Monday, March 23, 2009

I fucking hate getting old. It's supposed to be a rich and plentiful time - life begins at 40 (or nowadays 50) and all that utter bollocks. I'm hurtling towards 50 (in a little over 3 years and that scares the bejesus out of me) and yet in my head I still feel as though I'm in my 30s (maybe even 20s, but definitely not in my teens). That's probably a lot to do with not having any kids of my own; I think parents are a bizarre blend of child and stick-in-the-mud grumpy old sod. Have you ever noticed how so many parents really don't like the idea of their kids following in their footsteps, especially when they're teenagers. When I was that age it was all casual sex, cider and parents who didn't appear to give a shit. Nowadays, it's very much the same and while some parents still don't give a shit, many of those who aspired to maybe a better level of living now really do. But that's already a digression and I've not finished the first paragraph.

Don't get me wrong, some unbelievably brilliant things have happened to me since I turned 40 and whenever they continue to happen I'm just grateful that I'm experiencing them before I either can't or I'm incapable. I'm sounding like a 90 year old... Having arthritis at my age is a pisser. You try to manage, to grit your teeth and get on with it, but it's not always possible. Sometimes it just takes you out. It also has a sense of irony too, obviously it isn't conscious of this, it's just the way things work out. Last year it was my back and my right leg; it gave me a lot of grief and a lot of gritting my teeth and getting on with it. By the end of the year I'd just about accepted that I probably wasn't going to play golf again, or ever bungee jump (not that I would, but...) or anything physical that might seriously fuck me up. I started 2009 about as positive as I could and while my back and leg were still giving me some gyp, I was living with it. So, my body obviously decided that wasn't enough...

The arthritis got into my shoulders late last year and I had physio pretty much as soon as it started, but by the beginning of this month my leg arm was basically extra baggage. But this is where the irony comes in... At the start of this year I started to have problems with my thumb - the right one. It swells up like a balloon and means that for two or three days I'm incapable of doing nothing unless I can do it with my left hand. I have this perfectly good left arm attached to a shoulder that doesn't want to get involved in human physiology any longer and working right shoulder with a hand that is neither good to man nor beast for days on end. Heck, on some days I'd gladly swap the two shit arms for one decent one.

But I'm not hear to whinge about my ailments or give you sage advice about how to avoid becoming a cripple by the time you're 50; you're all going to need to do a lot more than just avoid getting old in the years to come because I believe we are seeing our very own 'Last Days of the Roman Empire' - this planet could be a very different place in 10 years and the generation best placed to deal with it will be fast approaching pension age - if, indeed, there still is a pension.

Here's a great idea for a reality TV show. Take 6 people from council estates in deprived areas and 6 people from middle class families, dump them in the middle of nowhere and tell them to survive. Film them all remotely so that you don't even have to be there. Give them survival rations and some equipment for trapping and killing their own food and leave them. Just leave them. Never go back, just continue filming them until they die or kill each other or just fuck and procreate a generation of children that will only know Nike, Sony and White Lightning as myths. This is a very pertinent televisual social comment because in 50 years that's what those left will be doing.

I'll continue this when I feel less like slitting my own throat with a wooden spoon...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ultimate fly

I have this Facebook nonsense. Call me a sheep, but I decided that I should really be 0n some form of social networking site, especially as I do very little networking of any kind. The thing that drew me towards Facebook was Texas Hold'em Poker, which, for someone who dislikes computer games with a passion, seems slightly hypocritical, but when you've been devoid of inspiration for months, it beats sitting at the computer staring at a screen and despairing. Playing free poker beats the shit out of watching mindless dross on the telly.

50 odd friends later and a horrible realisation dawned on me. About a fifth are family; a fifth people I hardly know, a three fifths are people that I either knew from or because of comicbooks. It might be because I spent best part of the last 35 years being involved in them, either as a reader, a fan, a worker, or as a kind of E-list celebrity blogger (not to forget the period of meltdown where I called just about everybody a 'cunt' at some point).

A lot of these people I actually like: people like Martin Shipp, Jay Eales, Dan Black, Selina Lock, Andrew Cheverton, Paul Rainey and a few others - most of them were involved with Borderline, but nepotism aside, these are people that I will gladly sacrifice my time to spend time with them. However, I do think they're all sad bastards, but only because they are still involved in comics - many want to be something in comics or harboured desires to be in them.

Someone said to me about two weeks ago, "You really don't like comics anymore, do you." My reaction was agreement. The sad truth is I hate comics with a passion; not just the pamphlets that I was addicted to for many years, but the pathetic politics attached to all the different areas, the nerdism, the obsessive compulsive disorder of rabid fanboys (and girls). The business attached to it: the people producing (and hyping) the product, the people selling it and, naturally, a lot of the people buying it. The self-importance of it; the contrary nature of the people who write about comics. The tunnel vision; the back-biting and carping, the nepotism (both sexual and 'relative'); the wasted time on fading dreams; in fact there is very little about comics that don't turn me right off.

The crux of my Comics Village column, Eat Shit and Die, was to essentially point out to those who were observant enough, that comics is actually a vile and hateful world where any redeeming features it might have are blown so far out of the water, they're perched high up on Blackpool Tower (or the Statue of Liberty). The problem is, most everyone in comics, whether you're the artist or writer du jour or a lowly humble fan; you are so fucking righteous that you cannot accept any criticism or joke made at the expense of your (not-so now) secret mistress. The only people who ever got the column were already like-minded people and there's no fun preaching to the converted for too long.

Don't get me wrong; as much as I hate comics and everything that surrounds it, I don't really hate the majority of comics fans, pity them a little maybe, but there's no animosity. People take the piss out of me for being into mushrooms and I just accept it and know that I'm the clued up one and the rest of them are just taking the piss because they don't understand it. The same could be said about comics fans - except I don't pay a farmer to harvest field mushrooms and I don't pay the Forestry Commission to forage in their woodlands. I also get a free meal, or a free constituent part anyhow. I suppose you could use a shit comic as a fire lighter, but matches are still much cheaper (and so is a litre of petrol).

I have fought for years, in an almost opposite stance to my current one, to get comics accepted as a serious medium; to get the interesting sounding or normal looking people to talk about comics on TV or radio, because the first people media people reach for usually are freaks and weirdos. The thing is for every freak and weirdo comics have the music industry has them to the nth degree (but, hey, they're 'artistes'). I still believe that comics could have had a future - not anymore - but once, maybe 15 years ago, they could have beaten their knockers into submission and become as important an element of the arts as they have in European, East Asian and South American comics. But, the wrong people were in charge and the only thing ever looked at since 1985 was the bottom line.

The papers are all awash with Watchmen stories and features, yet the most cutting of them all was the 4 panel cartoon in Friday's Guardian, which tells the story of how all the fans of Watchmen got behind the film from the offset and supported it through thick and thin only for them to complain bitterly once the film was released because it wasn't a panel for panel rip off of the comic series. With comics to film, it isn't a case of you can't win them all, more of a case of you can't win at all. But hey, despite the Lord of the Rings trilogy being a fantastic achievement and bloody enjoyable too, purists were up in arms because it changed things. This is the thing, with anime adaptations or manga adaptations of anime, you get very much the same thing, but that's because it works for the audience. With Hollywood, the comicbook audience in the Western World is such a niche market that it feels, rightly or wrongly, that it has to change to cater for those who have not acquired the same tastes as comics fans.

So, why am I still writing about it? It's cathartic for starters. I like to inform people about traits they have that are socially backward (or should that have been 'awkward'). But I suppose, it all boils down to, the fact that because of the impending Depression we're facing, comics as a professional business could actually bite the big one and a medium originally created to provide cheap entertainment for the poor will only cater for the rich and economically idiotic. Plus, you can't spend two-thirds of your life involved in something without occasionally having an opinion about it - even if I am so out of the loop I'm like a painter in a knitting circle.

And what do I think of Watchmen? Well the comic was loosely based on a long forgotten science fiction short story and I'll watch the movie when I can download the avi file - I've been reliably informed that Silk Spectre II has very nice boobies.