Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Hospital and My Poor Wife

Early in the week my wife, truly the brightest aspect of my jumble of a life, complained about a slight discomfort surrounding the sudden development of a cyst. Being the type of individual who loathes the aftershock of visits to the doctor (and rightly so, as you're soon to read), she refused to let me take her to our local med center for an examination. Unfortunately her stubbornness led to strife and, in regard to her discomfort, it led to extreme escalation.

I'm writing this during a quick stop home to shower. We've been in the hospital since she was first admitted late Thursday night after the intensity of her pain and the apparent spread of infection broke her. It's been a long day and a half in a place of healing which feels more like some Cenobites' bordello, and it seems to get worse with every hour. The infection she's had through most of the week is intense, and unfortunately it was exacerbated by an unexpected, life-changing disease. We learned yesterday, after so many tests and even more hours, that she is a diabetic.

Life changes all the time, but sometimes those changes are so intense and personal that you can't help but feel constantly reminded of all the negativity which led to them. We're going to have to make serious changes so that this sort of disaster never occurs again. We're going to have to alter our lifestyles so that my wife can live comfortably and so that we're never again forced to deal with all of the stress and hell which comes with staying in a hospital.

If only I could see a break in the clouds. Then I'd feel better about the rest of the day and tomorrow. Looks like it's overcast indefinitely, though. Just my luck.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nature Despaired - A Dark Evening Happening

Here I sit, writing after a lengthy drive with my wife. Every weekend or so we take off, making our way through and around town to experience the weather, the comings and goings of other people, and to just be free of the home in which we are both confined while working throughout the bulk of the week. Often it's a great experience, and it gives us at least some sense of freedom. Today, though, a shadow was cast over our traditional outing.

While conversing about plans for the decor of our apartment, we rounded a bend in a moderately trafficked back road and spied something flapping about in the middle of the opposite lane. There lay a struggling, obviously injured mallard. He flopped here and there while making efforts to thrust himself toward the far side of the road. Clearly, after studying his movements as we approached his position, we could see that he wasn't capable of standing or using his legs. His neck flopped about as if he was attempting to use it as a means of pulling himself along while his wings fluttered about him. I immediately pulled off to the side of the road.

We continued to spectate him in order to monitor his progress as I quickly dialed about with my phone, attempting to find an agency which might assist in caring for his injuries. No valid or accessible options presented themselves. So, I jumped out of the car, grabbed a pair of work gloves from the back, and headed over to assist him in gaining the safety of the other side before another careless motorist accidentally, or purposefully (people can be truly despicable), further injured him.

As I approached, another individual pulled into the median, studying the mallard's status. He announced his assessment of the bird's condition to me as I crossed into the middle of the road. We conversed as I made my way around, toward the duck's rear, in order to lift him while keeping his wings in check. As I did so, the creature's eyes, wild and desperate, gazed into mine. I recognized his fear, the mortal dread of diminishing vitality. Standing above him I determined that his breath was labored as he infrequently gulped it in. Clearly the poor beast was fading away.

Reaching down with gloved hands, I embraced the mallard. As I lifted him off of the pavement I could feel him begin to go limp. The man from the median suggested that I take him beyond the tree on the nearby roadside so that he wouldn't accidentally make his way back into traffic. Agreeing, I quickly carried him over, past the tree, toward a culvert a safe distance from the road. His eyes continued to peer into mine as I laid his debilitated figure upon the grass. Within a few seconds his heaving breast ceased to heave. The wind stirred his feathers but no animation which sourced itself from within his being continued the movements he had once freely perpetrated in life. The truth of his apparent death just then hit me full on.

In a daze I said a few words to the other concerned person and then walked back to my car, feeling completely defeated. My wife watched me approach with a mournful gaze. "At least he won't be left to die in the road, smashed by some other car. Nothing deserves to die like that," I said. We sat a while contemplating the duck's passing before making our way back home.

I sit here now, unable to forget the poor bird and the look of his eyes as the sun surrenders to the dim of oncoming night.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Shifting Interests, Like Sandy Foundations

I have this problem. I have encountered others who experience a similar issue in their lives, but they seem fortunate enough to have not had to deal with as severe a case as I. It revolves around my interests.

I enjoy a great many things. The range of my interests spans across the mediums of literature, film, sequential storytelling, and several others. Where I find that many are capable of applying their attention to several of their interests at once, I on the other hand can only feel an attraction to one at a time. I can't recall a period where I held an equal devotion to two distinct interests simultaneously. This grieves me terribly.

Every once in a while, for there hasn't been a seasonal or calendarial pattern to any of this, I will become wholly obsessed with, for example, a television series or a certain genre of literature. The moment that obsession takes hold I neglect all else, feeling for all of my other interests a supreme apathy which exists at no other time. If I'm reading Robert E. Howard I'm cold to the desire to read a superhero comic book. When I'm working on and reading comics I find that I can't be bothered with gaming. It's maddening how this works within me, and I sit inside myself taking notice and feeling the increasing pressure of frustration and genuine confusion at my self-made system.

Am I alone in this? What are the best ways to break free from this wretched habit? I hope I figure it out one day.

If you're reading this and you experience a similar issue in your life please post your response to the comments section of this post.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Solomon Kane - The Film

I had first heard of a Solomon Kane film some time in 2011 or so. Being a fan of the writings of Robert E. Howard, I was incredibly giddy for the chance to see yet another Howard character adapted for the cinema.

I was fortunate to find a copy of the film through YouTube, though I am still distraught at the delay of a US DVD release. It has been available since 2010, from what I gather, and if there's to be any attention for the piece, or any hope of a sequel, the production folk will naturally need to place their focus on distribution and advertisement. So far, regarding the film audience within the United States, they've failed to be effective with both.

While primarily being a fan of Conan, I eventually first discovered the character of Kane through the horror works of Howard. Having only read two stories featuring the character ("The Rattle of Bones" and "Hills of the Dead"), I must admit that I don't have the strongest feel for his center or what would comprise an ideal Kane tale. So, when approaching this movie I viewed it first as one who is familiar with the writing style of Howard, second as a fan of fantasy film, and third as someone who knows next to nothing about the titular character.

 Viewing the film was a more than enjoyable experience, to say the least. I cannot say that it was the best film that I've ever seen, and I'll certainly hold the newest Conan film above it, but it has a heart based in Howard, a great central story, and a fantastic lead in James Purefoy. The design, the special effects, and the acting were all surprisingly astounding, to be honest. The movie featured an exceptional cast beyond its star. Thespians such as the late Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, and Max von Sydow accompanied Purefoy along his character's journey, enriching the film with their contributions. 

In regard to the story, it is foremost a tale of redemption, as a scoundrel of a man, a murderer and a dishonorable sort, is forced to come to terms with the intention of Satan to claim his soul. The fear of this realization drives him into a life of uncomfortable peace as he seeks a way to save himself from everlasting damnation. He's again forced into conflict, though, when goodly Puritan folk who've offered him their care are torn apart by the evil forces of a dreaded figure known as Malachi. The plot then transitions into a quest to save an innocent, and in so doing the surrounding lands, so that Kane might be free from the evils of Hell and damnation.

 There are many "Howardian" elements which litter the plot of this film. Aside from a rugged, heroic character who's quick to the blade but yet still contemplative, there are the hyper-violent fiends with whom the hero must contend, a wicked sorcerer skilled in an ancient and dark craft, and a seemingly insurmountable challenge from beyond the common understanding of man (something typically associated with H.P. Lovecraft, who was an influence and peer of Howard). Throughout the character's journey you feel as if you're experiencing a Howard tale, for the most part. By the story's end you discover that while this wasn't based on any one Kane tale, it is pretty much a definitive "Year one" story. From the events of this movie, the Solomon Kane which fans will recognize marches forth to combat the darkness with which readers are more familiar. Only in the sequels (if any are produced) will we finally get to see Kane in familiar circumstances.

I highly recommend this to anyone who can obtain a copy. It's an entertaining ride, and well worth the time spent watching it. If you're a Howard fan, it will feel familiar. If you're a Howard purist, you might take issue with the character progression, but never fear, as I've stated it's an origin story more than anything. Basically, watch it if you enjoy pure adventure and grand stories involving the somewhat common struggle of semi-good versus ultimate evil.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Dark Knight Returns - Jim Gordon's Analogy

I wanted to write on something I noticed while revisiting The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. I immediately recognized a certain analogy which was being expressed through the words of Jim Gordon. Perhaps I'm not the first to call attention to this. Perhaps I'm mistaken. Here it goes anyway.

In the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, in the first few pages, there is a sequence in which Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon are holding a discussion over drinks. During that discussion Gordon comments on Wayne's transition from playing the "Playboy routine" of sneakily drinking ginger ale instead of champagne to actually imbibing heavily in his later years. Gordon makes mention that it fooled some but not all, implying that he was in the know.

During this sequence the reader is aware of Gordon's knowledge of Wayne's past as the Batman. The nature of Gordon's enlightenment was not made clear, but one has to wonder whether or not the commissioner put everything together himself with his own skills of detection. Perhaps the reference to his knowledge of Bruce's charade was a way of calling attention to the fact that he's always been capable of seeing through Bruce's secrets all along. This can be supported by several instances in the comics and in the animated series, especially in the episode titled "Over the Edge."

Just a thought I had to express somewhere. If you read this and would like to discuss, please leave comments on this post. Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Dark Knight Returns Animated Film Part 1 - A Fan's Reaction

I was born in the mid-80s. I was fortunate, in that period of colorful and varied culture, to grow up watching Tim Burton's Batman. I was spared the camp and the failings of past writers and creators, those who dared to show anything but respect for what I perceived to be the true heart of the Batman mythos. Instead I was baptized in a cinematic font of dark, gritty vigilante justice. I witnessed a Titan-like hero's mad, hopeful efforts clash with the insanity of one of the ultimate villains of all time in a fantasy realm with its roots embedded firmly in a past age of grandiose pulp plots. It was a massive influence upon my childhood (one which I will address in a post at a later time).

That Batman, my Batman, sprung to the screen through a grid work of studio mechanisms and Hollywood processes from inspiration rooted in a specific piece of comic book art. That comic book, or series of books, was Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, a seminal work which redefined the character and provided him with a new flavor for a growing world of evolving palates.

I didn't encounter the story until later in my life, around my mid-teens, when I was perusing around the shelves of a used book store. When I first read it I knew that I was reading something wildly different and yet so sound and acceptable in the universe of the Caped Crusader. It fit, and it blew everything away while doing so. To be honest, though, I didn't think that it was the greatest Bat-story ever told after the first reading. I was just really, really entertained. I couldn't put it down, and I revisited it again soon after I finished it. That says enough, I feel.

Last year folks like myself, and those more intensely dedicated to the graphic work that was Miller's opus, were gifted with a direct-to-DVD release of the first part of an animated adaptation of DKR. I was initially turned off at the thought of having to buy two separate discs for one story, so I didn't pick up a copy. It wasn't until a few days ago, actually, that I got an itch to purchase it. It helped that I had been recently writing for the character for my own purposes, and I'd seen both parts sitting around at a local store for a while now, taunting me. When I broke I decided to grab just the first half in order to give it a spin. I'm kicking myself now for not being more wholly invested in the completion of the tale.

I viewed it this evening, and I'm still anxiously recalling moments that blew me away. I've not been this affected by an animated feature since I first watched a Miyazaki film. My eyes widened, they winced, and they wept. It was a beautiful hour and then some of emotion and appreciation from a fan who has spent most of his life watching, reading, and role playing (on various playgrounds and with action figures) a character which has been so significant.

It's not my intent to review it. I just want to mention a few points of interest, avoid spoilers if I can, and thrill in some geek-out writing, if you'll permit me.

From the beginning I was planning to keep an eye out for similarities or differences, but I had unfortunately forgotten quite a few of the specifics from the graphic novel. Instead, after a few minutes, I resigned myself to letting this adaptation take me on its journey and to just enjoy the ride.  I was excited to see that the designers stayed true to the meaty hunk of a human being that was Bruce Wayne/Batman. The character, voiced wonderfully by Peter Weller (though, I was sad to not hear Kevin Conroy's voice), was one which hooked me immediately. It's difficult to not care about this Bruce Wayne from the moment go, in my opinion, or any version of Bruce Wayne at all, for that matter.

As the story progressed I found myself immediately reacting to the obvious 3D animation, something for which I tend to cringe. Aside from that, the story was familiar, the changes weren't incredibly obvious, especially not to a guy who hasn't read the source material in a while (though, I missed Batman's voice over at points when it would have best served the story), and the design was faithful to the vision. My most powerful reactions occurred at moments when the audience was given a glimpse inside the mind and heart of an aged Dark Knight. Perhaps the lack of voice over worked because it played like the silence before a piano solo or explosion of percussion. It's lack heightened the clarity of the emotional windows into the soul of the protagonist, our beloved hero.

If you haven't seen this film, you should. If you haven't read the source material and you call yourself a comic book fan then you've missed something along the way. Even if capes and tights are a turn off for you, you're still denying yourself exposure to a brilliant example of the power of the medium.So, readers, find this and view/read it. Soon!

I'm excited to return to the store for part two. I can barely contain my excitement. Soon I shall have it. Soon I shall see how this animated adaptation ends. I can't wait!