There’s a wonderful word among our Jewish friends that refers to someone that would give you the shirt off their back. Or drive you to an abyss even if it was way out of their way. That person is a mensch. It basically means not a saint, but a stand-up kind of guy.
Then there are the ubermensch, brought to us by wacky funster Friedrich Nietzsche (as in Nietzsche is Peachy! – little known slogan for his overlooked run for Kiwanis Treasurer in 1892). An ubermensch is beyond human, above human- “better than you” is the shorthand.
Whether Nietzsche intended it or not, the Ubermensch concept was seized upon by white supremacists and eugenics advocates. Some pretty awful things were based upon this concept in the 1930s. That’s right, I’m talking about Action Comics and that Superman guy. I think there was some other stuff too, but the specifics evade me at the moment.
We’ve come to expect a high degree of invulnerability and strength from our leaders that’s not to be found among real people. But if you actually run across someone that has those qualities to the degree of which we demand, is superdickery.com not the inevitable result? To be better than human is to be inhuman. I can’t speak for all of you, but I can use all the empathy I can get.
I feel this to be a particularly timely message especially to my American friends as we have an election coming up soon. You may have heard something about it in the news. Now I’m not saying either ticket or party represents this:
But I do believe there is a ticket that represents this:
I’m begging you, my fellow humanists, let’s not let 2016 be the Rise of the Supermen. Let’s make this the Year of the Mensch.
In the Marvel Universe there’s a character known as the Watcher. It’s his job to y’know… watch things. Think of him as a peeping Tom with the entire solar system as the bathroom (I know there are plenty of other ways in which you can envision reality as a toilet, but let’s not depress ourselves).
The Watcher is someone who is, above all else, supposed to watch and not get involved. See, he has this Prime Directive that he can’t interfere with developing cultures. Wait…. that’s Star Trek. I’m always confusing the Watcher with Jean-Luc Picard. But still… you get the gist.
Here’s the thing though, the Watcher is about as faithful to his guiding principle as a Star Fleet officer three days removed from his Kobayashi Maru (boy, these genre mash-ups are fun!), and that has a tendency to get him in a lot of trouble with his people. His problem, as I see it, was that he felt too clever by hiding in plain sight. The Watcher lives on the moon, which even mortal man can get to with rockets, to say nothing of reality bending smarty pants like Dr. Strange.
If the Watcher hid in the Sun instead, all his problems could have been averted. You look at people from the one place they literally can’t look at and you’re safe as long as men have retinas.
Some time ago, my good friend Ben- who is a genius and my biggest fan that’s not my mom (hi Ben!) had an idea that I still feel was eons ahead of it’s time: The Large Hadron Collider Joke Facebook page. I was lucky enough to be a part of that and it sparked my interest in the large hadron collider in Geneva.
Before anyone calls out my ignorance, I do know that the collider is what’s large and that the hadrons are in fact subatomic. But that’s what makes a joke a joke. The idea of Godzilla Higgs-Boson eating Switzerland and then the world cracks me up.
Why do I bring this up now? Because the big news this week is that our friendly neighbors to the North (unless you’re in Alaska, in which case it’s the friendly neighbors to the South…. Oh and Hawaii I guess makes them…. You know what? Let’s call them Canadians) have a theory that there are alternate two dimensional universes lying one on top of another and microscopically separated. These theoretical universes are known as branes (or in zombie universe: BRRAAAANNNESSSSSS!!!!) and it’s possible that Black Holes may be doorways to these dimensions.
This is big news to us for two reasons. One, because it means that DISNEY WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG and we can finally bring Hans Reinhardt home. Second, we may in fact beUniverse 616.
This leads me to one inescapable conclusion: The Large Hadron Collider is going to be used to prove that God is, in fact, the disembodied frozen head of Walt Disney, running the omniverse from an underground bunker deep in the hills of Anaheim. God has one prophet, and Stan Lee is his name. There’s a reason why Disney acquired Marvel on it’s way to acquiring everything else. (Side theory:Michael Eisner is Galactus -think about it). All the public figures that are making our lives so… huh? are in fact animatronic next gen Disney cyborgs that are paving the way for us to want to move a universe over.
Life is a Rorschachtest in which our experiences combined with those bewildering edicts from the subconscious combine to create that thing we call our “worldview” (don’t you think? No? Guess your subconscious won’t sign on because of that thing that happened at camp).
I am constantly amazed by the multitude of interpretations we can apply to the most simple of scenarios, not to mention the intensely complex ones like picking out a pair of shoes or the intent behind a Homeowners’ Association edict. Maybe those mimes were really out of control five seconds ago. Maybe the judge is unbalanced and those mimes never made a peep. Maybe a mime killed the prosecuting attorney’s father and he should have recused himself but he didn’t because he can’t rest until he’s put every single one of Those People behind bars where they belong.
What’s my point, you ask? I dunno. Just as an FYI there’s a prison strike going on right now that’s the largest in US history, which commenced on the 40th anniversary of the Attica prison riots which resulted in 43 deaths. Whether these strikes spark similar violence is yet to be known as there is a silence in the media regarding this unprecedented event (though there have been reports that some prison guards have joined their inmates in protest of what they perceive as an inhumane system).
Whether you think the prisons are full of coddled sociopaths who prey on the public tolerance or innocent victims who are enmeshed in an inescapable cycle of oppression, maybe it’s time we have a dialogue on it.
So here we are, nearing the weekend of our four day week for those of us who are lucky enough to have jobs and benevolent corporate overlords. I’m guessing that even the bees could bored with the same old same old if they weren’t blessed with (I’m betting) a goldfish like capacity for forgetting everything that happened once it slipped out of their peripheral vision. If that’s not the case then it sucks for them.
We don’t have that blessing and already the three day weekend slips into personal history, so I just want to wish all my fellow wage slaves a belated Happy Labor Day and wish you days and nights as beennui free as possible. And for the job creators… I know we get paid and all, but still- you’re welcome.
I think we can all agree that puppies are awesome. They’re all soft and cuddly and cute and you don’t even care that they’re going to grow into dogs. Dogs that strew your trash from one end of the house to the other. Dogs that will get sick and need to go to the pet emergency room at 2 in the morning. Dogs that will chew your slippers and then give you the innocent eyes that almost but not quite convince you that the cat did it. All of that is for future you to deal with, and right now Marmaduke is years away.
But even something as fundamentally awesome as a puppy requires context. If someone tells you there’s something wrong with you, then it’s probably a matter of opinion. If everyone tells you there’s something wrong with you, it’s still a matter of opinion. Maybe (just maybe) you’re surrounded by butterflies.
Butterflies, like puppies, are pretty awesome. They’re pretty, they’re graceful, they can fly. But not even the most awesome of butterflies can catch a frisbee. If you find yourself opposed to everyone around you pretty much all of the time, maybe it’s time to leave the nest and find the kennel where you belong.
So here I sit in my living room, about two blocks from ground zero of the Salt Lake City Comincon and contemplating my hermitage this weekend. You’ll forgive me for not attending, I’m sure. It’s just that Martin hates a crowd (but likes third person pretension from time to time).
Given the away from crowd time I am taking this weekend, it gives me some time to ponder the nature of Comicon itself and the pop culture explosion we’ve all witnessed in the past two decades(ish). I’ve mentioned my dislike of crowds to a few people and they largely agree but then get all judgmental on the con people, who are having some innocent fun in a way that strikes me as a uniquely Utah sort of thing. We here know how to get our Nerd on. And we know how to judge people for getting their Nerd on, which is less Utah and more just the world being on the mean side. (Mean Side of the Moon- it’s not dark, it’s just snarky).
And I wondered when it was that imagination became the province of being “kids’ stuff”. At first my inclination was to go people used to be more open about these things, but then I decided that didn’t work because what we call “make believe” today we called “religion” yesterday. People in the past my not have been more open to all things made up, but just might have had different ideas about the way things worked.
Or maybe they didn’t. We weren’t there. We don’t know how the people who actually made the myths that made the world actually thought. Maybe they knew they were speaking in elaborate metaphor. Maybe they had some ideas about the pacifying nature of rhetoric.
But I have an “or” as well. It’s ALSO possible that people are starting to look at pop culture a lot differently these days. Maybe it seems a little more… plausible than it has in the past and the lines a little more blurry. There are people in the world right now who patrol our streets in costumes and do good deeds. Our comics and movies have “characters” in them like Thor and Hercules who embody the same values now that our ancestors admired a thousand years ago and that’s timeless and when I think of it, kind of beautiful.
Legacies change, but they link in a chain instead of floating disembodied in space (like the Silver Surfer), each story cycling through obscurity and dominance from one generation to the next, taking root in our childhoods for us in turn to pass on to our children.
I guess what I’m trying to say is when you pass a cosplayer on the street, try to cut them a little slack. They may seem everywhere today, but a ComiChameleon will come and go.
4 out of 5 chickens you meet are going to end up in a KFC bucket. It’s an ugly fact no one wants to talk about because it would make it that much harder to look our chicken friends in the eye.
The unfortunate side effect is that the 1 in 5 that are left make up a very vulnerable subpopulation and many, if not most, of those chickens end up as sex workers. What else are they going to do?
Bob was going to be different. He had mighty chicken dreams. He was always the first to school and the last to leave. He was undeterred when his classmates laughed at his chicken accent. The answers were still right. He was still Valeclucktorian. His teachers all said chickens couldn’t be doctors, but he knew that chickens couldn’t be doctors yet. He would break through that shell barrier.
He made the grades, he had the extracurricular activities and he thought his entrance essay was nothing short of brilliant (Bob had a pretty big head for a chicken sometimes). His heart was broken when he received back the reply from Stanford that was a mere 4 words long. “Chickens can’t be doctors”.
So here he was. For now. Doing what a chicken has to do to survive. But he still has his dreams and he knows that one day he’ll be Dr. Robert Alinsky, M.D. with a specialty in gastroenterology.
If she hadn’t gone to meet her maker at that Kenny Rogers Roasters, he knew his mother would be proud.
(This piece of speculative semi-fanfiction owes a debt of gratitude to Elmer, by Gerry Alanguilan)
This is not my first blog, but it’s the first one I’m excited about and I hope you will be too. Eventually. I mean, you don’t have to be excited right now. You don’t know me from Adam. Or Eve. Maybe I’m not your cup of tea. Maybe you’re a coffee drinker. Or Red Bull.
But if you have a weird sense of humor… If people don’t always, or even often, get your jokes… If you like chicken strippers and vampires and ghoulies and weirdness and Charles Addams and Dan Piraro and Edward Gorey as much as I do, then you might like me too.
Here’s to the start of a long and beautiful friendship. I’m Martin (sortofbutnotreally).