9/11(/2021)

Was it really twenty years ago today?

There are others that would tell a much more tragic version than I.  I am not sure I have ever been within a mile of the Two Towers or the Pentagon.  If you find a more meaningful recollection of that day, please give it priority. For example, here is an article by the firefighter that led the Pentagon rescues. And here is an article from the Ground Zero efforts.

I do remember when things were a little less scary.  I have coworkers that have never gone to an airport and kept their shoes on the entire time.  None of my nieces or nephews know what it was like before 9/11.

Oh airports.  You used to be so simple.  Everybody walked through security together.  It did not matter if you had a boarding pass or not.  As long as you did not go past the ticket agent, you could stroll around the gates to your heart’s content.  Granted, there were very few cellular phones.  You had to plan in advance.  “I’ll meet you at the gate.”  That plan almost always worked.  “I’ll meet you at the luggage claim.”  Come now.  Where is the romance and tenderness in that?

Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, was a different world.  I did not read the newspapers or watch morning news.  As far as I was concerned, everything was normal.  I was going to take the bus, run some IMAX movies, and then come home.  Simplicity in itself.

I walked out my apartment door and headed down the stairs.  I was stopped by my now sister-in-law who lived just underneath my brother and I.  (Not an accident.  That couple still likes their proximity.)  She opened her door and told me the news.

“A plane just hit the Two Towers!”

My response showed how little I grasped the situation.  I barely knew where the Two Towers were.  I figured that plane crashed happened every day.  I assumed that she was spreading news that she thought was important but really had no effect on me.  Hence, my reply.

“Okay.”

I do not remember the bus ride to work.  I do recall two of my coworkers working the phones in the office.  “We’re closed today”, my friend told me.  We worked on the same block as the Space Needle.  There was concern that a plane would strike that landmark as well.

That was when I found out that we were actually being threatened.  That was when I realized it was a big deal.  I put a VHS tape in the VCR (because ‘90s), and I pushed record.  I knew I could not camp out in front of the TV and watch news as it came in.  I was never built to handle that sort of onslaught.  But I was also a Mass Media student at the time.  I did not need my future college degree to tell me I might want to revisit this day in some way.  I also went to my local Safeway and bought two copies of The Seattle Times and two copies of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

In a filing cabinet or manila folder, sandwiched between bills or birth certificates, my mother has saved a newspaper clipping from when we landed on the moon.  I wish that was the newspaper I had.  I would much prefer to relive that moment.  However, those that do not study history are doomed to repeat it, so I hold on to those papers.  (The frame is kept in the back of the closet, horizontally.  You can tell by the way the paper is slid to one side.)

I had no specific right to rage.  I suffered no great loss.  A shift, yes.  But I did not attend any funerals.  I did not go to any candlelight vigils.  There has never been a person in my life that I hate.  I prayed for peace.  I walked around for the rest of the week and marveled how eerie it was that there were no planes in the sky.

I remember that my hugs increased dramatically over the next few days.  People wanted any comfort they could get.  I had always been a hugger.  It felt like that was the most valuable thing I had to offer.

I listened to other people’s stories.  I watched as the comic book community came together to express their pain, their outrage, and their despair.  For me, the most iconic image of the event was drawn by Graham Nolan, a key Batman artist in the ‘90s.  He drew a police officer running against the panicked throngs. 

I made me think about First Responders for the first time.  What does it take to run into danger?  Firefighters are brave, sure.  This was a whole other level.  We are talking dozens of stories threatening to crash down to the concrete and you are heading in there?  I mean; dang. 

There was also Spider-Man.  They had gone to all this trouble to shoot a special mini-movie where Spider-Man catches thieves in a helicopter and he traps them in a giant web… between the Two Towers.  They even created a teaser poster where Spidey is poking his head out between the Two Towers.  Those were removed real quick.  When the movie came out in May of 2002, it drew enormous crowds.  Folks were ready to see a hero.  They were ready for New York to have a win.  And with his accident and fully concealing costume, Spider-Man could be anybody.  We could all save the day and stop the bad guys.

(I always wondered how they were supposed to get that helicopter down. There was also a discussion as to whether or not Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers should change their name. Since it did not open until December of 2002, they felt it was reasonable to keep the book’s title.)

As the millennium rolled over, there was a pervasiveness of black.  Sleek, stylish, trendy; everybody was wearing black.  After 9/11, I think we all tried to cheer ourselves up.  Even the valets at the Space Needle got orange shirts.  Color tried to reinstate some joy. 

I remember finally seeing the news footage of the first plane hitting, then the second.  I also remember nations all over reaching out to extend their sympathies and well wishes.  I remember embracing friends outside of their cubicles.  And I remember that for every terrible thing that happens, something good can still come from it.

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An Orwellian Ode

I’m taking a bit of a break from the internet. So to tide me (you?) over, here’s a Goodreads review that I tried to have some fun with.

—————————-

In school we were all taught that this book was darn swell.

So I made time to visit the world of Orwell.

If there’s a book you can both respect and abhor,

Then thanks to doublespeak, it’s 1984.

Winston is no hero; he’s a protagonist.

And if you do not know why, here is a brief list.

The women in his life? He’s planned to rape and kill.

Right there he does not fit the “Mr. Right” bill.

He regrets not pushing his wife off a cliff.

It is more a question of when he’ll snap than if.

Betrayal and lack of hope are how he gets by?

Why should I care if Winston just happens to die?

I have to admit that the world-building is great.

Very well thought-out; the back story is first rate.

Perhaps the aspect that should make us most upset;

The book’s tale rings truer thanks to the internet.

Yes, Orwell’s suggestions are keen and prescient.

The world there is no good, I get what he meant. 

We see what happens when we rewrite history;

Humanity and love are the cures for misery.

Hence, I declare this book is both ungood and good.

Be wary of Big Brother.  Treat folks as you should.

Know that acts of kindness have a lasting impact.

Use your judgment when someone “represents” a fact.

I would suggest that you not read this when I did.

Hold off on this dark book until after Covid.

I quickly deleted this tale from my eBook.

I do not want to give this world a second look.

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The Thrice-Told Tale of “You’ve Got Mail”

I am always on the search for musicals.  I keep hoping that I will discover another production that I enjoy as much as Singin’ in the Rain or The Music Man.  Naturally, when I heard the words “Judy Garland” and “MGM”, I had hope.  I sat down to watch In the Good Old Summertime.

Of course, I felt required to watch the introductory video telling me about the trivia surrounding the film.  I am glad that I did.  It was then that I learned that the movie was an update of The Shop Around the Corner.  That movie was later remade into You’ve Got Mail.  With both those movies in my collection, I decided to watch the series.  They are all based on the same play.  And they all have their own unique styles.

The Plot

Shop focuses on the store and its employees.  There is the quirky delivery boy that rises through the ranks.  The dandy of a salesman who works in the luxury section.  The lady behind the cash register, the young girl who cannot resist buying the newest fur, and the middle-aged man who tries to keep his head down as he earns a paycheck to support his family.  The patriarch of the store is just short of elderly; prone to fits of stuttering and frustrations.  Then of course, there are the two young employees.  They start off friendly enough.  He oversees her, even if she has her own mind about things, and they mostly try to let each other be in a small work environment.

Shop takes place in a very small Macy’s-like store.  It is a small space, but it carries everything from wallets to luggage to cigar cases.  Summertime changes one facet of this.  They place it in a music store.  That way, the actors can start singing a popular song or show off their piano skills and it all makes sense to the plot.  (And, if as some suggest, a musical has to further the plot and have characters burst into song without realizing they are changing the tone, then Summertime may not technically be a musical.  All the songs are performed with the fellow diners or customers acting as their willing audience.)  As soon as you see someone pick up a violin, you know that another musical number has been written into the script.

It is odd watching Summertime right after Shop.  For one thing, Summertime takes places during winter months.  Christmas features heavily in all three movies.  For another, Summertime seems like a more forced version of Shop.  In Shop, Stewart has deep moments of introspection.  In Summertime, Garland winks and mugs for the camera as she performs her songs in perfect makeup.

(I know it’s not a high-quality video. But the shorter trailer is more fun.)

Mail shirks the Shop storyline the most.  The two are not coworkers.  They are rivals.  Shop tells five or six storylines involving much of the store employees.  Summertime narrows it down to maybe four, but the emphasis is on the couple.  With Mail, it is all about the couple.  Everyone else is there to add color to their lives or inject humor.

The Actors

It is funny to see Jimmy Stewart’s name pop up second.  Back in 1940, this was his second film.  It was only helped that he had the Wizard of Oz to play off of.  Stewart gets to be enchanted by letters, irritated by coworkers, and disappointed by his boss.  He has the most to work with and he rises to the challenge.

Judy Garland’s name had to have first billing on Summertime.  It is her show to steal.  The singing moments in the store are all well and good.  The performances at the dinner are where she earns her paycheck.  Whoever heard of back-to-back musical numbers?  The same performers and the same set piece?  Well, gotta get that singing in there somehow.  The red dress.  The voice.  Whether working with a quarter or the band, Garland is captivating.  Her presence demands one’s attention.  The male lead sings fine.  But Garland is the star.

Mail is the only one of the three to give the male first-billing.  But c’mon.  It is Tom Hanks.  Even with the movie being made in Ryan’s heyday, Hanks has to come first.  His humor is on full display.  The tiniest gesture or wiggle is planned out.  His overreacting to news without ever going big.  The way he reacts to Ryan’s zings.  Perfect.  And this is all while being supported by ‘90s fixtures like Parker Posey, Greg Kinnear, and Dave Chappelle.  Oh, Chappelle.  Terribly underused, Mark Twain Award winner, better than this role, Chappelle. 

The Quirks

Shop is based in Bulgaria.  Why?  Because the play was.  None of the actors make any attempt to change their accents.  The action rarely takes place outside the store.  We are simply to accept that all this is in Bulgaria.  Sure.  Why not. 

The scene with the owner and his wife’s actions comes across as overly dark.  The treachery.  The attempted gun-use.  It surprises and makes everything much more serious.  That is when you know the story is about all the folks in the store, not only the smitten couple.

Summertime had Groucho Marx as a consultant.  That is why when the two characters meet, the male accidentally tears clothing off of the female.  It is supposed to be a meet-cute.  They wanted it to play like big comedy.  It feels weird.  “Remember that time I ruined your day and your fanciest dress?  Didn’t it make you want to fall in love with me and have a romance that lasted about ninety minutes with me, then end with us having a small child as the credits roll?  Whad’ya say?” 

Also, the final scene with the all-of-a-sudden lovers is creepy.  Male stands behind woman.  He uses his deep voice at a low level to convey his feelings about his pen pal.  Woman stands there and listens, not knowing that he is talking about her.  Then, without her showing him the slightest affection the entire movie, they embrace passionately. 

Meanwhile, there has been a beautiful woman who the man gets along with fabulously.  They talk music.  They see each other multiple times a week.  They care about each other.  Yet it is decided that this believable pairing is only a way to show that the guy can be nice to another woman.  Odd.

Okay, I do not like Sleepless in Seattle because it is essentially a stalker-movieMail is somewhat less guilty of being inappropriate.  The first half of the film is spent with the couple having long term relationships of their own.  Hanks lives with Posey.  Ryan comments that she feels like she is living with Kinnear.  Yet, they get too excited when they receive a new message from someone who is, “no one” or “just a friend.”  They actively make sure that their significant other is at work.  They check to see that the coast is clear.  Only then do they start chatting.  They have one foot out the door.  They are emotionally cheating.  At least they make a clean break with their partners when they realize that fact.

Even though Mail is the most recent of the three, it also has the potential to feel the most dated.  The AOL Time Warner logo.  The beige and gray colors that appear in many scenes.  The khakis.  The dial-up modems.  You do have to give it credit for being one of the first movies to perfectly comment on Starbuck’s place in society.  This movie is locked in the ‘90s.

The Restaurant

This scene is almost identical in all three movies.  It has to be.  The scene was perfect the first time and it remains the crux of the movies.  Man and coworker stand outside restaurant.  Man makes coworker look.  Coworker has an obstacle blocking his view, sees a beautiful woman that is not her, then says that the woman the main character is looking for looks just like the infamous woman they know.  Coworker leaves and man threatens to do the same.

Switch to woman in restaurant.  She has a different flower in each movie and a different book, but the scene is the same.  Staff asks to take a chair.  Woman protests.  Man shows up.  Woman compares him to inanimate, uncaring objects.  They quarrel.  Woman zings man.  He is wounded.  Exits.  I was always taken by the exchange that is, “a perfect mix of poetry and meanness” when I saw Mail.  Yet it is in all three.  It has to be. 

There is the guy.  He realizes that he has to rethink everything he knows about this gal.  He wants to walk away.  He wants to hurt her.  But he now knows there is more to her than the fights they have had.  There is possibility.  So he has to go in.  He has to try to peak under the veneer.  Quarreling is what they have always done and that is the pattern they fall into.  Then she calls him heartless.  (Mail does it the best.)  He knows that if he explains to her who he is, she would end it.  He walks away defeated. 

The Result

Shop is by far the best ensemble piece.  The actions of one employee affect the others.  Each has their own unique persona.  As Stewart faces trials, the others all react.  All the relationships play out differently.  And Stewart is a fine centerpiece.

Summertime is… well, it is a Technicolor production, so that has to count for something?  If I had seen Shop nine years earlier and walked into this remake, I would have felt cheated.  The mini-plots are tolerable.  The only part that requires viewing is the Garland performances at the dinner.  As a romance, one never really buys it.

Especially not when compared to Hanks and Ryan.  I keep re-watching them.  Those two Mail actors had enough chemistry to fill three movies.  They are simply too charming to disregard.  Hanks if funny.  Ryan is quirky.  (I am not sure what kind of walk she is doing in those pajamas when Kinnear leaves.  I have never seen a person walk like that in real life.  We will be charitable and all it quirky.)  Throw in lots and lots of New York skyscrapers, maybe a scene or two with cute kids and a dog?  Bingo.  You’ve Got Romance.

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Keep Yer Pants On

Yesterday was all serious, contemplative, and deep.  Today?  None of that.

———-

“Hey, those pants are supposed to be at my place!”

“I know those pants.  I know them very well.”

“Don’t you love the way those pants are snug around your butt, yet let your lower body feel free?”

“Don’t you just hate cheap zippers?”

“Uh, those pants are supposed to be on my bedroom floor.”

“I was just in those pants yesterday.”

“I like how you look in my pants.”

“Man, our pants really put up with some extreme workouts, huh?”

“But I thought as the male I was the one that was supposed to wear the pants around here.”

“Could you remove yourself from my clothes, please?”

“You could really work up a sweat in those pants, am I right?”

“Doesn’t it irritate you how the zippers press into your hips?”

“With those pants, I could run after you all day.”

“You don’t suppose we wear the same size, do you?  Nah, your pair would be too loose and baggy on me.”

“Aren’t you glad I washed those pants for you this weekend?”

“Take off my pants!”

———-

No doubt about it.  There is no way to tell a customer that she is wearing the same style and brand of workout pants that you use for jogging.  Not without getting stared at, slapped, or sued.  

This is why I keep my mouth shut at work.

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More Homeless

I am tired of homeless people.  I am also tired of war, cancer, and forest wildfires.  With there being many things that I cannot fix, homelessness is at the forefront of my mind.

Not too far away from me is a coffee shop.  Outside the coffee shop is a bus stop.  That bus stop has become home base for one man.  He comes and goes, but be it middle of the day or overnight, he returns to curl up on the pavement and sleep.  Friday morning, as I walked to that bus stop, I passed another man camped out at another bus stop.  (I always find it oddly amusing that people that do not have homes still have expensive phones that they can watch television shows on.  They may be homeless, but they still have a luxury or two.)

Driving to the city gives another offering of homeless people.  The sides of the highway are decorated with several homeless encampments.  I wonder why that group of people need a tall metal later in their encampment.  I marvel at how those folks can be so close to a concrete ledge and now worry about falling off the steep embankment and onto the concrete.  I see the clusters of tarps and wonder how they have any peace with cars driving by loudly at all times.

Next up is downtown.  President Trump once claimed that Washington was a hotbed of anarchy.  This was the region that he was referring to.  Gone are the massive barriers and the throngs of protestors.  The homeless though, they are still camped out.  Some have a dog.  Some have their music.  Many of them sleep with their feet poking out of a piece of cardboard or sleeping bag.

Then there are the parks.  One park in particular houses dozens of people.  This park always has a few people living off the land.  RVs are a constant presence.  Now, with many of the parking lots closed, the RVs have taken to the curbs.  And the homeless have moved into the park in droves. 

The park makes perfect sense.  Less people have been out exercising in the last year and a half, so there is more room for them.  When the doors are unlocked, there are dozens of bathroom stalls to use.  There are showers.  Barbeque pits, water fountains; it is about as convenient as it can be for them.  And there are a lot of them. 

I am impressed by their ingenuity.  For the last year I have noticed an extension cord strewn along the pavement of one parking area.  I followed the cord.  I watched as each section ended and another began.  Orange, yellow, black, blue; the cords kept going as I tried to reach the terminal of the rainbow.  Someone had discovered an open panel on a street light.  They spliced in a power cord.  Then, with many an extension cord, they took their power source five hundred feet to the nearest skybridge.  The cords continue over two sidewalks and six lanes.  After the bridge the cord continued another couple hundred feet to reach their home base.  Someone really wanted power.  (About a hundred feet from the street light, I found a surge protector unplugged, lying by the cords.  I also found a case for a new cellular phone.  At least once, someone spliced into the cords with their own cord, probably plugged in the rest of the cord and their phone charger, and walked away later with a powered-up device.  Again, people love their phones.)

Once upon a time someone climbed on top of a gym at the park and spliced into the Ethernet connection. That seemed like a bit much when there was a coffee shop and a library a mile away.

Another park not to far away is also known for its homeless population.  The space takes up a chunk of a city block and has its own portable toilet.  For the next two weeks, the land is bare.  Normally, a dozen or so tents, structurally unsound creations, and random furniture fill the spot.  For now, there are only signs and notices.  Seattle is slow to clear out encampments these days.  There must have been an increase in incidents lately.  Regardless, the homeless have lost their home for two weeks.  The smell of urine remains.

I assume that the same thing will happen as has happened whenever the city clears out a park.  The homeless will return.  I have watched folks get their belongings trucked off only to put those some items back in the same spots once the city is done.  They find somewhere else to crash while they are ousted and then they come “home” to the same patch of pavement.

Where else would they go?  Every one has to sleep somewhere

The jerk in me is irritated at all the homeless spread all over and all the feelings it stirs up in me.  The kinder, wiser part of me wishes there was something I could do to fix this.  Anything.  I cannot buy them a home, I cannot hire them, and I cannot prescribe drugs to those that need them. 

What I can do, and what I struggle with, is to think of them as people that are homeless; not “homeless people.”  The people part needs to come first in my mind.  People have many attributes and qualities.  Where they sleep at night is just one aspect of them.  “Homeless people” are a problem put upon society.  People that are homeless are someone’s family or former coworkers.  “Homeless people” could not possibly be anyone that I know.        

Forget the fact that a woman I tried to date spent a chunk of her childhood living out of a van.  Disregard the manager I had who was homeless for a bit.  And sure, there may have been a pastor that was homeless for a bit more than a year. 

It is far too easy to treat people that are homeless and lump them into this group and call them “homeless people.”  If they are depersonalized and stereotyped, we can judge them easier.  We can pass laws and remove them with impunity.

Or, as I am still struggling to do, we can remember that they are people.  I, and many of us, am just one medical emergency away from having my savings wiped it.  It really does not take much.  One little bout of hardship can shift things.

There is a picture that I did not photograph, but it is the most important one.  As I was walking through downtown, I saw two people in a bus stop.  They were not looking down the road, waiting for a bus with anticipation.  They were looking at each other.  The man was kneeling down in front of the woman that was seated on the bench.  The man was holding her hand and speaking softly.  The woman had her weathered eyes narrowed, an expression that was somewhere between trying not to cry and exhaustion.  The corners of her mouth were slightly raised as she took in the reassuring words that met her.  It appeared that they were both homeless.  More importantly, it was clear that the man was doing everything he could to make the woman feel better; to be a source of comfort in the early morning hours.

I could complain about how I am tired of homeless people.  Or I could keep reminding myself that people in this world have it harder than I do.  And that the biggest thing that I can do to help is to treat them as humans that need kindness and love.

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Batchica

Another comic book movie, another possible controversy.

Barbara Gordon has been the Batgirl of comics for quite some time.  (When she was not busy being Oracle.  That is a whole other story.  She is established in DC Comics.  We can leave it at that for now.)  She is one of the smartest characters around.  She is capable, a gymnast, a librarian, gutsy, and dedicated to her dad and her city.  The third cat I had was named Babs.  My teenage crush was on a fictional character. 

Up to this point, Barbara Gordon had also been a white and a redhead.  It is a bit striking to fans that this is the actress Warner Bros. cast as Batgirl.

I liked In the Heights.  The woman is obviously attractive.  She is in shape.  That blue top is basically superhero spandex. Yet she also has that quiet confidence about her.  When the protagonist falls for her, it is easy to understand.  And when she is responding to his attraction, she does it in a Barbara-like fashion.  She approaches him, defines matters, and offers a plan for further encounters.  At first glance, though, she does not look like Barbara Gordon.

How much casting flexibility should be allowed?  Ah, the age-old question.  Shakespearean actors were all male.  Female roles were portrayed by men and audiences packed the stands. 

When folks want to win an award, they depict someone who is mentally challenged.  Billy Bob Thornton, Edward Norton, Dustin Hoffman, Adrian Brody; they have all taken on the role of someone whose intelligence is different than theirs.  In a recent interview with Conan O’Brien (a very different redhead) Sean Penn discussed what opportunities there currently were to take parts that were not specifically set to the actor’s background.  He felt that if he was cast as Harvey Milk today, it would cause controversy because Penn himself is not gay.

Nerds in particular tend to get upset over such matters. 

-When Battlestar Galactica started up in the 2000s, much was made of Starbuck, a formerly male character, being played by a woman.  She turned out to be one of the fan favorites of the show. 

-Plenty of people were upset at Rogue One featuring a female lead.  (This continues to baffle me.  She was not replacing a male character?  Why did they care?)

-When casting Daredevil, the crew had a hard time finding an actor that had the proper mass and menacing presence to play the enormous villain, The Kingpin.  The choice was made to cast Michael Clarke Duncan, a black man, to play a character who was white.  I do not remember what the nerd consensus was, but I thought he did fine.  He was the only guy big enough that had the acting chops to match. 

-Wonder Woman lore suggests that Themyscira is somewhere close to Greece in ethnicity and locale.  Yet, when they cast Gal Gadot and her speech patterns were different, the Amazon women suddenly changed their vocalizations to match hers.

The most glaring set of changes to established characters came with Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Every supporting character was changed.  Ned was no longer white and had gained weight.  Aunt May, one who was always depicted as elderly and grandmotherly was suddenly an attractive older gal that Tony Stark flirted with.  Mary Jane underwent a still-confusing name change and was played by someone of a different race.  Flash Thomspon was played by an actor from a different race.  Flipping through the original comics, one sees a very pasty-white ensemble.  Watching the movie, many different races, cultures, and skin tones are depicted.

Then there is Batgirl.  She is pretty darned white.  Barbara can barely even keep a tan going.  (Spending all your time in libraries, Batcaves, and fighting crime all night will do that to a gal.)  The casting is interesting.  Jim Gordon has always been shown as white.  Though the newest Batman movie appears to be changing that as well.

Going back to Penn’s question:  who gets to play what roles?  Do we force only those that fit the narrowly defined traits of a character to play that person?  Tom Cruise was not the intimidating giant that Jack Reacher was supposed to be.  Where do we start caring?  Oops, Barry Allen is supposed to be blonde.  You have black hair.  No dice.  I do not want to be the guy who goes back and time and tells Hugh Jackman that he cannot play Wolverine because he is almost a foot too tall. 

My preference is that characters stay as close to those on the comic page as possible.  I like it when I can look at the screen and immediately recognize heroes that I have been following for decades.  I understand that all-white is not the way the world is, but it throws me when it feels like ethnicities were changed to appeal to a broader audience.  I understand that everyone wants to see themselves on screen, not just myself.  Yet, I prefer a direct comic to movie transference. 

If folks want to see a certain type of character, they should go ahead an create that character.  Miles Morales, one of the Spider-folks, is half Puerto Rican, half black.  Sam Wilson is a strong black man.  John Ridley, the writer of 12 Years a Slave is currently writing a run of Batman stories where his Batman is black.  Companies have tried to create brand new characters, with diverse backgrounds, but unless they can tie them to an established character, they tend to not sell.

The problem with non-whites taking up the mantle of established heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America is that eventually there is going to be a group that demands that the original character, the one they have grown to know and love, return to the mantle that they started.  Then what happens to the Morales and Wilsons?  Ms. Marvel, currently a middle eastern teenager, is going to share the next Captain Marvel movie with the Carol Danvers white-version.  Can we all work together that nicely?

While I have my preferences, what is most important to me is the character.  Superman films frustrate me.  I do not like Superman as a killer.  Lex Luthor should not be a cowering psychotic.  The Batmobile should not be firing rounds of bullets into a crowd.  Things like that make me shirk the movies.  Movie-Thor is much goofier than comic-Thor and I know a fan that cannot come around to the sillier version.

It comes down to this:  does the actor portray the heart of the character?  I think Zachary Levi has the charm of Shazam, even if he lacks the physicality.  Robert Downey, Jr. made the perfect Tony Stark, even though he was a little short.  Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Nebula, Thanos; none of these characters were played by actors with purple blue, or green skin.  Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel did great work.  They have never actually been a raccoon or tree-creature

Fleshing out a character is about more than skin tone.  If the acting matches the part, then they should get the job.  High school productions and community theatre constantly tweak roles to fit the actors they have available.  The best actor gets the gig.  Does the actor make me believe in the character?  Do they succeed in bringing the character to life and presenting their traits to an audience?  Okay.  Then it is all yours. 

The stories that I love still exist.  They sit on my bookshelves.  I flip through their pages constantly.  Sometimes, to adapt material, one has to blow the dust off of the books.  The studios bring a different take.  I can reread my books, my versions, whenever I please.  No one is stopping me.  Maybe the movie version will win me over.  Maybe the new version will work out.  They could bring in new fans. 

I will show up when Batgirl arrives in theaters.  When I am in my seat, ready to be entertained, I care much more about seeing a character’s heart than I do about what their race is “supposed to be.”        

Update 3:10 p.m. Then, the same day, more super news changed things. Take everything I just said and cut and paste it. Oh comic movies.

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What Do You Want?

I am still working on being grateful.  The problem as I see it is that there is always more to crave.  The trick for me is realizing what parts of that “more” I actually want.

My life works pretty well for me.  It may not for others, but I have no severe reasons for complaints.  And I do not need all the luxuries that are offered.  The healthy choice would lie in acknowledging what I have, recognizing some goals, and discarding that which I have no use for. 

(Your results may vary.  Here is my situation.)

Pets

What I have

My cat is reasonably cute.  She is healthy.  She loves to play.  She is quick to purr.  She cuddles (on her terms).

What I want

I could do with less scratches.  If I never got hissed at again, that would be nice.  Oh, and if we could get a pet and I to agree on a feeding schedule and amount, I would be thrilled.

What I am supposed to want

I am not a dog person.  If someone I love has a dog, I will walk said dog.  But I have yet to see a dog that does not salivate all over or poop massive amounts of crap.  The commercials show dogs bounding about with tails wagging and tongues happily flapping.  Pass.  Indoor pets are for me.

Job

What I have

My job is fine.  I always have something to do.  I have no phone extension, no desk, no fancy title.  I have started hugging coworkers again.  Coworkers say that everybody loves me.  I get home on time.  All my bills are paid.  I have a free bus pass.

What I want

It is hard to save.  It feels like every year my bank account is exactly the same as it was in January.  Everybody could use a little more salary.  I would love it if I could get a job involving books again.

What I am supposed to want

I do not need the title.  I will never be a high-powered CEO with a seven-digit salary.  (I will also never pull my hair out or start smoking because of a job.)  I refuse to travel for work.  I do not need a corner office.  I certainly do not need my career decisions to make the news.  Nope. 

Vacation

What I have

Whenever I want, I can take a day or two off and relax.  If I want to go hiking, I am healthy enough and I have a car.  More often, I spend the day at home reading.  My vacation plans are very simple and very achievable.

What I want

Honestly, I do pretty well with vacations.  I could always go on more hikes.  For the most part, I have enough time to do as I please.

What I am supposed to want

I have never had a passport.  I have no great urge to visit every continent.  If I go through life and never set foot in Europe, I will be okay.  I might enjoy a trip to Ireland.  In general, travel does not entice me.

Wife

What I have

I have people that love me.  My family and I all get along.  I get hugged at church and work.  I am reasonably lovable.  Yet this is my biggest struggle.  This is what I am most dissatisfied with.

What I want

Marriage sounds delightful.  I will sign up if given the right teammate.  I always hope for an attractive gal to like the fact that I go to church, and then challenge me to a game of Scrabble. 

What I am supposed to want

I can do without the Instagram models.  I do not need a Hollywood actress.  I know all the ads demand slinky black dresses draped with jewelry and legs that just do not quit.  (Toss a ponytail through a cap and wear some jeans.  That is more my style.)  I do not need exemplary beauty or exotic sex appeal.

Car

What I have

My 2011 four-door works fine.  I buy gas for it once every two months.  I have yet to hit 35,000 miles.  I am loyal to walking and buses.

What I want

The tree-hugger would be happy with an electric car.  (Though I still think all those cadmium/lithium batteries are bad for the planet.  Which is worse; fossil fuels spewed through tailpipes or contamination through chemical leaks?)  Less pollution, that is what I want.

What I am supposed to want

Ugh. GPS, how I loathe you.  I do not want a car with Wi-Fi or Blu-ray.  I like as few electronics in a car as possible.  No Bluetooth.  No multiple-screen displays.  Let the car be simple.  Do I like the electric part of a Tesla?  Yep.  Do I like the luxury part of it?  Not at all.  Nor do I need a car that is the size (and as bad for the Earth) of a small asteroid.  If a car cannot fit into a moderately sized parking spot than I have no use for it. 

House

What I have

Blissfully, my house is a few blocks uphill of a river.  It also is on the ground floor of an apartment complex.  That makes for a nifty convergence zone where my place is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  I have space for everything.  I have a washer, drier, and dishwasher.  My bookshelves fit and my modest tv fills the living room.  No mice, no roaches, no spongy walls.

What I want

Oh, what I would not give for a soundproof apartment.  And if neighbors would obey posted signs banning smoking, that would be bliss.  Also, why I am paying a percentage of the water bill?  I want to pay for what I actually use.    

What I am supposed to want

This is one of my biggest struggles.  The American Dream demands that I buy a house.  I do not know if I will every be able to do that.  In the city where I live and at the rate I am paid, it would take me seventeen years of paychecks to buy a place.  (Tragically, I need to pay for things like food, rent, and tithe.)  Also, I would have to pay property tax or condo dues.  And houses need new roofs, new carpets, and lawn mowers.  (All of which I currently get for free as a renter.)  My friends want me to celebrate with them when they get a house.  It is one of those life goals I am told I should work for.  I know full well that if I struggle to keep an apartment clean that a house would be too much.  Yet I am constantly tempted by this lofty goal that I may never achieve.  I do not need a house.  I cannot afford a house.  And yet…

Health

What I have

I spend less than a hundred dollars a year on medicine, including toothpaste.  When I tweaked my back, I was back to normal within a week.  I can run long distances, hike whatever I please, and eat whatever I like.  My metabolism has never slowed.  My joints, especially my knees and wrists, crack quite a bit.  Yet everything works.  I can do anything I darn well please.

What I want

I think asking for a new pair of knees is a reasonable request.  No surgery, though.  Nope, I would like my knees to simply fix themselves.  And if I could stay in shape all my life and never have to worry about calcium deposits or deterioration, that would be great.  (Despite my robust lung capacity, I do not think I should hold my breath.)

What I am supposed to want

I cannot swim.  It does not bug me.  But I should learn.  Getting water in eyes freaks me out.  And I do not know how to ride a bike.  I prefer jogging.  But I should learn.  I have never run a marathon.  It sounds painful.  Life will not miraculously improve if I run 26 miles.  Yet I am told that I should.  I am not getting Botox to keep my skin tight.  I like having muscles, but not enough to sign up for any Marvel Action Hero/ Be a Movie Star work out regimes.  I like being able to walk through a door without turning sideways, thankyouverymuch.

———–

My life is pretty darned grand.  Some folks have wars going on in their backyards.  Some folks have rivers of sewage cascading into their homes whenever there is a flood.  Some folks do not have a home, a pet, or a constant source of food.  My life is blessed.

I try to remind myself that I have things pretty great.  The cat, nature, time for reading; most of my wants are met.  When I get frustrated about my one or two wish-list items not being met, I keep trying to focus on all the things I do have. 

Those two items though; they take up a lot of my mindscape.  Everything else comes easily.  Why not one more thing?  And another?  And another?  Therein lies the slippery slope.

If I had everything I was supposed to want, I would be miserable.  With what I have currently, I can usually be content.  I do not think there is anything wrong with wanting more in life.  It pushes us to try new things, to work hard, and to have adventures.  Having goals is reasonable.  Yet, I think we should keep ourselves in check.  Personally, I have to keep reminding myself of the hundreds of things that have gone well for me as I strive to fix the few things that I would like to have different.  

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Intermission- Site Updates

Howdy,

Just a few things. I tweaked the page to give you more options.

Want to subscribe? Voila, e-mail link has been added.

Like pictures of cats or silly doodles that I draw in Paint? Okay, you can see my Instagram.

And I’m a media guy. I’m always reading something. So you can judge my Goodreads account if you like.

That’s all. Nobody’s engaged or pregnant or walking on lava.

So, as an added bonus? Something to make it worth your while?

Kittens.

‘k, bye.

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Split Decision

I find that I tend to succeed pretty regularly.  I run at a decent pace.  My bills are paid.  My cat tolerates me.  I only have to cheat a little bit to solve a crossword puzzle.  And yet, I am only human.

Turn back the clock three months and you would find a guy ready for a new challenge.  I was turning 41.  I had a rather tame Covid-induced existence.  When I downloaded an application for mental health, the suggested programs section offered something about doing the splits in 30 days.  I thought to myself, “Why not?”  If I can touch my toes, surely this new skill was not a great stretch.

The program was inviting enough.  As the screen loaded, I was met by a high-resolution picture of a toned woman in fancy colored lighting stretching out with her legs at her sides in a 180-degree angle.  Next up was a little on-screen character.  She had a pink sports bra, pink scrunchie holding her brown hair back, and pink shoes.  Surely, I could achieve this goal in all my manliness if this two-toned chippie could do it without sweating.  (All she had to do was cycle back and forth between resting-image and stretching-image.  Slacker!)  I bet I could do it between scratching myself and bumping chests with my closest dude-bro as we watched NASCAR.

Day 1.  Too easy.  I barely broke a sweat.  There were three difficulty settings and I had chosen to start with Beginner.  Never again.  If I was going to roll out of bed at 4 in the morning, I would need something more than this to wake me up.

I was introduced to the first of the absurd poses that I would be asked to perform to prepare for the splits.  Dynamic Frog Pose?  Was this really a thing?  I felt like I was reenacting a controversial comic book cover.  But if the pixelated heroine could pull it off, I had to follow suit.

Day 2.  Intermediate, I came to party with you.  As I tapped the instructions, I found that I was supposed to hug the ground more with the Frog Pose.  Okay.  (Shrug)  Why not?  Really open up that pelvis…

Day 3.  Runner’s Pose.  The newest in the line of, “What the ???”  Do a plank and then bring a leg up to your knee?  Madness.  I did my best impression of a Transformer caught halfway between Autobot and vehicle.  An hour later I lifted weights.  Grrr.

Day 5.  A Sunday.  I go for runs on Sundays.  After 24 minutes of stretching unused muscles, I spent an hour or so doing what was familiar to me.  Except that morning my legs were extra talkative.  “We want to hurt!”  “Us too!”  “Hey, how come it takes more work for you to move this body part today?  Get it together.”

Day 6.  I could not –ow– believe –ow– that I had not –ow– worked out –ow– at all –ow– that day.  Ow.

Day 7.  My skepticism kicked in.  My understanding was that this was a 30-day program.  I was 1/5th of the way there and my body was quite resistant.  I decided to trust the pony-tailed construct and do as I was told.

The effort continued.  I continued my stretches at the end of the month when I visited my parents for the first time in two years.  While they slept blissfully upstairs, I was on the ground floor trying to kick my foot out to my side.  I stuck to the schedule.  Five days of this and that, a day of rest, and then five more days of that and this.

This was me on day 24.  As you can see, the splits were far from achieved.  I was going to finish the schedule in five days.  Were my hips supposed to dislodge themselves miraculously?  However, as Nala the Annihilator will attest to, the whole thing was becoming routine.

I did see some improvement in flexibility.  Instead of reaching for my toes, I was reaching for the bottom of my feet.  As far as the splits were going, I was taking baby steps.  I was getting there.  But.  Oh.  So.  Slowly.

30 days went by.  I started the cycle again as I cranked the effort up to Difficult.  Day 45 came along.  I tweaked my back lifting at work and spent seven or so days recovering.  Then I returned to the fray.  Day 60.  I started the cycle a third time.  Day 75. 

I started this endeavor on April 1st.  Yesterday was July 5th.  Surely, after 90+ days of stretching, I should have been at splits-level.      

Nope.

Perhaps I am too long in the limb.  Maybe my bones are firmly set, what with me being a middle-aged man and all.  It could be that I was never meant for the ballerina life.  (As my former jogging partner claimed, “Oh, I bet I could do it in a month.  I did it in ballet.”)  Yes, I made progress.  I will agree that I got better.  But success?  I think that benchmark remains out of reach.

The application claims that most anyone can do the splits.  They simply have to keep at it.  My ego agrees, adding that giving up is unacceptable.  “C’mon!  You can’t give up!  We had a goal!  We can do this!  If you give up now, all your progress will be lost!  How are you going to hang with your boys, chug beers with them, and burp in their faces if you know that you are a loser!”

Happily, I am not a tank-top wearing member of the Fast and Furious crew.  I am okay failing at a thing or two.  Time is the key factor in my decision.  I only have so many hours before I have to get myself to work in the morning.  If I am going to stretch that much, it has to be around dawn when I have the most energy.  However, I also do my best writing in the morning.  Before the world gets noisy, before the distractions start, and before life starts calling; I write. 

It comes down to priorities.  When I shuffle off, would I rather be known as someone who spent time writing, or as a guy whose legs hugged the carpet flawlessly?  I choose writing. 

I will still stretch.  Maybe I will use the program once or twice a week and get there one day.  I dunno.  I can live without the splits.  I still feel healthy.  When it comes to failing at one exercise, I can be flexible.

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Help when Pawsible

There are only so many quirks one can ignore about their cat.

I do not want to pretend that my cat can ever be perfect.  Sure, she has scratched much less in present days than she did when we first paired up.  Her tendency to eat and eat and eat persists.  She has successfully claimed the sides of the couch with her claws.  She is less ferocious, but her attitude remains. 

No, I am referring to those little medical dramas that we try to ignore and put off until it all comes to a head.  She looks like a content cat, right?  You would never believe that she just had a large incision into her belly to remove an umbilical ulcer.  (Giving birth messes up your body.  Right, moms?)  Or that she had her teeth cleaned.  Or that she now has two less teeth. 

At the risk of making my cat sound like a car, I was trying to repair all the damages while she was in the shop.  “Need to remove that blockage?  Go ahead and fix her grill while you’re at it.  I’ll leave the ol’ girl with you and pick ‘er up after work.  When I come back, I want that baby purring as good as new!”

This is what the mighty Nala the Annihilator looks like when she is on pain meds, has a row of staples running between her legs, and has all her movements inhibited by a plastic barrier.  Whee!

Kinda sad, kinda hilarious.

I have never been on post-op duty before.  Mylar, my previous cat, had a dehydration problem.  She would not drink enough.  Three times a week I would give her an IV of fluids.  She’d sit on my lap, the liquid would drip, and we would be back to our routine. 

A different commitment is required here.  Nala now needs twice as much clearance to get her head through a door.  It irks and confounds her.  “I’m walking straight ahead! Why is my movement hindered! That wall’s way over there!” And yes, if I had a half-scale construction cone jammed over my head, I would try to rip, tear, or kick it off until I succeeded.  Because I pay the bills, I get to be in charge.  Yay? 

Nala is a cleaner.  She will lick herself all the live long day.  Arms are her favorite, but her second love is between her legs.  She likes to be clean.  I cannot imagine the pain of trying to lick metal staples, let alone pulling them out.  Hence my refusal to relent.  The cone stays, furball!

This makes it harder for her to eat, pee, and curl up into a cute little ball that sleeps 22 hours a day.  I do what I can.  I leave extra water bowls around.  I lift her into the litter box.  I created three piles of blankets with extra cushioning so that she could lie comfortably. 

Mostly, like any parent, I worry and fret.  I do not call my pet my child.  I am not saving up for cat college.  I do not (normally) dress my cat in clothes.  I know that she would eat me if it came down to it.  Yet there is an emotional attachment and a responsibility.  If I slack off, this creature will suffer.  If I treat her kindly, she will have a better life.  If she is in pain, I should do my best to ease it.  I hope that her healing comes quickly. 

I understand better what my mom went through when her kids were sick.  I get a teensy-weensy glimpse into what parents worry about when their kids get rushed to the hospital.  You can only control life this much or that much.  You can only take away a certain number of injuries. 

What I can do is what cats do for me.  I watch over her while she is ill.  I sit by her on the couch just like how she sits next to me when I am not feeling well.  (Okay, so she sits on me, not beside.)  I rub my nose against hers.  I scratch under her chin and her brow.  I keep her company.  She does the same for me.

I cannot fix the quirks that my cat has.  When one of those quirks is loyalty, I see no reason to.

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