Adventures in Reading — November 23 — November 29, 2015

What did I read (and finish) this week? Look below to find out!

Bakuman, Vol. 1: Dreams and Reality by Tsugumi Ohba (2009) – Bakuman (which variously stands for “gambling manga” and “dreaming manga”) is about two teenage boys, Shugin and Saiko, who decide to team up and become manga artists – partially to fulfill their “man’s dream” and partially so that once they become successful Saiko can marry the love of his life, Azuki. This volume is about the two of them teaming up, Saiko teaching Shugin about the industry, and Saiko getting out of the depressive funk he was in following his manga artist uncle’s death a few years ago. I friggin’ love this series. Continue reading

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NaBloPoMo #30: The Thing Itself

Prompt: What do you like to do to celebrate an accomplishment?

Supposedly, one of the most effective means of setting and achieving a goal is to decide on some sort of award, whether it’s a new pair of shoes because you’ve lost 10 pounds or a fancy dinner because you’ve been accepted to the school of your choice or even just an afternoon of vegging out in front of the TV because your finals are over. Focusing not just on the goal itself but a reward helps motivate you and gives your actions greater consequence – supposedly.

It never works for me. Part of the problem is that I never have the time or the money to give myself an award. This sort of reward-based system means that, once you finish your goal, you have time afterwards, that the bulk of your time was spent trying to achieve this one thing. What do you do when it’s only one of three or four things you’re doing? How do you justify a celebration that hurts you in another area of your life? Continue reading

Daily WTF: The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooting

As many of you know, on Friday, November 27, a white man walked into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and opened fire. He held the police at a standoff for five hours, wounding nine and killing three, including Ke’Arre Stewart, Jennifer Markovsky, and police office Garrett Swasey. Eventually, he was taken into custody, where he issued a rambling, incoherent statement that included the words “no more baby parts.” He will appear in court today.

Like any other mass shooting (of which there have been 351 in 2015 alone), this was a senseless, violent tragedy. It was something that did not need to happen. It was something that an individual – once again, a white male – decided should happen. And it has resulted in the loss of life of people who did nothing wrong, who were at a medical clinic, who were seeking legal services, and who were not suffering from an attack of conscious. Continue reading

A Journey into Black Friday with an Actual Retail Worker

Most people have an opinion about Black Friday, either seeing it as a post-apocalyptical, capitalistic blight on humanity or as a wild shopping bid capable of saving you hundreds of dollars while insuring your family has a Merry, Merry Christmas.  This year, there have been thousands of articles written about it (including a couple by yours truly), but it’s rare to get an insider’s view on the whole thing.  How do actual retail workers feel about this unofficial holiday?  Is it really as bad as we all think it is?  Is working on Thanksgiving actually a big deal?

To find out, I contacted my friend Alex (not their real name).  We’ve known each other for years, and I respect his intelligence, perspective, and honesty.  He’s also been working in a large retailer for several years, slowly rising in the ranks and doing just about every job imaginable.  I reached out to Alex on Black Friday and asked if he’d answer a few questions.  The following are his answers. Continue reading

NaBloPoMo #27: The Problem

Prompt: What’s the best purchase you ever made?

One of the hallmarks of growing up poor is not being able to regulate your spending.  You’re constantly splurging, getting into trouble, and then playing catch up — or you go an intensely long period of time without spending any money, feeling incredibly guilty whenever you do (only to blow all your savings in a weekend).  Budgeting is difficult as is saving, and you have trouble taking advantage of beneficial sales for things like vacuums, dishwashers, etc because you never have the money to spend.  Then, when you get a windfall (like a tax return), you don’t spend it on anything you need like a new refrigerator or paying off a credit card.  Instead, you get a Goddamn smart TV or Roku system and three weeks later your power gets shut off.  It’s a problem. Continue reading

Daily WTF: Black Friday

Black Friday.  The day after Thanksgiving when we turn our thoughts from food, family, friends, and gratitude and get into a public fight in a mall because someone took the shoes we wanted.  A truly American tradition.

Black Friday is a consumer-driven version of The Jerry Springer Show that plays across America with approximately 135 million participants.  You have stores “innocently” spending a month ramping up the hype, sending out millions of emails and thousands of commercials.  You have brightly colored flyers advertising “doorbusters,” limited run items at discounted prices that you can only get if you’re willing to pee in a can outside of Best Buy for eight hours.  You have stores opening at weird hours, facilitating the madness with sleep deprivation and poor night vision.  You have overworked police forces needing to keep Ned and Ed and Pearl and Cheryl apart as they fight for 30% off an LED smart TV.  And all so that we can get the best deals on gifts we will use to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior/family/love.  It’s pretty fucked up. Continue reading

Adventures in Reading — November 16 — November 22, 2015

What did I read (and finish) this week?  Look below to find out!

* Also, apologies for not posting this earlier.  Time really got away from me this week.

The Graphic Canon, Vol. 2: From “Kubla Khan” to the Bronte Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray (2012) — This massive anthology is a continuation of Russ Kicks’ quest to create three volumes of classical works of literature in graphic form.  It’s not as interesting as the first volume, mainly because several of the works were repeated and many of them were more illustrative than sequential.  However, there were many gems including “Xanadu,” Pride and Prejudice, and Middlemarch, all of which were sequential rather than illustrative.  I’d like to read the third volume. Continue reading

NaBloPoMo #26: Fellowship over Food

Prompt: If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today (or even if you’re not!), tell us about the best cook in your family.

All week as I’ve delivered books to various daycares and assisted living centers, I’ve managed to pop in just as Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared or served.  My soul has been assaulted by the most luxurious, decadent smells from lasagna to turkey to sweet potato pie and beyond.  I’ve stared hungrily as elderly people are wheeled up to a crisp white tablecloth and presented with a well-laden plate and done my best to teach a comics workshop while various pots are bubbling in the corner, utterly wrecking my concentration.  It’s been a trying week. Continue reading

Daily WTF: Forcing Retail and Restaurant Employees to Work on Major Holidays

For the past four years or so, retailers and restaurants have been slowly encroaching on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  They’re bolder around Thanksgiving as it is the day before Black Friday, the largest shopping day of the year and the weekend in which some retailers make up to 30% of their annual revenue.  Everyone tries to outdo their competitors, usually by offering to open earlier and earlier.  This year, JCPenney opens at 3pm Thanksgiving, Kohl’s opens at 6pm, Macy’s opens at 6pm, and Old Navy opens at 4pm.  For a more comprehensive list of when major retailers are open today and tomorrow, click here. Continue reading

The Five Things I’m Grateful for in 2015

Thanksgiving is a bullshit holiday.  Yes, some people love it with its tasty food and seeing family members and thin veneer of respectability, but there’s so much about it to hate (especially if you come from a long tradition of disastrous celebrations like I do).  Perhaps its worst offense is how it whitewashes history and silences Native Americans, forcing them to endure year after year the event that more or less kicked off the genocide of their people and four centuries of violence, oppression, and prejudice.  Then we have the audacity to dress our kids up in caricatures of them and make them play nice with Pilgrims.  It’s pretty fucked up.

That being said, I can respect the secularized, non-historical meaning behind the holiday: gathering with loved ones and remembering all you have to be grateful for (and eating a fuckton).  I think that’s admirable, especially as the very next day kickstarts a shitstorm of consumerism that will leave people trampled, bloody, and occasionally traumatized.

But I want to put aside the cynicism for a moment and simply be thankful.  I want to acknowledge a few people and events that have improved my year and my life.  This is not a comprehensive list, and it’s not meant to offend or alienate anyone.  This is simply what I’m grateful for in 2015. Continue reading