David Shields’ The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead

 

Author photo of David Shields, 2012.

© 2016 davidshields.com, all rights reserved

I was first introduced to David Shields by my Creative Writing professor Laurie Uttich. He recently attended the Master Artists-in-Residence, a program provided by the Atlantic Center for the Arts. I did not have the pleasure of going, but had Mr. Shields as a guest-speaker during one Spring semester lecture and I have to say, he is relaxed when it comes to speaking. He tackles topics of controversy, such as social stigmas in Jeff, One Lonely Guy and untold traumas in That Thing You Do With Your Mouth, treating them with direct language while offering simple resolutions. Shields’ works are comprised of what he calls a literary collage, a collection of personal selections in the form of emails, exchanges between people and friends and the like, coupled with background knowledge on the subjects he discovers more about.

He enjoys working with the taboo, taking the unspoken and private matters and making them public and establishing a point of interest. During the lecture he shared a quote from Immanuel Kant, borrowed by Isaiah Berlin (I forget whom he attributed it to), and it was, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” David Shields’ goal as a writer is to find trauma’s answer; what is the root of it all and how do we treat it? Most of his books are their own answers dealing with their own traumas, but what better realization to have than the one that affects us all: mortality.

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With every life comes the inevitability of death, and in accepting as much, no one harbors on death, but instead embarks on life. David Shields charts life with his experimental autobiography and biography by giving his account of his enduring ninety-seven-year-old father’s life along with that of his own. The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead explores what it means to be mortal and where it leads. Through his remarkable fact-checking, Shields is able to connect both his and his father’s lives to meticulous accuracy and accordance to scientific research on aging. The moments of memoir in his book should also be noted for their journalistic approach. Considering his father is not always forthcoming with his feelings or personal history, he manages to ease his father’s stories out of him with his father’s rich but short-lived dialogue. Most of the dialogue is enough to serve as supplement for immersion into his father’s life and the quotations, in great numbers, he picks and pulls from history is much appreciated insight.

Shields’ book is divided into four sections of life: Infancy and Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood and Middle Age, and Old Age and Death. To start, Infancy and Childhood offers early development statistics, proving a rapid beginning of life. For example, “Babies are born with brains 25 percent of adult size… by age Ⅰ, the brain is 75 percent of adult size.” His father’s knowledge is then matched by the scientific fact from his teachings in the Midrash where a baby enters the world with clenched fists to show inheritance and where on the day the baby leaves this world his or her hands are open showing nothing has been received (6-7). Shields recounts his father’s near-death collision with the Long Island Rail Road. Being saved that day brought life to Shields and in turn made it possible for him to experience the birth of his own child.

Facts establish Shields’ expository on the subject of aging and dying between his experience and his father’s, showing an uncanny resemblance to each other through these short pieces of memoir. Dialogue in the large format of famous quotations are also rendered applicable to the direct dialogue of Shields’ friends and family. A quote from a friend’s daughter about being a frog becomes a call to observe that in each person is this “animal,” this body to claim. Shields is careful to provide his own understanding as well: “We are all thrillingly different animals… The body—in its movement from swaddling to casket—can tell us everything we can possibly know about everything” (23-26). From Adolescence, there is the newfound attention and curiosity of one’s self one wants to explore and, with great surprise, discover. Shields’ definition of self is through the body which “has no meanings. We bring meanings to it” (74). The human condition is blatantly described as the body, out-in-front and unashamedly aware of its mortality, and in turn, its immortal inclinations.

Further in Adulthood and Middle Age, the watershed moment of aging, one does not have to like the first sign of becoming an elder. One can however embrace a better feeling of it by being rapt with the body one’s given rather than reprimand the limitations setting in. Instead of settling at the age of 56, Shields’ father with the love of baseball pitches to his son and his friends with an unnerving strength (97). On the other hand, sometimes limitations are made. The alcoholism F. Scott Fitzgerald suffered for example, may have been further provoked by his low white blood cell count: “Beginning at 40, your white blood cells, which fight cancer and infectious diseases, have a lowered capacity… F. Scott Fitzgerald, who died at 44, wrote in his notebook, ‘Drunk at 20, wrecked at 30, dead at 40’[1] (96). Midlife crises do not have to be tragedies, they can be triumphs. According to Shields, the body is a temporary vessel in that the “survival instinct and the reproductive instinct are opposed” (125). Survival is due in large part to reproduction and without it, survival is at half-mast (127-128). Shields’ father in his 80s challenges this reproduction-equals-survival mentality with his own attempt at love: “‘Lady, it’s high time to get on with the rest of your life, whether it’s with me or anybody else’… I told her that I needed and wanted the love and warmth of a good and fulfilled relationship…” (133-134). His father believes life does not stop for reproduction or after it; life keeps moving forward. What keeps Shields’ inner animal or sense of body going is one of his many “hoop dreams” where he finds his “animal joy” or love of life most from playing basketball (135).

Lastly in Old Age and Death, much of what was gained gradually in youth has now reached its same peak, only this time at the decrepit level. For instance, the “brain of a 90-year-old is the same size as that of a 3-year-old” and sadly, Shields’ father is not able to combat this faculty (143). All is not lost in old age for the reason that most accomplishments vicarious and small are worth the effort of living. His father’s love of sports gave him direction in his life (216). Aging was not so much the concern as was the business of living (186). The repetitious pattern of fact-checking, dialogue and memoir compliments the order of life Shields presents in his novel. In this way, he exhibits life as it is lived and how close it can resemble the life of others. All that is left to do is live life.

You can watch David Shields talk about his book here. He also has a Tumblr and Twitter.


[1] A low white blood cell count may suggest the development of cirrhosis, a possible affliction for Fitzgerald: http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/cirrhosis

Write Anything

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It’s been two years since the start of my blog.

I admit, it was two experimental years, but this time it will be different. That’s the intention anyway. Blogging can be a strange plane of existence. It is much different from the headspace you get when you have a pen and pad in hand. As I sit here writing (or typewriting for the hipsters out there, or not, you be you!), I notice that staring at a blank screen with the insertion point cursor bar blinking awkwardly in place excites me. Its allure can be entrancing.

We both want that exchange of Rubik’s cube speed, key to finger, finger to key. I almost got sensual there; not all sex sells ladies and gentleman. When ever I take to the keyboard or loose-leaf paper, I don’t necessarily take to it with a certain urgency, although at times I would like that precious thought to surface. For me, writing is more like LEGOs. You have this beautiful creation on the box and when you open it up, what do you have? Bags of bricks waiting to be assembled, step by step.

Writing can be a weary endeavor, but it is a fun kind of weary. The effort you put into it is a reward in itself after you come to see your final project and say with disbelief, “I wrote that?” The goal is to surprise yourself, and then when you least expect it, surprise others. Why a blog then? A few reasons actually. Blogging, like writing, is a lot like hunting. It can catch your feelings and thoughts in an instant or it can go on a long chase to get the words out of you. I have been on a chase for two years and some of you will attest that is not very long, but I will say this. The hunt has me excited and the game will only just be out of reach. What good is writing if I can expect it all the time?

To blog is to write, no matter how trivial it may sound to the person who asks. All the more reason to show them its purpose. I think of the blog as a short assignment, somewhere you can serve your thoughts as appetizers before the main course hits the table. Blogs of course are not limited to just words, we can read pictures, music, people, any topic can be read and written about. If you can read, write, and if you can write, please read. Which leads me to the pursuit of voice: who am I speaking to?

Hopefully somebody, preferably you. No not you, you. Yes, the collective you. Audience is the people who decide to relish in the task of reading you, watching you, suspending their disbelief with you. Consider yourself as audience, think of all the fans, fandoms, and fanfictions you find yourself a part of and ask, is this something I would want to partake in? Write for you and in turn you will write for the collective you; you just won’t realize it.

When I was first starting out, most of my posts were reflection pieces. They were “a day in the life” without any real takeaway for anyone else but myself. The original plan was to establish advice for readers from my experiences, but only so much wisdom can come from a first-year student in college. Observations were made but the semblance of advice was left to be questioned, or so I asked the readers. I’ve decided instead to make Wiggins’ Words a literary blog since English Literature is my major of choice. Not only that, what I’ve read and written over these couple years has been, I feel, the start I was looking for.

The blog embodies not only your reader, but yourself. Being a writer must be the best job description in the world, you get to be so many things! Now, it will just be you, your keyboard, a screen and your friend insertion point. Then, it will be readers and writers who share in the commonwealth of the thought process you set out for each other. Again, that is the vision and it’s good to keep it in your sights. What I’m writing here right now could be just the spur of the moment. It could be a thorough and time-consumed post. It won’t be any of those things however, if you don’t write anything.

Why I Hate TV (For the Most Part)

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“My living room didn’t deserve this. So I did what was right.”

Growing up, the buzz and multiple personality disorder that was television never scarred me for years to come. The Saturday morning cartoons were one of the reasons I woke up every time at 9:00 AM (the others were Frosted Cheerios and my PlayStation 2). Other than childhood memories and times of wonderful expense, all that soon dissipated. It hadn’t been the TV’s fault, not necessarily or even in the beginning, but rather the sudden flush of shows, both in number and content. How I’ve managed to hate programs, one after the next, became an arduous trudge to the living room. To this day, it’s incredible to see so many channels, most of which go unsubscribed to. I wish it was a simpler time.

TVs had exactly three broadcasts, four if you were lucky, before the introduction of Cable Television. Even with cable, that came out to a possibility of thirteen channels in the 1960s. I don’t know about your viewing needs, but suffice it to say I’m content with three channels if not breaking double-digits. Plus, those broadcasts (ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS) mattered extensively more so than they do now. Since it was the dawn of sci-fi technology, it makes sense that these programs would be influential from its first runs onward. The issue, for me at least, nowadays these news carriers are sprinkled in with needless entertainment and melodramatic fixes. Viewerships are either easily amused, highly critical, or have the commonwealth of each attribute. Intelligence has a lot to say about what we decide to watch, but keep in mind people might know what their experiencing and missing or they might not. I rest on the county line.

By no means is this pandemic, but it could be. It’s a subject we inherently talk about but never give notice to enough or conscientiously. My mother and sister willing watch, while I willing type about, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Why anyone feels invested and committed to the lives of others who don’t look better off is beyond me. That’s it though. Unlike myself, viewers like my mother and sister are inclined to relate to these reality shows because of one aspect and one aspect alone: drama. Somewhere in their lives they’ve either seen, heard, or had their share of drama. To what extent is not of importance. Any situation that calls upon a real-time dramatization is enough to find solace. Alfred Hitchcock is turning in his grave, I swear it’s true! Voyeurism has been ruined by reality television. No more fly on the wall, it’s up front and personal like we want it and boy are we getting it.

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“A TV show about watching people watching TV shows straight from your TV. Inception is real…”

A sadistic truth in entertainment is this; as far as TV and movies go, they’re just entertainment. Reality TV, as much as it doesn’t deserve its own grey area, doesn’t come remotely close. As soon as you place a camera in the room, you’re acting. Let’s face it, reality as we know it isn’t entertaining unless you make it such. So what does reality TV do? They create situations for us couch potatoes to enjoy at our leisure, in our reality that seems less boring because of the vicarious amusement we get from someone else’s drama! And what have I to say about relationships? They must have been alive and well until “the fight” came along, and who’s to say they aren’t healthy and progressive long after the recordings stopped. Just another way to keep its viewers happy, mindless, and tasteless. Reality isn’t a show, but it certainly is a satire.

My honest concern is with the current and new, incoming generations that won’t sedate themselves from the tube. They have to suffer the onslaught of below mediocre cartoons and sitcoms that irregularly air and the worst part is, they don’t know their suffrage. It hurts me more than it hurts them! All is not lost however, as long as TCM and TV Land are still around. Really though, there are so many better written, fun-loving shows in decades passed that still stand the test of time. Looking back to science fiction, Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, among many others, are obvious choices that make you think and feel. Batman‘s high-octane heroics gave the campy, clad Caped Crusader his crime-fighting core (and alliteration!) The Office‘s outlandish hi-jinxes in the workplace make “make-believe” a real thing and a fun thing. Criminal Minds puts its viewers in the mindset of its police operatives and its suspects, creating a more than engrossing psychological and physiological world. So many shows that exude nothing short of a movie, that do it right in a matter of a half-hour or less.

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“Here’s a cartoon with class.”

Now for the real harbingers of deficiency. Local news, mass media, and commercial content are either reports of alleged, one-sided, or, sometimes, borrowed perspectives from other news ventures, and I can’t say the same for the subjected teleprompter readers from behind the desk. Sometimes it’s downright gossip and uninformed opinions, sometimes it’s evidence that’s only semi-justified. All this causes unnecessary speculation and strife and to be frank, you’ll be the better person for not indulging in it. Advertising either makes sense or it doesn’t. GEICO’s slogan is, “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Plain and simple; choosing GEICO means getting car insurance in no time at all. However, upon further review, the content of the commercial has nothing to do with the company or its slogan. They go further to make a commercial within a commercial, making light of the slogan in which person’s respond to it with, “Everybody knows that.” Finally, they understand our blight!

There’s a fine line between good and bad television and opinions as well as that fine line will vary. Not all reality television and regular television are the death of sensation, some of it helps you realize, “Oh, I shouldn’t waste my time with this anymore” and, “Surely there’s something better on?” Then there are those wholesome family shows, animated, live action, or live, that have genuine themes and substance. After surfing a plethora of channels, viewers could end up catching the waves or being lost at sea. Limiting your choices to the good programs is always ideal, but it’s also good to know what to avoid. Be willing and open, but not to the point of acceptance. Ray Bradbury puts television into great perspective in his interview, featured in the 50th Anniversary Edition of his novel, *Fahrenheit 451. I’ll leave you with its snippet of volition and vitality:

A Conversation with Ray Bradbury:

DR: There seems to have been a decline in standards of journalistic objectivity, to put it mildly.

RB: It’s not just substance; it’s style. The whole problem of TV and movies today is summed up for me by the film Moulin Rouge. It came out a few years ago and won a lot of awards. It has 4,560 half-second clips in it. The camera never stops and holds still. So it clicks off your thinking; you can’t think when you have things bombarding you like that. The average TV commercial of sixty seconds has one hundred and twenty half-second clips in it, or one-third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.

(From Fahrenheit 451 The 50th Anniversary Edition, page 184)

*I’d also like to call attention to a scene in Fahrenheit 451, where Guy Montag is on the run and a local news helicopter follows and records his every move. The television broadcast of it all wasn’t mind-numbing enough until the reporter conducts its viewers into catching the running man in the act by opening their doors and windows, lying in wait of his appearance.

This Is The Story of A Girl

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“True story.”

Who cried a river and drowned the whole world… well, something close to it. To spare you the clichéd, Nine Days reference, a more pressing matter occurred to me recently, more like a whole months worth, and I’ve noticed a few things. There is a specimen who I don’t objectify in anyway and do everything to the best of my ability to remain gallant towards, but for the life of me, I can’t understand the Female. Her language broadcasts mixed messages, her subtle drops of hints in the form of alluring head tilts and eye movements leave me transfixed, and to sum it all up, everything auditory that expels from her pillow-textured lips, whether sensible or esoteric, everyone finds either enlightening or enchanting, or in worse case scenarios, both.

Now being the someone here that isn’t female or hasn’t any fortune interacting with them beyond the realm of the quote unquote “friend zone,” I’m starting to understand why these things are for men, the ones with good, thoughtful intentions mind you, and for the blindsided, less mindful men as well. Please listen to this if you will:

Material Girls Are Only Fabric Deep

“The one but not the only.”

It’s a given girls like fashion on some level and put effort into the clothes they want to wear. When it becomes the only thing worth living by and talking about 70% of the time upon opening a mouth however, that’s when I start loosing my mind. These girls find satisfaction in the things they own, a false sense of pride, and feel overtly important because of it. That’s not to say you can’t have confidence with the outfits you don, but don’t oversell it with compliments you boast for yourself that others could have given to you without asking. Make it a preference ladies to feel good and know that you do without having to tell everyone that looks your way you already know. It’s an extreme extroversion (at least for the guys who see past the glamour).

Glasses Are For Looks Not Smarts

“Check out the brains on her.”

I can’t tell you how many times people in the past have looked to me for all things unknown to them. Of course, over time I’ve gained more, if not enough, knowledge for others to understand that I know that I know nothing (a Socratic musing for you all). It’s no guarantee that glasses make you smarter, if anything, they’re a sign of ignorance, in my case anyway (I would read under my covers in the dark as a kid, sometimes even without a flashlight. A part of me wanted to be a nocturnal Batman at the time and I found out that Batman couldn’t see in the dark and only bats could, therefore I went visually impaired at the age of 12. That is not smart!) For the girls who wear them, but find it as a welcoming nod to the guys who expect a smart and saucy lady, will be half disappointed. Be smart, don’t look smart.

Laughter is the Best Medicine Only When You’re Sick

“I know just the type of girl.”

Do girls do this on purpose? They’ll hear others speaking, take their innocent words and make euphemisms out of them. Sometimes it could be words that have no significant humor behind them, words like “little people,” which I understand can be taken out of context, but it doesn’t make it funny or right. When girls force a laugh or make a fake laugh to sound cute and clever, it comes off as annoying and unattractive (again, for the men who look for a functioning, aware human being without a drowning personality). The girls who laugh at everything or make jokes out of nothing might gain attention, but never any positive attention, especially when it’s all to amuse yourself, even if no one joining in knows it (the clueless, hapless victims of her supposed charm).

Stupid Isn’t Saucy

“No one wants to be the ditz with just the you-know-what.”

A quick story about a girl, her name shall remain confidential, but let’s call her Ms. Potato. Ms. Potato would exclaim herself to be “not smart enough” and act as such whenever presented with, in her words, “too hard” a task. The guy next to me, we’ll call him Dispenser, would agree in the hopes of finding common ground with Ms. Potato. I’m never one to judge but, if you play off the fact that you’re dumb, us guys who do this ridiculous thing called thinking, will start to believe you. Ms. Potato, as far as her definition of herself goes, leads me to believe an actual potato has more brain cells than her; I mean come on, her namesake should say otherwise! As for Dispenser, he’s relinquishing those IQ points just to match her own. Don’t act stupid to be saucy, after all, an act’s an act, and whether you meant it or not, it’s deceptive. If you’re not confident in your intelligence, don’t complain about it or use it as a factor in getting boys to date you either. Use your options and resources to become more knowledgeable, more worldly.

Liking Things For the Wrong Reasons

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“Looking in the wrong places means less time for you and more time wasted.”

If you’re a girl who likes things to be accepted as normal, I love to break it to you, but no buts; it’s not normal. If someone is asking you for your opinion, it’s your opinion, don’t be obligated to appease others because they weren’t expecting you to disagree. It’s not your fault if they aren’t understanding of your reasoning. Girls who latch on like leeches to acquire a wholeness with another, won’t. They’ll suck out all the blood before it happens. The ones that like certain things that aren’t necessarily good, but others find okay with, leads to peer pressure and decisions that are made hesitantly, or worse, without hesitation. It puts people in this “anything goes” mindset about you, which couldn’t be farther from true; people have their limits and, I hope, stick by them cautiously. Stay your own person, avoid the manipulation everyone else sees fit, and never change for another’s acceptance or because someone tells you to unless you or others start to notice a negative state (they only want the best for you; they’re there to help you cope, not manipulate you).

So ladies, I’ve got nothing against you. I think you’re smarter than the average man and for many good reasons. It also goes hand in hand with guys who see nothing wrong with this behavior as well. Though there still are women out there that aren’t aware or who are of their doings that lack such propriety. If you know any lady friends who need the advice to become a better, more down-to-earth girl, share this with them. Let me know if you noticed anything girls do I missed or didn’t touch on too. Grrrl Power! Sorry, I’ve got Riot grrrl on the mind.

College: Week 1 – Survival

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“How many stock photos are sincere you ask? I don’t know either.”

College begins the time of your life, in a bout of four years or so. As highschool prepared you for the flashes of life before your eyes, college will be there too… with strobe lights. Forgive the hyperboles, but that was my thinking minus getting my feet wet. College at its basic necessity becomes a rehashed reflection of highschool with major differences. For starters, no more miscreants, rascals, deviants, and ne’er-do-wells (that has yet to be decided), formally speaking. Not that I don’t believe in the like, I just prefer not to find them to be true.

My glass is half-filled, so if you got something, you got it! It’s a level up sure and the expectations are of the same caliber upon graduating highschool. What is asked of you is fairly simple: follow your schedule; time, place, and anything in between. If any complications should arise, address them and the sort. Life hits you fast and they might be soft blows but it doesn’t matter. Time flies and it’s up to you to make those moments count, depending on that term paper or public outings, you choose. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, ride that bucking bronco when you can!

Here I am, holding onto the reins. My first week of college was a bit unceremonious. You go to your first class, walk the halls and stairs with brisk, mellow steps, enter the classroom, and sit where you like. Normally, that’s how it’s done; you go in with no expectation yet burrowed deep in the back of your mind, the gears are turning for the outcomes only possible to you because you’re worried about yourself, and from what you can see, everyone must be thinking about their own skin. The teacher takes role which makes me cringe slightly, but when you’ve been conditioned by the repetition, you muster up the courage to say you’re here instead of having a modest hand be your form of confirmation.

Then they give you the run down, the functions of the class, assignments and his or her protocol and preference. That’s fine, I like to hear a person’s end of the conversation before I deliberate my thoughts. The day progresses, time runs its fast course, and before you know it, class is dismissed until tomorrow. College so far is a great change of pace. You take a class they offer at specific times and at the end of it, you’re free the rest of the day; that I can get around! Another thing, nothing is a mystery. You’re given a syllabus with all the assignments and according due dates to keep at it or get ahead. The only worry may be the onslaught of new faces, worrying over who’s name belongs to who’s face.

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“The campus is the first and largest. Translated: it’s hard to get around.”

Some friendships last longer than others, in reference to how often friends live together or interact, but for the time, it’s good to have a readily available affable ability. An affability if you will (how’s that for a portmanteau?) Getting that experience of talking to someone could mean talking to that same someone long after school is done and applied with. Other times it’s short lived, but think of it this way. You gave that person an attention sans judgment and filled with kindness that for some reason is considered a rarity. If you ask me, having a friend whether short-lived or life-lasting, is worth while and special to encounter. It gives that person the confidence to talk to more people in the hopes that they too can find a friend for solace and meaningful concern in. On a related note, a few familiar faces from familiar places came my way. Even new people I met had a touch of reminiscence to older friends not seen; those people bore names that hit home which is wonderful! Every Tuesday and Thursday morning I get to English early, which leaves half an hour at the most on the back burner. During that time, I talk to Sam (his class adjoins mine) who agrees that it’s good to have someone to talk too. English, I can also see, shares the same philosophy.

To make everyone more comfortable and approachable, group work was introduced. Our teacher is relaxed but on point and she does enjoy her English teaching; it’s nice to witness and inspires you to find something you love to do yourself. She generalized the importance of group activities, sharing each others frame of mind that we could try on for size. In one partnership, I talked to a girl named Emely (yes, with two E’s), an interesting variant of the name and another reminiscent moment for me. On the second day, we got into groups decided by a personal number distributed by the professor. This time it was all girls. Three! It’s the magic number! Sorry School House Rock… We discussed a list of situations and how they would be handled in the form of writing, by genre, purpose, rhetoric and social context, for instance. English is the more sociable of the two classes I take. Psychology, well… we were left to think.

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“My binder’s artwork for Psychology. No one asked about it sadly.”

After role, you think everyone would ease and settle but contrary to thought, not quite. Part of it might be because of our professor’s accent of either Japanese, Chinese or Korean descent. Of those countries she gave examples for collectivistic cultures, a form of thinking shared by a society as a whole, they are still indecisive choices for her nationality. She’s not hard to understand, it just takes her a fair amount of time to translate the words in her native tongue into English for her to speak. Until we can hear a complete sentence, it stays quiet during a good portion of the class and unless curiosity strikes one of us, I swear you can hear the grass growing outside. What a bummer though. I bet if it’s anything like for the Spanish, she probably dreams in her country’s language. Sounds worse if you’re bilingual, and worse than that if you’re not (I’ve had weird dreams).

Anyway, Psychology is an interesting science that calls for your assumptions to reflect upon. Social science is my kind of science since it isn’t math oriented, I hope, and it talks more about actions and reactions and the explanations for them. Going behind the reasons why, critically thinking on what is what and what things are and why they are what they are is like math. We hope to find the right definitions and answers that can be more personal than a number (I say “can” because someone out there might have a case of numerophobia). The more you know.

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“Time to hit the books!” ¹

So far, the college experience is new but also the same before me. The joy of getting to class early means not having to wait outside with other wandering eyes, accompanied by small chatter between close mouths or feet, taps and clicks on phones or laptops, or unwanted eye contact in some instances. My classes happen to be next door to each other so there’s a plus. It took a few minutes to realize a previous class occupying the rooms had left the door open but the lights off before leaving. Out of complete chance, I twisted the door knob and by surprise do I find an open door I thought was close. From now on, I’ll be using them freely at the earliest convenience, granted it becomes a running gag we start to notice and not a ploy we fall victim to (Note to self, check all the door knobs).

Other than that, the mix of new and old friends will keep me balanced and more open-minded than I have been. I’ve actually been able to open up to strangers, on and by the bench, outside, and in the halls a couple times now. They’ve also already caught wind of my mellow and meticulous mannerisms as well as my love for graphic T-shirts! This college thing seems to be going my way. I like it mostly. Now I’ll leave you to compare this time in my life and possibly yours with the fine words of Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”


¹ Brent Wiggins does not support book violence in the form of hitting, throwing, or other. End book violence.

Wiggins’ Words’ Potential (YouTube Channel)?

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“GIMP is a free image manipulation software and this is the product of that.”

Emphasis on “potential.” Yes, I also find this incredible, because it probably is. I noticed that YouTube is a popular means of visual aid and as far as a blog can take its readers, a more eyes-on experience sounds not so impersonal. As hard as I try to share pieces of me, I think it would be nice to match the words to a face, that’s not still, even though you’ve seen how handsome I can be. There’s not a high chance of it from what I’m getting at here and the list of reasons trail behind me, but allow me to explain.

For starters, I made a YouTube channel with the purpose to well, make videos which isn’t far from true. There’s this Sony Bloggie I bought from years back but have only used for Kodak moments (gaming related of course). Also there was the time I used it for a video contest that I was too camera shy to enter, so I had my dad be my voice… and face. To tell you the truth, that’s how I’m typing this sentence right now; you see, my dad won the computer I use to this day, but it was the power of my words that brought that video submission home! So is the life of a smitten Cyrano de Bergerac. It’s not like I’m unsociable, I do however find myself putting people at ease in social situations rather than myself, it’s just I’m not very good at presentation on the spot.

The possibility of me making a pinpoint rundown on what to say and when to say them has me second-guessing. I can write an essay about how I feel sometimes more so than I can tell you in the passing minutes we have between each other. When there’s wandering eyes following me and expectant ears listening, in that moment, I’m nervous but still, at least it’s not being recorded for all the eyes I can fathom not currently present. I will say I do better in an interview scenario where I can react naturally to questions in relation to me, and even if those questions could be far from relatable, I find something of reference to build up towards a breaching construct on the subject asked. Thinking fast is the dependent variable, while the independent variable is strictly the content I could produce despite the lack of green screen, special effects and cutting and editing capabilities. I could keep things simple. A white wall, a bright enough lamp, a chair, preferably comfortable, maybe a nightstand and me at the center of it all. *Gulp*

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“Believe me, if I had looks like this, I’d have no trouble – what’s this lightbulb doing on my head?”

Another worry is ceremoniously staying on track with updates. That reminds me, about my blog. My goal is to post an article monthly. No specific number but when it comes to me, you’ll see what I can pull out. I like to see content as fast as the next guy but, if that risks the quality of each post and you start to see a pattern that’s predictable and moreover filler for times long gone, no one’s missing out. As of this Fall, my college experience begins (rain check on that statement; somehow my account decided to show I’ve dropped classes in place of enrolled ones. The “school” will be hearing about this. Yeah, I’m so mad, the school in question gets air quotes!) which could mean less posts or more, whether on this blog or the possible vlog, we’ll see. Instead, I’ll share what I will when I can. Fair enough? Cool. *Heart sign*

My GIMP image up at the top of the page was impractical as it is. I used less than four tools I knew how to use because of a digital design class in high school I remember. Minor difference though, we were using Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator at the time. It’s not so different but these are pictures we’re editing here. When those pictures start moving, we have a problem. Videos seem like a tangible medium to get a handle on for some and far trickier by many. I understand Sony has software adapted for the Bloggie device, which I never bothered with. Then there’s video editors like Ezvid for free that I haven’t really seen, let alone heard, as a use being made for. You know the tutorials for the product on the product’s website that have the robotic narrator or a scripted phone prompter’s voice? Yeah, I’m not all about them either. Sometimes, just out of pure stumble, the Tube will grant that needle in a haystack we all so long for; a search well worth embarking on!

The good thing about ideas are that they start out small from humble beginnings. The other good thing about ideas are their growth from theory into a practiced law everyone can take up and pass on as their own personal admiration or agenda. The last good thing about ideas, they take a long time to cradle over as they should, so give those thoughts time to spur even more branches for that tree of a mind and in the mean time, keep watering those roots. I’m still an acorn a lone squirrel forgot existed but that’s existentialism for you.

Jehovah’s Witness Protection Program

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 “Somebody’s knocking at your door!”

Before you consider this a slapdash complaint, let me clarify. I’m not one to harp on anyone’s beliefs or herald my own in replacement of them. What we believe in one way or another fulfills us with a purpose to live meaningful lives. The way I see it, and collectively speaking, I believe each religion while varied or not in practice, shares the same God you or I call God. The word’s of an omnist would agree that all religions are acceptable, but a human being would furthermore be just plain accepting. How the Qur’an has Muhammed and the Holy Bible has Jesus Christ, for example, as the people’s disciples in their respective faiths, shows different texts but similar rituals. Whoever you follow and which ever doctrines you take up, I’m not against. To continue, I’ve had a history with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. While not a bad history or any means of civil rivalry, (which is an awful oxymoron; since when is rivalry used in a civil manner?), there remains a line between us that I personally wouldn’t want to crossover.

From middle school as early as I can recall, Jehovah’s Witnesses caught us at the lull of morning. It began usually at nine or ten o’clock, when the neighborhood is either fast asleep or vacant. In our case, we’d been used to eating breakfast at that time and paying a visit every Sunday. My father would be at the ready to relay his message, of course providing them that they share their’s first. After a ten minute or so chat, we got on with our weekend. Then they would send a roulette of Witnesses to our door, sometimes on Saturday instead and sometimes back-to-back. Now as open-minded as my family is, we’re not casting away Jehovah’s Witnesses and disregarding who they are. We know they are a people with good intentions and that’s how they proclaim and show their faith. However, the only stipulation is that Jesus is not considered the Messiah in their eyes. For them, they still lie in wake for God’s merciful return to save the earth’s believers or those who serve Him, an event addressed as Armageddon.

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 “The pamphlets used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for discussion.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t count out Jesus entirely though. He’s still the Son of God, but is treated as a disciple for God’s plan overall. For us, what Jesus did was proclaim the Gospel through the Lord our God. Without Jesus’ life and death, we wouldn’t be washed away of our sins or the original sin from the beginning. This is the Catholic faith, and as Christians we believe Jesus is the Messiah because of this. Coming from my perspective, you can’t afford to miss this, regardless of the minor accepted differences between us. That’s just my faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses continue this proclamation with their own translations (literal at times) and publications from which Jesus carried out alongside his disciples and followers, but don’t accredit him as much as they do God. It’s understandable; God created everything after all, but with His Creation came an important part of it which I can’t help but feel Jesus is responsible for because of Him and through Him.

This confuses me for two reasons. Jesus was a devout Jew and preached the Christian practices found in Catholicism. If anything, was it not Jesus that brought all varying people, Gentile, Jew, Christian, or what have you, together to share in a bonding faith involving God? Again from my perspective, that sounds a great deal paramount for the basis of unity. Also, if Jesus was Jewish, how come he isn’t considered the Messiah for Jehovah’s Witness? It seems to me because Jesus brought other believers under one faith, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing the same, they argue it was God and God alone for Jesus’ doing as well as their own, again. It makes sense that Jesus would be the Savior for Jehovah’s Witnesses, because He’s Jewish and He came from God. Unless they see Jesus’ practice in two faiths a religious anomaly, then there’s a rough patch. Other than that, I can’t find another reason why.

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 “Siddhartha is a portmanteau for ‘one who has found meaning of existence.'”

More than recently, my mother has befriended a couple of ladies from Jehovah’s Witnesses. She’s been visited by the same two women ever since I got out of high school, every Wednesday afternoon now. Every week brings a new topic and I will say, jokes aside, I admire their persistence. They’re disappointed when she’s not home as they come prepared just for her since she’s the only one they’ll talk to. If I answer the door, they say, “No problem, next time.” When it’s my mother, the Spanish knot has been tied. Once they find relatable ground, there’s a cushion to fall on before and after they speak their subjects for the day’s hour (or longer depending on how sociable they are). They’ve grown attached and my father knows it the most; he still tries to convince her to kill them with kindness. She can’t bring herself to do it despite her leniency and on top of that, we don’t want to discount their beliefs as lesser to our own.

Dad’s words were always, “We believe Jesus Christ died for our sins,” and he leaves them with that. His candid statement doesn’t spark conflict, just disappointment I can imagine. I imagine that’s the case when two religions meet. You hear about religious wars and I’m sitting here thinking: what religion tolerates war? I’m a peaceable fellow and I’d never tread on others virtues and their sense of it. Nor would I force my beliefs onto others, which isn’t the intent I’m trying to convey of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My father speaks of my family’s faith with the most finality, and I admit he isn’t as open-minded as I am (he wouldn’t let me buy Hermann Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, even though I’ve read it in school), but I think it’s healthy to know of other religions, even if you don’t take them up as your own. To have that knowledge helps us understand where people come from, not just in religion but in morale and lifestyle choices. Rather than being in opposition, we start to feel an apposition for the good that we all can embody. I thank Jehovah’s Witness for that. Also, my Humanities class. Go humanity!

Wisdom Lossed

Not Feeling Wise

“That was a wink to show I wasn’t loopy; it doesn’t show.”  

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t experienced an amnesia trip before, this should sound interesting. Just around the hour of  8:00 AM today, I had all four Wisdom teeth removed. What a wonderful way to start a rainy, Friday morning, right? Anything beforehand was still remembered, but after the fact and in an instant, nothing matters. I couldn’t believe I retained what I did when I rose from that relaxing, 45° lounge chair. The night prior was torture though.

I kept thinking to myself how they put you under for an hour at the most and assure you of no memory of it all whatsoever. That drove me even further to reassure myself that the year would still be 2014, even if the future people were convincing. I was dying for a midnight drink of water (yet the doctor prescribed no food for twelve hours) and considering how warm I was in bed, no matter how quick a gust of wind could be picked up from the ceiling fan, the night was sleepless for a good two-thirds of it. Just being a bit groggy from sleep had to be the worst sensation. You’re half able when you haven’t had breakfast because you can’t. You’re running on empty knowing you’d be asleep again like you never left your bed. I was hesitant up until the final moment. Mmmm…

Sorry, *smack* *slurp*, I was just taking dollops of a delicious Frosty. Talk about a smooth transition. Now for the twinge talk. Before the appointment, I had an assortment of pills, 3 of a kind. One was a preventative for possible infection during and after the procedure, the others are for pain. Of course the preventative pill was three times the size of its relatives; four of which I had to down with as much as a spoonful of water (too much water would cause an upset stomach afterward).

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“On the left and right, pain pills, and in the center, the Peril Pills.”

An hour goes by, my father drives me to the office’s waiting room and the room holds six people, including us, of a possible fifteen or twenty. Reception was *vanilla’s so good* nice as always and they have to, otherwise who would want to avoid death row? “I bet I’m the first one back there,” I said to my father. One patient, younger than the girl in front of us and I, had been the first and was done within ten minutes of waiting; she had likely been there longer before our arrival. Then the woman sitting adjacently, was next. She and the girl before her were never seen from again, by us anyway. Third times the charm.

I’m guided to the operating chair, and just so you know it’s nothing like the dentist’s, the assistant lady doctor gave me the run-down, very nice and helpful once again, and she began the preparations. Wired tapings on my chest and sides, which I can imagine didn’t feel good coming off, a plastic, pulse pincher for your finger to read your heart rate, which jokingly became a nervous detector, and the stress ball to get your veins pumping and inflated. “Wired,” “pincher,” and “stress” are not words you hope to hear. On the bright side, the doctor was awesome, very subtle and soft-spoken; I could tell he’s been at his practice for a long while. Naturally I trusted him. We get to talking about his daughter, how she’s an English major and how that’s my goal later on in college and thereaft-

That pausing “-” meant a poke and prod of an indistinguishable needle at the top of my hand. I barely felt the sting and it didn’t take me by surprise but he calms me and goes on with the conversation. “What’s your favorite kind of literature?” he asks. “I’ve been leaning towards British Literature,” I reply. I tell him how it’s English yet it sounds like a different language when reading and saying it. I tell him how people quote literature sometimes without having ever read the source it came from. He laughs! I share my favorites like Edgar Allan Poe, describe their works and such. I wanted to mention Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but it didn’t cross my mind. He tells me to keep talking. I get to American Literature from Walt Whitman (which by coincidence happens to be my doctor’s name) and his book, Leaves of Grass, and how he’s a poet in his prose, just a natural speaker with soliloquies and speeches, as it seemed to me. Next thing I know, I’m attached to oxygen nozzles for my nostrils, my glasses are removed, and I draw a blank. Nothingness for forty minutes (according to my Dad) which only felt like five.

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“Representing those English greats!”

I wake up, sluggish, but sane and the lady takes me outside the exit of the building with my Dad at the ready with his get-away car. We parted ways and we never saw them or that building again. A happy ending? Not in the slightest. The whole ride home I was conscience and lucid, but for some reason the drive away and towards home brings up small images, slow and sudden like the kind in a View-Master. A blink here, a blink there and were home. I feel my face with a taped gauze hand, numb to the texture of rubber and casually I brush an elastic fashioned around me from head to chin. The gauze from the mouth was a bunch of a red blots, the right side of my lower lip went limp, so any chance of me speaking without unintentional flimflam or gushing dribble was not likely. To think something so fast would make you so slow.

Now I’m feeling better and the only drawback is a minor case of the hiccups and the salt water rinses. I took a pain pill midday and the gauze is relieving my bite. My only worry, and what will surely be a detriment soon enough, are the soft foods. I know cavemen used their molars since their diets consisted of hard, tough meats to chew, but I’m a carnivore too! Despite that fact not found in the already informative oral surgery pamphlet, I understand not risking the chance of crooked teeth, so there’s that. I guess it was worth it, but let me tell you something. Do it when you’re younger; the teeth aren’t fully developed then meaning less pain if any. For the next week it’s nothing but oatmeal, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, mac n’ cheese, and things of that sort. I had three soft-tissue and one grown Wisdom teeth. Gone. It wasn’t such a bad procedure, but I appreciate the ice cream godsend.

I always thought wisdom was a good thing, but I learned some advice is better than others.

More ice cream? Don’t mind if I do!

Batman: The Ideal Hero – Childhood Love #1

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Kicking things off on a fun note, I thought I’d start with a fan favorite of mine. Growing up with Batman was like having a second dad for me, but he sounded nothing like him. Which was cool, you know, differences are what make us unique and discover other identities. That’s why I love the Caped Crusader, he’s immediately relatable to us. Bruce Wayne lives a lavish life, but his diamonds are scratched. Bruce Wayne isn’t much more himself than he is Batman. Heck, it’s just Batman because the Wayne name has been nothing but a red herring for a one man war against the crime that created him. A harrowing of hell for a bat out of hell. Sadly it’s a plan that involves seclusion, brooding, action and life altering events. Yet it is the Batman that displays sheer determination in the face of despair that makes him the brave, dynamic, foible character we all love. Sure he’s stubborn, and it may be his allies who have better judgment, but we love him for it. Batman never gives in or gives up, he only gives it his all.

Comics, television series’, movies, games, there lies more to a character in the realm of fiction. The appraisal of Batman does not go unnoticed and for good reasons. Not only is the winged vigilante of the night propelled by injustice, but it’s a vendetta that runs deeper than a personal resolve. His story begins and ends in drudgery, knowing that with his efforts, although ceaseless, he cannot end what seems endless. Batman remains fictional but his difference strikes a chord in its readers and viewers ever since his debut. The Great Depression was a time riddled with turmoil and uncertainty. With the introduction to the comic book and its respective tales of heroes alike, their began a shift in the day to day deprivation. Comics gave people a newly renowned sense of hope in their lives, what many call escapism today. Now Superman might have set the precedent first, but Batman perpetuated crime-fighting, placing emphasis on the greatest super power of all: will power. Here compiled for you is what makes the ideal hero, most notably none other than the Batman.


A Man’s a Man

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Bruce Wayne is only a man and while not a simple man, he’s still mortal just like you and I. Seeing how indomitable his spirit is, it’s hard to believe Batman can easily be riddled with bullets or fall from rooftops (heck, the man recovered from a broken back in the Knightfall story arc by the hands of Bane!) He’s human, not perfect, and to prove it there’s a fair share of mistakes both self-decided (Talia al Ghul) and guilt-driven (Jason Todd from A Death in the Family, which was the reader’s fault and choice, and the drug addiction in Batman: Venom; not to be confused with the Titan enhancement of it from the game) which seem to be unpredictable and unavoidable. All things considered, that doesn’t separate him from any of the roster of heroes, even if he’s more than hard on himself about his righteous campaigns. When Batman strays off course and doesn’t catch himself in the act, it’s a personal demon he’s failed to defeat. That’s why he strives to do and be better, as should we, cape and cowl or not.

The Symbol

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Inescapable to the cultural presence is the Batman’s logo. It’s undoubtedly the most recognizable icon that comes to mind not only in comics, but around the world. The symbol is a spur for hope and justice among the mixed emotions that come with it. A strong metaphor resonates for a man’s bereavement and plunge into combating the rogues’ underworld, striking fear into those who prey on the fearful like a modern-day Robin Hood, there’s no chance of the black and yellow ever going unnoticed.

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Perhaps the greatest calling card their is, the bat-signal allows Gotham’s Dark Knight to clock in in times of distress. While Batman’s preoccupied in the latest investigation, he needs a way to act upon crises within moments. Despite all his telecommunication capabilities, it’s understood his city needs help when the floodlight shines bright against the night sky (it’s certainly a step up from the Batphone, but it’s good to explore your options).

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The most popular and iconic means of transportation for Batman is the Batmobile, an unconventional take on the automobile. Among all the Bat-oriented things in his reach, the Batmobile is Batman’s baby. For Batman, batgrappling and gliding from rooftops only slowed him down in the past, but now he can be at the ready when disaster strikes. Other than the Batman himself it’s this allure of a hot rod that gets us daydreaming (you’ve thought of how cool it would be to drive in it, let alone have it yourself) and unless you’re Batman, your car’s probably not street legal.

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If being smart was a sport, Bruce Wayne’s mind would be its star athlete. Specializing in deduction and reasoning, applied sciences, multiple fighting styles, history, reconnaissance, architecture, computer technics, coaxing (sometimes with his fists) and just about anything he needs to know, Batman is always thinking ahead of time. There’s nothing you know that Batman doesn’t know, and if there is, he’ll find out. He’s basically the Renaissance man of comics, heck, he could tell you the eusociality of bees if he had too. Bees. My God.

An Adaptive Bat

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Batman is a walking armory. He has gadgetry that’s small in size but does extraordinary things you wouldn’t expect to fit in those utility belt patches. Batarangs, smoke pellets, tear gas, grappling rope, you name it. On top of that, he uses his environments to his advantage. Anywhere from a compacted room full of villains to a place completely out of his element immediately becomes surveyed and adapted to Batman’s tactics. He will use anything in the vicinity as a weak point for his foes. Big, small, it doesn’t make a difference. There’s something in his arsenal to handle every possible variant and it’s not any coincidence. From the very beginning, you know a great deal of preplanning and expectancy went into these possible outcomes. Years in advance taken up for the day that the unexpected befalls everyone else, but not Batman. Batman: HushJLA: Tower of Babel, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns are clear indicators of that. Batman under the weather or under pressure finds a will and a way to overcome the impossible.

The (K)night

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Never mind the fact that Batman has a number of aliases. The most important of them all is who he is and how he came to be. A master of stealth, Batman flips his foes’ power over on its head and has them playing into his hand. You can’t shoot what you can’t see and even if you get a glimpse of him, you won’t shoot. Batman keeps criminals second guessing in the dark, having them spooked by looming shadows and corners. To see the silent predator and protector manipulate the surroundings most familiar to his prey is like watching a nature show, panel by panel. One could say his greatest ally is the still, encompassing night for he is the watchful guardian. He is the Dark (K)night.

A Creature of the Night

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The cape and cowl aren’t just for looks. Fashion meets function when it comes to stalking deviants in the night. Batman’s cowl integrates the technology of the Batcave for accessible communications and detective analysis on the fly. Speaking of fly, the cape allows for a surreal experience: gliding like a bat! For some it’s a theoretical improbability how Batman can glide with a thick piece of fabric and for those people I say watch Batman Begins, it does enough convincing. It’s a comic book world and suspending our disbelief is what makes Batman real and all the more fun. Just read Batman: Year 100, you’ll see what I mean.

The Code

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As a vigilante, you’d think Batman would have an agenda selfishly proclaimed for means all his own. Quite the contrary, he seeks out his adversaries with the intent to prevent their evil acts, never to officially end them. It’s a moral compass that cannot be taken on the wrong path. Batman does not and will not kill. He’s an anti-hero by his own definition, the difference is that he puts away with street justice and replaces it with what justice is suppose to be; fair, unassuming, poetic justice.

The Batcomputer

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A database with the digital makeup of every possible trace of villain, hero, and person there is or ever has been on profile. For Batman, criminals old and new have been configured in their own data banks for reference’s time, gathered in his all-in-one FBI and CIA personal computer. News clippings, interviews, audio and video recordings, chemical and physical analysis, it’s every supercomputer’s dream. It even has a nickname (Dupin; named after C. Auguste Dupin, the first known fictional detective by Edgar Allan Poe)!

The Bat Cave

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A sanctuary of solace, what more could you ask for? Its existence is kept hush, hidden underground through miles of caverns, with pitch black that ruins depth perception without the sonar of a bat, and the convenience of it all right under the foundation of the Wayne establishment, it doesn’t get any better. Batman isn’t Batman without a bat cave and sure enough, he puts it to good use. Housing the many Bat-vehicles, villain paraphernalia, and the extensive inner workings that run the cave’s technological systems, it’s “the” home away from home.

Money Talks

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During the day, he’s Bruce Wayne, playboy billionaire and philanthropist. He lives the stereotypical lavish life of a carefree aristocrat (as seen in Batman: Year One) but more recently realizes the mask of charitable works is enough to keep the lonesome rich act alive and believable, that is without a steady drop in friends and increase in backlash. At dusk, Batman takes the night shift, pursuing evil lurkers while Bruce Wayne takes to his lazy homebody routine. More often than not, Bruce Wayne has kept to himself as most with affluence do. The quiet approach raises no questions; really, who’s worried over a Rockefeller’s status quo? He can do just about everything and that includes being Batman (*hush hush*).Yet it’s really a sadder case than a rich, lonesome man. Even though he is Bruce Wayne, he’s more Batman than anything else each waking day and night. So, it’s not so much mystery as it is money.

The Tragic Hero

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Born into a fortunate family, Bruce Wayne never cared for the world around him accept for the things it could offer him, one carefree whim at a time. Adolescent and naive to the inescapable grime that etched the city, there wasn’t anything that could hurt him, until one fateful night out from the Monarch Theatre and into the infamous Crime Alley. This was the birthplace of Batman. This was the psychological detriment of an innocent eight-year old boy who lost his parents to a mugger that would change who he was forevermore. An origin story bittersweet as this one goes without saying, Batman wouldn’t have came to be had it not been for Joe Chill that night. Bruce Wayne would’ve never experienced Gotham from its darkest, deepest roots, only left to guess at what lurks out there at night from the confines of his mansion just outside the city limits. A selfish thought for an unfortunate turn of events but, the table’s turn when the hero we know and love has a score to settle: taking crime by the heartstrings it never had and turning that dark heart into light.

Gotham City

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The darkest plain of existence in fictional America. It’s the city of corruption, darkness, and deceit. It’s the city that took his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gotham serves as a place consumed by its own dirty pleasures with no plans of being cleansed. The city from the ground up is a walking Gothic exhibit and it’s an architectural feat all the same, made prevalent in Chip Kidd’s Death by Design and Snyder’s Gates of Gotham. Batman makes up a good percentage of the city entailed, emphasis on good, but if a city with its own criminally insane asylum doesn’t leave you dead inside or deathly worried, you are truly a Batman fan.

The Bat-Family

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Batman might prefer to work alone but he’s not afraid to lean on a few shoulders. By far the best support group you could ask for, Bruce Wayne has a small task force he can call family. Friends, friends of friends, friends’ family, he’s practically kin. Robin, all collectively, Batgirl (accompanied by the Birds of Prey), Alfred Pennyworth, Leslie Thompkins (which has to be the most influential if not least noticed person in Wayne’s life; she nursed him all his childhood and has been there for him every reunion at Crime Alley), Commissioner James Gordon, Lucius Fox, he’s not only got connections to be Batman, he’s got the loyalty and perseverance that inspire him to do just that. Every one involved is just as much Batman as Batman is Batman. In conclusion, Batman isn’t Batman, he’s Bat-family Man. Sorry if that was a trifle harsh on the tongue (and mind) but it’s true.

The Rogues Gallery

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Without question, Batman has the most interesting, depressing, dark, horrifying, cast of creepy criminals. It could be that Batman creates all his enemies, in the case of the Joker, so it seems like he has the time. Although, it could be just by chance where a new villain takes to the streets to challenge all of Gotham and that includes the big, bad, Bat. All of Batman’s foes are creative, some might say gimmicky, and disturbed because they are! It’s too much of a roster to handle at once and it keeps growing. Luckily for us we get their antics one issue at a time. For Batman, it comes as a second thought. Where we see scary and overwhelming, he sees another cowardly lot. It’s great that he can take things we’d be shocked about and down right point a stone face at it. Batman knows underneath all the gilded pride, there’s a shell of a person inside the crudest of villains (maybe except for Joker, that guy lost his mind and not even the World’s Greatest Detective can find it.)

The Joker

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Every great hero has a great archenemy and the Joker fits that bill (sorry, Hugo Strange is a definite second.) In a strange way, the Joker’s almost a reflection of Batman; dark, mysterious, unpredictable. Their complete polar opposites like yin and yang, yet they belong on the same spectrum. Both underwent a form of PTSD; Joker creates an alternate personality to ignore his true reality while Batman overcame it by making a change for the better, if not for himself then for everyone else. Other than the likelihood that the Joker and the Batman are the ultimate good vs. evil match made in heaven (and hell), it was something of an accident. You thought the Batman had a history, wait until you get a hold on the Clown Prince of Crime!

The point of reference I stand by here is Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, and there are other graphic novels that tell of the Joker’s origin and psyche (Batman: The Man Who Laughs and Azzarello’s Joker for example). It was the 1980s that brought back the revival of the Joker both through comics and movies. According to Moore, Joker was once a regular Gothamite. He was a comedian at the time, low on money, with a baby on the way. The city made him fall desperate however, and in response joined a group of lackeys to pull off a heist at the Ace Chemicals building. Of course, he was set up to be the masked Red Hood, an anonymous identity shared with the crime world over, and sure enough, he became Batman’s fall guy. A run-in with the Bat lead to a chase which lead to a nasty splash and thus the Joker was born.

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Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman shows a similar tale, with a Joker that has credit to his name. Jack Nicholson played Jack Napier, the only name associated with the Joker (and if I’m not mistaken, there was a chat between Batman and Oracle in the first game of the Arkham series where the name Jack White was stated alongside a mention of Joker). Again, a heist to steal from the safe of the Ace Chemicals building takes place but, we’re shown a Joker sans Red Hood. Escaping on his own, Jack is the last of the criminals to face Batman and unlike The Killing Joke’s scene of events, Burton’s Batman attempts to save Jack from falling into his chemical bath demise. Precariously later, the man falls in and comes out of the polluted water a ghostly figure with red lips, green hair, and an undefeatable, maniacal cackle and grin.

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Batman #1 in 1940 starred the Joker as the unoriginal, original gangster, fully based on Paul Leni’s adapted 1928 film The Man Who Laughs. His fashion sense and overall appearance, while off-putting, was different and new from what we’re used to from a thug’s usual garb. It was the comic that showed us a villain with an insane caliber like no other (I’d also like to mention the nod made out to the first battle between Batman and Joker at the bridge, which can also be seen in The Death of the Family story arc).

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He, ladies and gentleman, is the jack of all trades, master of none. At times, Joker is an innovative villain, surprising everyone that gets in his way. Hand-buzzers, acid-spitting boutonniere, gag weapons, and his personal favorite, his signature staple, laughing gas! It’s his uncertain vanity that causes us to be the butt end of the joke, for in his eyes, the Joker sees a world without smiles. Despite his twisted take on a statement like that, I’m sure he meant it dearly as a comedian once. I’m afraid his mind remains an incorruptible trap to himself and to others.

The Influences/Adaptations

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Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Holy Bat-nipples, Bat-credit cards, Bat-puns, surreal Bat-behavior (of the 1960s in particular) and of course, all-around just a bad Batman, Batman! And I agree, a Bad-man while not unintentional is a bad thing, it’s just a silly take on what serious tones there are to be had. The movie spin-off of the television series was a diabolical rule the world situation, but the mannerisms and appearances were too corky and colorful to think of it otherwise. Unlike the Schumacher films, which were an unintentional and a complete unnecessary use of camp, some may argue its revival from its 1960 predecessor was appreciated (I’m reaching here).

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The first time I could make sense of beating the dead horse was from Batman & Robin, with its overkill of the very puns that created the only villain suitable for them, none other than Mr. Freeze. Within the first ten minutes, were given a hefty flashback of the campy Batman we used to know. Themed henchman in trench coats and goggles for what looks like skiing but is contrarily used for their ice skating. Put simply, Schumacher made campy look intentionally bad in an unintentional way. Anyone who’s seen it before the television series won’t have the same reaction: a fun and funny Batman alongside a naive, but loveable Robin the Boy Wonder that’s approachable to both adults and kids. I will say this though, Batman Forever was the better Schumacher film as far as campy reminiscence goes. Still, needs more Batusi.

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Now that that rant’s out of the way, time for a rave! Since I hopped between decades, let’s get to the meat of it. Batman The Animated Series. Need I say more? Well then, Batman The Animated Series is without a withering of a doubt the epitome of childhood animation not just for the 90s kids and crowds but for all of time. The show encompassed dark themes normally not seen in cartoons and its contrast stood out, again, to adults and children. It’s a cartoon but a drama, situated at all things decent being pulled and tugged all aloof for a world that was not too far from our own. There were your average street peddlers with guns, the believable group of ruffians that occasionally took the limelight, yet we all knew the real rogues to look forward to.

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Batman’s villains had a touch of humanity in them and how they coped with reality was both a psychological and disparaging condition. In one way you feel for their hardship, and in another, you can’t stand their malpractice to overcome it. All of them were given a spotlight, origins and everything personal. Even the lesser known villains had their own episodes (Baby Doll anyone?). You witnessed their transformations from innocent bearings and sometimes not-so-innocent bearings to the hardy, cold criminals they are today; lost in a world already lost to them. Clayface, Harvey Dent, Mr. Freeze, all of which are sad cases, however, two wrongs don’t make a right. This might sound awful to you, but I only got two seasons of BTAS under my utility belt growing up, until recently I watched the remaining seasons, so when the show was cancelled I was devastated. Then I was introduced to Samurai Jack and all was well! Though nothing replaces what BTAS did or is. Period.

Yes, the 60s and 90s have been kind to the Dark Knight, thanks to the lady’s man Adam West and the entrancing, deep voice of Kevin Conroy. Although I think it’s time we pay our dues to the characters that had their influence taken from the Batman. Let’s start with the familiar faces.

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Zorro, a fictional vigilante being the embodiment of another fictional vigilante is awesome in theory but even better in practice. An impressionable, young Bruce Wayne had his first experience with justice from the silver screen. The sight of a hero in clad, the mystery behind the man in the mask, the daredevil escapades, and the change one man could provide excited him. It was a first impression taken to heart and lived out to a T. Like Batman, Zorro has his guise which caused many a double take, as well as the acrobatics and disappearing acts that came along with it. He’s also nothing short of charm and some teases during battle or in regular conversation. Zorro even has his own cave, conducting alchemy experiments from time to time, gathering notes all alone out in the desert. One of the first influences and certainly most prominent in the Batman mythos, Zorro’s the definition of a hero’s hero. (Honorable mention goes to the Grey Ghost, voiced by Adam West, in BTAS; an inspiration of Bruce Wayne’s during his childhood, but that’s its own different story).

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Other mysterious masked men come flowing forth, such as the radio dramas The Shadow, The Green Hornet alongside Kato, The Lone Ranger with his Native American friend Tonto, and The Cisco Kid with his Mexican sidekick Pancho. The homologous heroes from comics like V for Vendetta, The Phantom Stranger, The Question, Spawn, Judge Dredd, Shadowhawk, Moon Knight, and Morbius (those last three were Marvel characters; just testing you, but all the same!) and even villains like Batzarro, Cat-Man, Ragman, and The Spectre try to steal the Batman’s thunder. Then there are the obvious adaptations from the detective genre with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes with his companion Dr. John Watson and Poe’s aforementioned C. Auguste Dupin, but recently I’ve heard of a man that holds true to all attributes above.

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Natty Bumppo, the pioneer woodsman of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Leatherstocking Tales, serves as a friendly figure, quickly gaining the honor from neighboring Indian tribes. He comes prepared as a hunter and interpreter, creating bonds between his various Indian brothers. Natty even has different aliases like the Batman, such as Hawkeye, Pathfinder, and Deerslayer. The struggle with him though serves a similar purpose to the Caped Crusader’s, which involves dealing with a daunting reality that seems uncontrollable. How Batman combats the crime world is reciprocated in Cooper’s five-novel series in that Natty Bumppo has to cope with the vanishing wilderness that is the life he’s only known. Cultural assimilation was something of a forced respect in the 19th century for Native Americans, but it’s this deeply imbedded feeling of self that Natty is afraid to lose. It’s argued Batman should change his approach, and sometimes all together, with what can be comprised of a solipsistic, uphill battle, but when there’s good deeds to be done, how can you say no? What we call obsession, he calls succession; with every fighting moment he has, there’s a chance to make the world slightly less bleak. Natty Bumppo, like the rest, are filled to the brim with good intentions.

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Here’s comes the heavy stuff. You saw it coming; parodies. Batman has had his repertoire of funny outlets and you’d think someone as brooding as Batman couldn’t possibly be ebullient. There are those who manage… and they do it so well! College Humor, Dorkly, Robot Chicken, assorted memes, Batman Begins (seriously, his voice was butchered and it’s not to remain mysterious, it’s an evident case of forced strep throat!), Mad Magazine, SNL’s Ambiguously Gay Duo, and apparently a 1960s cartoon I’ve never heard of that Bob Kane was in on the joke with, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse. There are cartoons, to my knowledge, you can put a lineup to as well. Darkwing Duck, Spongebob’s Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy, Scooby-Doo’s Blue Falcon and Dynomutt (parodying Ace the Bat-Hound), Rat Man from The Justice Friends segment in Dexter’s Laboratory, The Tommy from Codename: Kids Next Door, just to name a few. As you can see, no matter where you place him, clearly our Masked Manhunter has quite the aspiring and inspiring crowd of characters.

He’s the Batman

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“I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman!”
– Batman, Bruce Wayne

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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There are many conversation pieces to be had about Batman since his evolution with every iteration (I probably would’ve paraded all of them!) He’s an introspective character that digs deep on a personal, psychological, and philosophical level for his readers, viewers, and players. Batman defines our struggles, heavy minds, successes, and losses. For that, we thank the talents of Bob Kane and Bill Finger for giving us the touch of humanity everyone deserves.

Learning Curve

Why did the blogger cross the road?

     To get to the nearest hot spot. I don’t know how to start one of these entries, so here you go. An introduction if any.

Blogs are new to me and it seems like a better opportunity to get the word out on all things I’m devoted to. In a sense I understand blogging is either a formal or informal medium (and just so you know, I plan on practicing in both ways; you saw my joke, didn’t you?) but for the most part I found the need to share my mind.

I’m a writer. I don’t worry about labels like amateur or novice, it’s only when I get to become a professional at it that scares me. The act of someone walking up and saying to me, “You’re a master,” fills me to the brim with anxiety. I’ve been humble in all aspects of my being, I assure you, especially when someone addresses me with appraisal. Anything I hope to write won’t be a commercial success and I don’t expect it to. The writing process for me is open minded and I believe it reflects that. Never will I post something I’m not satisfied with; if I’m not happy with it for myself, who’s going to be?

Trying something new, not to stipulate that you do, can be personally worthwhile or life diluting. Every choice matters. To say that you’ll sit down today and read through someone else’s ramblings is surreal considering that someone has taken the same exact time to sit down and speak (type) to you indirectly, yet on a personal level without being in the same vicinity. Now isn’t that special? Please say yes…

Don’t take this as an irksome piece of rhetoric. If I had the chance to sit down with you, not from a technical standpoint, I’d be the Gadfly of Athens surely in your soup. Again, I’ve an open mind about subject matter of choice and I pick up on topics fairly well. I will say I tend to get more than introverted when it comes to sharing ideas though. I just figure, what good is a thought if it’s not being shared. All-consuming and solipsistic is not my selfish intent. More rather I wish to leave you with the impression that I’m the person you’d want to befriend IRL. Of course, until I have my own book signing sessions, that won’t be a problem. Not that it’s a problem. Currently speaking.

Right now you’re probably thinking, you know what, I won’t say. I’ll leave it up to you to assume instead.

Now to end my first blog… Thanks for fleeting reading!