Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The United States of Jed

Ya know, I've almost started a blog about 4 times a year for about the last four years. Am I marking my territory? Is this basically virtual scrap booking and I have truly turned into the soccer mom I feared I might? Or is it an attempt to further unite two of my many personalities?

Well for now, lets just go with all of the above.

Hi, My name is Jack Flash. Not really, my real name is Jed. Well technically that isn't true either, but this blog is about connecting just two of the many "me's". I've got an online life. Not one of those second life lives, I am not WEIRD. Ok, I am weird, just not in caps.

There is a place on the interwebs called Comicbookresources.com. (CBR) On this little oasis in the cold dark net is a place I've made a home. Or at least part of me has. So I guess around 2003 I started lurking on this Message Board about comics. I don't remember why I started actually posting, but around 2004 I did. Ever since then, well Jack Flash was born. Jack is a lot like me, well technically, I don't want to give away too many secrets (cuz really what would a super-hero be without a secret identity), he is me. I try to stay true to who I am, but Jack is a LOT more sociable. He makes small talk look easy. He knows his comicbook shit and isn't afraid to speak his mind. He's alot of the good that is me. Just more chatty, especially with strangers. Maybe that's the true gift of the net, it allows folks to be who they really could be if things like social paralysis (in my case) didn't hold them back. Sure, the anonymity of the net allows for certain folks to be basic fucktards, but it also allows folks like me to speak without the encumberance of awkward social settings.

So on CBR, there is a place called the X-Boards, it's basically a place for folks to come and discuss the Marvel Comics under the umbrella of the X-Men and their ilk. The X-Ghetto if you will. Hear that sound? That's the sound of loads of comic book fanboys across the universe who are possibly reading this shaking their heads slightly and tsking with dissaproval. Which is fine. But it doesn't mean that they aren't fanboys all the same. The X-Books have a "You're what's wrong with the industry" reputation among the main community that is the comic geek. Which again, is fine, in fact I am glad to be a part of what's wrong with the industry. I revel in it. Anyway, on this board, there is a thread called X-Cresence. It's a kind of catch all community thread in a board that is mainly focused on X-men comics and this place is more specifically home. It's good and welcoming and full of interesting folks. Ok, at it's best it's those things, 9 times out of 10, it's decent and not overtly hostile and has some folks that I wouldn't throw into traffic. Alright, sometimes it sucks, but doesn't every place. Especially one you consider to be home. Anyway, I have met folks there that I consider friends. In fact, some of the folks on there are really good friends. Even if I haven't met them, which I know sounds and feels odd at times. I think the casual reader would also be astonished at the amount of gay men who read comics. Pre-Internet, I thought I was the only one, but in fact, with the X-Men in particular, there tends to be a 50/50 split of gay folks to straight. Maybe it's something about the allegory of mutants being born different and hated for those differences. It's powerful in it's simplicity.

So hi, I'm Jack Flash. I read comics and love under-dog "throw away" comic characters. I also love the indy books that nobody else notices. and life is particularly good. So hi, I'm Jed. I'm a gay dude with a long term boyfriend and a job that is alright. I'm raising my sons to own their geekdom like a badge of courage. I have an obsession with music from my youth and like reading memoirs and satirical humor. I can also dance like a champion especially for a chubby white boy.

So in short, Howdy, from all of me, or at least some of me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Not Gay Enough or Not Picked to Live in a House

So once upon a time in the mid to late nineties, and to give you some background, I was a proud out gay young man. I had the rainbow necklace. Check! I had the size 32 "Eff" me jeans. Check! I had the Malcolm X quirky glasses. Check! I was the poster child for Generation X queer. I worked at a Coffee Shop. I had a degree in business that I considered to be a mistake. Check! Check! I went out to the bars 4 nights a week. I flirted but never sealed the deal in a totally prudish way. I dug the crap out of the concept of martinis, but actually hated the taste, but still ordered them. I totally loved hoodies in an inappropriate way. I'd work the Doc Marten's and the Chucky Converse low tops alternately until they fell apart. I wasn't a twink. Even when I was skinny enough to almost be one. I wasn't fashionable, except perhaps in my lack of fashion sense which was the fad of the times. I wasn't "cool" or even "kewl", but I was real.

I'd recently escaped Dallas (still thankful) and I was journalling on a daily basis. Check! Check! Check!

So, in my mind, I was a poster child for the angsty new breed of gay dude stepping out of the cloud that I'd spent the first part of the decade in. Gone was the closet. Gone was the chubby insecure geek. Gone was the doubt. Well most of it anyway. All that said, I was practically raised by a TV, so this was my plan:
So on that fateful day in Downtown Austin I walked into a dumpy dance club on my lunch break to audition for duh duh duh, The Real World. Yes, I know. But I was sure of my chances. I went through the cattle call. Picked up my 3 page application. I have no recollection of what they asked, but I remember sitting in between this long Fabio type haired male stripper and this bitter biker-esque lesbian having to explain a couple of the questions. I am certain I journalled about it later. I fill it out, yes Fabio, you may borrow my pencil. An hour later, I get my name called. I walk upstairs for my interview and it's Jasun from the Real World Boston cast. The poet. The douche bag poet. The Effing douche bag poet with a girlfriend named "Timber". He interviews me.

DB Poet: "So, Jed is it? *purses lips* What's your purpose?"
Jed: "Like what? What's my purpose? Like in life?"
DB Poet: *annoyed* "Um, yea, it's a question."
Jed: Blah Blah Blah, Crappity Crap
DB Poet: "It says here that you are gay?"
Jed: "Um. Yea. I guess it does."
DB Poet: "You don't seem like a gay guy."
Jed: "Um. Sorry."
DB Poet: "You seem more, I dunno, just not gay. Are you being yourself? I mean, please, be yourself."
Jed: "Yea, this is me."
DB Poet: "O.K., we'll do it your way then."
The interview continues for a few more minutes, but it was clear that he wasn't buying it. The douche bag didn't think I was gay enough. Not every gay man is the same. My dreams. My future stardom. My chances for trips to the MTV music awards were dashed. By a "poet" with a girlfriend named "Timber".

In all honesty, he did me a favor. That was the season with Irene of Lyme Disease Fame. And I would have totally been a dramatic hot mess.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

False Advertising

Once upon a time when I was a kid of tweenish age and sensibilities, I was busy reading comics and not getting laid (and really this period lasted way longer than it needed to). There was a brilliant ad that was in all of the X-Men comics that I read. It simply captivated my geekish virgin brain. My imagination ran wild once it soaked into my brain. The ad, simply implied that 1 in 4 children was a mutant. For those of you who were off experimenting with dope and beer and getting laid back in 1987, a mutant in the Marvel Universe is the next step in evolution from homosapien to something superior and the change happened at puberty! And when this ad came out, yes, you guessed it, the pubes were a’growing. Mutants were, due to their genetics, gifted with super-powers. Some of these powers were amazing and others were pure curses. Whether good or ill, these powers made regular folks hate and fear the difference in them. Maybe it was because I was a budding gay man who already could sense the immense difference inside my tween soul. Maybe it was simply because I was a dork, but my brain raced each time I saw this ad. I already understood the danger and thrill in being different. I knew I was that 1 out of 4 that was a filthy mutie. I was certain my super-powers would form at any second. Would I have powers like Storm – To control the Weather! Or like Colossus – To turn into a man of organic steel! Or like Blob – and gain 700 pounds! Each day was a different power. Each day a different adventure. Would I have hair styles like any of these folks?

Slowly I came to the realization that I sadly was not a mutant.

no powers manifested. Damnit.

But still it’s a cool ad. I bought it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

G.L.O. - You Know You Want To

I first ran into the band Ghostland Observatory 3 years ago. Freddy, my FP (Finger Puppet), and I were at an outdoor music festival called Austin City Limits (ACLMF) and walking from one main stage to another main stage in the hot August Texas heat. We’ve been to all but the first of the ACL festivals. While, some folks take it very seriously, Freddy and I go for the fun of the festival. It’s about beers, bands we’ve never heard before, and a weekend without kids. But some folks, they camp out in front of the stage that their faves are going to play hours before hand; they miss out on everything to hear the one band they truly love. Not us. We wander like gypsies, from one stage to the next sampling sets of bands that normally I’d never hear. I normally do some research before the shows. I try diligently to find out who exactly I want to hear and see, but it’s always easy to miss a hidden gem or two. Thank God for our gypsy hearts. So that said, we were in between folks that I desperately wanted to see and stopped when we caught a bit of a sound that immediately intrigued us. Like flies drawn into the light, we cautiously approached the smaller stage where this infectious danceable electric eclectic pop-punk mixture was just starting to emanate from. So we grab a spot next to these teen kids who were way to young to be that stoned and proceed to watch what can only be described as the best live performance I think I’ve ever seen. My first comment to Freddy was “Damn, this chick can dance!”. He simply nods and bobs in a white boy way to the music. So onstage is a super fit masculine “chick” with pigtails, a guitar, and dance moves that some would consider illegal AND a synthesizer/keyboardist dressed as a wizard/super-hero/Dracula amalgam. Somewhere through the second song of their set, me and the pot-head teens next to us, figured out that the super fit chick dancing like she’s on fire was actually a dude. Their response was “Whoa, that chick is totally a dude.” Which, honestly, was similar in plot and style to my reaction, if not in words.

It turns out that the pig tailed dancer/singer is Aaron Kyle Behrens, who is 2 parts Freddy Mercury, 1 part Prince, 1 part Janet Jackson, and a pinch of Mick Jagger. He’s seriously amazing to watch live. He blends femininity and masculinity as deftly as David Bowie or Annie Lennox did it 30 years ago, but with a style that makes it feel fresh and his own. He’s pretty much the hottest thing on legs while on stage. It’s a bit like watching a snake charmer, there is a palpable feel of danger and art and it always leaves me deeply jealous of his wife. Aaron is joined on stage by partner in musical crime, Thomas Ross Turner, who makes the sound of Ghostland Observatory come to life in an eerie robotic/electronic masterpiece of a way. His cape is also pretty darn fantastic. This duo makes up the sound of G.L.O., but when seen live, it’s clear that the lighting and stage ambiance is clearly intended to be the third member of the group. They intentionally put on a show. In the oldest most coolest sense of the word. It’s Show Business and they mean it.

That first afternoon, at the end of their set, we left the dancing teen pot heads and their interesting perversion of an apple bong and walked on to the next band on my itinerary, but the music and the act stayed with me for the rest of the day. In fact it’s still with me. Which is one of the measuring sticks for good art. We’ve seen them 3 or 4 times since, but I always remember my first. I am such a girl that way.


G.L.O. have put out three albums so far, delete.delete.i.eat.meat., Paparazzi Lightning, and Robotique Majestique. Each has a slightly different flavor but each remains hard to describe musically. Of the three, I’d recommend Paparazzi Lightning as the first album to check out for a G.L.O. noob. Sad Sad City, Shoot ‘Em Down, or Vibrate being likely my favorite songs of G.L.O. if you want to check ‘em out on Youtube. The way the band has described their music on Myspace as “A Robot making love to a tree.” That works just as good as anything I could say about them myself. It’s important to note that Ghostland Observatory don’t consider themselves a band, but “an agreement between two friends to create something that not only heals their beat-driven hearts, but pleases their rock ‘n roll souls.” Go see them live if you want either healing or pleasure.

Friday, February 20, 2009

25 Things - Lemming Version

I got some feedback that my comics list was to "scary" for the non-comic reader. So here is my original list for all the non-geeks out there.

1. I used to tell people that Stevie Nicks was my mother.

2. My kids are hilarious. They are both so different from each other and both make magic in my soul.

3. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do I do?

4. I have to check and re-check the locks on the house at least twice before going to sleep.

5. I eat Sandwiches from the outside in. I start with the crust and circle around till I have the last bite that is the perfect center.

6. I almost always root for the under-dog.

7. I really don’t like mayonnaise. Not at all.

8. When I was growing up I wanted to move to NYC and wear all black and smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and be a “writer”. That’s still a pretty cool dream.

9. I have a bit of social paralysis when talking to people in social settings that I don’t know, but I don’t have that paralysis while at work. It’s like there are two Jeds.

10. I am obsessed with Netflix. It’s a problem.

11. I typically don’t wear shoes when at home. Never have. I kind of hate them when I am at home.

12. I have peculiar taste in movies. My favorite actress is Parker Posey. My favorite actor is Paul Rudd.


13. I’ve been with Freddy for over 9 years. He’s pretty much the center to my left.

14. My mom makes the best broccoli rice casserole that humanity has ever seen or heard about.

15. I, at one time, was obsessed with Annie Lennox. To, like, an embarrassing degree.

16. I am a total klutz, I almost always have a bruise somewhere from where I have fallen or banged into something. And, No, I am not covering up an abusive relationship. When we first got Nathan, I was always worried about falling with him in my arms.

17. I’ve got Fox News blocked by our TV’s Nanny Blocker because I don’t want the boys unduly influenced and it annoys the in-laws.

18. I own every Madonna album. Well owned. I am not sure I have them all anymore.

19. I’ve lost the majority of my friends more than once. It’s more scary the second time around.

20. I am practical to a fault. And really I am a pretty simple guy.

21. I’ve never owned a cat. But I have owned a hamster, multiple fish, multiple dogs, and a guinea pig, although not at the same time. Just the two dogs and the boyfriend at the moment though.

22. I read comic books. Lots of them. Well not as many as I used to. I spend a lot of time on a website called Comicbookresources.com, it's a community message board where comic fans can go to chat about comics and other stuff. It's pretty much why the internet was created.

23. I don’t know if I believe in marriage. But I know I should have the right.

24. I’ve always wanted to own a comic book store/Coffee shop combo.

25. I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Twenty Five - True Believer Edition

So, shooting around the social website Facebook, like a virus, is this "25 Things" phenomenon, where folks write 25 random things about themselves for all of their friends to see. My friend Clint, took a new slant on said "25 Things" and did 25 Comicbook things. I am stealing his idea.

1. The first comic I remember reading was The New Mutants #19. It pitted Danielle Moonstar, a young Native American mutant, in a fight for her life against an adversary named the Demon Bear. It’s got some totally choice Bill Sienkiewicz art. It’s got atmosphere by the boat loads and didn't feel like a typical comic book. It was about teens with powers who were less super-hero and more friends/family. I was maybe 10 ish? and I know I had previously read some X-Men and Groo comics that a neighbor had let me flip through before this comic treasure but comics as a whole didn’t stick for me until then. From NM #19 on, I was an addict.

2. My favorite characters are generally “Throw Away” characters. They are little gems of underdogs that last for about one or two arcs and then fade away. I like to think that I am just able to see treasure in others fodder. But it’s likely a personality tic. I choose, on purpose, albeit unconsciously, to love the character that I’ll never see again. Vincente, Flex, Mondo, Tattoo, Scaleface, Berzerker, Kid Omega, etc.

3. My favorite "A-List" characters are Colossus, Magik, Hawkeye, Depowered Storm and Starman.

4. I cried like a total baby when Colossus killed himself to stop the Legacy Virus. I’d recently had a friend commit suicide and I was so angry about the loss. Still am a bit. It was just raw. Freddy, my FP (Finger Puppet), came home and found me sobbing on the bed. Like full on ugly sobbing. He freaked out thinking that a family member had died. It felt like that to me in the moment but in hindsight I realize that my reaction may have been a bit much.

5. And to make matters worse, that same day, I had been actually spoiled about his death in line at the local comics shop I’d been using at the time, Dragon’s Lair. The clerk was talking to a customer about how great it was that they’d finally “offed” such a boring character like Colossus. I had actual tears of rage as I bought the book. I was literally shaking as I made my way through the line to the counter. I don’t actually remember if it was the clerk who said it or the customer, but I cancelled my pull list after buying the books. I actually swore an oath never to haunt their door again, but I’ve not kept that promise. But I rarely go there anymore. Austin Books is ten times the store that Dragon’s Lair ever was. Thinking back to that moment, I still get a pit of rage in my stomach over it.

6. On the website, Comicbookresources.com, I’ve been voted in the Corries (sort of like the Oscars but without the gift bag) CBR’s Favorite Poster twice. LOL. HAY! and SNAP! Obviously they just don’t know me well. That said it’s totally the most flattering thing in the whole history of the internet. And I totally love CBR and the community of the X-Boards in particular.

7. My favorite moment of a comicbook may be in Contest of Champions, when all of the hero’s are beaten and Hawkeye challenges the Gamesmaster to one game of chance to get them out of it and he totally cheats. I’ve loved Hawkeye from that moment forward.

8. I am often shocked at the amount of Gay/Bi Comicbook fans. I mean really. Shocked. So much for me thinking, pre-internet, that I was the only one.

9. I sold a bunch of my collection to a pawn shop when fleeing Dallas in 1997. I am still fairly sad about it. I sold boxes of books for about 30 bucks. LONG BOXES. It’s kind of tragic actually.

10. I try not to hate characters, cuz really every character is someone’s favorite. But I really hate Tigra. She’s everything that is wrong with comics. Cheesecake in every appearance – Check. Furry Feline in a bikini – Check. Traitor and victim all in one – check. She’s a misogynist straight fanboy wet dream. I do not approve. Sorry Tigra Fans.

11. Starman is a book that grabbed me by the throat and showed me that comics about super-heros could be about more than just spandex. I already knew that comics could successfully be about things other than super-heros, but at the time had almost given up on standard comics about super-heros. Starman showed me that I shouldn’t give up or give in. That super-hero books could be about all sorts of things like for example, spectacular cities, families, and that they could be character driven masterpieces.

12. Adam Pollina is probably my favorite comic book artist of all time. His work is amazing and unique and mind blowing all in one. Warren Pleece, Phillip Bond, Steve Rolston, Scott Bachalo, and Peter Snejberg are also favorites.

13. My favorite writers are a little bit more subject to change, so therefore I’ll post something a bit different a list of writers and what I think are their best works:

Warren Ellis – Stormwatch or Fell
Joss Whedon – Astonishing X-Men or Fray
James Robinson – Starman
Neil Gaiman – Sandman
Grant Morrison – The Invisibles or New X-Men
Peter Milligan – X-Force
Brian Bendis – Jinx
Mike Carey – Lucifer or X-Men
Ed Brubaker – Deadenders or Sleeper

14. My favorite DC Villian is The Shade or Pied Piper. My Favorite Marvel villain is Man Killer or The Marauders.

15. My current pull-list for new comics is: New Avengers, Dark Avengers, Mighty Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, X-Force, Astonishing X-Men, X-Factor, Captain Britain and MI13, Blue Beetle, JSA, Powers, Daredevil, Fell, and Runaways.

16. I was raised a marvel zombie, but for a while there I was about 50/50 among the two big publishing houses. Then DC went crisis crazy and killed/raped Elongated Man’s wife Sue Dibny and I pretty much quit DC completely.

17. I’ve made some true friends online talking about comics or talking about crap with people who like comics. I’ve found that comics people are generally good people. There is a thread on the X-boards of Comicbookresources.com entitled X-Crescence which has some of the most fantastic people you’ll ever meet on there. It’s about 70% gay and 100% inappropriate at times.

18. My favorite “Cross Over” event was Mutant Massacre. It shocked the hell out of me when the Marauders started decimating the Morlocks on such a wide scale. It felt scary as hell and the amount of death was something I’d never seen before. Characters got hurt that NEVER got hurt. No one felt safe. It was complete and total awesome sauce. Chris Claremont may not be my favorite writer, but at the time he was a King among mere men.

19. I also really totally loved the 90s reinvention that was “Age of Apocalypse”. It basically took all the current titles in the X-World and posited that if history had been changed (In this case Professor Xavier killed) what would the world look like. It was so brutal and fantastic and fun. I know folks groan and moan about Alt. Reality stories, but this one was fantastic.

20. I wish DC would do a Magic book. Focus on Zatanna, Doctor Occult, Phantom Stranger, Faust and Blue Devil. I totally love this little corner of the DC world. I know that they did a series about it a while back, that I didn’t buy, but I want it more in the vein of The Dresden Files and less in the vein of Super-Heroics.

21. I loved the X-Men movies, well the first two at least, but other than that I feel like most Super-Hero movies miss the mark. They get the action right, but totally lose the soul. You can’t capture on screen the magic on those pages. At least not for me.

22. My four year old, Adrian, loves comics, but doesn’t love the same characters that I do. He loves Cyclops, Bat-Man, Hulk, Martian Manhunter, Wolverine, TimberWolf, and Hawk Girl. I’ve really tried to let him pick his own favorites. After all I got to pick mine.

23. I think that the amount of fantastic non-super hero comics out there would totally surprise folks. I wish there was a way of creating more public knowledge that comics aren’t solely “Bang” and “Pow” these days. For example, everyone go out and buy as many copies of Scott Pilgrim Vol 1-5 as you can find.

24. Back in the 80’s there were advertisements that questioned “Is your child a mutant? 1 in 4 children are mutants!” It was awesome. Those ads had a profound impact on my psyche and I used to spend hours day-dreaming about what powers I would develop and what would happen when they found out that I was a filthy mutie!

25. I am certain that eventually I’ll drop the “pamphlet” form of comics and switch solely to trades. They just make more sense for me and they are less of a hassle to store. I keep saying I am going to make the jump, but something keeps stopping me. Try as I might, the allure of reading my favorite soap opera in spandex on a monthly basis gets the better of rationality.

One to grow on, at one point in time I was a closeted Comic Book fan, I'd store them out of sight from the casual observer, but somewhere along the way, I shed the shame and embraced my Geekdom. Comics are cool, Yo.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Saint Valentines Day

Valentines Day has never been a big deal to me. And in the years since we got the kiddos, it's meant even less honestly. I've always been a big proponent of showing the folks that you love, said love, every day of the year rather than waiting for one particular day.

So on Thursday the 12th, around lunch time I got a package. It was kind of strange since most of the packages I get for work are run through the main office and don’t go directly to me. But I finished my lunch and opened it up and was shocked to find flowers. Not just flowers, but tulips (red and white), which are my favorite flower. I’ve never received flowers from Freddy. I am personally shocked that he knew that tulips are my favorite, it's not a subject that comes up often in our house. See, Freddy is a lot of things, but romantic isn’t a word I’d use to describe him. He’s loyal. He’s funny, hilarious even. He’s smart. He’s handy. He’s a fantastic co-parent. He’s totally adorable. But romantic? Not really. Which is fine, I am honestly not the most romantic guy myself. For example, in the 9 + years we’ve been dating we’ve only both at the same time remembered our anniversary twice? Maybe three times? Last year, we actually both missed it. It’s not that I don’t cherish the day. Well sometimes I do and sometimes I think “Christ, What ‘ave I done?” But it’s just a simple fact of knowing that I love him and he loves me. We both know it. It goes without saying pretty much. But then there are days like Thursday that shock me into thinking again, what a lucky SOB I am.

So the story doesn’t end there. His note doesn’t mention VD, it says “You are my sunshine 366 days a year. I love you more than soap. – (F)reddy.” Well for those of you who know him, soap isn’t like a huge deal for him. Just saying. But, that said, I was thrilled and more than a little bit happy with him. If he hadn’t been so busy with school and things I’d have booked a sitter on the spot and taken him out that night. The next day, I get ANOTHER package at lunch. This one in a smaller box, and it’s got cookies with cute schmaltzy VD-isms AND I get some chocolate covered strawberries. The note says "SHAZAM! I bet you weren't expecting this! - (F)reddy" My first thought is, “Christ, What has he done!” The practical queer in me thinking about the cost and the insecure maniac thinking he was sending me a "Dear Jed" letter, but the intelligent rational Jed pulled himself together and called and thanked him for the sweets. I got home as fast as I could that afternoon to be with the one(s) I love. The actual day was monopolized a bit by a trip to Galveston to see my wayward brother and my momma. But that kind of adds a bit to the luster of his performance. This man bought me flowers and sweets and then drove 4 hours to see in-laws (AND worked on her house the entire day). It's almost too sweet to type.

So VD was big this year. Me and the kids got him a coffee mug and some cashews and a Itunes gift card plus VD cards. Less romantic? Yes. But who knew he was pulling out the big guns? I guess I’ll have to be on my toes for next year.

My (F)reddy is a lot of things, I guess I'll have to put Romantic on the list now. Maybe I'll just put it in pencil though.