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.

Thoughts on Halloween 2016: Where Has The Spirit Gone?

Thoughts on Halloween 2016: Where Has The Spirit Gone?

20161031_201206

This picture was taken on this All Hallow’s Eve while Trick-or-Treating with the kids. I could count on one hand the number of houses that were fully decorated, and I’d like to address that in a second. But first, I’d like to point out that yes, that’s a bunny sitting quite contently in someone’s front yard. After conversing with the homeowner, we found out that it wasn’t his bunny, he just likes to hang out in his yard. Which, I guess would be slightly probable for this area.  This isn’t the first rabbit I’ve seen hanging around here.

But still, some people go all out with the spoopy factor for their yard display. This guy just has a single bun-bun.

Worst. Halloween display. Everrrrr.

Still though, it is a black bunny, so it’s kinda scary? And knowing my luck, this one would just happen to be the one with big,wizardtim nasty, pointy teeth and bones strewn about its lair. But luckily, I didn’t doubt my courage or my strength, so I snapped a picture before he hopped away.

The people that live across the street from him had a more involved display, turning their front lawn into a festive graveyard festooned with blinking lights, tiny, cartoonish graves and Dollar Store cobwebs. A half a block away, another with the same motif. But between the first one and the last one and the majority in between, the houses were dark. Nobody home; the universal language of “no candy here”. Not many revelers out in the street either. I’m used to being run over by squads of screaming children, hyped up on too many Kit Kats, and dressed in their store bought costumes. Last night, I was lucky to see two families out, and even then they were on their way home. For lack of a better term, my neighborhood was a ghost town.

Why is this?

Well, most of the reasons seem pretty obvious this year.

Hurricane Matthew

For starters, there just so happened to be a Category 3 hurricane that mowed down most of the eastern coast of Central Florida before lumbering north and flooding the Carolinas.

Maybe you’ve heard of it?

20161101_142239The aftermath left a bunch of damaged houses, and many more oak trees snapped into kindling. For the most part, there were some damages done, but it was nothing we haven’t lived through before.

Weeks later, we are still cleaning up, and life goes on. People are still repairing their roofs. Chainsaws are still grinding away, and the debris trucks will be holding up traffic for a little while longer.

In the meantime, trees still lay in segments along a busy road with no sidewalks. Not the most ideal situation for kids to try and navigate.

It’s a Monday, fercrissakes…

I mean, c’mon! Monday? If you weren’t a traditionalist like some of us, you would have sidestepped this little conundrum and had your Halloween-y whatnots taken care of over the weekend. Partying for the past two days in your costume puts you in no mood for dealing with throngs of sugar fueled children.

Most of us have to work in the morning. Besides, isn’t there a game on? Burp Fart Scratch

It’s an Election Year

Admit it, while some of your kids might be a little fearful of stepping onto some stranger’s porch that’s rigged with motion sensor jump scare contraptions, you kinda felt the same way when you walked up to a house with about a dozen Trump signs propped up in the front lawn like cartoonish gravestones. “Oh, there’s nothing to be scared of,” you repeat to yourself as you walk passed the chained up pit bull and old engine-less pickup truck. “I’m sure they’re nice people.” Then you see the stars and bars backlit in the living room window. Then the gun rack. And then another. Then the chill goes down your spine when you see them smile on their porch, and they all have three teeth between them.

shines flashlight under chin

…AND ALL THEY HAVE IS CANDY CORN AND STALE CIRCUS PEANUTS! MUH- HAAHAHAHAHAAAAA! NIGHTY-NIGHT, KIDDIES!

It could be nothing. It could be that I haven’t properly canvassed this area. I’ve lived in this part of town for two years and I still haven’t got a feel for it. I spend too much time hiding inside to notice or care. Maybe it’s always been like this.

Then again, maybe it’s all the above factors rolled into one big excuse to sit this one out this year. The heart’s just not into it this year. It needs a breather.

Then again, maybe it’s because I live in a suitcase community. On one side of us, there is the beach. The other, a river. In between, rows of tiny houses built in the 1950s. Most of them occupied, a lot of them with “for rent” signs out front. Rent is too high for the locals, so that means flocks of Snowbirds flock down here in their Mercedes Benz’s  to escape the chilly grasp of Northern winters for a few months. They are congenial and lovely, but deep down, I think they feel about as out of place as I do. None of us have any idea what’s going on.

Then again, maybe everyone that lives here are complete d-bags and hate hate HATE Halloween like some Grinch who’s getting his list done early.

And I surely hope that isn’t the case.

I hope that we haven’t become as jaded about Halloween as we have about Christmas. I hope that somewhere there is that spirit of the holiday hasn’t completely died.

Why I bring this up is because it concerns me a little when things like this happen. Halloween isn’t just for the kids. I’ve seen plenty of adults light up like a Hollywood marquis on opening night because this night is their time to shine. The sense of wonderment that you once felt as a child, whether you were too afraid to climb up the porch, or running with the pack of department store Power Rangers. The sense that we still have the capacity for letting the unknown into our lives. At least for a little bit. We still have the ability to be shocked, to have a laugh, to worry that you might be showing up to your office party in a lame costume, and realize that 4 or 5 people are thinking the same thing. It takes one night out of 365 to make us realize how human we are, and lately, it feels like it might be slipping away.

I bring this up because it concerns me. There is nothing sadder than an adult who has lost his capacity to celebrate just for the sake of celebrating. It concerns me, because it makes me sad and a little nervous that there are darker forces than ghosts and vampires who cast a pall over this night, and darken house after house. Have we become that jaded? Have we let this year grind us down? We have let the screaming heads guide us by fear. We are a divided country. One we haven’t seen in a long time. One night passing out the candy in costume. One night to join in with a parade. One night to commune with the beasts and the bunnies. One night to reclaim that wonder we once had as a child.

I think we all deserve it.

On a related note, a neighborhood that goes completely dark while a black bunny roams the streets just might be another thing to add to my Work In Progress file.

On Getting Knocked Down Seven Times.

“I  fall down seven times, I get up eight.” In Quenya
  1. I’m still unemployed.

Outside of some random, nameless employer actually taking the time out of their busy schedule last week to point out in great detail how stupendously under-qualified I am, I would have the opinion that no one is hiring at all, and every employer is posting want ads to fill some sort of quota.

     2. Establishing entrepreneurship when you don’t even have a mission statement…sucks.

I have learned that you just can’t start a business solely on the premise of making a buck. I know this because every other post on my Google+ page tells me so. In order to succeed, one must have a plan. I had a plan

…at least, I thought I had one…

~***~
So, I opened my store. It was something I was planning on doing for a while, all I need was more product to sell and I could officially open. That was my goal. Upon finding more time on my hands earlier this year, I decided to devote some time into doing so, and it was good. Honest work, applying new found skills to something that I like doing. For me. Not anyone else. For me.

A few weeks passed, and there was no time to rest on my laurels. I need more designs.

But what?

What other idea did I have for sale? It took about 5 seconds for me to stumble onto my eureka moment. “I know,” I thought. “I’ll finish up those projects I meant to finish last year!”

The project in question is this…

(Wow…sorry, looking at this now, I’m just taking note of where I was a few months ago to where I am now. Which is to say I’m still nowhere near pro… Give me a minute… I just have to shake my head a little longer.)

I’m online doing a Google Search, or I’m window shopping on Etsy. I’m shuffling down the aisles at my local Flea Market. I holding back the bile as I shop at Wal-Mart. It doesn’t take too much of a stretch to figure out that our society is based on plagiarism in varying degrees; Every idea is a re-hash of something that had already came before it. The whole Twilight phenomenon, for example. There are sections at my local Barnes & Noble devoted entirely to pouty, insolent, post-pubescent vampires, or some variation on the theme. Good artists borrow, great artists steal, and there’s no avoiding it. Sure, as a creator/author/artist, you could blaze your own trail and with a little luck, your idea might catch on in five years or so. Might. In about five years time, you may be able to reap the rewards or your original idea, but in the meantime, you’ve got bills to pay. Why not cater to the broadest common denominator? Why not sell out just to survive? People do it all the time. It’s not like I’m going to be doing it forever.

Image courtesy of here

I got it in my head last year that I could manufacture a series of t-shirts that was based on the concept…CONCEPT… that every major kingdom in the FICTIONAL land of Westeros, as bloodthirsty and greedy as they may be, they may have had at one time, an institute of higher learning. Far fetched as it may be, it’s still a pretty good concept, and from what I see (and to back up my previous point) I am not the first one to come up with this. If you have a few moments, do a Google Image search on “House Stark” or any other house in this land made constructed by Mr. Martin, and you’ll see what I mean. Yes it’s plagiarism, but it has evolved beyond that. It’s an appreciation of form of art, which in this case is pop culture, by not imitating it, but by embellishing it, relishing it, and perhaps running with a concept. These are my thoughts, my mission statement in my head, as I take the better part of two weeks, gather up all of my notes and tutorials and web pages and sequester myself away in front of my computer to further my skills and perhaps, with any luck, to make some money.

Everything. On the page.

I don’t know which was the more challenging at times, finding and/or constructing the right vectors and designs, or the actual planning. It’s a routine that I was used to a lifetime ago in college, but it’s something I would have never thought I would ever to apply it to a livelihood. Years ago, I was entering the real world where they are more interested in numbers. I know it might be considered the grind to some people, and a fruitless endeavor to most, and I may turn crusty and jaded before too long, but I’m just starting. And even though I have yet to successfully get my name out there or make any money, for the time being, I finally like what I’m doing. I’m happy.

So, after applying my proboscis to a spinning wheel of stone for days, this is what I made.

 
Not bad, right? T-shirt worthy? I first started this thinking in terms of what kind of institution this is in relation to where they were located. For instance, for House Baratheon, instead of focusing on the obvious Stag-with-a-crown logo that every one else does, I instead decided to do research on the kingdom, like what does the population do, what is there main source of revenue, that sort of thing. Full disclosure: I never watched the show, and I’m only 1/10th of the way through the book so I have nothing tangible to work with.I would rather research the subject that I have no idea on rather than make stuff up. I had very little to go by other than the geography. They are a coastal kingdom, that’s pretty much all I’ve found. Coastal town equals fishing town equals maritime culture equals naval academy. Right? Not too far removed and not too far out that one would scratch their head trying to figure it out. I’m looking for originality. I’m looking for my niche in this world of one-offs and subtle borrowing. I am being careful by trying to be original.
Turns out, the company that I’m selling my work through doesn’t see it that way. It turns out that the company I’m submitting my work to, feels that blatant rip offs of intellectual property by an established, albeit independent designer, is more noteworthy than a designer who is just starting out who actually puts thought into his designs. I’m reading this email from the company as I’m putting color to my work so I could expand the line a bit; perhaps adding a bumper sticker or two would do the trick. I’m reading this as I’m taking more notes to remember the hex number of the colors I’m using. I’m reading this, and I whisper to myself, “keep going.”
All at once, I remember all the times that I stood up for something, anything, and…
  • was told to shut up
  • was beat up in a school yard
  • was told I was being immature
  • was informed that I didn’t know what I was talking about
  • was told that my services were no longer needed
  • was ignored and/or ostracized
  • had my life threatened

I remember all those times, and they just pass right over me. It would be right about this time that I would throw a fit, and go sulk for years.

But not this time.
Now is the time for getting up. In the course of writing this blog, I have discovered a handful of websites that would gladly take my business. Just because I’m unable to do what I need to do with them, doesn’t mean I can’t go through someone else. It’s not the end of the world.
I read the bad news email, I finish my project, and I stare it my page full of notes and sketches I remember every single time I was knocked back. Then I think to myself, “You know what? I’m glad they slapped me down. Because I know I’m better than this.” I’m better than all of this. Instead of pandering, I could have been spending all this time making something unique and different and genuine. I don’t need to rely on pop culture to get my point across. Collect what you did, remember why you got into this to begin with, take a deep breath, close your eyes and do the only thing you can do in this situation…
…Turn the page…

 

I used to fear the blank page. Now, I welcome it.

I have to remember, constantly remember, to look for opportunities where I would have seen defeat. As I was writing this, I’ve made another sale over the weekend.

I got knocked down, but I got up again…

…you’re never gonna keep me dowOOOOOHHH NOOOO! LOOK OUT!

May 2nd, 2014: A quick update

Mah goodness. SO many things to get to today.

This morning, I was all set to blog about me being nominated for a Liebster Award by my friend, the busiest wordsmith in the Blogosphere, +Michelle Stanley. I was all set to dig in for the rest of the day and work on my acceptance speech and such (yes I know its a nomination, but you can never be too prepared).

No sooner did I start on that then something else grabbed my attention. A story on NPR that reflected my current set of circumstances and as such, started an inertia that is almost impossible to stop, so I put the other thing down first, and directed my attention to this thing.

No sooner did I start that thing is when something ELSE happened that kind of ate up most of the afternoon and is still in the process to take over my weekend. I assure you, that what I’m talking about right here is nothing big or Earth shattering, but it is blog fuel and I intend to use it soon.

Also, speaking of Earth shattering, there is something that will happen soon that puts all these to shame and rest assured, I will be blogging about it.

So, just wanted to let you know that I was intending to blog, and I will starting after this. Just wanted to keep you all in the loop.

Watch this space…