And yes, I do all this because I’m allergic to work. I figure as long as I look busy, I won’t have to perform actual labor. It’s worked for nearly half a century so far…
I guess the only thing cooler than being interviewed in the pages of one of your favorite magazines is being interviewed in one of your favorite magazines and having the cover art turn out to be this amazing image of Dr. Strange and Clea by Arthur Adams. My friend and sometimes-editor Bob Greenberger did the article on the DC Comics Bonus Book program of the late 1980s, for which I wrote a Warlord story which turned out to be the first professional work of comic artist Rob Liefeld. The interview is fairly short, but includes some reflections of times long-past when I was just starting out. It ships this week! Buy a copy at your local comic shop, or order (paper or eBook) from TwoMorrows.
This week, some practical information, as opposed to my lofty, philosophical flights into the realms of high lit’rit’cher. (Which means I’m too tired to think, and am thus beginning to just dump the contents of my brain all over the place. I think it may be a sign of premature senility…)
Malware. If you own or use a Windows computer, you’re going to get it. Malware is any program which installed on your computer without your knowledge and is intended to either collect information about you or simply to interfere with the efficient running of your computer. I help a lot of friends, family members and co-workers figure out problems with their Windows PCs. 99% of them are caused by malware. As soon as I here these phrases:
I probably discovered Winter’s Tale in college. It was published my freshman year, and I spent at least an hour a day in the campus bookstore, which, back then, was a respectable establishment. Not only could customers browse the stacks of textbooks themselves, rather than waiting for the staff to fetch them (which meant you had your pick of the lowest-priced used copy), but it was also a well-stocked retail bookstore as well. About the size of my local BooksAMillion, and with about the same ratio of swag to books. No music, though. For music, you had to walk down the Student Union hallway to the Record Coop. (That’s two syllables, if you were wondering. And yes, we all pronounced it as though it held chickens instead of records.)
Family and friends are already sick of this story, but I’m told it was “legendary.” (All one word. Not Barney Stinson Legen-Wait-for-it-Dary.) And my brain is so drained that it’s pretty much all I got this week. By rights, I should be doing a Farpoint 2014 After-Action Report this week. For reasons of my own, I’m not going to do that. My reaction to Farpoint 2014 goes too deep inside my skull, and, as I’ve warned you, it’s dark and scary in there, and there are little mice…
I find that I’m only lonely when I’m around other people, never when I’m by myself. Does that sound a little… I dunno… Emo? Like I’m some sad little high school boy hiding from the world in my room? Honest, Mom, the eyeliner was just for a part in a show…
But seriously, I’m usually perfectly happy with the world and my place in it when I’m by myself. I can work, read, listen to music, write… sometimes all at the same time… and feel productive and content. When I’m around other people, however, I tend to notice the flaws in my relations with them. I used to place all the blame for those flaws on myself. I wasn’t sensitive enough, I wasn’t tough enough, I wasn’t smart, or good-looking, or witty enough. Lately I realize that the blame isn’t mine, at least not all of it. A lot of why I feel disconnected when I’m around others, why I can’t connect with them and feel content in their presence, is that they are not sensitive, tough, smart, good-looking, or witty enough. Well, maybe not good-looking. I don’t care about good-looking. And toughness doesn’t impress me unless it’s real, which it rarely is.
When I decided to go weekly with my blog… November 2011? Looks like then… I chose Mondays as the day. Start of the week. It seemed like the best day to be sure that I could carve out an hour or two and write 1,000 words or so. After all, with the week just beginning, planning to write on Monday evening, you’re less prone to slippage, less prone to have your writing time suddenly filled with other, less fun, less meaningful-to-posterity things than if you set aside, say, 6 PM Wednesday.
But life changes year to year. 2012, for me, was the year of getting my blog on time. 2013 was the year of Zen, of not letting the crazy pace get to me. 2014 is looking like it’s going to be the year of boundaries, of saying, “No, you’ve encroached on me far enough,” or “No, that just can’t happen today. So one thing I’m thinking I may have to say just can’t happen today is blogs on Monday. I’m not sure. Maybe I can keep doing it. Maybe not. But I don’t like maybes. I don’t want to promise you or myself that I’m going to blog every Monday and then not do it. So… maybe it’ll be Tuesday? Maybe Wednesday. I think I’m gonna say the weekly blog is coming out before Wednesday.
Maybe it’s the promotion I recently got, which moves me into a position of different responsibilities, and fills up a lot more time, especially on Mondays. Maybe I’m just getting old and resenting deadlines, after having met them for so many years.
Whatever. So, if I don’t have a new entry on Mondays, don’t worry. I’m not stopping. Just… flexing a little. Adapting. Yeah.
Increasingly crowded Mondays are also responsible for me not having much subject matter today. But I do have something significant, if brief, to discuss.
Yesterday, a very talented man died much too young. I’m speaking of Philp Seymour Hoffman. I suppose he’s best known for his Oscar-winning performance as Truman Capote in 2005′s Capote. A little older, a little more cultish in its fame is The Big Lebowski. You might know him from that. All of his films are worth seeing, even if just because he’s in them.
But I’d particularly like to draw your attention to one of my all-time favorites, Pirate Radio (released in the UK, and cut differently, as The Boat That Rocked.) When I mention this film, nine times out of ten, the person I’m speaking to hasn’t seen it or even heard of it. A shame, as it’s from Richard Curtis, the writer/director of Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually, not to mention the recent About Time. Curtis also created The Vicar of Dibley and co-created Black Adder.
It’s the story of a pirate radio station, housed on a boat in the North Sea in 1967, when the BBC didn’t believe in playing pop or rock music. These music enthusiasts played their tunes from beyond the limits of Her Majesty’s jurisdiction, and really got under the skin of the British government. Personified by Kenneth Branagh in this film, they were portrayed as wanting to eliminate pirate radio at any cost. Any cost. The message resonates for the pirates and digital freedom activists we have today, even though Curtis denies that was his intent.
The film has a wonderful ensemble cast, which includes January Jones, Bill Nighy and Nick Frost. Hoffman plays “The Count,” a phlegmatic but charismatic DJ with a strong moral compass, a perverse sense of humor, and a fair measure of love for both his listeners and the music they share. It’s not a role that requires heavy method acting or even superb comic timing. And that’s a really hard role to play, much less make memorable. It’s a role Hoffman made his own.
The climax of this movie brings tears to my eyes every time I see it, no matter how many times I see it. It centers around three of the most beautiful words in the English language, “We Heard You.” I shan’t spoil it for you. Just see it. It’s funny, it’s touching, and it has a lot to say.
Today, especially, it says, “We’re going to miss you, Mr. Hoffman… but we heard you.”
I got this book as a Christmas gift. It’s a beautiful work, developed as a companion to the PBS film (which I’ve not seen) Superheroes – A Never-Ending Battle. It’s chock-full of gorgeous shots of comic covers, comic artists at work, rough sketches and unfinished pages of famous characters, and photos of many of the actors who brought superheroes to life on screens big and small. It does a wonderful job of chronicling the genesis of a genre, starting with the pulp magazines which date back to the turn of the 20th Century, and including insights on the industry and the people who made it that I’ve never come across before. That says something, because I have read a lot about comics history. Continue reading
Today I would like to explain the intended function and use of the double door. The double door, a system of two standard-width doors, placed side-by-side, is intended to allow two-way traffic to pass through an opening, avoiding bottlenecks. It dates back to ancient Egyptian times. There are paintings of double doors on the tombs of the Pharoahs. It works like this: no matter which side of the door you’re on, you use the door on your right. Double doors may swing in both directions, may slide out of the way for you automatically, or may only open in a single direction. Nevertheless you use the one on the right. Anyone passing through the same opening from the other side uses the door on their right. And guess what? That’s your left! Isn’t that amazing? You can both pass through the opening at the same time without having to stop for each other!!! Genius!
No experience in life is truly wasted. You can always learn something, and thus time and money spent are merely tuition you paid for that learning experience. So, while you might be tempted, after watching a truly awful film (like the one named above) to scream, “I want those two hours of my life back!”, you should remember there’s always something to learn. (You should also remember that truly awful films are often only 90 minutes, as, again the one named above is. That’s because the director, producer or the studio saw the two-hour cut and cried out to the heavens, “What hath I wrought?!” and tried to soften the blow by at least making the travesty rob one fewer half-hour of life from its viewers.)
As I said last week, before Christmas, the opportunity to visit my hometown presented itself. Actually, it was a little less of an opportunity and a little more of a pressing need. In addition to being a cultural center of some repute, Yancey County is also (yay!) one of the meth capitals of these United States. I know, right? What a distinction. I guess lots of acres of remote, forested areas provide meth heads with ample opportunity to build meth shacks and run meth labs.
Said meth heads use some unique tricks to finance their rather idiotic illegal enterprises: they steal copper. In my particular case, they illegally entered my family’s house in the mountains and used tin snips to cut out all the copper hot water pipes. These they planned to sell to finance their idiotic lifestyle. These idiots, though, we apprehended by the County Sheriff on the road from our house, the copper pipes rattling around in their open truck bed. They claimed both that they were members of my family and that a family member who didn’t own the house had given them permission to vandalize it. Continue reading