I Read a Book & I Liked It: I Sometimes Wanted to Punch This Book In the Face.

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**Warning. This essay ended up being less of a literary critical analysis or even the book review that I had intended it to be and more of a recap of why I quite often wanted to punch this book in the face. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it. It is very well written novel, filled with sentences that make you pause to re read them again to savor the words written there, but the main character. Ugh. He goes from being a rightfully naive and sheltered child who I liked, to a foolishly and often amusingly self righteous young man who I understood, to a self absorbed D bag who I wanted to punch in the face, to an obsessive jerk who blithely hurts those around him all the while crying himself the victim even though dude was the one making the call to stay where he is who I wanted to punch in the face and then kick in the nuts, who then some how turns into a decent human being in the last few chapters. It’s quite a ride and while there are parts of the book I loved, the second half was sometimes a difficult read. It is hard to care about someone bound and determined to constantly make the wrong calls in his life out of arrogance and blind privilege. So yes, lots of words are written here which I can basically summed up as this. I liked it, but I also wanted to punch this book in the face. Repeatedly.**

 

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The endeavor I began 2 months ago marches on. I am happy to say I have finally finished “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham, parceled out bit by bit in hours stolen here and there at my local coffee shop, and I still stand by my original judgment. In many ways this book is totally “Anne of Green Gables” for dudes. The two characters start out in the same place and truly they both end up in the same place as well, it is just how they get there and who they become along the way that is where the difference between the two stories lies. Both books are the stories of a life, set a particular time and place, told by a third person omniscient narrator who holds a certain amount of fondness for the subject of thier narration. Both of the main characters in each of the books start thier stories as orphans sent to live with a seemingly cold childless couple, a foster family for Anne and an uncle who is a Vicar for Phillip. They both grow up, go to school and spend an inordinate time lost in thier romantic idealization of life and it’s many meanings. Honestly, they walk remarkably similar paths for two individuals separated by the iron walls of the established gender norms of the times they lived in. Though the way they walk it and the toll it takes along the way differs, as Indiana Jones once wisely said to the lovely and tolerant lady undressing him, “it’s not the years, it’s the mileage”.  (And also I never wanted to punch any of my “Anne of Green Gables” books in the face.)

 

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I mean seriously, who would? Look at that face!

Anne’s heart goes on a more steady journey, with a few small but memorable detours along the way, to end up in a more settled but still enthusiastic and passionate place where her love of life and belief in its inherent goodness finds a home and she finally marries Gilbert Blythe, the boy who loves her and whom everyone had been telling her to marry since book one. Philip however takes a longer, darker, path as he plots his own destiny. He does this never knowing where he wants to be but possessing a singular certainty that, despite the sometimes excellent and sometimes mediocre advice he is given by those around him, only he can decide it. He is often wrong about this point, among others. After failing to successfully launch on three separate occasions Phil finally takes the advice of those around him and becomes a medical student in London before falling in love with the Standard Issue Requisite Terrible Woman (TM) who does him wrong and ends in a bad way.

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Standard Issue Requisite Terrible Woman, 1930’s movie edition.

Both Anne and Philip search for the truth of life along the way and neither is particularly hung up on the idea of god and church being the end all be all answer to thier big questions, but while Anne holds onto her joy and naivety Phillip dumps his some time after he gets back from Paris (Failure to successfully launch number 3, he went to Paris on his loving Aunt’s last dime to be an impressionist painter. Did not work out for him because, no matter what he may have thought, he was not that great an artist. This followed skipping university out of spite to go off to Germany just because and being a office clerk in London because business equals money, which also did not work out because he sucked at it.) and becomes in time a full on atheist who is often tormented by his attempts to figure out the big questions in life without faith or a belief in baseline human decency to fall back on. They live thier lives, figure themselves out, and both end up living peacefully far from the bustling crowds, raising families and supported by humble medical practices.

Honestly the only serious difference between the two is Phillip has more sex. Well that and he makes far more terrible decisions than Anne would ever dream of because he is kind of a d bag who has a lot of contempt for the people around him and because of that he ends up suffering more than she does. All of his mistakes are presented as part of the tapestry of his life and therefore are mistakes he had to make to live his life the way he did, but if dude had just once thought to seek the advice of a friend or even cultivated friendships that were with people other than fellow self involved d bags and neglecting or dumping the few kind and sane people in his life, he could have avoided much of the crap he brought on himself. I mean one entire quarter of the book is him falling in love with the Standard Issue Requisite Terrible Woman (TM) simply because she does not like him. That’s it. That is why he loves her so madly. Seriously. She’s mean to him and he does not get it.

When Phillip and the Standard Issue Requisite Terrible Woman (TM) meet it is though a sort of friend of his, a nice person soon vanishes from Phillips life as all nice people do, who has a crush on her so he stalks her at her job working at a tea shop. Phillip so does not get it. She’s green, literally she is bilious which he mentions often, and while she has a pretty face she has very little by way of boobs which is a deal breaker for the man and to top it all off she’s not that bright and kind of a bitch. She has all this going against her and still she dismisses Phillip because, shockingly, he is not her type. He is so arrogant and blind with the privilege of his class that the very idea that she would do so before even getting to know him is utterly infuriating to him and he quickly becomes obsessed with both her and the idea of winning her affections. The dude full on talks himself into being obsessively in love with a woman he is not particularly attracted to, does not even really like, and some times even actively hates, out of….. You know I can’t even think of a term that could encompass the levels of pathological arrogance this entails. At least Anne only tried to convince herself that she did not love Gilbert because she did not know any better. And Girlfriend got over that really fast once he got sick.

Phillip’s love of the Standard Issue Requisite Terrible Woman (TM) goes on forever, every time you think he’s finally figured out that she is toxic she shows up and bam. Love is in the air. Even after she has dumped him once again, this time for his best bud of the moment and after he helped her though her pregnancy with an illegitimate child, and he finds her working the street he still can not turn away though now he totally does not want to hit that because despite his epic love some things, like a sexual history with other men, are boner killers. He will still support her and basically treat her like his wife, just no sex or marriage because as someone who has been in gutter she is no longer worthy of his penis. She tries to get him to love her again, even though she is basically the worst that never bothered him before, but a fallen woman is damaged goods and as we all know Phillip thinks himself far better than that. This does not end well.

 

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Seriously Phil, at this point you are only doing this to yourself.

 

If he had any friends that were anything more that accessories to his memory palace, there to allow him the artistic and cultural chatter he felt only he and a few others could understand, they might have told him he was acting insane but nope. No chance of that. He is an island, no one could truly understand the passions that drove him, the rarefied impulses of kindness that moved him, the yadda yadda yadda…. You get my drift. Not that I blame anyone besides other D bags for not sticking around this guy. At one point he was so caught up in his notions about the romantic life of an artist that he did not notice when a woman of his acquaintance, a fellow student and honestly, weather he liked it or not, his friend, was LITERALLY STARVING TO DEATH. For months, he did not notice anything was wrong. Just marked it up to her being all weird, bony, and dirty. He only figured it out when she told him via a note she sent right before she hung herself because it was quicker death than starvation on the streets. Dude.

 

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Eventually Phillip, because he does nothing but make bad decisions because he is a d bag, loses all of his money and has to get a job. In retail. The shame, the horror, that he has been brought so low as this! How does he bare this indignity that gives him money, a bed to sleep in and puts food in his mouth so he does not hang himself rather than die of starvation or be forced to work the streets like a common whore because as a young woman he has no other skills to offer and so therefore must be shunned because he kinda deserves it for being such a bitch? Oh wait, he’s a dude with other dude friends, so of course he gets job. Just one he feels is utterly beneath him in every conceivable way. He is forced to leave his studies and it is through his friendship with the Self Absorbed D Bag Prime (SAD-BP), whom he met as he treated SAD-BP at the hospital for some vague man disease and bonded with over thier educational pretension and sense of superiority, that he even gets this job. He actually is even able to parley the skills he picked up as a failed art student in Paris, where he also failed to notice his poor friend, who clearly lacked his resources, was starving to death (Never going to let that one go),  to leap frog over his fellow workers into a higher paying a cushy gig as a designer, because art skills are something you are able to acquire when other people pay for everything. And still he bitches. Oh and he runs into Standard Issue Requisite Terrible Woman (TM) one last time and of course she is still working the streets because after things disintegrated with Phillip she had nowhere else to go. After all she was such a horrible person that is just assumed she has no one else to turn to besides the dude she used so egregiously, so she does as she has VD and needs help with that. Phillip is mad at her for daring to prostitute herself while she has the VD, which she most likely got from one of them men using her, and demands she stop. Because girlfriend clearly has other options. Oh and her baby died. His response is he is happy, heavily implying better dead than the child of a terrible no good destitute whore.

 

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This is how I feel about your man pain Phil.

 

It is at this point that Phillips story stops resembling “Anne of Green Gables” and starts looking more like “Crime and Punishment”. He has a job, food, and a place to live but his existence among the common rabble is so terrible for him he begins to actively hope for his uncles death. By this point in time in the book it understood that his uncle is not a nice man even thought while he had a plan for Phillip, and was not happy when Phillip had his own ideas, he went along with Phillip’s plans anyway.  It is true did not support Phillip as he chased his dreams but did not throw him out either, Phillip was always welcome back at the vicarage. His uncle was always warning Phillip that the money he inherited from his parents would not last, but Phillip squandered it anyway and so when Phillip ended up broke of course he refused to lend him any. Which, cold, selfish, man whose authority and judgement Phillip ignored and disregarded wanting to teach nephew a harsh life lesson? Yep, that tracks. While this move did leave Phillip briefly destitute, he was not without resources, unlike some I could mention, he was just to proud to ask for help until it was almost too late. So for this reason he hopes and dreams of his uncles death so he can get his hands on his money. At one point, as his uncle lay in his sick bed, he actually thinks about helping him along because he is so impatient to get back to his life as it was before the bottom fell out. He does not, but it is a moment of real tension over if he would cross that line or not. Because training to be a Doctor.

 

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Dude. What do you not understand about FIRST DO NO HARM????

 

In the end his uncle dies, Phillip finishes medical school, gets a few nice jobs, thinks for a moment that he may have knocked up the daughter of Self Absorbed D Bag Prime (15 when he met her, 18 at the time of boot knocking), and decides that all his great dreams are silly and that what he wanted all along is to settle down with a nice simple girl with big boobs whom he does not really love but likes well enough, have lots of babies, and be a small town doctor because all of the endless hours he spent obsessing over life and it’s meaning and art and beauty and his path to his perceived greatness was just crap and everyone he had ignore his whole life had been right all along. The end.

So yeah. Would I read “Of Human Bondage” again? Probably, as I mentioned way, way above when I started this whole thing, it is a very well written book and the words within it sing. I just wish they had a better subject for thier song. Next up in my summer of reading for fun is the first book I grabbed out of the back of my car on my way to get coffee. (My car is littered with random books, like a very disorganized mobile library). It is “A Woman’s Life” by Guy de Maupassant. Which looks like another slice of life from an age gone by only with a lady who is French and how, though no real fault of her own, her life kind of sucks because men are D-bags. yay…..

 

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Next up in the Octagon.

 

Photo of Anne of Green Gables via © Sullivan Entertainment 2014

Privilege, thy Name is Tony Stark

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Note: I am very mad at 616 Tony Stark right now.

I just realized at least one of the things that has seriously bothered me about whole The Illuminati concept in Marvel comics. Representation. For a group that is making decisions on behalf of the entire world they have only ONE person of color and NO WOMEN. Way to make “the big calls” guys, while ignoring the voices and opinions of HALF OF THE POPULATION OF THE PLANET. This is the patriarchy. This is the 1%. This is white, male privilege in it’s most elevated form. This is why the Illuminati is a horrible idea.

NO Tony. You and the rest of the ruling class do not get to make decisions from your ivory towers on behalf of the planet “for our own good” without ever once thinking of listen to our opinions on the subject. “Daddy” is no longer in charge of the real world, you need to accept that and evolve a more inclusive perspective. Did it never once ever occur to you to have someone who was not a man with power in your boys club? Seriously, you could not think of a single woman to add to you little cabal? Or more then one person of color, who is actually pretty damn privileged himself as HE RULES A COUNTRY. I mean the closest you ever got to including a more “normal, everyday human experience” voice was the very white, very male Steve Rogers (Who also happens to be freaking Captain America, way to set the bar at a attainable height for the plebes Tony), and we all know how that ended. And that you can not see what is gross about this, the very fact that you and your secret society think that it is your right to do so, is a full on manifestation of the fact that the level of your privilege has seriously reached critical mass. You are not “good guys”, making “the hard calls”, and “doing what needs to be done”. You are the patriarchy, You are part of the problem.You are the bad guys here. And it needs to stop.

Now the only question remains. Does Marvel see this? Did they create this group of super powerful, mostly white, men to reflect how a ruling Oligarchy can be formed by those with power and privilege and no perspective? Did they look at this line up and say, yes this is going to end horrible because these are a bunch of rich dudes with no grasp of what life is like for anyone other than their own rarefied kind? Let us make a point about representation, politics and the toxic nature of the inherently biased system using theses characters to do so! Or did it honestly never occur to them that women would need a place at the table, because they pretty much created a sausage fest. And with the exception of T’challa?A remarkably white one at that. (And please, Beast does not count as a person of color. If you shave him dude is his original flavor caucasian pink.)

As mentioned above I am not happy with 616 Tony Stark right now, this like figuring out that my favorite Uncle is actually a sexist jerk. Which given the source code of his character really should not surprise me but I thought he had grown past that. I am not a happy camper.

Cervix of Steel, Dick of Kleenex: Wonder Woman & Superman’s Sex Life.

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So, first off let me apologize for going to this place so far across the line of good taste that I am in freaking Narnia at this point. This entire essay was born of a half drunken (one of us was still sober) txt conversation with a friend about Superman’s sex life, because we are geeks and these things happen. So again, I am so sorry about this.

Many people over the last 80 or so years have had a lot to say about Superman’s sex life. One of the biggest debates has been how could this super strong alien have ever safely sex with a mere mortal human like Lois Lane? His sperm is super strong and exits his penis at such a high velocity, because super strong alien, that if they ever had the sex he would kill her when he cums. This concern was first raised by Larry Niven’s in his essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” 42 years ago (Yep, 42 years old and we are still having this same argument). While the essay has never, ever, even remotely been DC comics cannon it is still often brought up to justify the shitting on of Clark Kent’s relationship with Lois Lane and how said relationship could never happen because of the literally killer sex. The argument often goes further on to state that the ideal mate for Superman is Wonder Woman, with whom he share the traits of super strength and genitalia of steel. Plus their outfits match. I am not here to argue about the first part. Nope. I am here to address an issue in regard to the fictional sex life of this particular superhero that no one has seemed to address yet. Which is shocking because so much ink has been spilled in regard to who Superman could and should fuck. I mean, if you are going to make the argument that super sex is dangerous to those who are not super and we adhere to the fictional rules set forth in the DC universe, than how in the world could Superman safely have sex with Wonder Woman? I mean, seriously. Sex with her would rip his dick right off.

“What?” You may ask. “But they are both super strong and therefore MADE for each other and they have matching outfits! It’s fate!” Ah, see my friend, that is where the common mistake is made. For while their strength levels are comparable, the origins of that strength come from two very different places and sadly the combination of the two would end up being like when the guy from dark matter universe met the guy from the light matter universe in that one episode of Star Trek: TOS. Only in this case instead of them being trapped in an eternal poorly choreographed fight scene by Kirk to save the universe from blowing up, Superman gets his dick ripped right off.

Let me make my case. Superman is an alien from the planet Krypton, as we all know, and the source of his strength is from the unique interaction of the solar radiation from our yellow sun and his Kryptonian physiology. Which is why when he is in the light of a red sun he is pretty much a normal dude, I mean a six four wall of muscle, but he only has the proportional strength of a human of that same size and build. So his super strength is based on science, goofy made up comic book science, but science none the less.

Wonder Woman’s strength comes from magic. In any of her incarnations she is born of magic, be it made from clay and created by her mother’s love as in the origin written by George Perez, or the result of Hippolyta getting busy with the god of thunder Zeus, which makes her a mystical demi-goddess in the current canon, she is a creature of magic. Full Stop. Her strength is an innate part of her magical nature. All of her being is infused with magic. All of it. You see where I am going here, right?

See the thing is, Superman has weaknesses. We all know that he does. As I mentioned above exposure to red solar radiation means he loses his strength, and the seemingly endless variety of kryptonite laying around the DC verse all effects him detrimentally in plethora of ways, from green killing him all the way to pink kryptonite, which I shit you not, makes him a little gay (Way to be progressive there DC!). There is also a third weakness. It does not come up much but when it does it almost inevitably involves him getting his ass handed to him and this is relevant because Superman is vulnerable to magic. Yep, that’s right folks, the thing that is the source of Wonder Woman’s power, basically the source code of her very existence- the thing she is literally made of, is one of the things that can hurt Superman. It has been shown often in the past that magic effects Kal the same way it does everyone else. So, it is conceivable that in the throes of passionate love making or at least a really good fuck, that engaged with a full on magical cervix of steel clenching with the strength of a titan his dick would be as vulnerable to her magically gifted super strength as any other dudes because she, and by extension her cervix, is magical and magic can hurt him. You see where I am going here, right? Unless she is laying there like a sack of flour, his dick is going to get ripped right off when she cums.

Some may argue that he’s not extra vulnerable to her punches, so therefore the magic residing in her mythic vagina would not count as the type of magic he is vulnerable to, for reasons. (Because let’s face it, if he is vulnerable to magic, he is vulnerable to magic no matter where it may reside. Be it in a Excalibur or in Wonder Woman’s vag, magic is magic.) To these arguments I have two replies. One, if you do not think Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Zeus, chosen of Athena and Aphrodite, born from the myths of creation, champion of good, having sex would not be a magical act then you my friend have not been reading her comic for the last 30 years (the Perez run, read it, it’s amazing). Second, if you want to argue that Diana and Kal not being able to have sex for reasons of “Fake Magical Rules” is stupid and makes no sense than stop arguing that Clark Kent and Lois Lane cannot have sex because “Fake Science Rules”. The dude can fly, rip mountains in half, shoot fire out of his eyes and breathe arctic storms from his mouth, all this from “yellow” solar radiation. That is about as fake science as you can get, it is fake science to the point of being magic. And anyway who knows, maybe the magic of the Greek gods and Amazons of the DC comics universe is just very advanced science, after all “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Whatever this magic is, historically in the comics it has still effected Superman the same way it effects everyone else so I would ask you to address those complaints to the back issues of the entire run of DC. I guess my point is that these are all fake rules in a fake universe about fake people, and arguing about them as if they were real and had actual real life corollaries is stupid. In a fictional universe anyone can have sex with anyone else so long as the writers writing it want them to and if you cannot agree with that because the fictional alien, with made up impossible superpowers, absolutely cannot have sex with a human woman because of the rules then you have to accept the fact that Wonder Woman and Superman are doomed to a sexless relationship. Because if canon is canon than if they ever do it? She is going to rip his dick right off.