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Perhaps you've seen the commercials about how DC Comics has revamped their continuity to make things relevant and accessible and new reader friendly? This one explains it:


Okay, actually it doesn't really explain much of anything.

Anyway, all DC Comics were started over with new issue number ones in September. (52 of them, hence the New 52 slogan which seems kind of pointless to me.) But it's not just the numbers on the cover that have changed.

Because of some weird timey-wimey adventure called Flashpoint, fellow hero (and time-traveller) the Flash broke the existing timeline and didn't quite put it back together right. The history of DC Comics characters has been altered. For as long as I can remember, the "present day" of the "DC Universe" was about 10 to 12 years after Superman first appeared. Now it's five years. So, the heroes are a bit younger. Their clothes have changed -- a lot of them seem to be wearing collars and underwear on the outside is now a fashion faux-pas. Married heroes like Superman and the Flash have now never been married. Wheelchair-bound Oracle, the information broker formerly known as Batgirl, has been magically healed and is fighting crime in the cape and cowl again. (A huge step backwards, in my not so humble opinion.) And Batman and Green Lantern.. actually as their comics were selling, their histories apparently haven't changed that much.

Superman's history, personality and costume were radically changed. Action Comics started with a cover date of June 1938 and recently published its 900th had its numbering reset too. (A numbering which had previously withstood all previous temporal changes to Superman's history.)

I had been thinking for a while about reviewing the new issues of Action Comics and Superman. And then, Clark Kent referred to his famous alter ego as "Robin Hood with the Strength of Ten Men". That made up my mind for me.

It's not the first time that the backstory of Superman has changed. And before I get to reviewing Superman as he is now, I want to review Superman as he was.

Click here for the history of Superman )

I've said that one reason I got into Robin Hood was it was the first character where I really got a sense that myths and legends changed over time. But that's not quite true.

Even as a kid, I was well aware that Superman and Batman had changed radically over the years. I had two hardback collections Superman From Thirties to the Seventies and Batman from Thirties to the Seventies which featured reprints (mostly black-and-white) from the whole history of the characters. Also, DC often reprinted their old stories in special issues or digest collections. As a kid, I was familiar with a Clark Kent who worked for Morgan Edge (a seedier, less paternal version of Perry White) at station WGBS, but I also knew the Superman who worked at the Daily Star and the 1960s Daily Planet employee whose head turned into a giant ant thanks to Red Kryptonite. And even the Byrne revision happened when it was young enough that Superman feels like my Superman too.

Now that I have the background out of the way, I can get on with the review of the new, new, new Superman.
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I've lived in Toronto for 16 years, am a member of TIFF's year-round Cinematheque, but I've only been to a couple of Toronto International Film Festival screenings in all that time. Tonight was the first time where I actually attended a film's premiere where the filmmakers were also in attendance.

The film was Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope directed (and co-written) by Morgan Spurlock of Super-Size Me fame. It was quite simply the best documentary I've seen on fandom.

First, a few notes about the experience.

It was held at the ScotiaBank Theatre (formerly the Paramount theatre - until a different corporation bribed to have their name on the place). For those who don't know Toronto, there's a very long, steep staircase and escalator of DOOM up to the cinema level. (Which today as most days is a genuine safety hazard getting down the escalator as two people stalling at the exit can cause a massive pile-up on the still moving escalator). Anyway, the staircase alongside the escalator was lined with many CosPlayers (that would be people in costumes) and there were more up at cinema level. Some good, some not so much. A lot of Storm Troopers, Bobba and Jango Fetts, Princess Leias (Leiam?), X-wing pilots, Darth Vader, a snow-trooper, etc. But there was also a number of X-Men (red-clad Jean from X-Men 3, Wolverine, Gambit, Cyclops, etc.), Superman and Supergirl, the Bucky-version of Captain America (with the Bucky/Winter Soldier domino mask), an extremely good War Machine with glowing chest, Scarlett and Snake-Eyes from GI Joe, a Transformer (Starfire/Jetfire seemed like the closest match - at least from the original cartoon that I'm familiar with, I don't know the later generations) and a Japansese giant robot with was probably Combattler or Raydeen, definitely one of the toys used in the old 1970s Shogun Warriors line as I did recognize it. Oh, and Female Shepard from Mass Effect 2, although not being a video gamer I only know the last because she's the superb costume designer actually featured in the documentary.

Someone took a TwitPic showing some of the CosPlayer staircase:

And a TIFF photo of Morgan Spurlock on stage with various Cosplayers:

When I got into the cinema, I saw Harry Knowles - the head geek of Ain't It Cool News and co-producer on the film - in the wheelchair section. But most of the filmmakers were seated in the row directly behind me, including Stan Lee. I'm positive all my friends here know who that is, and I doubt there's anyone who will google this film review without knowing that either. The total strangers to the left and right of me both turned to me to giddy announce that Stan Lee was right behind us. A geek bonding moment. And while I didn't take his photo - I felt just the same way as those beside me who did take his picture. Sure, I might gripe that Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby deserve a bit more mainstream recognition, but Stan Lee co-created so many iconic Marvel characters like Spider-Man, it's impossible for a comics geek like me not to be starstruck. (And yes, when he got on the stage he was the classic funny and hammy Stan we all know from the interviews, a sheer delight. For example, his joking complaint about the film was that Kevin Smith had more screen time than him.)

They brought most of the CosPlayers to the front of the stage to take their well-deserved bows. And after the film was finished there was a Q&A with Morgan Spurlock, other filmmakers such as the co-writer, cinematographer, Stan Lee, etc.

It was a fun time, and my sense is that the crowd was into the film as much as I was.

So, the film....

It succeeds where I think a lot of similar films have fallen short. Documentaries like Trekkies seem like glorified freak shows. We are largely meant to laugh at the CosPlaying Dentists who tell Tasha Yar actress Denise Crosby that it's the male dentist who often dresses as her. And then there was the SpinerFemme - portrayed as a creepy stalker in training. And sure, there are fans like that. And as a geek myself, I can say we often get maybe a little over-enthusiastic (although less than quite a few sports fans I know). Even the pretty good doc Waiting for Superman falls into that trap a bit too often.

This film doesn't. Sure, there are a few facepalm worthy comments from the lead cast of characters, but we see them as human beings first and foremost, with elements beyond an obsessive devotion. The movie followed a diverse cast of characters attending the famous San Diego Comic Com. There are two people who wanted to break in as comic book artists, both shopping their portfolios around - each different in background and attitude. There are the lovers who met at the previous year's con. The boyfriend plans to pop the question at the Kevin Smith panel, and some hilarious complications ensue. There is the collector who is on the look-out for the limited edition 18-inch Galactus action figure. Oh, then there's a costume designer and her gang, hoping to win that year's masquerade with some astonishingly complex outfits. And finally, there is the dealer, a 35-year veteran of the convention from Mile High Comics. In recent years, Comic Con has become more and more dominated by film and television, and that meant his comic book business was struggling. Part of his dilemma is should he sell a very rare and precious comic to stay afloat.

Each group has a focus, a goal - which gives the film a strong narrative. It doesn't become a freakshow, because we actually care about the characters. We want to know how their stories turn out, and we root for them. Cutting between the different characters and goals keeps the film moving along at a strong pace. Also, most of the featured folks do not wear costumes, and even the masquerade contest plot ... well, the folks seem more human and less freakish than the fans in Trekkers.

The film also splices in interviews with comic creators like Stan Lee, Kevin Smith (yes, he doesn't just make movies), Joss Whedon (who does write comics, although not nearly as well as TV), Robert Kirkman, Todd Macfarlane, Grant Morrison and Frank Miller among others. Also featured are celebrity geeks such as Seth Green, Seth Rogen and Eli Roth. Oh, and quick glimpses at some other fans. (Including a few Doctor Who cosplayers -- I spotted the 11th Doctor and the Brigadier, for example.) These quick interviews provide necessary background and also very funny lines.

Overall, the editing is superb, capturing wonderful movements. So superb that part of me wonders how much was scripted. And yet still the experiences feel authentic.

It's funny and moving, and a good look at geekdom.

I started to wish they'd spent more time on the shift away from comics, and bang.. there was the guy from Mile High with that very subplot. And then I started to think, it would be nice to see the effect this had on comic creators and not just the guy selling stuff, and bang there were a few brief interviews with comic creators talking about the issue. There were three or four occasions where just as an objection was forming in my mind, the subject was addressed.

There isn't any psychological professional talking about geeks and how they think, but I don't think there needs to be. The film does a good job of showing us these people as human beings - largely likeable ones - but with enough moments in that we can speculate on our own.

If I did have a criticism it's that I don't think they spent enough time talking about the corporatization of pop culture. Sometimes fandom feels like a supposed underground movement that's actually in favour of big corporations. Perhaps a little more of the stuff discussed in books like Thomas Frank's The Conquest of Cool was needed. Then again, some of the people making the film were part of those corporations.

Still, overall the film worked. It was sincere but funny at the same time. And the stars were never demeaned in their portrayal.

I'd highly recommend it.



Here's Harry Knowles's comments on the experience, including photos of two great cosplayers - and confirmation that it was Raydeen in the Shogun Warrior costume.


Here's Spurlock talking about the companion book for the film:

And here's the website of the Costumer featured in the documentary, including her audition for the doc:
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I see this post has been sitting here half-finished for a while.

So, the surgical date appears to be this Tuesday August 16. I've been looking at some oral surgery blogs to see the fun which I'm in for.

[The entry is edited from one I started a month ago, but I've decided to leave in the musical comments anyway, even if they are less timely.]

Here's the website of my oral surgeon:


The second video is more like what I'll be having, although they might also take some out on my upper jaw to eliminate my "gummy smile". I believe they will be taking 5mm out of my upper jaw to move it up and moving my lower jaw forward 6mm. She said she'd also widen my nasal passages. Between that and the shift in my mouth, my breathing probably won't be as shallow.

Of course, I'm filled with fears. What if the surgeon's terrible and no one has bothered to tell me? And so on. Of course I'd be this way. I'm an insecure, whiny worrier.

But even if I weren't a neurotic mess generally, I think I'd be a little nervous about this.

Even if everything goes perfectly well, I'll look like a monster for a couple of weeks. Not too mention being stuffed up, tired and on a liquid diet for a few weeks and on a mush diet for a few more weeks. The recovery time is also slower for someone of my advancing years. It might be a year of more before full feeling returns to my face, and there's always a slim chance that it won't. (Although if that happens, it would likely only be a tiny patch that stays numb.)

Then again, quite a few of my friends have been through far, far worse.

Someone set up a great website about their own experience with many discussion forms.


I've found this blog / website to be reassuring though, in preparing me for what to expect and providing some reassurance that the worse will pass soon enough.

And look over the initial posts, I can see the whole idea of looking into the mirror and seeing a different face staring back affects you. I've seen a lot of people - long after the swelling has gone down - frowning on their new face when to outside observers, they clearly look better.

Wish me luck,

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So, as part of the oral surgery madness, I had to attend a sleep clinic to make sure that they didn't need a machine go *ping* during the operation, as people with my jaw structure apparently often have sleep apnea. (Alternative explanations would include graft to friends in the medical profession or a stalling tactic by the surgeon going on maternity leave.)

So, I showed up at the clinic and found I'd been assigned to the Francisco Goya room. I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with Goya, but I know his work a bit. As I'd opened the door I wondered if I'd find one of his Black Paintings across from my bed. (Particularly Saturn Devouring His Son.)


Fortunately, it was only "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters".


But still as thematically appropriate as it might be, who the hell would have that in a room where you're trying to help people sleep? WTF?

In the words of Zaphod Beeblebrox: "OK, so ten out of ten for style, but minus several million for good thinking, yeah?"

Actually, as I almost never have nightmares and feel jealous of people who do, I wish it had affected me.

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A Canadian news article on comic books:


Before I get into the issues of comic stores vs. "newsstand" distribution (from my own childhood experience that would be "variety store distribution", newsstands were always things I'd expected to see in comics rather than real life), I'd like to address something about "comic book movies".

If Iron Man and the Dark Knight are "comic book-based movies", then are Gone with the Wind, The Lord of the Rings, Jules and Jim, No Country for Old Men and Sherlock Holmes all "book-based movies"? Are It's a Wonderful Life and Stand by Me both "short-story-based movies"? Are Casablanca and Glengarry Glen Ross both "play-based movies"?

And while there have been Green Hornet comics, Green Hornet is a "radio-based movie". He's an old-time radio character from the producers of the Lone Ranger. (Green Hornet's old father had the same name as Lone Ranger's young nephew, and there were slight allusions made to the family connection. The allusions have become more ambiguous in the spin-off media as the characters were eventually taken over by separate companies.)

Green Hornet and Iron Man and Batman-ad-infinitum are superhero movies. It's not quite the same thing. After all, Constantine, Persepolis, Ghost World and A History of Violence are also "comic book-based movies".

A friend of mine justifiably mocks me when I go see some crappy superhero movies just because they are based on a comic book. And I see the attitude online that suddenly comics are important and a person's comic buying habits are justified because a movie version out. The Spirit and Watchmen comics are important, highly-influential and damn good works of art. The really bad film versions are not. Will Eisner's Spirit comics - the Citizen Kane of comics, they were called as they pioneered many techniques back in the 1940s - are not any better because there's a film version. A love of comics is not made legitimate by films.

Okay, that was a bit wordy. It was not a vodka-fueled rant, however. It was possibly a coffee-fueled one.

Comic book distribution:

I'm not sure about the young'uns who read this. I'd love to know their experiences.

When I was a kid, I did buy comics at the variety store on spinner racks that did indeed have a sign announcing "Hey, kids! Comics!" at the top. I know such stores still have a few comics for sale ... usually on the magazine shelf now, and far fewer titles than I remember seeing as a kid. That was primarily the way I got comics. Okay, my mom did buy me a subscription to Spidey Super Stories (http://www.comicvine.com/spidey-super-stories/49-2702/) and later the Fantastic Four (right around the time they encorporated Herbie the Robot from the late 1970s cartoon). But mostly, it was weekly trips to various variety stores.

When I was young, reading comics was not strange, unusual or cultish. At least, not as much as it is today.

I first discovered comic book stores in the early 1980s, I can't remember when. I think I found one to track down an issue of the X-Men I missed. I'm not sure why I continued going to the comic book shops. It was probably just the assurances that I'd find certain comics without hunting around all over the place. (Also, I think they shipped to the comics stores before the "newsstands".) And Marvel started publishing a magazine called "Marvel Age" so I knew exactly when comics would be available. I'd go on certain days because I knew Uncanny X-Men #180 (to give an issue number from around the time I started going) would be available. Comics stores also sold imported goodies like Doctor Who Monthly.

Anyway, I remember when comics started to experiment and release comics only for the comic book stores. Titles like Camelot 3000, The Dark Knight Returns (which is truly better than Miller's follow-ups) and Watchmen showed comics were growing up as they were published without the comics code. It seemed to me that comics were growing up precisely when I was. Of course, there were many, many bad comics produced. Things that were just violent for the sake of being violent. At times, it seems to me that "grown up comics" just resembles everyone else's angry adolescence.

I do think that form of comic book store distribution - not so easily backlisted by the groups triggered the existence of the comics code - helped some very good comics get published. They insured that comics would be more adolescentized than infantized.

But that did hurt the old distribution channels. Comics do seem far more cultish now than they did. People seek out scary-looking stores (most comics stores I know look less inviting that porn shops) to get comics. For the average person unwilling to enter an ugly-ass store, it seems comic book have ceased to exist. I wonder if for the masses, comics are just things that strange people buy.

And yet, I look at all the manga that fills several shelves at bookstores. When I first started going to comic book stores, that's the only place you could buy manga. The now-defunct Hamilton branch of the Silver Snail is where I bought the Robotech Art book which introduced me to the world of manga and anime beyond the few Japanese cartoons I'd seen.

It seems at some point, comics became a niche-market. And manga, which had been niche in the mid-1980s has become more mainstream. I wonder what manga publishers have done right.
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So, if this is configured right, this should appear on both LJ and DW.
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I'm trying to import everything here.
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So, the professional scumbag Fred Phelps's goon squad at the Westboro Baptist Church decided to take a break from their normal hate-filled activities such as protesting funerals of AIDS victims and instead went to picket the San Diego Comic Com -- Mecca (or Mecha) for over 100,000 geeks.

The geeks fought back with signs far funnier than anything the homophobes could come up with.


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I was playing around with the I Write Like Analyzer to get some cheap, easy and highly suspect validation.

Bask in my brilliance beneath the cut. )

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Rogers - Canada's evil mega-corp for cable and internet uses Yahoo for email. For some reason, Yahoo has decided that half of my best friend's email is spam.

The attitude of Rogers's tech support department is "we don't control Yahoo". So, apparently I'm paying rather large internet fees for them to do nothing at all. I understand better providers have these handy little whitelists which could easily avoid this problem. Not with Rogers/Yahoo.

Rogers provided me with a contact number for Yahoo. Yahoo's voicemail said they refuse to discuss any such issues. Then, Rogers suggested my friend fill in a Yahoo form as if she were a business requesting special access.

This seems an incredible amount of hassle just to allow my friend to email me as she chooses.

There may be people wondering whether they should go with Bell or Rogers. I'm posting this to let them know about a problem which would have caused me to sign up with Bell if I had known in advance.

Rogers also screwed up my cable bill last week. So, I'm not in the best mood with them at the moment.
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Well, okay, I don't think the Vatican Door actually has a sign that says that but they might as well have. It's a shame that their belated action on child sexual abuse has to be tainted by this crap.

Perhaps it's a message designed to appeal to any Anglicans upset by the ordination of women bishops. "Give me your bigoted, your sexist/ Your oppressive masses yearning to breathe free".

Mind you, I'm not sure that slapping 50% of the population in the face is the best way to increase attendance.

They can and should do better.
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I saw a couple of excellent shows at the Toronto Fringe Festival last night.

New Talent
Written and Directed by Brian Morton

It's a look at the underside of Hamilton (as a Hamilton native, I'm not actually sure what the overside of the city is). Although more than a little of the show is exposition, Brian gives each of three characters distinct voices, and all are superbly brought to life by the cast.


Remaining Performances:
Fri, July 9 9:45 PM - 1058
Sat, July 10 11:00 PM - 1066
Sun, July 11 4:30 PM - 1069

The Plank
by Femmes du Feu

A two-woman aerial dance act to a pirate theme. Well-chosen music, superbly choreographed moves and wonderful facial expression that gave it a mythic feel at times. Thanks to my pirate-obsessed friend for mentioning it.


Remaining Performances:
Fri, July 9 2:15 PM - 1054
Sat, July 10 5:15 PM - 1063
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I figure with our government spending gobs of cash on this event, we should be exploiting the tourism potential.

1) Canada: We gave FDR polio. What disease will your leader get?

2) Canada: If our Fake Lakes are this good, imagine what our real ones are like!

3) Toronto: Where our trees are deadly weapons.

4) Canada: We're not just for socialists any more

5) Toronto: We may be a ghost town, but we've got cool protesters.

6) Come to Toronto ... if you miss that police state back home.
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That's what the internet buzz is saying.

So, one simple question for the students of pop culture (and of hat-wearing bowmen): WTF?

Or more precisely, what the f**K is DC thinking?

With pictures of this train wreck:

And a few descriptions of the awfulness:

(Read the Rise and Fall section for a summary.)

The "writer" of this will be also writing the new Green Arrow relaunch where Green Arrow is now a killer, been outlawed and hides out in the new forest which has magically appeared in the middle of his hometown. I had considered looking into how Robin Hoody this new take is (a bit on the nose, it sounds) but after reading about Arsenal, I doubt it.

Oh, and here's a cover of issue 3 of the new Green Arrow comic.

I don't feel any fan ownership of these characters. I know that Green Arrow, Roy Harper, Batman, etc. exist purely as corporate creations and the company can do what they'd like with them. It just strikes me as a really bizarre choice to publish a comic like this. I can't see how it will help them in the marketplace.

This is probably why I feel the same self-conscious sense of guilt and shame in entering a comic book shop as I probably would feel upon entering an adult-only video store. (Not that I know first hand, but I suspect porn shops have more appealing layouts and less creepy staff.)

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I see that a Robin Hood Conference is coming to Rochester, NY.


It looks like they have a very full programme. Not just in conference papers, but a multi-media extravaganza. There's a display of books, stills and even Douglas Fairbanks's boots. Musical entertainment with performances from various Robin Hood operettas and a lute concert. And silent films with live musical accompaniment - including the rarely seen 1912 version of Robin Hood. The other is the 1922 Dogulas Fairbanks in Robin Hood, with a newly re-created score to be played by a live orchestra.

I'm amazed by how much stuff they've crammed into what some would think would be a dusty academic conference. I imagine the organizers of this must have put in a lot of long hours and had many hair-tearing moments.

So, I thought I'd say thanks in advance. And V & T can expect me to buy them a drink in appreciation.

I guess that whole impartial pretense went right out the window there.
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(Of course, the geek in me feels compelled to point out that this is a picture of Lt. Leslie from "Obsession". And while this recurring redshirt may appear dead in that episode, he turns up alive in several later episodes. Oh, and on redshirt trivia, the only semi-subtle reference in the "hey, look at me! I'm clever and making references!" TV show Babylon 5 is that their security chief was named Garibaldi.)

Your results:
You are An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Jean-Luc Picard
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Geordi LaForge
Deanna Troi
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Scott
Beverly Crusher
Will Riker
Mr. Sulu
Since your accomplishments are seldom noticed,
and you are rarely thought of, you are expendable.
That doesn't mean your job isn't important but if you
were in Star Trek you would be killed off in the first
episode you appeared in.

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character are you?" quiz...

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Heather Has Two Mommies - a book for children - has been deemed too adult and had its Sales Ranking removed. But the Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds is not an adult book and has a Sales Ranking.

Books like A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality by Joseph Nicolosi and Linda Ames Nicolosi have kept their sales ranking. Books like The Lesbian and Gay Parenting Handbook: Creating and Raising Our Families by April Martin have lost their sales ranking. Neither has Mein Kampf.

I can't even begin to describe how much this pisses me off. Not just as a writer. Not just as someone who has taken several library courses. Not just as someone who has gay friends and family members. It offends me as a human being.

If Amazon.com doesn't recant immediately, I will break away from the referral program on my website and sign with their competitors instead.


P.S.: Oh, John Barrowman's autobiography has also had its rank pulled.

P.P.S.: Amazon.com Spokespeople have claimed that this is a "glitch". Sure it is.
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Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re are sick, evil Malvolios not fit to run a hot dog stand let alone a major world religion that is supposed to provide comfort to millions.

Mother and daughter went through terrible experiences, and as a topper the church says "ta da, you're now cut off from one of your few sources of solace and are damned to hell."


P.S.: I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the Catholic Church thinks child sexual abuse isn't a big deal, but the sheer inhumanity still pisses me off.
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The you in this case being most people who will read this.

It's just incredibly hard for me to admit that I have completely wasted the last decade or so of my life, and the more I try to face that, the scarier it becomes.



Dec. 18th, 2008 07:46 pm
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Feels like it's been ages since I've said anything about myself on here. Some of that has been holding stuff inside. I've been in retreat mode for ages, and in some ways, I'm always in retreat mode.

Someone very dear to me once cited my insecurity, my timidness as a reason to like me, a strength. And I don't think it is. (I suspect that person's opinion has probably been revised now .. I'm actually too timid to find out.) I'd say my tendency to run and hide, to not actually articulate what I want (leading to a place where I don't know even know what I want) is my greatest weakness. Pretty much every stupid thing I do comes from that. Comes from an eagerness to please.

I think about Ricky Gervais's two TV characters. David Brent from the Office wants to be liked -- it's his primary goal. And he's a monstrous person. On the other hand, his Andy Millman from Extras is far more openly sarcastic and confident, and yet he's a more likeable person.

All of which is vague and whiny, and none of this is as frankly honest, interesting and soulful as what my friend Diresquirrel wrote in his blog recently.

Oh well, I guess that's because my creative side has been channelled into thinking about tournaments, necklaces, carts, manacles and vassals.

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