Category Archives: stuff

Dealing with Stuff

Saw a couple people yesterday that reminded me about my war with stuff. There was a period, once upon a time, when I coveted stuff – new music, new books, pretty much what every good American has been trained to do. Yet at the same time, I admired people who had a better handle on stuff. I knew this couple from my former church who lived in a small house, and they had a rule that for whatever came into the house, something of equal size had to go out. Music, books, magazines were purchased, but something else had to be passed along.

This is why I have rules about playing music; if I own it and am not playing it, what’s the point? To “have”? (Whereas I’m keeping my Warner Brothers’ Loss Leaders LPs for a reason.)

Alan David Doane, noted comics blogger, and former FantaCo customer, came by my house yesterday morning and took a comics magazine-sized box of periodicals out of my house. It included early Amazing Heroes (back when it WAS mag size), about 30 Comics Journals, and various and sundry other bits of comics journalism from the early 1980s. As I looked through the box, I had a twinge of nostalgia, especially for a square-bound CJ featuring the Pinis and Elfquest. But an even stronger sensation was this: I will never read these magazines again. ADD will enjoy having them much more than I at this point. And, if he finds any FantaCo-relevant info in there, ADD will tell me, making it a win-win.

Less than an hour later, I had lunch with Mitch Cohn, who used to work at FantaCo and edited 2/5 issues of the Chronicles, Gates of Eden and Deja Vu. (Mitch says hi to Fred and Rocco.) In the course of catching up on our lives – he’s teaching English in NYC – Mitch wondered whether Tom Skulan, former FantaCo owner, still had this copy of Abbey Road purportedly signed by all four Beatles. I said no, he gave it to me for Christmas or my birthday in 1984 or ’85. Here’s the weird thing about that; I often forget that I have it. There was a show of Beatles memorabilia to which I had contributed some pieces, but the Abbey Road, which was/is NOT with my Beatles’ materials, totally slipped my mind. So,I’m thinking that I probably should just sell it. Of course, this would probably involve authenticating the signatures. The Beatles were notorious for letting their surrogates sign on their behalf. But having it to “have” it just isn’t making sense anymore.

It’s not that I’m immune to wanting stuff altogether. Sure I’d like a stereo HDTV some day. But my now 21-year-old, pre-SAP, pre-V-chip TV still works, and I’m not throwing it to the curb (probably not literally; there are rules in this city against that) for something I want but just don’t need.
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Things that are bugging me:
*the way the US Census discounts, or more correctly, uncounts married gay couples
*this cartoon featuring Barack Obama; I think it’s racist. No, it’s not the New Yorker cover.
*and I feel rather callous about this one, but after Martha Raddatz, the ABC News White House correspondent reported on the death of former White House press secretary, who died of colon cancer at the age of 53 earlier this month, anchor Charlie Gibson thanked her, adding “I know how hard this story was for you.” Undoubtedly, some affection develops for someone one talks with on a near-daily basis, but hearing “how hard” it was for Martha, who was showing no visible signs of emotion, made me wonder how aggressively the network was in dealing with the Bush administration. (No, that’s not the ONLY thing that made me question that.) And it made Martha’s reaction part of the story, which made me uncomfortable.

Roger Answers Your Questions, Gordon and Rick

Gordon, whose birthday is the day before mine, albeit a couple several many years later, asks:

1)Who IS your hero?
Actually, it’s anyone who speaks truth to power. But the person who’s moved me the most this year is Bill Moyers on PBS, who used to work in LBJ’s administration. He’s talked about the fallacies of the war in Iraq, taken on Big Media in a BIG way, and speaks about religion and faith and race in a wonderful, open-minded manner. Did you see Keith Olbermann on his show recently? Maybe I’m reading into it, but I think Keith, who I like, BTW, is a bit in awe of Bill, because they are in the same “town crier” business, but Moyers has been doing it a lot longer.

2) In this age of mega media-conglomeration, when the major studios are crying poverty during the Writer’s Strike…what do you suggest we (as citizens) do?
Use less. Interesting sentence, that, because take away the space and it’s useless, which is how I think lots of people are feeling about struggling against the mass everything. And it is a struggle. But to the degree possible, go to the locally-owned movie theater. See the local productions. Watch Moyers. As to the specifics of the writer’s strike, don’t watch the network shows online, don’t buy DVDs (if you really must see the complete Stargate again, rent it.)
Did you see the Story of Stuff? If you do, I think you’ll be less likely to want to buy the crap that we’re being told that we MUST have. It’s all part of the same struggle. On the same news cycle that we read that retailers are hoping for a late pre-Christmas shopping surge, we see that credit card debt is getting higher than ever.
They put out individual seasons of our favorite TV show and we buy that. Then they put out the box set with “extras”, expecting us to buy that too. Don’t. The music industry works the same way; no wonder that many people are “ripping off” the record companies. The system seems to be designed, per planned obsolesce and/or bait and switch, to make you buy the same thing again and again. Don’t let ’em.

Before I get to Gordon’s last question, I want to address this query by George (Rick) Lewis: Why are the daytime talk shows unaffected by the writer’s strike??? Well, I did not know that they weren’t affected. Poking around the Internet, I’ve read that the producers have enough scripts to get through January. And at least during the last strike 20 years ago, scabs non-union “scribes” were hired to pick up the slack. But the particulars of who is or is not covered is not my area of expertise; go ask Mark Evanier.

3) Why do people insist on playing/listening to “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”? That is one of the most annoying songs ever written.

(Plus, traumatic incidents should never be comedy fodder).

Let me take on the parenthetical aside first. Trauma is often comedy fodder. I understand the feeding the Christians to the lions was considered great fun; well, not to the Christians, I suppose.
Seriously, there are people who think that horror movies where the cliched young adults meet their demise is high camp; I tend not to watch them myself, but that’s what I’ve heard.
One traumatic event I thought was TERRIBLY funny was the end of the movie, The Life of Brian – a crucifixion! And the victims are singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”! A song so strong that it made its way into the musical Spamalot. So I think the eye-gouging of the Three Stooges or Wile E. Coyote’s Acme bomb blowing up before he gets the Road Runner (meep meep) definitely have its fans.

As to the Elmo and Patsy song itself, I’ll admit that I actually purchased the single. (For you youngsters, a single, for about a half century starting in the 1950s, was a seven-inch piece of musical vinyl with a large hole in the middle, to be played at 45 revolutions per minute on something called a “record player”.) And I liked it because it was, to my mind, a lovely little deconstruction of all the cloying sentimentality of the season. I never thought it would turn out to be a perennial favorite, and I don’t listen to it much any more, mostly because I’ve become bored with it. (And the remake that you hear on the radio is not, to my mind, as good as the less-polished version that I purchased.) In any event, Gordon, it may please you to know that others share your sentiment.
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Confidential to GP: I’m not sure that I’ve had a breakup as devastating as yours with Liar Ex (who told many lies). But the cumulative effect on me of “love gone bad” (title of a Chris Clark song, not bad grammar) has had its impact. Were you ever dumped by an e-mail so circuitous that it took you three reads to get the message? I have. I’m just sayin’. But if I went through the litany, we’d both be way too depressed.

ROG