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.

Aug 3, 2014

Why The American Government Will Never Legalize Drugs



Want to know why the American Government will never legalize drugs? Because then they'd have to either justify keeping millions of non-violent drug offenders (users/sellers) in prison, or release them, neither of which those in power want to do. 

I'm not the only one, I'm sure, that finds it ironic that in two states now (Colorado and Washington State) it is legal to sell weed, while there are people in prison for DECADES for doing that very thing. Murica indeed.

The thing is, though, is that you could legalize all drugs tomorrow, and not only would crime plummet but also drug use would drop as well. This isn't the baseless rantings of a lunatic drug head here, either. I don't do drugs. At all. I don't smoke cigarettes or anything else. Smoked pot twice in my life, didn't care for it, never did it since.

I don't drink either. Drank for the 1st time at age 22 for about six months with a room mate who was always buying, but then once we went our separate ways, I haven't had a drink since (over 15 years). And I can't stand being around people who do drink and do drugs. So I have no skin in the game personally, other than being tired of seeing my fellow man being denied their freedom for bullshit.

In Colorado when the recent legislation passed to legalize possession of marijuana, many people spoke up and asked about whether or not the 50,000 people who had been convicted from 2006 to 2010 in the state of pot related charges, would have their sentences either commuted or expunged from their record.

The answer, as if you didn't already know, is a big fat no.

Courtesy of TakePart.com

Though there’s a certain cruel logic to this viewpoint, from a global perspective it is an extreme outlier. The United States is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee what’s called “retroactive ameliorative relief” in sentencing. Meaning, when a law is passed to ease or eliminate punishments for a specific crime, those already convicted of that crime don’t necessarily receive the same relaxation or cessation of their sentence.

“The United States is one of only 22 countries that doesn’t guarantee retroactive ameliorative relief in sentencing,” says Amanda Solter, Project Director of Human Rights and Criminal Sentencing Reform Project for the University of San Francisco School of Law. “The only other countries that do this are places like Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, South Sudan, and a handful of countries in the Caribbean. Even Russia provides this right.”

So they clearly are not going to retroactively release all the drug offenders, because that would be ... you know...the RIGHT thing to do.  So they'd be stuck to JUSTIFY leaving them in prison for doing something that the government is now doing themselves.   And they clearly don't want that dragging into an election cycle.
 
Similarly in 2010, Congress passed what is known as the "Fair Sentencing Act".  This relates to drug offenses surrounding "Crack Cocaine" vs. "Powdered Cocaine".  Crack Cocaine is viewed as a drug for Black people, and Powdered Cocaine is viewed as a White People's drug.  As such, the sentencing guidelines are extremely out of wack.  Say a Black person gets caught with 1 gram of Crack Cocaine.  And say the Judge gives him 1 year in prison (I know, I know, dreaming that that's ALL he'd get, but just run with this).  In order for the White person to get the SAME sentence, he would have to have 100 grams of powdered cocaine.  In addition, the drug offenses also carried with it the atrocity known as the "Mandatory Minimums" where the judges hands were tied, and you HAD to be given a minimum sentence of 5 years if you had a drug charge and there was a gun involved.

For example, someone I know had a gun in his house because he lived in bad neighborhood and the house had been broken into multiple times in the past.  The police came into his house as part of an investigation, and there was not only the gun, but also some crack that was completely unrelated to the gun.  However, it was rolled up into a Gun and drugs charge, and he got a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison.  No appealing it, no plea deal to knock it down, 5 years. Even if the judge wanted to say "hey this is outrageous, there's no reason to give this person 5 years, he has no say in the matter.

This is what causes three strike offenders to get life in prison for shoplifting.


Yes, that is bat shit crazy.  And it's also the truth.  Click here to read more about the "Fairness in Sentencing Act".


My mentioning about the crime and drug use going down, upon enacting drug legalization, is based in facts only. But in order to do this, the Government would have to admit it was wrong, something it never likes to do.

And the thing is, I understand that the knee jerk reaction is to immediately say "No way, you can't legalize drugs, think of the massive wave of overdoses that would wash over the land."

And yet.....that's not what has happened before when this was done.

 

Courtesy of TheFix.Com

Portugal became the first European nation to take the brave step of decriminalizing possession of all drugs within its borders—from marijuana to heroin, and everything in between. This controversial move went into effect in June of 2001, in response to the country’s spiraling HIV/AIDS statistics. While many critics in the poor and largely conservative country attacked the sea change in drug policy, fearing it would lead to drug tourism while simultaneously worsening the country’s already shockingly high rate of hard drug use, a report published in 2009 by the Cato Institute tells a different story. Glenn Greenwald, the attorney and author who conducted the research, told Time: “Judging by every metric, drug decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success. It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country."

Back in 2001, Portugal had the highest rate of HIV among injecting drug users in the European Union—an incredible 2,000 new cases a year, in a country with a population of just 10 million. Despite the predictable controversy the move stirred up at home and abroad, the Portuguese government felt there was no other way they could effectively quell this ballooning problem. While here in the U.S. calls for full drug decriminalization are still dismissed as something of a fringe concern, the Portuguese decided to do it, and have been quietly getting on with it now for a decade. Surprisingly, most credible reports appear to show that decriminalization has been a staggering success.

The thing is, I understand, as I said, about the knee-jerk reactionary response to the idea of legalizing drugs.  If you're a recovering addict, or you're someone who has worked with addicts or seen the devastation that drugs causes, I think it's easy to reflexively push back.   You just imagine all the devastation you've seen drugs cause amplified by a million and want to reject any idea that this could work.

However, I take the opposite stance. I WANT to believe this would work. I take solace in the fact that it CLEARLY works in Portugal, a place that was insanely worse than us as it relates to drug abuse, and HIV infection rate. 

And I think you do yourself and others a disservice if you refuse to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the answer to a horrible problem is not how you envision it in your head.

And to be honest, we can not possibly do worse than what we've already done in this nonsensical War on Drugs.

I'll leave you with this brilliant scene from the HBO series "The Wire", as three narcotics officers talk about "The War on Drugs", and one character, Carver (who currently stars on the excellent series Teen Wolf) explains why you can't really call it a "war".

Jul 30, 2014

The One With The Parental Apologies



When you're young, you often hear someone say "One of these days you'll grow up and apologize to your parents for all the trouble you put them through."  And most likely, you laugh and think "Yeah right, that's one of those things people say to encourage kids to stay in line."

Years ago I had that moment.  There was a friend of mine named Dustin who lived in the apartment building I live in and for the first few months that I knew him, everything was straight.  Then suddenly everything changed. 

His problems with alcohol surfaced, as well as apparently his tendency to stop taking his prescription drugs, which involved anti psychotics and drugs for manic depression.   His mother was like...borderline Saint nomination worthy for how she stuck by him, however she was also a MASSIVE enabler for his behavior.  Behavior that included just really insulting her to her face, just being disrespectful and just an all around asshole.

That really threw me because I had never met anyone who was that disrespectful of a parent to their face.  Usually you have kids get yelled at by their parents, the parent leaves, and then the kid's like "yeah, well eff you, man." or whatever.  No, this was him talking down to her like she was the dumbest person alive.

Mind you, she's bringing him cases of soft drinks that he likes, buying everything that he needs, often taking care of rent if he had troubles with that, and the list goes on.   She was a business woman who had connections with getting tickets to concerts, plays, that type of thing.  So one day she knew that I was interested in a play that had just come to town called Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk.  She got two tickets for me and Dustin to go to see that at the local Opera House.

 

I was blown away.  These were like $80 tickets I believe, and she just dropped them off with Dustin and on the night in question, she took us there and then picked us up and brought us home afterwards.  I say this to point out that this woman went to great lengths to make her son (and by extension his friends) happy.

I didn't quite understand it, but I don't suppose I had to.  She was his mother, and he was her son, and no matter how much he would be an asshole to her, perhaps she chalked it up to his problems, and that was that.

Over the following months, Dustin started really getting out of control.  He'd stop taking his meds and he would basically get it in his head that he didn't have to take the meds.  He was fine, you know.  He didn't need those medications anyway. 

Isn't that always how it seems?

So at some point it got to where he would borrow money from me to get something he needed from the store.  Only he wasn't getting whatever he said he was getting, he was getting beer.   And when I found out, I basically told him, those days were over.  I don't like being around alcoholics, especially alcoholics who want to drinks and THEN come over and hang out with me.

I am not a sociable person to start with (beyond maybe one or two people), and I damn sure am not someone who wants to socialize with an overly sociable drunk.

So one day he came over and he was trying to borrow $20.  He didn't say what it was for, but I knew.  And he knew I knew.  And I told him no.  He kept asking me, pleading with me, coming up with every reason in the book why I should give him that $20.  I told him if it was for anything else I'd do it, but I KNEW what he was going to do with it, and no amount of him insisting he wasn't, was going to convince me otherwise.

So that's when he let loose with the final straw with me.  He pulled out the "I thought you were my friend." card.

And that's when I lost it.  I grabbed him by the shirt and started screaming at him to get out of my room.  I used a bit more colorful language, but when I say I was screaming, I was doing just that.  The next day I couldn't speak because my voice was just gone.  I just put everything into it and just unloaded on him, and the poor guy just basically stood there and took it.

I stood by him through a lot of stuff I won't go into, and helped him out a lot (and he helped me out as well), and I just couldn't take it.  I just unloaded about how he disrespected his mother who bent over backwards to help him, and he was just such an asshole and how my parents were all the way across the country and I didn't get to see them but every few years or so, and he got to see his mom and dad whenever he wanted, and he was just such a dick to her and on and on.  Finally I just threw him out and shut the door.

I remember to this day how much I was shaking and how I honestly thought I was going to just strangle him.  I don't know why I snapped like that, because I'm not someone who really does that.  I'll get frustrated at things, and I may yell a bit, but I don't really get physical with people because ...that's just not who I am at this point in my life, (nor that point in my life).

And later that night it hit me:  That was my moment.  That was my "One day you will realize what you put your parents through" type moment.

When I was a kid, to be blunt, I was an asshole.  I was a complete piece of shit.  While I didn't have alcohol or drug problems (didn't drink until I was 22, and aside from a couple pointless attempts at smoking pot, I've never done drugs) but I was a bit of a klepto and just all around douchebag to be quite honest.   How I made it to my graduation without my parents just out and out giving up on me, I'll never know.

I've long suspected that there is something GENUINELY wrong with me that stems from my biological mother, Sue, who aside from a 10-15 minute conversation I had with her when I was 25, I never knew.  She and my dad broke up when I was really young, and he married the woman I call Mom and she filed the papers to adopt me, so Sue would have no claim to me.  Not that she probably gave a shit, but whatever.

I wrote about all that stuff before, and you can click here if you want to read that.  Bottom line is that I've got mental issues that I know did not come from my Mom and did not come from my Dad (neither of my brothers from their marriage have whatever is wrong with me), so that leaves Sue as the only other option.

So I know I had these moments where I would simply act out and do things that defy all logic and reason.  My mom would often say "you wanted to get caught" but to me that was ludicrous. Why would I want to get caught and deal with punishment and yelling and whatnot?  But looking back, it's hard to argue with that.

16 years or so of this before I moved out after graduation, and started living on my own.  And it took my meeting this kid Dustin for it to sink it just what my parents must have gone through.  And I still don't think I'll ever fully appreciate it.  But just seeing how he talked to his mother, just seeing how much she loved him despite him just throwing it all back in her face, it just enraged me and I just finally took all of that out on him that night, and after that it just wasn't the same between us.

We were still friendly, but by that time, he just was not able to deal with his problems, and he eventually got evicted from the apartment building.  Over the next few years, I'd keep up with him through either him or his mom, and he was basically in one rehab place or another, however his mother basically donated money to these places, and so he got the kid gloves treatment.  This is the enabling I referred to earlier.  When a big donor is giving money to your organization, you're probably not going to kick her son out for breaking rules that any other person would have been thrown out into the night for, now are you?  Not when your place depends on donations you're not.

Finally Dustin hit rock bottom when he stole his mother's SUV and crashed into the intake at the county jail.  Fortunately no one was behind the door when he jumped the curb and crashed through it (although just a few minutes earlier there were two or three people there).  He ended up getting a year  and a half in jail for that little stunt.  I jokingly suggested he would get time off because he saved them the trip of bringing him into the jail.

And that was the last time I had seen Dustin.  When I went to Ohio back in 2008 to be near my parents, I called up Dustin's mom and dad and talked to them a little bit about Dustin and whatnot, but other than that, I didn't really hear or see from him again until today.

Today I went down to the church that I live above where they have a food bank set up.  I went down, picked up some things and was coming out, and I had to get by someone who was standing with some others blocking the walkway.  I just tapped his shoulder and asked to get by, and he turned around and it was Dustin.  Hadn't seen this guy since 2006 or so, and here he was. 

I just talked to him briefly, and he had kind of a doped up vibe to him.  When I first met him there was none of that, he was just a really fun guy to be around.  Then he started drinking (or perhaps re-started drinking after I had known him for a while) and then stopped taking his meds, and things just went south.

He said that maybe he'd come see me sometime, and I immediately thought to myself, "Not a chance, buddy."

And I felt like complete shit for it, but I knew there was no way I wanted to spend any amount of time with him in the condition he's in.   Over the past few years there's been two people who are addicts who I have tried to help out and they just would not or could not kick it.  One in particular sort of made me think that I had actually made an effect on their lives.  That I had positively influenced them and was the reason that they were staying clean.

They told me that coming by and hanging out kept their mind off of doing drugs and that I was helping them stay clean.  I can't tell you how amazing that felt, to actually feel for the first time that you are having a positive effect on the world.  I've never felt that way before.  Despite my box full of mental issues, delusions are not one of them.  There's never been a point in my life that I felt that I done anything but make people's lives worse by being in them.

And so I've gotten to the mindset now where I realize I can't change people.  They are who they are.  Dustin is an addict who has mental health issues (aside from his addictions).  No amount of rehab or whatever is going to change that.  Until the day he dies he will always be what he is. 

I'm not a hypocrite, either, I'm no different.  I'm still a piece of shit asshole, but I don't put myself in situations where I'm going to demonstrate that for the world to see.  I stay to myself, don't bother anyone and hopefully no one bothers me.

I just got all this kicked up again in my head after running into Dustin.  I had almost forgotten about him, sad to say, and upon seeing him in the same condition, it just kind of reinforced to me the hopelessness I feel about a lot of things, whether it's my own mental issues, or the world that we find ourselves in.

I want to think that things are going to get better, but if I'm completely honest...I find that extremely difficult to process.  The idea that things will get better, and the sun will shine brighter and everyone will get along.

I suppose it's important to have positive things to strive for, whether I can fully grasp them or not.