Author: Mike Gold

Weird Scenes #122: The News About Sperm

Weird Scenes #122: The News About Sperm

Zero. Perhaps we should start thinking about a Go-Fund-Me for cloning research.

Right now, half of this world’s nations have a live birth count insufficient for maintaining population status quo. “Insufficient” means the live birth rate is exceeded by the dead death rate, so half of our nations are losing population. This might be a bad time to become a real estate speculator.

To me, this is a good thing. When it comes to human survival, I do not see our biggest problem as diminishing resources. It’s overpopulation, and that’s not quite simply another way of looking at the same thing. Of course, the fastest way to deal with that outside of total war is for heterosexuals to severely cut back on fucking. That didn’t work in China, and that didn’t surprise anybody… including the Chinese government.

Unfortunately, I suspect the sundry fundamentalist organizations disagree with my worldview. Organized religion is cool with massive overproduction as long as the only humans who are being overproduced are those of their own particular brand. This starts a competition which, in turn, has lead to a lot of wars and disease and, perhaps curiously, rape. I’ve always found organized religion to be very confusing. It all seems to me to be a bunch of highly weaponized country clubs.

If you define “nature” as a physical force that scientifically takes control when humans screw up – after all, we humans are but an extremely tiny part of nature – then we have been conducting a war with nature. It’s thrown a lot of stuff at us to cut the population. Spanish influenza, HIV, Covid-19 are just three of the items in the cosmic trick bag that seem to have been designed to, as author Harry Harrison postulated, make room make room (a.k.a. Soylent Green). It seems we have been overwhelming those stopgaps.

Due to our inability to develop a reasonable attitude towards stewardship of our planet, which is the only apartment building our species can rent, we’ve been using up everything we’ve got. Food, fuel, clean air, potable water, patience… we might have enough of all that to make it to 2045, but if you’re looking forward to raising grandchildren, it seems likely they, in turn, will not be able to share that desire.

Superman was sent to Earth because his planet of birth self-destructed. I doubt Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster meant that to be a guide or a methodology. Then again, I could be wrong: they were big science fiction fans and the most significant purpose of the genre is to warn us about… well, us. We haven’t been catching on to the trend because we — myself included — do not want to give up our creature comforts. While our planet does not appear to be in danger of exploding per se, it is clearly seeking self-preservation by vaccinating itself from his most deadly disease. That disease, of course, is us.

I have no doubt that Earth will be around for the next millennium. To ironically anthropomorphize our Mothership, unfortunately, we won’t be around to hear our planet laugh triumphantly.

Right now, the human race meets three of the five standards commonly used to be classified as an endangered species. It is critical to note that it only takes meeting one of those standards to make the endangered species list. Ergo, we, the human race, is an endangered species.

There’s a sort of silver lining in this. If, in 24 years, there are no new babies crawling about we do not need to be sweating global warming today. As the saying goes, it’s just a fart in a blizzard. We might want to whip out the last reel of Doctor Strangelove and start choosing survivors.

Douglas Adams was mistaken. It is time to panic.

Brainiac On Banjo #106: “Be Original?”

Brainiac On Banjo #106: “Be Original?”

Having spent the better part of my life in the comic book field – define “better” as you wish – one might think that I wouldn’t be so hung up on originality. After all, when it comes to those companies big enough to hoist a catalog, for 60 years now the orders of the day have been “reboot, relaunch, revise, and retread.”

Those are my words and not those of any marketing whiz. I am reminded of one of the medium’s great intellectual property redevelopers, editor Julius Schwartz. His nickname was “B.O. Schwartz.” The “B.O.” part stood for “Be Original.”

But, for the purpose of this treatise, let’s put aside four-color history and, instead, let’s talk about television. Or streaming. Or whatever we’ll wind up calling what’s been flickering between those programming arms on either side of the big glass teat.

Take a good look at some of the new fodder that’s been appearing on the boob tube the past decade and what’s in the pipeline for the immediate future, and you’ll see the orders of the day are now “reboot, relaunch, revise, and retread.” Why? Because it’s worked so well for comics?

Nudging aside my sarcasm (no easy feat), look at some of the recent programming options we have been given in the fantasy drama field. We find the reassembled return of Walker, Hawaii 5-0, MacGyver, Star Trek The Red Shirt Years, Doctor Who, Battlestar: Galactica, Superman, and many others that walk in the shoes of others. If it was once extremely popular and it wasn’t a western set in the old west, chances are it’s been or about to be rebooted, relaunched, revised, and retreaded. A new coat of paint and you’ve got yourself a franchise.

So, what do we have in that ever-widening pipeline right now? Law and Order SUV Mach II. The return of Criminal Minds. Yellowstone The Prequel. CSI (OG). Even Frasier. One might quibble that the upcoming return of Sex and the City is not drama per se. I don’t have a fully informed opinion about that, but to the extent that I am aware that program has been dramatic and certainly quite fantasy-oriented.

I could offer the argument, one that was standard in the comics field until maybe the early 1970s, that there’s an audience turnover and thus, for today’s viewers, these revivals are something new. Except they are not. Television has been swimming in reruns since Ampex invented videotape recording in the 1950s. Just about everything broadcast on network television since their videotape recorder was first installed has been broadcast and rebroadcast ad infinitum ever since. DVDs gave all that another platform, digital television, and the decimal television stations have expanded that, and now streaming has turned such accessibility into an ocean of nostalgia.

(A digression: the history of Ampex, which heavily involves Bing Crosby, Les Paul, and Ray Dolby, is quite interesting to those so inclined, as well as to those who have worked for ABC-TV during the past 60 years.)

Ampex-AVR-2-Quad-TVR

I’m not suggesting that all these reboots suck, or even most of them. But there’s no catharsis in “been there, done that.” It used to be each market had between three and five television outlets; today the only restraints are bandwidth and speed (both are increasing) and the consumer’s willingness to subscribe. That creates a lot of opportunity for all sorts of stuff, and there is more good stuff on “television” than one could have been imagined back when FCC commissioner Newton Minow called the medium a “vast wasteland” in 1961.

Nonetheless, Julie Schwartz’s admonition to “be original” is just as valid today as it was back in the day. If watching images float rapidly as viewed between our toes continues to be a thing, it is impossible to offer enough originality.

Sorry, Stabler. I’d rather see a bit more innovation.

Brainiac On Banjo #105: The Fat Lady No Longer Sings [UPDATED]

Brainiac On Banjo #105: The Fat Lady No Longer Sings [UPDATED]

This past Monday, Dallas Mavericks maverick owner Mark Cuban decided to enact a policy he committed do a year ago: he stopped playing the American national anthem before home games. Evidently, since that moment nobody’s dick has fallen off.

Of course, Cuban’s obvious communist affiliations came to light a few years ago when he supported athletes who took a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner. Funny how that works: had he implemented the decision to shit-can Francis Scott Key at that time, the loony-right might have promoted him as a proto-Proud Boogaloo Boy.

There’s a phrase in common usage: “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” If you are unfamiliar with its roots, well, it’s not about body shaming. It refers to Brünnhilde’s aria that ends Richard Wagner’s 15-hour long opera Der Ring des Nibelungen. Generally speaking, a woman of rather large dimensions is cast as the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, although the true culturally elite more likely recognize the part as played by Bugs Bunny in Warner Bros’ 1957 masterpiece “What’s Opera Doc?” Bugs is neither a female soprano nor of rather large proportions.

A bit closer to the point, in some circles the phrase can refer to the singer who came out at the end of various British entertainments to close out the show with “God Save The Queen.” More recently, Monty Python replaced this with a slide that urges those who attended their live performance to “piss off.”

Which is what Mark Cuban did. What the hell does the playing of the national anthem have to do with the playing of professional sports? Why is that considered patriotic? It’s a gathering of temporarily gifted athletes who have signed indentured servant agreements with insanely rich people who conflate team ownership with the size of their respective penises.

Hmmm. Wait. Maybe that is the American Way after all.

After Cuban performed his act of sacrilege, NBA spokesman Tim Frank told the Associated Press “Under the unique circumstances of this season, teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit.” I would not want to play against Mr. Frank in a game of Dodgeball.

Nonetheless, some said Cuban’s move “disrespected the nation.” I beg to differ. I believe the opposite is true. Do we play The Star-Spangled Banner when firefighters show up to battle a four-alarmer? Not usually. Podcaster Ben Shapiro asked if they would play the Chinese national anthem instead, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is as dumb as shit. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #105: The Fat Lady No Longer Sings [UPDATED]”

Weird Scenes #121: This Is America Burning

Weird Scenes #121: This Is America Burning

“Five to one, baby, one in five. Nobody here gets out alive, now. You get yours, baby,
I’ll get mine.” – Five To One, written by The Doors, 1968.

For a century, the United States’ foreign policy was built around the concept that, to paraphrase Field of Dreams, “if you build them democracy, they will come.” It was the cornerstone of our actions in Iraq, by way of example, during our 2003 invasion. Shock, and awe, and then democracy. We quickly discovered that “democracy” is a concept that many people did not understand, believe, and/or trust. A whole lot of brainy Americans on all points of the political spectrum had a very hard time understanding what, to them, was simply a matter of logic.

Well, logic is overrated; more so than our worst fantasies might divine. A whole lot of Americans do not understand democracy, believe in it, and/or trust it. Approximately 37% feel that way if you look at the percentage of Trump supporters over the past four years. We — those of us who equate democracy with patriotism — saw that number and said “37% is a ridiculously low number; in a democracy, 37% means they lose.”

Yeah. But the ghost of Santayana rattles very heavy chains. According to many historians, only about one-third of the colonists in what is now the United States of America supported the American Revolution. If that had been a democracy, we’d have Queen Elizabeth’s face on our one-pound notes.

I don’t think logic wins battles, although I didn’t realize it scares so many people out of their wits. I remained optimistic about the human race until sometime late in the pre-Covid era. I thought we were inherently good. Sure, we have our faults and some of them, as evidenced by Hitler, Mao, Trump, Manson, and McVeigh, are mindlessly horrible. But by and large, I felt that, as a species, we were pretty okay. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #121: This Is America Burning”

Brainiac On Banjo #104: The Great Buck Rogers War!

Brainiac On Banjo #104: The Great Buck Rogers War!

For more than three decades now, “people” have been trying to figure out what to do with Buck Rogers, America’s first major science-fiction hero. Buck, then named Anthony, first appeared in Philip Francis Nowlan’s novella “Armageddon 2419 A.D., as published in the August 1928 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. The story was noticed by National Newspaper Service syndicate president John F. Dille, who hired Nowlan to turn it into the first major science-fiction newspaper comic strip. The strip debuted on January 7th of the following year, some six months after the initial pulp magazine appearance.

Buck Rogers was a hit. An enormous number of merchandising and licensing deals ensued and Buck was seen in toy stores, a movie serial (starring Buster Crabbe), a radio serial, several television shows, and comic books. The other newspaper syndicates jumped on the Buckwagon, offering us Brick Bradford, Don Dixon, Drift Marlo, Space Cadet, and the spaceman whose fortunes eclipsed them all, Flash Gordon. Buster Crabbe starred in the three Flash Gordon serials as well.

As the realities of the real space program captured the world’s attention, spaceman stories began to look naïve; their sense of wonder was co-opted by reality. Buck’s adventures were drawn by some truly top-notch artists, including Frank Frazetta, Howard Chaykin, George Tuska, Gray Morrow, and Murphy Anderson, following in the footsteps of the originating artists, Dick Calkins, Russell Keaton and Rick Yager, but by the time we tossed beer cans on the moon Buck was but a cultural memory. A vaguely successful television series started up in 1979 and lasted two years.

This has not kept people from trying to bring Buck back. Not at all. But such efforts were hampered by recent lawsuits claiming Buck Rogers had lapsed into the public domain. The Dille Family Trust had gone blooie, and a judge ruled they were not eligible for bankruptcy relief.

After three years of listening to the crickets chirp, Legendary Entertainment said they were doing a movie, and Flint Dille, an accomplished television writer and grandson of John Dille, got on board. Brian K. Vaughan is writing the script. And, lo and behold, George Clooney is an executive producer — prompting rumors that George would play the lead. As much as I like Clooney, this is nearly laughable. Dr. Huer, the not-mad scientist of the series, would be more acceptable but I doubt George is likely to shave his head for the part. Bill Murray might, but he rarely returns phone calls. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #104: The Great Buck Rogers War!”

Weird Scenes #120: Life In Prison For Truck Repair

Weird Scenes #120: Life In Prison For Truck Repair

Flag copyright New York Times

Fair is fair, even on this, the one true Bizarro World. I hope you’re sitting down because I’m about to write something nice about Ivanka Trump.

According to the Leafly newsletter, back in 2002, Craig Cesal was busted by the Feds because, in his dastardly disguise as the owner of a truck-repair business, he picked up a truck in Georgia that had been used previously for transporting three-quarters of a ton of weed. I know that’s hard to believe because Craig literally repaired trucks for a living, but he was convicted nonetheless.

Cesal was given a life sentence, and he served almost 19 years behind federal bars before he was released to electronically-tethered home confinement. This act of mercy happened because prison officials were concerned the 61-year-old involuntarily retired repairman might catch Covid had he stayed locked in close confinement in an environment where social distancing is totally beside the point.

Yeah, life for attempted truck-repair. But one goddamn lethal pandemic, and you’re out of there!

Hand of auto mechanic with a wrench. Car repair.

Please notice I said “out of here” and not “free.” Home confinement, even with some allowance for reasonable locomotion, is not “free.” A year ago that might be harder to understand, but if you or anyone you know is north of 60 you have some concept of the restrictions inherent in home lockdown. Certainly, it beats federal prison… and, for that matter, summary execution. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #120: Life In Prison For Truck Repair”

Brainiac On Banjo #103: So You Want To Be An Editor!

Brainiac On Banjo #103: So You Want To Be An Editor!

Stan Lee and Roy Thomas

So… do you really want to be an editor? A comics editor? Really?

Why?

Seeing as how I’ve been editing lots of different stuff (newspapers, magazines, books, broadcast stuff, and a whole lot of comics) since President Johnson thought he was a shoo-in for a second term, I guess I’ve learned a thing or two about the job. I’ve come to that point in my life where I’m ready to share. I figure I’m no longer grooming any competition.

Here’s just a few of the skills you need for the job:

Marvel Editors 2017

1) A deep, ongoing desire to be eternally satisfied with struggling to make ends meet. Publishing is an iffy racket on its best day, and that was before anybody with an internet connection and a self-serving sense of ethics could download whatever they want without paying for it. Maybe someday that will change, maybe Russia will want to better monetize bootlegging, but right now the only gold in them thar hills is writing this piece.

2) You are a control freak. Honestly, it’s the gist of the job. I have tried to avoid being a control freak when I’m not on the clock, but, hey, white-collar workers work home from time to time. There’s a fine line between being a control freak and being an asshole, but as an editor, your superiors are going to put you into the position of being one lest you lose your job. After a while — but before I got into comics — I discovered that finding out exactly where that line in the sand is can be enormous fun, but my sense of entertainment is very anti-corporate.

3) You enjoy being in the middle of a lot of shit storms. If you’re the type of person who watches those camera people on The Weather Channel chase tornados and wonders who in their right mind would want to do that, editing is not the best career move you can make. Taking comics as my example — after all, that’s what I said in my lede paragraph — let me explain why a comics editor titled one of his creations “The Human Target.”

Will Eisner

Your job is to represent the interests of the company and all its contradictory and ever-shifting needs and practices to the talent. Because there is nothing more fun than owning a condo in the crossfire, if you have any sense of ethics your job also is to represent the needs and skills of the talent to the publisher, which includes the master of editorial, the master of marketing, the masters of art direction, the master of production, the grand-master publisher, the owners, their board of directors and the Grand Invisible Cop-Out, the stockholders. Oh, and the lawyers. Everybody’s lawyers.

(Fun fact: even lawyers dislike lawyers.)

Let’s make this even more interesting. Your job is to represent the needs and the skills of the talent to the needs of the other talented people working on the project. Let me remind you, I used the phrase “shit storms” in the plural. When it comes to creative vision, not everybody’s always on the same page. I’ve had to referee a great many such disputes, and, no, I am not going to rat out the perps. Talent is driven by ego, so what do you expect? It’s Chinatown, Mr. Gittes. But I’m just childish enough to note that the better the creative team is and the longer they’ve worked together, the more likely such conflicts will pop up like zits before a teenage orgy.

Chances are, you, as an editor, will be involved in several different projects at the same time. Let’s say you are handling five different projects, which might even be reasonable. Multiply everything I just said by five.

Now, let’s say you are a full editor and you’ve got an assistant and/or an associate editor or maybe several of them. Perhaps you’ve been around for a while and instead of offering you more money, which they probably don’t have, they make you a group editor or a senior editor or a master-of-Kung-editor and you’ve got several editors working under you… and they’ve got their own assistances and associates. Maybe you share a proofreader and other support staff. We used to have photocopy kids which, in many cases, was the only way to observe and learn the craft. Now that we have all these computers and scanners and wi-fi, these folks pretty much have gone the way of the buggy whip. Yeah, you might have to Google that. Anyway, managing all those folks is also a part of the job. What, you wanted to make friends?

So. Does all that sound like a barrel of monkeys? Well, life always is better with a monkey. There’s got to be a reason I’ve been doing this for decades, but at least it helps explain how I developed my warped worldview.

If you’re still with me, you’ve made it past your first hurdle. Congratulations. Continue following this series, the second part of which just might appear in this space next week.

But maybe not next week. The biggest hurdle you’re going to have to leap, every day of your career is what Marvel Comics long ago called the “dreaded deadline doom.” It is inescapable, and if it didn’t exist “they” wouldn’t need to hire you. I’ve got a way to train yourself to handle that, but I’ll hold that as bait.

Which is another stupid editor trick.

© 2020 Mike Gold – ArrogantMGMS. Watch your ass!

Weird Scenes #119: Spaaaaaaaace Farce!!!

Weird Scenes #119: Spaaaaaaaace Farce!!!

Oh, holy crap!

Last week, outgoing Vice President Pence proclaimed “We just returned from the Oval Office and so it is my honor, on behalf of the President of the United States, to announce that henceforth, the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as ‘guardians.’” Hmmm. From this, I gather our soldiers, sailors, air people, and Marines no longer have to be troubled with guarding anything.

Upon hearing this pronouncement, Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn whimsically tweeted, “Can we sue this dork?” Others — many others; maybe everybody who ever saw these movies or and/or have ever read the very long-running Marvel comic books of the same name — asked if either Groot ( the tree who only says “I Am Groot!”) or Rocket Raccoon (who is a raccoon) would be the United States Space Force mascot.

The government pointed out that they’ve been using the term since 1983 when they appropriated the name “Guardians of the High Frontier.” That’s nice, but the Marvel Comics trademarked property “Guardians of the Galaxy” debuted in 1969. For that matter, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created a super-hero for DC Comics named “The Guardian.”

This is hardly the first time the United States Space Force has been accused of purloining intellectual property. Their logo is a pathetically obvious (or hysterically oblivious) swipe of ViacomCBS’s Star Trek, which has been in continuous use since 1966 and, as of this writing, is in use on five separate current and ongoing television productions.

The United States Space Force already has a major problem: many people, including this cynic, find it impossible to utter the name without triggering the giggle-reflex. That’s a really dumb name for what we’re told to accept on faith is a serious use of 16,000 troops and a 2021 budget of $15,400,000,000.00. Prior to their creation on December 20, 2019 (happy birthday, I guess) “Space Force” had been used as the name of the new Steve Carell / John Malkovich situation comedy, which is presently filming its second season. This television series was green-lit by Netflix in January 2019, almost a full year before the creation of the United States Space Force.

Carell’s character, General Mark R. Naird, doesn’t seem to know the details of the Space Force’s mission. What a coincidence! We’ve never been told what purpose is served by the United States Space Force, if any. Is there reason to believe we will be fighting some sort of war in space? With whom? The Russians? Japan? The Klingon Empire? As an occasional tax-payer, I’d like to know something about what we’re getting for our bucks, other than a big wet kiss on the ass of our outgoing Idiot-In-Chief.

There’s good reason why we should take our sundry defense services seriously. Combined, they provide the security blanket for the United States of America, which is a lot more than I can say for our current president. To put a decimal point on this, the budget for our Department of Defense for Fiscal Year 2020 is in the neighborhood of $721.5 billion — not counting the black budget stuff. In real estate parlance, that is known as a high rent district.

I guess that compared to $721.5 billion, $15.4 billion is just a fart in a blizzard. Sure, we’re spending a hell of a lot more than all that on Covid research and relief, but we’ve already lost almost as many Americans to Covid as we did in World War II, and it’s disgustingly likely that before this is over that number will eclipse American WWII deaths. So I understand where that money is going. Such expenditures are understandable and clearly benefit the greater good.

Until we have evidence to back up both the concept and the expenditures, the United States Space Force will be commonly perceived as Donald Trump’s vanity project with its marketing elements ripped off from those who have been fostering our sense of wonder without the benefit of any tax dollars whatsoever.

In other words, the United States Space Force is little more than a joke.

But the joke is on us.

Brainiac On Banjo #102: Will Wonder Woman Destroy Life As We Know It?

Brainiac On Banjo #102: Will Wonder Woman Destroy Life As We Know It?

The answer to my headlined query is “yes, but don’t blame it on her.”

In eight days or so, I suspect the majority of Pop Culture Squadsters will be plopping our quarantined asses on our couches and watching Wonder Woman 1984. We might be eating microwaved popcorn and chomping the heads off of gummy bears. Some will be bitching about how they miss the magnificence of the shoebox movie theaters out by the Applebee’s, and to these folks I mutter the immortal words of William Shatner: Get a life!

Movie theaters were puking up blood long before The Joker weaponized Covid-19. The whole idea behind the contemporary movie theater was to motivate people into driving 10 miles, parking in a lot and walking 3500 icy feet to a gaudy poster-laden building, wrestling with an obstinate ticket machine and a debit card to ransom the tickets for which you’ve already paid, standing in a ridiculously long line to procure a 55-gallon drum of soda pop and a vat of popcorn upon which somebody hosed glow-in-the-dark oil, maneuver all that into the one theater out of maybe two dozen that is showing your movie in the format you paid for and juggle your way into your assigned seat, which, of course, is right behind the one occupied by The Incredible Hulk.

(Fun Fact: Those ever-rotating hot dogs at the candy counter? Yup, you’re absolutely right. They have been twirling in vain since Jimmy Carter announced his presidential run. I wouldn’t bite into that shit if it was sprayed with the Covid vaccine.)

Portal to portal, including gas, you’ve blown your kids’ college fund on a night out which, in December 2020, might kill you. Remember the good old days when all you had to worry about was getting an STD?

Yeah, I’m not a fan of the multiplex movie theater. I love seeing movies with a bunch of my friends. If some asshole is talking in my home theater, most likely that asshole is me. But with 65-inch 5K televisions now available in boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios, I can invite those same folks to my home to watch a streamer and charge less than half the theater rate for well-greased popcorn.

There’s lots of stuff from my youth that I miss. Restaurants that aren’t themed. Bars with less than a half dozen television sets all tuned to El Ocho. Cars with fins. Parking meters. Lime Lifesavers. Glittering movie palaces that inspire awe and put you in the mood for magic. The only thing these shoebox theaters give me, aside from a maxed-out credit card, is the thrill of listening to two movies at once to the light of dumb people’s smartphones.

So, now, the theater chains are screaming about streaming. I get it: their future is on the line, and that sucks. Pardon me if I’m just a bit more concerned about the neighborhood bars and other family-owned businesses that do not force me to go to a nearly-abandoned shopping mall where three of the four anchors went blooie because Macy’s doesn’t understand that buying up the local department store chains undermines the shopping experience.

Like I said, times change. Geriatrics bitch about how great the good old days used to be, and we’re often right about that. Childhood experiences are habit-forming. But tomorrow’s good old days will look a lot like a big parking lot that houses a Best Buy, a Denny’s, a Costco, a Pizza Hut, and maybe a Bed, Bath and Beyond. You know, the folks who are keeping the postal service alive.

Before you know it, the streamers will have gone the way of Blockbuster. They will have been replaced by something else. I’m hoping for that phone company brain implant chip predicted in 1967 in that truly wonderful movie, The President’s Analyst.

You probably can catch The President’s Analyst on one of the streamers.

Weird Scenes #118: The Lighter Side of Covid

Weird Scenes #118: The Lighter Side of Covid

 

Bernie Farber (L) and the author, as feckless hippies

My dear friend Bernie Farber has been in a nursing home for a few weeks, recovering from an accident. Bernie and I go way back – and I mean way, way back, almost 52 years when we were both bratty young writers for the fabled “underground” newspaper, the Chicago Seed. A smart, funny, dedicated guy who just happens to be a brilliant writer. I rarely reread my old stuff, but I reread his.

When I first heard he was in a nursing home, I felt a strong sense of dread followed by a wistful wave of nostalgia. For the past nine months just about the worst place one could be, Covid-wise, was in a nursing home. We’ve got better procedures now, but thankfully we now have the vaccine. By “we” I mean Bernie; he’s slightly older than I am, but folks in such environs will be getting the shot before I do and that is quite fair. As a science fiction fan and a lawyer who quotes from Star Trek, Bernie has no problem welcoming the shot.

Mindy Newell (R) and the legendary Trina Robbins

The nostalgia part kicked in when I realized Bernie was one of the last people I had seen before the quarantine. I was back home this past February, which now seems like a century ago, and I saw Bernie the day before I drove back to the Atlantic Northeast. When I got home my daughter put barbed wire around the doors and I haven’t been out of state, or even out of the house but for my car, ever since. Ah, the good old days!

Another friend who will be getting the shot around the time this is posted is comics writer/editor/groundbreaker Mindy Newell. That’s because in her secret identity Mindy is an operating room nurse, and that makes her a first responder, so she gets the shot so she can go on saving other people’s lives. Coincidentally, Mindy also is a Star Trek quoting science fiction fan. Talk about “live long and prosper,” huh?

Batman and Robin meet Sammy Davis Jr, sans 7 Hoods

So I want to thank Bernie and Mindy and the thousands of highest-risk folks out there who are, as a matter of fact, our beta testers. I trust the process by which this vaccine was approved, but, still, I figure the first person who used a parachute had thoughts when he first looked down. Science is not faith-based. If you’re among the first to get the jab, you’re opening some important doors for the rest of humanity, as well as for your friends and family.

I have no doubt that there will be so many celebrities taking the shot in public this week you’d think it was being given by Batman and Robin while they were Bat-roping it up the side of a building. Most of our former presidents, arguably save one, will be getting it – Democrats and Republicans alike. Prominent doctors will be going on-camera, starting with Anthony Fauci, putting their money where their mouths are. We’ll probably see a lot of show business folks doing the same thing. That’s great: we need something in the neighborhood of 75% of us to get inoculated before we can pull the death count down, and we all should get the shots as soon as each of us can.

The Multi-Colored Rainbow Religious Sacrament

However, I can predict some of those who will not. Some will bitch about religious freedom, but these people are self-serving assholes. We don’t let Mormons do their polygamy thing, we don’t permit those whose faith structures indulge in human or animal sacrifice to do their thing, and only members of the Native American Church can use their faith as a reason to score some peyote. Religious freedom stops where the next person’s freedom begins – and vice versa.

Some of the death-loving idiots who will refuse to get the vaccine will be seen on television on January 20, 2021 when, unless plans change, our former president Donald Orange Skull will have a massive Loser Rally in his newly adopted home state of Florida, the retirement home of Al Capone and Ted Bundy. Given the fact that some 74,000,000 American racists voted for the lying piece of shit, I think it is safe to assume that almost all of them will refuse to wear a mask, will not engage in social distancing, will decline to get the vaccine, and/or will be carrying handguns.

So I figure around February 1st, which henceforth I shall call February Fool’s Day, the rabid right will have more of its best and brightest lying in bags in refrigerated trucks.

You know what? I’m fine with that. I make my own bed.