Looking For Joy

It’s hard, you know? A lot of the time I’m not okay.

Right now, I’m emotionally and physically exhausted. And I realize that it is a privilege to just be that. Some of it is big and some of it is small, but it all weighs. This is the reason that I don’t really like terms like “first world problems”–because it negates the problem part of it. I acknowledge that the things that trouble me are different than the things that trouble someone in a village in Somalia, but they are also different than someone in Helsinki or Moscow or Tokyo or Rio de Janeiro. But some of them are the same. They may be largely stupid or small or silly, but they still effect me.

Note: There is going to be a lot of negative stuff here. It is followed by the positive stuff, I promise. At very nearly 4000 words, this is a long one.

I’m exhausted by all of the anger and the hate and the unwillingness to see the need to evolve. After a week of the RNC, I am even less hopeful about finding a bridge to the people who think the way those speakers think and, more importantly, the way the people in that crowd do. There is so much hate and racism and bigotry that is now just sitting on the surface like pond scum–but we’re still supposed to deny that it is there (especially for all of those that we care about that hear what they want to hear from Trump because “the democrat party abandoned them” or they “can’t let that woman win the White House”). It’s gone from the N-word to “secret Muslim” (as if blackness or being a Muslim are things that one should have to apologize or be ridiculed for), from White Supremacist to “alt-right” (as if oppressive white nationalism can be categorized the same way we categorized music in the 90’s). It’s exhausting to see some of the same bullshit chants migrate from the RNC crowd to the party that I associate with (“Lock her up!” doesn’t sound good coming from disaffected Bernie supporters either, and what’s more, it embraces a fiction and a lie that the candidate that these people thing they are supporting doesn’t embrace).

I’m exhausted by the constant fight for BLM against people who are so over sensitive that they can’t/ won’t understand that to be against the systematic murdering/ shooting of black people by bad cops is not synonymous with advocating for violence against police officers, nor is it suggesting that black lives matter more than other lives. But using “All Lives Matter” to shout down black voices pleading/ demanding to be heard as an equal participant in this country and the rights that we are afforded here, shows that the ones yelling don’t actually believe that all lives matter. And, again, I realize that it is a privilege for me to write this, because I am white and I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will be shot for no apparent reason–because I’m white gives me the benefit of the doubt. But a couple of weeks ago, a man was shot during a traffic stop about a mile from where I live–on my street–for no good reason. This man worked in the St Paul Public School system serving food to kids–hundreds of kids, whose names and allergies he knew by heart. This man who believed, as my dad does, that he has a legal right to carry a firearm and had the appropriate paperwork supporting his legal right. This man was shot dead after he was racially profiled (he “resembled” a suspect from a recent robbery because of his “wide set nose”), told he was pulled over due to his taillight and then shot in front of his fiancé and her daughter. Then his fiancé and daughter had to sit there as he bled to death, was removed from the car and handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car with her 4 year old daughter. He had committed no crime, she had committed no crime, and yet he was shot dead (and not afforded proper medical care in a timely fashion) and she was held (against her rights) until 5 in the morning as the police tried to find a way that somehow she and her dead fiancé were guilty of something that could justify a cop who executed a black man out of irrational panic. We only know about it because she broadcast it on Facebook Live. I spent the next few days with one thought swirling through my head: how long until it is someone that I know and care about that is shot dead?–dragged behind the truck of media and said to be any number of false things (that of course would justify for their racial bias a reason for the murder) and what photo would they use of my friend? All because my friend was black? How long?

And then there is the personal, things that I talked about last entry and in previous ones. Heartbreak and sadness. Because, I’m not okay. I’m working on it, but I’m not. I have a lot of sad days where it really hurts. And the bullshit MRA assholes have co-opted these types of feelings into some sort of slight against men (because their man-baby opinions just matter more than everyone else’s) that is so big that they bludgeon everyone with their bile and rancor and makes it very hard for someone like me who is just trying to process through the heartache and pining over lost love.

The big hurt is still B and most days, at some point, I think about how badly I want her back. I did, and still do, love her very much. I acknowledge that she probably does not have any feelings for me anymore and everyday I know I have to respect the division. It’s hard, because feelings are hard. The way she left, it left a glimmer of hope initially, and even if it was false hope (as it probably was) my brain has absorbed so many romantic epics that it can’t help but think “maybe someday things will be different”. But most days, I would just like to be able to talk to her again. But to initiate would be to intrude, and while it might not be unwelcome, I have to assume that it would be. So, I don’t.

And there are other hurts that I’ve redacted.

But I have to refuse that–that’s feeling sorry for myself. That is making it only about me. And so far this entry has only been about the negative things, the stuff that has been weighing on me. This is what I’m trying to fight against. I have a lot of sad days, but I’ve been looking more for opportunities to be happy. I’ve been looking for moments of joy. Things that I like, that make me happy. Trying to find time to spend with friends who make me happy. Even trying to reconnect with some people. Schedules are hard, but I keep trying (my introverted natural response is to assume that if we fail to make plans, then they probably don’t want to see my anyway … I understand how this warps and sounds contradictory to what I was saying earlier about B, it’s one of the reasons all of this can be very confusing to me–“I’ve been really busy” is both a valid reason and an excuse and sometimes I have a hard time reading which one).

Recent things that have made me happy:

The new Ghostbusters movie. It is so SO good! It is a reboot/ remake only in the fact that it is not a sequel to the films from the 1980s. I’ve said before how much I dislike the term “reboot” because it:

  1. assumes that there was something wrong with the previous version,
  2. is immediately dismissive of what is getting made

I also dislike “remake” for similar reasons.

But there was something that came before that was also called Ghostbusters (but really, people forget that the “original” Ghostbusters from 1984 was not the first film to have the name Ghostbusters and to feature people who hunted ghosts–there was another film that featured a gorilla as a sidekick that predated it. Also, this is the reason that there were two Ghostbusters cartoons in the 1980s and that the one based on characters from the 1984 film had to be called The “Real” Ghostbusters due to copyright. That 1984 movie (which I also love) wasn’t called a remake, and while this one is “based on the property” and has certain callbacks and references to the 1984 film (proton packs, ekg readers, the logo, cameos by actors/ characters from the 1984 film) it is an original script. The characters from this movie, in addition to being female, are different from the male characters in the 1984 film. Also, I know that it is an extension of the brand–Ghostbusters is a franchise and the movie studios are interested in continuing the franchise to make money. But expanding franchises does not mean that the finished product has to be mercenary and reductive. This movie, while it was made at the studios behest, preceded with the full support of the 1984 film’s director as a producer (who spearheaded the 2016 version and handpicked the writer/ director to helm the project). After years of languishing as a sequel that was never going to get made (no really, it wasn’t. Bill Murray was not interested. Harold Ramis had died. The only way for there to be a sequel was for it to be something that the original wasn’t) it was developed and it was good. What’s more, it’s important. Yes, it is a comedy about scientists who fight ghosts, but the simple fact that those scientists are women and that their existence in the movie is to not support other male characters is very important (and it is very sad that this is something that needs to be stated unequivocally in 2016).

And this movie is FUN. It had the moments that you’d expect from a horror comedy, the moments where, even though it’s still telling jokes the filmmaking and special effects and storytelling is indicating horror film and manages to get you to laugh and then get you to jump a little. It is funny. I laughed throughout the entire movie. It subverts perfectly. It builds characters wonderfully. The humor then builds upon the characters and the story, as opposed to existing as a line of disconnected jokes. This film has heart and a solid story. And it’s badass.

I was most excited going in for Kate McKinnon. I’ve seen her be really funny, but the trailers didn’t tell me much and this was her largest role so far. Holy shit, does she knock it out of the park. And she steals all of her scenes without detracting from the purpose of the scene–friends, do you realize how hard that is to do? To be funny and memorable and distinct amongst a lot of funny people in scenes with a lot of funny lines AND a story to tell, and to do it WITHOUT taking anything from the other funny people, WITHOUT stomping on the other funny lines, and WITHOUT distracting from the larger story being told? She does it. Holtzmann is my favorite. She is funny and weird and wicked smart and really good at making shit. She is also probably (definitely) gay, but IS NOT DEFINED BY HER SEXUALITY. She also has one of the more badass ghost takedown scenes in the climax.

I was so very pleasantly surprised by Leslie Jones. I know almost nothing about her. The trailers didn’t illuminate much about her role other than what little I know about her general performance type from SNL (I don’t watch the show anymore, but I’ve seen clips over the years and in those clips she is playing to a very particular comedic type, which might be just her performance style but it might also be the type of stuff that is written for her) and the general racial typing of her character’s occupation (3 white scientist and 1 black city employee). BUT, Patty is so much more than that. She is written better than the trailer suggests (which supports the director’s statement that the character was initially thought of for Melissa McCarthy, before she decided to sign onto the Abby role) and she is performed with a range that shows that Jones is a really talented actress. Her character’s job should be another reminder about opportunities black women have despite the knowledge and skills they possess. Is this a knock on being a transit employee? No. But what it says is that Patty is very educated and knowledgeable and once she has an opportunity to utilize and display that knowledge, she excels. And, there is a scene that is shown in the trailers where Abby is possessed. Patty both catches Holzmann when she is flung out the window, while also fighting possessed Abby AND protecting possessed Abby (who she obviously doesn’t want to hurt). This is the type of scene that you see men play fairly regularly in action films (sometimes unbelievably). I never once doubted that Patty could do what she was doing on screen–Leslie Jones looks capable and strong as well as dealing with the emotional moments that scene required (surprise and acknowledgement of the possession, assessment of the situation, focus on her friend Holtzmann’s predicament, focus on what is happening with Abby) while also navigating the physical requirements that the scenes progression required (so many scenes like this look very obviously choreographed and this looked like someone dealing with what was happening).

A friend recently commented on Facebook:
“Who you gonna call?” #ghostbusters

I replied:
“I’m probably going to call Holtzmann. And probably Patty. But definitely Holtzmann.”

Those women know how to get shit done.

 

Star Trek Beyond was so much fun to see. I went on Saturday night with my little brother, who is also dealing with stuff right now. It was exactly what I want out of a Star Trek movie. It had the action, but it also had the story. While I really like my Star Trek stories to deal a little more with philosophy and conflicting ideas, I also like them to have a sense of momentum as well. The television shows, due to episodic storytelling and budget, always did the dramatic storytelling the best. They held back big battles for certain moments during the seasons and spent most of their time on the discussion and debate of ideas. The movies, with their larger budgets, were able to focus on the spectacle a little more. The first Trek film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture tried to do philosophy and spectacle in a more 2001: A Space Odyssey type of story, which is to say that the spectacle and philosophy developed into a beautiful looking movie that had a story that meandered and threatened to be boring. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan developed a more action oriented story that treated the conflict between Kirk and Khan and their starships the way a film would treat US and Russian captains in their submarines. It had a good narrative thrust, compelling characters, hints at philosophy and one of the better balanced stories (it also featured a theme that Trek would continue to return to again and again, which is aging–Kirk is an admiral who longs to continue to explore). Over the years, the films would bounce back and forth in quality and what elements their stories focused on the most, but more and more, the action was pushed to the side or featured in specific moments of space battle (usually at the climax). Largely, because the crew kept getting older. In this space utopia, people seldom got promoted to a position where they wouldn’t be able to continue working with the same people they’d worked with for 40 years. By the time we got to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, as sad as it was to not have Sulu at the helm, you had to be grateful that someone that skilled FINALLY got to command their own starship.

With the new Trek films, the emphasis has been on kinetic action, which has thrown a lot of people off. Chris Pine was recently ridiculed when he suggested that you couldn’t have a successful Star Trek film that was purely ideological anymore. But the truth is, you never could. The closest they came was the ecological focus in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but in that film they replaced the action scenes that preceded in the previous films with comedy. The next movie, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, is the weakest of the series and that is because it couldn’t find an action/ philosophy balance in it’s storytelling (largely because the actors couldn’t do close action anymore–no more Kirk fistfights with aliens).

The new films have also started over, so we have new versions of all of these characters as they develop their relationships. A lot of times this is done in really clever ways. Star Trek: Into Darkness was a huge misstep because it substituted the freshness of the first films plays on character similarities and differences with lazy storytelling around a popular antagonist from the previous series/ films universe. It assumed resonance at a place where the story hadn’t earned it. It jammed together the previous version’s last encounter with an iconic character with the first meeting of the character and then parodied the climatic scenes from Wrath of Khan in an inverted way, but forgot that the emotional connection with those scenes required a couple dozen years of friendship, which was not where the current characters were at.

This is where Beyond succeeded for me. It held to the weariness and sense of age that permeated the previous film series, but it did it with where the new characters were actually at. What might be the reality of being in the third year of a five year mission exploring deep space and trying to be diplomatic with the new alien races that you are encountering. I’m sure that it can feel tedious at times and you can start to second guess your motivations when the initial thrill wears off. And what does it mean to be in the role you’re in and to now be one year older than your dad, someone who you never knew and who you always compared yourself to? And what does it mean to be in that position of change, contemplating what your next step should be, and to be thrust into the action of the story the film presents? That this movie, believably, has Spock at a similar crossroads is impressive. That it manages to flesh out a bit more and give more moments to the rest of the crew is even more impressive. Once we get to the planet, the film spends some time where everyone is paired off in some fashion which gives everyone a little more time to showcase their character (though some characters could still benefit from more screen time–I love where they’ve begun taking Sulu and I want more. Uhuru needs more independent time that doesn’t also involve her relationship with Spock.

The new characters and the film’s antagonist are also compelling and built scene by scene so that the conclusion can’t be spoiled by an ill-time revelation, but are also rewarded by the discover during the film. That the film is also presented during the 50th anniversary of the series, it does a great job to call back the history of the series as well as the history of the Federation, and what that means. The final encounter between Kirk and Idris Elba’s Krall has both the action that you want from an action flick, but also the substance you want from a Star Trek movie. And it says a lot about where we’re at in this country and where we should be, which is what Star Trek has also presented for us.

 

I’ve also been working hard lately to give myself more time to read. I love to devour books and it is something that I’ve noticed has dwindled in the last few years. Time and time management have so many things competing that reading was losing out. I’ve started noting when I finish books on Twitter with #lastbookread to help me keep record of my progress, but also, I’ve been varying up what types of books I’ve been reading more. I’m trying to read all of the things and sometimes that means bouncing around to keep everything fresh and exciting.

Painting and writing are the other things that compete for my alone time. Painting, and drawing, have been winning because of the more immediate gratification that comes from completing a picture, but also because I’ve got some deadlines that I can give to myself. I’m drawing coloring pages for the theatre that I work at, so that is a nice dead line to keep me putting ink on paper. I also have adopted a couple of competitions as goal posts, which helps me generate some work.

Speaking of which, I buried the lede in the last entry (and now at 3700 words, this one again) but my painting was selected to progress to Phase 2 in the MN State Fair Fine Arts Competition. For Phase 2, I have to bring my painting to the Fair Grounds next weekend and then over a week it will be part of the juried competition, where the artwork is physically evaluated (Phase 1 involved a digital scan of the painting). If I advance past this phase, it will be displayed in the Fine Arts building during the State Fair, which is a lot of eyes on my work. There is also the outside chance of additional prizes, but I’m more interested right now in just getting shown.

What’s coming up:
Tonight, I’m going to see the animated film The Killing Joke with Emily and Taylor at Rosedale. Tomorrow night is happy hour with Emily, Sarah and Krissi. Saturday is Jackie’s birthday party. Next week is Social Science at the Science Museum (so I have to firm up plans with Emily, Krissi, Meghan, etc if we’re attending). Then I have to go to Duluth for my dentist appointment and I’ll visit my parents on the way up.

So, I just have to keep reminding myself that there is a lot of good in my life right now and work hard to not let the bad/sad take all of the focus.

More later …

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Published by: Thomas Rohde

Artist // Writer // Theatre Professional // Nerd // Night Owl Inspired by a steady and lifelong infusion of pop culture, comic books, and a vast assortment of films and books, our friendly neighborhood blogger has doomed himself to a life of creative pursuits. There's not enough time for everything, but we all do what we can. Artist: of watercolor, ink, comic illustration, horror/ sci-fi/ fantasy art. Writer: of fictions, tweets, captions & blogs. Lover: coffee, whiskey, wine & beer. Instagram and Twitter as @demipho

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