Lament of a lemon lime soda drink destined to be elusive

It all began with a can of Squirt.

I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly how old I was. Maybe somewhere between four to five years old. I was in the car with my dad on the road to one of his favorite destinations, a small town in Kansas called Miltonvale. He used to hang out with this old junk dealer. We stopped at this gas station on the way that had a gas pump out front and a single pop machine. He asked me to pick out a soda. I pressed the yellow button and a can of Squirt popped out of the machine. I drank it and instantly fell in love with that refreshing citrus flavor.

Sometime later we moved to another town called Minneapolis, also in Kansas. There was this old beat up pop machine at the park by the basketball court my sisters and I used to hang out at with our friends.

We discovered early on if you hit it real hard on the side sometimes it would dispense a free soda. Not always but it worked enough we put many dents in the side of the machine trying to get that elusive freebie.

This machine, if I remember correctly, was a Coke machine. It alas did not carry the Squirt my taste buds had grown accustomed. Instead I had to decide between Dr. Pepper, Coke, or Sprite. I opted for Sprite and instantly spit it out. It tasted like that nasty fizz mom gave me when I had a stomachache.

Then a few years of drinking Shasta pop go by and my parents started buying 12 packs of soda to keep in the fridge. As their incomes increased, and likewise our soda budget, they started letting us kids pick our favorite soda. Unfortunately Squirt must have been hard to find so I opted for the next best thing the Pepsi Cola produced citrus drink known as Mountain Dew. It was a far cry from the zesty pizzazz of a delicious Squirt, but it was strangely satisfying in its own way. By this time we were living back in Miltonvale once again. Now I was in 6th grade and my memories become much clearer from this point out.

We still had that same old gas station with the single pump and yes the same old can dispensing pop machine as before but now it was pushing out Pepsi products instead of whichever off brand sold Squirt as before. I distinctly remember thinking I must have imagined Squirt. In my mind I determined it must have been a name change or something like a knock off similar to Mountain Mist. And so my love affair with Squirt ended and I found a new sweetie to douse my taste buds in. The liquid nectar known as Mountain Dew.

I would continue to drink nothing but this green treat from the Heavens well into high school. I drank so much of it in fact my friends used to tease me saying I must bleed green. That was until the day Pepsi released Code Red Mountain Dew which as been, to this day, my sugary beverage of choice for the most part.

Then a few years ago I was in Nebraska and came across a gas station that sold cans of Squirt. I decided to buy one for old times sake and see if it would tickle my senses as before. Sure enough it was as refreshing as my faded memories led me to believe.

On rare occasion I will pass up on a Mountain Dew for that other yellow drink. Of course I left out a key component to the story, why I left Squirt behind in the first place. That’s right Mellow Yellow. In fact if memory serves the reason I bought a Squirt in the first place was because the machine didn’t have Mellow Yellow and I bought what was, at the time in my mind, the next best thing.

I have tried them all. Mountain Dew, Mellow Yellow, Squirt, Fresca and they all get the job done.

In descending order my preference for citrus sodas is Mellow Yellow, Mountain Dew, Squirt and then Fresca. I avoid the Lemon Lime junk at all costs. This is especially frustrating when at a restaurant and they server offers a 7Up or Sprite when I ask for Mountain Dew. It seems to me like Mountain Dew certainly has a corner on the citrus market at least outside the aforementioned lemon lime drinks, which is sad. I wish Squirt, Mellow Yellow and yes even Fresca had a greater presence in the marketplace. That way when I am denied my preferred citrus drink my options aren’t a seltzer determined to provoke my upchuck reflex. I also hate having to settle for a Dr. Pepper or worst of all, a cola.

Why were Nick Toons so special when they kinda blew?

So I’m one of those people that is just old enough to remember when Nickelodeon was coming on the scene. The early days before it got popular back when you can’t do that on television was their big hit. So I was there at the start of the Nicktoons craze in the 90s and like most kids I watch Nicktoons and kept watching until Snick came along but something happened that made me lose interest and it wasn’t getting old.

The first few Nickelodeon cartoons that we classify as Nicktoons were Rugrats, Doug and Aaah! real monsters. A few others came along shortly after namely recess and then later we got Hey Arnold and then the Seminole Nicktoons SpongeBob SquarePants. A lot of people have good nostalgic feelings for these Nicktoons. But why? They’re not very good!

I’m not saying all Nicktoons were bad and I’m not saying that there are inherently evil or unethical or anything weird like that but when you actually watch them most of the time they’re not memorable. My favorite episodes of cartoons that I remember watching whether it is Garfield and Friends or Transformers, Scooby-Doo, X-Men or Batman the Animated Series the thing that stands out in my mind is I can always picture those episodes I can recall every little detail. But that’s not the case with Nicktoons every episode bleeds together in my memories every series.

I know what you’re thinking you have terrible memory. Maybe but I doubt it because I can remember lots of other things but no that’s not it I had fond memories of those cartoons my favorite ones were Rugrats and Doug I love those two shows I ended up like I’m really like real monsters but I didn’t care for anything that came after Hey Arnold I lost interest real fast losing all hope for Nickelodeon as a network when SpongeBob came on the scene.

I’ll start with Rugrats. Rugrats is the iconic one that everyone.

When we were kids we love Rugrats because it was cute you were seeing the Adult World from the perspective of babies written from adults who are pretending to imagine what babies would think of the world. Except they were adults there were a lot of things in there that as an adult you watch it now and you go a baby wouldn’t notice that. Obviously they couldn’t make the show exactly what a baby would think because we don’t know what babies think. But I can’t picture in my mind whole episodes I can remember the one where the cool kid quote unquote. Picks up Tommy and combs his hair. But I can’t remember the rest of the episodes or any specific plots from any of the episodes and that’s the thing I can remember vaguely what the character for like you had the twins who ate bugs you had the redhead who was scared of everything you had the bald kid that was in charge and then how is it the adults were just kind of sort of there in the background. I love the show when it was new I loved it and I have fond memories of it the problem is when you watch it now you realize that it was definitely cater to a young audience whose mental functions weren’t fully developed but also the show yes it’s a cartoon and it’s humorous obviously but I just don’t feel like it holds up anymore and looking at it I think that one of the reasons why people thought it was so groundbreaking at the time was simply because it was on a cable network cater to kids and that’s it it was knew it was original it was something that didn’t exist before and so I think we all got caught up in the newness of the Nicktoons and the whole idea of we can watch cartoons any time we want instead of waiting for Saturday morning I think once the novelty wore off and don’t get me wrong it was a very innovative concept but once the novelty wore off we realize that these weren’t quality shows. They were very low budget and I don’t just mean in the animation I mean in the storytelling and I mean in the the marketing and the presentation everything about them was low-budget again nothing wrong with that but the truth is they were cable channel that didn’t have the vast resources a broadcast network did.

Of course everyone will tell you after the movie came along Rugrats went to hell but I’m going to tell you it pretty much went to shit after the first season. And it didn’t have far to go because like I said it was Innovative and impressive but once you got past the that it wasn’t very quality

This was most obvious when the Nicktoons migrated over to ABC for there Saturday morning block when recess Hey Arnold & Doug stopped being Nickelodeon cartoons and started being Network TV cartoons they were trash in comparison to the stuff we were watching on network TV. They weren’t as good as shows like eek the Cat or X-Men or Scooby-Doo Where Are You or it’s 13th different reiteration That season. The truth is Network TV shows had the budget and we’re giving the care because they had this for our block on Saturdays that they had to sell all the kids on Clump together and every kid was watching the same show so those shows got all the resources when you started spreading us out over multiple networks because Cartoon Network came along and a few others right after all of a sudden it’s harder and harder for the cartoons to find a big audience in the quality goes down and anyone that you talked to everyone I talked to who’s a fan of animated shows say that the Nicktoons were the downfall of Network cartoons but I’d say they were the destruction of animated storytelling all together if it wasn’t for Pixar and Disney doing amazing things in the cinema I’d say animation would have died out outside of video games. And it’s because of Nicktoons.

Most people are quick to point out that when those Nick shows went over to network TV they sucked and a lot of people say oh it’s because they changed networks or it’s because maybe they changed management or whatever but the thing is I think those cartoons always sucked but we didn’t care because we were just happy to be able to watch a cartoon on a Monday afternoon and we didn’t care that it wasn’t a good cartoon it was just something to watch that wasn’t 5 News.

That’s not to say Nickelodeon wasn’t an amazing Network it had some fantastic TV shows absolutely groundbreaking TV shows that I will defend to the day I die but it’s cartoons actually lower the bar to the point that kids didn’t care anymore now works didn’t care any more advertisers didn’t care anymore and so now animation at least quality animation is a lot harder to come by and even when you find it it’s low budget in comparison to what we had before Nickelodeon. I’m not necessarily arguing that the cartoons themselves were pure rubbish what I’m saying is them coming on the scene destroyed pretty much everything that came before it was a disruptive Force that to this day we have not recovered from more than 30 years later.

Even when I look at something like Doug the first thing I say is even for a cartoon there’s no logical consistency you have characters that are humanoid that look like humans that talk and act like humans but then you have characters like mosquito who isn’t human and then you have a sort of anthropomorphic dog but not humanoid who acts like a dog but also acts like a person kind of sort of like Snoopy.

Don’t even get me started on things like that show with the Beavers or cat dog or that other one that I can’t remember its name. Now I’ll throw an Asterix in all of this Ren and Stimpy is probably the best animated show created in the 90s next to Daria. And that’s the kicker MTV was making good quality animation on a low budget that wasn’t dumbed-down for the audience but Nickelodeon was just throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick and they were coloring it with chocolate syrup and rainbow sprinkles so that we would fall for it.

It didn’t become obvious to me that they literally didn’t care about their audience until SpongeBob SquarePants the absolute worst piece of entertainment trash to have ever existed and this article is not sarcasm I’m 100% convinced the SpongeBob is the worst animated series ever.

You’re allowed to like bad things I like bad things The Phantom Menace is one of my favorite movies I tell people that all the damn time I actually liked Return of the Killer Tomatoes I think it’s an entertaining movie but I don’t tell people it’s a good movie and that’s the thing I can say I like GoBots but I know GoBots aren’t good and I can say I like Gremlins 2 even though that’s not a very good movie you can say you like SpongeBob or Rugrats even though they’re not actually quality entertainment that’s fine taste is subjective. But I think these cartoons get a pass because they did something unique and they hooked us on the style judge and that emotional sense of that feel good remember when I was a kid remember this remember what the days were like back then overpowers our ability to actually look at it objectively and say you know what this isn’t very good. It’s the reason why Rugrats died and Doug never got a continuation but stuff like Scooby-Doo and the Transformers get a fresh new take every season. So I don’t really know if anyone who reads this is going to write me death threats or if they’re going to really go back and look at those shows more objectively and I’m not the Nostalgia Critic I’m not one of those YouTube people who criticizes and critiques and analyzes everything and says oh this isn’t good because X Y or Z I’m just telling you I noticed these things and wanted to share them. And basically what I noticed is when you try to rewash these cartoons once you get past the nostalgic you don’t just roll your eyes you kind of well feel ashamed and I don’t feel that when I’m rewatching DuckTales or talespin I watch one of those shows and I feel like that’s good quality cartoon entertainment.

Playground battles round 1: Comics versus video games, FIGHT!

There are certain rivalries that every nerd, geek and gamer engage in for whatever reason. These arguments began as disagreements in grade school on the playground during recess. The most notable ones include Sega or SNES, Transformers or Gobots, Star Wars or Star Trek, Harry Potters or Lord of the Rings, Robocop or Terminator, console or PC, Windows or Mac, Marvel or DC, Freddy or Jason. The list goes on really.

Today I want to dig in and pick a part a playground argument that I’d like to settle once and for all that isn’t from the list above.

No today I want to compare the value, significance, fun factor, entertainment value, collectablility, importance and the merits of comic books against video games.

What prompted this line of inquiry is a podcast episode I recorded when the pandemic was shutting down the world. It had to do with finding the value in comic book characters as intellectual property for their respective parent companies, without the presence of their paper publications in the market. Then I was watching a good old MatPat video on the YouTubes where the uber popular Game Theorist explained why comic book movie adaptations work and video game ones, don’t.

This got me thinking as a fan of both do they absolutely have to intersect or could the world continue with only one over the other.

Let’s see how far this goes.

First up is value.

Video game fans will be quick to point out that for the price of admission ($60 new anywhere from $5 to 500 used) a video game offers tremendous entertainment value per dollar considerably more so than comic books.

Now if you look at monetary value, as in barrier of entry, comics easily beat video games, again on the surface. However, there are exceptions all around that make this decidedly difficult to determine.

For example. A new console plus 1 game is going to set you back, bare minimum, $300 on the low end and considerably higher in most cases. So video games might have more value per dollar over the long term, but comics have a negligible barrier of entry in comparison. Or so it would seam. Sure you can get a digital subscription to comics with access to hundreds, if not thousands, of titles. And you can get physical copies of back issues fairly cheap for the most part. On Average you’re going to pay between 25 cents to 25 dollars per comic for single issues. A far cry from what video games cost.

However here are the exceptions: expensive comics, and discount video games.

I won’t get into downloading mini games on devices you already own that happen to play games, such as streaming boxes, PC’s, tablets or cell phones. Instead I will point out that quit often you can get used consoles for reasonable after market prices, games do go on sale rather quickly after release and if you don’t mind buying last gen stuff used, you can pick up tons of games dirt cheap.

On the flip side you can get good value buying trade paperbacks that collect entire story arcs or story runs saving some money but even that can end up costing money. The real expense though is buying rare comics. What if you buy a run of Amazing Spider-Man, let’s say 40 issues, where the average cost for 38 of those comics is 50 cents. But the two smack in the middle, super important to the story, jump to 150 bucks or more say if a major event or new character is introduced for the first time. All of a sudden you’re shelling out more money for a SINGLE book than you might for a used console and a half dozen or so games. Not much value in that.

Like I said above, on average prices range between a quarter to $25. But they go up rather quickly if the particular issue is highly sought after.

Since you can’t really quantitize the per dollar value of each medium directly let’s call it a wash. A gamer trying to build a collection of fun games to play will get as much mileage out of their dollars as a comic book reader amassing a collection of picture books.

There is another aspect of this I haven’t considered too deep yet. No, not resale value, that’s built into the cost of buying used merchandise. Not subscription services either, I touched on those already. What about where the two mediums intersect?

Suppose you have a comic book fan who loves the characters, and the stories but doesn’t enjoy chasing down single issues, managing subscription services nor seeking out bound collections, but instead spends their comics energy on buying comic book  based video games. Aside from a very small handful of highly notable exceptions, yes exceptions, the rule of thumb is comic books adapted to video games tend to do quite well, similar to how they tend to adapt to film rather easily.

If you are a fan of Batman, Justice League, Spider-Man, Hulk, Spawn, X-Men, Superman and the like, chance are high, extremely so in fact, you can find a quality video game that will deliver loads of fun while representing your favorite character fairly and accurately.

Some examples include Batman on NES, Genesis, N64, GameCube, PS3 and Xbox. You can find some of the best video games of all time starring the Dark Knight himself. And not just the modern take, every version imaginable has been adapted to video games.

What makes playing a video game based on Batman more engaging to a gamer is YOU become the superhero. You are not a passive reader witnessing the story unfold, you are an active participant in the story, the action the drama as it plays out. Again there are some outliers such as Superman 64 for N64, or Aquaman on GameCube, but by and large if a video game is based on a video game property, you can rest assured it will satisfy. This includes ancilliary science fiction and horror properties that might not be comics properties per se but intersect seamlessly, for example Star Wars, Harry Potters or Robocop. Again with few exceptions, the video game is actually going to be well worth your time and more often than not, fairly affordable.

But what if you do this in reverse? Can you get as much enjoyment reading comic books based on video game properties? I’ll save you too much more reading, the short answer is a resounding NO, but more precisely a firm HELL NO.

This is where things are flipped. The exceptions become the rule. While Sonic the Hedgehog has lent himself well to comic books, Mortal Kombat has been treated fair and Street Fighter had a quality, short lived tie in, the rule of thumb is actually horrific. Most comic books based on video games are mere tie ins, cash grabs done to dupe kids shopping for quality comics into spending their money on mass market trash they will find no substance in. While playing a video game based on Batman can bring the pages to life, taking a fully interactive and immersive video game world then trying to flatten it into 2-D, pencil art is laughable at best. At Best.

You see it doesn’t go both ways. Therefore a comics fan can absolutely find plenty of video games to keep their interest and a video game fan can find comics worth reading, it’s not worth it to make a comic based on a video game, for the most part. You lose most of what makes a game so special. Not saying it can’t or isn’t sometimes done. Just saying it’s not usually a good idea.

What about collectibility?

Ah this is where comic collectors push their glasses back into their foreheads and proclaim victory. Remember how I said buying comics can be expensive, well that goes both ways. Those back issues more often than not retain their value, at least once achieved. So they can become a decent investment if that is your goal. If you want sheer numbers for small money trades are the way to go. Combine that with a subscription to Comixology and you’re pretty damn set. You can collect hordes of comics for little money and save up for the more expensive chase items later.

But there is a down side. Completionists lament trying to build a comics collection. Take something as benign as beloved as Action Comics the first true Super Hero book, home to the notable Superman. You think it’s daunting to try and collect the more than 1000 titles published in his book? Ha, think again. Even if you could limit yourself to *just* the main titles, there’s multiple volumes, reprints, numbering changes, reboots, spinoffs, etc. Even if you stick to Action Comics alone you have Annuals, anniversary issues, collectors issues, and reprints. That’s just Superman. Spinoffs include Adventures of Superman, Superboy, Superman, Justice League of America and that’s just the main line, popular titles.

Okay slow your roll you think. Why not limit it to a specific run say an artist/writer combo? Well because you still have to chase down all the issues. You can’t just buy single numbered issues of Action Comics for the full story. No sir. You HAVE to track down the spin offs and crossovers that tie into the story. You might 13 issues of Action Comics, 12 issues of Superman 9 issues of Batman, 4 issues of Jimmy Olsen, 2 issues of JLA, 1 issue of The Flash, a single One shot to wrap it all up and an issue zero to set the stage. It can be exhausting.

Not so fast. This doesn’t automatically make video games better. Sure it seems simple. Get a complete set of just NES games. But when you say complete set does that includes reprints? Players Choice? What about bootlegs, unauthorized copies or even unlicensed games? Where do Tengen games fall in your world?

Okay you say that’s too complicated let’s back it up and only buy Mario games. Sounds simple load up on Nintendo consoles, buy 3-5 games per console, throw in a Mario Kart here and there for good measure and done. What about Atari? Mario appears in several Donkey Kong games that pre-date the NES. That also includes original arcade Mario Bros. Do you toss those aside? What about Mario Picross, Paint, is Missing, fun with series, teachers typing, Hotel Mario? Do you throw those out? Where does Punch Out fall? Or Super Smash Bros? Or Golf, boring old NES golf? Mario is the main character in that. You thought it was simple.

Nope. Collecting video games can be easily as daunting if not more so than video games. Unlike comics where a digital subscription can be had by all for a low price and doesn’t eat too much WIFI data, a video game streaming service, or even digital store, is going to burn your data plan faster than Sonic chasing Eggman. That’s not a solution for all.

You could take a page from comics and go the video game equivalent of trade paperbacks, we call these game compilations. A collector who specializes in compilations can find them self acquiring the hidden gems, sought after icons and mass produced fluff so much easier than tracking down single copies. Don’t want to drop $60 bucks on Mega Man II for NES? Why not drop $20 on Mega Man Anniversary Collection on PS2 instead? Does buying King of the Monsters on NEO GEO AES give you an ulcer? Why not get SNK Anthology instead and get dozens of NEO GEO arcade  hits in one shot.

Even a bookshelf filled with compilations and collections can still be impressive. Hell even the iconic Super Mario All-Stars on SNES is technically a compilation.

It’s not just the value of video games being greater per dollar than comics, nor them being far more interactive, but they are far more visually appealing.

A comic is a static image, or a group of images. Now, don’t get me wrong a comic can be enthralling, immersive and visually pleasing but it’s still a clumping of static images grouped together with text. A video game, even something as simple as an 8-bit NES game can have a visual style in its graphics that outshines even the most beloved comic book art. Okay maybe that last part is a big of a stretch but still.

Then there are video games that look like comic books but aren’t necessarily based on existing comic properties, for example Comix Zone on the Sega Genesis.

Video games offer a depth of interaction and immersive storytelling comics can’t replicate. Now this is where I do swing things back in favor of comics. Even with modern CGI-heavy, story-driven games like the Arkham series, you are still losing the intimate story-telling you can get in a comic book. I played X-Men Legends II on the GameCube and I felt immersed in the world for sure but I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in the story as I did reading the Dark Phoenix Saga in paper back comic form.

Also let’s take a step back to an earlier observation I made regarding collecting. A single issue of a comic book is going to tell a short, self-contained micro-story that is itself part of a larger connected story. Multiple issues weave an arc together that draws the reader in month after month. A video game is usually, especially a single-player game as most comic based games tend to be, a limited engagement. I can get through the story-mode of DC Gods Among Us in less than an hour. But to read the same number of comics that would tell the same story would take days, months if you have to wait for them to arrive in the mail as I in fact do.

The reality is comics keep going. And remember all those spin offs and tie ins I said that make collecting difficult? Yeah, they also make reading comics a blast. Hunting for all the issues in a cross over event can be exciting. Reading through all those different issues one by one is even more thrilling.

You get an experience when you read a comic book that a video game can’t replicate. They both have you holding a physical object in your hands, allowing for a tangible form of interaction, but they do it in different ways. I can sit on the couch, knees bent, laid back and read a comic while a movie is playing in the background. I can set it aside once completed and either pick up another issue or move on to something else. The time investment to get through a single issue might not offer the same dollar for hour as a video game, but admittedly it can offer a nice quick romp through a fantastic world between other activities. I could spend an entire day flipping through pages after pages just admiring the art not even reading a single inked letter.

So which do I prefer? Or more importantly which one is more important to sustaining popular culture? Can Superman exist entirely as a character in movies and video games without a comic book to prop him up? Or can the comic book industry survive without Supes there to prop it up? These are difficult questions to answer.

At the end of the day I truly believe that you do get more out of a video game than you do a comic book but it costs more to get into gaming and it can be major hassle keeping track of all the hardware required to achieve the gaming goals. Comics can be overwhelming if you get bogged down in the lore, multiverse and all, or can be simple time wasters if that is what suits you best.

Personally I love them both and honestly cannot envision a world where one exists without the other. I have a small but concentrated collection of comic books that offer me a glimpse into a world beyond my own. I have a fairly large video game collection that represents every genre of game known to man, save for some obvious ones I shall not divulge.

Still, the truth is I set out to make a case that one is superior to the other in the grandest of scene in that age old format of two kids duking it out at recess on the playground.

Here we go.

Comics are cheap. 1 point

Hard to collect 0 point

flimsy 0 point

artistic pleasing 1 point

immersive 1 point

total 3 points.

Video games are expensive 0 points.

easy to collect 1 point

artistic pleasing 1 point

immersive 1 point

interactive 1 point

total 4 points.

Video Games win by a small margin. Mostly because while I have read a handful of Batman comics, all of which I have enjoyed, I have gotten no more than a few hours cumulative in my entire life spread out among all the Batman comics I’ve read. But I lost count how many hours of Batman video games I’ve played.

I was a regular reader of X-Men in the 90s. By far the comic book property I invested the most reading time into. I had tons, dozens of books ranging from all different titles from Uncanny X-Men, Generation X, New Mutants, Wolverine, Cable, Red and Slim, Kitty Pride and Wolverine, etc., too many to count. But I still got exponentially more hours worth of enjoyment out of X-Men video games. I played a lot from X-Men 1 and 2 on Genesis, Apocalypse on SNES, Marvel vs. Capcom PS1, X-Men Children of the Atom Saturn, X-Men Legends 2 GameCube, Marvel Ultimate Alliance Wii, Marvel Nemesis PS2 and GameCube, X-Men Legends 1 PC, X-Men Mutant Academy PS1 and probably others I have forgotten.

I truly believe that video games based on comic books, when done right, can offer the player an experience that not entirely comparable to reading a comic book of the same character, it can be equally enjoyable and vastly more entertaining once you take the interactive aspects into account.

There is one final point video games  have I didn’t even bother to touch on because it really makes things unfair to comic books. Music. Background music in video games can be an art form itself. Sure you could listen to music while reading a comic but most likely this will only distract you from the story, take you out of the illusion or worst of all give  you a headache. But a pumping soundtrack, be it orchestral or techno based, playing in the background of a hard hitting, fast paced action Spider-Man game can get your heart racing to the rhythm of euphoria. You can’t replicate that reading a coloring book someone else pre-colored for you.

What I thought of Pet Semetary remake

I didn’t actually read a lot of Stephen King books growing up as a kid. Not that I don’t love a good horror story or thriller, in fact I very much do. But his stories were always just a tad too scary for me at times. I sat out to read more than one on multiple occasions but I always seemed to get turned off.

Pet Semetary is the exception. I read the entire book front to back despite it giving me chills every page I turned. My 3rd grade heart was racing from the moment I checked it out from the school library. Sure you could make a case I was probably a touch too young to be reading his works but let’s not go down that line of thinking.

The book itself terrified me but in a good way. It was the first book of his I ever finished. Okay, you got me, it is the ONLY book of his I have ever finished. Master of terror is right. Okay, walk it back I did finish Misery despite hating the movie. I think the book just sucked me in whereas the film was kinda boring. I digress let’s get to it.

The first movie was a frightening flick for sure. It gave me nightmares. If you know anything about me at all its movies never give me nightmares. This was one of two films to do so. I’ll save the other for another day. It’s a good one too.

Needless to say the book and the film didn’t exactly align perfectly. They were each terrifying in their own right but the book was far more so than the movie, if you can believe it. So my love for both held me back from even wanting to watch the remake. Not that I am against remakes. In fact I am probably one of the tropes staunchest defenders. In this case it was a matter of not wanting to taint the memories I had of a film that shocked me to my core. It was, after all, such a tremendous influence on my life.

The remake on the other hand. Where do I begin?

I will start at the ending and work my way backwards. I think that is fair for this film.

The movie ends in a far more definitive and gruesome manner in which the original film did. Since the words on the pages of the novel are so far removed from my memory I will refrain from comparing either to the source material in this instance. Not that I don’t plan on revisiting it in the future but I don’t trust my faulty memories enough to be truly accurate here.

I actually liked this ending better than the first movie. Not only was it more definitive, since it left no ambiguity on the entirety of the family, but it also was more chilling imagery in that scene as the corpses all creep their way towards the infant in the car. Fantastic. I loved it.

The first criticism I see lobbed at it by reviewers online is the notion they killed the wrong kid. I wholeheartedly disagree. Not only was that moment the point where you knew for sure this movie would not be as predictable as one might fear. It goes beyond that. It subverts the audiences expectations. It tugs at your heart in a different way than the innocent baby. The daughter in the first movie was kind of bossy but this character you had real sympathy for. The whole time I watched the original I kept thinking someone needs to discipline that child somehow asap.

The reaction of the mother is more powerful here too. In the original film she embraces her murderous zombie son without a clue as to his true intent. In this movie it’s different. The mother is caught off guard in an entirely different way. Here she is confronted with her daughter actively trying to kill her. And the way the scene plays out makes this movie so much more memorable than the lame ending, no offense, of the first film.

One change that was absolutely welcome was the way this movie relied less on flash backs. Yes there were some very important flashbacks in the book. But I never cared for them being in the movie. I always fast forward those scenes anyways. I felt they dragged the movie down. Not so much the book thankfully from what I remember but certainly the film. Not the case with the remake. They cut the fat out of this picture and gave us a leaner, more impactful and darker movie. Darker in most ways.

The areas this movie fail compared to both the original and the book are in the ghost scenes. As in they are barely there and they are more fan service than useful to the plot of the picture. In fact I kind of felt like in this movie the ghost presence was downplayed to the point the ending of the movie makes less sense. So yes a strike there.

But, the atmosphere of the woods is far creepier than the original so that balances things out. Also, as someone who’s been viciously attacked by dogs more than once, I was glad they removed that filthy mutt scene from the movie.

The one cut I do wish had been retained is the sub-plot of the neighbor who kills herself. It really helped hit home the theme of the movie.

Overall I have to say I enjoyed it for what it was. I think there is absolutely room for both takes to exist. I have seen remakes done in a way that disrespect the source material. I do not believe that is the case here.

It. Is. Time.

I have struggled with defining who I am for the longest time. I have always known pieces of my identity such as I like Transformers toys, I play video games (mostly Nintendo okay) and I love dance music (especially hip hop), but there are parts of my life not so easy to define.

I am a Christian. I was raised Protestant turned Catholic recently. I used to be a break dancer and hip-hop DJ. I don’t consider either of those central to my identity. Christian is my faith. It is important to what I am but not who I am.

The most elusive aspect of my life to define has been my sexuality. I have always known I liked girls. I have always known I wanted to be a girl. This put me in a conundrum where I thought of myself as a lesbian in a man’s body. More specifically a transwoman who was attracted to females.

It took me until I was deep into my 20’s before I could internally refer to myself as a transwoman. I spent most of my life shying away from it. I knew I was into cross-dressing but since I did it in secret I didn’t want it to define me. I knew I was mostly attracted to girls but often found myself considering certain boys in what-if I went that way scenarios. You know bi-curious as they sometimes call it.

It took me until I was in my mid-30’s before I told the first person outside my sister I thought I was trans. Even then it was a slow 2-year process before I got to the point where I could talk about it out in the open.

But even as I began looking for the words to tell people I was going to be making some outward changes to my appearance that would better reflect how I felt inwardly, I knew there were still parts of myself off limits.

I had a friend who when I told her I was trans the first question she asked was if I was into boys and began rattling off all the guys she thought were cute.

The day I first told my friend  I was trans, the very first person I ever said it to, I couldn’t hold it in any longer it felt like it was bubbling up until it just came out. I had no control over it I had to tell someone. Now I am living my life full time as a woman and I can’t even remember what it was like before I was Stephanie, and I like it that way.

But there remains the elusive who do I want to spend the rest of my life with. Or to put it crash who’s bones do I wanna jump. Getting down to it I think I can safely say I do not consider myself gay. But since I do consider myself a woman, and most certainly will be fully once I complete transitioning, I think that needs some clarification.

Like the need to say I think I am trans boiled over until I couldn’t contain it any longer so too has this been on my mind. Something I feel I need to give into and accept. Thus after much debate I have decided I don’t want to be tied down to a single sexuality.

I do find myself drawn to women. But I am not attracted to masculine women or really butch lesbians. It isn’t about the compatible parts its about who I can see myself cuddling with.

I am not attracted to masculine male, gay or straight, frankly masculinity in all forms turns me off, repulses me on most cases.

I don’t think pan sexual works because I cut myself off from the ones mentioned above.

I would say I am bi-sexual but I feel even that is misleading. I know I am attracted to other trans women too, and that includes pre-op, post-op and no-op trans women. I am attracted to femininity. But not just from a sexual stand point. I feel like I am drawn to the female energies of the world.

I know that’s probably too mystical for most people. But I think it works for me.

So here I sit able to say I do like some humans who’s parts are opposite mine and some who’s aren’t. Specifically I think, regardless of gender or sexuality, I am mostly drawn to people who aren’t overly masculine. That doesn’t mean I would run out and do dirty things with someone just for fun, remember that whole Catholic thing from before, it’s kept me a virgin this long and it’s not because I can’t score. I was engaged to a young, hot, 19-year-old horny teenage girl once who tried to lure me into bed one at least two occasions. Spoil alert we ended up fooling around but not going all the way. Thus I do know regardless of what I might find enjoyable or pleasurable, that’s not an avenue I can explore at this time.

I think I’d be happy just leaving sex out of the conversation entirely and seek a partner who wants to spend their time with me without the goal of mating getting in the way. I don’t think that makes me asexual necessarily so I think it is easier for me to say I am not going to limit who I look for but I am still going to emphasize the value of conversation over physical pleasure. To that end it looks like it’s going to be me and my toys until the day I die.

Do I consider myself to be punk, goth or something else?

Last year I dressed up as a woman for the first time ever in public. It was at the office Halloween costume party. I won first place. Oh, I know my co-workers gave it to me for coming out but I still had a blast.

The costume I wore was The Retro Witch, a character I portrayed in my YouTube videos. It’s funny how it already feels like a lifetime ago despite being less than 12 months past.

Since then I have made major strides. Not only have I begun presenting public as I work towards transitioning, but I am also on hrt and experimenting with finding my look and style.

When I was a teenager I wanted nothing more than to look and dress like Marilyn Manson. They were by far one of my favorite bands. Not so much musically mind you mostly for their style.

Call it what you want but my parents were fairly conservative so cross-dressing remained an activity I explored in secret. The chances of me dressing like a ghoulish punk rocker was pretty slim. Except it wasn’t that far-fetched.

I have an old photograph of one of my earliest Halloweens and truth be told I was dressed as exactly that, a punk rocker. Now this was the 80’s and it was absolutely acceptable for male rock singers to have flamboyant costumes, long hair and wear face paint.

I never really considered myself to be punk, or goth for that matter. I dated a Goth girl who was my soulmate. She didn’t stay goth for long before devolving into punk then settling into stay-at-home mom. She lived her life, her way and I always admired that about her.

It is true I have always been drawn not only to horror movies but Gothic imagery. Now music, again, I primarily like dance music and fun pop songs so not exactly punk rock.

Despite this uncertainty over am I goth, punk, “gangsta” or whatever, I always knew deep down one thing was certain, I was not whatever society said I was supposed to be.

I never considered myself a rebel. At least not in the traditional sense. Now I quite often took immediate offense to any sort of gender stereotype that cut me off from interests that were appealing to me. I gravitated towards things often considered girly by society and dismissed criticism I might be gay or whatever derogatory term lobbed my way at that time.

The actual reality is I always knew I could not live my life conforming to, well frankly anyone’s rules but my own. I am 38 years old and I recently counted all the jobs I have had over the years. One of the reasons I have a hard time staying put, sticking with something is I don’t put up with bullshit. I 100 percent live my life the way I choose. I follow the law. I protest the laws I disagree with in my own 1st amendment way. But beyond that I pretty much operate on a live and let live attitude, the ironic thing is I learned this from reading the Bible.

You see a Catholic Priest recently asked me how I identify. He wasn’t referring just to my gender identity or sexual orientation, neither of which I had a firm grasp on at that time, but he meant who do I see myself as. After I answered “I don’t Know” he swiftly pointed out if Christian is not among the words I choose to describe my identity then there is a problem. But I’ve always been a Christian. Not as in born into it, I am Catholic now but was raised, well mostly you would say Evangelical.

No that wasn’t it. I lived by the Bible. I struggled with  being told I was a boy I had to like sports, or I wasn’t allowed to like Barbie dolls. Beyond that I stayed well within the confines of what I perceived to be a Godly lifestyle as taught by Jesus and his followers written in the book we hold in high regard.

It’s funny because Jesus taught equally law and order and resisting oppression. Not in the exact way some would probably point out but still he very much lived outside of the confines of society yet firmly within the letter of the law. He found a balance of protest and law abiding citizen, or you know peaceful protest and not passing judgement on others.

Okay so then how does that fit into my search for an identity?

I can tell you if you label me based on my interests and outward appearance I am a gamer, Christian, trans-woman who also has a strong aversion to being told what to do. Does any of that make me inherently punk?

This came up recently a few years ago when N.W.A was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. The case was made they represented the spirit of rock n roll by being a music group hell bent on fighting the establishment. This being the very core of what makes punk so powerful.

There is of course, the Hollywood trope of what punk rockers are supposed to be. If you watched any films in the 80s you probably saw this. A very notable example even a main stream American would recognize is Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home. There is a scene where Mr. Spock encounters a punk rocker on the bus. It’s a notable scene in the film so check it out if you haven’t already. It easily depicts a punker as a person with no regard for others around them. This is not entirely true. Resistance to oppression, fighting the power as the mantra goes, does not mean disorderly conduct.

I am not going to get into political ideologies here. Rather hone in on what I perceive to the word punk to mean to determine if it does in fact represent myself.

By all accounts I am someone who dresses in a way inconsistent with social norms. I break many of the established protocols and make my own rules. I am for sure someone who lives a fairly lonely life as I do end up pushing people away. Again that’s not entirely relevant to my quest to find myself but it is part of my life.

I never thought of myself as a rebel. I always said I believed in the rule of law. But, I also always found myself pushing back against any type of societal rule imposed on me. Every single time someone would tell me to do something a certain way and their reason for why was because, I would in no uncertain terms tell them to fuck of or give me a better reason. Yeah, this left me facing unemployment in the workforce or landing me in the principal’s office when I was in school.

I ended up spending a lot of time in detention to the point where I would even walk out freely during class flip the teacher a bird and proceed to do my own thing. I never felt like I had a problem with authority per se. If there was a rule in place that made sense or was codified in either law or school rules for example I followed it, for the most part. It was when other kids, other people my age, would tell me to be like them for no other reason than to fit in. I never gave a shit about fitting in. I never have a shit about being liked. I just basically wanted to tell people to let me be me.

Although it took 37 years before I could articulate my desire to live publicly as a woman as a part of my identity, I never questioned it in my own mind. It took that long for the dam to  break. For me to get to the point where I just don’t give a fuck anymore and decided I am going to be the real me. Black hair. Lipstick. Fingernail polish. Woman’s clothing and yes I am going to continue blasting my angry gangsta rap music in my speakers while also throwing in some Madonna, Britney Spears or even some good old fashioned punk rock for good measure.

It was a scene in Lethal Weapon 2 where Martin Riggs tells his  boss he just don’t give a fuck when I realized that is how I want to live my life.

Why ‘Ginger Snaps’ is my new favorite werewolf movie

The 90s were a difficult time for teenagers we were becoming more self-aware I think in previous generations and a whole heck of a lot more political. This is very evident in film and television especially with shows like Daria and Roseanne, or even My so-called life. As somebody who was a teenager during the decade I can tell you that I definitely went through my share of not giving a shit.

I missed out on a lot of movies as a teenager that I probably would have really enjoyed I’m not going to get into the reasons why but it is what it is. Ginger Snaps is one of those movies that looking at it now it still resonates with me and if I had seen it when it was new it probably would have become one of my favorite movies

The movie starts out with a couple of teenage girls who are sisters obsessed with death and apparently making a film for school depicting various images of suicides. This movie came out around the same time as The Virgin Suicides so that definitely was on the mind of our youth at that time. I myself experienced probably the same feelings most lost teenagers experience.

After a brief set up that there is some sort of wild animal on the loose the movie goes straight into these two depressed teenagers struggling to get through High School. Unlike The Virgin Suicides where the desire to die is somewhat of a mystery in this movie the girls have a reason for not being happy and it’s basically because they’re effectively invisible but also bullied to an extent. Which is unfortunately more than normal in our society that probably ought to be.

I didn’t go into this movie completely in the dark I have seen documentaries on horror movies and this is one that has come up from time to time but I’m definitely glad to have seen it and absolutely watch it again relatively soon I believe.

So the two characters are ginger and her sister B. Apparently they have a suicide pact that if they can’t get out of town by the time they’re 16 they’re just going to end their lives. It definitely comes off as morbid on the surface but it’s definitely very believable at least to my world.

We get a little set up into the girls lives apparently they’re both mid-teens one is 15 the other one is 16 and they have yet to begin menstrating which their mother says is normal but she’s kind of concerned. And then the girls are attacked by what appears to be a dog but we learned later is a werewolf. There’s a subplot about the girl I guess the popular girl and the pot dealer I guess having had a sexual encounter and her being jealous that he’s paying attention to the other girl this does pay off in the end and it’s quite as satisfying payoff to be honest.

The movie itself is not super scary it’s kind of atmospheric but I would describe it as more Moody and I’m perfectly okay with that. I think I would describe the mood as definitely teenage angst. The movie from what I can tell gets praised for its dealing with feminism and teenage female sexuality and sexual identity and it’s talked about in the conversations the girls have with their teachers and their mothers basically they feel powerless that no matter what they’re going to be blamed for whatever goes wrong but also what’s happening to them couldn’t possibly be happening to them because their dainty girls supposedly.

You can’t have a werewolf movie without a werewolf transformation and this movie certainly has that. The special effects are very on par with the late 90s early 2000s and I’m perfectly okay with that. The music fits the mood and tone of the film perfectly and the acting is very spot on for the most part the worst acting I would say is the popular girl and the drug dealer Maybe the Boy that turns into a werewolf might be pretty bad acting but it’s hard to tell because they don’t give him much to work with but the drug dealer definitely is not very good at acting and the popular girl was actually pretty awful for the most part but it’s okay cuz it’s a horror movie.

One thing that I found to be particularly relatable at least in terms of the mothers caring and compassion for her children and the message of female empowerment our femininity trapped in a male world one of the things that came through was the mother was willing to kill her husband it sounded like and burn their house down in order to cover up the murder her child committed.

Watching Ginger transform into a hormonal teenager and then at the same time transforming into a monster of course there’s metaphors there but it’s also handled really well it’s very powerful as you’re watching it. I could feel her emotions I could feel what she felt and that’s part of why I fell in love with this movie instantly.

And the love the sister has for her is so powerful in this movie and everything she does for Ginger just further proof that she doesn’t take the suicide pact seriously but she loves her sister more than life itself.

Being a 90’s movie it is R rated but not at the same level as an 80s horror movie gore is just where it needs to be not over-the-top and there’s very little nudity I think it’s more suggestive than explicit like it would have been in the 80s. Understandable considering the girls were probably underage when it was being filmed and so it wouldn’t have been a good idea to have them get too exposed.

I think the writer put all of their energies in the teenage characters and really neglected to flush out the adults I think the adults come across as what teenagers view adults in those situations and that’s understandable because the movie is portrayed Through The Eyes of the two teenage girls.

One of my favorite moments is when Ginger was about to explore her sexuality with the I want to say jerk who she ends up turning and just the way she takes charge of that situation after he declares he’s the man and it’s his I guess duty to take charge and she puts him in his place. But as would be probably normal in that situation she immediately regrets her decision and goes through a period Where she expresses those regrets.

This was a movie that as I was watching it I knew I was discovering something that was very much going to connect me to my own youth. I would have fallen in love with this movie had I seen it as a teenager when it was new and I’m certainly in love with it now.

The 80s will always be my favorite decade for horror movies in terms of overall number of movies released and great franchises. But the 90s horror movies although fewer in total number are in my opinion more impactful each individually when you take something like Silence of the Lambs, scream oh, I Know What You Did Last Summer, the faculty these movies are more impactful to me then even a Nightmare on Elm Street or a child’s play for example.

In a rare move for me this movie is one that I don’t want to continue to miss out on I feel like I should have seen it earlier and probably made it one of my regular movies that I view. It’s absolutely going into my regular rotation as of right now. It’s actually one of those rare movies that after I finished it I didn’t want to watch another movie because I was afraid I would lessen the impact it had on me. In fact I was very tempted to sit down and actually watch it again. Which is very rare for me. I don’t think I’ll watch it again tonight but I’m definitely going to watch it again soon.

In the decade we’re young girls including a trans girl like myself add Daria on TV as you could say a role model or a voice for Our Generation this movie definitely fits right into that culture.