even if the box had already been previously opened and the stickers applied. It didn’t come with any instructions but the weapons were all intact, including all the parts people claim to be missing in so many other sets. If I can make one toy collector out there jealous I will consider that a bonus. Even if that isn’t the case I can finally sleep easy at night knowing the Mighty Megazord is keeping the forces of evil away from my ever growing toy collection.

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.