Wednesday, February 29, 2012


It's day two of my Facebook withdrawal and my typing fingers are itching. Never mind.

As I was saying to my friend BC last night, the initial attraction of Facebook was that within 48 hours of joining I was reconnected with friends from my high school years that I hadn't heard from in three decades -- and some of them became pretty close and good contacts. But in latter days, the temptation to hop on Facebook and just type whatever moody soundbite came to mind was rather too strong, and with a growing catalogue of "friends" (some of whom share my employer), that temptation was getting rather more dangerous than I realized.

I've known BC for better than thirty years now, and have regularly corresponded with him for most of that time, and as he rightfully pointed out last night, he's heard much worse and darker thoughts from me than anything I ever typed on Facebook -- and yet I haven't done myself any physical harm to date. But one do-gooder "Facebook friend" who probably doesn't know me all that well and didn't realize that I just needed to vent some steam took it upon themselves to call the police in on me -- and not just that. They sent my comments -- my PERSONAL comments on my PERSONAL page -- to someone in authority here at the college, someone who also over-reacted -- and as a result I've been ordered back into mandatory counseling.

How Big Brother is that?

Y'know, I've been thinking about going back into counseling for some time now, so if I can get it paid for by the college I guess I won't complain about that. But, really -- what a nerve! Which one of my so-called Facebook friends had the cojones to violate our minimal relationship and intervene so deeply into my personal life?

I want to say to them, "If you can't stand the Angst, don't read my posts!"

If you've known me for any length of time at all, then you know that Angst is pretty much What I Do. If I couldn't type about my feelings then I would have no outlet at all for them -- and then I would really be in trouble. Typing about shit is my way of channeling and coping with shit. It's the reason why I started this blog, which was never intended to be anything else than a kind of Daily Therapy.

Over time, the blog and Facebook kind of began to meld, and that was my mistake. I typed things on Facebook that should have been reserved for this much more private forum. But that doesn't excuse someone from meddling in my private life and actually creating more problems for me when I have plenty enough of them already, thank you.

This is one of the reasons I have to kill my Facebook account. I don't even know who it was that knifed me in the back, so I can't even "unfriend" them and get them the hell out of my life. As I should have known, there are lurkers on Facebook, stalkers on Facebook, and people who will do Evil to you if you give them the opportunity.

-- Freder.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Just so you know, if anyone cares, I am not on Facebook anymore. It was no longer a healthy place for me to be, and last night it got too personal.

It's my own fault, like everything else. Last night I was so depressed and down on myself and venting about it publicly on Facebook was probably not the best way to treat it. Still, I really didn't need someone to call the cops on me.

I was up until three AM fielding questions from two W________ police officers and a mental health services worker. THREE AM! Today I am emotionally and physically exhausted, unable even to think straight on the job. And they're going to call me again tonight. Because it's a "Police Matter" now.

I know that whoever called them in meant well, but they did not do me a service. It was a hard, emotional night that just got worse and worse. They threatened to take me away to a hospital or a shelter. Who would take care of my cats if that happened? Who would even know?

So -- no more Facebook. It's too easy for me to make a public fool out of myself, and it's obviously too easy for others to intervene when no intervention is needed or wanted.

-- Freder.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Cartoon Cure

With all the time I've logged just being sick this winter, you'd think that I'd have something profound to say about illness by now. But no. It's just something that robs you of your time and life. And every time it came back around to hit me this season, it seemed to get worse. It's been an entire week this time, and I'm still not completely over it. I tire so easily, and still seem to need a lot of extra sleep.

The good and soothing thing that happened this week that I'd rather write about was that a little bit of my past arrived in Wednesday's mail. The mid to late '60s were the golden age of TV animation, and three of my favorites finally snuck onto DVD last fall without my noticing. If my friend BC hadn't mentioned it, I might never have known the joy of being reunited with my televisual pals The Herculoids, Mighty Hercules and Frankenstein Jr.!

Mighty Hercules was, I believe, a syndicated show from Trans-Lux studios, the same company that created the '60s version of Felix the Cat -- the one with the magic bag. Trans-Lux were no Hanna Barbera, and the animation was quite limited. The main villain was always Daedalus (who sounds exactly the same as Felix's nemesis The Professor) , so the mythology wasn't at all right, either. The stories were short and swift, and usually had something to do with Hercules losing his power ring. My clearest memory of the show is the theme song, and the way Hercules grew into his logo at the end. I never knew the lyrics, but when I popped the DVD into the player I was pleased to hear that my recall of the tune was exact!

Mighty Hercules  was not terribly good. But I was quite young when it was on the air. In the main, I remember watching it during the summers that we spent at Lake Vermillion. Perhaps that's the reason why I remembered it so fondly: those were happy days.

Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles came on the year that the family moved to Maine, and I remember feeling quite traumatized at the notion that the TV stations would be different. What if Frankenstein Jr. wasn't on TV in Maine? This was too terrible a thought to endure.

Hanna Barbera thought that the stars of the series were The Impossibles, a trio of superheroes who were also rock and roll musicians and looked vaguely like "mod" versions of the Three Stooges. I knew otherwise! The real star of the show was Frankenstein Jr.! Unfortunately, the studio's inability to see this meant that there were two Impossibles cartoons to every one Frankenstein Jr. This was perhaps my first lesson that the universe is unjust.

Now that I see it again today, I realize that Frankenstein Jr. was just Hanna Barbera's gussied-up version of Jonny Socko and his Giant Robot, and not the terribly original concept that, as a kid, I thought it was. Oh, well. I still love the schtick and the usual great design work that H-B always brought to their projects (the villains, especially, always looked really interesting, even if all they ever did was shout "I've got you now, Space Ghost! AhhhHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!").

The Herculoids was different. The human family at the heart of the show weren't the stars. The stars were their fantastic pets. There was a dragon that shot energy bolts out of both his eyes and his tail (I'd like to know how he managed that), a giant Rock Gorilla, an eight-legged triceratops-like thing that could shoot blobs of lava out of its horn, and Gloop and Gleep: ghostlike and jellylike, able to take on any shape or stretch like Reed Richards.

I remember my mother complaining about the noise level of The Herculoids, and she was right -- it was a very loud and noisy show with most of the dialogue consisting of the dragon screaming (poor Mike Road!), the rock ape and the lava-shooting, eight-legged triceratops roaring at the top of their lungs, and Gloop and Gleep making their weird nattering sound (poor Don Messick!). The music, like all the music on H-B's dramatic shows, was loud and urgent, and there were constant explosions, whooshing and pounding. Twice every week, someone would unwisely attack the Heculoids, or they'd get into some kind of a jam, and twice every week all the pets would come charging to the rescue, screaming and roaring.

I loved this stuff. Gloop and Gleep no doubt influenced my own character, Sludge, in my Quirk comic strip. It was just great to watch these fantastic pets kicking villain's butts all over the screen. Sometimes the villains ended up in tears. Well, I guess I would, too, if all my evil plans were foiled and I got my butt kicked by a giant rock monkey.

I'm so glad to have all three of these shows back at last. Not that I'm ever far from being a little kid inside, it's a short trip, but the dangers of adulthood are so thick around us that it's worth going there every once in a while. I could definitely use my own giant robot or pets like what The Herculoids have. No one would argue with me. That's for sure.

-- Freder.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Grave Robbers

Last night I watched J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek for the first (and last) time. I have to admit that on one level, I couldn't take my eyes off it: in much the same way that you can't possibly stop looking at a train wreck when it happens right in front of you.

The most basic and obvious reason that I hate this movie is: DeForrest Kelley is dead, Jimmy Doohan is dead, Gene Roddenberry is dead, and here is Leonard Nimoy, playing Spock most likely for the last time, looking like death warmed over.

Meanwhile, here are all these Babies, these new non-entity pukes, all laboring to copy what the Original Cast did so well and so easily. Of all the new cast, the only ones who make no effort whatever to imitate their betters are the actors playing Uhura and Scotty.

For the same reason that I never accepted the impostor Kermit that was installed after Jim Henson's death, I don't accept this impostor crew of the Enterprise, or this alternate history of the Star Trek universe. You can't just keep something alive by pumping hot air into it, just because you're not done making money off it yet. But that's my problem.. What's not my problem is, this movie is just plain bad!

Let's get the good stuff out at the way at the outset, so that I can feel free to knock this piece of tripe from here to eternity. There was one thing and one thing only that I liked about J.J. Abrams's Star Trek:: the production design. They found a way to make the original uniforms work on the big screen, and for the first time since the original series went off the air, Star Trek finally looks the way it ought to.

But that's where it ends.

My biggest gripe is the device that everyone else seems to love: this isn't even our Star Trek anymore, an alternate timeline has been created and the entire original series basically never happened. I've seen this trick used several times before, and it always strikes me as creative arrogance. Abrams doesn't want to be bound by any established rules, so he's just declared that the rules simply don't exist. Like Kirk rewriting the software of the Kobiyashi Maru test, Abrams has declared that the rules are now anything that he wants them to be.

And what he wants is crap. The first twenty minutes of this movie contains some of the most eye-rollinging dumb material ever to come out of Star Trek, and that includes the godawful movie that Shatner directed. Never mind the comic melodrama stuff surrounding Kirk's birth, although that's bad enough. Kirk has always been a cocky piece of work, but never the complete Pain in the Ass and Menace to Society that Abrams has drawn him as here.

Beyond that, I just don't buy Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and all the rest, all at Star Fleet together at the same time. I don't buy Kirk hitting on Uhura all the time, and Uhura throwing herself at Spock on the elevator while they're both still on duty. It's like Star Trek 90210.

I don't buy blowing up Vulcan and killing off Spock's mother just on a whim, just on a plot point.

And I don't buy turning Star Trek into Raiders of the Lost Ark, into an Action Movie. Star Trek is not and never was about car chases, barroom brawls, things exploding everywhere, death drops, shootouts in space or big CGI monsters trying to eat people. Abrams can't seem to hold the camera still even when it's not even a bloody camera, even when it's a CGI shot of the Enterprise! Star Trek is supposed to have a brain -- but you wouldn't know it from this lobotomized, cannibalized monster. All it cost me was my time, and even then I was cheated.

-- Freder.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another Annual-versity

It was one year ago this past weekend that the auctioneers came to the old house for the last time, took what they were going to take, and I loaded up the last of what I wanted, and turned over the keys to the new owners.

The old house. . . it feels like a dream now. I can still "see" it in my mind's eye, can still mentally navigate it as if it were a bit of virtual reality, but that thirty-five years of history? Gone. It almost feels like it happened to someone else.

I have word through my father that the new owners are planning to tear the barn down. They may already have done so. This means that the old place literally isn't the same place that I lived in anymore.

Although it was nothing but a hardship at the time, I guess now I should be grateful for the move; among other things, it kept some thoughts and emotions at bay that have lately been catching me up.

I can't believe that this coming May, Mom will have been gone for two years. Two YEARS. Two years and it's still an open wound. This morning at work a book landed on my desk that had no obvious connection to the memory, but it dredged everything up anyway, and I had to run to the men's room to cry.

I have so many reasons to be thankful at this point, and yet the memory still has the power to cut me down at will.

One year ago today, the new house was strewn with boxes. Today, it's a home that I am happy in, but it seems that I still have plenty of baggage to unload.

-- Freder

Saturday, February 11, 2012

One Battle Won

So here I am -- with my hair More Or Less in its current state of Artificial Color.

Here's the story I want to tell you:

The other day, my Boss's Boss, a person who, before I actually knew his name, I referred to simply as "Scary Bald Guy. . . "

-- and get this . . . when he came in during the construction of the New Store looking for my boss, and I said that I'd tell her he stopped by. . . my message to her was, "There was a Scary Bald Guy asking for you --"

-- she ABSOLUTELY knew who I was talking about!


Here's the story.

The other day, on his way out from a meeting with my boss, my Boss's Boss, hereafter known as Scary Bald Guy, asked . . . in what I must say was kind of a Mocking, Demeaning way . . . "How's the hair color working out for you?"

I replied, politely, "Well, I'm still not sure that I'm going to keep it."

If my hormones had been up and my ballocks had been flaring, my response WOULD have been:

"Yah. Well. At least I HAVE hair to color.


The fact that what I actually said was, politely, "Well, I'm still not sure that I'm going to keep it" -- THAT'S the battle that I actually won!

-- Freder

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Paper Age

All doomster predictions aside, I don't believe that the paper book is going away anytime soon, if at all. I can tell you what is going away, though, and soon: the paper catalog.

Especially in the book industry, publishers are falling all over themselves trying to put an end to the paper catalog -- and I suppose there are lots of benefits, to their budgets, to the environment, to my desk. But I hate it.

The industry standard is currently Eidelweiss, a bit of web-based software owned by a company called Above the Treeline that allows publishers to easily share their catalogs online. And it stinks. The sales reps "mark up" (add comments to) the catalog and send us an email link. When we click on the link, what we get is a plain, uniform list a hundred books long, with a tiny thumbnail of each book cover, the ISBN, price, and the sales rep comments, if any. In order to get the details for any one of those books, you have to click through on another link.

Here's the deal: I can not be bothered to click on a hundred links to a hundred separate pages to look at the details of a hundred books. When you do click through, every single page is uniform, identically designed, no individuality for any title. This is not an enticing way to sell books to a book lover. It's like browsing books at Amazon, I defy any book lover to actually do it.

With a paper catalog, you turn the page and all the information you need is right there. Usually there's an image of the book cover that's actually large enough to see, a description, some review quotes, the print run, it's all RIGHT THERE. No clicking to do. Also, if the catalog designer is worth anything, he or she can customize the design of each individual page to suit the book that's on display.

When Penguin's adult hardcover line published paper catalogs, I used to order between sixty to ninety titles from them every season. This spring they went exclusively to Eidelweiss, and you know what? I ordered just twelve titles. In a way, it was kind of a relief. A lot less work for me.

I can't believe that I'm alone in this. At a time when the book industry is whining about how their sales are shrinking, they seem to be doing everything in their power to make their sales worse. People in the retail business do not have the time to be farting around on the internet clicking links for hours. Plus, in order for me to do the purchase order up, I have to print out the damn Eidelweiss listing anyway, and that costs us money. Until they can devise an online catalog that actually looks and works and is as easy to use as paper ones, I predict their sales to retail stores will plummet.

Macmillan is going Eidelweiss this spring, Random House is going Eidelweiss this summer, and the death of the paper catalog is in sight. It's just one more way that the world is changing, not for the better.

-- Freder.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

World Without End

. . . was the title of the vintage SF picture I watched last night. It came to me as part of a two-disk set; I really only wanted Ray Harrihausen's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, but for under ten bucks I got that, Them!, and two other pictures I'd never heard of before.

Made in 1956, this programmer (shot in color and cinemascope for no good reason, as there is no visual excitement to the thing whatever, unless you count a large and patently rubber spider that gets tossed onto the actors at one point) is just about as wonky as they come. It operates under the exact same premise as the much later (and much better) Planet of the Apes: a group of astronauts get thrown into the future and land on an Earth devastated by nuclear war in the year 2508.

Instead of apes, they find a horde of one-eyed brutes living on the surface, and a highly civilized and refined culture living underground, very Buck Rogers if you ask me.

But get this: The men are all weaklings and Olde Fartes in Flash Gordon headpieces, while the women are all 1950's pin-ups in miniskirts and pedal-pushers. And because they're sick of their attenuated, distant menfolk, they're all over the guys from the 20th century!

That's right -- these guys have landed in the middle of the perfect mid-sixties sex fantasy. And because there's a lot of running and punching and fighting and shooting to do on the surface, it's the best of both worlds for Joe Virile.

Although this is not bad enough to fall into the category of "So Bad it's Good," it is bad enough to be worth a chuckle or two, and oddly enough I did not find myself falling asleep on it. Go figure. The only name I recognized was Rod Taylor, and he didn't even get top billing.

At the end of the picture, the guys from the 20th century have made their point about flexing muscles and returning to the surface, and the Olde Fartes from the undercity all take off their Flash Gordon headgear to show that they are ready to become Real Men and help slaughter all those one-eyed brutes.

I'm not convinced that this gesture is going to be good enough to get the women back.

-- Freder.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Far from the Madding Crowd

I now suppose that it's an Asperger's thing, but I have always hated crowds. It's gotten worse as I get older: the proximity of so many bodies bothers me, but so does the noise -- with so many people yammering away at once, it is sometimes impossible for me to understand or identify a single voice, even when the person is standing right next to me.

I try to avoid arriving at work at the same moment that classes let out just because I can't stand the flow of students around me, crossing my path, cutting me off, walking too slowly, or dominating the sidewalk by walking in groups two to four abreast. All babbling on their cell phones.

Even a busy supermarket or another person in the break room is torture. So Book Rush is one of my least favorite times of year at work: virtually the entire student body will pass through the store at some point, usually in waves at the top of the hour. Sometimes it's a challenge to get from one end of the store to the other.

I've posted about book rush before, so I won't re-tread it. I just wanted to type that with the kind of week it's been, I'm not going to beat myself up about how I plan on spending the weekend.

The Plan:

1) Not to leave the house for any reason, not to see or speak with any damn person

2) Snuggle up with my Honey cat and sleep in AS LONG AS IT TAKES -- even if it's until twelve-thirty or one in the afternoon.

3) Decompress with a movie or two, Doctor Who, Torchwood and Laurel & Hardy.

4) Eat pizza and other comforting things.

5) and last, try to get a complete first draft on the Flash Gordon piece I agreed to write in a moment of arm-twisting, but not to beat myself up if that doesn't happen.

I can't promise that I'll exactly be ready for more punishment once this strict regimen is completed, but with any luck it will get me past the gibbering, twitching, shaking stage.

-- Freder.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winter of our Discontent

There are days, more and more often, when I feel like I'm losing the war. I'm hoping that it's just the effect of winter, that things will start to get better when the seasons change. But I don't know. I end up in tears every single night. There's shit going on that, even with my almost complete lack of shame, I can't type about here on the blog. When people ask me "How are you?" I don't even know how to answer anymore. I mean, I can't tell them the truth.
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