ImageComic Books. Comic books just aren’t for kids. There is a depth to comic books that many people don’t even realize. Right now, I am super into Green Lantern. So here is a quick run down of Green Lantern for those of you who have no idea. Basically a Green Lantern is one person in a universal space police force. Instead of carrying guns, they carry a ring that they can use to create images of anything they can imagine. The ring is actually powered through willpower. And that is where things become interesting. As long as the Green Lantern has enough willpower, he or she can create anything. It becomes even more interesting because Green Lanterns are chosen because they can overcome great fear. When the ring selects a new Green Lantern, they look for someone who can overcome fear. Fear is the opposite of willpower. Fear blocks willpower. And that is a common theme in literature as well as life.

Willpower. Have you ever wanted something so bad that you would do anything to achieve it? Getting passed obstacles and overcoming setbacks to get to that mountaintop? Athletes can be familiar with this. Have you ever had that game that no matter what SHOULD have happened, you played out of your mind to change the out come. Willpower manifests itself in strange ways sometimes. Willpower is a want and an urge to be decisive in the outcome of an event. But it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as it sounds. It can be getting up off the couch and doing something besides watching TV. It can be choosing the salad over double deep fried cheese. We all have willpower. Some of us use it more than others. Willpower cannot overcome everything though. There are some events that no matter how much willpower and effort you pour in, will not come to fruition.

Fear. See fear paralyzes. It makes people stop and rethink their willpower and their actions. See fear isn’t more common than willpower but it is easier to see. There is an entire movie genre based on fear. Usually when a sentence has the word “don’t” in it, it is based on fear. Fear of being caught, fear of being addicted, fear of loss. Most people associate with not doing something as laziness but that is the easy answer. Fear destroys life. The only thing fear has accomplished is to create panic and ignorance.

Me. See if I could be one superhero, I would be Batman. If I WAS a superhero I would be Green Lantern. I am one of the most stubborn and hardheaded people I know. I act before I stop to think about the consequences because I see what I want and I go for it. I have enormous amounts of willpower. I am tired of people questioning that. I am tired of people not believing in what other people can do. People FEAR what other people can do with willpower, with fight, with drive. They point to one event here or there instead of looking at the entire picture. Everyone has speed bumps in life. I have enough willpower to take those speed bumps and make them give me more willpower than I had before. If fear paralyzes and destroys, willpower creates. Humans in general need to stop fearing each other and rather help each other use their willpower to create something better. See the Green Lanterns have an oath. They say, “In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”  They believe in the willpower to overcome. Even when the odds see monumental and the blackest night surrounds you, you have the power to overcome great fear.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.- Vince Lombardi

See growing up is an adventure. For the first part of your life, you are basically told how to live and told what is good and bad. Often you don’t even question all of what you are told to do. Some people do question and they get labeled rebels and outsiders. Then as you continue to grow older and responsibility and expectations get set upon you, you start to see who you really are. What happens when the training wheels of life are taken away? What happens when your pedaling and steering on your own? See society and life are both scary monsters. Life is unknown, and society is often unpredictable.

Growing up requires confidence and belief. I grew up in a society where people want you to be perfect. When a teacher called on me, I couldn’t be wrong. When I played soccer, perfection was expected out of me. When I graduated high school, if I hadn’t gotten six academic excellence awards it would have been a disappointment. Spending the first 23 years of my life in school, As were demanded. There was no other option for me but perfection. We now live in a society of fact checkers and private lives becoming public because of the internet. Perfection is demanded even more than it used to be.

Growing up doesn’t always mean maturity. Sometimes a body grows up without a mind making equal strides. It is difficult to find maturity. It doesn’t always come naturally. It has to be worked at and a constant effort must be made to mature. See here is the funny thing about perfection: to achieve perfection you have to admit you aren’t perfect. Call it irony. You have to figure out what isn’t perfect to be able to fix it. So in a society that demands perfection, do we allow people enough time to figure out what is wrong and fix it? Or when are we just going to accept that perfection doesn’t matter because in the end it is unattainable?

You ever go to the library just to get out of your house? No? Well that is okay because I do it enough for both of us. It is not socially acceptable to completely ignore everyone else around you in any other place besides the library. Currently I am sharing a desk with a girl who is probably 18. I was never good with telling age, and its like they can perform plastic surgery with makeup and add ten years in five minutes anymore. Wait who am I joking? This girl is at the library at 3:30 PM on a summer Wednesday, she doesn’t wear makeup! Do you wear makeup?

But back to what I was discussing. We are currently facing each other, not because we are trying to catch each other’s eye and spark a romance, but because that is how the desk is set up. Which is the worst set up ever. We are currently both on our laptops, but what if we were reading? When I read I like to relax and take it easy. All I would see is her predator eyes lurking over the top of the book trying to catch glimpses of me. There is nothing less comfortable then having a book lurker. Maybe I have watched too many Lifetime movies with my mother.

We are both using our laptops and I can only assume this girl is watching some sort of funny video on youtube, probably something to do with animals and musical instruments. Now when I am sitting alone in my room, and not having an out of body experience, I can’t tell what I look like when I am using my laptop. I never realized how dumb it is to see someone sitting at a little rectangular object and randomly laughing, while not being able to see what they are looking at. That would having a family movie night and your family making you stand behind the TV so that you just had to guess what they were watching, and before you ask, no that did not happen to me. Maybe.
So every time I hear a giggle, I give her a look without actually fully looking at her, but she still knows that I’m looking at her. So here I am, in a place of knowledge, completely judging a random stranger for doing something that I always do. Not to mention her annoying giggling interrupted my serious blog I was writing. Oh well. This is better anyways.

See life is full of tragedy. It affects everyone and people have different ways of dealing with it. Sometimes tragedy it natural and sometimes it is manmade. And it is the manmade disasters that hurt me the worst. The recent shootings at the midnight showing of the Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado truly make me stop and count my blessings. My heart goes out to all those effected by this horrible moment.

See my entire family lives in Colorado. I have a strong connection to that state and the people of that state. I remember the day of the Columbine shooting almost as clearly as I remember 9/11. Only being in 5th grade, I remember my mother, who worked at my elementary school, not telling me much and just that she was worried about our cousins (thankfully none went to Columbine). I saw the aftermath as it changed the entire country. I saw how a trench coat instantly became a badge of troubled youth. I saw  how people were quick to blame everything from video games to movies to music for causing those teens to plan and act out a massacre. Although not the first act of gun violence in United States history, Columbine was one of if not the most prominent. For many, this was a once in a lifetime heinous act. People had memorials, some made movies about it, others just prayed. Gun violence  had cut a permanent tear into the fabric of the United States.

See but that once in a lifetime tragedy turned out to be not so once in a lifetime. Since 1999, acts of gun violence seem to be on an upswing. There was more school shootings, like the Virginia Tech shootings. There was the Fort Hood shootings which effected the military. Earlier this year, there was a shooting at Oikos University, a religious school in Oakland. And of course there was the most recent, in Aurora, Colorado. The most recent shooter is the same age as me. He has been influenced by many of the things in society that I have been influenced by. He was a young mind when Columbine happened. He was raised in a society where are man who made his lifestyle fighting, killing, and blowing things up can become a govenor, where Call Of Duty is the top selling video game, and one of the worst recessions ever has negatively effected millions of people.

See what does this say about our society? Are we at the point where massacres and shootings in public spaces are becoming expected instead of outrageous? Can we not provide for the citizens of the United States? If we prescribe to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, then we are all somewhat to blame for what happened. Does society not provide a support system for those with issues? Is society actually the problem in these people’s lives? Is it crushing them and providing expectations that sometimes are impossible to live up to? Or are these people just the outliers that are their own creation? Have these people always existed in society but now they have the weapons to make more of an impact? Why is there so many questions that have few to no answers?

See people overreact. They don’t take time to think. They have a knee jerk reaction to a huge event and don’t stop to connect the right lines. Banning costumes at the movies does not address any issue that arose from the most recent shooting. Me sitting here and saying that the second amendment needs to be done away with is over reacting, though about four or five more of these shootings and I will seriously start to think about it. The fact of the matter is, if we can’t have an open an honest conversation about what is causing these tragedies to occur, we will never move on. We need to stop attacking each other’s ideas and start listening. We need to stop looking at things that don’t matter and start focusing on what does. People are afraid to have hard conversations because they have hard answers. It is easier to attack ideology and personality than put forward a plan for change. At this point, anything is better than nothing. I’ll even listen to ideas about bullet control.

Some works of art transcend genre. Some are able to break the mold and get passed the labels. Some works of art require humans to stop and think for a while instead of instantly tagging it with a word or a catch phrase. Breaking free from conventional trappings, these works of art often lift up the entire genre they were associated with and bring a new sense of respectability to all things associated.  The Christopher Nolan Batman movies have so far done that for comic books and comic book movies. They are movies about more than a guy running around in his pajamas from when he was a kid, or one of those ice-speed skater suits.

Just to be clear, as I sit writing this, I am wearing my skintight Catwoman outfit, batman tighty whities, a cape, and am playing the theme from the original batman TV show. I love Batman. I love comic books, or graphic novels as those pretentious intellectuals, who like to pretend that all comic books somehow merit consideration for the Pulitzer Prize, call them. I grew up on a steady stream of Batman. When I was a kid, I used to watch Batman the Animated Series religiously with my brother. I watched the Michael Keaton Batman movies countless times (Ever danced with a devil in the pale moonlight?). I watched the Adam West Batman TV show on TV Land with my father. I watched the fan made movie where Batman fights a predator. I read the comic books. I even sat through the terrible Val Kilmer and George Clooney Batman movies. I love the character.

Batman is my favorite comic book character. And when I get into discussions with people about it, they always ask why. Every common question has common answers. Mostly everyone who likes Batman will tell you, “Batman is just a man. He has no super powers, and yet he is one of the most powerful superheroes ever.” That is a good answer. It answers the question and it very logical. People connect with similarity. Since Batman isn’t from Krypton, live underwater, run at the speed of light, join a universal police squad, or the last of the Martians, people like you and me can connect to him more readily than other characters. Since I am difficult and love to be different, I had to think long and hard about why I really like Batman. I have broken it down to his mental fortitude. As a man, dealing with the tragedies in his life, Bruce Wayne is the strongest character I have ever read or seen, across any medium. Where other men crumble, he seems to rise to the occasion and even flourish. He funnels the anger, hate, guilt, and sadness from the tragedies in his life into fighting crime.

Now with all of this being said, comic books are still viewed by many as simply children’s literature. Many adults or those who are seemingly more mature scoff at the ideas of heroes and the constant battle between the forces of good and evil. The X-Men trilogy and the Spider-Man trilogy are perfectly good evidence of this idea. Yes they were entertaining blockbusters, but they were essentially stories about grown men and women running around in skin tight suits spouting off one liners. They helped lay the foundation for super hero movies as we know them today, but they did not elevate the medium to a higher level.

Christopher Nolan has so far put together two movies that have managed to elevate the comic book movie medium. Batman Begins was a better comic book movie than the Dark Knight. The Dark Knight was a better movie than Batman Begins. Batman Begins focuses its efforts on creating a thrilling hero movie, with Batman saving the day and the forces of good reigning triumphant once again. The Dark Knight goes much deeper into the problems that plague society and the inner workings of people. The Dark Knight transcends the comic book genre because it dares to put questions about what humanity is and how it can stretched to it’s limits right there for the viewer to ponder. Batman and the Joker could be taken out of the Dark Knight and replaced and the movie would still be strong and believable. We watched the part of the Dark Knight where the two boats have the opportunity to blow each other up in my AP Psychology class. We looked at the psychology behind the Joker’s “Social experiment.” I watch that movie and see comparisons between Bruce Wayne, and his tiring of being a symbol and doing what is right while sacrificing his personal life, and myself and many of the people with strong character in my life. I look at Bruce Wayne wearing a mask and ask myself, “Is Batman the mask or is Bruce Wayne the mask?” Then I begin to question myself on what masks I wear. When art dares to ask larger questions it often fails, but Christopher Nolan succeeded in asking those questions and presenting them to a wider audience than a normal comic book movie. I sat in the theater at the midnight showing of the Dark Knight, everyone was silent (even the rowdy teenagers), as they all took in a cinematic experience that few other movies have even come close to offering in my lifetime. I still get chills every time I watch that movie and the soundtrack comes on, with the one note holding and extending, building tension, creating an atmosphere that feels like it could bust out at any moment. Did I mention Heath Ledger did a pretty good job too?

            The problem is, after creating one of the best comic book movies of all time and one of the best movies of all time, can Christopher Nolan catch lightning in a bottle for a third time? Do I believe in Christopher Nolan? I have read a lot of interviews where they are focusing on Batman as a symbol. They are wrapping up a lot of loose ends by tying it into Batman Begins. I have my doubts. They are introducing a lot of new characters for one movie. They are trying to use Bane as a villain, which would be more true to the comic books than the ridiculous character in Batman & Robin. The Knightfall story line where Bane breaks Batman’s back was the first Batman comic book arc I ever read. They have a flying batmobile. Historically, it is hard to have a strong third episode of a trilogy. Return of the Jedi went all-cute and cuddly with Ewoks, Back to the Future III was a joke, Mockingjay the third book in the Hunger Games series ruined the entire series for me. I have my midnight showing tickets for the Dark Knight Rises. I am going to go. I am going to see it. I have my reservations about it. I am worried. I want to see a strong powerful resolution to the trilogy. I am going in excited, open-minded, but emotionally reserved. I do believe in Christopher Nolan, I just don’t envy him.

So teaching a psychology class has made me start looking at my life differently. We just so happen to be watching a bunch of the True Life program from MTV. It has made me feel like my life is somewhat in control compared to other people out there. Well that was until I stopped and looked at one aspect of my life.

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Desk

When I went to Sonoma State, I used to go to nearby downtown Santa Rosa for a book store there. Treehorn Books was located on 4th street. It was amongst a bunch of other shops such as a candy store and a fair trade goods store. This shop couldn’t have been more than 20 feet wide, but it was at least 50 feet deep. It was stoked from the floor to the ceiling with books. The books were in some sort of order, but there were massive amounts of them. My favorite sections, the history and social science books were actually divided from the other sections of the store and in cubicle like rooms of their own. I would spend hours in this store. I would grab one of those little step stools that are so common in bookstores and sit on it and browse the books. I wouldn’t read them in the store, I would just grab them, flip through them, hold them in my hands. There is something significant about holding an item in your hands that another person has spent years researching and writing and a lifetime forming opinions about. Whenever I got a chance I would buy a new book. Now when I say new book, I mean new for me. Someone else had used it before and absorbed its knowledge before me. Books are the ultimate second hand items. The cover make get worn and the pages may turn yellow but the knowledge and stories inside will almost never disappear.

Bookshelf 1

            As the son of a librarian, I grew up holding books to a higher level then many other people around me. I knew the importance of a good book and treating a book right. I knew the importance of showing respect around books. I learned from my mother to be quiet around books. A library is a place that demands silence. Even though bookstores are not libraries, people who go to small bookstores act the same way. They treat it like a library. They are consumed by what they hold in their hands, deep in thought and concentration. That is why I have a hard time going into large cookie cutter bookstores. Barnes & Noble is amazing. It has tons of books and offers them in an appealing way, but there are too many people there. It is too loud. I can’t concentrate enough to even begin to search for a book that I want to spend hours with. The quaintness of a used bookstore will never disappear. There is a companionship between used booksellers and buyers. It is an unspoken fraternity. The silence shows respect to the books and to each other. Don’t think that I am some sort of guy who wants to keep the books for myself and doesn’t want them to be shared with anyone. I want to share my books with everyone, but there are rules that need to be abided by when dealing with books.

Bookshelf 2

My love for books does not stop with traditional written books and novels, it continues to comic books. My favorite comic book store is Fantasy Books and Games. Now a comic book store has even more unwritten rules than a normal bookstore. The level of devotion and love that the customers of these stores show to the products being sold borders on obsession most of the time. Comic books are often looked at as nerdy and immature, but they can contain some of the most mature and thought provoking material out there. I could spend hours in this comic bookstore, but I usually get a headache from over stimulation. There is too much going on and too much I want to see.

Random stack

Reading a good book is a full sensory experience. You can feel the book in your hands, see it with your eyes, hear the voices in your mind (okay that is a little bit of a stretch), smell the pages as they get older, and if it is old enough, you can taste the dust as it falls with every turn of the page. With that being said, it is obvious I am old school. I may eventually break down and get a Kindle, but it won’t be because I like the idea. I hate the idea. My book collection is already over flowing into parts of my room not designated for books. A Kindle can collect numerous books in a package smaller than a traditional book. Books just spew out wisdom and knowledge. Having a bookshelf is a sign of intelligence and dedication. You don’t have friends over and have them comment on the full capacity of your Kindle. You cannot decorate your home and coffee table with Kindles. You can’t pull out your Kindle and show your grandchildren the history and the love that your Kindle itself represents.

Books may be dying out. Books may be under utilized and seen as relics of the past, but for me, they represent hard work, dedication, patience, imagination, fantasy, biographies, science, photography, fashion, gardening, cooking, and knowledge. I buy books and read at any chance I get. So my only question left is, “Who wants to join my book club?”

I always watch the 5 O’clock news. A couple of weeks ago, I was watching the news and a report about the death of Davy Jones came on. No not the Squid-Guy from Pirates of the Caribbean but a member of the Monkees. My mom leaves the kitchen (she was actually in the kitchen, I’m not being sexist) and stands in front of the TV. She turns to me and does, “I had such a crush on him.” The look is what will stick in my memory though. My mother had looked at me like she had just heard about the death of the first boy she ever kissed or her first middle school crush. She had such emotion in her eyes for someone she had never even met. I have always thought those screaming girls trying to touch Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers were ridiculous and stupid. Now I have to live with the fact that my mom may have been one of those screaming girls’ forbearer.

There are certain days in my life that I remember clearly. There are the obvious ones like graduations, vacations, special dates, September 11th, and Obama’s inauguration. Then there are two days that I remember that I probably have no business remembering. I remember being 9. I remember sitting on my couch watching MTV. I remember hearing the little ditty that signaled that an MTV newsbreak was coming. I remember Kurt Loder coming on the television. I remember him announcing that Tupac Shakur had passed in the hospital away after being shot.  Now, since I was not a ghetto 9 year old, I did not have a large understanding of Tupac. That day inspired me to look into the life and art of Tupac Amaru Shakur, but there will be more on that later. The second day is a bit easier to recollect. I remember being at work. I remember getting a text. I remember other coworkers getting texts. I remember no one believing it. I remember getting off of work, going home, and turning on the news. I remember them announcing that Michael Jackson had died. I remember this as clear as day. Why are these days mixed in with other days that shaped my life and changed the world? I know when I get older, my kids and my grandkids are going to come home from school, well if school as we know it still exists, and ask me. For their homework, where I was and what I remember about 9/11 and the aftermath. I will recall that my mom woke me up early to tell me that something bad had happened. I will remember the school not letting us watch anything on TV. I will remember being scared. I will remember the decision to send troops to Afghanistan. I highly doubt that any teacher will send the future generations home with questions for their parents and grandparents about where they were when Tupac died.

See, I have an obsession with Tupac. He got me interested in rap music. He got me interested in Black history. He got me interested in activism, poetry, using words to actually mean something and being human. It took a while after his death but I slowly opened myself to the world of Tupac’s music and art. I tried to understand him and the people in his music. Being a kid from the suburbs, this opened my eyes to a world I didn’t even know existed. I even bought a shirt with Tupac on it. Now for a man to wear another man’s face on my chest, there has to be some love there. There are only three men I have shirts with their face on them. All of them can be identified by one name, Tupac, Kobe, and Obama. I loved Tupac. I watched movies, listened to music, and read books dealing with Tupac. Much like to many others, I elevated him to a sort of Thug Angel, like Michael Eric Dyson calls him. I even wrote my senior capstone paper on the connections between Tupac and the Civil Rights Movement. And here I was thinking that screaming girls had something wrong with them. I rationalized it by saying Tupac stood for something. My love for him is more substantial because there is something behind it, something besides looks.

Society hasn’t just started to worship celebrities. It may be more extreme now, but it is nothing new. The infatuation with celebrities is the common belief by not only us (the common folk), but also them (celebrities), that they are perfect. We see them on TV, hear them on the radio, or read their words and because of this all their actions have a sense of invincibility, a sense of perfection. We hear about all the money they make and fantasize about being them, but that is not why we watch. We watch to see them become human before our own eyes. We elevate them to godlike status and then watch as the human on the inside begins to crack the god on the outside. We watch as we realize even with all that money, they are still just bones and flesh. Even with everything at their disposal, they still make mistakes.  This is why Bono does not have the following that the Kardashians do. Bono does almost everything right. He uses his money and status to help. That is why people see Bono as pompous and arrogant. His actions seem almost nonhuman compared to others. This fallibility that even the celebrities show, it is why I can idolize a convicted sexual criminal (Tupac) and an alleged sexual predator (Michael Jackson). Their sins don’t kill them. They only make them human.

Look at Charlie Sheen. He suffered one of the most public downfalls in recent years. All those years of acting like a god, doing mountains of drugs and women caught up to him. All that WINNING was actually losing. Millions of people were caught up in his seeing that having tiger blood and being a Vatican assassin were slowly breaking his godlike persona. I was wrapped up on the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen, where he appeared more human and down to Earth than the roasters who were supposed to be bringing him down to Earth. Lindsay Lohan is another case. She is my celebrity crush. I saw Mean Girls seven times in theaters. It kills me to see her keep falling down the rabbit hole and not figuring out how to get back out. We don’t like to watch people fail. We like to watch people realize who they truly are.

See people like to say that kids do not have idols anymore. There are few people in the public realm who display the morals for children to look up to. If our society has come to the point where we are looking towards celebrities for role models, we may have gone too far. Celebrities can inspire us. They can speak to us with their performances and their words. They can help us escape the realities of the world. That being said, just because they are in the public eye, does not mean that they have a degree in manners and morals. If you want to complain that kids have no one to look up to, I have one thing to say to you, “Be the idol that you want your kids to have.” I want to go back to the days when elementary school kids would paint a picture of their grandparents and say they were their heroes. I miss the days when all kids wanted to be when they grew up was their dad or their mom. If there is a lack of idols in the world, it is because the parents and the older generations are not teaching their kids that celebrity worship is acceptable up to a point and not providing them with someone who is an idol. You may feel like you know your celebrity crush personally, but you don’t. So do you want your kids idol to be someone they don’t know?