Thursday, October 30, 2008

This Machine Pillow Fights Fascists

Woody Guthrie sang about this land. He sang about this place we have the hubris to call America, as if it's the only one. He said it was mine. He said it was yours.
Woody Guthrie said that from California to New York, from the Redwood Forests to the Gulf Stream waters, it all belongs to us. Not us as any particular national origin, color, creed or gender. He just said that, in general, it belongs to us.
He also claimed to kill fascists. He said he was a machine, fired and oiled to grind fascism into oblivion. He wasn't a mercenary, a vigilante or a rogue soldier. He was, of course, speaking in purely abstract terms. He believed his music could be responsible for the destruction of fascism, if only the world would listen to it.

But what was he saying, about this land? It sounds so sweet, hopeful and brotherly when he sings "This land was made for you and me." Why, then, would he limit himself to the borders of a nation? Why not speak as a citizen of the world?

The borders we put around ourselves come from the same nationalistically separatist principals that fascism, itself is based on. The idea of a border; the idea of cloistering one's self off from the others, because the others are different is a fascist idea. Citizenship, furthermore, is a fascist idea. I didn't ask to be born an American. It wasn't my choice. It's just as unfair to ask me to leave, however, as it is to expect me to embrace the citizenship I was merely born into. This isn't a family and, as far as I'm concerned, the land that was "made for you and me" stretches away from you in every direction so far that it comes right back to the spot you stand.

I know I'm not saying anything new, but you can't really say that the idea of keeping those born on the outside of a certain place in a different class than those born within the borders of that place isn't fascist. It's the purest fascism.

I really like the music of Woody Guthrie. I even like the story between the songs; the man . . . but I'm not so sure he knew what he was talking about, when he'd start talking about fascism.

During this election year, it's this issue that makes me laugh. The issues of which concepts we simply accept are never challenged. The politicians simply wait for us to complain and, when the suggestion box is full, they read off their little cards and grope for answers or some sort of middle ground. We talk about immigration reform, but we don't talk about rethinking what it means to be a nation. We talk about protecting peoples' rights, but we don't talk about the Military Commissions Act. We talk about health care, but we don't talk about health. We talk about education, but we don't talk about actually learning.

We talk about the bad guys and not the good guys.

Because the good guys are impossible to identify, even when faced with a pane of reflective glass and a blinking, neon arrow behind their own head.

I don't know about you, but I think it's a damn funny coincidence that the only thing separating this coming election day from this coming Guy Fawkes Day is a single midnight.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things the Grandchildren Should Know

". . . I don't leave the house much
I don't like being around people
Makes me nervous and weird
I don't like going to shows either
It's better for me to stay home
Some might think it means I hate people
But that's not quite right

I do some stupid things
But my heart's in the right place
And this I know

I got a dog
I take him for a walk
And all the people like to say hello
I'm used to staring down at the sidewalk cracks
I'm learning how to say hello
Without too much trouble . . ."
-Mark Oliver Everett/Eels

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If the Rainbow Tastes Like a Nine-Volt Battery, Why Bother Chasing it When You Can Suck on a Dime?

I was a pretty cute kid, when I was young. I don't know what happened that changed things so much. I do know, however, that when I was that cute, little kid . . . I fucking hated my birthday. Seemingly since birth.
My mother says that, when I was born, I didn't cry. I just looked around, like I didn't know what the fuss was all about. When I was a toddler, I'd cry, out of distress, if I even heard "The Birthday Song" being sung in a restaurant. I don
't remember any of that, really, but I do remember being at the zoo, for my seventh birthday, and being happy we finally left the picnic table, the cake, the crayons and the new toys. I remember being happy to walk away from it, leave it in the car and go in the zoo, where everybody could forget about me, while they gawked at the claustrophobic lions and hemorrhoidal spider monkeys from behind the safety of 4 inches of smeary, scratched lucite. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor, an hour before my school friends showed-up for my tenth birthday. I remember crawling out of my skin on the ugly, yellow linoleum, asking my mom to call everybody and cancel the party. I remember my ribs feeling like they were trying to close, like a clamshell, as I insisted to my mother that it was just another day.
I remember usually having fun by the
end of the day, but I can't remember once, in 26 years, wanting any of the attention. Not for being me. Not for doing something I would have done if nobody was watching. I just got older. Whatever I did, I wasn't trying to do it . . . so why reward me for it?
It isn't an issue of self-consciousness or self hatred. It's an issue of practicality.

It isn't my desire to control my life, in spite of the coersive aspirations of my peers and family. It's an issue of sincerity; of me looking at all the goings-on and thinking, "What the fuck? Why? Does another year for me mean that much to you? You can't be for real. You can't be serious."

Herein lies my tingling fear of success.

My dad, I'm realizing, had me pegged very
early on. He called me rebelious, since I was in the first or second grade. He was right. He said I was a control freak. Now, I might be pretty laid-back but, when it comes to getting shit done, I can be a total control freak. I've been getting better at reigning it in and refocusing it, but that still doesn't change the fact that my dad was right.
Don't get me wrong. My dad was and is a very loving and supportive guy. He never alienated me. He did tell me the truth, though.
Still, as a child, as a teenager, and through most of my adlulthood so far, I never understood where my dad was coming from when he told me I was afraid of success. It baffled
me. It puzzled me. It made me angry, because I never understood why he was saying it.
But, now, I know he was right.

I want anonymity. I'm not a h
ero and I don't want to be famous. Most heroes, when you talk to them, claim that they just did what anybody would have done. They're uncomfortable with the attention.

Me too.

I'm not a hero. I know I'm not. That's why I said it. But, when I do what I do well, I'm just doing what comes natural to me. I'm just doing what anybody would do, in my position. It's not that I don't have ambition. I'm just . . . afraid of success.

There's a 50/50 shot that, if I mail-in my samples, Friday, I'm going to end up with a job in the comic book industry. Something I raised myself on. I'm the kid who got into rock-n-roll through some sort of cosmic connection. I'm the kid who didn't have any older brothers or sisters to turn him on to The Ramones. I'm the kid who just felt naturally drawn to that record shop, walked in and liked everything he saw and heard. I'm the kid who used every cent of allowance on albums. I'm the kid who'd stay up, all hours of the night, using his favorite albums to teach himself guitar.
I'm that kid, if that kid found comic books, instead of rock-n-roll.
I always liked to draw, but I didn't have any direction until I discovered comic books. I got my first comic book, in 1988 or '89. It was the prize I chose, after winning a ring toss at a school fair. It was a
Marvel Mini Comics Reprint of X-Men #53
The story is nothing special, today. But, then, it was something new. It was like a cartoon, but smarter, edgier and completely private. You could read it, in a room full of people and not have to share any of it. You could laugh or gasp and nobody had to know why. You could share it, if you wanted. You could talk about it or show it to your friends, on your terms. But that's what made it special and, frankly, you always feel pretty cool being the bearer of things unknown (that new album, band, movie, coffee bar or whatever that none of your friends knew about)
I'd clean the whole house, sometimes, just to get my mommy to take me to the supermarket and let me pick out an issue of X-Men from the news stand (that's when Claremont, Lee and Silvestri were in their prime, by the way)
My kindergarten teacher didn't teach us how to read. My parents tried, but I did an alright job making it tough for them. So, when I transferred to a diferrent school, in first grade I was quickly discovered as anomalous among my classmates and put in a remedial reading class with kids that ate their snot, wet their pants and talked about the boners they'd get every time they saw a girl in a bikini on a beer commercial (yes, six-year-olds talk about their dicks, too). So, I happened to discover comic books and reading at the same time.
Comics made it interesting to read. I learned to read from comics. It was more fun that way. The words were way bigger than any word my classmates were reading in Dick & Jane books, but superhero books were still considered too lowbrow for my teacher to allow my parents to include them in my at-home reading journal. They stood alone and there was nothing that could ever tie them to school. To engage in something that was more acedemically challenging than school, yet still autonomous from the institution in every way was completely thrilling in every way.
My love of that specific storytelling medium put me on a higher reading level than my classmates and provided me with a passion and direction for my natural drawing skill that I had previously lacked.
So, when I doodle-up some sequential art, I'm just doing what comes natural to me. I'm doing what anybody else would do, in my position.
Enter the dilemma:
What if I get this job? What if the title I'm working on ends up gaining popularity? What if it goes nowhere but gets me noticed by another publisher? What if, a year from now, I'm sitting at a black-cotton-veiled folding table, signing things and talking to people I don't know between swigs from a flask I've been hiding under the table? What if, a year from now, I'm talking on the phone with some asshole from Wizard Magazine or The Comics Journal, while I'm smoking a cigarette on the toilet? What if, a few years down the road, I start my own creator-owned title (like I've been dreaming of) and it is greeted with great review and success? Or it's just a sleeper hit and gets huge, over the years? What if somebody makes a movie out of something I wrote and I get a school library named after me?
I don't want to be that guy.
I know most of that is unlikely to happen, but the thought of even the least of it is like a black, mummified monkey paw in my stomach, fingerbanging my esophagus one waxy, dry digit at a time.

I could say that I don't chase my dreams because my smoking habit's been leaving me a little too winded to chase anything. I could say that I won't chase my dreams because of some punk-rock, knee-jerk, anally-expulsive reaction to anything that makes me look like I'm trying or . . . maybe . . . selling out.
Shit, I'd like it to be either of those two.

But the truth?

The truth sucks.

The trugh hurts and Amnesty International could probably lobby to get it classified as torture.

The truth is I'm just balls-scared of success.
The truth is I'm too ungrateful towards the world to ever accept attention for doing something I'm good at or something that -god forbid- I actually like doing.

The truth is that it's been this way since I've been wearing rubber pants.
The truth is that 26 years is probably enough, and I should probably grow up, but I don't think I know how.

But do you wanna know the punchline? You wanna know what's really fucked up?
I don't mind being me. For some reason, I'm comfortable with this. For some reason, it doesn't bother me to be this way. For some reason, the only thing that really bothers me is you. When you say "Happy birthday!" it really bothers me and I'm asshole enough to ask you to stop. I'm asshole enough not to have a problem with that.
Isn't that kind of fucked up?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Crimeless Victim with a Job Complex who Should Probably Shut Up but the Ubiquitous Cathartium of the Interweb Makes it Too Hard

Dad's probably moving out.
I probably can't.
Not just because I'm unemployed.
I can't leave Mom alone.
Can I?
I can't make her a burden.
I can't be simply . . . beholden.
But codependency might bear some malt if it were allowed to germinate, right?
Probably not.
Not anything I'd want to brew and bottle, anyway . . .
. . . let alone, swallow it.

Applied for unemployment, today.
Yesterday, technically.
Today is an error in semantics.
Probably something profound, there.
A nice, little sentence to be misconstrued by the postmodern public, wanton for meaning in the smallest things.
Looking for signs, when they'd probably see them anyway . . . if they kept their eyes on the road.
I think I'm staring at the yellow, dotted lines.
Dash - Dash - Dash - Dash
Yellow - Black - Yellow - Black
Link - Link - Link - Link
One - Two - Three - Four
Hit it, CeeJay!

I made some money, today.
I made a logo for a friend's website.
Not a whole lot of money.
But today is probably just an error in semantics.

I took money for it because I kind of hate doing that kind of thing.
Your guts are like (&)
Do a drawing for yourself
A cartoon about the things you hate
Make your guts like (o)

Applied for unemployment, today.
A sponsorship from my worst enemy.
I should look up child molesters on the local Sex Offender Registry, knock on their doors and ask for donations.
At least there's a small chance that they could be reformed.
They're redeemable.
You can cut their balls off and make a good citizen of them.
You can't do that to a neo-socialist head nurse who doles out your regimen of police, taxes, wellfare and chemically treated water.
You especially can't do it now. Not when the head nurse is pretending to castrate itself.

Sometimes I just want the personal freedom of being the destroyer.
I don't want to put a bomb in the mailbox.
I want to be the mailbox. I want to deliver good news and bad news, all jumbled together in a cloud of upwardly mobile smoke and orange heat.

I want to be ironic.
I want to be an Abercrombie tee on a fly-infested, starving child with a distended belly and white crust in the corners of his mouth and eyes.

I applied for unemployment today.
It might mean nothing to you, but as far as the modernly conventional use of the word "irony" is concerned . . . it's pretty damn ironic.

But it's alright.
I've got a gallows humor deep in my belly that the weak of heart could mistake for a death rattle, sometimes.

ha ha ha - ah-choo.

chortle, chortle, snort.

"Chin up kid . . . things can only get better."

Are you implying this is as bad as things can get?
The pitch blackness before the rising dawn?
But we still have our health!
I haven't lost a limb.
Wait a little longer. Who knows, our butts might fall off.

Free food, right?

I guess things can only get better :)