An unexpected role model (Or, Ode to Deadpool)

My daughter loves Deadpool. No, that’s not a Metal band from Scandinavia. He’s a comic book character far, far removed from the popular canon of superhero icons.  I’ve let my nerdy side out on this blog previously with an Ode to Loki.   Well now I feel the need to address the badly maligned character of Deadpool.

deadpool banner

In the world of comics, A-Listers are the ones we all know by heart; your Supermans, Batmans, Spider-Mans, etc. The B-List are those whose names you still recognize but might not know their secret identity’s name or what planet they come from. These are your Green Arrows, Martian Manhunters, Silver Surfers. They get some credit every once in a while, but rarely do you see a kid on Halloween rocking a Dr. Strange costume. Then, below that you have your C-listers. They don’t get a lot of love and only really show up when the comic needs to 1) fill in the background space during a huge war, 2) find a convenient way to move a story along without having to explain too much or 3) have someone die. These are your Firestorms, Quicksilvers, Luke Cages, and Inhumans.

This is sort of where Deadpool hovers; a C-Lister with cult status. Where the cult status comes from is also the reason he’s probably not going to ever crack into the B or A lists. First off, while he’s not a villain he’s far from being a hero. He’s a killer. It’s sort of in the name. If that very short description has you thinking his character is some dark, brooding antihero with an insatiable bloodlust borne from a lifetime of sorrow you’d be wrong. He’s actually quite funny. Comedy is a huge element of his character. Very sarcastic, very dead pan, very witty. He’s a quirky comedian. And while he’s routinely breaking the fourth wall by talking directly to the readers during huge gunfights, he’s also just as critical of the people writing his character. Often times Deadpool will express annoyance at how the writers of his comic have portrayed him in a certain storyline. All with biting humor, that is.

deadpool

He’s perhaps one of the first if not the best meta-character that strays far, far outside the lines of what a typical comic is, all while still retaining the mainstays of a typical comic (guns, explosions, blood, action, tragic backstory continually juiced for carnage fodder, etc.). While I don’t read him all that much, I can understand why my daughter and others like him. He doesn’t hesitate, he doesn’t take anything seriously (even when face to face with almost certain death), he doesn’t always do the right thing, he’s definitely no boy scout, he takes advantage of things and people so they work in his favor, and he pretty much gives a middle finger to anyone who doesn’t agree with him.

In many ways he’s the stereotypical morsel of psychopathic perfection we’ve come to expect in quality comic anti-heroes. However, I argue that in many ways he’s also something to aspire to. Okay, so I’m not recommending we become assassins plying our trade to the highest bidder.  But so many of us take ourselves too seriously because we’re worried how other people will see us. Will I fit in? Will they like me? Will I sound dumb if I say this? We let our fears overwhelm us. Deadpool pushes past his insecurity and while horrible things happen to him, he strives to live life on his own terms.  Despite his emotional scars and fears, he does what he wants and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I believe that’s worth emulating.  Yes, yes, I realize that he could probably benefit from having just a tiny bit more compassion and empathy, but seriously, after what he’s gone through what can you expect?  Still…everyone should have a little more of his “I’ll do whatever the hell I want and who cares what they think” attitude.

deadpool on game

Zoo Blues

Yes, I realize I’m on another rant…I try not to rant too terribly often but in this case, I simply couldn’t help myself.   I get annoyed enough when someone dumps the cell phone they bought three months ago for $500 just to drop another couple hundred dollars to upgrade to the newest one. Is the new version really that much better than what you had? Or are you just trying to look cool by having the latest and greatest?

So imagine my shock when I recently heard of a Copenhagen Zoo doing pretty much the same thing. Very small, minor, trivial differences. Such as, instead of iPhones that they’re getting rid of, it’s a family of four perfectly healthy lions. Yes, you read that correctly. The zoo euthanized four lions in one fell swoop. Now these lions did not team up to kill their handlers and therefore had to be put down. They aren’t housing a biological pathogen that could wipe out all of Denmark. They do not have 666 tattooed on the back of their manes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with them at all.

So why off them as if they’re yesterday’s news? Because, according to the zoo, they are yesterday’s news. Apparently this lovely quartet of endangered animals was given the boot to make room for one new young male lion the zoo scored. The zoo tried to offload the cubs (oh, how humane) but no one took them in (so they say), so what else were they supposed to do? Slice and dice time, kiddos! Sorry!

The carcass of Marius, a male giraffe, is eaten by lions at Copenhagen Zoo, after he was put down to prevent inbreeding. Photo: AP

(Photo Credit: AP) Click photo for news story.

What’s most messed up about this whole thing is the math involved. The new lion coming in was basically procured to mate with two lionesses who reached breeding age in 2012. So, wait? What? The zoo killed four lions so that they could bring in one lion to hopefully make more lions? Maybe the adults in the family unit were past their prime (which is questionable since they had two young cubs in the pride…I mean just where did those come from??) but I still don’t get how killing two perfectly healthy cubs for one male is sound arithmetic. Sure we all like 2-for-1 sales, but this one seems a bit backwards to me. It just sounds like gambling to me. Sure the new male will probably be successful at pumping out some kids of his own, but if you already have two, why tempt fate? That’s like winning $1,000 at craps then instead of walking out of the casino you keep playing because you can’t help but feed the greed.

The zoo claims that in nature, this new male lion would surely kill off the cubs (because they are not his offspring).  That may be true.  But and it’s a pretty big “but,” that would only happen if he bested the other dominant male and became the dominant male himself.  The zoo never allowed this natural process to take place – they simply got rid of the competition by killing off the two resident male lions. And rather than segregate the cubs until they reach maturity, well, they just killed them off too.  You know.  To be safe.  To allow natural selection to do its thing.

This zoo has been doing awesome lately. It’s the same zoo that killed a healthy two-year old giraffe (named Marius) because he “didn’t fit in the zoo’s breeding program.”  Forget the fact that they obviously bred him into surplus.  I mean why breed a species in your care if you’re just going to kill it?  That makes a lot of sense. Oh, and it gets worse. After they made the decision to kill Marius (after having several offers from other sanctuaries to take him), they actually thought it would be a good idea to make his death and dissection public…so it all took place in gory, graphic detail in front of zoo visitors, many of whom were children.  Don’t even get me started on the parents who thought it would be a good idea for the kids to see a giraffe shot with a captive bolt, chopped up and fed to lions.  Oh wait.  These are the same lions they just euthanized.  How wonderful. It’s come full circle.

I mean, hey – let’s pack up the kids, honey! We’re going to Denmark! This zoo sounds like it knows exactly what it’s doing. Fair warning though, Little Jonny, if I see a cuter kid than you I might have to put you down so I can upgrade. That’s apparently fair game there.

Where have all the vampires gone?

Maybe I’m old school, but I just can’t buy into the new trend of vampires that are everywhere on TV and in movies these days. You know what I’m talking about. The sexy, brooding bloodsuckers that wear designer clothes like skinny jeans and leather jackets. Or no clothes at all to better show off their hairless pecs and abs. Their hair is all shiny from the Shisheido mousse they’ve slathered all over their head to get that spiky just-out-of-bed-and-oh-so-handsome look perfected.

Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries…they may be entertaining, but they’re all posers as far as I’m concerned. “Hip” is not a word that should be used to define vampires. Sure, the characters in these shows are charming and sexy, but they’re supposed to also be fierce, narcissistic, predatory, and dangerous, just as vampires are meant to be.  Vampires aren’t meant to be shallow shells of an Abercrombie commercial with fangs thrown in.  Following a vampire should be unsettling and titillating, not just the latter.  Who does this best? In modern-day, it’s Anne Rice of course, the Queen of the Damned (See what I did there?  Nice reference, right??)

Lestat and Louis, these are the archetypes I always return to when I think of the perfect portrayal of this mythical and terrifying species of monster. Rice keeps these two more closely related to the characteristics held by the legendary Dracula and vampires from past eras. By that I mean that the focus of their identities is placed more on their malevolent charm, their perspective that humans are just prey to be taken down like how a lion stalks weak gazelle on the Serengeti.

Louis leans a bit more on the side of brooding, which many of these new Emo vampires rely heavily on to make hearts flutter (the damaged soul syndrome that high school girls are helpless to resist) but he still embodies what a vampire should be. And Lestat…well… he is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate vampire. He is always on the hunt, always seeing fresh meat when he eyes a human, always ready to kill, whereas the majority of True Blood vampires (for example) are only truly fierce when they have to be. When they’re not hungry they’re just hanging out at the bar playing pool, mixing with human society, and shooting out smoldering gazes left and right as if their blood lust is a switch that can be turned off and on with ease.  Indeed, Eric Northman is the only one in True Blood with the characteristics worthy of a vampire.

I desperately want a t.v. series or movie that harkens back to the age-old vampire legends. While I don’t hate Twilight, I also don’t count it as part of the vampire genre. I mean, come on. And True Blood, while enjoyable, is more like a soap opera that often runs off the rails (werewolves, shape shifters, goddesses, fairies, they pack in a lot). The movie Interview with the Vampire was decent enough and I truly enjoyed watching Lestat leap off the pages and onto the screen. But in the book (and we all know books are so much better than their motion picture counterparts), Anne Rice’s artistic combination of Lestat’s fierce, predatory charm and the despondent, soul-searching nature of Louis (who was himself capable of great violence) sparked an epic vampire tale. Now if we can just get that translated to an HBO or Showtime series, I’d be in heaven.

What I’d love to see is a return to this ruthless vampire archetype. I want the danger of being in their presence. I want to understand the despair of immortality. I want to see ferocity again. The genre is getting neutered thanks to this YA trend and it needs to grow its fangs back.

a must read for vampire fans

a must read for vampire fans

Candy Hearts — A Not so Sweet Treat

Be Mine. Luv U. Hug Me. Kiss Me. Blah blah blah. These are the quotes I stumble across at unexpected times in these post-Valentine Day weeks. Little chalky hearts, supposedly candy, are stashed in nooks and crannies throughout my house. The words sound nice and are very touching messages, but the “candy” itself tastes so god awful there has to be some sort of passive aggressive maliciousness at play. In simpler terms, that candy tastes so bad if you give it to someone, it’s pretty clear that you must not like them that much. They’re like amazingly hard little pellets of bitter powder that has been aged since Lincoln was in office. I don’t care what’s written down, some sweets just aren’t that sweet.

Based on the insult they give my tongue whenever I’m naïve enough to try one again (thinking maybe they changed their recipe) we ought to be reading messages such as Go Away. WTF. UR Kidding. Not A Chance. Or for those who are married: Do Laundry. Mow Grass. Have Headache. Diaper Duty. Not Now. Done Already? If UR Quick.

Next Valentine’s Day I would love if some candy company made a series of these treats where the message matched the taste. Until then I’ll continue shaking my head wondering why yet again these anti-candies made it into my house.

a not so sweet treat

a not so sweet treat

Strangeland

Sometimes I think I live on an alien world; an odd, foreign landscape sculpted by unearthly tides and weather conditions. I don’t think this is a far off thought either. Not that I actually believe I’ve been whisked away a la Wizard of Oz and dropped onto another planet. But if you were to take a look at the wetlands near my neighborhood you might cock your head to the side and see the resemblance to the Riddick movies. I put some pictures below to help strengthen my case.

The wetlands on the Eastern Shore where I live are protected.  There are stretches of wetlands all over the place, some small, some large.  All that’s left of this particular area of wetlands is what you see in these photos…just a very small patch surrounded by farmland. These are not your mom and pop type farms with geese being chased by pigs in the front yard and cows getting milked by some sweet ol’ Meemaw. These are the industrial suckers; farms that grow corn in bulk either to sell to large manufacturers or to grocery store chains.

Pretty bland scenery outside of the wetlands, but this little parcel of protected land more than makes up for it visually on its own. In winter when it’s all iced over or summer when it’s deep into a drought, this bit of wetlands looks like something out of a crazy sci-fi movie. There are incongruous lumps of grass that rise and fall out of the earth and dead trees vaulting up over my head. If I had to sum up the way it looks in one word I’d feel pretty confident going with “bizarre.”  The photos I was able to capture on my cell phone simply don’t do it justice.

Wetlands final 1

wetlands in winter 2

As I mentioned previously, these wetlands are supposed to be protected. While no loggers are in there actively sawing down the trees and no one’s pumping water from the ground or building apartments on the site, I have a sneaking suspicion that runoff from the farms just a stone’s throw away has been seeping into the earth slowly polluting this miniature self-contained biome. It’s obvious that the water is going bad and the trees are dead, which is terribly sad. Although I understand the need for the industrialized farms, how they provide food to many and all, watching the slow decline of a once beautiful and entertainingly unique little spot of land is still quite disheartening. These wetlands were once home to a menagerie of wildlife — bald eagles, herons, cranes, and other beautiful species were frequent visitors. They’re gone now, at least from this place.  I’m sure the poisoned water and the dead trees don’t have the same appeal they once had as a thriving ecosystem. At least I have these pictures to share and look back on when I want to be reminded of my own little piece of alien life here on earth.

Wetlands final 2

wetlands in winter

When is exposing a crime a crime?

When is a crime not a crime? When you don’t get caught? Sort of like if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around. Does it make a sound? Maybe, maybe not. If someone commits a crime but there are no witnesses, is it still a crime? Maybe, maybe not. At least that’s what the owners and operators of slaughterhouses, factory farms, and feedlots across the nation are hoping. You see, all too often animal advocacy investigators come meddling into “Big Ag’s” affairs and have the audacity to videotape the cruel, abusive, and illegal behavior they witness and then share it with the public. I know, awful, right!?  “Big Ag” would have you believe, and indeed have gotten legislators to believe, that exposing a crime should be a crime.

These agricultural business owners (or “Big Ag” as they are sometimes called) make their money by exploiting animals for profit.  Too often efficiency and bottom line turn into atrocious cruelty and inhumane treatment.  And it turns out that when people see video of dead baby pigs being ground up and fed back to their own mothers and cows with festering sores wrapped up in gestation crates it hurts profits. So, obviously, these owners can’t have that news getting out. I mean, if the American people were to see the sinister torture these businesses are inflicting on their livestock they might not get that big contract from that major fast food joint that should be coming through just about any day now.

So how does one stop the slippery activities of these devious animal advocates? Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the Ag-Gag Law!  I won’t get into the technicalities, but the long and short of it is that this law would make photographing or videotaping cruelty or abuse to livestock illegal. That way, instead of having to stop the criminal behavior of the abusers, the documentation of the crimes would itself be a crime. Now that’s what I call getting ahead of the storm. To stop the abuse and follow the laws would throw the whole “Big Ag” system out of whack and take a super long time to implement.  The genius Ag-Gag law does away with the pesky need for reform and instead punishes those who are trying to shine a light on rampant animal atrocities.

The latest state pushing this bill through into law is Idaho. Even though the great people of Idaho are against the legislation, “Big Ag” proponents crammed it down their throats like legislative foie gras. So now the animals of Idaho have no voice but, lo and behold, the “Big Ag” businesses have found a way to keep their wallets fat. Of course if you ask the owners of these businesses they’ll say they’re not breaking the law to begin with. My question is simple:  if they’re not breaking the law why would they care if someone comes in to document what they’re doing? Shouldn’t that negate the need for the Ag-Gag Law?

Lock up the advocates and let the abusers go free. Is that the America we live in? Doesn’t it sound like some sort of Bizarro universe? I mean, don’t you want to know what’s in your food? Or how that food made it to your grocery store or better yet, to your table?  If you don’t, I highly suggest you Google “cruelty with animals raised for food.” Read a couple of those stories and you might just change your wonderful ignorance-is-bliss tune.

How the Ag-Gag Law works

Southern Grammar

While West Virginia isn’t technically “The South”—not at all in the same league as say Mississippi or Alabama—and while I wasn’t raised there, only spent summers in the state visiting grandparents, I somehow managed to absorb some local colloquialisms that my daughter constantly makes fun of me for because they sound so ridiculously Southern. I blame my parents (who are from West Virginia) completely for imprinting them on me. Just so you know that right up front.

Recently I was mad at one of my cats — again. This is not a rare occurrence. If any of you own cats, you’re bound to grit your teeth at something they’ve done on a nearly daily basis. Such is the nature of our fuzzy felines and I do love them even during these trying moments. I think.  Anyway, I was pissed at something one of my cats did and was on the verge of inflicting physical violence. Of course, I can’t swing my cat by the tail or anything like that so I decided to vent my anger through a steady stream of obscenities. One of the things I said in my blinding tirade was, “She makes me so mad I could just SPIT.” I must’ve said it with more vehemence than I realized and put an extra emphasis on the word ‘spit’ because my daughter practically broke down in hysterics. She said I sounded like a southern Moriarty. If any of you watch the excellent new Sherlock series on BBC you’d know just how ridiculous of a concept that is.

Mr. Bean

A couple days ago I had the unfortunate displeasure of conversing with an idiot rep from my abysmal satellite internet provider Wildblue. It was one of these conversations that just kept going round and round without making any headway in resolving my issue. Sometimes I think those calls are psychological experiments on patience and I’m the test subject because no one can be that bad at their job, can they? Exasperated, I hung up the phone and said (I’m sure in a frustrated tone), “Well, she doesn’t have the sense God gave a stump.” I guess my Southern accent (which, again, I shouldn’t even have since I’m not from the South) must have come out in my rage because there was my good ol’ daughter yet again in a fit of laughter at my odd choice of words. “Thanks, I’ll be here all week,” I sneered back at her.

I’m glad she can find my livid outbursts so amusing. One of her all-time favorite Wendy-isms is when I say “Piss or get off the pot” to confused drivers in front of me trying to decide if they want to turn, park, or keep on going. That one puts her in tears as she tries to control her laughter. These are all phrases that she apparently never hears anyone else say, which I find hard to believe. And I guarantee if she spent some time in my parents’ old stomping ground, she’d find that my creative use of words is a lot more common. Unfortunately she hasn’t had the pleasure of West Virginia summers.   So for now, I’m happy to entertain my ever-so-Yankee daughter with my anger induced stand-up routine, much to her delight.