Monday, April 26, 2004

"If I Go Crazy Then Would You Still Call Me Superman?"

So I was watching the second X-Men movie last night (a high-quality flick, for those of you who did not see it because you were living under a rock or whatever), and I came across something which was--for me--a bit of a revelation regarding the two comic book titans, Marvel and DC. I'm going to share that revelation now, though it likely isn't anything that the one or two comic book fans who read this don't already know or that the non-comic book fans care about. I'm sharing anyway, 'cause it's something more interesting to write about other than "I still haven't finished my research paper."

Based on a conversation I had with Ev several days ago and a re-reading of the trade paperback Kingdom Come, a DC comic that posed a "what if the superheroes all got old" sort of scenario, and then with my viewing of X2 last night, I came up with an understanding of DC and Marvel and how they portray their superheroes.

DC's superheroes are earthbound gods. They are iconic figures who are revered and exalted by the normal humans around them. They are called things such as superhumans, metahumans, etc. They are seen as above and beyond mere humanity, a logical extension and extrapolation of human potentiality in a pair of spandex tights. These are characters who are designed to inspire, to lead, to provide an example of what humanity is capable of when we put our hearts and imaginations into it. DC characters have their powers via some sort of destiny. The heroes grasp their fate in both hands and claim the powers in some sort of conscious decision. DC characters are also revered and looked up to, seen as symbols of truth and justice and good. They are heroes by dint of their inate personal virtue, and their powers simply reflect that virtue.

Marvel's superheroes are vastly different. Marvel characters are generally humans whose DNA and genetic structure have been altered by chance or accident. Peter Parker was accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider. The X-Men just happen to have had a genetic mutation which they had no control over. Marvel heroes are generally called mutants, or, if it's a more hostile portion of the non-mutant community, freaks. They are looked down upon by their fellow man, even feared and hated. There's an element of McCarthyism, anti-communism, and something akin to homophobia in the way regular humans view their mutated brethren. Both the X-Men movies make these attitudes readily apparent (the opening scene in the first movie is a wonderful charicature of the McCarthy era, with a list of "known mutants" standing in for a list of "known communists" residing in America. The second movie has the wonderful scene in Bobby Drake's house where he admits to his parents that he is a mutant, and his mother asks, "have you tried...not being a mutant?"). These parallels run throughout most Marvel books (that I've seen). Marvel superheroes are outsiders not because they come from outside or beyond (such as characters in the DC universe like Superman), but because they are perceived as the enemy within, the Other who is among us.

Thus superheroes in the Marvel universe are not so much revered for their abilities as they are feared and persecuted. They are seen as aberations, not superiors, and thus they are shunned in society.

It's just an interesting comparison, I think, and probably relevant to the time periods in which both companies started their main characters (DC with Superman and Batman in the late 1930s, while the big guns for Marvel, such as the X-Men and Spider-Man, were created in the 1960s). How much can be read into this is uncertain, though there are clear implications in it. For instance, the fact that Superman and Batman--two of the most iconic superheroes ever--were both created during the Great Depression, when Americans needed heroes to look up to, to revere, is probably not mere happenstance. Marvel's key characters were created in a time when social upheval and uncertainty were rampant, and people on both sides of the fight for rights and equality were fearful of the other side. In such an environment, a group of people whose only crime was chance of birth and genetic roulette would be feared and misunderstood.

Another interesting juxtaposition (pointed out by my friend and comic afficianado Everett) is the differing socio-economic standings of DC and Marvel characters. DC characters tend to be educated, professional adults--Superman was a reporter in a time when that was a profession. Bruce Wayne was an old-money millionaire. Most DC characters were in occupations or positions that required (1) a significant degree of education and (2) a certain maturity and sense of professionalism. These were social elites who were already looked up to by the majority of the public. On the other hand, Marvel characters are generally younger and from a lower socio-economic class. Peter Parker was a college student who did freelance work. The X-Men were students in a school. These characters are not elites by any means. Peter Parker is the epochal everyman, an average Joe who teaches school and has economic troubles. Their economic status reflects their status with the general piublic--DC superheroes are almost universally revered and respected, while Marvel characters are not so cut-and-dry. Spider-Man is viewed as a menace by some and a hero by others (Batman and Captain America are aberations here, as the former is greatly feared and misunderstood by many and the latter is almost universally respected in their respective universes).

The contrasts and comparisons between the two universes are intriguing, to say the least. They are definitely reflections of the times in which they were conceived, with the DC universe taking on a much more mythic, epic tone, while the Marvel universe is grittier and more at street level. Both have grown closer to the middle in recent years, but if you look at the movies based on these two worlds, you can still see the separation.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Five for Fighting, "Superman"

Saturday, April 24, 2004

"Ridin' The Storm Out"

It's been an interesting if rather rollercoaster few days. I had the nice yelling match with my mom the other day (well, I say "match," but really it was just me getting pissed off and yelling at her). Then she calls me up Friday afternoon her mood's completely changed. She's chatting about inconsequential stuff, like having cleaned the carpet back home.

After the chit-chat, she did actually get back to the issue at hand--what I'm doing with my life. But she took a much softer, and in my mind, better approach this time. Rather than chewing me out for what I hadn't done or should be doing, she discussed it with me rationally and actually expressed some sympathy. She actually ended up telling me exactly what I needed to hear this time instead of exactly what I didn't need to hear, as she had on Wednesday.

Being my mother, she of course had to nag a bit, which is only to expected. Of course, she also wanted me to call my youngest brother up and let him know they'd be out of town this weekend. Why she feels that my sibling, who will probably spend his time sleeping, playing video games, eating, and being spoiled by my maternal grandparents (who he said are planning to visit him this weekend), needs to be told that our parents are out of town for the weekend is beyond me. I guess she figures that since she wants to know exactly where we are every waking moment of our lives, we want to know where she is all the time, too. Personally, I'm of the opinion that she's a big girl and can go where she damn-well pleases. If we need to get ahold of her, we have dad's cellphone number (even if said cellphone is never turned on).

See, my mom and dad and my paternal grandparents are currently in Eureka Springs, AR, for a little weekend getaway. I myself am trying to figure out how any trip you take your parents on can be classified as a "getaway," since I've always operated under the assumption that you're trying to get away from them, but hey, this was my folks' idea, not mine, so they can do as they please.

Hey, maybe it's like when I take my parents somewhere, and my dad's folks will pay for everything. Probably not, though.

In other news, I kissed Beth on Monday, and it was probably the best thing I've done since coming to Norman. Whether or not this leads to anything else is mere speculation at this point, but even if nothing more serious develops out of this, I'm happy just being her friend, as I have been since I met her. I'd be happy being something more, too, but I'll be content if things remain at the status quo.

Well, off for bed. Six a.m. comes awfully early on a Saturday morning, and work is gonna be hell.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "Act Naturally"

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

"I Was Up All Night Making Up My Mind But Now I've Got My Doubts"

Had a shouting match with my mother earlier today. That was fun, if you define "fun" as "something that was agitating and annoying and not really something I wanted to do." Yeah, fun.

Her problem is that she thinks I need to stop feeling defeated by the whole grad school thing. She also thinks I've been dragging my feet in regards to papers and alternate plans and suchlike. I blew up at her and chewed her out at a high volume for a good two or three minutes about that. I was filled with semi-righteous anger.

Semi-righteous because, to an extent, she's kinda right. Not totally, and this isn't something I'd admit to her, mind you, but enough that it rankled.

She's also kinda wrong. I didn't think I'd need to re-apply to this blasted school. I thought I had Ohio State in the bag. Finding out I didn't meant I had to rush to try to get things taken care of to stay here, if I need to. It also means that stuff I should have been working on, I haven't been, because I've been a bit depressed. Okay, very depressed, I just haven't shown it as much as the last time I got a rejection letter from a school (Washington University about a month ago, for those of you keeping score at home). But it's there, believe me. I haven't done very much on the paper for my class this semester, and I have been dragging my feet on it. And now I'm having trouble finding sources that'll work (though some research work this afternoon may have turned up some worthwhile sources).

I don't know why I'm so apathetic and lazy this semester. Mom pointed out that I was much more productive last semester when I had a couple of classes than I am this semester with only one class, and one that I don't even really have to attend every time at that. I guess I'm the sort of person who needs deadlines and structure. For better or worse, I'm not very self-motivated when it comes to certain things. School happens to be one of them.

Comics, of course, aren't. Neither is my writing. But schoolwork...yeah, sometimes I'm not so into that. Which is ridiculous, since this is what I'm wanting to do with the rest of my life.

Then again, maybe that's what the problem is--maybe this isn't what I want to do with the rest of my life. Problem is, I don't know what I'd do with the rest of my life if not this. As much as I'd like to, there's no way I could ever make a living with my comic or my writing or anything like that. They're fun hobbies, but that's all they're ever likely to be. And I'm fine with that--I enjoy drawing and writing, and that's what really matters. It's really just a nice dream that someone would pay me enough money to live off of for doing that stuff. No, I need to find a "real" job, I guess. I need to get this next degree, and become a professor. I really do like the idea of teaching. I already enjoy sharing what I know with people all the time. Getting paid for that is a dream I can reach.

Well, if I can get into another graduate school, it is.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: The Eagles, "Peaceful, Easy Feeling" (yeah, if only)

Sunday, April 18, 2004

"They Asked Me For Some Collateral So I Pulled Down My Pants"

It was a good weekend. A freakin' long weekend, to be sure, but a good one.

Friday evening, I went over to my aunt and uncle's place in Midwest City to visit them and see my cousin's wife and daughter who're over from New Mexico. Had a blast, tried some falaffle (or however it's spelt), which I really dug, and just sat around on their back porch all night shootin' the bull. Got up early Saturday and drove up to Ponca City to visit my grandparents and Scott, who was over visiting them from school for the weekend. We went up to Witchita, ate at the Olive Garden (Scott's favorite restaurant, and since we were doing this mostly to celebrate his birthday, it seemed appropriate he pick out our dining location) and then went shopping. Found a couple things I'd have liked to have had, but nothing I couldn't live without. Scott couldn't find a single thing he wanted, leaving him rather annoyed (I think he was looking to spend money yesterday, and then he didn't get to...this made him sad, I guess. I dunno). I was pretty out of it for a lot of Saturday, because it was the second day in a row I'd gotten up at 6.00 am and about the third or fourth day in a row I'd only gotten 3 or 4 hours of sleep. But I still had a good time, and my grandmother sent me home with lots of goodies this morning (jellybeans of the Starburst variety, some homemade cookies, etc.). When I got back to Norman, I paid a visit to Best Buy and picked up the two disc Eagles Best Of collection and the Beatles' Rubber Soul. It's funny that, as big of a Beatles fanatic as I am, I only actually own a couple of their albums. The reason is that my dad has all of them, and it always seemed kinda silly to have copies of CDs I could drive home and borrow if I wanted.

Now, I'm thinking a bit differently. I'm also thinking that sometime soon, I may not be anywhere close enough that I can just drive home on the weekend and borrow CDs. So I'm starting to find all the Beatles CDs at good prices and getting them. It's gonna take awhile--of albums, I only have Hard Day's Night, Abbey Road, and now Rubber Soul. But I'll get there eventually.

After Best Buy, I met Jess and Dom over at a Chinese Restaurant for lunch. It's been awhile since I've eaten Chinese (a bad experience back in high school really turned me off to the stuff for a long time), but it was good. Beth was supposed to join us, but she had to meet with her Capstone group at like 1.30 or something, so she didn't have time.

Anyway, if I hadn't spent so much time in my car this weekend, it would've been a relaxing couple of days. As it stands, they may not have been extremely relaxing in the physical sense (I am still feeling rather exhausted and drained), but they were very recouperative in the emotional and mental sense. I feel I can face the rest of the semester now...which mostly involves doing that 30 page research paper I still haven't started. I've been terrible this semester. No motivation. No sense of real purpose over the last couple of weeks. I blame grad schools and their unwillingness to accept me.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: The Eagles, "On the Border"

Thursday, April 15, 2004

"It's Gonna Be Okay"

It is, really. A nice conversation with Amanda E. has convinced me of this. Not because of anything in particular either of us said. It's just that talking with her always makes me feel better about things.

Talking to my other friends and to several members of my family also helped, I have to say. Everyone's very supportive and comforting, and that really, really helps.

I'll get through this. I'll come out on top. Lesser men than I have managed, and this, too, shall pass. George Harrison probably put it best:

"Sunrise doesn't last all morning,
The cloudburst doesn't last all day
Seems my love has gone and left you with no warning
It's not always gonna be this way
All things must pass
All things must pass away."

The good, the bad, the mediocre--none of them last. Hard times befall us all, but I have hope. Hope that I'll overcome whatever I'm facing. I've got faith. There's some master plan that I may not be aware of, but it's out there. It's out there.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "My City of Ruins"

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

"Four Dead In Ohio," But I Swear I Wasn't The One To Kill Them

Lord knows I wish I were, though.

Yeah, I finally got fed up with waiting and called Ohio State this afternoon. They told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was not accepted.

That just really sorta takes the cake, y'know?

Funny thing is, I'm not really upset right now. I don't feel sorry for myself. I'm not mad, not sad, nothing. I mostly just feel...empty, numb, distant. Like this is all happening to someone else, and I'm just watching from the outside, a passive viewer, a spectator in my own life.

I'm sure this'll change in the next day or two, but for now, I don't feel anything about it.

I don't really want anyone's pity or sympathy, either. I've already had my fill of it from my parents and grandmother. It's not that I don't appreciate their comfort or their love, just that...I don't want to think about it right now. Not at all. It frustrates me more than I can possibly express using words, but right now, I'm gonna ignore it. Like I said, I don't feel sorry for myself, I don't feel cheated, I don't feel that I could have done any better than I did, or done things any different than I did. Mostly, I just feel defeated.

Something else will come up, I'm sure--but for right now, at this moment, I'm not thinking about any of that.


Song of the Moment: U2, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

Monday, April 12, 2004

"When We Dance"

Well, it was a great weekend. A long weekend, to be sure, but a great one nonetheless.

Started out Friday, when I hung out with Jess and Dom. We played some MariKart, and managed to get gold in a couple more Cups (Flower and Star, both in 150cc...this means nothing to anyone who hasn't ever played a MarioKart game, but I don't really care). Then Saturday morning, Beth and I went to Shawnee for an early Easter celebration. Had dinner with the family, and celebrated Scott and I's birthdays with the paternal grandparents. T'was lots of fun, and we had steak to eat. I have the leftovers, and plan to make good use of them.

Anyway, after dinner, Beth and I headed back towards Norman, but it was only to change clothes--we decided to go hear my uncle's band play over in Yukon (a town just west of OKC, and really a part of the Metro Area). We proceeded to spend several hours listening to my uncle rock out on guitar and watch a lot of old people get rather drunk and dance. And some of them could dance quite well. Some of them...could not.

Amusingly enough, Beth even managed to get me out on the dance floor for several tunes. She reminded me how to swing dance, and after a quick tutoring session from my aunt, I was able to teach Beth how to Two Step. Most of the songs my uncle's band plays--though they're rock and roll or country--are played at such a tempo that you can dance to them in one way or another.

So Beth and I listened to my uncle play until about 1.00 am, then headed back to Norman, stopping in at IHOP because we realized we hadn't eaten anything in about 10 hours. After IHOP, it was to our respective apartments and sleep. Oh, glorious sleep. Granted, I had to take a shower (to wash off the overwhelming scent of cigarette smoke that clung to me because I'd been sitting in a bar with two dozen chainsmokers) and then put sheets on the bed, but those tasks were managed on autopilot.

This afternoon (not this morning), I got up and decided to run an errand for Scott (my grandmother had accidentally gotten him something he already had for his birthday, so I said I'd go exchange it and make sure it got to him next weekend). So I drove up to Quail Springs Mall on the north side of OKC (i.e., the opposite side of the City from Norman, which is at the far southern edge of the Metro Area). I got up there easily enough (despite not exactly remembering where the mall was--still, it turned out to be exactly where I thought it might be), and the mall was open. However, the shops in the mall...were not. So I figured, "oh well, I'll take it back later this week. But while I'm up here, I'll check out the Best Buy on May Avenue." Yeah, there's a Best Buy in Norman and another on I-240 not fifteen minutes' drive from where I live, but you never know what one will have than another does not. So I drive to the Best Buy. It's closed. "Well crap," I think. "I guess I'll go to the one in Norman." Yeah, it was closed, too, which I guess I should have known. After that, I hit Hastings in Norman and picked up Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3, a collection of outtakes, live recordings, and unreleased songs spanning 1961-1991. It's got some good stuff on it. It's also got a couple songs that make you go, "thank God he didn't release this song/this particular version of this song." That's sorta part of Dylan's genius, though, and part of his canon.

Anyway, went and got gas after Hastings, then headed back to the apartment. Beth gave me a ring and asked me to proofread a paper for her. She brought it over, I read it, then we went and got a pizza and watched a couple of movies (Disney's animated The Sword in the Stone, which was one of the DVD's I got from my grandparents for my birthday--the other being Secondhand Lions--and then the last disk of Those Who Hunt Elves, an anime series we started several months ago and just now got around to finishing). She then headed home, and I did a comic and another page of the Dim Bulb Forum Battle.

So yeah, all in all, a great weekend. I think next weekend will be quite full, too. Originally, I was going to try to go to Ozarks. However, mom kinda squelched that idea with a few commetns about finances, the need to get schoolwork done, and things of that nature. Intead, I'll probably be seeing a lot of my family. My cousin's wife and daughter will be in Oklahoma (he's currently in some former-Soviet-territory-turned-independent-republic-whose-name-I-can't-pronounce), so I'll probably go visit them Friday night. Saturday, I'll probably head up to Ponca City and visit my maternal grandparents and Scott to celebrate Scott's birthday with them (since his birthday isn't really until the 19th). Mom approved of these plans, though I still don't see how going out and doing those things instead uses any less time or allows me to be any more productive than I would've been had I gone to Ozarks. Ah well. I'm still gonna try and make a trip up there sometime soon...just dunno when.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Series of Dreams"

Saturday, April 10, 2004

"These Are Just Thoughts On Lack-Luster Times"

The past couple of days have been...interesting, to say the least. Ev is concerned that whenever I leave OU, I won't find anyone at my new home who'll challenege me intellectually. 'Manda's haivng issues with the boy she likes (and there's a hell of a lot more to that, but none of it that the rest of you really need to know about). I heard from an old friend of mine from Ozarks, though the circumstances were not as pleasant as either of us would have preferred (her having just been ditched by her idiot husband). Beth's stressing out over all of her (admittedly numerous) projects. I'm not stressing out enough over mine. And I still haven't heard from Ohio State.

Starting to wonder what's going to come of me and my life, y'know? As per usual, it's quite for ages, then everything seems to happen all at once. I almost half-expect Scott to announce at the family dinner tomorrow night that he's gay. Okay, so that's not likely. Even if Scott were gay, he'd never admit it to himself, much less everyone else in my family.

I've felt really unmotivated lately, like I'm moving on autopilot and not really paying attention to what's going on around me. Things are just sorta happening one after the other. Between Point A and Point B, where Point A is waking up and Point B is going to sleep, everything seems a blur. I'm travelling in a straight line, looking neither to the left nor to the right, to the back or the front, but merely staring at the square of the world that exists at my feet. That's no way to live, really.

Right now, above all else, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by fear. And it's not all my fear--I seem to be resonanting with several of my friends right now and picking up risidual fear from them. I'm worried about a half dozen people right now, and I'm falling somewhere near the bottom of my list. Maybe that's why things seem so automatic in my immediate existence lately--I'm shutting myself off from my own worries and concerns in order to focus on those of my friends. I seem oddly disconnected and distant from everything that's happening directly to me, as though it were happening to a stranger. I'd be disconcerted about this, if it weren't for the fact that I don't seem capable of feeling so right now.

Anyway, should go to bed. have to get up early tomorrow and go home.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Harvey Danger, "Flagpole Sitta"

Monday, April 05, 2004

"I Don't Have Much To Say"

I keep reading the blogs of a few of my friends, and it seems they've all got profound things to say. Witty things. Deep, personal, introspective things. I really...don't, right now. I could talk about how I'm still waiting to hear from Ohio State, but there's only so much you can say about the mail not having arrived yet. I could talk about my Master's Thesis, but I really haven't done anything new with it since I last mentioned it.

It's not that my life is going nowhere. On the contrary; I like to think that my life is getting ready to go in a very new direction, possibly into the northern midwest. There's just nothing particularly bad, or spectacular, or anything at all really worth writing about.

This is Jack's boring existence, to paraphrase Fight Club.

I guess I could always whine about being single, but after a while, that gets old, y'know? The circular arguments, the self-questioning, the self-pity...none of it actually gets me anywhere. I'm tired of thinking about the same things over and over. I'm tired of not having anything worthwhile to contribute to some perceived dialogue with all of humanity.

Maybe I'm just tired of being boring, mellow Chuck. But it's not that I don't like who I am. On the contrary; with only a few exceptions, I am very content with who and what I am.

And maybe that's the problem. Maybe I'm complacent. Maybe I've worn myself into a groove and a rut, a way of existence and existing that never really breaks out and does anything spontaneous anymore. My life has become predicatable. Some might go so far as to call it mundane, and you could probably make a fair argument for that.

Funny thing is, I'm pretty happy, for the most part. When I'm happy, I don't really have a whole lot to write about.

The Muse is fickle. It's like, in order to play the blues, you have to have experienced them. In order to write about life, I have to have done something worth writing about. No one cares that I'm in the middle of playing a couple of video games, or that I watched Fight Club last night after work.

In his song "Watching the River Flow," Bob Dylan sings, "What's the matter with me?/I don't have much to say." That's sorta how I feel. I keep thinking there are things I could talk about; deep, meaningful things I could mention and expound upon. I keep thinking there's somethign worth talking about going on in my life. But I can't for the life of me think of what they might be.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Tangled Up in Blue"

Friday, April 02, 2004

Hey. You. Pants-snatcher. When do I get 'em back? It's gettin' a little chilly around here without 'em.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

"Everybody Plays The Fool"

I've never been a big fan of April Fool's Day. The idea of purposely trying to trick people has just never sat well with me.

That, and I'm really freakin' gullible, and folks can nail me easily.

Let's face it--I probably am way too trusting. I accept what someone is telling me at face value, most of the time. And while that's good, it means it's real easy for someone to trick the pants off me on days like this.

Ah well. Such is life, I guess.

Okay, need to go draw tomorrow's comic. Word.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Huey Lewis & the News, "I Want A New Drug"
"I Want Another First Kiss Like This"

My new computer monitor (the one my folks got me for my birthday) finally came in. I went home to get it Wednesday afternoon, and took Beth along for the ride. She needed to go to the city anyway to run an errand, so I just took her there afterwards. Fun-filled afternoon, a splendid time for all. And my grandmother invited her over for Easter dinner (an invitation Beth accepted, because the chance to eat steak for free appeals to a college student). I told her she was brave for her willingness to face another holiday dinner with my family.

Had a pleasant surprise earlier this week when I got an email from my old friend Alicia McLaughlin. 'Cept her name ain't "McLaughlin" anymore, it's "Epps." Seems she went and got married back in October without telling me. Guess that's what happens when you don't get a chance to regularly see someone for four years. They go and get themselves hitched. Apparently my friend Sarah Williams is going to do the same thing sometime soon.

The number of my single friends is dwindling.

Honestly, most of the people I know my age are either in a serious relationship, engaged, or already married. Which is cool and all, but it makes ya stop and take stock once in a while. Dunno what sort of inventory I end up with when I do that, but it does make me wonder what--if anything--I've been doing wrong these past few years.

In other, semi-related news, my friend Dav apparently used to be jealous of the relationship I have with Wendy. It strikes me as funny, because he's at least the second or third guy I've known who was jealous of the close friendship I had with his (then) girlfriend. I've no idea how this happens; I'm not a threatening or imposing guy, really. Not at all, in fact. I have "best friend" inscribed on my very soul, I think. Eh, maybe a good dose of paranoia is good once in a while, eh? I mean, makes you appreciate what you've got a little more, maybe, makes you treat your significant other better.

~chaos cricket

Song of the Moment: Led Zeppelin, "The Ocean"