Do or Do Not.

Archive for May, 2010

Cleansing Waters, Part III

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About five years ago, flooding in the basement of our home in Rhode Island wiped out a significant portion of my comic book collection. I had to throw out thousands of dollars worth of soggy, ruined comics. I made the determination then that I needed to get rid of most of the comics I had left and just keep the ones that were special to me.

Waterlogged

Well, surprise! I didn’t do that.1 I did put those special comics into a plastic box so they’d be safe, but rather than issue the proposed Basement Enema, I continued to move several thousand not-so-special comics with me to North Carolina and then back up here to Massachusetts. Partially it was because I never could quite figure out the best way to get rid of them — should I eBay them? donate them to a local comic book shop or reading advocacy program? burn them in a four-color bonfire? — but mainly it was because I just didn’t get around to it.

Cut to this weekend: we’re going through the basement, getting ready to move into our awesome new apartment, and my nephew pulls out the plastic box containing all those comics I actually cared about.

With the lid mysteriously absent.

And a whole shitload of wet comics and books. Not just moist… wet. As in, this wasn’t simply a humidity thing; some significant amount of water must have gotten into that box sometime in the past year.

The comics (and four or five books) in that box were moldy and stuck together and smelly and utterly ruined. 2 All of my Jim Lee X-Men (and other) comics, my X-Men and New Mutants annuals from the 80s that Art Adams drew, the run of John Byrne Superman books I’d painstakingly assembled over several years, many of my original Wolfman/Pérez Teen Titans and my Levitz/Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes… all destroyed. I’m not even sure what all else was in there; even if I’d wanted to look, I wouldn’t have been able to get most of the books unstuck to see what they were.

Many of these were the books that went a long way toward shaping my sensibilities as a comic book fan. Hell, not even just as a comic book fan — as a pop culture fan. As I said just last week when I was talking about Lost:

I love episodic drama, I love shows with huge numbers of characters, I love time travel stories, I love mysteries, I love any story which can be watched/read/enjoyed multiple times to pick up on extra details which only make sense in retrospect.

Well, where do you think I first fell in love with those qualities? Yup, comics. More specifically, the comics that had unbeknownst to me been acting as sponges for the last year-ish. Uncanny X-Men, New Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, Avengers, Justice League of America: big, frequently rotating casts. Long-running story arcs, sometimes with seeds planted years before growing to fruition. (Generally) strong character growth and development. That’s what I learned to love then, and it’s what I still love now.

But let’s set aside the particulars of the comics I lost, and even set aside the fact that it was comics at all. The fact of the matter is, something I’d been carrying around with me quite literally since I was a kid has now been lost to me. These books lived in a place of honor in my bedroom when I was a kid so I could access them easily. I once compiled a database of every comic I owned (in Lotus Symphony, I believe), so I could cross-reference my collection by creator. I distinctly remember moving these into the apartment I shared with my friend Mitch in Tallahassee. I remember where they lived in the closet of my apartment in Tampa. After Terry and I got together, I was sad when they spent a couple of years in our storage facility because our apartment was too tiny and already filled with two little kids and a huge dog.

And now the important ones are in a soggy box on my front porch, and I have friends coming by tomorrow to take the still-intact ones away from me.

I realize that I have absolutely no one to blame for this situation but me. I could easily have taken better care of them — either through the bag-and-board route, or just by keeping them somewhere where they wouldn’t get flooded. One could say that if they were that important to me, I would have done exactly that, but I didn’t.

And I don’t care about the monetary value. Honestly, I don’t. Some of these comics were likely worth a decent amount — maybe not huge, but more than nothing — though as noted, I’ve never been a bag-and-board guy, so they wouldn’t have been worth their full potential value, anyway. Regardless, I never once bought a single comic because I thought I’d be able resell it for a profit someday.

But these comics have been part of my life, part of the Me I’d drag from place to place to place, a comforting bit of my childhood I’ve always had with me. It’s stretching it way way way too far to say I feel like an old friend just died 3, but one of my few remaining tangible, meaningful connections to The Me That Was so long ago is gone. 4

I feel like I should think of this development as liberating, like I’m shedding loose a skin that no longer truly fit and had been weighing me down for too long. Maybe that last bit is true, but honestly, it doesn’t feel particularly “liberating” quite yet. Right now, I’m in a small, admittedly weird bit of mourning. My friends who saw me today might have noticed I was a bit off, and, well, that’s why.

I’ll be better soon enough. Comic books are just things, after all, and many of the lost ones are replaceable in better formats now. But I need to give myself a little time to deal with these odd feelings of loss, and realize that it’s all part of Letting Go, which will be a more and more valuable and important skill to have as my kids grow up.

For now, I’m going to go read some of the comics my boy Timmy B. sent me recently — comics which now make up the bulk of my collection.


  1. Not really a surprise. 

  2. You might think from that description that I’d be talking about an old porno collection, but no, really I’m not. Really. 

  3. I’ve had that feeling far too recently, and I can say that yeah, there’s not a comparison. 

  4. Yes, I just said “meaningful” when talking about my comic book collection. Deal. 

Written by Allen

May 31st, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Posted in Comic Books,Personal

Blue

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Oh, hey, look. My hair’s blue. Or partially, anyway.

It’s for a photo shoot at work today; since I don’t really have much in the way of fun clothes, I decided to make my hair more fun. No, it’s not permanent — yet. But we’ll see how I like it as the day goes on. If I dig it enough, maybe I’ll have to make the blue a little less temporary.

Written by Allen

May 27th, 2010 at 9:46 am

Posted in Personal

Different Energies (Or Lack Thereof)

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Today, I discovered an interesting side effect of eating a mostly vegetarian diet: the kind of hungry I now get in the late afternoon is totally different from the kind of hungry I’m used to.

See, in the olden days of last week, if I didn’t eat enough at lunchtime (or sometimes even if I did), then by the time the late afternoon rolled around, my stomach would be crying out for me to put more food in it. I’d feel hunger pangs down at the bottom of my stomach, and I’d have to feed it — and I could shovel pretty much anything into it to shut it up. Frequently, this late-afternoon food craving would carry with it a serious inability to concentrate, so even if I wanted to ignore the noises emanating from my stomach, I still had to eat to get my brain back online so I could get work done.

But today… OK, so I had what I thought was a pretty decent amount of food for lunch (a couple of delicious veggie fajitas), but I didn’t have anything else to eat in the afternoon, as I was avoiding the high-sugar desserts offered at the conference I was attending. Big mistake there. After the conference, I chose to walk home the two miles from Alewife, but I realized pretty quickly that I just didn’t have the energy for the walk. (Well, I thought I didn’t — I pushed through and made it, but for a while I wasn’t sure I was gonna.)

The hunger that hit me was of a different timbre than the hungers I’m used to: it wasn’t as much a stomach-oriented feeling of “must put food in belly” as much as it was a whole-self-oriented “must put energy in body.” It was… a bizarre feeling for me. I mean, I’m used to being somewhat low-energy a lot of the time, but more in a heavy-sluggish way than in a out-of-fuel way, if that makes much sense.

Got home, ate a ton of salad and felt much better.

On the plus side, however, I did not get the brain fog that I not-so-infrequently get in the afternoons, even when I’d been sitting in a giant salon in a hotel listening to people talk about building websites all day. So I’ll take that as a win.

Man, who knew learning to eat differently could be so damn difficult?

Also: while I’m on the topic of vegetarianism, I’ll share a video my friend Dwight that he thought I’d appreciate and that I likewise think you might enjoy:

Written by Allen

May 25th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Personal

Tagged with

Don’t Like Being Lost

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I’m someone who likes to think about and write about and talk about pop culture. If you’ve ever had a conversation with me or if you’ve been reading… well, anything I’ve ever written, most likely, then you’ve probably recognized that fact. Yet the sad truth is that I don’t get to soak in most pop culture phenomena at the time they’re going on. I watch most movies and TV shows I get to see once they come out on DVD or start streaming from Netflix; I read most comic books I get to read when they come out in trade paperback. Thanks to the fact that I can legally purchase and download MP3s, I’m at least a little more able to keep current with the music I listen to, but honestly, I’m so far out-of-touch with what’s actually popular in music it might as well not matter.

I read discussion and analysis of pop culture content far, far more frequently than I get to discuss and analyze it for myself.

I bring this up now because as I write this, ABC is broadcasting the series finale of Lost. And I’m not watching it, as I’m now five full seasons behind, and I’m not the kind of person who enjoys jumping to the last page of the book.

A great many of my friends and co-workers are watching the finale right now. Many are Tweeting about what’s going on (though thankfully in a spoiler-free manner). Most will be talking about it tomorrow at work while I keep my headphones on with the music cranked in my ears so I don’t hear anything they’re saying.

"Lost" FinaleI’m on the outside of this pop culture tsunami which I really should be smack in the middle of. I love episodic drama, I love shows with huge numbers of characters, I love time travel stories, I love mysteries, I love any story which can be watched/read/enjoyed multiple times to pick up on extra details which only make sense in retrospect. I should be part of the Lost fandom, should be watching and cheering and cursing along with millions of others right now.

Terry and I watched the first season of Lost shortly after it initially came out on DVD, and we enjoyed it quite a lot. We were excited for Season Two to come out on DVD, and then… I don’t quite know what happened, honestly. I know we watched the first episode of the second season, and then… things just got in the way. And then we started hearing some not-so-good-sounding stuff about Seasons Two and Three, so we didn’t make it a huge priority to catch up.

But then ABC let the Lost guys choose their own end date rather than letting the show just go on from season to season without knowing when they’d be able to wrap it up — knowing you’ve got a target to shoot for makes it much, much easier to hit it. And then we heard that Season Four actually got really good and interesting again, and then the addiction and fanaticism which have become the hallmarks of Lost fans really kicked into high gear.

Now, however, we’re way behind. There are characters, locations, entire concepts which weren’t part of the mythology when we watched the first season. I’m so out of it that you could almost spoil the ending for me without actually spoiling it, because whatever you told me wouldn’t make a damn bit of sense to me. (NOTE: Please please please do not take that last sentence as an invitation to try.)

I want to watch. I want to experience this show that, by most accounts, is as maddening as it is enthralling. I want to be able to talk about it with my friends, to throw theories back and forth and debate tiny details. But realistically, given how often I get to watch shows… even if I started tonight I wouldn’t be done until some time next year.

After tonight, the last chapter will have been written and the discussion shifts into a different key, from what-will-it-be to what-it-was. Not that there’s not value in that conversation, of course, but it’s not the same; the buildup of upcoming events is usually of a much tastier flavor than the tearing down of what’s been done.

Enjoy the end, Losties. I’ll catch up with you when I can.

Written by Allen

May 23rd, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Posted in Pop Culture,TV

Tagged with

Hold the Beef

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One week ago, I gave up eating meat.

This dietary change was one I’ve been contemplating for quite a while — I’ve been eating meat mainly out of reflex and habit for some time instead of eating it because I wanted to. Meat has, for the most part, been a vehicle to get other bits of yumminess into me. I’d almost cut meat out a couple of times before, and had managed to cut it down quite a bit, but over the last year I’d been eating more of it because while Terry was pregnant with Andrew (and even now while she’s still nursing him), she wanted meat all the flippin’ time.

But last Sunday night, we watched Food, Inc., a documentary about the industrialization of the food industry in the United States. And it totally and completely horrified me (as was, I’m reasonably sure, the director’s point — he wasn’t going for subtle).

I'm not eating these anymore.

I'm not eating these anymore. (Photo by dirkjankraan.com)

Can I tell you a secret, though? I wanted to be horrified. Not because I want to feel disgusted by the food I eat or the process by which that food gets to me, but because I knew that’s how I’d feel and I wanted that final kick in the pants to encourage me to make this change. For a long time, I avoided thinking or reading too much about the foods I eat because I knew what would happen if I did so and I didn’t want to change the way I ate. Now, however, I wanted that revulsion to push me over the edge. I realize it probably doesn’t say wonderful things about my internal motivation techniques that I had to do so, but hey, whatever works, right?

I’m taking it slowly so far. There’s not a lot I feel I’m denying myself at this point[1]. Right now I’m not eating big hunks of meat (or even little hunks of meat), but if I have, say, broccoli and cheddar soup made with chicken stock (as happened on Tuesday), I’m not going to beat myself up about it too badly. I suspect that as I get further into this change, I’ll be even more stringent about avoiding meat-related bits in what I eat. Brian assures me that the less meat I eat, the less tolerance I’ll have for those other bits I’m still not stressing about now, so we’ll see.

I’ll admit to still having some philosophical issues and contradictions to work out in my head. Given that I’m largely (though not entirely) giving up meat because I don’t like the way farm animals are treated at the massive food factories, how can I still justify eating eggs, for instance? Or drinking milk? The animals who provide most of my eggs and milk likely aren’t treated any better. We do try to buy locally-grown eggs and milk from happy cows and chickens when we can, but realistically, that’s not always possible — especially with the amount of milk we go through in our family.

It’s funny… in my younger days, I made fun of vegetarians for not eating animals by invoking the concept of the food chain — certain animals exist primarily for us to eat. I mean, c’mon — a cow’s only real functions are to create milk, more cows, and methane. But even so, that doesn’t make what the food industry does to them morally correct.

My friend Molly told me that her basic principles when it comes to choosing foods to eat essentially come down to these: 1. Be good to her body. 2. Be kind to the earth. 3. Be gentle toward other creatures. …and I think that’s more or less it. I want to feel like I’m making the best choices I can for my health (after almost forty years of, well, not), and I want to feel like I’m not doing harm with my choices. I can’t pledge perfection, but I think that at least considering what it is I’m doing and trying to make better choices counts for a lot.

I’m not on a crusade here — I’m not saying that no one should ever eat meat. If you want meat, eat it to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content. And honestly, I’m not even saying I’ll never ever put meat in my mouth again[2], though it doesn’t seem likely any time soon and if I do, it’ll have to be from happy, ethically-treated cows or chickens.

For now, though — and quite possibly forever — I’m done with it. I’m opting out. A week in, I’m still feeling good about this decision — I feel like it’s going to make me a healthier person and a better citizen of the planet.

[1] Though I did just now make the mistake of thinking about the big-ass piles of meat I so enjoy at Redbones, and I’ll admit that gave me a little twinge of loss.
[2] That’s what she said.

Written by Allen

May 23rd, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Personal

Tagged with ,