Archive for March 2010

Geeks in Comics–The Guild by Felicia Day   3 comments

I am a comics fan. Once upon a time I would have said that I’m a huge comics fan, but I know that simply isn’t true. When I go to my comics store, Samurai Comics in Phoenix, I routinely see people laying out $100 or more for their subscriptions.  Those are the huge comics fans. The store gets about $4 to $10 a week from me, which is puny compared to many of their patrons.

Still, I like to think I know a lot about comics. I have been a fan all my life since about the age of 12, and I’m 62 now. I have seen comics companies rise and fall. I have bought thousands of comics, and read maybe ten times as many as I have bought.  I have advocated for comics in libraries for decades now, and am really pleased to see them making progress there. Comics get kids to read, and keep adults reading, and reading, imho, is a good thing.

For the record, the things I normally buy include: all Conan comics, except reprints–I have the original, why buy a reprint–all Tarzan comics–the Ape-Man seems to have fallen from grace lately–it has been at least 3 years since he last had a comic series, Groo, the Astro City stuff by Kurt Busiek (I once corresponded with Kurt, back before he became a star), almost anything with Adam Strange in it, almost anything about the Justice League of America. I like the mini-series, especially of Golden Age characters like Flash Gordon or Doc Savage. I’m looking forward to D.C.’s First Wave stuff.

This week thee wasn’t too much for me. I made an impulse purchase, and the decision to buy was made literally by the flip of a coin. Heads, buy, Tails, leave. The comic I bought was The Guild by Felicia Day.

First of all, props to Dark Horse Comics and Felicia Day for translating her popular internet webisode series “The Guild” to comics. Felica says somewhere–she’s quoted everywhere these days, and I’m not paying strict attention–that when the idea of making The Guild into a comic was presented to her, she decided that she would de a prequel–that is, a story that comes before the first story in the series. And this is it.

Let’s be cruel. I’ve seen pictures of internet heartthrob Felica Day, and I follow her on Twitter (possibly because there’s a fantasy gaming connection) and she is, in fact, drop dead gorgeous. She has the kind of good looks and ebullient personality that destines her for media greatness, or at least a couple years of high popularity. But she imagines her comic book alter-ego as a flat-chested, horsey-faced redhead in a depressed relationship with a conceited young rocker who wants to make it in the music business–ah the eternal dream of the young and feckless. One day, while trying to pass out flyers advertising her boyfriend’s band–the Shredders (I wince just to think of it.) she wanders into a gamestore and winds up buying a sixty dollar mmorpg base set. With no one to guide her, she sets up a healer character and wanders into the wonderful fairyland of online roleplaying, where she quickly discovers that such  games are all about killing things.  In a few hours of online play she works her way up from killing chipmunks to killing dinosaur dragon things, and she meets a few other gamers. This is an empowering experience for her, but when her self-centered boyfriend comes back, she drops it all to cater to his every whim. And that ends book one of this three book mini-series.

Frankly, I would not have even picked up this book if it wasn’t about Ms. Day. This is an oft-told tale–that of a geek or nerd who enters a fantasy land and discovers her true worth and power. It is popular because there are so many of us geeks, and I include myself, who desperately want to believe it could happen. In real life I am a low-level librarian who hasn’t had a promotion in 37 years of service, but in Runescape (http://runescape.com) I am Khenn Arrth, a none-too-bright adventurer who has solved every quest, explored every corner of the continually expanding world, and slain every monster the game programmers could throw at me–definitely a hero compared to my all-too-mundane real life self. Eight years of constant play will do that for one.

What will make this comic a success is Felica Day’s own immense popularity on the internet. At the time I write this, she has 1,743,346 followers on Twitter which makes her roughly 4500 times more popular than me. By the time you read this blog, she will have even more, and will probably top 2 million followers before the end of April, and I may be underestimating the phenomenon. I bought the comic with some vague idea of selling it in a  year or three for ten times the cover price on Ebay.  I have no idea how many “Guild” followers there are. The website at http://watchtheguild.com claims to have over 25 million served. They do have 3 seasons of dvds for sale, and my guess is that everyone connected to this production is doing very well indeed.

And rightfully so. From what I’ve seen, the show is witty, well-produced, funny, and it talks about issues that matter to today’s young, online, internet generation. Long may the Guild flourish!

Is Felicia’s Guild comic the greatest comic book ever seen? No.  Is it a bad story? No. It is a kind of hip follow-up to old slice-of-life comics like Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor. When the mini-series ends, would I like to see Dark Horse turn it into a continuing series? I don’t know. Possibly. But with the Guild available in video on DVD, do we really need a comic book about them? Only time will tell.  It could happen. After all, nothing succeeds like excess, and we live smack in the middle of the Age of Excess.

In the meantime, I will buy the first 3 issues at least–I already told my guy at Samurai Comics to add it to my list. I will read them once, then bag and board them and put them aside. I think The Guild might turn out to be a collector’s item. And at the very least, it will be fun.

End

Posted March 26, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

The Empress and the Warriors–silly movie   2 comments

I don’t know beans about Eastern Cinema–be it Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Thai. I do know that I like lots of action, romance, beautiful scenery and martial arts action. Chinese and Japanese films provide plenty of those things. I don’t know who the stars are, who the directors/producers are, what their limitations are. I just know I like a good movie.

I’ll put up with anything as long as it has a lot of action, a bit of sex, and some gorgeous scenery. So, when my friend Michael Stackpole mentioned that he had this movie, and that it had beautiful action scenes in it, I determined to borrow it from him and watch it.

 

 

Mike graciously loaned it to me, and now I’m ready to graciously give it back to him. I watched it last week and I’m willing to give the movie its due.  Good things about it: It was beautifully photographed in gorgeous country. The sets were great. The fighting scenes were well done. The acting may have been good–it’s not my culture–I couldn’t really tell.

But the story made no sense at all. There are these warring kingdoms–ok, from what I know of Chinese history there was a period of time when China was split into many different kingdoms who battled it out for surpemacy. The old king is severely wounded in battle, and then finished off by an ambitious traitor who wants his throne. The king wants the kingdom to go to his best general and right-hand man, but politics rears its ugly head, as personified by the villain, and it winds up going to the king’s daughter instead. She vows to become a warrior queen, and gamely starts training. Her mentor/teacher beats the crap out of her, and never misses a chance to  humiliate her, but she does get better. She actually becomes a very good archer, and is a fine horsewoman. The bad guy decides that if the queen vanished, he could take the throne without opposition, so, and here’s where the logic of the movie completely falls apart, he sets a clan of ninjas–yes, I know there are no ninjas in China, but what else are you going to call a bunch of goofballs who dress all in black and attack in gangs?–to assassinate her. She is out in the country bathing her horse in a river all by herself.  Say, what? The queen of the nation is hours from town, all alone, giving her horse a bath in a river? Are you crazy? That would never happen.

But, it gets better. Twenty ninjas attack her. They come flying silently out of the trees into the river, but she looks up, spots them, and dives. Suddenly the water, that was perhaps 2 feet deep where she was bathing the horse, is 10 feet deep so the ninjas don’t all break their legs when they jump in and there lots of room for underwater ballet and combat. Good, exciting action. Did I believe it? Not for a second.

Having beaten up 3 or 4 ninjas underwater, our warrior queen surfaces, gets on her horse, and gallops away from the ambush. Yeah, that makes sense, although why a couple of ninjas didn’t take her horse when they first attacked, I’ll never know. Perhaps it’s just because these are really stupid ninjas. But, they sure are in good shape. They are able to chase a galloping horse through a forest, keep up with it, and still have breath left over to fire blowguns with poison darts at the princess. She dodges a few of them, but then one of them shoots her in the back, and that should have been the end of that story.

Except that these happen to be the very woods where a mystic warrior/doctor/hot air balloonist has set up his idyllic hermit dwelling place. When he sees the princess being chased by ninjas, he activates all the amazing booby traps that he has set up  years ahead of time to protect himself and takes out all the ninjas. Then he picks up the princess, takes her home, cures her of the poison, and shows her how wonderful life alone in the forest with a renaissance Chinese warrior/doctor/mystic can be. Ah, love! The fairy tale is in full force now.

Still, duty calls, and she leaves him, goes back to  her kingdom, meets the bodyguard that should have been with her when she was first attacked, rides home, finds the bad guy on the throne, and banishes him. Say what? This guy has killed your father, hired ninjas to kill you, and stolen the throne, and when you come back you tell him he’s free to go?  How stupid can this woman be?  You kill him, right then and there.  You don’t banish him–I believe he took all his troops and went about as far away as the next town. If the bad guy has to get away in order for him to come back and make trouble in the rest of the film, then as movie maker you have a tremendous action scene–perhaps a rescue by his forces–or some incredible fighting scenes that show him to be a worthy foe. You don’t let him walk out and take his army with him. But she did.

Then she rules for a week or so, and gets ready for  her grand coronation–there hasn’t been time for that yet, when she decides that she doesn’t want to be queen after all. So she abdicates, gives the throne to the warrior hero who should have had it all along, goes off alone back to her lover in the forest. There she has one blissful night of sex with her fairy tale prince when suddenly the ninjas attack the house.  Say what? I guess the ninjas knew where this guy lived all along, but never had a good reason to kill him before. Then we get this lovely night time battle scene in which the princess more than holds her own.  Guess who gets shot with the poison dart this time. Yep, her lover. He realizes that this attack means the bad guy has struck again, and she needs to get back to her kingdom to clean things up.  Off she goes.

As soon as she’s gone, he dies. The poison was much stronger and more effective this time. So, the love of her life is dead, gut she doesn’t know this yet. She has a kingdom to set right.

Meanwhile, back in the kingdom, the badguy waits just long enough for the good guys to let their guard down, then walks in with his army, catches them all singing kumbaya at a party, and kills all the wise old advisors except for the heroic prince/general who is rescued by his loyal men, and gets away. There’s a bad guy recently exiled, and yet the good guys don’t even set guards. I’m beginning to think everyone in this country is too dumb to live.

Reuniting with his forces in the countryside, our good guy hero realizes that he’s outnumbered by the bad guy’s army. Does he ride off into the countryside, rally the peasants, link up with the queen, and come back for vengeance. No, that’s too logical. He disperses the men he has and goes back to fight the usurper alone.

Guess what happens!  He attacks the army singlehandedly, does great feats of arms, and gets killed.  Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Time to die now, hero. Yes, they gang up on him 100 to 1 and stab him in the back with a long spear. Once isn’t enough. It takes two or three times to kill him. But down he goes.

I don’t think I’ll tell you the stupid ending of this stupid movie. But, it’s a fairy tale, so  you know the bad guy gets what’s coming to him, and it’s not the throne.

Very pretty movie, very dumb movie

What I want to know is why would anyone make such a dumb movie when with just a little more effort they could have made a movie that makes sense?

End.

Posted March 24, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Priestess of Avalon   Leave a comment

 

Back in the day, I used to read one or more books every day. Now it’s a feat and an accomplishment if I get one read every three months. Where did the time go, and the reading?  The internet ate all my reading time.

But, I finished Priestess of Avalon this morning after some three months of working on it, a page or two at a time, all at the library on breaks, lunch hours, etc. This is a book I had no business reading. It’s a woman’s book, written by a woman (or maybe two) for women about women dealing with women’s mysteries.  Although it is a historical fantasy set in the 3rd century Roman Empire of Constantine the Great, it’s really an extended work about the Triple Goddess, Maiden, Mother, and Crone as personified by Helena, the mother of Constantine.  She starts as a young acolyte of the Priestesses of Avalon, and ends as a very old woman returning to the mystic isle.

There is a great deal in this book about the Goddess–the Creative Life Force of the world.  If you read for understanding, you will come away with a very good idea of what goddess-worship is all about. You’ll also get an excellent historial novel with insight into how people thought 1700 years ago when the world was changing from pagan to christian. 

I thought about doing some discussion and philosophizing about the Goddess Worship in this review, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s not my place to do that.  I’m a man, and if I think I know a few things about Woman, it’s probably better if I just keep them to myself and enjoy those rare moments when the Goddess deigns to bless me.

If you are a woman with a flair for mysticism, you should definitely read this book. If you are a man who’s willing to cross gender boundaries of understanding, then you, too can read it. If you’re a sword and sorcery fan, forget it.

Recommended for mystics.  Bradley, Marion Zimmer and Diana Paxson (who did most of the writing, I thnk). PRIESTESS OF AVALON. New York, Roc, c2002. 394 p.

Posted March 23, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Alice in Underland–Things to Think About   3 comments

I went to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie on Sunday afternoon. Somewhat to my surprise, I liked it. Like Avatar, the movie succeeds not because of story and plot, but because of settting and special effects. And like Avatar, there are more things going on beneath the surface than are readily apparent.

 

You know how the story is going to end even before  you go to the movie. Somehow, a simple journey through a fabulous land of imagination is not enough for Tim Burton. He turns it into a female version of the Hero’s Journey, thank you very much Mr. Joseph Campbell, in which the stricken land must be redeemed by a hero who fights and slays a monster. I suppose it’s a good plot for children, and this is really  a movie for children–what else would we expect from Disney productions. Any child can go see this movie safely enough.

As the characters explain, Alice is really in Underland, not Wonderland. Lewis Carroll wrote of her first venture there when she was a 6 year old child–somehow I always thought of her as more tennish, but . . . whatever. Carrol’s tale is a simple travelogue–Alice wanders around, meets some odd characters, and wakes up. Burton’s movie  is not about the journey at all. It’s all about opposites: possible-impossible, big-small, good-evil, lush-desolate, awake-asleep.  Opposites abound. Perhaps you can think of some more. Oh yes, there is enough subtext in Alice to keep analysts busy for a long time.

In the picture above you can see how lush and fertile Underland is. But much of Underland has become a desolate ruined place. Look below to see what a barren and hideous country it has become since the child’s visit.

 

The land is barren. Storm clouds fill the sky. Even in the rich picture above, there is the suggestion of storm and decay and rottenness.  Underland has become a Wasteland.

Of course, we have a handy scapegoat–villains who did this to Wonderland. The Red Queen, the Jack of Hearts, the Jabberwocky, the Jubjub bird, the Bandersnatch, and the Red Queen’s Cards (guards).  (That’s a pun, son.) And, Alice learns her lessons and becomes a champion who can redeem the land.  She faces her own moment of truth, and is not found wanting. However, I wonder what she is redeeming?

  

The White Queen is the symbol of the old, good Underland–white the color of purity versus red the color of blood. The  White Queen wears too much lipstick, and it’s black. Her fingernails are painted black. She minces and poses through her scenes. Like her sister, she has a court of sycophants and flatterers. She also is a witch, and the ingredients she puts into her potion to transform Alice to the “right” size are vile–urine and severed fingers are shown.  The White Queen reminds me of Emma Frost, the corrupt leader of the X-Men.  Emma was the White Queen of the Hellfire Club. Surely the resemblance is no accident–I’d guess that Tim Burton knows American pop culture as well as anyone. Where there are resemblances, there are intentions behind them.  She pouts and sulks when it seems like she may not get her way. She is cruel and spiteful when she sentences her defeated sister to go into exile in the Outer Lands.  Her creed may be never to kill, but she has no compulsions about getting others to kill for her.

I wonder why the Looking-Glass land had to mingle with Underland. Is it because there was no true darkness, no evil even implied in Wonderland? But when Alice went through the Looking-Glass she encountered all sorts of violence, though it was more implied than shown. The flowers are spiteful and mean in Looking-Glass land. The poetry is vicious and menacing.  (Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimbal in the wabe.)  The world is violent behind the mirror. The Jabberwocky poem is one of horror, and even though the beamish boy with the vorpal blade triumphs, not all of the monsters are defeated. Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall and is broken to pieces and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. The Lion and the Unicorn were fighting for the Crown. The Lion beat the Unicorn all around the Town. The Looking-Glass world  has much more violence and evil in it than Underland, so when Burton needs villains, that is where he turns.

There are strange things going on in Underland–not just the obvious strange things like talking animals and fabulous monsters, but psychologically strange things. Burton’s story is a boy’s adventure tale where everything is reversed. The champion-hero is a girl, but she takes up the vorpal blade and dresses in knightly armor to slay the dragon. The sword is the ultimate symbol of male potency. Why is a girl wielding it? The strong characters in the movie are all women. Red Queen, White Queen, Dormouse, Alice–even the Mad Hatter, the closest thing we get to an admirable male, is extremely effeminate.  The Jack of Hearts is a blackguard–literally. The White Rabbit is a coward. The Caterpillar is an overbearing pedant with a vile habit–always blowing smoke in people’s faces and gloating when they choke on it. The Bandersnatch is a simple but ferocious beast. The March Hare is raving mad, and dangerous–always throwing things. The Mad Hatter is angry and crazy.  Tweedledee and Tweedledum are morons.  The only admirable male in the film is Alice’s father, and he’s dead. What’s going on?

You might argue that Burton is just working with what Lewis Carrol gives him, but that would be simplistic. Carrol’s White Rabbit is not the cowering lickspittle that Burton portrays. There are male characters in Carrol’s story, conspicuous by their absense in Burton’s movie. The Walrus and the Carpenter are not nice guys, but they are not the weaklings that are all we see in Burton’s movie. The White Knight in Looking-Glass land may remind us of Don Quixote, but he’s a champion all the same. Old Father William, although only a character in a poem, is quite a remarkable fellow. None of them make an appearance in Underland. What’s going on here?

Alice in Underland is another retelling of the hero’s journey, except the hero is a girl. She descends into the Underworld, is tested, slays the dragon, and returns to the surface world to set things right. Alice learns her own true identity and becomes her own person only by leaving her dreams behind. But is she a good person at the end? She stands on her own two feet and confronts her adversaries, but only by becoming like them. She bullies the bullying mother. She blackmails the cheating brother-in-law. She connives with the conniving businessman. Yes, Alice learns to survive in our all too imperfect world, but she is corrupted just the same.  Alice in Underland is a story about the loss of innocence–it may be a necessary loss, but it is a sad one.

When the Red Queen, the Bloody Big Head, is defeated, the Mad Hatter is able to dance the Futterwacken once again. It’s a marvelous dance. It should be. You know what the verb to futter means–it means to fuck. Sex can be the most wonderful thing in life, and so it’s a wondrous dance. It is also used as the ultimate expression of contempt and defilement. When somebody says “Fuck you!” they’re not wishing you a joyous coupling with the mate of your choice. Sex is also the loss of innocence. 

When Alice fell into the Underland, she was innocent and unsullied–naive, pure.  It was a fall from grace.  When she returned, she came back dirty–no longer pure. She faced and defeated her real world foes, and then futterwacked them.  It was a symbolic degradation in the truest sense of the word.

It may sound like I’m being critical and negative here, but I’m not. I liked the story. Burton has a message, and it’s not a simple good vs. evil tale. I liked it because there is so much sub-text. I haven’t touched on a quarter of it. The real story of Alice in Underland is told in the imagery and the conversation–not in the simple linear story of heroine in a strange world who slays the dragon and finds  herself. It’s all symbolic, folks. Think about the symbols and enjoy it on an adult level.

P.S. Why is a raven like a writing desk? It is Carroll’s most famous riddle, and he never gave us the answer. Over the years a few good answers have been offered. The Mad Hatter didn’t know the answer, although it was his riddle. But I heard an answer that I like. I forget who came up with it, but it’s a great answer, and makes perfect sense if you know anything about Victorian England and Carroll’s love for wordplay.

Why is a raven like a writing desk? Because they both have INKY QUILLS! (ba-dum bump!)

Posted March 22, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Dancing   Leave a comment

 

    How can something that looks so effortless and easy be so hard? The couples glided around the spotless wooden floor with the men leading masterfully and the women doing graceful spins and twirls, and I knew that I was going to disgrace myself before the night was over.

     Tuesday night, March 16, I went dancing for the first time in many, many years. Sure, I had tripped through a few Regency pavanes at science-fiction conventions over the years–the key word there being tripped. I’m about as graceful as a brick in motion. Yes, I can bow, and smile, and walk forward–don’t ask me to walk backwards in time to music, but that’s about all, and I don’t even do that very often. The two-step is my favorite dance. Let me inhale the perfume of her hair, and sway back and forth to slow romantic music with my lady in my arms, and I’m a happy guy. Ask for anything requiring grace and coordination, and you’re asking for trouble.

     So, why would a clumsy old guy–I think I was the oldest man in the room, but not the oldest person–go to the Fatcat ballroom at 32nd Street and Thunderbird, about 15 miles from home to try swing dancing when he has absolutely no interest in swing dancing?  I did it for my18 year-old son, Corencio. He’s a freshman at Arizona State University, and is taking a class in salsa dancing. He is required to attend at least 4 dance events outside of the classroom. Considering his parents, Corencio is a surprisingly good dancer. Slim, graceful,  young, coordinated–for him dancing is a delight, and he looks good, too.

     But sometimes it’s up to Dad to provide the initiative to get things going. One of my friends is Michael A. Stackpole, sometime Star Wars novelist, fantasist, game designer and critic, and all-around good guy. I hope to get Mike to help me transition into electronic publishing later this year (and we talked about that a little at the ballroom), but he has mentioned from time to time that he goes to dances. I called him last week and asked if he knew of anything that Corencio and I could get in on, and he told me about this time and place.  The dancing was really for Corencio’s benefit–he needs to write a short report about it–though this blog will probably be much longer than anything he does. [I challenge you, Corencio, if you read this, to write a better account of the dancing session.]

     The Fatcat ballroom is a large trapezoidal room with full-length mirrors on the long walls that make the place appear even bigger. The place was very well-lighted when we walked in and paid our $7 each for the class, but it dimmed to a merciful twilight when the class actually started. Our instructor was a large handsome guy named Steve Conrad, and he had a lovely partner named Noel. He did his best to teach me how to swing dance. If they gave me a written test on swing dancing, I believe I could pass it. Here’s a little picture of the place and ad for it. I believe the guy in the black shirt with his back to the camera is my friend Mike Stackpole–the build and clothing seem just about right for him.

    Swing is built on two simple steps. The triple step consists of a large step by the leading foot followed by two half steps by the trailing feet to bring the feet back together. The bounce step is simply rocking back onto the toes of the left foot, and then stepping forward again. The basic dance then is triple step left, triple step right, bounce step and repeat until the music stops. You also get to hold your partner while doing this in what is basically a waltz position–her right hand in my left  hand, my right hand in the small of her back. her left hand on my shoulder.

     We practiced that for twenty minutes or so. I never got it right more than twice in a row. It seemed like I couldn’t keep up with the music, lost the tempo, bounced when I should be triple stepping, triple stepped when I should be bouncing, stepped on my right foot with my left foot, which may be why my right big toe hurt the following day. It got to the point where I would introduce myself to my new partner–the ladies moved around the circle about once every four minutes–where I would tell each new lady that I met that this was her chance to rest, although I admit that I gamely tried to keep up with the music.

 

     And then Steve started introducing complications.  To make the dance more intereting, the lady gets to spin away from her partner, and then spin back to him. This is supposed to happen either on the bounce step or between the bounce step and the next triple stop–I’m not quite sure.  It was up to me to lift my left hand while still holding hers, let her spin away from me, and then reverse spin back.

      After ten or fifteen minutes of practicing, I sort of got this. Sometimes I even got through a whole sequence without making a mistake, although it seemed like I always lost a tempo, and was out of time with the rest of the ballroom.

      And then he made it more complicated. During the spin, I had to change hands with my partner, so that when she spun back, my right hand now held her right hand and she pulled in beside me in a promenade position.  On the next spin, both hands had to go up above her head, and we switched hands back to the beginning. This was complex enough that we went through it without any foot motions. Then they turned the music on–we triple-stepped, we bounced, we spun her out, we lost her and saw her crash into the mirror, we pulled her back, we stepped on our own feet, and we stopped cold. I wasn’t the only person having problems, but I was probably the worst. Such is my fate in life. I will stand out–on one end of the spectrum or the other.

     By this time we had been practicing for over an hour. My calves burned, my feet were numb, my shoulders had a strange weak feeling (they still do more than a day later), and I was soaked in sweat. My throat was dry–I was on the point of collapse. I finally decided that was all the dancing I could take for one night. I apologized to my partner, who now found herself without a man to practice with at that point in line, and staggered out of line to find my hat and water bottle.

     Either lots more people had arrived, or a lot of people gave up before I did, because the chairs where I had left my hat were all full. I found it though–battered old fedora that it is–found my water–Ahhh, water is the gift of God–and went out the back door to cool off. Low sixties fahrenheit outside–a clear beautiful night–Arizona is having its finest weather of the year right now. Went back inside, gave my son his bottle of water during a short break. Young and strong as he is, he appreciated that. Other dancers in line looked envious.

     The instructional part of the evening ended soon afterwards. Music began to play, and dancers went back on the floor to show off, or practice what they had learned. That was enough for me. It was 9:o0, and we had been there about two hours, more than an hour of it spent trying to learn to dance. Ouch. I have never felt so clumsy in my life.

     The women were beautiful, gracious, nimble, and kind. It was so nice to meet them, hold them, spin them (no matter how badly), and just feel them in my arms again. Such occasions are few and far between for me these days. For that alone, I might be tempted to go back again. Mike told me that it takes men about ten hours to really learn the dance. Women learn it in about four hours. The idea of going back 9 more times before I’m any good at it is frightening, but on the other hand, I hate to give up, and it’s good exercise. Mike was very good at it–smooth; I admired the people who could dance. Maybe I will go back. After all, I was born to have adventure.

 

Posted March 18, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Bullets in the Night   2 comments

Dreams are a form of entertainment, and mine have been bizarre lately.  Normally, I wouldn’t mention them, but one dream has been recurring. If a dream comes back again and again, does it mean that your subconscious is trying to tell you something? Or is it an omen from an even higher power?

I usually forget my dreams. Sometimes I remember vaguely what happened or what  I felt–yes I say felt instead of saw because very often these nocturnal visions leave me with more feelings than images.  But for the last three nights, I’ve been getting the same image, and it bothers me.

I always dream that I’m meeting with a group of friends, and that we are opening packages. My package is about 9 inches square, 3 inches deep, wrapped in plain brown paper. and tied with white kite string.  It looks like a box of cookies from Grandma, but when I open it up, the contents of the box are bullets. I counted them last night–there were 50 large caliber shells inside. There was a hand-written note that said “For Practice.”

That left me wondering where I’m going to get a firearm that can use these bullets. They remind me of the shells I used for My M-1 rifle back in ROTC in 1966. I don’t find a gun, and a few minutes later I wake up vaguely worried about it all.

I have had approximately the same dream three times running since last Wednesday night. Each time there was a meeting I had to attend, a box I had to open, and bullets inside it. Then my “friends” disappear, leaving me alone with a box of bullets.

The one time I noticed who had sent me the bullets, it turned out to be the U.S. government. They/It also sent me the note telling me to practice. But I never see a gun, and no shots are fired in my dreams.

I am not a gun person. I don’t even own a firearm, and I haven’t fired one in the last twenty years. Thus, it’s a bit alarming to be dreaming of bullets. In a real life coincidence, I took some clothes to local laundromat on Friday, and while I was drying them, I found a single hollowpoint bullet lying on a drying table. Just the bullet.

I have weird dreams all the time, which I mostly forget. When they start to repeat, I remember them. Why the hell am I dreaming about a box of bullets?

Posted March 15, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

Toys   3 comments

Yesterday, I went to entertainmentearth.com and almost signed up as an affiliate. I have this blog site, and it seems to me I could talk enthusiastically  about toys and some of the mucho mucho good stuff that you see in the comics and toy stores. But they wanted to know in the sign-up form how many unique hits I get each month, and I’m ashamed to say the number is probably less than one hundred, so I cancelled that idea. However, it did get me thinking about the toys I have, and the ones I’d like to have, and from that comes this essay.

Is it written somewhere that grown men can’t have toys? Or maybe, our toys are supposed to be sports cars, yachts, and loose women? Well, I can’t afford sports cars, yachts, and loose women, and computer gaming doesn’t scratch the whole itch. And we are living in a golden age of toys–a golden age of pop  culture where the goodies just get better and better. Merchandising is getting so good; talent is so ubiquitous; manufacturing is so cheap that there are toys today for everything.

 

(I should be driving this instead of a little blue Kia.)

 

Can you see that I’m a fantasy fan? Maybe if I had the car, I could have the company, but I definitely can’t afford this kind of toy.

I’m a fan of fantasy, science fiction, comics, and gaming–not necessarily in that order, but pretty much all at the same time.  I can buy the books and the movies and the comics, but I have a hard time buying the toys. For one thing, they are very expensive. For another, where will I put them in a house that is already crammed to the rafters with books and movies and comics? For a third, I don’t want those looks from the so-called straight world when they see me walking away with a Lord of the Rings action figure. Somehow, these things are supposed to be for children.

And yet the stuff is so cool that I have that “I gotta own this” feeling whenever I see something new.

Well, I do have some, but it’s not here with me right now so I can’t give you brand names. Let me just mention some of the good stuff that is hiding in dark corners of my back room.

1. Pride of place goes to the Battle Troll from Lord of the Rings. It is about 1 foot tall and is massive compared to the osther action figures in my collection. If you push the chest it growls at you. Ferocious, ugly, awesome, I’d really love to pull it out in a Toy Wars game sometime and have it smash Transformers to bits. Alas, it has never even come out of the box.

2. I have a couple of Conan action figures. My admiration of the  Cimmerian started when I was in high school. Can’t even guess at how many thousands of dollars I’ve spent during my lifetime keeping up with the black-haired barbarian.  I wish I had them all, but a couple will have to do.

3. Back in the 90s there was a brief Tarzan fad–inspired by Dark Horse comics, I think, that took Tarzan to Barsoom in the comics. Tarzan met John Carter and Tars Tarkas.  Somebody did action figures of them all, and I bought them.  Every time I walk into my back room I stop and admire them.

4. Last and definitely least are the Kids Meal Toys. Way back in the 80s I noticed that some of the toys being given away in the kids meals at MacDonalds and Burger King were much better than the food itself. Different restaurants had affiliations with different entertainment conglomerates. MacDonalds had Disney. Burger King had Warner Brothers. For a while there in the 80s I was buying lots of kids meals just to get the toys. That has continued to this very day, although it has slacked off a lot. When Disney’s Tarzan came out I definitely had to have the Happy Meal Toys. And they sit in my back room, by the hundreds, piled atop a steamer trunk, which is itself full of fabulous happy meal toys that haven’t seen the light of day in 20 years.

You know who I envy? I envy the collectors who actually have enough space, and enough money to display their toys.  It seems to me that they are blessed. Wish I was one of them.

So much creativity, so many toys, so much popular culture on display. We live in a Golden Age. I hope you’re enjoying it more than I am. Gad, it burns me that there are so many great things around to have, and I will never have them, simply because I either can’t afford them or  have no place to put them.

So, what toys do you have? And do you ever really get to play with them?

Hooray for toys! Sigh!

End

Posted March 4, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized