Another magnificent piece of poetry, and another beautifully articulated argument for the utter abolishment of these ridiculous gender roles. I'm starting to become a real fan of Button Poetry.
Another magnificent piece of poetry, and another beautifully articulated argument for the utter abolishment of these ridiculous gender roles. I'm starting to become a real fan of Button Poetry.
I co-authored a 3-part story for the Legends Of The Dark Knight series with my good friend and longtime writer/inker, Derek Fridolfs. He’s done a bunch of stuff for DC, Dark Horse, Marvel, Image, Boom, and Wildstorm among others.
The Beautiful Ugly is a dark, psychological tale that delves into themes of redemption and the somewhat Boolean divide separating justice from vengeance. It also gives readers a glimpse of life in Gotham City for regular people and how thin the line can be between them and the costumed lunatics that terrorize the city. (C’mon, is that juicy or what? :))
BTW, I also did a 3-part interview with Derek on his blog (which you can read here). The art is fantastic and done by Jason Shawn Alexander, a phenomenal and accomplished painter who for some reason likes to draw comic books, too. I love his work and it’s easy to see why.
Anyway, all 3 issues are available now on:
It’s only 99 cents per issue!
“Apparently, we are now at the point when a seventeen year old boy, unarmed, must make all the correct judgments during a confrontation with a grown man in order not to be shot to death.”
-David Simon, co-creator of HBO’s The Wire
I’ve been called a nigger, to my face, somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen times in my life. Clerks have followed me around stores countless times. I’ve been automatically put in remedial English classes on 3 occasions and told by an English teacher that I have problems writing (it salted my opinion of my ability for years). I’ve been stopped by police dozens of times, asked what I was doing, occasionally searched, yet never given a citation or a warning. Once a cop pulled up when I was sitting in a car outside my house talking to a friend. He checked my driver’s license three times (never hers, of course, she was white) on the grounds that there had been a robbery at a nearby convenience store. He admitted when he first saw me that I didn’t fit the description except that I was black. (Couldn’t she have been the getaway driver?) The worst was the time the police pulled me over when I was driving home from work and drew guns on me. The 1st cop asked for my registration, when I reached for it (it was in the glove-box) he blurted Whoa!Whoa!Whoa! at me while his partner aimed his gun at my head through the passenger window. His intent was clear: Don’t move your hand another inch or you’re gonna get shot in the face. They kept me there for two hours, repeatedly checking my driver’s license and registration. They said, once again, that my vehicle ‘matched a description,” but considering I was driving a grey Nissan pick up with blue side panels, you can count me skeptical.
But I digress. My point is, most black men have stories like these. It’s just the reality of life in America. I typically don’t give it much thought.
But I can’t treat this stuff so lightly anymore. I mean, I live in a world where, as a black man, if being harassed and followed around is all you get, you’re actually doing okay. Think about it; in any of the above instances, if I had been belligerent or, God-forbid physical, I might have been killed with impunity.
I mean, what the hell is that? This is America, right?
We’re at the point now where a 12-year-old black kid needs a completely different set of instructions from a 12-year-old white kid. If anything happens they won’t trust you if you’re black. If you’re black and anything less than an absolute angel, you’re guilty. And always run, because if you defend yourself successfully, the odds are you’re going to jail; if you defend yourself and lose, you could be dead. And it will be your fault.
Yeah, yeah, I’m just being reactionary. It’s got nothing at all to do with race. It’s just happenstance. Again.
The truth is, that while many of the details in the Trayvon Martin case have nothing to do with race, at its core, it’s all about race. Race is what made George Zimmerman suspicious of Trayvon in the 1st place. Race is why people are so quick to believe that Trayvon is a thug or must have initiated the physical confrontation that lead Zimmerman to shoot him. Of course this is all based on Zimmerman’s account, which he had a month and a half to work on before being seriously questioned about it.
But I cannot possibly believe that if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was white that Zimmerman’s story is the one law enforcement would go with any more than I believe that Sean Hannity and Fox News would help raise money for a black Zimmerman’s defense. Or that the police would give black Zimmerman 44 days to get his story straight before arresting him. Or that a jury of six white women from a small southern town would sympathize with an armed black man patrolling the neighborhood and shooting an unarmed white teenager. Or that a 17-year-old white teenager would get racial profiled in his father’s gated community.
Don’t get me wrong, the judge’s instructions were horrendous; Zimmerman actually rejected Stand Your Ground in favor of a standard self defense claim. Yet the judge instructed the jury that Zimmerman had the right to stand his ground and Juror B37 has since admitted that Stand Your Ground factored into the acquittal. Simultaneously, the judged failed to instruct them that in a standard self-defense claim Zimmerman needs to prove that he didn’t initiate the confrontation.
Thus, I believe the evidence, or lack thereof, leaves room for reasonable doubt, particularly with how self-defense laws currently stand. Moreover, I think the Dept. of Justice going after Zimmerman is de facto double jeopardy, a violation of Zimmerman’s Constitutional rights. And I don’t think two wrongs make a right.
The fact is, this whole thing stinks. And it hurts. If Trayvon’s death was a punch to the gut, the verdict is a kick in the balls.
I honestly can’t help feeling…unwelcome these days. It’s somewhat familiar feeling, unfortunately.
I know. Everyone has to deal with racism. But let’s be honest here. America has one of the great atrocities of human history on its books. 400 years of the most brutal, oppressive, and dehumanizing slavery ever known followed by another 100 years of legislative, systematic, and violent oppression.
Trayvon Martin’s death is just an echo of this legacy.
Consider that at no point in American history have blacks enjoyed equal standing with whites in terms of income, wealth, education quality or access, job opportunities, corporate leadership, or representation in government. This on top of being historically red-lined by banks denying us access to home and business loans, subjected to gentrification, stopped, frisked, arrested and charged by law enforcement with much greater frequency, and punished more severely for similar crimes. So let’s stop pretending that there’s an equivalency, it’s ignorant if not downright duplicitous.
The problem is that we’ve allowed cowards, liars, and bigots–bullies essentially–to set the terms of the discussion. And bullies hate a fair fight. They have instead created an environment in which there can be no discourse on the subject of race, save for the occasional rant by Chris Rock.
When we’re not hitting each other over the head with the race card, we’re denying it outright (don’t be fooled, this is just a means of deflecting the entire argument back), focusing on minutia completely out of context as evidence of egality (a.k.a. the “see, when viewed in a vacuum, this detail isn’t racist”), or simply burying our heads in the sand and proclaiming that we’ve arrived at a post-racial America.
It’s bullshit. And shame on all of us for accepting it as anything else.
The fact is, Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal are about race. A lot of things are about race, and will continue to be, because we refuse to face the issue.
I think about Germany, another nation with a Great Atrocity on its books. They study the Holocaust as ugly and humiliating as it is. They look at it and seek not only answers but solutions. And soon after World War II they came to the conclusion that their government no longer has the right to take a person’s life. Their current constitution, ratified in 1949, abolishes capital punishment.
That’s the kind of approach we need here in the United States. Instead of meekly slapping injustice and discrimination away whenever it pops up, we should be actively hunting it down, rooting it out, and crushing it utterly.
More importantly, we can’t keep letting the people who are indifferent, weak-minded, self-interested, or hateful keep controlling the argument. There aren’t two equal sides to the issue. There’s right and there’s wrong. We have to be determined to be on the right side of this issue forever more. Not to make up for slavery, which at this point is impossible, but to ensure that inequality and discrimination are completely eliminated and bigotry of every stripe is banished to the shadows where it may wallow only in tremulous fear of the light.
Of course, this is only my dream.
We don’t actually live in a post-racialist America. Toes are going to get stepped on, nerves will be frayed. There are blatant racists and more significantly, oblivious ones. Having your worldview shattered is an unnerving, occasionally violent thing. It’s unpleasant. But we can’t let that deter us.
We can no longer afford to be tolerant of intolerance.
And boycott Florida.
Saw this on twitter. Cannot be said better.
If you read through the arguments the "pro gun" groups like to make about concealed carry and allowing people to carry their weapons into various places like schools, churches, and other public venues, you realize they're - and the people who agree with them - thinking that it'll be like this:
Yes, everyone is going to be like Dirty Harry. Leaving aside that it's…
Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
- Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
- Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female.
- Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
- Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
- Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
- Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
- Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
- Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
- Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female…
Man, this last day has been a vacillation between being heartbroken and enraged. I keep thinking about those families in Newtown, Connecticut, this being the silly season and all. I think about how many of those murdered children had gifts at home waiting for them. I think about the parents anticipating the looks on the children’s faces Christmas morning. I think about all the plans that were made to travel and visit family.
I think of how utterly trivial all this holiday consumer crap is in comparison to losing a child. Hell, pretty much everything else in life is trivial. Those parents would have stepped right in front of those bullets for their kids without a second’s hesitation.
Then I think about the person who killed those innocent kids and I can’t find words to describe him, or words I would utter publicly to describe what I feel about him. I won’t say his name, though. Ever. And that’s that.
What else can I say about an event so tragic, I keep forgeting that 6 innocent adults were killed as well?
The other reason I’m so worked up is because I’m so tired, as many of us are, of seeing these tragedies result in no effort whatsoever to prevent, or at least reduce the risk, of another tragedy. The next bloodbath comes, and I wonder how many more of them will it take before we realize that we bear the responsibility of preventing this? I mean we can’t keep our kindergarteners safe.
So in my furor, I took to the twitter-verse looking for a fight with every lobotomized ideologue dumb enough to defend gun rights. I was surprised and encouraged to see that a lot of like-minded people were doing the same.
The mainstream media was doing the same as well (well, some of it). To my more encouraged surprise, no one on my side of the argument appeared to be biting on the typical right wing talking points and fallacies (now is not the time; it’s an attack on the 2nd Amendment, etc.). People were pissed. The situation was too grave. And when the sane people pushed, the loons quickly found that the ice beneath their feat was not only thin but cracking.
Maybe America is finally ready to to do something about gun control.
That’s not fair, a majority of us have been ready for years. But maybe now there are enough of us, sufficiently motivated, to spur the politicians to act. I wrote every representative I have, Democrat and Republican.
Because our current system is not just untenable, it’s illogical, immoral, and unjust. It’s easily demonstrable. Instead of scoffing at the gun nuts clamoring for even more firearms, play those scenarios out. What would really happen if you were working or out running some random errand, and all of sudden shots start firing? You pull out your gun and you see someone with their gun out firing shots. Are they the shooter? Is that just another well-armed citizen like you? What if they turn their gun on you? Do you shoot first? Do you hesitate and put yourself at risk? It’s goofy. The fact is the status quo is failing, miserably and absolutely. We cannot continue to let the defenders of that status quo control–or better, stifle–the conversation.
The first step is to not fall for the rhetoric, which is working so far (though it’s only the 1st day). The second is to maintain a sense of context. This specific case may not have been preventable with simple gun control laws, but that doesn’t mean at least some of the 10,000 gun deaths we have every year in this country weren’t preventable. Gun control is about the epidemic not the one event.
There are sensible measure we can take right away that the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with, such as closing loopholes and doing background checks on everyone looking to buy a gun. Even a majority of NRA members support that. Then there are things we need to investigate and discuss further; like ways to better identify potentially dangerous people who shouldn’t have access to guns. Additionally, we should consider that peripheral issues such as improved mental healthcare might do considerable good.
We live in an “ocean of guns” in the U.S (89 guns for every 100 people, highest in the world). It’s too easy for just anyone to get a gun legally. The NRA is hellbent on putting as many guns into as many hands as possible, while simultaneously giving us greater legislative freedom to use them against one another. They are behind crazy laws like stand your ground, which has led to a substantially increased number of penalty-free murders by moving the goalpost on what’s considered self-defense. They pushed for legislation allowing people on the Terror Watch-list to purchase guns and for loopholes that have created an environment where 40% of firearms are purchased without any background check (mostly over the interwebs). And they oppose, with bookoo lobbying dollars, basic, common sense gun control laws that even the NRA membership supports.
This is because the NRA is really just a lobbying organization for the gun manufacturers. That’s who gives the NRA most of its funding. The NRA works for arms dealers who sell guns to our military and to the people our military fights. Those arms manufacturers have sold–directly–some of the very guns that have killed our troops. So they’re not morally above creating an environment where everyone feels they have to have a gun.
You’ll hear the gun nuts arguing for this like it’s a good thing. We should’ve armed teachers (the same ones they think are overpaid by the way). After that it’s waitresses, I suppose…then cashiers, office managers, doctors, and finally the clergy. They won’t be happy until they see every pastor and priest standing before their congregation wearing a Kevlar vest.
We also need to study the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, what the Founding Fathers wrote and said about it ( here’s a hint; they meant militia literally), and what the subsequent court decisions have interpreted the Amendment to mean. Because that’s the actual process of determining Constitutionality. We do this for the 1st Amendment, which is why you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater or accuse someone of rape without proof. The 2nd Amendment is a fundamental right but we need to have an understanding of what that right is and what it’s meant to be.
Finally, we’ve got to have the resolve to see this through. Once the sting of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary wears off, it will be easy to fall back into old habits until the next tragedy rekindles the outrage. At that point, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. And a lot of bloody hands to wash clean.
I had an awful dream last night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a nightmare–I could have mined it for story ideas. No, this bad dream was about something that actually happened.
Awhile ago, the only girl I’ve ever been in love with asked me to go away with her. She was going to grad school on the east coast. That whole last year together, she’d been dropping unsubtle offers for me to go with her. To her credit, she made the whole thing lighthearted. It would be awesome if you came with me. As if she was suggesting we get an ice cream sundae after dinner.
The incident in my dream transpired during one of our goofy–but absolutely perfect–conversations, this time about Method Man’s Release Yo Delf (she thought the song said “bitches by homicide!” which makes no sense. The actual line is “being chased by homicide”). And for the first time she pushed the issue. She really wanted me to come with her. She thought I could do well back east. I could further my education. Find a better job. And I could still work on my art.
I stood my ground.
I was going to San Diego. My favorite studio was there. My utterly stupid notion of an ideal life was there. Besides, I couldn’t leave California and my friends and my family and my life.
Of course it was none of those reasons at all that kept me from going with her. I didn’t go because I was an idiot. I was chickenshit. I took for granted how much I loved her. So I let the best thing that ever happened to me walk right out of my life. And now, my subconscious mind was rooting through that misery for reasons only Providence could possibly know (Damn to hell whatever it was that connected those dots, by the way).
I didn’t realize how serious she was about the move until she stopped trying to convince me. She had this exasperated look on her face. That’s the image that’s been stuck in my brain since I woke up. God, how could I have been so stupid?
We officially broke up about two weeks later. But the die had already been cast; from that day on, our relationship was palpably different. She was starting the process of letting go.
It seems that was about the time when my life kind of got…stuck. As far as relationships, I took my hat out of the ring. At first because of heartbreak. Then because it became comfortable to not take the risk. I mean, sure, I dabbled. But I’m an odd cookie. I’m black, but the world I live in is not. I know it doesn’t sound like a thing. Maybe it wasn’t. But in my head it was. I mean, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian…cleaned up they sort of jibe. But then there’s this 6-foot-4 black dude lumbering around in the mix; I would sometimes feel…out of place. Of course, neither of my brothers has a problem with that, so it probably was me. Still, I was living in a new city; I didn’t know a lot of people. And hitting on women cold has never been my forte. (I got laughed at once. Laughed at. Let that stew in your noodle a bit.) So i didn’t really go out all that much. I’ve never been the rock out with your cock out type. Unless we’re talking pancakes, I typically favor quality over quantity, particularly with interpersonal relationships. And I’m not a toad, but unless it’s the DMV, I’m rarely the best looking guy in the room. I’ve never really made a lot of money, had particularly cool jobs, nice cars, or “dripped swag.”
To top it off, I’ve been raised almost exclusively by women, so I have a great deal of respect for women, which means I’m a nice guy, which I have learned–the hard way–is poison to the romantic interest of the vast majority of women. I’m talking forever friendzoned.
While we’re running the litany, I’m prone to bouts of depression. They don’t necessarily manifest as sadness so much as withdrawal from social interaction. Sometimes months go by when I feel wholly disinterested in doing anything. Oh, and I have a potentially fatal heart condition. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, and I have never taken an illicit drug in my life. But I do love junk food. I wouldn’t say it’s killed me, but it definitely has it’s hooks in. If I was betting on which way I’m gonna go, I’m putting the house on the ticker.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’ve had a bad life or anything. I don’t seek pity (before now). I’m not waiting for death. In fact, I find that entire mindset absurd and counterproductive.
I have plenty of amazing people in my life who love me and care about my well being. I’ve typically been well liked and well respected by most of the people with whom I’ve interacted. My passions are writing and drawing and I do one or the other pretty much every day. And I have had relationships…just fewer than I would like (I’m probably with the majority in that regard). I’ve even been in love. Requited love. I fully expect the day will come when I earn my entire living with my art. I don’t believe in soul mates or anything but I know there are people out there with whom I’m compatible. I just have to get re-acclimated with putting myself out there. A la George Costanza, I’m like a commercial jingle (do they have those anymore?); initially I may go unnoticed, I might even be annoying, but you’ll be humming my tune by the end of the day.
I’m perpetually optimistic. I mean, it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. You’re stuck with what you’ve got. You can spend your time getting worked up about your circumstances or you can try to make things better. Tomorrow’s coming either way. It’s like that quote that says something along the lines of, optimists are realist; they know how bad a place the world can be. It’s pessimists who keep relearning it every day…or something to that effect. Personally, I think optimism, when applied, looks a lot like determination; and as an ideal, it’s the next best thing to happiness.
Anyway, my point, at the beginning of all this, was about my dream about this girl I loved and how my life would have been profoundly different if I would have just gone away with her. Would it have been better? Possibly. Okay, probably. But perfect? Obviously not.
I was just haunted by the vividness of that look on her face. It dredged up every bad thing that’s happened in my life since. I had to vent. But even as I thought about the bad stuff, I started thinking about the good. That says something, right?
I finally saw The Hunger Games. I feel duped.
All the political controversy, hype (bolstered by some opinions I trust), and box office success–along with one of the better trailers for a mainstream movie this year–led me to believe that the blockbuster film adaptation would be worth the time.
Hell, I was looking forward to it.
The previews focused, to my pleasant surprise, on story elements rather than special effects and explosions. Little did I know, those same story elements would play out in the movie without any further development than the trailer. The characters are all contrived and manifest as either generic or ridiculous with nothing in-between. The world lacks detail and credulity. The dangers feel manufactured. Nothing is genuine. It’s a representational telling of an unoriginal idea.
Based on Suzanne Collins’ ‘tweener novel of the same name, The Hunger Games explores a dystopian future in the fictional nation of Panem whose rich and powerful leadership caste requires that the poor, starving masses submit 2 children from each of the 12 districts to compete in a fight to the death. Only 1 child can emerge victorious. The winner is bestowed with riches and notoriety. It is the only upward mobility available to the lower classes.
There is nothing in The Hunger Games that we haven’t seen or read in Lord of the Flies, The Running Man, the Mad Max series, The Truman Show, Gladiator, The Most Dangerous Game, or a dozen other books, t.v. shows, and movies–or that Kinji Fukusaku’s Battle Royale didn’t do better in every conceivable way.
Still, I don’t actually fault Hunger Games for its lack of originality; the idea has been explored so often because it’s a good one. It has inherent themes of self-reliance, hope, perseverance, and self-sacrifice. The Hunger Games is simply one of the more unremarkable examinations of the concept.
The film assumes that the audience will accept its premise…even though the premise is outlandish. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready to buy in, but I still needed at least some effort toward the suspension of my disbelief. Call me nit-picky, but I have to be convinced that a society would revel in the murder of children. Moreover, I have to be convinced that parents would allow this to happen. Every parent I know would have to be stone dead before their child could be subjected to such a ghastly fate. In the movie, the only parental outburst occurs after a father’s 12-year old daughter is killed. It’s just not believable.
Additionally, this is supposedly the 74th hunger games, yet there seems to be no active cultural impact. No one is secretly training their kids or openly embracing the games as the only viable way to escape poverty. The rich celebrate it; the poor bear it stoically. In fact, the “bad kids” are the ones honestly trying to win the games rather than just running and hiding. The nihilism that would inevitably firestorm out of such oppressive circumstances is ignored–apparently in the interest of convenience. I mean, you don’t have to show kids killing themselves or going postal on the rich (that would obviously be far too compelling), but at least show how these potential dangers are quelled. Conversely, a kind of cultural Stockholm Syndrome is not implausible either. Honestly, I’d have accepted anything demonstrating that someone wondered what a world like this might actually be like.
We are also introduced to a Twilight-style love triangle that will indefensibly be explored in the upcoming sequels. It makes me angry just thinking about it.
As for the cast, Jennifer Lawrence is given just enough material to mold a type, but clearly not enough to craft a 3-dimensional character out of our heroine, Katniss Everdeen. However, Lawrence’s portrayal of Ree Dolly–who comes from almost identical circumstances as Katniss–in the indie noir film Winter’s Bone proves the actress is fully capable both nuance and gravitas. So I will give her the benefit of the doubt that neither the script nor the book gave her what she needed to breathe life into Katniss. The character is dull and incomplete. She inexplicably sees the world from today’s perspective, with today’s values of life and death. Her only redeeming quality is that she volunteered to go to the games in her sister’s stead. It’s surely no small sacrifice, but that only makes her nominally more sympathetic than the other children being forced to murder each other on t.v.
Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks (both actors I find to be consistently good, even when their projects aren’t) play patently absurd characters that undermine the gravity of the story while simultaneously providing no levity to it.
Donald Sutherland, who is always either heavy-handed or brilliant, here finds himself in the former playing laughably asinine Panem president Coriolanus Snow, who gilds his trees while pontificating villainously about oppression via “a little hope.” Pure and utter tripe. He’d be satire if he wasn’t such a joke. Why not have him twirling his mustache and laughing maniacally? That would have been equally devastating to my evening’s enjoyment.
Stanley Tucci actually managed to not piss me off despite his character’s valiant and constant efforts. Tucci is known for his ability to grace a featured role and he works his mojo to the hilt here only to draw even–at best–with his wholly unlikeable Caesar Flickerman.
Wes Bentley, who has struggled to find challenging roles since American Beauty, neither is given nor offers anything whatsoever as Seneca Crane…except maybe to provide Adam Levine with grooming ideas for the next Maroon 5 outing.
I forgot Lenny Kravitz was in the movie until I saw his name on Wikipedia just now. He wears gold eyeliner in the film and gives out multiple hugs.
My biggest disappointment with this hot mess was that it was helmed/enabled by Gary Ross, writer and director of such dramedy classics as Big, Dave, Pleasantville, and Seabiscuit (he jokes that his entire career can be summed up in four words). Ross is one of my personal favorites. It’s doubly odd because where The Hunger Games is weakest is where Gary Ross is typically strongest. Of course, in those other films he’s resurrecting the spirit of Americana rather than trying to create a dystopian mood. I guess I just assumed that sci-fi world-building was within his wheelhouse. The Hunger Games is yet another reminder of what happens when we do that.