Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

RIP Stan Lee

November 17, 2018

I was rocked when I heard that Stan Lee died four days ago on November 12, 2018. I had to spend a bit of time getting my thoughts together so that I could do this right. I could not let a great man pass without saying a little something. So here are the thoughts that have passed through my head in the past few days.

I was a huge fan of comic books growing up. I loved them so much that I walked three miles to a comic book store and blew my allowance on a small stack of them. I bought both Marvel and DC (while some of my friends preferred Image). However, when I read them, I did not often think about who was making them. All I thought about was who was selling them and how I could get them. So I really did not know who Stan Lee was. I would have been impressed had I known his name because he created a lot of the characters I liked and was one of the godfathers of the modern age of comics that I enjoyed so much. Little did I know but he was a fixture on the letters page at the back of most comics but I usually skipped that while I grabbed another story to absorb. When I got a bit older, I started to read those pages and learned about Stan’s infamous No-Prize. It was the prize he (and the Marvel editors) gave out to fans who spotted continuity errors in Marvel comic book fans. A little fun smartassery pointed toward the nitpickier side of fandom. It was also a reminder that comics are just supposed to be fun and not taken so seriously.

However, the first time I really started to become aware of Stan Lee was watching a little VHS called Pryde of the X-Men. It was an animated television pilot released in 1989 (a magic year for me) for an X-Men cartoon show that never materialized. I thought it was awesome but it only spawned the one double episode pilot and the famous X-Men arcade game. (Fun Fact: Wolverine was given an Australian accent in the pilot which is a bit eerie now). I remember well how Stan narrated that first episode. That was the first time that I heard him use the phrase “true believer” and it really resonated with me. As somebody with a vivid imagination and a strong suspension of disbelief, that was a great description of what I am. He brought me right into the story and his voice could barely contain the excitement he had for the story that was about to unfold. Of course, 1989 Stan Lee probably had no idea how many shows and movies would feature he and his friends’ creations. He had to have been excited to see the X-Men clash with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in animated form.

So, years after Pryde of the X-Men, in the 1990s, I started to become more aware of authorship as I started to create my own worlds in my head and on the page. I became more curious about behind the scenes of comic books. I bought books to try and learn how to draw them but I just never took to visual art as much as the written word. I ended up collaborating with my friends on comic books since one of my best friends could draw and loved to do so. As I said, I started to look at the letters page. I also started to look at who was drawing the comics I liked and who was writing them. I started to look for them at the stores like I looked for directors and movie stars at the Blockbuster Video. As I got older, I became better at picking comics that I really liked, not just what was hot at the moment. As a result, I became a bigger fan of comics creators. When I saw interviews with a lot of these creators, they mentioned Stan Lee as their inspiration. He was the grandfather. He was one of the sources on high. He and Jack Kirby practically created Marvel with their own blood, sweat, and tears.

Now, the first time I saw Stan Lee was when I watched the movie Mallrats made by Kevin Smith. In the movie, he has his first live-action cameo, giving advice to a lovelorn and desperate comic book fan. In that cameo, he describes the characters he created being a reflection of what he felt inside at the time, a mirror to his emotions. Of course, later he did cameos in live action movies of his properties. One of the first cameos was actually my favorite since it was so pure. He appeared in Spider-Man (2002) as a man in the crowd. In a scene where Spider-Man is fighting against Green Goblin, he saves a little girl from being crushed by debris. The man who became famous for writing heroes finally got to act out being a hero. It was such a great moment to see a writer get to actually be in his own work. This sparked a chain of cameos in live-action movies leading more casual fans to lean over in theaters and ask “who is that?” which allowed fans to explain and spread his legend.

Of course, getting to be a hero in the movie was probably a thrill but Stan did not just write heroes, he was a hero. It is obvious from the outpouring of grief and respect following his death that he touched so many lives. He was one of many who inspired me at a young age to not only read but to write as well. His affable nature made comic books more accessible and fun, knowing that the people who made them did not take themselves too seriously. His legacy will continue and it is as unlikely that he will be forgotten as Shakespeare, Stephen King, or Jim Henson will be forgotten. He left an indelible mark on history and fiction that will stand as a monument to him. He also left marks on the psyches of those who consumed his stories and carried them in their hearts. Count me among them. He lived to the ripe old age of 95 so I will not see Stan Lee cameos and feel sad. I will smile and remember what he gave me and what he gave the world.

Walking

September 12, 2016

So I have been walking a lot more lately. I have lived in the same place for a long time now but I never walked around that much. I could probably count on one hand how many times I went on a walk starting at my front door. If I was going to walk, I would waste time before a movie in the parking lot in Columbia or go to the gym. After this, I’m not sure I can go back to walking on a treadmill after spending the last week and change walking around. It started with walking around Druid Hill Park because it’s so close but I have started to take different paths through my little corner of Baltimore City. Of course, the impetus of this walking is Pokemon Go but I also want to see something new every day. Sometimes it’s seeing a herd of deer within a few feet of me and sometimes it’s finding something in a corner I never thought existed.

I walked up the hill and started to take a path that I had taken a long time ago. I remember walking it with my mother when she lived in the area. I knew that the path went to the Baltimore Zoo eventually and I had taken it that far once with her. I decided to take a different fork in the path and ended up deep in the woods. Of course, the path was still paved so it was hard to worry too much. In the middle of Baltimore you really don’t have to worry too much about dangerous animals. The worst I’ve seen are foxes and rats the size of small dogs. People are nice in this area too. Everybody just wants to go about their business and the majority of them are jogging or walking their dogs. What I stumbled on was a lane in the woods called Three Sisters. I could not help but think of Macbeth as I stopped to rest and battle a gym.

On another day, I turned down a different path. I was looking at all the paths laid out on the Pokemon Go display and I saw an awesome circular pathway that had a ton of pokestops on it. I headed in that direction and instead of finding my destination, I found a fence. I tried to walk around the fence but too late I realized I had found the backend of the Zoo. There was no way I was getting in that way and there was no way that I would ever jump a fence at my age. Not that I couldn’t but unless you’re a kid, breaking the law like that is never going to end well. So I kept walking down the Mountain Pass even though there are no mountains in Baltimore. I did not expect the road to get so steep. By the end of it, my calves were screaming. I still got home alive, though.

Of course, one of the nicest places to walk that isn’t in the middle of the woods is Clipper Mill.  A lot of my walks include some part of it either as a jumping off point or a cool down period.  The streets are flat as hell and easy to walk down.  Everybody is friendly and everything is sunny and I just feel good walking through that little neighborhood.  I’ve always found it interesting too.  Long before I was born, the mill burned down and left only shells of buildings.  When I moved into the area they were just starting to rehabilitate the area except they didn’t tear it down.  They left most of the buildings up and just made sure they were safe.  The place is clean but it is designed to look like reclaimed architecture.  The industrial became residential.  I love the feeling of walking through the future that is made from the past.  It’s a great area.

fire-memorial

Finally, yesterday I went down a road I have only gone down once but it was when I was tired  and in a car so I could not pay attention.  So, I decided to pick that specific path to go down.  It runs particularly close to the light rail tracks so it pays to  be wary where you walk.  The first thing I noticed was how run down the building I was walking next to was.  It looked like people had thrown rocks through a lot of the windows and nobody had fixed them.  Ah, Charm City.  That is not what interested me most.  Instead, I started to stumble on graffiti.  See, when I was in high school, I was friends people who tagged and some of them were real artists.  Sure it may be illegal but it is a form of human expression and it often doesn’t really hurt anyone and I think I can back that.  The stuff I found yesterday was cool.  It was almost cute.  I’ll leave it here for you to check out and make your own decisions.

At this rate, I will probably keep walking.  It is more fun than the gym and I feel like I am having an adventure.  Of course, I am catching a lot of interesting Pokemon but I am starting to see the world around me.  I get restless in my apartment and going to class does not always fix that.  So, I will see what’s out there and maybe get a little healthier in the process.

A Brief Olympic Commentary

August 15, 2016

Everybody is big on the Olympics lately. I myself have watched some of the events because the Olympics can be a little inescapable, especially when my mother is so excited about them. I have enjoyed watching Gymnastics events, Diving, Volleyball and Football. I loved watching the US Women’s soccer team fight it out in the trenches. I loved watching Simone Biles winning along with Aly Raisman and just enjoying each other’s victory. I even loved the Williams sisters getting smoked in the first round because it meant a passing of the torch. I also loved Fu Yuanhui’s surprise at having won a medal and not knowing because of less than stellar eyesight. There have been a lot of great moments so far.

To a certain extent, I have also enjoyed watching Swimming. I especially enjoyed Simone Manuel’s genuine reaction to winning her gold medal and her comments afterward. However, there is a lot of stuff that has surrounded the sport of swimming that has annoyed me. Most of them surround one name because, unfortunately, when you discuss Olympic swimming you must eventually talk about Michael Phelps. While many might assume that because I am a proud Baltimorean that I would support Phelps. Not automatically true. As we learned with Brock Turner, being good at swimming does not guarantee that you are a good person. While I don’t actively hate him, I have come to resent several stories that have surrounded him.

First up in the Phelps round up is the stupid Chad Le Clos story. I did not see the first airing of the incident that launched a million memes. However, it was interpreted that Le Clos was messing with Phelps and Phelps was glaring at him in return. A few minutes of research told a different story. The two guys have had an off and on friendship and constant rivalry since Phelps’ return to the sport following his “dark period”. Le Clos has lashed out at Phelps a little but only in the way most athletes trash talk their opponents. Why Le Clos was jiggling in front of Phelps, we may never truly know. It looked like he was trying to be funny and Phelps was trying to concentrate and not get distracted. What we do know is that Phelps has said that after the Olympics he is visiting Le Clos in South Africa for shark cage swimming. This was such a non-story that it was kind of ridiculous.

<img src=”https://queerty-prodweb.s3.amazonaws.com/content/docs/2016/08/09033344/michael-phelps-670×377.jpg&#8221; alt=”Maybe he was just trying not to laugh?”>

However, that annoyance pales in comparison to the stupidity that I really want to discuss. Let us talk of cupping. Cupping is an ancient Chinese “therapy” that leaves Phelps and other gullible athletes looking like they lost a wrestling match with a squid. It is the act of lighting fires in cups pressed to a person’s skin. The fire causes a vacuum to be formed in the cup and skin to be sucked up into the cup. This causes the characteristic circular bruising and, on some people, also causes the skin to be burnt. The Chinese said that cupping promotes the flow of chi. Now, Chi is supposed to be energy flowing through the body but that energy has never been observed by science. When cupping took off in the Western world, they dropped the word chi and replaced it with blood. However, cupping does not promote blood flow. By bruising you, it actually disrupts blood flow by damaging blood vessels.

<img src=”http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/files/2016/08/MichaelPhelpscupping.jpg&#8221; alt=”Losing a fight to a squid would be more acceptable.”>

Somebody believing in pseudoscience is something that is regrettable and should be cured by proper scientific education. However, people look up to these athletes. They assume that since these people are amazing physical specimens with athletic skill, that they know stuff about the human body. This is not necessarily true. This problem is compounded by the media who tries for a “balanced” look at things. Instead of looking for the truth, they present both sides of the debate equally which gives undue credibility to the pseudoscience. The problem here is shortcuts. Everybody loves finding shortcuts and there is certain manic pride in finding one and sharing it with others. This also applies when you think you have found a shortcut that isn’t one. These people think that because this “therapy” has existed for thousands of years, that it is a shortcut to enhancing their bodies. Instead, they are damaging their body and they just look foolish.

So, while you’re watching the Olympics this year, remember to think for yourself. Remember to do your research before you spread myths and rumors. Enjoy the awesome moments because those are way more fun than the manufactured ones. Also, choose your heroes wisely because some of them might be really gullible.


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