movie thoughts … Transformers: The Last Knight

September 18, 2017 2:43pm
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I remember a time when I actually liked the Transformers movies.

The first one (2007) wasn’t bad – a good, solid action flick with plenty of humor thrown into the mix.

And even the second one (2009) was alright, though I never really cared for the name.

From there, though, is where I feel like this franchise started to go downhill – first with Megan Fox’s replacement in #3, and then with Shia LaBeouf being randomly bumped for Mark Wahlberg in #4.

Just to be absolutely, 100% clear without equivocation – Transformers 5 is a raging dumpster fire that should make every last person who appeared in the credits ashamed, as well as everyone who went to see it in the theater, and oh hell, pretty much everyone who spent their 2 hrs 34 min to watch it EVER.

Spoiler #1 – Marky Mark is “The Last Knight.” Because why have some awesome, giant robot fill that roll when … Mark Wahlberg is around?

Spoiler #2 – He’s every bit as awful as he was in Transformers 4.

I don’t even know what to say about these movies anymore. Continuity is garbage, seeing Wahlberg written as a cooler star than Optimus Freaking Prime is just mind blowing, and the plot reads like somebody just throwing darts at a board, and then remembering that they promised a role to XYZ actor every 30 minutes or so and just penciling them in wherever.

Every time the name Cade Yeager is spoken out loud makes me want to punch an Autobot in the face.

The idea that apparently every historical event ever was won only because of the Transformers reads like a Hasbro wet dream.

Megatron negotiating with lawyers is … not what I want to see a 40-foot evil robot doing in a movie, ever.

Oh yeah, and P.S. This plot about bringing Cybertron to Earth already fucking happened once in Transformers 3!!! But I guess while they needed to teleport the planet back in 2011, now it’s cool for them to just drive it across the universe like a planet-sized taxi cab?!

Also also – drones??? 

You have 40-foot tall fighting robots – why do you also need drones?!

*sigh*

So yeah, the movie is garbage … even moreso than the last one was, and yet it will probably be less garbage than Transformers 6 whenever that comes out, because when it comes to Hollywood, dumpster fires are almost impossible to put out.

On Nazis and Free Speech…

August 19, 2017 12:29am
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So today’s humor column ended up being about Nazis.

I’ve been really flaky with my writing lately for a number of reasons, and the insanity of white supremacist sympathizers across one of our political parties certainly hasn’t helped matters any.

I would’ve never believed that we as a country could become so divided that conservatives would actually side with people waving Nazi flags before they could agree with liberals about the intensity of racism still brewing in our society, and how something as simple as a statue commemorating one of the leaders of the rebellion would still be given a pass when white people carrying torches see it as a symbol worth marching around while calling out for racial purity.

…and how it isn’t painfully clear that this incident was exactly what we feared from electing Donald Trump president, as he felt inclined in his first comments to point out that there were other people doing bad things in the crowd, too, and that there were probably some fine people on both sides of the issue.

Fine people and Nazis are two terms that never belong in the same sentence together.

I’ve seen people arguing for the free speech rights of the Nazis – which doesn’t technically exist if they were inciting violence … something that semi-automatic weapons and torches tend to imply, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve seen people arguing that the girl who died got what she deserved, whether she shouldn’t have been in the way of the car or shouldn’t have been protesting in the first place … which is just asinine.

I’ve seen people crying that “they don’t know what to say anymore without getting judged” while they constantly and consistently judge and marginalize minorities every other second of their day.

It’s utter madness, and it’s had me thinking a lot about free speech and whether the way we practice it is really in our best interests. I mean, the idea behind not wanting the government to pick and choose who gets to speak seems to be rooted namely under the worry of, “What if I’m next?!” but what if by not citing that certain types of speech are unacceptable under the guise of “freedom,” we’re actually signing our own fate by cultivating the types of thoughts that would take advantage of that freedom for the worse.

For example, hate speech and truly vile thoughts are perfectly protected until one suggests any form of violence, and as a result it gives those ideas the opportunity to manifest until they build numbers strong enough to go out like they did last weekend, and between their own aggressions and those who stood up to them, somebody ended up dying from it…

…and if you watched the special report that VICE did from Charlottesville, at least one of the key players involved didn’t really feel much remorse that it happened.

My point is, by not taking a stronger stance against white supremacy – even just like Germany and some of the neighboring countries did by banning display of any Nazi propaganda in public – is that enough of an open door for them to get their foot wedged in???

And the reason this all scares me is that I know that comparisons to Hitler are very much abused online, but in this case when actual Nazis marched in the streets of an American city, I feel that it’s relevant to bring up – when we see resemblances to Adolf Hitler in Donald Trump and the Republican Party and in these Nazi thugs gathering last weekend, we’re not comparing them to Hitler in his glory days when he was executing his Final Solution and trying to conquer the world, but instead we’re seeing similarities to the years leading up to Hitler’s rise.

Remember that Hitler didn’t take over Germany by force, but very much politically – even running for president, though he didn’t win – by bringing together people with the most extreme views. In Hitler’s case, it was his fellow antisemites and those who believed German blood to be the superior race, whereas since his election we’ve seen Trump propose a ban on Muslims, hostility towards immigrants – both illegal and inadvertently not, declare war against pretty much anyone who disagrees with him – especially the media, and inherently lead his supporters to breed this hatred of other people walking among them who he’s convinced have one way or another marginalized them.

Call them what they are, though they wear it as a badge of honor – by bringing together these deplorables, Trump has groomed himself a small and fiercely loyal group of followers who see him as the last saving grace, aside from the return of Jesus Christ himself, for America. And hence we’re in this bizarre light where nothing he can do is wrong to them – racist and sexist remarks, treasonous behavior, warmongering … and that’s scary when you consider how they all fit into the bigger picture…

  • You have a group of loyal believers to do his bidding.
  • You have a much larger group of complacent followers who hope for change and are willing to look the other way.
  • And you have the rest of us, who he’s essentially cast as the enemy because we believe in facts and education and reason, all of which have no place in his agenda that is based primarily on filtering money and power up to a mighty few business elites at the top of the chain – all else be damned.

I’d have had a little more respect for Donald Trump if he had done what any sensical leader would do and fiercely condemn any mention of Nazi beliefs from the first moment that they hit the airwaves, but instead he hemmed and hawed and rubbed his toe in the earth because as much of an idiot as Trump is, he no doubt realizes that those people are also Trump voters … and he needs them.

Ultimately for what, it makes me afraid to imagine.

Today I picked up a few donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts through the drive-thru, and they messed up my order.

Even after correcting it at the window, there was still a mistake but I had already driven off and it wasn’t worth turning around to go back, yet it reminded me of that classic argument against raising the minimum wage that goes something like – “If you can’t even get my fast food order right, why in the world should you get paid $15/hour?!”

I spent some time pondering this during my drive, and here’s what I came up with…

First and foremost is simply that everyone makes mistakes at their job, with many being a lot more serious than overlooking the occasional chocolate-frosted donut. I work with databases and statistics for my day job and there are plenty of instances where a number gets transposed or a query is missing a clause that produces inaccurate results, yet the immediate reaction isn’t typically that I don’t deserve to be paid a living wage for my work because I’m just so stupid.

Because that’s what the minimum wage is intended to be – a livable standard for what employers are required to pay their workers for an honest day’s work. And while you can argue that frying donuts and the like are minimally valued skills, tell that to the corporations that make billions of dollars each year off of those workers’ efforts.

Along those same lines, though, I got to thinking about what causes people to make mistakes at work and I would bet my missing chocolate donut that understaffing plays a significant factor because anytime that I go to a fast food restaurant, the employees seem to be running around like crazy between all of the various tasks that they need to cover. In fact, never having worked fast food myself, it consistently shocks me to see that the same person taking orders is the same person filling drinks, taking money, and rounding up your order from the various stations, too.

Think about it – most fast food restaurants have a separate window first to pay at, but instead more often than not there’s just a sign posted telling you to move to the next window.

Clearly it was the original intention to have two separate roles, yet at some point in fast food land they decided to consolidate the work onto a single person … but I’ll bet they didn’t also consolidate the pay between those two jobs in turn!

It’s really the same thing we see happening in almost every industry – workers being expected to do more work with less time and resources – and yet service industry workers seem to be given a harder time over slipping up when there’s literally too many things on their plate to get every order exactly right.

So ultimately I think that the two issues here are completely separate – if an employee doesn’t consistently perform, it could be that the person just isn’t paying attention OR it could be that the work is being mismanaged and the workers aren’t being setup to succeed in the first place. In a way, is it really fair to hold the worker responsible for a wrong order when they were also being barked at to get the restroom cleaned and take care of the people at the counter and don’t forget to take their 15-minute break while they’re at it because the boss ain’t paying no overtime?!

The minimum wage angle, on the other hand, to me is really simple – if your employees can’t make ends meet on what you’re paying them, you’re not paying them enough, and if you can’t afford to pay them any more, then your business model is flawed and you shouldn’t be in business.

Separate issues, and as an aside I also tend to think that if we were a bit nicer to fast food workers in general, they might be more likely to get our orders right than shouting for their termination because our iced coffee got made with skim milk instead of 2% like we’d shouted into the unintelligible speaker box 90 seconds ago. 😛

Digital Frustrations

June 26, 2017 9:01pm
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So I got this message saying that the YouTube app won’t work on the TV in our bedroom after the end of this month, and in a way it’s kind of frustrating and at the same time I kind of get it… 😕

It bugs me that this is supposed to be a Smart TV, and it’s not that old – I bought it in 2013 – and yet a good number of the apps that it used to support have already been discontinued. I didn’t really care about the Twitter app because who uses Twitter from their phone?!, but I use the YouTube app quite a bit, actually!

On the other hand, I know that in this case the specific reason why the YouTube app is being discontinued is because YouTube is finally dropping support for their Flash-based apps and requiring HTML5 only, which is a significant change, and apparently one that Samsung is saying this model of TV simply can’t support. Not a huge surprise considering that the TV only has a single-core processor, whereas my first iPhone (an iPhone 4) came with a dual-core processor and the latest iPhone 7 models are now up to quad-core processors…

…in fact, I’m pretty sure that the curved, 4k tv that I bought the following year for our living room has a quad-core processor…

In a way, it’s the same frustration that I have with the handful of apps on my iPhone that no longer work with the current version of iOS. Knowing how app producers seem to come and go like the wind, it’s not really a huge shocker that these companies knocking out apps for $0.99, or even $4.99 – $9.99, aren’t making much effort to keep them compatible with future versions of iOS and Android. In many cases, I’m sure that some of them have already gone out of business by the time these newer versions come along!

And so just like I can’t very well expect my old NES cartridges to play on my Wii or Wii U, I get that companies want to focus on the latest and greatest. But I think it’s aggravating when the media remains the same across generations – like DVDs for PS2 – PS4 or digital for iOS – because at least when we used cartridges it was obvious that the old carts just wouldn’t fit in the new systems. 😛

It’s just tough because in an increasingly digital world as we purchase more and more digital content, we’re faced with this virtual tug-of-war where we have to keep purchasing either hardware or software over and over again to continue enjoying our original purchases. At least with my old Nintendo, I can still plug my NES into the TV and try blowing into those cartridges until they finally work, but I’m not necessarily going to keep an old iPhone handy just so that I can play the Oregon Trail app that I bought a few years ago and now can’t handle Apple’s latest release.

The same goes for my TV – I wouldn’t go out and buy a whole new TV just because one channel stopped being compatible with it, yet that’s kind of what I’m faced now if I want to watch YouTube videos in bed anymore.

Sure, I could get a Roku box or even dig out my AppleTV … if that supports the app update … but the native app on the TV itself was so much easier.

I really liked this image I found on Facebook earlier today defining Gay Pride vs. Straight Pride because I’m sad to admit that I’ve had the “straight pride” argument with family members and some of them just really can’t seem to get beyond themselves to understand what the entire movement is actually about.

Gay people aren’t trying to flaunt their sexuality or push themselves upon you, but the fact that people are still uncomfortable by something as simple as gay people holding hands or kissing in public or wearing matching rainbow shirts is a great introduction to why this kind of thing is still necessary in the first place.

I’ll be honest – I don’t know a lot of gay people.

I know some, but the overwhelming majority are still straight, and yet LGBT rights are important to me because it sickens me that another couple could get harassed, threatened, or even killed walking down the street just holding hands or showing affection – the same as I do with my wife without a second thought.

And it really grinds my gears when people argue that gay rights isn’t something that affects them or that they don’t have time to worry about it because they’re trying to keep food on the table because as far as I’m concerned, if we’re not willing to stand up for equal rights in our country, none of the rest of it even matters.

Even if you live in a small town like I used to where the population is 99% white and 100% straight (or so you think…), gay rights matter because people are people, and nobody deserves to be treated like a second-class citizen because of who they love. If advocating for their equality bothers you, then you’re part of the problem.

I get that it’s challenging to understand how marginalized a group of people is if you’ve never felt that way yourself, but sometimes I feel like some people among us aren’t even trying.

Today I came across some outrage on Facebook about Harvard offering a black-only graduation ceremony to complement its traditional ceremony, which was of course interpreted as reverse racism because these African American students wished to have an event that specifically excluded white students…

…and mind you, that wasn’t exactly true

…but nonetheless, the misunderstanding of embracing one’s culture versus intentional segregation continues to leave a scathing mark on a white culture that still doesn’t seem to grasp how its own actions, both historical and up to the present, are what’s led us to this racial divide in the first place.

Actually pay attention to the news and make a tally of how many unarmed white children today are killed by police officers thinking they’re a threat to society. Look across your Facebook feed and see how many people are outraged by Kathy Griffin’s weird beheading photo shoot last week and then ask how many were equally outraged by all of the anti-black rhetoric aimed at President Obama during his presidency.

In my own world of writing and words, take a look at the most offensive word of all – the n-word – and acknowledge how unlike other words like fuck and cunt, we don’t even say the word because that’s how ugly of a history it has…

This is a group of people who haven’t had to deal with slavery and segregation directly, yet still feel its hateful burn a hundred years after the fact, and they have to cope with people who claim that racism isn’t even a problem in America anymore all the while banners of the confederacy still fly in some states, and marginalized glares are felt in neighborhoods across the country, and sometimes people hang nooses from trees … but it’s only a joke, so maybe they should just lighten up?!

Fuck that noise.

The difference between black people and white people celebrating their heritages and cultures is that, until the end of time, there will forever always be a scar on black heritage caused by a point in time where white people deemed them less than human, and it’s a scar that white people must work to mend every single today on behalf of our ancestors.

For some of us, this is less of a big deal than others and we welcome our African American friends with open arms, but others want to fight – everything has to be a fight … to slouch blame or to deny injustices that are still very present in our world because personally they’re not directly at fault.

Like many problems that face our society today, racism is complicated and it’s unpleasant to talk about, but every time a white person wants to fuss about how only minorities can celebrate their pride or how they’re not the ones who had slaves, they only serve to cement the issues deeper in modern times instead of actually acknowledging them and trying to move forward as best we can.

Whoever came up with the term reverse racism is living in denial of the actual origins of racism, and frankly I’m tired to having to explain injustice to smart people who are acting emotionally stupid about this issue that is way bigger than they think it to be.

So I read a guest column in the Orlando Sentinel – a newspaper that I normally respect – that pitched this tired allegation once again that at the end of the day, Democrats are just sore losers who will stop at nothing to avoid admitting that we lost the election…

…even if it means taking down the president as a result…

And I can’t help but just laugh and laugh and laugh at that hypocritical perspective after all that we’ve endured from the Republican line during President Obama’s time in office:

  • Three years of demands to see Obama’s birth certificate, then his long form birth certificate, under allegations that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii.
  • Three years and seven investigations into the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.
  • Over 50 attempts by the House to repeal, dismantle, or otherwise defund the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law in 2010.

Just for the record, Donald Trump got elected 187 days ago and has now been in office for 113 days.

I won’t even argue with the merits of each of those efforts … except for the birther movement because that was just ridiculous … but for Benghazi and critiques over the ACA – fine. Republican representatives had concerns and were obligated by their constituents to see them through, albeit excessively, but still…

Three years to investigate an attack 8,000 miles away in which four Americans lost their lives.

Five years to fight a healthcare bill that has affected the lives of tens of millions of Americans, both for better and for worse.

But now it’s suddenly excessive to spend barely than six months looking into whether there was influence from another nation that compromised the election of the President of the United States?!

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it’s time for us to put this pettiness behind us and come together to support our President … who may have been installed by a foreign government, but probably wasn’t … we’ll just have to trust him despite not having given any reason to date why we actually should!

No. Just no.

You don’t get to dig in your heels for every passionate argument that your side had during the last eight years and then call the other side a bunch of crybabies when they raise question asking for a similar level of scrutiny. Especially after Donald Trump has done more to act suspicious – like firing the guy leading the investigation against him – than all of the “We need to pass the bill to know what’s in the bill!” and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor!” you can throw at the Obama administration.

Just like you wanted to know whether those four lives in Benghazi were lost due to negligence, we want to know if Donald Trump is a legitimate president because for all of the talk the Republican party makes about concerns over voter fraud, they sure haven’t seemed too concerned with this notion that a foreign entity may have dipped its hands in our election.

Maybe they’re not so concerned because it resulted in their guy beating Hillary, but the integrity of our election should be worth more than either candidate.

So come back to me in 3 – 5 years if we’re still beating this drum and are just unwilling to accept the numerous facts laid out around us, but for now stop acting like a bunch of babies and let your president stand up to the level of scrutiny that ANYONE in the highest office in our nation should be able to handle.

Healthcare By Any Other Name

May 6, 2017 6:33pm
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This article from a few years ago from the Huffington Post said it pretty well, but in reading all of the back and forth about the GOP’s new “healthcare” bill that passed the House the other day, I can’t for the life of me understand why everyone who supported it didn’t fight back hard on the simple use of referring to the Affordable Care Act by its formal name rather than the nickname it was given as a jab by its opposition.

By adopting the name Obamacare, it was basically giving the Republican party a free shot to take at the legislation that anyone who hated President Obama could easily get behind, regardless of actual content. We saw that last year when voters were quoted as not understanding that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were literally the same thing!

From politicians to the media, and trickling down to your average Joe on Facebook, this would’ve been such an easy perception to control if every time someone tried to call it Obamacare in discussion, the other party corrected them and called the law by its proper name. It was always meant to be a slam by the Republicans, so make them own it alone and separate the language from the president to better represent what the bill’s actual goal was all along – providing better access to healthcare for all Americans.

Ignorance Breeds Misinformation

May 1, 2017 7:03pm
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I haven’t had a chance to watch much of Bill Nye’s new show on Netflix, Bill Nye Saves the World yet, however I found myself doing a bit of research into one of the segments on the show after a Facebook comment criticizing Bill of thinking that families with extra kids should be taxed higher.

Wha???

So I found the segment in question – it was the roundtable discussion during Episode 13 entitled Earth’s People Problem – and Bill and his three guests spent about seven minutes talking about overpopulation and ways to address it through education and family planning, and also the impact that different populations (e.g. in the developed world vs developing countries) make on the environment through how they utilize resources, create pollution, etc…

The exchange itself took place like this:

Bill Nye: So should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?

Dr. Travis Rieder: I do think that we should at least consider it.

Nye: Well, ‘at least consider it’ is like ‘do it.’

Rieder: One of the things that we can do that’s kind of least policy-ish is we could encourage our culture and our norms to change…

Dr. Rachel Snow: I would take issue with the idea that we do anything to incentivize fewer children or more children. I think it’s all about … this is where it’s justice, it’s human rights … we’re really clear – people should have the number of children they want, the timing of children, and if some families have five or six children – god bless them. That’s fine, but most people end up with fewer.

Dr. Nerys Benfield: But when you talk about penalties, who are you going to end up penalizing, right? Even in a rich country like the United States, we’ve gone down that road before and who ends up being the people who are penalized is poor women, minorities, disabled women…

Nye: How are they penalized?

Benfield: There was forced sterilization that was legal in the United States even up into the 70s, so we really have not come at it from a place of justice necessarily in the past…

It’s a good, open discussion that sees a question posed and then is almost immediately rebuked by the other experts on the panel … and even the guy who is willing to entertain the idea (not Bill Nye, BTW) only said we should consider it! And yet somehow all of that got construed into this…

Anyone who actually watched the discussion in its entirety – or even the 65 seconds around this specific notion – could vouch that the host wasn’t suggesting “higher taxes” or penalties at all. He merely posed a policy question to address the problem, as the leader of the panel, and then allowed his guests to explore the subject.

The problem is, many people will never watch the actual segment in question – arguably, I have doubts as to whether some of the writers of those articles ever did – but instead, they’ll share these stories around on social media and have discussions about how terrible liberals like Bill Nye want to tell you how many kids to have and then remind you that Bill Nye isn’t really a scientist, anyways – he’s just a TV host whose spent the last 25 years focused on educating people about and advocating for science.

What’s sad is, if any of them really wanted to know what Bill Nye’s perspective is on overpopulation, they could watch this interview he did with Big Think a few months ago. SPOILER: It doesn’t mention higher taxes or eugenics even once… 😛

Last week I wrote a fairly extensive editorial on my thoughts about United dragging Dr. David Dao off one of their flights from a human rights & basic dignity standpoint, however after reading some comments on Facebook today, I’d like to touch on what I’m going to call the customer service side of this whole mess.

The comments in question were a post by Mike Rowe – a guy whose thoughts I enjoy reading, though I happen to agree with part of what he said this time. The gist of it being concern that in the fourth or fifth apology from United CEO Oscar Munoz, they’ve essentially made it ok for customers to ignore when the crew of an airplane tells them to do something…

“But in the process of finding him blameless, he suggested that millions of passengers are under no obligation to follow a direct command from United employees. And that’s a hell of a lot more disturbing than a beat-down in the main cabin.”

Mike goes on to say that we don’t have a right to fly because we can always be removed for being beligerant or too big to fit in one seat or whatever reason the airline decides to use … and for most of those scenarios I would agree. If you’re drunk or disruptive, then sure – off you go. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll even land the plane before kicking you out the door, but it’s that any reason deemed necessary where I take some exception because remember here that in this particular case, Dr. Dao was assaulted because United needed his seat to fly their own employees to another airport for work the next day.

And I don’t think that’s right.

Yes, I get that airlines run on thin margins, and that they overbook because there’s an average number of people who don’t show up for their flights as scheduled and the airline doesn’t make any money if those seats otherwise fly empty, but just like those United employees had someplace to be, so did their customer … their paying customer, and in accordance with taking his money in exchange for a plane ticket, it’s the airline’s responsibility to transport him to his destination as agreed.

And sure, it’s true that in its 47-page Contract of Carriage, United reserves its right to deny boarding to any customer it wants if nobody else volunteers when they end up on the inconvenient side of this overbooking teeter totter that they play … but does that make it right???

Those four employees had to get to work the next day to ensure that United’s planes were able to fly on schedule.

But so did the doctor who had patients to see the next day.

Just as overbooking is a relatively common thing in the airline industry, so is employees transferring from one airport to another – the idea that they don’t have a better handle on this issue and that it results in kicking paying customers off of their flights is the real travesty here!

So to Mike’s comment citing that we need order on our airplanes because they’re not democracies, they’re a place to follow orders, I would challenge that it’s the airlines who should lead this responsibility by providing stellar customer service, not the passengers who need to suck it up and accept whatever treatment they’re given because everyone has places to go and flight attendants have a thankless job.

In any other industry, if a business took a customer’s money and then refused to give them the service that they’d purchased, they’d face a day in court because that’s the entire reason said relationship exists between business and consumer … but because of the perceived safety concern, air travel has become an industry where consumers are left little to no actual protections after the airlines and the TSA have taken their own liberties from passengers just trying to travel in their own country and pay good money for the trip.

Last week we watched a guy get beaten because he didn’t want to leave the plane that he was scheduled to fly.

If I sell milk for a living and I sell you a gallon of milk, I can’t just show up at your house later on that evening and demand the gallon back because one of my truck drivers is thirsty and needs a drink so that he can complete his route healthy and refreshed tonight.

That’s my problem for not having enough milk in the first place, and to think that my customers should have to compromise for my own shortsightedness when they’re probably thirsty and want some milk to go with their cookies, too, is bad business.

And that’s why we have consumer protections in place to ensure that customers actually get the goods and services that they pay for.

Americans shouldn’t need a lawyer to review the 47-page contract that comes with their plane ticket in order to make sure that they’ll actually get from A to B like they’re expecting.

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