Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's Complicated--The Short Version

Every year on Father's Day, when people are extolling the virtues of fathers who did everything right by them, there's a silent minority who suffer. I choose not to be silent today.
I loved my dad. I miss him all the time. But to say he was a great father, or even a good one would be a lie. I hear people rationalize their fathers' poor behavior by saying, "He did the best he could." Well, to hell with that. Do better.

My father cheated on my mother. He didn't just cheat on her, he cheated on her while my mother was in the hospital recovering from the birth of his son, my brother. When my mother gave him an ultimatum to choose this woman and her children or us, he chose the other woman. We were moved out of our own home when I was almost seven years old to go to live temporarily (or so I thought) with the other woman's husband. Yeah, that was going to turn out well.

I spent the next five years being beaten virtually every day. I was older, so I got it worse than my baby brother--at first. Slapped at first, then spanked, then spanked on bare butt with a metal-sided ruler, then punched, then kicked. The beatings got so bad, that by the time I turned 12, my mother let me go live with my dad, because she thought this man was going to kill me.

My silence was bought with a threat of what would happen to my little brother, who was staying behind. My dad was married to his third wife by then, and her home was not a good environment in which to raise me. He split up with her for my sake. My dad did the best he could for the next six years, at least letting me stay at the same school through junior high and high school. I had moved 13 times before that. That's when recovery began for me, thanks in no small part to my grandmother and my teachers. It's not a coincidence that I became a teacher.

When I graduated and moved on to college, it was my brother's turn. He was getting it worse than I ever did, and the same arrangement was made. My dad took him in, but it did not go as well. My brother had lived with the sadistic man for virtually his whole life, and was a whole different person. My dad had divorced his fourth wife and gone back to his third wife at this point, and this time he chose the woman over his own son before a year was out and sent him back. By this time, we had told him about the abuse. We had explained in detail what had happened and what was going to happen if he was sent back. And he sent him back anyway.

I can forgive almost anything, but not that.

So, I loved my dad, but it's complicated. He saved me, but he saved me from a situation that he helped to create, and those of you who know me know that there are plenty of scars left. I do my best, but it's a fight. Every single day is a battle. And I wish, oh, how I wish that he had done the same for my brother.


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Why, Joss? Why? (Avengers spoilers)

Dear Joss,

 I went in, wanting to love your movie so much. I got in early because of a middle-aged bladder. Stood outside the theater door, as they cleaned up after the show that preceded mine. I was the first one seated in the theater, midway up, center seat. I didn't even buy a Cherry Coke because I didn't want to have to get up and miss anything in a movie with a 155-minute running time. Great scenes. Funny scenes. Black Widow's interrogation was brilliant. Superheroes meet and they fight. That's pure Marvel. You so completely got the spirit of Marvel comics as directors and writers seldom do! I was along for the ride, and enjoying every minute, and then you dropped the bomb on me:
Thor: He’s my brother.
Natasha Romanoff: He killed 80 people in 2 days!
Thor: …He’s adopted.
From that moment on, I was outside the movie, looking in. My daughter's adopted, Joss. I love her more than comic books. I love her more than Firefly. I love her more than my own life. To imagine having to explain that line to my six-year old daughter and why everyone in the audience is laughing at Thor while he distances himself from his brother, as if he is somehow less connected because Loki's adopted, took me outside the movie. I was now a viewer; a critic. I was no longer an active, willing participant in what I thought was otherwise a great, great film.

 From that point, I was more critical in my viewing. I was less forgiving of the flaws. The funny moments, and there were many classic Whedonesque moments, weren't as funny to me. I struggled to get back in; to let the line go. It probably wasn't meant with malice, I thought. I don't think you meant it that way. But I just couldn't move past the fact that it was there.

 I've read from other sources that some oversensitive adoptive parents have a problem with that line. I'll take that hit. I may be oversensitive about it, but you know what? As an adoptive parent, it's my job to be sensitive to it. It's part of the gig. I was prepared beforehand and remain prepared to deal with comments about my multiracial family. I have stood up for my family on numerous occasions because of unthinking comments that have been made about the fact that my daughter's Chinese. It's not easy sometimes, and it has cost me personally, but it's a price that I am more than willing to pay.

So now I have to play the role of the single dissenting voice in a sea of mass approval for the Avengers. I've played this role before. Some people even expect it of me. But for the one throwaway line that was not important to the advancement of the plot, it was a great movie, and I'd be among them. But, as it stands, I'm not. I'm sorry, Joss, but I just don't see why that line was necessary, and it ruined the rest of the movie for me. I don't expect anyone who's not an adoptive parent to understand. But I am one, and I have to stand up for this principle. If I don't, then I am not the father I want to be, and I am not the man I want to be. I'm certainly not perfect, but I hope I'm at least consistent.

 I read in an interview this very telling anecdote by Thor actor Chris Hemsworth:
The line where I say, “He’s adopted.” I had no idea that would be funny [laughs]. When we shot that, I went, “Is this really funny?” But, that’s the thing. Joss is hilarious.
No, Mr. Hemsworth. Your instincts were correct. It's not funny at all, at least to me.

Addendum: After sleeping on this, I decided to go back and see it again with my wife, who I warned about it. Except for that line, it IS a great movie. I was able to look past the line, but I still wish it wasn't there.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Solution Squad


So, what have I been working on that has taken all my blogging time? Solution Squad!

Solution Squad is a teenage group of heroes with math-based abilities who entertain and educate at the same time. Kids learn without even realizing it!

With my niece, Rose, handling the art, we have made a webcomic that will be printed as a regular comic once we have 24 pages under our belts, and you can see it at www.solutionsquad.net!

If you feel inclined to back our Kickstarter, you can do so at this page!





Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shadow

He was only my second dog, and the first one I got as a puppy. He came to our school as a skinny little stray, a tan shepard/lab mix with a dark patch across his back and tail. Erika Eldridge picked him up, and found him a temporary home. She knew I was looking for a dog, but knew I didn't want a big one. The first time I saw him, I knew he was my dog. He ran right up to me and started licking my leg. I took him home in a box, but he was so energetic, he sprang right up out of it and licked me in the face. When I got him home, he fit in the palm of my hand. I took him to the vet, who estimated that he was about ten weeks old. We crate trained him at first and penned him in the kitchen of our apartment with it, but he ended up climbing the crate with his claws and escaping. We knew then that he was pretty smart.


After a few weeks, his feet doubled in size, and his ears started to stand up, though one flopped down half the time. I took him for walks, and he ate goose poop. He thought it was a delicacy. When we moved into our house, he was fully grown at 88 pounds, and was quite a handful. When we went for walks in our new neighborhood, he would grab the leash with his teeth and pull me along. I was never sure who was walking whom.


From the beginning, he was an athlete. He would run, chasing Frisbees and lasers, until he was ready to collapse, gasping for air. I eventually got him to catch the Frisbee, and it was his favorite game to play. When he would bring it back to me, I had to get it from him, while he caught his breath. He would eventually tire of that game and drop it, but not before he taunted me at least twice.


Another favorite activity of his was shoveling snow. When I would take care of the driveway, he would always join me outside, waiting for a load of snow to come his way so he could snatch it up in his jaws. We even tied a sled to him a few times, but he would take off so fast, the sled rider would fall off the back. Shadow LOVED the snow.


Until he was about 11 years old, he was the same energetic, playful puppy I met on the very first day. He really started slowing down, sleeping more, and having trouble catching the Frisbee. I knew he wouldn't live forever, but I didn't expect such a sudden decline. We finally had him put to sleep today when he got really sick at home. He'd been getting more aggressive as well, probably partially due to arthritis, and although it was difficult I knew it was the right thing to do.


The house seems so much quieter without him. It's an absence we'll be feeling for a long, long time. Goodbye, Shadow. I already miss you.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Retrospective

It seems like whenever the end of a year comes we are forced to read, watch, and listen to endless retrospectives about the preceding year. Sometimes it's hard to believe that a whole year has passed since some events, while others seem like they happened decades ago.

When I started this blog, with the domain name "ofmasksandmen.com" over five years ago, I was selling off my comic books, as well as about 50,000 comics purchased from a retiring comic book dealer, and preparing for the adoption of my daughter. At first I saw it as a sustainable way to supplement my income so I could pay for our adoption after I made one huge deal, turning a 200% profit on a short box of Green Lantern comics that I nearly randomly picked up from a customer after a mall comic book show. But one thing I didn't realize was how mind-numbingly boring selling comics can be. Putting stuff up on eBay is the worst kind of drudgery, and the only thing worse than that was shipping day. The comics are all gone now (I have about three long boxes left, and I'll be getting rid of those soon, too) and my daughter has been with us for four and a half years. Life has changed in oh, so many ways. I'm not the same person I was, and reading through the old blog posts shows me just how much.

Now that the albatross (my wife's name for the business) is gone from around my neck, I can focus on a new venture, and one that is most definitely not boring. I'm self-publishing a comic book project called "Solution Squad." It's about math-based superheroes who not only do what superheroes do, but teach mathematical concepts at the same time. Think "Numbers" meets "X-Men Evolution," and you have a pretty good idea of what I'm trying to accomplish, aimed at a middle school audience who could very much use new ways to look at concepts they struggle with.

In the coming months, I hope to launch a Kickstarter project to raise funds for printing and promotion, launch the website with lesson plans for teachers and reproducible activities for students. We'll also have a webcomic, updated as often as I can manage. It's a large undertaking, but I'm confident we will be successful in entertaining and educating young teens, who never seem to have enough reading material appropriate for their age. It promises to be a life-changing experience, and I hope that it is.

For now, though, this blog comes to an end. It's been fun to keep family and friends abreast of our lives, and to expound at length on a variety of subjects. But now it's time to put my energies to where they can best be used.

Be well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Meme

I'm probably about to pull the plug on this blog and domain name, so it's only fitting that I write a little here at the end of the year.

1. What in the 2011 has proved to you that you are a survivor? I'm still employed.

2. Have you ever stayed online for a very long time waiting for someone? Absolutely. My wife, before I met her face-to-face. We met in an online game on AOL and sometimes I would kill hydras for hours while waiting for her to show up.

3. Are REALLY ready for the holidays? Yes.

4. Did you have an imaginary friend as a kid? No.

5. What niche network do you watch the most? HBO. Game of Thrones, The Wire.

6. Have you ever seen the ocean? Yes, several times. I'll be seeing it again on Saturday.

7. Have you ever been hospitalized? Twice, before I started kindergarten. A hernia, followed by complications from the hernia.

8. What do you think of the US Republican candidates for president? They're pandering hypocrites who will say anything to get elected. And just to keep things fair, I think the same about the current president.

9. Could you imagine life without a computer? No way. I use it for everything. Writing, drawing, communication, watching videos, listening to music.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Home Movies

Moviefone has a small slideshow theorizing why we aren't going to the movies as much, these days. I agree with a lot of what they said. The quality of home viewing has improved. The availability of streaming video is convenient. The economy is poor. The quality of many movies has declined.

Almost two years ago, I did the math, and it still holds true. Now that the initial outlay for a Blu-Ray player and HDTV has been made, we can buy a movie on Blu-Ray not even four months after its theater opening, and have all the popcorn, soda, and snacks we want for far less than it costs to go to the movies--even a matinee--without snacks! Even our once-frequent trips to the Tri-Way Drive-In have all but vanished. The gas used to get there and back costs over $10.00 now!

Sure, watching at home isn't the same experience as going to the movies, but I can't say the last several trips have been all that pleasant. I send text messages as much as anyone, but during a movie, I put my phone away. At the last one we saw in the theater, someone in our row had their phone out during the entire movie. Nothing like a bright light in your peripheral vision to help you lose yourself in the story being presented on the screen!

I've never gotten used to people talking through movies, either. I can understand little kids asking questions, but full-grown adults and teenagers? It's grown so widespread that when I show a rare video in my classroom, kids talk aloud more than when there's no video showing. What is it with people? When did it become all right to carry on a conversation in the middle of a movie? And I don't think this is just me being curmudgeonly. It can't be enjoyable for anyone else, either. The theaters even put up funny public service announcements before each movie, telling people not to do it. I used to say something to people who were rude, but then one day, I suddenly realized that I'm not bulletproof. I'm not even bullet-resistant. Theaters now hire more ushers to keep things under control, but you know what? They're not bulletproof, either. I don't blame them for not risking their lives to tell someone to quiet down.

I don't know what the solution is, but I know that our collection of Blu-Ray movies is going to keep growing, and far faster than the amount of half-filled popcorn bags that go into the trash at the movie theaters at the end of a poorly-attended showing of a new film.