A Poem, I Guess

I wrote a thing this morning, I guess you’d call it a poem.  I might as well share it.

 

The world is stupid

And I am weary

Yet I put on my daily face

And play my part, pushing the giant wheel down the road

A bit

Just in case it will help

Eventually.

Freezing Cold Movie Takes!!!!

The last thing I published before the hiatus (interregnum? Period of indolence?) was a review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Several other pop culture blockbusters have been released since them, so let me tell ya what I thought:

Captain America: Civil War: Critically important to the ongoing MCU story. You should check it out.

Doctor Strange: Hoo boy, this is a visual extravaganza. Benny C. was born to play this role, IMO. Check it out.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: See it for the storytelling, because (SPOILER ALERT!!) everyone dies at the end. But check it out, as long as you aren’t overly creeped out by the uncanny valley of CGI replications of actual people. (Aside: You should check out some of Peter Cushing’s work where he plays completely against type. His continually befuddled scientist in “At the Earth’s Core” is, well, something to behold. And there’s bonus Doug McClure and Caroline Munro and rubber monsters. Definitely check that one out!)

Deadpool: Fun, but naughty. Don’t take the kids. Seriously, don’t take the kids, but check it out.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2:  Beautiful, fun, but a smidgen disjointed. I suspect Peter Quill will find a way back to some of that awesome power eventually. And Ego should have been riding around in a Burt Reynolds Screaming Chicken Trans Am, not a Mustang II. But still, check it out.

Spider Man: Homecoming: Another solid reboot of this franchise. I look forward to them trying it again in about 2025. There never was a reason for Aunt May to be 200 years old, so I strongly support the casting of Marisa Tomei in the role. And Michael Keaton is really good. So check it out.

Thor: Ragnarok: Big big fun! You kind of have to see this to understand Bruce Banner/Hulk’s deal in a later movie, so once again, check it out.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: This movie. Hmm. This movie. Lots of dumb and/or annoying stuff in this movie. Excessive slapstick. Sea cows with green milk. An entire subplot that goes nowhere important. Big Bad villain that we never really learned anything about is killed without us really learning anything about him. A rather Grandma-ish Leia. (RIP Carrie, I so desperately wish that hadn’t been your last performance in this series). Sloooooow speed space chases involving hyperspace-capable ships and lots of shouting. Dumb stuff.

But ya know, as much as I don’t like the character of Emo Ben Solo, his connection to Rey is no doubt going to be important to the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga. And if you don’t like the way Luke was portrayed, well, you don’t know how depression works. A partly-trained Jedi starts a new academy, it crashes and burns spectacularly, so he decides to walk away so he doesn’t screw anything else up. (Been there, done that). Yet sometimes, we find a way to rise above that and come back to make a difference in the end. And that is Luke’s story. I hope he comes back with some Force Ghost wisdom in Episode IX, and brings Yoda, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Anakin, and ever Mace MFing Windu along for the ride.  Free your mind and check it out.

Black Panther: An incredible story that leaves you full of hope. I want to go to Wakanda. Check it out.

Avengers: Infinity War: An incredible story that somehow gives all these people a reasonable amount of screen time. And then you walk out without hope (other than the fact that this is, after all, a comic book movie, where universe-destroying events usually gets sorted out in a couple of issues.) Imagine it’s 1980, and you’ve just walked out of The Empire Strikes Back, and you’re sure Luke is dead (assume we didn’t see him grab the last antenna, so that plot point was left dangling) and you have to wait three years to see the next one. And then someone stole your puppy. That’s what the end of this movie is like, and I’m kind of pissed at the Russos for jerking our emotions around like this. They’d better stick the landing. Check it out so you won’t be left out of conversations for the next year.

There you go. My cold to slightly lukewarm takes on every Great Big Movie released since late 2015. Well, the ones I saw, anyway.

Clearing away the cobwebs

So. It’s been two and a half years since I published anything. Some of that was distraction, some of that was realizing no one really needed to read any of the angry political screeds I started and never quite finished. There are plenty of people doing that better than I ever could.

How’ve ya been? I’m OK, I guess. I herniated a disc last summer, which led to crippling leg pain, which led to sitting in a chair for a lot of August-January, which led to back surgery in February. The incisions have healed, but the back muscles are still a little weak and I’m trying to get in something close to decent cardiovascular shape.

Like a lot of people, I have a fair amount of anxiety these days. It’s been more than a little hard to deal with seeing all the things I thought were great about this country thrown away in favor of a slovenly, half-assed authoritarianism.  But other, better writers have covered that. Let’s just say I don’t trust a lot of people or believe in a lot of things anymore, and move on.

So, in an attempt to say sane, I find other distractions. I dusted off my drum set and started playing, badly. At the age of 52, I’ve started seriously reading comic books. I built a ton of LEGO while recovering from the back surgery. I’ll probably write about all of those things in the near future.

That’s it for today. See you soon, I hope.

Hot Buttered Star Wars Takes!!!!

Get ’em while they’re hot! Get ’em while they’re buttered! (Hat tip to Bugs Bunny.)

NOTE: This contains spoilers. So read no further if that kind of thing annoys you.
As a fully engaged member of the “saw it in the theater in ’77, shut up you punks” generation, I saw the new Star Wars movie the other night, and will probably see it another time or two while it’s in theaters. It was pretty much everything I was hoping it would be, and as a result I can finally see my way to forgiving JJ Abrams for the awful mess and general insult to Trekkies that was Star Trek: Mission Impossible, errrr, Into Darkness. But it did leave me with some thoughts and/or questions…

Snoke. Who is he? (And Snoke? Really? That’s a name with George Lucas written all over it.) How was he able to lure Ben Solo to the Dark Side? Did no one give Han & Leia a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting an Extremely Force-Sensitive Child” at the baby shower?
Judging by the scar tissue, Snoke’s seen some stuff. I hope the Disney storytelling machine is cranking out backstory for us.

Rey. She’s awesome. So awesome that someone is likely working on a YouTube video setting clips of Rey’s badassery to No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” as I write this. It will get millions of hits and be endlessly shared on by tween girls on whichever social media thing they use these days.
It would be logical for Rey to be Luke’s daughter, but I hope they don’t go that direction. But given that Daisy Ridley looks like she could be related to both Natalie Portman and a young Carrie Fisher, I doubt I get my wish.

Ben Solo, aka Kylo: Impetuous behavior in someone very sensitive to the Force? That never ends well.

Finn and Poe Dameron: The Star Wars universe needs a buddy action/comedy film. Make it happen, JJ.

The old gang: Han’s story is now complete. I hope it pays off a little bit better before this trilogy is done. Carrie Fisher might want to brush up on her acting if Leia’s going to play a bigger part in this. And Luke….that was a perfect reveal. I look forward to seeing his story in a couple of years. C-3PO has been more annoying than useful to the story since ROTJ, so at least that tradition continues. I also enjoyed all the callbacks, especially the way they reinforced the horrible fashion sense of the Republic/Resistance.

Yes, there are plenty of nits you can pick at this movie. But they’re mostly the same nits you could’ve picked in 1977, and that seems to have worked out OK.

I’ll probably have more thoughts after a rewatch or two, but that’s all for now.

Is this thing on?

Well.

It’s been a ludicrously busy Summer and Fall for me, and I have let the blogging slip. Watch this space for more regular posting, I promise for real this time. Some thoughts on fandom (of all sorts) have been rolling around in my head, watch for it in the next couple of days.

Every New Beginning, etc..

We lost our dog a few weeks ago. She was nearly 15 years old, and so had a long and happy life with us. We all grieved, but I have learned that the best way to keep the wife and kids happy is to jump right back into the canine saddle. (The many emails and texts with links to pictures of dogs at the local shelter may have been a clue…)

Last weekend, the college boy came home and we trekked to the shelter to pick out a new companion, a four-month-old lab/husky mix which we have named Teddy. Teddy is a 28-pound bundle of fur, energy, and urine, and I haven’t had to pay so much undivided attention to a member of this household since the kids were at the crawling stage. At least the kids wore diapers…..

The wife and kids have a few more weeks of school, so if you deal with me in “real life” over the next month, be patient. I’m probably cleaning up dog pee, throwing a ball, or going for a walk. And mostly loving every minute of it. Mostly.

GI Joe 1970 Price list and Parts List

I’m going deep down in the trenches of GI Joe history, so consider yourself warned.

Apart from the toys, I have also accumulated a fair amount of GI Joe-related ephemera over my 18+ years of collecting. One of the more interesting is this retail price list and replacement parts list, which appears to be from 1970. (Click to embiggen)SCN_0002 SCN_0003 SCN_0004

The first page is a list of suggested retail prices of what should be available at stores. It’s quite early in the Adventure Team run of GI Joe, as the lineup is very basic – all they list are the core figures, the bigger boxed sets, the Action Pack accessories, the classic ATV, and the perennial foot locker. It also includes some leftovers from the 1964-1968 Military and 1969 “Adventures Of” series that didn’t carry on into the 70s. Wouldn’t you like to go back to 1970 and pick up a Mouth of Doom for $7? If you brought back a few cases of Flying Space Adventure at $9.50 per set, you could buy yourself a pretty nice car with the proceeds from selling them now. Two things I noticed: Hasbro refers to the “Man of Action” figure as simply “GI Joe”, and there’s one thing missing….the Five Star Jeep. Does this mean that there was a time, however brief, it wasn’t in the lineup?

Pages 2 and 3 are a replacement parts price list. If I had known this was possible at the time, I would have scraped up all my loose change to buy M-1 rifles and carbines at two for a quarter, because my Adventure Team was woefully short on firepower in the early 70s.  I’m quite amused by the calculations of the original owner of this sheet, who was plotting to save himself almost five bucks off the price off Eight Ropes of Danger by ordering the key pieces separately. (Hey, kid, the octopus and treasure chest were great accessories! Don’t sell yourself short!)

That concludes this trip down memory lane. My collecting friends can discuss this in the usual places.

My Cancer Story, or How I Lost My Sports Fan Mojo

As I type this, my beloved Kansas Jayhawks basketball team is playing an NCAA Tournament game against Wichita State. As you can guess, it’s kind of a big deal around here.

And I’m not watching. For the sake of my mental health, I’ll probably shut down my Twitter feed for the next couple of hours. This is obviously strange behavior for someone who has lived and died with the Jayhawks for over 30 years, but let me tell you about it….

In early March of 2010, I had surgery to remove a lump under my jaw. The doctor hoped it was just a cyst, but it turned out to be a lymph node and sent it off for pathology. At the follow up visit, he said I needed to see an oncologist.

On March 18th, several things happened:

1. The #1 ranked Jayhawks beat the snot out of a 16 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
2. I went to the Oncologist, learned that my cancer was a Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, there was a pretty good chance it had spread, and I needed to have a PET scan on Monday.
3. I told my kids (then 14 and 11) I had cancer.

Worst day of my life, so far.

I spent the next few days trying to process what was happening to me. I don’t think I ever really figured out “why”. When Saturday, March 20th came, it was time for my Jayhawks to play again, against one of those “no big deal” mid-major teams, Northern Iowa. That would take my mind off things, wouldn’t it? Cole Aldridge would dunk on their heads, Sherron Collins would work his magic, and the Morris Twins would show off their rapidly improving form. No problem!

If you’re a KU fan, you know how it turned out. (Badly.) I spent most of that game in my home office, watching with the sound turned off. I spent most of the evening sitting in that same chair, with my head on my desk and the lights out, letting the pain flow through me, wondering what else the world had in store for me. I’ve never been the same fan since.

Something in me broke that day. I don’t blame the team, they just had a bad game at the worst possible time. I just needed an emotional lift from somewhere that day, and the most likely source didn’t deliver.

The next Monday, I had that PET scan, and learned that the cancer hadn’t spread very far. The next day, they surgically installed a port for the chemotherapy infusions and did a bone marrow biopsy, which was also encouraging. The next week I started the six rounds of chemo, which wasn’t too bad other than that one day every three weeks I couldn’t get out of my recliner thanks to the prednisone crash, and I was officially declared in remission on July 10th. A few months from now, I will hopefully have my last follow-up visit with the Oncologist, and will be considered “cured”.

But I really won’t be. I don’t have any physical limitations, and the only really significant side effect is an occasional inability to pull a word out of my head when needed. People I’ve known for years, items I’ve used forever, topics I can discuss in detail, but once in a while I just can’t pull that name or term out of my head. Chemo Brain, they call it. But I can deal with that, and consider myself fortunate that it’s all I have to deal with.

One thing I’ve lost is the ability to be a good fan. If things are going badly for one of my teams, I turn off the TV. If I’m in the building, and things are going extremely badly, I will leave. (Yes, I walked out of Allen Fieldhouse after KU blew that huge lead against Oklahoma this season.) Why? I think have a fear of experiencing the despair of March 20th, 2010 again, and I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid it.

I’m not really “bought in” to my teams anymore. And I hate that. For good or bad, I’ve invested a lot of mental energy in them over my life, and now I’m afraid to anticipate any big game because it might turn out badly. The KC Royals were in the playoffs for the first time since I was in college, and all I could do is view each game with dread and treat the series-clinching outs with relief. It’s why I’m listening to a podcast that some friends of mine make (hey to Dave, Barry, and Tod) instead of watching my favorite team play basketball.

So. This was probably all just a bunch of whiny drivel from a guy who should just thank God, his lucky stars, and modern medicine for his continuing presence on this planet, and get over it. Maybe I will someday, or maybe I should just walk away from sports. But after 40+ years of devoted fandom, I don’t know how.

March Madness

Well, big surprise, I haven’t posted anything in two months. I have been busy, but I’ve also fought with the questions of “what do I want to say”, and “how do I want to say it”? It would be easy for me to rip off a multi-page screed on the failings of modern society, but the internet is already well-stocked in that type of writing, so I’m kind of stuck in an evaluation loop.

Anyway, today is Basketball Day, the start of the NCAA Tournament. It’s a flawed spectacle, but a spectacle none the less.  I am a fan (and graduate) of the University of Kansas, so my memory is full of great highs and horrible lows experienced during this month of March, all the way back to 1984.

Here’s the wisdom of my accumulated experience: Your team will probably break your heart. Try not to let that feeling last too long. It’s just a bunch of kids in baggy shorts.

Enjoy the games!

PS: The diet is going well, I’m down 25 pounds.