Archive for April, 2010

8:14 (22)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2010 by darryl zero

I’ve found myself suffering from a criminal lack-of-motivation over the past few days, maybe because I completely burnt myself out following my epic Kick-Ass review, but more likely because I’ve been trying hard not to think about anything. I’m speaking a lot more Spanish than normal these past few days, and my brain is usually a few times more tired at the end of the day than normal.

There was something beautiful that I saw this morning, one of those stupid, boring things I only care about when I’m trying to have one of those Ricky Fitts-esque moments in which I try to make sense of the macrocosm by way of the microcosm. Actually, fuck Alan Ball; I came up with that shit way before American Beauty made it cool to be introspective and weird, and I didn’t even need military-grade pot.

Good lord, it hasn’t even been four minutes? I already know how this is going to go.

I hate the first month or so after the NFL draft, because it means the only things on the air have to do with baseball and golf, two of the most boring fucking sports known to man unless you’re actually there. Actually, that’s not entirely true–baseball is fun as hell to listen to on the radio–but I often find myself avoiding games on the radio out of spite because it’s not football.

I have no clue what’s going to happen when hockey and basketball season ends. God, that’s hard to think about.

Speaking of sports, I happened to be walking across a donation table at work when a copy of Jim McMahon’s autobiography was sitting there in like-new condition. To say I jumped for joy is to understate the nature of my absolute nerdiness for the Chicago Bears. I took it home, of course, and am halfheartedly reading it, which is about the amount of heart McMahon applied toward writing it. Still, it’s entertaining.

I hope my upstairs neighbors don’t pull some annoying shit. I’m in no mood to kill and eat anyone tonight. Maybe last night, but today’s been a long day.

I miss Darius suddenly for some reason.

Time’s up.

8:14 (21)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2010 by darryl zero

Jamarcus Russell will soon be released from the roster of the Oakland Raiders (if he hasn’t already), and, if he receives the final three million dollars of guaranteed money from the contract he signed as a rookie in 2007, he will have “earned” thirty million dollars. I say “earned” because, not only has he set new standards for embarrassment and ineffectiveness on the football field, but not once has he expressed any apparent care to rectify or change this.

I watch situations like Russell’s unfold, and it drives me to the point of apoplexy. Not, contrary to what you might think, because I’m jealous or angry at Russell for sucking. I was a huge fan of his when he came into the league, and a staunch apologist during those first couple seasons when he didn’t manage to put anything resembling a decent offense together. And while it’s definitely true that, of all recent number-one draft pick quarterbacks, Russell has had the most ineffective, shitty supporting cast, including a wide receiving corps and offensive line that makes even that of my beloved Chicago Bears seem stellar by comparison, absolutely no aspect of his behavior suggests any attempt to establish a sense of leadership or accountability.

I wish I could have gotten ten million dollars a year for fucking up my life the way Idid after graduating from college. Oh, wait–he didn’t even graduate.

Niggas like Russell make it harder for people like, well, the guy who’s going to replace him in Oakland, the long-suffering Jason Campbell.

Time’s up.

The Failure of “Kick-Ass.” HERE BE SPOILERS

Posted in film, nerdiness on April 26, 2010 by darryl zero

“The first time I ogled myself in the bedroom mirror I realized how far off the mark the comic books had been. It didn’t take a trauma to make you wear a mask. It didn’t take your parents getting shot…or cosmic rays or a power ring… Just the perfect combination of loneliness and despair.” –Kick-Ass, issue #1, page 16.

I know, what with my notorious penchant for vocally skewering cinematic adaptations of comic books, I often tend to come across as something of a knee-jerk contrarian that hates everything that doesn’t match his exact memory of the characters and stories he loves. To the people who think that of me, who dismiss my criticism as simply angry fanboy nonsense, I can only offer the following in the way of explanation or reply:

Eat Many Dicks. Or, if you prefer the longer form:

In my epic Watchmen evisceration, I frequently mention comic book-based films that deviate from established literary canon, yet still remain awesome. While a comprehensive list of said films would take far longer to compose than I care to spend writing right now, one need look no further than my love of the first two Blade films as proof that my pissiness with comic-based films isn’t because I’m a meticulous proponent of literal adaptation–IT’S BECAUSE I AM, BY TRAINING, A FUCKING LITERARY CRITIC. Those who think I care too much, apply too high a qualitative standard, or just plain over-think these things should remember that my education leaves me not only qualified, but FUCKING NATURALLY INCLINED to critically examine language-based art. I suggest those people think of this any time they find themselves harshly judging something they’re trained to analyze.

With all that established, I now offer the following analysis of the cinematic misstep that is Kick-Ass.

I admit to beginning the film optimistically; the actors (especially Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass and Chloë Moretz as Hit Girl) clearly throw themselves into their performances, and have so much fun that it makes it all at least a worthwhile spectacle. Even Nic Cage, the cast’s weakest link, provides enough laughs in his far-too-much screen time to distract from how annoying his acting is. Furthermore, the direction is equally solid; Matthew Vaughn coaxes the most from each performer (except Cage, clearly using his star power as an excuse to relentlesly chew scenery). Hell, even the script begins strongly, trimming some of the comic’s excesses and moving along tightly while still developing the characters.

The film begins to lose me when it clearly features the Chris D’Amico character; while I initially let it slide, thinking it wouldn’t be too much of a big deal, the screenwriters subsequently go out of their way to develop the character, presumably in an effort to make him more sympathetic. In fact, I know the efforts had that intended effect, because the ending of the film makes Chris’s fate the culmination of a plot-long (if not lifelong) journey. Problem being, not only do we never see any reason to feel sorry for Chris, but we also see every reason to hate the manipulative, whining, unrepentantly homicidal little bastard. He seems to value human life as much as his father does (which isn’t very much), and only really expresses any concern for another human being when he halfheartedly asks his father’s henchmen not to kill Kick-Ass. Big Daddy’s origin is explored more in-depth than it is in the comic, as well, and clearly for the purpose of making him more sympathetic. By the time the plot really kicks in, we’re looking at four main characters (including Hit Girl) and two prominently-featured secondary ones, with a few more (including Big Daddy’s former commanding officer, played by Xander Berkeley in what amounts to little more than a cameo) thrown in for good measure.

Really, though, all of that is small potatoes compared to where the film fails me the most. The source of that failure is two changes to the story from the original source material. In the comic, Big Daddy is an accountant who, rather than allow his daughter to live a normal, boring life, kidnaps her, concocts a story about being wronged by the mafia and moves from place-to-place, selling a crate of rare comic books on ebay to fund their exploits. They’re well-funded, but definitely a small-fry outfit. This reveal serves as part of the climax of the story in the comic. In the film, Big Daddy is who he says he is–a disgraced former cop targeted by the film’s main villain, and seemingly possesses an unlimited supply of military-grade firearms. Also in the comic, Dave doesn’t directly reveal to Katie that he’s Kick-Ass until the end of the story (he does shout it at her window earlier). She interprets this as a sign of mental illness, rejects him, and starts dating this black dude who’s a classmate of theirs. In the film, Dave tells Katie he’s Kick-Ass, she embraces it, and they begin dating.

It’s the second change that kills the film completely, particularly when Dave, via his internal monologue, mentions that being with Katie gives him something to live for. The whole purpose of the comic, and seemingly the point of the first half of the film, is that existence is almost entirely arbitrary, and that one doesn’t need to have any higher purpose to do what they do. The film goes out of its way to reinforce the arbitrary nature of Dave’s transition into Kick-Ass; giving Dave reason to be who and what he is not only completely erases the story up to that point, it cheapens what could have been (and, in the comic, originally was) a profound statement on the potential of humanity to achieve through sheer force of will. I was able to accept the changes to Big Daddy’s character–I didn’t like them, but was willing to accept the fact that American audiences might be a bit put off by the depiction of a sociopathic lunatic endangering his daughter in an ultimately meaningless crusade–but, when coupled with the changes to Dave’s character, both moves seem stupid and heavy-handed. The plot gets correspondingly stupid, involving a jet-pack outfitted with gatling guns and a bazooka, possibly marking the first time a story was changed between comic and film to something significantly less realistic, but even that bullshit can’t distract from the real disappointment: that the filmmakers didn’t have the balls to present characters whose sole motivation was their choice to be who they are. Not even the enjoyable performance of Mark Strong as mob kingpin Frank D’Amico is able to salvage the second half of the film from being a jumbled, incoherent macho wet-dream.

I wouldn’t be so irked about all of that, had they not tried so hard to capture the essence of the comic book during the first half of the film, making Dave the same kind of everydude he is in the comic. That was the Kick-Ass film I appreciated, and came damn close to loving. In the end, though, the film takes a completely nonsensical turn, and becomes the same kind of predictable story it initially lampoons. While I’ll stop short of proclaiming Kick-Ass to be the kind of unforgivable cinematic childhood-raping that Watchmen was, it still is an unfortunate dumbing-down of a fucking amazing character study–not unlike the last cinematic adaptation of a Mark Millar comic, Wanted.

8:14 (20)

Posted in nerdiness on April 26, 2010 by darryl zero

A recent article posted to my facebook page by one of my wonderful protegées asks a question I’ve been wondering as of late because of posts by a former English teacher at my high school. The article itself focuses on the actions taken by the Tea Party dumbasses and asks how they’d be perceived if the racial roles were reversed. The question isn’t exactly a new one (shit–I’ve been saying shit like this would happen if Obama were elected back when I believed in my heart of hearts that he wasn’t going to be), but the idea came to my mind during subsequent conversations with said protegée.

The notion of “equality” in this country has always been interesting, touchy, and somewhat laughable. The United States of America has long tried to ride out its reputation as a free, accepting land of opportunity and liberty, etc. etc. and all that cal. And, for the most part, they’ve been able to maintain the illusion–albeit through a great deal of asterisk-adding (I know I’m still kinda edgy on the whole “three-fifths of a human being for representation reasons” bullshit). There’s a bit more to this idea I’m going to skip over, simply to get to my point: if the people who really dictated the direction of the world truly wanted equality of acceptance and opportunity, they know they’d essentially be abdicating their position of authority in the global arena.

The Eurocentric power hegemony is on a decline. White people have exhausted the natural resources of their homelands, and have long been riding their ability to exploit those of less technologically-advanced societies. Moreover, as those societies have either grown sufficiently in population to become a political or military threat or caught up technologically to the white power structure, the weaknesses of the European and American system of thought and action have been thoroughly exposed.

[Time’s up, but I’m going to continue with the thought:] Let’s be real: White people control the zeitgeist, and a small number of white people at that. By allowing the über-rich minority to retain their illusion of power, largely though the invention of an arbitrary system (capitalism) designed to create a hierarchy of classes placated by varying levels of illusory luxury, the majority of western civilizations have created a decaying center that cannot sustain itself. By exploiting the natural resources of Africa and outsourcing the production of goods to Asia, the white power structure has facilitated its own decline; the best goods are no longer made by western nations, nor (it can be argued) are the best minds and ideas. Essentially, by creating a system in which somebody has to be on top, white people have dug their own hole, because nobody can be on top forever. Nature finds a way.

Which brings me back to my original point: those in power in this country are scared to death of people being treated as equals, or assessed based on their merits, because their continued dominance depends upon people being looked upon as dollar signs, rather than according to their potential benefit to the people around them. That’s the truth behind bullshit like the recent legislation in Arizona, or Tea Party nonsense: it’s people trying desperately to cling to the old idea of the “American Dream” of white, upper-class, heterosexual male dominance.

8:14 (19)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 by darryl zero

I truly, profoundly wish I had the spine or lack of consideration for humanity to kill all the people I encounter who deserve it. I think about this startlingly often, usually when I’m driving my school bus and some dumbass changes lanes ten feet in front of me without signaling in order to speed up to 20 mph over the limit, passing a cop who’s pulled over someone for going four mph over the limit because they were late for work.

For the longest time, I actually labored under the idealistically liberal notion that all human life is sacred, and that it was in my best interest to serve humanity to do my part toward elevating the quality of life of my fellow humans. While it should surprise few to hear that I began to think differently upon beginning to work with children, the truth actually revealed itself right around the first time I got honked at by some dumbass on the road for daring to obey the law and stop at a railroad crossing: most people aren’t worth the carbon they’re printed upon.

So what, you say–misanthropy is hardly new or innovative ground, especially for a blog post–what’s so shocking about that? Nothing, I suppose–but I occupy extensive periods of time thinking about how murdering massive groups of people would truly benefit society, if not simply my world. I long to have the balls to commit mass murder in the same way others long to win the lottery, and the main thing that keeps me from losing my shit is the fact that, every day, no less than sixty preschoolers shout my name, hoping I’ll turn in their direction and say hi.

Time’s up.

8:14 (18)

Posted in emo on April 20, 2010 by darryl zero

I didn’t want to do this as an eight-fourteen, but…

…I’m worried I might ruffle a few feathers with this next statement, but I’ve always found the idea of strippers as “sex workers” to be somewhat…confusing.

Have I lost you, yet?

To put it another way: I’ve always considered stripping to be as akin to sex as Guitar Hero is to actually playing an instrument: I suppose there’s some odd theoretical basis for connection, but the reality of both is too divergent for me to draw to much of one. I know there are people out there who look at strip clubs as some place for sexual (or pseudo-sexual) release, but, for someone as thoroughly saturated/jaded by internet porn as myself, it takes a lot for me to get into “sex” mode at a strip club.

Back up–

Okay, I strike out with the ladies. I know that might be hard to believe for some, but a Black man who can recite Robocop word-for-fucking-word but can’t hit a twenty-foot jumper ain’t exactly reelin’ the pussy in, knaamean? Trust me, no woman ever wanted a piece of me until I started growing my hair out. True fucking story. I could come up with a trillion different reasons why, but that would a) take up a completely different blog post, and b) distract you from the main point: I look upon every woman I meet as completely and inescapably unattainable, because they are for the most part.

I think Chris Rock had it right when he spoke of a “stripper myth;” but, whereas his joke essentially posits the myth is one perpetuated by those who dance naked for money, I’d counter that the real “stripper myth” is one more dependent upon those who patronize them. In short: the real stripper myth is “this woman is, in some way, attainable for me.” [time’s up, but I’m going to continue:] And, let’s be honest for a second, ladies: the penis-bearing are all too eager to buy into that kind of myth, almost invariably to a fault, and we usually don’t need you to be naked for it, either. Yeah, sure, I suppose a lot of strippers are more than willing to either play to or exploit that myth, but to blame women for its existence is to buy into that same kind of weird nonsense that suggests stripping is intrinsically demeaning and degrading.

If you’re like me, and pretty much think no woman is completely out-of-reach, the sexual component of being in a strip club gets very thoroughly muted. It doesn’t go away, mind you–I’m still a male, stupid and myopic though it may make me–but that aspect of my consciousness usually takes a backseat to something else. I pretty much look at strippers the same way I look at musicians, or professional athletes, or artists, filmmakers, etc. in that they’re artists and craftspeople, and I have the good fortune to live in a town that caters to said art and craft. I’m often fascinated by those who are able to perform creatively, but the general illusion of attainability is not one that particularly titillates me.

What gets me is a completely different kind of illusion–one of…well, it’s hard for me to describe. “Insouciance” comes to mind, but that’s not necessarily what I mean–nonchalance is par for the course for me when it comes to my interactions with women, so it’s generally easy for me to spot affected interest. The illusion of connection is far more attractive to me–a woman that shares my interests, the more esoteric the better, and is capable of tweaking that part of my consciousness that likes to feel…a sense of belonging, I guess, is usually the dancer that will interest me the most. The illusion of sincerity is another one that always gets me–one that’s a very, very delicate one to balance, and really, really hard to project onstage. Really, that’s the kind of thing I look for anywhere, not just a strip club–I’m a junkie for human contact, whether it’s in the grocery store or elsewhere–context doesn’t matter. But “connecting with” and “attaining” something are completely different things. At the end of the day/night, an illusion is simply an illusion, much like a painting is a painting, a comic book is a comic book, a piece of music is simply a piece of music, an athletic accomplishment is simply an exhibition of physical and artistic skill I most likely do not possess, and so on, and so forth.

This isn’t necessarily the way I look at things all the time, mind you. Some times, a beautiful woman is a beautiful woman is a beautiful woman, and that’s about where it ends. I usually find dancers like that in places I don’t frequent, though (although, interestingly, the two strippers I’ve dated in my life both worked in such places)–those bars usually cater to those whose attitudes toward strippers are almost exclusively prurient (occasionally to an alarming degree). But, when I do head to a strip club with an impersonal mindset, I get bored pretty quickly–I need something other than nudity to keep me intrigued. My attitude has always been: if I want to look at a naked woman I have no chance in the world of ever fucking, I have the internet. A gorgeous woman that loves comics and has good taste in music? The conversations I’m sure to have would make up for her complete unattainability.

I’m not being as articulate (or clear) as I’d hoped, but I’ve got one last thought here: when I brought a friend from Iowa to a Portland strip club, she later remarked in surprise that “the dancers at [the bar] were so happy for strippers.” I thought the comment kind of funny, until I realized that she’s used to a completely different kind of market–Portland truly is cool in that strippers at least have the opportunity to be “real people,” even if it’s not their “real” selves. It’s just that which makes strippers both really fucking cool and almost entirely divorced from any aspect of my sexual being. I’ve been really, really into a few strippers in this town before–but in a way that more directly connects to my “public” self–“Darryl Zero” to those of you who see me in some contexts–which is, in it’s own way, just as much of an illusion as anything else. Maybe that’s why I love strip clubs so much–I’ve got my own character, one that has a lot of the “real” me in it, but augmented and amplified in ways that both ground me and completely disconnect me from those around me. It’d be a big leap to suggest that implies a kinship between myself and those I see onstage, but…maybe that’s my stripper myth.

Does that make me weird?

bad poetry.

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 by darryl zero

I have no idea where it’s from, but I found this on the back of a Bibo Juice flyer advertising Açai, placing it sometime between 1999 and 2001.

“Empty Page Blues – I Wasn’t, Really”

We used to do it like this–
elliptical whispers jotted in blood on whatever scraps we found nearby
pressed with the same urgency that pulls trysts together in hallways and elevators
and groomed as haphazardly as a child going to church;
each phrase was remarkable, every word a moment of perfection,
a momentary relief from the clumsiness and affected propriety of the “real” world.
but now we prefer the same stuffy precision we hated our ancestors for
perhaps to punish ourselves for daring to think electric
thereby killing every last drop of the mystery juice that made us gods,
making us as dead as we used to pretend we were.
I saw the greatest minds of my generation
fucked by the idea that they were great
and the worst minds ascend to acclaim and award
and, tragically enough, i let it happen, preferring the pain to the unknown.
we used to do it like this
pressed to the counter and sloppy,
fast and too hard to be proper,
heedless of the power we really had.