Friday, May 28, 2010

Why Do Animals Keep Getting Slaughtered At the Greenbelt?

I am starting to become concerned.  Every four or five days, while taking Tulip out to play, I come across something dead amidst the beauty of our little greenbelt.  I should probably rephrase the previous statement by not using the word dead, but rather massacred...yes, massacred would be a better description.

A few weeks ago, the puppy and I were out enjoying the sun and I was throwing the frisbee for her happy for the all-too-brief respite from work, when Tulip suddenly dropped her toy and ran over to the edge of the woods and began to sniff at something.  I ran over towards her to be sure that she was not going to try to eat a mushroom or something else poisonous, when she took off running with something that was about a foot and a half clutched in her jaws and trailing behind her.  I yelled and she dropped the thing, and when I got close enough to inspect what she had been carrying, I saw that it was about a foot in length of some creature's grayish-brown bowels with another six inches of hair and membranes tightly wound at the end.  I nearly wretched.  The puppy, having tasted the foul thing, actually wanted nothing to do with the guts and with a long stick in hand, I scooped and flung them into the woods.  Disgusting.

I can't believe I had that shit in my mouth!

Early one other morning on a quick walk with Tulip before I went off to work, we were walking through the right side of the greenbelt towards the business area and Tulip began to rummage around in the leaves.  Not quite awake, I stood there muttering to myself and the dog, when I realized that she was trying to eat something.  I then tried to pry whatever it was from her mouth and once successful, looked at the small item and threw it into the ravine before it occurred to me what I had just discarded...a mouse skull.  Equal parts disgusted and wishing I had photographed the diminutive skull, I shrugged my shoulders, and we finished the walk, wondering why I had to actually pull the skeletal remains of a mouse from my puppy's iron clenched jaws.

This way there be mouse skulls.

I relayed the stories to Amy and our friends and they agreed that Tulip was gross and I thought nothing more of it...until the next day.  Again we were playing frisbee and Tulip stopped mid-run to sniff something that even she would not pick up.  Deja-vu setting in, I steeled my nerves and my stomach for the next horror that my dog had happened upon and I approached it.  A piece of dried pelt-like furry bit was laying on the otherwise pristine grass.  I distracted Tulip by flinging the frisbee in the opposite direction of the dead part, and I grabbed a stick to fling it into the woods.  The first attempt ended in failure and only succeeded in turning the thing over.  To my horror, I stared at a dried, stretched-out gopher face...teeth and all.  With a cry of disgust, I used a pair of sticks as makeshift chop sticks and tossed the remains into the woods.

...and this way there be gopher faces.

Now.  Present time.  Today.  My trusty canine pal and I headed out to the slaughter grounds to test out the new Kong Zinger Toy I had just bought for her to replace the Kong Frisbee that had mysteriously disappeared.  We were having fun, at least we were up until Tulip stopped to stare at a far off mound lying in the grass.  She did not touch it and came when I called, again running off in the opposite direction when I flung away her Zinger.  There it was, a dead possum covered in ants and thankfully not dismembered.  I did not try to move it into the woods and left it for someone else to deal with and with the utmost cowardice avoided that side of the park.

Don't tread on me, Bro.

There you have it.  God only knows what we find when we go out there tomorrow.

If I find this next, we're sending the keys in.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dang...I Just Might Not Make It Back From This One...

I caught the damn illness that is running rampant at my job, so this one is going to be on the shorter side as my brain is feeling a bit squishy today...maybe later I will do the Thera-Flu and then write some mental hallucinogenic shit.

At least ten years ago, when I was a very young teenager, my grandparents would take my brother, my two cousins and me to East Beach for a few hours in the summer to play in the sand and boogie board in the fairly small waves.  We loved those days of beach, hopefully sunny mornings, Otter-Pops, Lemonheads, and Scoobie Doo, always somewhat dreading the time our respective parents returned from work to take us back home.

One particular June-Gloom overcast day, the waves were markedly bigger and rougher than usual.  My Grandpa said that according to the news, there was a storm far out in the ocean, and that was why the ocean was in turmoil.  This was exactly the moment I had been waiting for.  I had grown bored with the sad state of the waves that tended to break at the quiet beach, and my brother and cousins agreed that these were indeed "monsters."

Before the blankets and towels had even been properly set, I was in the water with my trusty, cheap K-Mart sponge-like board and getting knocked about relentlessly.  Eventually, I was able to paddle my way past the onslaught of crashing waves and was able to catch a few good rides.  Prideful of my boogie board deftness and adrenaline coursing through my body, I sought out bigger and bigger waves, until I spotted "the one."

The biggest wave yet came rolling in and visions of riding the barrel all the way down to the Carrillo Bath House danced in my mind, as did the bragging rights to my brother and cousins.  The pull under foot was much stronger than I had ever dealt with before, but I kicked off, determined not to let the opportunity pass me by, and I kicked and paddled with all of the speed and strength that I could muster...only my torso retaining contact with the board.

I made some headway, but the pull of the wave was too much and my board was instantly sucked out from under me.  I seemed to float in midair for an extended period of time, and the shallowness of the water below me was all to was also remarkably clear with tiny shell fragments and pebbles rolling about violently.  A moment later, I was completely prostrate under the water, arms spread in a "T" with the wave angrily breaking on my back and relentlessly refusing me an opportunity to surface for a breath.

All of the wind had been knocked out of me and I attempted to move my right arm, but the boogie board's leash was firmly affixed to my wrist and I was too deep under the water to move.  This was it...I was going to die.  How utterly stupid and ridiculous of a way for it to end.  I was a swimmer for god's sake and now I had become a burden for my Grandparents, who would unfairly be blamed.  What about my mom and my brother?  I could not stand the thought of them being sad over something like this.

My worries pushed back the panic, and it finally occurred to me to pull my left arm to my side and curl into a ball so that I could be carried underwater to the shore.  It worked and I pulled myself to the beach gasping for air and attempting to breathe after having my back bent in the wrong direction.  I angrily tore off the boogie board leash, heart pounding frantically as I went to lie on my towel and regain my senses.

No one had noticed and I was glad to keep the incident between me and the ocean.  Twenty minutes later, I was back at it, although much more cautious with my choice of waves.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm Gonna Need to Quit the Gym part 4

I almost forgot about this little addition the "Quit the Gym" entries that I have been writing.  I have not seen this particular individual for a couple of years, but he still comes to mind every once in a while and I have to laugh.

Another thing that always cracks me up about the gym is how people drive there and subsequently park in all manners of odd and non-designated parking areas, so that they do not need to walk that far to get inside.  Wait a minute...why the hell would someone that has taken time out of their day to make a trip to the gym to exercise and get in shape, risk having their car towed so that they could spare themselves the agony of walking an extra hundred or so feet by parking illegally?  It makes absolutely no sense to me.

One day--after parking in an empty parking spot--I made the excruciating forty feet of extra walking towards the gym doors, and noticed that despite the parking lot only being about a quarter full, that someone had parked right at the front, outside of the designated spaces, and was partially obstructing the parking lot.  Usually, I just mutter, "asshole," under my breath and keep walking, but there stood a vehicle worth mentioning.  Before me was an all-black behemoth of a jeep with humongous off road monster truck tires, a miniature fire extinguisher affixed to both the right and left front of the roll cage, there were flood lights all over the thing that quite possibly could bring the light of day to the cold dark night, animal skeletons painted on each side of the vehicle, and two empty spare portable gas tanks affixed to the back.

I am sure there was a personalized plate on the jeep, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what it said, because of my fear of being eaten by the damned thing.  Staring at this jeep of the damned for who knows how long, many questions came to mind.  "Isn't it a bad thing to have metal gas tanks that presumably contain gasoline sitting in the very hot open sun?  On that note, isn't it equally a bad thing to have canisters with content under pressure sitting in the hot sun (fire extinguishers)?  I am 6' 2" and I would be hard pressed to climb up inside of this thing, how does the driver do it?  Wouldn't those seats get really, really hot?  Is there a cover for when it rains and the temperature drops?"  I eventually shook off the questions and took my giggling ass to the gym before the driver could see my mocking eyes and cause me grievous harm.

Inside, I claimed my elliptical trainer and tuned into Courage the Cowardly Dog and bounced between it and the Colbert Report when I noticed a Career hanging out and wandering around with a huge smile hinting that the man was having the time of his life.  He would stop and chat with some of the resident grunties and screamers, but most of the time he just walked about, happy as a hermit crab finding a new shell...there was also no weight lifting going on with him.  This man was seriously about 5' 4" and was about as wide as he was tall.  A Jet black completely vertical flattop could have easily weathered a tsunami intact and the darkened tan suggested that the guy was recently dipped in a deep fryer.  His muscle mass was off the charts, evidenced by the dental floss that served as a tank top and the tight-tight-tight booty shorts that he wore.  Thankfully I kept my mystified eyes off the guy, after thoughts of him throwing me out the window came to mind, elliptical, Colbert Report and all.

Guess who the Jeep belonged to.

I was at Anna's Bakery one morning preparing to eat an incredibly unhealthy chocolate croissant, when I heard "I Got the Power" by C&C Music Factory blaring in the Camino Real parking lot.  Just then the short pumped-up guy drove by in his Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome vehicle hauling a massive outdoor BBQ set.  Weird.

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

Sweet Tooth Vol. 1: Out of the WoodsFor some stupid reason known only to myself, I passed on the $1.00 first issue of Sweet Tooth, written and drawn by Jeff Lemire.  The comic series is soon to reach its tenth issue and after reading the first five issues contained in the first trade paperback Sweet Tooth Vol. 1: Out of the Deep Woods, I am giving strong consideration to not trade-waiting this series; I might have to pick this up in individual issues.


The series centers on a sheltered 9-year-old boy, Gus, who happens to have some of the features of a deer noticeable in his features, including a set of antlers that extend prominently from his head.  His father has setup home in the woods and isolated the two of them from a society that is falling under the weight of a plague that has nearly decimated the normal human population, yet leaves the human/animal hybrid children that have appeared over the prior seven years untouched; the hybrids are rare and highly sought after.

After Gus's father succumbs to the disease that has destroyed much of the human population, Gus is left to his own devices in the lonely woods, the only home he has ever known, until the day that two hunters discover the boy and seeing a payday make a play to snatch him.  The assault is interrupted by "the big man," Jepperd, who effortlessly kills each of Gus's poachers and convinces the boy to leave the woods and join him on a journey to the safety of The Preserve.  No longer wishing to be alone and trusting the old big man, Gus agrees to accompany him and the pair travel through the perilous wasteland of America on their way to The Preserve.

Sweet Tooth is a slow burn comic, that has moments of action, but the real story lies in the journey and the relationship between Jepperd and Gus, who he refers to as Sweet Tooth because of the boy's newfound love of candy.  Lemire's raw artistic style took a brief moment to adjust to, but now I could not see another artist drawing this engrossing story.  The minimalist dialogue coupled with the beautiful storytelling of the art are perfectly joined, making the shear ugliness of the world Lemire has created beautiful in its own right.

The past year has been a treat for some of my current favorite comics, many of which coming from DCs's own Vertigo Comics.  Sweet Tooth, Daytripper, Unwritten have all been striking and incredible series from Vertigo, and then there are the non-Vertigo titles Chew, Parker: The HunterThe Walking Dead, and Criminal, all non-super hero books that are so well written and so creative that most anyone can pick them up and enjoy them.

The second volume of Sweet Tooth looks to have a release date of December of this year, but I may not want to wait on this one and will start picking up issue six and up...the hunt is on.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Little Sleep and Bye Bye to Lost

Last night, I, like millions of other fans, watched the big Lost series finale extravaganza, and I have to say that I was very satisfied with the outcome.  I had planned my Sunday around the four and a half hour event that included a two hour retrospective with cast, crew and writer interviews that was immediately followed by two and a half hours of the actual show.  The lead-up was unnecessary, but reminded the viewer of many characters, motivations and plot points from the past six years, and actually succeeded in answering a few nagging little questions that I had.

My friends and I met up at Hollister Brewing Company for a late lunch/early dinner and to have some beers, and I allowed myself just enough time to run Tulip down a little at the park before everything got started.  A quick slip into pajamas, TV tuned to the proper channel and Lost was on for four and a half hours.

The series finale ran from 9:00 PM to 11:30 PM and I am operating on very little sleep, so I will keep this much shorter than usual.  Today is going to be long and painful.


Although I went to sleep last night, happy for all of the characters that I had come to know, love, hate, lose respect for, and love once again, there are many plot lines that were not resolved...unless I missed something, which is entirely possible.

Some nagging questions:
1) What was with all of the Egyptian statues, hieroglyphics and calling Richard "Ricardus" at one point a while ago?  Such a big deal was made concerning the foot of the statue, which I thought to be the statue of the hippo goddess, Taweret, yet nothing came of this.  Smoke Monster and Anubis printed on the walls in eternal conflict?  There was more than a season of this stuff, so....???

2) I thought that Jacob was not allowed to leave the island like MiB, yet he went out and "touched" all of the Losties.  I must have missed something.  Speaking of Jacob and MiB, how did a bunch of barbarians come up with the wagon wheel of time to move the island, and was MiB looking into the future to get his bright ideas?  Is this what made him "special?"  He could have looked into the future and made an iPad years wonder he was so pissed off, he could not get off the island to benefit from selling his iSmokeyPad and live the capitalist dream.

3) If Desmond was able to pull the cork of the underworld from the great mystical Jacuzzi, and NOT die, then why didn't Jack smack him awake and have him put the plug back in?  Would Jack's newly restored Jacob powers heal his knife wound afterwards?

4) I may have not seen them, but were Richard and his Spanish wife, Frank, Miles, Daniel or any of those guys at the church?  I did not see any of them.  The last we see of Richard, Miles and Frank are the three of them with Kate and Sawyer flying off into the sunset.  What the hell is Richard going to do when he gets back to "civilization?"  Possible spin-off show: Ricardus the Once Immortal...Shift Manager of French Fry Town.  Or, I guess he could become one hell of a history teacher.

Despite a few nagging gripes and unanswered questions, I was very happy with the series finale and it succeeded in delivering what I most wanted for these characters who I loved--resolution and peace.  At the church, time no longer mattered, so everyone essentially arrived at the same time, whether they had died way back near the beginning of the series, at the end of the show, or far off in the future as was the case with Hurley and Ben.  The reunions were sweet, touching.  I was happy to see Sawyer back with Juliet, which I have wanted to see since the moment she died; I loved them as a couple.  Locke was completely himself and confident.  Jack walking in to the room to be reunited with...well, everyone...was very touching, and it was so refreshing to see these people who had shared some of the most pivotal moments of their lives together and joyful.  I wish Ben would have gone into the church, but the brief dialog between he and Hurley about Ben being a great number two and Hurley a great number one made me wish for a five night mini-series or at the least a TV movie, or....feature film; I would be there opening night.

The final moments with Jack in the island world, as he staggered bloody and dying through the bamboo forest to lie down in the same spot that he had first awoken, touched me deeply and I was near tears.  Then Vincent joined him and his eyes closed, and the character that I had actually disliked for about half of the series, redeemed himself completely and again I wanted to cry, but I knew that he would soon find the happiness and peace once he was reunited with his friends and loved ones.

A great show, that nearly lost me as a viewer at a view points, but definitely up there as one of my all-time favorite television programs.  Up there with Mad Men, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Freaks and Geeks.   I cannot wait to rewatch this season on Blu-Ray.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

I'm Gonna Need to Quit the Gym part 3

Final entry on this topic until such a time as something completely batshit goes down at the gym, or until something that I have repressed claws its way to the forefront of my ittsy-bitsy brain.

I may have my own little annoyances and petty grievances, but my wife, Amy, is the one who has experienced the most mental encounters and seen some incredibly disturbing shit.  She tells me these tales and I find myself cringing with anger, disgust, pity, and ultimately fear.

She had been going to a pilates group class at the downtown gym for a few months.  She said, that the pilates class was repetitive with the same series of exercises with minimal variation and she was quickly becoming bored.  Luckily for her, one of the many gym denizens succeeded in helping her make the decision to stop going to that class all together.

One day, that seemed pretty much the same as any other day, she went to the class and set out her mat, towel, rubber bands, hammer, chisel and what ever the hell else you need for pilates.   The class was not full and there was plenty of room for stragglers who happened to be running late, like the Piggy-Tail-Rainbow-Toe-Sock woman.  Again, the class was not full.  Piggy-Tail-Rainbow-Toe-Socks came in late and proceeded to set up her gear on the stage, next to the instructor.  You read correctly, on the stage...and next to the instructor.  She was older, possibly in her fifties, and reminded Amy of the lady with the eye patch who decided to go back to high school as a crazy adult woman in Twin Peaks.  The instructor blinked a few times, confused, but decided to let the matter go and ignored the odd woman.  Piggy-Tail-Rainbow-Toe-Socks then began to go about her own completely different routine, while the instructor led the class.  Now granted, this is bonkers, and quite possibly a reason to leave the gym forever, but the story is not finished.

Throughout the course of the day, Amy must have drank far too much coffee, water, and soda and needed to excuse herself from the class, which was being led by two people performing completely different routines.  Ignoring the teachings of her ancestors, who explicitly laid out the guidelines to never go into a public bathroom with bare feet (re: Brittney Spears), my wife ran to the restroom minus her shoes and socks.  When she got there, she thanked the stars that the bathroom floor was not wet (Barefeet + Wet Floor = SICK) and began to go about her business, when a hand shot under the stall to grab the toes of her left foot.  She screamed.  She screamed loud and shrill until the hand released her foot.

A giggly girlish voice said, "Tee Hee, sorry about that.  I kinda have a foot fetish.  Tee Hee."

My wife replied with horror filled silence as she attempted to finish, as well as to calm her rapidly beating panicked heart.  Just then a foot appeared from under the next door stall and my wife saw five distinct rainbow-sock-wrapped toes wiggling towards her, "Tee Hee Hee Hee.  Do you like my socks?"  Without a word, my wife ran out of the stall, retrieved her shoes and left the gym never to return to the pilates class.


One last brief story from my wife, but one that also adds to my own paranoias.  I have a...thing...about the gym bathrooms.  It does not make complete sense, but I find them far more disturbing than all of the collective nonsense that goes on in the gym itself.  I find what I termed "careers," or the people that hang out at the gym all day long just wandering about and chatting with random people, to be much less distressing than the "gym bathroom career hanger outters."  I need to explain.  There are individuals that enjoy hanging out naked in the bathroom, all day long as if this was still the late '70s, early '80s or a seedy bathhouse, with Olivia Newton-John's "Let's Get Physical" playing over the speakers.  Sometimes there is a degree of crossover between careers and the bathroom careers, but I am not completely sure of that, pending the findings of the team of cultural anthropologists that I duped into staking out various gym bathrooms with the promise of Woodstock's Pizza and and a grant of twenty bucks for each of them.  I know that I am just being weird and paranoid, but experience and the horrors of my wife's stories give me just cause.

The story that sealed the deal on never going into the bathroom at the gym is a terrifying one.  Amy usually goes to one of the three gyms for about an hour within a three hour time span.  She informed me that there are bathroom careers on the ladies side as well, and they are predominantly older...much older.  It does not matter when she goes to the gym bathroom to change, there are always a couple of older ladies, hanging out in the bathroom and just having a grand old time, chit chatting...naked.  She has also told me about certain ladies who rub the free lotion on themselves when she goes in to change, and that they are still there rubbing lotion on themselves when she leaves an hour later.  Usually I would be very excited, thrilled even, by this news, but she then deflates my...balloon by giving me the specifics of the individuals involved, and they do not lead to any sort of sexy time at me.

Now, I promise that I do not have a problem with nudity or the human body, with the possibility of my own nudity in public places...Junior High was rough, and shaking those scars is no easy task.   However, from how my wife recounts these stories, these women may as well have setup afternoon tea in between the changing area and the stalls, complete with a simply delectable earl grey, crumpets and a pleasant assortment of finger sandwiches, while they chat and use a tropical plant leaf to fan themselves; they're comfortable.

The real capper on the many, many times she told me about the naked old ladies in the gym bathroom, was the time that she relayed the following:  I am told (this isn't Porky's) that the women's bathroom has hair dryers affixed to the wall that anyone can use.  One day, Amy was changing clothes when she looked towards the hair drier wall and there stood a naked old lady.  This person took a hair drier from the wall, bent over, pulled one butt-cheek aside and proceeded to Amy's words...her butt-hole with the hair drier.  Why in the name of all that is good, sacred and just plain common sense does someone decide that this sort of behavior is perfectly acceptable?  Was the towel that she brought not adequate?  Are some valleys too deep?  Did she really need to bend over with her ass pointed towards my wife before she flicked the switch?  I don't know, but if women are doing heinous things like this, the men's bathroom can only be much worse.  I am reluctant to go into either.

There you have it, folks.  I would like to take this moment to thank you all for coming and to remember the following:  don't proselytize at the gym, don't scream while you lift's douchie, don't hang out there all day, don't hang out in the bathroom all day, don't wear rainbow toe socks...ever, and don't dry your butt-hole with the hand drier provided by the's just common courtesy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm Gonna Need to Quit the Gym part 2

...continued from yesterday.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, gyms.  God, that place can get so weird and bizarre.  If it isn't the grunties screaming as they lift weights, it is the career gym people that drive me almost as crazy.

A few years ago, I was able to go to the gym at many different times in the day, whether it was morning, lunch time or after work.  I would show up at my erratic times and quickly noticed that there were certain people that I would see every single time that I was there.  At first I thought that these people (men and women) were employees of the gym, but as I trudged away on my elliptical, it was apparent that they were not.  The actual employees kept a fair distance from them and only conversed if cornered or caught unawares.  I also noticed that it was the overly talkative men that the employees mainly avoided, and that the career women kept to themselves and stayed on their treadmills or ellipticals from the moment I walked in and were still on them when I left forty minutes later.  The point is that whenever I was there, they were there as well.  With the career men, they rarely seemed to be doing anything except hanging out and talking to whoever they caught in weight lifting area.

There were certain occasions where the career men would come into the cardio areas, and they usually seemed a bit awkward about the whole affair, but it happened and I was able to pick up bits and pieces of conversations that they made with the person they trapped on the stationary bike or the elliptical trainer.  These guys were usually pretty beefy, very tan, wore makeshift tank-tops, and with the ultra-wide-eyed enthusiasm of a shifty CEO would strike up a conversation with someone, which would ultimately lead into the career gym guy semi-proselytizing for Jesus.  There was mention of church, bible study, finding oneself and getting through the rough times, but by the time the conversation got to that point, I was done and out the door; same with the career's victim.  I am well aware that many of the men are just lonely, and have been through some heavy shit, and that both the career men and women have intense body issues that should be addressed, but all that I want to do is go in, exercise in peace without being harassed for Jesus, and get out after letting off some steam and catching some of The Daily Show.


A particular gym event comes to mind that might possibly delve into my own multitude of issues, but I think I was fairly justified in my actions and my shock at not just the gym mentality or culture, but that of human nature.  I was at the gym on the elliptical, of course, and probably watching Thundarr the Barbarian on the TV, when I noticed a couple of people looming around behind me and staring out the window.  I was nearly done with my workout, but my curiosity had me snared and I turned to look over my shoulder, nearly falling in the process, and saw one...two...three, and then four police officers sneaking around building.  Their guns were drawn.

More people began to gather around the window, and another police car pulled up on Calle Real and another police officer jumped out of the car to run across the street towards the gym.  Let's do the math.  5 Police officers with guns drawn and acting very nervous, proceed to circle the back area of 1 gym.  >8 dipshits decide to be lookylooz and find the whole affair exciting.  If you subtract 1 Donist from the equation what do you have?  Answer: 1 Donist that packs up his shit, cautiously makes his way to his car and drives off past the road blocks that are being set up + all of the lookylooz are forced to stay in the gym for an hour and a half, while >5 police officers patrol the area for the kid that shot a bebe gun at the upstairs law office window.  Why the fuck would someone want to stick around and see what happens when there are very nervous police officers with guns out casing one side of the building that you are in?  Why not just tip the hell out the door and get out of there?  I don't get it.  Guns drawn = >0% chance of being shot.

I have to wrap this up tomorrow with a couple of nutball incidents that my wife has encountered at the gym and that make me wonder why she keeps going there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm Gonna Need to Quit the Gym part 1

"C'mon, it.  DO IT!"

"Eeegah, eeegah, uh, uh, uh, Eeegah."

"That's right, Bro.  Yeah...yeah."

"Eeegah, eeegah, uh, uh, uh, Eeegah."

"Aw shit, yeah.  Do it.  Do it!"


Oh come on.  It's crap like this that makes me absolutely hate the gym.  Are these guys serious?  I mean, don't they realize the spectacle that they are making of themselves?  These conversations are not just meant to be between the lifter and the liftee, but have to be for everyone at the gym to experience.  Here I am listening to this exchange from across the gym, while jumping between MSNBC, Animal Planet and the Cartoon Network, and I am wearing headphones that cannot block out the screams, grunts and yells.  It annoys me to no end.

My first reaction to the, "Uh, uh, uh, Eeegah," desperate cries for attention is to laugh uncontrollably, but if I were to have this reaction, the following could occur:
a) said meat-heads pound Donist because he is a Rachel Madow, cute puppy, and Batman watching girly-man, who is not physically strong enough to protect himself from cavemen.
b) when Donist laughs too hard, he loses all control of his muscles and ends up collapsing into his elliptical trainer, and bits of eye glasses, fat, a piece of his Strong Bad T-shirt, and gray/white hair are all that remain embedded within the equipment's gears.
c) I am deemed to be one of the many insane folks that can be found at the gym and I suddenly no longer have elliptical trainer neighbors...yes...nice.
d) some mixture of all of the above.

I can fully understand small grunts or subtle words of encouragement, but this is literally screaming.  When did this sort of behavior become acceptable?  In between the hollering there is much grandstanding and preening in the many mirrors and other members of this exclusive group of "grunties" gather around their brethren in a ever shrinking circle, and I have to assume that these displays are partially for them.

Maybe, I'm just jealous?  Nope.  I like being able to stand up tall and have my arms touch my sides, even if there is a bit of gooeyness in between.  I also go to the gym to get my exercise on the days that I am not running outdoors, or being forced inside due to inclement weather.  I will freely admit that the weight room area of the gym intimidates me, as much as it freaks me the hell out, and I will only venture into the area if it is not packed with screamers, but it usually is.  The plan is to use weightlifting to give me the muscles of a dancer that I will never, ever achieve, but that has always been the plan.  Most of my life has been spent trying to bulk down, so I have no designs on trying to bulk up.  Plus, those guys over there are weird and scary.

In between the screams and Animal Planet's details of the life of the platypus, I have always wondered if the grunties think that these displays will attract women, but I cannot see how this line of thinking could ever work; not on the sane women anyways.  I remember once at the music store, I was talking to a female friend of mine, when one of my coworkers came up to us, interrupting our conversation.

The man's name was not Tim, but I will call him that.  Tim lifted weights--often--and he always wanted to tell everyone about how much he was lifting, how difficult it was, and how he was not yet where he wanted to be bulk-wise.  There were many occasions that we caught him looking in the mirror and flexing his muscles in the employee bathroom with the door left intentionally open.  "Donist," he said, "dude, have you been lifting?  You're looking kinda ripped."

I replied, "What?  I haven't done that for ages.  I have been eating a lot of fried chicken from the grocery store next door though."

I felt a bit embarrassed about this, but the woman I was talking to sighed heavily, snapped her fingers to get Tim's attention and said, "Tim.  Look.  I don't want to be mean, but you need to hear this.  You always say how you want to find a nice woman, but you know what?  Most women don't like guys that talk about bulking up and how much they can lift...they make fun of guys like that."  Tim thought about this for a moment and wandered off to put away some more CDs.  Was Kim a little mean?  Yeah...she was, since Tim was a nice guy besides the whole meat-head thing, but he had interrupted us and he talked incessantly about bulking up.  For all that I know, she might have helped the guy out, and that Tim is now happily married, with kids, white picket fence, a dog and a healthy body image that does not revolve around eating protein powder and doing other horrid things to himself.  I hope that was the case.

I have to continue this tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Lantern Glowing Brightly In the Fog

It was much too early in the morning for my liking, but there I stood in front of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, preparing to get a ridiculously unhealthy coffee drink that would have normally been far too expensive for me, but I had friends that worked there.  I also had designs on a crisco-ladened Debbie's Delights lemon scone, which I would have to actually pay for.  My mind was set, and I stepped around the man with the high pressured water gun who was blasting the bricks, when a strange cherry hued glow caught my attention from far up State Street.

The morning was particularly foggy to such an extent that the entire walk downtown provided only enough visibility to see a block ahead at a time.  I loved it.  Heavy mist settled on my glasses and the moist air felt revitalizing and soothed some of the repercussions from the previous night's drinking.  6:45 AM in the morning is the time for thoughts and reflections.  There was no need to play the games of avoidance; very few people wandered about at such an early hour.  Cars and noise were few...with the exception of the water jet street cleaners, but then their work added to the fog, providing more tranquility to the looming chaos that would steadily rise as the city awakened.  Every morning should be like this.  But, there in the distance was the glow and despite my poor vision it appeared to be moving.

Two of the coffee shop employees joined me in the entryway, and we stared up the street at the odd glow in the fog and agreed that it was not just moving, but that it was quite possibly burning.  The glow was swinging, back and forth, back and forth, and a figure materialized from the obscurity of the fog and an intense billowing smoke poured out of the burning object.  A faint trace scent of burnt herb began to reach our noses, but we could not place the smell; it was, however, pleasant.

I do not know the man's name, but I have seen him around State Street for years.  He is a short in stature, Asian man dressed in all white robes, sandals, with a long beard and long hair; he had a startling resemblance to Jesus.  He clutched in his hand a rope with a tightly bundled burning orb of sage at the end that swung like a pendulum and it was producing a tremendous amount of aromatic smoke.  Despite our stares, his focus remained unbroken from his destination and he merely nodded his head as he passed by with not a word, a slight smile creasing his lips.

He continued on his journey, and the sun began to peel back the fog; the city began to awaken.  With my coffee and scone in hand, I headed toward the music store, the strong smell of sage still prominent.  The scent lingered and danced in the air for hours afterwards.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Phantasm Comes to Santa Barbara

Okay, I noticed these things near Coffee Cat a couple of weeks ago, and they have been weirding me the hell out ever since.  Does anyone else get the heebie geebies from these "sculptures?"  Am I the only one who finds them eerily reminiscent of the pods from the 70's horror movie Phantasm?  They sure as hell remind me of them, and I want nothing to do with walking by the damned things.  For all I know, they might contain one of those butt-ugly jawa mother-fuckers from another dimension, standing by and waiting to drag me to hell.  

Butt-ugly Jawa on board

Some slight adjustments have been made to the model found in the movie, but I am fairly certain that these are used for the same general purpose.  Notice the spherical eye slit, which is now the perfect size to also transport one of the flying silver spheres with the blades and the drill that sucks out your brain.  You know what I'm talking about...the ones that made you scared to death to play baseball for the rest of your life, and forced you to sleep with your hand covering your forehead at night.  Thankfully there are only four of these things on display, but I assume they make multiple trips to hell with their unholy cargo when they are sucked into the parking structure under cover of the night.

"I am soooo f-ing, f-ed."

I first saw Phantasm when I was about twelve or thirteen when I woke up one weekend night, unable to sleep and saw that my mom was still awake.  Earlier that day, I had seen a commercial on TV for Phantasm that night at 10:00PM and I intentionally kept myself awake, fully intending to tell my mom that I could not sleep and hoping to be allowed to stay up and watch the show; it totally worked.  I first became aware of the movie from my final year in Ohio, when I saw previews for the movie on TV and from the ads that I found when I would read through Fangoria and Heavy Metal magazines at the Clicks superstore while my mom shopped...I would also check out the pets upstairs and marvel that they actually sold something called "monkey chow," but that is something else entirely.  But, here I was finally watching the movie I had been dying to see for the past three years and I was not disappointed.

Sphere...apply directly to the forehead

Phantasm had everything that I could possibly ever want: tall scary men with magical abilities, butt-ugly jawas, a balding guy with a ponytail and a shotgun, graveyards, mausoleums, a finger/fly monster, extra-dimensional worlds, creepy as all hell music and mood, and flying silver spheres of death.  Awesome.  I am not sure of what my mom thought of the movie, but I was beyond thrilled, despite having some trouble sleeping later that night.  Since then, I have seen the film about five or six times, and I'm about due for another viewing.  I have also seen the acceptable, but not as cool, sequals, and although cheesy, Phantasm still creeps me out in the best way.

I know those bastards are in there.

If you are anywhere near Coffee Cat, swing by and check out the four butt-ugly jawa containment units, but don't get too close...a jawa, the tall man or a sphere might get your ass, stuff you inside one of these things and send you to hell to become a slave or force you to listen to Justin Bieber or something even worse. Before you go to see them, however, be sure to check out Phantasm first, you will be terrified that you did.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Lots of food, lots of beer, Iron Man 2 and almost no sleep part 2

continued from yesterday.

Iron Man 2 itself was very entertaining.  With a great cast and intense action and visuals, I was  transfixed through the entire movie; I am positive it was not the beer talking.  Stuff blowed up real good and action sequences flowed very well, never becoming the whirling mess of metal that was the Transformers.  In particular, the Monaco race track scene was visually stunning as Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) calmly walks onto the racetrack to lay down the carnage, cleaving cars in twain with his electrified cables until he comes to Tony Stark's car.  The fight that ensues is not long, but it works, and the suitcase armor was incredibly cool...I need to get one of those...maybe from an estate sale or something.

Where Mickey Rourke stole his scenes with his nonchalant attitude and calculated genius, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer shown just as brightly and I never grew tired of him.  Rockwell was perfect as the overzealous business man, desperate for his moment in the spotlight, yet unable to attain the Apple level of hype that belongs to Tony Stark.  Speaking of Tony Stark, or rather Robert Downey Jr., he was just as large as...wait a minute...Robert Downey Jr. did not have nearly enough screen time as he did in the first film, where by all accounts he should have.  Sure there were scenes that he did what he does best, but I really would have liked to have seen more of him, and not necessarily in the suit.  Tony Stark is a larger than life character who deserves to be larger than his supporting casts.  I would have loved to have seen a few more business dealings, or some more puttering around the shop and not the one scene that I felt did not fit and broke the momentum of the film.

I am so glad that Whiplash did not wear this suit!

I am, of course, referring to drunken Iron Man DJing and then fighting with Rhodey in what ultimately becomes the War Machine armor.  My wife and I discussed the scene a bit this morning and we both came to the conclusion that seeing Stark--not Iron Man--screwing things up on a personal and business level would have been more appropriate a catalyst for a disenchanted Rhodey to steal the suit.  An even cooler addition would be for Iron Man to drunkenly attempt to stop Rhodey, a suit he has never worn or attempted to Iron Man the easy smackdown.  Conflict, the hero falters, the hero redeems...the scene could have been better, but you can't please them all. 

Aside from the one scene and the fact that I wanted a little bit more Tony Stark, the movie was a blast and one the I will buy on blu-ray when it gets released.  One other thing that completely made we giddy was the after credits extra in New Mexico that signaled the next Marvel movie.  I cannot wait.

P.S. - I would have written this whole thing yesterday morning, but my wife was up with stomach aches all night and Tulip at one point had a nightmare or something and began violently reverse sneezing, and I had to help calm her down.  No sleep for the Donist.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lots of food, lots of beer, Iron Man 2 and almost no sleep

Last night, my wife and I met our friend at the Hollister Brewing coming for dinner before heading over to the theater to watch Iron Man 2.  I kinda went off the deep end by sharing a side of duck-fat fries and some pickle chips, and ordering the tri-tip sandwich with bacon clam chowder, a pint of Pope IPA, a pint of Table 42 Red, and finally a stout float, which was weird but I'm a believer now.  Yup, all of that talk about exercise and dieting chucked out the damn window last night, but it was worth it.  Maybe from now on I will only order beer if there is ice cream in it--full throttle calorie maximization.  At least I was not the only one to have a beer float, as The Friend of the Donist also had one, but his had the beer with 8.5% alcohol content, which is crazy strong.  His was slightly better than mine though.  Ugh, I'm still full.

Dinner rocked, and we staggered over to the movie theater to check out the movie I have been losing my marbles over seeing, Iron Man 2.  I absolutely loved the first Iron Man and how the film faithfully developed one of my most beloved of childhood superheroes--I even went so far as to watch the first movie to prep for the sequel and it still holds the magic for me.  We then plopped down our $9.25 for the movie ticket...wait a minute...what the what???  $9.25 for a fucking movie ticket?  Holy guacamole, you have got to be kidding me!  This is part of the problem with ever more expensive movies not making back their costs.  Hell, we did not even bother to go see Alice In Wonderland in the theaters, since we could buy the blu-ray and watch it naked in the comfort of our own home for $ would indeed be worn if The Friend Of the Donist were to attend that screening thank you very much.  $9.25?  Damn.  At least the theater was only about half filled so there were no running moron commentaries.

For months I had avoided watching any trailers for Iron Man 2 and only looked at the final scores of the reviews that I found and tried my best to avoid any spoilers on the movie.  For the most part I succeeded.  As for the  movie itself, what did I think?  I actually loved it with an admitted few things that kind of bothered me.

What I did like were the actors.  Robert Downey Jr. was of course just as great as he was in the first movie, and I really could not see anyone else portraying the title hero.  Mickey Rourke was great as Ivan Vonko and would take command of every scene that he was in, and it seemed as if he were having a great time getting into his character.  I still liked Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.  Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury has me biting my nails until the Avengers movie, and Don Cheadle as Rhodey was good, but at times he almost seemed as if he were not entirely into his role.  The other show stealer besides Rourke was Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, Tony Stark's competition, and he was phenomenal as the wide-eyed overly enthusiastic business man, who liberally threw around the business lingo that I hate/love oh so much.  My wife hated Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov, but I thought that she was good and loved her for very different reasons.   Mmmmmm....Scarlett....mmmmm.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shoplifting Scum...

I think this one is going to be a bit on the short side.  I was up late trying to find a recipe for pulled pork marinated in concentrated orange juice, and I found every single recipe that I have ever torn from a magazine except for that one.  I might be able to wing it, but I would much rather do this one by the books...I will keep looking gawdammit.  I went to bed kind of late...ugh.


Again from back in my days at the downtown music store, there was an ensemble of characters that were always hanging around the store.  There was the guy we called "Giggles"because he looked like he was laughing as wandered around listening to his Walkman cassette player.  Then there was the woman that would dance and groove at the music station until the day that she started yelling at the top of her lungsthe lyrics to a gangsta' rap album.  Then there was the very weird kid with pencil-thin mustache, the kind of mustache that junior high school students sport once they figure out that they can actually grow hair on their face; it always looks terrible.  Let's call this kid Line-stache.

Line-stache must have lived very close by, because he was always hanging around the store and slowly perusing the video games, cassettes and CDs.  He was a weird fellow, but who wasn't in their adolescent years?  Shit, I still have emotional scars from those days.  Occasionally we would hold items for him behind the counter and he would be forced to talk to us for those brief moments, but otherwise he kept to himself.  He just creeped me out, and there was no real reason why, he just did.

One incredibly dead day at the store, it was me, a coworker and Line-stache hanging around.  The day was sunny and beautiful, and the rest of humanity who did not have to work was at the beach enjoying the water, BBQ'd meats, and girls in teeny-tiny bikinis.  Periodically, I wandered outside to have a look at the scarcity of people in the mall and sigh heavily, imagining everything that I was missing, but there were CDs to be put out, so I walked to the back room to grab a box of CDs and passed my coworker, who was straightening the displays near the back of the store.  I went in the eerily quiet office, hoisted the heavy box and the moment I pushed the door open, I saw Line-stache standing by the open doors holding two Sega Genesis video games.

I like to imagine the moment as if it were a scene from an old western.  We stood apart with naught but the CDs separating us.  He with the store owned video games and me with my box of CDs.  All was quiet except for the thumping of the Bucketheads blasting over the sound system and I imagined a cool wind blowing outside that...well, it was fucking hot outside, so there was no cool wind, but I imagined it.  I could see the look in his eyes, or at least I felt that I could see it in his eyes, since my eyesight sucks rocks, but I knew he was going to make a break for it.  I slowly began to lower the heavy box to the ground, not once breaking eye contact and the moment it touched the carpet, Line-stache made his move.  With a brief doofy smile, he was off and running out the door with the alarm system angrily shouting its objection.  I took off after the youngster, but being very out of shape, possibly hung over and more than likely having eaten a fajita omelette, hashbrowns and chocolate Coke for breakfast at Ruby's--I had no chance in hell of catching him.  Yet I ran.

By the time I made it outside and turned towards Chapala, I could see Line-stache vanishing about a block and a half away and then he rounded the corner.  I was pissed.  Stupid little a-hole.  Oh well, at the least he would never come back to the store, but Santa Barbara is a small town, and I did end up running into him again.

A few months later, I was at the locally owned competition, which was far cooler than my corporate music store, and looking around and saying hi to some of my friends that worked there.  Guess who I saw perusing the CDs...Line-stache.  We stared at one another from across the CD display rack and the smug little shit smiled at me and said, "Hey man, what's up?"

I replied, that not much was going on and asked him to hold on for a moment.  I walked a little closer to the front of the store and called out to my friend Megan, who was the manager of the store, "Hey Megan?  Yeah, hi.  See that guy right there?"  I pointed and everyone in the store was staring at Line-stache at this point.  "Yeah, him.  He stole from my store a couple of months ago.  Yeah, he stole two Sega Genesis games.  Ran right out the door with them.  I would definitely keep an eye on him."  Line-stache went ashen and possibly had some beads of sweat forming on his ridiculous mustache and I casually strolled out of the store while the employees moved ever closer to Line-stache, whispering amongst themselves.

I did not have any sort of loyalty to the corporate music store, but Line-stache broke an unspoken understanding that we had.  He was free to loiter, act like the weirdo he was and do his thing and I would let him.  He broke our understanding and now had no music stores nearby to steal from.  So long sucker.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tonight's Award Goes To...

I would like to take this moment to thank the members of the academy for allowing me the opportunity to present tonight's highest award.  Thank you.

There comes a time in our lives when someone goes above and beyond the call of duty.  A time when someone truly reaches out to pluck a single bright, twinkling star from the heavens and to take it for their own, clutching it tenaciously close to their heart.  Now, don't get me wrong, these achievements are not acquired through selfish means, but done under the veil of anonymity.  There is no need for recognition.  There is no need of saying, "Yes, I did this."  It just isn't done.  Admittedly at times, a pseudonym might be used so that someone gets the credit, but in the end the true identity of this aspiring award winner remains a mystery.

Over the years, I have had many run-ins with tonight's winner, yet I did not know it at the time.  But that is about to change. So, let's get down to brass tacks and get on with the award!  Some of you may know tonight's winner as Blocked Missed Call, but tonight, your number's up buddy (crowd laughs and groans).  Ha ha.  I know, I know, I've got a million of 'em.  The 2010 lifetime award winner of the "Thanks For Waking My Ass Up Throughout the Ages" award goes to none other than Mr. Erious Ahole.  Yes, yes, give him/her a huge round of applause.

Thank you Mr. Erious Ahole for waking my ass up throughout the years, including...well...including last night at 1:30 AM when you called my number nearly giving me a heart attack, waking me from a dream of exploring underground tunnels and engaging in a threesome with a couple of nice ladies, and then failing to leave a message of any sort, such as an apology, or a, "Sorry wrong number."  Ha ha ha.  No need to be shy Sir/Madame, c'mon up here so the audience can have a look at you.  That's right...oops, watch that third step, it's a doozy.  Oh yes, before I hand over this award, I want to also thank you personally for waking me up in the middle of the night periodically throughout my entire life, even starting back to when I was fourteen.  Now THAT is dedication.

Here you go.  (Loud applause) Now, any words for the audience, or for those watching this program from the comfort of their own home?


Ha ha ha, there you have it folks, truer words have never been spoken.  Thank you Mr. Erious Ahole.  Thank you very much.  I would also like to thank the audience for coming out tonight and for honoring our other award winners this evening from the following categories:
1) Douchebag with the overly sensitive car alarm, who insists on parking on the street
2) Stupid cat moaning in heat all night
3) The mockingbird with the screwed up internal clock
4) Drunk college girls playing the worst music I have ever heard in my entire life at 3:00 AM and shouting with excitement with each new progressively crap song that follows
and finally,
5) Drunken idiots riding in the shopping cart down the street until it crashes into a metal post.

Also, a warm heartfelt thanks to our sponsors: No Doze, Tempur-Pedic, Tylenol PM, Red Bull, Valerian Root, truckloads of booze and finally Flaming Hot Cheetos.

Good night and pleasant dreams.


Monday, May 10, 2010

The Stuff of Legend - Mike Raicht (w), Brian Smith (w), Charles Wilson (a)

The Stuff of Legend: Book 1: The Dark
This weekend I finally read the graphic novel version of The Stuff of Legend from Villard Publishing, written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith and illustrated by Charles Wilson III.  The original two comics in this series came and went from the comic store so quickly, that I did not even known that they had been released. Thankfully, and also unknown to me, the series had been combined into one oddly shaped graphic novel that I came across at Borders last week and after a brief flip through, I knew that I could not hold off buying this book.  

The Stuff of Legend is part Toy Story and part hero's quest.  It opens with the Boogieman abducting a young boy, reaching dark tendrils from out of the closet to whip the boy's basset hound puppy, Scout, across the room and doing the same with the boy's teddy bear, Max.  Seeing the boy abducted, a motley assembly of toys gathers to get him back from The Dark.  A group is chosen consisting of: The Colonel - a World War I toy soldier, Princess - an Indian Princess, Max - the teddy bear, Harmony - a ballerina, Percy - the fearful piggy-bank, Quackers - a wooden duck, Jester - a Jack-in-the-box (my favorite), and the only living member of the war party the puppy, Scout.  The moment the group crosses into the dark, they transform into more realistic--and more deadly--versions of themselves, with knives, rifles, hatchets, claws and teeth poised to rend and kill the Boogieman's armies of fallen and lost toys.  The team must also deal with issues of mistrust between the various toys and the puppy that savaged a few of the entourage prior to the boy's abduction, the possibility of a traitor in their midst, and the death of one of their own.

The writing on this book is fantastic and each character is fully developed and unique, having their own set of skills and flaws, and I was cheering for each character throughout the entire book.  I smiled when Max came to terms with the puppy, and I sympathized with Jester's concern for the well-being of his friends after he had been imprisoned by the corrupt Mayor of Hopscotch, the deadly and rigged city built upon a board game.  I felt Percy's fear of injury as a result of the reality of him being a piggy bank to one day be broken open in the real world and I cheered the once faceless toy Princess, who is now beautiful and quite lethal.  This book is brilliant and one that I wish that I had written, but a huge component of this book is the truly beautiful imagery created by Charles Wilson III.  I cannot believe that both a teddy bear and an actual bear (wearing a neck-tie of course) can be drawn in such a way as to actually convey a sense of emotion for the reader.  Backgrounds are oftentimes very detailed and filled with action, yet not too crammed as to become too confusing and overwhelming the viewer.  The book is gorgeous and I cannot wait for the follow up issues for volume two that are set to release bi-monthly starting July 2010...I will probably also buy the series again in tpb form when it releases next year.

The Stuff of Legend is listed as written for years eight and up, but can be fairly scary at times with the threat of the Boogieman living in the darkened closet and the death of one of the main characters.  I would have loved this book when I was a child just as I love this book now as an adult.  Art and story are married so well that there is nothing negative I can really say about this book, short of having to wait for the next installment and a hope to see more of Harmony the ballerina.  I hope to someday see the creators' names on other projects, just so long as it does not mean that we loose future issues of this wonderful comic. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Swamp Thing by Alan Moore (W), John Totleben (A) and Steve Bissette (A) part 2

Dagnabbit.  Been staying up later for social stuff and getting up slightly later.  Let's finish this thang.

Continued from yesterday.

Saga of the Swamp Thing, Book 1A funny thing about the trade paperbacks for Alan Moore's run of Swamp Thing is that none of them contain issue# 20.  To get that issue, you have to either purchase the comic separately or buy the new hardcover edition from DC Comics, but from what I can tell, each hardcover edition is not necessarily longer than each corresponding paperback (with the exception on the first volume that has issue# 20.)  It is probably cheaper to buy the trades, unless you have the cash.

Swamp Thing issue# 21 is where Alan Moore really begins his tale.  Having wiped the slate clean, with the hero of the series dead on a slab in a refrigerated laboratory, Moore is ready to begin his real reworking of the character and that is where the book moves from hit-or-miss entertaining, to completely fascinating.

***SPOILERS for the second Moore issue and a couple of other plot points, but seriously just read it.***

The second Moore issue opens with Dr. Jason Woodrue, a convicted superhuman criminal called the Floronic Man, who is also a plant based creature similar to the Swamp Thing.  Woodrue has been released by the aged head of the Sunderland Corporation to conduct an autopsy on the body of the swamp monster, Alec Holland, and as a result of Woodrue's specialization in botanical science he is granted a reprieve from prison to conduct his work.  The Dr. is intrigued by the creature and readily agrees to conduct the experiment, but it is his findings that completely turn the tone of the series on its head.

Woodrue, while conducting the autopsy, finds that inside the swamp creature are masses that are meant to be the internal organs of a human being.  There is a heart, kidneys, lungs and all other organs, but they are made of plant based materials with no real functioning purpose.  Capillaries are much too thick to carry blood or oxygen, lungs too thick to expand and contract, and the kidneys are solely a mass of vegetation...useless.

Dr. Woodrue theorizes that Alec Holland believed that he had fallen into the swamp and that his bio-restorative formula had changed his flesh and bones into a plant, but that was not the case.  He reads some research concerning planarian worms that are taught to run a maze, that are then diced up and fed to a planarian worm that has never run the maze before, and upon consuming its more knowledgeable kin, gains the ability to work the maze.  Woodrue's theory is that the Swamp Thing was never a man trapped in a monster's body, but actually the result of the swamp plants (monster) absorbing the bio-restorative formula and also the memories of Alec Holland.  In the end, there was only the monster who thought it was Alec Holland, not the actual Alec Holland who was indeed dead.

The head of Sunderland ends up not liking the findings and fires Woodrue before the Dr. has the chance to finish the tale and threatens to have him thrown back into prison.  The critical part of Woodrue's findings is not that Alec Holland the man is dead, but that the Swamp Thing--who thinks he is Alec Holland--is not only a plant that thinks it is a man, but that it is a plant that is still very much alive.  In a final act of vengeance on Sunderland, Woodrue turns off the freezing apparatus to allow the Swamp Thing to thaw, grow a new body and to find his reports.  Needless to say, the creature is enraged to discover that he can never again regain his humanity. 

From there, the Swamp Thing kills the head of Sunderland, goes into a catatonic state, Woodrue gains the ability to control all plant life on the planet and vows revenge on the world of meat, and Alec's friends try to wake him.  All of these events occur in only issue# 21 and 22, and the rest of Alan Moore's run becomes even more complex and involved.  Swamp Thing dances into the realm of folklore and myth, into dreams and nightmares, and into love and intolerance in such beautiful and infuriating ways that I always have a difficult time putting the book down.  Moore's love and wonder of nature are at the heart of the series and coupled with the beautiful...and at times of Bissette and Totleben, you are pulled into their wonderful world of benevolent Swamp gods and demonic threats.

One of my all time favorite comics that I cannot recommend highly enough.  Dammit.  Now I need to reread this one again too.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Swamp Thing by Alan Moore (W), John Totleben (A) and Steve Bissette (A)

Saga of the Swamp Thing: Volume 1Even as a young child living in Ohio, I fondly remember many of the comic books that I treasured and read repeatedly over my young years.  I was always a fan of Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Godzilla, The Shogun Warriors, The Micronauts and the few older issues of comics that had somehow managed to make it into my very beat up collection, including one of my all-time favorites, Swamp Thing #10 from 1974.

Swamp Thing was created by writer Len Wein with art by master artist Bernie Wrightson and was the story of botanist Alec Holland, who's wife is killed by some thugs wishing to gain the knowledge of Alec's experiments.  A bomb is placed, which explodes, covering Alec in his incredibly flammable plant formula and in a panic, he rushes to the swamp and dives in to extinguish the burning flames.  What eventually rises from the swamp is no longer human, but a creature of moss and root and the flora of the swamp.  Alec has become a monster and despite his rasping voice and inhuman appearance he seeks revenge in the real world on those who killed his wife and destroyed his life.

My favorite storyline from Wein is still issue #10 from the moment when I first grasped it in my grubby, 6 years old, PBandJ smudged hands.  How could I not love the idea of a swamp man who fought against the reborn madman Dr. Anton Arcane in his horrifically modified body and his monstrous entourage of Un-Men, one of whom was nothing more than a head affixed to a hand.  Let me say that again...a head affixed to a hand!  The seventies, gotta love the seventies.  When else could a 6 year old boy listen to James Taylor's "Your Smiling Face", while watching the TV show Johnny Socko and His Flying Robot and reading horror comics.  I'm pretty sure there was some ABBA or disco in there at various points as well.

Swamp Thing was eventually canceled and revived years later in 1982 under the title of Saga of the Swamp Thing, and I once again picked up the series.  It was okay and oftentimes pretty good, primarily the underwater vampire story and the resurrection of Anton Arcane, this time as a cybernetic grody to the max bug-monster-man.  It was not until the mid-eighties, when Alan Moore became the writer for the series, that Swamp Thing went from somewhat cool and pulpy to extraordinary and terrifying.  

Moore took control of the series in issue# 20 and ended that issue with Alec, the Swamp Thing, being shot in the head by a sniper employed by the Sunderland Corporation...shot dead.  The creature's body is then gathered up and carried away for further study back at the corporate offices of the same company that was responsible for the murder of Alec's wife.  Issue# 21 is where Moore's reinvention of the comic truly begins. 

to be continued later.   Off to work...blah.