The Measure of a Man

Ya know, Spider-Man will always be the superhero that I feel speaks the best to us as a people. The self-sacrificing hero, idealistic, flawed, guilt-ridden and self-doubting, but always ready and willing to fight the good fight.
 
Superman is a beautiful symbol, but a horrific failure as a character. He’s so perfect that he’s unbearably flawed. He has to be twisted in some fashion or presented in some cynical fashion for people to care.
 
Batman is a childish power fantasy. The one who always wins. The one plagued by the least tragedy, the least faults. He’s the smartest, the richest, the coolest, the darkest, the most varied in his presentation. He’s said to be human, but he’s more a superman than, well, Superman.
 
I think Iron Man, especially more modern interpretations–the movies and the comics, since at least the “Extremis” storyline from about a decade ago–is a more nuanced take on the rich genius dressing up and playing hero. He has an arc. He grows and falters and has to learn from his tragic mistakes and failures. He’s an ideal for how those with true great power–money, influence–must also act responsibly, namely for the betterment of others.
 
But I don’t think any character has been as frequently well-written, well-tested, and well-examined as Daredevil.
 
Matt Murdock isn’t a man haunted and motivated solely by some childhood trauma, though he certainly has plenty of that under his belt. He wasn’t even set on his path to be a hero until he was a grown man in law school. He wasn’t a child sent off into the wild to be a symbol of hope.
 
Instead, Matt Murdock wanted to be a beneficial, caring member of society by becoming a lawyer who helped those in need. He was a man who was once a boy who wanted to grow up to be a real hero, no different than those who grow up wanting to be a cop or a doctor or a firefighter.
 
Oddball powers aside, Matt is, at his core, a blind martial artist who fights all sorts of realistic and superpowered villains in a homemade Halloween costume–literally, as he stitched his costume together from pieces of his father’s old boxing gear.
 
He deals frequently with real-world issues. He gets hurt and scared. His relationships deal with his lies and lifestyle in realistic ways–they get scared and hurt and leave and die. People learn to *hate* Matt Murdock as a person. There are consequences to his actions (he was even disbarred in New York in a fairly recent story, once his identity was made fully public).
 
How often do you see–specifically in a mainstream, in-continuity superhero comic–the hero dealing with serious personal issues like depression?
 
Yeah, like Batman, Daredevil always wins. The villains always get what’s coming to them, at least for a time. But unlike such characters as Batman, Matt Murdock’s stories carry with them the weight of years and years of writer’s testing the character. The character himself has scars.
 
More importantly, the character doesn’t simply win “because he’s Daredevil.” He’s not going to win because he’s always the smartest man in the room, or has all the money in the world to have the most asinine amount of toys, gear, tech, and even a personal army of highly-trained, super savvy children. Even his victories often come at a cost, personal or otherwise.
 
Superman is an ideal. Batman is a fantasy. Spider-Man is the best of us. Iron Man is wish fulfillment.
 
But Daredevil is, at his core, just a man.
 
Yeah, he can fight. But he’s not the best in the world.
 
Yeah, he has some super powers. But he’s more an acrobatic detective as a result.
 
But he’s still a man. Selfish, guilt-ridden, worn and broken by the world. He has a day job that he actually needs to do. He has relationships that are unhealthy for a variety of reasons. He suffers from things like depression.
 
His heroics, his actions and behavior are elevated even more than his “peers” because of how human and flawed he is constantly shown to be.
 
He’s given up, given in. But he always finds it in him to fight again. It’s never just a given. It’s never shown to be easy.
 
He’s not truly a man without fear, or even a guy who has some vague ability or personality trait to overcome such things. He’s just a man who won’t let himself stay down, even when by all rights he’d be forgiven for doing so. He fights and earns the title of “The Man Without Fear” by acting even when he is completely and utterly afraid.
 
That’s beautiful writing. That’s phenomenal character work.
 
“The measure of a man is not in how he gets knocked to the mat, it is in how he gets up.”
 
Sometimes I feel that I act and go about my day because I think it’s the only thing there is to do. I’m tired, hurt, afraid all the time. I feel like I just carry that with me because there’s only one other option, which is to just lay down and die. But I don’t do that…because, “I don’t know.” I wish I did. But I don’t. At best, maybe it’s just more fear that keeps me from doing it. Sometimes it’s just pure resentment or rage, like I’m sticking it to the universe. Like it’s some stupid act of defiance by not just giving up.
 
I wish it was because I had the attitude that I won’t and can’t give up. At the very least, I wish I could see myself as a man who can get knocked down and get back up no matter what. That maybe I do live up to that notion.
 
I just see myself as a stubborn coward. But I want to be a man without fear.
 
Sometimes I think wanting that for myself is good enough. And maybe it is. It’s a comforting thought, at least.
 
I mean, I haven’t thrown in the towel just yet. Right?
Marvel’s “Daredevil” (Vol. 4, Issue #10)

Self-Inflicted Failure


The most fascinating bit of human behavior I observe on a regular basis is this:

People mistaking their current failings or lot in life as anything other than the inevitable result of their refusal to both make use of their talents and to grow as individuals.

Refusing to change. Refusing to grow. And these people are either somehow surprised that they’re in the same place they were five, ten years ago or quick to blame it on the world somehow being wrong.

Worse is when they deny they’ve also squandered privileges that others lack. Just because you’re both stupid *and* lazy doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. Much like your life, you’ve let it go to waste instead of capitalizing on it.

I mean, if these sort of moments were actually some sort of epiphany that would be great. It would have meaning. There would be the chance for change and growth.

But that’s not who these people are. They’re failed hacks who would rather bitch about being failed hacks than reflect on who and what they are and try to make things better.

And they’re failed hacks because they *choose* to be. Their failure isn’t from an utter dearth of talent or skill, or some lack of opportunity. It’s entirely due to them not making use of their talents, by not improving themselves and creating and earning new opportunities.

They have the arrogance to think it should just come to them and then complain about how the world doesn’t work that way.

And, really, if that isn’t some entitled, privileged bullshit right there, then what is?


Download the latest bits and pieces from Steve on SoundCloud. Or stream the latest compilations of LtPA over on MixCloud!

The Working Depression

People often seem a bit…curious as to why I have frequent struggles with anxiety and depression. I mean, aside from the fact that I’m naturally prone to such things.

And a notable part of it is the constant intentional and unintentional downplaying of how much work I actually do.

It’s incredibly disheartening when you receive so very little in the way of compliments or positive feedback on your work (or any feedback at all, really). It’s a constant head game where I’m questioning if what I’m doing is any good, if my efforts–despite having proven in various ways (including through monetary rewards) that I indeed have quality, notable skills and abilities. But I am constantly questioning if all my efforts are anything other than wasted energy and the production of garbage. Even worse, I constantly question those rare instances when I do receive a compliment. In my head, it translates to a well-meaning but otherwise hollow pleasantry. People just being polite rather than honest.

I already don’t like me. I don’t have much more than a vague sense that I’m a burden or an annoyance to those around me. That what I put into the world is noise. The incredibly rare compliment, like, share, or, yes, monetary reward of my work gives me hope that, somehow, someway, I’m at least entertaining people. That for some brief period of time whatever I’m doing is making people feel something they want to feel rather than all the bullshit they have to feel. And, as a result, maybe I’m not so benign or, more likely, unwanted.

As a general rule, I’m never outright happy. I don’t feel happiness the way I imagine some people do–perhaps as this lingering, pleasant feeling people can carry around with them (even if they don’t actively notice it until it’s suddenly not there).

When I do feel what I think is happiness, it’s fleeting. It’s an occasional sense of ease. It feels almost like that incredibly brief sensation someone might normally have when they get into a hot bath after a long day or a hard workout. That brief, almost instant feeling of relief as your muscles relax and all the tension and pain subsides. It’s not the actual alleviation of it, not for me. It’s just that singular instance of something washing over you. And then, it’s gone.

Sometimes I get that after a good movie, or reading a good story. Sometimes I even get it after I finish whatever bit of nonsense I’m working on at the moment–a post, a tweet, a movie review, a set.

But it’s always that brief, instant moment that washes over and away.

And, so, I work. A lot. I don’t really stop. I don’t sleep well, even with assistance. My mind doesn’t calm down enough often enough. My dreams are vivid, lucid. It can be a draining, exhausting experience for me to sleep on my worst days. Working helps. Talking, writing, whatever. So I do it constantly. I tweet. I post to Facebook. I constantly put down notes into a memo on my phone or tablet or laptop. I don’t just relax with video games, I stream. Everything has to be “work” for me.

And I have to do it every chance I get, otherwise I feel useless. This heavy, overpowering sense of guilt just piles up on me if I’m not working on something. At times, it’s like I’m standing at the bottom of a hill, watching this little snowball just barrel towards me as it increases in mass and speed until it inevitably just plows me right the fuck over. And, in my head, I think I deserve it.

Well, maybe if you were busy working you wouldn’t have been standing around and getting hit, dipshit.

So when all you do is work and guilt-trip yourself for somehow not working enough, it’s, at the very least, disheartening to see so little for it. Eventually you can’t help but get even deeper into your own head and drown in negative thoughts.

But it’s a whole other thing when, for whatever reason, you receive way more judgement. Not criticism, because I can do something with criticism. I can work with criticism. No, in this case I mean “judgment.”

Like when friends and family tell you, “You don’t even have a job.”

In the past two weeks alone–from October 1st through October 14th–I have written, produced, and published 14 video-based movie reviews in as many days. Each review requires that I spend an average of two hours watching and critiquing a feature film. Each video for each review then requires several hours of writing a review, compressing it into a two-to-five minute long script, recording that script, editing the audio from that recording, and then animating and editing it all together for a final video that I then have to upload, catalog, and promote across different platforms. And all without any assistance.

That’s been me–all day, every day–for just the past two weeks.

Now, in addition to all of that, I’ve also not only rewritten two-thirds of a thirty-page screenplay but also converted it into a script for an audio drama. I’ve written the first, rough draft of the first act of a screenplay for a feature (that’s roughly another twenty or so pages). I’ve performed several times. I’ve helped out a buddy at another show. I’ve been lucky to get more bookings during that time for shows that are coming up in the next two weeks. I’ve written more jokes and posts and more ideas. I’ve woken up–or cut myself off from falling into a deep sleep–just to write down notes for future stories and jokes and whatever. I’ve even managed to half-assedly produce and upload some nonsense for a completely experimental podcast/vlogcast/tubecast…thing I’ve been calling Laugh the Pain Away.

Yeah, a lot of my time is spent looking at a screen or wallowing in and actively exploring a murky swamp of thoughts nobody should ever be so unfortunate to find themselves in. I spend a lot of my time typing away at a keyboard or on a touchscreen. I spend a lot of my time watching and thinking and talking.

Yeah, I do that instead of working in an office for a steady paycheck that covers the rent on a lovely little apartment just down the street from a lovely Southern California beach.

Now, I used to do that. I used to have the office and the apartment and the steady paycheck. I used to do that sort of work. I used to be able to afford things. I used to be able to say that the frequent stress and adverse toll such a thing took on my physical and mental health were worth it.

And then it got to a point where I couldn’t say that. It got to the point where it nearly cost me my life.

So, I don’t do that no mo’. I don’t want to.

Thankfully I have a wife who doesn’t want that for me either. She wants me to have something better, something more.

(She also insists I relax more and just have fun with shit like video games instead of trying to turn it all into some sort of “work” for myself. She hasn’t been entirely successful on that front just yet.)

But I still have people in my life who, for whatever reason (intentionally and unintentionally) like to downplay the sheer amount of work I do. Because it doesn’t generate enough money for me. Because it’s not as steady as a job flipping burgers or tossing pizza. Because I don’t go to an office or some other place of business and have set shifts and a time-sheet to fill out (anymore). Because it’s not within a more professional part of this or that industry. Because I’m not taking center stage on the biggest stages.

I’m a lunatic attempting to make a little spot for himself on the outskirts of it all while I also desperately claw my way up and through a wall to be inside, even on the very edge of it all. Just to have more people to reach. More work to do. Just a few more of the very brief moments washing over me. Those moments where, for even a short while, I get to help other people to not feel the way I do almost ceaselessly. A few more paydays and some of those fleeting moments where I don’t feel like killing myself.

Other people often have the pleasure of going somewhere else, away from their personal problems. But I’ve turned my personal problems into work–my anxiety, depression, my fears, my nightmares. I don’t get to walk away from those things from 9-to-5. Instead, I’m the sick fuck running towards it–all day, every day.

I’m the sick fuck who, for him, this is the healthier alternative.

And I’m judged for it. My work and contributions are stripped of any value they might have.

You don’t have a job.

He’s a third wheel.

If every last one of my subscribers or followers on the various platforms where I published my bullshit contributed $1 to my Patreon (the only tier I even have, and intentionally so. Because I don’t want people to think I’d withhold my work from them because they’re not constantly shoving enough coins and bills into my little cup.) If they did that, I’d have enough money for a car payment. I could cover some serious bills. I couldn’t pay rent for that apartment near the beach–not even half. But that’s still around $300-$400 based off my current numbers across various, unrelated platforms and projects.

And I built that on my own, organically. I haven’t paid for a single ad. I haven’t boosted my posts or videos. I don’t have a bankable name or brand to leech off of. And it isn’t just family and friends and peers who casually follow me and my work. These are, by and large, total and utter strangers to me–strangers who have actively enjoyed my work, for whatever reason. My work has done that for me, just like how it once used to pay for that apartment. I did that.

But I don’t work. I don’t know what I’m saying or doing because I haven’t been doing it as much as others (and never will, because I’ll always be younger and less experienced than someone still living and active in this or that field). I’m just a tag-along. I’m not punching a clock and working in a cubicle or behind a register.

I’m just some jackass who watches movies, writes and publishes stupid shit online, and says silly shit in public. I’m always wrong because other people think they’re right, unless they happen to agree with me (and even then, it’s “tl;dr”). I’m always just off the mark unless it’s someone else making use of my work. I’m just a lazy, worthless piece of shit who isn’t good enough for…whatever, I guess.

And people genuinely seem confused by my anxiety, depression, and lack of self-worth.

Maybe they have a point.

YouTube and You


In which I welcome YouTubers to the entertainment industry, though with a friendly warning.

Patreon: www.patreon.com/amoralcrackpot
Twitter: www.twitter.com/amoralcrackpot
Website: amoralcrackpot.com


Download the latest bits and pieces from Steve on SoundCloud. Or stream the latest compilations of LtPA over on MixCloud!


I generally hate “YouTubers“. I don’t trust them. I don’t like them. I think far too many of the more notable ones are liars, manipulators, and thieves who have trained their fans to believe them at all costs. It’s a cult of personality, for sure.

But the most aggravating and prolific issue I’ve found with them is how they’ve convinced *each other* that they’re somehow special. That YouTube is some new world order of entertainment (brother!). How it’s them, the creators–these YouTubers–against YouTube itself, advertisers, and “traditional” media.
 
These idiots cry foul when their tired, hacky shit doesn’t earn them enough money. They sick their fans on YouTube until they get what they want. And their fans have a skewed and wholly incorrect idea of how marketing, sponsorships, and the entertainment industry work. And these YouTubers *want* it that way. They want ignorant fans who they can manipulate because that’s less competition and steady, loyal followers to keep their tired, hacky shit going another month when it’d never have made money otherwise.
 
So I’ve been trying to do my part to educate and inform those on /r/youtube who are confused and hold a lot of misplaced anger and frustration. They need to understand that what they think they’re attempting to do is no different than any other entertainer. And that they might not be up for this shit, because they expect fame and money to just appear–that they’re *entitled* to money just for producing and distributing even the laziest bullshit. And they buy into it because that’s what their favorite YouTubers imply or outright say.
 
And this is my recent response to one such person on reddit. And surprisingly enough, it’s been received in a fairly positive manner. No hate just yet (we’ll see if that changes).

Platforms like YouTube are only what you make of it.
 
Sponsors pay the bills. They provide the revenue stream to keep the lights on–not me, not you, and not Philip DeFranco. The sponsors are needed for the platform to exist at all. It’s why there are no real YouTube alternatives–it’s just way too expensive and way too easy to fail. If YouTube can barely make it work, why would Coke or any other major company invest sinking money into a guaranteed to fail venture?
 
The Adpocalypse was the inevitable result of YouTubers being given too much rope for too long. Eventually, they hung themselves (and the platform) with them. It wasn’t YouTube or the sponsors to blame. It was YouTubers with questionable content and their “communities” who brought this down on all of us.
 
People think cord cutting is this massive thing that’s happening and that YouTube is somehow the future–it isn’t. YouTube (and similar platforms) is the latest version of public access television. Only instead of a tiny local audience, we’re dealing with a potentially global one.
 
But that isn’t a bad thing. If anything, it’s a good thing. It’s easy enough to predict. You can figure out where and how you can grow an audience. You can manage generating revenue without the long, drawn-out process of drudging up your own sponsors to pay you to produce your shitty TV show.
 
You also have things like SEO and major search engines that fit you into algorithms that you can exploit to reach even more people, thus increasing your value in the eyes of sponsors. YouTube does all the heavy lifting on that side of the equation, thus leaving you free to focus specifically on programming and marketing.
 
That said, what people are realizing now is that much of the content they’ve been creating is, unfortunately, worthless. It’s not worth the servers they’re stored on. There’s only so much money and way too many people creating identical content that competes for a fairly limited audience–an audience with viewing habits and tastes that are changing at a much faster rate than ever before. These viewers chase the next big thing, and there’s a new one almost daily for them to turn to. It’s an incredibly competitive market.
 
Think about the usual content on YouTube, like all the vlogs, pop-culture news, and drama. None of that is evergreen. It lives and dies in hours, maybe days depending on how hot the topic is. These videos burn bright but then instantly go out. They generate a lot of revenue real quick before they’re making nothing ever again. Everyday these channels have to generate content that meet certain expectations simply to continue existing. Their audience can literally dry up overnight should a better alternative appear, one with a better schedule or personality or whatever. For any reason, at any time, everything can go away.
 
And it makes sense. The algorithms feed this behavior. It’s more profitable in the short term to chase after this sort of audience.
 
But it also blinds people to their need to expand beyond a singular project and platform. TV series get canceled all the time. Some don’t even make it a full season. Some last several seasons before they’re abruptly canceled. YouTube is no different. The money can and does dry up without warning. That’s how entertainment works. You’re supposed to be prepared for that. You’re supposed to line up new projects. You’re supposed to grow and expand and look towards other opportunities that the initial popularity and fame and money affords you.
 
A few questions every content creator has to ask themselves include (and listed here in no particular order):
 
1. Who is my target audience, and how large is it?
 
2. How can I compete for their attention and retain a notable number of these potential viewers?
 
3. What are the risks involved with this sort of audience and programming? (Is the audience finicky? Is there a lot of competition?)
 
4. What sort of merchandise options are there to generate additional revenue?
 
5. How long will anything I produce be of value to my audience, both new and old?
 
6. What will I do once I see diminishing returns?
 
Entertainment is not an easy business. It’s not the most lucrative business across the board. But it can be a manageable one that provides a decent living for the many who figure out how things work and can make it work for them.
 
People really need to have an honest conversation with themselves about whether or not their content is actually viable, both in the short and long term. Because most are going to realize that they don’t have much to offer. And that sucks. But that’s the reality of the world, not just entertainment. Not everyone is cut out to be a leading man or a producer. Entertainment isn’t a business for everyone.
 
And if you do stick around but don’t like being beholden to corporate sponsors for all your income, then you need to figure out a way to turn every viewer into a potential revenue stream–merch, a patreon, whatever. Ad revenue should never, ever be your singular source of income. Actors at least know how much they’re making per episode or movie. At least some of their money is guaranteed thanks to contracts. But as an independent entertainer, you’re going to get stiffed every now and again. Your pay is going to be shit for a long time before it gets better (if it ever does). And even then, it can go right back to bad or even nonexistent should gigs dry up (and they often do)
 
You’ve got to pay your dues and build an audience that will support you for the long haul. Not everyone can do that. And a lot of YouTubers are finding that out the hard way because they’ve had it way too easy for way too long and weren’t prepared for reality to bite them in the ass. They’re not used to working in “entertainment”.
 
The entertainment industry loves rebels and flashes in the pan just as much as it loves predictable, safe investments. It’s a matter of what you’re willing to do for that job, for that paycheck. Will you play nice with sponsors and their expectations? Or will you go full punk rock, tell the sponsors to fuck off, and then do things your way with only your fledgling (likely nonexistent) fan base to lean on? Either one works. But in either case, you’ve got a lot of work to do to make it work.
 
Because whatever corner of arts, crafts, and entertainment you fall into–a comic, a pro wrestler, an actor, a painter, a writer, a YouTuber, whatever–you are not guaranteed anything for all your work. That’s the risk you take. You’re risking the steady pay of a 9-to-5 job against the opportunities in the field you would rather be in. And a lot of the time it simply does not pan out. And a lot of the times that happens, it’s because those people weren’t equipped for the struggles and pains of the business.
 
Comedian Marc Maron just did an AMA today on Reddit. Someone asked him about the opportunities for a college graduate with a desire to not work a typical 9-to-5.
 
“What unique advice would you have for a recent college grad English major who wants to avoid the mundane 9-5 day to day week at all costs?”
 
His answer was as simple as it was insightful:
 
“How do you feel about homelessness?”
 
I’ve been in one corner of the arts and entertainment industries for over a decade at this point. If not for my loving wife and some great friends I’ve made along the way, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities or the mental and emotional and spiritual willpower necessary to keep at it. I’ve made very good money with my writing. I’ve signed autographs. I’ve been paid to travel the country and work. I’ve been mentored by a literal billionaire business man. I’ve been praised by actors with real movie and TV and video game credits for my writing and vocal work. But I’ve also performed for almost no one. I do stand up in bars. I’ve had several concussions simply training for the chance to perform for an audience. I currently make just under a dollar a day for the work I publish on YouTube, though my audience is steadily growing. I write a lot of stuff that people apparently like but doesn’t get a lot of traction (and certainly makes me little to no money right now).
 
But I’ve seen over the years–through all of my twenties and now in my early 30s–that I can’t live doing anything else. I’ve tried it. Me and “work” don’t mix well. My wife doesn’t want to see me doing anything else. My friends–the few I’ve kept–want to see me excel at what I do, they’re there to guide me and help me (just as I am for them). But it’s real fucking hard. There’s a lot more painful moments than there are good ones. Certainly a lot more weeks without much in the way of a paycheck than with. But I know that. I’ve long accepted it as gospel. And because of that, I keep going and going until I earn that paycheck. Until my work pays off, even if it takes weeks or months.
 
But I’ve also proven–not just to myself but to others–that I have developed marketable enough talent to make it happen. I’m just lacking the audience right now to make a stable living. So, I have to keep at it. I have to grind and grind until I level up, one day, some day.
 
YouTube is a platform to jump off of. It’s a tool for you to use, not the end goal. Always stay a step ahead of the game. Develop your talents, exploit them to the cultivate a loyal audience. Do all you can think of to create as many opportunities to grow and generate income from your work and talents. But, above all else, do not fall into being a “YouTuber”. You’re just a talented mofo using YouTube to further build your brand, same as you would something like Facebook or Twitter.

I Need to Confess

So I think this is as good a time as any to share this. And it’s something that I really had to weigh the pros and cons of, ya know. I might lose a lot of friends because of my opinions, And I’d hate to lose loved ones over something like this. But it’s important to me. And I really think I can’t keep it to myself anymore.

Alright?

I don’t think I can trust anyone who buys a Subway Gift Card.

There, I said it. It’s out there now. No taking this one back.

I mean, seriously, who the fuck buys a Subway Gift Card? I mean, how much of a piece of shit do you have to be to go into a Subway and think to yourself, yeah, this’ll be a good gift for Alex. I like the guy, but I don’t like him that much, ya know? He’s got that…fuckin, hair thing, or whatever. I don’t know. You’re the one with the fuckin’ problem, not me.

Honestly, are these people laundering money via a sub-par but affordable sandwich franchise, or something?

For fuck’s sake, just give the poor sonofabitch a fiver and call it a day. At least then he doesn’t have to stand there like a jackass while the girl taking his order has to ask everything twice because she was too busy judging him about his poor life choices to hear him the first time.

This poor bastard. What sort of piece of shit must you be to have the sort of fucked up friends or family members or coworkers who would give you a gift card to this bastion of equally poor life choices?

Ya know, they don’t even have $5 foot-longs anymore. And when they did, they weren’t actually a foot long. They were off by like an–look it doesn’t matter.

The point is, I don’t fuckin’ like or trust any human being if they willingly purchase a Subway Gift Card. Okay? There’s clearly something off with them.

I mean, I’ll use the fuckin’ thing if I ever get one. I’m not gonna let it go to waste or nothin’. That’s a perfectly fine sandwich if you’re in the mood to delude yourself about your dietary habits. I know it’s not as good for me as they say, but it’s better than McDonalds. Technically. Depending on what you put on it.

Anywhere, here’s Tarzan Boy, from Baltimora.

 

Salmon Pink

Now that I got some of that #ThinkyStuff goin’:

I find it odd when people slap “Nazi” on white supremacists and other assorted racists and wackos.

Cuz Nazi implies an implicit association between the historical faction (?) and these nutjobs you see/read in the news everyday now–that the two are connected in some way, perhaps with the latter existing so as to continue the work and goals and ideals of the former. That if you are racist, you’re also exactly like those who were part of the historical Nazi party.

In other words: if you are a racist, then you are also a Nazi. You can never be a racist without *also* being a Nazi. It’s a bundled package. Products not sold separately.

And that just flies into the face of all the historically racist horseshit that goes all the way back to day-fuckin’-one. To the genocide we celebrate every year by eating a big fuckin’ bird. The raping, the murder, and the systematic destruction of an entire culture. The camps. The slaves. The slums.

And it wasn’t even just the reds, the browns, and the blacks. And as much as we generally love to fetishize their women, American is not historically fond of the people of…well, any Asian nation either.

No, because Americans love to hate them their assorted Europeans too! Remember learning in school about how Americans hated Italians before some jackass wrote a fluffy fan-fic biography about Christopher Columbus that mislabled him as the “discoverer” of America? (Remember how Columbus didn’t actually discover dick?) The Irish are still somewhat the butts of jokes. The Russians? The Romani? (Every hotel employee has at least *one* story about “gypsies”. Hell, Hollywood built itself on monster movies that featured an “old gypsy woman”…fuck, it’s a running joke in Archer!) Muslims. All of Africa (except the white ones).

Racism is the bedrock upon which this nation was founded and built. The Nazi’s weren’t around in 1492 or 1776. They weren’t a thing before the Civil War–or even the completion of the continental railroad. And America had no desire to fight Nazis until the final weeks of 1941, more than two years after the war started. In fact, a COMIC BOOK CHARACTER took a punch at Hitler before a flesh-and-blood American ever shot at one.

And even after we fought ’em, we were still arguing about civil rights. Shit, we’re still arguing about civil rights! We’re denying people the American Dream of discovering who they are and what they were meant to be and then becoming that person. (If a dude wants to be a chick, then that chick is a chick, man. If she got a dick, she’s still a chick. And we all know you fuckers are rubbin’ one out to those chicks with them dicks on your laptops at night. But it’s fine, ya ain’t queer cuz it’s still just a chick–she just happens to have a dick. It’s just lesbian porn but one of ’em has a real dick instead of a strap–look, it don’t mean nothing, okay? Fuck off, then!)

What the fuck was I talking about?

Oh, right. Nazis.

Labeling these new-day wackos all Nazis is to deny how very American they all are. These psychos are American born, raised, and made. They’re the taint–that darkness that’s existed since conception–a birth defect yet-to-be corrected–the clogged arteries of the American spirit given physical form. They’re simply waving dead flags of what we thought were dead ideals because everyone would get confused who was who if they were to fly the American one instead.

You want to know the difference between what should have stayed dead and buried and the America that persists? Because there’s more people who love the comedic wit and charm of The Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin than who want to hate. There are more who love the characters that embody the light of the American Spirit like Superman and Captain America. More who love the dream that good always triumphs over evil. It’s in our books, our movies, or comics. More people love the face than the heel. More good than evil. The works of men and women who fought against these dark, twisted fragments of our very beings without every throwing so much as a single punch.

Superman helped take down the KKK decades ago. Cap threw that first punch at Hitler. The Stooges and Chaplin mocked the pop-culture shorthand for Evil–they exposed it for the cruel joke that it is. There’s way more people laughing at Nazis than there are Nazis to laugh at.

The difference between what needs to stay dead and what persists in America? We, as Americans, want nothing more than to be Superman and Captain America. We want to be the hero, not the villain. But we know that not every war is fought with fists or guns or bombs. Verbal castration keeps them from reproducing, it’s just a very long process.

Kinda like housebreaking a puppy. That puppy is going to have an accident every now and again. It’s going to spray piss and shit everywhere. It’ll bite and chew and wreck and destroy. But, given love and affection and understanding, that puppy will grow. They will learn. And while they never stop pissing and shitting, eventually it does learn there’s a time and place for that (apparently, that place currently includes the White House). It’s a natural part of a living organism. It’s called “waste” for a reason. Taking a good shit is awesome, yeah. But we don’t usually have a fondness for playing with it. It’s something we often wish we didn’t have to do ever again. And when it happens more than it should, it’s a concern.

What I think I’m getting here is that Trump, his lackeys, and anyone who gets off on hurting others in any way is a walking pile of shit masquerading as human. And there’s way more people who believe that than want to actually be a walking, talking turd.

No amount of punching has solved anything. The war to end all wars didn’t deliver. Love and laughter has done much more to fight hate and violence than the unfortunate, staggering, and frightening loss of life done in the name of doing so.

There was a recent story I came across, about a black man who spent his life befriending and reforming a large number of now-former KKK members. He guided damaged, confused men to becoming something better. How many of those just so much as claiming they want to “punch a Nazi” or, Morgan Freeman forbid, *kill* another person who happens to be a “Nazi”…how many of these people can claim to have done what that man did? How many people could they have actually helped if they weren’t so busy talking and bragging about how much they can hate? Combined, I guarantee he *still* has the better score–and by a wide margin.”

Despite the flags they’re waving and wearing, they’re still Americans. They’re still people.

Fists don’t fight ideals. They don’t fight language. They don’t fight symbols and rhetoric. They only fight and hurt other people.

As Bruce Lee succinctly put it, “Boards don’t hit back.”

How many people did Bruce Lee ever really fight? How many more did he touch and inspire without ever having to simply meet them?

How many more kids grew up believing in “Boards don’t hit back” or “With great power, there must also come great responsibility” than ever grew up wanting to harm another living person? How many more believe the voice of Marlon Brando when he told all of us, “They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son”?

I’ve grown so weary of people pretending like they want to fight and kill. I’m sick of people pretending that violence does anything but lead to more violence. Killing to more killing.

There doesn’t have to be anymore bloodshed or broken bones or crying mothers, wives, and husbands, and families. That has never solved anything. That darkness never dies. It just hides and licks its wounds. You can only beat it back and force it to heal for longer and longer periods of time. It’ll be around longer than any of us. It’s viral, not organic. It infects but isn’t one of us. It just has an imperative to multiply, and as a result it can destroy and kill what it touches.

So, in conclusion:

Something-something Superman. Yadda-yadda-Captain America. Turd people. And something about quit acting like you’re not at least occasionally looking at that sort of porn? I think that was it.

Don’t let the rallies and tiki torchers and assholes of all sorts distract you from the fact that in 1998, The Undertaker threw Mankind off Hell In A Cell, and plummeted 16 ft through an announcer’s table.”

Let Them Speak

There’s a very clear reason why you don’t infringe on the spirit of free speech, even if the person across from you is someone you don’t agree with at all. Even if what they say is utterly stupid or even hurtful.

We communicate and think in language. Silence is not the same as compliance, agreement, or even understanding. It is simply that: silence.

I would rather know someone’s true feelings, their true intent than go on the assumption that I can trust them or that they’re a “good person.”

What someone says and does is key insight into who they are as a person.

Punching someone into silence. Forcing them to stay silent. None of that solves the underlying problem. None of that even begins to approach the issue. All this does is sweep it under the rug for some indeterminate amount of time. And, eventually, it will come back up again, likely bigger and angrier than ever before–because that’s what happens when you let something toxic fester. That’s what happens when you dismiss or treat a symptom but not the disease.

Anger, violence, selfishness, hate, closed-mindedness, intolerance. These are either bad always or they are never bad.

Let them speak. Let them protest.

And then, when they expose their true selves, you act.

I’m seeing a lot of people posting about how they’ve had to unfriend a lot of other people. How they’ve had to block this or that person who was a friend or even a family member.

But this speaks to you as a person. Because it shows that you never knew who these people were to begin with. You never really spoke with or understood these people. This shit isn’t hard to see or figure out. It only takes a few minutes to get that sturdy feel for who a person is deep down by the things they say, the way they act, and the way they treat other people. If you were taken aback or shocked by their support of things like Trump or the Alt-Right or whatever, you were never paying attention. And if you weren’t surprised, that means you were more than willing to keep such people around you because it fulfilled some need of your own. You were perfectly fine with who these people are and what they believe until it gave you the chance to use them, now, as an example.

Lot of people are talking about how we beat the Nazis once and we’ll do it again. Or how we took down racist confederate whoevers. And the people saying this are the same people who have ignored the nonstop string of decades where this racist, ignorant, stupid horseshit has persisted in our country.

Remember how America denied sanctuary to boats full of Jewish people–boats offered up to us by Nazi Germany itself? Because that happened.

Remember learning about the genocide of Native Americans by the American government and its people?

How about the systemic racism inherent in the language of the law *and* the legal system that keeps blacks in areas with the worst education systems and higher probability of longer sentences than whites?

What about that time during the depression when the American government shipped up a bunch of US citizens of Mexican heritage, forced them out of their homes, threw them on trains, and illegally deported them to Mexico?

What about the internment camps where Japanese families were kept isolated from the rest of the world–taken away from their jobs, and homes, and loved ones–because they were simply of Japanese heritage?

None of what’s happening is new. None of what’s happening should actually be shocking.

We were never the heroes. We were simply, at that time, on the side that won. Heroes by association.

Slavery and racism didn’t end with the Civil War, it only changed. Antisemitism didn’t end with the fall of Nazi Germany, it only changed.

As a society, as a culture, as a people, what does it say about us as Americans when we supposedly claim to hate Trump and the Alt-Right and racism and intolerance when all we really do is perpetuate it or turn a blind eye?

72 years since the end of WW2. More than 150 years since the end of the Civil War. Nearly 50 years since the “end” of the Civil Rights Movement. And what exactly about us has fundamentally changed?

We never solved the problems. We continue to treat the surface-level symptoms and ignore the disease lurking deep inside.

Trump is a symptom. His supporters who blindly praise him are a symptom. The Alt-Right is a symptom. “Punching Nazis” is a symptom, not even a treatment to a symptom.

The disease is the unchecked dark side of humanity. The protests and marching and Facebook posting makes you feel good, but it doesn’t fix what’s fundamentally wrong with each and every one of us. That takes daily inventory of one’s self, of our actions and behaviors.

Are you actively a good person, or are you using the occasional public act or statement of kindness or solidarity to comfort yourself?

Because the literal Nazi’s going around, waving their flags, and chanting their stupid chants? I know I can’t trust them. I know I can’t respect any of them or their beliefs. But I do know what they think and feel at this point. I have good reason to feel the way I do about them and their “cause”.

But those going around calling for more violence in an effort to stop violence? You aren’t giving me any reason to trust or respect you. Because all I’m seeing and hearing is more anger and hatred dressed up in the same tattered costume of compassion. And look how far that’s gotten us.

U MAGA, BRO?

The following is what I got out of Trump’s speech yesterday.


“Our new energy plan is for every man, woman, and child who can’t afford health care to be connected to what we are calling–and I came up with this name myself–it’s never been thought of before, I can tell you that much. But they will be connected to what I call the ‘Matrix.’

It is a computer simulated reality–a beautiful paradise, really–simply beautiful–where they can live long, wonderful lives while we siphon off their body heat for energy. It’s that simple, folks. Just plug’em in and collect that energy. Can’t get sick in the Matrix folks. You just can’t.

And, really, they kept telling me you can’t put children to work. And I said–and you can ask anyone here–I said that I can do whatever I want. Who’s gonna stop me? Crooked Hillary? She’s not going to be in the Matrix. No chance. And here I am, found a way to do it. Put those little bastards to work making energy for us in the coal mi–I mean, in the Matrix.”

— Donald Juwanna-Man Trump

Wonder (Woman) What Happened.

For those looking for my full review of Wonder Woman, it’s currently available on Facebook and YouTube.


So, Wonder Woman isn’t very good. I don’t want to review it. I’m gonna either get utter shit for my review or I will be highly ignored. But I will do it.

For now, here are some initial thoughts that will get refined and reigned in some for the proper review on tomorrow’s The Nightly Chill.

Let’s Be Honest Now

My worst fears were true: Wonder Woman is, overall, a mostly subpar movie that is a step in the right direction but fails to be outright good. And, ultimately, it fails to live up to what I feared would be pseudo-feminist hype/marketing.

It isn’t the first female superhero movie (Supergirl gets that, far as I know or can tell). It isn’t the first movie to see a woman not only lead but be a badass (not by a mile). And it isn’t the saving grace of Warner and DC’s struggling franchise.

Is it outright terrible? No. It’s certainly leaps and bounds better than Warner/DC’s previous three movies in this poisoned well of a franchise. But it shares a lot of the same faults as those three. Namely, it fails to tell a strong, cohesive story.

The Story Here is That There Isn’t One

The plot is fine enough–and that it’s even remotely coherent is a massive improvement in and of itself. But it doesn’t tell a good *story*. There are no character arcs. There is no real antagonist or typical villain so much as a vague threat that isn’t properly capitalized on. And when she does get something to eventually punch, it makes little sense. It isn’t earned. It isn’t built up properly. And it ends like a terrible, godawful episode of Captain Planet where Ma-Ti is left to save them team on his own.

In all fairness, the first half of the movie (specifically the very first act) is mostly very well done and lives up to Patty Jenkins previous work. But once we leave Themyscira, things quickly take a turn for the worst outside of the second act’s action sequences (the less said about the third act, the better). There are glimpses, moments of strong filmmaking present. Chris Pine is great in the role of Steve Trevor. Gal Gadot, despite my feeling towards her inclusion in Batman v Superman, finally feels like she’s properly given a stage to become Wonder Woman. The earlier action scenes are stylish, cool, and fun.

But with no real driving conflict, no real antagonist, no story, no arcs, and an utterly horseshit, out-of-nowhere ending that only raises even more questions about the nonsense that is Batman v Superman, it’s certainly not “good”.

A Final Word

Now, is it watchable and even enjoyable to some degree? Yes, it is. But it is not this saving grace so many are making it out to be. And that’s an utter shame because there certainly was something there to do just that. I don’t know if its Jenkins, Snyder, or the execs at Warner/DC. But something went horribly wrong and there are those trying to pass it off as something that it isn’t.

At best, Wonder Woman is a promise of something better in the future. But, for now, as with this movie and the ones before it, an A for effort doesn’t forgive it’s numerous failings and shortcomings.

Spellcheck.

I admittedly “google” words as a strange form of spellcheck. In fact, it often gives me better results than the actual spellcheck in my current word processor (do we even still call it that?).

That said, I recently did this with “succinct”. And, of course, part of that also gave me the definition through Google itself. Not from say Merriam-Webster or Oxford, but simply Google’s definition–or, at least, its preferred one.

And it was this, “(especially of something written or spoken) briefly and clearly expressed.”

My initial thought was, “Yeah, that’s what I figured it’d say. Why would it say it any different?”

But then I thought more about it.

Well, of course succinct would be briefly and clearly expressing something in writing or in speech. How the hell else would you express it if not written or spoken aloud? Who the fuck says, “That painting was very succinct.” Or, “That Metallica song was very succinct.”

That was a succinct drum solo, man.

That sexual stimulation was very succinct…

This is the shit I think about when it’s 3:30 in the morning and I’ve run out of porn.

Simplicity is Complex.

One of the most frightening aspects of today’s culture and political climate is a demand, an absolute lusting for simplicity.

We’re long past the time when we as a people settled on soundbites as proper replacements for actual information combined with context. Context is too messy, takes too long to hear and read. We want our information boiled down to bullet points, even if it means losing the nuances that truly define anything.

Feelings are now a replacement for information, for facts, for context. If we feel offended or slighted or that we’re somehow in the right, that means far more–feels somehow more correct–than even toying with the notion that perhaps there’s more to everything at hand.

We strip our own language down to base emotions. But we think in language. Our thoughts are expressed and detailed through language. Language is important to express more nuanced aspects of our thoughts and emotions.

Emotions are as easy as things come, as simple as they can possibly be boiled down to. It’s easy to feel feelings, to understand feelings, to have feelings in reaction to other people’s feelings.

But it’s almost impossible to fully understand those without more detailed expression. To fully express what you feel, it takes words–hopefully a proper selection of words–to even try to properly express them in depth. To explain why you feel anger or love or happiness or sorrow. To explain *how* you’re feeling such things.

We throw around heavy, fully-loaded words (and their associated context and meaning and emotions) like oppression and racism and “liberal” and “conservative” and “nazi” and “fake news” and “cultural appropriation”. And we throw these around with such ease these days because it speaks to our base emotions that we don’t want to properly express at length. That would take too much time. That would take effort. And it would require even more time and effort to have an in-depth conversation with those who bring out these feelings and thoughts in us.

Complexity isn’t simple or comforting as immediately expressing your base, raw emotions.

It’s almost like a drug to do this. Because it feels good to cut right through all that complex nuance and simply scream at another person when we’re angry. No holding back, no attempt to act like calm, rational people. No language to complicate and slow down the whole process. Just raw, unfiltered emotion.

The problem with this is that it gets us nowhere. It only, ironically enough, complicates matters when dealing with other people. Because the less time we dedicate to using our language to express thoughts and emotions to others, the less likely they are to be receptive to such things. They’ll react in kind or simply shut you out entirely for being–and intentionally so–overly emotional and disconnected.

It’s easy and feels good to call something we disagree with as “fake news”, it expresses how we feel about it despite the reality and subtleties around such things. It’s easy and feels good to call someone we disagree with a Nazi because it directly reveals how we perceive and feel about them. But it also strips them of the intricacies that makes them their own unique individual. It denies thoughts and emotions and a full history and culture that defines them.

And, as a result, it denies that potential bridge where we can meet halfway and discuss why things are the way they are. It denies the possibility of understanding and improving the relationships we have with one another.

We no longer care to inform and be informed. We simply want to feel what we feel and to hell with anyone else who feels differently.

For the sake of immediate self-gratification, we deny the future possibilities and progress that we require to go on living together. We lose the nuances that make us better people, a better society and culture. And we force such a choice onto others without their say as a result. And that’s just about as truly oppressive as things get.

You’ve Got a Friend in Me.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ending to Toy Story 3. It doesn’t set well with me. It has too much of a perfect wrap-up in that traditional Disney way.

I can’t deny that it’s emotional and resonates with me on a level that is more uncomfortable than I like to admit. I grew up with toys, man. I lived through that high point of Toys ‘R Us and Kay-Bee Toys, that brief period in American history where home gaming consoles were really taking off and TV shows were blatant toy commercials.

This was a movie made by dudes and dudettes that are my age or older. They grew up with the same shit I did, and it shows. There isn’t some cutesy “what if toys were alive” concept at the heart of Toy Story 3. Fuck, no. That is a story about getting older–Andy grows up and moves on to college and leaves his toys behind.

A quick aside: Considering I was about the same age as Andy when the first movie came out in 1995 (about 10 or so), what does that say about Andy’s future prospects when he’s barely headed off to college and stops playing with his old toys at the age of 25?

Anyway, this shit is dark, man. Andy grows up, okay. Whatever. Fuck him. This isn’t about Andy. Yeah, he gives away his toys at the end (spoiler for a 7-year old movie, I guess). But the movie is all about these toys who are forced to contemplate the very end of their use, their purpose, even their own existence. This is a fucking existential crisis drama with a Mr. Potato Head making thinly-veiled sex jokes. This is some serious shit, right here.

But I don’t like that ending, man. It becomes about that late-bloomer manchild and stops being about the fucking toys, man. The whole series was about the toys and their lives and their world. Andy just happened to be this bigger thing that was beyond them but consumed them. He accidentally lets them get thrown away, they fight and claw their way back to him, and then he gives them away right after that. That’s some fucked up shit right there. And it’s rewarded by making him this sentimental and focal character right at the end.

No, the perfect ending–one that would have stayed true to the franchise and its toy-centric crisis–would have been to let the entire cast die in a fire instead of saving them. It’s dark, I know. But it’s a better ending. It’s powerful. It’s original, even.

Those toys are going to break eventually. They’re going to get lost, broken, burned, or whatever. They’re not exactly mint-in-box, ya know. And now we’re never going to see the logical conclusion of their story. No matter how many of the movie’s lead voice actors keel over and their characters are written off.

But picture that scene with them in the incinerator, slowly but steadily being pulled toward that massive fire at the center. The lot of them holding hands, closing their eyes, and finding peace and love in their final moments. But instead of a giant fucking crane coming down and pulling them to safety, they draw closer and closer to the fire. And then, just as they can feel the earliest licks of the flame and refuse to pull away–as they tighten their grip on the friend to either side of them–the movie fades to black, the sound of the fire and the burning and the machinery still going for a brief moment over the black. The credits roll begin to roll over this. The movie goes silent for just a brief instant. And then, just as Tom Hanks’ name hits the top of the screen, we get a bitter-sweet piano rendition of You’ve Got a Friend in Me.

Now that’s a fucking ending, huh?

Let’s not condescend to the audience, Pixar.

The Hell You Say.

My wife and I enjoy spending the occasional weekend morning or afternoon scavenging the local swapmeets for whatever catches our eyes. For me it’s usually retro video games, which only makes me feel that much older since every single video game I grew up with is now considered retro. But for her, it usually amounts to finding bits and pieces for her latest art project.

None of this really matters for the purpose of this story or thought, or whatever this is. Not really. But the reason I mention this is because it serves as a vague backdrop and setting for my actual point, which is this:

Prior to our latest outing, my wife and I stopped by a corner gas station. I hadn’t eaten anything that morning and we just sort of rolled out of bed and decided to do this thing that day, so she picked me up a banana and we were on our way.

Now, after we finally get to the swapmeet, which is held at a local community college, and after we finally manage to find a parking spot at the far end of this giant shared lot, I start eating this banana. And I finish this fairly quickly so I’m now forced to carry the peel in my hand until I can get to nearest trash can. But as we walk and walk and walk, there isn’t a single trash can in sight. Not one. Whole parking lot on a fairly nice college campus and not a goddamn trashcan to be found.

So we walk up what felt like half a city block before we get to the swapmeet proper with all its booths of assorted junk and churro stands, and this is when I finally get to toss this warm, moist thing and get it out of my hands.

And the whole time I’m thinking to myself that this is exactly what Hell–if such a thing were to exist–might actually be like. Just walking, endlessly walking with a banana peel in your hand. This rotting, mushy thing that you hold by pinching it with only the very tips of your fingers because you don’t want to actually have physical contact with it. It’s in your hand and you just keep walking and walking looking for some place you can toss it without someone judging you or, Heaven forbid, a citation for littering. And just when all hope is loss, a trash comes into sight–a freshly emptied thing just sitting there in the distance. Just a few yards away. But it’s always just out of reach. You might think to yourself, yeah, maybe I can make it. I haven’t hit the courts in a few years but I think I can sink this peel from half-court.

But you don’t. You never do it. Not because you’re insecure in your manhood, which for whatever reason is directly related to your ability to toss a ball or banana into a hole only slightly larger than whatever it is your throwing at it. No, the reason you don’t do it is because you know some smug son of a bitch is going to be right there judging you, judging your manhood the second you invariably miss that shot.

And I can’t have that. I don’t know that guy. I don’t care about that guy. He could burst into flames right there and then and I would only stop long enough to think, maybe outloud, that, hmm, isn’t that strange? Spontaneous combustion, right here and now. What a dick. This is a non-smoking area.

But I shouldn’t care about this asshole and what he thinks of me. He doesn’t know me. He hasn’t had to walk around under a blazing hot sun for the past couple of minutes while holding this slimy thing in his hands. So fuck him, right? But what if he does say something? Then what? I just take it in stride like a chump? Fuck, no. But what if I say some smart ass thing to him and things just escalate. I’m aware of where I’m at and the sort of people I’m surrounded by. I know that. This isn’t a race thing or an education thing. But, seriously, he’s not just going to take offense to whatever stupid thing comes out of my mouth, because that would be too easy. No, he’s going to get royally pissed by the fact that it came out in a respectably solid California accent without so much as a hint of Spanish thrown in.

So that’s my choice in this perfectly crafted Hell. I can either carry this rotting thing for all of eternity or try and sink a 3-pointer and risk either a ticket I can’t afford or get shit-talked and manhandled by some jackass with prison tats, a slightly damaged golf bag, and an old Nintendo he paid thirty bucks for even though he has no clue if it’ll work once he gets it back home.