Monday, January 06, 2020

Mick, Dinosaur News Manager


This is me. There will be typos. I'm not going to edit. I don't have the time.

--

This morning I got on the scale and it told me my weight was "E." You step on it and first it say 0.00 and then it does this cycling thing like it's thinking about your weight and then it should give you a number, but my scale says I weigh "E."

My weight is Extraordinary. Exciting.

I weigh Empty.

Other people weigh numbers. I weigh E.

I don't know what E means. It could mean anything or Everything. I weigh Excellent. I weigh Everyone. I weigh Elephant.

Ask Sesame Street. The fuck do I know.

--

I should be writing. I mean, I am writing, but I should be writing something else. I should be writing about Harley Quinn or samurai or Jean-Luc Picard

(okay, I should mention I am going back and correcting things as I write them, just for full disclosure)

but I'm not because I can't stand to.

Here is a complete list of things I am capable of doing right now:

1. Sleeping.

--

My mom's been dead for over a year and at this point I'm supposed to be fine according to the rules but I'm not. I have not been okay and I am not okay and it is still impossible to imagine I will ever be okay again.

I am supposed to be able to do my work. I was, in May 2018, supposed to be able to get up out of bed and go to work and sort through patient files and sign up people for Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it, so since I was already freelance writing part time on the side, I stopped going to work and started freelance writing full time.

Everyone thinks this was brave. Everyone thinks I made a bold move to realize my dreams. I did not.

There is a show called The Office about a stupid, privileged, self-absorbed moron named Michael who runs an office and there is a character on that show, played by Leslie David Baker, named Stanley Hudson. To most people the hero of the office is Jim, the torch-bearing salesman. Or Pam, the secretary scared of her true feelings. Or worse, the idiot boss himself, or his ignorant survivalist douchebag assistant Dwight. Most people will not tell you this, but Stanley is the true hero of The Office because he is the only sane member of the staff. Stanley doesn't take center stage often. He does his crosswords and weathers his stupid, racist supervisor's idiocy with eye rolls and grunts. Because that's the only sane way to both stay in this ridiculous work environment -- to not care, to do the bare minimum, and distract yourself until retirement.

In season 3's "Grief Counseling," Michael's old boss dies and because in his limited mind everything in the universe orbits his dumb face, Michael makes it all about himself. He insists on running a faux grief counseling session even though few people in the office even knew his old boss. He uses a toy and tells his staff anyone holding the toy must speak about a death in their lives that cut deep. He tosses the toy to Stanley, who refuses and tosses the toy back. Michael insists Stanley share and throws the toy back to him. Stanley, now upset enough that his usual facade of apathy crumbles, throws the toy back at his boss as hard as he can and says

I WILL NOT.

This is Stanley's most naked moment in the series. It's brief and it comes without fanfare, but in this exchange you see Stanley has true grief but this baboon throwing a toy at him is not worthy of its sharing. Michael and his coworkers are not his family, are not close, are not even truly friends, and Stanley makes his boundaries clear.

I WILL NOT.

That's all I did. Except no one was asking me to share my grief at work. My coworkers were good people and so was my boss. But I could not be there anymore because I couldn't help but share my grief because it was all I had left. I spent hours sobbing in my cubicle, trying my best to do it quietly and praying no one heard me even though I knew they had to. I did that for months. And I could see the confusion in my coworkers' faces, that my mother had died in October and it had been Halloween and thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and then January and Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day and I still was a wreck? There was no help. It's not their fault, I don't blame them. It was as if death was as far from them as Mars.

The Monday that I didn't go to work didn't come with courage or boldness. It just came with a refusal. I will not be there today. I will not sob there today or any other day. I will not be enveloped in utter despair and need to act as if it's just another day. I will not. I can't.

I wasn't brave. I wasn't bold. I had the courage of a trapped animal gnawing off its own paw.

--

So now I'm writing full time and all I've ever wanted to do is write for a living and holy shit, look what I'm writing about! Comic book movies and Star Wars and samurai. It's a geek writer's dream come true.

But I don't want to do anything. Here is a complete list of things I want to do:

1. Sleep.

2. Stop. Fucking. Crying. for one. fucking. day.

--

God this is all bullshit and so am I.

--

There is a comic book character named Doctor Manhattan. He does not experience time as humans do. He is simultaneously in the past, present, and future. When he narrates a story, he is constantly going either back or forward saying things like, "It is 1968 and I am killing Viet Cong" or "It is 1985 and I am killing someone in the snow." The main character of Kurt Vonneut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim, experiences similar non-linear time jumps.

I feel like I finally understand Doctor Manhattan and Billy Pilgrim, to a certain extent. Often -- sometimes it seems like every few moments -- I am somewhere and somewhen else.

It's July 2018 and I am in my dining room feeling the cold of the air conditioning.

And then it's July 2016 and I am in the hospital with a foot long zipper across my torso, a day after the doctors pulled out my kidney and removed the tumors.

I don't think I'm there. I don't hallucinate. I am not divorced from reality. But in every other way, I am there. I am back in the hospital room and the orderly is cleaning me or my then girlfriend is taking pictures of my scars for her friend. Or it's August 2018 and I've spent 5 hours on my recliner watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because I'm weak and my side still hurts and even though it's the middle of the night my then girlfriend, Amanda, keeps running outside every hour because I live kitty corner from a church which is a "PokeStop" and every time she leaves I worry about what I could possibly do if someone attacks her because it's the middle of the night (and I don't live in a warzone but it isn't fucking Leave it to Beaver out there either) and I can't because I can barely move and everything hurts and it's all I can do to wash the dishes (Amanda will only wash dishes she uses and not all of them) and feed the cats (which Amanda refuses to do before 10 pm) and change the cat litter (which Amanda refuses to do).

I'm not there, I don't think I'm there, but in every other conceivable way, I'm there.

--

Not long ago, my girlfriend Jolene's cat died. I wish I got to know him better. He was already 18 by the time we were going out, and he lost his sight not long after we started dating. In fact, the few times he let me pet him I was pretty sure because he couldn't see me and so didn't know where to hide.

He died on her kitchen floor and I drove over to help. She was heartbroken and of course she was, and I hated myself because I wanted to be there for her, because this is the time you have to be there for people. It was already late so we were going to wrap him in a towel and Jolene would bring him to the vets in the morning.

I picked him up and put him on a towel. Jolene came over and started petting him, saying sweet things to her sweet boy.

And then it was October 2018 and I was standing over my mother's body. Her hospice nurse was cleaning her with a wash cloth, saying sweet, wonderful things to her. And my mother was not my mother. It was her body and there was nothing of her in it. Deflated. Lost. She was not there she was not in her body she was not anywhere that I could see. And as much as I thought this hospice nurse was sweet and kind, and as much as I was grateful that my mother had her and other nurses to help care for her, I couldn't help but think who the fuck this stupid fucking little nurse thought she was talking to because she was talking to meat. She was talking to a silent stranger. My mother was not there on that bed with her mouth hanging open. My mother was gone. That was not my mother. Who are you talking to?

--

The face won't leave me. The face of this thing that wasn't my mother anymore. This face tells me there is nothing. There is no light. No hope. There is no paradise beyond the veil. There is no fucking veil. There are these years and then nothing. Oblivion. Buried under an avalanche of nothing. Vapor. We are blasted into a million pieces and we are gone. We are flies heading for a wall.

--

I cannot handle this. And I cannot handle life.

Here is a complete list of what I want to feel:

1. At the end of Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow, the main character is on a plane that has to land on or near a frozen lake. He has a lion cub with him and he holds the cub in his arms and he dances and jumps, laughing, across the ice. It's a man joyously defiant in the face of the bleak, cold inevitable.

Two or three times in the past week I have tried to describe this scene to different people, and each time I sobbed before I finished a single sentence of my description. I want that. I want that to live in my heart and my soul and my mind, but all I see is death and utter meaninglessness.

--

My mother is gone. One day I will be gone. What's worth doing? What's worth achieving? I don't want to die, but I don't know what's worth doing while I'm here. Who cares what a fly's wings do on its way do on the way to the wall? Would it be any better if I believed in a magical hereafter?

--

Last night my friend Jen asked me what I believed about the afterlife when I was a child. The main thing I remembered? I was sure that after I died, I'd be able to ask God anything and that excited me because it meant I could find out what happened to the dinosaurs.

--

THE AFTERLIFE

GOD: Come on in, that's St. Peter -- he confirms your reservations. And this is Mick. He lets you know what happened to the dinosaurs.

MICK: Aliens -- no, I know, right? I was betting on an asteroid too. Fucking aliens, man.

--

When I sleep everything is warm. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

From My Mother's Basement, With Hate: A letter to the celebrities who trash Marvel



Years ago when I was a child, I saw a daytime talk show where the guests were men who preferred larger women. I was surprised by the emotional reactions of some of the "normal-sized" women in the audience. They had no connection to the men on the stage, yet they responded angrily -- sometimes standing up and yelling at the men, and in some cases bursting into tears -- as if these men had betrayed them.

The women's response bothered me because I didn't understand them. After all, how did it impact them that these specific men preferred larger women?

Because I was a fat child and because I was used to people's responses to me, my interpretation didn't take long to form. I figured that these women were told all their lives they needed to do anything and everything they could to be thin, this show's guests had revealed that in fact some men preferred women who weren't thin, and suddenly all the pressure these women had responded to for decades were revealed as lies. They had spent so much time and energy berating themselves for their imperfections, and the fact that these men preferred something different from the unobtainable physical perfection they chastised themselves for not having was too much for them to bear. It didn't seem like they were actually angry at the men -- they were simply shattered. They'd been presented two opposing truths and didn't know how to cope with it.

It is precisely my memory of this talk show and the reactions of the women on it that I remember when I read of yet another celebrity director or actor bashing Marvel movies.

Growing up a fat child and a fat teenager and a fat young man, there was nothing cool about me and there was nothing cool about the comic books I liked. I have to admit to some feelings of envy and anger knowing the pastimes I followed with such passion in my youth -- for which I received only disgust from peers and adults to the point that walking into a comic book shop felt akin to walking into a porn theater (and, honestly, both businesses may have had a lot of the same patrons) -- seem now so universally embraced and encouraged. When I pulled into a local library parking lot last week and saw it was advertising Dungeons & Dragons sessions for kids on an electronic sign next to a busy road, I did not think, "Finally, we are accepted." My response was more along the lines of "Fuck you and Fuck Stranger Things."

Comic books, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Dungeons & Dragons and so much of what now populates a much more chic "nerd" or "geek" culture were not cool. It was more okay to like Star Wars than Star Trek because, well. Let's be honest, because it didn't take as much work to understand Star Wars.

Even among those who read comics, superhero comics were not cool. The only superhero comics that were cool were darker, grittier comics like Batman: The Killing Joke, Watchmen, The Crow, etc. Reading Transmetropolitan and Preacher and Strangers in Paradise and Sandman was totally cool. If you regularly picked up West Coast Avengers, that wasn't so cool. YOU were the reason the actually "cool" comic book readers buying Grimjack and Hellblazer and Death: The High Cost of Living were lumped in with the rest of the man-boy virgins. Even in a world of rejects, you were the bottom.

And then someone let Peter Jackson make three Lord of the Rings movies. And Hugh Jackman learned how to eviscerate black ops soldiers. And Toby Maguire learned how to wall-crawl. And Christian Bale beat up Heath Ledger in an interrogation room. And Robert Downey Jr. lost his heart. And the world changed.

When I read an article about Jennifer Aniston saying there are too many Marvel movies, or Martin Scorsese saying they're "not cinema," or Simon Pegg complaining that they're dumbing down science fiction (presumably in-between takes for the latest of the Michael-Bay-in-Space Star Trek movies he stars in), or Jodi Foster likening Marvel movies to fracking, or Bill Maher claiming Avengers got Donald Trump elected, my objection to every single one of their stupid opinions is simple - I don't think they're actually stating their opinions.

Simon Pegg is a singular case, I think, because you can likely boil down every criticism Pegg's ever expressed about any Marvel movie to "Marvel shouldn't have fucked over my friend Edgar Wright." It's a fine opinion to have and one I happen to agree with, but it'd be nice if he, you know, was honest about it every once in a while rather than making statements about them dumbing down science fiction... on his way to the set of Mission: Impossible - Fallout.

But the rest of them? Jennifer Aniston and Jodi Foster and Martin Scorsese and James Cameron and Mel Gibson and Bill Maher and all the rest? When I read their criticisms of Marvel, I do not read opinions. I hear those same angry "normal-sized" women who suddenly found themselves in a world where what they were told had no merit suddenly has merit. Where what they were told has no value suddenly has value. Where what they were told was uncool is suddenly so very, very cool.

They are the pieces of shit who dogged me every day. They are the ones who threatened to jump me on the way home from school. The ones who tortured me in every classroom and every hallway. Jodi Foster and Bill Maher and Mel Gibson and Martin Scorsese and Jennifer Aniston and James Cameron are the ones who turned me into an insect for the first 20 or so years of my life and turned the world into nothing but cruel little boys with magnifying glasses on a sunny day. They are the ones who told me shut up about my "faggot shit" when I talked about a Fantastic Four/Incredible Hulk crossover I didn't like.

And they are the ones with wives and families and children -- children they have to take to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and buy all sorts of superhero backpacks and sippy cups and lunch boxes. They're the meatheads who called me a satan worshipper for playing Dungeons & Dragons and now their wives binge-watch Stranger Things and Game of Thrones.

It is, of course, not an insane position to take that Marvel movies do not have the greatest depth of passion. They are more concerned with spectacle than with exploring the human experience. Yet you Scorseses and Peggs and Fosters seem to have a very narrow scope for your targets. You are not saying the same things about the tits-explosions-subtle-racism films of Michael Bay. You do not take aim at torture porn flicks like the Saw franchise or action flicks like Fast & The Furious. You could. You very, very easily could. Yet you don't, and that's what exposes you for the thrashing, elitist, culture bullies you truly are. Because while sure, Avengers: Age of Ultron is no Schindler's List, neither is Hostel or Hobbs & Shaw or Transformers, but you don't mention them. It's as if action movies never existed until Robert Downey, Jr. became Iron Man. As if, before 2008, every single movie was an art house hipster magnet. Commando? Rambo? Bad Boys? Nope. Never existed. Every movie until 2008 was Serpico or Amelie.

You are, like Howard the Duck, in a world you never made, in a world contrary to the one you were promised, and all you can do is cry and yell. You feel betrayed, and all you can do is lash out at the people who are simply smiling and saying, "This thing you hate, this thing you always spit on, this thing you were always told was worth nothing? Actually... we always preferred this."

Martin Scorsese and Jodi Foster and Simon Pegg and James Cameron and Mel Gibson and Bill Maher and Jennifer Aniston.

Go ahead.

CRY.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Skyrim proves Dwarves are better than Elves


I've been playing a lot of Skyrim lately because as a cutting-edge gamer, I just won't play it if it's more than eight years old. Tonight, while strolling through the Dwemer ruin of Mzineceuheffe-or-whatever with my lovely digital wife Jenassa, it occurred to me that Skyrim is yet more proof that dwarves are totally better than elves.

As any Skyrim player could tell you, of the 10 playable races in the game about 563 of them are elves. You can play a cat, a tadpole, a few different kinds of humans, and one of 948 different species of elves. You cannot play a dwarf in Skyrim, however that doesn't stop that swarthy people's presence from being felt in the game. Dwemer, or dwarves, are extinct in Skyrim but the ruins of their vast underground cities can be found all over the ancient land; just waiting for an adventurer to crest a ridge, spot the instantly recognizable towers of a dead Dwemer city, and say, "Oh f--- another f---in' dwemer thing." The steaming, gear-filled dungeons are patrolled by magic robots, still guarding their master's shit after they've been dead for, like, forever basically.

Well great Mick, you scoff. So how does that prove dwarves are better than elves? Well I'll tell you, you scoffing scoffmaster from scofftown.

1--THE DWEMER WERE NOT DWARVES

That's right. Even though the ignorant, goat-farming bigots of Skyrim call the Dwemer "dwarves," they weren't. The Dwemer, as one of Skyrim's many loading screens will tell you, were one of the 3,403 species of elves. They weren't even short. They were just as tall as all the other filthy elves.

Which means Dwarves are so f---ing awesome, the elves of Skyrim couldn't survive without them. They actually had to get together and MAKE UP a dwarf race, even though they weren't really dwarves. Of course, we can't prove that because they're all dead. How convenient.

2--THE DWEMER HAD THE COOLEST SHIT

Dwarf ruins are filled with magic robots so resilient they're still working today, millenia after their creators died in whatever filthy elf way they died.

Also, the full title of Skyrim is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Do you know where you find the Elder Scroll when you play Skyrim? Not in a shopping-mall-sized tomb filled with viking zombies. Not in a ruined castle where a bunch of bandits are hanging out so they can support each other in walking back and forth in predetermined paths. NO. They put the Elder Scroll -- THE NAME OF THE SERIES -- in a Dwemer ruin. Because that's were all the coolest shit is.

3--ALL THE DWEMER ARE DEAD

How does this help to prove dwarves are better than elves? Well, we already established that the Dwemer weren't really dwarves, but just dead elves no one can prove were not dwarves, and so elves retroactively assigned them dwarfness because they knew their game was balls without some kind of dwarves. And what happened? It killed them all. That's right. Elves are such shit, that when they infected an entire race of dwarves with elfness, it just wiped out all the awesome dwarves -- like introducing the cold to a species that was too awesome for illness, so it hadn't built up a defense.

4--YOU CAN'T PLAY ONE IN SKYRIM

You can play f---ing anything in Skyrim. You can play a cat or a lizard. You can fly on the back of a dragon. You can play any and all of its 673,000 elf species. But you can't play a dwarf. Dwarves are too awesome for Skyrim. Kind of like how in old biblical movies, if Jesus showed up they would never show the actor's face because the studios didn't want to suggest than any single actor could portray Jesus. It's just like that. Bethesda knows dwarves are too awesome and don't want to offend dwarf fans by putting them in their game. Dwarves are the Jesus of Skyrim.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Ballad of Assface John


Someone pissed me off today. Let's call him "Assface John."

For most of the last year I have been writing- primarily about comics and comic book movies - for actual honest-to-Hulk money. I love it, I am insanely grateful for the opportunity, and can't wait to do more. 

Today, shortly after posting links to my latest feature article about why certain actors no longer appear in MCU flicks, I received a passive-aggressive and insulting instant message from an acquaintance. Here it is. 



 


Isn't that considerate of him? He likes what I do "to a certain extent." Awww.

And it's SO NICE of him to let me know that interesting things are going on in comics! I only spend about $300 on them per month. So it's refreshing to get a more informed view of things. 

Since Assface John was clearly a big fan of top 10 lists, that's how I chose to respond. 






He did write back and, as I predicted, was so confused about how I could possibly consider his initial message insulting in any way. And then he was blocked. Farewell, Assface John. Don't forget to wipe.



Monday, August 21, 2017

Defenders is kinda crap


Since it was first reported - before even the release of Netflix's Daredevil - that the different Marvel Netflix shows would culminate in Defenders, a pure fanboy piece of me groaned. I'm a fan of the original Defenders comic book series, and that team was nothing like the Bendis-wet-dream this version was. But as time passed and the first two Marvel Netflix shows - Daredevil and Jessica Jones - proved their worth, I could begrudgingly admit something cool might be in store at the end of all this and even the disappointing first season of Iron Fist didn't spoil my hopes.

After watching the first season of Defenders, I am unpleasantly surprised to say my inner fan boy has been vindicated.

Defenders isn't bad. It has great acting talent and some fun, gripping action scenes. But it's a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't work.

What resonates about the best of the Marvel Netflix seasons is that they are far more than super-hero stories, or far less depending on how you look at it.  Strip away all the super crap and there's still powerful stories there. Daredevil is about a man fighting his inner demons. Jessica Jones is the story of a woman surviving horrific trauma. Luke Cage is about redemption and investing in your community. Iron Fist may even be about something worthwhile, but it was too much of a ball of crap to make the effort thinking about.

But Defenders...Defenders is about Defenders. Defenders is about hey-they're-all-together-now! Defenders is Avengers without all the fun. Defenders is just another f---ing super-hero story. It doesn't have the disarming believability or raw emotional power of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Just super people doing super shit in a super way.

And, you know, I can't help but wonder if it isn't because unlike most of the Marvel properties that have been adapted, Defenders just comes from vapor. It has no foundation in the comics. There is no source material. Yes, all four characters exist in the comics, and yes there has - on and off - been a super-hero team called The Defenders. But these four characters have never existed in this way, and the Defenders of the comics were never anything like this.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying if Marvel Studios had given us a TV series that featured the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Sub-Mariner fighting a techno-wizard named Yandroth (the origin of the team), that this would have given us a powerful yet fun super-hero thrill ride.

I'm saying that the best of Marvel's adaptations are rooted in the source material. Sure, there are many differences, but there's always something, some connective tissue between what's in the comics and what's on the screen.

This Defenders had no source material. Sure, there's a comic out NOW with this team, but that only happened because the series was already planned. This team has no soul. No foundation. This team is the outcome of someone asking Brian Michael Bendis "Who would your Fantastic Four be?" And they slapped the Defenders name on it because it wasn't being used anywhere else yet.

I am looking forward to the third season of Daredevil and the second season of Jessica Jones. I am cautiously optimistic about Punisher since Jon Bernthal was one of the best things about Daredevil's second season. But if Defenders or Iron Fist have second seasons, well. That's what owning books is for.




P.S. I cannot stand Netflix's Danny Rand. And I mean it how I say it. I have no issues with Finn Jones. I just find the version of Danny Rand they've chosen for the Netflix shows - the no-sense-of-humor Captain Destiny Danny Rand - annoying as hell. Ironically - despite all my talk of being faithful to source material - this Iron Fist is quite accurate in regards to his earlier stories, whereas the hero I grew to enjoy was the much later and much less ass-clenched version written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction in Immortal Iron Fist.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Shut Up and Take My Money 3/22/2017: Trump and Night Vale

So my girlfriend sent me news about a book yesterday that immediately made me think, "Shut up and take my money." Then, just this morning, I saw a link to a graphic novel which inspired the same response. In the hopes that the future holds more of these moments of blissful anticipation and dreadfully involuntary money drain, I decided to make a tiny little feature of it. I welcome you to today's brief edition of...






First, it just so happens that I am on the last 50 pages of the Welcome to Night Vale novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, so it can't help but feel a little portentous to learn a second Night Vale novel - It Devours! - was recently announced for release this October.
 
 
 
 
And just this morning I was lucky enough to read the announcement that Eisner award-winning Shannon Wheeler has created a graphic novel of illustrated Trump Tweets: Sh*t My President Says
 
I will be pre-ordering both books, like, yesterday.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Band Name Ideas March 15th, 2017

3. Butt Dust


Date: 3/8/2017
Source: From Jen R., who found it on the Captain Grammar Pants Facebook page.


4. Cerebral Scandinavian Comedies

(I cannot even begin to figure out what picture to use for this)

3/9/2017
Source: A disturbingly specific category recommended to my girlfriend by Netflix


5. Bug Army


(This image is from the anthology comic Cinema Purgatorio #8 published Avatar Press; specifically from the strip A More Perfect Union by Max Brooks and Gabriel Andrade)

3/11/17
Source: My girlfriend describing the gathering of Boxelder bugs in her apartment.


6. Disruptive Kisses

3/11/17
Source: My girlfriend describing how my kisses always tend to change the subject (awwww).


6. Evil Ratbird


(This image is from some damn DC comic; probably a Batman one)

3/11/17
Source: My description of what bats look like during a discussion with my girlfriend regarding why people are freaked out by bats.


7. Honking Bobos

3/13/17
Source: A term my girlfriend created to describe sex. Nope. Really.


Band Name Idea list amassed since March 8th, 2017:

DICKHAED
Drugged-Up Government Bear
Butt Dust
Cerebral Scandinavian Comedies
Bug Army
Disruptive Kisses
Evil Ratbird
Honking Bobos