A lot to unpack

I already put away most of my luggage from that incredibly long vacation at Mom’s (that by the way felt more like a series of weekends – over before I knew it). But I brought all my childhood journals, and am now in the process of “organizing” them, starting with labeling them with their date ranges, and maybe eventually itemized entry dates or topics if I have time. (An archivist I am not; I have no idea what I’m doing.)

But reading what I wrote over some particularly memorable periods of my life I realize I focused on unpacking what was bothering me, and left out a lot of the good that happened. A lot of stuff I’d like to remember better.

So, here are the highlights of What I Did On My Summer Vacation!

  • I drove Mom’s car. I wrote about it on instagram, but this car meant a lot to me (yes it’s the same one she had when I was growing up).
  • I drove out to the mountains with Mom. We went to Canmore (for fun and reconnaissance) and then we went to Canmore again (for mountain biking) and again (for french pastries) and again (for more mountain biking) so I think that’s a record.
  • I hung out with a friend from high school who I’ve gotten to know better on the internet in recent years. We saw John Wick 3 and then had a heart-full conversation for hours over dinner. It was amazing.
  • I read a lot of N. K. Jemisin. When I was done my “plane book” (tip: check the number of pages before buying a plane book from Amazon. Actually don’t buy from Amazon. Look I was leaving soon and the local bookstore didn’t have it), I renewed my Calgary Public Library card and borrowed another.
  • We went shopping at MEC a little (I guess I went to MEC four times this trip, which is also a record).
  • We drove to Sundre to buy a second-hand backpack, and saw beautiful fields of Canola (hi, China!) and got caught in a hailstorm (hi, Global Warming!)
  • Alex arrived and we drove to Mount Robson. Mom’s car struggled to get up the Icefield Parkway but we made it. We saw the peak of Mount Robson with no clouds. Once.
  • Alex and I and J___ and J___ hiked up to Berg Lake! I sat on a bench and looked at a glacier.
  • I laid on a beach and looked at a glacier. I communed with the glacier.

Glaciers are strange beasts. They are fossilized snow. They calve, they break, they melt and retreat but they are renewed as the ice forms and flows downwards. A solid fluid at this massive scale. What is the Reynold’s Number of a glacier? [I can google this now, it’s 10^-11] They exfoliate mountains, but to the mountains they must seem like mayflies. They are so blue. They creak and groan. They look like you could reach out and touch them when they’re kilometers away. They devour people. TheĀ  awe I felt, of something so otherworldly, rivaled the best science fiction. Glaciers. They store water at the top of the earth so it can flow slowly into the oceans. But they exist in such a delicate thermal balance – growing in winter, shrinking in summer. And they’ve been shrinking, overall, for decades now. What rivers will be dry when the glaciers vanish? Can we unfuck our planet?

  • Alex and I hiked up to Robson Glacier. It looked like a small walk to the toe. Two hours later, i got my wish, and touched ice. It felt old. I also may have licked it [kids! this is not advisable]. It tasted cold.
  • We saw the Spiral Tunnels and watched a train go through.
  • We drove to Fernie to pick Saskatoon berries, but there were none.
  • We saw the old growth forest at Island Lake Lodge, and we saw the beach at Kikomun Creek Provincial Park. They are wildly different ecosystems, only a half hour drive apart.
  • Mom got sick, and drank a lot of Gatorade (only the Glacier Frost flavour because it had the least food colouring).
  • We saw a Shakespeare at the Bow, and laughed our asses off (heh) at A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • I really love mountain biking, and will endeavour to get out more.

But did I accomplish what I wanted to on this vacation? According to a text to a friend, I planned to:

do almost nothing because I’m exhausted of feeling like I’m failing? Try to forget about work? Try to figure out why I am the way I am. And maybe solve capitalism.

Points one and two were a qualified success. Points three and four… well I’ve got a lot more unpacking to do.


Rainy Weekend Comic Reviews

@thecomichunter has a permanent 2-for-1 sale on used comics, so on Friday I found two Volumes 1 of series I haven’t read, that were both priced at $9.99.

The Wicked + The Divine. Vol. 1, The Faust Act. Image Comics.

I’ve been meaning to read this comic for a while, since I heard it was captivating, “Gaimanesque,” and non-cis-white-hetero-dude-centric. But every damn time I walked into the comic book store, I forgot it’s dang name. Cue (at least 4 times): “Do you have The Sacred and The Profane. Or something like that? The Cursed and the Blessed? Angels and Demons?!” But then (when I finally found Vol 1) I got cold feet, because it looked awfully violent and it had a kind of cheesy premise:

Every ninety years twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.

Back cover, Vol. 1

But I gave it a shot, and oh gods I’m so glad I did. “Set my heart aflame” all right. If I were to “8th-grade-book-report” this [source, and what I’m actually referring to as told by Tufekci and Ellis], I’d say the theme is the difference between agency and power. As Baal says at the beginning of Issue 4,

“We don’t get to change anything. We get to change you, and then you choose what to do with it.”

page not numbered

In today’s world of “influencer gods” (and if you know me, Tufekci and Ellis are core to my own personal pantheon), attention and admiration is a form of power, but under The Algorithms it’s a power to keep doing that thing you’re doing that pleases the masses. Pleases, and maybe shapes. Can the millions of rabid fans of Natalie Wynn and Oliver Thorn actually change the world? Stop global warming, implement UBI, and abolish property? Maybe, if we get our fucking act together. But those “gods” can’t do it on their own.

Back to the book. When I say it is non-cis-white-hetero-dude centric, I mean there are maaaayyybe two named characters who fit that description, but barely get any lines. Basically everybody is female, and has a ton of power, and it’s great. And when they talk about sex (and they do, a lot) it’s because rock-star-power (often) includes being a sex god, and they own it. They are gooooorrrgeoooouuuss but their bodies are never played up for a (presumed straight male) reader to gaze at. If you like women dressed as Bowie, though, you might want to find a towel. Why am I going on about this? I’ll get there…

Our audience-insert (and Faustian) character is Laura, a teen girl who drops out of school to be a groupie. This is such a departure from how other comic books (and society in general) have treated this stereotype of rabid super-fan, and the concept of female fandom in general. That was refreshing, though (spoilers!) I get the feeling that she’s “more than” the normal teenager that she seems.

I’m terrible at reviews, but here are some stray thoughts:

  1. I did not get all the musical references, but a quick bit of Googling made Laura and Luci’s first conversation a little bit clearer. Apparently they have an accompanying #wicdiv playlist? Makes me feel a little bit better about including an audio suggestion in my last college paper.
  2. I was tickled by how Laura was portrayed at being bad at research (“oh god no don’t make me go to page 2 of google”) before being ribbed about it by a woman with a Masters’ degree (“Little Miss My-first-search-engine”). Info literacy ftw!
  3. “1-2-3-4” is super cute motif and I wish I could work it in here somehow. Oh. Heh.
  4. The art was amazing, the use of panels and space and eyeflow and “camera” angles was quite excellent.

In contrast:

Ex Machina. Book 1: The First Hundred Days. DC Comics.

I liked Brian K. Vaughan’s work in Saga, though to be honest I got a bit bored because it felt like it was going nowhere, and quit reading a while ago. This was quite different, and, sigh, I think I’ll quit reading now.

Other reviewers took issue with the scale of the narrative and the presence (or lack thereof) of New York City as a character in its own right. I can agree, though am not an expert storyteller and did not pick up on those myself. But it just seems like it’s not a story worth sticking around for.

Premise: A civil engineer gets superpowers from a mysterious probably-alien object and becomes Magneto-for-all-things-mechanical. After a short misguided career as a vigilante, “The Great Machine” hangs up the helmet and becomes mayor of New York City. Oh, this engineer is a straight white cis het dude. So, classic power fantasy meets reality makes this a “modern” comic. He has to deal with an attempted assassination, a couple of murders during a blizzard, and a publicity debacle including racially-charged artwork at a publically-funded museum. His attempts at getting involved usually just screw things up more, and supporting characters actually solve all the narrative’s problems. Yet this is somehow his story – of how hard it is to rule a city that doesn’t want to be governed, when you have to consider so much more than yourself. *eyeroll*. There’s also a bunch of casual racism, homophobia, ableism, and misogyny. We usually say “it didn’t age well” but you know what? It was hurtful then too. Oh, I promised to get back to the male gaze, but I really don’t want to. It’s there. It’s gross.

The art feels claustrophobic, which is uncomfortable but suits the theme, and interestingly? the fun-shit-in-the-back-of-the-comic-book shows how they created the storyboards using photographs of actors, then illustrated based on that. It’s lifelike, I guess, but feels creatively constrained, and ends up looking a little tableau-ish.

The Black character was cast as a white actor.

So I guess it embodies its own theme, of the challenges faced by well-intentioned white guys when trying to fix “the great machine” of society on their own, without interrogating how the machine works, who it runs for, or whether mechanical determinism is a good metaphor for society in the first place.

[Edited because I didn’t want to stand behind the phrase “it didn’t age well”.]