Agent of Change

A Blog by Cory!! Strode, who really should write something interesting here.

That’s How I Got To Memphis

If you love somebody enough you’ll follow wherever they go

That’s how I got to Memphis, that’s how I got to Memphis

If you love somebody enough you’ll go where your heart wants to go

That’s how I got to Memphis, that’s how I got to Memphis

-Tom T. Hall

 

In the TV series “The Newsroom”, the final episode uses this song as a storytelling device, with the lead character explaining that’s it’s not Memphis being talked about, but where ever you are. How did you get here.

I think a lot of about that in my life. How did I get to Minneapolis? How did I start working in social services? How did I start doing podcasts? How did I become a father? How did I become this person’s friend?

Life is a series of choices, some are presented dramatically, some just sort of happen because you go along with the flow. My move to Minnesota was one where I was with a woman and we were presented with the opportunity to move here. I visited a city I had never thought of going to in order meet someone I had started a relationship on-line for love. I have taken a few trips for love, and while I profoundly regret the first one, I feel the others were important choices.

I started work in social services because of the people I knew in high school who needed help and none was available to them. Eventually, I tapped out on working with teenagers, and now I work with developmentally disabled adults because I believe all we have is each other, and we need to take care of each other.

I got into podcasting because it was a new way to tell stories, and because my closest friend was working a travelling job, and it was a way for us to keep in touch and keep the friendship growing. The people I have on the show I do with Joe are people I feel close to and want to share that friendship with. Most of the time, it’s reciprocated. Most of the time.

Would I move for love? Sure. What I do, I can do anywhere with an internet connection and people who need help. Would I change my life for love? Of course. I’ve done it before. I have changed my future, given myself over to someone, opened my home to those I love, and helped people change their lives because I loved them. Even if they are gone, that’s a choice I made and it’s how I got here.

I suppose you could also say that everything we do makes us what we are.

How did YOU get to where you are now? Did you do it for love? Did you do it because it seemed right at the time? Did you just wander into it and have no reason to change? I hope that you did it because you wanted to get to Memphis. Metaphorically, of course, if we all lived there, I don’t think the sewer system could handle it. Life is fleeting and some doors are closed when you walk through them, but I hope that you get to where you wish to go, and that it’s far, far better than you had imagined.

Much love to friends old and new. Thank you for your precious time. Please forgive me if I start to cry. (Yeah, that’s in the song as well. Go listen to it, you’ll thank me.)

That’s how I got to Minneapolis. A single comics podcaster with two jobs, one biological child and one who showed up later, working in an office by day and with DD adults at night and weekends, and someone who followed where his heart wanted to go.

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What do we owe each other

I wrote a long essay on the current health care bill and how it’s being sold to us. I dug into why it’s a bad idea, how it will further drive Americans into the haves and have nots, and how it shoves more of the burden of the cost of being a civilized society onto the working and corporate serf class.  I edited it, filled it with clever asides and the personal experiences of people I know and love.

Then.

I deleted it.

No one who reads it will change their mind about anything involved. Every election cycle, we’re told by the polls that Americans want the health care system in America fixed, and anyone who tries anything to do so is ripped apart and may as well go into hiding.

I keep thinking about the phrase “What we owe each other.”

The minute I write that phrase, I hear people, mostly Americans (and mostly a specific privileged subset of Americans) say “Nothing.”

I don’t believe that. I just don’t.  Human beings are a species that is social.  The quickest way to break a person is to remove human contact.  The punishment that narcissists and abusers favor is to remove their victim’s social network (I know, I’ve had people attempt it before).  Our young are unable to care for themselves for years, meaning that we need to parent our young for years, unlike horses, turtles, fish, etc…  That means we have to have tribes, families, cultures and civilizations.

However, there is a growing strain of so-called “individualists” who feel that it’s OK to take without giving. That aggression is to be worshipped.  That ripping people off, exploiting them, and leaving them with nothing is just the way of the world.  They argue we need to remove protections for those who don’t have power because, well, everyone should be able to succeed on their own through rugged individualism.

What about those who are developmentally disabled? What about those whose talents aren’t suited for cutthroat capitalism?  What about those who don’t have the family and intergenerational supports that more successful people do?  What about those who do the necessary, but undervalued jobs that have to be done for our cities and societies to function?

Are they lesser beings? Are they to be left behind in the rat race?

“Those who do not work, do not eat” is tossed around by these folks, and for some reason, we don’t see this mindset as evil.

What DO we owe each other?

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What I am thinking about today:

  • I am learning that there is a danger sleeping in my own bed. I don’t want to get out of it.  This is not a problem when I sleep on the couch at my part-time job.
  • Trump wants to have a military parade like they have in North Korea and used to have in Soviet Russia. Which doesn’t surprise me at all.
  • I spent $40 at Aldi for groceries last night and now am set for the winter.
  • Anyone who says things can’t make you happy obviously hasn’t owned a really good book.
  • I still don’t know if I want to keep the beard.
  • If you take peanut butter filled pretzels and dip them in cheese, you can actually hear your arteries hardening.
  • Sal Buscema doesn’t get enough love from comics fans.
  • I like highlighting people who seem to be forgotten by comics fandom because most people will respond with “Oh yeah, I love their work!”
  • Remember, the comic I like the least, I STILL like better that the comic you like the most.
  • I read something recently that enlightenment is simply being happy with who you are, where you are and your situation at that moment.  You can read all of the philosophy and self-help books in the world, meditate for hours a day, join discussion groups and all the like, but in the end, it’s being happy with what exist in that moment.  Find a way to do that every day, and you’re streets ahead of most people.
  • Yes, streets ahead is a “Community” reference.  You’re welcome.
  • I usually undercut my deep, philosophical points with a joke because I worry people will think I’m pretentious.  I won’t do that here, but if you like, I know a 15 minute version of “The Aristocrats” I’d be more than happy to tell you.
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What year is it?

Twin Peaks: The Return, is over.

A show I never thought I’d get to see ran for 18 episodes, and as part of his deal, David Lynch demanded no interference from the network and got it. The first episode drew around 300,000 viewers when it aired, but Showtime stated that it was viewed over two million times on various platforms, and had a huge jump in their subscription service.  Lynch himself said to watch it like an 18 hour movie, and while I didn’t do that, I did do a few binges and liked it much better that way that watching an hour a week.

It was confounding, vague, impressionistic, weird, funny, goofy, horrifying and in some scenes, the darkest and most disturbing thing I have ever seen.

It was exactly what I needed without knowing it was what I wanted.

AND I am not going to get all snobby about it and say “You didn’t understand it” in a snide, condescending tone. It was not meant to be easily understood, challenged the viewer and made no apologies about that.  You bought in and decided to play in Lynch and Mark Frost’s nightmare or didn’t.  It wasn’t weird for weirdness’s sake, it was how David Lynch tells a story now.  Dreamlike, without answers and leaving much of the connective tissue up to you to put it together.

One of the great things about the series is that I have read multiple summations of the last episode. They all have very different interpretations of the ending, and, in my mind, they are all correct.  It was a sad ending.  It was a terrifying ending.  It was a satisfying ending.  It left a huge cliffhanger. It wrapped everything up.

Every one of those observations is valid. I have my own interpretation, but think about it:  What was the last piece of mainstream entertainment that allowed for ambiguity?  Where everything wasn’t tied up, explained and given to the audience prepackaged and easily summarized for Wikipedia?

If there is only the book in October and then Twin Peaks goes away forever, I am fine with that. If Lynch and Frost revisit that world, I am fine with that too.  In a time of Tentpoles instead of movies, I like that there are still people out there exploring how to tell a story and being afraid to make the audience work.

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DACA

I am about to do something that many of my friends will be irritated about. I will understand Trump’s DACA announcement.
Hear me out, here, and don’t think I have gone full Rush Limbaugh.
DACA was a Presidential order meant to be in place while Congress put together a comprehensive immigration overhaul. The reason that the Confederate state’s attorney generals brought a lawsuit was partially because the Evil Kenyan Man did it, but also because changes like the one behind DACA are to come from the Legislative branch. I know they are simply using that as cover for what they really want to do (get rid of Brown Skinned people), but there is an underlying legal argument to be made.
Trump promised his voters he would end it, and no matter what else you think, when it comes to his anti-immigrant promises, he’s actually trying to follow through on them. However, knowing that it would be unpopular with the business community and the military, who have both been able to enjoy the consequences of DACA, he did what he has done his whole life.
Dumped the responsibility onto someone else to clean up after him.
This was a no-lose for Trump. He gets to toss red meat to his base and distract them from the fact that his own justice department finished their investigation, and he was lying about the Evil Black Kenyan wiretapping Trump Tower. He can appear tough on brown people. He gets to blame Congress when they are incapable of doing anything. He didn’t even make the announcement so that there is no footage of him saying it to be used against him later. Oh, and bonus, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions get to hate on brown people!
So, what should you do?
Instead of posting memes about Trump, get on the phone with your congresscritter and tell them to pass a permanent version of DACA. Phone calls are what kept the ACA in place, and phone calls will get this passed. Simple tell the poor phone rep that you will not vote for the congresscritter unless they support DACA legislation.
Trump will always do what he is going to do. We need to work around him, like Congress has quietly announced they are going to do.

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Sell the damn hat!

While watching the news, I wondered why the President was wearing a baseball cap with USA on it with a suit. It’s well known that Trump doesn’t know how to dress himself, his suits don’t’ fit, his tie dangles long past his tie, his golf attire is ill-fitting and you would think a man worth Billions of dollars could get clothing that fits properly and doesn’t look like he ordered it from the Sears catalog in the 70’s and figured it was classy then, so it’s classy now.

But the Ball cap.

A quick trip to his website shows the reason he wears it. He has all three of the styles he’s been on the news this week for are available for the low, low price of $40, plus shipping and handling.  And remember, it’s America First, except when it comes to making his merch, which is quietly made in China (like those MAGA hats).  Much like a Kardashian or some other “Instagram star”, he wears the new merch as a way to get people to BUY BUY BUY!

Just like when his important press conferences were sales pitches for his crappy hotel in DC or his even more crappy gold course in Scotland, the carnival barker in him always takes precedent over anything else.

He couldn’t find rubble to stand on, so he climbed a ladder to try to get his “Bush with a bullhorn” moment in Houston. Why? Because it turned around Bush’s image from the early days after 9/11, when he sat stunned and not knowing what to do when informed of the attack, or flying here and there in the aftermath, freaking people out that he kept being shuttled from city to city.

However, as most people who do marketing instead of caring, he flew in, got the photos and flew out, not talking to a single victim. Saturday will be the typical Trump “do over” where he will try to get over his hatred of poor people to be seen with a few of them.  Maybe.  But only if they’ve been cleaned up and look good on TV, but we know that is all he cares about.

We’ll also see that hat every time he’s on TV if he can squeeze it in. Them $40 baseball caps don’t sell themselves, so just like other celebrities, eh has to push the brand, because they brand is all that matters.

 

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Trumpwatch 8/15/2017

Yesterday, the president went in front of cameras and, through gritted teeth and only after being told to by everyone from his daughter to the people he watches on Fox News, condemned the Nazis who held a rally to protest a statue of Robert E Lee being relocated.  The media and his supporters will say that he has corrected a misstatement from the weekend where he said there was hate “on many sides” and (and this is the one that shows his true feelings) “We must cherish our history.” 

Should I remind you that the Nazi were chanting about how their history won’t be erased?  How the essence of the current white power movement is that diversity is erasing the great civilization created by white men?  How Trump has retweeted members of the white power movement? Took over a week to condemn David Duke?

I am reading people who aren’t Trump fans who apologize for him by saying, “He’s doing it for votes and knows they are part of his base.”

Don’t. Be. Fooled. 

As we keep hearing “Why won’t he condemn them?”, I keep asking a golf question.

How many mulligans do we give this guy?  On the day of their rally, he didn’t condemn the Nazis and instead said he was against the hate “on many sides”, which white power websites said shows he’s with them.  And. They. Are. Right.  He condemns them days later, in prepared statements, like a 7 year old who has been told to apologize by his mother.  In his twitter feed, which is the window into his soul, he has no problem attacking CEOs who condemn the Nazis, Rosie O’Donnell, and his own party, but not a peep about Nazis who march with torches chanting “Blood and soil.”

His dad was arrested in 1927 for taking part in a KKK riot in New York.  He’s been investigated for racial discrimination in housing.  He’s called for the execution of black teenagers, later proven innocent and refuses to take it back, still saying they should have been executed.  Said in MULTIPLE interviews he doesn’t like having black people work for him.  And on, and on, and on, and on.

Everyone who doesn’t see this, see that it is intentional, is getting played for chumps.

“We must cherish our history.”

Remember that.  That’s who he is.  That’s what he believes. 

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In Which Our Hero Discusses Comics and Milkshakes

In a Facebook comics discussion group, someone posted a picture of a Marvel publishing employee and her friends with milkshakes and said, “This is the problem with comics” as if we all immediately understood what he meant.  Others joined in and said yes, and I asked what he meant…and was met with snotty responses and name calling. 

I replied by saying, and I will admit I was being snotty, “I was just trying to determine if you were ageist or sexist.”

Which, of course, upset this snowflake, who felt he should be able to hate on women without anyone calling him on it.  They then went on and on about these KIDS are ruining Marvel, these WOMEN don’t know anything about comics and the like.

Never mind that Marvel was pretty much run by people in their 20’s through the 70s and into the 80’s.  Never mind that Marvel has expanded into libraries and schools over the last decade.  Never mind that ALL of publishing has fallen apart, with even major publishers like Gold Eagle and Harlequin having to shutter due to poor sales.

Nope, it’s women.  Young women.  They’ve ruined everything.

I don’t know how to break it to people, but physical media has fallen on hard time.  Borders used to be a multi billion dollar company before people quit buying books.  Blockbuster, Media Play, Musicland, Tower Records, Hastings, your local mall and on and on and on, all of them have been killed by the “new economy.”

The comics industry is trying to diversify, not just its content, but its revenue streams.  Tell me all you want about those icky girls are killing comics and I will gently point at Saga, which has a primarily female audience is making money hand over fist.  Tell me about how kids don’t read comics and I will point you toward the Scholastic book sales and how Marvel makes a LOT of money from them.  As well as library sales. 

I’m betting these He Man Woman Haters read a few comics edited by Karen Berger over the years, who expanded comics in the 80’s and 90’s in a way that grew the audience and made everyone in comics a lot of money.

Blockbuster had a chance to buy into Netflix early on, and passed as it didn’t fit their business model.  For all of the belly aching about Marvel, DC, who has kept a lot of the “old school” way of creating comics, has seen its sales drop as well.  Comic shops are part of a last ditch distribution network, and in many ways, if THEY don’t diversify their product lines and customers, they tend to go under as well.  We talk on the podcast I do all the time that if you shop JUST sells comics, you probably are doomed, since that market is shrinking as digital, Amazon and people abandoning physical media continues to grow. 

I guess those milkshake drinking young women are destroying them as well, which shows just how powerful they are, I guess.

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Why Previews Sucks or How To Sell Comix

I haven’t posted about comics for a while, but mostly it’s because of how busy I’ve been and haven’t had time to read all that much that’s new. Except Shirtless Bear Fighter.  Damn, that’s a fun book.  You need to go buy it.  Do that.  I’ll be here when you get back.

Are you back? Did you read it?  Wasn’t that fun?

Anyway.

We can all agree that Previews is a barely readable mess, right? A jumble of images and ads that may somehow be close to the page of the comic being solicited, but the vast majority are a tiny paragraph with a postage sized image that tells you next to nothing about the book, so that ordering a $4 24 page indy feels like a crap shoot.  But that’s not what annoyed me this month.

‘WE’VE GOT A GREAT NEW LINE OF BOOKS AND YOU HAVE TO BUY THEM. IT’S A WHOLE NEW LINE OF 8 MONTHLY COMICS THAT ARE LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN AND OH BOY HOWDY, YOU NEED THESE AWESOME COMICS!!!!”

That may well be, but when all you have on the Big Ad You Spent A Lot Of Money On is how awesome the books will be and how I need to get in on the ground floor….I’m gonna pass unless I am a big fan of the creators. The hype tells me next to nothing about what the books will be about.  What do I mean?  Grab a nearby paperback novel.  Turn it over.  Now read what’s on the back.

That should tell you the genre, the tone and have a hook to make you think, “I want to know what this story is.” Some author’s don’t need to do that, but most do.  George R.R. Martin’s next Game of Thrones book won’t need a back cover blurb, but Jeb Bronie’s (get it?  Jabronie?  Never mind) better  have a kick ass cover showing a cool encapsulation of the conflict and the back cover blurb needs to grab me or it’s going back on the shelf.

That’s what your ad in Previews should be. If you’ve got a cover, show it, and it should be an image that makes the reader curious about what’s inside AND give an idea of the interior art.  In the 80’s, you could get away with a cover by Dave Stevens and interiors by Bob Hacksalot, but now, with comics at $4 a pop, that’s not gonna work as well.

In the description, don’t tell us it’s the start of an amazing 12 issue epic…that may actually make me say no, since I have a couple of long boxes of indy comics that ended mid story, and I remember those creators and just buy the trades from them now. Tell us the story hook.  Give us a question that the story answers or a reason to want to read it.

“The Gatlin Brothers have been one step ahead of foreclosure on their chicken farm for as long as they’ve owned it, but as the final notices come due, a plane carrying ten millions dollars’ worth of cocaine crashes out behind the barn. They are stuck with a choice:

Figure out how to sell the drugs, evade the authorities, keep ahead of the local gangs, hide from the cartel that is looking for their missing shipment, and save the farm…

Or,

Inform the police, lose the farm and get jobs at the local meat processing plant.”

In that little blurb, you’ve got the gist of the plot and a strong idea of what the story will be. Like the hook or not, you at least KNOW what you’re buying as opposed to:

“Writer John Doe, known for his work on Marvel Tie-In to a movie mini-series and indy book that came out three years ago and sold 7,000 copies and artist Sam Pencilpusher, who just graduated from the Kubert School and did uncredited backgrounds on Bob Artist’s DC work bring you a 6 part story with action, crime, drugs and suspense from the publisher who does a bunch of comics based on TV shows from 30 years ago!”

Maybe I’m overgeneralizing, but when I look through Previews, I see a lot of credits, but not a lot of hooks. It’s like when a movie trailer tells you a movies if from the studio who gave you a movie and a director who worked on something I haven’t seen. It narrows your audience, while the trailer that leaves you wanting to know what happens widens the audience.

You want sales to go up? Make Us Want To Know What Happens Next.

 

 

 

 

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“Just Joking”

“Just joking” is something we now hear repeatedly from the White House. Trump tells cops to beat up suspects, and the explanation is “just joking”. Ed Butowsky pressures news outlets to run the fake story about Seth Rich saying “The President wants it run” and now says he was “just joking.”

“Just joking” is the excuse given by abusers who know there is no way to cover up what they did and shifting the blame to YOU for being upset. I mean, don’t you have a sense of humor? Don’t you understand a joke?  Are you that clueless that you take it seriously?

“Just joking” is a red flag that lets you know that the person you are dealing with is dangerous and WILL attempt to hurt you.

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