Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shinders: R.I.P

The last remaining Shinders stores closed about a month ago, victims of financial mismanagement on the part of their inept, gun-toting, meth-making owner. Quite unexpectedly, I finds himself saddened a bit by this. Shinders opened the doors to a lot of the things that I love now, and in its way, helped cultivate a lot of the interests that make me a Gentleman of Leisure today. Come, let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Behold, the origin of Teebore’s love of comic books!

Shinders was a local chain of stores that sold newspapers and magazines, sports cards and memorabilia, cigars and tobacco, candy and pop, comic books and action figures, role playing games and books, used DVDs and VHS tapes, and porn. A store for Gentlemen of Leisure, you might say (in fact, about the only interest of mine they didn’t cater to in some form was music). They were known, I would argue, principally for their newsstand, one of the few places in town one could regularly buy newspapers and magazines from around the country and even the world, and for their porn: each store contained a carefully walled off, secluded area with swinging doors through which would pass everyone from ratty men in camouflage jackets with greasy hair sticking out from under a faded ball cap and yellow teeth to younger, well manicured professionals in bold suits with expressive ties and shiny shoes. All emerged, clutching their wares, with a bewildered look of “how did I get in there?” on their faces.

The chain began as a news and tobacco stand in Minneapolis at the corner of 8th and Hennepin in 1916, owned and operated by immigrant brothers from Russia. Their venture was met with success and eventually they opened a brick and mortar store. In the early 80s they scattered stores throughout the metro area, numbering a dozen-and-half or so before their untimely demise. The entire operation has always remained within the Shinders family; I believe even the recent wanker of an owner was a distant cousin of the main family.

Shinders was the first place from which I regularly bought comics. As a kid, I collected baseball cards. When I moved back to Minnesota from Wisconsin, I sought out sports card stores to provide my baseball card fix. Which led me to Shinders, where I could buy packs, single cards and display pages that fit into three ring binders. I stared up at the social misfits behind the counter, their numerous tattoos, grisly beards and ragged smiles setting them apart from other adults I encountered. They were living a dream, being around all that awesome stuff each day, and I dreamt of turning sixteen and joining their ranks.

Then a kid in one of my classes introduced me to something new: cards featuring comic book characters (I didn’t know it at the time, but they were from Skybox’s 2nd series of Marvel trading cards). I had read a few comic books, here and there, and was certainly familiar with the concepts and characters that entered the pop culture zeitgeist: I watched the Adam West Batman show, and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings (always thought Firestar was pretty hot...), and rented videos of the old 60’s Marvel cartoons with the catchy theme songs (“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can…”). I had a few of Toy Biz’s then recent Marvel action figures and several of the awesome DC Super Powers toys from Kenner. And before I could read for myself, I had forced my parents to laboriously read the Super Powers Dictionary to me, featuring characters like Flash and Superman defining words. So I was familiar with the world of comic books, at least the broad strokes of the Marvel and DC universes, when this nerdy fifth grader presented to me baseball cards featuring super heroes instead of ball players.
So the next time I was in Shinders, I picked up a pack of those cards along with my baseball cards. And that’s the way it went for awhile, comic book cards collected alongside baseball cards. But aside from the main characters, I didn’t really know a lot of the other characters featured on the cards (“Nebula? Who’s Nebula?” “Thanos’ granddaughter,” says the card back. “Oh, okay. Who the hell is Thanos?” This was, of course, long before I became Thanos' official biographer). These new cards certainly had more to read on their backs then the standard stat lines of baseball cards, but still, I thirsted for more. So I began to seek out their source material: comic books.And so it was, thanks to Shinders, all I had to do was wander over to that part of the store and there were the comics. I started with the X-Men, for some reason (to this day I don’t know why-maybe that Pryde of the X-Men pilot episode really stuck with me), picking up X-Men 8 and Uncanny X-men 289 from the Shinders in Edina and reading them as my parents walked through the Galleria Mall. Being X-Men comics of the mid nineties and thus mired in continuity, I had no clue what the hell was going on, but recognized a few characters from my cards, and as with the cards, I only thirsted for more.

I bought new issues, and back issues when there were no new issues, searching in particular for the ‘first appearances’ helpfully listed on the backs of the cards, filling in my knowledge of the characters and stories along the way. I gazed longing at the comics Shinders placed on the wall, above the new comic racks, out my reach physically and financially. Eventually I discovered the Local Comic Shop in my area, a dingy, cramped hole in the wall that still remains the best comic shop I’ve ever been to (but that’s another post), and I purchased some comics there, as well. But Shinders was always the first stop, because I could get everything there.

Eventually, the X-Men led me to the Avengers, which introduced me to the greater Marvel Universe, which led me to the DC Universe, and eventually I was buying more and more comics, going to comic conventions for the first time and filling in all the back stories I could. Before I knew it, my main interest had become comic books, and while my interest in them increased, my cash flow hadn’t. Over time, the decision to buy more baseball cards or more comic books always came down on the side of comic books and within a few years, I had left my baseball card collecting days behind me.

I still collected those super hero cards as well comic books, and still I went to Shinders. But time passed, and I got older. Shinders began to lose some of its glamour. Older eyes saw the skeevyness and disorder that consistently led my mother to wait in the car while I quickly shopped. My nose, drawing ever nearer to adulthood, recognized that unique smell of Shinders (the smell of the hunt, to young Teebore) as the smell of mold and mildew. The carpet seemed to fade, the bargains on back issues paled in comparison to what I found at conventions, and the glow around the employees dimmed; they were rude and uncouth, and some seemed to not so much be living a dream as hiding from one. By the time my entire budget was being spent exclusively on comic books, I ceased frequenting Shinders, making almost all of my comic purchases at a new, clean, well lit comic shop that pulled all my desired comics for me, and at the conventions at which I now volunteered to work.

But I always made a point to go back to Shinders, every few weeks. Mainly to get supplies for my collection (comic bags, boards and boxes were always 2 or 3 bucks cheaper at Shinders for some reason, and they carried plastic display cases for beanie babies and footballs that made great action figure and bust cases) and to check out their special markdowns, but also because, well, it was Shinders. I had been going there as long as I’ve lived here, and there was familiarity and comfort there still, amongst the rude employees, pokemon-crazed kids, and the guys buying porn (my one regret about Shinders is that I never took the opportunity to go into that fabled “back room” By the time I was old enough, I figured, “why buy what the internet provided so readily for free?” Still, now I feel like I missed out on a positively unique experience).

Within the last few years, Shinders did a lot to improve itself. The new owner set new standards for the company: the employees learned a little customer service, the stores cleaned themselves up and increased their selection. They began hosting Magic and RPG tournaments and reached out to the local comic book community, becoming more involved in conventions. And then the owner was pulled over and the cops found his van stuffed full of automatic assault weapons, ecstasy, and homemade meth. Several indictments, fines and legal fees later, and the bank was looking to foreclose, as he had defaulted on the loan he had taken out to buy the company. The City of Minneapolis stepped in, citing Shinders' status as a historical presence downtown, and made arrangements with the bank for the loan to be paid back directly from the store’s profits. Several locations shut down to conserve costs.

Of course, in time, this arrangement combined with the owner’s other financial woes and seeming inability to run a business while gunrunning, caused Shinders to miss payments to its distributors, which led to a lack of product making it to the stores. I heard at some stores they weren’t even getting the local papers anymore. So of course, this cut into their profits, which then angered the bank, and so by the end of July employees coming in to work were told they could no longer be paid and all the remaining locations shut down.

At the point they closed my regular visits to Shinders for bags, boards and boxes had dwindled to once every six weeks, and stopped altogether when they could no longer get those products into the store. But I never really thought Shinders would go away entirely, and eventually they’d get back on their feet. And if they didn’t, ah well. I rarely went there anymore anyway.

Now they are gone, and while I don’t exactly miss them (though I am having a dickens of time finding a short box at a comic store in town) I find myself a little sad at their absence. Shinders was a local institution and an institution to me, as well. Shinders, either directly or indirectly, led me to a lot of what I love today. I remember fondly the way my pulse would quicken as I neared the store, feet echoing off the cobblestones outside, thoughts swirling with desire at what I would find this day to blow my allowance on. Shinders was a gateway to a lot of things-a moldy, unseemly, ill-managed gateway at times, but a gateway nonetheless. I’m saddened when I wonder where today’s ten year old could now go to buy baseball cards, and along the way be introduced to whole new worlds.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Teebore's Ten Favorite Simpsons Characters: Disco Stu*

Disco Stu is, above all, a man of principle. He does not advertise. And once he makes a commitment, he sticks with it. Disco Stu made Disco his life, and twenty five years after its demise, he's not giving up on it, even if he's grown to hate it. That's the kind of man Disco Stu is, and it deserves recognition.


Disco Stu first appeared in the season seven episode "Two Bad Neighbors," (the one where George Bush the Elder moves in across the stree) attending the Evergreen Terrace garage sale. It was when Homer's "Disco Stu" jacket was pointed out to him that we learned of Disco Stu's principled stance on advertising himself. (Homer had originally tried rhinestoning Disco Stud onto his jacket, but ran out of room.)


Stu was voiced in that initial episode by Phil Hartman, something I never knew until recently. He likely may have disappeared after that episode (thus making him eligible for my forthcoming "Best One Shot Simpsons Characters" list) but for whatever reason, the creators brought him back, with Hank Azaria taking over the role. Disco Stu has appeared in numerous episodes since and had a few lines here and there, hitting on Marge and promoting the Disco lifestyle. He has yet to be featured significantly in an episode, which is odd in this day age when every bit player seems to have had his or her day in the sun (Jeez, even Gil's had an episode dedicated to him...).


Whether or not Stu ever gets the thrust into the spotlight or not, one thing will always remain true: this stalwart champion of Disco deserves our respect and admiration.

Favorite Disco Stu line: Hey, Disco Stu doesn't advertise!





*It has been suggested by some (cough Dr. Bitz cough) that I need to nut up, take a stand and actually rank my favorite characters from ten to one. Never one to back down from a challenge that isn't too hard, after I have posted all ten of my favorite characters' individual entries, I will then post a list counting down from ten to one.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stupid Inventions: The Bulletproof Backpack

No no, I'm not talking about a children's backpack that features beloved C.O.P.S. character "Bulletproof" Vess. Somebody actually created a children's backpack that is literally bulletproof. Here are the details:

Since 1999 over 328 incidents have occurred, leaving 229 dead and 422 injured in school violence alone. That is an average of about 1 per week since the Columbine Tragedy. In almost 97% of these documented incidents, MJ Safety Solutions backpack could have provided the ballistic protection that could have saved lives.
This backpack can provide life saving defense for anyone: school children, educators, journalists and tourists to name a few. This is a full size, ultra lightweight backpack packed with features to make it practical for everyone.

My Response: Umm...yeah...sounds great. This backpack could protect your kid from 97% of violent school incidents...unless...of course...you know...they get shot from the front! Why don't they make bullet proof shoes while they're at it? You never know when one those dastardly alternate lifestyle freeks at a public school may want to shoot your feet! I personally think we should have all our kids wear suits of armor. It's good protection AND good excercise.

Let's ignore the fuzzy math they use. The bottom line is this. If you fear high school so much that you want your kids equipped with bullet proof apparel then I have two words you: home schooling.
Sending your kids to school with bulletproof backpacks simply teaches them to fear the outside world. They'll grow up to be the type of person who has a panic attack on an airplane because some vaguely Middle Eastern looking guy drops a pen and they think the guy's trying to blow up the plane. Then other like-minded passengers who also grew up fearing the world will freak out at the first person who's freaking out and soon the flight will have to be grounded because of panicstricken passengers. And if I have sit on that stuffy plane one minute longer than I have to because you wanted your kid to have a bullet proof backpack on the .01% chance there's a shooting at their school and on the .000001% chance that if there is a shooting at their the shooter will attempt to shoot your kid from behind and through their backpack...well then there'll be hell to pay!!! They don't even pass out those packages of 3 mini-pretzels on the flights anymore!
Is that the kind of world you want to live in? A world full of airplanes filled with freaked out, xenophobic passengers and one pissed off, hungry Dr. Bitz? No! Stop the madness!

I say you take a lesson from Baldwin P. "Bulletproof" Vess himself:


"Just say no to drugs...and just say no to idiotic consumer products based on xenophobic fear mongering!"

Monday, August 20, 2007

Review: Superbad

Superbad is Supergood!

Sorry. Couldn't resist.
So I saw Superbad this weekend too. Dr Bitz’s review pretty much sums up what I was going to say, and better than I’d have said it. Plus, he covered all the nuts and bolts as far as who plays whom and who wrote it and all that. So go read his review, if you haven’t already. When you come back, I should be brief.
Superbad is a raunchy, bawdy, goofy-guys-want-sex-in-high-school romp. It is, on the surface, like many entrants in this genre before it, and is built on the foundation of those films’ conventions. In this case, the plot is simply three unpopular guys trying to become popular by acquiring and supplying the booze for an underage party. Said booze will make their odds of scoring with their respective crushes more likely (if for no other reason than when said girls are drunk, said guys will become that much more attractive and desirable).
But the best Teen Sex Comedies are built on more than crude jokes, gags involving bodily fluids and rapid fire dialogue littered with references to various parts of human genitalia, and Superbad is definitely one of the better ones. Beyond the simple plot, the film is really about two best friends, whose friendship is seemingly built on a foundation of mutual unpopularity, coming to terms with the realization that maybe they’re no longer as unpopular as they think they are, and discovering that their friendship is bigger than their shared outcast status and can even (contrary to what Seth may fear) withstand that realization.
Two other significant characters in the film are the cops, Officers Slater and Michaels. They like to shoot off their guns, troll for free beers (one of them advises McLovin to always take a call at a bar-you’re almost guaranteed a freebie that way) and revel in the power their position affords them. In many ways, they are the main characters, fifteen years older and with more authority (if the filmmakers had utilized the "Where Are They Now? End of Movie Subtitles" device (I’m glad they didn’t) I would not have been surprised to learn that McLovin eventually joined the police force). Throughout the movie, the cops drive the main characters (figuratively and in some cases, literally) towards their goal. Perhaps they are hoping to relive their own awkward glory days through Seth, Evan and Fogell. It is one of the unexpected and hilarious touches that makes Superbad as good as it is that in this movie, the cops are not bad guys, but allies of the protagonists.
My only criticisms are minor. Towards the end of the first act, Seth’s character really began to grate on me: he seemed constantly frustrated and always yelling. As Dr Bitz said, he was abrasive. But shortly after his first encounter with a moving vehicle, he started to become more endearing and likeable. And fellow fans of Arrested Development may be tempted to criticize Michael Cera’s portrayal of Evan as being too much like George Michael, with all his awkwardness and earnestness. But those same fans probably also enjoy seeing more of George Michael, and won’t criticize the performance. I’m not about to.

I liked this film. It was funny, as Dr. Bitz pointed out, unexpectedly so in many cases. I also liked that the characters were essentially good guys. Just as there was no token “bitch” amongst the female characters, for all their crude talk and ambitions, there was no Stifler character amongst the guys, no morally depraved sex maniac willing to do anyone and anything under any circumstances. There was just three guys, learning it may not take copious amounts of booze for girls to like them after all, and that their friendship is greater than the circumstances that created it.

Sorry Luke Cage. Maybe they'll put you in the sequel.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Review: Superbad

Superbad...it isn't. Unless of course we're using it in slang where "bad means good". But I once used that logic for "no means yes" and got a restraining order slapped against me. So I generally stay away using words as their opposites.
Moving on. This movie is superficially like your typical raunchy High School/College adventure movie. The plot is simple. Three high school nerds/outcasts want to get laid. They each lust after a different woman of their dreams that go to their high school. Their plan is to be the heroes of a party by bringing the liquor. They will then get the women drunk and have sex with them. Most of the movie is simply following the boys as they have their own mishaps and encounter different obstacles to what should be the simple task of getting booze and arriving at a party.
One thing that separates this from most teenage sex romp movies is that this one is very well done. The script written by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (who also hilariously plays Officer Michaels) is filled with jokes that, while they can be raunchy and even downright disgusting, are still genuinely funny and unpredictable. Just when I thought I could predict a joke a different punchline would sneak up from behind.
The movie is pulled together by the superb acting. Jonah Hill plays Seth. A self-conscious loudmouth who's secretly scared life may be moving on without him. Although at times he can be abrasive, in the end you can't help but laugh with and root for him. Michael Cera plays the shy and naive Evan. If you've ever seen Arrested Development then you know exactly how well he can pull this character off. But Christopher Mintz-Plasse steals the show as Fogell. The geekiest of the trio also has the funniest scenes. You can't help but love Fogell as he switches from nervous geek to badass ladies man and back again. At first you think he believes himself to be cooler than he is, but then you feel he IS that cool and that you just didn't realize it. As far as I'm concerned, the sequel to this movie should be called "McLovin".
May I also add that I think the casting of the three women who are the object of the protagonists' affection was great. They are all three beautiful and sexy. (They're over 18 so I can say that.) However, they aren't unattainable, Hollywood beautiful. They remind me of the type of girls I crushed on in high school. And that's refreshing. May I also note that unlike most movies of this genre, there is no 'bitch'. All three of the females come across as quite likable.
I recommend this movie. If you can't tell that from what I've written above then I need to work on my communication skills. It breaks down to this. The movie is raunchy, offensive, and is full of jokes involving all sorts of bodily fluids. If you think you can handle that then you'll like this movie. You'll need to see it twice though, because you'll laugh so hard the first time you'll miss half the lines.

RECAP:
The Good: Great script with great acting and expert timing. If you enjoyed movies like Animal House, Porky's, Meatballs, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Shawshank Redemption, Revenge of the Nerds, American Pie, 40-Year-Old Virgin, or Knocked Up then you'll love this movie.

The Bad: There's no nudity. Maybe a quick glimpse of a boob while the boys are watching porn, but that doesn't count. No nudity always knocks a movie down a notch. That's why Disney's Beauty and the Beast only got 4 and a half stars from me. Actually, this movie does contain many artist renderings of penises. Too many artist renderings of penises in fact. It really disturbed me. Just kidding. The penises were hilarious. I just didn't want my latent homosexual tendencies to come out so early in this blog.
Also a word of warning. If you see this movie with me and Evan sings "These Eyes" I will live lean over and say, "Guess Who sang this song?" It's a reflex. I apologize.

The Disappointing: The movie's called Superbad. Words cannot express my disappointment that no appearance was made by the baddest man of all, Luke Cage.

A movie named Superbad that doesn't have me in it? SWEET CHRISTMAS!!!


Drink to accompany this movie:

Beer Bong

Like a beer bong, this movie can be tough and abrasive. But if you just relax and open your throat it can be a hell of a good time. I figure if before watching Superbad you take a few hits from a beer bong the movie will be at the peak of excellence. Just be careful watching the movie with a belly full of frothy goodness. You might laugh so hard you'll have your own raunchy High School/College joke all over your new shirt!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Teebore's Ten Favorite Simpsons Characters: Lionel Hutz

Voiced by the incomparable Phil Hartman and first appearing in the second season episode “Bart Gets Hit By a Car” as an ambulance chaser sporting a business card that "turns into a sponge when you put it in water”, Lionel Hutz quickly became the lawyer of choice whenever the Simpsons faced legal troubles. Throughout the years he could be seen augmenting his mall based legal practice by working a variety of odd jobs including cobbler, babysitter and drug dealer keeper awayer. He once appeared in court unaware he wasn’t wearing any pants (who hasn’t?). His final speaking appearance (before being retired upon Phil Hartman’s untimely death-he still appears in crowd scenes) was in season nine’s Realty Bites, where he hired Marge to work for his Red Blazer Realty agency.
Favorite Lionel Hutz episode: Marge on the Lam, Season Five. With Marge gone for a Thelma and Louise-eque night on the town with her neighbor Ruth, Homer is left with the kids, yearning for his own night out. Enter Lionel Hutz, who overheard Homer’s need for a babysitter while pawing through their garbage. He cannily haggles his fee up from the eight dollars for the night plus two popsicles from the freezer that Homer proposes to eight dollars, two popsicles, and the old birdcage he found in the trash. He proudly proclaims "still got it.”
Soon, Hutz has a blaze roaring in the Simpsons’ fireplace. Lisa asks“why are you burning all your personal papers?”
“As of this moment, Lionel Hutz no longer exists. Say hello to Miguel Sanchez!”
Favorite Lionel Hutz line:
"Now don’t worry Mrs. Simpson, I –Uh oh. We’ve drawn Judge Snyder.
Is that bad?
Well, he’s had it in for me ever since I kinda ran over his dog.
You did?
Well, replace the word “kinda” with the word repeatedly and replace the word 'dog' with 'son'.”



Sunday, August 12, 2007

Missing: Minnesota Twins Offense

Amongst the missing: reigning AL MVP Justin "I Homered Three Times in One Game" Morneau, AL batting champ Joe "Baby Jesus" Mauer, two 30/100 outfielders and a swarm of angry Piranhas.
All evidence seems to indicate they have been replaced by a team of inferior lookalikes, perhaps from a mirror universe, unable to consistently score more than two runs in a game. Amongst the duplicates are the frustrating Justin Morneau-for-4, the shifty "Maybe Jesus?" Mauer, the aged and patched together RonDL, the impish and many faced third baseman L-Puntcherkins and a swarm of young guppies. While numerous, these guppies are more or less ineffective when placed in a larger pond than one to which they are accustomed.
If anyone has any information as to the whereabouts of the real Twins offense, please contact the Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN. Management has made it abundantly clear that no replacements will be found; the hopes of all Twins Territory rests on the return of the true Twins offense and the expulsion of these genetically-identical-yet-offensively-inept duplicates.

Friday, August 10, 2007

*hiccup*

What the hell? Teebore expects me to post twice a week? Doesn't that mean I have be sober twice a week? No dice...no dice. I'm serious, I've been aching to play a game of craps and I can't find a pair of dice anyway.
.
.
.

Yes, that's the kind of humor you can expect from me. You've been warned!

Basically, I will rarely have any thing meaningful or halfway-intelligent to say. But I can post a badass picture:









Hell yeah.

Greetings and Salutations

Welcome, non-existent readers, to Gentlemen of Leisure! Even though there isn’t anyone reading us yet, I wanted my first post to be something of an introduction; by putting some of my goals and expectations for this blog in writing, I will thus make it that much harder for me to weasel out of them. And who knows? Years from now when this blog is the toast of the blogosphere, some of our legions of faithful readers may pull this post out of the archives and see just how limited my expectations were, here at the beginning, and see just how much I failed at meeting them.

My intended goal is to post something new twice a week. Sometimes it may be a long, well thought out post, sometimes a quick, vitriolic rant, and sometimes nothing more than a random thought or two. I cannot speak for my esteemed colleague, Dr. Bitz, but my expectation is for you to find at least two new items a week from me. (Which days of the week, specifically, will new posts appear? Geez, I’m new to this blogging thing, people. Cut me some slack and don’t expect a regular posting schedule. I’ll get to it when I get to it.)

And what kind of things can you expect from me? Well, I can say that comic books (specifically Marvel and DC super hero comic books), movies (both new and on DVD), and the maddeningly inconsistent offense of the Minnesota Twins will spark most of my posts, at least initially. But I am a geek about many, many things and I am sure of lot of them will appear in one form or another. I am also a compulsive list maker, so you can expect many “list” posts from me: top five, ten or whatever. Bear in mind I will rarely use the number system to rank my choices; usually I will be basing my lists on things I personally enjoy, rather than trying to create a ranking of overall merit. For example, my ten favorite movies are the ten movies I enjoy the most, not the ten movies I think are the best made. I may do that type of thing sometime, but not often.

Specifically, I have some posts planned that discuss specific issues pertaining to modern super hero comics (I despise “writing for the trade” but not for the reasons you may think), a look at some of my favorite Simpsons characters, and a rundown of the five things I love in each of the Star Wars films. I also have an idea for a semi-regular feature called “To Better Know a President” where I will share bizarre, uncanny, and potentially humorous factoids about the people who called the White House home. Beyond that, what does the future hold? Only Zoidberg Jesus knows, and he ain’t telling. But he is coming along for the ride.

Won’t you?