Perseverance

author at typewriterAll my life I wanted to be a writer. There’s just something about the written word that I have always been attracted to. Even when I was a kid, I devoured novels, comic books, magazines; and I would tell myself that some day it would be me writing these things. I would make the New York Times Bestseller List. I knew what that was by the time I was 7 and I wanted to be on it because that’s where the really good writers ended up. That meant people were buying their books and reading them. I used to have my Mom take me to the bookstore whenever I had the chance. Continue Reading →

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To My Upstairs Neighbors

upstairs neighborDear Upstairs Neighbors.

You don’t know me. I’m the guy who lives beneath you that you’ve walked past a hundred times without saying even a simple hello. The guy who passed by you at the mailbox this morning. You probably don’t remember, you were busy yelling at your five year old daughter to stop crying. Your son, who has to be about a year or two younger maybe, he was the one who didn’t want to get in the car;  shrieking his tiny little head off. You surely know him, the one who likes to stomp around your floor like some kind of pint-sized Godzilla. I think it was him. I never can tell which of you is banging on the floor so hard up there that it reverberates through my apartment like the Drums of Autumn. It sounds like you’re remodeling the damn kitchen every morning, around 7:15am. Like clockwork. Perhaps you don’t realize you have neighbors beneath you, and this ratty dwelling sure as hell wasn’t built before the War. Continue Reading →

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The Watch as Survival Tool

Casio G-SHOCK MASTER OF G RANGEMAN Triple Sensor Ver.3 Multiband 6 Solar - Tactical Men's Watch GW-9400J-1JFMost watches that I’ve seen friends and family wearing are pretty standard. Two hands and maybe a little window that tells you the date. Maybe they’re digital as well, with a few other bells and whistles added to the package. There’s nothing wrong with that either.

But if I were going to wear a watch, I think I’d want something a little more advanced. A watch that made a statement on your wrist. Something you might find on James Bond or Rambo when things get kind of messy out there.

Why do you ask? I don’t know, maybe because I think it would make me even more awesome than I am right now. Watches have long been considered a status symbol, why else would anyone pay a few thousand dollars for a fancy Rolex or Patek Philippe?

Now I’m not talking about going overboard and getting something like that, I want a timepiece that can give me all of the pertinent information that I need on a moment’s notice. I’m talking about the kind of stuff that will really help if I get lost in the woods or stuck in the middle of nowhere. What if I find myself swept out to sea or caught in a bad storm and stranded out on the hiking trail? Then what?

Watches can do more than just tell the time, they can be a survival tool. Tactical watches in particular. Those are worn by some of the biggest badasses who ever badassed. I bet every one of the Expendables wears a military watch. Now talk about a cool watch, tactical watches offer so many different features you’re sure to survive wherever you might end up.

With a tactical watch, you have options in the features you can choose from, like a thermometer, altimeter, barometer, and more. You also have options in the way it looks, select a thick, bulky number or a slim watch with a thinner band. You might be asking how I know about all this, I checked out tactical watches. Click here to find out more about what kinds of watches are available.

For myself, I think I’m going with a Casio G-Shock. It’s the perfect watch to get me through even the roughest environments, terrain, and life-threatening situations. People will get one look at that baby on my wrist and know that I’m a man to be reckoned with, who doesn’t take crap from anybody, and tame the great outdoors without breaking a sweat.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t go outside, the only harsh environments I know about are in the Call of Duty video game, and I generally find myself taking crap from just about everyone around me.

But at least the watch will have everybody else fooled…and sometimes that’s good enough.

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Moving at The Speed of Money

bank transferIf we did, nothing WOULD EVER GET DONE.

I don’t get it. We live in a world where things are instantaneous. Life moves fast. We have supercomputers that can perform something like a million commands in half a second. Information, data, can get from one end of the world to the other in half that time. Networks transmit broadband at speeds that allow us to download just about anything in seconds and present the fastest, most detailed video games and high-definition movies online anywhere in the country.

We have robots that can run up to 20mph for two hours straight. There are 3D printers that can build fully operational firearms and artificial, YET edible, pizza in minutes. Square enables you to accept credit card transactions on your phone. Operating systems on pretty much everything are running at their highest and most rapid capacities yet. Satellites can transmit real-time photographs and imaging throughout the globe. Google has made a car that can DRIVE. ITSELF.

So why the fuck does it take my bank, pretty much any bank in the United States, up to five days to give me my money? If you want to give someone money or receive money it’s like we’re back in the 1970′s. Sure, there are all kinds of cool ways to do it: mobile apps on your smartphone that let you send money to someone via cell number or email address. Online banking sites that make transferring sums of money pretty much effortless. Just a few keystrokes and, voila, you’ve transferred money!

Paypal is one of the coolest inventions to come from homo sapiens in a long time. You can buy stuff from eBay with it, your relatives can send you money, even your employer can pay you through the service. I love Paypal. It’s pretty great. The fees are getting a little out of hand, but it’s a relatively small price to pay for the convenience of, basically, instant money over the Internet. The major banks’ mobile apps took the idea and every one of them built their own mini version of it for use on smartphones and tablets.

OK. Now, try to transfer that money from Paypal into your checking account. Type in how much you want to move over, make sure your banking info is correct, click Send or whatever. BAM! You’ve transferred money to your account…but wait. And yes, you now have to wait. For possibly 3-4 days. Try one of those “cool” fancy mobile apps that your bank offers. Chase, B of A, whichever. Send money from your phone to another account at another bank. Two day wait. TWO DAYS??

How about this one. Ever get a cashier’s check?  You literally cannot buy one without cash. CASH. As in green money. You can’t pay by check, but you can have it withdrawn from you account (instantly, mind you), and they will hand you a cashier’s check. If you need a cashier’s check for $100.00 and you have $99.99 that is the only amount you can get your cashier’s check made out for. It’s as good as real money. Your landlord will not accept your rent as cold, hard cash in a paper bag but he or she will gladly accept your cashier’s check because they KNOW IT WILL CLEAR, unlike a personal check written in pen and signed at the bottom with a squiggle. But if you receive that cashier’s check and deposit it into your account….guess what? You may have to wait up to THREE WEEKS for it to clear. As in 21 DAYS?? Are you people kidding me? It was bought with cash! What’s to clear? That’s how long a personal check might take, especially if it’s a large amount, you know, four figures or more.

The banking system is a complete joke. Everything else in the world has entered the 21st century, except banks. I don’t know if these wait times are to combat fraud or the banks just enjoy fiddling with our money, or who the hell knows. Here’s what I DO know; if I’m moving fifty bucks from my Paypal account into my checking account – put it there immediately. Catch up with the rest of the civilized world for fuck’s sake. I can print a fully automatic gun before my money hits my checking account. Makes me want to put it all under the damn mattress…and I’m seriously thinking about doing just that.

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Not One More

gun violenceBy now you’ve probably heard of Elliot Rodger, the loser who killed six people and then offed himself out in Santa Barbara over Memorial Day weekend. It’s a story that we’ve heard before, told way too many times. Mentally disabled individual has it out for humanity, decides to buy a gun (or several), and then proceeds to carry out their so-called ultimate revenge for the perceived wrongs that have been perpetrated against him, resulting in the deaths of multiple innocent victims. There is no shortage of infamous events; Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Colorado, the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, Sandy Hook, the list goes on in a tragic downward spiral of indifference. Yes, indifference. The men and women who have been tasked with running this country have shown exactly that. Now, another black mark in our nation’s history: Santa Barbara, California.

Elliot Rodger, son of parents in the movie industry, author of a rambling 137 page manifesto that chronicled all of his difficulties in getting a girl to have sex with him. Long-winded and self-aggrandizing, the manifesto reads like the rantings of a child. Denied something he felt he was entitled to: sex. Jealous of those around him; friends, acquaintances, couples he saw walking down the street, members of his own family, all of whom were sexually active.  Spurned throughout his entire adolescent and (short) adult life, Rodger couldn’t get a girl. So he vowed to murder them all in a misogynist Mein Kampf for the young adult set. A kid from privilege (his father Peter is a prolific Second Unit movie director), Rodger drove around in a black BMW coupe that his parents bought him because he was aware of a “hierarchy” of popular cars and he needed to have the best one to drive around campus.

When even that didn’t get him laid, and despite all his other attempts, there was only one thing left to do. Mass murder. The fact he sounded like a total creep didn’t even dawn on him apparently. He stabbed three roommates, and then shot and killed three other people as he drove through crowded parts of downtown Santa Barbara, mowing down bicyclists and causing complete chaos by firing randomly out his car windows. It all ended when he crashed his vehicle and then shot himself in the head.

Yet another incident that has once again sparked the gun control debate. The NRA has been relatively quiet in light of this new tragedy. Even Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s mouth piece – a tactless gas-bag and misguided zealot – has known better than to step back on his soapbox, for the moment. But that hasn’t stopped other fading icons of diminishing importance from claiming the spotlight and bloviating about the Second Amendment. Rush Limbaugh blamed the movie The Hunger Games (a film that Peter Rodger worked on), saying that film violence spurred this on. Joe the Plumber (remember him?) came out to say that dead kids don’t trump his Second Amendment rights.

A pair of true Americans speaking up once again. Here we go once more; mentally ill people are demonized as roundly dangerous. Republican gun-nuts refuse to acknowledge a need for stricter gun controls and nothing gets accomplished. The NRA has such a stranglehold on Congress that every one of them has been turned a eunuch by the powerful lobbying group. People are dying at the highest rates of any country in the entire world as a result of gun violence and nothing changes. The NRA would be perfectly happy if everyone had a gun in their hand, mentally capable or not. Guns for children? No problem – and that’s a sad reality. The NRA is all for it.

Richard Martinez, whose son was killed in the shootings, has started a postcard writing campaign. Not One More. Three simple words meant to serve as a rallying cry to Congress. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold any financial or political sway whatsoever; but what it can do is prove how many people in this country have had enough of the NRA and of people like Rush Limbaugh. Always looking for another scapegoat, violence in movies, video games, the blue sky above; when the real culprit is looking them right in the face. They just refuse to acknowledge it. Simply put, it’s far too easy for people to get their hands on guns in this country. Stricter background checks do not mean Obama is taking away your guns. It just prevents the wrong people from getting them and incidents like this from happening again.

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Ant-Man and a Talking Raccoon

ant manI’m a big fan of Marvel Comics. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always loved Marvel titles just a little bit more than DC Comics books. Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men, were just some of my favorites. Their characters just seemed more fully-fleshed out, deeper, more interesting, than a lot of the DC stable. I did love Batman. He always had the best villains. Superman was a little too goody goody for me; a bit too simplistic. He was an alien from outer space who became the boy next door. Wonder Woman was hot but her stories never hooked me. Like the saying goes, “Make Mine Marvel”.

The Avengers were far cooler than the Justice League. Iron Man and Batman had their similarities (both gazillionaires hiding behind costumes), but while Bruce Wayne had cooler gadgets and wilder villains, Tony Stark seemed more haunted and conflicted. There was the infamous Demon in A Bottle storyline where Tony nearly drinks himself to death. Frank Miller gave us The Dark Knight Returns where Batman is still guilt-ridden by the death of Jason Todd, the former Robin. Becoming an alcoholic to forget and eventually unleashing his demons on the scourge of Gotham City. Admittedly, both companies had realistic characters, larger than life characters, and some that were way far out there. Cosmic characters that lived in outer space and were looking to rule the galaxy if not just merely the world.

The Golden Age of Comic Books is widely considered to be the run of books that were published between 1938 and 1949. I’d argue that we are in a Golden Age of Comic Book Movies. Before the 80′s most superhero movies were TV films. Then Christopher Reeve became Superman and that was the beginning of a slow but steady increase in comic book movie adaptations. In fact, most of the 80′s was forgettable except for Superman. George Lucas gave us the dreadful Howard the Duck.

Wes Craven made a Swamp Thing movie. There was a Supergirl movie. Then we got Tim Burton’s Batman. That opened up the floodgates of the 90′s with some pretty good movies (Batman Returns, The Rocketeer, Blade) and some truly awful flicks (the Joel Schumacher Batman movies, Judge Dredd, Steel, Spawn, this list is a lot longer). Then the 00′s arrived and the quality of the movies improved. Sam Raimi gave us one great and two decent Spider-Man movies, the X-men finally got a movie or two. But for every good film there was a Daredevil, an Elektra, another Punisher movie with John Travolta. But 2005 was a benchmark for comic book fans. Batman was reborn by Christopher Nolan. Marvel became a movie studio and gave us an amazing Iron Man movie, spawning one of the most popular franchises of all time based on a B-list character.

Ever since then, Marvel has become an absolute powerhouse. Not every movie was perfect but a lot of them have been terrific and just about all have been wildly popular and profitable worldwide. They just released the latest Captain America 2 (which was excellent, by the way), and this summer they’re releasing Guardians of the Galaxy. Another gamble for sure, it’s not one of their best known titles and the characters include a foul-mouthed talking raccoon and a talking tree-like alien. It’s a movie that some insiders are claiming that Marvel executives are little bit worried about. Since it’s such a strange storyline, taking place primarily in outer space, it’s unlike their better known (and better grounded – for comic books, that is) titles. Green Lantern is the closest comparison that can be made to GotG and that movie tanked.

It was a hard sell from the beginning and with the outer space backdrop and alien characters, the movie didn’t find an audience. This could be the reason why Edgar Wright left Ant-Man. Another B or even C list title that is often associated with the Avengers, who are much more popular and better known than the Guardians. But then they were two very different titles. The Avengers were typical super-heroes. Guardians has a little bit of irreverent humor that almost spoofs traditional books. But where Ant-Man is concerned, Wright is a popular director who always brings a specific vision to his work. Marvel has been hiring good people to steer its movies but one wonders now that with the company becoming such a money-making juggernaut, do they need (or even want) visionary directors on their movies? Instead, are they looking for guns for hire to crank out product that is overseen on high by executives who realize they’ve got a winning formula now?

Maybe they’re just getting more risk-averse as the budgets get higher and the fan expectations turn loftier. Either way, Marvel has won over my confidence and I look forward to all of their upcoming titles until they give me a reason to think otherwise. Sony on the other hand, has ruined the Spider-Man franchise with nonsense plotting and bad ideas. The last one was terrible and I would love to see the rights to that character return to Marvel, where they belong.

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