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The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane

Make It A Blockbuster Night

Our local Blockbuster Video is being shut down, and in its death-throes is currently running an unspectacular 10-to-30 percent off sale on all the crap left over after they sent the stuff they still think they can sell to other, heartier (i.e., “not dead yet”) Blockbuster locations. They still have some premium Blu-rays on the shelves, like the most recent Spider-Man movie. I’d pay three or five bucks for that, but they have it priced at $24.99. I guess they don’t understand how a going out of business sale works, but good luck anyway, Blockbuster.

Since the proliferation of cheap oil just over 100 years ago, we have lived in a society ever more distorted by the availability of cheap energy. Everything from motor vehicles to personal computers and corn syrup to iPhones can probably be explained by the fact that dead dinosaurs plus pressure combined over a timeline humans literally cannot comprehend resulted in the wildly distorted and inhuman modern life we all not only accept as the way things are, but which most people cannot help but think of as “the way things have always been.” It’s not. Not at all.

I remember when VCRs first became commonplace in American homes, in the early 1980s. It wasn’t that long after microwave ovens had gained a toehold. In a world where, just a decade earlier, going out to dinner and a movie was something special, now you could microwave your meal and watch a major motion picture in your living room, in your pajamas, for just pennies on the dollar of what that experience would have cost you a few short years earlier. Do you think the experience was a special? Or was it somehow devalued by its ease and commonality?

My very first prerecorded VHS purchase was Raiders of the Lost Ark. It cost me $40.00 at Don Hill’s video store in Greenwich, New York, around 1984. What do you think you’d pay for Raiders on VHS at a yard sale now? $.25 seems like it would be asking a lot. Personally I am amazed that anyone still has a working VCR, but I guess someone must. Every once in a while you even see blank VHS tapes for sale. That dying Blockbuster 10 minutes from my house had one lonely 5-pack of them laying unwanted and unloved on one of the sale tables. I doubt it would be worth the shipping cost to send it to another Blockbuster store, so it will probably end up in a dumpster, like our entire culture seems destined to, eventually.

Blockbuster isn’t the only one. In fact, of its kind, it’s the last to go. Ironic, given that Blockbuster had a corporate policy of buying up independent and competing video stores and either shuttering them or converting them to more Blockbusters. And now, just a few short years after that glorious era in which we all were invited to “Make it a Blockbuster night,” (remember?), it’s over. The existence of broadband internet, and the accompanying sites and technologies that have grown in its wake like Hulu, Netflix, Roku boxes and so forth, have pretty much brought an end to the era of the video rental store. Sure, you can still get a physical DVD or Blu-ray from your nearby Redbox, but that seems so…redneck? Hillbilly? Certainly it’s a bit unseemly and déclassé to wait behind the hoboes and methheads in line at the Redbox outside Cumberland Farms for your turn at the kiosk. Maybe it’s different where you live, but I’d just as soon do it all online or read a frigging book. It seems less dangerous, and certainly less soul-destroying.

But I do remember well the glory days of video rental. At one time, the community I live in had a thriving independent video scene, with stores like Empire Video and Big Dog Video. Then Blockbuster came along and put them out of business, then the internet grew up and put Blockbuster out of business. And it all seemed to happen so fast. The days when I could find a rare old cult classic or a noted foreign film at one of the great indy video shops (an hour south, Albany had even more to choose from) seem like they were just a couple years back, but Blockbuster pretty much wiped those independent shops off the map a decade or more ago. And somewhere in the past decade or so, people stopped making it a Blockbuster night, and about three years back I started predicting to my son that the Blockbuster shop near our house (then literally around the corner) would soon curl up and die, because it was obvious as Hulu and Netflix and even Redbox became ascendant that Blockbuster was literally doing nothing to compete with the faster, easier and better alternatives that were growing up around them like weeds.

Now Blockbuster is going. I think I remember reading that they’re keeping a few hundred shops open for now, but of course those will eventually be shuttered as even the seediest methhead movie fan comes to realize there are better, cheaper and less aggravating options. I hope all the employees of our local, dying Blockbuster find other jobs and I wish them all well, but as a corporation Blockbuster never impressed me as anything other than an opportunistic behemoth, and I can’t say I regret that they won’t be here in my town much longer.

But in a greater sense, the passing of Blockbuster, of course, is just one more signpost on the road to a very different world we are all slowly lumbering toward. Whether the end of the cheap oil era and the playing out of the Long Emergency brings a total breakdown of society or just a new World Made by Hand, it’s certain that by the time my children are approaching 50, as I am now, there won’t be any Blockbusters. I wonder what kind of night everyone will be making it by then?

Blogging From A Coffee Shop Again

We don’t have internet hooked up yet at our new place, so I brought Ye Olde 80 Pound Laptop* along with me and stopped at a coffee shop (a different one from previous Blogging From The Coffee Shop posts) to get some breakfast and catch up on the various worlds in which I am interested.

Fascinating goings-on in Egypt, where the troubled administration of the nation’s first democratically-elected president has crashed and burned. I hope there’s a swift return to peace and that the will of the people is ascendant.

I think there are new issues of Star Trek and Fatale awaiting me at the comic book store. As those are the only books I subscribe to anymore, I should go down and pick those up sometime soon.

Before I do that, though, hoo-boy, do I have boxes and boxes to unpack. We moved in on Tuesday, and it was only last night (Thursday night) that I got around to beginning to arrange things in my bedroom so I could get at them as needed. Stuff like hanging my framed art on the walls and organizing the bookcases could happen this weekend, or I might lay in bed and read the new Dmitry Orlov book (The Five Stages of Collapse) and try not to think about all the work that lies ahead. Either way, we have to find a way to get some laundry done, I think I put on my last clean pair of socks this morning.

Large English Breakfast Tea steeped, Half and Halfed and Splendaed, it’s time to head off to work, where I have a couple of podcasts to edit and commercials to write and produce. Enjoy your weekend.

* Disclaimer: Ye Olde 80 Pound Laptop weight estimate includes carry-bag, power supply, cooling mat and external harddrive. Estimated weight of laptop alone is 65 pounds.

A is for Anhedonia

I called my second ebook Anhedonia in part because I feel like a large part of my life has been spent in this state:

In psychology and psychiatry, anhedonia is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions. (Wikipedia)

I’ve never been clinically diagnosed, and in the short period where I was actually in therapy decades ago, I don’t remember it coming up. But from as far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt like I experience things at a remove as compared to other people. I always feel like the people around me are able to fully immerse themselves in whatever event or sensation they want to, while there is almost always an invisible wall between myself and whatever it is I am experiencing. Moments of pure, unadulterated joy or despair are rare, and both are uncomfortable and disturbing to me.

The phenomena has been especially glaring for the past few years in relation to comic books. For most of the first four decades of my life comics and graphic novels gave me a great deal of pleasure. From the ages of 6 to around 14 or 15, nothing occupied my time more happily than running off somewhere quiet (usually my bedroom) with a stack of new comics, in the pages of which I would lose myself in the imaginations of writers and artists far more creative than I was, or likely ever would be.

Since the ascension of celebrity fan-fiction writers like Geoff Johns, Mark Millar and others, superhero comics have become an imagination-free zone of ever-escalating violence with no thought, theme or theory in evidence anywhere. The apotheosis of this dire state of affairs was the publication of Before Watchmen. Wretched in intent and criminal in execution, its existence, and worse, acceptance in the marketplace, definitively ended my interest in superhero comics as an ongoing enterprise. The disgrace of it prompted some badly-timed comments about one of its creators at a time when all of fandom was in grief over his passing, and I regret the incident, but do not deny the truth behind my foolish utterance. The people who worked on Before Watchmen, from the writers and artists to the editors, publishers, even the “journalists” who “covered” it — all are complicit in a betrayal of whatever ideals superhero comics might once have laid claim to. The existence and acceptance of the book is a scorched-earth moment in comics history from which there is no going back. And it killed my interest in superhero comics as if that had been its very intent. Perhaps, in broad strokes, it was. After all, the industry has little use for independent thinkers who question authority and call bullshit when appropriate. I was just one little comics blogger, but I’m sure I’m not the only one driven away by the horror implicit in the publication of Before Watchmen.

The thousands of dollars a year I once spent on comics will now be spent on other things. Rent. Groceries. Maybe the occasional movie. I still crave works that fire my imagination, even as I experience those at that same remove I spoke of earlier. Perhaps that’s why I am as fascinated by the process of creating art as I am the art itself. Moreso, really. The mysteries of imagination seem like a puzzle too complex for human minds to ever fully decode. I can’t just watch a movie or TV show and lose myself in it, I am constantly pondering the process of its creation. There aren’t any superhero comics that beg that question the way Kirby’s did, or Ditko’s, or whatever genius you think of when you think of the gods of comics creation. I do know that few walk the earth anymore. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, the scales have fallen from my eyes. 

Or perhaps it’s just an inability to surrender myself to joy and pleasure. After all, you can’t say “Anhedonia” without saying “Doane.”

For The Table



"I went ahead and ordered something for the table."
Tony Soprano

An Open Letter To Marriage Equality Opponents

It’s possible you are a good person, even a loving human being to those in your family and your closest friends. I also think that for whatever reason, probably a lack of diversity and life experience, you have pretty deeply held beliefs that run contrary to most people’s experience of the world in general and the people living in it. Do I believe your opposition to marriage equality comes from a seething hatred of gays? No. Do I think many of the most vocal public opponents of marriage equality are fueled by hatred and ignorance? I do. Do I think that in 15 or 20 years you’ll look back and realize that you were horribly misguided? I hope so.

Many of your arguments against marriage equality come down to the fact that two people of the same sex cannot procreate. Above and beyond the fact that many opposite-sex couples enjoy decades of marriage without ever having children, either by choice or because they physically cannot reproduce, the fact is that marriage is not and never has been solely about procreation. The decision to marry is about commitment, and about declaring that commitment and everything that that entails before the world, and before God, if you believe in one. Sex is also not solely about procreation. It’s about pleasure, it’s about bonding and trust, it’s about good health and keeping your body operating properly, it’s about relaxation and intimacy and feeling good and a million other things, and just because one is born gay does not mean you should be automatically barred from any of those things; procreation, marriage, good health, intimacy, all these things are entitlements that, if any human being is allowed to have them, EVERY human being should be allowed to have them. If you’re a parent and you oppose marriage equality, think about this: You may someday learn that you and your opposite-sex spouse have created a homosexual. Or a bisexual. Or a transgendered person. Because every queer on earth was created by heterosexuals just like you, except for the ones created by non-heterosexuals who loved each other so much that they overcame the limitations of the natural reproductive process in order to create a child together. And even if your kid is straight as an arrow, as you probably hope he or she will be, it is 100% certain that they will grow up knowing such people, perhaps loving them as close and trusted friends, and they are going to wonder why previous generations, why you and those like you, denied those people the same rights that heterosexuals had without question and without reservation. 

I don’t worry about gays getting married. Even before marriage equality became a major public issue, the idea that my marriage could somehow be impacted negatively by what other people chose to do in the context of their relationship and how it is defined would have baffled me. Every time I see a marriage equality opponent say that “gay marriage” harms “the traditional definition of marriage,” I wonder how secure they feel in their relationship. My marriage of twenty years may not have been the easiest or the most stress-free, but that’s never been because someone else in some other house was also married. My wife and I chose each other, and the strengths of our bond is entirely, unreservedly left only to the two of us. That anyone could think otherwise borders on madness, I think, and certainly stems from obsessive paranoia. 

In other words, if every gay couple on the planet gets married tomorrow, your marriage is still the exclusive property of you and your wife. Its strength or weakness is the sole province of the two of you. No one, gay or straight, wants to (or even can) interfere with it; more importantly, no one else’s decision or desire to marry for themselves in any way affects your marriage, unless you decide that it somehow does. Be confident in your love, in your marriage, and in your family. And please, try somehow to find within you the strength and decency to allow everyone else the same. The end result can only be that there is more love in this world, and stronger families. Procreation? Keep calm and fuck on. Heterosexuals are never going to stop procreating, you needn’t worry about that.

If there’s one message I wish you’d understand, it’s that you needn’t worry about who is or isn’t, or can or cannot procreate. That’s a choice every single human being, gay or straight or bi or trans, ultimately has to make for themselves. And whether you or people like you want to let them make that choice, they are going to anyway. Why fight about it? Love thy neighbor. Seriously.

Actual Conversation

Friend: “Happy hump day”

Me: “There is no hump day this week, Monday was a holiday.” (Memorial Day in the U.S.)

Friend: “But it’s Wednesday, it’s hump day.”

Me: “No, this week either there’s no hump day, or Wednesday and Thursday are both hump days because of the four day work week.”

Friend: “Work days don’t have anything to do with it.”

Me: “No one who doesn’t work gives a shit about hump day. ‘I’m so glad to be over the hump of this week in which I am not working.’ No one says that.” 

 

I do…have a strong affinity for Albert Einstein’s view that in this at-least-four-dimensional eternal solid that we know as spacetime there is only, as he put it, “the persistent illusion of transience.” Each instant, every hour and every human lifetime is therefore suspended, fixed forever in a medium without loss and without change, where our time-bound awareness recurs endlessly, our precious lives repeating in their joys, their sorrows and their sheer breathtaking richness, and each repetition new and unexpected, every time the first time round.
Alan Moore
Exorcising Kegel

I’ve been having pretty severe bursitis pain in my hip for the last month, which is why I haven’t been keeping up my usual blogging pace. Yesterday I started going to see a physical therapist, who recommended I do Kegel exercises once an hour to try to strengthen the muscles in my lower body. 

When I told my wife about this, she asked “How do you do that?” I told her what the doctor told me, which is that you contract your pelvic muscles just as if you were trying to cut off the flow of urine in mid-stream. Astonished, she said “Guys can do that too?!?”

I thought a moment, and then said, “No, we’re men. We just spray everywhere until we’re dry as a bone.”

2012: My Year in Review

As 2012 draws to a close, I am recovering both from the worst back pain of my life and a moderate chest cold that, happily, I managed with over-the-counter medication and managed to not miss a day of work (the back pain kept me in bed and out of work for days). So as I ponder reflecting on the year about to conclude, I have to admit it is with a bit of fatigue and the probably-futile hope that 2013 will be better. If nothing else, at least the name of the coming year — 2013 — is reassuringly futuristic, signaling as it does the final defeat of those silly Mayan Calendar legends (or — does it?).

The final week of 2011 saw me going in for a job interview after 19 months of unemployment that really rattled my worldview and tested the ability of my family to subsist on my wife’s salary plus my unemployment benefits. As the year wound down, a year or so ago, I found out I was to be hired, and in fact I started working at my current job on the first workday of the new year, 2012. 

I replaced as production director and copywriter a woman whose considerable skills in the radio broadcasting industry had impressed an intimidated me for many years. I quickly found out that she and I managed our duties very differently, and I kind of got a leg up due to the differences in our approaches and the appreciation my colleagues had for my less dogmatic practices in regard to the writing and production of radio commercials. In the 11+ months I have spent in this job, I have had a lot of creative challenges, and come to the conclusion that this is the most fulfilling job I’ve had in my 27-year career. Every day is different, I work with a team of true professionals who love what they do, and overall it’s a huge improvement over the compromise and frustration required of the radio jobs I held in the decade previous to my current gig.

Not long after starting my new job, early in 2012, my sister died. I said a lot about that in the essay I wrote in the days after that event (click the link for more), and a lot of what I wrote could be called cold or callous. My feelings haven’t changed a bit. It does feel strange to be the only remaining natural child of my mother, but that is an unavoidable consequence of growing older, and if nothing else, 2012 was a year in which event after event made me feel older, if not more mature.

One of the few truly joyous events of the year was my purchase in the spring of a new laptop. I even began blogging from a coffee shop, although that didn’t last long (here’s the second and final coffee shop post), due to the radio station moving from a busy downtown with a coffee shop a few doors down to a more suburban locale, as well as my eventual realization that my choice of the largest laptop available (a 17-inch Dell model) meant that I was not going to be lugging it around everywhere like some people do. When you factor in the large power supply and the much-needed cooling platform, I’m packing a lot into the large messenger bag I got with this beast, and it’s roughly the equivalent of carting around a ten-month old baby, minus diaper changings. So the laptop is semi-permanently docked at home, and aside from having to replace the entire keyboard (under warranty, thank fuck), it has functioned pretty spectacularly well and I love it to death. It’s the first computer in my life that I made all my own, deciding if I shared it with no one, I would lessen the risk of viruses or malware popping up on it, and when that does happen, if it does, at least I will know who to blame. The selfishness of my choice did (and does) cause a little friction with certain family members, but there are two functioning PCs elsewhere in the house, and although I know it was a selfish choice, I do feel like I deserve it.

In April, Lora went in for serious, life-altering surgery that ultimately made her healthier and happier, although the recovery was dicey and took longer than expected. The operation was conducted at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, and I was amazed and pleased by the way they do things there. Efficient, compassionate, logical. I’d never seen health care like it.

Not long after that, daughter Kira moved out and took a traveling sales gig that was a complete catastrophe, paying almost nothing and exposing her to some pretty shitty living conditions for a couple of months. She’s back home now, and although I am sure she misses the independence, I think she appreciates getting to eat every day. With one of my kids having reached adulthood and the other a year away from doing so, I did reflect a bit on my two decades of parenting.

This was the year I relaunched Comic Book Galaxy (on the eve of its 12th birthday) as a single-writer (me) blog of news and commentary. It briefly was popular with old readers and a lot of industry insiders, and I basked in a Costanza-like feeling of being “back, baby!” That was not to last more than a few weeks, when the unbroken string of well-received daily posts culminated in a poorly-timed rant calling the late Joe Kubert to task for his collaboration with DC on the wretched Before Watchmen project. Here’s one guy explaining my fuckup. There’s plenty more if you want to Google “Doane, Kubert, Watchmen,” have at it. Make a snack, it could take a while.

This incident resulted in more negative attention in three days than I received in the 12 years previous for all other combined dumb-ass things I might have written. I shut down CBG, only to bring it back a week or two later, only two shutter it permanently a few weeks after that, my heart being broken by the culture of comics allowing criminally wrong bullshit like Before Watchmen to happen at all, plus other sins like the tolerance for the ethical lapses, racism, sexism, homophobia and extremism found in the industry and among its fans, personified by the likes of assholes like Batton Lash, Chuck Dixon, Ethan Van Sciver, Orson Scott Card and many others. The combination of these and other factors prompted me in large part to abandon comics altogether, whittling my subscription list down to two titles (IDW’s Star Trek and Image’s Fatale) and, in September, selling off the bulk of my graphic novel collection, which three years ago hovered very near a thousand titles, now cut down to a little over 100. It was a decision made far easier by the ethical choice of not wanting any books in my house by creeps and douchebags like Joe Straczynski and Darwyn Cooke. Fuck them, fuck what they’ve done, and fuck everything they’ve ever done, was basically what motivated me. Petulant? Sure. Life-affirming? You bet your ass. I wish more comics readers would evaluate their collecting habits in comparison to what they say they believe about what’s right and wrong. Clearly the industry doesn’t give a fuck and never has, and many of its writers and artists obviously are more than willing to go along to get along. Fuck them, too.

A side-effect of these events was a retreat from much of the internet, deleting my Facebook account and focusing solely on my Twitter feed for any social networking impulses. My wife, now, she’s seen my cycles and ups and downs for decades, and questions whether at some point I will dive back in, the way things used to be. It seems unlikely, but you never know with me, and the Kubert thing certainly proved that I still have the power to surprise, and sicken, and outrage. Stay tuned.

As Thanksgiving looms in the week ahead, I will say I am thankful for quite a bit, despite the negative threads that ran through 2012. I am grateful for the support of my true friends, online and in the real world, and for the fact that my family is intact (once again) and everyone is relatively healthy and okay. I wish my back pain would clear up entirely, but I have a role in that too, and need to take better care of myself. I certainly want to. 

I am spectacularly relieved and delighted that voters in Los Estados Unidos rejected greed and bigotry at the polls on election day, and I hope that the spirit of progress, tolerance and peaceful revolution grows stronger and more powerful in the months ahead.

Whatever readers remain, thanks for following me here, or on Twitter, or for however long you followed me at Comic Book Galaxy, Trouble With Comics, A Criminal Blog, Kochalkaholic, or wherever you stumbled into me. I want to write more in 2013 than I did in 2012, but at the moment that is a desire more than a solid goal, and I’m not entirely certain what form its expression ultimately might take. As a writer about comics, my mis-steps this year left me bruised and devalued, but there are other things to write about than comics. Maybe in the year ahead I’ll explore some of that territory. Whatever you choose to do, and however your year has gone, I hope 2013 finds you happier, healthier, at peace and perhaps even prosperous. It might be selfish to say, but I think we deserve it.

Parenthood’s End

Being a parent gives you so many opportunities to feel love, to feel pride, to feel amazed at the life you’ve created growing up and discovering its own way in the world. I’ve often said that I got to experience childhood twice, once through my own eyes and once through the eyes of my children. Nothing hurts more than when your child gets to the age where they shut you out of their experiences, their very life, but of course to an extent that is a necessary part of the maturing process. But you never really get over the sting that comes when you realize your child has gone from wanting you to know everything about their day, about their life, to wanting you to know as little as possible, preferably nothing at all.

Having grown up ourselves, we experience that transition with varying degrees of terror. We know what’s out there, what can go wrong. We hope for the best but fear the worst, and when you see your maturing child make a decision that you know is unquestionably, inarguably wrong, you struggle with how to respond to what is happening.

I can remember tears welling up inside me as I held my firstborn for the first time; I so very badly wanted to have a daughter, and here she was. I so very much wanted her to be strong and independent and to have a good life, that I was moved to tears. I suppose my response was somewhat modulated by the time our second child entered the world, but as the youngest, and as a boy, I’ve always felt protective of him, and in awe of the way both of them process the world so very differently from each other, and so very differently from myself or their mother. We really are all unique beings, and being a part of a family over the course of decades is the best proof of that concept.

With one child out of the house now and another nearing that age as well, it’s maybe the strangest emotional package I’ve ever experienced, reflecting on how my days of parenting “children” is pretty much over now, and I am, instead, the parent of two near-adults. The relationships among us all shift and twist regularly, but there’s no question that the dynamic has now permanently shifted to the degree where parenthood confers only a mere shadow of the power and influence it did two years ago, or ten, or eighteen.

It’s heartening to realize that, if nothing else, at least both of them made it out of childhood alive and intact and with vast potential ahead of them. I know many parents haven’t been as lucky as we have. Some have been far more lucky, able to confer yearly vacations and unlimited toys, gadgets, gizmos and clothes upon their offspring. That wasn’t always possible in our house, but there was never a day either of our kids had to go hungry, or had no decent clothes to wear, or had no roof over their head. So we might not have been the luckiest family in the world, but I know many, many more have made do with far, far less. It’s all relative, of course, and either or both of my kids might feel they got shafted in one regard or another, but I can honestly say my wife and I both did the very best we could with whatever resources we had at our disposal. Most of the nicer things I have of my own I was either given as a side-benefit of my career, or as a fringe benefit of my hobby as a writer-about-comics. There’s no sports car in my garage, no yacht in the backyard, and certainly no luxury vacations. I know it’s a cliché, but I know my wife and I both gave up most of the nicer things in life just so our children could be safe, well-fed, and even occasionally entertained. The only time I’ve regretted it has been the times I’ve experienced ingratitude or resentment from my kids, and thankfully that hasn’t happened often, and as I noted above, such moments are probably hard-wired into the process of growing up.

Looking back, I have to say my over 18 years of parenting has been fascinating, a never-ending learning curve that I am sure will continue for the rest of my life. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t gaze in wide wonder at some previously-unsuspected facet of the personality of one or both of my kids. And while in my darkest moments I have wondered if love is even really a thing that exists objectively in the universe, the ache I have felt in my heart that comes from my hopes for my kids and the fear I sometimes feel when pondering their future and their choices, tells me that at least that kind of love is real. It surges and throbs and hurts and stings, and sometimes it makes me feel like the luckiest man in the world. 

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