Adventures in Retail: Part One

madcover penthouse coverA customer came to my counter with the latest issues of Mad Magazine and Penthouse.

I rang up the Mad and said “Hey, I spent most of my youth reading this magazine.”

Then I rang up the Penthouse saying “And I spent most of my youth trying to get my hands on this one!”


Batman Celebrates 75 Years with New ‘Batman Beyond’ Short

I’m a DC guy. Marvel, which I also enjoy, gets praise from me for creating some of the best comic-based films, something Warner Bros. — which owns DC Comics — seems to stumble with frequently.

Batman Beyond was an animated series that followed up the classic Batman: The Animated Series. Set in the future, it had a teenager, Terry McGinnis take over the persona of Batman after Bruce Wayne retired. In theory, this should have been the worst idea ever for an animated series. However, the creative talent behind the original animated series struck a home run with this show.

To celebrate Batman’s 75 anniversary, Warner Bros. commissioned Darwyn Cooke, who created The New Frontier, considered one of the great DC stories, to create this animated short.

At the end, see if you can identify all the different versions of Batman that Cooke and his crew display.


I Can’t Wait for Captain America to Return!

So, I usually write about what’s going on in Reno or a movie review  (because maybe you live in Reno and are wondering if a movie is worth checking out). But I try not to show my excitement about a movie. My goal is to review a movie as is, not what I hope it is. But today is an exception.

I am seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier tomorrow night with my youngest son, 14. I enjoyed the first a lot. The first half was one of the better origin stories in Marvel’s cinematic universe. The second half was a more traditional comic-based story.

What I love about Captain America, in comics and in the movies, is that he’s a good guy because he wants to be.  He has abilities superior to the average man and he wants to help. I think, a midst the tortured souls of the Marvel Universe, he does what he does because it’s the right thing to do.

I know almost nothing about the new Captain America movie, other than what has been in the trailers. It looks like Cap putting his all-American ideals against those who have corrupted the spirit of the nation. If so, I’m in. I really look forward to this film. I hope to have my review up by Friday morning.


P.S. I may have had a bit too much red wine while writing this.

Copyright 2014 Tony George

Average American Kid: A Look at Obesity in the U.S.

America’s obesity problem has expanded to include, not just adults, but children as young as two, leading to an increase in cases of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels in children.

The average American kid in the early 1970s had a five percent chance of being obese. Now, however, the average teenager has an 18 percent chance of being obese.

“At its simplest, obesity results from people consuming more calories than their bodies burn,” says Dr. William H. Dietz, Director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition in a documentary called “The Obesity Epidemic.” “But it’s a more complex problem than that.”

Dr. Dietz explains in the documentary that there is more to America’s obesity problem than children eating too much and not exercising enough. He says weight gain involves complicated changes in culture.

Hear nutritionist Karon Felten discuss the rise of secondary weight-related diseases in children


Exercise is a factor and the CDC studied 15,000 high school students to determine how much exercise they participated in during the week. While the study shows that about a third spend three or more hours watching television daily, and about a third used a computer for the same amount of time, more than 82 percent of girls and 62 percent of boys reported exercising at least 60 minutes during the previous seven-day period. Only 18 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys reported doing no exercise during the same period.

Participation in school sports has increased dramatically, especially participation by girls, since the 1970s.

Yet, daily physical education has declined in American schools.

“The percentage of high school students who attended physical education classes daily decreased from 42% in 1991 to 25% in 1995 and remained stable at that level until 2011 (31%),” says a CDC report.

Dr. Terry O’Toole of the CDC says in the documentary “The Obesity Epidemic” that technology has left Americans more sedentary. But other factors contribute to America’s lack of exercise, such as unsafe streets and distances to school requiring car trips instead of walking.

“We spend a lot of time sitting in front of screens for work and for entertainment,” said O’Toole.


Karon Felten, a nutrition professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, has spent many years involved in clinical work involving heart disease and nutrition. While the casual observer may not notice a serious change in the weight of today’s children, she says the secondary diseases, linked to obesity, are on the rise.

The prevalence and degree of obesity has gone up, Felten says. More children are being diagnosed with type II diabetes, hypertension and doctors are seeing “children with fatty livers at a very young age,”

Although Felten, like Dietz, says the issues involved are more complex than just diet and exercise, she believes changes in the average American diet contribute dramatically to the problem.

Fast food and processed food, Felten says, have become more common in the American diet, and the introduction of high fructose corn syrup in drinks has become another problem.

Listen to nutritionist Karon Felten discuss the dangers of high fructose corn syrup

“We are surrounded by food. We’re constantly bombarded by it,” says Dr. Latetia V. Moore in the documentary “The Obesity Epidemic.” “We’re consuming larger portion sizes and more calories than ever before.”

The same CDC study that monitored activity also monitored food intake. About 10 percent of students reported drinking three or more sodas per day. One 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola contains 65 grams of sugar, mainly in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

“Beverages … are probably the main culprits for kids,” Felten says in reference to obesity.
CDC The New (Ab)normal

As portion sizes have increased, so have profits. A press release by RNCOS, an industry research firm, says that “the US fast food industry has been witnessing impressive growth for the past few years despite the growing concerns such as rising health consciousness and increasing incidences of obesity in the US population.”

The press release predicts continued growth in the U.S. fast food market.


Society, Felten says, has to model the behavior that it wants children to imitate. But she believes it starts with parents who are responsible for what types of food enters a household.

“As parents, we have to be the leader in it,” Felten says.

But this may be a bigger challenge because, according to one poll, most parents do not recognize if their children are overweight. The poll showed very few parents assessed their own children as overweight, even though national statistics report otherwise.

Many parents in the poll reported that it was difficult to feed children a healthy diet due to hectic schedules and the volume of advertising for food and beverages. Poor school choices were another problem.

Parents polled found it difficult to find time to exercise with their children and reported the lack of walk able sidewalks as a deterrent.

The average American kid must endure a barrage of fast food and beverage advertising, negotiate dangerous streets and deal with well-meaning, but somewhat delusional parents.

But there is hope.

After 30 years of bad news, a New York Times article in December 2012 reported that a small, but positive, downward trend in child obesity may indicate a reversing course in the health problem.

The article, however, cautions that most of the progress was in higher income families. Low-income family had much smaller improvement.

The issue of child obesity is complex and there is no simple solution. The old-fashioned advice to “eat less and exercise” may appear like common sense, but it is only part of the equation. Today’s average American kid is surrounded by labor-saving devices and easy access to high-calories foods. Advertising makes eating out as a normal and desirable way to dine.

Dr. Dietz believes it bigger changes need to be made.

“We also have to change those choices in our schools, in our child-care

settings, in our work sites, and in our communities.”

2013 Paul George

Useful Information

athletics participation


According to CDC figures, some high school kids have tried 24-hour fasts, diet pills and purging to avoid gaining weight.

According to CDC figures, some high school kids have tried 24-hour fasts, diet pills and purging to avoid gaining weight.

My Date with The Derby Demons – Part Two: Battle Born Again

Part One: Reno’s Derby Little Secret


Putting It All Together

bbdd_jambayouIt is Saturday morning and players, family and friends work putting together the metal fence needed to gate in the otherwise open concrete park. Gnarly Nailer works by the south side of the park, bolting fence pieces together and draping it with sponsor advertising.

“We,” she says referring to the Battle Born Derby Demons, “have to put all of this together, skate for 90 minutes and then take it all down again.” No hint of irritation or resentment exists in her statement. Rather, she expresses excitement about the coming game.

I return to the park at 4 p.m. and receive my instructions from Whiskey Ginger. My job as an outside board penalty tracker is to write down any fouls the outside referees call and relay the penalty and the degree of violation to the record keepers in the middle of the track. I am also told that I am to remain neutral at all times, not cheering for the Derby Demons or expressing disapproval of any call.

Dark clouds roll over the park 30 minutes before game time. The players express concern. Like baseball, roller derby can get rained out. Meanwhile spectators begin arriving, paying $10 each to see the game.

With a clap of thunder, drops of rain start falling. Even if it stops, the track has to be dry to play the game. Mama Whiskey, mother of Whiskey Ginger, says that last year the same thing happened and the Cal-Neva, a casino next to city hall, loaned the team squeegees to clear the track.

Local band The Shames played for the crowd before the beginning of the game.

Local band The Shames played for the crowd before the beginning of the game.

Fifteen minutes before game time the falling rain increases, baptizing the track in water. Protected by a covered stage, The Shames, a local band, play a selection of audience-friendly rock music. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has a booth at the event, promoting breast cancer awareness. On the other side of the track, GourMelt’s food truck appears, selling grilled-cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries.

And then, as if by an act of Providence, the rain stops, the clouds part and the track dries. The game starts on time. Michelle Calhoun, the Derby Demons’ announcer, welcomes spectators and describes the rules of flat track roller derby.

The Gourmelt food truck arrived, selling a variety of snacks including grilled-cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries.

The Gourmelt food truck arrived, selling a variety of snacks including grilled-cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries.

The game, according to the official Women’s Flat Track Derby Association rulebook, allows four blockers and one jammer from each team on the track during play. The blockers of both sides form “the pack.” Behind the pack, each team’s jammer tries to work her way through the pack. Once she breaks through, she must skate around the track and try to break through the pack again. She scores a point for every blocker she passes. Once the jammer scores, she can end the jam. The players return to the starting line and start another jam.

Roller derby is a contact sport, but the belief that it is a brawl without rules is a myth. The WFTDA has rules – no elbows for example – and the referee will penalize players for misconduct.

Derby Demon Anita Jambayou prepares for the day's game.

Derby Demon Anita Jambayou prepares for the day’s game.

Calhoun announces the end of the first half of the game. The Wild West Outlaws are ahead of the Derby Demons. The Derby Demon’s coach gathers the team, telling them to keep focused on the game and not on the score. The team returns to the track for the second half of the game.

The game ends. The Outlaws defeat the Derby Demons 87 – 152. With the game over, the crowd leaves and the Derby Demons shed their gear and turn to the task of breaking down the fences and cleaning the park.

“This Makes Me Feel Like I’m A Rock Star”

Although the season is over, derby is still on the mind of the players. Schmidt and Maulher still have the sport on their minds. Practice continues weekly until they return to competition in May and fresh meat arrives weekly to try out for the team.

With the season behind her, Schmidt takes some time to reflect on what being a Derby Demon means to her.

Anita Jambayou and Eat Schmidt prepare for their bout against the Wild West Outlaws.

Anita Jambayou and Eat Schmidt prepare for their bout against the Wild West Outlaws.

“If you take away the fishnets and the glamorized version of it that people perceive and start to look at it like we all do, it’s a sisterhood of women that are like-minded. I typically don’t get along with the average woman. This is a sport that brings together women that are like-minded, independent, strong willed and willing to take the risk of stepping out of their comfort zone.”

Schmidt adds that she spends more time with the derby girls than she does with her friends and family.

“It’s a very positive co-dependence,” Maulher says with a laugh.

Both skaters say that derby has increased their self-confidence and given them a positive outlook on life.

Since she spent most of her time on the bench in high school sports, Schmidt finds roller derby to be special. This is the only sport she’s done that she feels like she actually benefits the team.

“I fell in love with it,” Schmidt says. “And it’s unlike anything I’ve every felt before because it is such a close-knit family that fill a void I never knew I had.”

Schmidt, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, is not a petite girl. She has spent her life being self-critical because of her size and height. But being a part of the Derby Demons has given her a new outlook and added meaning to her life.

“This makes me feel like I’m a rock star; that I am beautiful; that my body is beautiful. I’ve always been so hard on myself. But now, I can look in the mirror and be proud of myself.”

My Date with The Derby Demons – Part One: Reno’s Derby Little Secret

“This makes me feel like I’m a rock star,” says blocker Eat Schmidt.

Veronica Schmidt, 31, 6-foot-2, full-figured woman, works as a baker for Whole Foods Market in Reno, Nev. During her workday, she prepares breads and bakes Star Wars-themed cakes for children’s birthdays while wearing a white baker’s apron. On this Sunday, however, she sheds her mild-mannered secret identity, arriving at the downtown Reno concrete park dressed in a camouflage sports tank, black shorts and fishnets.

Her hair, dyed bright red, sits atop a face covered in black, white and blood red. Her eyes are covered in gunmetal black makeup with streaks of black running down her cheeks.  Her lips, colored bright red, emote a devilish grin over her pale white face. She puts on her helmet, with the name fans of roller derby know her by written on the side: Eat Schmidt.

As she laces up her black roller skates with red wheels, she talks about how she became a part of the Battle Born Derby Demons, Reno’s only flat track roller derby team.

While working at her baking job at the market, two other employees cornered her in the back of the store.

“You have to join our derby team,” they told her with the zeal of religious converts seeking to proselytize a new member into their church. Schmidt had played, in her words, the “big girl sports” in high school like volleyball and basketball, spending most of her time on the bench.  Worse, she had no idea how to roller-skate.

She began attending training sessions as “fresh meat,” a term applied by the team to new members, learning to skate and play the game.

Today, 18 months later, she is a blocker for the Derby Demons. Her job is twofold – prevent the other team’s jammers from getting through and create space so the Derby Demon’s jammer can break through the pack and score.  Her shoes laced and helmet secured, she rolls out to the derby arena for the team’s final game of the season.

A Close-Knit Family

“Okay beauties, gear up!” hollers Mary Maulher (real name Jessica Ebbe) to the team as the sun sets in Reno, back-dropping the buildings with a blue curtain. The twilight sky grows darker as the park’s lights turn on, providing just enough light to see the track. Maulher, like a sergeant in boot camp, orders two players to move laterally from the inside line to the outside line of the track, drawn out in white tape and chalk.

“Inside line! Outside line! Now sprint!” she orders. The two skaters waste no time following her commands, skating around the track.

Once a woman becomes a derby girl, she sheds her identity as a teacher, social worker, housewife, psychologist, or nurse. She adopts a derby name, one that reflects her personality in the rink. During practice or games, the Derby Demons never use the names given to them for their ordinary lives. Desiree Williams, Amanda Buell and Kirsten Malen are no more. They become Gnarly Nailer, Spacey Lords and Anita Jambayou.

The Reno streets are saturated with the sounds of motorcycle engines. This week is Street Vibrations, an event drawing bikers from all over the country. As the dusk darkens, the sound of bikers riding Harley Davidsons and visitors congregating down Virginia Street, the city’s main street, which has been closed off to car traffic for the event.

Tonight’s practice is the last of the season. Sunday the Derby Demons will play against the Wild West Outlaws, a confederacy of players from the Southwest United States.

On the other side of the track, team members practice the whip, a move in which a blocker grabs the jammer and throws her in front of the pack. As they practice, the move fails about half of the time and the jammer gets thrown too hard, slamming into the unforgiving concrete. But after each failure, the jammer arises, dusts off her clothes and tries again. The move is practiced in static formation. But in a few days, it will be applied while the players dynamically skate with speed and aggression around a crowded track.

“Around the world guys!” yells Maulher as she skates the track with the two pivot blockers of the team.  The pivot travels around during the jam, providing an overview to the players of what is going on during a jam using signals both verbal and by hand gesture to direct the team.

“These people out here,” Maulher says as she stops at the edge of the track, pointing to the women skating, “are not people I would normally spend time with. We all come from different backgrounds.” Having just skated around the track many laps, her voice labored from the workout, she talks about her time with the team. These people now are her closest friends and she says she would do anything for them. Her voice at the end of that statement sounds more choked-up by emotion than by the stress of exercise.

A Growing Sport

Roller derby has developed into a worldwide sport, with leagues in Europe, Australia and Asia. According to the 2012 documentary Derby Baby, more than 16,000 women in the United States participate in roller derby. Junior leagues have started surfacing in cities, allowing young girls to play the sport. A February 2012 Yahoo article reported that roller derby is being considered as an event in the 2020 Olympic Games.

Everyone, from the fresh meat to Sweet Ruin participate in all levels of the club. No one is given a free pass to simply skate. All members promote the sport. The club survives financially by sponsorships, donations, paying spectators and the Derby Demons, who donate much of their free time running the organization. Others volunteer to be referees and non-skating officials (NSO).

“Skating’s easy. It’s the fun part,” Maulher says.

As the practice session winds down, skaters move to the side of the park, sit down and begin removing their skates. Gnarly Nailer, one of the team’s pivots, approaches me and invites me to Noble Pie, a pizza restaurant a few blocks away to celebrate the end of the season.

Nailer skates to three other players, hands them postcard-sized flyers for Saturday’s bout and orders them to hand them out to people on the street to “earn their pizza and beer.” As the ladies skate off into the crowd of bikers on the streets of downtown Reno, catcalls and whistles echo back to the park.

Walking west on Second Street to the pizza parlor, we pass large crowds on the street, some dressed in leather from head to toe and others in jeans and t-shirts.

Approaching the parlor, techno music from a nearby nightclub fills the air with beats and the odor of beer and wine saturate the street.

The players and their families and friends pack the narrow-spaced pizza parlor. Some children sit at the front of the restaurant, watching a large-screen television, while skaters Spacey Lords and Anita Jambayou sit on the floor talking about guys.

Two men, one the brother of a player and the other, the husband of one, talk about what to order at the counter. They decide that they must try “The White Boy,” a pizza featuring a white garlic sauce, rotisserie chicken, fresh basil, red onion, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. For the next 30 minutes, the two men can be heard blurting “Hey, where’s my ‘White Boy?’” while drinking beer and laughing.

Everyone talks at the same time, tossing bits of information around about their kids, work, music, movies, skating, sports and jokes. It is like Facebook turned up to 11, audible real-time statuses posted by shouting. The cacophony is sometimes overwhelming, but the tone is consistent: jubilant!

Whiskey Ginger, an NSO who coordinates much of the logistics of getting everything and everyone in the right place at the right time for the games approaches me with a glass of beer in her hand and a smile on her face.

“How would you like to be an NSO and officiate Saturday’s game?” she asks.

I wash down my mouth full of White Boy with my beer and respond “sure.”

Note: Sweet Ruin and Whiskey Ginger are stage names.

Go to Part Two!

The Echo: A Collection of Published Articles from 2009

These articles, in PDF format, represent my work as a freshman at Truckee Meadows Community College. They were published in the school’s student paper, The Echo throughout 2009.

The Echo is a student-run newspaper at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada.

I have lost a few of the articles I wrote and some of the dates are missing.

Many of these articles are single-source news articles and film reviews. I have provided additional comments under the link when I feel it is required. For example, there are editing errors that are not in my original submissions. Also, I did not write the headlines unless I state otherwise in my comments.

Published News Articles

NSF awards grant to TMCC (September 15, 2009)

My first published news article.

 Business competition offers money (September 29, 2009)

Front page! Above the crease!

Graffiti plagues Vista building (September 29, 2009)

TMCC to go to the dogs (October 6, 2009)

 Alumnus to talk about filmmaking (October 13, 2009)

Author of ‘My Hope for Peace’ to visit TMCC (October 13, 2009)

This is really a book review, but it served as an advance for an upcoming speech at TMCC in 2009.

Fitness walk set Nov. 7 (October 20, 2009)

‘Dogtober’ has fair turnout (October 27, 2009)

This article represents my first try at covering an advance and then the follow-up. It was also the first time I took pictures for an article. The pictures are not shown here, but I will post them soon.

Pet owners can learn CPR (date unknown)

This was an article I pocketed because I knew I would run short on stories the week after Dogtoberfest.

 Sadat: Education creates democracy (November 10, 2009)

Cities promote green living (November 17, 2009)

Editing note: The first word of this article should be “Government.” My original submission was correct. This is a printing error.

This was my final for the class, which focused on finding multiple sources.

Published Reviews

 Pandora’s Box, worth opening ( review, April 21, 2009)

This review of the free music website is clunky, but was a good exercise. I seem to spend more time promoting my musical tastes instead of explaining how the service works.

‘Frost/Nixon’ teaches but fails to inspire (March 3, 2009)

My last paragraph is cut off due to an error in the editing process after I submitted the article. I did not fall asleep at my computer. A bit too long for a film review, but I stand by my opinion.

‘Inglourious Basterds’ not history but OK entertainment (September 2009)

Hell is a teenage girl (“Jennifer’s Body” review, September 29, 2009)

Zombieland, so funny it’s horrific (October 6, 2009)

 It’s joyless (“Where the Wild Things Are” review, October 20, 2009)

My negative review of this film was published next to a review that loved the film. It was an interesting contrast, but I stand by my review. I watched the film again about a year ago, thinking I was perhaps a bit harsh toward Spike Jonze’s approach. It turns out I was being nice the first time!

 ‘Vampire’s Assistant’ Ok for 13 year olds (“Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” review, October 27, 2009)

This is one of those films no one remembers and for good reason.

‘2012’ is cinematic junk food (date unknown, but most likely November 17, 2009)

I have always wanted to be a movie critic. As a child I would watch Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert talk about movies and thought they had the greatest job in the world. Critics get to watch movies and then get paid to write about them.

I would still love to do this.

However, like many people, I always thought that many negative reviews were being a bit smug or elitist. After all, can’t a film just be fun to watch? After “2012,” I began to understand that, yes; critics enjoy making clever quips about bad movies. However, this is because the film was worthy of such derision.

 ‘Badass’ = Great history (date unknown, late 2009)

"Badass" by Ben ThompsonThis is a book review of Ben Thompson’s book “Badass.”