Bad Day

Today has not been a very good day for me so far. I’ve gotten things done and I can look back on the past few days and recognize how much I’ve accomplished on this working vacation, but at the same time, I’m feeling monumentally overwhelmed. I’m taking on a lot right now, but it’s all extremely important and needs to be done. I know I can do it, but it’s a lot to do, and it’s bearing down on me. I need to organize myself more. My lack of organization is a major source of anxiety for me. I’m getting things set up to be more organized, and it’s both fun and stressful. Once I get it all set up and flowing right, I know I’ll be more relaxed.

I also need to get my finances in order. Money, and the disorganized way I’ve dealt with it all my life, is another major source of anxiety. In just over a month, I’ll be moving to Lawrence and living with Brooke. We’ll both be able to save money living together and we’re looking at more ways we can cut costs, start saving more money and pay down debt. Just thinking about it makes me feel calmer and more ready to take things on.

Unfortunately, things are still so bad with me money-wise that in that month’s time, everything could fall apart. I woke up this morning stressed to the gills, fretting about money, worrying about how I’ll be able to pay everything I owe right now when I simply don’t have the money to do it. I won’t lie, I got terrified, and that terror hasn’t really abated. A lovely friend sent me a DM this morning on Twitter and told me to ask people for help if I really need it. “I’m tired of asking for handouts,” I told her. “I don’t want to be the Hobo Librarian.”

But the fact is, I’m desperate. I don’t want to ask for help, but I don’t know how I’ll be able to get by without it. I feel horrible, but I don’t know what else to do right now. I don’t intend on forgetting who’s helped me out and I intend to pay everyone back in one way or another. I see this as a sort of Kickstarter program. It’s also a Kick-in-the-Ass program and a Kick-in-the-Eye program. Being in this situation has really pushed me to take a hard look at myself and how I live my life. I’m taking huge steps to get things under control and get on top of everything. But I also know I can’t do this alone.

This is, of course, purely voluntary. People are free to give what they think is appropriate and what they can afford. I’m not a charity case and I’m not a lazy bum. I’m not looking for a free ride or to be supported by other people. I’m just someone who’s in trouble right now and needs some help to get to a place where I can be more stable, more productive and happier.

I’m putting my Paypal donation button back up. I hate that it’s come to this, but…sadly, it has.

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Busman’s Holiday

I’ve taken this entire week off from work as vacation time. I’m using this week to recharge my batteries and relax a bit, but I’m also taking this time to clean my living space and start getting ready for my move to Lawrence, KS. And I’m mostly using this week to get myself more organized, both professionally and personally. Using Getting Things Done as my guide, I’m working on getting everything in my life more organized and structured, to free up my mind and energy, to make sure I don’t fall behind on bills and projects (like I have already). I’ve also talked to a few friends about writing collaborations that look promising and fun.

I’ve posted about some rough times lately, but the future is looking brighter to me. I’m excited about the days, months and years to come.

But first, I need to get back to my working vacation.

Gods and Monsters

Of all the superheroes coming out this spring and summer, the one I’ve been excited about the most is Green Lantern. I don’t generally read reviews, but just before the movie came out, I was seeing advanced word on Twitter that was discouraging me. Green Lantern just wasn’t getting very good advanced reviews or a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I went to the theater with lowered expectations and crossed fingers. The fact that I was seeing it in 3-D didn’t help, since I don’t generally like movies in 3-D and think the recent 3-D movement is nothing more than a cheap ploy to raise ticket prices.

And then the movie started and I was immediately captivated. By the end of the credits, I was exhilarated. As I told my friend Jeff, who I’d gone to the movie with, I felt like I was 10 years old all over again. I honestly don’t know why the movie isn’t getting rave reviews, because I loved it. (Well, truthfully, I do understand, because I realize not everyone likes what I like.) Also, the 3-D is really well done, which pleasantly surprised me.

This afternoon, I finally got around to seeing Thor, another movie I was excited to see, a movie that has gotten generally good reviews. And again, I felt like I was a little kid, enthralled and inspired by the movie. I don’t really understand why Thor has gotten good reviews while Green Lantern hasn’t, especially since the movies seem really similar to me. But the important thing is that I loved them both and they pushed the same Gee Whiz buttons inside of me.

Both movies move back and forth between epic, cosmic fantasy and terrestrial, personal drama. Both movies embrace the colorful melodrama of superhero comics, without veering into camp. (Both movies also feature heroes and villains with serious daddy issues. That doesn’t push my Gee Whiz buttons, but I’m amused by the similarity.) They both tell the kind of superhero story I’ve been wanting to see more of: huge, bright, trippy, thrilling, cheeky and earnest, with heroes who aren’t perfect but who honestly want to do good and struggle to be the best they can be. Neither Green Lantern nor Thor are particularly nuanced or subtle films, but both are solidly fun, entertaining and visually spectacular.

I want more of this. I want more fun, epic, cosmic stories that make me feel like a kid, wide-eyed and grinning. I want more movies, TV shows, books and comics that make me breathlessly exclaim, “Gee whiz!” Give me more mad, beautiful stories of gods and monsters and worlds in crisis.

Crisis on Earth Zero!

Few things give me as much pleasure as reading a cracking-good superhero comic. I grew up reading superhero comics–I can barely remember a time when I didn’t have superhero comics in my life–and they still haven’t lost their appeal. I love bright, colorful stories of brave people in absurd costumes wielding strange weapons and using wonderful, impossible powers to fight against injustice, ignorance, greed, bigotry, apathy and malice. I love epic stories filled with weird magic and mad science, stories that fill you with hope and wonder, stories that inspire you to dream big, to act bravely and kindly.

Sadly for me, my idea of a great superhero comic is mostly stuck in the 1970s and ’80s. I mean, there are plenty of post-80s superhero comics that I’ve loved: Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, JLA, 7 Soldiers and All-Star Superman; Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch, The Authority and Planetary; Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man; Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern; and some others. But more and more, I’m finding contemporary superhero comics to be…not what I want. Although the storytelling of the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages of comics was generally not very sophisticated, I find a lot of the decompression storytelling of today’s comics to be a little on the pretentious side, as well as a blatantly commercial way to pad out stories so that they can be repackaged as trade paperbacks.

One of the things I loved about the comics I read as a kid was the sense of continuity and a shared setting. Doctor Fate teamed up with Batman, Spider-Man bumped in the X-Men in Manhattan, the Justice Society traveled from Earth-2 to Earth-1 to hang out with the Justice League. That being said, the crossover events that DC and Marvel Comics have presented since the mid-’80s have increasingly built up too much continuity. The coming DC Comics reboot looks like it’s bringing all of DC’s titles into one big tightly-knit continuity, and from what I’ve seen of Marvel’s titles (with its multiple Avengers and X-Men comics), the same thing is going on there. I feel completely unable to read one title without also having to keep up with most–if not all–of the other titles from DC or Marvel. And the storylines run on in such a way that it’s incredibly daunting to start reading a title you haven’t already been reading it or stop reading a title after a few issues. The cynical side of me says that this is all geared to boost sales in an industry that has seen consistently falling sales. I can’t really blame a company for wanting to push its sales up, but as a comics reader, it aggravating.

What I want is a superhero comic that tells a complete story in one or two issues, that can be read and enjoyed without needing to know what’s going on in 50 other series, that’s full of wonderful, engaging characters and exciting, weird stories. Are there any superhero comics like this that are currently being published? Or am I just going to have to write my own?

A Dream of Thrones

I dreamed of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Except I’ve never read the book or seen the TV series adaptation, so my mind filled in all of the blanks. But in the dream, this is how the book was.

There were a group of fantasy late-medieval/early-Renaissance kingdoms constantly intriguing against each others. These kingdoms existed within contemporary Europe, but somehow the people of Europe and the people of the fantasy kingdoms remained largely unaware of each other. And the lands of the fantasy kingdoms were much larger than the space in Europe that they occupied.

The story followed two groups of characters. One group was led by an exiled nobleman of one of the kingdoms. He was accompanied by his young page and an exiled nobleman from another family. They wandered the kingdoms, looking for a way to get back into the noble intrigue and regain their status. The other group of characters were refugees from the modern world who were mysteriously unable to recall where they were from or why they were refugees. They wandered the back roads of Europe, looking for clues as to where they were from and where they were going. They were led by a determined woman in her late-30s/early-40s. The exiled nobles constantly skirted the edges of the kingdoms, coming close to modern Europe. The refugees skirted the edges of modern Europe, coming close to the fantasy kingdoms. And sometimes in the dream, I was reading the book, flipping to the back to look at the list of characters and the beautiful maps of Europe and the fantasy kingdoms. If you looked at the maps long enough, they would move.

The dream ended before either group found what they were looking for.

Reboot Bebop

As I’ve mentioned, DC Comics is doing a huge reboot of all of its comics, starting everything over at #1 and introducing a bunch of new titles. Sadly, the more I learn about the reboot, the less enthused I am about it.

Some of my dismay at the reboot is fairly petty. For example, I really, really dislike the way Superman looks on the two covers that have been leaked. I’m also a bit saddened to see no Justice Society or the Atom, while there is a lot of spin-off bloat: 3 Justice League titles, 2 Legion titles, 4 Lantern titles, 9 Bat-family titles, 4 Super-family titles. DC couldn’t have gone with more variety instead?

Even more of a concern for me is amount of dark imagery and violent characters being featured: Deathstroke, Demon Knights, Grifter, Red Lanterns, Wonder Woman, Blackhawks, The Savage Hawkman–as Gareth Skarka said on Facebook, it looks like the “gritty,” hyper-violent characters of the 1990s all over again. Hell, even Superman is looking overly angry in the image for the new Superman #1.

But the bigger problem for me is how difficult it is to even get a sense of what’s really being “rebooted.” Back in the 1950s, DC recreated a number of their main characters. They took the original Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom and more and made them completely different characters, with different names, personalities, costumes, powers and basic concepts. After 1985’s epic Crisis on Infinite Earths series, DC completely changed Superman, giving him an altered origin, lowered power level and a redone archenemy, Lex Luthor (originally a mad scientist, now a ruthless capitalist). But this reboot seems to be hardly a reboot, more of a reordering with some slight tweaks. Batman still has his past and present sidekicks (Dick “Nightwing” Grayson, Jason “Red Hood” Todd, Tim “Red Robin” Drake, Damian “Robin” Wayne), there are still the “Rainbow” Corps (Green Lanterns, Red Lanterns, etc), Barry Allen is still the Flash, Hal Jordan is still Green Lantern…the changes seem mostly minor and/or cosmetic.

All of this together leaves me pretty cold towards the “big reboot.” If there are only going to be minor changes, with more violence and “grittiness” emphasized, you can count me out. Not enough boldness, too much hype. I’d like to see big, sweeping changes with all-new characters, origins, costumes, powers and storylines. I don’t want old wine in new bottles.

Those Summer Days

Those summer days were long and weary, but full of the plump expectations of rain and regret that seemed to always punctuate our time together.

I remember strolling down the great, stone steps to the shore, your soft hand in mine, as we chatted about the nights we’d lost to alcohol and fireworks, our clothes heavy with the scents of sweat, lavender, whiskey and gunpowder. You told me about the old priest who had presented you with three keys–one of brass, one of silver, one of salt–when you were just a small girl in a bright-yellow dress. You had heard rumors of the priest moving to the frozen north to be a missionary, but who really knew? You could never remember his name, only the way his large, stonelike hands took yours as he told you of the ancient gods and the endless wars in Heaven and Hell.

We stood on the beach, watching the waves lap at the rocky shore, a shimmering, misty heat drifting from the water. A tear rolled down your cheek as I talked about my youth spent wandering through the labyrinthine cornfields of Iowa, my bare feet sinking in the damp soil, the ragged cuffs of my overalls caked with mud and dust. When the clouds turned to turquoise and the rain fell from the sky like an ocean, I knew I would one day live by the sea, drunk and in love, my heart so full of dreams it felt as if it could burst.

We kissed on the beach as the sea trickled up to our ankles, our tongues and breath intertwined like ivy, until we became dizzy and fell into the sea. The waves carried us out into the cool, dark depths, prying us apart, casting us into the shadowy fathoms.

And now, I stand in my small, attic room in Saskatchewan, looking at a photograph of us standing side-by-side at the entrance to the Viridian Carnival, and I wonder if we will ever see each other again.