Was Doctor Strange As “Trippy” As They Claim?

Was Doctor Strange As “Trippy” As They Claim?

The sun took its sweet time sinking into the horizon that summer day. July was coming to an end, but still the days seemed longer. Maybe they seemed that way because of my particular position on the globe at the time; the parabola of the Northeast region made it feel like the Earth was grabbing on to as much sunlight as it could, as if it was storing it up for the long, cold winters. Maybe they seemed that way because I might be looking back on my twenties with a fondness for my more rebellious and carefree days. The poetry in the long goodbye note of a late summer sunset is written in the color of black raspberry ice cream and pink lemonade. It’s close to dusk, and my toes grab wet sand as a guy we just met walks out into the waist deep surf to take a piss while holding on to a case of cheap beer. There was something surreal, beautiful and strangely silly about this scene, and we all pick up on it right away. My friends and I look at each other and grin like mad. Maybe they seemed that way because we knew that this moment would never come our way ever again.

Maybe they seemed that way because we realized that the blotter acid we just bought in the parking lot outside of a Jerry Garcia concert was the real deal as it dug its claws into our cerebellum. We knew we’d be up for a while.

The last rays of sunshine flickered into nothing. I meander back to the parking lot. I have lost track of my friends a while ago. I knew it was going to be an interesting night as I looked up to see the stars dance and warp as Rob Wasserman plucked the melody to The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” on one of his many upright bass solos. The details of the rest of the night were murky. There was no sleep involved that night, however I do remember taking a much needed shower in the morning. Afterwards, I dried off, collapsed on the couch, and did my best to relax. But it was difficult because the cat kept trying to force her head into my mouth.

What I’m trying to say is, in terms of a Jimi Hendrix litmus test, I am experienced.

I have seen horizons and landscapes that shouldn’t exist. I’ve felt immeasurable joy, paralyzing fear, and pants-shitting danger. I have been places. They’re nice to visit, but you wouldn’t want to raise a family there (stay in school, kids!). I lived and breathed “trippy” for a brief moment in time.  I know what “trippy” means.

It is nothing like what they’re trying to sell you with the new Doctor Strange movie.

Now, before you think I’m hating, let me explain…

Comic books, historically, have never been taken seriously. I know, try telling that to a serious collector, and he might throw his bowl of Kraft Dinner at me. But from Golden Age to the Silver (translated: from the early 1930s to the late 1960s) pulp comics in general, Marvel in particular, have always fought tooth and nail to keep and expand its fan base. Which, in and of itself, is challenging. If it wasn’t the period where pulp comics were considered the folly, and ultimately the downfall of America’s children, then it was the Comics Code Authority making life miserable for everyone. If it wasn’t them, then it was the long process of trying to get back the disaffected youth that they were trying to get to read to begin with. If it wasn’t that, then it was trying to stay ahead of the curve and avoid being out of touch, to be reminded that you need to constantly evolve. If it wasn’t that, then it would be the endless one-upmanship with their closest competitor.

DC had been the standard bearer for what the modern heroes would be; square-jawed, two dimensional dudes in flashy costumes, swooping in to thwart a burglary in progress while simultaneously saving the equally two dimensional, anatomically impossible female from danger, and trying not to look gay while doing it.

meanwhile

Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee where busy wrangling their own creative bullpen over at Marvel. Most of the time it was hit and miss.

By the early 60s, the perfect storm of censorship and uninspired story lines nearly brought an end to the brand.

That all changed when Stan introduced”The Fantastic Four”.

On the surface, just another superhero comic. But dig a little deeper, you found four individuals with different abilities who argue and spat just like an actual family would. Just like people who knew each other would. Just like people.

Flawed characters were the thing that would save Marvel during the dark times of the early 70s. But at this time, they were still fighting to keep their head above water. One of the many offshoots of Marvel was an anthology series that went by the moniker, Strange Tales. The pages were mostly about monsters and ghouls and gore and blood and guts and zombies and vampires. It was presented as an alternative to superhero drama, but it wasn’t completely devoid of familiar characters. Cloak and Dagger first appeared there. The previously mentioned Fantastic Four found their origins there. Nick Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were first kicking Hydra’s ass in a few issues. And, a mystical character who was inspired by a radio era serial rounded out the entourage.

That character was called Doctor Strange.

Without giving too much away that you probably already know, Stephen Strange is a brain surgeon who travels to the Far East to be healed after his hands had become damaged in a car accident.  You know the rest.

The movie is a total blast to watch. But that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me is the advertising campaign billing this film as “psychedelic” or “trippy”.

There is a sequence in the film that may constitute a decent head trip, but that’s not the point. The point is that this character was made before the Psychedelic Era, although it has been noted that it might have had a hand at predicting it. Steve Ditko’s motivation when drawing for the Sorcerer Supreme wasn’t to recall the night when he baked magic mushrooms on his pizza. It was more about how would somebody draw something mystical; an idea that hasn’t been explored very much. Especially in comics. If someone came up to you and said, “Draw black magic”, how would you do that? Steve employed purples and reds, darker colors and free form shapes. He employed the use of Abstract Art, something else that hasn’t been tried before in comics. To bill this film as “trippy” does a great disservice to the essence of what was originally achieved.

Shorter: The film is nowhere near as hallucinogenic is one might think. It is abstract. Or more to the point, it is abstract as much as a mainstream movie could be. It is a family friendly Disney property, after all. Trippy is “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Jacob’s Ladder” or “The Science of Sleep”. Any of these films do a much better job at portraying an interpretation of hallucinating. The effects of the movie seem to lean more towards playing with geometric shapes than anything else; brick patterns, mosaic tiles, window panes. Anything that has a unifying structure is manipulated in such a way that no longer follows an actual design. If it were trippy, the bricks would come alive and shape-shift into something else before changing back into its original form. This is was just fun with shapes. To be honest, it was fun, really fun to look at, but it’s hardly mind-bending.

Other than that, the only real complaint I have about this movie is that it moves almost too fast. I suppose that might be a good thing. Calling attention to every single dollar that you throw into a scene is considered gauche, and the MCU have been quite adept at not doing that. But still, enjoying a moment for a second or two longer wouldn’t damage the narrative. I took a YouTube refresher course on the backstory of the good doctor. It turns out that it wasn’t completely necessary, although it wouldn’t kill ya to do your research.

Personal gripes aside, the movie is a blast. It is so much fun packed into an hour and fifty-five minutes (it could have run longer, and it would have been fine). This movie is a perfect example of a comic book adaptation done right. It is a perfectly stitched together collage of right choices. The writing was snappy and alive. The casting choices were perfect (let’s leave the whole “whitewashing” controversy alone for another time, shall we?) And the soundtrack. The effing SOUNDTRACK! A perfect homage to the time from whence this came from; a full orchestra combined with harpsichord, sitar and a fuzzy guitar shoved through a Tube Screamer (go ask a guitarist) was just delicious to listen to. Still, the theme, if there was one, was as forgettable as the other Marvel franchises. It’s been a complaint amongst music and movie nerds. But at least this time, they put a little more effort into it.

Go.
Go see this movie.
Go see this movie with an open mind, and if you can afford it and have the ways and means, see this in an IMAX theater.

Bottom line, Doctor Strange is not “trippy”

…It’s…strange…in a good way.

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Whatever I Want Wednesdays: Where Is Fancy Bred? (Caution: Rant in Progress)

Okay, to be honest… I thought it was “bread”. I always thought that Benvolio was looking for a specific baker that made this particular loaf of Pumpernickel. Which was rather odd because he was gambling for his life at the moment. Maybe picking the right casket made him…hungry…what was I talking about?

Anyway, this quote:

“…Where is fancy bred? In the heart, or in the head?”

-William Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice)
Forget for a moment that this quote is more noted for being in a certain movie, this question basically asks: “How should we love? Passionately, or wisely?” Implying, of course, that never the twain shall meet. As with many things attributed to the bard, this quote could easily be applied as a life lesson for many things other than amorous crushes. Would it be too far removed to ask, “How should we live?”

I never gave too much credence to any so-called “Self-Help Gurus”, or “Life Coaches”. Perhaps it was the jaded nature of my generation that casts a wary eye to these individuals. Our childhood dominated by experiencing the Vietnam War on a nightly basis, the ripple effect left by Watergate, and the seeds of the Cold War being planted and cultivated may have also formed our mindset. I remember being herded into our high school gymnasium on a yearly basis to be screamed at wowed by these “Motivational Speakers”with their big hair, loud Cosby Sweaters and go-get ’em attitude telling us to be MOTIVATED!!….apparently for the sake of being….MOTIVATED because your typical high school teacher had no idea how teach it themselves and had to get someone else to do it. Someone else that was hired by…I don’t know…let’s say Texas school text book publishers. Someone who thought that getting some dude in his forties would be the perfect candidate to communicate with the kids, because they’re cool and rad too! THEY know how to reach the kids! THEY know what they want…because we tell them to like what they want…Look! He’s singing along with a Foreigner song! He MUST be one of us! He’s so relatable! I mean, forget that its a band made up of old dudes and the only people listening to them are your crazy uncle who blares it from his 8-track in his customized van, forget that a kids in the 80s (the cooler kids) are more inclined to listen to Van Halen than to a band that came out 10 years before we got old enough to appreciate it!….I wish MTV would hurry up and get here…but YEAH! He’s rockin’ out and telling us to be good little subservients! And he’s got concert lighting and smoke machines! I wish he were MY friend.

If the iPad was invented thirty years earlier, I guarantee you every face would be pointed towards the floor as every student Tweeted about how much of a poser this guy was. We didn’t have that back then. All we could do was give him the blank stare and fidget in our seat and wait for the lunch bell. For some, the result of having to sit through this painful ordeal had a positive effect and made (somewhat) of an impact that lasted a day or so. For the rest of us, we regarded it is bullshit window dressing designed to waste time before some of us went to vocational school. The people in the office buildings would say that their efforts paid off. The kids that it was directed it had a different opinion.

The 80s kids never listened to this, because we failed to see the point in it. We failed to see the point in it, because we felt we were being talked down to, and dressing it up in loud clothing and putting a cocaine induced smile on its face wasn’t making it any better. For all our trappings and our ambivalence, we failed to see the point in it, because your message still wasn’t reaching us, and we’re not that stupid.

But, no matter. We leapfrogged from the days of Leo Buscaglia and Deepak Chopra, and graduated to Tony

Robbins and motivational posters when we entered adulthood. Soon, the backlash happened. We figured out that we could buy our own platitudes for encouragement. We figured if we were at the point of needing help, and were motivated enough to go to the bookstore to by motivational poster or a self-help book by some New York Times Bestseller…then we are pretty much motivated to do…well…anything.

Soon, the Motivational Speaker craze gave way to a different animal. Soon, the Cosby Sweaters were replaced by slick, 80s throwbacks with their supposedly expensive suits, sitting on their Lamborghini that’s parked outside of their palatial mansion and telling the late night television viewing audience that they have the secret to success as bikini-clad models drape over their arms. These men have claimed to make it big in real estate and flipping houses, or knowing the right algorithms of the stock market, or some other far-fetched scheme, and they could give their knowledge to you…that’s right…YOU! All you have to do is sacrifice your entire weekend, write out a check for $1500 while you let this guy scream at you to buy his book while you fidget in your seat at the convention center while you check the clock and patiently wait for the time when you can go to the bathroom.

Where is fancy bred?

We are not that stupid. We failed to see the point of it because what you were selling has fallen on deaf ears and empty wallets…

 

Can you personally build a better business system than McDonald’s?

No, Mr. Kiyosaki, I can’t. But, I suppose you could distill the essence of attaining an MBA into one weekend retreat? Oh…also, thanks a bunch  for trying to make me regret not getting accepted into Harvard where I may have had a chance to build a better business system were my proclivities drawn to such a direction. Not all of us are so lucky. Not all of us are successful. Not all of us can afford to buy and sell real estate to flip for a profit. If we could afford it, then we wouldn’t plunk down hard earned cash to listen to you drone on for days.

I don’t mean to pick on the guy, but I don’t get the people who try to hammer his point home either. As if I needed any help in understanding a principle.

Well, that’s just it. Isn’t it? We have to redefine what “quality” means. When it comes to McDonald’s churning out a quality product, McDonald’s is way down on that list. Consumer Reports had them practically at the bottom. But since the individual experience doesn’t matter, and we’re talking a macro level model, then yes, you’ve got me that McDonald’s metrics on cranking out the same “quality” food on a consistent basis. I mean, they employ such winning tactics as that whole “Pink Slurry” thing as well as exploiting their workers to maximize profits, I think the question should not be “can I build a better system”, but rather should be, “can I build a better system that I can in good conscious live with myself after implementing?”

But, just for a moment, consider that all the consistency in the world isn’t going to do you much good where you’re churning out crap. Saying that, “McDonald’s customers aren’t really expecting that much” is saying something to the effect of: “…where the common customer had a choice from the dollar menu or consuming a shovel full of dirt with cheese on it, the customer will almost always pick the dollar menu…” It’s like they considered the shovel full of dirt. Does anyone else see this? Implying that McDonald’s is the only kid on the block is also pretty ludicrous. Sure, the field is a little smaller as of late as Burger King flies the coop to Canada, but they’re on the same level of crap slinging as its rival is. If an American institution pulling up stakes to head north to avoid paying taxes like a draft dodger trying to avoid the Vietnam War isn’t enough to get you to stop patronizing these places, maybe waking up one day and realizing that much closer to diabetes every time you eat there will? Maybe? No? Oh…okay….Oh LOOK! The McRib is back!!!

“Take a number? Yeah, sure. No problem.”

The Big Two of McDonald’s and Burger King aren’t the only kids on the block. Quality may not enter in the equation now. You may not see it now. But what about the long term? If these guys are placing at the bottom of the list as far as customer satisfaction goes, pretty soon that little nugget of infomation will catch up to them. 5 Guys, In-and-Out, Fatburger, White Castle, all consistently crank out an infinitely better product, and their business isn’t hurting either. Are they using the same model as McDonald’s? Their product is more expensive, and yet there’s a line out the door at my local 5 Guys and nobody seems to mind, myself included. The lines are quick at any one of the dozens of Mickey-D’s in my town, and I see red every time I order a burger that has been obviously been microwaved. Is that a better business system? Is that something I should try and emulate?

I guess what’s really getting to me is that people still confuse quality over quantity. Success isn’t necessarily a numbers game. Yes, there is about 10 McDonald’s and Burger “Great White North” Kings to every one 5Guys, but that doesn’t mean that those restaurants are any better. It just means that people don’t know any better. And don’t give me that whole, “well, it’s cheaper” argument. That’s another discussion for another time. Cheaper doesn’t mean better either, it just means people can’t afford to take a chance on anything else, and we suffer for it.

Personally, I could care less. I can’t stomach fast food anymore, but that’s not the point. What’s really getting to me is that most people will always go for the dollar menu and not be bothered to take a chance on anything of sustenance, like cooking something for themselves that doesn’t involve a microwave, or reading a blog that doesn’t have a list on it.

Where is fancy bred?

It will always be the heart. But I’m trying really hard to feel it from the head.

 

WWHAD: What Went Right

Take a look at this logo. Go ahead, marvel at it….I SAID MARVEL AT IT!!!! I’m not the best at logging how many hours I spend on a particular Illustrator project. I’m still a novice and it feels like I spend more time pouring over tutorials and searching for fonts and vectors than actually producing anything. I suspect that I spent a good eight hours on this, five of which was research. Don’t judge, I’m just starting.
Alphonse Mucha

This was the logo I wanted for my new business. Well, close to it anyway. I still wanted to texturize the name a little further; give it more of an old-time feel. I wanted to decorate the badge a little further in the center too. Everything is just slightly askew, it needed to get tightened up. I also attempted to put this through Photoshop to give it a look like peeling paint so it would look cool on a t-shirt. What I’m trying to say is that I wanted this to stand out. For the past few years, the style of old-fashioned signage has been coming back into vogue; a retro style that runs that gamut from late 1800s Neo-impressionism to 1950’s Pop Art. In the midst of doing research, I sort of fell in love with the Art Nouveau Period. The way the function followed form

intrigued me; the emphasis on the ornate especially in advertising. In imagining my logo, I pictured an old wooden sign hanging above a bakery entrance. Hardly original, I know, but there’s something comforting about this style. When I see a sign like this swinging gently in the breeze, it makes me want to come in, buy a pastry and a coffee and spend some time inside watching the world go by outside. 

Anyway, eight hours or so later, I put the finishing touches on it and met my deadline to have them printed before the weekend. All the cakes were baked and trimmed, boxes were folded, a makeshift menu was constructed and it was all systems go. Our inaugural run was met with great indifference, feel free to read all about it in the first half here.

~*What Went Right*~
The day was behind us and lessons were learned. Later on that evening, my girlfriend posted a copy of this little poster to her Facebook page. Not a few minutes after it went live than one of her more Redneckish friends chimed in:
“Cake? Oh. For a second there, I thought he was selling alcohol. My bad…”

Hours of work, of constructing a concept, of making something that I thought that would be appealing to the eye, and just like that, someone equates my logo to a bottle of Tennessee Sour Mash. Here I am thinking that I constructed a logo that’s friendly and warm and inviting, now I look at and I need a whiskey on the rocks and for someone to rack ’em up on the next snooker table. I wasn’t insulted because I know the person that said it. I was more self conscious. For about 10 minutes, “What if everyone thought that? What if everyone thought about Jim Beam or Jack Daniels rather than cake? What if I thought about Jim Beam or Jack Daniels when I was designing it? What if I’m a raging alcoholic and didn’t know it?…” And so on as I spun out of control. Okay, yes. “Angel’s Share” is a term that is used in the distillation of alcohol and has absolutely nothing to do with baking. I was completely oblivious to the proper meaning of the phrase. It sounded like a wholesome, home spun term. When I was mass producing cheesecakes for Christmas, there was a bunch of sponge cake crust ends that I couldn’t use in anything except serving it with ice cream. The act of up-cycling something that was going to be nothing I felt was some psychic good deed. Good equals angels….angle’s share?….is this thing on?…maybe I’m just a raging alcoholic….

But then I thought, “Hey wait a minute, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” (about the business logo, not my drinking habits) The design caught somebody’s eye. Granted that person’s mind went straight to whiskey, but it did catch someone’s eye. It made them stop and pay attention, if only briefly. This point was validated earlier that day when a customer walked over, tried a sample and asked where we were located. As if we were and honest to goodness full fledged bakery with cases filled with treats. We had to tell her that we were just starting and everything was being run out of our kitchen, but for a brief moment, we were bigger than we actually were. And that counts as something. For a brief moment, we may have caught a glimpse of our future. For a brief moment, we were a real business, and in that one glance, there was hope.

And hope is always a good thing.