Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I leave for Vancouver in about 36 hours, but I wanted to wish all you good folks a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What We Got Here is...Failure to Communicate

When it's time for my classes to write a critique paper, we usually watch a movie and write a review. This semester, we watched the Paul Newman classic, Cool Hand Luke. Here are a selection of the comments I received:

"I guess it was OK for a movie that old. It wasn't a classic, though, like Fight Club."

"I never realized Paul Newman was an actor before he made salad dressing."

"That was just stupid! If Luke had just followed the rules, he would have been fine."

"I suppose it was the best they could do with movies back in the 40s" (it was made in 1967, btw)

"I liked it all right, but I would have preferred something cute like Miss Congeniality or Legally Blonde" (never fails)

"The lead character is a man named John" (yeah, the title is just a red herring, I guess)

"I wonder if Luke did a lot of farting after those fifty eggs"

"I give it a seven. I would have given it more, but the special effects were terrible." (???)

"I mainly like vampires, but it wasn't too bad."

"If they hadn't killed him at the end, they could have done a sequel."

"It's not that I don't like prison movies. But I like ones like Lockup."

"I was expecting more gay prison sex, but we got lucky."

"If Paul Newman made this kind of movie, I can't say I'm upset he died."

"Not enough action" (this was written eleven times)

"The movie we watch was Cold Hand Luke."

"It would make a lousy video game."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Godspeed, Soupy

I've never laughed so hard as I did at this man.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saying Stuff As It Hits Me (for the love of Zod, don't say "semi"!!!)

* Is it just me, or do you ever stop yourself as you're leaving the house to make sure you've put on pants? That sounds silly, of course, but given some of the truly dumb-ass things I've done in my life, it's NOT entirely impossible, so every once in a while I find myself looking down to make sure my "li'l hickman" is not exposed (well, assuming that my gut would allow me to see it anyway).

I remember one of my students saying to me "you know more than any human being I've ever met." I was beaming over that one, let me tell you. Yeah, dat's right, I'm da man. Wheel yourself outta my way, Stephen Hawking. Then, all of five minutes later, I went to the men's room, and when I tried to walk out, I found that I couldn't get the door open. I panicked for a second, until I realized that I was pushing on the side with the hinges.

Yeah, I'm Enrico freakin' Fermi...

* I'm working on a City of Heroes project that I can't talk about yet (I'll let ya know). Y'know, I have probably 120 CoH player-characters now, and only one (Nitewolf) has made it to level 50. Most are stuck in the 22-32 range. It occurs to me that probably 80% of them have puns for names, which sounds gimmicky, but I've found that both in the game, and in my comic writing, that such a method works well for me. They start off being goofy puns, but then it comes together when I try to flesh them out. I wonder if I took a character with a standard superhero name, say Captain Lightning or Darkbolt or something, and tried to do the same if it would work. Hard to say, and it'll probably never happen, as I'm much more likely to do Bananas Froster or Shock Cousteau.

* I think I'm supposed to dog-sit a little pug here in a day or two (if so, there will be pics). I would so dearly love to have a dog, and we're allowed to have 'em at our apartment building now. Unfortunately, while I could afford the $25 or whatever they add on to your rent for a dog, if anything ever happened to the little guy, health-wise, I couldn't afford to get him any treatment. So I'll just have to be happy with our two little turtles, Eastman and Fichtner, for the time being. Eastman is named after TMNT creator Kevin, obviously, and Fichtner is named after William "Mr. Pointy Face" Fichtner, whom he resembles.

* The other day the Dairy Queen close to my place had a deal where certain items were 50% off. I normally don't go to DQ, as the food is too expensive and REALLY is not the kind of stuff I should have on this diet. But the half-off deal was too tempting for a cheapskate like me, so I went through the drive-through while I was out and got myself an order of chicken strips, figuring that wouldn't be too bad.

I had to do some grocery shopping, so I pulled into the Pay-Less parking lot and decided to eat my chicken before going inside. I grabbed one of the little batter-dipped hunks of white meat and settled in for my "splurge." was...too gooey inside

I suddenly realized what I was holding in my hand was a breaded hunk of completely, absolutely, totally RAW chicken. Not undercooked, not slightly cooked, not even warm inside. Raw, pink, cold chicken meat.

I spit it out and drove back to DQ, where I presented it to the manager.
"Look," I said, "I'm not the kind of guy who complains over little things, and if this were just slightly undercooked, hey, no big deal. But this bastard is still CLUCKING."

He let out an "OH MY GOD" and immediately got me a replacement, and thankfully this one didn't have salmonella as a dipping sauce.

I'm sure Dairy Queen is a fine establishment in general, but I'd advise against the chicken tartar.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I, Troy Hickman, Will Hereafter Stop Doing Stuff!

So the other day I check my AOL mail to find a message that says "Troy Hickman has sent you a letter on Myspace."

Wha---? Oh, I figure, probably some new phishing scam or somesuch. So just to be sure, I log on to my MySpace page to find...a letter from Troy Hickman.

Specifically, it's a letter entitled "My Name is also Troy Hickman," and it said this:

"i would appreciate it if you quit doing stuff when i tell girls about me they google MY name and get you which is weird so stop it or add a side note that your not the TROY HICKMAN"

As it turns out, this was sent by a young man in Oklahoma who has found that being Troy Hickman is not the beer and skittles he imagined it being.

So what am I to do? Should I simply stop "doing stuff"? I mean, I'm practically a sloth now; I'm not sure I can become even more lethargic. Maybe I could stop doing things for an hour or two a day, just enough time for young Mr. Hickman to score with some chicks?

More importantly, how does one become "the TROY HICKMAN," and how did I miss out on that honor? Was it a problem with the paperwork? It wouldn't be the first time bureaucracy has bitten me on the ass.

If you google my name (at least, I THINK it's my name), you'll get something like 74,000 hits. As best I can tell, probably 90% of them have to do with me. Or at least, the ME that writes comics, teaches college English, and is typing these words now.

Doesn't that, by sheer weight of numbers, if not by the sheer weight of my buttocks, make me THE Troy Hickman? Or is it an honorary appointment of some kind? Does this nation now have a "Troy Hickman czar"???

Well, anyway, the least I can do for this poor kid is to point out to all you young ladies who are pondering whether to favor him with your charms that I AM NOT HIM! I'm sure he's everything I'm not (which would mean he's a water-breathing albino lesbian, but I digress), so give the guy a booty call and keep him off MySpace, will ya?

While I'm at it, here are a handful of other people I'm not:

I'm NOT this Troy Hickman. I've mentioned him before. He's the former mayor of Hayes, Kansas, and I think now he's on their city council (they demoted you, did they, Troy?). He looks like a straight shooter. Chances are HE would deny that he's me, too.

I'm NOT the Troy Hickman that also lives here in Lafayette. He's no relation to me, but I met him one time out at the Putt Putt course where my son worked. It turns out THAT Troy Hickman is a miniature golfing whiz (I could never do that, as the odds of me not snickering when someone mentioned "balls" and "stroke" in the same sentence are slim and none). The golfing Troy seemed like a decent enough guy. I get his phone calls sometimes, and I like to think he's gotten my offers from major comic book companies.

I'm NOT the Troy Hickman that used to be the first entry you got when you googled the name. THAT Troy Hickman was a convict, also here in Indiana, in Terre Haute, looking for gay cybersex. You can imagine how glad I was when he ceased being Troy Hickman numero uno on the internet. I always wondered about that guy, though. What the hell was his deal? I'd like to think all us Troy Hickmans are winners, but criminy, what kind of a guy has to go online looking for gay sex when HE'S IN PRISON??? Talk about coals to Newcastle...

I'm NOT Tracy Hickman. The fact that we're both writers and we both work in the fantasy field occasionally confuses people. The fact is that Tracy Hickman makes more money in a month than I've made in my entire life, and that includes the year I picked up extra cash from selling my blood plasma. I don't know Margaret Weis, I've never worked with Margaret Weis, and frankly, if I ever even tried to get Margaret Weis' autograph at a signing, I'm pretty sure she'd have the security guards treat me like a king...Rodney King.

I'm NOT much more famous and successful comic writer Jonathan Hickman. He seems like a very nice guy, and he's got more talent than everyone David Hasselhoff has ever judged COMBINED, but we're no kin. I kind of feel like a professional wrestling jobber having a match with Ric Flair when people mention us in the same breath, though; it can only give ME a positive rub, while it doesn't do a damned thing for him. Maybe I should get him a fruit basket to make up for it.

I'm NOT talented comic artist Jessica Hickman. Frankly, I cannot draw a purty pitcher to save my life (well, maybe to save my life...I mean...geez!). I've tried to draw since I was a little kid, but there's just something in my brain that doesn't click. I can design a pretty spiffy superhero costume, and I think I have a good sense of how a comic page should look IN MY HEAD, but when it comes to making my hand move in such a way that it creates something resembling realism, it's never gonna happen. I will NOT show you any of my artwork here.

I am NOT singer/songwriter/philanthropist Sara Hickman. I've got a decent singing voice, but most every song I've ever written is a parody, and as far as doing good works, the last charitable act I committed was not printing any of my artwork here, as mentioned in the paragraph above.

I am NOT TV's Dobie Gillis, Dwayne Hickman. I have read his autobiography, though, and it was a page-turner.

I am NOT Gene Hackman. The only French connection I've ever been a part of was when I nearly beat to death a street mime named "Pierre."

Anyway, Troy Hickman of Oklahoma, I hope this helps you get laid. If not, there's a guy in prison in Terre Haute who might be able to help you out...

(A big thanks to Veazey for the idea)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Quick Question

Hey, I notice my counter down there went from 33K hits to 11K yesterday. Anyone know what would cause that? More importantly, anyone know what I can do about it?

Harumph, harumph.

Hey, I didn't get a "harumph" out of that guy!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Film, and Not the Kind On Pudding

Lea and I watched some flicks while I was in Vancouver. Time for some quick reviews!

Unrest - Plot: I have no idea. There are pathology students cutting up cadavers and people dying by supernatural means, but that's about all I could make of it. It was one of those damned movies that are far too awful to enjoy, but not quite awful enough on an EPIC level so that you can love its...uh...awfultosity. It was 88 minutes of my life that was not useful in any way, and that's one thing for which I CANNOT forgive a film. One star out of five.

- Wow. This one made Unrest look like The Exorcist. It stars Robert "Liquid Metal" Patrick, and I have to tell ya, I really feel sorry for the guy. He's a talented actor, but it just seems like he's never gotten the break he deserves. For every Terminator 2 or last couple seasons of the X-Files, he'll do five movies like Autopsy, and I think it's hurt his career a bit. Anyway, this is just a goonfest, and not in a good way (that is, John Gulager makes total goonfests, and I love 'em!). This is one ALMOST bad enough to be good enough to watch, though. You might check it out and make your own call (for some reason, it gets five out of ten stars on the IMDB and some of the folks there really dig it. Go figure). I give it half a star myself.

The Cottage - OK, now this is more like it. In the tradition of stuff like From Dusk Til Dawn (as well as things I've reviewed here like Malevolence), this starts out as a comedic crime flick about kidnappers, gangsters, hitmen, etc., but eventually turns into a crazed farmer slasher fiasco!

Really enjoyable stuff, with interesting characters, great dialog, and terrific performances by Andy Serkis, Reece Shearsmith and others. It's one of those great blends of goofy humor and horror that are rarely done well (outside of Sam Raimi), but it sure works here. Check it out. I give it four stars.

Zoo - Whoa. Uh, how do I describe this. It's a documentary, basically, about bestiality. Specifically it's about Kenneth "Mr. Hands" Pinyan, the Boeing engineer from Washington state who died in 2005 as a result of being...uh..."loved" by a stallion. It's also about the subculture of his friends and peers (called "zoos"), and their relationships with animals. Gang, it's a very troubling subject, but I have to say it's the damnedest movie I've seen in a long time. They handle the material in a straightforward way, recreating the events in some instances (but with nothing really graphic on-screen), and it's beautifully shot and edited. Don't watch it with young kids, and maybe not your parents (I had to sit through Lea describing it in great detail to her mom; the dictionary definition of "uncomfortable"). But watch it. Five squirming stars.

Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus
- OK, I didn't watch this with Lea, but I had to mention it. OH.MY.ZOD. Watch it. Watch it! It's got Lorenzo "Snake-Eater" Lamas, and an octopus knocking fighter planes out of the sky, and Deborah "Don't Call Me Debbie" Gibson, and a shark biting the Golden Gate Bridge in half, and sudden nerdy Asian love, and 3-D shots in a film that lost its 3-D budget, it! "Deborah" has hinted at a sequel, and I can't wait. The entire state of Wisconsin couldn't make this much cheesy goodness. Zero stars for quality, but five for enjoyment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

American Pi

Here are those American Pi pages I mentioned in my previous post. Please read it before you peruse these (and I think you can click to enlarge 'em).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mr. Hickman Goes to Canada

So...I've gotten back from Vancouver, and just in time to rant (and as we all know, my ranting gets raves). I'm liable to pontificate here at length, so either get yourself a cold beverage and settle in, or go do something more productive with your time, like lugubrious nose-twanging.
Anyway, there's a lot of talk in socio-political circles these days about "us" and "them." I hear people who I know to be of good conscience and ostensibly noble aims breaking the U.S. down in terms of "our side" and "their side." I hear folks who I would call my pals talking about how suddenly they're "proud of their country again" and how the air smells sweeter just because folks they support are holding the reins at the moment.

And you know, there's a time when I would have BEEN one of those people. For the first thirty-odd years of my life, when I was probably just to the left of Abbie Hoffman, I would've blindly gone along with that. And when I finally wised up and found myself merely REACTING to what a nimrod I'd previously been, I might have convinced myself of the "common sense" of that, too, and I would have been equally wrong.

But I'm not a kid anymore, nor am I an over-aged kid who never stopped being a rebel without a clue and asking "whattaya got?" And after a lot of soul-searching, and thousands of hours of my OCD-driven brain being able to think about nothing else (or, more accurately, adding it to the thousand other things my mental state makes me think about constantly and simultaneously), I've come to the conclusion that I have two "enemies" out there.

Nope, they're not one political party or another. Nope, not even a particular ideology.

No, my enemies are, put simply, ignorance and hypocrisy. And I'll give a couple of anecdotes to show to what I refer.

What got me thinking about all this was something that happened during my trip to Canada over the last couple of weeks. Lea and I went to visit her parents in Okanagan Falls, and while we were there (specifically while the snoozy woman I love was sleeping in), I went to an early-morning flea market that was right next door in a big vacant lot. For those who only care about things of a non-politcal/philosophical nature, I'll hold your interest by pointing out that while there, I bought a nice big video camera bag that I can use for all sorts of stuff, four mid-90s wrestling figures for Gabriel (Hogan, Savage, Vader, and Johnny B. Badd), a pair of nice silver/blue stone stud earrings for my girly-man pierced ears, a great handmade leather belt, and a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ahem. Anyway, while I was trekking around the place, I stopped by a stand where an older British fellow was conversing with a younger Canadian guy about gun control, the NRA, and such. Now, frankly, I would've liked to have joined in and turned it into a rousing, and possibly heated discussion. Those of you who know me know that there's nothing I like more than debate, and that my answer to "is this the hill you're willing to die on" is always "yes," for good or ill.

But after a couple of minutes, I realized the utter futility of it all, given the INCREDIBLE ignorance of these guys, especially the Canuck. He was spouting all this absolute drivel, and putting it forth as absolute FACT. He went on about the 2nd Amendment specifically containing the phrase "in defense of God and country" and how that showed what a theocracy we continue to be. Of course, the amendment doesn't say anything even REMOTELY like that, but why let simple truth get in the way of a good head of steam?

Then he actually said, and I quote: "Every DAY 22,000 people die in the U.S. from gun deaths." For a second, I thought maybe he had just mispoke; god knows I do often enough. But then he REPEATED it for emphasis. "Ya, every... single... day 22,000 people are killed there because of their stupid love for guns. That means in the ten minutes or so I've been talking to you, over 150 people have been shot and killed."

Uh...22,000 a day. Really. Really?

Folks, I wanted to slap him with a slab of maple-encrusted back bacon but I'm proud to say I kept my composure. But criminy, I'm pretty sure that math works the same way in the Great White North that it works here, and it doesn't take Enrico freakin' Fermi to figure out that 22,000 people a day amounts to over EIGHT MILLION PEOPLE A YEAR. At that rate, it wouldn't take long before we killed those 500 million people a month that are losing their jobs.

Y'know, if you want to argue about gun control, that's a valid argument. I might end up still disagreeing with you, but I think there's virtue in having the debate, as I'd certainly like to prevent ANY gun deaths if I could. But for the love of Zod, there's no point in arguing with someone if they don't have ANY sense of the facts behind the issue, on whatever side.
So rather than standing there and doing what I do best (being a pain in the ass), I just let it go. It became obvious from what this guy was saying that not only didn't he know the facts, but he had no DESIRE to know the facts (it's not like he couldn't have found the text to the 2nd Amendment and gun death statistics on the internet in all of about twenty seconds). He had probably heard these "facts" from some other jughead, and since they figured into his agenda, he was willing to accept them as gospel.

And I see this stuff ALL the time, from folks all over the political spectrum. They see something or hear something or read something, and it reinforces what they believe, so it MUST BE TRUE. It makes me sick when someone who disagrees with me blindly accepts this crap, and it makes me even sicker when someone who agrees with me does so (as "support" from mallet-heads does nothing but weaken my case).

It never ceases to amaze me (although at this point it should) how willing people are to ignore facts, logic, reason, and objectivity when it makes them feel good about being "on the right side" of an issue. Doesn't the truth matter anymore? But then, I forget that relativism has become the new coin of the realm ("What is truth" said Pontius Pilate).

We've become so caught up in this elementary school-level mindset of "us vs. them" that we can ONLY see things from one perspective. Y'know, I've been critical of some of the things the current political administration has done, and almost inevitably, when I've voiced that criticism, some yahoo will say "Well, what about Dubya??? Huh? What about THAT?"

What about that? Well, how about the fact that I wasn't a supporter of Bush, and didn't vote for him his second term (just like I voted for Clinton in 92, but not 96; I may not be a rocket scientist, but I'm a fairly quick study of a man's character). But these poster children for prophylactics apparently can't conceive of someone who doesn't follow a party line, doesn't vote straight ticket, and doesn't fall in lock step with any one ideology. To them, you're either "with us or agin us" and if you don't sycophantically support our guy, you must be in "the enemy's camp."

It's like when I wrote the story "This'll Be the Day" for Holey Crullers #6 (which was redrawn by Sam Kieth for Common Grounds #6). I wrote what I considered a fairly non-controversial story, a tribute to what Steve Englehart and others had done with Captain America at one time, regarding what I thought was the best stuff about America: a degree of opportunity and the freedom to speak out against injustice and lawfully change things if we disagree with them. Wow, what a crazy reactionary notion, eh? And 99% of folks of ALL ideologies seemed to get it. But I did see one or two comments where people referred to it as "propaganda" and such. And for the life of me, I couldn't, and still can't, understand what's propagandistic about saying America, for all its faults (and it has myriad faults), is still a place where we have a lot more freedom and self-determination than many places in the world. I mean, I kind of hold these truths to be self-evident, y'know? But I think some folks were probably rubbed the wrong way that I presented even THAT notion, as it's not firmly in the "America is always the bad guy" mindset. I dunno, maybe I'm wrong. I'll make a separate post with the pages of the story where its heroine, American Pi, and her detractors talk about this country, and you can decide for yourself (are there any more beautiful words in the English language?).

Now, I said I consider there to be TWO enemies out there, and the other is hypocrisy, a scurvy little spider that burrows under my skin and slowly makes its way to my brain like few other things. I've long said that while nature abhors a vacuum, Troy Hickman abhors a double standard, and few things are truer than that.

So here's another anecdote from just a few days ago. A guy that I work with, let's call him Percy, was talking about all the recent comparison of a political figure or program with Hitler or the Nazis. He went on about how terrible such analogies are, and I absolutely agreed with him. I think we have to be very careful about when we make such comparison, not just because of the gravity of the charge, but also because at some point, we're going to want that charge to actually MEAN something when we ARE confronted by Nazi-like behavior.

But then I made the "mistake" of saying that it ALWAYS bothers me, whether it's someone with whom I agree saying it, or Nancy Pelosi and people in the Congress or Senate saying it, or folks CONSTANTLY saying it for the last eight years about Bush (I have a lot of problems with that guy, but they mainly have to do with his wishy-washy qualities, not a resemblance to Adolf).

Well, those were apparently fightin' words to Percy, who was quick to add "oh, no, it's OK to make those comparisons to the Bushies, and to the tea party and town hall types."

"Why is that OK," I asked, knowing full well what was coming.

"Because in those cases, of course, it's true!" he said.

I just walked away.

And you know, I find myself more and more these days just walking away. There was a time when I spent Zod knows how many hours making my thoughts known on various message boards, arguing for what I believed was right, fighting the good fight. But these days, I think I've (somewhat) gained the wisdom to know when anything I say is going to fall on deaf ears. These days, rather than arguing with people whose views are almost certainly NEVER GOING TO CHANGE IN ANY WAY, I end up choosing to use that time to do some actual good, to do stuff that may not be as flashy, but that is actually more likely to change the world for the better in PRACTICAL terms. There are a ton of ways a person like myself, who hopefully has at least SOME talent with communication, can make a socio-political difference, other than engaging in irrelevant mental ping-pong with some drone.

Lately, when I DO confront someone with whom I disagree, it's more likely to manifest itself as a simple question: if I could prove to you that what I'm saying is 100% correct, TO YOUR SATISFACTION, would that make a difference to you? Would it cause you to change your views?

Folks, the answer I usually get should terrify any person who cares about the truth, and reason, and objectivity. It sure scares the living HELL out of me.

Back to hypocrisy, though. There is NOTHING that shames me more than when someone points out to me that I'm holding a double standard about something. It doesn't happen often, because I at least TRY to be introspective about such stuff, but occasionally I screw up, and when I do I'm mortified.

I'm amazed, though, by how many people hold hypocritical views and not only AREN'T ashamed, but revel in the damned thing!

Y'know, in my favorite film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Jimmy Stewart spouts a lot of wisdom, and among it is these lines: "Now, you're not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work, if you haven't got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose."

Sadly, there are far too many folks in this country who don't mind that punch in the nose, as long as it's the "right" nose that's being punched. For example, there are the truly awful people, of WHATEVER political stripe, who have no problem with dictators, as long as those dictators are closer to "our side" of the political spectrum. Hey, here's a crazy idea: evil is evil.

And there are far too many people who are perfectly fine with our country becoming a gilded cage, as long as THEIR cage gets some gilding. Well, I'm glad you could get a new Blu-Ray player there, Hoss, but MY freedom is something I'm not willing to sell, and I'm sure as hell not willing to have YOU broker it for me.

These are often the same folks who think they're being "good people" (and they may be) for taking a stand on buying dolphin-safe tuna, or boycotting Walmart, or refusing to support the advertisers of a particular program, but then tell me I'M simply an extremist if I choose not to purchase Ben & Jerry's ice cream or stop buying Springsteen's albums because I disagreed with a position they took.

They're the same people who think that if a politician they support says something dumb, that's merely a "slip of the tongue," but if someone on the "other side" does it, they're obviously idiots (we ALL occasionally say goofy crap, whether it's mispronouncing "nuclear" and "strategy," saying there are 57 states, the aforementioned "500 million" comment, or probably a thing or two I say in this rant).

They're the same people who can talk for YEARS about how dissent is "the highest form of patriotism" (and it may well be) and then LITERALLY, within 24 hours time, change their tune to "we all have to come together" and "it's un-American if you disagree.

And sadly, they're the same folks who, by virtue of NOTHING more than a change of political administration, say "I'm finally proud of my country again." Gang, I try, I really, really try to maintain an even strain, and to control my temper, but when I hear that phrase, I just want to go all Billy Jack.

In MY opinion (and this is my freakin' blog, so that's what you're going to get), if you can ONLY be proud of your country when people YOU approve of are in office, or policies with which you agree are in effect...then YOU...JUST...DON'T...GET...IT.

I have ALWAYS been proud of my country. I haven't always been proud of the actions of its leaders or its citizens, but the United States of America ITSELF is not just a series of good or bad decisions by individuals or groups. It's about an idea, the idea that people can live freely and determine their own destiny, and the idea that, even if we're vehemently opposed to someone's ideas, we can still UNITE (hence the name) in our common desire for freedom (that's why I will not accept the notion of "diversity uber alles" unless it incorporates the idea of diversity of THOUGHT; otherwise it's nothing more than the superficial attempt to make sure you have different colored eggs in your basket).

I feel shame for FDR and the other leaders of his time who allowed the internment of Americans of Japanese descent. But I don't feel ashamed of my country for it. I feel shame for those people in our government who OKed the Tuskegee Study. But I don't feel any less pride for this "experiment" we call the United States of America.

I felt tremendous shame for Bill Clinton when he cheated on his wife and lied about it on national television (and if you're the sort of person who says "all men cheat" or "he HAD to lie about it," please, don't let the screen door hit you in the ass on the way out of this blog). But as awful as I consider adultery, I was still proud of our country and its ideals, whatever our president might have done. I felt shame for George W. Bush when he authorized the bailouts late in his term, a cowardly and stupid act that is partially at fault for getting us into our current straits. But his boneheaded play didn't make me any less proud of this nation and what I believe it stands for (and if you want to know what that is, take another look at my American Pi "propaganda" mentioned above).

The people of this country have done a lot of terrible things, just like the people of pretty much every country have. They've also done some pretty wonderful things. But either way, the NOTION of the U.S.A., the values that MOST of us (at least the ones not wearing tinfoil hats) strive for, are something bigger than any one of us, bigger than any group of us, bigger than any stupid or miraculous or completely neutral act that we will ever commit.

So yeah, I may think you're a total sleazebag. Hell, sometimes I might think I'M a total sleazebag. But this country is a lot more than just you, or me, or Percy, or Springsteen, or Clinton, or Bush, or anyone else. It's about an ideal that, while we may fail terribly to achieve at times, we continue to strive for amidst all the bad decisions and outright EVIL because...well...because it's THAT important.

Anyway, I guess I've rambled on enough about this. I think I'll leave off the comments this time since, as I said, I'm not sure I want to spend my time arguing on the internet, especially since you good folks reading this either (A) already get it, or (B) never will (though you can email me if you want). But it's something I needed to get off my chest. Of course, an hour from now I'll be pissed off about it again, but such is the nature of my beast...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Quick Update

A couple of things.

(1) I'm currently in Canada. Don't panic, U.S.A....I'll be back soon.

(2) I've lost 40 pounds so far. Eventually I'll be half the man I used to be, but still twice the man any of you are! (Except Rosie O'Donnell)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No Man Is An Island...However...

OK, so as of today I've lost 25 pounds on this diet. Hence the premise for this bit!

The Ten Worst Things About Losing Weight

10. Not being able to eat delicious foods. Frankly, eating is probably one of the top couple of pleasures in which a human can indulge. Lea and I were talking about this the other night, and we agree that there's not too many things better than a great meal. Yeah, sex is up there (especially the way I do it!!!), holding a puppy, seeing some great natural wonder, yadda yadda yadda. But when you're on a diet, you can still do all that stuff. The sudden inability to have a big, cheesy pizza, or a plate of pirogies covered in sour cream and bacon...well, THAT'S hell.

9. Changing sizes of clothes. If you're someone like me who has yoyoed throughout life, and you're smart, you save your clothes of different sizes as you fluctuate. Unfortunately, I haven't always been that smart. At the moment, for instance, I'm transitioning back toward XL shirts, and I'm sure I don't have more than a couple of them in my closet (and bear in mind that I literally have probably a hundred shirts in my closet). And pants? Yeesh. Y'know, when I get down to my goal weight, I think I'm going to take one of my REALLY big pairs and sell them on ebay for charity (I think the City of Heroes gang might bid on 'em, given their preoccupation with my pants).
8. The fact that people DON'T KNOW you're dieting. See, I've lost a sizeable amount of weight so far, but people who have never seen me before don't know that, so they might assume that I've always been just this size, or worse, that I'm on my way UP. And yes, I realize how neurotic that makes me sound. Know why? Because I'm neurotic.

7. Exercise. Sorry, but just cutting down on the food won't cut it, especially when you get to my advanced stage of decrepitness. You have to hit the gym. And I do, at least five or six days a week, plus my nightly constitutional (that's where I go door to door, telling people about the importance of the Second Amendment).

6. Free food. See, it's bad just not being able to eat, but when you're as cheap as I am, and you suddenly get the opportunity to score some free food, that's a killer. So when I come into the adjunct faculty room and someone has left donuts or cookies, or when there's a big spread of meats and cheeses at faculty orientation, or when a friend has a barbecue, etc., I want to get as much gratis grub as possible. There's a time when I would have filled my pockets with my ill-gotten booty (or my ill-booten gotty), but now it's for naught. Naught!!!

5. One of the things people usually do when they try to give up a vice is to increase another vice. But I don't smoke, I rarely drink, I don't gamble. If I'm not overeating, what's going to take up the slack? I do find myself shopping a bit more, especially at dollar store type establishments. I get a certain pleasure from picking up a cheap doodad or knicknack. Not as much as a greasy cheeseburger and fries, but hey...

4. My head. Look, I've been as heavy as almost 400 pounds, and as "normal" as 175, but no matter how much weight I lose, I still have a big, round head. I wish we lived in a society where the standard for male beauty was less Keanu Reeves and more John Candy, but unfortunately you folks have dropped the ball...

3. It's a strange thing to say, but after you've lost the weight, you sometimes feel guilty around other folks who are heavier, as if you've "gone over to the other side," as silly as that sounds. That's a phenomenon that occurs in a lot of subcultures, though (for example, I understand from friends there's sometimes a real clanishness in the deaf community regarding folks who regain their hearing, or who live too much outside the "deaf world"). The thing is, though, that there's not really much solidarity among fat people. Yes, we do enable each other to pig out and such when we're friends, romantic partners, etc. But if you think overweight folks are much more accepting of other fatties, don't kid yourself. Some of the meanest comments you'll ever hear are from other fat people (and given the rate of obesity, they're becoming legion). It may be a defense mechanism, it may be self-hatred, it may simply be that they're as affected by cultural norms as anyone else, but it's there.

2. Weight comes off slowly. SLOWLY. Nothing irks me more than the fact that I could easily put on a couple of pounds a day, but there's no way in hell that I could ever take it off that fast (not that either is really healthy). The worst part about it is that, at least for me, to keep my motivation strong, I need to see an actual loss on a regular basis. Lea always tells me not to weigh myself every day, because there will be fluctuations, but homey can't play that. If I only weighed myself, say, once a week, and there wasn't any loss in that week? It'd be very tough to keep going beyond that point.
1. The adjustment. I'm guessing most of you have never gone through a really major weight loss (say, at least 100 pounds), but it's just damned hard getting used to the difference. For at least a time (and I'm not sure I've ever been "thin" long enough to make it all the way through it), there's a time when you don't really know how to move, act, etc., because you're suddenly quite literally half the person you used to be. Even at 175, I'm not sure I ever stopped feeling like a fat guy.

Now, that's the DOWN side. After I lose another five pounds, I'll be back to tell you the ten BEST things about losing weight. Same fat time, same fat channel...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

School Daze

So I gave my classes a quiz today about language-oriented stuff (extra credit, as I knew they would probably have a tough time with it), and here are some of their answers:

What is a Pyrrhic victory?
"Victory by fire" (wrong, but at least they're thinking)

What is Murphy's Law?
"What goes up must come down" (three people said that)
"Gravity" (thanks for inventing gravity, Mr. Murphy; my sammiches kept floating away)

What does penultimate mean?
"The perfect writing utensil" (four answers like that)

If you talk about a woman's gams, to what are you referring?
"Back fat" (ha!)
"grandmother" (that's a prized set of grandmas you have there, sister!)
"Boobies" (sometimes the simplest ones are the best)

Give an example of a palindrome.
"Anytime McCain's running mate spoke"
"Something in your body" (Yeah, it's that racecar I swallowed)
"House of pain" (you know, like Mad Max Beyond Palindrome; two men enter, one man leaves...backwards!)
"Sarah's Fortress of Solitude" (where she goes to keep Letterman from knocking up her daughter)

Define homocentric.
"Gay bar"
"A style of dress where as individuals dress in bright collors and they are mostly bisexual" (!)
"someone who is obsessed with homosexual topics"
"an eccentric human"

Finish this old saying: "A bird in the hand is worth ____"
"Five in the pan" (I think I'd much rather have five cooked birds than one in my mitt, but hey...) "Billions of things" (I caught a pigeon! I'm off to the car dealership!)
"The crap it leaves behind" (obviously an ornithophobe)
" a penny in the bank" (but it all adds up!)

What is a Briton?
"a type of water filtering system" (classic)

What is a Catch-22? "A sticky wicket" (Who's in my class, Sir Aluminium Bootbonnet? Name that reference, by the way)

You might go swimming in a scuba suit. What do the letters in SCUBA stand for?
"Swimming in the Cold water Under or Below the Atlantic" (wrong, but I like it!)
"Stop Chewing Under Big Apples"
"Sea Clothes Used Clothing Attire" (I so want to shop there)
"Scared Cause U Bout out of Air"

What do tabasco sauce, jello, and kleenex have in common?
"vinegar" (New Kleenex with the agonizing sting of vinegar!)
"They're all used when someone has a cold" (Nothing like jello to put you back on your feet)
"They are all strangely soft"
"They all touch the mouth" (Yeah, I like to lick my kleenex after I blow my nose)
"animal fat"

What is a mondegreen?
"An ugly shade of green"

What distinguishes a marionette from a puppet?
"The marionette uses strings and a tape player" (I really think marionettes need to get with the 21st century and use CDs)

What is a didgeridoo?
"A drug used for male enhancement" (hey, if I have to swallow a didgeridoo for that "something extra," I'll do it)

What does antebellum mean? "part of the brain" (Six answers like this)

What is suffrage?
"hardship" (almost EVERY answer was like this)

What is Esperanto?
"European sports car" (It's what Shatner drives!)
"A Mexican word" (spoken by all those practicioners of the Mexican language)
"A Latin music group" (but they can't get Ricky Martin for the reunion)
"A Spanish country" (one of the many) "Tonto's cousin" (you heap wrong, Kemosabe!)
"A freedom fighter of Mexico" (Benicio Del Toro IS...Esperanto!)

God bless 'em...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Movin' Pitchers!

OK, so while I was in Vancouver, Lea and I watched a bunch of movies. Here's what I thought:

The Wrestler - Really enjoyed this. Mickey Rourke was fantastic! Best performance of his career. My son (who is going through pro wrestling training at the moment) thought it was a bit too "Hollywood-ized" in parts, but I took that as a result of this being both a throwback to a very old style of picture (much like the original Rocky in that) and also kind of a more edgy, "postmodern" take. I have a better-than-most understanding of the wrestling biz, and it hit the major chords for me (the scene at the fan "meet and greet" hit so close to home, not just in terms of wrestling, but also for comic folks who have done shop signings, conventions, etc.). Just in terms of pure movie-making, though, fantastic stuff. The scene with Rourke's "Randy the Ram" working in the deli is one of the finest scenes in recent movie history. Just beautiful. It will be interesting to see where Rourke goes after this; I'm hoping, given his unusual look these days, that he doesn't ONLY get parts like this and his Sin City turn as Marv. He should've walked away with the Oscar (much more deserving than the hypocritical Sean Penn, who makes a "tolerance" movie like Milk while supporting people like Castro; doesn't he know how Cuba has treated homosexuals over the years? Does the word "gulag" mean anything to you? Cram it, Spicoli). I give this one five stars out of five. *****

Slumdog Millionaire - Y'know, I brought this one with me, and we both noticed how reluctant we were to actually sit down and watch it. Strange, isn't it? Sometimes you just can't bring yourself to watch a flick even if you're pretty darned positive it's good. Anyway, when we eventually got down to it, we dug it very much. Interesting storytelling technique, and sheds light on a culture with which a lot of people are not that familiar. Nice juxtaposition of humor, drama, and occasional moments of tension. They even gave us a wink and a nod at the end with a Bollywood number. Anyway, definitely a movie worth seeing, if you're one of the presumably few who haven't done so yet. Four and a half stars. **** 1/2

JCVD - Sweet sassy molassey! We had heard about this, but didn't really know what to expect. Truth be told, I'm still not exactly sure what we got, but damned if it wasn't one of the most fascinating movies I've watched in a long time. The premise is this: Jean-Claude Van Damme, playing himself, has fallen on hard times. He's fighting for custody of his kids, his movie career is faltering (he loses out on roles to Steven Seagal!), and life in general is just no (Van) damn good. Then, while in Brussels, he becomes one of the hostages of a group of bank robbers who are holed up inside a bank. Due to misunderstandings, though, the media, and therefore the public, end up thinking Van Damme is BEHIND the robbery, turning it all into a circus. That's the basic idea, but it doesn't even scratch the surface here. Perhaps the most compelling scene is when the camera suddenly pans up, showing us the boom mics and such, signalling that it's breaking the "fourth wall," and JCVD gives us a very moving soliloquy about his life and career. It's the (Van) damndest thing, let me tell ya. See this movie, folks. You'll be glad you did. A totally transfixed five stars from me. *****

Frozen River - I was iffy on this one when Lea picked it out at the video store. My reservations were mainly due to the video box description, which made it sound far too much like Thelma and Louise (or as I like to call it, "root canal without the charm"). However, that description aside, it was actually a nifty little movie about two women who become involved in smuggling illegals over the Canadian border into the U.S. by way of driving over a frozen river. They're both interesting characters, the plot is tense (the baby scene alone had me wincing), and the acting is just spot-on. Don't let some of the packaging as a "chick flick" scare you away from this one. It's a movie with a big brass set, if you smell what I'm cooking. Four stars from me. ****

Baghead - Lea picked this one out, and I think she did so as a concession to me. If I haven't mentioned it before, she's not that big on fantasy-based stuff, or action films, or (especially) horror, so we end up trying to find common ground (!) in our movie rentals (centering on comedies, oddities like JCVD, picking out-of-the-ordinary fantasy stuff like The Host or The Orphanage, etc.) She saw the box for Baghead, and given the horror movie premise, and the indy film atmosphere and mentions of Cannes, she probably thought it was something that I'd like and that she could tolerate. The basic premise is that two couples go out into the woods to make a low-budget movie. Eventually they decide to make it a horror film with a stalker named Baghead who simply wears a...well, a bag on his head. But Baghead (the film WE'RE watching) is not really a horror movie. It's a sort of relationship comedy/drama with Baghead as a device. I'm of mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I dig the fact that it was made for about the price of a Burger King combo meal by the Duplass brothers, who seem like cool guys (based on the behind the scenes DVD stuff), and who are supposedly getting to do bigger stuff based on their success. Good for you, guys! On the other hand, I expect the script for this kind of movie to be much sharper in its dialog, as that's basically what's going to carry the film. It didn't really stand out in that respect, unfortunately. Also, the ending made it seem like a very familiar urban legend or anecdote that I've heard numerous times before. Overall, I think I got my rental's worth, though. I'll say two and a half stars here. **1/2

Wendy and Lucy - Yeesh! Where do I start here? First, I should point out that my Twilight Guardian comic has received a lot of great response, but there have been occasional folks who've said "Nothing happens in it!" My favorite comment was from Tyler (a nice guy) over at Heavy Ink who said “Here I am walking around my neighborhood. Now I’m at home. Now I’m walking around again. Look a car. Now it’s over.” Ha! Now, hopefully those of you who read TG realize there was a lot more to it than that, but I understand that for a handful of folks it just didn't work. OK, no problem. It still won Pilot Season, thank goodness. What does all this have to do with Wendy and Lucy, you ask? Just this: everything those people thought about Twilight Guardian is what I think about Wendy and Lucy. NOTHING HAPPENS. The plot involves a young woman who packs up her car, takes her dog, and begins a drive from Indiana to Alaska. Along the way, her car breaks down, she gets picked up for shoplifting, the dog disappears..and...well, that's the entirety of the plot. OK, now I should be all right with that. Obviously one of the hallmarks of my own work is the attempt to find interest in what's ostensibly "mundane." The problem with Wendy and Lucy is that the filmmakers are unable to do that. There is nothing WITHIN the structure of the film to engage the viewer. The dialog is not dynamic, there's no "hook," there's no quirkiness to the secondary and tertiary characters, etc. We have no idea why Wendy is going to Alaska, why she's doing so in such an ill-prepared way, what her backstory is...nothing. And because of everything I've mentioned, we don't particularly care. Gang, given that what this movie attempts to do is not that far removed from what I do and what interests me, I desperately wanted to like it. And I DO give the filmmakers points for what they were trying to do. But I'd be lying if I said that I was better off, more entertained, more enlightened, WHATEVER after having viewed it. Your mileage may vary. I'll give it a star and a half, because I kind of liked the security guard character. *1/2

If it's out by my next trip, I'm hoping to watch the DVD of Watchmen with Lea. This should be interesting...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Troy Hickman, Master of the DP!

I LOVE the Doom Patrol. Love them, love them, love them. And if I had my choice of any assignment at DC, it would be writing the Doom Patrol. No, not the Vertigo-style DP. No, not whatever the heck John Byrne did with them. I'd like to write the DP as they were in the 60s (and maybe set in the 60s...maybe a pre-Crisis 60s at that).

Anyone from DC reading this? Do you want a great comic series? Because that's what I'd give you. I've been waiting to write this one since I was about five (but I promise not to write it like I am...except for a childlike awe and affection for the material).

I've got stuff to keep me busy in the meantime, but think about it, DC...