Friday, May 04, 2018

If This Goes On - I

Fuckin Lobot 

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So let’s talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

Let’s talk about suddenly at age thirty-seven less than one year after leaving my actually pretty nice (if finite) teaching job at a pretty good university getting a sharp reminder of what it feels like to be hungry. Hollow stomach hungry. 

Let’s talk about sneaking out to the kitchen in the middle of the night to have a spoonful of sugar on an empty stomach because sugar is the only thing left in the cupboard after everything else has been stripped bare. It had been a while. It had actually been a while for my parents, too, even though they, like lots of people who rely on Social Security for their sole source of income, as well as me, have been hungry before. Between their income and what I could scrounge we managed to get by last year, but eventually you can only rob from Peter to pay Paul so many times before you run out of people who’s names start with P. 

Sometimes I like to play coy and tease out my point over an elaborate and certainly tortured structural metaphor – you know, as I am wont to do – but sometimes I also like to say exactly what I’m about. And right now it feels important to be as honest as possible. Because things are better now. And I don’t want to forget what it felt like to be hungry again. 

The problem with Rebels is that it could have been the greatest cartoon in TV history and it still would been “the one they canceled Clone Wars for.” And even though it’s technically true, it also misses the point that the show itself was aware of this. The first season was kind of a dud, but the second was better. The third season was better still. The fourth season had a couple weird bits (such as the fucking Loth-Wolves) but overall the series ended in much, much stronger shape than it began. It felt more lived-in. The characters had grown a bit from the two-dimensional first season. And the series itself had changed over the course of its run to incorporate more and more aspects of its predecessor, from supporting cast to themes. 

Funny thing is . . . when I was starving and going rather delirious with self-loathing I also managed to finish writing two fantasy books. And I am very proud of those books – as proud of them as of anything I’ve ever done. I am intensely eager for the world to read them. But the joy of creation and achievement was stifled somewhat by the circumstances of being hungry and trapped in the house with my parents who were likewise similarly hungry and pissed. 

That’s life. Considering that my marked increase in productivity since the first of the year shows no sign of abating, I think it will prove to have been a generative period regardless of how painful. Nothing like suddenly having the bottom rung of Maslow’s ladder knocked out to make you reflect on priorities. 

Every day it seems like the news can’t get any more comically pathetic, and yet the administration keeps on, like a fat tick stuck too deep to be coaxed out with a match. Nothing less than a full extraction will do. That takes time. 

I feel good enough about the work I’m doing lately that without even realizing it I have begun to think in the future tense – something I hadn’t done in over a year. When I blew up my old life I didn’t have a direction other than “recuperate at my parents’ house.” There’s no way I could have known that we were going to have such a rough time of it, but overall it’s been a blessing that we just happened to consolidate households during a time when my parents’ and my finances both imploded for separate unavoidable reasons. 

Weird thing about life. It goes in seasons. 

Perhaps, with some hindsight, the lesson to learn from Rebels is that anything would have palled after Clone Wars. But that show was a total fluke: Lucas spent a lot of money and expended a lot of effort to make a cartoon that was every bit as authentically Star Wars as anything else he’d ever done. He certainly spent more on that show than Disney was ever willing to spend on Rebels, and you can see the difference in every frame. Considering the kinds of stories and the kind of smart writing that show had - once you get past the first season, that is, and disregarding a few bits like just about everything involving the Hutts – Lucas did a fantastic job putting together what has to stand as his most fully-realized vision of what Star Wars can be. Rebels was fun but it was designed to be a lot smaller.  

It felt weird to achieve such profoundly significant personal milestone – proving not just that I can write fiction, but that I might actually have a feel for it – in the midst of such a trying and exhausting time. Writing now is the most natural thing in the world for me. I need to type for a certain number of hours a day or I get antsy. I’m getting it down. I see a future for myself now that I was too afraid to see before, because I didn’t understand what I really wanted. The impact of this realization was dulled by circumstances. 

To get by this year I had to confront deep-seated and longstanding problems with money. I’m afraid of money. There’s no other way to put it. I hate being broke but it at least eases me of the responsibility of keeping track of money. When you’re broke it’s easy to split the world into two parts: must and wait. That necessary clarity is missing whenever I actually have financial stability. 

This essay is about getting older, I guess. A familiar theme. Aren’t I always yammering on about maturing and learning from one’s mistakes and all that bullshit? That’s important, right? It is important. It’s so important that I have spent almost a year living out in the middle of nowhere on an almond farm, trying to avoid making the same mistakes I always make, that I have always made. 

The days got a bit longer. The end of March was very hard – the last gasp of a very punishing Winter. Another hungry time. Then April kicked over and things resolved. A bunch of ships came in around the same time. Bills got paid. Plumbing got fixed. Dog taken to the vet. Turns out the home health aide didn’t have to quit after all. The date for my mom’s operation is in a couple months. 

And I’m ashamed of how bad I am with money. It’s a terrible source of anxiety. When you have just enough it’s easy to skate along without ever having to challenge the sources of longstanding problems. It’s easy to think about it only when absolutely necessary, and privately, and with the fortitude of a pearl diver. But then something happens to strip away whatever meager safety net that you thought you had and you realize with a sudden shriek that, oh yeah, sweeping shit under the rug doesn’t make it go away. It just makes it pile up. 

Rebels was a bit less challenging, by design. As good as the show got it had no desire to do anything as challenging as, say, the Pong Krell sequence of Clone Wars, as intense and desperate a military sci-fi setpiece as anything the Battlestar: Galactica reboot ever attempted. It was trying to tell a different kind of story, something smaller and more character driven. As the characters struggled to define themselves over the first couple seasons, so too did the show. 

No one else seems to want to fix broken things. Often the world seems content to blunder forward making the same mistakes over and over again until the end of all time. So many problems could be solved by people sitting down and having an honest chat with themselves about where they feel things went wrong. 

For the first time in my life I had to rely on help from friends to get by. Just to eat. Had to learn some real fun lessons about how much pride weighs when you’re hungry, and how much pride weighs when you have to get your mom down to a doctor’s appointment in San Francisco and don’t have two dimes to scratch together for gas. 

My Phoenix Squadron is really coming together, too. I’m going to tell you about Kanan Jarrus in a little bit. Maybe talk about Rebels.  

Maslow’s Hierarchy, in the most simple bastardized form that I carry around on an index card in my brain, is a shorthand for understanding the way human beings prioritize need. The bottom of the pyramid is physiological – that is, oxygen, water, food. Basic stuff of life. As you go up you pass through shelter, love, esteem, and finally, at the tip of the pyramid, self-actualization. 

And that leads me to Sting, but we’ll get to that in a minute . . .  


Galaxy of Zeroes

If This Goes On - I
If This Goes On - II

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Throgg said...

I was wondering what do you think of Thanos characterisation in Infinity War.

I know you don't have much tolerance for the campy, comedic approach Marvel Studios has towards the fantasy and space themed characters like Thor and the GOTG, but i read that Jim Starlin was very pleased with Josh Brolin's interpretation of Thanos.

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