Saturday, August 31, 2013

Counting Down to a Wedding

Next Saturday, my friend Carl is getting married. I'm serving as his best man. And I am freaking out about it.

This is going to be another post about anxiety disorders and depression.

Months ago, Carl sent me an email telling me he was getting married and asking me to be his best man. I was honestly surprised at the offer, and reacted mainly with fear. This is one of the horrible things about what I'm going through: my instinct, as I'm hiding here in my little cave, is to cut myself off from personal relationships and obligations. So when my best friend for over 25 years asks me to be the best man at his wedding, instead of feeling honored and enthusiastic, I'm petrified and confused. This is the kind of thing I'm trying so hard to fix about myself.

Back then, I didn't realize why I do this kind of thing. Thanks to therapy, I understand now that as a child I internalized a series of traumas that left me with the operational belief that I don't matter very much to anyone. Not just that I don't matter, but that I never could matter. This isn't me feeling sorry for myself. This is something that, subconsciously, I believed about myself.

This is a big part of why I'm such a lousy friend/family member. I subconsciously assume people don't want to include me, so I'm not the guy who just out of the blue emails you, or calls you up just to see how you're doing. And I'm sure as hell not the guy who makes plans to spend time with friends or family. You probably have better things to do than waste a day of your life humoring me.

So when something comes along that acts against one of the core beliefs on which my life operates, it terrifies me. It terrifies me because I get genuinely confused: why the hell do you want me to be your best man? What's wrong with you? What's the joke here? Why are you rocking the comforting shell that I've protected myself with all of these years? Isn't it enough that I'm staying out of your way and not imposing my existence on you?

What I'll never be able to take back is that when my best and oldest friend honored me by asking if I would stand up as the best man at his wedding, I basically asked him if he was out of his mind.

That's another problem with this thing I'm dealing with: my instincts genuinely tell me that I'm not capable of doing these things, and that no one deep down really wants me to do them, anyway. It's why I can often be so quiet and withdrawn. Unfortunately, that comes across as unfriendly to people. But it's not meant to be. I can go out in the world and be nice and polite up to a point. But I'm also, in my subconscious, just doing everyone a favor by not imposing on everyone's time.

(Aside: I just realized right now how much this hurt me in college. I mean, I actually had occasions where--because I didn't participate in classroom discussions very often, or because sometimes I almost never came to class--teachers accused me of plagiarizing essays. It was never true, and I always disproved it, but that all came about because they never just heard me discuss things in class, because my first instinct is always not to bother anyone because no one wants to hear it.)

So this wedding is kind of a huge deal for me. I'm scared about it. Sometimes I'm so scared that I start shaking and trying to figure out how to get out of it. But it's too late for that, and besides, I really don't want to get out of it. I'm terrified that I have to stand up in front of everyone and give a toast, but (a) I think it's important that I make myself do this and (b) I want to do it for Carl, not only because he's my best friend and this is such a big occasion, but because he's really gone out of his way to make sure I'm included in this. And that shouldn't scare me the way it did. It should make me feel honored, humbled and proud. At a time in life when I had resigned myself to not mattering in anyone's life, he's proved that I do. His mother even called and thanked me for agreeing to do it.

Besides, I think I won't actually even be as scared of this as I was of meeting Carl's bride-to-be, Kate. I only met her two weeks ago. They don't know, but I actually had a panic attack about meeting her. Because, again, I don't expect people to like me at all, especially right now, at the worst point of my health, more obese than ever, and with my terrible skin and being, you know, so ugly. I was honestly expecting her to take one look at me and think "I don't want to look at this terrible thing in my wedding pictures for the rest of my life."

And you know, that has nothing to do with her and who she is as a person. It's 100% to do with my anxiety and my low self-esteem and my general assumption that people won't like me.

And that's one of the other awful things about what I'm trying to overcome: it causes me to make unfair, generalized assumptions about people I don't even know.

(And for the record, Kate is lovely and seems awesome.)

So there's a big part of me that's scared as hell. I'm very self-conscious. I have a lot of doubts. My mind is racing through all the things I want to do to prepare for it, and I'm working very hard against my natural, avoidant instincts.

I don't want to just get through this. I want to enjoy it. And I want to be there for my friend.

Feel the fear. Do it anyway.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Duct Tape

I didn't expect this. But this... this, I like.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Ago Today

And still very relevant. The 50th year of one of the most important pieces of oration in American history is also the year the Supreme Court has declared racism over and then dismantled key pieces of the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

Why do we keep going backwards?

(Image via.)

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #86

"On the Trail of the Tomorrow Man" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(November 1962)

This story kind of breezes by, but not in a bad way. It's actually quite fun, and for being a magic-based, mythological character, Thor fits into a science fiction setting much more comfortably here than he did in his first appearance when he fought aliens.

The story structure follows what has been the sort of typical sci-fi twist story that anthology books such as Journey Into Mystery have followed until now, with the addition of some superhero spectacle. The story starts in the future, in the year 2262, where the Earth has become a peaceful utopia. (Some of the buildings remind me of some of the great science fiction Jack Kirby did later at DC.) An ambitious scientist named Zarrko is annoyed by all of this placidity and decides to come back to our time and steal a weapon, thus making himself ruler of the future.

What he comes back for is an experimental cobalt bomb, which Thor happens to be out in the desert testing, helping out the military. There are a lot of familiar elements of this early age of the Marvel Universe--future tech, science fiction grandeur, experimental weapons tested in the American desert, an implied patriotism, and the Cold War always present in the background. Thor may be the son of Asgard, but he's made himself Defender of the Earth, which of course (given the time period) is implied to be America. Thor is a Norse god, but he's an American patriot, too. (Again, another parallel with DC's Superman.)

Thor journeys to the future to track down Zarrko and the stolen C-bomb. Zarrko has already made himself master of the world, and the people live in fear. Some great action scenes of Thor racing through a future cityscape while outsmarting Zarrko's traps and fighting his gigantic robots. Larry and Jack manage to get in a suspenseful moment where one of the robots takes Thor's hammer (if it's that powerful, why bother with the C-bomb? Why not just go right to building robots?) and Thor has to use his strength and intelligence to defeat the robots before sixty seconds elapse and he changes into the weaker Donald Blake. It's a nice way of using that element to add suspense while also showing us that Thor isn't completely useless without his magic hammer.

The story in this issue is wrapped up neatly. It's a simple story, but not a simplistic one, and is so far one of the better adventures of the character. At this point, I can safely say I'd like to see more science fiction in this comic and, of course, more Loki (who returns in the next issue).

Other notes:

:: In this issue, Odin grants Thor permission to travel through time. He instructs Thor to tie a fragment from Zarrko's time ship (broken off in a fight) to his hammer, and then spin very quickly like a top. By doing so, Thor travels to the time period the metal is from.

:: Thor also demonstrates the ability to exhale a blast of hurricane wind.

:: When Thor gets to the future, a woman immediately thinks to herself how handsome he is. Yes, I get it. He's hot. And also that's the only thing women think about, I guess.

:: Jane Foster has brown hair now, I guess.

:: Just love this pose:

Thor catches the falling C-bomb like a running back.

:: Jack Kirby was born 96 years ago today. Happy Kirby Day!

Next time: the Human Torch fights the Wizard!

Film Week

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

MARVEL ONE-SHOT: AGENT CARTER (2013)
Fun short film giving us a glimpse of what lay in store for Peggy Carter after Captain America was lost in World War II. It's a fun little movie, and gives us some more little glimpses of the whole "Howling Commandos" era of the Marvel Universe that Captain America gave us. It's a tease, though; now I just desperately want Agent Carter to have her own solo film in the Cinematic Marvel Universe continuity. Agent Carter and Her Howling Commandos. Let's do that. Let's do it now. ***1/2

Lovely Naomi

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Marvels: Incredible Hulk #4

"The Monster and the Machine!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(November 1962)

I'll be honest, this story feels like more wheel-spinning while Stan and Jack experiment with a direction for this character they've created.

When we left the Hulk last time, he was under the mental control of Rick Jones and couldn't change back to Bruce Banner. In this story, Rick figures out a way to change Hulk back to Banner, but Banner's body is so weakened that he's become useless. So he and Rick reconfigure the gamma machine Banner's been working on, and create a new combination that turns Banner into the Hulk physically, keeping his mind intact. So, Banner's personality, but Hulk's body.

The problem is, people still fear and misunderstand the Hulk, and Banner finds that totally offensive. Not only that, but it's quickly obvious that the Hulk is so raging and so powerful that, even with his mind in control, Banner has a hard time stopping himself from following the Hulk's angry impulses. But by then, Banner has built a platform that controls the gamma machine and he can now change into the Hulk (and vice versa) whenever he wants simply by stepping on the platform, turning on the controls with his feet, and bathing himself in gamma radiation. No more becoming the Hulk at night. And no more of Rick's mental control.

There's not much more to this story; this is just a long way around to showing us that now Banner can control when he becomes the Hulk, and he can think for himself when he's the Hulk, but he still fears losing control of the Hulk.

A couple of stray observations:

:: This is really the first time where it's obvious that Betty Ross has feelings for Bruce Banner. She also thinks (correctly) that there's some kind of a connection between the Hulk, Banner and Rick Jones, which her father is annoyingly dismissive of.

:: General "Thunderbolt" Ross has developed an "iceberg rocket" that can encase the Hulk in ice, flash-freezing him, but he won't get to use it until next issue.

:: The Hulk saves a school bus full of kids from getting hit by a train, so he does have some gentle impulses deep in there.

:: I still don't like the way Kirby illustrates the Hulk leaping. He's clearly changing height and trajectory; it's flying in all but name. No wonder they kept having to answer questions about whether the Hulk could fly!

"The Gladiator from Outer Space!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers

Well, I think the Hulk was the only one who hadn't fought the Commies yet, so here you go.

The Hulk responds to a televised threat from an alien gladiator calling himself Mongu, but when he gets to the fight it turns out to be a sophisticated robot with a Soviet soldier inside called Boris Monguski. The whole thing was an elaborate ruse to capture the Hulk for the USSR. And then the Hulk destroys them and sends them packing. That's pretty much it, but some of the destruction is fun and well-drawn, especially the Hulk simply catching a grenade and letting it explode in his hands. (It's also the first time someone thinks to use a soundwave gun on the Hulk.)

Inconsequential story, but fun filler.

Overall, the issue just doesn't work as a Hulk story, because Stan and Jack clearly still don't have that grasp on what the Hulk's essential qualities are. Considering the bang-up job they did with the Fantastic Four, and what Stan and Steve Ditko did in just one Spider-Man story so far, it's unfortunate to see them not getting a handle on it yet. No wonder this book's going to get canceled.

Even the letters page seems halfhearted. But Stan does cop to the coloring mistake in the first issue that made the Hulk gray. This is back in the day when an error was a mistake, not a universe-altering continuity thread to be pulled on.

Next time: the Tomorrow Man!

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Banner

As you can see, I changed the banner. It didn't feel right having Kristen in a bikini any more with things getting so autumnal here and on the internet. So I put up this screencap from Mad Men. That inscription is the kind of thing I'm trying to tell myself and get comfortable with again.

(I'll change the banner again in October, though, for Halloween. Really looking forward to Halloween this year, and everyone's getting into it so early. Don't want to overdo it. I foresee Kristen Bell on my October banner. I also see the sun rising and falling daily.)

Classic Rock Questionnaire

Found this on Tumblr.

1. The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Well, I love both, but in the spirit of the questions, I'll go with the Beatles. They broke up just before their music would've gotten really tired and went off to be creative elsewhere.

2. John or Paul? John.

3. Keith or Mick? Keith.

4. Mod Beatles or Psychedelic Beatles? I really like the transition period. That sweep of albums from Help! through Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

5. Brian Jones or Mick Taylor? Brian.

6. Barrett Floyd or Waters Floyd? Waters Floyd. I really like Syd Barrett's solo albums.

7. The Who or Led Zeppelin? Though I like Zeppelin more now than I ever have, I have to pick the Who.

8. Robert Plant or Roger Daltrey? Daltrey's voice stuns me.

9. Keith Moon or John Bonham? Moon.

10. Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix? Hendrix.

11. The Doors or Cream? I like both, but if I have to choose one, it's the Doors. I don't like anything by either band as much as I like "Light My Fire."

12 The Stooges or The Velvet Underground? Stooges. I really only like the Velvets with Nico.

13. Lou Reed or John Cale? Cale. I really only like Lou Reed's Bowie album. John Cale has about four albums I love.

14. David Bowie or Marc Bolan? That's like choosing which eye you want to keep, but Bowie is God.

15. Bryan Ferry or Brian Eno? Eno.

16. Queen or Pink Floyd? Queen.

17. Solo Lennon or solo McCartney? Lennon, by far.

18. Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke? Again, I love both eras, but there are only a few albums I love to put on and just listen to as much as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

19. The Runaways or the New York Dolls? Runaways. You all knew that.

20. George Harrison or Eric Clapton? George, always.

21. Patti Smith or Joan Jett? Joan.

22. Talking Heads or The Ramones? Ramones.

23. Joey Ramone or David Johansen? Joey.

24. Sex Pistols or The Clash? Pistols.

25. Johnny Rotten or Joe Strummer? Joe Strummer, just because he seemed like less of a prick.

26. Mick Jones or Steve Jones? Steve Jones. Have you heard him in interviews? He's insanely cool.

27. Bowie's Berlin albums or Iggy's Berlin albums? Gosh, though, they really sound like part of the same musical oeuvre, particularly since Bowie was so instrumental in those two Iggy albums. But for sheer listenability, I have to go with Iggy's one-two punch of The Idiot and Lust for Life.

28. Joy Division or The Smiths? Smiths.

29. Nick Cave or Robert Smith? Cave.

30. Nirvana or Guns N' Roses? Guns N' Roses. The whole grunge thing really passed me by. When it wasn't pop and folk, I was into metal. I had the first four GNR albums and used to listen to them all the time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Song of the Week: "My Cup Runneth Over"

I can't believe I've been doing Song of the Week since 2006 and in all that time I've never had this up. I love this song; it's easily one of my favorites. And yes, it makes me a bit... let's say misty-eyed. It just makes me think about how temporary life can really be, and that a lot of its beauty comes from that temporal quality. Like in The Iliad: "Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed." That idea doesn't scare me a bit. It makes more grateful for what I have now.

And honestly, this song makes me think of my wife. I don't always feel like I have a lot in life, or a lot to offer people. Only moments of borrowed beauty and a fierce loyalty that is, right now, quite easily bruised. But she's been here for so long, and I still feel so lucky and so not worth the time she's spent with me. I can't always communicate how grateful I am that she would even put up with me and with what's going on my head right now. But as suicidal as I get, she always makes me look forward to tomorrow and to any more days I'm lucky enough to get to spend with her. It's been 18 and a half years. We're getting older and I've barely even noticed because through all of this agoraphobia and depression and anxiety, I'm just so happy to get to wake up with her every morning. I'll tell you right now, because I don't mind admitting it: sometimes I just cry thinking about how much she means to me and how happy I am to be a part of her life. She makes me better. She makes my life worth living.

So this is for her.

Jeez, this song really does make me emotional.