Monday, October 17, 2016

Writing Goal for 2016

Fredrik Rubensson on Flickr  Some rights reserved
I went through a weird emotional spell that you can notice by checking my reading list page. I have pretty much only read comic books this year. Part of that is finally getting to place financially where I can spare a few bucks here and there to get some comics, but part of it was also just being emotionally exhausted this year, and comics provided a safe, comfortable place to retreat to.

That said, I'm working to get stuff read with the time I have left--including my friend Brooke Johnson's great new book The Guild Conspiracy, which you can order here, and nab the first one here. It's a bit embarrassing that I've only completed 4 books this year. I've started several, but I just haven't had the drive to finish them.

Moreover, I've been using most of my spare time to finally work on my novel. The last update that I had on here about it was almost exactly one year ago, but in that time I'd replotted the book again, restructured it, and reimagined the characters. But after I did that, finding the energy and time to put words down and get it done was almost impossible. That's roughly around the time I went comic crazy and dove head-first into that. The first I can really find on my blog of this was August, but it definitely started several months earlier than that--probably around February, if I had to guess.  Anyway, I was going through a lot of stuff, and I feel much better now.

So around September, I started circling my book again. I'd just finished the great The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle and was inspired by both a great book and the note at the end where LaValle talked about how he wrote his book 2 hours a day after work every day in a coffee shop. It was so "back to basics" to me. No mention of word counts, fancy word processors, writing spaces, rituals, carrot and stick methods. Just, "show up, do the work you can in the time allotted, and get the shit done." It was just what I needed to hear.

I read through my notes to refamiliarize myself with the world, the voice, and the themes. I also received a very nice and positive rejection in that time, and I wanted to channel that into my book. When drafting, I worry about choosing the right words. My zero drafts and first drafts feel clunky, amateurish, cliche-ridden, and just awful, and it stresses me right the hell out that the words don't come out perfectly. But looking at the story that got rejected, and reading the notes from the magazine, I felt validated probably for the first time ever as a writer. It made me feel like I can do this.

So it's time to buckle down. I'm giving myself until the end of 2016 to finish this draft. That's two and a half months. I want to have a draft finished for the start of 2017.

I don't know if I'll be able to do it. I'm not great, even now, with writing every day. But I'm going to try. Because for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can do this. I've talked about writing for a long time, I've started and stopped and angsted over my writing for years now, but all of that bullshit will mean nothing if I don't have a finished book in my hands. So that's the goal.

Plus, what a great way to start the new year, right?

Bear with me on this because I have a feeling it's going to be hard, and I'm fantastic at quitting things that are hard. But if I can do it, or even come close, it will be a big deal to me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trump, Pence, and the GOP

Gage Skidmore of Flickr  Some rights reserved
The second presidential debate has come and gone, and the multi-season television horror event that is our election cycle continues to play out in soul-crushingly slow fashion in front of not just our nation's audience, but the audience of the world.

Our international reputation has already been stained. Even if Trump isn't elected, he will have been only a hair's breadth from it, and what does that say about the American people and the stability of their government that they could come so close to electing a militant, sociopath demagogue to one of the most powerful political positions in the country.

What started as a chuckle--ha, ha, Trump will NEVER get the nomination, but it'll be fun to watch him bumblefuck around playing politician like a drunk, Cheeto-coated toddler--has become a waking nightmare and left many moderate and left-leaning folks wringing their hands and wondering how on Earth this could happen.

I remember very early on saying to some of my friends, "I know Trump's fuckery is funny, but it's honestly a little scary, too. Like, if the nation was stupid enough to elect George W. Bush--twice--it's something to worry about." And I mean, the longer he talked, and the fouler the things dumping from his face hole seemed, the easier it was to sigh and say, "Oh, thank God. No way he rebounds from that." But he did. Again, and again, and again. He was like those old inflatable toys for toddlers--Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down.

The tape of Donald Trump admitting to and supporting sexual assault may be the thing that finally ensures he doesn't win the presidency, but the vehement support he's gotten from certain factions of this country means that there will likely come another, possibly worse if simply because they'll be more polished and have more self-awareness to avoid some of Trump's more fatal fuck ups. After all, a lot of Republicans have mentioned wanting Trump to drop out and Mike Pence to take over as the head of the ticket. That would not be better.

For one thing: while Trump may be a venomous, aspiring tyrant, a white nationalist, and a deeply malignant tumor on the anus of this country, he's also a bloviating idiot who considers himself much more strategic and clever than he actually is. He's impulsive, thin-skinned, and prone to throwing tantrums--like he did in the second debate when he began attacking moderators for trying to keep him confined to his time. And while that's a terrible thing for a leader to be on it's own, Pence took all of the hateful, awful things that we have actual video and written proof of Trump saying and bald-faced lied to the American people about him ever having said it. He legitimately looked directly into the camera and said, "That's not true, he never said that," when everyone--EVERYONE--knows he has and there's widespread and obvious proof.

When Trump lies, it's a sweaty desperate, stammering thing. When Pence lies, it's as smooth and cool as an ice cube.

Pence's ability to flat out lie--not massage facts, not throw around faulty data, but LIE--is terrifying to consider. Pence has legitimately used his power as governor to kick a democratically elected official out of their office in favor of being replaced by someone that he and his subordinates got to choose*. Add that into the mix with his ability to unashamedly, flat out lie, and his support of the torture* of gay kids until they want to kill themselves or deny who they are--which is what conversion therapy* is--and you have a deeply unsettling picture of a Pence presidency.

We didn't arrive at this place by accident either. The fragility of the white male ego has been something people in power have used to keep black folks subjugated for centuries, but the Republican Party started using it with gusto in the 50's when Democrats started winning black folks and pushing for civil rights and desegregation.* Republicans saw unrest in the south that never fully got healed post-Civil War, and stoked that racism, government, and ignorance. Nixon intentionally stoked racism against black folks in the south to win the presidency,* and Reagan intentionally buried his racism in "conservative" sounding policies like "cutting taxes" and "states' rights."* The GOP acting like the horrible things Trump says are him being a loose canon and not the GOP's platform made into saggy flesh incarnate is hilarious and astoundingly disingenuous.

Even today, racism is an integral part of the GOP's platform. They pass laws like voter ID laws that far and away impact people of color.* They gerrymander districts to keep areas with heavy democratic populations and high amounts of people of color lumped together,* which in doing so ensures that Republicans have an all but indefeatable lead. It's no wonder that someone like Trump was able to grab the reigns of this shit chariot and ride that fucker until the wheels come flying off.

Trump has even been encouraging people to poll watch and try to run off people that they suspect of "committing voter fraud." To these scared and riled up white folks, that's more coded "dog whistle" talk for brown folks. In fact, voter fraud is essentially not a thing at all.*

As of this writing, Trump's shot at the presidency looks very bleak, but as I mentioned on Twitter earlier, I'm worried about the Jack that we can't put back in the box. There's a small, extremely vocal minority of repugnant white nationalists, men's rights activists, and ignorant, frightened white people that have led to some horrifying decisions in the past. And even they're a swiftly vanishing minority, the amplifying power of the internet makes them much more easily heard than would otherwise be the case. And I'm both worried what happens when they don't get their way, and what lessons the GOP will take away from this.


Washington Post: "How Gov. Mike Pence worked to undermine the will of Indiana’s voters" -

The Guardian: "'Praying the gay away': Trauma survivors crusade to ban conversion therapy" -

Politifact: "True: Mike Pence advocated for 'conversion therapy'" -

New Republic: "How the Southern Strategy Made Donald Trump Possible" -

Salon: "The racism at the heart of the Reagan presidency" -

Washington Post: "New evidence that voter ID laws ‘skew democracy’ in favor of white Republicans" -

NBC News: "Study Finds No Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud" -

Sunday, October 9, 2016

My Comics Project Update: September 2016

As part of my on-going comics project, I update monthly with what comics I bought and anything weird or interesting I stumbled across. Each post will have a running list, and I'll update with the new titles where they fall chronologically.

I came up with the order of the books from this comment of all the Batman trades in chronological order (up to Flashpoint), this trade reading order list for Superman, and this one for Batman. I judged the rest for myself based on release dates and what the story depicted.

I want this list functional and readable, so I didn't focus on perfect chronological order. I tried to keep decent chunks of individual runs together where possible, then backtrack chronologically if necessary for a chunk of a different title--except in cases where something important was introduced, like a character dying, coming back to life, etc.

Below you'll see the list of canon DC titles that I own at this point. The ones in bold are the ones that I got this month.
  1. Crisis On Infinite Earths
  2. Batman: Dark Victory
  3. Justice League International, Vol. 1
  4. Justice League International, Vol. 2
  5. Justice League International, Vol. 3
  6. The Death of Superman
  7. Impulse: Reckless Youth
  8. Young Justice: A League of Their Own
  9. JLA Titans: Technis Imperative
  10. Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds
  11. JLA: The Hypothetical Woman
  12. Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies
  13. Superman/Batman Vol. 2: Supergirl
  14. Teen Titans Vol. 1: A Kid's Game
  15. Teen Titans Vol. 2: Family Lost
  16. Teen Titans Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls
  17. Teen Titans Vol. 4: The Future is Now
  18. Teen Titans/Outside​rs: The Insiders
  19. Teen Titans: The Death and Return of Donna Troy
  20. The OMAC Project (Countdown to Infinite Crisis)
  21. Infinite Crisis
  22. Batman: Face the Face by James Robinson
  23. Superman: Up, Up, and Away!
  24. Superman: Back in Action
  25. Superman: Last Son of Krypton 
  26. Superman: Camelot Falls, Vol. 1
  27. Superman: Camelot Falls (Vol. 2)
  28. Blue Beetle (Book 1): Shellshocked
  29. Blue Beetle (Book 2): Road Trip
  30. Superman: The Third Kryptonian
  31. Superman: Redemption
  32. Superman: Escape from Bizarro World
  33. Superman: Shadows Linger
  34. Time Masters: Vanishing Point
  35. Superman: Action Comics, Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel
  36. Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin (The New 52)
  37. Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
  38. Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls
  39. Batgirl Vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection (The New 52)
  40. Batgirl Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends
  41. Batwing Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom
  42. Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain's Journey
  43. Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench (The New 52)
  44. Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others (The New 52)
  45. Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (The New 52)
  46. Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  47. Batgirl Vol. 3: Death of the Family
  48. The Movement Vol. 1: Class Warfare (The New 52)
  49. Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places
  50. Bizarro
  51. Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged
I actually managed to snag a lot of comics this month, because I hit two amazing sales at the beginning and middle of the month.

My LCS was having a buy-one-get-one-free sale for labor day weekend where I found Batman: Dark Victory, Superman/Batman vols 1 & 2, and JLA: The Hypothetical Woman.

I'm making another judgement call to include that last one in the list. I googled it, and I couldn't find anything that said it was or wasn't canon. After I read it, I might remove it, but that remains to be seen.

I got Secret Six Vol. 1 (New 52), Bizarro, and Cyborg vol. 1 (New 52) at Hastings while on a road trip with my wife. Sadly, Hastings is going out of business, which hurts because that store was incredibly important to us in college. They were selling graphic novels 70% off, so I grabbed up those three and a couple Marvel titles. I'll have to write up how bizarre it was to experience that, but I was still stoked at the amazing deals I got.

I liked Batman/Superman Public Enemies--Super Friends is my second favorite version of Clark and Bruce, after Super Dads. Supergirl was...fine. She was okay. But I had a hard time connecting to her, and she was obviously just there half the time for boobs and butt, which got old and annoying incredibly fast. And by "incredibly fast," I mean the instant she appeared wrapped in blanket, I said, "Nope!" closed the book, and went to bed for the night.

I haven't read Dark Victory yet because I don't have The Long Halloween--it was at my LCS the day before the sale started, but when I hurried over at lunch to check the shelves, it had already been snatched up, sadly.

And finally: I do not like the Outsiders at all. what little I read of them was weird, grim, and annoying. Very 90's tastic. I rolled my eyes so much, I upset my equilibrium and nearly fell out of the bed. I only bought The Death and Return of Donna Troy because the Teen Titans series I'm collecting starts right after Donna's death, and when she popped back up in the title, I didn't want to be like, "Wait wait wait...when did she come back???" But honestly, the book sucks. Both stories included suck.

The Death of Donna Troy--aka Graduation Day--is awful because it kills off one of the early members of the Titans with essentially a shrug and is overwritten in the kind of narration heavy, tell-don't-show bullshit that plagued the 90's and the New 52 when DC decided to be "Comic's Industry's 'I Love the 90's!'"

The Return of Donna Troy--aka ...well...The Return of Donna Troy--sucks because it is heavily entangled into the Rann–Thanagar War, which I could not give a shit about. Space stuff is a hard sell for me in comics sometimes because it seems like characterization gets neglected in favor of SPAAAACE BAAAATLES. Maybe I'm just not familiar enough with the pre-New 52 Olympian gods, but the entire story--Donna dying, but also not really because she came back to life and only remembered being an Olympian Titan, and she's married to and loves her Brother-Husband and they needed the Rann-Thanagar's to die or something because alternate universes and blahblahblahblahblahblah.

The writers picked possibly the most convoluted way they could have brought her back possible. I know that for Donna Troy, that's sort of a given since her entire existence is one massive series of retcons, but...Jesus I just didn't care.

Anyway, so this month was mostly exciting stuff, and some stuff that I only got because of completion's sake. I look forward to getting some new stuff (and maybe raiding a Halloween sale?) this month.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

This Election is a Shit Show

Gage Skidmore from Flickr -  Some rights reserved
I've been unusually quiet about the election this year. Last election, I had at least a few posts, and I was very active on Facebook among my friends and family arguing that Romney was the wrong choice for our country.

The reason I've been quiet about this is because I am horrified beyond words with what is happening in my country. Beyond the memes, beyond the funny late night talk show skits, beyond all of the jokes and bullshit, we are a hairsbreadth away from electing a tyrant in the White House.

This isn't hyperbole. Donald Trump isn't just a blithering, gibbering idiot fucksponge. Trump has been proven to be a racist, a liar, and a swindler over and over and over and over. I would be genuinely curious to see the results of a psychological evaluation to see if he is a sociopath, or if being so rich and powerful is enough to strip a normal human of every shred of intelligence, common sense, humility, and humanity.

The system being what it is, each party generally gets about 40-ish percent of the vote and they fight for the last 20, with a meager smattering of votes going to any third party candidates. However, I was hoping that in the face of such unprecedented awful, the vote would be a near unanimous rejection of him. But, unfortunately, it's not.

I genuinely did not expect Trump to get the nomination at the start of this election. I know we've had a few cases of celebrities moving into politics with varying degrees of success, but I'm not sure we've ever had someone like Trump. He's so openly hateful, thin-skinned, and conniving that everyone treated it like the joke that it should be. When he got closer, and it looked like he might actually gain the nomination, I believed that if he did get it, it would be the end of the Republican Party as we knew it. After all, there have to be conservatives that aren't weeping, petulant white people mad at the brown folks for taking their jobs, right? Surely there are rational ones that have watched their party stray steadily away from what they know and love and decide to split off and form a third, fiscally conservative, socially liberal-ish group right?

Apparently not--at least, not yet. While there are some, thank goodness, that have at least temporarily defected to the Democrat side to vote Hillary, the polls so far have shown an unsettlingly tight race.

Watching the Republican leadership--not just the Tea Party fringes, but the rest of the party as well--either line up behind Trump or quietly step out of his way to avoid going against the party trend has been horrifying. As much shit as we give Congress for being do nothing, and as racially charged as the Republican Congress has been toward Barack Obama, I didn't think they were so filled with hatred and/or cowardice to allow this to happen.

I'm sure part of my surprise comes from my own sheltered life as a cis-het white dude. Deep down, the I guess the country has always been this ugly. And I guess, as a white person, it's easy to view some of the ugly racism that has bubbled back up as a relic of Back Then. But Trump has proved that Back Then is not as Back as it seemed, and we still have a long way to go.

If I try to be empathetic toward Trumpkins, I do see a group of people that have been told their entire life that their way of life is correct, right, and expected. And to see that steadily upended as they learn that everything they once believed is wrong must be scary. I think it's likely that some of that fear comes from housing segregation--huge swaths of our country are laid out in such a way that it is often exceptionally difficult to meet and regularly interact with people of color. Suburbs were specifically created as a white attempt to "Go Galt" and separate themselves from other races and cultures. It's been showing that regular interaction with those different than you can influence you and make you more empathetic understanding to those that are different to you. The key is exposure, and a lot of white Americans have grown up in a system that keeps that exposure from them by design. However, that's not an excuse for openly supporting hate and burying their heads in the sand about very real issues that  a good many Americans face on a daily basis.

The fact that Trump has made it onto the world's stage as a potential national candidate--one who is accused of rape, of using money donated to his charity for personal enjoyment, of dog-whistling to and refusing to refute the alt-right and extreme racists, one who is so misinformed he argued with the debate moderator Lestor Holt about Stop and Frisk being ruled unconstitutional and praised it for its effectiveness even though it's been demonstrated with study after study that that's not the case--is so embarrassing, disturbing, and sickening, that it's difficult to express the full depth of negative feelings I feel at the situation, and that our nation should feel.

What I hope this means for our nation is that the truly backward thinking folks are on their way out. I hope that year after year, they're watching their numbers, power, and influence dwindle, and we'll see more progressive and tolerant politics come in to take it's place. I hope this is the last gasp of a group that will effectively vanish into the ether.

I hope.


Further reading on various terrible things about Trump is below--from various sources. There are lots more. Just use Google.

Don't forget to register and vote. Vote early if you need to, but it's been shown that while the system is stacked against us, voter turn out really is the best way to enact change--and that means on a local level as well as a national one.