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Kinda looks like a touring version of The Village People, doesn't it?
Kinda looks like a touring version of The Village People, doesn't it?

Growing up in the golden age of action figures

Kids these days. They’ve got it good.

Not only can they watch a million HD channels showing all sorts of kids shows anytime they want, but they also don’t know a world without DVRs, when you couldn’t just blow through boring commercials.

iPad games are free, plentiful and awesome (as proven my 7-year-old's reaction to seeing what Intellivision games looked like via YouTube: "Where are their faces, Daddy?"), and FaceTime means that video chatting with loved ones far away is literally child’s play.

But hey, not everything sucked when we were kids. I know this because my daughter plays with a bunch of the toys my parents saved from my childhood. As the new "Star Wars" opens this weekend, I’m reminded that we grew up in the golden age of action figures. Before video games and technology turned them into something else.

My Millennium Falcon didn’t need any batteries to be the coolest toy I owned (I wish I still had it, too).

It’s the continuing relevance of these toys that makes me think that us ‘70s and ‘80s kids were on to something. Think about it: I never played with my parents’ old toys, whatever they were. Maybe metal guns and Howdy Doody dolls? I simply had no interest.

But for all the "Frozen" dolls, Sofia the First swag, Shopkins and many, many other brands of toys I barely understand, my daughter also includes my old action figures, Hot Wheels and my wife’s Smurfs into her play repertoire. That includes embracing our movies, too: We’ve watched all the "Star Wars," but also "Back To The Future" and "Pee Wee’s Big Adventure" and tons of "Superfriends" and "Scooby Doo."

All this somehow makes me feel not so old.

It also gives me, as a parent, a chance to relive my own childhood and to see toys that have been stored away for more than 35 years come back to action in new, creative ways. I remember how I played with the General Lee Matchbox car and Han Solo from the planet Hoth. It’s cool to see another little person reimagine …

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"Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," he said in a release.
"Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," he said in a release. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

How to save the Republican Party

Let’s get this right out of the way: The GOP will lose the 2016 Presidential election. It’s a done deal, just like in 2004 when Democrats fielded John Kerry as its nominee. The Democratic Party knew that then, and the RNC knows that now. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but there’s another chance in only four years.

This piece isn’t about Hillary Clinton, however. Losing to her is, by far, the least of the Republicans’ problems. If the RNC finds itself in a position supporting the certifiably insane Donald Trump, it may spell the end of the Grand Old Party as we know it.

Here’s the predicament: After Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama in 2012, GOP insiders wisely realized the party needed to reach out to disenfranchised minorities if they hoped to take back the White House in 2016. Minorities count, and they tend to vote for Democrats. Remember, the popular vote is less important than the Electoral College, but in certain swing states, they can make the difference.

And yet, Donald Trump has managed to insult every minority he can think of, and he doesn’t seem to be done yet. Subtract women, Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, Muslims and Jews from the voting electorate, and you can’t win anything. The right-wing, billionaire white male demographic isn’t enough to carry a state, despite what FOX News will tell you.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Trump could actually win a few southern states, maybe, but given how the Electoral College works, a Clinton-Trump contest would be a blowout of historic proportions. Think Reagan-Mondale, but worse.

Unless, of course you're a neo-Nazi blogger like Andrew Anglin, who wrote a post called "Glorious Leader Calls For Complete Ban on All Moslems." On his site, Daily Stormer, he said of Trump, "Finally: someone speaks sense. Make America White Again!"

Don’t think this stuff is making the Republican …

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Ryan Braun helping out in the Brewers annual charity drive.
Ryan Braun helping out in the Brewers annual charity drive. (Photo: Milwaukee Brewers)

Why is Ryan Braun trending on Twitter?

Any time we see "Ryan Braun" trending on Twitter, we need to take a second look, especially when it’s November and he’s coming off back surgery.

Obviously – as Braun would say – it’s because he’s in Milwaukee to take donations for the Hunger Task Force. Right?

Obviously – as Braun would say twice by now – the Brewers are in major rebuilding mode, but no real credible sources have any credible information to share about when, where and why Milwaukee might send him (San Francisco and Cleveland have been mentioned, but not by anyone with inside knowledge). Just because some guy tweets it doesn't make it real.

And it looks like we weren't the only ones wondering what's up:

After all, check these numbers out. This is his salary over the next five seasons:

  • 2016: $19 million
  • 2017: $19 million
  • 2018: $19 million
  • 2019: $18 million
  • 2020: $16 million

That's a lot for a team that has dumped most of its "aging," high-priced talent.

Also, Braun is coming off a surgery that I, myself, had in 2011. He had a microdiscetomy to repair a herniated disc. Doctors told both of us it was a chip shot, but my body is still not the same. Granted, I’m not an elite athlete like Braun, but I certainly didn’t find it to be the minor procedure I expected. I will be personally surprised if Braun ever puts up number like he did before 2011.

Or maybe he's just spreading some Thanksgiving cheer.

So what do you think? Will we…

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The Dandy Warhols in Chicago Thursday night.
The Dandy Warhols in Chicago Thursday night. (Photo: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography)

Dandy's live is worth the drive

CHICAGO – I’ll go pretty far to see one of my favorite bands live, so a Thursday night jaunt to Chicago to see the Dandy Warhols is a no-brainer for me.

Yeah, it would be easier to see them at Turner Hall, like I did last year (and it admittedly would make more sense to review their show locally). So I’ll just say this about their show at Thalia Hall: Even though this glam-jam-trance-vamp band (I just made that up) has been touring and putting out music for some 20 years, they still put me in my concert happy place. They make time stand still.

At this point, most of the Dandy’s live material is cherry picked off their first three amazing records, and that’s just fine. Casual fans last night certainly knew tunes like "We Used To Be Friends" and "Bohemian Like You." But those of us who’ve seen this Portland band a bunch of times were excited to hear a little bit of older stuff, like "Pete International Airport," although they didn’t play some of their mainstays. For the first time in five or so shows, I didn't hear them do "Every Day Should Be A Holiday" or "Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth."

Maybe it was the acoustics to blame. For a historic opera house, the sound was very, very muddy. "The Last High" was hard to hear, and only a few fans even caught the line about Chicago. Similarly, the band seemed a little subdued, though I couldn’t argue with Zia singing the horn part on "Godless" and picking up a bass on "Plan A." They were much better in Milwaukee last year, but they stepped up the energy heading into the last song, "Boys Better."

Never mind, though. I was just happy to be there. At one time, I thought their 2000 masterpiece "Thirteen Tales From New Bohemia" was the Dandy’s absolute gold standard (and it may just be), but now I can appreciate just how good the records before and after are, too. Part of me wants them to make more new music. Part of me wants them to just keep playing these great songs and leave their legacy alone, a…

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