Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday

Hafa adai and happy Easter.

I’m sitting here in my living room, spending Easter alone. Barely anyone is home in my apartment complex, so all I can hear are the birds and the psychedelic rock I’m listening to. I’m drinking coffee and feeling the breeze from the open patio door. I’m only wearing underwear because my wife took all of my pants to her mom’s to do laundry. Last night I had hot dogs steamed in beer and learned how to make my own vanilla Cokes. Syrup is surprisingly easy to make.

Tomorrow I’m starting my first ever group therapy. It’s a mindfulness group: yoga stretches, walking, breathing exercises, meditation. Should help keep me calm and in the present more often. Spring is my element and I’m finally in it.

I just want to be happy again. I feel damn good today. It’s a start.

Have a nice Sunday, everyone. Suette!

Song of the Week: "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts"

Songs for Becca #10. For some reason, I remember 2005 as being an especially optimistic year. I guess it's a demarcation for me; still carefree in a lot of ways, still had plans for the future, and it was a lot brighter than that horrible 2006 turned out to be from pretty much the beginning. 2005 was the year I started this blog.

In all that time, I've apparently never posted anything from my favorite album of that year: Sufjan Stevens' Illinois. This is my favorite song on the album, in part because it's inspired by the Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois, but also in part because it's just so pretty. It's one of those deceptively pretty songs I like; it's lovely and has lyrics I love like "We celebrate our sense of each other," but it's also partly about an accidental drowning. And it's like a modern version of baroque pop. You'll notice that a number of my favorite albums of the 60s fall under the baroque pop umbrella.

This song doesn't remind me of Becca so much as it does a time when we were really happy. I don't know what it was about 2005, exactly. But we were both doing well, then. It's where I'm trying to go now.

Happy Easter

Sunday Hottie 481

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS

(And yes, I do know that John Hancock didn't sign the US Constitution, it's just not the detail I'm looking at. I never pretended not to be shallow.)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 24

Somehow, this is singularly the most boring chapter in the book. Unless you're actually caught up in this shitty excuse for romance, in which case I imagine it makes your insides tingle. See a doctor about that.


In this chapter, they're just all lovey-dovey for a while. Christian wakes Ana up early for a surprise so they can "chase the dawn." They talk about music; it all sounds like a shitty writer trying to write a real, mundane conversation, but it's so pointless. Again, we don't have to spend every second of their lives with these two. He's got Britney Spears on his iPod; apparently a former sub, Leila, put it there. Foreshadowing? Do you care?

We also learn more about his former subs, but really only that Mrs. Robinson's actual name is Elena, and that he had four subs including Leila who wanted more from him, but he wasn't willing to give more until Ana because she's so amazing and blah blah blah.

They go out in a glider, but mostly it's just Ana fretting about how anxious she is and then, when she finally enjoys it, belaboring that idiotic Icarus metaphor she keeps trying so hard to not make seem ridiculously stupid. The whole thing is, at heart, just EL James telling us about how she's seen the original Thomas Crown Affair, because that's where her entire description of the glider comes from. (This whole sequence, by the way, goes on for paaaaaages, including a bit where Christian talks into the radio using a lot of jargon, and it's unintentionally hysterical.)

Then they go to IHOP, of all places, and they talk even more boringly about how horny they are and how they're really having a for reals relationship, y'all, (including painfully needless descriptions of their original buttermilk pancake breakfasts) and then the waitress is totally dazzled by how gorgeous Christian is because we need yet another reminder that he's amazingly sexy.

Somehow, I always picture this.

I mean, sure, we're all in love and he's so cute, you guys, and he loves me so much and he remembers what my favorite tea is so that means he loves me and it makes up for all of his abusive, controlling dickbag behavior, even though at any point you could just switch out Christian Grey for Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave and the change would be unnoticeable.

Oh, jeez, they even do this.

"'Do I disarm you?'

I snort. 'All the time.'"

Twilight fanfiction credentials reaffirmed!



Ana wants to pay for breakfast, since she could actually afford it, but Christian refuses her nice gesture, calling it "emasculating."

So Christian drops off Ana at home, and then some more of their stupid email flirting, and then Christian tells Ana she talks in her sleep, and the rest of the chapter is going to be her fretting herself into insanity about what he must have heard her say, because we need to manufacture more drama for the last two chapters. Then Christian has to go back to Seattle to deal with some kind of situation, again for the sake of drama.

Oh, and Ana gets a call from pre-Raphaelite lady and she gets the job as assistant to "Mr. Jack Hyde," which will probably be an endless source of drama in the next book. Will Christian and Mr. Hyde have to wage in a battle of wills over Ana's very soul? Who will win? The representation of "the classics" or the representation of modern lit? Christian or Jack? Edward of Jacob? Are you on Team I Don't Give a Shit or Team You Couldn't Pay Me Enough to Read Another of These? Drama, drama, drama. So dramatic I need Dramamine.

Anyway, this was probably the best chapter in the book, if only because it was so pointless and brimming with things that a real editor would have recommended trimming down that it was easy to skim through.

Almost over... almost over...

Caturday, Katurday

Friday, April 18, 2014

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #47

"Music to Scream By" by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart & Don Heck
(September 1963)

I've said it before, but I really like what Ernie Hart and Don Heck are trying to do in a limited space with Ant-Man and the Wasp. It's turning into these adventures of a brilliant but stuffy professor and his hip sidekick. Last issue, they went on a Mediterranean vacation that, in its way, played out like a hi-fi sci-fi version of a New Wave picture. This time, the landscape the story plays out on features jazz music and a touch of Indian mysticism. It's another way that Marvel Comics is set firmly in its present.

This issue's villain is Trago, a jazz man, trumpet player, who is caught robbing a club after his set. He goes home to India, where he finds a man named Ghazandi, who has mastered some of the mystic arts. Trago learns to play notes that will hypnotize snakes, and then to play notes that will hypnotize humans. Ghazandi himself won't even play those notes, because one false note could mean hypnotizing the player rather than the audience. Which, of course, is what happens when Ant-Man and the Wasp finally face him. He's hypnotized people and is going to make them rob banks for him (always comes down to the banks), but Ant-Man gets inside his trumpet and bends one of the plungers, producing an off-note that hypnotizes Trago and wipes the memory of his entire career as a trumpeter, including the robbery attempt, the trip to India, and learning his hypnotic powers. Hank and Jan decide, eh, no harm done. His crime spree never happened, and now he's just a happy guy playing trumpet in jazz clubs.

The real tragedy, apparently, is Ant-Man's faithful ant friend Korr. I guess we can assume that this is the same ant that Hank's been riding around on for the past year, but he's never been named before, and other than seeing him talk that time, we've never really explored his role in the stories. Generally, the ants are just mindless ants. But Ant-Man calls to Korr to save he and the Wasp from Trago's music, and Korr even gives his life trying to defend them from a snake. Hank is really, really shaken up by the loss, so much so that he leaves the jazz club during the happy ending so he can go home and mourn.

It's a really nice attempt to flesh out the cast, but the sacrifice isn't really felt, since the ants had never been, well, humanized, so to speak. We never even knew Korr's name before, or if it was even meant to be the same ant every time. Though Ernie & Don have proven quite good at pulling off a breezy, involving story in a limited space, there just isn't enough room in these stories to pull off that kind of gravity. It's another thing that makes me wish this creative team had more room to grow this incarnation.

Alas, it's only one more story to go before the next shake-up.

Stray notes:

:: I know Orientalism isn't cool, but it is nice not to have any of the pidgin English you expect from comics in the 1960s. Other than the massive one about India being full of occult powers, there aren't any other stereotypes at play, which is nice.

:: Unless, of course, you count Jan's fascination with diamonds and Hank's condescending annoyance with it.

Sheesh. That's still one of my problems with this book. Admittedly, it's a lot worse when Stan Lee does it, because he just doesn't seem to have a mode for her yet outside of "spunky" and "girl."

:: When Hank first goes to the jazz club, Jan tells him about the music. He doesn't even know who Count Basie is. In 1963? Daddy-o, you are impossibly square.

:: There are two separate occasions in battle where Ant-Man realizes he's forgotten his gas cylinders. Always be prepared, dude. You're a crime fighter, remember? Interestingly, the second time he realizes his mistake, he implies that he had been preparing to fight Trago while human-sized. I thought that was Ant-Man's big no-no? What is even the story with that anymore? Is he even maintaining that illusion now? Because it's kind of silly. And people have seen the Wasp human-sized already, anyway.

:: The text narration keeps referring to Ant-Man as "Antman."

:: This is the part where I always tell you how much I love Don Heck's artwork.

But look at it! How can I not love this? Oh, man... sadly, Ernie & Don only have one more issue together before Stan Lee reclaims the book and turns Ant-Man into Giant-Man, but how I wish he'd instead kept the creative team and given them more room and just turned it into one of those great 60s spy-fi thrillers. The Ant from UNCLE. Look at Heck's art; it's just begging for it! Or at least I am!

At least we have this issue to enjoy.

Next time: the Strangest Super-Heroes of All!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tick-Tock Sick

Dig that clock.

I've been listening to this a bit lately as sort of a reminder to take it slow when I need to. This was a 45 that Jim Henson put out in 1960. It may have been used on Sam and Friends, but even the guy who made this video admits there's no evidence of that, just a supposition based on the time period and the style of the music. Jim's crazy beatnik side comes out in a novelty song about the relentless passage of time, something that was also the theme of his great 1964 short film Time Piece. It's also just fun because of Jim's lyrics, especially in that fast-paced middle section.

Swing it, clock.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N Is for Nice

I first heard Kermit the Frog say that it's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice. That's something I haven't always taken to heart, but I'm trying.

It's been hard for me to be nice over the years, because I think sometimes people mistake being nice for being weak and have a go at you. And sometimes, I am weak. My self-esteem and my emotional health have been so worn down over the years, and recovery isn't as easy as I had hoped it would be.

One interesting thing about my anxiety--one that surprises me--is that over the years I've become very uncomfortable with accepting compliments. I'm trying to work on that one. I used to default to the self-deprecating bit where you shrug off compliments or just don't agree with them, but I started to realize that doing that makes people feel like maybe they just shouldn't have given you the compliment in the first place. You know what eventually happens? You stop getting compliments, and it just confirms your belief that people don't think you're any good at anything. You create that in order to confirm your own biases against yourself.

I've started, at the very least, to just say thank you, even if I don't feel I deserve a compliment. And, in doing so, I've found myself much more receptive to receiving them. It's changing my attitude about myself in small but profound ways. That's something I really need right now, because I just haven't liked myself in a very, very long time. When you don't like yourself, you don't take care of yourself. And, well... no one else is going to take care of you for you.

I have a new doctor now, and she's very supportive, which is something I've never gotten from a medical doctor before. I saw her last week, and we were talking about some of my skin problems and such things, and I felt really, really self-conscious and embarrassed about it. I have lied to doctors in the past because I didn't want to feel like I was gross or like I just couldn't do certain things for myself. That attitude of always having to be strong or people think less of you. It's not helpful to lie to doctors. So I'm trying to be honest. She's aware of my mental issues, and she's very understanding. I feel like we're working together, rather than being talked to.

Anyway, I was there and I wasn't looking her in the eye, because when I'm afraid of appearing weak and needy I'm too uncomfortable to look people in the eye. We've talked about that. But I was telling her about these skin problems and doing that thing that I always do where I was sort of apologizing for existing and being a bother by existing, and I mumbled, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so disgusting."

She stopped me and said "Don't say that. You're a person, and we're all people, and we all have a right to be comfortable inside ourselves."

I literally stopped talking. I couldn't speak for about 10 seconds because I was trying not to cry. She asked if I was alright. And I said "I just don't always think of myself as a person, and when someone treats me like I am, it scares me."

Because it's evidence against the assumptions I have about life. I operate from a deep-rooted belief that I'm no good and that no one could ever love me or respect me or be kind to me.

That's why I'm so dismissive of compliments. They sometimes make me feel uncomfortable because they challenge what I "know" to be "true" about myself.

I need to be more receptive to receiving, or at least acknowledging, compliments and kind words rather than shrugging them off or shrinking away from them, because it makes it easier for me to love myself and heal myself.

Kermit was right. It is important to be nice. But it's as important to be nice to yourself as it is to be nice to others.

ABC Wednesday

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (1992)
Yet another movie that I'm kind of surprised it took me this long to see; I remember when it came out here and everyone was talking about it. It's a sensual movie about the youngest sister in a Mexican family on a border town in the early 1900s. In accordance with family tradition, she will never marry, but is meant to stay home and care for her mother. She can only express herself through her food, but her emotional state when cooking affect the emotional states of those who eat it. I always think magic realism is an interesting device, and it's used especially well here. There's a sort of romantic grandeur that the story takes on, perhaps because it's framed as an old family legend. Very pretty. ***1/2

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (2014)
A new film version of Horton Foote's play, this one starring Cicely Tyson as the elderly woman who just wants to make it back to her childhood home. Tyson is a wonderful actress, and this is one of her great performances; she's very sincere and gets the desperation of the character across. Blair Underwood plays the son who is just trying to get back on his feet, torn between his somewhat aggressive wife (Vanessa Williams) and his mother, who longs to go home so badly and feels so minimized that she has to sneak away. This is a story that's told through a series of observant conversations, and this film is blessed with an excellent cast that finds the right note. An excellent movie, and not just excellent for a movie that premiered on Lifetime. ****