Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 In Memoriam

Not "in memoriam" of the actual year 2016 -- that is an annus horribilis that is best burned to death, locked in a trunk, and dumped overboard into the Marianas Trench.  I just wanted to leave a note about many of the people who influenced me who died in 2016.  This is only a partial list, at best, of all we lost last year, which somehow makes it even more sad.

William Christopher.  Debbie Reynolds.  Carrie Fisher.  Richare Adams.  George Michael.  ZsaZsa Gabor.  Alan Thicke.  John Glenn.  Ron Glass.  Dooky Chase.  Florence Henderson.  Gwen Ifill.  Leon Russell.  Robert Vaughn.  Leonard Cohen.  Janet Reno.  Arnold Palmer.  Darwyn Cooke.  Edward Albee.  Gene Wilder.  Gloria DeHaven.  Garry Marshall.  Elie Wiesel.  Anton Yelchin.  Gordie Howe.  Muhammad Ali.  Alan Young.  Morley Safer.  Prince.  Doris Roberts.  Merle Haggard.  Patty Duke.  Garry Shandling.  Pat Conroy.  Harper Lee.  Vanity.  Abe Vigoda.  Natalie Cole.  David Bowie.  Glenn Frey.  Alan Rickman.

If I missed one your favorite influences, please, please don't hesitate to leave it in a comment.  Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Remembering Carrie Fisher

2016, that horrible, horrible dumpster fire of a year, is not done with us yet, apparently.  Today we lost Carrie Fisher, who suffered a heart attack on an airplane over the Christmas holiday.  Today it was announced that she had died.  Today it seems like the entire world is mourning Princess Leia. Maybe it's because of the success of the first stand-alone Star Wars movie, "Rogue One."  Maybe it's just because Carrie was such a memorable icon, whether in her white dress and buns or her metal bikini and ponytail.

When I think of Carrie, though, I don't think of "Star Wars."  I think of "The Blues Brothers."


See, back during my acting career (such as it was) I got to work as an extra on the Chicago set of "The Blues Brothers."  I was in the crowd during the finale's concert, and I was in the crowd dodging the cars during the chase scene in the mall.  I got to meet most of the principal actors at the craft table.  John Belushi kept mostly to himself.  Dan Aykroyd was very nice and very genial, always making sure that the little guys were doing OK.  And Carrie was simply hilarious.  She always had a story, and seemed to always be laughing.  While I did not meet her formally, like I did with Dan, I was usually in the group she was telling stories to in between takes.  There were a fair number of "Star Wars" nerds among the extras even then, and Carrie was always willing to oblige with a story, usually one at her expense.



I do remember that Dan gave her the Heimlich Maneuver one day when she was choking, and I heard that they became engaged shortly afterwards.  I can't speak to the truth of the second part, but I know he saved her from choking.  I also found out long afterwards that part of the craft budget went towards the purchase of cocaine for the principal actors.  I couldn't say who indulged, but I'm sure most of my readers have their own opinions.

My favorite words from Carrie herself:

So in respect for her wishes, let me say that today Carrie Fisher drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

One of my daughter's Tumblr friends, who blogs under the name "princess-slay-ya" had this to say, and God, do I wish I had written it myself (but be warned, some language is not safe for kids/work) --

"It's hard to imagine moving foward without Carrie Fisher, but her legacy will remain even if she is not physically with us.  She was someone who went through shit in life and still came out of it a princess.  We all may never star in one of the most famous movies of all time, or be award-winning authors, or help write one of the most famous Star Wars movies of all time, or be able to tweet with emojis in witty and hilarious ways, but we can all still be like Carrie.  She survived, she thrived, she owned who she was.  She was just as much of a rebel as Leia is.

"We can carry on with Carrie's legacy by loving ourselves and fighting for ourselves and being the kind of people that Carrie would be proud of.  Whether it be writing that story you've been dying to tell, or looking in the mirror and saying, 'this is my body and I fucking love it!' or just simply getting up in the morning again and again and keep moving forward.  She would want to know that she is survived by a legacy of boys and girls who give no fucks and who fight for themselves and who were inspired by everything Carrie gave to the world.

"May the Force be with you."

I would like to end with this Tweet from K O'Shea:  "Fight on the front lines.  Strangle fascists with the chains they would have you wear.  Be a motherfuckin' general."

And as for 2016 -- I hope you die, and it hurts, and you suffer while you die.  For Carrie, and for Richard Adams, whom you also took from us today.  Burn in Hell, 2016.  You abomination.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Giving Update

Just a quick update for our holiday giving project:  See the previous blog entry for details on who and how you too can donate, to causes that may be under threat with the incoming Trump administration. So far my family and friends have really, really come through.  There are no presents under our tree.  There are no stockings hung on our mantle.  And if there were, they would remain empty.  But my family and my friends have, to date, donated over $2,200.00 to the NAACP Legad Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood, etc., etc.

I could not be more proud of my family and my friends.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Holiday Giving

I have been going back and forth as to whether or not to share this with the world.  Here goes nothing.  I hope I won't have to disable comments.  I post this not to offend anyone, or to initiate any arguments, political or otherwise.  I'm sharing because this is what my family decided as a group to do this year, and I believe it may be of use to others.

This year we sent out variations on the following message, and I'd like to share it publicly now:

"Dear Family and Friends,

"Megan, Olivia and I want to try something different this holiday season.  To say that the election this year was a disappointment would be a huge understatement.  We honestly believe that this is a dark time in our lives, politically speaking.  So we are asking all of our friends and family members that might be sympathetic to the mess that our country is in to please do this for us:  instead of giving us stuff for the holidays, we would like you to take every penny that you would have spent on us and instead donate it to one of the causes that are going to be under siege with a Trump presidency.

"I know we have tried to do this in the past, to unplug the "Christmas Machine," but it somehow always got away from us.  But this year we are going to ask you all to please forego ANY holiday giving to us.  No little tokens. No “just a little something to open.”  No stocking stuffers.  Nothing.  Take every cent you might have spent on gifts of stuff and instead give that money to something truly worthy.  (Kids are, of course, exempt; we are happy to get something for the kids!)

"Last Week Tonight, John Oliver’s show on HBO, had some excellent suggestions and we are sharing them with you below.  This is the complete list of John Oliver’s recommended charities, but feel free to find your own.  You know what the issues are.  And if you have a preference on a charity to which you would like us to donate in your name, please let us know.  We'd love donations to the Trevor Project or the Trans Lifeline.

"An article on John Oliver can be found at  https://www.inverse.com/article/23698-john-oliver-donate-trump-list-president

"The Trevor Project, for LGBTQ youth:  https://give.thetrevorproject.org/checkout/donation?eid=63307

"The Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, for immigrant rights:  http://www.maldef.org/ways_to_donate/index.html

"Planned Parenthood, for women’s reproductive health:  https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Donation2;jsessionid=FA6641A45265C5F542940F5929F82A7B.app259b?df_id=12913&12913.donation=form1&s_src=Evergreen_c3_PPNonDirected_shorturl

"The Center for Reproductive Rights, also for women’s reproductive health:  https://www.reproductiverights.org

"Natural Resources Defense Council, if you care about climate change:  https://www.nrdc.org

"The International Refugee Assistance Project, for refugees from ISIS and other world tragedies:  http://www.refugeerights.org/donate/

"The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to fight racism:  http://www.naacpldf.org

"The Trans Lifeline, a suicide and help line for trans youth:  http://www.translifeline.org/donate

"We all believe that is truly one of those times when like-minded people need to band together, walk the walk, and put our money not only where our mouths are, but where it will do the very most good for the most people.  It’s up to us to shine as much light as we can in these dark times.

"To better days (and holidays) in the future.  And know that we love you all.

"Always, Megan, Tom and Olivia"

So that's it.  If nothing else, I hope the links are useful for any charitable giving you might want to do.  And have the happiest of holidays, from my family to yours.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Stunned

So it's the morning after the 2016 US election.  Trump won.  Dear God in Heaven, Trump won.  We can look forward to four years minimum of misogyny, homophobia, isolationism, racism and God only knows what else.

The main reason voters are citing is that they wanted "change."  They wanted an outsider who would come in and "shake things up."

To which I say, be careful what you wish for.

After the mess he inherited when he assumed office in January 2009, President Obama has been steadily, quietly and determinedly reducing the national debt and rebuilding the economy.  Unemployment is at an historic low.  And he has not gotten one iota of credit for it from the people who voted Trump last night.

I remember reading some years ago about something that I thought was the most peculiar thing I'd ever heard of.  Apparently there is a segment of the Japanese population, usually the older folks, who are literally incapable of hearing Japanese if it's being spoken by a Westerner.  The idea that only Japanese people can speak this beautiful, complex language is so deeply ingrained that even the most fluent of Western speakers is heard as gibberish.  They just can't get their minds around the idea.

I wonder if the same thing isn't going on here.

I wonder if there isn't so much white anger and fear bubbling below the surface that some people simply cannot accept the idea of a black leader making things better.  Which Obama has done, in the face of hatred, obstructionism and deep, deep partisanship.  My sister, who testified before Congress in Obama's first year in 2009, overheard two Congressmen saying to one another that "this guy gets NOTHING."  Anecdotal, but certainly arguable in the light of ensuing events, what with unfilled appointments, executive action having to be taken over legislation, and all the other political crap we've had to deal with for eight years.  I think that some people have their heads so deeply in the sand that they simply cannot see how much better things are than they were eight years ago.  There is a whole cycle of memes to be found that start, "if Obama were white...."  I think there is a lot of truth to be found there.

Which is why we find ourselves as Americans witnessing our first black President turning over the keys to the White House to the first candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

My heart is broken today, and I don't know if it will ever be mended.  I'm nearing the end of my days, but I fear for the world my daughter now will have to live in, in an America divided by hate; an America that seems to say it's OK to treat women and minorities badly; an America that turns a blind eye to global warming until it's too late to reverse it; an America that I truly believe will find itself feared and shunned by the rest of the world.

Monday, October 10, 2016

One Month to Go...

So last night was the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  I'm not going to go there, apart from saying that I honestly and truly believe that Trump is a misogynist and a narcissistic psychopath who has no business representing or leading the United States of America.  So that's my politics out of the way.

No, this is about the aftermath, particularly about the idiot woman being interviewed on NPR this morning who is insisting that Trump's comments about women, specifically that "when you're a celebrity you can do whatever you want; walk right up to them and grab them by the p***y," this so-called "locker room talk," is just something that "all men do."

This absolutely not something all men do.

Not at all.

This is an insult to me and to all those who try to go through life respectful of women, of people.  I would never, never, ever engage in this kind of talk, nor would I tolerate it from others.

That Trump is being given a free pass for this, and by a woman, is mind-boggling.  I don't get it.  I don't understand.  Is it a matter of face?  Is it that right-wingers are so invested in this blatantly unqualified candidate that they feel compelled to justify their support of him, no matter what?  What is it going to take for people like her, like Chris Christie, like Rudy Giulani, to say, "Nope.  I'm sorry; this was a huge mistake, and I owe you all a huge apology."  Or at least to publicly state that in view of recent events and remarks made by this candidate they can longer justify their support for his candidacy.  That's a nice phrase, in bland politicalese, but it still lets them off the hook.  A hook on which they were willing to gladly impale themselves upon, but never mind.

Please.  Vote this November.  Turn out in numbers sufficient to send a message to this creep without a conscience AND to all of his ignorant supporters that America will not tolerate him or his message.

Not now.  Not ever.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Best of the Best

Sorry things have been quiet.  I've been laid up after foot surgery a few weeks ago, and I'm terribly behind with my comics.  I'll be on crutches and unable to drive for at least three more weeks, so my lovely wife and daughter surprised me yesterday by making a run to my local comics shop and picking up the books that were waiting in my subscription box.  (Side note:  If you live in Central Pennsylvania, the absolute best LCS is Comix Connection.  Tell 'em Box 35 sent you.)

I've really been enjoying what DC has been doing with their REBIRTH event.  They really seem to be trying hard to put the best of everything in their history back into play in their books.  Clearly, I am a fan of all things Green Lantern, and DC is indeed doing a fantastic job with the whole Green Lantern mythos.

But the book that literally brought me to tears is one that you can still run out and find:  Wonder Woman #4.  This is Wonder Woman's 75th "birthday" and DC is pulling out all the stops, especially since Gal Gadot stole the Batman V Superman movie as Wonder Woman this past summer.  Unlike some of the other books, Wonder Woman is coming out every two weeks with an alternating story line.  Odd numbered books tell the story of what Wonder Woman is up to now, and it's a pretty good story about her search for her lost homeland.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, or as writer Gail Simone calls her, "Dark Swordy."

But the real gem is what's going on in the even-numbered books:  "Wonder Woman Year One" as written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by the incomparable Nicola Scott.  Nicola Scott is an Australian artist whose work I first saw when she began illustrating DC's Birds of Prey book in 2007. Birds of Prey was bring written at that time by one of my favorite writers, Gail Simone, who I have mentioned in this column before, and the combination of Simone's writing and Scott's art made BoP the book I absolutely had to read first when it came out.  They also knocked it out of the park with Secret Six in 2008-09.  (One of my most prized possessions is an autographed script from Gail Simone of an issue of Secret Six from during their run together.)  The point is that I've been familiar with Scott's artwork for almost ten years, and it has always been fantastic.

Recently she and Greg Rucka have been doing an independent comic called Black Magick which I also cannot recommend highly enough.  Every now and then I find something that I love so much that I start handing out to anyone and everyone I know who will stand still long enough to take it from me.  One of these things is the novel Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  I must have given away dozens of copies over the years.  Another of these is Black Magick.  I've pretty much cleaned out my local comics store so that I can do this.  It's a police procedural featuring a practicing Wiccan detective, and it's brilliant.

Wonder Woman Year One, however, has taken things to an entirely new and higher level.

Part Two of the story, which makes up issue #4 of the new series, details the meeting of Princess Diana and Steve Trevor and the decision of the Amazons to send an emissary to the outer world, an emissary who is chosen by a competition of all the Amazons to find their best.  Diana, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta, wins the competition and agrees to give up her immortality to become the Amazon ambassador to our world.

The artwork is heartbreakingly beautiful.

I am not exaggerating.  I was, quite literally, moved to tears, not once, but twice.  Once when Diana has to reveal to Steve that he is the only survivor of the crash that brought him to their island, and again when I turned the page to see the two-page spread that encompasses and condenses the Amazon Contest.  DC is printing the book on good quality paper and all of the subtle line work and coloring is presented in the best possible light.

I was unable to get permission to reproduce any of the artwork in time for this writing, but a sanctioned preview of the issue can be found here at the Diamond Comics Distributors PREVIEWS website.

I know that when I get around to plugging popular culture and comics, I get enthusiastic and trot out clich├ęs like, "run, don't walk, to your local shop and pick up a copy of YADDAYADDA now!"  So all I can tell you is that the latest run of Wonder Woman is the proverbial Real Deal, and whether or not you like comics, or read comics, or give a hoot about comics, you are doing yourself a real disservice by not picking up the Year One issues and reading them.

And you might want to grab a few issues of Black Magick while you're there.  Either way, you won't be sorry.