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.

New Title for NaNoWriMo Project

New Title for NaNoWriMo Project

What I said before about not knowing a thing about the NaNoWriMo community and how I had a feeling that I was in good company?

Welp, turns out I was right.

It was mentioned to me that after I signed up, I should spend a few moments in NaNo’s forums to get better acquainted with the people and the culture. Kind of a big deal, because I’m so anti-social that even the possibility of engaging with another human being on something so passive as a message board, makes me want to go hide in a cave somewhCorthell Hall, University of Southern Maine, Gorham MEere.

It’s like I’m going back to school. Walking around the quad with a map in my hand, only occasionally glancing up to see where I’m going, and noticing a few hundred more people just as fresh faced and confused as I am. All of us nervous, excited, and eager to get started on a new adventure; The Freshman Syndrome.

Look, years ago, I thought I was on a career path. I thought I knew what I was doing, and I was so sure that I would never have to be in a position of starting over. If I could find my 18 year old self, and would look him square in the eye and tell him…

“It’s all about starting over.”

“Nothing in life is certain,” I would say grabbing the front of his pizza-stained Watchmen t-shirt. “Not even the path in front of you. You will stumble, you will fall, and you will get back up many times. Don’t shut yourself off, or shut yourself out. Keep yourself open to possibility, work hard. And for the love of all things holy…do not, I repeat, do NOT be afraid or ashamed to stop and ask for directions.”

I hate asking for directions.

By extension, I hate asking for help. The ego takes over when driving blindly into unknown worlds like…Lower Manhattan, Upstate Vermont (“wait, we’re in Canada now? How’d that happen?” True story), and a blank word processor at the inception of writing a novel. I hate asking for…anything, actually. I have this (points finger at head and swirls it around in a jerky, clockwise motion)…thing where I compulsively take down my Amazon Wish List at the beginning of every December, because I feel that it’s a burden for other people to look at it for some reason. I hate asking. Which is why it was kind of a big deal for me to ask for help renaming my story.

I started with calling this story “Fearsome Critters” which is also the title of an ancient compendium written by Henry H. Tryon, published by Idlewild Press in 1939. The book is written with the dryest of Samuel Clemens-style humor about mythical beasts found across the country, with an emphasis on the ones found in the Northern wilderness. Even though the book is in the public domain, I still felt that it was a better option to go with a different title. I liked it, I liked it a lot. And even though my project is loosely based on this text, it still felt wrong to use it.

Whenever I sit down and start writing, constructing a title of whatever I’m writing comes much later; it’s usually the last thing I do before hitting the “Publish” button. I signed up for NaNo, and immediately starting filling out my dashboard, my bio, my avatar, as if I’m decorating my cubicle. Then, it came time to put up or shut up when they asked if I was ready to “submit my novel”; basically establishing an intention “for realzies“for my book. I’m used to doing that last, now I need to do it first.

(Crumples up campus map in frustration) Can anybody tell me where the cafeteria is?

On a forum conversation titled, “Suggest a Title – 2015 edition” I found many people in the same boat I was; we have a plot, and outline, no title. I also noticed a greater proportion of NaNo vets and participants who were more than eager to help. One of which, helped me. Which is surprising, because I was resigning myself to getting buried and lost in the conversation.

As usual.

This person sent me a list of title ideas. Most of them were great, but the one that stuck out the most was “The Nature of the Beast”. My book is set in modern day America, and it has a menagerie of mythical creatures running around. The story has a lot to do with war and power, and human (and not so human) rights. I thought the title was perfect, so I thanked her, and now I’m running with it.

Oh and also, I had to make a cover. Actually, that’s not true. The process of cranking out this whale would not have been impeded with the absence of a book cover, so let me rephrase. I had the option of making a cover. For a guy who spends an inordinate amount of time finding online Photoshop tutorials, a wet-behind-the-ear approach to design, and a tendency to proactively procrastinate, it was just the thing I needed to keep me occupied on a Friday morning.

book-cover-tempNano

They say that bad cover = bad sales. And, I’m inclined to agree with that. It’s a start. It’s sort of what I’m looking for.

Sort of.

I’m sure that my honest but ugly attempt at a cover that doesn’t suck, might be scrutinized by a host of professional designers. And that’s okay. I look forward to it. At the end of this thing, around the time when I send this out for editing for the 4th or 5th time, and I’m comfortable with what I’ve written, I’ll again be asking for help. I’d like to think that I know what I’m doing when it comes to designing things. Then again, I’d like my book to sell, so sometimes leaving things in the hands of professionals might be a better option.

Today is the first day of November. The starting pistol has been fired, and everyone is shuffling forward.

I’m submitting my word count later tonight, but before I go, I’d like to know if you have any suggestions for the cover and/or title.

Thank you, and see you soon.

Motivation Monday: The Dog Ate My Homework Edition

I’m up! I’mupI’mupI’mup…I’m awake…
Where is everyone…?

Where am I…?

Crap…missed it again…

Okay, the last thing I remember, it was Monday and I thought it would be a really cool idea to make a nice graphic in honor of National Coffee Day.

“National Coffee Day? What madness is this?” I ask to myself as I wake up and turn on my computer and listen to the news. It was the lead story on every news outlet. It was almost as if there was nothing else happening in the world. No war, just coffee, and the day attached to it. No political unrest in Hong Kong, no shake up at the Secret Service. Just…coffee. Coffee as far as the eye can see.

I started my day as usual, with a bowl of cereal and a pot of coffee. A few hours later, I decided to celebrate some more by making another pot, because this design wasn’t going to make itself. I sat down at the computer with my fifth cup of the day.

And then all went black soon after…

I awoke several hours later. The general early 70s ambiance of my house was so rotten, so incredibly foul. What had happened? There was evidence in this room of excessive consumption of almost every
type of drug known to civilized man since 1544 AD. What kind of addict
would need all these coconut husks and crushed honeydew rinds? And why was my son duct taped to the ceiling? Too savage…too agressive…

Jesus…did I just say that?

I finally came down the next day with no project, no idea where to start, and a huge goddamned electric bill…

Sorry, just riffing.

My days are all mixed up and I’m not sure if I can stick to a regular schedule. But we must prevail.

Moving on…

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Image:

 

Hello everyone, hope your Monday has gone swimmingly.

For this weeks Motivation, I chose the always quotable, Neil Gaiman. Some day, I hope to achieve the same dream-like images his illustrators conjured up for the Sandman series. But for now, I’ll be happy with what I got.

Do not lose hope…

…never lose hope

Image:

Cover:

Fonts:

I started blogging since before 2007. Even though I haven’t returned to see my roots…ever…I think it would be safe to assume that both platforms that I cut my teeth on have been lost to the ravages of time. I chose 2007 as more or less an official time that I started to take blogging at least…semi-seriously.

I remember trying to feel my way around at that time. It’s the same as now, still poking around in the darkness and asking strangers if I’m doing this right.

Well, maybe a slight exaggeration, but the spectre of being at a loss for topics was accompanied by the learning curve of starting over and the naïveté of the not knowing the best way to format came around every so often. I spent years blogging into a void, and seriously considered walking away.

It took years to build an audience. Years. I make the jump to WordPress, make two posts and already I have more people following me than I did in the first two years.

The gratitude to past, present and future followers means a lot to me. I made the decision to keep blogging as a career quite recently, and the surprising show of support so far is just the encouragement I need to keep writing, keep offering unique content, keep influencing.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much for following.

"Thank you for reading" in Quenya.
“Thank you for reading” in Quenya.

WDYDWYD Part 1

Photo courtesy of Kyle Harmon

I’ve never been to Burning Man. It was one of these phenomenon that arrived a little too late in my life for me to truly appreciate. Were I a younger man with literally thousands of dollars, weeks of time, and an abundance of unused brain cells at my disposal, I would make that yearly pilgrimage to the middle of the desert not giving a flying cuss as to my motivations for doing so. Sure, I would have gone. But, I’m not that younger man anymore. The older man is failing to see the appeal in it.

I didn’t have Burning Man when I was growing up. We had The Grateful Dead when Uncle Jerry was still alive. Back then, it was different. Back then, it was all about freedom and love…and…music and…expressing yourself…and…oh, never mind.

Honestly, the much-hyped festival has hardly crossed my mind in years. That is, until recently when I was reminded of one the movement’s rallying cries: WDYDWYD? I’m sure there are one or two of you out there that are nodding in recognition, but the rest of you are all like, “Does he know he printed a typo… in all caps?” Stick with me, explanations in the form of long winded posts are coming.

~***~

Got knocked down again last week.

Strange feeling, this. This feeling that all of your progress gets swept from underneath you. Perhaps it’s some psychic payback from some botched employment from years ago. Perhaps it’s the universe letting me know that this is how it’s going to be when I strike out on my own. I’m hoping that all the bad stuff is getting out of the way early so the rest of my endeavor would provide smoother sailing.

Here’s to hoping.

I took some time off. Partially because I needed to regroup. I needed to regroup because I spent a lot of time on some t-shirt designs that I thought were at least slightly unique, only to be told that all my hours of planning and constructing and publishing that I needed a note from a live author and a dead author in order to continue using a concept; I wrote a Stephen King quote in Quenya. Granted, I should have researched further to find out that the quote I used was in The Shawshank Redemption, but it didn’t matter because the quote was written in a fictional language. It didn’t matter because at the end of the day, nobody cares!

Nobody cares.

You can read this? Man, you’re good!

In today’s world, the most anyone is able to do is just catch a quick glance at what you’re wearing, like it, dislike it, acknowledge it, and move on before they get accused of staring at someone’s chest. I honestly don’t think that people will stop someone on the street who is wearing my shirt and say, “HEEEEEYYYY!….Hold on a minute!…is that a Stephen King quote?” For a while, I was thinking that it might have been better if I left a few things out of the description of the product. Maybe I shouldn’t have name-dropped and played dumb, “Uhhh, I made this. I don’t know what it is…anybody want it?

The rules stipulate that I can’t use a quote for monetary gain if the author is still alive and the only quotes I could use are the ones in the public domain, or if the author has been dead for at least 70 years. If the author is still alive, you need to ask permission. Fine. I made a mistake. I don’t think I should have been censored for it, though. I didn’t see what the problem was and I told this company so, which also turned out to be final correspondence as I yanked all my designs from the site and shut down my store.You could say I threw a tantrum. I did. I’ll admit it. I picked up my football and went home. Not because I felt I was unjustly scrutinized…well…not entirely, anyway. I did this because several other designers on several other websites (including the one I just left) are doing and have been doing the exact same thing, but on a grander, perhaps more professional scale, and no one bats an eyelid. I contribute my ideas, and I’m told that I’m breaking the law. How can other people do it with impunity, and I get crushed?

All of a sudden, I’m back at my grade/middle/high schools where I’m getting beat up because the color of my skin was a threat. All of a sudden, I’m making a point about the First Amendment and expression at a previous job, only to be
told I was being ridiculous. All of a sudden, I’m told by the woman that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with that the business plan that we both came up with was a bad idea and it’s all my fault that it didn’t work, and that was the reason she was leaving me.

All of a sudden, I’m left with nothing but great ideas and good intentions of which no one cares. Just like always.

I took some time off.

“Chewie, is that you?”

I’m a freshly minted father. I’m an old father with a fresh coat of paint. For the passed few days, I’ve been sitting in front of my screen trying unsuccessfully to type with one hand while I cradle a baby and a bottle with the other. I found it more important to look into my boy’s eyes and to kiss his chubby cheeks and to have little conversations about whatever’s on his little baby mind then to scream into a vacuum and ultimately get nothing done anyway. Of course, these days, he takes a lot of naps and when he does look at me, he looks at me with this little disappointed look. I know, in the grand scheme of things, he’s just moments old and he is still working on focusing on things that are a few inches in front of him. But I can’t help but think I see my own reflection when I look at him, and it chills my bones; this disappointment feedback.

I haven’t posted anything in days, and I hadn’t planned on it either. I needed a break, and that involves doing a whole bunch of nothing. Take the time to breathe. Get my bearings straight. Clear my head. Start fresh when I’m ready. Before I took my sabbatical, I engaged with fellow Google plussers by inquiring if anyone knew of a place where I wouldn’t be scrutinized on a daily basis and conduct my business peacefully. One of the answers came back in the form of a question. +Deborah Chezem asked:

I wanted to respond. I really, really did. I had every intention of going through my back-story one more time and probably give her all the links to my posts that pretty much say the same thing over and over again. I could have gone that route, but a memory from back in my Facebook days came back and painted the question in a different color. What are my needs? Why am I doing this? To put this another way…

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Am I doing this for the right reasons? Are my intentions correct? Is there such a thing in regards to this?

More on this later…

What I’ve Been Working On.

Blog’s a little lonely these days.

I’m sorry, hon. I’ve been trying to craft a living out of nothing. I know you’ve been lonely. My typing fingers aren’t as accurate as they used to be either.

But here’s the thing…

I’m still unemployed. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been chucked out like the trash for one reason or another. But this is the first time where I’ve decided to not rely on someone else to hire me. This is the first time where I decided to go my own direction, the first time where I make my own future, to actually contribute to society. I love to write. I also like creating things. I want to do what I love, but in order to do that, I want to do the thing that I like.

But that’s old news, blah blah blah…heard it all before. This is what I’ve been working on.

Latest design. I’m still falling in love with this style, and every project I’ve been working on having been gravitating around it. However, these days, I’ve kind of been throwing in the towel because finding the resources I need have become scarce (damn you, Shutterstock). So instead of spending hours looking for stuff I already have, or finding a way around getting the good stuff for free without getting busted for it. I decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Details will come soon in my Portfolio page…eventually.

Anyway, I spent all weekend sweating over the smaller details while diving headfirst into some sort of philosophical conundrum. Today was dedicated to actually putting it together. I’m okay with it. Trying to figure out if I want this as t-shirt material or not. Anyway, it’s late and I’m tired of looking at this for the day.

Taking any and all advice and criticism. Thank you very much.