Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Getting Back In The Groove

I started my new job this past week. It’s a bit unusual, knowing that the work is temporary, and rather…well…mercenary. I’m getting paid by the hour instead of a regular salary. Plus I have to pay for my own benefits and sock money away into my own retirement plan (which I have). That may seem outrageous to some, but that’s how consultancy works. My hourly rate is more than enough to cover it — in all honesty it’s more than what I made at my last job.

What really feels weird is the return of a schedule, a rite to the passing of work days and weekends. To say I was preoccupied this morning is an understatement. I missed my writing group’s meet up and didn’t realize that until noon. My Dad had warned me about complacency — I just didn’t realize how deep it ran until now.

I was really used to having nothing but time, and I think that was the most dangerous thing about being out of work. I felt that, outside the job search, I could put things off for a time and take my leisure. In the end, it only made me a terrible procrastinator.

Les Claypool said it best in the song Spegetti Western: “Funny thing about weekends when you’re unemployed — they don’t mean quite so much.”

Now that’s coming to a screeching halt. Once again I’ll be slotting off time in the evening for writing, gaming, etc. Oddly enough, I’m glad for that, even if I’m going to have to endure the discomfort that comes with the adjustments. I’m going to have to be mindful of my time, map things out, and prioritize.

I’ll make it happen. I owe to myself and my career, family and friends. That last item really hit home for me.

Last week, while at GenCon I got some bad news. One of my best and oldest friends — who happens to be my age — was diagnosed with cancer. He just had surgery to get the tumor removed, and so far it looks as though it hasn’t spread elsewhere. He’s still waiting for the pathology, but suffice to say he’s healing and doing well. With any luck he won’t have to go through chemo. This is a type of cancer that’s very easy to treat if it gets caught early, and this looks to be the case.

It’s ironic that when we have time we let it slip through our fingers, take things for granted. When it becomes limited we hoard every hour and minute, stressing ourselves over the things we want to do but can’t.

There’s got to be a point of balance. I intend to find it — now while things are starting out — so I can still enjoy the things that I do and the company I keep.

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Because It Needs Repeating…

Marvel announced that with the death of Peter Parker in the Ultimate comic book verse, a new character would come to take up the mantle of Webhead. His name is Miles Morales, he’s half-black, half-Hispanic, and is inspired by the heroic life (and death) of Parker.

And we see another round of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the ignorant fanboys, most likely the same ones who lost their shit when that Twitter campaign to have Donald Glover cast as Spidey began.

To say this is an embarrassment to the comic-book fandom and the geek community at large is a mild understatement. To make it worse, this is a change for only ONE comic book line. Parker’s still alive and swinging in the original Marvel ‘verse, so why all this uproar?

Because there’s a bunch of immature racist assholes in the fandom who are afraid that superheroes come in different colors. So with that, I’d like to reprint my essay “Fear of a Black Spidey,” originally from my LiveJournal blog, 11 June 2010.

Last night I got into an argument on a chat site regarding Spider-Man, or more specifically, the casting of said character in the “reboot” of the film franchise. Donald Glover, from the TV series Community, started a Twitter based petition to win the role after someone else thought he might be good for the part. The uproar this has caused among the fandom is truly saddening. While I have to concede that casting a Person of Color (PoC) as Peter Parker would be a risky move for a studio, given the precedent set by the prior three films, I have to ask the question:

“Why can’t Peter Parker be Black?”

I asked this of the most ardent naysayer in said chat site, and he said that Parker’s being White was intrinsic to the character. He also went on to say that comic book writers spent weeks agonizing over character nuances in order to make them just right. This is the sort of “handstapleforehead” artiste bullshit that I can’t stand. What’s to say that Stan Lee didn’t come up with the character over lunch?

As evidence, said idiot then posted a link to a You Tube video of an “Italian Spider-Man” claiming it was evidence of why Parker can’t be Black. This is, of course, one way not to argue with me — in fact it was convincing me that this person couldn’t really think for himself on the subject.

But let’s break the character down to his very basics, shall we?

He’s a high-school student living in Queens, New York — nerdy, spindly, picked on by bullies, and ignored by girls. He’s an orphan, being raised by an elderly aunt and uncle. While on a field trip, he’s bitten by a radioactive spider and gets his super powers. Instead of going right into fighting crime, he decides to make some extra cash as a studio wrestler. Ben gives Peter the famous “with great power comes with great responsibility” speech. Then one day after a wrestling bout, he sees a fleeing criminal and decides it’s not his place to get involved, even though he can subdue the crook without effort. Then he gets home to find said criminal murdered Uncle Ben that same night. Thus, to atone for his selfishness and to honor his Uncle’s wisdom, Peter turns his wrestling costume into a uniform, and fights the tyranny of evil men.

So… what part of any of that mandates that Parker has to be White?

I don’t think Stan Lee even had race in mind when he created the character, to be honest. More like he thought “nerdy, skinny teenager” and ran with whatever image popped into his — or the artist’s — head. But when you look at the nature of the character, there’s nothing to indicate any sort of ethnicity. What stands at the core of Peter Parker’s being is this:

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

That’s it. He’s a kid who becomes superhuman, screws around with it, then grows up the hard way and has to bear the responsibility of being an adult before he’s out of high-school. There’s a lot of kids of races and creeds that have to face that.

Said ignoramus went on to say that a White nerdy character is “non-threatening,” which is part of why Parker is the way he is. I asked if he meant, by omission, that a Black nerdy character is threatening. He said yes, and went on to explain that Black characters inspired rage and rebellion against authority. Of course that breaks my “sweeping generalization” rule — and it would seem that he’s disregarded characters like Storm (who is an authority figure among the X-Men), Nick Fury (in the Marvel Ultimate universe), and other like characters both in and out of the comic book media (Genly Ai, anyone?). And of course, we all know that Steve Urkel is out there sticking it to the Man.

So the question came up: “Would Luke Cage work as a white guy?” Well, let’s do another breakdown. Cage ran with a gang in Harlem until he realized what he was doing was wrong and “goes legit.” He gets framed for possession of heroin and sent to prison. During his time there, he gets recruited into an experiment that goes wrong, becomes superhuman and breaks out. He takes an alias, and begins work as a “hero for hire.”

Well, with the exception of being from Harlem, I can’t see why Luke Cage, from a strict characterization standpoint, couldn’t be white. Or Asian, or Latino, etc. But you’d have to change his hometown. Plus there’s at least one subplot that I can think of where Cage is trying to help out his home community. Cage’s ethnicity is a little more intrinsic to his character, so while it might be feasible to change it, a writer would have more work ahead of him to implement the change.

As a side note, someone asked, what if someone tried rewriting Parker as a woman. Well in a sense they did — as Peter’s daughter in the one shot “Spider-Girl.” But that’s changing the subject — another no-no.

Still, I’d like to extrapolate with another character. Would Storm work if she were White? In this case the answer is no, given her African heritage. There her ethnicity is part of her core, so she couldn’t be anything else. So there are some cases where one ethnic background is intrinsic, but it’s not a standard. In the case with Peter Parker, he could easily be White, Black, Asian, Indian, Native American, or Latino.

The thing is with comic books, reboots and retcons happen, and they happen quite a bit. You take some measure of the original characters and move them in different directions and claim it’s a different reality — one of many in the Marvel Mulitverse. This way you can have a Tony Stark with a brain tumor (the Ultimate line) and another Stark that’s an asstastic Neo-Con (the Civil War line). You can have Cyclops get over the death of Jean Grey and hook up with Emma Frost (Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men”). So why couldn’t you explore a universe where Peter Parker is Black? You can still be true to the character (at least as how I spelled it out) and the catch phrase still applies.

When I asked the ignorant party if he’d even be willing to consider a Parker as Black, his response was “only if Marvel made a comic like that.” I don’t know about anyone else, but that tells me that said inDUHvidual is the sort of tool that won’t think for himself or accept anything as plausible unless someone else in some mode of authority tells him it’s okay.

It is saddening to see that many fans of comic books would judge a hero by the color of his skin and not by the content of their character. The dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is still a long way away.

(Oh, and as a side note, I was called a nitwit several times for endorsing the possibility of a Black Spider-Man, but when I called the original ranter out for being ignorant, a mod told me to “put a sock in it.” Guess I won’t be going there again…)

Come on, ranters. Grow the hell up.

Gainfully Employed

I start my new job next Tuesday.

This is a big thing for me. For those of you who may not know, I was laid off from my job here on June 0f 2009. Two years is a long time to be unemployed. I’ve no animosity towards my former employer, so if you’re hoping to hear gossip about that company, forget it. My lay off was a business/financial decision that had nothing to do with my performance. If it did, I wouldn’t have been given the generous severance that afforded me a comfortable two years of living.

Yes, money got tight in some spots, buy I’ve been getting by, paying the mortgage and the bills, and I’ve had some some room for new technology in the household. It’s been a good two years, but in all honesty I was ready to be a part of the work force well over a year ago.

I won’t go into details into how I got the job here,* but suffice to say it happened fast. As in the space of a week and a half. My head’s still spinning from the fact that I’ll be starting next week, right after GenCon.

Interestingly enough, I can bookmark the Great Time Off between GenCon ’09 and GenCon ’11. I spent the latter half of June and a chunk of July alternating between states of anger and funk. I still remember that day, 15 June 2009, standing outside my former place of employment with my personal office effects in my backpack and a cab voucher in my my hand at about 8:30 AM. Have you ever been so emotionally overwhelmed you were just numb? That was me. At some point around July, I realized that I could take a break and enjoy what life had to offer. So I said “the hell with it,” and went to GenCon and blew off a ton of steam.

While I’d like to say it’s finally over (ie, my unemployment), that’s not entirely the case. Yes, I have a job next week — it’s as a contractor for six to eleven months. That means I need to keep looking for what’s next, unless of course I’m offered a permanent position. I’m not going to expect that to come through. It’d be nice, yes, but anything can happen. Maybe I don’t quite cut it as an employee, or perhaps they need to let me go at contract’s end.

It’s still a good thing though, for several reasons:

1) It’s a job that I was very interested in for reasons other than “a job’s a job.

2) It’s a paycheck, and a worthy one at that.

3) I can sock more money away into my own retirement fund (I’ve multiple funds set up).

4) It gets me current tech experience and is something I can put on a resume to close that gap and say “Yes, I’m still relevant to the IT field.” That’s for when the contract expires, assuming the Best Case Scenario hasn’t happened.

Having a day job will affect writing and gaming, obviously, but that’s not going to be an issue. In fact, I’ll be happier this way, as I can use either of those to wind down from the work day. Plus, it’s going to require some stringent time management. I’m good with that. Having to order one’s life is a good thing in this situation — it means I’m not lacking for things to do.

And now I can breathe a little easier.

 

 

* And it is, in fact, an IT job and not package delivery — although at this stage I would not have said no to such.