Tuesday, July 26, 2005

To Evolutionize Your Ideas
An unpopular word for an unpopular concept...

I saw a banner ad on a website a short while ago about saving the Roe v. Wade decision.

Now, it's not that I'm against a woman's right to choose. What I find ridiculous is that we even have to have this debate.

But, then again, I'm dealing with a society that has only recently begun to have a problem with violence, but is still petrified of sex while surrounded by a sea of pornography.

Anyone else see some of these inherent contradictions we got going here?

I should start with a declaration or two, so that you see where I'm going from.

1) I believe in God, and I believe in the teachings of Christ; however, if you were to talk to me long enough about them, you'd realize that the Inquistion would've burned me at the stake for what I believe. I came to my understanding and my beliefs in my own way...which, conincidentally, I believe is part of our development as human beings. Sadly, instead of aspiring to be spiritual beings (in a real sense, not some bullsh!t New Age enlightment sense) which requires little things like faith, we have instead chosen to become more and more carnal and animalistic. It's all about satisfying desires. Furthermore, I happen to love animals, but I find it disturbing that so many people have begun to make animals more important than humans. Finally, in a attempting be a human being, I think most people, including the religious right and animal activists due to their cause-ism, miss the bigger picture of respecting and honoring the world (ie. flora, fauna, mountain, stream, etc.). But that's just me.

2) I believe in birth control, planned parenting, and global population control. I don't think that 'be fruitful and multiply' meant fill up the planet with people and hoard all it's resources for your selfish consumption. I also don't think it meant meant use all those teeming often ignorant masses to line your coffers (Hello Catholic Church!). Again, it's all bigger picture stuff. For one, not everyone needs or is capable of raising children. Sorry. Two, there's only so much room and so many resources on Earth. My last point is by example (which is just that, I'm not picking on anyone). There are nearly 80 million people in the Phillipines, which are an archipelago of islands. They recently conducted a survey and found that only 30% of the population knew where babies come from. Now that to me is unimaginable, but I'll continue. At what point do land and resources run out, and how does one complete their plans economic reform to improve the country with a constant growing tax on the system? More importantly, what about little things like the tsunami earlier this year? The U.S. has been sued for not getting a warning out fast enough...but let me ask you: say we had to warn the Phillipines, where are you going to put 80 million people assuming you can get them off the islands fast enough?

Everyone with me so far? In summation, my belief in God does not for me contradict my belief in birth control.

It's time to evolutionize ideas.

There's that word again: Evolution.

It's very simple: I don't want a child in this world that his or her parents didn't want.

We've already got more than enough unwanted ones, and scads more that people did actually want. While I don't like to compare and contrast what's more or less evil than something else, I will say that I think stopping something in that cell division phase is far less evil that ruining a person's life by never wanting them, caring for them, or loving them. But hey, that's all on your conscience, which is something that won't bother most people either way.

Part of the evolutionary process that I'm after is the return to the idea or ideal of taking responsibility for oneself. My first little ideal stop is for everyone to take a moment to stop blaming everyone else for what's happened to them in their lives, and taking the time to reflect on what they did to f*ck themselves up. How's that for an idea. After doing that once or twice, you may either off yourself, or figure out how to fix it. Sure, you're a product of your environment, but how many people have recognized the cycles of destruction in themselves, their families, and their communities and risen above it? Too many for me to believe anymore bullsh!t "It's not my fault...it's (blank's) fault." (Some people do need real external help, don't get me wrong...but too many need to figure out how to help themselves.)

Now, keeping in mind that everyone is very likely to have sex at some point in their life (this abstinence as the only birth control junk only sounds like bigger b.s. when one knows that all those conservatives likely had sex or at least fooled around in their own teenage years), and if you take responsibility for what you're doing (and there are many ways) then you won't have to worry about so large a decision as whether to proceed with your right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade.

After said self-responsibility ideal is conceivably achieved, we then move on to everyone taking a healthy dose of realism.

But first things first.

That's all the bile I can muster for the time being.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Nonesuch...and Nonesuch...

If there's anything you don't want to talk about, it's having nothing to talk about. I'm sure somewhere in here, I've also discussed writer's block. Well, that isn't my problem exactly. As a matter of fact, I wrote the first treatment for a new script idea today which pretty well confirms that I don't have writer's block. Being 'burnt out' isn't much of a topic either, and while the more likely culprit (at least for today) I don't have much to say on it either. The final, and what I think is representative of my true problem is simply not having a topic.

Well, that's seldom stopped me before. After all, here I am.

Isn't it curious that I watch more movie trailers than I actually see movies. I do. I watch them on a regular basis on-line either from Quicktime trailers or Movie-List.com. Between the two, one can gain a fairly good idea of what will be playing at the cinema. The sad fact is that not much of it catches my eye. Now some of you might attribute that to most of those trailers being for Hollywood films. That's not true. Take a look for yourself. While it's true that they aren't fully representative of the offerings of world cinema, they do give a fair amount of offerings for both world and independent films.

For instance, I've watched the various trailers emerge for the Fantastic Four. I mention is primarily because I've written a number of topics on comic books. Each trailer I saw made me less and less interested. I couldn't have said for certain why at the time, but now having discussed it with people who did see it I know that I was right for not wanting to. As I've been told, the story is weak, the characters unevenly established, and that even for a summer blockbuster, the effects are sub-par in spots. What's more, my new favorite phrase to come from a review came from one of the Four, "Hack du jour." That about sums up a great many of my feelings.

Now it isn't as though I've ever really talked about current films playing at the theater in this column of sorts. However, there's a reason for that. That reason is that I don't go to see many of them. Doesn't that seem strange when well over half of the articles I post on here are movie related? Seriously. I recall going to see the Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou at Christmas time. Then I didn't see another movie until Sin City earlier in the Spring. Following that was the third Star Wars prequel, and most recently Batman Begins. While I enjoyed each and everyone of those, it's a pretty scant representation for six or seventh months of movie offerings. I have however, seen the trailer for just about all of them.

Similarly, I have the same problem with music lately. Now with music, there's been a nearly constant influx of new material. I buy stuff. People send me stuff. I hear new stuff all the time. In that sea of notes and beats, only a handful of it stands out. Now, on one hand, I at first thought that that was only because I was hearing so much, and sometimes only once. Then I realized that for the most part it was simply that it was mediocre. Little of the music was bad, but none of it was really great in and of itself. I've even gone back and spun some of this stuff a second and third time only to find that I was right to dismiss much of it in the first place.

Only for the sake of across the board consistency do I mention that I haven't been interested in reading much lately, but that I actually know has a lot to do with my mood, my taste at the moment, and the availability of the reading material I seek. However, I have noted that there hasn't been much new that I've wanted to read. I can't recall the last time I read a 'bestseller.'

What caused me to give this a mulling over was a conversation I had yesterday. The discussion was over the fact that in music there aren't really any superstars anymore. Even people like Britney Spears and so on are still flavors of the month only stretched out over a longer time. On a pop scale, few of them even register in comparison to Michael Jackson or Madonna. Don't even bother mentioning album sales numbers to me, I'm not convinced by the numbers. It's the psyche I'm after.

For example and by comparison in the movie world, Shrek 2 is in the top ten highest grossing films of all time. It's number three in fact, just after the original Star Wars. Quick question for you: In twenty years, which one do you think more people will still be watching? I'm gonna have to go with Luke, Han, and Leia. If anything, most of the people I know who saw the second Shrek were by and large let down by it. When I told them how it was doing at the box office, they were very genuinely surprised. Not all of these people were movie people either, many of them were joe average movie-goer. To me, the success of that film is more attributable to: a) the success of the first film giving it a highly anticipated appeal, and b) the fact that people of all ages could attend the movie. I don't think it made it to number three based on it's ability to stay in the hearts and eyes of true hardboiled fans the world over.

Just to be cantankerous, I feel the same way in many cases about bestsellers as faux numbers. People read them for two reasons generally: a) something fun and escapist to read, b) because they saw or heard about from someone else who gave it a mediocre or at least somewhat praising review, and c) they saw it was a bestseller. That by no means equates to it being great literature or even great story telling. Used bookstores are choked with past years 'bestsellers'. Sure they sold a lot of copies...and a lot of those were immediately resold. Similarly, I don't even recognize the names of any of the 'best-selling' authors any more...and hey, I still go to the grocery store on a regular basis. A few years ago it was Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy, and John Grisham. Sure there were more, but I could almost guarantee that each one of them would have an offering on that drug store shelf. I don't know who these new people are and haven't heard mention made of any of them.

So just like with my problem with the Hack du jour at the movies, it seems like there are no superstars at all in any entertainment medium. Now part of that is the absolute flood in nearly every form of entertainment. While I agree that the opening of them means to film/record/publish work to the general public may have allowed many otherwise silenced voices to speak...I think it also opened the floodgates for a whole lot crap. Some have argued with me that the cream will still rise to the top. I, on the other hand, argue that the gold is getting buried under the garbage. It's like panning for gold in a stream behind a nuclear power plant.

The end result, at least for today is that I don't have anything to talk about. I generally thrive on this stuff for topics. While this is an almost entirely negative past, I don't thrive on this kind of stuff. I just want something to be excited to talk about. Though it may seem it, I don't think I've become entirely too cynical about pop culture to enjoy it anymore. After all, I was talking to someone today about how much I enjoyed Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. If I can still think a comedy whose base is second rate Cheech and Chong jokes was fun and remarkably intelligent, doesn't that show that I'm still willing to let the good light back in?

We'll see.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

No Mistaking the Original Mysteryman
A tribute to a true independent

In the late 70's, artist-writer Dave Sim began an interesting experiment in the realm of comics that I didn't come here to talk about. However, I can't get to what I am going to talk about without going through Sim. It's a personal story arc of sorts. In any event, that experiment was to produce a limited series of a mere 300 issues. It's name was Cerebus. I say 'was' because Sim recently reached issue 300, and now a few people (namely myself) do wonder what's next. Like I said, I'm not here to talk about Cerebus the Aardvark, though I've got the entire collected series sitting on my bookshelf. It was what I discovered in Sim's pages that spurred me to write this.

I've never exactly been one of those guys who had to always be onto the next and coolest thing. For instance, I own something like 1,500 CD's, and I'd still listen to nearly everyone. Sure, along the way, some of it's become dated, but I never said "That's so yesterday...you should be listening to (Insert Obscure Flavor-of-the-Month Here)." Still, I've often sought out quality and fun in the arena of pop culture arcana. So even as a mere fifth-grader scoping out the local comic book store, I wanted to find something beyond the Spider-Man and X-men titles. That's how I found Cerebus...and eventually the subject I came to discuss.

I don't recall where I saw Cerebus first, but I assume that it was in the advertising of some Marvel title I was reading. Most likely, he appeared in the advertisement for some comic book festival. Back in the early 80's, Cerebus was an underground comic fan favorite, long before Dave made some interesting choices that alienated a healthy portion of his readership (not me...I stuck in to the end). So Cerebus' image was occasionally used to grace the announcement of such events. If you've ever seen him, you may understand why I sought him out.

I picked up a few issues here and there, and I will confess that my elementary school brain couldn't initially make heads or tails of it, though I attribute much of that to the true serial nature of Cerebus. The issues I had were rarely consecutive, and hence: made little sense to me. The art was beautiful, and I knew there was something great about it, so I stuck to it...randomly. Cerebus being a Canadian small-press product, he was much easier to find in Michigan than when I lived in Florida or Texas. So I recall ordering some issues, and in my Mile High Comics catalogue I saw three words that I couldn't shake: "(Flaming Carrot Appearance)."

Can you guess what today's subject really is, if it isn't Cerebus?

If you are familiar with the Flaming Carrot, then you wonder: if I was having trouble following the both literary and straightforward Aardvark, what would I make of the surreal stylings of Bob Burden's surreal creation? Well, I'll tell you: it was unfathomably cool, and then it was just plain unfathomable. Luckily, as I got older, Cerebus became clear, and I realized that the Carrot didn't have to.

The issue of Cerebus I had picked up was somewhere in the early 50's, during the High Society story line. I cracked open the book. Read the Cerebus story that I couldn't follow (High Society is a wicked satire on politics and such), and then turned to the separate (ie. not part of the Cerbus storyline) Flaming Carrot story that I couldn't follow. Perhaps, like the guy who studies something that he doesn't get until he does, I wanted more. I cracked open that Mile High Catalogue, did a scan, and found there was more Flaming Carrot material which was in his own book. There was only one problem.

I was in the mid-80's, and the indy comic phenomenon (ie. non-Marvel/DC publishers like Dark Horse, Image, etc.) hadn't really taken off yet. Independent comics have always been around, but they were often regional. Take The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When that title broke people were combing the world for those hard to find small press issues of which only a limited few existed. O'Barr's original run of The Crow is another fine example of that kind of comic. Fiercely popular, but few in number. Well, the Flaming Carrot never achieved that kind of fame, but it had those print numbers. Now that issue of Cerebus was years old when I picked it up, and so were those early Carrot issues. What I'm trying to say is that because of their age and scarcity, they cost a lot more than my soon-to-be-middle schoolin' @$$ could afford.

I didn't see the Carrot again until I picked up yet another random issue of Cerebus. This one I couldn't pass up. They were together on the cover, standing side-by-side. Emblazoned in big letters next to them it read: "This Flame. This Carrot." It was near the conclusion of Cerebus' Church and State Saga. I could explain to you what happened in the issue, but it would make about as much sense to you now as it did to me then. Needless to say, I was in the need of that indy explosion I mentioned before to fill my Carrot needs. There was one problem: just as that began to hit, I got fed up with comics and stopped reading them. (The reason behind that is an issue unto itself, so lets just move on.)

Lemme explain about the Carrot. I assume he looks like an ordinary guy of average atheletic build. I say assume, because we've never seen what he looks like. He wears a carrot mask that stretches a foot or so above his head down to his knees. Instead of the green at the top, he's got...well, flames. He wears a white button down shirt, slacks, and swimming flippers. He can travel on a hyper-powered pogo stick, isn't afraid to gun down his enemies if necessary, and makes great use of a giant sock in combat. Mentally...well, wouldn't you expect a man wearing a five foot long carrot mask to be a touch unstable? Is it getting through why I love this guy? I'm not sure that I can communicate it exactly.

There's one panel, that of all the comics I have ever read, I will likely never forget. A wounded man is laying on his side. The Carrot is trying to prop him up. In his hand, the Carrot holds a box of breakfast cereal. The Carrot is saying to the man, "You're hurt pretty bad, mister...Have some Wheaties!" I can't look at it without laughing...Hell, I can't think about it and not chuckle.

Durning my comics hiatus, Dark Horse picked up the title, and made the Flaming Carrot a little easier to come by. For those of you who don't know, the Flaming Carrot was also the birthing grounds for the Mysterymen, which eventually became a feature film. While I do find the movie entertaining, it's a far cry from properly translating Bob Burden's whimisical and hilarious sense of humor to the silver screen. I think the first and most noticeable deletion was the absence of the Carrot: the Original Man of Mystery. The more I think about it though, I must admit I'm glad that they didn't include him. I would hate to see him ruined.

I must also make mention of the fact that one of the primary draws to the Carrot is Burden's wonderful artwork. I've never seen anything like it in any other comic I've read. Realistic and surrealistic, but without ever getting overly cartoony. I would like to see a roomful of artists translate a character named Sponge Boy and not make him cartoony. Burden did it. The drawings also demonstrate that perfect message-relaying image shorthand that many of the comic artist's best can relate. If you have the chance, and can find a copy, you should also check out Burden's sketchbook that shows even more of his brilliant work. He uses an almost globby curved line to great effect, and an almost swirling quality of shadow. Great stuff.

Back to the story: I did end up with a few of those Dark Horse issues through various means, but it wasn't long after I returned to comics that I found a shop that had all four volumes of the Carrot's adventures (as well as the Mysterymen collected edition). I snapped them up one by one as paycheck would allow, and regaled at all those Carrot adventures that I had missed over the years. Unfortunately, not too long after I completed my collection came the great flood (ie. my apartment got flooded by a brokend watermain). I lost three of the four Carrot books, along with a rather valuable collection of Philip Dick novels (amongst other things).

Well, still having Flaming Carrot Comics Vol. 1 and the Mysterymen collection doesn't put me totally back at square one. Although Vol.2 has for some reason gone out of print. Yet, hope blooms eternal. Recently, much too my surpise, the Carrot returned to print as Burden began publishing new issues at Image comics. He's three issues in and has lost none of the pizzaz. I only hope that a new generation of readers will invest in this hilarious oddity of a comic book. After all, I equate the relationship between comic readers and the Carrot as I do American movie audiences to Godzilla. Just about everyone in America would recognize Godzilla if they saw a picture of him, but I doubt few over the age of say 15 have seen a Godzilla movie since they were below the age of 15. I think most comic readers recognize the characters (after all there are a few action figures, and Zippo lighters of all things), but I don't know how many have peeked inside the pages.

So after a lot of talk about Cerebus, whom I didn't intend to talk about, I hope that I've relayed my love of the wonderfully bizarre world of the Flaming Carrot. Each time I pick up an issue it brings a little joy and a smile to my face. After all, you're never gonna see Batman fight an 8 ft. tall chicken wing. (Well, maybe way back in the 60's. They did some weird stuff in them days.)


Monday, July 11, 2005

Less Than A Month
On like a light switch...

Something must be wrong, I'm actually posting again in less than a month's time.

Is there anything new to report? Not really. I'm filling some sort of writing quota.

In the months ahead, I'm planning a full on internet assault. It's something I've been meaning to do for some time...like writing on this thing. Seriously though, a website, a shop, and a whole bunch of other crap. Of course, this assumes that you: a) care, and b) would even be willing to buy something from me based on the meager offerings to be found here.

I suppose the primary thing that spurred this one was that feeling that I've been left behind somewhere by not having one. In this new professional world that I need to grow up into it, having a website seems to be the next thing after having a business card. Well, I still don't have any cards because I'm still not sure what to put on one. I'm at the bottom of the entertainment industry food chain, what do I have to advertise?

Thus far, I don't have anything to show for my other skills. I have this blog, but it isn't as though people have been knocking down my door to sign me up for something. You may not think that's such a big deal, but there have already been movies and books based on people's blogs. That's fairly amazing. Still it is, what it is...which is...something.

I've always considered the the biggest problem with my two primary talents (writing and drawing) to be that they aren't performance mediums. Actors and musicians can get attention immediately because they immediately have something to show for it. That something doesn't have to be an album or a movie role. You can plunk your @$$ on a street corner with a guitar and start playing a tune. Actors, it's a little tougher, but then again, most of then I know just say they are whether they 'act' or not. Come to think of it, in a way, it's already a performance: an actor acting like an actor. (D@mn, why didn't I ever think of that? Oh well, too late now.)

In the meantime, I'm opening up a page over at DeviantArt, which will feature my other attempts at creativity. I'd post the link, but there's nothing there yet to gander at. If you're really clever though, look at the address above, and I'll bet you could figure it out. At the very least, you'll get to see my smoking cool avatar. I'll probably come back with it when I'm having a grand opening or somesuch.

A website. It's on the horizon.

I hope that I do something worth while. After all, what dissuaded me for so long was looking at the deluge of terrible sites crop up as this internet stuff kept catching on. Now, I haven't been on here since the days of Usenet or anything (I think Prodigy was the first thing I began playing with way back when), but it seemed like it wasn't until college or so that it really started to take off. Within a few years it seemed like the whole web was made up of two essential groups: 1) Porn, and 2) Fansites for everything ever. Of course, those are both still around, but the porn's mostly pay, and the fansites had all their images and whatnot taken away by the copyright owners. In the wake of that, it's become the new business card...and well, personality card.

Hmmm, I hadn't thought of it that way, but now that I do...

Obviously, there's internet dating. Then, I guess all the friendster's and myspace's started to come along. Now you could just make friends, re-establish friends, or set up some hive-like coporate conglomeration of your friends. All during this the free blog sites started to appear, quickly followed by the digital photo repositories. Now, I've noticed that instead of talking about friends or incidents or personal work, people just tell people to check out their website/profile/blog/photo site.

Ahh, modern communication.

Well, this is threatening to become a rambling affair. If it already is, I'm ignoring that fact. And if it's any consolation, I'm ending it now.