Friday, January 29, 2010

Pity for the Party

So, I'll be the first to admit, I've often used the phrase "teabaggers" to describe the populist, right-wing, semi-racist, and often ill-informed folks that make up the "tea party movement". It's funny and to be fair, they started it. That's just the tip of the iceberg as far as making fun of them goes. From the ridiculous signs, to the even more ridiculous slogans, to the fact that they don't really seem to understand or agree on what it is they are protesting - it's hard to take these people seriously. They stir up an uneasy combination of laughter and terror.

However, that's a mixture I've gotten used to in the last eight years. That is to say, thanks to a very comical man with a surprisingly iron fist, I've learned that there are some things about which I have to worry against my better judgement.

The "tea party movement" has fallen into this category. They are an assortment of right wing nutjobs, special interests, and genuinely bad people who seemed determined to tear down everything that means anything to me...and they genuinely seem to feel they're doing the right thing.

However, a story I heard in today's news is forcing me to reevaluate my feelings about the movement or at least the people involved. As I've said, these guys are largely nutjobs, fundamentalists, and all-American bigots...and that is why I pity them.

Hear me out.

These are not the sort of people who are generally involved in large scale politics, none the less protests. They're the people who've been making fun of hippies and sign wavers their entire lives. Since the sixties they and their parents and their grandparents have called liberal protesters "hippies" and yelled at them to "get a job". Now the berkinstock is on the other foot.

Imagine if you were told that only way for your liberal politics to succeed was to attend every event in the Nascar circuit. It's unsettling, I know. With the possible exception of Jeff Gordon's amazing hair,
there's nothing for you there. Now imagine that they make you pay hundreds of dollars for the pivilage of doing it.

Such is the case for the upcoming tea party convention. Not only is there an entry fee of $459 for anybody who wants to attend, but their nutjob in chief is charging them somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 to speak to her own flock. For some unknown reason, this is causing dissent within the flock.

Hate to tell you guys, but having a speaker that charges those numbers, paying excessive fees to get into the "protest", being sponsored by Fox News - that's not a grassroots movement. In fact, it's kind of the opposite.

That's why I can feel nothing but pity for the party. Sure, they're nutjobs and yokels, but they're being bled dry by their own leaders. These are angry, listless, and in many cases jobless people who picked what seemed like the honest choice to them. They don't know how to organize a protest. Worst of all, they've spent the last eight years being told that not only are they right, but that God is on their side. Falling from the heavens can be a real kick in the ass. Satan never got over it. Hopefully, they'll fare better.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I'm concerned about the mental state of my personal trainer...

Okay, he's not really my personal trainer. He's a just a personal trainer with whom my lovely wife and I had a fitness consultation this past week. After which I told him I'd think about the whole personal trainer which I meant I'd do my best to awkwardly avoid him every time I saw him around the gym, because there is now way I'm paying some guy forty dollars A SESSION to torture me.

That leads me to my point quite nicely though. As I said, I'm very worried about this man's mental stability. I know what it's like to have a job where all your customers hate you. It can be really taxing. However, this relentlessly upbeat gentleman didn't flinch once as I starred at him from the ground with a look that clearly said "I'm thinking about tying you down and feeding your entrails to street cats while you're still alive". What he did seem to find unbelievable was that, until a month ago, my wife and I had not worked out on any sort of regular basis for the last few years.

In fact, he's not the first one I've noticed with this particular psychosis. The man who sold us our gym membership seemed pretty surprised as well. "Fitness is important" he kept reminding us, as our brains worked double time trying to figure out if thirty-five dollars a month was a worthwhile price.

It's not that I disagree with him. Fitness is great. Nothing beats coming home from work and not being so tired that all I want to do is eat a chocolate-covered deep-fried cheeseburger and pass out.
That's great. What troubles me is that these gentlemen seem to think that the world consists entirely of people like them. They think that fitness really is the most important thing. This issue leads to a vast overestimation of their value both to myself and to society. Thirty dollars a month is doable, but all that does is get me in the door. I think that some amount of personal training should come with that. All the thirty dollars really gets me is access to a room full of heavy things. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Wal-Mart doesn't have an entry fee and I can pick up anything I like there. Sure, people will look at me funny when I'm doing chin-ups on the gun racks in sporting goods, but hell, it's Wal-Mart, they've seen worse.

I am paying that cost for the gym. Why? Well, it really is nice and I do feel good about myself when I leave. I will not, however, be paying for a personal trainer. I would wager that there are prostitutes with better rates who offer a far more comprehensive service package than this man is prepared to give me or I am prepared to accept from him. No one is worth that kind of money for an hour session. I don't care if I come out of it looking like Jon Hamm, that'll just mean one more workout as I move all my stuff out of my apartment because I've been blowing my rent money on physical fitness.

What really kills me about the situation is how blown away these "fitties" are to my apathy toward physical fitness. They seem to think it's the end all be all. Christ guys, it's not cable or internet! Their reactions to my attitude are gasps of shock and awe. You know what everybody else in my life has said when Alicia and I announced we were joining a gym? Either "Why?" or "That's really expensive.". Both of those are perfectly reasonable. Well, why is a little cynical, but I digress. The world is not going to end if I get fat, or if I mess up my ankle, or if sit on my ass all day. A large portion of the population is not at the gym right now, nor will they be in the near future.


And it isn't that they don't want to be fit. I would venture to guess most people feel better when they're fit. It's because they are doing just fine without a gym. This is a case in which, for most people, the cost far outweighs the gain. Paying thirty bucks a month to wander aimlessly around a room full of heavy things until you finally hurt yourself and stop is not a priority for most people. You fitties charge criminal amounts to go hang out somewhere you would be anyway and tell people what to do. Hell, I'd do that for free. I don't mean to be disparaging, nor do I want anyone to be offended, but if you all dropped dead from excessive fitness right now, the world would keep turning. Lower your rates, pull your heads out of your asses, then we'll talk about the importance of physical fitness.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Girls Are Creepy

There are times I'm not a big fan of being a guy. Don't get me wrong, I love women (especially my wife) and if being a guy is what it takes to make this whole thing work, then I'm happy to oblige.

Unfortunately, being a guy also means being associated with the likes of Johnny Knoxville, Ashton Kutcher, Larry the Cable Guy, Pat Robertson, and Tiger Woods. All of these guys are disgusting for one reason or another, the only thing they share is that they're all guys. Things that come with the territory of guyhood include: stinking, spitting, farting, cheating, burping, beating, and oppressing. Not all guys do these things, but these are things associated with all guys. Women who have never been cheated on continue writing songs about generic guy behaviors and as long as "Two and a Half Men" is on, we'll have something to fuel the fire.

Another place where guys have always had the advantage is creepiness. Guys have an inborn adaptation that makes them better at stalking, lurking, glaring, staring, and just being sketchy. Think of the first ten images that come to your mind when you think creepy or sketchy. Are they all guys? Yes. Does this have any relation to the lack of women with handlebar mustaches? Probably.

That said, of late, women seem to be making great strides to catch up with men on the creepy front. This phenomenon was first brought to my attention in the hysteria surrounding the release of the second Twilight film "New Moon". I had assumed the whole obsession with Robert Whats-his-name and Taylor Too-Young-to-be-half-naked-all-over-the-place was powered by the low self-esteem teenybopper crowd. You know, people that shop at Claire's. Then, I saw this picture.

Strange overly booth-tanned women describing themselves as "Twilight Moms" drooling over a sixteen-year-old boy and a twenty something with obvious hygiene deficiencies. Upon further observation, I found it was a widespread phenomenon. Forty something grown ass women drooling over a fictionalized abusive relationship with a sparkly vampire and an angsty teen wolf. I was tempted to write it off as pathetic, but my mind took me back to another time and place.

The year was 2007 and Heroes was the big show on T.V.. I hadn't watched any at that point (simpler less frustrated times) but I was familiar. When perusing the wears of a local comic books shop, I came upon the shop owner and a customer caught in a discussion of Hayden Panettiere and how "F'n hot" she was. Never mind that these two were in their sixties and forties respectively, but the girl had the body of a fourteen year old boy. When they tried to drag me into the conversation I went for the "I prefer women who look like women. You know, with breasts and hips and all that". Easy enough. It struck me as I was walking out that that's why my wife didn't come to the comic shop with me more often.

Yeah, I thought, Twilight mom's are the sketch equivalent of a guy phenomenon that's bugged the hell out of me for a while now. I used to enjoy playing Dead or Alive. Yes, it's sexist, but God is it beautiful. There was no better relief from a day's stress than crushing a hot woman between the thighs of an equally hot woman. That is, till I had the gall to read the instruction book. The DOA crew was nice enough to put together character bios which include such fun facts as height, unrealistic weight, eye color, and age. Apparently, in Japan, this: is what a fourteen year old girl looks like. I don't really play that game any more. It's just too weird.

I find myself wondering why this isn't a big deal. Everybody wants to get rid of the violence in games, but we're fine with encouraging child molestation? Guys, come on!

Of course, the fake girls of DOA have nothing on the weird hysteria surrounding Justin Bieber. I wasn't aware of this kid till I had one of those brushes with pop-culture muck by watching New Years Rockin Eve. They worked a well worn formula. Fergie says Justin, everybody screams. These are, once again, grown ass women mind you. Here, check this picture out.
I count at least three groupies who are old enough to have given birth to this kid, screaming and snapping away. I find it creepy enough that these teen magazines outline the love lives of tweens for other tweens, but if I see another citizen of Cougartown buy a Teen Bop, I swear I beat her to death with her own tanning spray.

Women, you gotta get on this. If women keep it up at this rate, Lifetime is going to go from a assembly line for bad movies to a female Spike TV. I'm not saying women aren't as entitled to eye candy and porn as men, but that within a few weeks half a dozen female comics are going to have to rewrite their entire relationship based routine.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Personal War

There is a battle I've been fighting in the shadows for years. Only those really close to me know about it. It's not the sort of thing that I really talk about, but occurrences in my life this week have led me to think that maybe I should make it public.

There are a lot of different types of underwear in the men's section of any given department store. There are briefs, boxers, boxer-briefs, thongs, and jock straps. Choice is fine. I like having choice. It was about ten years ago I officially declared myself a boxers man. Boxers are comfortable, they're long enough that it isn't really weird if I have to answer the door or evacuate a building at two in the morning. There is a greatness I can no fully explain. I love being a boxers man.

However, my time in the boxer camp has been tumultuous. It pains be to say, as many men may know (but never say) all boxers are not created equal. There is a world full of boxers out there that fail to see the value of buttons. There is no excuse for this!

Let me explain. In the front of most pairs of boxers there is an overlapping flap. Good pairs of boxers have a button that holds this flap shut. You can unbutton this flap if needs be, if you're the type of guy that pees (or does...whatever) though this flap. Most of the time, however, it stays closed - just the way I like it.

Some boxers, for no reason I can fathom, are made without this button. This means that there is absolutely nothing holding the front of your boxers closed. I know to keep an eye out for this, but for some reason other people occasionally feel compelled to buy me underwear. Years after I'd discovered this defect, these buttonless boxers continued to show up.

Why is this a big deal, you ask? Well, as we all know, underwear doesn't always stay exactly where is should. Sometimes it moves. Sometimes you find a gaping peephole in the front of your boxers. Sometimes you find your penis has slipped through the hole. Sometimes (hopefully) you get an erection. Where the first two are inconvenient, the third one can be damn painful. There's a zipper up there! I know guys don't like to admit to this, but my penis is pretty sensitive. A zipper is poky and metal people! There's a reason I don't go commando!

So, men and the women who love them, I call on you to take a stand. Buttonless boxers have got to go. This needless tyranny must come to an end! There's no reason for millions of penises to continue to be chafed. BUTTON UP!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The thrill of finding a good book and the agony of paying for crap

So, my beloved LCBS (Local Comic Book Shop) Ultimate Comics, recently had a back issue sale which inspired me to dig into the catalog of things recommended. This has reminded me of the two great sensations of comic book reading: the joy of a new found great book and the loss of a hard earned four dollars.

Let's start with the first one. Now I've been on a mission to find good books of late. So far I've done pretty well. I'm really caught in the web of Jason Aaron's "Scalped" and I finally hit that point in the fourth collections of "Fables" that everyone keeps telling me about. You know the one, the part where it gets good. That said, my most recent find has been of Incredible Hercules.

Everyone and their brother has been telling me to read this book. I didn't want to. I had just finished being dissapointed by both World War Hulk and Jeph Loeb's Hulk (btw 4th Letter has an awesome article about Jeph Loeb's Hulk, check it out). Another thing spawning from the Hulk-verse was hardly what I needed. So I stomped my feet, threw a fit, and spent my money on X-men Noir instead. Once I had finished that, I was also on the edge about Van Lente, who as it turns out, writes Herc as well.

So, whenever there's a back issue sale I always forget what I'm looking for. I was this close to picking up Black Panther when my eyes fell on the Hercules header. After pushing past the Radical Comics Hercules, I found what I was looking for. I remembered seeing stuff about the "The Replacement Thor" arc, so I picked it up.

After getting passed up for Fables, Scalped, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Parker: The Hunter, Daredevil: Born Again, The Five Fists of Science, and Siege #1 - I finally got around to Hercules. I have to tell you (and your brother if he's around) you were right, it's fantastic. It pops with a joy of both writing and art which you rarely see in a big two book. I'm struck by the feeling that everything is just as it was meant to be.

Which leads me to my big disappointment, Dynamite's "Athena".
If you know me, you should know how much I dig smart and strong female leads. I have enough familiarity with Greek myth to know Athena should be just that. Imagine how disappointed I was the fifth time I saw Athena's bare ass through her hospital gown in the first issue.
The storytelling is bland and while I realize that it's a first issue, my brain rang out with a resounding "boo". If you want to write a Greek inspired character with enormous breasts and do bare ass shots all day, just do Aphrodite. For the love of Zeus, Athena is the goddess of wisdom, battle, and the hunt. Athena should be riding down on soldiers in full armor with a lance. I won't get started on her "god armor", suffice to say she was just as protected in the hospital gown.

Oh well, one step (and one book) at a time I guess. Who knows what this Wednesday will bring.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Profiles in Comic Book Courage: Cable

Comic books are filled with peripheral characters. It's the nature of the art. Your characters, A and B, need a crisis in order to use their super powers. Therefore, the writer creates C. C can be any number of things: a villain, a character in need of intervention, even an offspring of A and B who was sent to the future in order to save his life but has now returned with their own agenda. Some of these characters never make it about C status, some never make it out of that issue. This is the profile of one such character, whom, had it not been for some excellent writing and determination might have been relegated to the margins of A and B's biography.

Cable was a character who could have been very easily dismissed. He is the very picture of 90's excess that we associate with the Liefeld era. The man was devoid of personality, had a back story that makes Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure sound plausible, and oh so many pockets. Cable ripped into the pages of the 90's X books wielding a gun the size of a coffee table, a glowing eye, and very loosely explained cybernetic implants. Cable should, by all rights, be appearing in the quarter bin with G.W. Bridge, Gen 13, and Maverick. Why is it then, that Cable has managed to sustain his own book in this far more discerning age of comics (thinks about last line, decides to leave it.)?

The first answer and the most obvious is his ties to the doomed Summers Legacy. Being the son of Cyclops and Jean Grey implants you in the Marvel U like few other things. Cyclops and Jean were often the characters we loved to hate growing up. In a house full of Wolverines and Icemen, they were the adults. Cyclops was the guy that told you not to jump on the couch and Jean was the woman who wasn't your mom but felt entitled to tell you to eat your vegetables. Yet their lasting appeal comes because despite all of their discipline, they are the two characters with the least control over their powers. When the glasses come off, Cyclops is a human hand grenade. The moment Jean really taps into her powers, she runs the risk of becoming a telepathic nuke. How can a guy with those two as parents not be compelling.

The real problem the Marvel U has had with Cable is finding his voice. Cable has infinite potential and infinite discipline. He has a Messiah Complex that tells him he can prevent the future that spawned him. He has his mother's compassion, his father's need for structure, but kept ending up keeping company with the most ludicrous of characters. Cable and Deadpool was fun, but it was always really Deadpool and Cable. So what is the voice of Cable?

Duane Swierczynski has given Cable the voice that makes him worth reading. The Cable of the current series is John Wayne with cybernetic implants, he's a telepathic Shane, he is that blond stranger who helps those in need, despite being just the sort of man that's after them. Swierczynski's Cable is a soldier without a country, dedicated only to the one Hope that can keep the world from being the way he knows it will be. See, the Nathan Summers I know is the one who is willing to give his very last breath to make sure he's never born.

He fights a war without end to prevent a war without end. This is Cable.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Call of Duty and the Fate of the Art

So, everybody's talking about Call of Duty now. I knew it would be like this, I just didn't realize it would be...well, like this.

I should start by saying that I haven't played the game, not a big COD fan, honestly not a big military strategy fan. So, I was first alerted to the "disturbing nature" of some of the game's content through a BBC article early on the day of release. Maybe I'm a strange sort of news listener, but what caught my attention wasn't the brief review, it wasn't the overwhelming controversy of content, it wasn't even the sound clip of people being gunned down by terrorists in the game. What caught my attention was the guest they brought in to talk about it. They were presenting a "downside" article so they needed someone to defend the game right? Who would they get? Designer? Director? Head of the Studio? Any member of Infinity Ward would certainly be acceptable. Even and EA rep would be expected?

They went with politician. Not just any politician, an MP. That would be like pulling Jim Jones, representative from Ohio to talk about the game. To me, this is clearly unacceptable.

Say Oliver Stone's new movie is coming out, say it's "Natural Born Killers" in which you are put in the shoes of two serial killers slaughtering their way across the country. Say there's a controversy and someone is taking shots at his movie. Would it be alright to have Rep. David Price (R-North Carolina), go on tv or the radio to defend the movie? I for one, would expect a reputed news program to bring on Oliver Stone, or perhaps the script writer Quentin Tarantino, or perhaps Actor Woody Harrelson to discuss why he took the part. This is the way you treat an art form.

Yet, during this interview, I heard them repeatedly make reference to the fact that video games "weren't just for kids" and "ought to be judged on the same level as film". If that's true, why does the video game community not get a voice in this discussion? Fringe cultures remain fringe as long as they have to continue telling everyone that they're not a fringe culture. See, it doesn't matter how many times newscasters, politicians, or bloggers say that video games are an art form. Until the creators have a voice in the argument about their creation, the conversation is a joke. Just from the tone of the conversation, it was clear that neither the newscaster nor the MP had played the game. I doubt the play video games at all. Who would accept a review by a reviewer who had not read the book or seen the movie they were reviewing?

Of course, next week the articles will be on Assassin's Creed 2. No one will mention the crazy amount of research, detail, and narrative prowess that the Ubisoft gang put into their art. These "newscasters" who report on the next big threat to our children will not have played the game, they will not have done their research, and they will not take the time to profile the creators. Of course, someday, someone will make a movie of the game and it can be openly dismissed as a movie based on a video game. The only solace I take in this is that, being an English major, I know that once upon a time the novel was in this same boat. This art form though, has gone from incomprehensible ping pong games to complex multi-character narrative sandbox games in thirty years. Give it another twenty, people will be making lists of the "Great American Video Games". Who will be our Hemingway, our Fitzgerald, our Harper Lee?