Can You Believe They Let me be a Father?

A few weeks back, while my daughter was at scout camp, she broke her elbow.

Let me rephrase that: About a month ago, while my daughter was with a group of friends in the woods, about an hour away from me, she fell down a hill and had a catastrophic injury.

The first phrasing is the succinct and accurate version of what happened. The second is what went through my mind the second I listened to the voicemail from one of the adults on the camping trip with the scouts as he told me they were considering taking my child to the hospital.

Look, I’m not a great parent, alright. I love my kids, and I try to do what I can to keep them happy and healthy and safe, but the reality is that I not only have no clue what I’m doing with regards to parenting, but I’m still prone to making all sorts of terrible decisions about my own life, much less am I capable of knowing how to make decisions for the three little ones who are in my care.

At the time that I received the phone call, I immediately wanted to overreact. After talking to the counselor as well as the medical staff at the camp, I actually started underreacting because everyone was pretty sure she had just had a relatively minor injury that they couldn’t get the swelling to stop on for some reason.

So, because I had plenty I needed to get done that day at work, I allowed my wife to go to be with our child while I sat at home and went through my daily business. I was definitely nervous about what had happened to my child, but at the same time, I tend to be the person who prefers to expect the best situation until I hear differently.

When the news came back that she had broken her elbow, all I wanted to do was to get her home and hold her and comfort her and try to figure out what way we could get through this injury with the least impact on her incredibly busy summer. Instead, she pleaded with my wife to let her go back and finish her week of camp. I didn’t get to see my daughter until four days later. And that whole week I was concerned for what she was going to look like coming back home.

Because we learned that not only did she break her elbow, but she was going to need surgery to put her elbow back together.

But when she got home, she was far more interested in talking about how this was going to impact her upcoming week at a different camp than she was about the surgery itself.

While I know that a part of this was due to her concerns about the surgery and how she wanted to avoid thinking about it, I also know that this was the truth. She was hurt, but wanted to look strong because she didn’t want anyone to know she was hurting.

It has now been over six weeks and she has finally been allowed to get out of her immobilization and I can’t help but be proud of how amazing she has been throughout this whole process. She didn’t allow her injury to stop her from doing anything she has wanted to do (although she’s definitely used it to get out of plenty of things she didn’t want to do). In fact, the only real impact it had on her summer is that she couldn’t swim.

And she did get to go to her second week of camp, even if we decided to delay it a couple weeks to make sure she didn’t have any complications from the surgery. But that didn’t stop me from spending that whole week worrying that she was going to break her other elbow…

The Actor I didn’t Realize I’d Miss

Ed Asner died this past week and although I’ve never really considered him an important part of my life or even an actor whose name I bring up in conversations about actors, or even someone whose breadth of work I think about outside of when I actually see him on the screen, his death has been sitting incredibly heavy with me.

A few tears welled up the other night when he appeared on an episode of Grace and Frankie and I thought about how I wouldn’t get to be surprised by his cameos like this any longer. And then this morning, while watching a new series for Disney+ called Dug Days, where he reprised his role of Karl Frederickson from Up, I started to realized that it was probably this precise character who had caused this unexpected level of care about the passing of a man I didn’t know much about outside of having him grace my television screen for my entire life.

Up, a film about an old man struggling with the death of his wife and trying to figure out how to continue his life without her in it, came out in 2009, just a few months before my wife and I welcomed our daughter into this world. But a year before that, we had also been waiting for a child. A child we would never get to meet.

Up opens with a notoriously emotional montage which shows the life of Karl and his wife, Ellie, from the moment they meet all the way until her death. And during one poignant moment in this brief glimpse of their lives together, we see them excitedly prepare for the arrival of their own little one, only for a second later for us to find out they lost the child before they ever got to meet it.

It’s safe to say I felt a certain kinship with Karl at that point in the movie, even outside of how his his characterization as a kid was geeky and awkward who then meets this spunky, full-of-life girl who turns his life upside down. But this moment, it has stuck with me. Up is one of my favorite films of all times, but every time I watch this exact moment in the movie where we see these two animated characters express all the emotions possible about the loss of a child, I get choked up.

And I think that although I’ve long held an appreciation for Ed Asner as an actor, all the way back to my young days watching reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, this moment in a movie that came out twelve years ago is the reason that I’ve been so hung up on a man’s death who I didn’t ever consider as meaning much to me.

This probably also explains why every time he shows up in a show or movie when I don’t expect him, I nudge my wife and excitedly cheer, “Ed!”, because I think that even though Karl was an animated version of this man who has been a part of so many amazing stories, I still connected far more with the man behind the character than the character itself. The man who make this character real.

And so although I watched Dug Days this morning being thoroughly amused by the spectacle that is a talking dog trying to deal with interacting with the world, I also watched it thinking about how much a man meant to me without me being the slightest bit aware until after his death.

Also, in working on this post, I took a minute to skim through Ed’s IMDB page. For a 91-year old, this guy was incredibly prolific. He has 8 different projects in different levels of post-production alone, outside of his 406 acting credits they have listed to his name. Which also doesn’t include all of the stage work he has done over the years. Like, even outside of my feelings about Karl, this guy was an amazingly hard working actor.

Colonel Hannibal Ain’t Got Nuthin’ on My Wife

Last week I let you all in on the little secret that I turned 40. You should feel special in being some of the few I readily reveal this type of information to. I’m not one to often like people knowing how I’m aging, but you made it into the small cabal of people in the know.

My wife, on the other hand, wants everyone to know.

But even more importantly, she wanted to make this birthday something special.

And she tried really dang hard to do so.

Originally, for the week of my birthday, she had set it up where we would all (kids included) take a trip down to the southern tip of Florida. We were going to spend a couple days in the Everglades searching out crocodiles and then head down to the Keys where we would explore cool places like the Dry Tortugas while also feasting on Cuban sandwiches and key lime pie.

Florida’s dedication to helping this plague infect everyone meant we had to decide rather last minute to cancel our trip. We simply couldn’t justify taking our two unvaccinated kids into the land of the Delta Variant, not to mention how this new model of COVID doesn’t care if you’re vaccinated and we didn’t want to return home as little windbags of disease who could pass it on to all our loved ones.

But that didn’t stop her. She came up with a jam-packed week of activities. A week which ended up involving heavy rainfall, which was trouble for our new week of outdoor activities.

But even that didn’t keep my wife from pushing forward. We started the week out by camping for a couple nights in the Chequamegon National Forest, with a little side trip onto the beautiful Madeline Island where we had a relaxing 10 mile family bike ride along the coast, just enjoying the isolation this island in the middle of the Gitchegumee. The kids absolutely adore camping outside and were actually almost cool about sitting in the boat and fishing for a few hours. Actually, the only thing that was a downer about the whole thing is that I’ve now determined my back is absolutely incapable of sleeping on the ground. Even right now, a whole week after we came back from camping, I’m still struggling with an ancient back screaming at me for daring to sleep anywhere except the finest mattresses mankind has made.

We were supposed to spend our Tuesday at a petting zoo/animal rehabilitation center about an hour and a half north of us. But, since it was raining, this was transitioned into a day at the bowling alley. Fun was had by all…well, except my shoulder, who was a little mad at me that I could possibly imagine rolling balls across the floor.

Wednesday was packed with all sorts of administration stuff, so we actually took it easy that day, which was good. My old body needed a nap.

Thursday: the weather forecast was terrible for where we had planned on going (Valleyfair, an amusement park just outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota), but a whole lot better for the petting zoo we had to cancel a few days earlier, so we made it to Faun-Doe-Rosa in St. Croix Falls. And I petted all the animals. And I had completely forgotten to take my antihistamines, so we had to stop at a gas station on the way home and get some Benadryl, and I spent the rest of the day feeling doped up. But, amazingly, my back didn’t bother me. Or at least I didn’t notice it over the pain of my bulging eyeballs…because that’s an appropriate way for my body to react to petting a bunny for the first time in 20 years, right?

Friday, then, ended up being another day of recovery for this man who was suddenly realizing all of his weaknesses at once. But we did get in a few amazing games of Settlers of Catan, a game only recently added to our collection, but is quickly becoming our most-played game in our inventory. I also managed to get most of the way through Super Mario 3D World while laying on the couch to convince my back to love me again.

Saturday was also a bit more low key, but we decided to head out to Big Falls for a little swimming and exploring. The dog has been needing a good long walk, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to do that. Of course, we didn’t think to check to see if the bacteria levels were safe before leaving. They weren’t. Not that this mattered, because all the rain we’ve been getting for the past week meant the river that passes over these falls were a raging torrent that would have been far more impactful than the bacteria on the livelihood of me and my family.

But Sunday, my wife came up with her final biggest hurrah. The Brewers were playing the Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis. None of us had been to a Major League Baseball game before, so this sounded like an amazing opportunity. And it was. I also happen to know Sue the Organist, as she’s the mom of a friend from high school, so we got to chat her up a bit before the game. But also…as this was a mid-day game, and our seats were nice and close to the field, we were sitting directly in the sun. And for the first time all week, I didn’t have to feel like the ancient one, as my kids moaned and groaned for respite from the blazing orb in the sky while I eagerly watched the battle for the Midwest happen on the field in front of me.

My wife worked hard to put together a special week for me, and I think she thinks she failed. Partially because it turns out that I might have actually managed to get old at some point in these last 40 years. But regardless of the bodily pains I’m struggling with, I think the five of us all had a pretty spectacular week. And I think we’re all going to expect something even better for 41…

Millions of Peaches

I live in Wisconsin, but I grew up in South Carolina. It’s also where my parents and sisters and their families all live. South Carolina is the 2nd largest producer of peaches in the country (Georgia is 3rd…California stole 1st from South Carolina a while back). Wisconsin is somewhere around the 50th.

A few years back, my wife realized there was a great opportunity available for people who would be willing to load up a car with all the peaches and drive it to Wisconsin for profit.

Last year, during the pandemic, me and my kids decided to do exactly that. Only, we decided that the profits would all go to charity. Last year, the money went to help the people in Minneapolis who had been displaced due to the riots following the murder of George Floyd.

This year, partially due to the overwhelming numbers of people in Wisconsin asking if we were doing it again, I made the trip by myself, coming back to Wisconsin with over 40 cases of peaches a mere three days after I left the state to pick them up.

And this year we raised $1,400 for a group that provides blankets, food, and whatever they can to the homeless people here in Eau Claire. And, my favorite part of their program, is that they actually go out to the places where the homeless folks are, under bridges, in the local caves, and wherever else, and bring the supplies to them, making sure on the freezing Wisconsin winter nights that these people aren’t dying.

They’re awesome. And we used a carload of peaches to help them do even more awesome.

Learning about people doing awesome stuff like this just makes me want to find even more ways to do awesome things. Right now we spend so much time focused on how terrible we perceive everyone else to be. I’ve found myself in that position countless times, even though I like to think of myself as an empathetic person.

And trying to do awesome things doesn’t make me suddenly able to ignore the injustices in the world. But I do like knowing that I’m in some way a cog in the machine which might somehow makes things better.

And I wish I had more of a point to this post than what appears to be simply bragging about how I gave myself a little road trip and found a way to use it for some good, but I don’t, because I’ve said all the other stuff before. I guess I’m just hoping that maybe I can inspire more of you to find little ways to improve the world around you. Because it’s a whole lot easier to see how terrible our world is if you know you’ve done something to try to make it better, no matter how small.

Battling Demons

I wish I was here to talk about something like playing Diablo II when I would just spend hours and hours working my way through dungeons as I try to get strong enough to defeat the actual devil…but no, I’m talking about the much less excited emotional demons.

I’m guessing we all have them. I know that everyone in my circles do. And especially when we’re in a period of mass confusion about the future, those demons can get stronger and stronger and sometimes it can feel impossibly difficult to find out how to get out from under them.

For a long time, I used to rely on my friends and family to help me with my demons, but when something like a pandemic rolls around and actually manages to separate you from your friends and family…well, those demons just find even more ways to get stronger.

I have plenty of demons. I have demons that tell me that no one likes me. I have demons that tell me I’ll never succeed in achieving my goals. I have demons who tell me how terrible of a parent/husband/friend/brother/son I am. I have demons who tell me I’m simply not doing enough. I have demons who tell me I should just up and quit everything I’m doing and hide in a ball in my basement until the second coming of Christ.

I have demons.

And they’re pretty damned terrible. (You see what I did there? Damned? Demons? No? My kids don’t like my jokes either…)

For years I tried to figure out how to silence my demons. For a while I medicated to try and silence my demons. I’ve even tried flat out ignoring my demons, but I’ve recently come to the realization that these demons simply don’t want to go anywhere.

And that really struck me hard.

Because, well, these demons kinda suck. I mean, how in the world can you ever do something when your brain tells you how much you suck at doing it the entire time you’re doing it. While I’m writing this article, my brain is telling me how much this is a pointless article and that I’ve used the word demon too many times already and I should just give up.

But that little devil (see, I found a different word there, you stupid demon!) isn’t just my insecurities stepping out into the light to let me know that I should never try anything. It’s also a part of my brain letting me know how I could be doing what I do better.

For a long time I allowed these little impish thoughts to control me, and because of that, I’ve pulled away from a lot of relationships and activities and numerous other things simply because I didn’t see myself as being good enough to be a part of any of it. It wasn’t until recently when I realized that I was viewing these inner critics the wrong way. Sure, I could see them as telling me where I had already failed or was going to fail. Or, I could see them as telling me how I could be doing better.

I’ve always been so darn ready to fail at everything I do that the second someone tells me how I’m doing something wrong, I’m immediately ready to believe them that I’ve failed, even if that someone is just me. But maybe I’m doing this demon thing wrong. Maybe they’re aren’t demons. Maybe they’re just little internal coaches trying to cheer me on by telling me I’m going the wrong way to get to the finish line and I should try this other thing. Maybe what I’m taking as being put down is really just helpful advice.

Maybe my demons aren’t demons at all.

Maybe I shouldn’t battle them. Maybe I should listen to them, take their advice, and somehow improve because of it. Maybe they’re not telling me I’m not good enough, maybe they’re trying to let me know what ways I could be doing things better.

And maybe I’m just so ready to fail at everything that I haven’t actually been listening to them at all.

Demons suck. I’ve allowed them to put me into the most depressive of bouts, causing me to think I don’t deserve anything good. As of late, I’ve been trying to put those demons to work. I’ve been listening to their critiques and forcing them to be more specific so I can use them to move forward.

They still suck, but they’ve ended up being a lot more helpful with that slight reframing of their message.

Procrasti…Hold up, lemme check Facebook for a second

This post comes to you thanks to me sitting down to write a post, but then spending an hour doing all the different things on my computer to avoid writing a post.

What is the deal with procrastination?

I doubt anyone really questions why it exists. You have something you have to do which takes more effort than you’re willing to put in at the moment, so you look around to see if there is anything else you can do, which in some cases might be that you just sit around and absolutely nothing instead.

It makes a lot of sense when you’re procrastinating things that you’d really rather not be doing. I love procrastinating on cleaning the house. I absolutely adore procrastinating on getting out of bed in the morning. And I don’t know if there is anything better than procrastinating on making dinner long enough that you finally have to just order in.

But what about on the things that you actually kinda do want to do, like, for me, writing.

Writers, in general, appear really good at procrastinating. I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me that they’d like to write a book, but just can’t take the time to do it. Whether it’s our hobby or we’re getting paid for it, writers flock to methods for distraction nearly every time they sit down to write. This is why George RR Martin writes on an old PC that isn’t even able to connect to the internet. No distractions allowed!

But, considering how much passion it takes to do any sort of legitimate writing, it really feels more than a little ridiculous that any writer should have this struggle. Writing takes time. A lot of time. If you’re going to write a book, you have to really want to write a book. And if you’re going to complete it, you have to really like the story you’re putting together. You have to believe it is amazing. Writer’s need to be passionate about their craft. Some might even consider it obsessive.

So how is it, then, that they can also be some of the best procrastinators out there?

I haven’t heard Stephen King talk directly about procrastination, but I do know that he has to set a word goal for himself for each day so that he makes sure to get the bare minimum writing done every day.

Stephen King, one of the world’s most prolific authors (no, Patterson doesn’t count because he doesn’t write his own books), has to set a daily quota for himself because, presumably, if he didn’t, he wouldn’t get there.

I’ve long struggled with procrastination for myself and my own writing. And I’ve long struggled with questioning why this is the case. I absolutely love writing. And when I actually manage to have a day where I sit back and just write for hours and hours, I come out of it feeling both exhausted and fulfilled. Yet, one could even consider the decreased output of my past few years as yet another example of how much I procrastinate.

And I think I’ve come up with the reason why, at least for myself.

While writing may be personally fulfilling, it’s not easy to do. Those personal rewards you receive from creating any piece of art simply aren’t as large as having someone else appreciate what you’ve built. And with every single thing I write, I find myself questioning whether or not it’s something people will ever be able to appreciate. Because, deep down, even though I am incredibly proud of the stuff I write and impress myself with it regularly, I just don’t think it’s good enough. I don’t think I’m good enough.

Writing, like any art, is an extension of the artist. And for the art to be rejected or even simply ignored, can cause the artist to feel similarly rejected or ignored. And that’s scary.

Which means I procrastinate, and I suspect that many authors/artists procrastinate, because they are afraid that by putting themselves out there, they will be found wanting.

And that’s a really hard thing to face.

Which means I’m not procrastinating on my writing, I’m procrastinating on finding out if people love me.

I mean, it’s either that or that I’m just too darn tired to be passionate about finishing up this book about an old man holding a revolution in the Northwoods.

One of the two…

This is 40

Hey folks, it finally happened. I finally crossed the point of no return.

The hill…

As of today, I have officially made it over the crest of the hill and have begun the fast descent down it. I guess with that metaphor, it should at least mean things are a whole lot easier from here on out, right?

If I’m being honest here, I had always seen the one possibly good thing about making it for this long on the planet is that I assumed you would finally achieve some level of guru-level enlightenment on what this whole thing called life is all about.

Like, what is happiness? For as long as I can remember, the only thing I really wanted out of life was to be happy. This was probably one of the earliest indicators of my struggles with depression, but regardless, I never considered fame and fortune important for my life. I just wanted to be happy.

And am I?

I definitely have plenty of happy moments, but life is a struggle, right? Even for those of us who have been blessed enough with a relatively comfortable existence, the human brain just wants us to continue to believe that something is amiss, that something could be better, that the grass is greener on the other side of the hill. And now that I’m on the other side of the hill…well, look, grass is a heckuva lot of work.

I’ve got bald patches all throughout my grass that I can’t seem to correct. And discoloration. And weeds. A heckuva lot of weeds.

And since I’m now stuck on this grass metaphor…my neighbor’s grass is gorgeous, but I also know he puts all sorts of chemicals all over it and I’ve seen him and his wife both mowing the same yard at the same time just a few hours after their hired guns came through and did the work. Their grass is fake. It’s the smiles in a Christmas card. Sure, I want it, but I’m also not entirely sure his grass is real.

My grass is definitely real. I know, because I watch it manage to grow everywhere except where I want it to. There’s grass all over the cracks in my driveway and in my garden beds, and there’s even some that manages to grow in the dirt on my deck from time to time. But, the big dead patch the dog likes to run through, no grass…

Similarly, my happiness is, well, it’s pretty good. It’s enough where I think people can see my happiness, just like people can see my grass. And it’s real. I don’t want to hide reality from you guys, because I love you. And the true story is that happiness is an emotion, not a place to be. You can’t live forever in happiness, no matter how awesome that might seem, because happiness is, in many ways, the absence of unhappiness.

So yeah, I’m happy.

And I’m forty.

And my grass might not be the greenest, but it’s still there.

And this metaphor was really all over the place. I guess the real thing I should be concerned about now that I’ve made it this long is that dementia is a very real threat in my blood line…

Bare Arms against Imperialism

Okay, I’m going to make things simple for you…get vaccinated.

The end.

Not enough? Sheesh, really?

Look, vaccines have been saving us from all of the most deadly and dangerous diseases for nearly forever now. They are awesome. They are a miracle of medical science. And they are, by all accounts, the only way we are ever going to get back to some sort of normal around here.

And yet here you are thinking, well, but I’ll be alright without the vaccine.

You know what? Yeah, maybe you will. You could get it, maybe get quite ill, and from what I’ve heard, explode out of your backend for a week or so, and then pop back up with some minor issues going forward. And thanks to the awesomeness of medical science (that same medical science you’re ignoring when it comes to the vaccine), you more than likely won’t die.

But that doesn’t stop you from being a little virus factory.

You do realize that, right? These viruses, they love hopping from human to human, growing their numbers, maybe mutating a little bit to be stronger, before hopping into the next body. This is how they work. They want to live and they thrive in our little unvaccinated bodies. They thrive so much that they can then finally become strong enough to hope into someone else’s body while our body finally realizes there’s a problem and starts to fight it off.

But you know what the vaccine does? It tells our body to watch out for this virus. It says, hey, if you see this stuff come around here, kick it out and kick it out quickly. Is it possible you’ll still get sick while being vaccinated? Yes. It’s possible your body just didn’t get enough training from the vaccine to know how to identify this stuff, or the virus mutated enough in someone else’s body that your body just doesn’t recognize it as being the thing it’s watching out for.

But the point is, in most cases, your body becomes a little bug zapper for the virus. Some sick person sneezes on you and the virus comes in your body thinking it’s got a nice new home to move into and start a family with five million little children (because viruses are Catholic), but since you’re vaccinated, your body kills it before it can unpack the coffee maker.

You become stronger, whereas if your body has to wait until it realizes the dangers of the virus on its own (because you’re unvaccinated and you haven’t taught your bodies the dangers of this particular virus), your body literally becomes weaker.

And when you’re stronger and able to fight off the virus, there’s simply less virus to go around. And the more of us who are stronger and able to fight off the virus, the less likely that virus is going to even get strong enough in our bodies to be passed off to other people.

And when the virus can’t be passed off onto other people, we win.

The vaccine is like a gun and the virus is like the British royalty. We have been given the right to bear arms to keep the royalty from taking quarter in our homes. So freaking use them. Bare your arm and get the shot and defeat the imperialist virus already.

Because I’m getting really freaking sick of having to cancel vacation plans simply because we’re still in the same place we were a year ago, after being so dang close to actually beating this thing.

Get vaccinated, and when necessary, wear a mask.

Defeat Viral Imperialism by Baring Arms.

Then end.

Film Review: The Suicide Squad (When the Squad gets More Suicidal)

I’m going to start out this review by saying that I don’t even know how to tell you about James Gunn’s reboot/sequel of the ill-received 2016 Suicide Squad film. While spoilers in film are nigh impossible to avoid, for some reason this film actually managed to do an amazing job of keeping us in the dark about what was going to happen. Like, there are so many brilliant things about this movie that I want to talk about, while caring about not giving you spoilers, that I simply can’t understand how my news feeds didn’t spoil it all immediately upon release of the film.

So, yeah, I’m going to avoid talking about anything that you can’t already have found out about in the trailers for the film. If you’re one of those people who avoid trailers because of how many spoilers end up in those things, the last thing you should read here is that this is a fun film which will surprise you time and again and cause you to question whether things actually happened right up until the end. It’s a magnificent piece of comic book cinema, even if comic book cinema is getting a little overdone.

So, first things first. The trailers showcased time and again my absolute favorite thing about this movie, that the villain of this film is an enormous sentient/telepathic starfish from space named Starro. Starro has long been one of my favorite comic book villains because he’s just so dang ridiculous while also being legitimately one of the scariest villains out there. I mean, this character has mind-controlled Superman, folks. There is honestly nothing this alien sea creature isn’t capable of doing because all he has to do is to send along his little one-eyed starfish spores to infect the people who can do it for him. If you are only reading this review to find out if you should watch the movie, read no further. Starro is done in spectacular fashion in this movie and that should be reason enough to see the movie.

Oh, and it’s bloody as heck. But with practical effects. Although this film has numerous CGI characters, it’s obvious that Gunn used practical effects whenever possible and that makes a world of difference. We don’t have an end battle where the good guy and the bad guy are in a CGI nothing-verse battling each other while also both obviously being completely CGI. It’s so refreshing to see end battles happen in a place where people inhabit with backgrounds and stuff, as opposed to them somehow ending up in some other realm (even if they’re not actually in some other realm) and suddenly being transformed into a computer generated version of themselves as they battle across the nothingverse.

Look, this film isn’t perfect. I actually came out of watching it simply thinking it was okay, but nothing special. However, the more I think about it as I’ve been separated from that first viewing, the more I realize just how much there is to love about it. Honestly, if I had watched this movie in the theater, with a hundred other people all reacting to the film in the same way I had been, things would have been a lot different than me silently enjoying it so I didn’t wake up my wife.

This movie should be the type of movie all comic book films aspire to. There are surprises at every turn. There are witty lines, but they don’t resort to using them to avoid tragic moments. The characters actually get to be emotional. It’s funny, it’s gory, it’s action-packed, but even more than that, we actually get actual character arcs, where we see people who are sad about something and get resolution of some sort for that sadness, or characters who are struggling to find their place in the world find that place.

And for a movie with an anthropomorphic shark who speaks primarily in 1-2 word sentences, that’s saying a whole heckuva lot.

Look, it’s another superhero movie, and like the director of this film, I’m finding myself getting more and more bored with them. But this is a superhero movie that could actually give us a roadmap for future superhero movies so that we don’t end up with just a bunch more movies like Black Widow which feel like they’re just changing the character names while keeping the exact same script they’ve been using for the last decade.

It’s not the best superhero movie, but it just might inspire the person to make the best superhero movie.

Maybe…

Or…we’ll get more tragic Draxes who lose their entire family to Thanos, choosing to spend their time questioning the Why of Gamora and showcasing their invisibility skills instead of avenging the deaths of those they loved most. Sure, it’s funny, but hardly a satisfying story arc for a character we’ve grown to love.

But when you can make an irredeemable murderer into a redeemable father figure, all while an enormous starfish is turning an entire city into zombies, well…we might be getting somewhere when it comes to turning comic books into cinema.

And don’t even get me started on Polka Dot Man…I could write an entire post about how much this character means to me.

Empathy vs. Apathy

Those of you out there who know me at all are probably aware that I consider myself politically apathetic. I use that phrase a lot as a way of defining myself although it’s not entirely accurate. But I use it because I feel it does the best job of describing how I don’t subscribe to a particular side of political discourse.

But the reality is that I’m not apathetic toward actual political discussions. If you want to discuss the merits of increasing the minimum wage in this country, I will energetically describe how much I am for anyone who is working in this country to get a living wage. No, I don’t think that we should decide that people working 40+ hours a week at a fast food restaurant are any less deserving of enough money to live on simply because there might be better jobs for them out there.

I’m actually quite empathetic toward most political concepts. That’s probably my entire political belief system: empathy. I’m empathetic toward those who have been trodden on and deserve better. I’m empathetic toward those who are struggling just to survive, even if they are in that struggle because of poor decisions they have made or even if they are continuing to make them. My political belief structure is that we, as a country, have failed the impoverished and can and should do better.

What I am apathetic towards is how we talk about politics. So rarely do we discuss what can actually be done to “make America great again”, instead we talk far more about how much this person sucks or how this other person is not as sucky as that person. Sure, sometimes our discourse about which person is less sucky does bring us down the road of talking about actual subjects, but so often the way we end up talking about them is to repeat the words of one of those sucky people we’ve chosen to subscribe to.

When I say I’m apathetic, I’m telling you that I’m apathetic towards politicians or parties, not toward the actual things we need to do to make this country better.

I’m not Republican, I’m not Democrat. I’m not pro-Trump or pro-Biden. I’m not even a liberal or a conservative. I’m anti-label when it comes to my politics. Because all a label does is put you in a bucket where people have already decided what all your beliefs are and why you believe them. And I don’t think my thoughts on how our country should be run are quite as simple as that.

Heck, I don’t even care about the economics of our country. Sure, I would hate for us to be in a place where me and my family are forced to go to the bread lines because we’ve ended up in the midst of another Great Depression, but the reality is, so many Americans are already at that point, I’m not sure any of us are any more deserving of a comfortable life simply because we’ve made better financial decisions or were born into a family which has provided us a better backing for our financial future. In the event that someone were to decide to put me in a high office in this country, I would not promise riches for anyone. If I’m being completely honest, I think we’re far too focused on being rich in this country than just making sure people are able to get access to food.

I don’t care about money. In fact, I’m terrible at money. But I do care about people, and when someone brings up a political discussion with me, my focus is always on how it impacts those who are already being beaten down.

Don’t tell me your fears about how socialized medicine will make us more communist, because all I see is that we have a massively exclusionary health care system which refuses care to those who need it most. Our country has some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, and we’re paying the most for our drugs, even though our country also subsidizes those drug companies. Not to mention that a great portion of the world’s most developed countries have instituted socialized healthcare and are still doing pretty darn well for themselves.

Our country has the richest people in the world, who make their fortunes off the backs of people whom we have declared don’t deserve to be paid a living wage. You’re telling me people like Jeff Bezos can afford to send himself into space, but if he were to pay his workers fairly his company would die? He’s going into space while people are starving on the streets.

Heck, speaking of people starving on the streets, it turns out our country has been more than capable of using our school systems as the infrastructure to provide foods for all of the kids in our country, but we simply refused to do it until a global pandemic forced us to.

We spend so much time being concerned about the people on the bottom of our economic pile being able to abuse the system that we are absolutely willing to ignore the people who require these welfare systems to live. We’re so worried about the idea that we’re going to be paying for the health care of our most impoverished that we’re absolutely willing to ignore that there are people who are being refused service at our hospitals because they couldn’t afford to pay their $20 insurance premium. We are so concerned that these people who are using our welfare systems have smart phones while not being able to pay for their families to live, while completely ignoring how quickly someone can go from making just enough money to survive and afford little nice things for themselves to being at a point where their family is on the street.

Why in the world are we so damned concerned about the specifics of the people who are downtrodden in our country when so many of us live so comfortably? Sure, I may not be blasting off into space anytime soon, but I can afford a smart phone and my health insurance with a little bit left over for fun things, while there are growing numbers of people in my city forced to live on the streets because of rising housing and food and healthcare costs. I’m incredibly lucky to live the life I live, as are many of you. What have we done that makes us deserve the basics necessities of life any more than anyone else?

And bringing us back to the point of the article: I don’t believe there is a person in power in government right now who actually cares to fix these problems. And that is why I’m politically apathetic. I don’t care about the political discourse of it, I just want to stop watching people die on our streets because we’re too busy battling about whether it’s fiscally responsible to keep them from dying and whether they actually deserve it or not. No one deserves to die of starvation while in the land of plenty. No one deserves to be rejected basic health care in the land of amazing medical science. No one deserves to have to work more than one fulltime job just to be able to have shelter and food simply because it could decrease the stock price of a megacorporation.

Our country has been blessed by so much and I can’t help but see so many of us think we somehow deserve it while others are simply undeserving.

No one deserves to starve to death.

No one deserves to freeze to death because they are homeless.

Our country has so much. Why are we okay with people being forced to struggle to even stay alive?

This is my political stance. And it’s not just localized. I think we can do so much on a global scale to reduce and/or prevent food and housing and healthcare insecurities. And I think we should.

I think, as humans, it is our requirement to care about our fellow humans, regardless of the decisions they may have made in their lives to get them there. And I honestly don’t believe there is a single politician in this country who is more concerned about our fellow humans than they are about making sure they are getting enough votes to continue their jobs.

And that is why I’m apathetic.