Thursday, August 4, 2016

"You always want to be someone's perfect day."

There is a scene in Rawson Michael Thurber’s Central Intelligence that I haven’t been able to shake.

In the film the Rock plays a former fat awkward nerd who has grown over the years into a CIA badass mountain of a man, but he has retained his high-school excitability and sense of wonder. Among what he's carried as well is his affinity for Calvin “The Golden Jet” Johnson,  played by Kevin Hart- the wunderkind who was supposed to go places.

The two are in two engine plane and after a tonally awkward scene,  the camera cuts to The Rock and that darkest-night-lighting smile fixes on him so softly, and he asks

“You doing okay, champ? You've been struggling a bit, I can tell.”

In that moment it's Bob Stone asking his friend but in a way he’s asking me, sitting in a theatre dusted with popcorn and salt and the rationalized comfort of loneliness. In recent months I've been feeling the weight of all things figuratively and literally amount. The days have seemed longer and the nights sober fewer.

Just the other day my dad asked me for money as he will be out of work a few weeks after a surgery to remove a malignancy. Not a lot, just “a little help,  you know, since I'm not making as much that month as usual.”  It took everything in me not to bawl all over my work clothes. He asked and I had to let him because I couldn't just tell him he didn't have to ask for a thing because what he needs he gets. It was a moment where for one second I got to shove off the world and powerbomb it and all my confusion and sadness and worry through every table I'd ever put up.

Central Intelligence was a fun enough movie with a subtle heart to it- a warmth much needed and appreciated in the cynical and dire days we’re in. The conceit got me too- even though it was through the help of CGI, Robbie Weirdyck becomes Bob Stone but remains his true self. If he could do it, I should do it. I still don't know why that stuck with me so much- usually only the sad Russians or the second season of You’re the Worst hit as hard as one scene in a 100 minute movie did that day.

But it meant a lot. Thanks for asking, Bob.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

People Eating Fruit.

We were spent. We glowed in the light of one another's eyes although we were both supine. The bed was like a raft, not as much as due to the sweat and the effort we left on it, but in how we drifted. Side-by-side, hand-in-hand, up and down.

We talked about Caribou- well, I did, you just listened, and you laughed at the parts I wanted you to. You seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. Your eyes responded with a flare of delight when I equated music to sunlight. You told me not to be so hard on myself and I told you you were right.

I drove you to your car.

We exchanged numbers.

I liked the sound of your voice and how eager you were to please.

You said this was the first and last blowjob of your career.

I can respect that. I believe you when you say I was the first person to ever go down on you, and that's a tragedy. It was fun and so were you. You definitely seemed to enjoy it.

You walked off into the night, I caved to some Jack in the Box which I'd regret the next morning. The only thing I would.

We'll likely never talk again.

I hope you'll remember me too.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cover to Cover.


Tagged by DA GAWD Ulises Farinas here are 10 Books that have stayed with me. Some of them literally, in that I brought them with me from Florida, but mostly figurative. I'm gonna do this without comics bc those beautiful things deserve a list of their own. A LOT of these were Russian or assigned reading but I am a beautiful soul who read EVERYTHING.

Outside of #1, the order is arbitrary. 

1) Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

For my money, the greatest novel in the English language. Nabokov, a native Russian, set out to write this as an experiment- to see if he could turn something so ugly into something so beautiful through the lense of language. And he fucking did it. Nabokov always regretted not writing it in his native Russian- he translated it in 1965, but had he done it originally it would likely be the most perfect prose ever written.

2) The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was sad and straight-edged in high school and girls didn't like me- only one of those has changed. I must have posted about that fucking green light all over LiveJournal. I look at it now as more of a cautionary tale than a manifesto.

3) Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede, Bradley Denton

Probably the biggest inspiration on my imagination. I read it when I was 8 and it warped my mind, the idea that context and history could be fluid. It has also inspired many a delightful pun.

4) Lord of the Flies, William Goldman

Where I learned to be mean. This book opened my eyes to the idea that happy endings don't always happen and that you don't truly know a person until they have nowhere to hide from you.

5) A Hero For Our Time, Mikhail Lermantov

Shout-outs to my optimists. It's a collection of short stories all involving the delightfully downtrodden Pechorin, a guy who could use a pick-me-up. Came into my life at the right time, like a satellite signal, a perfect bounce.

6) Crime & Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevskii

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevskii is the king of consequence. The prototype for my favorite movies. I recently just saw the unbelievably great BLUE RUIN and this is all over that, a gorgeous shade of it.

7) Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Nails it. Absolutely fucking nails it. The humor is knife-sharp, the growth of the characters is organic. Essential for anyone who ever wanted to write humor or really anything. Shout-outs to Nately, you dumb fuck.

8) Flowers For Algernon, Daniel Keyes

So good. It's a bit of a potboiler, which is fine, and curse it to hell for making it okay for garbage like I Am Sam to come out. Keyes is great at the subtle revelations without manipulation and the meta-textual meddling is superb. Probably my favorite last two sentences in written history.

9) Fathers and Sons,Ivan Turgenev

Introduced the first nihilist in Russian literature, our boy Arkady was considered a madman instead of a practical one. One step down from the Russian identity of “What is to be done?” This book proclaims “Why bother with anything?”

10) Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad


Wednesday, August 13, 2014


This week can get bent, so rather than let it break me, let's break the silence.

My brother recently got married to the love of his life and I was honored to be chosen to be the time-traditioned Best Man.

I got to hang out with one of my best friends and spend the day in the glow of true love and it was amazing. I was asked to make a speech, which I had to severely abridge due to personal and public impatience for the open bar.

I quite liked it though, and they did too, but like all authors, we sometimes want to share the carcass where our platters came from, so without further do, here is the entire proposed wedding toast I was going to give, with a bonus joke.

We're here to talk about bonds.

We're here to celebrate a union, a joining of two people and in turn, two families. 

We're here to eat this fancy food and wear these fancy clothes and look our best and shower in lavishness, all because two are becoming one in the eyes of the Lord and the state of Florida. 

-Serge and Marly appear to have a storybook marriage- he's a doctor, she's a nurse, and they met briefly in pre-school, only to drift away as things do and find each other years later. To add to the balance of the equation, they are both of the same ethnicity and our families were less than a half-mile away. The concept of love and the Hallmark ideal of it is based on this ideal, of having someone whose experiences and interests mirror ones own- seems like some things are meant to be, after all. 

That's not to say they are a fairy tale. Fairy tales have trials and tribulations and deceptions and sacrifices, which real life has far more of. There are no fairy tales because they end on the last page, in-medias-res, with no follow-up. No one ever grows old in a fairy tale, they don't see their love bloosm and swell and temper and settle and evolve. They have happy pauses. 

Life ends, all things do. It's written in the stars and in the words that Sergio and Marly were asked to recite to one another, as if it wasn't already imprinted in the way she looks at him when he holds Prince or in the timber his voice takes when he asks her whether she thinks something is cute and as to why that is. 

Sergio and Marly are their own people with their own goals and yes they fight, and yes Serge can and will and always is stubborn and perhaps Marly can be particular as well, but on a basal level, this too echoes the atoms around us- like particles repel, while opposites tend to drift together.

And it brings me back to bonds. Covalent bonds- share electrons while retaining properties of a full cell
-Atoms aren't always equal, and like in all relationships, a covalent bond allows for two molecules to find one another in the ether and bond and overcome their negativity while sharing and strengthening one another through their positivity.

These two have formed a bond, combined with the love in their hearts they form a nucleus, and a nucleus attracts the protons in an atom- all of the positive life and light that then gravitates around that center- much like all of us gathered here today.  Some have already found it, like you couples out here and Sergio and Marly, and some are constantly in flux looking for that other bond to be shared, but ultimately we are all atomic and in search of a center- in search of someone to make us whole. 


transitive verb
:  to warm thoroughly
:  to make (as bread) crisp, hot, and brown by heat


I named the text file CRY WORDS because I think I'm hilarious.

LMK how much you hate it.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mallsoft, Minutiae and You.

The world is a largely empty place. Literally in that most of Earth's surface is water, but in a larger sense there is the pervasive idea that even though there are portions that have become so populated that they're in decay and on the verge of collapse, ultimately there still remains loneliness and the expansive land that surrounds each of us. Even in lines and crowds, you've got your personal atmosphere to think of and it remains unfilled.

I'm A Good Person- Don't Turn Me Into the Old Me.

I've been thinking a lot about loneliness. Everyone suffers it, and isn't it ironic that we all bond over the moments where we find ourselves without others, whether we make ourselves unavailable or the symptom is indicative of a larger issue? I have flirted with the idea of depression since I was young enough to understand it, but it remains a fling, an idea- a companion that I get intimate with time and again but can't quite commit to. Now please don't misunderstand- I am not advocating depression or trying to romanticize it at all. It is a serious condition with effects that can be reversed or treated and if you feel the genuine fear or it then by all means you should consult help.

I struggle. My youth and young manhood and manhood were rife with loneliness- you know the one about how girls didn't like you and kids made fun of your voice and weight and just about anything they could? CLASSIC. My sense of self-worth has shot up rapidly since then, and especially in the last four months, but if you're a fucked-up and possibly inherently sad individual like me, you can't ever quite shake off the fact that you weren't always this way... or the fear you'll fall back. By yourself.

Mall Day, Everyday

Although my life has been surged with positive changes lately and the support of some truly wonderful people, it remains a struggle, almost an addiction. Knowing that things are going to change and having your patience tested day after day when they don't-- it isn't easy and it isn't right and it isn't fair. But I'm not the only person it isn't happening to. I counsel and console dear friends and even absolute strangers all the time about the inherent goodness of things and how we take your feedback very seriously and here's what I might recommend, but that advice doesn't bounce back as well. That's why I write blogs like this and tweet out bullshit jokes and listen to mallsoft without a trace of irony.

Which brings me to mallsoft- a fake genre with a very real impact. It started as a joke and is apparently considered “over” by now. The idea is that it's downtempo, unintrusive structuring- music to muck about to, to walk around aimlessly as neon faces on the wall smile at you. Mallsoft's merits lie on its dismissible nature- it's meant to be background noise, music to not notice to. I once worked in a mall, when I was younger- I know the feeling of staring at the grey and the familiar sights, day in and out, the layouts that never change and the sounds of consumerism, young unbridled ennui and obligation. My time in the mall was brief, all things considered, but I'll never forget how my mind wandered as much as the other patrons, and I found myself with the same thoughts- it has to be better than this. It can't always stay this way. I won't work in this fucking mall forever.

And it was. It didn't. And I don't. My time there served as synecdoche- it would reflect my restlessness with complacence, yet my internal desire for independence and even an emergent sense of personal pride. Mallsoft takes me there, and it's fascinating to me that almost ten years to the year I regress into something I would grow out of, yet I find a beautiful vantage to it. Through mallsoft I see that the doldrums of being single or even being on my own don't always have to be depressing- these are the moments that let me creep into my mind and shut down the dick jokes and puns long enough to ask the questions I ask of everyone else. And answer them. To take a stroll down the aisles of my life and see what needs to be cleared, what's new to this wing and what isn't going to survive the season.
It's my time to take inventory, and when I put it out like this, I hope that someone out there gets a glimpse into themselves, or even if you think I'm a sad sack fuckface, you're thinking outside of your own head and suddenly we're not so alone anymore.

Everything must go, but the things that matter we shouldn't discount.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The Long 15's never liked me. Something about this city, this state and the one I found myself in, feels like it's been forcing me out. The weather doesn't help either- popular music promised me that it never rains in Southern California, but surely someone lied to Albert Hammond Jr., too.

Where we find ourselves at an impasse is that there isn't anywhere to go- things aren't going poorly, per-se, in fact this might actually be a banner year in terms of personal accomplishments... but why do I  always feel like it isn't enough? I've sometimes felt that I was an inherently sad person, just one turn from spiraling out at any time- the kind that can get blue because it's too sunny outside, or that you care too much about the people you're with. That can't be normal, can it? In having a conversation with a dear friend who will know who he is as soon as I mention this, he informed me that when he was younger he was the only person he knew having thoughts of sadness and depression at an early age. I'm not saying I was/ am depressed, but I know that before I learned enough about the language to parse out what I was feeling (as I'm doing right now) I would just keep it to myself, because I was the problem and not them. It's funny, I always felt like I wasn't alone in this matter, but knowing that I wasn't hasn't really helped- in fact it just gives me a new concern that my mood/ severity is more unstable or volatile than everyone else's. No one's cross to bear will ever be as hard as your own.

Back to the Long 15- the last few months haven't been the easiest, ironically starting on my birthday weekend, but the fact of the matter is that life hits and it don't stop hitting, and some days it gets harder to convince yourself you've got the gut and grit for that last punch, that one that you know is coming, even when it's just pouring blows. With my car breakdown it spiraled into a series of troubles, whether it be having to arrange a lift to work to not being able to afford a tow to a series of ever-expanding bad days that get drowned out in the sound of bourbon in a glass, and that's not even to mention the crux of the matter, the eponymous “girls, dawg” whose affection and approval and companionship I seemingly need more than anything in the world. The Long 15 doesn't care about any of that and it let me know that, as the entire world passed me by while I sat in the backseat of my own car and sweltered about what the fuck I was going to do now. I had time to think, seemingly the first time in ages, and it came to me.

I would persevere. I didn't know how I would, or even where the first steps towards this would be, but I knew that just like the asphalt and the concrete that I was cursing left and right, I would continue into the horizon. The Long 15 isn't out to get you, or us, or anyone- it simply conveys you and your vessel from the point you're at to where you're meaning to be. While furious at my breakdown, I realized this isn't life doing this to me- I could have had my radiator checked sooner, gotten tune-ups and conversely I started to think of all the things I could not have done- could not have had the money to call a tow company, could not have had someone to give me a ride to work, could not have had the fortitude to continue on.

I'm not here to tell you that life is a highway, and I assure you I don't want to ride it all night long- that song is garbage and fuck that. What I'm here to tell myself is that life mirrors the Long 15, but worrying where this route is going will close you off to other avenues- as of late I've been making many changes internally, many I've known I needed to make, and these alternates are the ones you don't think about when you're coasting- call it personal velocitation. It closes you off, keeps you on the idea that you take the same road every day for a reason, until the day you break down on it and you never want to see those fucking overhead signs ever again.

It isn't California or the city of San Diego or the Long 15 that was trying to keep me out- it was me, looking at my map and not knowing where to even jump on. But now I've got my directions.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rafael Gaitan in, "EATING MACRO"

Things were not better then. You were just worse at knowing they wouldn't last.

 "LIKE" THIS POST IF *an unexpected error has occurred.*

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Take Care.

I drink and I bare it all. That can't surprise you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Is there anything more condescending than calling someone out on their awareness?

"Oh, you just did or said something now? Where were you when..."

Uninformed, dick. But now I know better. Shouldn't the goal be to inform people and then allow them to choose what to do, or if to do anything at all? If you wanna sink to your level, the time spent criticizing others could be spent being active in this oh-so-passionate cause of yours that you dedicate every waking moment to.

Conversely, reblogging or simply posting about something without becoming informed is the equivalent of "thumbs-upping:" ineffective gestures just for show, and that's almost as bad.

Fuck this, what's one more smarmy, feelings-drenched scream into an ocean of indifference?

React any way you want, as long as you react.

Monday, February 20, 2012

No Me Queda Mas.

Cada corazon estraña como comunicabamos.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Heartbreak Season All-Star Status.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Would Anyone Pay to Feel This Way?

Comics, everybody.

Jacob Kurtzberg warned us- he tried to, at least, that this sequential art we loved so much would break out sequential hearts. It's an ugly business that's run by distant, disinformed "people" who couldn't care less about why we buy, as long as we do.

Yet we do, and we do so gladly. I cannot count the times I have sandblasted any ambiguities of my character with the defense of buying comics. Supporting an industry that brings me such great pleasure... on the backs of so many dismayed. The heads buried in the hands, so plentiful and perfunctory in the business. It ain't right, it ain't fucking right, but, "What can we do as a consumer?"


As comics folk, we get ostracized, inflicted, shunned. Even worse, we become a novelty- someone's quirky friend who's "into all of that," as if it's too shameful to name. In a way it is, if you're the ethically combatative type, but rarely have I come across someone whose anti-comics stance is informed enough. /smuggo.

I didn't intend to write much more than an esoteric sentence that I'd delete tomorrow, but I believe in comics. I am a sequential heartist. I want to follow in the footsteps of all these titans, these giants, these geniuses who saw nothing but the need to put down what they could shake from their dreams and visions, and were "lucky" enough to get a paycheck for. But like all invention, they expected to be kept in the loop, and were callously derailed.

I once read or heard or imagined an interview where a creator said that no one gets into comics to make money. They do it because they love it. The funny part is, this person could not be more wrong. These creators, they went into this business because they saw the need to express their talents doing something they loved and to reap a modest reward. Except that the industry, struggling to survive, found the need to take figure and not people into account.

These gibbons, these Gibbons and Moores and Anglos and Kirbys,they came into the business with nothing but love and stuck around as the object of their affections Charles Atlased them into submission. They deserve(d) to get paid for their work, as any of us would. They deserve(d) to be recognized and acknowledged for their efforts, because they're not just names on a page- they are and were people with lives, families and needs. And the singular corporate need to survive overtook the social need to persevere. It was the unforgivable sin, yet it slid. That's what the love of comics does to a person. We, the interested parties, know the stories and tell the tales, swearing it won't happen to us, but then we find ourselves grinding and grinding to make it, to print our work, to get it noticed in the hopes of what? To get Kirbyed? Why would anyone want that?

And at long last, the answer to the question(s) posed.

Because we fucking love it, we love it more than anything, and we couldn't fathom our lives with out it.

Comics will break your heart. There's no way they won't. But the heart is a muscle, a thorough and tough one, one that adapts- it must be broken in order to be rebuilt. Once it is, though, it's damn near impenetrable... unless the circumstances are correct.

Why do we pay to have our hearts break, you still might ask?

Because heartbreak helps. In times of joy, in sadness, in boredom, ad nauseam- heartbreak helps. It's a fucked up industry that's built on twists of knives and lie after lie, suit after suit, but it's ours, groddamnit. It's ours.

No one gets into comics to make money. The ones that do, the misguided tourists/ weekenders rarely reach beyond the entryway. But that's what keeps this industry limping along (let's not kid ourselves) and will likely do so for a while. It keeps on kickin', though, because of us. I believe in comics because I believe in happiness and I believe in following dreams and I believe in expression in any form... and I believe in comics because I fucking believe.

You take the good and the bad, and these creators, they taught us as they did with their work- their hardships don't go unappreciated. As much as we love what they drew and did for us, we have to take them as cautionary tales- it may not be what they intended, but they're far from martyrs. They're saints- they worked miracles and have been publicly canonized. It's not financial restitution, and it's far less than they deserve, but it's a start.

No one gets into comics to make money- they do it to make a living out of what they love. And is that really so wrong?

Why would anyone pay to feel this way? If you read comics, - you already know.

If you don't, it's never too late. Especially if you don't.

PS: Fuck BEFORE WATCHMEN. Great talents being coerced into beating a dead horse. No rancor for them, as they're wonderful talents who take what work they can get (and also JMS,) but C'mon, son.

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Adventures in Emotional Esotericness.

We'll always have that look and those words, even if we can't have each other.

Well, I always will.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Rather than spam your feeds with maudlin, esoteric Tweets about how atrocious today has been, I've decided to compile a bunch of musings into this blog since no one is reading. This is for release purposes only and not at all a call for attention or an attempt to appear woeful. I just hate everything today and wouldn't want to worry you beautiful people about it.

-Life is full of disappointments.
-I've come to accept I'm an inherently saddened person. I'm not incapable of feeling happiness... it just takes a lot more to make it last.
-The cruelty of cyclical feelings cannot be abided.
-What did you do when you were in my shoes?
-I can't have anything. Not the things I want or the things I don't.
-It can't always be "make it up to me."
-Believe in the line of best fit. The belief is the function.
-Sometimes you have to bounce the signal back, even if it's the only one coming in.
-It'll be better tomorrow, unless it's not.

I'll be right as rain soon, but for now I'll just soak.


Friday, January 13, 2012

On My John Darnielle Jawn

Liquor store prices for liquor store people.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Offered without comment.

Why touch so many hearts when I can't even hold onto one?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

One esoteric sentence and a heart.

Most orbits won't hold. But a satellite, though- a satellite'll always circle.

{okay, I lied about the one sentence. <3}

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"New York Telephone Conversation"

Well, he did it. Young Based Gaitan finally updated his blog.

Submitted for your approval, a story I wrote in a scant hour, but I thought about for a lot longer. What I'm hoping to convey is the feeling of a phone call with a person that one cares about a lot. Essentially, we've all had at least one interaction that we couldn't quite stop thinking about, for reasons that are ours to keep.

Tentatively titled "Person-to-Person," but I'll probably just delete this tomorrow and post one esoteric sentence and a heart.

When you've finished reading, comments are appreciated, but if you have the time, answer me this: what DOES the sound of a receiver picking up mean to you? What does that click make you think?

With much further ado:


One ring, then another, each a heartbeat. A ringing phone had always been his pulse. If the line went dead, he was sure he would as well.

Then the click. The one. Either he's about to send another signal, or someone's honed into his heart.


The sound of her voice. On air, he was, in his own words.


Many people have an immediate answer to this question. The Hero of Our Story never did.

“Oh, um, hey! Hi- how're you?”

Three greetings, zero content. The Hero of Our Story couldn't help but think about these things. What should he say next? Should he mention that the click of the connection was the sound of his troubles shuffling off?

“I'm fine. How are you?”

He told her how he was. And then he asked her again.

“That's good to hear! And hahaha, you already asked me that!”

Shit, he had. Play it cool, Hero of Our Story, play it cool. He didn't know what to say next.

“So... how're you?”

Now she did it! But he couldn't call her on that. Of course he could, but damned if he would.

“I'm doing okay. Sorry for the call, I hope you're not busy! It's just been a while, and I got to thinking of the time.”

She giggled, and his heart was never as kite-like again.

“What are you sorry for? Haha. I can't talk for long, and actually I have to run, but it's so good to hear from you! Listen, can I call you back? I'm free tomorrow, are you?”

For her, he was.

“For you, I am.”

“Okay, great! Listen, I'll give you a call, okay! I will! You take care now.”

“Okay, b--”

He told his friends about this call, he told them all the time, but he always wondered how it went.

What would he tell her tomorrow? Would he have a better story? Would he tell her how the hang-up chirp was his troubles turning back?

There's a world somewhere where he told her the funniest joke she'd ever heard. Where neither he or she were busy. There's a world out there where the Hero of Our Story talked away his whole day.

There's a world where she called back, and one in which she didn't. In both he got the message.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I've been thinking about connections. It's funny how applicable the duality of the term is- we talk all the time about getting the perfect signal, about having reception, about coming into contact. Several months ago, while woozy from the bourbon and what it brings out, I got to thinking about how many connections we have, how many we make, and how many we break. I suffered over my blinking cursor, trying to find the right syntax, the right set of words that could capture something so ultimately indefinable. That's when I remembered a quick note I had made in a small notepad, just a dashed-out bit of cursive written to waste ink and time.

It said, in the sloppiest scrawl imaginable:

"Our hearts are satellites."

And they are- they really are! It's difficult to deny that we humans, among ourselves, we have something going on beneath the surface. We are all attune to each other. We can sense when something's wrong, we get a feeling about a place or a person or a thing, we get mixed signals from conversations and from misreading texts, Tweets, and emails. YouTube's slogan is "Broadcast Yourself," but don't we already do that anyway? The clothes we wear, the words we choose, the friends we make, the requests we approve or deny, they're all a signal we fire off, in the hopes that something or someone will latch on. We miss people, so we call them, or write them- synchronicity exists! When you're thinking of someone or something, how does that thought pop into your head? Physiologically it's firings of synapses, but something had to spark them off. LIfe is a constant stream, with peaks and troughs, and it's all in the amplitude.

Conversely, why do we tune out what we tune out? What do we choose? How do we choose? What makes us decide when we want to change the channel, metaphorically or not? For the purposes of this moment I'm speaking strictly of the online experience, but it can be applicable universally. I've always been the type to try to please everyone. I think I'm amiable, friendly, and all-around a righteous dude. So why do I lose friends? Why do people unfollow me, or remove me from their friends' lists? Some people would rather not think on that level- they don't need to know or don't want to know when someone's retracted their interest: they might be the ones that are better off.

I have unfollowed, I have denied friend requests, and in the past I have waded through and unchecked the boxes, but mostly they've been spam accounts- I usually confirm anyone I've met in person. But especially with the idea of removing friends, it's the pruning that does it for me- you had to go through your lists, you clicked several menus, and you confirmed I didn't matter anymore. What was it about me that didn't make the cut?

I don't mean to turn this into a "woe-is-me" rant about losing followers or denied requests on social networks, because these things have and will happen again. I'm just fascinated with the dichotomy of the treatment of connections and friendships. It's just a a thought, just a new experience brought on by the new American loneliness- when we can hide behind the anonymity of the internet, our actions don't give us pause. Imagine it translated to real-life: how often do people actually end friendships face-to-face? Usually the catalyst for something like that is an unforgivable trespass, but rarely do we think about someone we haven't talked to in years, only to say, "We're not friends anymore." How horrible would that be- what a bad taste it would leave in people's mouth? But behind the screen, we can reach out and cut our losses, quell our numbers, and not bat an eye, because no one will ever notice.

Whether romantically or platonically, we want someone to take us in, to tune in, to care about who we are and what we're about. Feelings are a messy business, and some people tamp them down better than others. It's a frequency that's hailed me for some time. I spend my days jotting down these aphorisms in my phone, on the back of envelopes, on whatever I can get my hands on because the data doesn't stop. We all need people, whether we admit it or not- we sign up for these networks and we make our choices because we want others to notice, to latch on, to accept the signals we give off. We put ourselves on display and sum ourselves up in clever little descriptions because we want to be. We need someone to listen, to notice, to like what we like and us for who we are. Somebody to tune in.

Our hearts are satellites, and we're all just looking for receivers.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"There's Always A Way"

Cross-posted from the Spectrum Culture blog:

Musings by me, on one of my favorite series, All-Star Superman


There’s nary a person alive that doesn’t know Superman. In both the fictional universe he exists and in our realm, he’s easily the most famous man on the planet, maybe even the entire solar system. He’s achieved all the feats that a man can achieve in his time or any time at that. But have you considered the opposite? Though Superman’s name is commonplace, he most assuredly does not know everyone alive. How could he? Even with his stellar powers, what mind could process that type of information?

Humans are an inherently self- preservational: although we maintain our illusions of the greater good and of being kind to one another, most people truly look out for their own best interests. There is not anything wrong with that mentality, but it is not unheard of to be an insular type, unconcerned with any of the world’s problems but one’s own. But who isn’t, you ask? Who is the one person in the world who can put the needs of everyone above his own?


Superman has been presented as a savior, as a Christic figure, as mankind’s last hope. But religious ascribements aside, he’s really just a super man, and Grant Morrison sees this. Longtime comic book fans tire of the character- they see him as a boy scout, as an outdated, overpowered relic of Golden Age fantasy. Lest we forget his original incantation was as a villain, Superman has always been the Superhero Gold Standard. People the world over debate every aspect of his powers: can he outrun the Flash? Is he stronger than the Hulk? Would he and Captain Marvel have a chin-off if they met in real life?

In All-Star Superman, Morrison and artist Frank Quitely take a refreshingly new perspective on The Man of Steel- they write him the most human he’s ever been. They cast the fan boy arguments aside and treat the man like a normal person, who just happens to be able to fly. Bear in mind that Superman draws his powers from Earth’s yellow sun, and that he is, for all intents and purposes, an alien. Were he back on Krypton, he would not stick out- he’d have some fame, being the son of that planet’s greatest scientist, but ultimately he would not be as recognized or revered as he is on our planet. On Earth he has to disguise himself as Clark Kent, and Morrison writes this version as the costume, contrary to other writers who prefer to focus on strictly his abilities. While the man’s powers do make for some cool reading and events, ultimately what kind of a story could be told with a one-dimensional character who does the same thing every time? I, for one, would (and did) get tired of just reading stories where Superman got his ass kicked around space or Metropolis for 20 pages, only to kick back in the last two. Other writers have tried to “spice” him up with radical redesigns and extreme new powers, but Morrison and Quitely realize that a character as iconic as Superman is more compelling when they investigate what truly makes him tick.

The most important part of writing Superman as a human is his giving him humanity and the creators of All-Star Superman manage to make him accessible like none before- they make him confront his mortality. While saving a scientific expedition to the sun that has been led astray by Lex Luthor, Superman’s cells are irradiated by sun rays, overloading them with more than he can bear. He is literally dying for the first time in his life. (“Death and Return of Superman” doesn’t count, because he was straight-up killed, and it sucked.) While green Kryptonite used to be the one thing to bring him to his knees, Morrison and Quitely present a Superman who has experienced a lifetime’s worth of living. As he’s aged he’s gotten stronger, even growing resilient to his former poison. However when his cells are dying, he begins to slowly lose even the powers that make him Superman.

Confronted with the knowledge that he’s coming undone, Superman finds himself making his peace with his former friends and lovers. At the end of issue one, he reveals himself to Lois Lane, who endlessly doubts him, and contradicts her own theorems about Clark Kent’s strange behavior. In the most memorable story in the series, “Sweet Dreams, Super Woman,” Superman presents his beloved with his greatest gift of all: his powers. He synthesizes a formula that will allow her to be as he is for exactly 24 hours. They spend the day flying together, fighting crime, and just experiencing the world through his eyes, until the time traveling troublemakers Samson and Atlas show up. They try to woo Lois, and one of their gifts is a necklace stolen from a pharaoh, who shows up and promises to end her life if Superman cannot answer The Unanswerable Question, which is one of the 12 Feats of Legend that he is to complete before his death.

After freeing her and dispatching of her would-be suitors, her powers wear off and he lays her down to sleep tenderly, planting a gentle kiss on her forehead. Although we know he’s falling apart on the inside, Superman has never had a more vulnerable moment in his life.

“Funeral in Smallville,” about the passing of Jonathan Kent, takes place in the past, and has Superman at his most naïve. As he fights with other future Supermen to defeat a creature called the Chronovore, he suddenly realize he can’t pick up Jonathan Kent’s heartbeat. As he flies away so fast his hair catches fire, tears well up in his eyes as he exclaims, “I can save him! I can save everybody.” Such simple dialogue masterfully understates one of the defining moments in the development of the Superman character: the day he realized that the world wouldn’t always be kind.

Volume 2 features the more exploratory stories including issue 10, “Neverending,” which might reasonably be the most important story since Alan Moore’s “For the Man Who Has Everything.” The issue deals with Superman’s life legacy in the diegetic world, but also doubles as a commentary of the longevity of the character in comics form. A near-death Superman spends the day settling his affairs, and in perhaps the most touching moment in the series, he comforts a teenager contemplating suicide. He embraces her and he utters, “You’re much stronger than you think you are.” With this little girl on the ledge of a building, Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton, is unequivocally the most connected he’s ever been with humanity- he’s on the ledge of his own life, looking over, but with no one to hold him in their arms. He’s not going to be okay, but the girl is, and he knows- but he comforts her anyway.

The ending of the series is much too important and touching to be summed in a few sentences, but what Morrison and Quitely achieve is monumental- with their book, they’ve turned the Man of Steel into a more than a Boy Scout in tights- they’ve made him a man. As writer Mark Waid postulates in his intro to Volume Two, “Superman achieves his power by believing in us.” In his youth and in his twilight, he always was the same kid from Smallville, who thought he could save everybody. The beauty of All-Star Superman is that even though he is Superman, and Clark Kent, and the savior of humanity, he’s always been Kal-El: the boy of two worlds who lost the center of both. Morrison and Quitely hit home the idea that he may be an alien, and he may be more able than us, but he’s ours. There’s always a way. He’s failing himself, but he’d never fail us.


Things have been going- let's just leave it at that.