Saturday, May 28, 2005

Weak in you, the Force is...

Revenge of the Sith is apparently secretly subtitled: "The movie mofos will come see no matter what I do, so I'm just going to geek out on the CGI and not worry too much about the story." Ugh, it was bad! Like Mystery Science Theater bad, just with better special effects. I usually like to stay immersed in a movie, no matter how bad, but this one I just couldn't help making snarky comments about the wooden acting and laughable dialogue throughout. For every potentially powerful moment, like Anakin's offscreen slaughtering of the younglings and the final fight with Obi-Wan, there were five others that made me miss Jar-Jar Binks. And everything was unnecessarily over-the-top, like the aforementioned final fight in a river of molten lava! WTF?!!? Jedis have personal air conditioning units installed in those outfits?

Making things worse, everyone except Ian McDiarmid - who channeled an evil Bill Clinton via Darrell Hammond, while gleefully chewing on every scene he was in - phoned in their performances, afraid to stand up to Lucas and challenge their awful lines. We're not talking Mark Hammill and Carrie Fisher, here, but really good actors like Natalie Portman and Samuel Jackson. He should have his Director's Guild membership revoked. And whomever thought Hayden Christiansen was the right choice for Anakin/Vader needs to blacklisted from the industry.

You know what WAS good, though? Mad Hot Ballroom. A documentary about the New York City Public School's Ballroom Dancing Program for 5th graders - a 10-week class that culminates in a citywide competition - it's a wonderful peek into the world of three groups of adorable 10-year olds that made me long for that age again, a delicate balance of innocence and hyper-awareness. And the dancing is amazing! See it ASAP before it goes away. And then, buy the DVD.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Take THAT, Jeter...

When is a three-run home run for the lead not a three-run home run for the lead? When a guy hits one in our corporate softball league.

I haven't hit a home run since before I got my first driver's permit more than 20 years ago, so it was rather annoying when my first at bat of the season was spoiled by one of the more ridiculous attempts at leveling the playing field I've ever come across. It wasn't more than a split second as the electric feeling traveled from my hands through my arms and up to my brain only to be processed as, "Shit! A home run out." Nevertheless, it was nice - a line drive over the left field fence. Went 1-for-2 overall with a single in my other at bat.

It was a similar mix on the field where I ironically ended up playing shortstop with a couple of great plays and a couple of ugly errors. Unlike the home run out, there was no moral victory in the errors. Just plain ugly. But my best play, a diving stop, scrambling off my ass and firing to first to end the inning, was downright purty.

Ultimately, thanks to a pitcher who couldn't get the ball over the plate - in SLOW pitch softball! - we got whipped 13-2 over 5 innings, before the game was called on account of darkness. Dude walked the first FIVE batters, and at least 10 more over the rest of the game!!! Our team name, "The Bad News," ended up being prophetic, as was the other team's - Thunder.

It was definitely fun, though. And now, I'm sore as hell since I didn't bother to stretch beforehand and every single muscle hurts. It's a good hurt, though, the kind that comes from exercise. And fun.

Meanwhile, the Mets currently have a 3-0 lead over the Yankees after 4.5 innings, so it's looking like I have a free lunch coming tomorrow. Have to be sure to eat a light dinner tonight!

Friday, May 20, 2005 email

If you've written me there in the past three or four weeks - possibly even a bit longer - I haven't received it because I haven't checked the account in at least that long. It gets tons of spam and once I let more than 2-3 days pass without checking it, as I did a while back, it gets out of hand. Like more than 1000 spam emails/week kind of "out of hand." Lord only knows how much is in there right now and whenever I get around to checking it again, I'm just going to delete the whole shebang.

If you've written me there (or, inexplicably, left a comment on my LiveJournal account) and haven't received a response, write me again at my Yahoo! address instead. (Yes, I know, smartasses! That's no guarantee that I'll respond, but at least I'll know you wrote and be able to feel guilty about it!)

FYI: Comments on this blog go to my Yahoo! account, and have been since I started blogging again last month. My Gmail account is specifically for my comic book-related stuff, both CBC and Buzzscope.

Seacrest out!

Long Story Short

The past couple of months India's been through several evaluations as we tried to figure out the reason(s) for her speech delay. Behavorial, psychiatric, hearing, second opinions -- the works. All of that has resulted in a diagnosis of mild autism. Mild enough, apparently, that with therapy, she should be back "on track" within a couple of years.

Now that we're satisfied with the diagnosis, we're trying to figure out what our options are w/r/t to therapy and schooling, etc. We're still processing it ourselves, but since it's the reason we killed our house search and are staying put for another year, it's not something we wanted to be all secretive about now that we know for sure.

For all those that know us, do me a BIG favor and try not to act like this is the end of the world. It's really not. She'll be okay and so will we, and overdoing the sympathy - or even worse, debating the diagnosis - simply puts us in the awkward position of wanting to punch you in the mouth. Seriously.

Sorry if that sounds rude or whatever, but it's true. Under normal circumstances, most parents despise unsolicited advice (especially from those without children of their own), but in a case like this, where people who KNOW about autism still don't know much about it, you're taking a chance of crossing a line you might not be able to pull back from. A simple "Let me know if you need anything." is cool and would be most appreciated.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Softball, Comics and Vacations

1) Tomorrow night is our first softball game, over at the Coleman Oval Playground, near the Manhattan Bridge. (F train to East Broadway) Starts @ 7:15pm. Come out and cheer me on if you're in the neighborhood. (And bring some beer!) I'll be wearing #2, but don't dare call me Derek Jeter! Since no Met player wears #2 - oddly, less than one-third of the major league teams have a player wearing it - I've decided I'll be representing Alex Sanchez of the Tampa Devil Rays, the knucklehead who had the honor of being the first major leaguer snagged under the new steroids policy! Plus, he's Cuban, and he's on my fantasy team. My other choice was #23, and that's just too closely associated with Michael Jordan, whom I despise more than the entire Yankee team combined.

1a) Subway Series: Mets sweep! Bet on it. I did.*

2) I'm going to be representing Buzzscope at the Wizard World Philadelphia comics convention next month. Media pass and all! It'll be my first big comics show - Big Apple Con's really just a big flea market - and I'm planning to hit a few panels, work the floor, put some faces to names and, hopefully, make some good contacts. Kinda hard to believe how fast this has all progressed, but I'm loving it. The steady writing has been a great boost, too, as it's getting the juices flowing for the more creative stuff as I plan to hit a few open mics over the next month or two, possibly even next week's Nerd Slam. (Ahem, Shappy... Get back to me on that!)

3) We need a vacation badly! We're heading down to my mother's for a week next month, and then Salomé and I are hoping to get away for a long weekend for our anniversary in July. Maybe New Orleans? I still have that travel voucher from my trip to Colorado earlier this year, so we're definitely not going somewhere within driving distance! Anybody have some Nawlins recommendations?

*Actually, I just bet they'd take the series, not necessarily sweep. Nevertheless, here where it costs me nothing, I'm predicting SWEEP!!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Company Man

I've signed up for my company's co-ed softball team.

I was on the reserve list and got the word yesterday afternoon that I was next on the list to move up to the main roster. Too late to attend last night's scrimmage, though, so I have no idea what position I'll be playing - preferably 3rd base or center field. Based on some screwy league rules...10 fielders with mandatory boy/girl assignments and batting order, AND boy home runs are automatic outs! probably won't matter much.

Talk about putting the SOFT in softball!

Hopefully there's beer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Livin' on the edge

Tell me what you think about your sit-u-a-tion
Complication - aggravation
Is getting to you
Back in 1995, I attended AA meetings for 89 days, partly because I thought I had a drinking problem, but mostly to get closer to a girl I was interested in. Approx. 50 days in, I found myself in a bar with her because she had to pick up something from a bartender friend of hers. I hesitated at the door for a second, wondering if I'd be able to handle the temptation, before going in and staring in awe at the elaborate spread of liquor behind the bar. The awe came not from uncontrollable desire, but from the realization that I had a pretty simple choice of whether I would drink or not, and if I didn't want to, I could easily choose not to. My meeting attendance began to drop precipitously after that day, from 3-4 meetings/week to 1-2 at the most. My attitude was changing, too, from a sense of wonder at finding a group of people connected by what I thought was a common weakness, to annoyance at the impotent whining of people who simply lacked the self-control to say no. I simply lacked the desire.

On the eve of my 90th day sober, the first significant AA milestone, I went into the bar I'd first had a real drink with my father at the age of 19, and ordered a screwdriver. I drank it and left, never to return to an AA meeting again. I've had my ups-and-downs since, but nothing I couldn't handle, and that night will always stand out as the moment I decided to deal with my "problem" as opposed to run away from it.

Last night's Acentos was kind of like having that drink. My primary reason for quitting the poetry scene has always been that I had no more interest in poetry and wanted to concentrate on writing fiction again. Last night, I realized that was a well-intentioned lie, and I have Magdalena Gomez to thank for that.

Poetry, for me, is liberation.

When I came on the slam scene back in 1997, I was at one of the lowest points in my life, and poetry was like discovering Islam in the prison courtyard. It filled a hole in my life that had always been there, gave me a sense of purpose and an outlet for all the manic tendencies that otherwise manifest themselves in all sorts of self-destructive behavior. It's also represented the only time I've ever really considered myself a writer.

This blog; the sporadic, aborted attempts at short stories and novels; the comic book reviewing I've been doing for the past 6-7 months; while enjoyable, none of it comes close to matching the feeling I got from writing poetry. And performing it for people. And being part of a community of poets and fans of poetry.

With her four poems last night, Magdalena Gomez reminded me of all of that, and like that one screwdriver hours before my 90th day of sobriety, I realized that running from a weakness doesn't fix anything. People in AA still consider themselves drunks, even after years of sobriety, and cautiously live their lives one day at a time, focused on "not drinking today."

I knew back then that there was no way I could live like that, and yet years later, I somehow thought I could just walk away from the one thing that's ever made me feel like I had a purpose.

There's somethin' wrong with the world today
I don't know what it is
Something's wrong with our eyes
As a husband and father, I've had to make a lot of compromises over the years. It comes with the territory and it's not like it's a secret that's only revealed after the fact. But for all the things I've let go of, or tempered, or altered, there's always been this nagging feeling that there's other ways to do things. Other ways to do the right things, to sacrifice yourself for others, modifying your dreams and aspirations, without having to become a martyr, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a selfish egomaniac.

We live in a society that says you can't have your cake and eat it, too, and it's the most insidious, fucked-up rationalization I can think of, and it's the one thing that keeps this country rolling along. Because the American Dream is all about compromise. Not about following your dreams, not about being true to your self, but about doing the things society says you should, suffering the indiginities of life because it's what you're supposed to do, swallowing your pride every step of the way because that's just the way things are. Or, it's about the complete rejection of all those things, the rebel without a cause version.

And, frankly, I've had enough of it.

My heart is about to burst from goose-stepping along with the status quo.

I don't know yet what I can do about it, but I finally realize I have to do SOMETHING. In an attempt at finding some workable balance in my life, I've simply tipped over to the other end, like an alcoholic in AA, going from one extreme to another.

One thing I need to reclaim for certain, though, is my identity as a writer. I've always scoffed at those who claim they'd "die" if they didn't write, considering it a melodramatic overstatement. But I'm realizing now that it's true; that the "death" isn't, of course, a literal one, but that of one's soul.

After last night's show, I thanked Magdalena Gomez for her set, told her she made me want to write again. She said that was the best response she could ever get to her work. The writer in me remembers that feeling of connecting to someone, of touching them on a profound level that precipitates a major change in their thinking, of feeling like what you're doing has some actual meaning and purpose.

The writer in me wants that feeling back and is going to figure out how to get it.

Monday, May 9, 2005

Longest. Week. Ever.

There's a request of my NY-area readers at the end of this, but first, the preamble.

"Life, she is a roller coaster; for every thrilling dip, there is an uphill slog."

I just made that sagacious little quote up, because it pretty much sums up last week. Long story short, we've squashed the Bloomfield house search - several reasons, among them the lack of full-day kindergraten, which we didn't realize until AFTER our bid was beaten on the one house - and for now, the overall housing search itself. Turns out fate had a Plan D we didn't know about. Details another time, maybe, but suffice to say it was an unexpected deepening of an ongoing plot. In the movies, it's the "Oh, shit!" moment when you realize a supporting character is actually at the center of the story.

Anyway, among many other changes, we're staying put in the current Bronx homestead, and need to get Isaac into Kindergarten. Unfortunately, his zoned school is full, 17 kids over capacity actually, and he's facing being bussed over to PS 54, which by all indications is a pretty lousy school. Not that his zoned school is all that hot, either, but it's like the difference between the 3rd and 4th Batman movies.

So, all of you savvy, connected NYers reading this blog, I need to know one of two things: 1) Reasonable kindergarten alternatives that aren't Catholic schools; or 2) a BoE hookup that can pull some strings to either get him into his zoned school (PS 8), PS 280 (Bronx, near the Reservoir Oval), or PS 75 (West End & 96th, my alma mater).

Holla if ya hear me!

Friday, May 6, 2005

Two Things

Two quick updates for y'all; one about me, one about the fam.

First, the fam:

Join the Acentos crew next week as they celebrate the move to their NEW home: The Bruckner Bar & Grill!

Tuesday, May 10th @ 7:00pm
The Bruckner Bar & Grill, 1 Bruckner Blvd
(Corner of 3rd Ave; 6 Train to 138th Street Station)

The Uptown's Best Open Mic & features

...It's going to be a fiesta of the highest order as Acentos continues to expand in its third year of bringing the best poetry to the Bx! More spacious locale, more food, and two features to set it off right.

Magdalena Gómez is a Bronx native and nationally celebrated poet and playwright. Emmanuel Ortiz is a third-generation Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American community organizer and spoken-word poet residing in Minneapolis. Where else but Acentos can you catch such a tremendous double feature of poetic bravado? Get there early as we will be having a FREE buffet to start the evening!

ACENTOS @ The Bruckner Bar & Grill
Hosted by Oscar Bermeo
FREE! ($5 Suggested Donation)

Check me out on!

Last week I signed on with the recently re-launched pop culture site, - f/k/a - one of my favorite comics-related sites that's home to some of the funniest, enlightening, and insightful columns on the internet. They also publish weekly reviews to which I'll be contributing my fair share, starting with last week's reviews of Batgirl #63, The Losers #23, Lullaby #2, Red Sonja #0, and the newest addition to my 2005 Top 10 (so far...), 15 Minutes #3. Check them out and leave some comments behind.

I'll also be contributing interviews, as well as a feature package now and then, including a Free Comic Book Day roundup, the first half of which is up now.

My goal is to take advantage of their larger audience to spotlight good comics, particularly the underappreciated indies and underdogs of the Big Two, as well as the creators busting their asses to make those comics good. Bookmark the site and check me out regularly!