Archive for March, 2013

“We must all fear evil men. But, there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.” – Monseigneur from the film “The Boondock Saints”

My friends, I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but I am not a “glass half full” kind of person. Most days, I border between “glass half empty” and “I’m going to knock this worthless glass onto the floor”. Not to say I don’t enjoy life and its pleasantries, but sometimes being a human being makes me sick to my stomach. For every life-affirming moment I witness or hear of, there are a good 32 things that ruin my faith in the human race. Nuclear war, blood for oil, incompetent leaders, and xenophobia run rampant – and we wonder why the martians haven’t landed yet to say hello.

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There is little to nothing I despire more in this world than people and their ignorance. I know I sound totally in the mindset of “I’m always right and have never done wrong”, and I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but when I see a mexican teenage boy comparing being gay to “having sex with your dog”, I think it’s high-fucking-time for a zombie apocalypse. With the war over who can and cannot get married running wild, I see some great parallels between this and A Wreath for Emmett Till, an elegy (and an epic crown of sonnets) dedicated to a young teenage boy killed by the same type of blithering imbeciles who would compare being gay to screwing animals. If you don’t know who Emmett Till is or what happened to him (just as I did not before reading this book), go Wiki him. I’ll wait here.

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Perhaps she’s blind because some ignorant waste of skin cut her eyes out as well.

The poems themselves are crafted beautifully. At no point does Marilyn Nelson become full of herself and run away into the regular, difficult-to-decipher zone of hyperbolic metaphors and your generic romantic language. These are your traditional sonnets – iambic pentameter and all – but they feel as though there’s an actual driving force behind them, unlike Shakespeare’s 600 million about either time, beauty, death, or love (supposedly with a man, nice tie-in, eh?). Philippe Lardy’s illustrations literally paint the perfect picture to accompany these sonnets, his images usually resonating with two different sides of the same coin. These are poems I would actually want to go back and read. Fuck the red wheelbarrow, this is poetry, and you can tell my American Lit class I said so.

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How is this not included in a regular history curriculum? Out of 4 people in a discussion, only 1 had heard of Emmett in a history class, but it wasn’t even until the college level. How do we just gloss over this? Is this in the same boat as Japanese Americans in 1942 and the jews we turned away while they were fleeing from Germany? At the risk of this blog going on forever, I need to reign it in, but the fact that this kind of behavior can happen in a country where we parade up and down with the flag in one hand and the bible in the other makes me want to puke. White, idiot, racist fools get away with murder, and then ingrates like Lil Wayne (who is praised as a musical genius, for what reason I will never know) write such gem lyrics as “beat the pussy up like Emmett Till”.

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I hereby renounce my status as a human being, because if this is the best we’ve got, I want no part in it. I want the world to know I hold being racist against people of any color is in the same boat as denying gay people their rights. Because it is. “Because they are different” is not, and never will be, a good reason to treat someone like less than a person, especially when you barely function as one yourself. Religion doesn’t matter,  color doesn’t matter, race doesn’t matter, gender does. not. matter. We are human beings, we are humans being, and if you can’t accept that there is more to the world than your little box, feel free to finish the human race a bit quicker.

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Fuck this shit, I’m moving to Mars.

Iniuria

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” – Alfred Hitchcock

The silver screen and the turned page have had a long, if not tumultuous relationship. It is literally impossible for us to walk into a movie theater to see a film based on a book and not scrutinize every which-way if we have read said book. The same goes for if we read the book after we see the movie. These two separate entities simply cannot exist as a stand-alone thing. So, here’s the interesting thing about this same dilemma from the realm of a comic book: the universe in a comic book is already broken up into six million different continuities. For the one Spider-Man that most people know of, there are a hundred “What-If” and alternate reality versions of him: Spider-Man in the year 2099, the year 1602, a zombie Spider-Man, so on and so forth. Even “the book” that everyone holds up to every film doesn’t have a 100% definitive answer to who Spider-Man is or who he will become.

This opens untold numbers of doors for storytelling, film and comic alike.

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Not to mention, you know, untold billions of dollars in profit.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Just like any other group of people, comics definitely have their fanboys who will cry and kick and scream at the first sight of any liberties being taken by a director (fun fact: mary jane is not Peter Parker’s first love.) But some of the most famous takes on our favorite heroes are alternate-reality takes. Frank Millar’s “The Dark Knight Returns” looks at a much grayer Batman who has been retired for years, and then decides to put the cape back on. Robert Kirkman, creator of the comic book / TV show “The Walking Dead” wrote “Marvel Zombies” – a look at what would happen if Earth’s mightiest heroes fell to the dreaded zombie virus. There is no one right way for comic books. That would be no fun at all!

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A lot of the time, directors and producers (if they’re truly comic book fans and not just making the movie for money COUGH COUGH FUCKING DAREDEVIL COUGH COUGH) will find ways to tie in little parts of other continuities to appease fans and give their films a bit more depth. In the upcoming Iron Man 3, War Machine’s armor is red, white, and blue, dubbed “The Iron Patriot” armor. In the comic book, this armor is worn by Norman Osborn.. or the Green Goblin. Cool, no? Here’s another one: the scene from The Dark Knight Rises where the younger cop has no idea what the hell is happening and the older cop tells him he’s “in for a show tonight”, is taken straight out of Millar’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. All these crazy multiverses and alternate realities can be confusing for those not in-the-know, but they also offer substantially more material to work with than just a straight 200 page novel where all the fans will inevitably hate you if you stray from it even a little bit.

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Don’t worry, they will.

In this way, comic books have traditional novels beat. If you get on the Marvel Wiki, the movie universe we all know and love (Joss Whedon’s Avengers) is listed as its own continuity. How about that? The movie versions of all of our favorite heroes are just another in the long line of alternate realities. Pick up the pieces of your brain, I’ll wait ’till you’re done. With Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and The Wolverine due this summer, we’re going to see if Hollywood can keep people’s love for big-screen heroes alive. And if they flub it up, it doesn’t really matter – someone else can (and will) just give it another go!

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Excelsior!

“You have to sow before you can reap. You have to give before you can get.” – Robert Collier

I have a few problems with “Black and White” right out of the gate. Strike 1 – it’s a sports novel. I mean, I know that’s not the entire focus, but that’s one of the genres it’s listed under, and it’s something a lot of its readers talk about. I am the complete opposite of those students that cannot get enough of Tim Tebow’s autobiography. I couldn’t give less of a crap about sports if I tried (CSC’s quite the ideal place for this attitude, let me tell you). Strike 2 – teenage stupidity I pray cannot reach the depths that Marcus and Eddie make it reach. These kids have enough of a moral compass to feel bad for one another and (implied, anyway) try to share the blame when all hell breaks loose, but don’t have enough sound moral judgment to decide “hey, maybe we shouldn’t threaten people at gunpoint for money to buy fucking BASKETBALL SHOES”? You can’t be serious. A potential scholarship to a school implies at least a decent amount of talent in one’s particular sport, but it’s also assumed that said athlete has some damn common sense. This is a no-go for me.

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Still found a way to make comics fit into this week’s blog posts: Deadpool – 1, common sense – absolute zero

Strike 3 – the “black and white” aspect at all. Yeah, I suppose I’m taking the support beam right out from underneath the building here, but it’s just too gimmicky for me. There happens to be a white guy and a black guy both getting scholarships to the same school for the same sport, both happen to be total sheep and feel like robbing people  is a reliable source of income, annnnnnnd the black guy is the one that takes the brunt of the justice system’s medieval flail. I know that it’s written that this book is based partly on interviews the author conducted with “real people in similar situations”, but holy crap. This has “Lifetime Movie Original” written all over it. Marcus Brown and Eddie Russo? Holy definitive line-drawing names, Batman! Eddie’s dad happens to be a blatant racist, even though his son’s best friend is black? If this is “realism”, the pieces are falling into place quite nicely. “Black and White” as nicknames do not require creativity. That is absolutely daft. I know plenty of people of both of these colors who are friends, and no one has affectionately dubbed them “black and white”.

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Above: Racism, over-easy

To Mr. Volponi’s credit, I enjoyed the writing style (yay swear words! I mention it in every other frickin’ blog). The lack of an ending seems to be a spot of complaint by many critics, but I just feel like these people might not have ever watched a movie like “Inception” (if you don’t get the reference, go watch the movie. It’s worth the time). This book doesn’t sit well in my regards, but it didn’t have a lot going for it from the get go, at least not with me. Sports, obscure racial overtones, and protagonists who get themselves into a sticky situation because of a COMPLETE AND TOTAL LACK OF JUDGMENT. Not my bag, man.

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Above: What this blog post did.

 

“I had relationships with men as well as women. I wasn’t choosing; I didn’t think I had to.” – Jeanette Winterson

Political correctness, to me, has never made much sense. Are people really so uptight that they prefer you use African American over black? Continuing (roughly) down this road, I’ve always wondered something.. completely hypothetically speaking. If you, as a person, are an asshole to everyone around you.. except for “different” people (handicapped, mentally deficient, LGBT), does that make you prejudiced? Rather than treat the “different” people like you do everyone else, you differentiate them and the way you treat them. Even if your treatment isn’t negative.. isn’t this still discrimination? Isn’t it still a bad thing? We’re all just fuckin’ humans being. We’re not heroes, and we’re not bastards. We’re just people.

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The sheer wealth of information from “QueerYA” and “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I read?” is a bit staggering. Books with LGBT characters, books by LGBT authors, poems, quotes, v-logs, links to other blogs.. it’s crazy. With blogs like this – and the internet in and of itself – how can people still be so ignorant of others? Any bit of information you would ever need is readily available. I think the problem is we don’t use the internet as an information source anymore. Instead, we use it for our hair-trigger temperaments and our empty-headed opinions. We get upset about something we really know nothing about, and the internet means we don’t have to formulate an actual argument or write a well thought-out letter to an editor. We spew it out on a Facebook wall and boom. Done. It’s out there forever. This is how discrimination and hatred breeds; it’s a fear of that which we don’t understand manifesting itself.

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I was particularly impressed with Lee Wind’s website that’s tied into his blog, where he talks about how focused we are as a culture on sex. Don’t get me wrong – it’s natural, it’s stupid to pretend we’re not interested, it happens. But like in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I wonder why it is we give so much of a damn who has sex with whom. Mentally daft bible arguments aside, what is the problem with gay people? What is the problem people have with it? It’s unnatural? Are you happy with the fact that your arguments harken back to how we justified slavery a short 200 years ago?

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If I’ve offended you here, I’m not sorry. At all. I might be an angry keyboard jockey right now, but I would be happy to have this conversation with you face-to-face. Feel free to un-follow me. That’s where I flourish. To quote one Mr. Dick Rischling, “I love conflict! I WIN THEM ALL.”

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m not going to lie, when I discovered that our assignment in adolescent lit this week was to read a LGBT book, I wasn’t sure what to think. Before you think I’m some ignorant xenophobe, I mean that choosing a book out of the lot was kind of like drawing a name out of a hat. I did no research on any of them, read no synopsis, and did no Wiki-ing. The only thing I went on was the fact that everyone I’ve talked to in my classes had nothing but good things to say about John Green. So, Will Grayson, Will Grayson was my choice. I went in totally blind (not something I’m accustomed to doing in any situation), and it paid off.

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So, what’s happening here?

So, the story alternates every chapter between two different dudes named, wait for it… Will Grayson. The odd numbered chapters were written by John Green while the evens were David Levitthan’s work (I, personally, enjoyed Green’s chapters more, but I digress). The story, despite having both Graysons as protagonists, centers around a 6’6″ hulking mass of a gay man named Tiny Cooper – tiny, obviously, being a fine example of irony here. Will Grayson #1 spends all his time pretending he’s too cool to care about anything and also being yanked around by everyone around him, and Will Grayson #2 spends all of his time being seemingly bi-polar or manic depressive, on top of being wildly anti-social and a little bit gay.

With Tiny Cooper’s help, both of these Will Graysons will become better men who are more comfortable with who they are – just neither of them know it yet. In fact, the two Will Graysons don’t even start off knowing the other exists. And Tiny Cooper – Tiny Cooper is pretty much summed up by the word “fabulous”. Not like Big-Gay-Al-from-South-Park fabulous, but like a genuine “I-want-to-make-the-world-a-better-place-and-I-yam-who-I-yam” fabulous. He and Will Grayson #1 are best friends (though their relationship goes through some rough patches), and with Grayson #1’s help, Tiny hopes to put on a musical (directed produced choreographed etc) by himself called.. wait for it.. Tiny Dancer. This is gold, people.

Throw in complicated love interests for both sets of Will Graysons, strained relationships with parents, and a lot of indie band references, and you’ve got yourself quite a journey.

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Above: not unrelated

Why’s this worth talking about?

This book is like the total package, man. Everyone in this book has a problem, it’s not like it’s a book trying to impress upon us the plight of LGBT people. It’s a book trying to show us that being a person is tough for everyone. Plus, it has quite the colorful cast. Odd, punk-rocky chicks, antisocial gay men, hugely social gay men, quintessential goth girl, math nerds, and of course the dude that doesn’t know where he belongs.

This book has the issues man. Coping with a mental illness, dealing with heartbreak, teenage love confusion and /or triangles, estranged relationships with parents, absence of parents, no self-esteem, and being afraid to take chances. Sweet jesus, it’s like high school all over again. Oh, and since I’ve mentioned it in pretty much every other blog about YA books, there is finally swearing in abundance. All of the favorite words are here. Like, some in a bit of excess.

You will find something to relate to in this book. I promise. Regardless of your sexual preference. That’s what makes it so damn good of a read. Regardless of whether you like the characters, most of the major ones are all fleshed out, and even go through some pretty big changes. DYNAMIC CHARACTERS, people. The Will Graysons you start with are not the ones you end with. One other cool thing about this book is that there’s no big villain character. There’s no one guy / girl who’s just a tremendous dick to everyone and serves as the antagonist that causes everyone problems. LIFE is the antagonist. That’s some real talk there.

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Above: artist’s rendition of dynamic characters

The Verdict:

I know for a fact at least 2 of my classmates chose this same book to read, and I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts about it. Me? I loved this book. The only parts I felt iffy about were the parts from Grayson 2’s perspective, but it was more the writing style than the actual story itself. There weren’t any parts I can really think of that I hated. All the indie-band talk felt kind of like it was trying too hard to me, BUT that was part of a character’s personality, it wasn’t just the author being like “hey look at how much I know about shit no one cares about”. My recommendation to you, dear reader – is to read this. Read it, read it, read it – it’ll take you 2-3 hours tops, and you will regret none of it.

Gaudium