The annual tradition of facepalms, silliness, and snark continues!

 

South Carolina once again started JANUARY off with a bang when state senator Lee Bright proposed that teachers be armed with machine guns in school. Indiana Police chief David Councellor shot himself while trying out a gun in a gun shop, only the second time he had shot himself. Utilizing more conventional means to deal with people he didn’t like, an Oregon pimp sued Nike for not adequately warning consumers of the dangers of potential injury to one’s feet when using Nike shoes to stomp on people’s faces. A “celebrity” boxing match featuring George Zimmerman was cancelled when more people expressed offense at the match than wanted to punch Zimmerman. A London man was arrested and tried for performing sexual acts with a sheep in public. His defense hinged on the fact that he approached the sheep when the cows in the field turned him down. Pope Francis, with the aid of some local children, released two doves of peace which were immediately attacked by a crow and a gull. A petition to have Justin Bieber deported reached the required number of electronic signatures to trigger a response from the White House. Their response was to re-think their original response to the Death Star petition of 2013. An Alabama man robbed a pizza delivery driver by ordering two pizzas and having them delivered to his house, at which point he held up the driver at gunpoint. It did not take police long to find him.

The author of the Harry Potter series got FEBRUARY “Rowling” when she revealed that Ron really should have ended up with Hermione. The 17 people left on earth who had not read or seen the series screamed, “hey! Spoilers!” Maine police responding to a report of domestic violence instead found a pig that, squealing with delight, had been put into a pen with 5 sows in heat. Former Kroger employee June Ann Blocker of Kentucky bought a car to drive it into the storefront of the Kroger where she worked, which she had done in exactly the same way once before in 1999. South Carolina scored a hat trick in February when a woman was jailed for failing to return a rented video, a police officer shot a 70-year-old man at a traffic stop when the man reached for his cane, and the state legislature confiscated the funding to the College of Charleston after the college assigned Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home as reading. High marks for innovation were set when a San Francisco Girl Scout sold out of cookies when she set up her stand outside of a medicinal marijuana store. George Zimmerman, wearing a bullet proof vest because he feared for his safety, signed autographs at a Florida gun show. About 20 “fans” showed up, but it was not revealed how many of his fans wore hoodies.

MARCH began with a stunning victory for the arts when Adele Dazeem performed a rousing rendition of the winning original song “Get It Snow” at the Oscars. A Nigerian man was arrested for having relations with a goat, despite his insistence that the goat had consented. It is unknown if his email campaign to raise defense funds was successful. The Kentucky Baptist Convention took a shot at luring new members with free steak dinners and guns. A 5-year-old girl in upstate NY was placed on the wrong bus, so she spent the day at the wrong school by simply telling everyone that she was a new student. German customs officials intercepted 12 ounces of cocaine that was addressed to the Vatican, ensuring that the canonization celebrations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II would be a lot less interesting than planned. A Louisiana highway was shut down when a truck overturned, covering the highway in corn dogs. The driver clearly couldn’t cut the mustard. Gwynneth Paltrow announced over social media that she and husband Chris Martin were “consciously uncoupling.” She explained that it was different from divorce because it scores more in Scrabble.

APRIL went to pot quickly when a Texas woman was arrested after calling police to complain about the quality of marijuana she purchased from a dealer. Competitive eater Matt Stonie ate 100 marshmallow candies in two minutes to win an Easter-themed event, but hasn’t said a peep about it since. In an effort to boost flagging sales, McDonald’s announced an updated look for mascot Ronald McDonald that would hopefully be “less Gacy-like.” Police in Florida were able to track down a would-be robber when they examined his holdup note to find a completed job application on the back. An Indiana cat missing for five years was reunited with its owner, who has yet to get an explanation from the cat for its Russian prison tats.

Irony got MAY going when over 100 attendees to a Baltimore Food Safety conference got food poisoning. A woman called 911 when Subway put the wrong sauce on her flatbread pizza. Contrary to expectations, the woman was from North Carolina. A student at Quinnipiac called in a bomb threat to the school’s graduation ceremony to keep her parents from learning she had dropped out and was pocketing the tuition money. A Tolkien fan took LSD and dressed in chain mail armor before attacking a woman’s car with his sword. Officials were only surprised because the Portland, Oregon resident hadn’t attacked a food truck. A drunk man in Murfreesboro, Tennessee was arrested for sexually assaulting…an ATM. The bank has since changed its policies on deposits and withdrawals. A British man was arrested for robbing a jewelry store after police used his cellphone, which the thief left behind, to go directly to his house. A South Carolina EMT volunteer was arrested for using his emergency lights to get through traffic while delivering pizzas during his day job. France spent over 20 billion on new trains for the national railway. Unfortunately, officials forgot to make sure the new trains could fit through the tunnels in between the stations. Now former Sacramento Kings owner Donald Sterling was rewarded handsomely for his racism, and made an honorary citizen of South Carolina.

In JUNE, a church in Alabama had to quickly remove a billboard promoting their children’s school when people complained about the quote accompanying the advertisement, which was properly accredited to Adolf Hitler. In an effort to appeal to Hispanic voters in an upcoming Arizona election, blatantly white guy (and unfortunately named) Scott Fistler changed his name to Cesar Chavez. A former Goldman Sachs employee sued the company because his bonus was “only” $8 Million. The German press had to pussyfoot around a delicate story when an American student had to be rescued from a giant stone sculpture…of a vagina. A Minnesota burglar was quickly arrested because he logged in to his FB account during the robbery and forgot to log out.

Another month started off with a bang when in JULY a Pennsylvania woman was shot in the leg during a demonstration of a new holster at a gun show. Bill Hillmann, one of the authors of Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, celebrated the publication of his book by running with the bulls in Pamplona…and getting gored. A Virginia man claimed a previously unclaimed area of land between Egypt and Sudan and declared himself King, so that his daughter could be a princess. Manuel Noriega sued a videogame maker for using his likeness without permission for a Call of Duty game. A minor-league baseball manager fielded a plan to expand awareness of pancreatic cancer by getting colonoscopy on the South Carolina ball field during the seventh-inning-stretch.

AUGUST came in like a lamb when police searched 18 hours for an escaped lion, only to arrest a South Carolina man for calling in an hoax. Metta World Peace, nee Ron Artest, changed his name to The Pandas Friend [sic] after signing a contract to play basketball in China. A story that produced less buzz than expected was the discovery of some 50,000 bees living in the ceiling of a woman’s New York home. A North Carolina man was arrested by police after a 9 month search when he signed up for a doughnut eating contest that was sponsored by police. The 12 residents of Cormorant, MN, elected a dog, 7-year-old Duke, to the mayor’s office.

SEPTEMBER started off on an high note when a Florida couple rapeled down the side of their hotel after getting married. Guests were concerned that after “taking the plunge” literally, how the couple would react to questions about when they would have a bun in the oven. The New York Times issued a correction when an article referred to Dick Cheney as “Former President,” even though it answered a lot of questions about the Dubya presidency. A man was arrested for breaking into a Massachusetts home to cook corn. When praised, the arresting officer blushed and replied, “Aw, shucks.” A Northern California nudist colony was accused of stealing water from a nearby stream. Charges were not filed, however, because police really didn’t want to know how they carried the water back to camp. A skunk was rescued from a beer can in Ohio, prompting denials from Miller Brewing that the source of their signature flavor had been discovered. Sarah Palin’s efforts to start a new Family Fight Club reality show failed miserably. A young woman in Columbia (the country, not South Carolina, surprisingly) was rushed to an hospital with severe stomach pains. Doctors found the root of the problem, a small potato inserted as birth control that had literally taken root.

Oddly, OCTOBER started off with a scare when a flight from New York to Charlotte was delayed when a number of live crabs escaped their container in the cargo hold, and officials had to wait for Samuel L. Jackson to round them up. A New Jersey library thought it was getting “we confirm all things twice” engraved in Latin on the new library’s wall. Instead, “Nos Secundus Coniecto Omnia” translates to “we second-guess everything.” The engraver also got the Roman numerals representing the year wrong. A Michigan Funeral Parlor began offering a drive through option, but only for mourners who decline to super-size their grief. A polar bear was caught breaking into a home in Alaska. The bear allegedly wanted to see if it could, in fact, see Russia. 18 tons of Crisco was stolen en route to a Florida grocery store. Authorities hoped Florida residents could find other sources for their sunscreen. Pittsburgh won a contest to find the country’s “ugliest accent,” but no one is yet able to understand the city’s response. A naked Oregon man was chased by police, and captured when the pants he stole during the chase tripped him up.

New Yorkers hungry for odd news in NOVEMBER were not disappointed when a man was arrested at a DWI stop by New York police when the man tried to eat his test results. In an effort to “break the internet,” noted philosopher Kim Kardashian bared her backside (again) for a magazine cover. Unfortunately, Kardashian was unsuccessful because people were people were too busy watching the European Space Agency landing a probe ON A FRICKING COMET! Twelve tons of frozen turkeys spilled onto a California highway after a tractor trailer flipped over. Witnesses said it was the most flipped birds on the highway since they were last in Jersey. It was anything but a Beautiful Day for U2 singer Bono when he broke his arm during a park bike ride after his personal jet lost his luggage. Recovery of his possessions has been difficult since all the streets have names. The Polish town of Tuszyn repealed a plan to name a playground after Winnie the Pooh because the bear possesses an “unclear gender” and dresses immodestly. They are apparently considering naming the playground for Kim Kardashian. An Oregon police dog was fired for poor performance, and not because of rumors that he was acting like a bitch.

For those who liked to get high, DECEMBER was a downer when Pizza Hut announced that it would not import the chain’s Australian menu item, Doritos Crust Pizza, to the States. The daughter of Korean Air’s chief executive forced one of the airline’s planes to land when she threw a tantrum because of the method by which she was served nuts. “That’s how we always serve you nuts” was the attendant’s defense. Technicians from a laboratory on the Austin campus of the University of Texas realized that 100 brains were missing, only 28 years after the fact. Sony engaged in a unique promotion strategy for their new comedy, “The Interview.” A pair of carjackers in Florida were caught almost immediately after their heist because they couldn’t drive a stick shift. South Dakota pulls out of its planned “Don’t Jerk and Drive” safe driving campaign, despite record interest in driver’s education classes from teens. The year closed out where it began, when South Carolina Sheriff Wayne DeWitt was arrested for a DUI Hit-And-Run, and in keeping with South Carolina tradition, his arrest is not expected to hurt his re-election chances.

 

I’m not even sure I would call this a regret of my own. But this is something that has been bugging me for years. I realize that by writing this, there is an inherent notion that all of my life been a regret. This is simply not true. While I would never change the two major portions of my life, my wife and daughter, changing the one regret I do have would potentially mean that they would not be in my life.

Since time travel and the ability to alter the events of history are fantasy (with or without a blue box), why not engage in a little revisionism?

I wish my grandmother had never been murdered.

Her death set off a series of events that moreso than not dictated the course of my life for the next 33 years.

With my grandmother’s death, my mother’s destiny was sharply and irrevocably altered. I doubt that my father’s actions and activities that led to my nearly lifelong battle with depression would have happened any differently, and my parents would still have divorced. Although I am sure that my father’s activities would have come to be public knowledge in a far more public and vitriolic fashion.

My mother divorced my father because she reacted to my grandmother’s murder very differently than my father. My mother began working in the death penalty abolition circles of Amnesty International and eventually became a driving force in the creation of the national abolition movement, utilizing some of the same tactics and sources she cultivated during her support of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

She became a nationally recognized expert in mitigation, the practice of investigating and cataloguing the lives and events that led up to the murder of a human being, and presenting that information in a detailed report that gave the courts a broad picture of the lives of everyone involved.

My mother was a very driven person, and her focus was singular: abolish the death penalty so that the highest punishment for the taking of a life was life without parole, forcing murderers to spend their lives in prison thinking about what their actions did to everyone touched by the violence of their hand.

When my mother left my father, I stayed with my father to finish the school year. In those few months, my relationship with the world changed. Depression started to creep in and by age nine would become my everpresent companion.

My father, in an effort to minimize contact with me, fed me fast food and ice cream daily in my room while he went off to who knows where. I gained a lot of weight, and lost a lot of self esteem. In that period I learned how to do things to please others and gain favorable attention, instead of finding things to do that I enjoyed and gave me happiness.

When I moved to Virginia to be with my mom, her singular focus had become her singular passion, and I was left with a roommate instead of a parent. Without guidance, I learned how to be self-sufficient, learned lessons often held back from people until just before they venture out to college.

Before my tenth birthday I learned a lot about my father, and that revelation coupled with my mother’s focus led me to begin a journey that could very easily have ended in suicide.

While in high school I began working for my mother, and over the years would become quite possibly her most valuable employee. By the time I graduated I had developed an aptitude for the IRS rules and laws governing tax-exempt organizations, and creating cross-reference indices for such topics as press clippings and DNA evidence. It would be years before I would realize that these were not the normal activities of 17 year old kids. It would be even longer before I realized that the reason I worked for my mother was that I had hope that someday, eventually, spending that much time together would result in a normal parent-child relationship…that never came.

When the organization folded, I was essentially lost. I eventually got a job in a deli that resulted in my brief career in restaurant management, which was a far cry from working to keep people alive. It was hard work, but I thrived in it, and for once I was good at something because it was my own.

While working there, I enrolled in the local community college and borrowing from my work ethic at the restaurant, I thrived again. I discovered a passion for History, and took every course offered. I also found a woman there, an English teacher, who would come to be like a mother to me (a relationship that thankfully continues to this day).

I left food service and joined a couple of friends at a video store, where I remained until I managed to work hard enough to earn a slot at UVA. My focus on History remained, but shifted to Asian studies, where I became one of the few students in the area of foreign studies without any language ability in my field of interest.

Thanks to the less-than-subtle machinations of my best friend, I met the woman who would miraculously fall in love with me, and we’ve been together ever since.

It’s worth noting that my mother never really approved of my choice of life partner, a contempt that became clearer the more obvious it became to my mother that I was going to marry this woman.

When my career in video retail ended, I found out that a technological position in the death penalty movement (albeit a peripheral organization) had opened up and I applied. I got the job, despite my last name and relationship to my mother, still regarded as a leading voice in the movement.

I would leave that job just before my daughter was born to, in a moment of hubris, take over a floundering organization and try and reinvigorate its membership. The organization had been founded by my mother some 35 years earlier, and over time had been altered by its board just enough that our family’s involvement with it was nominal.

However, the board and membership were in chaos and I had ideas to help right the ship. I was brought in, ostensibly, to do what I had proposed in my interviews. Had I been smarter, I would have realized that I was hired because of my last name, and not my qualifications or ideas.

I would resign after six months, and return to retail, where I have been ever since.

Recently, I was laid off from my most recent position, managing a comic book shop. Two months since and customers still seek me out, ask how I am, why I was let go, and why things have fallen apart as they have. It’s not the first job I have held where things did not remain at a level I worked hard to maintain, and it may not be the last. I won’t lie, it’s oddly gratifying to hear such things, since it means that at the very least, I was doing my job well.

My mother died a few years ago with almost nothing. She spent nearly her entire adult life fighting the death penalty in such a way that lawyers took huge advantage of her, letting her do all of their work while they collected money from the courts.

(When lawyers boast about their pro bono work, don’t believe them. They still get paid. My mother was gypped out of hundreds of thousands of dollars over her lifetime by the lawyers she worked for. She let it happen because if she didn’t the work didn’t get done, which would have directly led to the deaths of men later found innocent of their convicted crimes. She had no health insurance because of this, and as a result died a painful death from cancer and possibly schizophrenia and definitely PTSD.)

My mother was a talented writer, a gift I hope has been passed on to myself and eventually my child.

I developed a passion for film and visual storytelling that was occasionally interrupted by my attempting to take on the mantle of my mother within the death penalty movement. Once again, at forty, I am trying to rekindle that love into a career, a living to be made off something I love.

I regret that I never knew my grandmother.

While I cannot speak for my father, who removed himself from my life the moment he stuck me on that train to Virginia ages ago, I do know that if my grandmother had lived, my mother would have been a different lady.

She would have been an happy, struggling writer. I may not have grown up where I did, worked where I did, found the interests in History and film that I did.

I may not have met and married the woman that I did, or fathered the child that I did.

The only thing I am certain of, with this one regret, is that if everything I have heard is true…my grandmother was a wonderful lady. That she was kind, funny, and loving.

I could have used that love. Having that love in my life might have meant that I would not have discovered depression at a young age…or at all.

It took me ages to find my own love, marry her. Start a family. To learn that family is made up not of blood relatives, but of the people who stay with you, who struggle with you, who love you and care for you no matter what stupid crap you do or say.

The people who never leave.

The people who always matter, the people to whom you always matter.

Despite that everpresent gremlin on my shoulder, who pops up periodically when things look bleak, or someone removes themselves from the playing field by their own hand, I’m starting to feel…okay.

Happy.

And my one regret…is that it took so long to get there.

I have a lot of catching up to do.

 

(If you know of someone struggling with depression who may need help, reach out to them. If they can’t…or won’t…take your help, find them help at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/)

This weekend’s Baltimore Comic Con is another opportunity to spread the word about “Try 5,” which is my philosophy regarding attending a comic show.

Chis Samnee, Ramona Fradon, Francesco Francavilla, Walter Simonson, Kelly Sue DeConnick, George Perez. What do these folks all have in common?  They were once young kids trying to break in to the industry. Nowadays, however, the process is a little different thanks to Kickstarter, the internet, and even a decent printer at home.

Comic Conventions all have an “Artist Alley” filled with names you have never heard of. But, the potential is there for those young creators to be the next superstar. However, it will be more difficult for them to be that next superstar if they can’t show that they have fans as well as talent.

That’s where you come in.

Conventions are really expensive. Tables can cost a creator a few hundred dollars, plus the hotel fees and meals for an entire weekend. Lucky creators – proven talent with years of industry credibility – might sometimes get a free table. Even if that happens, they are still looking at several hundred dollars in expenses before the convention gates even open. Artists can make that up with commissions, but writers have it rougher. No one is going to pay them art commission money to write out a paragraph or two. Every dollar spent at a creators’ table could mean the difference between a great show…and this being the last show they can attend.

While I totally understand the need to get to introduce yourself to legends like the Simonsons, or Perez, don’t forget the real reason to attend a comic show. New talent doesn’t get discovered by editors alone.

If you are at a comic show, carve out some time just to wander the artist alley. (And, it’s not a zoo…it’s okay to make eye contact.) Even a quick glance could lead you to finding someone whose stories will connect with you deep down.

Try 5 means to find at least five creators you have never met before and buy something from them. A small tradeback, a comic, a sketch card, anything. That purchase might be your next favorite thing ever…and the dollar that turns an average convention weekend into a successful one. You might even be lucky enough to get to talking to a creator and end up with something even cooler than a comic, a new friend.

So, go to Baltimore and meet the legends. Then spend a little time finding the next legends, and help get them there. (And make sure you tell others about them. Word of mouth is the best advertising.)

Cheers!