Love & Rockets

I was going to write this a couple weeks ago but getting the hour or two of free time has been difficult. And I just realized I haven’t posted anything in over ten days so I’ve decided to simply do this instead of actual work tonight. Thank god I have my priorities straight.

So anyway, LOVE & ROCKETS. Great comic, and also there was a band. I guess the band took the name after the comic. Or at least that’s what I read once. Who cares? Let’s focus on the great comic part.

LOVE & ROCKETS is rare for several reasons. Not only is it one of those few comics to gain attention from outside the comic industry, but it did so twenty years ago, way the hell before there was a “Graphic Novel” section in any of the chain bookstores. Back then almost no comics were able to make that claim and, of those that could, LOVE & ROCKETS was one of the very few (along with Maus) that didn’t feature BATMAN & THE ALL PERVERT SQUAD running around in fetish wear. Mostly though, LOVE & ROCKETS is a rare and precious thing for the simple fact that it’s a fucking great comic and has been consistently for damn near 25 years. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another comic able to make that statement.

The comic primarily features the work of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, affectionately referred to as Los Bros Hernandez, with occasional story and art entries from their brother, Mario.

When it was first published it had heavy sci-fi overtones which, honestly, was one of the things that attracted me to it. Maggie, one of the main characters from the stories written and drawn by Jaime was a comic book character unlike any other before and, most likely, since and the stories that featured her were no less unique. Her life was split into two drastically different parts.

The first, and most important, being her life in Hoppers, “a Mexican neighborhood in Huerta, California (and a stand-in for Los Bros’ hometown of Oxnard).” Her time in Hoppers was spent hanging out with her friends, going to punk shows, agonizing over not having enough money to buy the pair of killer boots she wants so bad, falling in and out of love with various crushes, and all the other appropriate activities a post adolescent would find herself engaged in.

The second, but more glamorous, part of her life was spent working as a Prosolar Mechanic with celebrity mechanic and heartthrob, Rand Race. When working for Rand, Maggie would frequently find herself in exotic locations working on impossibly cool jobs while crushing on / agonizing over her boss, Rand.

One of my favorite stories from those early issues is this story where she winds up having to leave the country for an extended (maybe a month or so) time, to work with Rand. The job takes them all to a dense jungle miles away from anything that resembles civilization, where they have to repair a Flash Gordon style rocket that’s trapped under a dinosaur that’s unable to move for some (it’s been at least a decade since I’ve read this book, my memory is fuzzy…) reason. During her time in the jungle, she hangs out with the natives, gets drunk with her co-workers, pines over Race, and desperately misses and writes letters to her best friend / girlfriend, Hopey (as well as the rest of her friends). The same sort of thing anyone might do while working away from home, only in an impossible and exotic location.

Another great story, actually one of the best stories I’ve ever read – book, comic, manuscript, cave painting…whatever – is a story called Human Diastrophism, which is just one chapter in Gilbert’s PALOMAR stories. This is just an incredible and sad story and by the time it’s over…actually, that’s enough reminiscing. Besides, I don’t want to ruin what is honestly one of the most powerful endings I’ve ever read. What I’m trying to get at is that you should totally be reading these books. Everyone should be reading these books.

Every time I read a new issue of LOVE & ROCKETS, I find myself just a little bit sad by the time I’m done reading. And I think the main reason for that is that this is one of the few comics that doesn’t stay in one place for very long. The main stories in the book, especially those written by Gilbert, are huge in scope, spanning two or three generations. And they’re so well written that you wind up getting to know and love the characters. And you’ll be reading the comic for a year or two and all of a sudden Gilbert will advance the story five to ten years and you won’t recognize some of the characters. And sometimes that’s because the character is new and sometimes that’s because the character is old and looks and acts differently than you’re used to. And that’s another testament to the quality of the writing: the fact that it’s so consistent and so good, that you come to know characters based on dialogue and behavior and not just because they look the same, or because another character refers to them by name.

Another reason the book sort of makes me sad is that many of the stories are narrated in the first person by one of the characters in the story, and the character talks about things as they matter to him at that point in time and NOT as they used to matter to him at some point in the past, which is where the reader is usually coming from. For example, imagine that you were closely following a relationship I was having with one of my ex-girlfriends from seven or eight years ago. And you were really close friends not only with me but with her as well. And then you disappear for the last six years and you come back to town and you run into me and you’re dying to know all about what’s been happening with me and her. Except, it’s six years later and I’m married to someone else entirely and maybe my ex dumped me or maybe I dumped her or maybe she’s dead. It’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just…this thing that happened a while back, one of a million events that occurred sometime in the past. It’s not that it doesn’t matter to me anymore, but I’ve had six years to get over it and move on but you’re finding this out for the first time, six years late in the game, and the news that we’re not together anymore might be totally devastating to you. And that’s exactly how much of the ongoing story is presented. Pretty goddamn clever.

And the fact that this book actually elicits an emotional response from me…I think that’s why it’s my favorite comic ever. Somehow, SPIDERMAN just doesn’t get to me the same way LOVE & ROCKETS does.

I need to stop now, I’ve never really reviewed (at least, not without trashing it for being a piece of shit) anything before and I have no idea where a good stopping point is and I’m so crazy about these comics that if left to my own devices, I’ll never shut the fuck up. Let’s leave it at this:

Buy these books goddammit. Buy them and read them. Not all of them, I’d never ask anyone to commit to spending that kind of money just on my say-so. Start small and buy one of the collections. If you’re flush with money right now, you might wanna check out the larger collections like PALOMAR and/or LOCAS. They’re fifty bucks each, but they’re over 500 pages and 700 pages, respectively. You’re hardly getting screwed out of fifty bucks.

OR, if you lack the funds, or just faith in me (sinner), then buy one of the softcover collections of the series. There are like 20+ volumes to choose from and they’re all about twenty bucks.

OR, if you’re a completely pathetic fuck and you’re as poor as I am, go to amazon.com and get the hardcover collection of the first volume from the “Used & New” section, where you can have it for less than five fucking dollars. Click here to see what I’m talking about. Or you can click on any of the images in this article and they’ll take you straight to the publisher’s site and you can order from them which, really, is what you should be doing if you can afford to. They’ve been putting these books out forever and they’re not exactly a Fortune 500 company for doing it. Okay, that’s enough for now, go buy one of these books and read it. And let me know how you like it when you’re done.

UPDATE:
I wrote this about eight years ago and, with the exception of some of the pricing, every word of it still holds true.  Last summer I wound up reading one of Gilbert Hernandez’s non L&R graphic novels and it was so damn good it almost made me cry.  It’d been so long since I’d read any graphic novel that I’d forgotten how enjoyable it could be.  I wound up buying all of the L&R stuff I hadn’t read in the last five years and read it over the winter break and literally all of it was excellent.  I’ve got another stack of his stuff to read for spring break and for next summer and I seriously can’t wait to get started on it.  Seriously, for the love of God, stop what you’re doing and go buy some of these books, they’re just that good.

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Posted in Comics

New World Order

So I’m going through the process of reviewing the me-generated content on my site prior to 2007 and deciding what I want to keep and what needs to go.  When I’m done, everything I don’t like will be deleted.  Prior to 2007, I was using Blogger instead of WordPress.  I still have all of that old stuff statically archived, but I’m gonna delete those and anything that wasn’t crap will get re-posted here.  I imagine most of it will just be deleted.

It’s kind of fascinating, in a narcissistic way, to have a record of eleven years of your writing sitting around.  It’s also kind of sad to see how fucking angry I used to be.  Thank god for change.

This is one of the angry, political posts that seem to have been the main focus of this site for a long time.  It’s pretty angry, and I have quite the potty mouth, but I gotta say, I stand by a lot of it, in a joking around sort of way.  The scary part is, I don’t think I was joking when I wrote it.  Anyway, here it is:

I want to seize power. I want to feed all of Congress to animals and I want to turn The White House into The Museum of Our Terribly Embarrassing Past, to remind everyone why I bothered seizing power in the first place. I want to move the nation’s capital to Los Angeles (because we really do have the best weather in the country) and I want to build The Tyrell Building from BLADERUNNER, only bigger and I’ll call it Capitol X and it’ll give spontaneous, uncontrollable erections to architects, engineers, and all persons of good taste. Capitol X will be entirely staffed by insanely hot android chicks, all of whom will dress like Julie Newmar and Diana Rigg. And when all that is finally done, I’m going to get down to the business of making this country somewhere I want to live again.

Criminals convicted of vandalism will now be instantly executed and their families will be required to repair the damage caused by the deceased. Harsh, yes, but I expect a 100% decrease in vandalism within the first six months of my rule.

Rapists, murderers, and child molesters will also be instantly executed with no appeal.

Executions will be greatly simplified. The convict will now be shot once in the back of the head. This will happen in a concrete room with a drain in the middle of the floor. This will not happen if the person in question was convicted of a white collar crime.

Once a year, on September 1st, criminals convicted of white collar crimes will be given Swiss Army Knives and a pair of running shoes and will be dropped off, naked, on The Alaskan Peninsula where they will be forced to fight bears. This will be filmed and turned into a reality show.

There will be a pre-trial hearing to all law suits. If it is determined that the law suit in question is frivolous, both the plaintiff and the attorney will be visiting bears in the fall.

Attorneys will never be disbarred. They will visit bears.

Corrupt cops, judges, and officials both elected and appointed will not be fired and prosecuted. They will visit bears.

The FCC will be dissolved. Networks will be allowed to broadcast images of nipples. The 24 Hour Nipple Network will be created.

24 hour news networks will be given the option of covering global news (actual news stories in every country) or going off the air.

Every governmental agency will undergo a name change from their current titles to “The Ministry of…” because that sounds cooler. The Ministry of Manners will be created. The Ministry of Manners will be more brutal than the Spanish Inquisition and will rapidly become the most feared branch of government.

People will no longer be allowed to carry or own guns. Not because they represent a threat to my rule but because you fucking idiots can’t seem to keep from shooting each other. And fuck hunting. If you really need to kill an animal then either take up fishing or get used to arrows. You idiots won’t be able to do much more than maim each other with fishhooks and arrows, and people who have been maimed can still pay their goddamn taxes.

There will be no such thing as an illegal substance. Citizens will be free to fuck their lives up as much as they want to. Their habits will be taxed like fuck and loadie jerk offs who commit crime as a result of not being able to handle their drugs will automatically have their sentences doubled. The same will go for alcoholic jerk offs who can’t handle their booze.

America will no longer spread or defend Democracy throughout the world. That will be mostly due to the fact that Democracy in America will be dead, but also because foreigners can fuck off and live their lives however they wish.

When America is faced with a real enemy, we will react with enough bombs to make what happened to Dresden look like a marshmallow roast. There will be no such thing as the occupation of enemy territory. A bit harsh, yes, but I’m banking on most people thinking twice about attacking us if they believe their families will be melted.

A giant, continuous wall will be constructed along our new southern border. It will be made of unbreakable Plexiglas. It will stand one mile tall and extend one mile underground. It will be built just north of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Georgia will be spared because Savannah is pretty. The Great 48 will become The Nifty 43.

I will commission a black velvet painting of Elvis, John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Jesus, and myself playing poker with dogs. It will be 200 feet wide and 150 feet tall and will hang in the lobby of Capitol X.

This should be enough to keep me busy for the first year of my reign.

I can’t wait to see that painting.

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Posted in blah blah blah

Life With The Grammar Nazi

I hate pedantic motherfuckers that always
correct my parts of speech, she said.

I raised one eyebrow a bit and put on my best “Look at me, I’m a prick” smirk.

Are you sure
you don’t hate pedantic motherfuckers

who
always correct your parts of speech?

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Posted in Poetry

The Last Few Years

Hey look, I’m not dead!  Yesterday I posted a shit ton of (like 16) poems to the site, which I’ll talk about in a minute.  Prior to that, however, I hadn’t posted anything since seeing PACIFIC RIM six months ago.  I’ve been a bit crap at keeping this place updated regularly for a few years now.  There are a few reasons for that, which I suppose I’ll talk about now, in no particular order.

First off, there are these other things that frankly get more of my attention than they probably should.  These things are called Facebook and Twitter.  I used to write fairly regular posts here that were titled “Miscellany” or “Brainspew.”  These posts were just collections of random shit that was in my head and things that were going on in my life at that particular moment in time.  You know, the sort of things that Facebook and Twitter are now used for every day.  When I first realized that my own site was losing content to social networking sites I was mildly bummed, but I honestly don’t care anymore.  I think FB and Twitter both serve a purpose in their uniquely annoying ways, and I use both of them.

I kind of think of Twitter as the perfect vehicle for useless little thoughts that I don’t mind the public (public = nieces, nephews, friends, strangers, employers, the NSA, etc.) having access to.  Shit like, “It kinda freaks me out that Tywin Lannister is shilling for Chivas on television.”  Why the fuck would I give that thought more time than that by turning it into a post here?

Facebook, on the other hand, I think of as a far-more private sort of thing (and, yes, I get the irony of using the word “private” in the context of FB…whatever).  I tend to keep FB to friends and family.  If I don’t know you in real life, I won’t accept your friend request.  And even then, you need to be someone I currently have face-to-face interaction with.  I regularly deny friend requests from people I went to high school with for the simple reason that if we haven’t spoken in over twenty years, I probably don’t feel like sharing the birth of my newest niece with you.  There are maybe two or three exceptions to this rule.  I have no idea why I just went into that kind of detail about my FB friends policy.  Aren’t you lucky?  Anyway, the point is that FB gets a lot of my time as well.

I only recently became aware of the amoral and fraudulent bullshit that is THE SECRET.  I won’t link to it, you’ll have to do the research if you’ve never heard of it.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it winds up being as popular as Scientology in the next ten, twenty years.  Anyway, I watched about an hour or so of various clips on YouTube and was, basically, incredulous.  So I went to FB and promised my friends that I’d promise to try and keep an open mind if someone wanted to defend it as anything other than gibberish.  This is exactly the sort of thing that FB is good for, in my opinion.  I could’ve written a long article here, calling it out for the bullshit it is and then opened up the comments to get an oppositional viewpoint, but I’m just not that big a fan of being called names.  The anonymity that allows for that kind of shit is nonexistent at FB, primarily due to my draconian friends policy mentioned above.

So there’s that.  I also had a prolonged period of unemployment and I’ve learned in the last decade that the output here drops when my free time increases.  No fucking idea why that is, but that’s how it is.  I’ve been lucky enough to get an amazing job working at a university.  Everyone here is super laid back and friendly.  There’s never an emergency so dire that your job security hangs in the balance.  I’ve never been threatened with my life (this actually happened at my last job…more than once…really).  At first I wondered if this was just what working for schools was like, but I’ve been assured by friends of mine who also work at universities that it isn’t.  I just got lucky I guess.  Everyone is totally great, the atmosphere is pleasant and the work is actually rewarding.  I’ve never worked anywhere even remotely like this.

Mostly though, I haven’t been giving my time and energy to this site because I’ve been giving it to education for the last few years.  I spent most of 1997 to 2010 working as a computer nerd for various companies in various capacities.  It was never anything I particularly enjoyed, but the money was good.  Actually, at first, it was great but it quickly dropped to merely good and, after a decade of outsourcing, I can’t find a job that pays what I could make in the late nineties.  If I had a degree in computer science, that would be a different story.  I have no such degree.  In 2006, I started going back to school part time with the intent that I’d get a B.S. in Computer Science.  Along the way I had to take an English class to fill a GE requirement and this reawakened everything I used to love about studying literature.  I continued taking CS courses, but after a few years as a part-time student, it became apparent that I was doing the wrong thing.  Then I lost my job, which was the best shitty thing that ever happened to me.

Two years ago I started going back to school.  I’m a full-time student enrolled in the creative writing program at Cal State San Bernardino.  I’d heard good things about the creative writing program at this school, but it turns out to be a genuinely great program, filled with seriously amazing students and faculty.  I came into the program with the idea in mind that I’d focus on becoming a better fiction writer.  Halfway through my first quarter here, I reluctantly went to a poetry reading on campus and it took about thirty seconds for two profound truths to hit me in the face like a fucking plank:

  1. Once upon a time, I let a bunch of other people’s voices fill my head with shit, and I’d talked myself into thinking something I loved was stupid.
  2. These were my people.

At the risk of sounding cliche, it felt like coming home.  There is no overstating how powerful an experience this was.  The featured reader was Judy Kronenfeld, whose poetry I really liked.  After that, though, was the open mic, where the students read their poetry.  Some of it was beautiful, some of it was crap, but the thing that struck me most was how fucking supportive an environment it was.  Everyone in the room was encouraging and friendly and happy to be there.  It didn’t matter if you got up there and read something that sucked as long as you got up there and read.  This next sentence, also, cannot be overstated:  I have literally never felt that kind of support in my life.  Certainly not from strangers.  After the reading, as I walked to my truck, I made myself a promise that I was going to write a poem (something I’d never made a serious attempt at before) and that I was going to go up to that podium and read it in front of those people.  Last January, I did just that.

The work I posted yesterday, along with the handful of poems that were already posted, represent my first, awkward steps as a poet.  As of now, I’ve been writing for just over twenty years.  I’ve gotten pretty fucking good at writing the sort of thing you’re currently reading.  I’m equally good at essay writing.  I used to have this idea in my head that I could become a great writer by simply writing.  And by reading about writing.  Someone else, maybe.  It took me about three weeks to realize how full of shit I was.  Consider this:  Can you possibly know whether or not you’re doing anything even halfway original, when you don’t know what’s come before?  Yeah.  Anyway, this whole poetry thing is entirely new to me.  It turns out when you write different literary art forms, there are different rules and principles and shit.  And you need to learn them.  Well.  And then, after a very long time, you need to break them.  I’m looking forward to breaking the rules, but in the meantime, I’ve immersed myself in the learning of them.

And that’s mostly what’s been going on the last few years.

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The Wise Man

He sat, legs crossed like the Buddha, his gaze locking me in.  Next to him was a large coal-black pot on a fire, its succulent aroma piercing my nostrils, permeating my head.

Come, my son, you must be starving.

I half sat, half collapsed as he ladled stew into a wooden bowl and handed it to me.

Eat slowly, my son.

Ravenous, I did as he said.  He was The Wise Man, His words burdened with Truth.  I hadn’t trekked across continents, nearly dying in the process, to dismiss his counsel.  I ate – slowly – and felt a tranquility settle over my spirit as the nourishing warmth traveled down my throat, into my being.  I’d made it.  A tear pearled down my cheek.  He looked at me and smiled.

Tell me, son, why have you come to me?

I explained to Him of the despair in my soul, of the confusion I felt about the world and the people in it – of their cruelty and apathy toward one another – and I told him how I ached to know to my purpose.  A look of pity came over his face.

Oh my son…no one decides to live on a mountain because they have people figured out.  Here, have another bowl of stew.

Posted in Poetry

Wisdom

‘Penny for your thoughts’ is fair market value in most cases. — Me

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