You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Walmart’ tag.

Sexual harassment in Silicon Valley: have we reached a tipping point?

Rare century-old images of the Inuit people taken by Canada’s first female photographer.

A Chelsea art gallery where artists have to be 60 or older in order to display their works.

Christina in Red: Gorgeous photos of a young woman in vivid reds from 1913.

What happened when Walmart came then left a small town in West Virginia.

Build your ecosystem wisely: the people I don’t want to make business with and why.

Download 300 knitting books published from 1849 to 2012 for free.

Would you like to crochet hippos? You can download a bunch of different crochet patterns where you can make all kinds of hippos.

Bad Bunny: True children’s stories of violent, drug-fueled family life presented as a kids’ book.

Footage from the time a fan smuggled a color camera into a taping of I Love Lucy in 1951.

Tired of the same old cheap paperclip? For $185 you can buy this special Prada paperclip to help make your life organized.

26 stylish seniors who refuse to wear old people’s clothes.

Why old women have replaced young men as the art world’s darlings.

America newest grocery store chain has an advantage that should terrify Walmart.

Philanthropist Agnes Gund urges collectors to sell their art to fight for justice.

Forgotten art deco marvels of a lost 1920’s Copacabana.

Girl Scouts will soon offer badges in cybersecurity.

Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries.

A woman with a very colorful apartment that could make unicorns envious.

Unseen photos of 1980 Mount St. Helens volcano eruption found in a camera purchased at a local Goodwill.

An opinion piece by Douglas Rushkoff explaining why it’s time to break up Amazon.

Samsung’s classy new TV moonlights as a work of art.

25 ways to market your business for little or no money.

Download and read up to 6,000 vintage children’s book for free.

Jeff Koons radically downsizes his studio, laying off half his painting staff.

Artist Lucy Sparrow opens an entire convenience store full of handmade felt products in Manhattan.

Photographer spent six months traveling to Siberia to take pictures of indigenous people.

Ramadan

A survey of the open source community finds widespread harassment and gender imbalance.

Teacher launches crochet campaign to fund the victims of the Manchester attack.

Dubai gets its first robot cop.

Verizon will slash more than 2,000 jobs from Yahoo-AOL when the deal closes this month.

Why the mainstream media should pay for the right to use videos and photos that were originally shared on social media.

Prison inmates crochet 150 blankets for veterans.

Security experts warn that the My Friend Cayla doll is susceptible to being hacked.

How YouTube celebrities have lead to the rise of YouTube tabloids that keep tabs on them.

Learn about Karen Wetterhahn, the chemist whose poisoning death changed safety standards.

Your grandma’s crochet is wildly in fashion.

This startup wants to turn YouTube unboxing videos into a big business.

These three industries are making the most out of 3D printing.

New report says Walmart punishes employees for taking sick days.

How banks are using artificial intelligence up front and behind the scenes.

Israeli police unveil first-ever 3D printed police car.

Why Adobe pays creatives to do whatever they want for a whole year.

FCTRY has launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a Senator Elizabeth Warren doll, the proceeds of which will be used to fund Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign (if she decides to run).

One of the first computer video games is born again in open source.

A robot could cut your hair in the future.

Robot dog has an artificial woof that sounds like the real thing.

How Adobe got its users hooked on subscriptions.

American Flag

I can’t believe that it’s been 15 years since I saw those deadly attacks live on TV. I’m at the point where I no longer constantly think about the Twin Towers coming down on a daily basis but I’ll never completely forget what I saw that day. Right now I’m more obsessed with trying to survive a tough unforgiving economy where more people are either out of work or underemployed and fewer places are hiring. These days I’m not worried about Al Qaeda or ISIL/ISIS attacking the U.S. because I feel that the next American downfall will be self-inflicted by the likes of Wall Street, Big Oil, and Big Pharma. Right now, as I’m typing this, there’s a standoff in North Dakota because the Native American tribes object to a pipeline being built through their graveyards and possibly poisoning the water supply as a byproduct. The mainstream media has mostly ignored this so I’m learning about all of the details on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile some crass capitalist assholes are using what should be a solemn occasion of remembrance to sell all kinds of crap. First there was this Walmart in Florida, who decided to use the Twin Towers as a display to sell Coke products.

Then there was this craptacular ad selling mattresses, which unleashed a firestorm of criticism that was heard all around the world. Hell, I first learned about this ad on the BBC News site.

This kind of stuff pisses me off for a few reasons: 1) I live about 20 miles from the Pentagon, which was also hit on 9/11, and I was scared shitless when I saw national news coverage of the New York attacks get preempted by local news when they announced the Pentagon being hit, 2) my Unitarian Universalist congregation was used to stage a funeral for an entire family (which included a husband, wife, and their two daughters who were ages 8 and 3) who were on that plane which hit the Pentagon and there were fellow members of my congregation who knew that family well, 3) my ex-husband’s father and stepmother live in Manhattan and they were on that island when the Twin Towers fell (fortunately they didn’t decide to go to lower Manhattan that day or else they would’ve been caught up in this), and 4) my late mother-in-law’s closest friend who lived in lower Manhattan saw the Twin Towers fell from outside the window of her apartment. Soon after that event that friend, who had diabetes, stopped taking care of herself and she died from diabetes complications about a couple of years after 9/11.

It’s stuff like this that makes me ashamed of my fellow Americans. Here’s a palette cleanser courtesy of the U.S. Air Force featuring the U.S. Air Force Celtic Aire performing “There are No Words,” which was written an performed especially for this 15th anniversary.

Previous post in this series.

Continuing this summer’s series of Throwback Thursday posts dedicated to Howard the Duck.

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Howard the Duck #23
Star Waaugh
April, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Val Mayerik, artist; I. Watanabe, inker; Janice Cohen, colorist

This issue is the second of a two-part Star Wars parody that was created as a result of a reunion of the original co-creators of Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.

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Synopsis: This issue picks up where the last one left off as Bzzk Joh manages to enter the castle through the Waters of Eternity and kidnaps Jennifer Kale while threatening to make her bald if anyone tries to rescue her. Bzzk Joh mentions that he’s the head of the Imperium Imporium, which has been buying up property all over the galaxy in order to build a giant shopping mall that will be the ultimate in crassness.

Bzzk Joh sinks back into the Waters of Eternity with Jennifer Kale as his hostage. As she sinks after Bzzk Joh, she raises a hand out of the water and quickly conducts a spell before she is entirely submerged. Korek attempts to dive into the Waters of Eternity only to have that water turn solid and Korek crashes his body on the hard surface.

Jennifer Kale’s last-minute spell results in the creation of two druid-droids (which are the magical equivalent of robots) known as NAAC-P30 and 2-2-2-2, who is nicknamed Tutu and resembles a trashcan. NAAC-P30 and Tutu were created to serve as guides for Howard, Korrek, and the Man-Thing.

The two druid-droids eventually lead the others to a spaceship known as the Epoch Weasel. The ship flies right up to a giant tractor trailer that’s flying in outer space with the words Imperium Imporium on the side. The tractor trailer attacks by releasing a bunch of various men’s products (such as electric razors and watches) followed by all kinds of housewares (such as blenders and cast iron skillets). The items crash into the Epoch Weasel. The Imperium Imporium also uses psychological warfare in the form of a customer service agent who’s unleashed into space shouting “NO!” repeatedly.

The Epoch Weasel’s engines die so the spaceship lands on a planet known as Boorbanq. They enter the Hollywok Canteen, which is noted for its “Plastic Szechuan Cuisine,” and see that it’s full of Californian men wearing leisure suits. Korrek is sent to hobnob with the people inside because he’s the one person in the group who could blend in the best with these Southern Californians, despite the fact that Korrek is a barbarian from a time period hundreds of years before the 1970’s. Korrek schmoozes among the people initially until he meets with a hamburger-headed man known as Big Mack and Korrek totally loses it by punching Big Mack’s hamburger head while saying “Have a nice day!” The California men start to surround Korrek. Howard tried to defend Korrek by using the Farce, which turns out to be a joke flag gun that shoots out a flag reading “Down With Peacocks!” It leads to the California men suddenly collapsing under the weight of their own pretensions because they couldn’t understand that the Farce is really a joke flag gun.

Meanwhile Bzzk Joh looks over the inventory of the Imperium Imporium and decides that it’s time to approach a bound and gagged Jennifer Kale. He starts to tickle her.

Howard and the others somehow manage to borrow another space cruiser where they find the Death Store—the Imperium Imporium itself. Tutu manages to find an entrance to the Death Store by detecting irregularities in the store’s bookkeeping department. They find Bzzk Joh in the middle of his tickle session with Jennifer Kale. The subsequent battle begins, complete with Bzzk Joh’s people hurling perfume bottles, office supplies, and sporting equipment at Jennifer Kale’s would-be rescuers.

Howard and the Man-Thing catch up with Bzzk Joh, who unleashes his two secret weapons—the Dearth Vapors—who turn out to be a wholesome-looking duo with bright smiling teeth who resemble Donny and Marie Osmond. When they start to smile, their teeth shoots out saccharine, which covers the Man-Thing and Howard. The Man-Thing becomes so angry that he bursts out of his saccharine covering, lays his hands off the Dearth Vapors, and melts the pair.

Howard finally uses the Farce on Bzzk Joh. The flag message, which reads “You Have No Sense of Humor,” is enough to neutralize Bzzk Joh as he starts to break down and cry. Howard frees Jennifer Kale.

Everyone races back to the space cruiser because Tutu had activated every item in the store’s toy department and the Death Store is on the verge of exploding. As the space cruiser flies away, the Death Store explodes, presumably killing Bzzk Joh and everyone else who was on board.

Topical 1970’s Reference: Like its predecessor, this issue is also a parody of Star Wars. At the time only the first movie had been released with simply the Star Wars title but it has since been renamed Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. The biggest irony is that years after this issue was released Disney would buy both Marvel and the Star Wars franchise so they now co-exist under the same corporation.

NAAC-P30 begins to pilot the Epoch Weasel by pressing the button marked “Bat Out of Hell,” which also happens to be the title of Meat Loaf’s first album that was released in 1977 and it became one of the best-selling albums in the history of recorded music. Here’s a vintage video of Meat Loaf performing the title track from Bat Out of Hell.

The planet Boorbanq is modeled after Burbank in California, which is frequently billed as the Media Capital of the World. The clientele is modeled after the stereotypical 1970’s leisure suit-wearing Southern California men. One customer, Big Mack, is a hilarious riff on Mayor McCheese from those McDonald’s ads.


The two Dearth Vapors resemble Donny and Marie Osmond, who had their own hit music variety show, Donny & Marie. While I was doing some online research while I was writing this, I came across this clip from an episode of the Donny & Marie show that is a Star Wars musical parody.

Bzzk Joh, an infamous real estate developer with his frequent tendency towards being a loudmouthed braggart brings to mind another infamous real estate developer with an equal tendency towards being a loudmouthed braggart who is currently running for President of the United States as I’m typing this in 2016—Donald Trump. Even though Trump wouldn’t become famous on the national stage for another few years (with the publication of his first book, The Art of the Deal, in 1987), he became a local celebrity in New York City after he moved to Manhattan in 1971 while getting involved in larger construction projects that used attractive architectural design to win public recognition. What’s more Donald Trump started to court the New York media in the 1970’s by using his two publicists named John Barron and John Miller. Recently it was revealed that the real identities of the two publicists named John were none other than Donald Trump himself. Since Marvel is based in New York City, it’s not that big of a stretch to think that it’s possible that Bzzk Joh was modeled after The Donald.

As for Bzzk Joh’s Imperium Imporium, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if it was based on Walmart. At that time Walmart founder Sam Walton had been aggressively expanding his stores into rural areas of the U.S. by both buying up regional discount chains like Mohr-Value and buying land to build his stores, which grew increasingly bigger.

The Bottom Line: The second part of the Star Wars parody is even funnier than the first part as this issue not only skewers that movie but also every single aspect of 1970’s pop culture. The only time the jokes fell flat was when it came to naming one of the druid-droids. The shorter druid-droid’s name, 2-2-2-2, is a hilarious take on R2-D2 along with its nickname, Tutu. As for the C-3PO parody, it’s obvious that NAAC-P30’s name is patterned after the NAACP. That one falls flat because there’s really no logical reason why the NAACP (which is the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S. and it stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) would have anything to do with science fiction other than an opportunity to riff on the acronym. Fortunately that’s the only joke that’s pretty off because the rest of the issue is funny as hell. Even if younger readers don’t get the reference to Donny and Marie Osmond, they’ll still laugh at all of the Star Wars references. It’s sheer genius to parody Star Wars’ famous Canteen scene as the Hollywok Canteen that’s located on the planet Boorbanq with the stereotypical 1970’s Southern California men dressed in leisure suits (you couldn’t get more stereotypical 1970’s than men’s leisure suits) standing in for the aliens from the original Star Wars Canteen scene. This is yet another memorable high point of the original 1970’s comic book series.

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Howard the Duck #24
Where Do You Go—What Do You Do—The Night After You Save The Universe?
May, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Tom Palmer, inker; Joe Rosen, letterer; Janice Cohen, colorist

Synopsis: The spaceship that Howard rides in after Bzzk Joh and his Imperium Imporium were both destroyed in the last issue lands on top of the apartment building where Howard is currently staying at 2 a.m. Howard bids farewell to his comrades from the last two issues before the spaceship heads back into outer space.

Howard arrives at the apartment that once belonged to his former boss (and Beverly’s uncle) Lee Switzler and he looks at the calendar. He sees that the ship S.S. Damned is due to dock in New York City many hours later. That’s the same ship that he was on with Beverly, Paul, and Winda until Doctor Bong abducted both Howard and Beverly. Howard begins to look forward to being reunited with Paul and Winda. (Beverly was forced to marry Doctor Bong and stay at the compound in the Himalayas in order to spare Howard’s life.)

Howard goes to bed and tries to get some sleep. He soon has a nightmare involving Doctor Bong and the Kidney Lady that’s so intense that he wakes up.

Howard goes to the kitchen to see if he can find a post-midnight snack and the only thing he could find was a box of slightly chewy potato chips. He takes the chips and goes to back to the bedroom where he turns on the TV set. He ends up turning on a Western where a cowboy shoots another cowboy named Howard.

Howard turns off the TV and ditches the potato chips. He decides to go outside and take a walk.

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He begins to recount the experiences he’s gone through since Beverly and Winda were abducted by a magic carpet in Howard the Duck King Size Annual #1. Howard trips over a drunken man who’s laying in the middle of the sidewalk. The drunk mistakes Howard for a woman named Marie (who’s probably either his wife or girlfriend) and grabs hold of one of Howard’s legs. A group of would-be robbers talk openly about how easy it would be to go after Howard and the drunk. Howard decides to free his leg from the drunk’s grasp by burning the drunk’s hand with his cigar. The drunk emits a scream that’s so awful that the would-be robbers run away. The drunk hangs on to Howard’s leg for a little bit longer until Howard decides to just slide his foot through the man’s grasp and manages to free himself.

As Howard walks away from his encounter with the drunk he accidentally walks into a woman carrying a bunch of bags, which results in the woman spilling the bags’ contents all over the sidewalk.Howard apologizes to the woman but the woman responds by spitting in his face.

Howard walks by a phone booth, where a payphone starts to ring. Howard answers the phone only to find that it’s an obscene phone call.

Howard walks past a woman at a bus stop. He hears that same woman scream so he races back to the bus stop. It turns out that the woman was being attacked but she managed to throw her attacker to the ground. The woman tells Howard that the attacker is her husband and they’ve been playing some kind of a kinky game for the past two weeks where the woman waits outside late at night, her husband tries to attack her, and she fights back by knocking him to the ground.

Howard walks into a donut shop that’s open all night only to find it deserted. He hears mumbling from behind the counter, where he discovers a donut shop clerk whose hands and feet are tied up with a donut stuffed in his mouth. Howard frees him and the donut shop clerk tells Howard about how a dissatisfied customer had demanded his money back because he claimed that he broke a tooth biting into a donut he purchased at that shop.  When the clerk refused, the customer punches the clerk, ties him up, puts the donut in his mouth, and empties the cash register before walking out of the shop. Howard offers to call the police but the donut shop clerk refuses because he says that the customer only took a couple of dollars because it had been a slow night. The grateful clerk offers Howard a free donut and a cup of coffee. Howard turns down the donut but drinks the free coffee. Howard talks with the clerk until it’s close to the time where the S.S. Damned is due to dock.

Howard rushes to Pier 43 just in time to see Paul and Winda disembark from the ship. Once Howard greets them, he falls asleep in Winda’s arms. As the couple walk away with a sleeping Howard they remark that Howard’s fortune is going to change when he wakes up (while providing a cliffhanger for the next issue).

Topical 1970’s Reference: Howard walking past a payphone, which is definitely a throwback to an era before most people carried around their own cell phones. I used to frequently see payphones everywhere but now I can’t even tell you when I’ve last seen a payphone anywhere. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve even seen a payphone, let alone a phone booth.

The Bottom Line: This is one of the more surreal issues (yet nowhere near as surreal as issue 16) as Howard, who’s fresh from his recent adventure in outer space, walks around the streets of New York City in the middle of the night due to insomnia. While Howard encounters ordinary people with no superpower or magical ability of any kind, they are still in situations that are either bizarre, dysfunctional, or both. This issue is an okay issue in that it’s entertaining seeing Howard encounter New Yorkers of all types in the middle of the night but it lacks the wicked satire of the two previous issues (which was a two-part Star Wars parody) or the classic “Howard for President” story arc (as depicted in Howard the Duck #7, Marvel Treasury Edition #12: Howard the Duck, and Howard the Duck #8). It is a pretty interesting glimpse of what a Marvel character does during his downtime between dealing with super villains or strange situations, which is pretty rare in comic books. (I don’t recall ever seeing a story on what Spider-Man or Wolverine do when they have the day off from fighting super villains.)

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Howard the Duck #25
Getting Smooth!
June, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Klaus Janson, inker; I. Watanabe, letterer; Jan Cohen, colorist

Synopsis: The story begins in the Boys’ Department at Macy’s where Howard is trying on various outfits while Paul and Winda look on. Once Howard decides on a new suit, Paul pulls out a wad of cash and pays for the suit on the spot. Howard chides Paul for flashing cash because he’s concerned that it will make him into a mugging victim. Paul then buys a box of expensive cigars with cash and gives Howard one of them.

Paul hails a taxi where the three of them ride to a luxury hotel. During the drive, Paul recounts his time on the S.S. Damned after Howard and Beverly were abducted by Doctor Bong. Paul spent much of his time drawing in his sketchbook. One day Paul decided to draw a woman who turned out to be a wealthy socialite and heiress named Iris Raritan. Paul offered to give Iris his sketch but she insisted on buying it instead. She told Paul that she wasn’t the only affluent passenger on that ship and that there were others willing to pay for his sketches. Paul started getting more sketching commissions on that ship due to Iris’ connections.

The three enter the hotel lobby only to have an employee point at Howard and say that the hotel does not allow pets. When Howard verbally protests, the employee drops the subject and leads the three to the room where Iris is holding a special reception. Iris introduces the three to a circus owner and ringmaster named Mr. Thraller, who plans on having his circus perform at Iris’ Friday evening party. Iris also tells the three that they are invited to the party as well.

Meanwhile Beverly makes her first appearance in this comic book since issue #18. Not surprisingly she’s unhappy about her forced marriage to Doctor Bong and it doesn’t help that Doctor Bong has been more involved with working in his laboratory than spending any time with his bride. It’s implied that since Doctor Bong has won Beverly from Howard, she has become just another possession that he can neglect in favor of more recent interests and pursuits. Beverly finally becomes fed up with being the neglected wife so she barges over to Doctor Bon’s laboratory and demands that he removes his bell mask so the two of them can, in her words, “play house.” The scene ends with the couple kissing while Doctor Bong’s mutant minions watch and clap.

The story picks up in New York City a few days later as Howard, Paul and Winda are in the apartment that was once rented by Beverly’s uncle, Lee, but Howard is allowed to stay in it until the end of the month because Lee had already paid the rent. Lee calls Howard from Cleveland and tells him that he has just lined up a new business opportunity and he wants to take Howard in as a partner. Howard accepts the offer and hangs up the phone. Paul, Winda, and Howard take a taxi to Iris Raritan’s Long Island mansion where her party is being held. When the trio arrive, Iris formally introduces Paul to her other guests as her latest discovery while introducing the other two as Paul’s companions. The wealthy guests are suddenly shocked at seeing a well-dressed duck.

While Iris is showing Paul around to the other guests, Winda and Howard attempt to schmooze the other guests only to have these guests look down on them. One guest made a snarky remark about Winda’s lisp and how she finds Howard’s presence to be distasteful because she thinks he’s a midget in a duck costume. Winda snarks back at that guest.

Mr. Thraller’s circus begin its performance inside of Iris’ mansion while introducing Cannonball, Princess Python, The Clown, and The Great Gabonnos. The circus performers do their initial routines then Mr. Thraller tells the guests to look his way while he hypnotizes them. As the guests are hypnotized, the circus performers start to steal the guests’ valuables including money, wallets, and jewelry.

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Mr. Thraller decides to take a hypnotized Howard by the hand and lead him to the circus truck where the circus kidnaps the duck. As the truck heads towards Pennsylvania, all of the guests at Iris’ party eventually regain consciousness and they realized that they had been robbed. Howard regains consciousness inside of a trunk in the circus truck where he bangs on the lid until Mr. Thraller opens the lid. He tells Howard that the duck is now part of the circus and if he refuses to go along with his new situation, he will tell the authorities that Howard was an accessory to the robbery at Iris Raritan’s party and he will end up in prison with the rest of the Circus of Crime.

Topical 1970’s Reference: Howard’s frequent warnings to Paul that he could become a mugging victim for showing off wads of cash was a reference to the really bad crime problem that New York City had back in the 1970’s.

The Bottom Line: I cringed when I saw Beverly demanding some quality time from Doctor Bong, especially since she didn’t willingly marry him out of love. (She only married him because he threatened to kill Howard if she refused.) If I had been forced into a marriage like that, trying to beg my husband for attention would be the last thing I’d do. In fact, I would be way more bitter at him for forcing me into such a horrible situation. It’s possible that the writer Steve Gerber was trying to either demonstrate Stockholm Syndrome or have Beverly simply try to make the best out of a bad situation. If either scenario is the case, it’s such a vague and poorly written scene. It just left me with an unfavorable impression of Beverly as someone who is weak enough to seek affection from her own kidnapper who forced her to marry him instead of being an independent woman with enough of a mind of her own to try to think of ways of escaping from that castle in the Himalayas.

The rest of the issue is pretty interesting. There’s the classism strewn throughout that party scene from Winda facing the wealthy snobby woman who looked down on her for her lisp to Iris parading Paul around like he was her latest possession. There’s the excessive throwing around of money where Iris was able to actually hire a circus to give a private performance at her party. And then there is the circus itself, which is really run by a gang of thieves who use the circus as a cover so the ringmaster can hypnotize his audience while the rest of the circus performers rob the audience of their valuables. The idea of a Circus of Crime is pretty unique and very funny.

These issues were reprinted in Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 2, which can be purchased onine at AbeBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookDepository, Half.com, IndieBound, Indigo, Powell’s.

Next post in this series.

The Howard the Duck Series

Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 1

The Early Stories
Howard the Duck #1-3
Howard the Duck #4-5
Howard the Duck #6
Howard the Duck #7 and Marvel Treasury Edition #12: Howard the Duck
Howard the Duck #8

Howard the Duck #9-11
Howard the Duck #12-14
Howard the Duck King Size Annual #1 and Howard the Duck #15
Howard the Duck #16

Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 2

Howard the Duck #17-19
Howard the Duck #20-22
Howard the Duck #23-25
Howard the Duck #26-28
Howard the Duck #29-31
Howard the Duck Magazine #1

Santa Claus

I have some photos of American Girl dolls wearing festive winter holiday clothing and since, for me, the Christmas season won’t formally end until tomorrow (when it will be the day known alternatively as Little Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, and Three Kings Day), I’m going to post them right here, right now.

The doll in the next photo is the first American Girl doll I’ve ever purchased. She is a historical doll named Julie Albright and she’s supposed to represent the 1970’s, the same era where I was a young child. I’ve already written plenty about how and why I became attracted to that doll so I’m not going to write much here.

I bought that doll and a series of thin paperback books about her character and the 1970’s era that she represented the day before I was to undergo hip revision surgery. I originally intended to buy just the books to give me something to do in between doctor visits and physical therapy sessions. But then I took another look at that doll in her original pre-BeForever default outfit and her peasant blouse reminded me of a similar blouse my mother once sewed for me when I was growing up in the 1970’s. I ended up buying the doll along with the books.

A month after my surgery I drove my car back to Tyson’s Corner Mall. While I was at the American Girl Place I noticed Christmas outfits for dolls. There were even appropriate period Christmas outfits for the historical dolls. I purchased an outfit for Julie for the heck of it. The next photo shows the Julie doll modeling the Christmas dress.

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I have a confession to make. Even though it’s a period Christmas outfit that’s meant for the historical dolls, this one was not created for Julie and her 1970’s era. There was a different Christmas outfit that was made especially for Julie but when I saw it, I wasn’t crazy about it. I found another historic Christmas dress that I thought was way cuter. This dress was originally made for Ruthie Smithens, a depression-era doll who was originally created as a best friend to Kit Kitteridge but has since been retired. I decided that there were no rules that state that I was limited to buying only 1970’s era clothes because I have a 1970’s era doll so I purchased Ruthie Smithens’ Holiday Outfit for Julie Albright and she looks fantastic in it. Besides, I could’ve sworn I worn similar styled dresses in the 1970’s although I’m not 100% sure about that. (I would have to do extensive research into children’s clothing styles of the 1970’s and, these days, I’m not motivated enough to do such research.)

After my husband left me while citing my purchase of that doll and her corresponding books as the reason why he had to leave home (instead of the truth—he left me for a friend of ours who has serious mental health issues and he married her just three months after our divorce was final), I internalized his initial excuse and I didn’t do much with Julie other than use her in my Occupy the Dollhouse project that I was working on for Artomatic 2012. But as the real truth about why my husband left emerged, I gradually stopped blaming the doll for my husband leaving home and I’m okay with having the doll in my possession once again.

By 2014 I decided to re-read the Julie Books and I even began to write a series of Throwback Thursday posts where I compared those books with my own memories of the 1970’s. At the time I purchased the Julie doll, there was a corresponding best friend doll based on a character in the books named Ivy Ling. I wasn’t really interested in getting Ivy mainly because Julie wore a 1970’s outfit that nearly resembled an outfit I once wore as a child in the 1970’s and it got my attention. But, as I re-read the books, I found that Ivy began to grow on me. I thought it would be cool to have two 1970’s era dolls since they were supposed to be best friends. Out of the original pre-BeForever books that comprised a total of 11 books, Ivy appeared in nine of them. And there was one book, Good Luck, Ivy, where she was the main character and Julie Albright was relegated to being a supporting character.

My financial situation had totally changed with my divorce so I felt that I couldn’t just go out and buy Ivy like I could in the old days. I decided to spend a year gradually saving money until I had enough to buy Ivy. That worked for a while until American Girl announced that Ivy was one of four dolls scheduled for retirement later in 2014 and I had to push up the date when I would get Ivy before it was too late. It created a minor financial stress for me (I had to cut back on going out for a couple of weeks) but that was a temporary situation that didn’t last long.

The next photo shows Ivy wearing an off-brand My Life As doll outfit that I found during a rare excursion to Walmart when I needed to buy myself some nice shoes for fancy events and potential future job interviews. Compared to what American Girl charges for its doll outfits (which starts at $30 and it can go as high as $60 or $70), this My Life As outfit was an excellent bargain. (I remember it was on sale for around $7 or $8.) Ivy looks like she’s all ready to go to the upcoming Christmas or New Year’s Eve ball.

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For a few years before I even purchased my first American Girl doll, Julie Albright, I would visit the giant American Girl Place on Fifth Avenue in New York City. While I was impressed by the quality of the clothes and I thought the idea of having historical dolls with corresponding books to be a cool one, I was only interested in the 1970’s dolls because I was a very young child back then and it was kind of freaky and cool that my own childhood would be considered historical enough to warrant a doll and her best friend.

I can remember back when American Girl was an independently owned company (before Mattel bought it) and there was controversy when the company came out with its first non-white doll. She was an African American named Addy Walker and her corresponding books portrayed her as being born into slavery. At the time I was two minds about this controversy. On the one hand, I felt that non-white girls should have access to non-white historical girls who lived more varied lives than just being a slave. On the other hand, slavery was and still is a major part of American history (and it was one of the major factors of why a civil war erupted and it has had major repercussions among generations of African Americans that affect them to this day) and any frank discussion of American history has to include slavery just as much as any frank discussion of German history has to include the Third Reich and the Holocaust.

As for the doll herself, I found Addy to be underwhelming. While her face looked cute, her original pre-Be Forever default outfit was totally dull and bland. The rest of her wardrobe were also equally bland, such as her 1994 Winter Coat, her 1997 Stilting Outfit, and her 1995 Work Dress and Apron. I basically ignored that doll for a long time.

But then American Girl decided to take the historical girls it hasn’t retired yet and give them totally new outfits with a fresh look and re-name the line BeForever. While I think the name sounds awkward as hell, I love many of the new outfits that came out. Addy Walker was one of the dolls I personally feel has benefitted the most from the BeForever revamp. Her default outfit has gone from being totally dull and bland to being very striking and attractive.

At the same time I’m experimenting with trying to sell sew-your-own doll clothes on Spoonflower.com (so far I only have one outfit but I hope to have more come out over the next few months depending on my own personal schedule and things like that). With Julie and Ivy I had two different models for the clothes but I thought that having a darker skin doll as a model would be useful as well. I originally thought about buying a cheaper Our Generation or Springfield doll with darker skin just as a model. But then I had a relative give me money for both my birthday and Christmas (both days are only 10 days apart from each other) and I began to think about that BeForever Addy Walker doll again and, well, I took the plunge.

I’ve always been a bit of a history nerd and I live in a state (Maryland) that’s full of Civil War history including slave plantations, the Underground Railroad, and Antietam (a.k.a. the bloodiest battle of the Civil War). So, to make a long story short, I bought the Addy Walker doll, I’ve finished the book that came with a doll (Finding Freedom: An Addy Classic, Volume 1) and I recently got a copy of the second book that’s sold separately (A Heart Full of Hope: An Addy Classic, Volume 2) and I’ve just started that one. (I’ll probably write about those books in a separate entry at a later date. I just don’t know when I’ll do it.)

Here’s Addy in the next photo modeling an outfit that I originally purchased at Target in either late 2011 or early 2012 (just after I purchased the Julie doll). The outfit was for a line called Play Wonder by Madame Alexander that Target carried for a while (nowadays it carries exclusively Our Generation dolls and clothes) and I think it was on sale. I purchased it at the time because I was curious as to how well an off-brand outfit would fit an American Girl doll and I found that it fitted perfectly on Julie. Then I put the outfit away and forgot about it for a while. I bought Addy so close to Christmas and I really wasn’t into battling the crowds at the stores to buy a cheap Christmas outfit so I decided to put her in the Play Wonder outfit even though it isn’t a Christmas outfit per se. I found that Addy looked really great in that outfit and the metallic lace on the skirt is pretty shiny so I decided to pretend that it’s just a Christmas outfit and take a photo of her wearing it.

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Here are the three American Girl dolls wearing their holiday outfits together.

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They look pretty good together.

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If money and space were no object, I would buy all of the BeForever dolls along with the gorgeous outfits and other accessories because they look so awesome, especially when seeing them in person at the American Girl Place. However, I don’t have infinite amounts of money or space so I have to set limits as to how many dolls I’ll allow in my home. I’ve seen other people’s American Girl collections that number higher than 10 (such as this one and that one) and, to be honest, having 10 or more dolls would overwhelm me. Heck, even having more than six dolls would provide space headaches that I’d rather not deal with. So I have no intention of ever amassing a giant American Girl doll collection. But I will probably continue to take smartphone pictures of any dolls or outfits or accessories that grabs me visually at the American Girl Place because it’s easier to store digital photographs than it is to store 18-inch dolls or some large piece of furniture or other accessory.

Santa ClausBaby New Year

 

 

 

 

 

Just like Halloween and Christmas before it, New Year’s Day happens to fall on a Throwback Thursday this year and I have something appropriate.

Back in 2012, while I was trying to make sense of my husband’s abrupt walkout on me with zero advanced notice or warning, I decided to take part in Artomatic 2012, a month-long art event that was held in a former office building in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia. Basically Artomatic is a non-juried show and spaces are given to those artists who are first-come-first-served.

For my own exhibit space I came up with the idea of doing a parody of the Occupy Wall Street movement that was raging at the time called “Occupy the Dollhouse.” I was inspired by a Facebook page called “Occupy Legoland” (which no longer exists—a Twitter account by that name is still up but it hasn’t been updated since April) where someone did re-enactments of the Occupy movement using Legos and the artist behind it had gotten considerable attention in the mainstream media. I was inspired to do something similar but I decided to use dolls instead of Legos.

My exhibit was well received by visitors and it was even mentioned in an article for a publication that was put out by Occupy DC. You can read more about Occupy the Dollhouse and Artomatic 2012 in previous blog posts.

In any case, I tried to keep Occupy the Dollhouse going online for a little while longer after Artomatic ended. Both the viral Kony 2012 campaign and more media attention focusing on a subset of My Little Pony fans known as “Bronies” inspired me to create “Pony 2012”. I also made a statement about the union protests of Walmart on Black Friday that year.

After 2012 I began to run out of new material. I was going through a devastating divorce plus local officials nationwide began to crack down on the Occupy camps that had sprung up. I decided to let Occupy the Dollhouse go dormant while I focus on other things.

As 2014 began and people began the #BringBackOurGirls campaign online, I thought about reviving Occupy the Dollhouse for that one but I was kind of lazy and I never got around to it. I was finally motivated to revive that series when a new movement known alternatively as #HandsUpDontShoot#BlackLivesMatter, and the Ferguson Unrest had sprung up to protest this disturbing new trend—white police officers killing unarmed African Americans.

So I did a revival with a few new Occupy the Dollhouse photos depicting Hands Up, Don’t Shoot and a die-in at the American Girl Place. I thought I was done for the year but then there was this horrible incident when an African American man with a history of mental illness named Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed two NYPD police officers as a twisted revenge for the chocking death of Eric Garner that was perpetrated by a different police officer. Of course the pundits at Fox News began to blame the protesters for inspiring Brinsley to brutally kill those police officers before he killed himself. As a result, I ended the year 2014 with a few new photos that I posted online on December 30.

I also decided to compile all of the Occupy the Dollhouse photos I’ve done as of 2014 into a video slideshow complete with backup music. You can now view all of the photos along with the original captions in the below video.

I don’t know if I’ll continue Occupy the Dollhouse into 2015 or not. (The new year is only one day old as of this writing.) It really depends on whether something major happens, if I have an idea on how I can use dolls to respond to that incident, and if I have the time or energy to do this. If I do something new, I’ll definitely post about it in this blog.

This year I worked the Greenbelt Green Man Festival for the first time since 2008. My personal history of vending at this festival is definitely mixed. The first year or so I didn’t make much money because the festival was lightly attended due to rainy weather. My last year of selling in 2008 I had a really good year where I managed to make a small profit because the weather was sunny with low humidity and there were a lot of people out and about.

From a vendor’s point of view, I’ve never really liked the fact that the festival is always scheduled on Mother’s Day weekend. While I could understand holding it on the day before Mother’s Day to catch those last-minute shoppers, I never really liked it being scheduled for the second day because it meant that I couldn’t spend Mother’s Day with my own mother. Even though I managed to make a small profit in 2008, I decided to never work that festival as a vendor again until after my mother’s death (due in large part to my mother having multiple sclerosis) and I felt that my time on Mother’s Day would be better spent with visiting her.

Well, those turned out to be famous last words because I decided to work the festival again this year. That’s because of the fact that between my recent divorce and having to pay a steep tax bill to both federal and state governments on that alimony my husband has been paying me, I really wanted to raise some cash. Fortunately my mother was very understanding with my reasons why I’m working this festival again so I signed up as a vendor.

I’ve been spending the weeks leading up to this festival creating new inventory. I was so pressed for time that I haven’t had the chance to update this blog with my recent arts and crafts. (I will eventually get around to uploading separate blog entries devoted to my recent creations.) During the preparations for that show, I somehow managed to receive a copy of the Oriental Trading Company catalogue (a catalogue I don’t recall ever receiving before) in my mailbox. I thumbed through the catalogue and found that it focused on party items and much of it was pretty cheap. I had an idea of purchasing one box of animal bubbles because I figured that I could use them as a marketing device. (Basically I sold animal bubbles along with some magnets that I printed myself for $1 each but would be free to anyone who spent at least $20 at my table. While I sold a few of the bubbles and magnets for $1 each, I didn’t have anyone spend $20 at once so no one took up my offer of free bubbles and magnets.)

I also began to redesign my vendor space to reflect my current reality. Back when my husband still lived with me, I used to have a portable outdoor canopy over my table because my husband was there to help me put up that canopy. (While it’s possible for one person to put up a canopy, it’s very slow and difficult to do so without at least one other person helping out.) Thanks to my husband divorcing me, I no longer have anyone to help me put up my canopy so I had to design a vendor space so one person could only put it up without any help from anyone else.

So I was able to keep the tables and chairs since they are portable but I decided on something new to serve as a shade. I found a cheap beach umbrella and an outdoor umbrella stand at Walmart. I was able to put up my entire vending area in less than an hour.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The next photo shows some items I had created using thrift store t-shirts with my original drawings featuring anthro hedgehogs (such as a hedgehog bassplayer and a steampunk hedgehog couple). With the recent trend in the Washington, DC area towards bringing your own shopping bags from home instead of using store plastic bags, I thought there would be a market for reusable shopping bags made from t-shirts with my hedgehog design. I took some of the bags to the Riverdale ArtsFest the week before where one of my friends was selling her wares there and had planned on also selling at the Greenbelt Green Man Festival and she thought that t-shirts would be a better sell for me than shopping bags. So I decided to add some t-shirts to the shopping bags I already created just to see which of us would be proven right and I displayed them on my clothes drying rack that I brought from home. It turned out that we were both wrong because while both the bags and t-shirts got attention and wide praise from the general public, they didn’t sell at all.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival

I used two portable tables to sell the rest of my arts and crafts (as well as the animal bubbles). I had a giant bag of Tootsie Pops to give away free in order to entice visitors to my booth. (The free candy worked really well.) While I had better luck with the other items I had for sale, my sales total for the entire weekend was a total bust compared to the last time I sold at this festival in 2008.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival

My vending area was located directly outside Generous Joe’s, which is a locally owned pizza and sub shop.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival

I was located in prime viewing area for the Green Man Parade, which wounded its way throughout the festival grounds.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival

I was lucky in that I had some helpful neighboring vendors who were willing to watch my stuff whenever I needed to run to the bathroom. I checked out the rest of the festival briefly during my bathroom runs but I basically stuck to my vendor table the entire time. (I even brought my own lunch and soft drinks so I wouldn’t have to spend time away from my booth at one of the three restaurants located in Roosevelt Center (where the festival took place). I took some photos of other festival sights while I went to and from my restroom breaks.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival
Greenbelt Green Man Festival

As for the weather, I had been worried for a couple of days before the start of the festival because it had been raining off and on. The weather on the first day of the festival was just as variable. Throughout the day it would alternate between rain then sun then rain then sun, and so on. The beach umbrella provided decent cover for my stuff during the times when it rained. Despite the weather I managed to sell a few of my items and I felt encouraged. (The animal bubbles were especially a hit with the kids.) Once the festival ended for the day, I went to a party at a friend’s house for a few hours before I returned home to get some rest untl the next day.

Sunday morning it was a bit harder to find convenient parking so I had to walk a bit further to haul my wares to and from the car. One reason is because an independent non-denominal Christian church conducts Sunday morning services at the Greenbelt P & G Movie Theatre. Another reason is that the organizers of the Greenbelt Farmers Market decided to re-open its market on Mother’s Day itself for the first time since last November. The Farmers Market usually takes up space in the parking lot, as these two photos show below.

Greenbelt Farmers Market Opening Day, May 12, 2013
Greenbelt Farmers Market Opening Day, May 12, 2013

I managed to put up my vending area just in time for the start of the second day of the Greenbelt Green Man Festival. The sky was sunnier and the temperature was a little bit warmer with a light breeze so I decided to take another photo of my vending area for the heck of it.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival

I also took a photo of the sky above my umbrella.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival

Here’s a view of the row of vendors in my general area.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The day started off promisingly. I sold a couple of magnets and animal bubbles within the first hour of the festival. I thought that it was a good omen of things to come. After all, the weather was even better than the day before and I managed to sell some items on that day. I only checked out the rest of the festival when I was going to and from a restroom break. Much of the programming for the second day of the festival was similar to the first day so I only took one photo of a face-painting table during one such break.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival

Despite my initial surge of sales within the first hour of the second day of the festival, I didn’t get any more sales for the next few hours. I began to feel antsy as the time went on. While I was checking out the other vendor tables during my breaks, I found a couple of items that caught my eye. As the hours went on without any sales, I decided an usual tactic. Since the items in question cost me a total of $25, I decided to buy them in the hopes that good karma would turn in my direction and I would get sales of my own. Here are the items. The first one is a tiny art doll made from recycled materials that I purchased from a vendor whose name escapes me. (Either I didn’t pick up a card or the vendor didn’t have any business cards to hand out.) I really loved this art doll because it reminded me of the scene from the first Fantasia movie where a bunch of flowers were dancing to the "Russian Dance" sequence from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite. But what really caught my attention was a quote at the base of the piece which was taken from The Koran: "Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul."

Art Doll I Purchased at the 2013 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

I purchased the second item from BoxBoy because I really liked the saying on this tiny box.

BoxBoy Box Purchased at the 2013 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

Despite my effort to have some good sales karma coming my way and despite the number of people milling about the festival, I didn’t get many more sales. Basically I spent the $60 vendor’s fee and I only made $50 in sales for the entire weekend. I could’ve made more money working the same amount of hours at McDonald’s or Walmart. What was worse was that the wind began to kick up and it started to lift my umbrella right off the base. The first time it landed to the ground so I was able to pick it back up and put it back up. The second time it almost floated to the rooftop of Roosevelt Center. The third time happened while I was on a bathroom break. Everything was fine when I left for the bathroom. When I returned, I found this.

Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The umbrella lifted up and it knocked over one of the tables in the process and many of the items tumbled to the ground. It happened just an hour before the end of the festival so I decided to pack it in.

Given the dismal results of this festival and the checkered history of my involvement with the Greenbelt Green Man Festival, I think 2013 will be the last time I’ll be selling there. The weather can be iffy at times, the crowd it draws tend to be less inclined to spend much money, and the organizers won’t stop scheduling it on the same weekend as Mother’s Day. I now know that my time is better spent visiting my mother.

On last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert interviewed an artist named Brendan O’Connell who has gained attention for his paintings based on Walmart. Yes, Walmart. What’s more, some of his Walmart-inspired paintings are priced as high as $40,000. When I saw the paintings on that show last night, they reminded me of Andy Warhol’s famous series of paintings based on the Cambell’s Soup can.

You can see O’Connell’s art for yourself online.

Brendan O’Connell’s appearance on The Colbert Report

Brendan O’Connell’s website

Last night I learned via Facebook that the wife of my husband’s nephew is pregnant with their first child. The baby is due in June. Knowing them both, I am very confident that they will be good parents. They are both pretty calm and level-headed people so I won’t have any worries about them as they enter a new phase in their lives.

In some ways the news is bittersweet. My husband still refuses to speak to me and it has been that way since he abruptly walked out on me three days after Christmas last year. I’m still having a hard time recovering from this because of the way that it abruptly ended. We were very loving towards each other up until the night he came home from work and announced that he was moving out. If he hadn’t done what he did, we would’ve been rejoicing at the news that we were going to have a grandniece or grandnephew. It’s quite possible that we would’ve celebrated by going to this French restaurant that we always loved going to on special occasions.

I still remember happier times when my husband and I traveled to Connecticut to attend that nephew’s wedding two years ago. We spent the weekend in Mystic and we visited Mystic Seaport where I purchased a copy of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, which led to this blog’s regular feature Benjamin Franklin Friday.

I can’t believe that this nephew is going to be a father. It seemed like yesterday when we learned that my husband’s sister was pregnant with him. I was so thrilled that I was going to be an aunt that I purchased this counted cross-stitch embroidery kit. It included a bunch of teddy bears surrounding a blank oval space where you personalized it with the baby’s name, birthdate, weight, and length. I selected it because it was cute and it was gender-neutral (at the sime my sister-in-law was still pregnant and she didn’t get any advanced notice on what the baby’s sex would be). I did the teddy bears part of the cross-stitch then put it away for a while. Once the baby arrived, I picked up the cross-stitch again and added the information in the center. After that I purchased a frame for the piece then gave it to my sister-in-law and her then-husband as a present.

I don’t remember where I got the cross-stitch kit from but I probably purchased it from one of two stores that no longer exist. One was a locally-owned mom-and-pop store in Lanham, Maryland called Family Crafts (or something like that) and I really loved that store. Sadly it went under due to competition from the big-box retailers like Michaels Arts & Crafts and A.C. Moore, which is a story similar to the many mom-and-pop stores throughout the United States that went under starting around 1985 because it couldn’t keep up with competition from their larger and wealthier rivals.

The other store was part of a chain that no longer exists. It was called Frank’s Nursery and Crafts and it was a hybrid nursery and craft supply store. In the spring and summer you could shop in the nursery section for something to plant outdoors. By the fall the nursery would be temporarily closed until November when it would reopen for the Christmas season. After Christmas it would close again for a few months until the spring. The craft supply store part was indoors so it was opened year-round. It sold a variety of yarns and craft kits for all ages. I loved shopping there. I was very sad when that chain went under because of the competition from the bigger chain stores like Michaels Arts & Crafts and A.C. Moore, which had larger floor space than Frank’s and didn’t bother with selling live plants, trees, and bushes.

It also seemed like yesterday when this nephew was a kid. He was rambunctious growing up but he was basically a good kid. He managed to remain a good kid despite his parents’ rocky marriage and subsequent divorce. The only time that I recall ever seeing him losing his way was when he went away to college where, without going into any details, his freshman year was so disasterous for him that he dropped out of school. He worked for Walmart for a while but he realized that he had no future with an employer notorious for low wages and benefits so crappy that many Walmart employees end up on food stamps. He has a paternal grandfather who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II so he decided to follow in those footsteps and enlist as well and he has done well ever since. He studied nuclear technology and he now serves on nuclear submarines. He met his future wife while he was stationed in Charleston and now he is stationed in the Groton-New London area of Connecticut while he and his wife await their first child.

I am happy for them and I really wish them well in the future.

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