humor, life, Media, Movies, People, Pop Culture, reviews

The sham of asking for feedback on customer service and why companies should know no news is good news

From the desk of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

I called the cable company about a problem with my internet service.

A computer answered.

We are already off to a bad start.

The computer asked me to press numbers on my phone to direct me to the proper human who could help with the problem.

I used my smartphone, which really means I touched glass where a number appeared.

I found myself nostalgic for the old push-button phones from Northwestern Bell. Those phones couldn’t take a photo or play games, but they were well-built and heavy enough to be used as the murder weapon in a blunt-force trauma homicide.

Somehow the ability to push that button really hard made me feel better about these phone tree answering services.

The computer routed me to what it believed to be the appropriate place. I waited for a human to come on the line.

The computer asked a final question: “Would you consider taking a brief two-question survey after your call about your customer service experience? Press ‘1’ for ‘yes’ and ‘2’ for ‘no.’”

This is an odd time to ask this question. I hadn’t had a customer service experience yet and I was already being asked to rate it.

I declined the offer.

I always do.

Don’t put the responsibility of reviewing your employees’ performance off on me. I just want to get my Disney+ streaming the latest episode of “WandaVision” in HD.

I buy a lot of products from a large online retailer. They often send me emails asking me to review a product such as a book or toy.

This offends me.

I make my living as a writer. If you want me to sling sentences for your $1.7-trillion online retailer, pay me. I charge $1 per word.

I would also consider deep discounts.

I’m realistic. They aren’t going to pay me. I’ll be a good sport.

Here’s a review of every product I ever bought from them: “[Insert product name here] was probably fine or I returned it for a refund.”

Cut and paste as needed.

This obsession with rating and ranking knows no bounds. I watch a movie on Netflix, they want me to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Roger Ebert should sue. Of course, he’s dead. This probably keeps his litigation to a minimum.

EBay wants me to rate every transaction. The feedback system supposedly kept scofflaw sellers from ripping people off.

But everybody gets ripped off by somebody at some point on eBay. I’ve always gotten my money back.

Even if you want to give negative feedback, eBay makes you go through extra hoops to do it.

So why bother?

My feedback is I didn’t ask for a refund.

A favorite restaurant of mine offers discounts to frequent customers. They sent me an email asking me to rate my experience every time I used the card.

I blocked their email address.

I still eat at the place. That’s my feedback. I’m a repeat customer.

I understand that consumers want to have a say in how they are treated by the businesses with which they deal – especially the massive, monolithic and borderline oligarchic corporations that dominate modern consumer life.

But I believe most of the ways they gather feedback amounts to a wooden suggestions box on the breakroom wall with a slot for comment cards that fall right into a trash bin.

I struggle to believe that if I rate my customer service experience at the internet service provider poorly that this will lead to any meaningful change.

I don’t believe they record calls for quality and training purposes. I believe they record calls for evidentiary purposes in case of a lawsuit.

What ticks me off about the whole thing is I’m being asked for my opinion when I know damn well they don’t care and they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing.

My recourse is either to change where I buy things or accept a certain level of cruddy service.

Press “1” if you agree.

And if you disagree, just stop reading.

Daniel P. Finney saw a werewolf at Trader Joe’s. His hair was in a bun and he smelled of beard oil.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. And I got a nasty tax bill for daring to have health insurance while I was unemployed. All donations are greatly appreciated and needed. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Crime and Courts, des moines, humor, life, Movies, People

Emancipation by identity theft

Of course I don’t own this image. If you’re really sore about it, don’t sue. I’ll take it down. But you’re a real sorehead.

A colleague had his identity stolen. The thief ran up a $500 bill on one of his department store credit cards. He reported the charge. The bank fixed it.

I might do things differently.

My credit is so bad, if someone stole my identity, my credit score would go up.

I pity the thief. I’ve had this identity for most of 45 years. It’s been OK, but I’m no Kardashian. I’m not even a Jenner.

I’m a lumpy middle-aged white guy in the Midwest who spent 27 years in journalism and is collecting student loan debt in hopes of entering the lucrative field of public education.

If you steal my identity, I’m going to let you keep it.

I wish they sold identity insurance the way they sold car insurance. Somebody jacks your car, the insurance company writes you a check and you go get a new ride.

I would go down to Identity Emporium and pick out something new.

Do you have anything in a Tom Selleck, “Magnum, P.I.” era?

I’m sorry, sir, but with the payout from your previous identity, you’d be lucky to get into a Tom Selleck, “Blue Bloods” era.

How about Brad Pitt after Jennifer Aniston, but before he left Angelina Jolie?

Sir, there is the question of size.

Size? What size? Are you telling my my identity is big and tall? What if a short guy stole my identity? He’s going to look silly.

I don’t make the rules, sir.

It sounds like we’re making it up as we go.

Fine. What do you have for me in celebrity?

We could just get you into a John Goodman, “Roseanne” first series era?

Couldn’t I at least get John Goodman from “The Big Lebowski?”

I’m sorry, sir. Our last of those identities was stolen last week.

Daniel P. Finney covers board games and bird watching for paragraphstacker.com.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. The new semester starts soon. All donations are greatly appreciated. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Movies, Music, Pop Culture

Thoughts on ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

Ma Rainey’s nephew has just gotten into a car accident driving his aunt and her girlfriend to a recording session in a scene early “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

The scene is set in 1927 Chicago. Rainey, played by the incomparable Viola Davis, is about to be hauled away by the police.

Rainey is indignant. Don’t they know she’s the star?

They don’t. Her white manager bribes the cops. She sees the money go from one white hand to another.

Ma Rainey has a lot of power for a Black woman in 1927 America. Her voice sells records and white men will cater to her to a point.

But to get out of going to jail for speaking her mind about a traffic mishap, she needs her freedom bought by a white man.

If the viewer hasn’t caught on by now, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is not a musical bio pic. This is a film about the blues in their truest sense — the oppression of Black and brown people.

She punishes these white men for the oppression and slights she’s endured. She shows up late. She demands her stuttering nephew deliver the intro to her song. She orders Cokes be brought in to combat the heat. She drinks those Cokes slowly while the white record men swear and complain.

Ma Rainey’s voice makes them money. And for as long as it does, they will put up with her. She knows this, hates this and revels in it at the same time.

The trumpet player Levee Green (the late Chadwick Boseman in his final performance) rages against anyone and everyone who doesn’t recognize his ascendancy to the greatest trumpeter of all time.

Levee is cocky and mocks the old ways of his fellow bandmates. He ignores the advice of wise pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman) and mocks the faith of trombone player Cutler (Colman Domingo).

Rage bursts from Levee in self-destructive explosions. He becomes obsessed with a locked door. He rams his body into it until he finally cracks through, revealing a space no bigger than a prison cell with the daylight far away — a symbol of how deep a hole the young Black man begins life and how each door broken through runs into another brick wall.

The story ends in tragedy and blood as so many do for Black Americans, then and now.

I would not go so far as to say I liked this movie, but I was absolutely impressed by it. I love the way playwright August Wilson uses language and builds tension with lines the way an orchestra reaches crescendo.

The reason I say I don’t like the movie is because it’s a sad story that makes a sadder statement about the plight of fellow humans that remains true today.

It’s hard to embrace such discomfort. But it’s a good idea that we do and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a worthy place to start.

Daniel P. Finney’s new off-off-off Broadway Play is called “Megatron: The Musical.”

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, Iowa, Movies, People, Pop Culture, reviews

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen and you don’t have to wrap me in the lasso of truth to get me to say that

“Wonder Woman 1984” is the best superhero film I’ve ever seen. Call it hyperbole. Accuse me of recency bias.

But wrap the golden lasso of truth around my fist and I’ll swear the same: “WW84” is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen.

And I’ve seen most of them, even “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.”

I admit to being biased in favor of Wonder Woman, a character who first caught my interest when the 1970s show starring Lynda Carter played in reruns at the childcare I periodically attended in order to get what the guidance counselors said was “much-needed socialization with peers.”

I read her comic books written by George Pérez, perhaps my favorite graphic artist, as a boy. I felt slight trepidation buying a comic about a female hero, but nobody said anything – especially not my dad, so I assumed it was OK.

It’s good for a boy to root for a girl. That’s the message I took from my dad not being unnerved by the title in my collection of books bought at Montross Pharmacy. A boy needs that kind of reinforcement from his father.

But this Wonder Woman, as played by Gal Gadot and rendered by director Patty Jenkins, is the best I’ve ever seen the character. It improves on the terrific original from 2017.

“WW84” is a movie about wishes. Jenkins tells the story loud, bold and colorful, but at its heart, this is a children’s story. Wishes can be sweet whispers into Santa Claus’ ear for a new toy or they can be desperate pleas by the jealous and embittered. Wishes can break your heart as easily as they slake your desire.

Wonder Woman, who is called only Diana in these films, reunites with long-dead lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in a lovely, tragic way. Scheming businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal of “The Mandalorian” fame) tries to rule the world by preying on the weaknesses of others.

Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) is a bright-but-overlooked scientist who struggles with toxic male aggression and her own insecurities. She sees Diana’s poise and grace and covets it. She uses magic to gain Wonder Woman’s powers but skips the steps of practice that earns poise. This ends badly.

“WW84” is imperfect in spots. There’s a silly, “She’s All That” quality in attempting to make Wiig seem dumpy and ignorable, but even beautiful people are treated poorly and feel badly about themselves.

And her ultimate form as the monster Cheetah only reinforces the lessons the horrific uncanny valley of “Cats” taught us in 2019 – you just can’t CGI a person into a cat. It will always be too silly.

There are obvious present-day political allegories in the movie, right down to Maxwell Lord’s uncontrollable hair. And the way both Diana and Barbara must brush off unwanted attention feels like an “I see you” moment for the #metoo movement.

But I choose not to mingle with the angels and devils in political statements no matter how important or well-intentioned.

Instead, I look at the film as a whole and see a lot of joy. Most of the movie takes place in the bright, beautiful daylight. The Fourth of July fireworks scene is very sweet.

There is plenty of action and battle, but the day is not won by Diana punching the last monster to dust. Instead, her victory is convincing humanity to give up their greed, to let loose their pettiness and forgive themselves and everyone else – embrace life and love.

The moment is beautiful, complex and powerful – and for me, quite personal.

I mention my father’s support of me as I read comic books and watched sci-fi shows while his other sons excelled in Boy Scouts, hunting and fishing. I did not have such a close relationship with my mother, whose undiagnosed mental illness and prescription drug addictions made her cruel and erratic.

Many paragraphs will be stacked about how important it is for girls to see a hero like Wonder Woman on screen, to believe in.

But as someone who has carried the scars of a bad relationship with his mother well into middle age, I argue that “WW84” is something that’s very good for little boys – and grown men – to believe in, too.

Daniel P. Finney is fighting for your rights in his satin tights.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Movies, Pop Culture, TV

Don’t think too hard about that Luke Skywalker cameo in ‘The Mandalorian’ finale

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

“THE MANDALORIAN” SEASON 2 FINALE

A familiar starfighter streaks across the docks in the Imperial Cruiser.

The grizzled Rebel trooper Cara Dune sneers, “One X-Wing? Great. We’re saved.”

But the viewer knows better. This is “Star Wars,” or more precisely “The Mandalorian,” the latest and best thing to happen to “Star Wars” in a very long time. “Star Wars” began 43 years ago as a story about one guy, his spaceship and a leap of faith against a moon-sized Goliath.

A lot more “Star Wars” stories have been told since then. Some good. One great. Most terrible. A few unforgivably horrible. Of course, that depends on a certain point of view.

Mine is that “Star Wars” should be and needs to be simple. Good guys and bad guys. Wizards with laser swords and a religion that allows for forgiveness and redemption of even its most fallen knights.

Modern “Star Wars” isn’t much for that. The sequel trilogy to the original films delighted in turning heroes into losers.

Han Solo and Leia had a kid. The kid broke bad. So, naturally, Leia went back to her military career and Han went into exotic animal trading.

And then there’s Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original trilogy who grows from callow farm boy to galactic redeemer. What of him? Well, Luke felt bad about Han and Leia’s son going Dollar Store Darth Vader under his care, so he split and set up on a mountain to drink green milk from the teat of a space camel.

So, now, comes the season finale of “The Mandalorian.” The series takes place between the events of “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.” This was an imaginary space once thought to be rife with potential. Sci-fi author Timothy Zahn wrote three terrific books in the 1990s that people thought might well have served as sequels to the original trilogy.

But that was before “The Last Jedi,” when Luke tossed his old lightsaber over his shoulder and turned his back on the Jedi-wannabe woman whose quest is to save the galaxy — the kind of thing Luke cared about — for life as a mope.

Dare we dream that the lone X-Wing carries the Luke of yore, the hero who redeemed his fallen father, who saved the galaxy?

The stakes are dire as that X-Wing lands.

The Mandalorian, once a gruff, no-nonsense bounty hunter, is trying to place Grogu, the Force-sensitive child who looks like Yoda, with the Jedi. He makes friends with a collection of sketchy people who fight hard and end up doing good, sometimes in spite of their own intentions. Even Boba Fett shows up to do a solid by Grogu and the Mandalorian.

They’re tough fighters, all of them. But they’re outmatched by some kind of super-robot stormtroopers. The Mandalorian took one out. It nearly killed him. Now there’s a squadron and they’re all coming for our heroes.

A cloaked figure streaks down the hallways of the Imperial ship. Grogu’s ears stiffen. His eyes widen. He reaches for a black-and-white monitor that shows the cloaked figure slicing through the droid troopers with ease.

Then we see the cloaked figure. Not in full form, at least not at first. His boots and the green glow of his lightsaber. The shine of his silver belt buckle. And the moves, the violent, deadly ballet of the Jedi. The 8-year-old in me screams, “It’s him! It’s him! It’s Luke Skywalker and he’s going to save the day!”

And he does. He trashes the robot troopers like squeezing aluminum beer cans.

This is the Luke Skywalker fans from a certain point of view always wanted to see: Strong, confident, fast and skilled. We got a taste of it during the battle on Jabba the Hutt’s skiff. We saw some of it in the duel with his father, Darth Vader, on the Death Star II.

But this was the Luke we dreamed about when we played with action figures on the shag carpets of our childhood homes. He was the hero.

The scene lasts only a few minutes, but it does for Luke Skywalker what the 2 minutes of “Rogue One” did for Darth Vader: It reminds us of how strong these characters were, how certain of purpose, how cool.

The cast of “Mandalorian” have proven themselves to be well-hardened warriors. But this Skywalker — this Jedi — is something different, something greater altogether. And we see it in the way these hard-core fighters react. They’re good. But nobody is that good. A Jedi, the Jedi, is the best.

Is the CGI recreation of Mark Hamill perfect? Of course not.

But this is all pretend. The Grogu puppet still looks like a puppet whenever somebody is handing him to someone else.

Those of us from a certain point of view got almost exactly what we wanted. Luke takes young Grogu after an emotional goodbye with the Mandalorian. Roll credits.

Wipe away the tears.

Close your eyes.

Enjoy the moment.

But don’t think.

Thinking leads to remembering that the dark pit of a thing, “The Last Jedi,” still exists. That the Luke Skywalker we just saw trash the Empire’s biggest baddies is on his way to one day pondering the murder of his own nephew, getting all his little Padawans killed and living off green milk on a rock planet.

That still happens. That’s canon.

The creators of “The Mandalorian” gave us a respite from that with this glimpse of Luke we thought would be lost forever. It doesn’t remove the stain on those characters put there by the hack writing of talented people who choked when they got their chance at “Star Wars.”

But it helps.

Enjoy the Luke Skywalker cameo. Love it. Rewatch it often.

Just don’t think about how it fits into the “Star Wars” story as a whole.

Because then it will really piss you off.

From a certain point of view.

Daniel P. Finney lost the green lightsaber for his “Return of the Jedi” Luke Skywalker action figure and had to replace it with a translucent green cocktail sword. It still killed stormtroopers, but they weren’t confirmed kills because it was not an official Lucasfilm-licensed lightsaber.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor, Movies, Pop Culture, TV

Why watching Stormtroopers die is wonderful

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: An under-appreciated joy of watching “The Mandalorian” is watching the wholesale slaughter of Stormtroopers. They are easily the worst army ever assembled in fiction. They are not good at anything, especially shooting people at point-blank range. They look good. If you lived in a universe where there were no “Star Wars” and a bunch of dudes showed up in white armor and helmets with laser guns, that would be terrifying. But thankfully we live in a world with “Star Wars.” The very first time we met these guys, all the way back in 1977, they were banging their heads against bulkheads and tripping over themselves chasing down four Rebels. In the ensuing 43 years, the Empire has failed to improve their training programs. Designers have given them cooler-looking armor over the years, which has boosted action figure diversity. This has not, in any way, improved the armor’s defensive capabilities. On a recent episode of “The Mandalorian,” Boba Fett smashed through Stormtrooper armor with a pointy metal shaft. It’s no wonder the Ewoks wiped them out on Endor with sticks and rocks. Disposable soldiers are a longtime trope in movies and television. In “Star Trek,” they’re called redshirts, because crew members of the original series whose names weren’t in the opening credits and wore a red shirt were likely to be shot, evaporated or turned into a salt block and crushed under the boot of a menacing evil alien scientist. Stormtroopers have perfected disposability to the point that their very appearance means most of them are going to die. Maybe one of them will get a Wilhelm scream, but mostly they just fall over and clatter to the ground like plastic cups knocked off a sheet of plywood at a raucous game of beer pong. The best part of watching Stormtroopers get slaughtered is that you don’t have to feel guilty about it. It’s bloodless revenge on the musclemen of a dictatorial authority and clear Nazi allegory. Plus, when the troopers are dead, you can recycle their armor to make great instruments for a “Stomp!” set. Stormtroopers! Long may they live … so that they will die for our pleasure.

Daniel P. Finney played Little League so no one would know what a nerd he was. The ploy failed.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Movies, News, People, politics, Pop Culture

HOT SHEET: Joyful Saturdays for Hawkeyes, Cyclones; ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is a great movie; The taking of Baby Yoda

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Saturday proved to be about as pleasant a day as one can expect to coerce from early December. Both Iowa and Iowa State won their respective football games. The temperature reached 47 degrees, allowing for walks, pick-up basketball or naps based on personal preference. It should come as no surprise to regular readers that the ol’ Paragraph Stacker chose naps.

ITEM TWO: I usually remain neutral in the rivalry between the Hawkeyes and Cyclones with a slight shade to black and gold because of my late father’s loyalty. But this season’s Cyclones can count me as a fair-weather fan. I’ve often joked that Iowa City is the statewide distributor of arrogance and Ames is the statewide distributor of insecurity. This year’s Cyclones, however, earned their swagger. They’re on the way to the Big 12 Championship for the first time and ranked No. 9 in the nation. They no longer feel like a team that barely wins six games. They’re a legitimate contender for one of the top teams in the land. I tip my Drake Bulldogs cap to you, Cyclones. Long may your run be.

ITEM THREE: “Hillbilly Elegy” is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Professional critics don’t like it. The movie has a low 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Professional critics like to smell their own farts. Amy Adams is outstanding as Bev, a drug-addled, mentally ill mother in a story set in the hills of Kentucky and Ohio. Bev’s addictions threaten to derail the career of her son, J.D., who’s at a critical point at Yale Law School. Glenn Close plays a domestic battle-hardened maternal grandmother to J.D., who steps in to keep the boy away from drugs and crime. I cried several times watching this movie. Adams rendered Bev so well it evoked the best and worst of my own late mother, who struggled with opioid addiction and undiagnosed mental illness. Both Adams and Close deserve serious consideration for Academy Awards, as does the film. I don’t know why critics didn’t like it. I feel like if it was a story about someone in New York City or Los Angeles, the praise would be lavish. But since the story is set in the hills of Kentucky and Ohio, this is the place the media tends to ignore or broadly stereotype. I’m not from those places, but I saw a lot of people I know reflected in that film. Entertainment is split between the East and West coasts. This is a story from a place where the rest of us live. I am glad it was told. I hope people watch it.

ITEM FOUR: An October Hot Sheet noted a YouTube video by a group of scientists who created a cannon that fired a baseball more than 1,000 mph. The people behind the video call themselves SmarterEveryDay and they are back at the park shooting baseballs. The latest episode seeks to discover what it takes to catch a baseball fired faster than the speed of sound. The results: No one should ever squat behind the plate with a mitt with a ball going that fast.

ITEM FIVE: The latest episode of “The Mandalorian” did for “Star Wars” fan favorite character Boba Fett what the last 2 minutes of “Rogue One” did for Darth Vader. Children of my generation knew Boba Fett from two brief appearances on screen, first as the guy who tracked down Han Solo and crew in “The Empire Strikes Back.” He didn’t do anything spectacular, but he looked cool and we played with his action figure like he was one of the premium bad guys of all time. Boba Fett died sudden and silly in “Return of the Jedi,” which was fine because we were 8 years old and “Star Wars” was always for children. Still, that action figure was cool; purple in color with a jetpack, wrist rockets, a gladiator’s helmet and red missile we imagined he fired at his enemies. Writers added to Fett’s story over the years in prequel movies, comics, books and cartoons. But it wasn’t until “The Tragedy,” the sixth episode of the second season of “The Mandalorian,” that we finally saw a Boba Fett realized — and even exceeded — in the way the character played in our imaginations in countless battles against the forces of evil on the living room carpet. The only comparable moment in “Star Wars” lore came in 2016’s “Rogue One,” when a 2-minute cameo of Darth Vader bifurcating Rebel soldiers in an ultimately failed attempt to recover the Death Star plans brought the best on-screen moments for one of movies’ greatest villains. The good news is Boba Fett is honor-bound to the help Mandalorian recover the kidnapped Grogu, formerly known as Baby Yoda or the Child. That means more Boba Fett, which feels like Christmas.

ITEM SIX: The FX anthology series “Fargo” wrapped last Sunday. The cast put in a lot of admirable turns, especially by E’myri Crutchfield as a sharp-minded schoolgirl intimidated by no one, Chris Rock as head of the Black mob in Kansas City, and Jessie Buckley, a creepy nurse with a penchant for poisoning people. I never felt fully invested in this series and I’m not sure I can explain why. Perhaps because a piece of the “Fargo” story felt more like a traditional mob story, albeit with a rare look at Black organized crime. With the exception of Crutchfield’s character, the story lacked any strongly moral characters and I couldn’t root for Rock’s mob patriarch. Maybe the series just hit at the time of maximum pandemic-inspired anhedonia and the grim story just wasn’t the entertainment I needed.

ITEM SEVEN: “Bob’s Burgers” is always the entertainment I need.

ITEM NINE: The Chicago Bears led by double digits against the Detroit Lions. I was not to be fooled. The Lions had just four victories and had fired their head coach this week. I drew not a scintilla of hope. The Bears are losers. They lose in all the traditional ways. They lose in unusual ways. Sunday was the usual way, choking up a lead at the end of the game and then failing to mount anything resembling an offense, especially with less than 2 minutes remaining. I am not angry. The Bears have been losers most of my life. They won the Super Bowl when I was in fifth grade. I only follow them because of nostalgia for those lazy Sundays watching games with my dad. Dad died in 1988, which is about the last time I had any confidence in the Bears.

ITEM LAST: The new job starts Monday. It’s been a long time since I’ve done journalism and I’ve never done TV journalism. I know I have to shave and probably wear a belt. Oh, and I’ll put on deodorant. After that, I’m making things up as I go.

Daniel P. Finney is kind and rewinds.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, Movies, Pop Culture, reviews

HOT SHEET: 5-sentence reviews of ‘Birds of Prey,’ ‘Class Action Park’ and ‘SCOOB!’

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: We’re all stuck inside and, if we’re following CDC guidelines, not traveling or gathering for Thanksgiving. So, it’s time for the ol’ Paragraph Stacker to break out some of his patented five-sentence reviews. Plus, he got a free trial of HBO Max’s streaming service to help him get through the crushing grief of not being able to eat Mom 2.0’s dressing.

ITEM SECOND: 5-sentence review of “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn, the psychiatrist who fell in love with Batman’s nemesis the Joker first seen on screen in the 2016 stinker “Suicide Squad.”
  2. Robbie is the best part of both movies, which damns her with faint praise because both movies are awful, though in different ways.
  3. “Suicide Squad” is awful in the way superhero movies often are: too many characters with no clear purpose or reason to be together fighting a big CGI blob at the end.
  4. “Birds of Prey” brings together a lot of strong women to portray ill-conceived and unbelievably shallow characters to fight a throng of armed goons that ends with one big, unsatisfying boom.
  5. There may be an attempt at some underlying attempt at positive messaging about female bonding, but if this is the kind of garbage women have to watch to feel seen and represented in society and art, the patriarchy has a lot more to answer for than previously thought.

ITEM THIRD: 5-sentence review of “Class Action Park,” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. This documentary alternates between a nostalgic reminisce and grisly crime story of an amusement park in Vernon Township, New Jersey, in the greater New York City area known as Action Park.
  2. Wall Street hustler Eugene Mulvihill opened the combination water and motorsports park with almost no engineering and no supervision as thousands of New York and New Jersey youth broke bones, ripped off their skin and died on the dangerous rides between 1978 and 1996.
  3. The film relies heavily on some MTV “Headbangers Ball” footage shot there as well as a tourism video and some home video footage, which limits the visual scope of the film.
  4. Interviews with patrons and former park workers, as well as the mother of the first person to die at the park, force the viewer to sway between funny anecdotes and true tragedy without much reverence for the dead or their survivors.
  5. “Class Action Park” is a worthy watch, but as it closes it reinforces two points: Teenagers should never be trusted with anything ever and people from New York and New Jersey are insufferable.

ITEM FOUR: Five-sentence review of “Scoob!,” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. Scooby-Doo was good exactly one time: in the 1969-70 confusingly punctuated series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears.
  2. Every incarnation after that has diluted the character, from the hour-long “movies” with guest stars such as Phyllis Diller, Tim Conway and the Harlem Globetrotters, to the abysmal creation of Scrappy-Doo.
  3. Warner Bros. made two live-action movies with a CGI Scooby and Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame in a very short purple skirt.
  4. “Scoob!” is an attempt at a love letter for Hanna-Barbera cartoons and attempts to cram in Dastardly and Muttley and the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt into an all-CGI (Does no one draw anymore?) Scooby-Doo movie with a plot that boils down to “friendship fixes everything.”
  5. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker seldom concedes that when you’re an adult you should put away childish things, but perhaps with Scooby-Doo, it’s better he stick to the originals that gave a few laughs than another redux.

ITEM LAST: This blog will become private in a few weeks, which means you’ll have to request access to read the posts. It’ll still be free, but there will be an extra step to reading posts. The easiest way to avoid all that is go to https://paragraphstacker.com/ now and look for the follow button on the left side of the page. Enter your email address and confirm it. You’ll get every post delivered to your inbox.

One day, Lucy is going to let Daniel P. Finney kick that football.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, Movies, politics, Pop Culture

COVID Kim Reynolds cracks, issues mask order but not before making Iowans look like a bunch of dummies

ITEM FIRST: COVID Kim cracked. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds finally issued a statewide mask order. The long-overdue order came 9 months into a pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 Iowans. It came a day after COVID Kim made national headlines babbling about science on “both sides” of masks for preventive measures against the spread. After all that, COVID Kim bent her knee and issued the order. Who knows what prevented her from doing so earlier? Pride? After yesterday’s laughable assertion that there is science that suggests masks might not help the spread, was she playing to her base — the big dummies who shout “I have a right to breath O2 and not CO2” at Starbucks clerks? Then again, who knows how many lives could have been saved if she’d ordered it back in March when things started to get bad. Even one would have been worth it. Reynolds doesn’t face reelection for another three years. One hopes Iowa voters remember her haplessness and foolishness in times of crisis. She is unfit for office and has made Iowa look like a state governed by morons.

ITEM TWO: Former U.S. Sen. Roger Jepsen died Nov. 13 at 90. The Cedar Falls native had a colorful single term before being ousted by Tom Harkin in 1984. Law enforcement caught Jepsen using the commuter lane in Washington, D.C. Such lanes are meant for carpoolers, but Jepsen didn’t think such things applied to a member of Congress. Jepsen also admitted to using kinky massage parlors while serving as senator. His constituents were not pleased and moderate voters dispensed with Jepsen in favor of liberal street fighter Harkin. Thirty-five years ago, some bad driving and a trip to a “massage parlor” was enough that Iowans sent a politician into the private sector. Today’s Iowa voter gave An 8-point victory to a known philanderer who never knew a rule that applied to him and likes to “grab (women) by the pussy.” Growing up, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker read story after story about the “brain drain” — young, college educated people leaving Iowa for the bright lights and big city. The typist never thought much of it, but between COVID Kim and now living in Trumpistan, maybe this is what happens when most of the smart people leave.

ITEM THREE: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker slurped ice tea over lunch at the bar of a local restaurant when the manager rushed out into the hall and asked everyone to leave the bar area. The word on the street was a restaurant had been fined $500 for not obeying the governor’s new COVID restrictions, which included not having people sitting at bars. What agency levied the fine or where it was laid down, the typist didn’t know. It’s good there’s an effort to put some enforcement teeth in these regulations. Restaurants probably should be closed as should all other non-essential businesses. The typist doesn’t want businesses to suffer any more than they already have, but hard choices need to be made if this pandemic is ever to lift. Of course this would be a lot easier if those greedy, grandstanding hustlers had passed a meaningful stimulus package that would have provided money to soften the blow for businesses and extended unemployment for people displaced by COVID. But of course those fuckers aren’t going to do anything except pound their chests in tribal grunts and nobody wants to interrupt Trump’s golf schedule.

ITEM FOUR: Let’s get to something fun, namely new comics Wednesday recommendations.

  • Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious: Defender of the Daleks — The Doctor has been absent from our TV screens for a long time and the hero’s return is welcome in this multimedia event that ponders what would happen if the Doctor turned evil in the Time War.
  • Rick and Morty Presents Vol. 2 — The “Rick and Morty” cartoon on Adult Swim is the best thing ever, but it suffers massive gaps between releases of new episodes. The comics really help with that. These side trips involving ancillary characters such as Unity and Mr. Meeseeks salve the burn for more animated adventures.

ITEM LAST: Rumors suggest Warner Bros. might release potential blockbuster “Wonder Woman ‘84” in hybrid form to theaters and on HBOMax. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker loves the idea of not having to leave the house to see new movies, but he hates the idea that it might drive a stake into what was once a staple of American entertainment. Regardless of what happens, when it comes to “WW84,” take my money and let me see it.

Daniel P. Finney is calm like a bomb.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.