Posted: November 15th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: nukes | No Comments »
This article originally appeared at Mantality Magazine.
In spite of living in an era where scientists are teleporting atoms, Mama Nature still beckons. We may clean up nice but deep down inside a part of us yearns to crawl around on all fours in the mud and howl at the moon. And I for one intrinsically recommend just that. Camping in the great outdoors has remained a popular past-time in the modern age for many reasons, from its relative low cost to the deeper need to go head to head with the elements and prove that we can still be mighty cavemen should the need ever arise. Again, nothing wrong with any of that. But there is a right way to go about it, and there are many, many wrong ways. Here’s how a Salt of the Earth man, whether a weekend warrior or latent spiritual explorer, should do it. Incidentally, this is also useful info should you ever know a window of homelessness, or find cause to fake your own death.
If you want to escape the civilized world, then go the path less taken. Even when starting your trip from a more heavily populated area, one should not have to go too many zillions of miles to find a decent place to camp out. But do not even consider asking permission. Part of the fun is the potential danger inherent to the unknown, and seeking out condolence to utilize a spot that could be well-trafficked by stereotypical tourists or law-abiding rangers is not the way to go. Find a place to have your fun, but do not tell anyone ahead of time of your exact destination. Do not merely throw caution to the wind, honestly challenge your own insecurities and allow yourself space to kick and scream to your heart’s desire.
While going it alone is definitely worth trying at some point in your life, this can actually be a rich bonding experience for the right sort of friends. And by friends I do not mean family or co-workers. If that’s the limit of your IRL social circle, then maybe the trip into the wilds should be a one-way ticket anyhow. Keep in mind that the act of letting your hair down may provide some incriminating fuel for family and/or co-workers to later exploit down the road. Whereas if friends ever try to blackmail after the fact then there is nothing morally wrong with letting them ride in the trunk for the next camp-out. So if you bring anyone with you on the adventure, keep the numbers small and like-minded. And of course, the fairer sex is more than welcome, provided they are not menstruating, as wild animals can smell it before you do, which can then lead to unwanted excitement at inopportune times. But having sex in the darkened woods is even better than doing it in her parents’ bed. Not as fun as a church altar though.
Leave your latest gadgets at home, including your laptops, iPods, e-readers (even Mantality will kindly wait for you- scout’s honor), handheld gaming devices and especially your smart-phones. Do not bring any phone whatsoever. Leave it in your car, and leave your car several hours of hiking away from your campsite. You want to flee the world for a little while, right? Then leave every aspect of said modern world anywhere but this grand excursion out before you. Otherwise you are ultimately just bringing a potential excuse to chicken the hell out. Should an honest emergency arise, then that is just part of the action and will amount to a wonderful chance to truly test your mental resources instead of speed-dialing 911 like a panicked yuppie hipster. I never even bring a flashlight.
But what should you bring, if not your tech? A good rule of thumb is to bring a single knapsack or backpack and whatever cannot fit gets left behind. Wear hiking boots or combat boots, but also bring flip-flops (Birkenstocks do not count), in case your shoes need to dry after delving through streams or lakes to get to your zone, but really just to let your feet breathe at some point without actually going barefoot. Even if you are not the tenderfoot sort, it’s good to give your feet something extra in case you need to stomp on a chupacabra’s skull or something, so stay prepared. Other than what you are wearing, bring maybe one other change of clothing, even if you plan to be out for two or three weeks. Shorts and/or jeans, t-shirts. You won’t be attending church or waiting on a job interview or stumbling through a first date, so there will be nobody to impress. Heck, play the mad scientist and use this as an opportunity to learn what you actually smell like, without any hygienic aids. Rough it so you can learn just how hard you really are after all. Bring minimal provisions, like a couple of refillable bottled waters, granola bars, etc. The more food you bring the more bugs and scary animals you will attract. Plan to go scrounging for nuts and berries, go fishing, whatever other alternatives to get the full experience of the camping venture, so research accordingly ahead of time. Bring a book, as you will have the solitude to catch up. Bring illicit drugs too, if you’re into that sort of thing. Actually, if you want to get in touch with your inner nature-boy, then altered states are a key to magical invocation, and this line of thought should not be quickly overlooked. Transcendental awareness can come from years of deep meditation, but if you only have so many days off work then you might need the jumpstart. Beer is weighty and requires a bulky cooler, but a bottle or three of hard liquor (preferably whiskey) is certainly doable. Use this as a chance to see what that marijuana stuff is all about. Or if you are really a seeker then bring a sheet of acid or a bag of mushrooms and get ready to know the woods as well any any sprite or dryad. Bring a good knife, more Swiss army than John Rambo, for a thousand and one uses along the way. Bring matches. As the Fall is the best time for camping, in terms of not crossing paths with strangers so often to lower bug-count, bring a light jacket, which can double as a blanket in your tent should you have the need. The stereotypical tools for camping such as a compass, binoculars, bug repellent, charcoal, etc, really do not matter if you plan decisively. Travel light, leaving enough room for anything to occur.
Now that you have a manner of mission statement in mind, here are some key points to abide by for maximum effect.
Sleeping outside. Even finding a cabin with no electricity or running water or (god forbid) wi-fi (which you will not need anyway) does not rank. If anything, bring a tent and/or a sleeping bag. Sleep where you can see the stars. If you can accept the modicum of discomfort then you will know levels of peace that are completely alien to urban environments involving upstairs neighbors learning how to line-dance at 3AM or Mormons knock knock knocking at your door. Sleeping outside is kinda the main point here. Cheat through the experience and you may as well just stay home and order another pizza.
Burn stuff. Having a campfire is also a vital ingredient. As soon as you settle on an exact place to camp you need to go about setting up the fire. Look for an even patch of ground roughly 6 foot square, and with no branches hanging directly overhead for at least ten feet up above. Kick away any loose rocks or sticks. Dig a circular trench maybe a few inches deep and approximately 3 to 5 feet from side to side. Line the trench with rocks, the bigger the better, so that you have a nice wall as tall as a GI Joe action figure. Build a teepee with sticks about 2 or 3 feet high in the center of your circle, stuffing the inside with dry leaves and twigs. Keep a fat pile of extra sticks nearby for when the sun goes down and the woods get dark as a politician’s conscience. Keep more than you think you’ll need, as a fire’s eyes are never ever as big as its stomach. Staring into the abyss of the fire late into the night will prove vastly more entertaining than anything ever broadcast on network or cable television. You will be staring into where myths and religions are born.
Walkabout. Walk more than you typically would in an average day, every day. After the campsite is chosen and set, drop your bags and do a quick scout of the area so you have an idea of your basic surroundings. Memorize what you can while you have the natural lighting, in case escape routes are warranted from late-night zombie hordes, Bedlam-escaped ax-murderers or alien abductors. The rest of your trip, whether a weekend or a summer, kill time walking and exploring and observing. Pretend you are ten years old again. Try to never go the exact same route twice (unless you’re heading back to camp, obviously). Hiking is fun, and it is better exercise than speed-walking or jogging or freaking jazzercise. Depending on where you are camping out, swimming and fishing and especially spelunking are also cool. But not hunting. Leave that to the mullets and prospective serial killers and persons otherwise incapable of indulging in vaguely intelligent discourse. Climb trees instead. Climb cliffs if you can. Push yourself, and take your time doing it. Romance the danger. Create the hard facts for stories to share later on.
Physical activities aside, look forward to spending the time telling tales around the campfire. There can be a surreal pleasure to that alone which is strong enough to counter any negative events which might spring up from left-field. Those moments of interaction, whether with friends or with your own psyche, free of distraction, high as a kite or sober and somber, can leave you with a new dimension which will stay with you no matter what you are returning to. And that’s the real moral of the story. We fancy our ancestors as conquerors, but in the here and now of the 21st century, conquering ourselves may be the only thing left to contend with. And like with any job defiantly well done, the afterglow makes the blood, sweat and tears wholly worth the price of admission.
Posted: November 14th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: comix, exegesis | No Comments »
This essay originally appeared at Mantality Magazine.
I watched the new Superman movie, “Man of Steel”. I paid no money to do so however, as I have been boycotting DC Comics (and it’s rival Marvel Comics) since a point in the late 1990s, over the poor track record in compensating and crediting the many imaginative writers and artists who have breathed such powerful life into these icons throughout the past 80 or so years, icons like Superman. I grew up with the character, I admit. So out of the need to stay informed as well as a morbid curiosity I watched “Man of Steel” online (illegally) the weekend of its release.
It was certainly a new take on the character, I will give them that. David Goyer can be a brilliant writer, having penned one of my all-time favorite films, Dark City. And he was arguably the finest pick for the job of reintroducing Superman to Americana, being a long-time comics scribe himself on top of his long list of comic book-related Tinsel Town credits. And being a long-time comics fan I could see scattered homages to the works of past writers of the various Superman comics, folks like Mark Waid and John Byrne and Grant Morrison. And equally, Christopher Nolan is a brilliant film-maker more often than not. I adored Christopher Priest’s novel “The Prestige”, and felt Nolan stayed very true to the spirit of the source material for his film adaptation (and casting David Bowie as Nikola Tesla remains fucking genius). I am not alone in thinking Nolan may have perfected the formula for bringing the silly genre of superheroes to live-action in a surprisingly believable manner. And Zack Snyder is a tremendously talented director. I prefer his “Dawn of the Dead” to the original, by bounds and leaps. But despite the work of this trio of powerhouses, despite the efforts of a genuinely remarkable cast (I’ve crushed on Diane Lane since 1998′s Gunshy), “Man of Steel” was a horrible, horrible thing.
Obviously the demand for hyper-realism would pull this new franchise far from the more light-hearted previous work of Richard Donner, or Bryan Singer’s more recent ode to said Donner movies. I knew that going in. But in doing so they forgot the most vital part of the character, the most fantastic part of Superman. Which has nothing to do with godlike powers, or even the familiar red underwear (Supes went commando, HA!). I’m talking about what constitutes a hero in the greatest sense, from the assorted hero-focused genres that comics often offer to especially in the real world. The most unbelievable aspect of the character is Clark Kent. The overgrown boy-scout of a leading man simply does not exist in the real world, this dastardly cutthroat world where everyone has their own selfish agenda. Superman, through the hands of hundreds of creative artisans over the years has predominately put others before himself (which is where the real Christ-analogy comes in). We mere mortals cannot go a day without being tempted by the Fruit of Eden, but Clark Kent’s alien biology means he doesn’t even have to eat, so that he has never had to taste the crow of a bad decision made. He always does the right thing, and that is what inspires his fans. That is the hopeless example set for readers of all ages to try to follow. Embrace that hope seen only in symbols and strive to be our best in life. But “Man of Steel” was entirely free of any real sense of hope, with the self-possessed personality of the main character resulting in higher and higher mortality rates as the film progressed. What we got was a hollow man who defined the apparent differences between an army of one and a hero, super or otherwise. But that’s not even the worst.
I have no problems with violence. Or sex. I’ve known too many people over the years who only speak those languages. Superman could wipe out the world in a day if he wanted to, so where was the heroic sacrifice of the gruesome killing blow in the final act? A true hero would never have cause to kill, as a true hero should be more concerned with keeping everybody alive. Killing has no ethical place in a healthy real world, and it certainly has no place in purportedly creative fiction. We live in the 21st century, and should expect more of our culture than the kill or be killed mentality of a gladiator pit. When you kill an opponent you silence the argument, you do not win the debate. And in the doing you send the message to impressionable minds that killing can ever be a solution to any problem. I am far from a prude. I’m just foolish enough to believe that art can maintain deeper values that benefit our species far more than the abruptness of taking a life can ever hope to, and it can be done in ways that allow for stories more imaginative and creative and original and intelligent than anything presenting so final a solution. But due to the quality of our cultural materials, more often than not our storytellers are more than happy to tell valueless stories lazily accepted as status quo. Nuts to that.
Don’t watch “Man of Steel”. Don’t buy the blue-ray. Instead, hunt down something better, like the 1928 cinematic masterpiece, The Crowd.
Directed by the legendary King Vidor, “The Crowd” stars James Murray as a real everyman, a hopeless daydreamer caught in the grind of blue collar fun while pursuing and appeasing his dreamgirl, played by Eleanor Boardman. The film takes place over several years, through trial and tribulations, with jaw-dropping footage of 1920s New York City and a wry wit that wins out in the end. It’s a silent film, and depressing as Hell, but presents a working class hero who tries maddeningly to balance his dreams with the real world. Sadly, Murray himself would ultimately live out much of his performance in the film, after the fact. Whereas the part played by Henry Cavill in “Man of Steel” called for a complete lack of compassion and humanity and no sacrifice whatsoever, the part played by Murray in “The Crowd” was nothing but. Or at least Murray’s character learned how important such things are by film’s end, a lesson that even a superman failed miserably to grasp.
Posted: November 10th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: abolitionism, comix, ideaspace | 3 Comments »
Labels are like teeth- modern man has more than he needs.
I literally live and die by my rather intricately crafted personal philosophy, a strong part of which entails that I consider myself a nontheist, which I interpret as life offering nothing to believe in short of its participants proactively defining the world around us ourselves, individually. I think spirituality at its core is synonymous for a lack of responsibility. I also believe that one of the worst grievances a person can make is to seek to control or manage others, which is in my mind the most extreme form of selfishness. Equally however, I think to be controlled or governed is just as negative, as selflessness denies the individual. If we live entirely for the sake of others, then what’s the point to it all? This is precisely why so many collectives, be they religious or political or industrious in nature or dogma, falsely teach the needs of sacrifice. In my years I have found valid requirements for constant sacrifice however, but such occurrences, unless wrongly constructed for the benefit of others, can only possibly result from the individual’s need for growth and enlightenment or they lose all applicable meaning. There has to be a middle ground between slavery and slave-master, and that is what I keep searching for, and yet there has got to be a difference between neutrality and indecision regardless of how easily the two concepts might be mistaken for one another in today’s grim and bare it world.
A particular theme has struck my mind on occasion, that while I have long recognized that lessons in humility are never-ending, I have also come to acknowledge that the act of letting go is an ongoing thing. The indulgence of writing was a hobby all the while growing up for me, after realizing at an early age that too many words are rendered hollow in the practice of others. I wanted to find the means to change that, and I had to wait til I accumulated intelligence/wisdom enough to formulate my ideals properly. As an adult, writing has unarguably been my one and only passion in life. All of this is related.
I have been a self-taught freelance writer and editor since the Fall of 2000. I have been a comic book hack journo since January of 2007, which has proven to be a love/hate thing, introducing me to my truest friends and greatest enemies all in the doing. Initially comics journalism was for shite and giggles, but a year or so later the girl I was seeing maliciously destroyed the box containing the surviving copies of my ancient mini-comix series (the midwife, exactly 100 issues which I self-published from Worcester, MA over the course of 1997 and 1998, though never more than 2 or 3 dozen copies printed of each issue and most of which long since given away). Such an act compelled me to apply myself that much more into the niche media, as comic books meant a great deal to me for as long as I can remember, bastard of a creative medium though it is.
I actually learned how to read before kindergarten on my dad’s few old comic books, particularly his battered and tattered copy of the Classics Illustrated-published The Last of the Mohicans from the 1960s, which I still own. When I was a school-age kid growing up in Texas in the 1980s, most of my comic books were bought at various grocery stores, book stores and gas stations and yard sales, but not comic shops in particular until I was in my preteens, although the Direct Market was growing precisely as I began reading them regularly. I was a fan of the medium for many years before I was ever in a position to really read any specific title regularly, which may have inadvertently broadened my palette, having to always settle for what was available.
My first real introduction to the idea of comic book news was more than likely in the freebie newspaper Comic Shop News, at the very start of the 1990s. I began reading the “TV Guide” of comics, Wizard magazine (though never regularly), right around the time that their issue numbering was just entering double digits. My family moved around a lot, going wherever the jobs were, so depending on the areas I lived in I would pick up the Comic Buyers Guide newspaper and Comic Scene magazine whenever I could. Later on I was also into Hero Illustrated magazine, at least for the first few issues. I actually have a weird collection of indie newsletters and mags focused exclusively on comic books, acquired throughout the 1990s. Many of these never ran for more than a few issues, but lots of the names of those involved have since found modest careers in the comic book industry proper at one time or another. I was also into the assorted news periodicals put out by the publishers themselves, such as Marvel’s Marvel Age (and its retailers-only thing, Sales to Astonish), DC’s Direct Currents, Dark Horse’s Dark Horse Insider, Malibu’s Malibu Sun, VALIANT’s VALIANT Voice, etc. I can easily look back through my life seeing my younger self being every bit as fascinated with the behind the scenes stuff as I was by the actual printed funny books. In the late 1980s, before access to actual news channels, eleven year old me even wrote to then Marvel Editor in Chief Tom DeFalco over the cancellation of the Speedball series, and I still have his snail mail response in my collection.
My very first regular paying job was in the summer after my tenth birthday, weekly cleaning the car inside and out for one of the tenants of an apartment complex my parents were managing. The guy was a real estate agent and presentation meant a great deal to him. I “finished” school early, dropping out as a 14 year old junior in high school in 1992, one year short of graduation. I left home shortly after turning 17, and spent most of the following year in the Franklin, North Carolina facility for the federal government-run trade school called Job Corps (the first and oldest Job Corps center, actually, and the smallest, equaling very tight leashes kept). There I earned my GED, attained a fleet drivers license, and completed the Building and Maintenance program at the top level. Job Corps is a two-year program, but I completed everything in nine months. Then too many years flew by, living in Kentucky and Massachusetts (where I took a world of college classes off the books, mostly Philosophy) and Kentucky and Texas and Kentucky and Connecticut, working a variety of blue collar jobs and incidentally drinking as heavily as the next kid. I worked a large variety of restaurant-related jobs, from flipping fast food burgers to playing Special Projects Supervisor for a university’s food services department, worked as a convenience store clerk for a number of locations, and dabbled in trade work such as the framing and painting of houses. I went where the adventure was, and tried my damnedest to learn from any and every environment exposed to. And in September of 2000 my elder sister was murdered, which had a profound effect on me.
She and I had really connected over our shared desire to be writers, although she was far, far more passionate about it. I made the decision to follow that path then, as she had been barred for life so cruelly. We were of the autodidact school of thought shepherded by Charles Bukowski and Tom Waits and Henry Miller. Write what you know. I knew I had already seen and experienced more sides of this country than most of its citizens ever would, so I focused on amateur journalism, finding gigs in a wide range of underground newspapers and the kind of high-minded webzines that mostly dealt with Geo-politics or alternative religions and had diehard cult-followings of maybe 2 or 3 non-contributors. In my 20s I worked an average of 100+ hours per week at whatever working class roles I could talk my way into, often balancing multiple jobs simultaneously, from washing dishes to scrubbing toilets to playing security guard to literally digging graves, while the writing generally had to stay in the realms of hobby. I wrote a lot of poetry especially, but aside from 23 pages of material appearing in The Flesh from Bat City Press in late 2000 (a book I also co-designed) I had the sense to keep most of my poems and lyrics and short stories to myself. Creative writing for me was never really intended for any audience other than my own amusement. But the non-fiction however, was a slow crawl of agonizing trial and error, learning my way and finding my voice while very very very rarely seeing any financial compensation for the efforts. Only in the last few years have I truly given up on the idea of day jobs as a means for survival per se, as perhaps ironically what little money I have seen since 2010 came from writing endeavors. To my credit I have never been in debt, and even when it meant having nothing left aside for food I still pay my bills on time or in advance, always. My parents were not poor because they were idiots. And the longer I keep at whatever brand of journalism, the more I see it as a way to really try to make some difference in the world. We really do have the power to pick and choose our battles, and I chose mine. In my early adulthood I harbored a thoroughly genuine thirst for knowledge, particularly regarding politics, religion, and philosophy. I was always a voracious reader. The contrast of educating myself with the world around me, where the black sheep, underdogs and scapegoats were openly and freely castigated into mockery and constant belittling, denied opportunities while expected to smile at the constant taste of booted heel, and all the while the lack of such virtues as imagination, intelligence, individuality, initiative, and integrity, are taken as subjects of praise and worship- this is the dragon that must be slayed, the menace to be conquered, the bottle to not leave unfinished.
My first and thus far longest comics media gig was with the belated comicnews.info, where I literally began employ during the first week of 2007. Initially I contributed as a reporter and occasional comic reviewer, but I would grow to become the lead interviewer, and the author of my very own kinda long-running column the Lottery Party, all while reviewing literally hundreds of comics, books and films for the webzine. For a few months in that first year I was also a retail clerk at the short-lived Secret Identity Comics shoppe in Louisville, Kentucky, owned and operated by a young lady who turned out to be engaged to professional artist Jay Leisten. Eventually, after the mini-comix destruction and my starting to take comics journalism more seriously, I would be promoted to Managing Editor of comicnews.info, second in command over a strikeforce of eleven contributors, some of whom I recruited myself as we slowly built up the site from the 3 or 4 writers at the time I began. In addition to my regular duties I would also consult and research for our team, packaging articles for fully half of our writers, from lining up reviews and interviews for others to clearing pics to digging up appropriate links. I also did quite a bit of grassroots marketing and promotions for the site, as in those years I was becoming highly active on certain online social networks. Through the dealings I came to know more than a few industry insiders, and on occasion would be tempted with signing on to whatever project, but I always declined. I sincerely saw playing both sides of the fence as being a direct conflict of interest. I was so faithful in the first couple of years in fact, that even when my friend Rob Patey, better known as Optimous Douche at AintItCoolNews, invited me to work for his site I politely refused, thereby possibly becoming the only person to have ever turned down the chance to work for them, as far as I know. To the point, many comic journalists specifically use their positions as a means to get a foot in the door on the creative side of the business. This is so common in fact, that my turning down the few offers that came my way actually made certain persons respect me all the more, considerably so. Unfortunately with comicnews.info, as I took on more and more obligations many of the contributors eventually dragged their knuckles over being expected to follow through with their own. Everybody wanted in, but nobody did much more than talk about how they were going to do this or going to do that. Lesson learned: every grouping tasked with a singular agenda, from relationships to business endeavors, needs at least one productive contributor to stay active, but with no more than one productive contributor eventually everything implodes.
In the final year of my time with comicnews.info, I sought out non-conflicting side-gigs (mostly unpaid, but the desire for productivity was strong, as at that time I was pulling long hours as a gravedigger and honestly needed the mental release) and began writing for a few other websites: ComicBookReviewers, which aimed to be the imdb of comics; VampireTimes, which originally purported to be an appreciation of Gothic subcultures; PWNGreenland, a webzine of humorously fake news; and Popthought, a cultural commentary portal which was the largest and most esteemed of the sites, though all of these websites met premature and untimely ends due to spamming phishers and their Trojan toys. Alex Ness, who was a co-owner of Popthought, had already taken me under his wing and invited me to contribute to his Poplitiko blog group, where I stayed off and on from late 2008 to mid-2010. On 09.09.09 I left comicnews.info, due largely to the Editor in Chief of the site being unwilling to back me up in an exposé against BlueWater Productions involving at the time over two dozen creators owed money. Said owner of the site, despite the pages and pages of irrefutable proof I had (such as contracts where the wording was clearly self-contradictory), feared retaliation over potential claims of slander or libel, wrongly so. He removed my two-part article series, where I had publicly invited BlueWater top dog Darren Davis to an interview to give his side, over a weekend, and so I was compelled to give my immediate resignation. Davis actually became the only person to have ever turned down an interview offer from me (although sadly there have been a few since to flake out mid-stream). Wanting an outlet for the many creators who had been wronged by the man, I gave all of my notes to Rich Johnston, who runs Bleeding Cool, and he went with it. Davis agreed to an interview with him, not expecting what was coming, and was royally embarrassed into later settling at least two of the incidents out of court. This was a huge story for me, but it all began just as Disney announced their ownership of Marvel Entertainment, so my weeks and weeks of long-distance phone calls and obscenely long email chains went under a lot of radars. Ah well. The Fall when this happened I was also helping out as an extra assistant of artist Jay Leisten, who showed me how to cut boards and fill in blacks and erase graphite marks on products for the two largest comic book publishers in North America. Prior to those months I had generally dealt more with small pressers and self-publishers (I did after all previously coin the phrase, “More Mom and Pop, Less Uncle Tom”), so the chance to see first-hand exactly what a busy mainstream creator goes through was incredibly eye-opening, in good ways and bad. Where regards comic news.info, in the final months we were averaging 6 or 7 articles per day, no press releases. In the month after I left the site averaged 4 or 5 articles per week, half of which were press releases. Lesson learned: I am a sadomasochist, and every ship has an anchor for a reason.
Following my comicnews.info departure, I wrote for the Self-Publishers Association’s SP! Nexus digital magazine (like a PDF mag), as well as for both the Zedura webzine and its own digital magazine incarnate. I also ran my own blog group throughout 2010, called the vomitoria, where we offended even ourselves. During this time I was informed of an opening at The Comics Journal, and after sending in my two cents was informed that my samples at the time (which included Sam Henderson’s first interview of several years) were “too Wizard”. Not to name names, but one month after that spiteful email, its author began reviewing Batman comics at Comixology on the side. I have never in my life reviewed a comic book from either Marvel or DC, mind you. This was when I began to get the impression that comics media is no more than a prolonged high school popularity contest. Regardless I have also contributed sporadically to Bleeding Cool myself on occasion since its inception, possibly being one of the first Americans in the mix, and possibly conducting their very first indie interview and their very first group interview. Through all of this, from early 2007 on, I maintained an insanely active blogger/blogspot of my own (named jalopy most of the while, and later renamed to maelstrom), which served as my online HQ inbetween steadier gigs. Also, in both 2009 and 2010 I assisted with online PR for the Wonder Woman Day charity auctions, founded by Andy Mangels (although it is now called Women of Wonder Day, as Paul Levitz is no longer of authority enough at DC to defend the non-profit work Mangels was doing). And in 2010 I proudly served on the final Board of Directors for the Friends of Lulu organization, under Val Gallaher. My interests were rapidly seeking ways beyond what I saw as comic book journalism to make a difference. In 2012 I co-edited a 100+ page graphic novel on behalf of the Naive Project, with all proceeds going to the Brain Aneurism Foundation.
Towards the end of 2011 was when I first seriously began looking into how to go about forming my own website. The idea was basically, that this way, running my own show, nobody else could take credit for my work, and equally nobody else could be blamed for my work. There were months of research on my part to make it happen, and I owe a lot to my good friend Nuno Teixeira, whose own short-lived Super Samurai magazine I also contributed to many years ago. Nuno helped me and continues to help me with anything and everything on the technical side, from butchering CSS coding to testing sites in every browser you can think of, to helping me keep my websites entirely clean of undesirables. My politics, my philosophy, all went into it. And it was a grand experiment, testing waters and seeing what does and does not work, fleshing my hyperactive website with news aggregation articles artfully woven together like the finest mix-tapes, and my essays and my interviews and obsessive reviewing. It was such a grand and aesthetically successful experiment that I decided to part from the small world of comic book journalism, even while knowing that the niche has been my buttered bread for quite a while.
I think sharing notes, sharing ideas, sharing stories, is far more constructive than selling products. Or buying products. I may be a very meager voice in the greater scheme of things, but even I can see how badly and how fastly Capitalism is completely devastating the entire world. Abiding by my own standards may not resolve the world’s issues anytime soon, but I like knowing I do not have to fool myself to get a good night’s sleep. Anybody can change the world, but everybody has to start somewhere. It is not my fault if the mass of comic media sites leave hundreds of creative talents feeling completely ignored. And at the same time, those creatives really need to consider what they themselves are hoping to accomplish from their own efforts. Wanting to be a writer or an artist, to create something interesting, is not the same as getting rich, or even just getting by financially for the troubles. Very few comic professionals get by wholly from their comics work, otherwise such charitable groups like the Hero Initiative would have no causes to fight for.
And as long as comic book media everywhere insists on consisting of persons with noses fully browned in hopes of getting into the industry or bitter over never getting their shot, and even worse- of targeting those two types as audiences exclusively, then ultimately they are not assisting anyone with anything, other than selling over-priced materials to the same dwindling crowds by way of completely predictable content. I have actually seen the other side, having recently been given a brief marketing gig that required me to write a couple of announcements for the press. As said stories did not involve products from the larger publishers they were generally ignored. I saw how smaller media sites often refuse to see a story as a story unless a larger site runs it first, but if a smaller site does try to break the story first then the larger sites will ignore it entirely out of righteous indignation over having been scooped. This is fucking insanity, and creates nothing but a totally homogenous spectrum. It is up to the individual voices to really keep the core spirit alive, the truest passion for a wonderful artform given to us by some of the most fascinating artisans the world may ever know. I am far from the first to bang on the independence drums, but I sure as holy hell hope I am not the last.
I’ve embraced the fact that I will never earn a living no matter what I do or who I placate. So theoretically there is nothing keeping me from doing specifically and exclusively what I want and only what I want. I would rather be unheard with my own voice than get any attention for mimicry. Don’t worry about watering your work down. Make it stand out all the more. Be proud of your hobby, your passions. Then at least you get something out of it, worst case scenario. All that I ever wanted to do with myself is write, and it may have taken 13 years but I finally learned that I do not necessarily need an audience to engage in such activities. It is possible to maintain your principles, even while sacrificing everything else along the way. I face my mortality, and it does scare me knowing there will never be comfort in my life, but no story is complete without an ending.
Posted: November 5th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: Alex Toth | No Comments »
I have among my minimal possessions a small gathering of original comic book art, all gifts from persons met along the way. I also have a small stack of commissions from different artists portraying their own versions of the Speedball character (long story). It is not a sizable collection by any standards and I do not consider myself a collector by any stretch of the imagination. But they are neat to have, seeing the physical work like a timestamp in the life of the artist, such as a light coffee stain along the side of a page. One page of art I would like to someday own however, have wanted to own since I first saw it in the pages of Anything Goes! from Fantagraphics way back when, is this image from Alex Toth and Mark Wheatley.Aside from being an exquisitely rendered page of artwork, its message slays me. While I have a long-standing theory that the most intriguing samples of fiction contain no true-blue heroic male archetype (because no such thing exists in the real world), nonetheless I do see the need for its presence in the modern world. In fiction and in the streets around us. There are feeble moments in my days when glancing at this image is enough to inspire for a few breaths longer. Having positive role-models in our fiction is a nice concept, something to aspire to, but I believe far more strongly in aspiring to be the character itself, in my own goofy manner. I want to be the hero. My principles mean everything to me.
Posted: October 26th, 2013 | Author: nilskidoo | Filed under: aposiopesis | Tags: ideaspace, marijuana | No Comments »
As the economic grace of our times continue, the collective sound of our growling stomachs may soon be mistaken for the beating wings of the Quetzalcoatl thing coming to blow out our candles for good a wee later than planned. While I already proposed one possible solution, meager may it well be, we honestly need to cut the partisan garbage and start looking for ways to claw our ways back out of the premature grave.
And with the mad dance of Industry, Church and State all being so clueless in helping those growing numbers in need everywhere and anywhere, where else can we look for a way up and out? Our entire legal system exists to protect the ones who are creating and maintaining the problematics of our times. As suffering commences and ever-escalates for 99% of the world, we jump to the vice of our choice, as distraction, as crutch, as momentary escape from the here and now of our discontent. But there may be some deeper truth to that.
We await desperately for higher authorities to take charge, that is a big mistake. The United Nations has even flirted with asking for a tax on billionaires around the globe so as to stave off the more dire consequences facing those most disastrously afflicted by the greed of the wealthiest persons on the planet. If they press the matter then, if we’re fortunate, we may see at long last the beginnings of World War Triple Eye, but obviously such talk is merely a puppetshow for the unwashed masses. Every conflict boils down to control, and such massive levels of control will not be so easily relinquished. This mess belongs to all of us, so all of us have to be the ones to step up and resolve it. The bigger the problem in life, the less likely anyone else will volunteer to do it for you. Certainly not your religious leaders, your elected officials, or your corporate employers. If any of them cared for your well-being then times would not be so rough and tough to begin with. We can no longer afford to merely think outside the box- we need to burn down the box factory now, just for warmth.
And one keen possibility rests in marijuana legislation. Forget for a moment how harshly executed are the laws enacted by our incompetently misinformed authority figures. Leave it to our southern neighbors Uruguay to see a spade for the spade it is. If President Mujica has his way, then marijuana profits will be going from the pockets of criminals to their national petty cash deposits. All other drugs would still be illegal of course, but the harmless plant that was America’s first major cash crop could open huge quantities of additional revenue streams. Why couldn’t we do the same here? And nuts to taxing it in traditional sales methods, just tax the landowners who could afford to run the farms anyway, if privately owned. Or do as I suggested before and have a base ten percent sales tax, with five percent going to the federal government and five percent going to the state of the purchaser’s address. Ownership by the federal government may be asking too much, and this way there would be some capitalistic incentive, right? I know, this would be far too logical for any force within the government to embrace, though some have even suggested the probability of decriminalization scaling back on assorted border crimes. And additional tax monies aside, the health benefits of the plant could solve many ails in today’s climate. Instead of paying astronomical sums to pharmaceutical companies for manufactured drugs which almost always create that which they are purposed with resolving, it would be far less troublesome to merely grow one’s own resolution. And adequate healthcare is another major problem for all of us, particularly as fewer and fewer persons have means to help themselves to the care they need. Healthcare has miserably become a for-profit endeavor, yet another Industry and increasingly a luxury for the very few.
There was an interesting article worth eyeballing over at TRUTHOUT concerning how prison inmates are getting hooked on legal drugs and how they are being used as free labrats for pharmaceutical companies (in addition to serving as an illegally cheap work-force). I myself am venomously opposed to any and all pharmaceuticals. Nothing is on the market indefinitely, as eventually some previously unforeseen side-effects will get any drug removed from public sale. On top of that, there is NEVER enough research to show the dangers of mixing different meds, like if this doctor prescribes you A, B and C for so and so, while that doc gives you X, Y and Z for such and such. It has long been stated before how in psychiatry there is no search for a cure, only continuous treatment. Seeing the economic value of the practice, that ideology has infected all of the healthcare system, so that the potential for cures are overlooked in trade for continued customers. Just like how cars are built today specifically with faulty parts, whereas cars from fifty years back can still be on the road. Why resolve a medical concern, when you can keep them coming back for more? How financially lucrative would it be to cure cancer, really? I think the constant push of the obscenely wealthy pharmaceutical conglomerates and their lobbyists is absolute poison. And it’s no coincidence that while George H.W. Bush headed drug task forces while Director of the CIA and later as Vice-President, he was also on the board for the Eli Lilly corporation. Ban the street drugs, then apply Capitalism to refocus those users onto “legal” versions of the same garbage. That’s what the drug war amounts to, redirecting the profits into the coffers of big business and its political handpuppets.
Using the inmates as lab monkeys is offensive enough to their Constitutional rights, but is this really helping them, or is it creating junkies that will be even more desperate to get their fixes in the outside world? Or is it just serving as soma, creating subservience in lieu of proper psychological assistance? If mankind has no power to themselves choose between “right” or “wrong”, then what value does their life hold, other than to serve as pliable consumers and compliant voters and complacent workers? Don’t get me wrong, I believe that real crimes should be punished, and I even believe in the death penalty where appropriate, but throwing drugs at a problem is not synonymous for rehabilitation. It was said in the 1960s that psychotropics were merely a half-arsed shortcut to transcendental meditation- distracting actually, from that true aim. In the same light, is not the act of drugging up prisoners a half-arsed shortcut to rehabilitation, robbing them of the chance to cognitively understand their own wrongs and growing beyond those faults into better human beings?
But who cares, if there’s a buck to be made?
My mom, a few years ago, was part of a joint lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company whose anti-depressant gave several thousand patients type two diabetes. My younger sister’s brain is fried, not from her bouts with Lyme Disease or Meningitis, but rather from the heavy duty antibiotics she had since been prescribed, which have been a multi-year stream of ever-changing prescriptions as the doctors continuously fumbled to do anything but make her health worse and worse. Regardless of all of this, for my sister or my mom to continue to receive any medical assistance, they are each expected to continue taking over a dozen different legal poisons, none of which is doing anything remotely positive to their respective well-beings. Seemingly every week, one item from their laundry list of FDA-approved poisons is dropped and another takes its place, as the ongoing quest for a workable treatment renders them both financially devastated and physically exhausted and mentally drained. But they’re still giving their pennies to the drug manufacturers like good citizens, so who cares?
All of this of course, ties into the greater problems of purposed misdiagnoses. I would bet the world that two-thirds of the persons taking any sort of pharmaceutical honestly have no business doing so. But money talks louder than inner screams, and if patients die there’s always another batch, bought and sold and government approved. And the slave-class is birthed and kept under booted heel thusly, locked into debt and locked into addiction. Marijuana, on the other hand, actually could benefit countless persons yet is condemned by society at large entirely on hearsay. Legalizing marijuana, not merely decriminalizing it, could save millions in the drug war. It would generate additional taxes for the government, and it would honestly present a millennia-tested alternative to many modern healthcare practices. I personally know so many people who could truly benefit from usage of the plant.
Obviously, marijuana legalization would not be the singular magical solution. There are no magical solutions to real-world problems. But it can be one of the arms helping to pull us up out of the hole, if we allow it. Just embracing disenfranchised, simple truths like the harmlessness of pot alone could be a step in the right direction, if only in terms of psychologically readying ourselves for the ever more difficult decisions waiting to be settled elsewhere. Don’t even bother writing your congressperson, just take the lead yourself in the matter. Be the example for others to follow. Be independent.