Tag Archives: Problems

Repeat, Repeat

Photograph by Phelan M. Ebenhack

While reading Michelle Cliff’s Abeng, one of the most prominent moments in the piece is the death of 100 slaves by Judge Savage’s hands. After reading the recollection of this occurrence, I actually stopped reading the book for a while because the thought of this ghastly act is so disturbing. How could someone kill so many people? Many times we could never imagine how such a deed could ever happen, and how this act would not be considered downright macabre. How was this terrible man justified in such ways?

Savage burned his slaves to death because they were his property, and he felt that he could do with them as he pleased. These people, slaves, stood at the eve of their freedom, and they were gruesomely silenced before they could see that dream become a reality. Now, we would consider this appalling act as blatant murder or even an act of terror; however, at the same time we can also look back and see that slavery itself was morally wrong. In our hindsight, we know both of these acts could never be justified properly, so we view them as terrible mistakes.

This separation, the slavery from the killing, is significant. At the time of the occurrence, holding slaves was legal, so I do not believe many would have opposed that act at all. Though morally we know killing other people is wrong (especially burning them to death), the Africans were viewed as Savage’s property. These “people” were looked down upon, so much that they were not even recognized as human. They were seen as lowly objects just because of the circumstance of their birth, something that they could not help. We see now that the slavery and oppression of these people was wrong, but we also view the murder as a terrible unjust thing. We do not stand for either of these two separate acts now, nor do we see either as justification for the other. During this time, the act of enslavement was not seen as breaking the law, nor was the desecration of one’s own property, even if it meant the death of 100 people.

Now, let us fast forward to our modern times. We face another striking, yet terrible occurrence with the assault on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Here, there was a gunman, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, who targeted a specific group of people: homosexuals. Again, this massacre takes the lives needlessly of the oppressed, who number 49 dead and 53 wounded at the time of this commentary being written (New York Times).

In the same way as Judge Savage killed the slaves of his plantation, we see that the oppressed continue to take massive blows on the eve of their freedom. The next evening after the shooting, a person called in to a radio station that I listen to. In tears, this person said “just as it seemed safe to come out, something like this happens”. This was a clear reminder to me, having just read Abeng, how some people cannot stand to see the oppressed gain their freedom or identity, and how the misunderstanding of other groups can lead to such appalling occurrences.

Again, there is a separation from the oppression and the killing, yet we view the circumstances differently right now. We know that the oppression of people is wrong, and we acknowledge that legally in many different areas (the Emancipation Proclamation, the creation of the NAACP and ACLU, etc.); however many people still attempt to justify their negative views. In turn, these people believe that this gives them a purpose to claim their hatred towards these people, enough so to kill them. It gives them a reason to spread their hate, and they feel justified in their ways.

Furthermore, I have seen some Facebook posts that have a similar mixed reaction about the killings. The majority of people see the act of murder as appalling, yet others have been quite vocal on the circumstances of this event. They believe that the murder of homosexuals is justified because the people were gay, and that they had it coming because of their sexual orientation. They view this group of people as being lowly immoral objects who are not yet fully human, and this seemingly justifies their views.

Right now, most people know that neither of these acts are morally rationalized, yet some people continue to believe these occurrences are not a problem. They think in the mindset of pre-1863 logic, that because a people can be oppressed, they should be oppressed, and in their oppression the slaughter of this people can be defended. I absolutely believe that 150+ years from now all of humanity will look back at events like this and see these people, who do not support their fellow man, as being on the wrong side of the argument.

Just as today, we look back and think of the horrors of slavery, all of the pain, suffering, and heartbreak the Africans went through, people will look back on this era and see the error of their ways in thinking that homosexuals can be reprimanded for the circumstances of their birth. People will not just show sympathy, but also empathy towards this group of people and the evils that they faced along the way. One day humans will finally understand that the persecution of one group, only because they are different, cannot hold to a logical, moral, or even religious argument.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the Pulse Nightclub event has quickly become synonymous with firearm issues and gun control. However, I believe in the same way that Judge Savage used a tool, fire, to kill his slaves, we cannot hold the item accountable for the act. People would like to focus on how such a terrible tool, a firearm, allowed Mateen to inflict such massive casualties. Instead, we should focus on how morally this same attitude has prevailed for hundreds of years. Our focus should not be on how either of these murderers committed their terrible deeds, but why they acted the way they did. What made them feel justified and validated in their views to kill 49 and injure 53 more, or destroy 100 human lives, all on the eve of their freedom?

In the same way the families of all of these people, separated from one another by hundred of years of grief, will never find the answers or closure they need, we cannot look at these events and find a single answer to a moral deficit. This is not a single group’s problem, this is not a gun control problem, this is a human problem. Why have individuals believed they are justified in their ways, enough so to take the lives of people, and why has this attitude persisted for so long?

There is no simple one answer to this issue, and what is even more terrible, there may very well never be.


Everything is a Problem

For quite some time now my friends and I have been saying “everything is a problem”. It’s kind of like our catch phrase or slogan. Why? Because we usually (and typically) encounter a problem with just about everything we do. From minor choices to important tasks, I experience issues on a daily basis and I’m not really for sure why.

Recently, I considered taking count of these issues. I would not add any weight to the problems, I would simply count how many disagreements, issues, or troublesome events I encounter on a daily basis. Car trouble? 1 point. Disagreement? 1 point. People standing still while an automatic door waits for someone to make a move and no one will take initiative to walk forward as humans naturally do ? 1 point. And yes, that did in fact happen.

I didn’t really have the ambition to do this just yet, as I was still kind of contemplating the whole topic overall. I was also partially nervous to find out how many problems happen to me on a daily basis. This subject did get me thinking though. Why do I have so many problems each day? Why can’t things go off without a hitch? And why am I asking so many questions in this blog? Well, another question I had, was how many problems on average do people encounter each day. I had assumed it would be around 20. I think this is about how many I have on a normal day, and that’s reasonable, I think.

The answer, which surprised me, is a measly 9. I learned this in one of my first classes this semester, Conflict and Communication (take a stab at why I chose to take that course). Surprisingly, within this class, one of the assignments is to log each time we encounter conflict in our lives. Here is my opportunity to commit to my problem log, it has presented itself! I’ve already been considering doing this very thing, and now I have a purpose to do so.

After leaving the class, I began to consider the topic again. How long would it take to encounter the next issue? What would it be? Why are there more questions in this blog? Well, I got my answer fairly quickly. Upon arrival at Dierberg’s, just 35 minutes after leaving class, and despite having done this very thing several times, the woman at the deli wouldn’t let me chose chicken bites as a side dish.

Costuming Problems

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

I have been doing costume and makeup for several years, but recently I have taken a break. I ended up starting a new costume, Owen Grady from Jurassic World, which absolutely drew me back into the hobby. Costuming is a pass time that requires a pretty dedicated mentality. With previous projects I have been involved in, I have done a lot of research. I’ve collected reference photos, I’ve spoken to designers, costumers, and even helped Adam Savage from Mythbusters put together his Joker outfit. With all of the costumes I have done in the past, the key to success was hands down cooperation, attentiveness, and dedication to finding sources or coming up with ideas as a group. Unfortunately, I believe there is a new trend in costuming, which is running rampant across several sites: selfish jackassdness

Now, as a disclaimer, I’m not saying I always fall outside of this definition. In the past I have made poor observations/conclusions about costume pieces or props; however I always amend my thinking when more definitive facts arise. I also make sure I read everything that I can, especially posts on forums. I also try to help others out. I know how hard it is to just jump into costumes, and support is a main topic that people need to understand. However, during my recent build I encountered (and I believe this is a technical term) a shit ton of stupid.

Many times over did I receive personal messages asking for the same information which I had JUST posted publicly in a thread. On several occasions I noticed people asking the same question several times over, even when an answer had been given just a few comments back. People not searching for information has always been a problem, but some answers are literally only one or two post above the question. At one point in time one website member also thought I was someone else, and repeatedly asked me to provide pictures of something, despite the fact I did not own it, nor was I the 300 lbs man in the picture shown wearing it. Plus, I quoted him each time letting him now it was not me.

On another forum I wanted to make sure there weren’t any better versions of an item I am currently looking to purchase. I made a brief post just to make sure no one had any other good resources on locating a specific shirt. One member took the time to ask me if I had ever considered buying something totally different. I thought perhaps he meant “another shirt”, but his real intentions were “a completely different costume”. Why would you ask me that? Why take the time, out of both of our days, to ask me to change my own personal project, especially if I am actively pursuing the completion of said project? He finally stopped replying to me when I told him I was 100% committed to the idea, yet we exchanged messages several times.

Another issue is people blatantly withholding information from one another, and making sure everyone knows it. I have seen it several times within the past few months. Someone finds a public source for an item, purchases the ones they need, shows them off, then refuses (or ignores) requests to share a link to the source. Usually people purchase what they need then share the link, yet this process seems to be more prevalent now. At one point in time I even saw someone post they had visited a public location that had been used for filming in a movie, yet said they would not be sharing where it was located. I guess this gives the person a status of “greatness” no man could match, having visited a public place.

Recently, to top it off, I posted a bit of commentary about another article of clothing. Owen Grady’s shirt changes color from grey to blue several times in Jurassic World because of the filters used, the weathering, and direct light exposure. I even went out of my way to note this in the post I made. Someone felt it necessary to message me, give me the same freaking facts, and then tell me I was only half right because of it. He also made sure to note “as many people have said” before giving me the information, yet somehow he missed the fact I was one of them that’s been freaking saying it for the past few months.

Overall, I cannot believe how much things have changed within the past few years. Sure I had visited forums and read threads on certain costumes, but being online more often and being part of the conversation has suddenly made me realize a new trend in the hobby. People aren’t being as attentive as they once were, as they’re surely not being as cooperative or dedicated to helping one another either. With that, I think people will continue to become more self-absorbed, all in competition with one another, with no trophy in site.

Hasbro Has an I-Rex

A2Z Photography
A2Z Photography

It’s been a few days since my girlfriend and I saw Jurassic World, and I’m honestly still coming off that high. We saw it Thursday before the release, and it brought back a ton of good memories. From making my own story lines up to playing with playsets my grandpa had made me, I just can’t quit thinking about the old franchise I loved as a kid (and apparently still do)! Even on the way home I stopped at Target and Best Buy and got some scanbands and park maps to use as props.

Well today we ended up going to Walmart to get another media shelf, so we can disperse our DVDs/Blurays a bit more, and while we were there I mentioned I wanted that big I-Rex toy really bad. My girlfriend essentially told me to go get it, but I was still kind of unsure of myself. After some prompting I did end up buying it, but as soon as I committed I was super excited. On the way home I felt like a kid again! For some reason I’ve recently felt SW has been more of a chore when it comes to buying stuff, so this was a breath of fresh air

Unfortunately, as soon as we got home we realized the big I-Rex cannot stand on its own AT ALL. And not because it’s front heavy or anything either, they’ve made the leg joins so loose that it just topples over because there is nothing to stop them from doing so. I told my girlfriend I was going to return it, but before I did I Googled reviews on it and checked Amazon. Apparently almost all them have super loose hip joins, and none of them stand. I’m going to take it apart and add some glue to the joints or something, because it does look good for $30; however it just doesn’t stand up.

I was super excited about this toy, and even the line overall, despite no 3 3/4 scale figures. However, it’s a bit disheartening to see that something else that Hasbro has offered has a basic level flaw to it. Although the paint applications look absolutely amazing, and the relative scale of the I-Rex looks pretty good, that doesn’t really make up for the fact it can’t even stand up.

The Force Is Not Strong With Hasbro

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

I think I am over due for a blog post about Hasbro, however something occurred today that has thrown me over the edge. I absolutely feel that it is necessary to write something on this topic now. I also hope to touch on as many points as I possibly can, as to help drive my point home that there is something wrong with how Hasbro has handled the Star Wars franchise recently.

To introduce my views on this topic, I should mention that I am familiar with the line to an extensive amount. I have collected 3 3/4 in. Star Wars figures since I was about five years old, however I did take a break during the past few years. After auditioning for Episode 7 my interest in the line had been rekindled, as I also introduced my girlfriend to the films. I got back into collecting, and looked into what had happened in the few years I was absent. Oddly enough during my hiatus, it seemed the golden age of collecting had occurred. However, there was a new record on the player, and it seemed to be scratched to Hell and back.

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

Hasbro has always had its minor issues, but then again most companies do. However the prevalence of problems should never be as apparent in so many ways as they are with Hasbro. Recently consumers have noted they have been displeased in a variety of ways, from the figures themselves, all the way to how the products have been distributed. Unfortunately I absolutely have to agree with them. Fans on several forums (such as YakFace) have been quite outspoken with their views. There is a problem, and Hasbro is either unaware, or does not care to fix these issues.

The problem that has prompted this post is something that occurred today. I picked up a Black Series figure from Target in Edwardsville, IL. I haven’t bought a new figure for at least five months, so this was a big event for me. The only issue is that the card and bubble were excessively damaged, and there were only two *new* figures on the pegs. The other older figures have been there for months. The inclusion of two new figures can be attributed to a new store procedure. Target has started to split up cases between stores. They no longer send out solid cases of twelve figures any more. Instead of relying on a good mix from the manufacture, Target must now take distribution into their own hands, and split the cases themselves.

This presents two issues, both of which hurt the 3 3/4 inch line. The first being that the products are easily damaged in transit, and that consumers will not be able to purchase as many items in the toy isle. The variety to shop from is simply not there. There are two or three other figures in the wave that Target received that I would still like to purchase, however there is a zero percent chance of them arriving on local shelves now. Furthermore, what *has* recently been on the pegs in the past year are figures that no one wants, which oddly enough, still ship to stores under Hasbro’s supervision. Whether it is a distribution or availability issue, either way it is going to hurt the appeal of the product when it shows up on store shelves.

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

This brings me to my next point, poor initial distribution, which threatens to harm the line as well. In the first wave of figures that shipped, there were several characters that were poor choices (I’m looking at you X-Wing Pilot Biggs). Not only were they characters with no consumer demand, but they were also carry forwards in just about every case that was distributed. Not only were they peg warming during the first case that hit stores, but they were included in every case after that. In a short amount of time all that was available became limited to one or two characters that were moving slowly from the shelves (if at all). The figures no one wanted had essentially clogged the pegs for any future releases, and even then in-demand figures we not carried forward, and were single packed in a case.

Additionally, if there were any different character on the shelves to purchase, then their packaging had probably fallen apart. Many plastic bubbles had come off the figures’ cards because of poor quality manufacturing. The adhesive used wasn’t strong enough, so just about every action figure isle became scattered with open Star Wars packages, or cards hung on the pegs mismatched with their merchandise stapled back onto them (many in a Frankenstein’s Monster-Esq. way). For me this honestly generated a tacky image for the line.

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

An even further problem is that many times these figures that have been haphazardly put back together actually share the pegs with figures that have been there for years. These products have seriously not sold since they shipped in 2012. Almost every store I can visit within a two hours driving distance stocks a mixture of products from several different lines, none of which have ever been clearanced out or sent back to Hasbro to make way for new products to be stocked. This further complicates the problem of smooth distribution, as many stores seemingly have a plentiful stock of Star Wars figures.

A To Z Photography
A To Z Photography

Another issue with the figures themselves is that Hasbro apparently recently switched production plants in China, so the vast majority of action figures had horrible paint applications. Many items I have seen first hand were either missing huge sections of paint (Like the 41st Clone Trooper), or had wonky eye syndrome (like gluing googly eyes to anything and everything). Overall, consumers were forced to cherry pick what figures looked the best, and because distribution was so bad, this became increasingly difficult. Quality control is not what it used to be for the line, and it definitely shows.

An entirely different issue which has also arisen is the inner-franchise competition of Hasbro’s six-inch Black Series, an entirely new scale of figures, as well as the Saga Legends/Mission Series figures, which feature only five points of articulation. The later obviously limits playability for kids, and posability for collectors (or anyone else). Likewise the quality of figures are nowhere near what had once existed, and they too have horrible paint applications. By offering these two lines alongside the Black Series, it really limits how much merchandise can be on the store shelf, and given the cheaper alternative of the SL/MS series, parents are more likely to drop five dollars for a figure, as oppose to the $10+ that the Black Series demands.

In addition to these two collections of figures, Hasbro has also introduced another gimic line, titled Star Wars Command, which is essentially an expensive version of galactic army men. Though they are a more inexpensive option for children, they take up over half of the Star Wars section, and are therefore another liability to the Black Series’ strength as a collection. I have no doubt they will follow in the footsteps of other “side lines” Hasbro has produced, such as the miniature Unleashed figures, Star Wars Angry Birds, as well as the Fighter Pods. The clearance isle is imminent.

If you’re wondering what else Hasbro can make that few people are asking for, then you may have guessed gigantic static vehicles (though I’ve heard big vehicles aren’t child friendly/don’t sell well to collectors). This year the big H has also produced a large X-Wing that isn’t to scale for any of their available lines, as well as a Millennium Falcon that doesn’t do anything. In the past Hasbro has made the argument that childrens’ play patterns have changed over the years, but I don’t think it has devolved into doing nothing with their toys. I don’t think these were good choices to produce, especially when there is such a demand for playsets or other large vehicles such as Jabba’s Sail Barge.

On the topic of vehicles, Hasbro has also downsized the molds they use for their starships. Now Imperial walkers and anything else that is large from the Star Wars universe is produced at a fraction of the size it should be (or even has been in the past). This so-called Hero Vehicles line is anything but something that stands for a positive company goal. Not only are the toys sized smaller than ever before, they have also risen in price by around five dollars. Though I’m sure most collectors would pay a premium price for more properly scaled vehicles. In fact, I think most were probably hopeful that this dream would eventually come true, however with the new trend of tiny proportioned vehicles, this seems highly unlikely.

By taking all of these factors into consideration, I don’t believe the Star Wars line seems too healthy. That is to say in comparison of how it used to be,  especially between 2007 and 2012. As mentioned before, that seemed to have been the best time to have been collecting the line, as not only were figures of extremely good quality, but they were also of characters that had been long in demand. Distribution was not a major issue, and the line was seen with a positive view.

By taking this once bright past into consideration, and looking at the current state of things, I don’t think many collectors have smiles on their faces. These people are not only displeased with the products on the shelves (or lack thereof), but they also have an intense hatred for what Hasbro has done to their once appreciated line. These fans no longer have the desire to help carry what shows up at retail, as many have now turned to purchasing their figures online, and only in a limited amount.

Personally, I think this may be one of the worst times that Hasbro has handled their line. The company has been producing figures from Star Wars since the late 1970’s, and by now they should have enough information or know-how to accomplish the task of pleasing their fans, especially when they can easily access a great amount of commentary on dozens, if not hundreds of online forums. I understand the limitations they face, and that they must keep other consumer groups in mind, as well as their bottom dollar. However it it is always strange to compare how the license was handled in the past to how Hasbro has recently dealt with the line. I can only hope that with the advent of a new television show, and the new movies produced by Disney that Hasbro will be able to change their game, and drive home a better quality product that is distributed well. However, I’m not holding my breath.