I’ll be back in a month

I’ve kept this blog going for something like two and a half years. So far I haven’t missed a day. I like the way that this self-imposed deadline keeps me going. Sure, a lot of the time I simply can’t think of anything to write about. And so there are a lot of pieces in my archives that make me cringe if I dare to go back and reread. On the flipside of that, there have been countless days where I’ve sat down to a blank Word document, utterly unable to conceive of how I’ll fill up a whole page, when all of the sudden a sentence will appear in my head, as if out of nowhere. That sentence will lead to another one, and before I realize what’s happening, something cool or funny has sort of manifested itself on the screen. I hope I don’t sound too self-aggrandizing, but it’s true. Some of the stuff that I’ve written that I’m most pleased with, a lot of times I have no idea where the content came from.

And so yeah, the daily deadline of having to put something on this blog has been great, if only to get me to sit down and write when I don’t necessarily feel like sitting down to write. But it is a lot of pressure. And lately I’ve been feeling like I want to branch out, to try something a little bigger, something that might require a larger chunk of time than just twenty-four hours.

I’m going to write a novel. And I’m going to take the month of November and set this blog aside. I figure that, if I just get up in the morning and write the amount of content that I’d normally write for this blog, but direct it toward a bigger piece, then I should have something thirty days from now. This isn’t an original idea. There’s this whole National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that’s gotten pretty popular on the Internet. I mean, I’m not going to be writing updates every day chronicling my ups and downs. I’m just going to go for it, hopefully get a big chunk of text, and then work from there.

So yeah, that’s it I guess. It’s going to be really hard to not post to this blog, only because it’s all I’ve known for so long now. But if I can get a really big story done, then it’s going to worth it. And so if you’re reading this, thank you as always for reading my blog. I really appreciate all of the support I’ve gotten from wonderful people across the Internet. I’ll be back in a month!

5 B-list Marvel characters that deserve their own movies

Marvel made a lot of news yesterday in announcing its lineup of blockbuster superhero movies for something like the next twenty-five years. All of comic book fandom let out what can only be described as a collective groan of climax as names like Captain Marvel and the Infinity Gauntlet were tweeted and posted seemingly devoid of any context at all. It was like that famous daytime TV scene where Opera gave everyone in the crowd a car, but instead of a studio full of soccer moms, it was a bunch of fictional men and women in spandex and leather, and instead of cars, it was, “You’re getting a movie! And you’re getting a movie! Everyone’s getting a movie!”

But not everybody. And that’s the reason why I’m just not on board. Because none of my favorite Marvel superheroes made the cut. Dr. Strange? Sorry, I don’t care about Dr. Strange. Civil War? Civil War was one of the biggest comic book cash grabs since The Secret Wars of the 1980s, and almost made me renounce Marvel Comics for good. The Inhumans? Man, I just momentarily fell asleep thinking about how boring the Inhumans are. Come on, even Ant-Man is getting a movie. Ant-Man! No, if I had it my way, the Marvel cinematic universe would look a lot different. Here are five Marvel characters that deserve their own feature films. (And if you’re about to point out the bullshit legalities of why the Fantastic Four can’t star in the same movies as the Incredible Hulk, just save it. I have no time for any of that movie studio nonsense.)

  1. Speedball

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Speedball was one of the coolest Marvel characters that you’ve probably never heard of. He’s a dorky teenager who gets caught up in some heavy-tech science experiment and, as a result, gains some pretty unique abilities. Whenever he gets pushed around, that is, whenever his body experiences anything more than a slight physical trauma, like falling down the stairs, or getting punched in the face, his superpowers kick in. His scrawny adolescent body turns into that of a strong adult man, complete with built in costume. Seriously, how awesome is that? Unlike, say, Spider-Man, who always has to worry about people accidentally catching a look at the webbed red-and-blues underneath his shirt, Speedball’s costume materializes out of nowhere. And that’s not all, his regular short, blonde haircut turns into a wild mane of golden locks, and his voice takes on an otherworldly echo.

And I haven’t even gotten to his powers yet. He bounces around. Speedball can bounce off of anything. The greater the speed behind his movement, the greater the bounce. And while he’s in his bouncy form, he can’t get hurt. So you’ll often see him curled up into a ball, bouncing around, knocking bad guys out like a pinball with his unlimited bouncing powers. How cool is that? I always thought Speedball was the pinnacle of cool. And his secret identity is named Robbie, just like my name used to be Robbie when I was a little kid. I can remember being in second grade and getting lost in Speedball comics. It was like reading an awesome comic book adventure about myself. Speedball is super cool, and he deserves his own multi-million dollar movie franchise. (By the way, I don’t like being called Robbie anymore, so do me a favor and never call me Robbie.)

  1. Alpha Flight

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America has the Avengers, but Canada has Alpha Flight. That’s right, a team of Canadian superheroes. And the series doesn’t rest on goofy stereotypes or silly misrepresentations, no, you won’t find any hockey-themed superpowers, or villains charged with threatening the nation’s reserves of maple syrup and Lebatt Blue. This is a group of national superheroes, who probably each deserve their own movies individually. There’s Major Mapleleaf. He’s like a superhero version of a mounted police officer, only, in a unique twist, he doesn’t have any superpowers. He’s just a regular guy, with a regular sense of patriotic duty, and a super-powered horse named Thunder.

The best of all is Puck, a really short dude from Saskatchewan with a hipster moustache and black unitard adorned with a giant P on the chest. Kind of like Speedball, Puck bounces around a lot also. Only he’s shorter, and he looks like a puck … wait, I’m just making the hockey connection now. OK, I take back what I said earlier, about the no hockey stuff. Whatever, Puck is awesome. Alpha Flight is awesome. And on a side note, one of the team’s support characters was a Canadian government agent named Gunther. Just like my last name! I hope you don’t think I’ll just fall behind anything that validates my name in print. But come on, isn’t that pretty cool?

  1. Stilt Man

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Stilt Man is a bad guy, but wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a Marvel movie set from a villain’s perspective? I think that Stilt Man would be the perfect choice for a darker take on the Marvel Universe. Stilt Man is a genius inventor who built himself a bulletproof mechanical suit. Sounds like Iron Man, right? Wrong. He’s nothing like Iron Man. Stilt Man can’t fly. And he doesn’t do the whole laser-beams-out-of-the-hands thing either. Stilt Man’s unique robotic abilities rest on his telescopic legs.

It’s totally original, because where most other boring heroes and villains fly or jump or teleport, Stilt Man has these robot legs that get really, really long. And so he’s just this regular super-genius, but one terrorizing the city atop a giant pair of mechanical stilts. The heroes have such a hard time catching up with him. After he robs a jewelry store or hits up a bank, he activates his stilts, and suddenly he’s gliding through the night sky, his giant legs giving him the powers of even gianter steps. He’s like a power-walker on speed. His look is visually stunning. And in subsequent appearances, he even has a girlfriend, Lady Stilt-Man. Seriously, this movie seems like a no-brainer.

  1. Iceman

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I’ve been saying this for as long as I’ve been able to make over-the-top arguments about comic book characters: Ice Man is the most powerful person in the history of superheroes. And I know that he’s been featured in the X-Men movies, but Iceman needs his own film completely apart from everyone else. For real, Wolverine got a bunch of his own boring movies. And if you ask me, in choosing any character to give a standalone franchise, Wolverine was a mistake. It should have been Iceman.

There isn’t anything that Iceman can’t do. He could freeze you in your tracks. Talk about cool, he’ll fight crime while saying apropos catchphrases like, “Why don’t you chill out,” or, “Freeze!” Iceman always wins because, in the end, everything’s got to cool off. The molten core of our planet has eventually got to run out of juice. Our sun is set to one day fizzle up and die off. The very nature of the universe is that of a giant cool-down, entropy, everything getting further apart and closer to absolute zero. That is, everything except for Iceman. He’ll be the only one left. And for that, he deserves at least one standalone film, if not a whole trilogy.

  1. Aunt May

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Does anybody else ever feel bad that comic book movies are mainly geared toward young guys? Sure, there’s a lot being done by the industry to appeal to a broader audience, but there’s no denying that the world of superheroes is mostly a huge boys club. You try to reach out to women, you try to get past the typical prime market of men aged nineteen to thirty-five, and that’s commendable. But what about old people? What efforts are being made to incorporate senior citizens into the broader Marvel cinematic universe?

The obvious answer is to have a movie all about Spider-Man’s elderly Aunt May. We’ll watch her make pancakes in the morning, and go to the bank to run errands in the afternoon. I’m saying it wrong. The point’s not going to be a movie about old people doing only old people things. Aunt May hasn’t exactly lived a boring life. No, at one point she was romantically involved with one of Spider-Man’s arch-foes, Doctor Octopus. Are you telling me that kind of tension wouldn’t translate spectacularly to the big screen? One time Aunt May died. Only, it turned out that it wasn’t Aunt May, it was a clone. That could be part of the movie. Another time she was gunned down, but Spider-Man chose to make a deal with the devil in order to bring her back to life. Actually, that was a pretty dumb story, maybe we’ll keep that part out of the movie. But while an Aunt May movie might not immediately strike you as a potential blockbuster, it absolutely could be, as long as it’s marketed correctly. Because isn’t this country majority old people? Cranky old men in pleated pants have been running the show for as long as I’ve been around. And as the baby-boomers settle into retirement, America’s only going to get greyer. We need senior citizen Aunt May based Marvel movies, if only to subsidize the growing costs of the ever-expanding regular Marvel movies. If we could get people over sixty-five to watch even one Marvel movie a year, that’s big business. And then DC could follow suit and make a movie all about Batman’s butler, Alfred.

I’m just saying, the Marvel universe is so much more than just the Avengers. While the future of comic book movies might appear comprehensive, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of superhero source material. Marvel, you should call me up. You should call me up and say, “Rob, get your ass to Hollywood and start cranking out scripts. You’re a genius! Let’s get to work. And believe us, we’re going to pay you, big time. Yes sir, you’re going to be a very rich and famous man, Mr. Gunther.” And I’ll totally say yes. Seriously, I can start tomorrow.

VP of electronics departments

One of my friends from back home, this guy Nick, he spent the majority of his time goofing off, playing video games, smoking a lot of pot. He managed to get through high school, but he only lasted a semester at college before landing back in his parents’ house with no money, no prospects. He did clean his act up though, he cut back on the drugs and video games, he went down to Costco to apply for a job.

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He was naturally a very nice person, and when he took the time to clean up, spending just a couple of extra minutes making sure to shave and present himself as a serious job-seeker, he had no trouble in hitting it off with the hiring manager at Costco. Nick was upfront about his previous lack of job experience, and the hiring manager saw a lot of himself at Nick’s age, and so he gave him a chance.

“We’re going to start you off at inventory,” they told Nick. But on his first day, the guy in charge of handing out the Costco uniforms couldn’t find a red vest. “I only have blue vests,” he handed one to Nick, and it being his first day, he had no idea the difference between blue and red vests, so he just took one and put it on.

Apparently it was a big deal though, because blue vests were reserved for floor managers and heads of individual departments. Nick put on his blue vest and, because he got there super early for his first day, decided to take a walk down the electronics aisle and check out the TVs and sound systems before he had to show up for his first assignment toward the back of the warehouse.

While he was looking at the latest in ultra-HD TVs and wireless speakers, some dude approached Nick and, mistaking him for an electronics salesperson, started quizzing him about product specifications. Lacking the self-awareness to realize how his situation could have been misrepresented, Nick freely answered all of the guy’s questions. None of his answers were based on any facts or research, rather, Nick started running his mouth about random stuff he’d read on tech blogs he’d occasionally read online.

The customer didn’t know anything about technology, and so not only did he not see through the bullshit in Nick’s answers, he actually walked away pretty impressed. Which was a huge stroke of good luck, because the customer turned out not to be a customer at all. He was some VP at Costco HQ who happened to be in the area for one of those regional meetings. He hadn’t intended to do any secret shopping, but he stopped by the store for one of those really cheap hotdog and churro combinations that Costco is so famous for and, while he digested his lunch, he found himself wandering through the store. That’s where he ran into Nick.

Unfortunately for Nick, his conversation in electronics with the unintentionally undercover VP took longer than expected and, as a result, he was late for his first shift at the back of the warehouse. When he did show up, something like ten or fifteen minutes late, the shift supervisor was furious. “And what are you doing wearing that blue vest?” he demanded. “You think this is a joke? Give me your vest and get out of here!”
Nick had no idea how things had turned out so wrong. Dejected, he took off his vest and tried to hurry through the parking lot, hoping to make it to his car before any unexpected emotional dams broke, causing a potentially public display of waterworks not really appropriate for a grown man in his late twenties who just got fired on his first day of work. Before he made it to his car though, the VP called out to him in the parking lot.

“Nick!” the VP said.

Nick turned around and saw the guy from the electronics aisle.

“Yeah?” Nick said.

“Where are you going?”

“How’d you know my name?”

“From inside. Your nametag?”

“Oh yeah, right.”

“Listen, Nick, I’m actually VP of operations for the region here at Costco, and I’ve got to tell you, I was really impressed with your handle on the electronics department back there. You ever think about going for a job in corporate?”

And Nick didn’t know what to say. None of this was really making sense. And he was still feeling the rush of very conflicting emotions bombarding his thoughts. The best he managed to get out was a, “Well, I don’t know … uh.”

The VP took out his card and said, “Listen, why don’t you stop by regional HQ tomorrow. I’d love to introduce you to the rest of the team.”

And seeing as how Nick just lost his job, he thought, what the hell? He might as well give it a shot. He showed up the next day and met with a whole bunch of VPs. He really didn’t know anything about business, nothing about profits or revenues or supplies and demands. He just showed up and started talking about the new Roku 3 and solid state hard drives, random topics that he’d remembered seeing headlines about on all of his favorite web sites.

The VPs ate it all up. They didn’t know anything about electronics either, but they weren’t at all familiar with the popular Internet sites, and so Nick’s ceaseless stream of trending technology talk filled the whole conference room with the fresh energy and buzz that only a youthful outsider could bring to the table. He was hired on the spot.

And the work was easy enough. The suppliers didn’t really need any input from a VP. They all knew which products were moving well, and merchandise like giant TVs and external hard drives basically sells itself. And so Nick found himself with a cushy office job, a fat paycheck, but a lot of time to kill during the day.

And so one day he was feeling particularly restless, he decided to check in on his old store, the place where he was almost gainfully employed for an entire day. He went to the food court, bought his hot dog and churro, and then took a walk past the electronics department. He looked at all of the TVs and speakers and, as he rounded a corner, he ran right into his old boss, the guy who fired him for slacking off and wearing the wrong vest. He was helping a customer, answering questions about square inches and dpi, all of this weird technology lingo that Nick was surprised he even knew. Maybe the job was starting to rub off on him. Maybe he knew more about electronics than he thought.

For a moment, he was consumed by the idea of flaunting his rank, by butting into the conversation and embarrassing this guy that had once cost him his job. But that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. And besides, if he got this guy in trouble, what if he eventually got fired? What if he one day stumbled upon his own promotion, and wound up in a position even higher than Nick’s?

No, he decided to take the high road, to walk away. But not before standing there a little too long, making a weird extended eye contact with the man wearing that blue vest. Nick thought, does he remember me? Did I make enough of a dent in his consciousness that day so that he now recognizes my face? Would he be surprised that I’m now technically his boss? Nick decided to walk away before the urge to get involved came back. He thought, maybe I’ll get another hot dog, and one of those giant sodas. And he turned around and walked away.

Which letter would you choose?

If some sort of a wizard appeared in your house one day, and he said to you, “I’m going to remove one letter from your vocabulary. You get to pick which one. Once it’s gone, you won’t be able to say that letter anymore,” which one would you choose?

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My immediate choice would be the letter C, seeing as how you can get away with using K or S. Would I still be able to write with the letter C? Would I be able to recognize it in the outside world? “Don’t try to get clever,” the wizard would say, “C doesn’t count. You have to pick another letter. Something with some serious consequences.”

And I don’t know. Maybe I’d choose the letter T. I think that I have a pretty decent shot at still talking somewhat fluidly without relying on the letter T. And yeah, my voice would be markedly different, but it wouldn’t be a handicap. If anything, I’d sound British. Maybe. I guess it depends on where the T is in a word. If it’s in the middle, I could get away with it. For example, “sitting” would turn into “si’ing,” which, yeah, I guess that’s an awkward way to write it down, but use your imagination. Doesn’t that sound like one of those magical chimneysweeps from Mary Poppins?

But if the T starts out the word, that’s where I think things would get confusing. Like, say, “tacos” would become “acos,” and that doesn’t really sound British. It doesn’t sound anything. “Tennessee,” “Texas,” “Tacoma,” are hardly the recognizable places they are without the T right up front. And what about T when it’s used with H? Isn’t TH its own unique sound? If I choose to lose my Ts, would I have to rely solely on the H?

I think I’d go with Z. Yeah, I think I could get away with replacing all of my Zs with Ss. I’m sitting here right now and saying all of these Z words out loud: “zoo,” “zip,” “Zanzibar,” and yeah, I think the confusion would be minimal, as long as I talk really fast. Nobody is going to say anything.

But maybe the wizard wouldn’t like that trick either. “Sorry, that’s the same as the C rule, it’s too close.” At which point I’d be like, “Well, why didn’t you say something earlier? What kind of a wizard are you? And what do you get out of taking a letter away from me?”

I probably shouldn’t be that aggressive in the unlikely event that I do find myself confronted with a powerful wizard actually capable of removing individual letters from a person’s vocabulary. But for real, is this a punishment? Did I do something wrong?

And maybe he’d be like, “Yeah, it’s a punishment. I’m an evil wizard. This is what I do. And I gave you the chance to choose, but since you want to stand around and be argumentative, I’m going to choose for you. It’s G. You can’t say G anymore.” And he’d snap his fingers and then, poof, he’d vanish.

And I’d be screwed. Because how do you say words like “orange” or “grapefruit” anymore? And all of those words that end with –ing, I’m going to sound like I’m from the south or somethin’. What happens if I’m ever vacationing in Japan and a giant dinosaur emerges from the ocean and starts destroying the city? What am I going to scream when I point to the sky in terror? Even in the general panic, people are going to stop and look at me and say, what’s wrong with that guy? Why’s he talking so weird?

Answer my video calls

From now on, if you want to get in touch with me, I’m only going to be available via video chat. So if you don’t use FaceTime, or Skype, or whatever Google’s version of Skype is called, then just plan on never talking to me again. Because from here on out, it’s going to be my only method of communication. I just deleted my email address. I waited on hold for like forty-five minutes with my cell phone provider, insisting that they disable text messages for my number. Going forward, it’s just video calls.

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Why? Because this is the future that we were all promised. When I grew up watching futuristic cartoons like the Jetsons, nobody ever sent text messages or boring emails. No, they got on their fancy screens and talked face-to-face. That’s how the future was supposed to be. And now we have the technology. And yet nobody answers my video calls. Come on, you don’t want to look at me? You don’t want to stare at my face while you’re talking to me? What have you got to hide? You’ll send me a bunch of emojis that don’t make any sense, but you’re afraid to look me in the virtual eye and have an actual conversation?

It’s the same with Star Trek, they’re always facing each other and talking. Even when they’re on different ships, Captain Picard has his crew hail the other ship, and Worf is like, “Captain, would you like me to send the call to your ready room?” and Captain Picard is like, “Fuck that. Throw him up on the big screen.” And Worf is like, “The big screen? The one that everyone on the bridge stares at all day? It’s huge.” And Picard is like, “Do as I say!” and then the call goes through and we all get to look at an extreme closeup of whoever it is they’re talking to. And it’s universal. They might get flung halfway across the galaxy, they’ll run into a completely alien civilization, and the first thing both sides do is start a video call. “On screen!” Because it’s the future. Because it’s something that we were promised, and it’s something that we got. And so now I want to use it. So start answering my video calls. Because I’m just going to keep calling, over and over again until you answer me. Cool?