Avengers-age-of-Ultron-poster-the-avengers-age-of-ultron-37434941-1024-1453Welcome back! And today, we’re talking the about Avengers. And, for real, do I have to put the “spoiler alert” on this? Seriously? I gave you 2 ½ weeks—you know I was in the theater the day before it came out—okay, fine, I’m probably gonna fuck it up so if you haven’t seen it don’t click on blogs that talk about it. Got it? Good.

Waaaaaayyyy back in 2008, when the Honey Badger was in love with My Little Pony, not boys, Marvel, a fledgling comic book company, decided to get into the movie business to try and stave off bankruptcy. They didn’t have much–$50 million and a dream, the most popular superhero (who they didn’t have the rights to), and a crazy idea: bring the serialized, episodic storytelling approach of monthly comic books to the sliver screen. They made a gamble on a second-tier character and cast some unknown actor (Roberty Downey Jr—you might have heard of him but don’t go crashing IMDB to figure out who he is now). The gamble paid off and now, 7 years down the road, they’ve unleashed 11 movies (including the 3rd and 4th highest grossing of all time), branched into both primetime and streaming television, and changed the nature of cinematic storytelling.

And that’s the thing: Marvel changed storytelling onscreen. We’ll get there in a sec.

I’m not gonna do a review of the movie because there’s really too much and I want to talk about something else but let me hit just a few items:

  • “Please be a secret door, please be a secret door – Yay!”
  • Ultron’s birth captures the essence of the character immediately: “Where is your body? This is weird. Give me a second.” And then, “Why do you call him a sir?” In James Spader’s voice you get a unique take on the villain right off the bat. I’ll have to do a separate villain review—do you really think I wouldn’t? Come on, it’s me
  • Thor’s face when Cap moved the hammer. Priceless.
  • I mean, Hawkeye? For real? Yeah, Hawkeye.
  • Ultron ripping that dude’s arm off—“Ooohhh! I’m sure that’s gonna be okay.” He RIPPED HIS ARM OFF! I couldn’t stop laughing.
  • You know I’ve watched the lightsaber fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan in Episode III plenty of times. It’s visually stunning and has some pretty emotional overtones. But guys, tell me, does it get better than the Hulk vs. the Hulkbuster? “Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep!”
  • The Vision! Let me pause here: in Spider-Man 3, there is a really beautiful scene when the Sandman comes together for the first time. There’s no words, just a soaring score and we watch this sand-creature try to pull himself together to grab his daughter’s picture. It’s honestly the best scene in the film. The Vision’s origin is pretty similar in effect. I loved that scene, a violent birth, then peace, floating in that window looking at his reflection. Becoming himself
  • “Oh, for God’s sake!”
  • Nick Fury is a beast!

It’s that last one I want to talk about. Nick Fury is a beast. Nick Fury has been the audience proxy through the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (Guardians of the Galaxy excepted), walking us through the characters and providing connective tissue to a larger story. At the end of Iron Man, he actually tells Tony “Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe.” Fury recruited Tony Stark, sent Tony to get the Hulk, sent Coulson to debrief Thor, found Captain America, and manages Hawkeye and Black Widow. That’s 10 movies and 3 television shows connected through this one proxy, not only introducing us to the world but pushing the narrative forward.

Marvel isn’t the first to create a shared universe. Universal did it a long time ago with their monsters and the whole Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and Abbott & Costello nonsense. The closest, and best, example of this is Star Trek—the 5-year mission of the starship Enterprise spawned 4 television shows and 9 movies across 3 different centuries and 2 different time continuities. Connection isn’t what makes Marvel unique.

It’s cohesion.

Marvel didn’t make a connected universe; they made a cohesive one. A single story, made up of multiple vantage points and points of view; one story that looks both past and present. You might think you’re watching the combined story about how Tony Stark as Iron Man and Bruce Banner/Hulk and Captain America and Thor and SHIELD got together over 5 movies to battle Loki and the Chitauri. You’re not. You’re watching Thanos trying to get the Infinity Stones and witnessing the repercussions of his machinations on Earth. You’re not watching Agent Carter breaking sexual stereotypes 60 years in the past; you’re watching the fall out of the pursuit of one of those Infinity Stones on Earth and the organizations that rose to fight for and against its use. You’re not just watching Matt Murdock whop on thugs in Hell’s Kitchen (though he beats the living shit outta people—for real, you see him beating them Russians in the hallway?), you’re watching the rise of a vigilante in the shadow of a city torn apart by the Avengers when they fought Loki and Chitauri, which we now know is really the repercussions of Thanos trying to get the Infinity Stones. You get all that?

Age of Ultron is really just the next chapter in the story. That’s the biggest complaint everyone has about this movie and they’re right. It is an advertisement for what’s coming. But it always has been. It’s just the 2-hour Friday night Law & Order crossover event. It doesn’t change the overall story but it does alter the narrative trajectory of our principal characters.

Marvel has been telling one story that traverses time and space and each episode uncovers another layer to that one story. By the time they’re finished with this one story, they will have released 21 films and 7 television shows. In 12 years. And they’ve made $8B in the process.

And they did it all through 2-minute button scenes after the credits began to roll.

That, my friends, is how you change storytelling.

Remember this? And if you do, your age is showing.

Since I’ve been giving you some weighty, Debbie Downer style posts since I got back, I figure it’s probably time for me to give you something a little lighter, a little more fun, a little more…me.

Y’all remember the Honey Badger, right? Cute kid, does what she wants to do—you remember her, doncha? The Honey Badger is 12 now (well, for the next 2 weeks). For me, 12 used to be cool. It was all Transformers and dirt bikes, Thundercats and–hey, wow, Tiffany is really growing up–and He-Man. It was just like that. You saw it, or her, while playing with your Matchbox cars. You certainly noticed at recess when certain girls stopped playing kickball. Hell, maybe you even tried to sneak away and catch a Skinemax movie late at night when you didn’t get that channel and the screen would be all squiggly, hoping to catch a boob (I know I am clearly dating myself). But that was it.

If you were a boy, that is.

As other fathers can attest, 12 is the WORST year to be the father of a daughter. All kinds of stuff happens at 12, shit that is NOT in the brochure (ladies, if your man is looking confused, help him out), shit that boys and men are WHOLLY unprepared for. I’m already having a tough time with the whole thing and, yesterday, this girl drops a bomb on me.

This chick is finally participating in her last band concert of the year and while I’m talking to her teacher (who I feel some kind of way about), I find out that this big ass kid I met last week is her “boyfriend” now. Sssskkkrrtttt! Hold up, what? You’re all of 12 and you think you’re dating now? Hard pass, home girl. For real, I met this kid last week (with his mom) and his lanky ass got out his mama’s van with a dirty little mustache that’s thicker than mine. I was like, “How old are you?” You know how your voice goes up 2 octaves when you’re upset? Yeah, that was my intro. And here he come with his deep ass, “Fourteen.” Yeah, I got your 14, kid. I also got a truck, a shovel and a pretty innocent face. Fuck around, kid. Fuck around.

Tomorrow, we’re gonna talk the Avengers: Age of Ultron. I actually have to write it tonight because my family is making me go see the new Poltergeist movie and I think I’ll be too traumatized to say anything…

Son, we need to talk. We need to talk about Mad Max.

And I’m kinda disgusted I have to have this conversation at all.

Actually, we need to talk about the women in the new Mad Max movie. Seriously. There is actual outrage because the woman are strong in Fury Road’s post-apocalyptic dystopia where food, fuel and water are scarce and civilization has devolved into leather-dressed, awfully tanned men with face tattoos and scantily-clad woman doing deadly car chases in mutant death-machines across the Australian desert. Okay, it might be about more than that but the original Mad Max came out in 1979 (along with Superman: The Movie and Alien) and featured Mel Gibson before anybody knew who he was. I was 6. My memory is fuzzy. The only other thing I remember is the Tina Turner video for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Tina with that snatch-back hairline.

Regardless of what I remember, there can’t be a whole lot listed in the above synopsis for outrage, can there? Really? But there is and the issues are coming from men having a problem with women in action movies.

See, here’s what happened:

I peruse a movies site called Screenrant because…well…because—don’t judge me. They have stuff I like. Today, I came across an article about the new Mad Max movie. The article talks about how George Miller, the creator of Mad Max and the writer/director of all the movies, consulted with Eve Ensler (writer of the Vagina Monologues) to make sure he created female characters that were more nuanced and well-developed than the stereotypical tropes of abuse victims we generally see. Better characters generally equal a better story. George Miller was trying to create a better story. Ensler called the resulting film (which has a 98% Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com) a “feminist action flick.” That went over incredibly well. Here’s a smattering of the comments that received:

ScreenRant Mad MaxAnd that’s only a few comments.

There’s more. ScreenCrush and WeHuntedTheMammoth  are also tracking this outrage from men needing to boycott the movie because Charlize Theron “barks orders at Mad Max” and she’s in front of him on the poster. For real.

Mad Max Poster

This is a real thing.

I thought about dismantling these arguments, about refuting the inherent ignorance in the idea of boycotting a movie because the women play a stronger role than what you expected on the poster. I thought about attacking the ridiculous notion that women can’t be leads in action movies or that some incredible injustice has been done to everyone with a penis because Charlize Theron is a badass. I thought about—dude, it’s Mad Max, not Citizen Kane. This isn’t a cinematic jewel, man, it’s Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and sand and death. I thought about saying all kinds of things but it really isn’t worth my time and talent.

These are arguments without merit, foolish exhalations into ether. They are the cowardly diatribes of the fearful. You and I know there can be no bad end to treating everyone as equals. There can be no adverse affect to my daughter growing up to believe she is as worthy as any of her male counterparts. I cannot see the how encouraging my child to believe the she change the world or save it is a bad thing.

But these trolls do.

And they are trolls, certainly, but they’re trolls with platforms. See, that’s the problem: they’ve found a platform. Someone is listening to the commentary, feeding the trolls, perpetuating the nonsense. I read these arguments and assertions on Huffington Post and Yahoo News and ScreenRant and ScreenCrush. Law & Order did an episode highlighting the whole GamerGate thing where female gamers, game designers, and critics are being targeted with violence, death threats, privacy invasions, and threats of rape.

This is real. These are grown men—someone’s son or brother or uncle. This is someone’s father. A friend. A co-worker. A roommate. While this particular issue is about a movie, it’s part of a larger culture that makes boys threaten my 12-year-old on a schoolbus or call her all kinds of names in the classroom. It’s part of a larger problem that turns Usher’s I Don’t Mind into a top ten hit and makes boys believe it’s okay to execute a gang rape on a drunk girl on a public beach in broad daylight AND RECORD IT.

These aren’t men. These are boys. Boys scared of the dark and their shadows and girls. Scared of the very thing they berate. Remember in second grade and you’d hit the girl you liked and then run away? This is that, but much older, much more sinister, much more pervasive. These are boys desperately in need of ass whippings. These are boys in need of men to show them how to be men.

We gotta do better, you and I. Us and them. We gotta do better. We gotta be better.

Good talk.

I am pissed.

I’m supposed to be talking about the new Avengers movie (which I’ve seen 3 times already) or even that wack-ass Mayweather-Pacquaio fight (I REALLY want my $100 back) or even talking through Netflix’s amazing Daredevil show. But I can’t. There’s bigger fish to fry.

And pissed doesn’t even cover it. Pissed is when you step in dog shit or drop your $600 iPhone or when your kid forgets their clarinet after you’ve driven 20 minutes to school in a Florida torrential downpour and they don’t let you know until you just walk back in the door. That’s pissed. It’s an inconvenience. An unfortunate turn of events.

I am angry. And I’m angry at this:

If you don’t know, that’s Baltimore. At the time of this writing, the city of Baltimore is closing out a week of protests, riots, curfews and a full-blown state of emergency that saw 4000 National Guard troops brought in to quell the disturbance. Some 200 business were destroyed, community centers and local shelters burned, 486 arrests made, and more than 100 officers injured.

And a man is dead, his spine severed. Six police officers are charged with his death.

It’s easy to blame the victims in all of this. It’s easy to point fingers at those protesting and rioting, easy to question, “Why destroy your own community?” or call those involved “idiots” and “thugs”. It’s easy to sit on our computers and phones, healthily removed from the fray and tweet or craft memes that poke fun or share Huffington Post articles about the right and wrongness of it all. It’s easy when you’re not there, when you don’t have to be there, when you don’t actually have to get your hands dirty, and pretend to be enlightened and judgmental and then turn from coverage to watch the 2-hour finale of Grey’s Anatomy or rush out to the Thursday showing of the Avengers: Age of Ultron (I did—I am complicit as well).

It’s easy to be the rest of us.

But a Black man is dead—again. In a poor community—again. And police are to blame for his death—again.

It’s the “again” that bugs me and the ambivalence the rest of us can hold in the face of such a tragedy. That part is troublesome. We don’t care because we don’t have to. We don’t care that this is a community with more than 50% unemployment, nearly 10 times the national average. We don’t care that this community closed multiple rec and community centers, depriving its youth of positive outlets and activities. We don’t care that the Baltimore public school system has an active school-to-prison pipeline, accounting for 90% of Maryland’s juvenile justice system referrals.

We don’t care. And that’s the problem.

No one cares.

When the school systems or government agencies fail you; when your community organizations are unable or unwilling to provide the resources you need; when your federal government stands a whopping 45 minutes down the road and chooses to turn a blind eye; when generational poverty becomes the norm and you see opportunity after opportunity denied to you; when you continually see those who look like you become victims of those who are sworn to protect you—it only takes a little push to see that powerlessness and frustration spark into a violent outrage, a marching, yelling, screaming, looting, burning maelstrom of human emotion.

I’m angry that another Black man is dead. I’m angry that the police are complicit in the death of this man and we have to go through this stupid exercise, with bated breath, to see if justice will actually be done. I’m angry that people have found a CVS to matter more than Freddie Gray, more than the lives of the residents in Baltimore. I’m mad that the news only chooses to show Black rioters and protesters, that it has the audacity to call them idiots and thugs while glossing over the white rioters looting for the sake of looting. I’m angry that these same news organizations flash past the gang rape on the beaches of Florida over Spring Break or the fraternity members spitting on Wounded Veterans, but are perfectly comfortable calling people who look like me, who feel powerless like me, names. I’m angry that the mother who beat her child into making better choices, who chose to parent her kid on national television, is subject to character assassination on the O’Reilly Factor and is the target of a CPS investigation. I’m furious that fucking Facebook REALLY wants me to give to earthquake relief in Nepal but seems oblivious to the emergency on our own shores.

And I’m angry because a man is dead, the police are charged for his murder, and, now that the curfew is lifted and the National Guard is leaving, in a week, no one will care.

I missed this place…the sights, the smells. The Swoaps. I probably should have cleaned up though.

But I have to say, it’s kinda nice to be missed.

As writers, we pray that our words touch someone, impact them in some way. We hope the things we write matter to someone outside of ourselves. That’s the point, right? To give something to someone and affect them. Right?

I walked away from this whole writing thing a year ago, not because I dissatisfied or disillusioned, but because I ran out of things to say. For my second book, Come Hell or High Water, I finished the third or fourth draft (yes, it is actually finished) and hit a roadblock: it felt broken to me and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I didn’t feel like I had what it took to tell that story—at least not the right way. I put it down, put it away. I was loving blogging but hating the responsibility of it: life was a pesky, persistent thing then and when writing became a chore instead of a joy, I didn’t want it anymore. And I didn’t know what to talk about. Every article online tells you an author should have a reason for their blog, something they are trying to say or achieve or provide—something coherent that would bring people back again and again. I had villains and DMFRH and How We Broke DisneyWorld and the Swoaps—oooh the Swoaps, my favorites! But my blog seemed like a hodge podge of random thoughts without discipline.

So I stopped.

I moved on. I focused on helping people. I was good. Until you dragged me back into this freak show.

OK so that’s Bruce Banner’s line from the Avengers (had to see if you’re paying attention) but it’s not entirely untrue. I did move on. Like far. While I was away, I moved my family from the lush grayness of Seattle to the sunny clusterfuck that is Florida (sorry my Florida friends but you know I’m right). 3509 thrilling miles with The Boy, the Honey Badger, the Wife, the niece (I think I introduced her as the Fox but we renamed her to Skipper—she loves it!), and the Damn Dog—2 cars (1 of which lost a part in every state), a 26-foot Penske truck (that I crashed at a gas station), and a trailer (that actually came off of and got stuck under the truck 1 mile from my return spot). Talk about fantastic.

But I did focus on helping people. Kinda. Ok no, I didn’t. Instead, I quit my job, started my own consulting firm (a firm of one—holla!), and watched my wife launch her own travel agency. We have one kid who has to get homeschooled now since the state of Florida cannot calculate a GPA that low (guess who?), another who is allergic to college, and a third who wants to do her schoolwork while jumping on a trampoline with roller skates on. It’s been an interesting year to say the least.

Until you dragged me back into this freakshow.

A couple of things happened: my father-in-law let me know that he’d been reading my blog and was missing it and its connection to me. I’d often said that if you wanted to understand me, read the things I’ve written (I’m horribly honest). I didn’t think someone actually would. But he did and his words poked my heart. Then we had the Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead. Stay with me, it’s gonna make sense in a second: I wrote a Facebook post recapping my reactions to the finale—with spoilers—and not only did I love writing it, it had a little bit of virality (that’s a word now, dammit). I mean it was like pink eye in the daycare viral (and yes, I know pink eye is a bacterial infection–let it ride, Nurse Ratchet) but still, I got enjoyment and so did the readers. One of the comments was, “I can read anything he writes!” Anything? Huh…I’d never considered that people were reading the blog for whatever the hell I was gonna say, not because I was focusing on villains or breaking Disney or cussing about my kid. It really didn’t matter what I wrote…hadn’t thought about that before.

So fine, I’m back, bitches! What? Too soon? Ok, I’m just back. And we’ll see how it goes. I still have that villainy goodness—you know Avengers 2 comes out next week and Ultron seems ripe for a review. I still have the Boy—DMFRH is the gift that keeps on giving. I still have my books—for all you Heaven Falls fans, not only am I determined to release Come Hell or High Water this year, but the Honey Badger actually gave me both the central conflict and the overall theme for the 3rd book. Right now, Damned If I Do, seems like a fitting title. And I have whatever else comes to mind: I want to talk about those Unsung Other Dudes like John Oates and the guy from Wham! and the dude who used to host American Idol back in Season One. I’ll talk about The Walking Dead because…it’s The Walking Dead and it’s amazing! Whatever comes to mind is a topic we can explore.

In short, I’m sorry I left you (without a dope beat to step to). Seriously, I’m really sorry I left without saying goodbye. That won’t happen again. Hang with me and I’ll hang with you and we can have some fun. Deal?

 

FRIDAY NIGHT FIEND: LOVE

Posted: January 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

I bet you thought I was gonna do my little Welcome to 2014, here’s my one rinky-dink goal for the year and dip out, didn’t you? Oh ye of little faith…

See here’s the thing: I’m earnestly doing rewrites right now because the other voices in my head—the ones you don’t know about, the ones who don’t let me sleep or take control of my hand during boring ass conference calls and draw themselves or the ones who have big plans like “Make me an action figure!” or “Remember that graphic novel? There’s the thing called Comixology where we can post for free…”—yeah, those folks won’t shut up. But because I’m knee-deep in making Come Hell or High Water ready for you, my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed wicked little readers, I tend to approach the world through the lenses of my characters. And right now, I’m living La Vida Lucifer—I’m going to apologize in advance for whatever else happens on this blog.

Antywayz, in 1984 Anna Mae Bullock AKA Tina “I Did It First, Beyonce, Stop Dick Riding” Turner asked a quintessential question: What’s love got to do with it? Well apparently a lot: I was going over some of my old posts about villains (which I do just for amusement) and realized there was a nice segment of them whose villainous exploits were triggered and maintained by good old-fashioned L-O-V-E. I mean, these cats did everything from boiling bunnies to becoming immortal…let’s take a look:

First up, Alex Forrest. You remember her, doncha? She’s the only reason (for real) you know who Glenn Close is (because, seriously, it ain’t because of Damages). She and Michael Douglas had a hot and sexy, stolen rendezvous and one of them caught the vapors. I won’t ruin the surprise but “someone” broke into “somebody’s” house an put their pet rabbit on the stove. And that was just to get his attention. Your girl tried to ruin his life and marriage, faked a suicide attempt, and finally came at him with a knife and my man’s wife shot her.

That’s just the first one on the list. It doesn’t really get any better.

You got Gaston from Beauty and the Beast fame. Now his crimes in the name of love aren’t so bad: when Belle spurns his advances, Gaston has her father committed, leads a torch and pitchfork assault on the Beast’s castle, and shanks Beast in the back while your boy is trying to save him. This is a Disney cartoon. While I am not a fan, Gaston does have a pretty hilarious Twitter account.

But wait, there’s more!

Disney came back with another damaged soul for us to examine. Davy Jones CUT OUT HIS OWN HEART AND HAS AN OCTOPUS FOR A FACE! You need me to say more? Fine, Davy Jones is the ferryman for purgatory, taking souls between life and death, so he could kick it with his woman, Calypso. And when she didn’t show up one day in 10 years, my man imprisoned her in a human body and started destroying people with a giant squid. And he cut out his own heart and put it in a box. I mean damn.

Maybe it’s a stretch but have you seen Gollum? This cat has a 3-hour segment on My Strange Addictions because he has a passionate love affair with a ring. And oh did he let himself go! Smeagle killed his best friend, started eating raw fish, goblins and people, lost his teeth and his hair, and declared war on the sun (you know he needs SPF 3000). He gained a split personality and was so in love with the ring, he tracked it for 60 years (in a loin cloth!), bit Frodo’s finger off, and dove into a volcano to save it. And it wasn’t even alive…

Shit, even the finest show on television is a victim of the same thing: Walter White AKA Heisenberg is driven to set up a meth lab, commit numerous murders—he poisoned a woman, set up automatic weapons in his trunk, orchestrated the killing of 9 people in 2 minutes in prison, blew half of Gus Fring’s body off, and ran over 2 people with an Aztek. Y’all this was a highschool chemistry teacher. But he loved his wife and kids.

But love in the villains worlds makes folks do some otherworldly stuff. Look at Dracula. In the Bram Stoker version, my man loses his woman and curses God enough to become a blood-sucking immortal. Dracula outlived everyone he cared about, ate hundreds of other people, killed the entire crew of a ship commuting to London. And then created an entire race of people who, worse than Gollum, can’t have sunlight (except him), can hypnotize people, make somebody eat rats, turn into bats, wolves, and fog, and can’t be killed by normal means.

I’m gonna end this with my main man. You know I’m a Darth Vader fan. You know this. Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader over love. He gives up everything he knows, betrays his friends, kills a bunch of kids, tries to kill his teacher/ace so he learn how to live forever so his woman won’t die. Then he turns around and chokes her out, loses her anyway, gets burnt to a crisp, tries to kill his son—twice, tortures his daughter, and blows up a planet. This is the worst case of PW in cinematic history.

I’m gonna wrap this one up a little diddy from the J. Gelis band that sums it all up. Catch ya next week!

So I guess after 8 days, 2014 is here to stay, huh? I can’t be the only one who came into this year with a “It’s 2014? Goddammit <sigh> Fiiinnnneee…”

It seemed like this year came up entirely too fast. I wasn’t ready; I hadn’t made any resolutions or decisions or goals or anything. Last thing I remember, my mom was in my house telling me how “sexy as hell” Henry Cavill is as Superman in Man of Steel (folks, hearing your mom tell you ANYBODY is sexy as hell is disturbing anyway but I LIKED that movie. Shit…) and the next thing I know, Schmancy down the street is inviting us down for champagne and flank steak and God knows what else.

I wasn’t ready!

I didn’t even have a fantastic Facebook status or an end-of-the-year blog post or 140 characters worth of 40-year-old wisdom and optimism. I was just a collection of “Isn’t it time for these lights to come down?” and “when do y’all go back to school?” Then I got sad about it because I’m reading other people’s This Is The Year of Awesomeness posts and that only made matters worse. Guess I should say something, huh?

I spent the last 8 days trying to figure why I didn’t have much to say. Why, even toward the latter part of 2013, my little well of wordiness seemed to dry up. I think I get it now. Have you ever had that moment at work where you look down at the spreadsheet, or realize you haven’t heard the last 10 minutes of that conference call, or are having vivid daydreams of throwing shit at your boss and realize that there is not another productive thing you can offer in that day? Imagine having that in like October for the remainder of the year. Yeah, that’s what happened. If you look back, and I know you will, you’ll see a general decline in the timeliness of my posts right around October—right around when the Swoaps got arrested.

The truth is, I didn’t want 2013 to end because I wasn’t done. Somewhere along the way, I got sidetracked or fell into the tar pits that life often places in your path. I didn’t do everything I set out to do and I just wasn’t done. But enough lamenting, let’s look at how things shook out.

And a note, there is a reason to not write shit down: people tend to hold you accountable:

In the beginning of 2013, I wrote a little post called Hey 2012! You Can Kick Rocks! 2012 was a tougher year for me and I had plenty to gripe about. In that lovely post, reviewed my goals from 2012 and set a couple new ones for 2013. Only a couple. Which is good because I didn’t do shit. Well, let me clarify: I didn’t do a lot of shit. Here’s the nonsense I said at the beginning of 2013:

Author Goals

  • Write a blog post 2 times a week
  • Complete Come Hell or High Water
  • Participate in a 1 blog tour in 2013
  • Complete one graphic novel script
  • Write one non-Angel related novel

Publishing Goals

  • Publish Come Hell or High Water
  • Publish Crooked Letterz’ Big Book of Villains

Look at that—these are moderately feasible goals. They’re not ridiculous, they don’t smack of hubris or unrealistic expectations. They’re fair and valid goals. So how did I do?

  • Write one blog post 2 times a week. To be fair, I didn’t realize that schedule until I was like halfway through the year. But still, I knocked out 50 posts in 2013. 50! That is 1 post a week and I took December off! How bout that?
  • Complete Come Hell or High Water. I’m tired of talking about this book. You’re probably tired of hearing about this book. But I did actually complete it. Close your mouth—yes, I did. I finished it in July, thank you very much. Then came the spate of rewrites and climbing the mountain of making the book everything it should be dwarfed the molehill that was the first draft. Truth is, all of this lovely imagery is just a disguise for me saying I procrastinated.
  • Complete 1 blog tour in 2013. It is awfully tough to participate in a blog tour for a book you don’t have. Not a whole lot to promote. Um…this didn’t happen.
  • Write one graphic novel script. Believe it or not, this actually happened. My cousin is an artist and I’ve always had a dream about doing graphic novels. We shared some texts and emails, came with a pretty decent Nat Turner-meets-Superman type of story (you’d have to actually read it). It’s gonna happen, we just have these other commitments hanging over our heads.
  • Write one non-Angel related novel. Yeah, no. I planned it. Plotted it out. No words on the page though.

Let me be brief on the Publishing goals. I didn’t meet either one of these because publishing a book generally takes a book to publish. And on the Big Book of Villains, the only head way I made was working with an attorney to make sure I wouldn’t get my ass sued by Disney, Marvel, Sony, LucasFilm, Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, Scholastic, Hasbro, Comedy Central, and fucking Katniss. Mission Accomplished. Seriously, I should be able to knock this one out in 2014.

But other stuff did happen that wasn’t writing-related. My wife got better, then got worse, then got better. That was a good thing. She took herself to Disney World, Disneyland, and then on a Disney Cruise—hey, when you survive cancer, you win. Do what you want. I changed jobs and got some FANTASTIC financial news in the process. I also learned I suck at managing money (but you have to say this like Debbie Downer). My aunt passed away and so did my good buddy, Rocky the WonderDog. I got a puppy, Lady the Damn Dog—now before you say anything, have you ever had a puppy? Ever? I can handle the “every 2 hours I gotta pee” thing. I don’t get the “let me eat your walls” thing. The fuck is that?

The Boy was…The Boy. His phone met a hammer, his Xbox went out the window, and he is now officially taller than me. The Honey Badger dropped that childish innocence with an unauthorized pool party, fucking FaceTime, and 3am texts on New Year’s Eve. Her phone is currently on Craigslist. And we got a new kid in the mix: The Fox joined the party and all she wants to do is DANCE! No, seriously, all she wants to do is graduate and she has 6 months left.

My point is, even though I didn’t reach my writing/publishing goals for 2013, I lived those 365 days. I made the most of my time with my wife, my family, my dog, my career. Every day I didn’t put words on the page was a day I was putting time into the living, breathing mammals that inhabit my life. My sole goal for 2014 is to find balance. To find the time and energy to give each facet of my life the attention it deserves.

And just when I started to feel bad for what I hadn’t accomplished over 2013, I read this:

No Regrets

That, my friends, is the Happy New Year’s post from your friends and mine, Melanie and John Swoap. She makes a point here–a HUDGE one: if they can enter a New Year with no regrets after defrauding a bunch of little girls, getting arrested for back child support, taking a cruise while under indictment, lying to the state of Tennessee for continued unemployment employment benefits, refusing to pay their employees, and trying to gain disability benefits for being bipolar and a couple of shoddy suicide attempts, I can certainly sleep well for missing a couple publication deadlines.

Perspective, people. Perspective.

Happy New Year! Catch ya on Friday!

Wonder WomanI know you think I don’t love you. I know you get tired of me sweeping in and out of your life, one day I’m here and have a schedule and the next I’m off in radio silence. Yeah, well sometimes it be’s like that.

Actually, I haven’t said anything because I haven’t had much to say. It wasn’t writer’s block—it was life’s block. In the last month or so, my life has been 2 parts Brian McKnight’s Where Do We Go From Here? and 1 part Bebe &Cece Winans’ It’s OK and while things are cool (or getting cooler), they demanded my focus. Oh yeah, in the midst of this nonsense, like a disease, I contracted a hater too. But, as much fun as it would be, I’m not gonna talk about that yet—we’ll save it for Tuesday.

But today, in the afterglow of Thanksgiving and the advent of the holiday season, I’m feeling thankful. I’m thankful for you, for hanging with me after all this time. I’m thankful for every eyeball on my words, every comment and like and Share. I’m thankful for the Swoaps (say what???) and DMFRHs and Friday Night Fiends and Stacy Case and…my hater.

Today, I want to revisit an older idea. A little bit ago, I wrote a post about misogyny, particularly in superhero movies. I lamented the lack of female heroines in the movies, highlighted Scarlett Johannsen’s portrayal of the Black Widow in The Avengers, and dogged the shit outta Warner Bros and DC for their hesitance in bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen because she was “tricky.”

Well, this week somebody called my bluff. If you haven’t heard already, not only will Diana Prince be in the next Man of Steel movie, she’s already been cast. Say whaaattt? Yep, in 2015 we’ll see some incarnation of the Amazon princess in a major motion picture and she’ll be played by Gal Gadot.

Aw, that’s aweso—wait, who?

Yeah, that’s the first thing I said: who the hell is Gal Gadot? Then I looked at the pic:

Gal-Gadot

Oh, she’s one of the women who look like the other women from the Fast and Furious franchise?

But the first reaction I got was, “She doesn’t look like Wonder Woman. She’s too skinny. She’s too small.” Same reaction you heard too, right? If you checked the comments on any site anywhere that reported on her casting, all the responses where about her physical appearance. My problem was, those reactions I was hearing came out of my own house. And some of them came out of my own mouth.

Now I don’t generally debate a woman’s physicality. I watched every episode of Linda Carter as Diana Prince didn’t have an issue. I bought Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman and buff-ass Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Michele Yeoh will beat the shit out of all of us. Anne Hathaway made it happen as Catwoman. Zoe Saldana is rail thin but have you seen Colombiana? She scares me.

But when they said Wonder Woman, here’s where I went:

GINA CARANO at the Fast & Furious 6 Premiere in Los Angeles

That’s Gina Carano. She’s a UFC fighter. She’s RAW! She’s tall, beautiful, curvy, got muscles and the fearsome demeanor, and a thing going with Henry Cavill—but she can’t act to save her life. She has this movie called Haywire (you can find it on Netflix) that I’ve tried to watch twice but can’t stomach it. And that’s saying a lot: I liked the first Wolverine movie, am a fan of Out of Sight with Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney, and have watched (and loved) almost all of the Godzilla movies. I like shitty movies. I couldn’t do this one.

Here’s the thing: I bought hook, line and sinker into an overly-sexed, objectified view of a what a powerful woman must be. Because it’s Wonder Woman, does she automatically have to look like Jessica Rabbit? She’s the most iconic, most powerful woman in DC or Marvel universes and she’s relegated to wearing a bustier and hot pants—the idea is we wouldn’t buy her power, her capability, if she didn’t show cleavage.

And I’m mad at myself that I went there too.

Wonder Woman is strong, complex, beautiful and a warrior. Gal Gadot meets all the requirements for the role. She is actually an actress. Say what you want about that franchise but she’s been in movies that have grossed nearly $1B at the box office. That means she can carry the nuances of a character that has spent her life as a warrior and a princess of an island full of women and acting as an ambassador to the rest of the world. Complex? Check. Gadot is beautiful, no question about that. She was Miss Israel in 2004 and has been a model. So we can check off pretty. And she can fight. See, Israel has this mandatory 2-year service in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). They have their own martial arts called Krav Maga. If you’ve ever seen it, it’s an exceptionally efficient, brutal technique of disarmament and overpowering. She can kick some ass. And she does all her own stunts in the Fast and the Furious. So strong and a warrior? Yeah, check.

Lastly, she actually looks like Wonder Woman. Like the comic initially intended.

Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman

Actors transform themselves for their roles. Christian Bale last 50 pounds for the Machinist and then adopted both an American accent and that heavy growl for Batman. Henry Cavill for so bulked up and sculpted my mother said “I think he is sexy as hell” (which set up an exceptionally awkward night of movie watching). Heath Ledger went from being a gay cowboy to a psychopathic, anarchist, murderous clown in what has become the definitive portrayal of the Joker. The point is we can do better. I can do better. Instead of focusing on how that woman looks or whether she measures up with some comic book ideal of what a powerful woman should look like, I decided to take a page from the Honey Badger. I told her Wonder Woman was finally making it into the movies. She just smiled and said, “Cool!”

Cool.

Don’t say it—I know what day it is (and I don’t even need that damn camel to tell me). I know I’ve been absent. There’s a reason…

Let me paint you a picture: I am standing in the middle of an open field, eyes closed, hands outstretched, communing with nature. Then the sky darkens, suddenly, rain begins falling then strafing the landscape, pelting my face. The wind picks up, sweeping across the land, grabbing sticks and tree limbs, rocks and debris, swirling around me in a roaring maelstrom. One moment I was in the center of peace; the next, in the eye of a hurricane.

That, my friends, is life. My life.

In the last couple of weeks, I fell of my game: my novel rewrites screeched to a halt and, while I tried to uncover the secrets locked within Come Hell or High Water, I haven’t written here like I should have. Sleep is a precious commodity I can ill afford. My gym has filed for divorce and wants alimony. Why? Because, while I’m more than the sum of my parts, each one of my parts needs something. My wife needs my time and attention and I’ve taken to writing her a letter daily to let her know I give a shit about how she feels. My kids need more oversight than I considered: the Honey Badger is actively searching for her Prince Charming (she’s fucking 11! 11! She needs to be searching for My Little Pony). The Boy has renewed his subscription to Doing Dumb Shit magazine and is now a Platinum subscriber—he even got the 64% cotton FuckIt t-shirt. And two suspensions. Two.

Here’s how that ended:

Uh Oh...

Uh oh Spaghetti-oos! This is what “I Hope It Was Worth It” looks like in my house.

wait wait wait—like Kanye West, I’ma finish in a minute but let me tell you watching my wife smash a hammer into an iPhone 4S and seeing that plume of glass was something I will never forget.  It was almost as funny as when she charged into The Boy’s room like Hurricane Amanda and tossed his xBox out the window. Did you hear that? She threw his xBox out of the bedroom window. That it hit an aluminum bat on the way down is another matter entirely.

Anyway, there’s plenty happening. I do have a novel I’m supposed to be updating. I try to write to 2 blogs 3 times a week. I get hungry. I have a dog. You may or may not know it but I’m a professional too and the people who pay me seem to want to sort of return on their investment. I know, right? Asses. Part of that ROI (because that’s how we say Return on Investment at the club *cue rich old man laugh*) means I have to get my Project Management Professional, or PMP, certification. The Boy calls it my PiMP certification. Those snazzy little three letters equal 35 hours of classes plus test prep and an actual test. Yeah, so there’s that.

What it comes down to is me being pulled in a variety of directions on the way to getting where I’m actually supposed to go. Where we’re supposed to go. Navigating this journey we call life really means making a series of choices and investments. Time is our most precious commodity and choosing how we spend it and where we invest it are the most significant choices.

Recently those significant choices, my choices on where I spend my time and invest my talents have come under fire. The return on that investment doesn’t seem to meet other people’s measurements. I don’t spend enough time writing or I’ve made the wrong choices in my professional career or the person I’ve chosen to spend my life with or the type of parent I choose to be, prescriptive or permissive—it doesn’t satisfy their assessment. It doesn’t meet their standards. But here’s the thing: when the ledger of my life is tallied and the accounting is all said and done, it won’t be a single, solitary human being doing the math.

The idea is simply this: live and let live. It isn’t my place to comment on the choices you make for your life because they are your distinct choices for your specific set of circumstances. Where your life is destined to go, who you’re destined to be, is something none of us can see or understand or comprehend. There is always more that pushes us, that drives us, that shapes and molds us and steers us where we’re supposed to go. If we follow the example of everyone else, we’ll simply be everyone else. I don’t think we were made to be same.

I’m learning that it’s okay to not give a shit what other people think. We get one shot at this life. I’m choosing to live mine. Live yours.

And that’s why I chose to be a squirrel for Halloween. Seriously.

I know it ain’t Tuesday. I know I didn’t give you anything on Friday either. I know, if you follow my other blog, Falling From Grace, I haven’t dropped anything in a couple weeks. I have a reason: I have bigger things to focus on.

And that’s what we get to talk about today.

One of the most popular series of the posts on this blog was about a couple of jackasses from Tennessee who decided to dog the shit out of my wife…and then defraud a bunch of little girls. You might remember them. You also might remember I said I wouldn’t do another post about them—and I’m not—because they have real charges and they have kids and things were getting serious for them. So I won’t talk about how they are the dumbest criminals ever. I won’t talk about how your girl went on a Disney cruise while under bond, without the bond company’s permission and now it looks like she’s fleeing. I won’t discuss your boy not only being unable to retain an attorney (after 2 continuances), but also being detained (read arrested—again) for non-payment of child support for another child. I won’t talk about how he went into court yesterday bullshittin about his lack of attorney and ended up getting transported from Franklin to Memphis by a fugitive task force.

And while this is funny…

John2

…seriously, you can forward any correspondence to his current address at 201 Poplar, the Shelby County jail in Memphis—it has a sad side too. There are real victims in this: children and single mothers and dancers and agents.

There are bigger things to consider.

Today is my 4th wedding anniversary. I’d love to say the 4 years of marriage and the 5 years that preceded it were magic. Yeah, that would be a damn lie. Have they been easy? Hell no! Have they been worth it? Hell yes! In those 9 years, I’ve moved across country, tried to be a parent to two kids I didn’t create, tried to be a good husband to a woman who’s seen the darker sides of life. I’ve tried to build myself as a man, a professional, and an author. I’ve watched friends come and go, had some family members stand by me and others shit on my relationship. I’ve been embraced by my kids and played to the curb by them on the same day.

What I’ve learned over the last 9 years is it’s the bigger things that matter. Marriages don’t work on their own. Children don’t become positive, contributing members of society by themselves. We don’t realize our potential and become the people we’re meant to be through osmosis. My friends in Tennessee, on all sides of this equation, are working to be where they are. They are working to avoid their responsibilities, working to get over on someone else…or working to make sure a child flourishes in spite of who her father is.

The last 9 years have been work—and today, on our anniversary, we’re working now. Last night, I spent the evening counseling my daughter on how to handle her first note from a boy, talking with my son’s girlfriend about how to approach the teenage pregnancy of a classmate, working with my wife on how to get out of debt and finally buy a house. It’s work.

The bigger things always are.