Saturday, April 22, 2017

Crap I Read in January

Last year I tried this thing where I would write down everything I read. No matter how much I read or what I read, I always feel somehow inadequate about my reading. I'll think, "yeah I know people who haven't cracked open a novel in a decade, and I read three last month, so I'm pretty fucking awesome." Then I learn about some sonofabitch who pours three novels into their head before lunch, and I call myself a motherfucker for every second spent playing Elder Sign on my ipad or watching Netflix.

The practice did not survive much of 2016. I think mainly because of those same feelings of inadequacy. See, I started this tradition some years ago (which, for the record, I abandoned this year because I was tired of it) of making Lord of the Rings the first thing I read every year. And because by 2016 I was already bored with this and didn't want to admit it, it took me longer than normal to slog through the books I'd already read, like, a half dozen times.

Don't get me wrong; I love Lord of the Rings. Reading Tolkien makes me want to write. Still does. But, you know, I kind of already know how Bilbo's going to end that party of his and sometimes the magic just isn't as potent.

So anyway, I think the practice of keeping a precise record of everything I read ended early in 2016 because I was embarrassed by just how little I'd read.

So far, the practice has survived 2017, I've kept it going. And listen, this is a totally obnoxious bullshit thing I'm doing. Seriously, I know. I will humor no illusions about it. I am stroking my ego here. I am turning up my nose to the illiterate masses choosing Fast and Furious and Netflix binges over novels or books of essays. I'm an asshole. I admit it.

But, that doesn't mean there's nothing good that can come from it. It genuinely is making me read more, which is always good. Unless I'm driving. Then I should read less.

And, if I blog about it a little, maybe it can expose you to some stuff you've never heard of and in which you might be interested. Who knows?

So, in the future, I'll probably put together a monthly list of what I read at the end of every month. But, since I started this blog a few months into the year, we'll have to catch up first. So here's the shit I read in January.

I'll write about some stuff. And some stuff I won't write about. Because.


Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

I read the first two Dresden Files novels a few years ago. I liked them, but not enough to swear myself a fan. I read the third and fourth books - Grave Peril and Summer Knight - while I was recovering from surgery, and I was hooked.

If you're not familiar, the Dresden Files is a series about a modern day wizard/private dick. He's more Raymond Chandler than Tolkien. One of the review quotes regularly appearing in the front of the paperbacks describes it like this: "Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe," and that's about as good a description as you can get.

Dead Beat is the seventh novel (and I'm actually surprised to learn I'm already that deep into the series). When like-minded readers first tried to get me to check out the series, the scene they always used to pull me in is one from the climax of Dead Beat: of Harry Dresden, the main character, riding an undead T-Rex through the streets of Chicago and tearing through hordes of zombies with it. I thought I would be disappointed to have been spioiled the scene, but no. No. Even if you're spoiled a scene in which a modern day wizard rides an undead dinosaur into mobs of zombies, it's still a scene in which a modern day wizard rides an undead dinosaur into mobs of zombies, so really there's no way for it to not work.

Noir by Robert Coover

I read Noir because the author was appearing at SUNY Albany to talk about his new novel, Huck Out West, which is supposed to be something of a sequel to Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I wanted to read something of Coover's before the event, and didn't think I had enough time to read both Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Huck Out West (I'd read the classic, but figured I should re-familiarize myself to fully appreciate Coover's effort), So instead I took Noir out of the library.

Noir is bizarre and great. It is telling us something about noir fiction. I'm not sure what. Really want to read it again. But I'm pretty sure whatever it was, it was important.

And of course, I missed the aforementioned SUNY Albany event.  Because lazy.


Sal Buscema: Comics' Fast and Furious Artist by Jim Amash

My Hulk is the Sal Buscema Hulk. At least when I think of the Hulk - the ol' savage, monosyllabic version - I think of Sal.

Sal Buscema is basically a long interview with the artist, and considering how long Buscema has worked in comics, it's interesting to see not only his career, but the comics industry of the second half of the twentieth century through his lens.

There's a lot of art in here, and honestly the most interesting stuff is in the non-comics-related work presented in the book; his portraits and nudes. It's just kind of amazing from my point-of-view - the point-of-view of a lifelong fan who thinks "Sal Buscema" and then immediately thinks "Hulk punching M.O.D.O.K....lots of motion lines..." - working on art that had nothing to do with comics.

Coincidentally, just before writing this, I found the name Jim Amash in the inking credit of a strip in World of Archie Comics Digest #60. I had no idea the interviewer was a professional artist himself, though I suppose it makes sense.


Heavy Metal #284

I subscribed to Heavy Metal on a whim. I read their new Editor-In-Chief, Grant Morrison, had announced a Bible/Conan mash-up strip called The Savage Sword of Jesus Christ, and the title hooked me.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be re-upping my subscription to Heavy Metal. There's some good stuff in there, but most of it isn't to my taste.

There's only been one installment of Savage Sword of Jesus Christ so far and it was disappointing. I usually enjoy Morrison's work, but Savage Sword is disappointing in the way that most of his disappointing stuff is disappointing. From the various press I'd read about the strip, it was going to be the story of Jesus, but told as if Jesus were Conan. That is ridiculous and awesome and I was excited for it. Morrison explained to interviewers that the idea was inspired by learning that Adolf Hitler had planned to re-frame the figure of Christ as a kind of Nordic warrior. But rather than simply allowing himself to be inspired by this and giving us an honest-to-Hulk Jesus-meets-Conan strip, what we get is a strip that goes back and forth between the Jesus-as-Conan narrative, and scenes with Hitler and Joseph Goebbels in which they discuss the idea of re-framing Jesus as a Nordic warrior. And honestly I think there's more Hitler/Goebbels stuff than there is Jesus/Conan. And the Jesus/Conan is what I signed up for. I can't help but come away with the impression that Morrison really wants us to know how brilliant his ideas are by telling us more about the inspiration than the actual goddamn idea.

One Story #223: "In the Neighborhood" by Jess Rafalko

One Story is a fantastic journal. I've been reading it on and off for years.

The name says it all. They publish exactly one story per issue. Each issue is about the size of a pamphlet, and this has been very convenient for me over the years. From the time when I worked as a data entry operator, to my first civil service gig as an office drone for New York State's Office of the State Comptroller, to now, One Story has always been able to fit in my pocket, and so is easy to bring to the men's room for bathroom breaks that really just involve sitting down and reading whether or not there's anything that needs, you know. Expression.

Smithsonian November 2016

Book Pages December 2016

Book Pages is a free reader that has ads and reviews of recently published or soon-to-be published books. I've only ever seen it at my public library, and I always make sure to grab a new issue; both to peruse and in hopes the hot library director will notice and be impressed with my love of reading (so far, I have no indication this has happened, though I also have no indication it has not happened).


Deathstroke: The Terminator, Vol. 2: Sympathy for the Devil by Marv Wolfman and Dan Jurgens, et al.
Our Mother by Luke Howard

Eclipso: The Music of the Spheres by Matthew Sturges and Stephen Jorge Seqouia, et al.

I bought this a while ago, when I began my It Takes A Villain column.

It's exceptionally horrible.

Amazing Fantastic Incredible by Stan Lee and Peter David, et al.

I learned nothing new about Stan Lee in this graphic memoir. If even half of the stuff I've read in other books about comics is true, then Amazing Fantastic Incredible is simply confirmation of what I already knew: Stan Lee worked like a demon, had a big heart but not as great of a spine, and was always at least 65% full of shit.

COMIC BOOKS (single issues)

Abiding Perdition #1 by Nick Schley and Pedro Delgado, et al.

Archie, Vol. 2, #15 - #16 by Mark Waid and Joe Eisma, et al.

It is a mystery to me how I have become an Archie fan over the past year or so. Not only is Mark Waid's new "updated" Archie on my monthly pull list at the comic shop, but I use every chance I get to pick up the Archie digests. I was never a fan of the comic when I was younger. But now I can't get enough. It is strange enough to me, that I feel like I need to write some probing thing to get at the bottom of it. If I want to get at the bottom of it, but I don't really. I don't. I just want to enjoy it.

And in all honesty, I think there's a good chance if/when Mark Waid leaves Archie, I'll leave too. Maybe not. I'll give the new person a shot if/when it happens. I just know it isn't the Archieverse in general that I enjoy. I've tried some of the other new, updated stuff - like the new Betty & Veronica - and just wasn't into it.

I do want to get more into the Archie horror stuff though. There was a recent Jughead: The Hunger one-shot about Jughead being a werewolf. I still need to check out Afterlife with Archie and I REALLY want to read Archie Vs. Predator. I can't believe they did that. That's fucking beautiful.

I really hope it's Jughead who says, "I ain't got time to bleed."

Black Widow, Vol. 7, #9 - #10 by Chris Samnee and Mark Waid, et al.
Cage, Vol. 3, #4 by Genndy Tartakovsky, et al.

Carnage, Vol. 2, #16 by Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins, et al.

This is another series I started just because of my It Takes A Villain column. I didn't expect it, but I got hooked.

It's very Lovecraft-inspired, with Spider-Man's old enemy learning he has some connection to an Old God. He travels across the sea to summon the monster and hopes to be rewarded for it. Meanwhile a mish-mosh of characters hunt Carnage across the world, including Eddie Brock and Man-Wolf.

I would've kept picking it up if it hadn't been canceled. I wasn't too sad when it ended. I could've kept reading, but the premise didn't seem to lend itself well to an ongoing.

Champions, Vol. 2, #3 - #4 by Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, et al.

Cougar and Cub #1 by Nick Marino and Daniel Arruda Mass, et al.

This comic is great and I'm worried it's been shit-canned early. I haven't seen a solicit for a second issue anywhere.

It's about a crime-fighting duo - a teenager and an older woman (though they aren't really clear how to define "older," I mean this ain't Harold & Maude) - and one night they give in to their carnal desires. Presumably, things change for the worse after that, but like I said they've only had the one issue so far. I really do hope there are more.

Dark Horse Presents, Vol. 3, #29 by Various
DC Rebirth Holiday Special by Various
Death Dealer, Vol. 2, #3 by Nat Jones and Jay Fotos, et al.

Deathstroke, Vol. 3, #8 by Christopher Priest and Larry Hama, et al.

Deathstroke is the only DC comic I'm collecting right now that's part of the main DC Universe (a.k.a Batman and some other assholes).

I've read some Deathstroke graphic novels, and they're mostly fucking awful. The volume collecting the very first Deathstroke: The Terminator comics is pretty great. Otherwise, I haven't been impressed. There were two New 52 Deathstroke series, I read the first trades for each (again, specifically for It Takes A Villain), and they were bad.

The new Deathstroke is a welcome change. I am picking it up for one reason. Well, okay, for two reasons. First, because it marks the return of Christopher Priest to comics (better known for his fantastic Black Panther from the nineties and early aughts). Second, because that means it's a fucking good comic.

Again, just as with Archie (and, no, I did not think I would be comparing Archie with Deathstroke today; but hey Archie Comics, there's another possible crossover), there's a big chance if/when Priest leaves the series, I will leave also. Probably by then, I will be invested enough in the story to give the new creative team its due shot. Maybe. But honestly, I am so disgusted and annoyed with DC's misuse of Watchmen that it was difficult enough to commit to Deathstroke. It would probably need to be a creator with equal good will built up in my mind for me to continue. They get Geoff Johns or Judd Winnick and I'll just laugh and hit Delete without thinking twice.

Deathstroke, Vol. 3, #9 - #10 by Christopher Priest and Cary Nord, et al.
Deathstroke, Vol. 3, #11 by Christopher Priest and Denys Cowan, et al.
Defenders, Vol. 1, #121 and #124 by J.M. DeMatteis and Don Perlin, et al.
Doctor Strange, Vol. 5, #15 by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo, et al.

Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme #3 - #4 by Robbie Thompson and Javier Rodriguez, et al.

A bunch of Sorcerers Supreme from different eras are summoned gathered together by Merlin to stop some kind of big bad evil magic thing. I forget exactly what. Included in the mix is, of course, Doctor Strange. Then there's all-grown-up Wiccan, a 19th century Ghost Rider, and a younger and much douchier Ancient One.

I wasn't expecting to care at all about this series. figured (rightly) it was just a way to capitalize on the Doctor Strange film, that it seemed silly to have a team of nothing but sorcerers since after all they're all they're all just going to have the same powers. May as well call them Justice League.

But actually Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme has proven to be a pretty fun book with great art. The issue before last (I don't think it was one of these) was actually an choose-your-own-adventure issue I thought was well done.

Dreamery #5 - #14 by Various

A while back I ordered a value pack from an online comic shop; it offered a pile of various comics of a different theme for about $12. I thought it would be a fun way to find a bunch of series I'd never heard of before.

And I was right, though of course there was a lot of crap, too.

The value pack included Dreamery #8. It's a black-and-white fantasy anthology comic from the long-defunct Eclipse Comics. The stories are fairly light-hearted. Among other things there's an ongoing stories with a family of centaurs and a goofy prince unlucky in love.

Dreamery only lasted 14 issues and the nice part about that is that buying the rest of the series didn't put a huge hole in my wallet. I got the rest off ebay cheap.

It's a shame Dreamery isn't around anymore. I'd happily add it or a book like it to my pull list.

ElfQuest: King's Cross #2 by Christopher Lane and Brandon McKinney, et al.

Gumballs #1 by Erin Nations

An autobio comic that I really hope will see a second issue, but I'm worried. I remember seeing that the second issue was set to come out soon, but then it just disappeared from the list of upcoming releases.

He-Man/Thundercats #3 by Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine, et al.

A fun crossover mini-series that, thankfully, didn't take itself too seriously. Skeletor kicks Lion-O in the junk. I mean, that's pretty perfect.

Hulk, Vol. 3, #2 by Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon, et al.

So, I haven't read all the relevant comics, but basically She-Hulk gets messed up by Thanos as part of Civil War II. She wakes from a coma physically changed, and learning that her cousin Bruce Banner was murdered by Hawkeye.

In Hulk, Jen Walters is trying to re-enter her life as a lawyer and desperately trying to keep her new, presumably much more savage Hulkiness inside.

And she's doing okay, I guess. As of the writing of this blog, the series the fourth issue has been released and we still haven't seen Jen Walters turn into her more Hulky self.

It's tough to not be reminded of the truly overrated Bruce Jones run on Incredible Hulk which barely saw the green guy show up at all, and only very briefly when he did.

Also, it reminds me of that older comic because even though I hated Jones's Hulk stories, the covers were fantastic. At least when Kaare Andrews was doing them.

I will say Tamaki's writing a much more interesting story and I really want to love Hulk, but I'm not sold yet and I won't be sold until we see the Hulk-out. And that's just it; I don't know if this series has much chance of surviving at all, but after basically waiting half a year to give us an actual Hulk-Out, that inevitable Hulk-Out has to be done just, fucking, perfectly. It has to be better and more awe-inspiring than any Hulk-Out since Jack Kirby first had that gray guy slap Rick Jones around.

Incredible Hulk, Vol. 2, #436 by Peter David and Angel Medina, et al.
Kill or be Killed #5 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, et al.
Mighty Thor #14 by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman, et al.
Patsy Walker, a.k.a. HELLCAT! #13 by Kate Leth and Brittney L. Williams, et al.
Red Sonja, Vol. 4, #8 and #13 by Michael Avon Oeming and Mel Rubi, et al.
Saga #41 and #42 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan, et al.
Scooby Apocalypse #8 by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, et al.
Silver Surfer, Vol. 6, #8 by Dan Slott and Mike Allred, et al.
Totally Awesome Hulk #14 by Greg Pak and German Peralta, et al.
Unworthy Thor #3 by Jason Aaron and Kim Jacinto, et al.
Warlord, Vol. 2, #3 by Bruce Jones and Bart Sears, et al.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Night

I'm getting drunk. When I get drunk, the same things are important.

Last night I was IMing with an old friend. I did this drunk. At one point I used the word "authoritarian." Earlier in the sentence, I used the word "stop." But, drunk, it came out, "stip."

I was pissed off that I could somehow, drunk, correctly type the word "authoritarian," but not "stop."

That is who I am.

I am the man for whom it is important he does not make more typos drunk than sober. I am the man writing the blog post he is sure to regret in the morning. I am the man who knows you won't stop reading this now, just like you won't stop looking at the car wreck after you see the blood.

I am, I think it's safe to say, skirting a line I shouldn't.

I'm watching No Country For Old Men while I write this. Josh Brolin ain't got not agua.

I think maybe I am doing things that might push me toward becoming, you know, a drunk.  But I won't. I'll be okay. I don't crave it. I don't need it. I'm in a transition period right now is all.

Transition. I can type "transition" drunk. Like Jesus.

My life has changed. I have come to accept things. I have made peace with things.

Do you know, I don't know why the happy fuck I've friend requested any of you motherfuckers I knew in grade school?

You guys started it. You didn't mean to. You just meant to be kids and do the thing kids do and you didn't think or care and now you probably don't even remember. If I told you, you probably wouldn't believe me.

And fuck, who says you wouldn't be right to not believe me? If your memories are as malleable as play-doh and as reliable as a civil servant, then who the fuck am I to say mine is any better? Maybe my memory is a stupid, crippled thing. Maybe I was class president in the fucking womb. Maybe everyone loved me. Maybe I was surrounded by fawning friends. Maybe the daily., hourly, minutely insults are figments of my imagination. Maybe I was like Archie, with Betty and Veronica fighting over me since before I knew how to talk. Maybe what I think made me wasn't real.

I don't fucking think so though. You motherfuckers. You motherfuckers made me like Frankenstein in a lab. And still I love you, do you know that? Do you know that? Do you know that must be what tortures Frankenstein's patchwork monster more than anything? That in spite of everything, love. In spite of everything, the men and women who were little boys and little girls with me, they share something with me no one else ever will, and I love them in a way that I will love no one else.

Fuck you, all of you. And don't ever leave me. Please.

My baked potatoes are done and my glass is empty.

God fuck the Internet. If it weren't for the Internet, this would be private.

No Country For Old Men is on pause. Josh Brolin's about to get fucked up by a dog.

Wait. I don't think he does get fucked up by a dog. I think he almost gets fucked up by a dog. But then he shoots the dog. Like some kind of asshole.

So, okay, here's the thing. This is important.

And don't tell me to go to meetings. I hate the meetings. They have slogans like bumperstickers and they want me to love God and I don't love God. I don't hate God. I don't hate leprechauns either. I mean. Except Irish ones.

I'm kidding, I don't hate Irish leprechauns. Oh my God, someone's going to read that and think I hate the Irish. I DON'T HATE THE IRISH! I don't hate anyone but, well. I don't hate anyone. Seriously. I don't.  Never did. Wish I did. That's why I never fought back. I never wanted to hurt anyone.

Do you know what happened to me in CBA?

You fucking assholes.

People say kids are cruel. "Bully" is a fucking buzz word now. Kids are cruel. FUCKING ADULTS ARE CRUEL. It wasn't kids yelling fat insults at me from passing cars, it was adults. It wasn't kid teachers in CBA who realized fucking with one of the outsiders, like me, would get the rest of the assholes on their side for five minutes. You say "kids are cruel."  You quarantine it. You assign it to a particular chapter of life that you've gotten past so you can isolate it. You pretend it isn't in your heart now because you have mortgages and teacher-parent conferences and you think somehow with the playground in your rear view you don't look at people with the eye of a judge. But you do. You do. And you will bleed that shit into your stupid little children. Your children will either be the the shit upon or the shitters. THERE IS. NO. IN. BETWEEN.

I unpaused No Country For Old Men.

Oh they just shot Thanos in the shoulder. And Thanos is hiding in a pond. Shit didn't work in Infinity Gauntlet you purple motherfucker.

Yeah I'm definitely drunk.

And look at me! Look at this shit! Look at this lack of typos! Could Mandela have done this shit? I don't think--Probably. Probably he could.

Fat Tire is good beer.

You know, I don't think Javier Bardem has an easy time paying for gas. Small price to pay for immortality, I suppose.

Did it make you guys feel better? Did it give you something, I hope? Was there a reason for it?

You know, here's the thing I don't know if you'll get it, maybe you'll get it better than me.

I know who I am now.

It is difficult to accept this, but I will. This is the reason for the alcohol. The need for the alcohol will subside. Soon all I will need is a daily cuddle session with the cats. But for now, I need to get drunk.

I know who I am, and who I am is precisely who I always thought I was. Who I am is fine, it's good. It's as acceptable as any thing or any one else. Who I am is good. And it's bad. Just like everyone. It doesn't matter.

The thing is, who I am will not have a wife, or kids, and who I am is going to be pretty isolated. Forever. And that's fine too. It's fucking preferable. It's what I want, I guess.

But I'm having a hard time accepting this.

Hence the alcohol.

I mean, it's fine. I'll write. I'll get published or I won't. I'll probably get laid every now and then. But your paint-n-sips and your couples counseling and your indoor rock wall climbing and your anniversaries and your hiking and your ocean cruises and everything you wrap around you when you look at your wife or your husband or your kids and know that everything is all right; these things will elude me. I will have other things, and these other things will be fine. Everything I ever feared is true, and it's absolutely fine.

It's just going to take some time to accept.

Hence the alcohol.

And look at this shit! Look at the glorious lack of typos. I bet most of you motherfuckers can't type this well when you're stone cold sober. I don't need any fucking meetings and I never will. I type like a fucking cyborg.

Hey you guys remember Valentine's Day? Remember Valentine's Day in PS 19? We'd all get those packs of V day cards.

And the pig ones. The ones with the pigs with angel wings. The Valentine's Day cards with the pigs with angel wings like cupids.

All you motherfuckers used to save them for me.

There will never be a reckoning. Reckonings don't happen.

Just stuff.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I submit (or goose shits and cannibals)

I just submitted a short story to an online literary journal. 

Which is weird.  It feels weird. It shouldn't feel weird, but it does. I haven't submitted anything to anything in a long time. Not counting submitting work occasionally to the New York State Writer's Institute writing workshops. I've never been accepted. They probably found out I don't always shop local. That's unfair and mean. But so is not recognizing my inestimable genius. Though doing that is sane and reasonable. I'm going to move on to the next paragraph now. 

It is strange to think I have more shit to submit, but I do. I need to edit it, but it's there, waiting. I don't know that anyone would ever want it. If they would want it, I don't know why. Possibly insanity. 

A few minutes ago, a guy walked past me and said to his buddy, "I'm shitting like a goose." Sometimes people say too many things. 

I've done my four pages and then some. I just edited and submitted a story. I'm sitting in Uncommon Grounds, killing time before going to my rents' to celebrate Bunny Rabbit/Scarecrow Day. 

I cut off all dating sites yesterday. I am convinced that I need some time without dating. But I don't really like that I need some time without dating. Because women are cool and they have curves and sometimes you can convince them to kiss you if you don't swear too much (or if you swear just the right amount; they're all different man, don't try to label them). So I like it better when there is a woman to do stuff with than when there isn't, but I do truly think I need some time without dating. But I don't like it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

I feel like my life is asking too much of me. I am trying to be more like a part of the world, to be not an island, to be not a hermit, not a shut-in, and yet at the same time my life wants me to be, in some ways, more alone. Life is a mess of contradictions, but this specific contradiction is particularly difficult for someone who learned earlier than most what motherfuckers you all are. 

Which may sounds hostile.

I just started reading Selected Stories of Lu Hsun. I bought it a while ago at a used book store's going-out-of-business sale. Never heard of the guy. Just looked at it and said, "Hey, this looks it might be unlike things I've read."  

The first story of the collection is "A Madman's Diary," about a paranoid guy who eventually believes everyone around him wants to eat him. 

One of my greatest losses from college was a poem I wrote called "I Am Very Afraid of Being Eaten." I can't find it anywhere. Not digitally, not on paper. I remember in particular - and this is made distastefully funnier because Lu Hsun was a Chinese writer - that the narrator of my poem was specifically afraid that the cannibal who lived upstairs would eat him, and that the cannibal had told him he never ate Chinese because he would always be hungry again a half hour later. 

Cannibalism is something that threatens to be an interest of mine. Because it scares the piss out of me. It doesn't scare me in the sense that, yes, I think it is likely I'm going to have to worry about that in the near future, but just, I don't know. It bothers me. The idea of a person being eaten bothers me. A lot. It's why I stay away from zombie stuff and I stay away from nature programs. 

So, a while ago, I bought a bunch of books about cannibalism, reasoning that if this was a particular fear, then maybe I should face that fear. Dive into it. Learn about it. 

Basically, I've learned that, you know. 

It's fucking gross.

I mean, I suppose obviously that somewhere in that fear, somewhere in there, is the fear of losing self. In other words, someone shoots you in the head and leaves you in a ditch, sure. You're dead. That's no fun. But someone eats you? Someone eats you and then, it's more than death. It's worse than death. You're not just dying; you're devoured. Whatever was you is being absorbed, becoming part of someone else against your will (presumably, though apparently there are cannibal fetishists who want to be eaten). If there is an afterlife, you don't get to go. It feels like, like if you were ascending to heaven, but something snatched you out of the sky, shoved you in its face, robbed the cosmos from you and made it part of itself. Everything you ever were or could be, all leading to nothing more than a day's energy for some asshole. 

I said "obviously" at the beginning of that paragraph, right? Do I know what that word means?

So yeah, now I think to avenge the loss of my old poem and to dig deeper into these weirdo thoughts I have, I will need to pound out a rough draft of my answer to Hsun's "Madman's Diary."

Seriously thought I was done with writing for the day. For realsies.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I don't want to ruin my good days

I did something not particularly monumental, but rare, at least, for me.

I had nothing solid planned today, so I stayed in bed longer than normal. Gimli and Bupu kept jumping in and out of bed, not sure what was going on, both used to me being up and about before 5 am. Even though the Stupid Mick was telling me not to, I got on the treadmill and did my usual morning stuff, difference being it was after 11 am by the time I ate "breakfast."

It was gorgeous out, it was warm and sunny, and it occurred to me go drive across the river to Troy. A while ago I made a rule for myself that, somehow, I've been following. It is far too easy and automatic for me to spend money on books and graphic novels on Amazon, so I made a new rule that all books and graphic novels had to be purchased from local stores (unless the local stores just couldn't get ahold of them). The rule was codified more to control my spending than to promote the local economy, but I can't say I mind the side benefit. Individually, sure, books are less expensive on Amazon. But I never buy books on Amazon "individually." Because if I'm going to buy 1, I might as well buy 6.

So anyway, I heard about a novel coming out in October that I want, so for a while I've wanted to go to Market Block Books to pre-order it. And I figured why not just hang out in Troy?  Go to a few shops? Pretend you belong around humans.

I pre-ordered the book, and I picked up the Charles Bukowski collection On Love and Best American Comics 2016.

At Aquilonia, my comic shop, I bought a couple of new-ish comics, but mainly dug through the dollar and discount bins. Bought a pile of comics at a buck a piece, and bought a few graphic novels for 50%-75% off.

The best part of my day was at Psychedelicatessen. I paid an old debt first. They have a book area where you're allowed to borrow or even take books, but if you take a book you're supposed to leave one to replace it. A long time ago, I'd grabbed a copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. So I left them my unwanted Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 1.

An old acquaintance ate with me outside. She works there. A lovely woman with a pit bull asked me to hold on to the dog's leash while she went inside for a bagel. His name was Bodie and he was sweet and brown. When she came back out she had a glass oval with markings on it. She said because she's into "random acts of kindness," she had bought it for me inside. After she left I felt silly for not getting her number, or trying.

While I ate and talked, friends of my friend came by, said hello. A man with a hoodie and a bright green iguana clinging to his back walked by. I asked my friend, "Does he know he has an iguana on his back?" Of course I knew he did. I'm just an asshole.

My friend had to go back to work and I read a magazine. I felt the sun and the breeze and felt like there was nothing wrong, nothing forbidden, for me to be out there with other people. I watched people as they walked and drove by, saw a guy in a bicycle taxi and who the fuck knew that existed in Troy? I read and kept kicking myself for not asking for that woman's number. Or trying.

And now I'm home, and I've been home for a while, and it's time to get back to doing things I want to do.

I wish tomorrow wasn't Easter. I wish I could go back there and repeat the day.


Fuck it.

Time to write.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Order Vs Chaos

Anyone alive and old enough to care when Tim Burton's Batman came out remembers the hype.

I was a comic book geek back then, sure, but I was a Marvel kid. I read Incredible Hulk and Avengers and Uncanny X-Men and the only DC comics in my home were in my brother's closet.

Still, I was swept up in the hype.  I bought a purple Joker hat that I wore opening day and I ultimately saw Batman 8 times in the theater, usually alone. It was Jack Nicholson's Joker that kept me coming back. His madness was exhilarating and hilarious. It's precisely why I can sympathize with those who dismiss Heath Ledger's Joker in favor of Nicholson's, even though I don't agree with them. It's also why, of course, my least favorite part of the film was and always will be the Joker's death. To me, the Batman without the Joker is just another asshole punching poor people in the dark. May as well be Spider-Man or Moon Knight or fucking Blue Beetle. Who gives a shit?

But before I saw the film, before I had a chance to fall in love with the clown prince, it was another Prince that got me excited. It was "Batdance."

Prince did all the music for the Batman soundtrack and before the movie was in theaters, the video for "Batdance" came out. It was before I learned to hate anything that wasn't hard rock and it gave me chills. The video featured a line of dancers dressed like the stoic, dark Batman, facing off against a line of dancers dressed as the maniacal Joker. Prince himself was split down the middle, like Two Face; half Joker and half Batman. There was something visceral about the image of the clownish Joker and the heroic Batman that I understood and that excited me. I would not, perhaps, have put it into these precise words back then, but to me it seemed like Batman and Joker were inseparable, were utterly useless without one another. What excited me was not the prospect of a heroic Batman or a villainous Joker, but reveling in the conflict between them.  Batman was order, unyielding and cold. Joker was chaos; untamed and utterly untame-able. This conflict had to happen. It would always happen. It would never end.

* * * * * * * *

And this shit has been on my mind for a while now, because I am learning it is harmful to regularly drive yourself crazy in opposing manners. If you're going to drive yourself batshit fuck-all crazy, you should do it in one direction, not in two directions, heading straight toward each other like amphetamine-enhanced bulls.

Anyone who knew me in high school or college or after college or between high school and college or pretty much anytime between my mother's second Caesarean and, like, five minutes ago knows I can be a pretty messy person.

So you know, then you get to be about 30 or 35 or 37 or 39 or 40 or 42 and you might go, "Hm. Is it possible my life would be better if I made my bed? And, if my food wasn't on the floor quite so much?"

Which is totally reasonable, but then if you're me you spend a lot of time going in the other direction. Like, "Well, I wasn't a very organized person before, so now there are two choices: either I become the most organized person in the world, or I don't even try. No middle ground, because that would be sane."

One eye opening moment, for example, was one of the first times my ex-girlfriend Amanda came over and put food in the fridge. I believe the offending object was salad? Maybe? And the problem I had with it was that she had put the salad on the middle shelf, which I had designated the Protein Shelf.

I was not concerned that her salad would somehow spoil my eggs or bacon or sausage, or vice versa. It was just, you know, that's not the place for that, Amanda. I mean, clearly. There's nothing but protein stuff there. The fuck?

And considering that it wasn't that long before that moment that I felt like a fucking god if I could empty a bag of Smartfood and only get a couple handfuls worth of crumbs on the carpet, this newfound Tony-Shalhoub-as-Monk-ness was kind of startling.

But what's worse is my writing. And not only my writing, but my reading.

I have made plans. I have made very intricate, complex plans. I have actually proven that probably better than I am at writing or reading or even eating Smartfood, I am fucking amazing at making plans. Good plans? Sane plans? Well.  Why label everything?

I would plan when to write. I would plan what to write. In the morning on Thursday I will write this. In the afternoon on Wednesday I will write this. I would, in fact, plan exactly what I would be writing during the few moments at my day job when I could sneak in some shit.

And it was never just one thing. It was never just the novel. It was always, Okay after work on Monday and Wednesday and Friday I'll work on the novel, and after work on Thursday I'll write comic book scripts, and after work on Tuesday I'll write blog posts, and in the morning on weekdays I'll write essays, and on mornings on the weekends I'll write comic book reviews, etc.

And the reading plans were no different. I kept deciding I had too many books that I hadn't read. I had to always be reading more than one book at a time. I would choose a novel and a graphic novel and a nonfiction book and a nonfiction book specifically about comics and a nonfiction book specifically about writing and a poetry book and a short story collection and I'd designate exactly how many pages of each I had to read per day and I'd keep track of that shit.

And it never worked. I never kept up with any of it. I actually had some success with the ridiculous fucking reading. But the writing, nah. Strangely, making it harder made it seem harder.

Supportive friends would tell me, "Just write 15 minutes a day, and then when you're comfortable, write more, and then more, etc." But that wasn't fucking good enough. I needed to be prolific NOW NOW NOW. I needed to be a writing machine. I needed to be a creative super-powered reactor or none of it was worth anything.

But that was the direction I had to go in order to get the first draft of my first novel - Come Home, Quiet Man - finished. I started off for a couple weeks committing to no more than one rough, double-spaced page per day. Then, after those first couple weeks, I boosted it to two pages. Then three. Then four. And then I stopped. I still usually ended up going beyond four pages every day, but if I wanted to stop at four, just stop dead in the middle of the sentence, that was fine. I wrote 612 pages that way. Fucking finally.

So now I'm experimenting again. In fact, this blog is part of the experiment.

See, it's been tougher to write in the morning. Both because I started giving myself 40 minutes for the treadmill, and because my rhythm knocked loose when certain things interrupted my morning writing which I won't mention again because the last mention attracted "correcting" (*cough*creative*cough*remembering*cough*) texts at 10 pm and we don't need a repeat of that. Usually I'm ready to write maybe at 7:20 am, and if I don't start at or before 7, it doesn't feel worth it. I want at least an hour. I have written beyond 4 pages in less than an hour plenty of times, but still I want that hour.

So I made a new plan. Parts of it suck and won't work. That's okay.

--I wake up at 4 am, immediately head to the laptop, and write.

--I write until 5 am, when I get on the treadmill.

--I walk on the treadmill, and turn the treadmill on before doing this, because otherwise just getting on the treadmill is perfectly fine but not very useful or energizing.

--After the treadmill, I shower and get dressed.

--I prepare my lunch, eat my breakfast, and do dishes while listening to an episode of Welcome to Night Vale.

--I write and send out an email that I write every day. You don't need to know about that. It's in regards to a staircase.

--I do the last of my work prep.

--I write until 8 am, when I go to work.

--I work. Or at least I go to the my place of employment. Let's not argue about details.

--I come home, and give myself until 6:30 pm prepare the next day's breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I squeeze in whatever chores I can.

--I write this blog. I have until 7 pm to do that. It's a way to kind of warm up.

--I write until at least 8 pm.

--After 8 pm, I go do whatever the fuck.

Now, a number of things here either don't work, or they do work, but they're stupid.

First, getting up at 4 am sucks. I don't want to do it.

Second, preparing all of my meals for the following day doesn't really help. I mean, it might help if I prepared a whole shit-ton of meals. Like a few days' worth at least. But let's say Tuesday after work I prepare all my meals for Wednesday. Well...then Wednesday I come home and still have to prepare all the meals for Thursday, and Thursday for Friday, so I'm still, you know, taking time to prepare meals every goddamn day.

But the rest of it, the rest of it works. The rest of it works as long as I goddamn do what I say I'm going to do and I don't fuck around. No distractions. No goddamn ipad games. No web surfing. Just go go go like some goddamn asshole.

And that's just it, you know, none of the planning means anything if you don't fucking do it.

I mean, there really is no one right way to do this shit, man. I don't know a lot, but I know that. Some writers are like drill sergeants and some are drunken louts who write every blue moon when they're sober for 15 minutes. Thomas Wolfe found he could inspire an entire night of writing by standing naked in front of a mirror and fondling his genitals. I haven't tried that. Don't really want to. Well. As far as you know.

But if I don't do it, I don't do it, and it doesn't fucking matter. So here it is. Let's do it.

Talk to you later.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

First Job

It's all going to happen, so I might as well write, right?

That's been going through my head. Not automatically. Not like a voice. Not like a burning bush or a Son of Sam; it's something I've forced through. Something I pushed through. Changed the rules so it could get through the filibuster. All the worst shit is going to happen, so I might as well write.

I had a good thing going for a while. I had a good rhythm. Had this thing where I had to write 4 pages before I left for my second job in the morning (aka, the Day Job, aka the one from which the money comes). And sure, some mornings I didn't quite get to 4 and some mornings I completely told the whole thing to fuck itself and cuddled with my cats or played on my ipad or whatever the hell, but for the most part I stuck to it. I finished the first draft of my first novel doing that. Yay me.

So I broke up with this woman in the beginning of 2017 and I said I wasn't going to date for a while. So a little over a month later, I had a new girlfriend and she knew I would write at 7 am most mornings, so she would video call me at 7 am most mornings so I could not write. Of course, I have to take some responsibility here, I let her get away with it, because I loved her and she was a good kisser and because we had a lot of fun smushing things up against one another, and the first time she did it, I was all, like, "well, what's one morning?" And because I didn't call bullshit the first morning, it felt that much less valid to call bullshit any other morning because, after all, why didn't I call bullshit way back when?

It felt a lot like when the first woman I lived with made a rule about World of Warcraft. At the time, I played World of Warcraft, because the government had called and said, "Mick, we don't have quite enough things to make fun of about your life," so I told them I'd get on that. So I played World of Warcraft and my girlfriend's best friend's husband had been obsessed with the online game Everquest. He had gained tons of weight and neglected his child and even begged off sex for the sake of Everquest. This scared my then girlfriend, and she told me she would only be cool with me playing World of Warcraft if I agreed to the rule that the first time I refused sex for the sake of WoW, I had to quit WoW. Which in retrospect seems 7 different kinds of stupid because if I was obsessed enough with a game to choose it over a vagina, I do not think I would subsequently quit it because I broke some non-legal agreement enforceable only through absolutely no means OTHER THAN the withdrawal of the vagina, a thing which I already (in this hypothetical situation of course) labeled as second fiddle to World of Warcraft. Regardless, I agreed to my then asshole girlfriend's stupid rule, and she proceeded to only initiate sex when she knew I was playing World of Warcraft. This was made all the more frustrating because I was already restricting my play time for her sake, and so my already shrunken time in the fantastic land of Azeroth was cut even more short to keep her manipulative ass happy.

So more recently, with the woman who would video chat with me precisely at the time she knew I would normally be hacking away at my life's work, we broke up a couple of weeks ago. This was not due to the video chatting, but it was pointed out to me by a dear friend that this was not a good sign. I find no value in placing blame, but the break up was totally her fault and I'm perfect.


In the wake of this most recent break up, I vowed I would not be dating for a while. Or, maybe, no, I wouldn't commit to that, I said. I would keep myself open, I said.  But I would not go looking for it. I would not go on dating sites again; or, as I dramatically put it, "put myself back on the auction block."

So a little less than a week after the break up, I reactivated my accounts on okcupid and tinder. Three women contacted me, none of them being women I contacted first. Of the three women who contacted me, one was 45 going on 67. The other two had a lot in common with me. At the very least, all three of us knew what it was like, at one time or another, to be male.

This was less than encouraging.

If you're reading this, there is a good chance you are the kind of person who was there to witness a teeny, tiny emotional metldown on Facebook by yours truly and it was this disappointment, and all of the life-spanning consequences I drew from it, along with some alcohol, which inspired that meltdown.

I deactivated my dating accounts.

And so we get to today. To right now.

It has occurred to me that, in terms of my writing, the break up is a blessing. I have time. I have nothing but time. I have my second job, of course, but after that there are these hours I can fill. I can work on the second draft of the novel. I can work on short stories. I can write essays and comic book scripts.

I can have, right now--not work toward, but have, right now, right fucking NOW, in my hand, right now--the writing life I've always wanted.

And I'm not talking about the writing life you get paid for. I'm not even talking about getting published. I'm saying I can fill my life with the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I can do that. I have this second job and it is a good job. I have this home that I love and I have these two cats and a recliner and I have everything I could ever need and I can write. I can write until it's time to go to sleep, and then I can keep writing if I want. I can do that now, without anyone video chatting with me or trying to drag me to some fucking jam band.

And you know, the idea of it, the thought of it, it makes me so sad.

It's strange. It's inexplicable. Because here I am, right now, at the desk in my home office and I'm writing this. Gimli and Bupu are in the window feeling the wind and smelling the grass and the other animals and I'm loving this right now.

But the thought of it, not the doing, the thought of it, it makes me sad.

I think I was programmed. I think as unique and rebellious as I've always pretended to be, there are voices that just won't go away. The voices tell me that I will always be alone. That if I use my time to do what I want to do, everything else will slip away. No wives. No women at all. No one to grow old with. No friends. I will just have this. I will just have this home and these cats and this writing.

And with a more level head, with ears that can filter the voices because I'm awake to them, I'll be honest, guys. I still kind of think that's all true.

And that's okay.

I mean, it's not all true. I have friends. But I have no circles. That's my fault, by the way. All my fault.

And women, yeah, I don't know. It isn't about my stupid self-esteem anymore. It's about reality. Most single women my age want children yesterday and they want men with solid retirement plans. I'm not trashing them; that makes sense, man. Seriously. Get it while you can, sure. They want men who want to travel and go look at fucking covered bridges and drive three hours to look at fucking foliage. They want to hike and kayak.

I just want to write, man.

I mean, okay, I want to kiss and cuddle and have sex and be in love, too. But yeah, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the fear stops me so much. The fear that it will always be just me, unless I want to compromise. Unless I want to accept what is not acceptable. Unless I want to ball up my life and toss it into a trash can for someone else's dreams.

And yeah, that might be true. I have to acknowledge that. Because not only do I not want to be the patriarch in your suburban development with your garage twice the size of your fucking house and your crated designer dog and your 2.5 kids, but I don't want to do what apparently I have to do in order for simple companionship. I don't want to go to a bar and impress you with my witty banter. Why? I have witty banter all the fucking time. Bars are noisy and loud and crowded and expensive. Fuck you. I want to write.

I can accept all of that, though. I can do that. Because I have no one right now. I'm not going to have anyone any time soon. I mean, why would I? I'm out of my goddamned mind. I will yearn and I will wake up with parts of me very pronounced and more awake than the rest of me and letting me know that  they're not fucking okay with this arrangement. My friends will be few, but they will be good friends. There will be no circle. There will be no group that considers me an integral part.

And all of that is true now. All of it. Every goddamn inch of it. So I may as well write and ignore those stupid voices. Because they cut the killer out of me last year, and we're all going to probably be the scattered dust after a missile barrage soon anyway. In a few minutes, I'm going to look at the computer clock, and I'll be 50. So the least I can do is fucking write.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Step Into the Light

I have decided to see synchronicity in my writing. Because why not? It's kind of fun.

I wrote this thing the other day. Short story. Not very long. Maybe 6 or 7 pages. I wrote it quickly, let it dance its way out of me like a drunk, and then I e-mailed it, as raw and bloody as any piece of writing I've ever let another person see, to a select group of people.

I could say that I did not send it hoping for feedback and I said in the email accompanying the story just that, that I was not hoping for feedback, but I only wrote that because I'm a fucking liar.

However, as much as I crave feedback, the initial impetus to send it out was pure celebration. I had written something without planning it. Without thinking about it. Without being struck by the idea and then saying, "Okay, allow me to write this down somewhere when I have some free time. I do not have free time right now. I have nothing but free time, but I'm currently using that free time to cuddle with cats and watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. On Netflix. Again.

So I wanted to share that miracle, so tiny to the rest of the world, and like a exploding Sun in mine.

I wrote it. I do not have a title for it yet. I am thinking of it now as simply, "The Rift," but this may change. And I think it was pretty good. I think I will let it sit quiet and undisturbed for a month and then I will return to it, do some hacking and some changing and some morphing and maybe some adding (but dear God I hope not, that never ends soon), and then send it out to people and with polite notes that tell them to fucking give me money. Because I'm awesome.

It got me thinking of some other stories I've written, kind of in the same vein as "The Rift," that I began and stopped and never continued, because of laziness or worry or a because of an oppressive sense futility drifting down on me like a net.  I still have them. Still know their working titles. Still sense their potential. Still occasionally open the files, read them, almost feel like someone much more impressive than I wrote the page and a half I let fall out of me, and wonder why the holy fuck I didn't finish carving these diamonds out of the guts of the mountain. Sure, maybe no one will ever buy them, but so what? Like you spend your time so fruitfully now? Men and spend whole days in tunnels beneath the earth, dancing and playing music, getting nothing more than coins and stray paper thoughtlessly dropped in yawning guitar cases; men and women who know they will be an annoyance to so many, and just background noise to so many more, like the movie advertisements or the beggars. If they can do that you can finish a story or two, motherfucker.

But then at the same time I am writing this Fucking Novel. I call it that, you know. It has a real title, but I call it the Fucking Novel because I've been working on the Fucking Novel for almost a decade and a half and if something you work on for that long isn't going to curing a disease you should throw a "fucking" in there. It's just being honest.

Most of the work so far completed on the Fucking Novel was done last year.  Before then, it was a decade-and-a-half of stops and starts, of little pieces of chapters here and there, of chunks, of crumbs.  Over sixty Word files of them. There was some redundancy there, sure, but mostly they were all different. Different scenes or different chapters, told from different points of view, from first person, from third person, from first person but a different narrator, in a different tone, in a different order.

Finally, I completed the first draft. Completed it at the beginning of this year. Over six hundred pages. I am a little over 70 pages into the second draft. The second draft will be a very different animal than the first. It took writing the first, and writing it so very, very wrong to finally understand what I wanted. The second draft will be different. Probably much shorter. Written in the third person, mostly in the present tense. When writing fiction, I am generally most comfortable writing in the present tense; it comes from years of trying to be Donald Barthelme.

I love this novel. I have thought about it every day for a very long time. I also hate this novel and want it out, out, out. Every time I bring my car in to be worked on or just to get the oil changed, I wonder if the mechanics notice the sloppy words written in pen on the flap of driver side mirror.


So, it is difficult for me to acknowledge the liberation and the genuine evolution that comes with writing "The Rift," and the way it makes me want to return to all those other old stories and write some new ones. There are two or three other stories I want to finish. And an essay about Logan. I want to try to sell everything. I want to try to sell everything because, professionally, this is the only fucking thing I ever want to do for the rest of my life. It is all I have ever wanted to do.

But the novel, right? Write the novel, get it done.  How can "The Rift" or an essay about Logan or anything else be anything but a distraction?

So today there is a blizzard, and it is big and every time I hear the projections the number gets bigger, like listening to to douchebag talk about his cock. Twenty four inches now, apparently. Governor Cuomo let all "non-essential" NYS workers (and this includes me) stay home. I had already announced my intention to stay home to my coworkers, but now I don't have to spend time for it. Shazam, motherfucker.

And I planned a time for writing.  I mean, why not, right?  I have done pretty well keeping to a 4 page minimum every day. Tuesday morning, which was yesterday morning, which was the morning before the blizzard, I had time to write a page and a half before work. So I e-mailed the Word file to my work e-mail address and finished the four pages (and then some) during lunch.

And I forgot to e-mail it back to my home e-mail. Which means I am home, with a free day, a day set aside for nothing but writing and refraining from dying in the snow, and the novel is at work, where I cannot get to it.

But "The Rift" is here. And all those other stories. And I can access my blogs to write comic book reviews.  And I can work on that Logan essay.

I am giving up nothing, but I am choosing to see synchronicity in my writing. So I am choosing to believe that I left my novel at work because I was supposed to leave my novel at work.

Also, my home office light switch is kind of fucked.

What I mean is it won't turn off. Well, it will, but you have to fuck with it. There's something going on inside the thing. I know nothing about electronics, but when you flip the switch down, it won't go straight down. It kind of goes to the side and then straightens out again, but when it gets to the bottom, the light won't shut off. It shuts off in the middle, but move it just a smidge above or a smidge below the happy spot.

And I am choosing to see synchronicity in this too. I am choosing to see synchronicity in this because to do otherwise would necessitate doing something to fix the goddamn thing.

My light switch, the light switch in my home office, the light switch in the home office where I write; it is refusing to go off.

I am choosing to believe that the light refuses to go off for a very specific reason.

-Michileen Martin

(I am including this because I stole its title, and because it's from the Archers of Loaf 1995 album Vee Vee, one of my favorite albums, and one of the few albums I can still listen to from start to finish without skipping or wanting to skip - and I am referring to skipping like skipping a song, not like skipping down the sidewalk, I always feel like doing that).