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Any spare change, Guv?

Homelessness is an increasing problem round town, and it’s got Andy thinking about charity, and how little of it we all display.

 

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Along the way, we look at the perils of bucket collections at supermarket checkouts, sick cats, and wonder whether the computers can save us from ourselves.

 

But ultimately, the big takeaway is that this world can not solve homelessness, when there are homeless people literally sleeping in the doorways of vacant properties. Something is wrong, people… and somehow we all don’t see it anymore.

 

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Homeless pictures from freeimages.com – feral cats from unsplash.com

I was eating dinner with friends recently (Well, I eat dinner daily, but it’s just this one specific occasion I’m talking about) and talk turned to the past. Nothing encourages nostalgia like getting older. Anyway, we were chatting about the resurgence of vinyl, once long-dead and now resurgent. Like a plastic zombie. We agreed this is not just about nostalgia, but about being human – the tactility, the pleasing size and shape, the analogue warmth to the sound; all work with the senses.

But vinyl is also illogical. MP3 is logical. MP3 is non-physical, our hard disks voluminous, the choice seemingly infinite. MP3 won’t scratch or skip. It can’t degrade.

Vinyl had its day, so what business does it have making a comeback? Probably none. It’ll probably survive as a fad for a year or three or five more, but it will never again reign supreme. Because it is impractical. It’s tactility, size, shape, noise and fragility are no longer optimum.

Like people.

Do you ever see someone – this might get kinda weird, but stick with me – who just looks healthy? Let’s say a guy: he’s forty-ish, but looks younger, he’s tall and fit, has great teeth, clearly never bit his fingernails, and the total bastard still has a very full and lustrous head of hair. When you see him, you think: “If this were olden times, when men were men and there were wolves and dinosaurs and caves and stuff, he’d survive. He’d be a leader.”

Then thought inevitably turns back to yourself and an inescapable image of Fred Flinstone pops into your head.

Well guess what? This is 2017 and desk jockeys rule the world! So **** that guy! MS Office doesn’t care if you have great hair (I repeat this to myself daily, while looking in the mirror and sobbing).

My phone is my club! My £3 meal deal is my dinosaur steak! My computer is my…club…again.

But, I have a poor memory. I have a body that requires movement to function properly. I need to use my hands to access the information that my brain requires.

I am not optimal.

Yet.

Remember that bit in Terminator where we switch to the robot’s point of view and see the readouts he receives to assess the situation he’s in?

That’s pretty optimal.

I don’t know how I feel about this, but we know the future integration of body and technology will come. My first reaction is to be repulsed, to resist, but I know society will bend to progress. I loathed giving up tapes for CDs, but the world changed and took me with it. Same with the switch from CD to digital.

But where will progress stop… progressing? Is now the time we put our foot down and say NO! Because if we become the tools, instead of just using them, at what point will we no longer be in control? Will we rush past the point of no-return at such a pace that we can’t stop in time? Do we need to constantly develop to enjoy life; or to enjoy life to develop? In other words, how optimal is too optimal?

I’m reminded of the old joke that sounds like a true story but you just know you’ll be disappointed if you actually google it:

 

During the Space Race, the Americans spent a fortune developing a type of ink pen that could write in zero gravity, when wet, when dry, when very hot, when very cold, and upside down.

The Russians used a pencil.

 

Maybe we are optimal. Maybe our phones are THE PINNACLE. All the world’s data at your fingertips. Maybe our phones are the new pencil. Maybe to push further is the evolutionary equivalent of spending millions on magic ink.

Or maybe not.

This time Andy is going to preach on the pitfalls of marriage, so listen up! Throw away the guidebooks – you don’t need them anymore! Forget what Vogue told you – it’s nonsense. This is the real deal! And along the way, we visit a desert island, where two castaways find their marriage can only take so much…

A Long Time Ago In a Comic Far Far Better Than Most


I’ve been trying to get my wife to read Saga. God, I freakin’ love Saga. The Will and Lying Cat are the desktop image on my laptop. And I have a child.

But the Mrs just isn’t interested.

To someone who isn’t really INTO sci-fi, let alone comics, it’s a hard sell. It is, ostensibly, SCI-FI in capitals.

But Saga has something an awful lot of this SCI-FI stuff doesn’t (compared say, to Grant Morrison’s God-fuck awful World War III Justice League run, which I slaved through after making an ill-advised impulse buy at Chester Comics Co):

Saga has all of the following:
Extreme violence
Foul language
A gay facial cum shot displayed on the face-screen of a robot soldier
A massive ogre with tiny cock
A naked spider woman
A prostitution planet

Oh, it also has:
Consistent characters
Humour
Morals
Warmth

You can probably see where I’m going with this. Saga is a story in the true sense of the word. It is not a platform on which to display the first list of things. It is a journey, and its characters are woven into it. That second list of things is what makes it more than a disposable piece of pulp eye-candy.

When there is sexuality shown, it is in keeping with the characters and their interactions. They swear when we would. The violence is sparing, but shocking, and makes perfect sense within the context it is placed.

And let’s just look at the violence specifically. It is there (beautifully/grimly drawn by Fiona Staples) to show a character’s brutality, the horror of war. And it stems from a situation; the situation has not been engineered into the story to allow/excuse the depiction of violence.

Kick Assery

Okay, now I’m going to pick on Mark Millar, because some of his works stand out to me as the antithesis of this. I’m sure he is not the only one, but have you read Nemesis?

Nemesis struck me as a cold, cold, cold revenge story told for the sake of its own shock value. I mean, kidnapping a guy’s children to then inseminate the daughter with the son’s sperm, with her womb booby-trapped to make an abortion impossible… Jesus, it’s a teenager’s revenge fantasy.

And that’s so often the case with material emphasised to the nth degree to shock, the sexualisation of the violence, the titillation via disgust it induces giving it an oh, so ADULT veneer.

Kick Ass 2 has a gang rape scene. Purpose it serves: This bad guy (Red Mist/The Motherfucker) is a really bad baddie.

It’s cheap exploitation and poor writing. It’s a form of porn, let’s dub it Discomfort Porn (I already bought the URL).

Red Mist/The Motherfucker is a one-sided and dull cartoon. Darth Vader, Hannibal Lector, The Joker even…those are villainous characters who stay with us because, as callous and brutal as they are, they are written and executed well, and do not rely solely on shock to entertain.

It is easy to write a bad guy – and the seemingly increasing use of child abduction/abuse is the easiest go-to of all – but it is much harder to craft a villain in the true sense of the word.


Rant Nearly Over, I Promise

I’m not saying these things should not be discussed or portrayed, because these things DO happen in society. And I believe that comics are as valid and vital a place for the discussion as any other. But when I see someone trying to pull the SHOCK tactics out of their limited bag, I just turn off these days, because it feels like a cheap and pointless exploitation, not so much of the characters (for what they are), but of me as a reader.