Friday, May 16, 2008

Jack of all trades...

I love Batman.

I was thinking of just leaving this post as that one sentence but then I thought that might be a little weird, so let me explain why.

Cruising through the series of tubes that make up the Interweb, I came across a list of 75 things every man should be able to do and I felt a strange combination of fascination and resentment. But I couldn't stop reading it.

Because a small part of me felt that this list might know something I didn't know about being a man. I wanted to size myself up against the list to see just how manly I was.

And then I realized I was being a complete tool.

There's a lack of zen in North America causing the youth to believe they have to be the best at everything and I blame me. I mean the media. So... me.

Anyway, being constantly bombarded by information in today's wacky world of infotainment there's an endless variety of figures to look up to and it's hard to choose just one. Sports figures, intellectuals, inventors, musicians. The list is endless, but it's also inevitably hopeless.

The giant list of potential heroes creates a giant bubble of confusion in young minds. No one knows who to look up to. Ask someone who their hero is. ONE hero and I bet you'll get a blank stare for one of two reasons:

They either can't filter through the grotesque, Facebook-sized list of names in their heads,

Or the names got lost in the database somewhere and the person has no one they really look up to and identify with.

Another alienating effect of having too many heroes or no heroes at all is being over or underwhelmed by the many facets of life. With too many heroes it's easy to have the need to be the best at everything to keep up with and compare yourself to the heroic figures in your head and with no heroes at all, well, that's just disasterous.

No one is going to be the best at everything, no matter how hard they try and the more people I see trying to be the best at everything, the more frustrated I get with a society that breeds sterility.

This is the same reason why I hate Superman.

He's the most boring character ever created and he only perpetuates the myth that people should try to be great at everything. He's the strongest, fastest, invulnerableist AND the bastard has laser eyes. Just in case.

Choose one thing you're good at and become awesome at it. Don't set your sights so high that they're unachievable. I want to live in a world where people specialize in different skills and don't try to know everything about everything.

But isn't Batman just the opposite of what I described? Kind of, but not really. He's a tricky third option for people with no real-life heroes to relate to.

In every Batman story I've ever read he gets the shit kicked out of him to the point where he's near death but somehow manages to squeeze through. He doesn't always save the day. He's not always right. He's just a guy with a neurosis and a boat-load of cash doing whatever it is he does.

His great skill is adapting, and that's made him a perfect for today's world of information bombardment.

In the comic world super-powers mirror the people with great abilities in our world. Batman has had to contend against superheroes with nothing more than his ingenuity and he's done it successfully.

Batman doesn't have a list of 75 things he needs to know about being Batman. He started by just beating the snot out of criminals and it all snowballed from there.

I don't need to know how to "recite one poem from memory" or "be brand loyal to at least one product" to be a man. I'm just going to focus at being the best at beating up criminals and I'll deal with the rest as it comes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Learning the hard way...

Today I found this video and died a little inside.

What troubles me most is the man in the video, despite being an obvious psycho, seems to be a smart guy. That bothers me a lot. It's easier to think of psychotic predators as obvious, but they're not. Predators, just like in the wild, tend to be cunning and sly. Just like this guy.

Like any smart psychopath, The AIDS Man raises some good points about American culture, especially the under-education or apathy of the youth towards sex.

I hope The AIDS Man thinks of himself as a brilliant, shock-education teacher, that he made a fake video to prove a point and he really hasn't ruined lives. But somehow I doubt it.

In the summer of 2004, Windsor went into a state of panic. About five emergency health units were installed around the city so women (and men) could be tested for HIV. The son of a prominent businessman was found to have a rare strain of the disease and was having unprotected sex without telling his partners of his disease.

Over a hundred people came forward claiming they had sex with him or may have been linked through a common sexual partner.

It's hard to describe the city's tension that summer and I don't wish it on any other community.

And as much as I hate clubs, I would never wish The AIDS Man on any club kids.

Just like any psychopath, The AIDS Man craves the spotlight and probably thinks of ordinary people as less than himself. Mentioning his car and jewelry hints at that. But just because he's a dangerous predator doesn't mean people should ignore what he's saying.

Psychopaths always seem to have a twisted message to the world. While they're not always acceptable or even reasonable philosophies, we owe it to ourselves (not them) to listen.

Assuming The AIDS Man is legitimate, I'm certain he's spreading AIDS because of the thrill. Of course, he also wants to paint himself as being a great teacher who's trying to help people.

I don't think for a moment he's trying to help anyone. But I do think his message is valid.

UPDATE - Oh, well that's a relief. It's just a porn-producing, douchebag, nobody.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Guilty boredom...

Every Friday I try to make a little time to read an online comic by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield called Freak Angels. They're taking a break from producing the comic this week but Ellis has written a few pages outlining his inspiration for Freak Angels and a very brief history of "disaster fiction."

Ellis also goes into why he feels disaster fiction is so prominent in British literature;

"We imagine great natural (or unnatural) disasters because we'll never actually experience them. Literary survivors' guilt."

If you're a reader of ER3 or if you know me personally, you will know that there's only one method of catastrophic disaster I really worry about;

Horrible, ever-loving, nuclear Armageddon. A flood isn't so bad when you consider the instant vaporization of entire city blocks, and that's just the fun part of the impending fiasco.

I'm not too worried about many other types of disaster. I'm pretty confident in my abilities to survive any minor cataclysms like flooding, ice storms, black-outs and even the elusive (but somehow constant) threat of terrorism.

But a nuclear firestorm? In that situation, my plans go from basic survival mode to completely psychotic. My plan for any large scale nuclear holocaust would be to grab the cooler of beer and a lawn chair and try and reach the highest rooftop I can so I can get a nice, clear view of ground zero before my eyeballs melt and my skin flies off my cheery, beer drinking skeleton.

Hold the SPF 5 million! I'm going to experience this blast in high definition! Because I'd have to be Mad Max style, bat-shit crazy to want to try to survive that clusterfuck.

That being said, I love disaster fiction, but I don't think it's because of "survivors' guilt." Disaster fiction is prominent in the west partly because our lifestyles don't give us many opportunities to test ourselves. Disaster fiction and fantasies give us an outlet to see the best and worst of ourselves in a scenario that not only destroys who you were, but gives you an opportunity to see who you could be.

I refuse to admit that I'm the only person who's dreamed of a world where I was that bat-shit crazy marauder, or a desert wasteland community builder, or a wilderness-roaming hard-ass. Sure beats installing bumpers for 30 years.

Maybe Ellis is right and Britain thinks of these things because of guilt. Maybe Britain lacks nuclear catastrophic fiction because WWII is still a bit too fresh and I've been terrified with the notion since childhood.

Personally, I think we all just lead really boring lives.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Shout out and random black thoughts...

One of my favourite vloggers is a hilarious Australian chap by the name of Sean Bedlam who usually has some marvelous thoughts.

Wait, marvelous isn't the right word.

Is "ofFUNsive" a word? If not, I'm coining it. If you happen to use the word offunsive, please mail me a dollar.

The videos of his which I've watched recently have had racial themes and as someone who's life has been consistently permeated by racial issues, I like to listen to other smart white people discuss their points of view on the subject.

Let me back track a bit.

As a kid growing up across the river from Detroit, I've always noticed issues of race when they pop up. These issues didn't happen all the time, but when they did, I was always intelligent enough to notice them. I might not have known at the time exactly why Detroit's suburbs were riddled with burnt-out houses streamed with police tape, or why the neighbouring homes had steel gates on the front doors, but I still remember them.

Okay, let me back track a bit more.

My family has always told me stories of the great racial divide. All my life I've heard about the race riots. The border was shut down and Windsorites would gather along the riverfront to watch Detroit burn. Tanks rolled through the streets and helicopters buzzed the skies.

Before that, my grandfather took the family to Florida. Back then black people weren't allowed to walk on the beach during the day because they would cramp white people's style.

The story here is that a well-known black entertainer and activist broke the rules while my grandfather and the fam were at the beach. White folks sat by in disgust as this man, dressed nicely in a suit, took off his shoes and socks to walk along the beach in a silent, one-man protest.

The locals were disgusted and sat by as he walked along the beach. This man caused such a scene that he was being followed by police to make sure the shit didn't hit the fan. I'm not sure if it was for his own safety or to make white people feel safer. Because well... black people in the 50's were pure evil, you know.

When he passed by, my grandfather made the family stand up as he passed. It was a sign of respect for the black man and maybe a little bit of defiance from my grandfather because no other white people would dare acknowledge what he was doing by standing.

The black man passed by and nodded and all my grandfather said to my mother was; "Remember this."

Shortly after the man passed them by, my grandfather had to pack up the kids as quick as possible to flee the angry white folks who looked at my family as "nigger lovers."

My life is riddled with stories of race; my mother's college friend who was in the Black Panthers. My cousin who got kicked out of Sunday School for making a "black" angel (Angel's can't be black, apparently.) My grandfather and the kids, again escaping from white people in the southern states who were going "coon hunting" and noticed the Canadian plates on the car, making them a suitable alternate target.

Everyone knows the basics of segregation. The water fountains for black and white people (which my mother actually drank out of the wrong fountain once as a kid. Which again made my family a target down south. Nice one, mom.)

Whenever I think of race, I always remember a story of my own from when I worked for a summer in a book store.

Two black ladies were shopping in Windsor and I knew immediately they were from Detroit from the accents.

The one lady asked me where the "Black Section" was and I took her to the Cultural Studies shelves and to Black Studies which maybe had a dozen books on a lower shelf.

She asked if that was it and I felt bad that our black studies section seemed so small compared to what I thought any good bookstore in the States might carry, so I told her that we could order just about any book she wanted.

Then she asked me if that was also all of our "black fiction" and I had no idea what to think, so like an idiot I stared at her trying to imagine what she meant. So she asked again where we kept fiction books written by black authors.

I understood what she said but I finally got what she was really telling me.

Bookstores in the states are still segregated. In exchange for sharing a water fountain with white folks, black people now have their own fiction sections.

What's worse is that the lady almost looked offended when I told her it was with all the other fiction books listed alphabetically by author.

"So... the black writers are all mixed in with the rest of them?"


"... oh. Okay," she said and walked away with her look of shock, telling the other black lady what I had told her who then also looked shocked.

That experience made me feel so sad for everyone.