Thursday, January 10, 2019

Here We Keep Going Again: Mamma Mia and Us

The other night, we were flipping through the channels with much disappointment. Every one of our go-to cable distractions was a miss. There was nothing left on the PVR for us to burn through. We were lost. I excused myself to the restoom, and while I was in there, I heard from the other room the voice of one Christine Baranski softly crooning "Chiquitita" to Meryl Streep. I smirked - as is bound to happen from time to time, my fiancee had found Mamma Mia on TV somewhere.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Caging a Panther: Michael Finkel's Stranger in the Woods

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,   
has grown so weary that it cannot hold 
anything else. It seems to him there are 
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world. 

- Rainer Maria Rilke, "The Panther" (translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Beginning in the late 1980's, 20-year-old Maine resident Christopher Knight did something unthinkable - both because of how inconceivable and difficult it was, and how bananas-illegal. Knight drove into the Maine wilderness and left society completely - well, mostly - behind. Spending the next 25 years in a small encampment in the Maine woods, Knight survived not by hunting or farming but by pilfering supplies from a nearby summer camp and surrounding community. He was seen by only a handful of people during that time, although the "Hermit" became the stuff of local legend. His own family had no idea where he was or if he was even still alive. He's the subject of Michael Finkel's 2017 nonfiction book Stranger in the Woods, which took me almost 18 months to get around to reading, and several months since I finished to write about. ("Better Late Than Never" is a title I take to heart.)

Why'd I Nuke My Archive?

Astute longtime readers - of whom I assume/hope there are none - will note that I have been running for a lot longer than the 8 months or so the archives go back - intermittently, but certainly I've written more than the half-dozen or so musings that you can find on this blog.

It's true. I began this particular manifestation of my online presence in late 2013 after spending a few years writing exclusively about music, because I wanted to write about a comic once, maybe sometimes a movie or TV show. Who could forget my epic takedown of Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, which was so effective they never made another Man of Steel II.

Then after a while I decided I really didn't have that much to say about a wide variety of topics, and got back into music-blogging, which otherwise would have swallowed this blog whole. I had a whole concept, and for a year and change it was a pretty fruitful project. I liked it, I had fun.

I flipped back in late 2016 and managed to squink out a few more thoughts on poorly-executed comic book movies, but as I was ramping up my coverage of Old X-Men Comics elsewhere, it wasn't long before this URL went fallow again.

I came back again again last summer when ideas for dumb little observations, far too long for a Twitter Thread, kept occurring to me. I had a new idea how to use this space, which has only partially come to pass. By that time, the archive seemed like an anchor. How can you make a fresh start when you have all this old shit hanging around, reminding people you only post super-sporadically? Even if some of it was worth reading.

Ironically, I wanted to reinvigorate this blog as a place where I wrote about myself, told my story as well as recounting things I have consumed, but no longer wanted to sign my name to a bunch of old shit I wrote. But it was the truth - I flipped all the old posts on this blog to Drafts, because that's what they were. Every day of your life is just a rough draft of the next one. Get that tattooed on your neck.

We're all changing, every day - hopefully for the better. I spend a lot of time revisiting old things I've written through the magic of Timehop or being overly interested in my archives, but there's no reason to think that intererst is widespread. What I've found is, there's a pretty consistent throughline of self there - I'm the same person, with new versions of the same opinions. Some things I'm more adamant about than I used to be, some things I'm more relaxed. And that's cool, and sometimes I got it more right back then than I would now. And sometimes I just have no idea what I'm talking about -- there are already posts on this blog I think I should revert so I can do them again better later.

Someday, if I deem it necessary, I'll go back and repost some of the good stuff. But I found it just as easy, for my purposes, to KonMari the whole lot of it and start fresh.

You know, like I already have with three or four other blogs.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Into the Truth Booth: MTV's 'Are You The One?' and me

If your perfect match was standing right in front of you, would you even know?

I have to admit a certain fondness for the MTV "dating" show Are You The One, whose finale is currently sitting on my DVR, waiting for a night when I can stand to get good and upset at my tv.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Stranger Than Fiction: My Grant Morrison Writer Magic Moment

A funny thing happened to me just after I wrote my last post, reminscing, almost completely unprompted and with no point except perhaps a lightly antifascist conclusion at the end, about one very specific mostly irrelevant class I took in high school. Not ha ha funny, more Alanis Morissette "Ironic" funny (but definitely funnier than a 90s comic dunking on the lyrics to "Ironic.") I ran into somebody I knew from back then.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Stuff I Did: "Entrepreneurial Studies"

When I was in Grade 11, which is what Canadians call the eleventh grade, I was at the point in High School where they really let you start determining your path by choosing various electives that might prepare you for the real world, or prepare you for something that might prepare you for the real world. I was a bright young man seemingly with a great future ahead of me, so I did what anyone would do in my situation: I chose a path that offered almost no challenges and little of value. Ancient Civilizations? Philosophy? Drama?? I was clearly just picking classes I thought would be fun, and to be honest, they were, and as a result it only took me an extra decade to get my first job with a desk.

For whatever reason, I ended up taking a class on Entrepreneurial studies. At the time, I didn't foresee myself working for "the man." I envisioned going into business for myself, monetizing my passion for self-produced comics and becoming the iconoclastic creative genius I always assumed I really was.  Actually, I can only assume this was the thought process in selecting this class, because it may or may not have seemed like a validation of my concept of myself as a future struggling, starving, self-employed creative writer scrounging from job to job. It's not like I figured I would open a muffler shop.

The class ended up being one of the most frustrating courses I ever took in school. The daily course mostly involved watching a series of videos called "Entrepreneurship For Canadians" hosted by a sketch comic named Peter Wildman, who was part of a now-ancient and forgotten Canadian troupe called The Frantics. I remember zero-all about the content of these videos, which mostly profiled small business owners and probably highlighted legal and bureaucratic matters they faced, except for the creeping realization that Wildman had performed the voice of the villainous Mojo in the 1990's X-Men cartoon.

Pictured: Entrepreneurship, actually

A lot of my friends were in the class and once it became clear that the teacher, an aged biddy named Ms. Irvine, had little interest in actually performing the act of education more than once or twice a month, we gave up whatever hope we had of learning anything about becoming successful entrepreneurs and goofed off, slagging out of class to execute raids on the third-floor supply office to steal pens.

The final presentation was to create a mock business-plan. Irvine had alerted us that we could pick any business we wanted, but strongly advised against picking a restaurant because they had too many extra moving parts. My friend Doug, then an aspiring actor, who was my partner for this project, had his heart set on owning a little nightclub that featured standup comedy. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it wasn't real, and went along. We barely passed with a 55. Maybe someone could have overcome the prohibitive logistics of owning a restaurant - people actually do that, you know - but not someone who spent the entire semester yukking it up about Peter Wildman's dad jeans.

Between videos, Irvine often presented us with clippings from the business section that were vaguely pertinent to businesses and business owners, but again, reeked of just scrambling to fill time. It was there that I learned that Justin Timberlake had signed on to be the face of McDonald's' new advertising campaign, "I'm Lovin' It," for which he had composed the signature song - a catchphrase which has somehow managed to survive for a decade and a half!

It was also in Entrepreneurial Studies that I first encountered, in a seemingly completely innocuous way, one of the great evils of our times. It was during this time that renowned owner of businesses Donald Trump had signed a deal to produce, and star in, a reality TV competition show that involved him picking a potential new employee for one of his businesses. At the time I was only vaguely aware that Donald Trump was a rich person, well known for being rich, and that had something to do with real estate, or some shit. I had no idea that fifteen years later he would have the entire world in his withering, orange talon, all because he got extra-famous on TV for yelling at people, which made certain people see qualities of leadership and moral guidance in him, somehow.

There's a lesson in here, somewhere, about the importance of education... not necessarily for yourself, but for the world at large. You know, I don't regret the shit I went to school for and tried to learn. I don't regret that it didn't lead directly to me being gainfully employed and enjoying a meteoric success, or that I never started my own business, whose pitfalls I was able to navigate thanks to my deft studying of Entrepreneurship in high school. None of it kept me from landing in a modest occupation on the wrong side of the publishing industry I dreamed of contributing to. But I don't regret any of it because any education I received, at any level, in ant institution or on my own time, has been in the service of making me a compassionate, curious individual who values only what's best for our world and the people who live on it - and that I fucking hate Nazis.

Keep on Rockin'

Friday, October 12, 2018

Music: The Best of the 80's, 90's, and "Today"

They say that your musical tastes peak when you're 18, but that's only true for people who never worked in music retail.