Nov 14, 2014

[INTERVIEW] @LeeCamp




SFCB: Lee why don't you introduce yourself to those out there who are reading this and are just now hearing about you for the first time.

LEE CAMP: I am a comedian and activist from Virginia and New York (about 13 years in both). I have been doing stand-up comedy for about 16 years. I'm creator of the web series "Moment of Clarity" and now the host and head writer of "Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp" on RT America


SFCB: Was there a certain point in your career that it hit you that "Hey...this shit might just work."?  Was it a specific person you looked up to that took you aside and gave you some good feedback, or was it getting a specific gig, at what point did you feel that while you might not have "made it" at that point, that you had faith that it was going to work out. 

LEE CAMP: I'm still not sure it's going to work out. HA! I mean, it's interesting that no matter what point you get to in a career like this, you always think, "Man, if I can just get to that next step." I'm sure most comedians would say the same. But as Seinfeld said, each show (or performance) is like a breath of air - it keeps you going to the next one and that's all you're thinking about. But back to your question - I certainly did have encouragement that helped a lot. Very early on Jimmy Fallon let me open for him when I was still in college. That gave me a big boost. Darrell Hammond then let me open for him and flew me out to meet his managers in LA. To me, that made it feel like "Wow, I've ALREADY made it." 

But of course that was just the beginning of a very long journey - one in which I found that traditional "Hollywood" has no interest in unknown political comics. Sure, they'll fawn over Jon Stewart but they're not grabbing the kid off a small stage and saying "Please, come rant about egregious income inequality on our TV show!" Later, I had great support from Paul Provenza. And even more recently I've had support from George Carlin's daughter Kelly and Bill Hicks's brother Steve. Steve listed me as one of three comedians with Bill's passion and message. It totally blew me away, and those type of things definitely help when I've decided to spend a weekend beating up on myself.



SFCB: You have had a very interesting evolution from doing your Moment of Clarity videos on Youtube to now having your own show, "Redacted Tonight".  Talk about Redacted Tonight and how it differs from any of the other news shows that are out there.

LEE CAMP: Well, it definitely differs from other news shows in about every way. First of all - it's comedy. Secondly, I try to go after all the stories that are not being covered on the mainstream media, or at least show you the side of it that's being ignored. We're kinda like the "censored" comedy news show. I also throw in a healthy dose of protest coverage. I want viewers to realize that there are people standing up around the globe right now. Those of us who realize this system is corrupt and exploiting every last resource are fighting back. We also differ from other shows in that all of our content is also online. It's all free at the Official Redacted Tonight Youtube Channel.
 

SFCB: I'm always looking for news sites to read up about the topics of the day, but I find that more and more of these "news" sites are simply either corporate owned/dictated propaganda, or it's this unprofessional gossipy opinion stuff that's heavily relying on snark and misleading headlines and unflattering pictures of those they disagree with. Snark is great, of course, but I think when the ratio of information starts leaning heavier towards the tabloidy than the news and real reporting, it's a problem.

What are the news sites out there that you regularly read to not only bring you the news that is actually happening, but does so in a responsible way?


LEE CAMP: Well, I don't want to act like any site is perfect, but I get a lot of my news from Popular Resistence, Democracy Now, The Real News Network, Alternet, Acronym TV, and "Breaking The Set with Abby Martin"

SFCB: As someone who is fairly cynical and pessimistic about things, I find it very difficult to look at the way our political system is going, and have any hope that things are going to work out in a good way. THE Congress (I can't really say OUR Congress, because they don't work for us, although they are supposed to) is so dead set on opposing anything remotely productive as it stands, and now with Republicans having taken the Senate, which gives them both houses against the President, please talk me down from the ledge, Lee, and explain to me how this country is not well and truly fucked beyond repair?

LEE CAMP: I think in its current state it is fucked beyond repair, but not quite for the reasons you give. Sure, the Republicans block a lot of stuff, but look at the areas the Democrats and Republicans agree on - endless war, NDAA, the largest surveillance system ever on our own people, assault on journalists, assault on whistleblowers, ignoring climate change (or doing nothing about it), and letting Wall Street run wild. All those things are on both sides of the aisle. This is not a Dem v. GOP issue. This is a 99.9% of America v. THEM issue. The two corporate parties can't solve our problems. They don't know how. They only know profit. 

Even something like Obamacare (which is better than things were) is also a massive giveaway to insurance companies. The only solutions THEY can come up with are ones that allow massive corporations to continue to rampage through our lives. SO there has to be a revolution of the minds of all of us to change this beast. We aren't looking at the problem right. But here's the part where I'll talk you off the ledge. People ARE waking up. People are tired of this rancid duopoly. People are more informed than ever before - which is still NOT NEARLY enough. But if the internet remains free, we could get to a better place. 


SFCB: A lot has been made about getting money out of politics, and while I agree that that is probably the biggest and most important issue that we are facing, I don't see how this is going to work.

The Young Turks has Wolf-Pac and they are calling for a constitutional amendment.  As I said, though, that sounds great and all, and I know they've had some success, but why should I, or anyone else out there, believe that the Koch Brothers and all these other shady ass billionaires who have more money than God, are gonna sit back and allow that to ultimately succeed? 

What am I missing here?



LEE CAMP: I'm not sure you're missing anything. I support getting money out of politics but it is tough to see how it can be achieved. That being said, I'd rather go down swinging than go quietly. And some changes can be made on the local level. I think we should also work on changing our city or state and then take all the good ideas and make them spread nationally. 


SFCB: Lee Camp, thank you for your time today answering our questions. Before you go, tell us about any of your upcoming shows, or projects you have going right now.

LEE CAMP: I have live shows all the time - such as shows coming up in Vancouver at the Yuk Yuks Comedy Club on Nov 21 & 22. I of course have my TV show every Friday night at 8pm on RT America. You can watch it all online at the Official Redacted Tonight Youtube Channel. I also have a very active Facebook page that you can interact with me at. And finally everything else is at LeeCamp.net. Thanks!!

Nov 12, 2014

[INTERVIEW] Jesse James Higgins (Red Rage Comics)



SFCB: So Jesse, for those out there reading this, who may not know about you, let everyone know who you are and what you do.

JESSE JAMES HIGGINS: You mean there’s people in the world who don’t know indie comic producer’s like me… Scandal! I’m actually a little freaked out right now… Exterminate them all! haha! Just squidding! In retrospect, that pretty much sums me up right there… I once did a phone interview for local radio while booth running at our local comic con, didn’t know the interview was live to air, and ended up apologizing to our hometown for shattering the carefully crafted facade that I’m not a complete ass.

Aside from that, I’m just a photo-bombing bro from a rodeo family that hails from Canadian woods. I love to read and write and I’ve fallen completely head-over-heels for the comic book/ graphic novel medium. So I dove in head-first and founded Red Rage Comics with Scott Dewey, and we’ve taken a chance on being part of the comics industry. And it’s working out! The first graphic novel we made is called “The Tasting.” It was a Kickstarter baby and now it’s a convention trail veteran. And I’ve been absolutely blown away by the response we’ve received from the people who let us strong arm our work into their hands with various ‘ehs’ and vague threats involving polar bears, maple syrup, and mukluks! Think about it.

And I don’t know if it’s even remotely close to a correct use of the term Renaissance, but the comic industry seems to be in a birth state, a moment of flux and potential revitalization. A moment where new-found relevance is on the horizon. Like a Renaissance period where beautiful fine art, compelling writing, and experimental story presentations are coming to the fore and reinforming an industry stuffed full of character and production tradition. So it’s a joy and a privilege to be a small part of a growing trend in a wonderfully fun industry!

SFCB: Growing up I always liked to write, but it never really occurred to me to make a living from it, perhaps due to self-consciousness or whatever. At what point did you look at your writings and think "this is what I want to do for a living?"

JESSE JAMES HIGGINS: I’ve always looked at writing that way. I’ve always known that I want to be a writer. However, it took me a long time to get the point where I didn’t let other considerations distract from dream pursuit. I carried this idea - an idea probably informed by a lack of confidence that I could make the write-for-a-living dream real - that I needed to be positioned the exact right way so I could spend the exact right time in the the exact right place to be a successfully productive writer. In fact, I was still in this mindset when Scott and I started Red Rage. I was working a lot and spent spastic and haphazard production time with The Tasting.

Then life took a twist, forced me to account for who I am, and required that I make the conscious decision to value myself and, in all actuality, value myself as worthy and ready to receive fulfillment of my dreams. Dreams I’d carried my entire life but never truly worked toward… Long story short, I went through a divorce. My marriage was troubled and hit the rocks during our first Kickstarter campaign a year ago. My ex and I got separated during the major production phase of The Tasting, failed to reconcile in the middle of the first (and failed) Octospore Kickstarter, and we officially ended our marriage a few weeks before the Octospore relaunch.



I was in a glass cage of emotion. It was heartbreaking. I remember a specific moment when I realized that I didn’t know how to communicate my hopes, concerns, love, dreams to the woman I loved, that we hadn’t received this precious part of each other, and that it no longer mattered. I then realized that I was living for this unfulfilling and safe vision of what life should look like. There was all this possibility, the passion in my heart to create and invest in the world right there, to support my family, foster friendship, impact the world well… doing what I love.

The chance to do the things that set my heart and mind on fire, forever! But there was this antithesis of passion, this pressure from a culture that believes its own fear to be wisdom, praises its own pathetic excuses that promote a denuded life, and, in fact, fosters a lifestyle of avoiding dream pursuit because of it’s own fear of risk and looking stupid in failure. And it took watching my life fall apart, failing painfully and publicly, clutching for everything I’d worked so hard for and poured my life into as it died, before I stood up for myself and chose to risk failure again, more failure, but this time risk pointed in a direction that carried good promises and cultivated the pieces of me that I’ve always hoped would flourish.

(laughs) I wrote a large part of The Tasting in a horse trailer post separation, and here’s a major truth we try to shield ourselves from: a person can fail at what they don’t love too.

Life’s not easy. But every moment we have is a gift. And every day is a chance to LIVE rather than simply be alive…

So I guess I had the ‘writing-is-what-I-want-to-do-for-a-living’ moment a long time ago. What got me into the write-for-a-living saddle was clarity that my ability to write for a living is 100% my decision to make. My responsibility. It’s a risk, but it’s my risk. I’ve also failed way bigger and way more publicly than what I’m risking now. Recently. And I’ve learned how to stand up and keep going even when it hurts so bad you just want to lay down and quit. And there’s no formula. You produce and you put yourself in front of the world and you see what returns to you. And you keep going, you try, and you remember that you have to move into a dream to make it real. Your dream house… If you get it, my friend, they give you keys. And I’m here to tell you that fortune is eager to favor the brave. haha! At least, I think it is…

And here’s my life conviction, the thing that sets my eyes on a writing career: I would rather fail dramatically and to embarrassing extents in the active pursuit of realizing my passions, the chance that my dreams might manifest in my circumstances, than let fear keep me from running the race that I love and writing the stories that delight my heart.

SFCB: You have your own comic book company called "Red Rage Comics" which you founded with Scott Dewey. Talk about how you connected with Scott and how you came to create your own comic book company.

JESSE JAMES HIGGINS: Scott and I connected at our day job. We were working in a group home that cared for two brain injured men. The one man was obsessed with ‘The Price is Right’ and only got upset if you interrupted his TV watching routine (or if you made him soup for lunch three days in a row). The other man in the house was very volatile and needed constant attention. And we worked 12 hour shifts. So, if working with the man who watched TV, you needed to occupy your time. So I would write and Scott would bring his sketchbook.

One day I asked Scott to see his sketchbook, he showed me what he’d been working on, and a light bulb went off. I told him, “We’re going to make a graphic novel!” I’d never considered making a comic or a graphic novel before that moment. But I blurted out that sentence. Scott’s incredible art compelled me. So I showed him some of my writing and he said, “Okay.” And now, a year later, we’ve learned some industry lessons, learned some business, become good friends, and we’re turning a corner where we’re able to do what we love full time. It’s amazing!

SFCB: Over the past decade we've seen a lot of different products take a jump from physical to digital, such as music and movies as well as books/comics. I've talked with people who like it and who can't stand that things are moving away from a "physical world", so to speak. What are your thoughts on the idea of books and comics going digital?

JESSE JAMES HIGGINS: Digital is great from a producer stand point. A one time cost of production and a 24/7 delivery system that allows a customer instant assessment and instant gratification. However, having read books and comics both ‘physically’ and digitally, I love holding the book in my hands. I got fascinated about reading by watching my Dad read books. It makes me a little sad to see him transition to digital reading.

Printed books are dirtier, more of a physical experience than digital - digital is so clean, so hospital - and I like that physicality. I can make notes in my books, mark them up, fold the pages. Drop them on the ground and it really doesn’t matter. But who knows… I just read ‘American Gods’ on my computer and didn’t have to find it a shelf. And the book was just as magnificent. Gaiman, you wizard. Plus I’m really terrible at making PDFs of our books… haha! I broke people’s technology the first time I sent a digital copy of The Tasting to their inboxes post Kickstarter fulfillment… My goodness, I can see the transition. Myself though, I’m not 100% ready for it.

SFCB: With the introduction of things going digital, there is, of course, the issue of piracy. While there are always going to be the naysayers and doom and gloomers who talk about how piracy spells the death of creativity and whatnot, I am not sure that it's really a black and white issue. For every argument against, I've seen rational and valid arguments for how piracy can, in some circumstances, help. But at the end of the day, the creators definitely need to be compensated for their work, and all the entitled whiners have to understand that. As someone that has done their fair share of downloading over the years, yet has more or less moved on to buying things now, I understand that desire and the pull of all this stuff online that's just there waiting to be clicked and downloaded. How do you feel about the digital piracy issue as it relates to the comics world, and have you had an issue with that so far?




JESSE JAMES HIGGINS: We’ve had minor issues with piracy. Here’s my opinion: it’s always nice to get paid. However, if the Red Rage Kingdom is in such a weak position that a few pirates can destroy it, then the Red Rage Kingdom is on its way out… Simple. And, to be honest, I see a major flip side: what if a pirate takes our work, becomes a fan, lands some windfall money, and turns into a Red Rage Comics patron? We plan to persist so we want our audience to grow, no matter how the growth occurs.

So no, it isn’t black and white. It’s simple economics. If we’re doing work that’s worthwhile, more exposure should lead to better economics, no matter if all exposure to our work happens legally.

There is, however, one thing that grinds my gears… People who take other artist’s work, put their own signature on it, and sell it as if they did the work… Don’t do that, friends… That’s so ugly! I’ve seen that on the convention trail. I caught somebody presenting the work of another artist at a convention as if it was their own. Was even signing prints of the other artist’s work when sales were made. Gross! Tried to justify it to me, as well. Tried to tell me that an exact rip-off - EXACT DOWN TO THE PHOTOSHOP RENDERED PEN SPLATS - of a digital artist I follow was in fact an original made with oil… haha! Nope. That’s the line for me. Take our work, eat it, share it. But if you take and present my work, please make sure you point it back to me… That helps me make more stuff you can pirate at a later date.

SFCB: As you travel around to the various Cons to meet the fans and the various cosplayers, talk about your experiences with that, and how it's been being able to connect with your readers.

JESSE JAMES HIGGINS: I love conventions! I’m a salesman. Again, I grew up in a rodeo family, so I watched horse trading growing up. And now I love jumping through salesman hoops to get our work in people’s hands. And I love it because I love what we’re doing. I believe in the merit of our projects and I’m excited for people to have them. So conventions… people walk right up to our book and art displays!!! Hallelujah! It’s like indie producer Heaven. I feel so comfortable in that place. I love it.

And the convention stories. Oh my goodness, the stories… Con bathrooms are like no other place on earth. I’ve seen Master Chief fall into a toilet and get helped out by a fellow Spartan. I’ve had my foot pissed on. I’ve talked a Nigri super fan out of a one-stall-over-from-me spiritual collapse after crapping his pants right before a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet her. I’ve peed beside Batman. I’ve peed with Batman to my left and the Joker to my right. I had a heartfelt moment with a Guardians fan who almost forgot his Rocket tail in my stall after a desperate cosplay strip down one-stall-over… We spoke about good people being left in the world. But seriously cosplayers, you need to start designing costumes in consideration of #1 and #2! It happens. Even to the best of us.

#TeamRedRage vs. Undead Du
And cosplayers… I love cosplay! It’s so damn cool! I’ve even been considering cosplaying after so many weekends spent on the convention floor. It seems empowering. And, in fact, we think it’s so damn cool that we’re starting to work with cosplayers in our projects. For instance, Ms. Undead Du, our fellow Canadian, has been an absolute gem to work with. We’ve partnered with her for Octospore and we’re hoping to push a story called ‘Undead Du vs the Octopocalypse’ through the production budget window as a Kickstarter stretch goal. Du’s a complete professional and a genuine nerd girl! She collects comics, knows all anime, and will kick your butt at every video game. Find her: facebook.com/UndeadDu and instagram.com/UndeadDu!

Here’s a rant: guys, seriously, stop directing all this ‘fake nerd girl’ hate at the women of cosplay. The women of cosplay are a huge benefit to our community. And think of it this way: at the very worst there’s a women dressed up as a character from your favorite show, favorite game, favorite comic, who might not know as much about the character as you do… Start a conversation! But don’t hate. Nerd girls deserve our geeky respect!

And lets not discount our cosplay men. Some of the costumes I’ve seen, like a perfect rendition of Iron Man, wow. Respect. Our cosplay men and women are crafting an art form! They’re artists!!! The craftsmanship and dedication that goes into some of the costuming I’ve seen is incredible!!! I hope the cosplay community continues to grow and I hope we’re able to help foster that growth. Truth.

SFCB: So you have once again dipped your feet into the crowdsourcing world with your newest kickstarter for your book "The Octospore Book 1", which recently passed the goal with another few weeks to go. Talk about your experiences with Kickstarter, and how it's helped you with your projects.

JESSE JAMES HIGGINS: Simply put, I don’t know if Red Rage exists without a successful Kickstarter. More so even than the funding we received to produce The Tasting was the feeling of validation we got from a successful campaign. We saw people believe in us. We saw people hope for our success. We saw people want a piece of what we were doing at the very outset of our journey. Affirmation, my friend. It helps marriages and art producers!

It’s also a chance to intimately connect with fans in the context of a project. That’s huge! We have a worldwide audience of people who are excited for what we’re doing and want the next thing that we do… Incredible! We’re from a small town in Alberta. We’ve sent book to Australia, Russia, Mexico, England, Dubai… What a gift! Patronage is a real thing again because of platforms like Kickstarter! And it helps us flourish…

I have nothing but good to say about Kickstarter. It’s a huge opportunity for indie people like us. I’ve also seen some of our favorite established artists produce their passion projects with Kickstarter money. Cooler Coolers are cool. I love potato salad. I mean, look at Octospore. It gets to get born. And we get to keep doing what we love.

And we’ll definitely seek funding through the Kickstarter platform for upcoming projects. Absolutely. Done! BOOM!!!

WOOHOOO!!!! OUR BABY GOT FUNDED!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

SFCB: I appreciate your time today, Jesse. Before you go, I'll let you have the final word. (Note: this you can use to tease upcoming projects, or shout out the fans or whatever you want).

JESSE JAMES HIGGINS: Appreciation. That’s the final word. We have so many people in our thus-far journey that deserve so much ‘thank you.’ It’s astounding. And you! Good Sir, thank you for your continued support! You have no idea what to expect in you Octospore Kickstarter reward envelope… No idea… Squiddy doom…

Team Squid, tell everyone: Red Rage Comics is turning Octospore into a big, far reaching project. Octo… 8… Think about it. And this little squid keeps on getting bigger and better!!! Jump on board the octo-train now! Start ‘Say No to Squid’ protests in your streets… We’ll help with the logistics. And above all else, join the Kickstarter fun! Get your official Team Squid clubhouse membership!!! You won’t regret it! (Or you might - your choice!!!)

And keep in touch with Red Rage Comics. We’re starting a beautiful project in December that has us working with some incredible cosplayers. I can’t say more right now… Just check out facebook.com/RedRageComics and get in our kitchen!


The One With The Octopocalypse!



Last year I helped kickstart a graphic novel called "The Tasting" by the folks over at Red Rage Comics, Jesse James Higgins, and Scott Dewey.  Their book is a fantastic visual feast, with the beautifully macabre gothic artwork, and the way the text was laid out on the page.  You can check some of those images by clicking here.

This year they have a new project out, this one called "Octospore Book 1: Suburban Squid"

Now it's refreshing to have something other than your standard Zombie fare, as everything seems to be about zombies these days. Every now and then you'll find a creative take on the zombie genre, such as the UK series "In The Flesh", but for the most part you get less In The Flesh and more Z Nation.

This story, is on it's face, kinda fucked up to be clear.  Allow me to let Jesse & Scott explain the story for you:

Octospore Book One: Suburban Squid began when Jesse and Scott started watching "River Monsters" during Red Rage Comics work breaks. Already terrified of sharks, etc, Jesse and Scott found their water phobia increasing exponentially. Jesse was then sent a Youtube video by a friend. This video was a clip ripped from a BBC documentary about Cordyceps, a terrifying fungus that mind controls ants in the Amazon Jungle, forces them to climb, then grows out of the back of the ant's head like a freaky tentacle... Thus, Jesse and Scott immediately began fashioning the Octopocalypse when challenged to create a new take on the zombie apocalypse, a nightmare vision born of Youtube and Netflix terror.

Book 1 of the Octospore saga chronicles the beginning of the Octopocalypse as madman, Octavius Du Pont, gives rise to the End Times Squid. He adapts a human strain of Cordyceps and releases the virus at a massive cosplay contest. The Octopocalypse then spreads like wildfire into an unsuspecting and unprepared American suburbia. One moment neighborhoods are white picket fences, happy laughter, and bar-b-que smells. The next moment neighbors disappear in squiddy explosions and the survivors are overwhelmed by the danger and stress of unthinkable disaster.

Octospore Book 1: Suburban Squid is an experimental graphic novel from Jesse James Higgins and Scott Dewey that explores human communication within a disaster scenario. Sometimes funny, more times tragic, the Octopocalypse provides a living window into the vagaries of being human and the indomitable spirit that keeps people whole even when their worlds fall to pieces. 

Now I'm not typically into horror stories, as that just doesn't do much for me, however I admit to being fascinated by the concept they've given us and am intrigued and interested in reading this and seeing how things work out.

Something to keep in mind, as well.  If you pledge at least the digital level of $8, you not only get the digital copy of Book 1 but you ALSO get the digital copies of Books 2-8 as well for free as they are released, thus giving you the complete series for the price of one.

Also something to bear in mind is that you are supporting independent media.  These are not folks that are backed by the massive money of Marvel or DC, or even an indie company like Dark Horse or Image.  These guys have set up their own comic company, Red Rage Comics, and are doing all this themselves.  And with the help of those who are supporting them via the Kickstarter.

Just because they have made their goal, does not mean that the pledges are no longer needed.  There's so many hidden costs behind Kickstarters and creating your own project, that every dollar counts, and often a goal listed is not how much it costs to do the project, it's a lower goal designed to at least get the bare minimum required to at least put out a project.

If you like supporting indie media, and if you are intrigued by this project like I am, consider supporting!

In the coming week I will be posting up separate interviews for Jesse James Higgins, the writer of Octospore Book 1 and Scott Dewey, the artist behind the project.  Stay tuned!





Sep 21, 2014

[REVIEW] "Genius" Issues 1-5


 RATING: 9/10 CHET BAKERS

I had originally written out a completely different opening to this review.  I was making references to some movies, and the idea of being forced into a fight that you probably didn't want, but in the interest of self-preservation, it was quickly deemed necessary.

It was garbage.  It was a safe way of saying what I REALLY wanted to say, without actually crossing over into territory that some might find offensive, and that after thinking about it, I'm going to say, because I think the review I'm doing necessitates it and anything less would be insulting and disingenuous.  It would fly in the face of the bravery of the creators of this art.

I'm going to talk about some things in this review that some people may not like.  There will be things said that some people may take offense to, probably more than anything else I've written.  And to that, I say that's okay.  There comes a time when it's simply impossible to be politically correct about what needs to be said.

Now with that out of the way, allow me to begin.

MORE AFTER THE BREAK

[REVIEW] Jimmy Dore - "Your Country Is Just Not That Into You"



It's very easy to look out across the media landscape at the way our political system works and be discouraged.  It seems that unless you are a member of the very rich in this country, that the country doesn't necessarily work for you, it works against you.   And this is pretty much across the board thanks to those in power who, rather than working for the people who ostensibly got them elected, they work for the lobbyists and big money donors who actually got them elected.

Funny how that works, eh?

I first started getting involved with following politics sometime after 9/11, and I mean the actual 9/11, not the Republican's wet dream that they WANT to be.  Now this wasn't in the sense of like Dennis Miller who was really funny and entertaining to listen to until 9/11 and then he got angry and his entire body and soul knee-jerked to the right, and now he's unbearable to listen to for more than a few seconds.  It was more a situation where I had been homeless for the most part for the 5 years prior to 2001, and I was just coming around to getting set up in my own apartment, and getting a computer and internet access and actually following what was going on.

Growing up I tended to be in my own little world where I only really focused on things that interested me.  I'd constantly read the USA Today and would only read the sports and lifestyle sections for the most part.  Now I'm a bit wiser (I'd like to think) and I don't read the USA Today.  So there's that.

But as I started focusing more on politics and reading about what was going on, and seeing what was going on, it kind of made me pine for the days when I was blissfully naive, and willfully ignorant.  Because then I didn't know about Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin and Andrea Tantaros (who I swear just has this constant look on her face that makes her the most unpleasant person to look at, and it's appropriate because it matches her rhetoric), and Rush Limbaugh and all of those people.

I didn't really know about how this country is bought and paid for, not by the hardworking individuals, or the soldiers who risk everything to defend us, but by the rich and powerful.  And I don't know if you know this or not, but the rich and powerful's interests do not often align with the lower/middle class.  It's true.

In 2008 I voted for the first time in a Presidential Election and I voted for Barack Obama.  I was living in Ohio at the time, as I had spent about a year living there near my parents, both who lean more Republican.  While I did not necessarily have glossed over eyes and this dreamy look in my eyes at the President the way some did, I voted for him because I DID think he would at least try to do a lot of what he promised.  Some he's done, some he hasn't.  I'm not super thrilled with him, but I'm not going into that here, because I've already written about that plenty, which you can read here or here

I voted for him because McCain was a decidedly worse candidate and would have put us in untold number of wars, as he seems to have never met an altercation he didn't think could be solved with bombs and troops.   And then there's the whole Sarah Palin aspect.  Nuff said.

By 2012 I was for the most part done with the President due to a variety of things (again, click those links if you care to read about it) and since I was now living in a decidedly blue state like Washington State, I could vote my conscience instead of voting to elect the guy I hated the least.   And so in 2012 I voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party.  

I knew she would not win, because of how our system is set up to only truly give time and attention to the Republicans and Democrats, but since I lived in a state that would never go to Romney under any circumstances, I could afford to do that.  In 2008 living in Ohio, not so much.

So over the last 13 years I've gotten more and more interested in politics and getting more entrenched with the muck and the negativity and the bullshit, and it left me with a thought that brings me to the topic of this review.

My country doesn't give a shit about me.  Those in power do not give one red fuck about me, as someone who does not have money to give them that they would notice.  As someone who is decidedly in the lower class, those in power pay lip service to us (at best) and then keep it moving to do what their donors want.

They do not give a fuck about us.

Or to put it more politely and appropriately, "Your Country Is Just Not That Into You".

That is the title to comedian Jimmy Dore's new book, and I don't think there is a more appropriate title.

I picked this up on Amazon recently, and I find it a very intriguing read.  If you've followed Jimmy Dore at all, whether on his own show which is podcasted on iTunes, or his appearances on The Young Turks program, or if you follow his Twitter account, then you no doubt have heard some of the points before.  You're not going to pick this book up and be like "WHAT?  How DARE he say these things?" because you know what you're gonna get for the most part.

 

There are aspects in here that are elements of his show, such as the "phone interviews" with political pundits like Bill O'Reilly, John Boener, Luke Russert, Peter King and others, as well as his cutting wit and sharp insight when it comes to his political takes.   Whether it's he will eviscerate, disembowel or annihilate (h/t to Huffington Post, Mediaite and Salon for the great verb suggestions!) the various politicos for selling us out in favor of their corporate overlords, or calling out someone like Luke Russert who only has his job because of who his father was, Jimmy is always fighting for the little guy.

And we definitely need that.   Dore recalls some of the other comics who spoke truth to power, such as George Carlin or Bill Hicks, or more recently someone like Lee Camp.  People who use their platform to reach out and try to educate the masses about what is going on in our country and how things are not going the way they should.

I picked this up and figured I would read it in a day or so, and yet it has taken much longer than that.  This isn't a breezy read, at least not for me.  There's a lot packed into this thing, and it's a lot of things that you need to really absorb and think about what he's telling you, and what he's explaining.  These are serious issues that are presented in a comical way, however there is still that serious edge to it.

Which is what good Satire is supposed to be.

There are a lot of interesting things you'll come across in the book, and I made sure to highlight them in the ebook so I could go back later and quote them for this review.  My memory sucks and I'd end up reading the book a second time just to find those quotes.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

So in the Introduction Jimmy talks about where he grew up, on the South Side of Chicago.  Here's a helluva gut punch, for me, because I recognized that with so many people I grew up around in Virginia.

"The part of town I grew up in voted for the Democrats for teh better part of a century, until the first African-American Democratic candidate for mayor appeared on the ticket. Suddenly my part of town realized they were actually Republicans.

They were the people who had worked all day in physically demanding jobs they hated.  After work, they'd stop at the bar to down a six pack while complaining about minorities and then go home to watch re-runs of Archie Bunker...and laugh for all the wrong reasons. They didn't understand that they were spuposed to be laughing at Archie Bunker, not with him."

I read that and was just like, wow.  I knew exactly what he meant, because I had grown up around that very thing.   It's a sad fucking thing, but it's real.  It's like those that laugh at the Dave Chappelle Show sketches, not realizing it's assholes like THEM that he's making fun of.

Later in the book Jimmy talks about the trick that the conservatives pull when they throw out the "Liberal Media" nonsense.  The media is not liberal at all.  There may be some individuals that are liberals, but for anyone to act like we have this great monolithic liberal media, is either ill informed, or willfully lying.  My bet is it's mostly the latter, with some smattering of the former.

Jimmy wrote the following about this, and why it's being pushed that we have a "Liberal Media", by those on the right.

"Claiming the media is liberal serves the Right in two ways:

First, it paints the Right as victims. Which ... yuck.  The sight of White rich men preserving the dominant paradigm claiming they are victims is really gross.

Second, it casts doubt on pretty much all reporting that goes against the Conservative agenda. So, if the Washington Post publishes a series of articles that expose, let's say, a Presidential conspiracy to commit felonies, well, it can be dismissed by party faithful as a typical Liberal hatchet job."

And there you have it. They don't do it because it's true (which it's not true) but they do it because it allows them to play the victim and dismiss everything that is said.  It's why your crazy racist uncle refuses to believe anything that comes from a website that doesn't have at least three commenters using the N-Word.  Because it's "biased."  Whereas Foxnation, Drudge Report and Breitbart, are sent down by the Baby Jesus himself.

Obviously.

These are just two of the many intriguing observations and facts that you'll get reading this book, which I encourage everyone to do. If you are tired of those in power screwing you over, consider buying this book, reading through it and educating yourself on the tactics that they use against you.  Therefore you will be more wise to their fuckery, and will know to recognize it and combat it.

Because we absolutely have to fight back in a responsible and intelligent manner.






Sep 7, 2014

[REVIEW] "Super" Issue #1 by Joshua Crowthers (@Crognus)



In a previous review of the new comic series "Solitary" I mentioned that I tend to only kickstarter Graphic Novels that are completed, and I would receive the whole story at once.  Due to my child like level of patience, I find it frustrating waiting to find out what happens next.  Chalk it up to the society we live in that everything is available on demand.

I mentioned that I backed Solitary even though that was the 1st issue of a forthcoming series, because I liked the storyline that was presented and was intrigued by it.  Likewise, I found myself backing another comic, this one called "Super", this one kickstarting issue #2, and once again I found myself intrigued by the story idea.

In "Super", a new comic series by Joshua Crowther's Utah based indie comic publisher' "Jay Crow Comics", it's basically about what happens when regular people with powers, decide to get involved in real world political situations.   Think: Drone strikes, terrorist attacks, etc.

These aren't world renowned super heroes, these aren't colorful cape wearing people that are from other planets, or are mutated, these are just regular people who happen to have powers that enable them to do things that none of us regular folk could.  What do you do with these powers?  Can you sit by and watch as innocent people in third world countries are decimated, all in the name of politicking?

Imagine you woke up tomorrow and you were invincible.   You could fly, you could do a lot of things that you could only dream of at the moment.  What would you do?  Would you use your powers for good?  For evil?  Rob banks? Get vengeance for all those who pushed you around?  Quit your job, use your powers to make money?  And say you use your powers to intervene in international political situations: How would the government respond to you?  Consider you a threat, perhaps? 

It's an interesting question, especially when you throw in the "greater good" notion, that you can't just sit by and do nothing when so many people are dying and you potentially have the power to save them.  That's the quandary that one of the main characters, Mark, finds himself in in the 1st issue of Super.

The 1st issue basically covers two stories.  One in present day, and one in the years leading up to present day.  In the present day the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Colbert is a man who is dealing with family troubles, and a mysterious sighting somewhere that was picked up by one of the American Satellites.

The other story is leading up to that where two friends, Mark and Jordan, talk about whether or not they should get involved in helping those that needed it in the country of Surran.  One thing that I found distracting, although it seems many comics do this, is when the comic writers will mask the names of real life places, and companies and even sports teams.

Brandon Perlow's excellent "The Rock Thrower" did that with the baseball teams, altering the names of teams such as The New York Yankees to the "Jankees".  Super does that with Surran (I assume by the references to their leaders potentially using nerve gas on them, that Surran is Syria), and their leader Al Saed (Assad?).

I don't pretend to understand the need for a lot of these comics to do this, although it was explained to me that due to those being copyrighted, that you had to alter it a bit.  To ME, anyway, that makes no sense, as I don't see the government going after a comic book for using the title "CIA" to refer to people who worked in the CIA, but then again...it's not my ass on the line if someone steps over the bounds of legalities, so...yeah.

Other than that, the comic is pretty damn good.  Some of the writing I thought was a tad bit cliche, mainly with the conversation between Colbert and his estranged wife, but it wasn't bad or anything like that.  At a certain point I suppose all dialogue along those lines are going to feel familiar, especially if you've gone through something of that nature.  Or you've seen countless romantic dramas in your lifetime.  Not...that I would...be watching those types of movies, of course it's all raunchy comedies and balls to the wall action for me, folks! *guilty look away*

I'm not qualified to debate the artwork, as I'm not an artist, so I won't.  I will say the art was perfectly fine, and enjoyable to look at.  I've seen some comics where the art is just horrible, or it didn't really fit the story, if that makes sense.  This was perfectly suitable to the story being told.



I'm very interested to see where this story goes, and a specific scene at the end really kinda hit me, as it was one of those things I had never thought of.  Perhaps the downside to a despondent super hero that is invincible. 

I encourage everyone to support this Kickstarter.  Anyone that pledges at least a $1 gets access to the updates, which will give you a free copy of Issue #1 in PDF format, so you can read it on your tablet, or phone, or you can read it on your PC/Mac computer.





Sep 6, 2014

The One Where Jezebel Cares About (White) Women

As everyone knows by now some assholes leaked the naked selfies and other images of various female celebrities on 4chan, and they then spread to the cesspool of the internet's humanity known as Reddit where they are still up today.

I'm not here to justify or denigrate that whole thing, as plenty has been said on that.  However I would like to point out something that is painfully obvious to many, yet not being pointed out enough.

Jezebel is a "Feminist" site that is under the Gawker umbrella.  Which means that being under the Gawker Umbrella it's gonna have a whole lot of fuckery mixed in with the occasional decent piece about women's rights.

The recent "Labor Day Leak" or whatever you want to call it has exposed Jezebel as being, not a site for "Feminism" to defend and stand up for women's rights and privacy and self respect and self worth.  It's actually a site for "Feminists" to defend and stand up for White women's rights and privacy and self respect and self worth.

Think that is a tad bit harsh?  Maybe out of line?  Okay.  Ask yourself this?  How much did they (and other Gawker related sites) report on Jennifer Lawrence's nudes and how her privacy was violated, and how horrible these assholes were who did this to her?  How it was never okay to do this and she was violated and women should never be shamed for being sexual or taking their own naked pictures?

Quite a bit, and justifiably so.

How many posts did Jezebel, that great bastion of "Feminism", do about Jill Scott, who also had her nudes hacked and released?   *crickets*

Here let me illustrate this for you.

First is an image that I just took moments ago of the search results on Jezebel's website for "Jennifer Lawrence Nudes"


There.  Now there's several posts there, and that doesn't factor in the posts on Deadspin, Gawker, Gizmodo, etc, etc, of which there were a few, including many telling everyone that while it was utterly disgusting what those perverts were doing, if you wanna see the picture, click here and see the Reddit thread "The Fappening" so you can see all the naked pictures you want, that we're in the process of telling you how horrible it was.

Now, here's the results for "Jill Scott Nudes".  See if you can notice the difference.

 
 Well, will you look at that?  Multiple articles on White Princess Jennifer Lawrence, no results (regarding the hack) regarding African American singer Jill Scott.  Hmmm.  I wonder why that is.  Is it Jill's noticeable lack of Whiteness?  Is it her plus size figure, that isn't as easy to "Fap to" for a lot of these misogynistic creeps?

Whatever the reason, perhaps Jezebel should stop acting like it's a "Feminist" site for all women, and just basically call it like it is.  It's the Fox News of Feminism.  It doesn't represent everyone, only those that look their audience.

Sep 5, 2014

The Laughter That Masks The Pain





As most everyone knows by now, Robin Williams passed away recently.  I wanted to write something at the time, but I couldn't.  Oh I could have forced some words out and just phoned it in, so to speak, but I didn't want to do that.  The subject matter was too important and while I don't have any illusions about my writing changing the world or anything, I felt that I had to at least allow a little time to process it all.  

However this piece is not exactly about Robin Williams, perse, and more about the problems that many people face on a daily basis with depression, which is something that Robin dealt with, unbeknownst to many of us.

First a little backstory.  I deal with issues including depression, anxiety and others of that nature.  It's something that has been there inside me for as long as I can remember.  I'm about as socially awkward as one can be, and I found myself realizing a few years back that I don't know how to deal with people.  I can't relate to other people because growing up my anxiety and whatnot prevented me from really going out and making a lot of friends and socializing.  I had some friends and I would hang out with them a bit, but I never viewed myself as being on even terms with them. I was always the extra, in my mind, someone that was just sort of allowed to be there, but having not "earned" the right to be there. 

And yes I realize now how stupid that sounds.

So as difficult as it is to acknowledge, I'm very immature in that specific way.  And I don't mean immature like a 5 year old, but more to the point that when I'm around other people in a social setting, I don't know how to talk to people.  I don't know how to interact, how to relate how to just be a normal person.  Think the character of "Dexter Morgan" on the Showtime series Dexter, just without all the serial killer aspects.

I have a lot of empathy for people, but just in social interaction, I'm seriously lacking.  And so I tend to just stay to myself for the most part, as I pretty much have done my entire life.  Thank God for the internet, eh?  I can interact with people online, because I know that.  I don't have to have someone in close proximity, and so I can relax and just be myself, rather than overcompensate and awkwardness ensue.

So due to all of that, I've spent a large portion of my life dealing with depression and self-consciousness and self worth issues.  I often had people tell me how smart I was, or how nice I was or how good I could write, and my immediate reaction, I mean my impulse reaction was to dismiss it. "Oh they're just saying that."  "Oh you're just being nice" or, in my head, I would imagine they were pitying me, or this was some prank where they'd get me to feel great, and then just dump on me.  I would never allow that, so I would never accept when people would give me compliments.

Because that's not how I saw myself. 

A lot of people have these defects in them as it relates to how we see ourselves.  It's like everyone else will see us for exactly who we are, good or bad, and we will not. It's like we're looking in funhouse mirrors where we are all distorted and our defects are on full display, magnified.  Everyone else, sees us normally.  So when they say "You're a funny person" or "you're really great", we think (or at least I would think) that they're just throwing some pity compliments my way.

And because of this I would have these negative depression related thoughts about how terrible I was, and how unattractive, and how much of a really just shitty person I was, but not just that, but how everyone else's lives were worse because I was in them.  It's a really fucked up mentality, I will acknowledge, however it's a very real thing, that someone who does not go through that cannot ever begin to comprehend.

In order to stave off these thoughts of depression and suicide, I would often drown my sorrows or whatever, in television and books and movies.   There was a cable channel that would show standup comedy a lot.  They'd have entire blocks of just 5 minutes from various comedians all across the country, and that was where I came to know comics like Jon Stewart, Marc Maron, Janeane Garafalo, Louie Anderson and Bob Zany, to name just a few. 

And watching these would make me laugh, and it would take my mind off all of the negative bullshit that was poisoning my mind.  It would let me escape from the negativity and allow me to just not worry about all that mess.  Same thing with books or movies, I just wanted to take my mind off the other stuff, because I didn't want to give in to the dangerous thoughts that would enter my brain.

There have been three comedians (that I am aware of) that I loved to watch and listen to when I was younger, that have gone on to commit suicide after being unable to deal with their demons.  Those are Ray Combs, Richard Jeni and now Robin Williams.  There may have been more, and some maybe just killed themselves with drugs like Lenny Bruce or Mitch Hedberg (note: Hedberg also had a heart defect, but also was listed as having 'drug toxicity' in his system), to get away from the demons, we'll never know.

When former Family Feud host Ray Combs, who was my favorite game show host, died, I was 21.  That death did not hit me extra hard, if only because he had been going through a lot of painful shit for awhile.  He had lost his slot hosting Family Feud, his acting career did not take off like he had hoped and he had a devastating accident in which he was almost killed. Coupled with his divorce, while his death was still tragic and so unfortunate, it was not one that snuck up on you, if you had followed his career.

 

You knew there were problems, you knew that things seemed to be piling up, so when it came out that he had killed himself, I was pretty upset, but at the same time I understood.   As someone that deals with depression and this shit inside me, I understood all too much how easy it is to just give in.

At the time, I think I kinda realized the concept of comedians using laughter to conceal pain, but I don't know if I genuinely grasped it on anything other than a superficial level.  As I got older, I began to realize that a bit more and I think it endeared them to me more than ever.  Because for the first time I could relate to someone.

Although I used comedy to conceal the pain that I dealt with growing up, for whatever reason I just never really consciously acknowledged it.  I dealt with bullies as a kid, as many have.  I don't know that my experiences were any worse than anyone else', however I have the benefit of hindsight now.  At the time it was horrible and I constantly wanted to do anything but go to school and face these tormentors.  That's why I tended to lose myself in books or in comedy.  I enjoyed hearing jokes and I knew how that made me feel, so I figured maybe if I made others feel that way, then I could be popular and they would stop hurting me.

You know what?  It worked, in a way.  I mean there would always be a few that would continue to make my life a living hell, but it worked with enough people that I was no longer a loner with no one to take up for me.  I had others who I was friends with.  And if you have people you're friends with, it sort of lessens the chances of random people coming up to harass you, if there are others there who might take up for you.

At least that was the way I kind of saw it, your miles may vary I suppose.  Some of those people, looking back, I think were genuinely my friends, people who once they got to know me and I got to know them, we honestly enjoyed the company of each other.  Others simply used me for whatever.  And I was fine with that, honestly I was.  If it kept me from loneliness and the depression and suicidal thoughts of my mind, coupled with the random assholes that seemingly wanted to drive me to eat a bullet, then I was all for it.  My self respect/self-worth was not really at a point where I felt like I was betraying it.

As I said, that's the way I kind of saw it.

And that's how I also viewed these comics that I had grown to love listened to and watching.  They saved me from focusing on the negativity and the bad thoughts.  Ironic seeing as how telling those jokes allowed them to perhaps escape from their own negativity and bad thoughts.  I didn't understand that at the time though.

In 2007 on March 10th, 5 days before my birthday, Richard Jeni was found dead of a self inflicted gun shot wound.  I absolutely adored Richard Jeni.  I had all of his HBO and Showtime specials on VHS, I'd watch anytime he was on some talk show or late night show, I would watch any movie that had him in it.

The fact that more people don't know who he was is stunning to me and it hurts.  I wish more people did.  I show his clips to friends when they come over and I'm going through Youtube clips.

 

His standup was just the best.  He was so talented, so gifted, so good at what he did, and his demons got the better of him and he couldn't handle it.  This was, I think, when I first fully grasped the dangers of the disease that he and I shared.  I had had therapists or counselors talk to me about depression and "dangerous thoughts" as they put it, but it was something that was intangible to me.  It was something I dealt with personally, however I had always dealt with it the only way I knew how.  Just stuff it back down as best as I could.  Also I had never known a life without it, so it just seemed...a part of me. 

Jeni's suicide made it tangible.

When he committed suicide, that hit me like a freight train.  I was devastated and could not stop crying.  I was 32 when he died, and it came out of nowhere. I just woke up one day and heard on the news and I just lost it.  People I've mentioned this too don't understand when I say how much I loved Richard Jeni.  He wasn't a big star (not nearly what he should have been), but he was well known if you followed comedy.  He was well respected in his field, he was much beloved.  Most people would probably recognize him from his role in The Mask as Jim Carrey's best buddy/co-worker, Charlie Shumaker at the Bank they worked at.

I followed everything Jeni did comedy wise when I was younger, I watched all of his comedy specials over and over and over, at one time probably knowing every single word, every joke, every beat, every everything to his HBO show Platypus Man which came out when I was 18.   In 1997 I became homeless, and remained homeless until 2001.  I had actually taken some of his standup, recorded the audio off of TV onto a cassette recorder and had them on tapes.  I would listen to them, along with some hip hop mixtapes that I owned, at night when I was trying to just segregate myself from everyone and everything.

 I was obsessed with his comedy, and I don't understand why really.  Maybe something in me recognized something in him.  Maybe the fucked up part of me recognized that fucked up part of him that eventually emerged and took him over.  I don't know, but I do know that his death hit me harder than any person in my actual life, except for someone special I lost in a car accident.

These comedians like Richard Jeni, Robin Williams, Bob Zany, Louie Anderson, Sinbad, Bill Cosby, etc, with someone like me growing up, and being depressed and anxiety ridden and socially withdrawn, these guys and others were what helped keep me at least somewhat positive, if only for those few minutes of their sets, or the few hours of whatever movie they were in.
They helped me focus, not on the demons swirling around me inside my mind, but on their innate talent in making others laugh, often by us laughing at them.  And it never occurred to me until years later when Jeni took his life, that another way they were just like me, is that often they masked their pain with telling jokes and making other people feel better.  Yet they couldn't make themselves feel better. Kind of like our own personal Muse, that could help everyone else, but not themselves.

When Robin Williams died recently, there were a flood of social media comments from people who clearly had never experienced depression or suicidal thoughts or anything of this variety.  These blessed people would spew their ignorance about what depression is and is not, and what it does or does not do to someone.   They exposed their lack of knowledge about how in control people who suffer from depression are with these feelings.

A common refrain, and one I've heard all my life as it relates to suicide, is "how selfish." and/or "What a coward."

When I see people writing things of that nature, I'm immediately filled with A. anger and rage and wanting to lash out and try to inform these blissfully ignorant individuals and B. a stunning lack of knowledge as to what to write.  I mean, I find myself at a loss as to how to explain to people what one goes through.

The moments in which, no matter how successful you are, no matter how wonderful your life may be, no matter how many people you have in your life that love you and treasure their moments with you, that you are incapable of seeing that. How do I explain the extremely dark moments in my life in which I literally came close to killing myself, but didn't.  Not because I suddenly realized how lucky I had it compared to others, not because I had suddenly become awash in loving feelings, or any of that, but because I was, in my mind, too much of a coward to do it.

People who say that suicide is a coward's way out, is someone that has never dealt with suicidal tendencies or ideations.  They're people who have no goddamn clue what they are talking about.  People who talk about how selfish they are, and whatnot, don't quite understand the mentality of someone dealing with depression, they don't understand the thought process.  It doesn't work that way.  They are thinking things through their own view and expecting people to react the way THEY do.

But their brain is not working against them the way it does with those of us, so for them to try to act like they know what's best and they know what depressed people go through is insulting and frustrating.

Robin Williams' is a prime example of the idea that it strikes people of all walks of life.  Robin Williams seemingly had everything within his grasp.  He was a world renowned, much beloved comic actor who had achieved damn near everything one could achieve.  He had crossed over into a much successful dramatic acting career, complete with an Academy Award for his brilliant role in Good Will Hunting.

He had a loving wife, children, legion of fans, unfathomable success, and he was still struck down by these demons of depression.  Depression, much like Cancer, is non-discriminatory.  It will strike at anyone, and it's not their fault.  The idea that someone needs to just "man up" or "get out and do something" is incredibly ignorant and hurtful to those who deal with it on a regular basis.

Instead of being told that they're stupid, or lazy or whatever, people who are dealing with depression need to be given help.  They need to have someone to talk to, they need someone to understand what they are dealing with, and to be made to understand that they do not have to deal with it alone.

Sadly, even with all the assistance at someone's fingertips, the pull of the depression can be too much, and we are left some truly fantastic individuals. 

If you, or someone you know is dealing with Depression or suicidal thoughts, please reach out and seek help.   You often hear people talk about how they have no friends, they have no one that truly cares about them or who would miss them.  Yet you then see at their funerals, a packed house, you see the outpouring of grief online, and realize just how truly beloved those people were.

If only they could have seen it as well.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, PLEASE click the following image and go to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Website, where you can get connected with someone that can help.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Sep 2, 2014

[REVIEW] "Solitary" Issue #1 by C.W. Cooke


In 2004, Josh Holloway was one of many struggling actors in Los Angeles. After almost a decade trying to pry the door open on his dream, he had decided that he was never going to make it.  So he took a Real Estate exam to become a Realtor.  He recalled at that time that he "couldn't buy an acting job."

Similar to how another struggling actress Uzo Aduba was packing her things to move away because she just could not get sustainable roles. 

They were accepting what they felt was their fate, perhaps, and were going to have to settle for something that they may not have dreamed of, but would help put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

And yet, right at that last minute, right when they had nearly given up hope, serendipity occurred.

Holloway got offered a role in a pilot on ABC.  Maybe you've heard of it: Lost.  He went on to win the role of James "Sawyer" Ford, in what would be a career making role.   Just as he was thinking he was going to have to give up on his dream, the door was not only pried open, it was obliterated.

Likewise, Uzo Aduba was cast as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren on Netflix's Emmy nominated smash hit Orange Is the New Black, at the moment in which she felt her options were gone, and Aduba herself just received the Emmy Award for her role as the incredibly complex inmate.

I mention all of that to bring you yet one more story of a similar situation.  C.W. Cooke had this idea for a comic book called "Solitary" since he was 8 years old.  He kept trying at it, even after it was rejected multiple times.  Even when he was having to focus on trying to find employment that would allow him to have a few moments here and there to work on it.  He kept at it, and even though there were moments in which he felt that it would just never happen, he persevered and he has, much like Holloway and Aduba before him, achieved his goal, as the 1st issue of his book was just successfully crowd funded on Kickstarter this past week.



Courtesy of the Kickstarter Updates:

I've mentioned a number of times that I've been working on this comic book since I was 8 years old and that starting in 2007 through now I've been pitching the book. That much is true. It's all very true. What I didn't mention in any of the interviews or any of the updates is the vast number of times I almost gave up on this and many other things too.

Comic books have been a very difficult dream to make come true. For every success, for every amazing moment, there have been numerous struggles that have made me question myself, my abilities, and whether I should keep trying. Whether I should keep going.

And like I said, I wanted to give up. I wanted to stop. I wanted to not care and give up on my dreams.
Between 2012 and 2014, I've had some ups and downs throughout my working life and personal life as well. Nothing too heinous, but a number of problems with the day job forced me to stop paying as much attention as I wanted to on my comics and forced me to try and find a new job. I did. It was great for a moment.
And then in June of 2013, I lost that job and was aimless. I was lost. I was adrift and just completely bewildered and without any sense of what I was going to do. I had help from friends and family and found another job quickly, but all of these cuts and all of these problems kept making comic books feel further and further away.

And they did. I had a couple things come through that I thought were going to happen, a number of pitches that I thought were done deals, and a number of books that I thought I was going to write forever that didn't happen and took the winds out of my sails.
All of this made me want to quit. To give up. To throw in the towel and let the failures win and walk away, thinking of anything and everything else. Because I thought it would have been easier to give up.

And he goes on to explain how he's glad he never gave up, because if it wasn't for his persistence, then he wouldn't have been successful, and he would still be wondering "what if..."

These three instances, I think, give testament to the quote by the late great Jimmy Valvano. "Don't Give Up. Don't Ever Give Up."

When I first saw the Kickstarter project, I didn't know if I would contribute or not.  Not because of the quality of it, or the storyline or anything like that.  But more to the point that I tend to prefer to fund fully completed Graphic Novels.  Or at least ones that will be completed and provided to me. 

When it comes to individual issues where I get issue #1 and then it's a long running series, or even a limited run series, it's not something I tend to do because of my patience and my wanting to read the whole story at once. It is a flaw that I have.

Admittedly it's been quite awhile since I read comic books regularly, so perhaps I've been spoiled by all the Trade Paperbacks I've been able to stockpile.

However when I read the synopsis, I was immediately hooked, because it involves something that I am passionate about, and that is the death penalty.  As in I am passionately opposed to it.

"Solitary" takes the super hero genre and kind of flips it and puts a spin on it.  What if you were sentenced to Death Row for something you didn't do?  You know you didn't do it, but no one else believes you.  Not only that, but the Warden has a real hard on for wanting to watch you die, for personal reasons that come into play towards the end of issue #1.

Now imagine you are taken from your cell, and walked down that long stretch of tile towards the Electric Chair.  All the long way you have the Priest speaking words of God in one ear, and the Warden talking shit in the other.  Imagine you get strapped in, the curtain opens and all these eyes are on you.

The switch is pulled.

You die.

And then you live.




Ain't that a kick in the head?

Imagine that.  Imagine you are locked up for something you are innocent of, and not only are you executed for something you didn't do, but it doesn't kill you.

Oh and remember that hardass Warden I mentioned?  The one that has it out for you?  Yeah. He knew you wouldn't be killed.  But guess what?  He's one of a small handful that knows you're not dead.

Everyone else on the outside?  Journalists that might want to expose nefarious doings by prison officials?  They have no clue.  To them you died at 12:04am.  Your family?  They think you're dead and buried. 

No one knows you're alive and locked up in some dark corner of the hellhole that they call a prison, and that the sadistic Warden is going to have his fun with you.  Electrocuting you and killing you over and over and over.  And you'll keep waking up, over and over and over.

How do you go on? How do you cope when the Warden forces you to go on?  No easy way out for you. No suicide, you can't die, remember?

What do you do? 

That's the idea behind Solitary, the baby of C.W. Cooke.  His project that he has been working on for decades, struggling to get it out to the public, and now it will be.

I was sent a digital copy of the first issue of "Solitary", by Cooke for review purposes, and read it on my iPad.

The art style was rough, I think. Not in a negative way, but you know how the Wachowski's put out The Animatrix? It was 9 anime short films by a bunch of different directors, all with their own style? One would be just drop dead gorgeous CGI, the next would be like a pencil drawn stop motion animated one, and then the next would be done in Noir black and white?



Well, this resembled, perhaps the pencil drawn ones, but not quite as askew. I think the style works very well for the story that is being told.  I think all styles won't work with all stories.  The style the story is told in can go a long way to providing the atmosphere and tension in a story like this, and the style used in this one is very appropriate.

What you end up with here is a very compelling story that not only draws upon a very serious issue, in capital punishment, but it brings a serious topic such as that into the world of superheroes or "capes", and makes it accessible for those who may perhaps normally not even show an interest in the topic.

I have always been attracted to comics and graphic novels that incorporate real world issues, so to speak, such as Brian K. Vaughn's superb Y: The Last Man.

All these years that C.W. has been struggling to get this book to your hands has come to pay off, and he is currently working on finishing up issues #3 and #4 as I type this.

I have no idea where this story is going. I have some ideas that I was thinking about while reading. Along the lines of "Oh I bet this is gonna happen," but I suppose only C.W. knows for sure.  All I know is that I definitely will be along for the ride to find out.  I encourage you to do the same.


Aug 30, 2014

[REVIEW] @BobZany - Close But No Cigar (Documentary)







Growing up I always loved comedy.  I had people tell me I was funny, but my self-consciousness was too strong for me to overcome to actually do something like that.  I have always dealt with anxiety and I can't really interact with many people, so the idea of going up in front of a lot of people, scared the living shit out of me.   Small groups though, I enjoyed cracking jokes and making people laugh though.   So inevitably I'd have a family member or friend say "you should do comedy", and my go to line was always "Well, unfortunately it wouldn't work to have an overly self conscious comedian on the stage.  Every time I tell a joke and everyone starts laughing, I end up in the fetal position crying myself to sleep."

That was my one joke I ever told that I thought was actually kinda funny.

So instead of actually doing comedy, I would just inhale all the comedy I could find, and for me growing up in Virginia there was "The Comedy Channel" and "Ha!" which would merge, on appropriately enough, April Fools Day of 1991.  I loved watching these programs where they would simply air segments of stand up comics all around the country.  To a comic loving anxiety ridden near agoraphobe like me, it was the closest I would get to actual comedy clubs and it was awesome!  I found so many comics through those shows that I would grow to love, like the late Richard Jeni, Larry Miller, Janeane Garafalo, Louie Anderson, and the Higgins Boys & Gruber, whose "Survey" Sketch may be one of the funnier things I've seen in my life.

Another comic that I discovered via these shows was Bob Zany.  I am not sure what it was about Bob that really pulled me in, but I was just mesmerized watching him work.  He'd be doing a joke, take a break and razz the audience and then just keep on going, without really missing a beat.  Very quick witted and a very funny guy.  To this day one of my all time favorite jokes from anyone ever is his joke about "Pigs in a Blanket".  Subscribe and listen to his podcast, and check out the episode with Los Angeles Weathercaster Fritz Coleman to hear about that joke, and his parent's reaction to it.  Well worth it.

A few years back I read something about Zany that I had never known, and that was that he had never had a one hour comedy special.  That was amazing to me, as he's a fairly well known comic and seems to be well respected by his peers.  How had he not had an hour special? There are plenty of comedians who I don't think are as good, who have had specials on Comedy Central whether 30 minutes or hour specials.

Well apparently I wasn't the only one who felt this way, as a documentary was done, by filmmaker Jay Kanzler, about Bob's career and his lack of a special called "Close but No Cigar", a reference to Bob always bringing on his trademark cigar with him on stage.  The documentary is to chronicle the life and career of a comic that has, in his own words, achieved almost everything he wanted.  That "almost" is the framing device around the various clips of comics talking about him, as well as vintage clips of him on The Gong Show making his debut as well as random short clips of him on the Star Search (where he beat out Carrot Top) and The Tonight Show, at Drew Carey's Roast as well as many of a teenage Zany before he became well known.

The documentary opens up with Habanera's "Tiger Club" playing over a long tracking shot of Bob walking through groups of people, and going backstage in what appears to be a show that he is about to perform.  It then cuts to Bob talking about how he's accomplished pretty much everything he set out to do.  "I've starred in movies, in TV shows. I hosted my own show on Comcast Comedy Spotlight. Rodney's Stand Up Special, I've been on every stand up comedy special imaginable, but I've never had my hour special."   The person off camera, Jay Kanzler, I imagine, asked him why doesn't he just do it.  Just do a show.  Bob mentions that it costs money.

 



"You gotta do a 5 camera shoot, You gotta shoot it in high def, because, you know, all the kids love that. I mean. I don't know why you don't do it.  I mean can't you do it?" Bob asks.

And that seems to be the light bulb moment of, 'Holy shit, maybe we can do this ourselves?'

Watching the documentary was a very fun experience, as I get to learn more about one of my favorite comedians, and there's a lot of funny things in there, as you have many well known comics who are interviewed and who tell various stories about being with Bob in the comedy clubs, and cracking jokes.  Comedians including George Wallace, Kathleen Madigan, Frank Caliendo, Carrot Top, Todd Glass and Zany's wife and fellow comic Erin O'Connor.  And many of them offered up their ideas of why Zany had never gotten a special, because the overwhelming feeling was that he should have had one by now.

One of those he spoke with was Neil Lieberman, who is a Comedy Coach.  He talked with Bob about why he (Neil) felt that maybe Bob had never gotten a big public thing like an hour special.  Lieberman felt there were two possible reasons.  One, the name "Bob Zany".  With a name like "Zany", he said, many in the power positions may have felt that the name was simply a gimmick.  "You mean like Carrot Top and Whoopi Goldberg?" Bob quickly shot back.

The other reason was that Bob's style of comedy hearkens back to an older type.  And that his older style mixed with topical humor, perhaps got in the way.   Bob clearly is not buying these ideas.  Bob mentioned how it used to be that the biggest launching pad for comics was an invite on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, in part, because the audience was so large due to there being very few alternatives for TV viewing.

By the time that Zany got his invite to the Tonight Show, hosted at that time by Jay Leno, there were many more alternatives and the impact of the appearance did not have the same gravitas or power as it may have simply a decade prior.



There's an old cliche, which happens to be true, that comedians are often tortured souls.  That they are the ones who have been kicked around, belittled and just humiliated all their lives.  They are the ones who were forced to adapt by adopting the mask of the "Class Clown" or the funny person to cover up their insecurities and to perhaps ward off or preempt verbal and/or physical attacks, by making their antagonists laugh.

If you can make them laugh, maybe they won't hurt you. Maybe they'll even be your friends.  And who cares if rather than friends they're actually just "Friends"?  If it stops the pain of being an outcast, then you do it.  You slip that mask on of the happy-go-lucky person and you dance for the crowd.

You're dying inside, but on the outside you're just dancing the dance, and making people laugh.  It's easy for those who don't truly know you to, over time, believe that mask is the real you.

Nothing, I think, exemplifies this type of tightrope walking, this balancing act between two emotions better than a segment at the end of the documentary.

All this time it's been building up to this special that he is doing at Galesburg, Illinois, and how he's finally getting to cross that thing off of his list, so to speak.  So he does the show, it's great, and they market it to Showtime.  The actual show is not depicted, just the opening minute as he walks out and takes it all in, and then saying "I've arrived, BayBee!"

For a lot of comics, and to those who perhaps are on the outside looking in, that's a symbol of achievement.  When you've had your first hour long special.  That's when you know you've made it.  And the fact that Zany has never had one is, as I mentioned before, kind of baffling.

So at the end of the documentary, there's a moment where Bob is on the phone and is talking with someone who has confirmed that Showtime will not be picking up the special.  And the look on his face and the sound of his voice is just heartbreaking because this was his moment, you know?  So much time and effort, not to mention money, was spent putting this together, filming it in HD, and whatnot, and you get your hopes up about something.

While I'm not a comic I can certainly relate to that feeling. There are things in life in which you think are not in the cards and you're fine with that (to a point).  It's easy to psych yourself out when you think something is unattainable, and you convince yourself that it's okay, even if it's not. 

But then you're confronted with it and the chance that it might happen, and against your better judgement you allow yourself to hope.  And that's the worst fucking thing to lose, is your hope.

So Bob's just got the phone call, and then he has a brief conversation with comedian Jimmy Pardo who alternates between jokes and condolences, and you can just see the frustration on Bob's face and in his voice.  So much trouble was gone to for this, and they're like "oh, well, how about reshoot it and then we'll take a look at  it."  

Which kind of shows you how out of touch these assholes at the studios are.  Sure, everyone has the time and money to just reshoot something, and rent the auditorium out, and pay for all the cameras and the crew, and etc, etc. 

So Bob finishes up with Pardo and suddenly realizes he's gotta go on to do a comedy show, and he opens the door, raises his arms and is like "Hey! Bob Zany everyone!"

And just like that, the mask slips on, and none of those people are the wiser that just seconds before, that man who is so cheerful and happy, just got horrible news.

All in all, the documentary is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the more endearing and enduring comics still working today.  Whether it's his weekly appearances on the Bob & Tom Show, or the seeming non-stop traveling he does to do comedy shows, or his comedy podcast he does with his wife Erin O'Connor, the man is nothing if not busy.

It's one of those things where you have so much going for you, will you allow that one thing you don't have, or haven't accomplished to overshadow all the things you have going for you.  Will you allow that one thing that you view as a blemish on your career to totally invalidate all the countless things you HAVE accomplished that others could never dream of achieving?

 

It's not easy to do that.  It's not easy to just turn that switch off and move on.  Bob appears to be able to do that, although when he speaks of the elusive one hour special, you hear it in his voice that it's like the one that got away.  It's yeah, my life is great, I have people that love me, fans that support me, and my health (knock on wood) but...it's that what if.

I'd like to think that Bob has made peace with it and fully appreciates what he has and what he's accomplished.  I can only speak for myself when I say that I'm damn glad that Bob Zany is still doing what he's doing 30 years later.  He's made me laugh so many times over the years, and allows me to not focus on the various fuckery that tries to invade my life, and just laugh with Bob.  I imagine I'm not the only one that can say that.

I encourage everyone to check out the documentary which you can buy from Jay Kanzler's website.  From what I understand, the documentary will be available in Digital Download format later this week.  When it is, I'll update this post to include links for that.

Go to Bob Zany's official website where you can find out his tour dates, as well as buy some merchandise like CDS and Shirts.

Subscribe to his podcast by clicking HERE.  It's a very funny 30 minute (thereabouts) podcast with various comics.  Recent podcasts including Orny Adams (Coach on Teen Wolf), Jimmy Dore (The Jimmy Dore Show, The Young Turks) and Todd Glass (The Todd Glass Situation) and many more.  It's FREE!  Get on that!

And follow Bob on Twitter by clicking HERE and follow his funny and lovely wife Erin by clicking HERE.

NOTE: I was not compensated in any way, shape or form for this review.