Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We Now Return To Our Regular Programming

Been a busy couple of weeks; sorry for not updating.  Busy on several fronts, too.  First of all, I have been pretty sick.  As I've said here more than once, springtime is not kind to those of us with autoimmune disease, and this spring has been really abysmal as far as my symptoms are concerned.  So far I have managed to keep myself out of hospital, but it has not been easy.  And in spite of how lousy I've been feeling, I had to go to Pittsburgh for a couple of days to move my daughter home once she finished finals for her sophomore year.  She and I are butting heads a little bit, as she wants to stretch her wings and stay in Pittsburgh for the summer.  I feel that this is the last summer that she'll be spending a length of time at home, and I don't want to lose it.  Next year will be summer school, or work study, or study abroad, or an internship, and that'll be her summers from here on out.  I just want one last summer with her and she's not seeing it from my point of view.  Frankly, I wouldn't have seen my point of view either, not at age 20.  But the difference is that I fled a physically and emotionally abusive home.  I think her home was different.  By the time I was seventeen, I had lost track of how many times I had suffered a brutal beating by my father.  My daughter has had, I'm grateful to say, a very different kind of upbringing.  (Basically, I just did everything the opposite from what my parents did for, and to, me.  It seems to have worked rather well.)

So she is home, reluctantly, and equally reluctantly looking for a summer job here as well as back in Pittsburgh.  Here's hoping she finds something close to home first.

I've also been trying to get a wider audience for this little blog of mine.  I submitted applications to several places such as Examiner-dot-com and HuffPost, and received rejection letters which said that my writing style did not fit their needs at the present time.  Form letters, but they stung.  And I hung up my pencil for a while.  Add the rejection letters to what's been going on in the news -- particularly the refusal of the Senate to do any meaningful gun reform -- and I was wondering what the point is of even trying to express an opinion.

And the point, of course, is that it's therapeutic for ME to vent my thoughts.  I would love it if I found a wider audience, but the main thing is that I do it for me.  The both of you will just have to bear with me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Dream Deferred. Again.

"A dream deferred is a dream denied."  Langston Hughes summed up exactly how I'm feeling today, just a day after the Boston Marathon bombings.  I was 13 years old in 1966, when Star Trek first aired on the NBC network.  One thing captivated me immediately -- the idea that the human race had a future!  We had seemingly resolved our differences, beaten back hunger and poverty and actually made a friendly and profitable first contact with intelligent extraterrestrials.  The end result was a starship whose primary mission was exploration and which was crewed by a mixture of races, sexes and ethnicities that all believed that we humans are stronger when we embrace our differences, and learn from them, and revel in them.  When I was 13, I dared to dream that this future might actually be possible.  This was no small thing, not to an adolescent who grew up with nuclear "duck and cover" drills and backyard bomb shelters.  We pretty much thought that our number could be up at any moment, whether due to a crazed Soviet leader or a crazed American general.  Star Trek more than anything else in 1966 gave me hope.

Now I'm almost 60, and every year I've spent here on this planet has made me just a little more cynical and stolen just a little more hope, as I see that dream pushed further and further and further away.

Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, once had his character Linus say, "I love Mankind, it's people I can't stand!"  I know exactly how he feels.  I am amazed and astonished and incredibly proud to be part of a species that has pushed back the boundaries of science, that has had its members walk on the nearest heavenly body and put a mobile scientific laboratory on the planet Mars.  I am also deeply ashamed to share my DNA with the same beings who take their hatred of The Other and blame natural disasters on their gay sisters and brothers, who fly planes into buildings in the name of their god, and who put pressure cookers filled with explosives and debris into trashcans so they can blow up eight-year-old kids.

I love Mankind.  It's people I can't stand.

I no longer hope for the dream of a united humankind that Star Trek depicts.  I believe that if intelligent aliens ever did try to make contact with us, it would mean two things:  one, that we would almost certainly attack them out of fear, hatred and misunderstanding; and two, that they can't be that intelligent or they wouldn't have bothered with us in the first place.  We ain't worth it.  For every Mozart, we make a Hitler and a Mussolini.  For every Gandhi, a Genghis Khan and an Idi Amin.

We're not worth it.  Not worth contacting, not worth saving, not worth the trouble.  I think the best thing we can do is just continue as we are, burning through the planet's resources in shortsighted greed until we manage to kill ourselves off, like a bacterial culture that runs out of room in its Petri dish.  Or as George Carlin said:

"The planet has been through a lot worse than us.  Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles ... hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages ... And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference?  The planet isn't going anywhere.  WE are!

"We're going away.  Pack your $#!+, folks.  We're going away.  And we won't leave much of a trace, either.  Maybe a little Styrofoam.  The planet'll be here and we'll be long gone.  Just another failed mutation.  Just another closed-end biological mistake.  An evolutionary cul-de-sac.  The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.

"The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does.  It's a self-correcting system.  The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed.  And if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm:  the earth plus plastic.  The earth doesn't share our prejudice toward plastic.  Plastic came out of the earth.  The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children.  Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place.  It wanted plastic for itself.  Didn't know how to make it.  Needed us.  Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, 'Why are we here?'  'Plastic ... @$$hole.'"

Please don't misunderstand me.  I applaud the people of Boston for their heroism and their resilience in the face of this horror.  These are the people who ran toward the explosions to help stangers.  These are the people who, over and over today, are saying that whoever did this picked the wrong town -- not in a macho, puffed-out-chest kind of way, but in the sense that Bostonians are proud, and resilient, and will absolutely refuse to let this change their lives for the worse.  They will not live in fear, they will not change their ways, and I can't wait to see how they do next year's Boston Marathon.  Because they WILL do a Marathon next year, and it's going to be great.  I'm glad that there will always be people like that, who will do the Right Thing, who will refuse to let the assholes win.  They are the best of us.

But will we ever make it into the dream of the future that Star Trek once promised?  Sorry, but no. Not a chance.  We take off our shoes at the airports, but refuse to do anything about guns. We build fracking plants and pipelines but refuse to learn how to seriously harness the sun and the wind.  For every hero who rushes toward the explosion to help, there's somebody peeing in the punchbowl and ruining the party.  I've been seeing a lot of memes saying beautiful things like "Love always wins in the end," and, "Only Light pushes back the Darkness."  But I no longer really believe that.  I think a close examination of our history will show that in fact the bad guys and the ignorance and the hatred often do win.  I think that as a species we tend toward darkness in spite of our light-bearers.  And sooner or later, despite our best efforts, the light goes out.  Just ask entropy.  So you know what?  Good riddance to us.

"Just another closed-end biological mistake."  You said it, George.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I got nothin'.

Little disappointed at the lack of commentary from you all as to whether or not to keep this page a mixture of a little bit of everything, or to stay focused on the comics and pop culture and put the political and health rants elsewhere.  Otherwise, not much going on.  My daughter should be home from university in less than three weeks, assuming she doesn't find a job or an internship where she is.  My health is circling the drain, but it does that every spring.  Regular readers will know that I suffer from a whole "suite" of autoimmune diseases, and the same pollens that cause normal people to have spring allergies kick everything autoimmune into high gear.  Most autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's Disease, are caused by an over-exaggerated response by a defective immune system.  Anything that kicks that immune response into an even higher gear -- like spring allergies -- intensifies and worsens ALL of your autoimmune systems.  So I am hobbling around the house with swollen aching joints like a man twenty years my senior, and spending fully half of my day in the bathroom because the Crohn's is in overdrive.  It's disappointing, to say the least.

But I do have a bunch of things to look forward to, and that's what keeps me going.  Things like my daughter coming home for a few weeks (maybe.)  This will almost certainly be the last time she spends any serious length of time at home.  (Next summer will almost certainly mean summer school and an internship.)  Other upcoming delights of the season include:

• Free Comic Book Day!  The first Saturday in May is always FCBD at comics shops all over the country, and my store in Mechanicsburg, PA -- Comix Connection, the best store in PA -- will be no exception.  My store does it differently than most -- most stores give you a free comic book.  My store gives you three for showing up, and one additional comic for every can of food you bring to donate to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.  It's a great idea, a worthy cause, and routinely raises approximately 2,000 pounds of food.

• Summer movies!  A great crop this year, too, including Iron Man 3 and the new Superman reboot, Man of Steel.  Not to mention Pacific Rim by Guillermo del Toro as well as a host of other genre flicks.

• Birthday blues!  Nah, not really, but I do turn 60 this July, which is a landmark of sorts, or so I am told.

So lots going on, and I'm hopeful that it will all provide fodder for these pages.  So stick with me!