A matter of convenience…

For an embarrassing number of years I avoided using the word ‘convenience’ in my writing because I could never remember how to spell it. I used to have the same problem with the word ‘restaurant’ but I overcame that one way back—three or four years ago.

Some words elude me. This goes back to the olden day, before the miracle of Spell Check, when your only choices for writing were a typewriter or a stone tablet and chisel. Perhaps my mama sniffed too much glue whilst carrying me in her belly, or it could be that a vast chunk of the ‘spelling’ portion of my brain was trampled flat by storage containers filled with the knowledge of every conceivable way Iron Man can defend himself against all ten of the Mandarin’s power rings.

I have the cable box tuned to the ‘70s music channel and Manfred Mann is singing Springsteen’s ‘Blinded by the Light’ and the lyrics defy comprehension. Case in point; “Madman drummers bummers, Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat. In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat.” Someone please run this through Reed Richard’s universal translator and have a copy on my desk in the morning.

But back to the topic bubbling in my brain at the moment--convenience. Are you ever embarrassed by the wealth of convenience s available to us? I used to complain about how good my daughter has it. She can listen to music online on her computer, on CDs, her MP3 player, on the cable t.v. music channels, or on her cell phone. But I really can’t blame her for not appreciating how great she has it. She’s grown up with technology. I’m the one who should be embarrassed.

This morning I used the toilet and flushed it away. It was there looking at me one moment, and the next it was gone. See ya—write if you get work. Sunday nights I haul a big plastic container filled with my trash to the curb and Monday when I wake up it’s gone. Anything that I don’t like or want is taken away from me and my house, without question, for thirty dollars a month. I don’t know where it goes and don’t especially care. There could be anything in that container and no one would ever know or judge me. (Or trash collection is a one-person operation here in super-advanced California. Someone drives a truck up and a mechanical arm grabs our can and hoists it to dump it inside.)

Back in the old days when the trash containers were emptied into the back of the truck by hand, you were still somewhat accountable for what was inside, if things weren’t properly wrapped. But now it’s totally anonymous so anything goes. Your trash could consist of thirty birthday cakes, Dutch pornography, your left leg (from the knee down—which you felt compelled to self-amputate because it just never felt ‘right’ down there), or sawed up chunks of a dead pony.

We can flush away our bodily waste; have a thirty-gallon container of whatever we consider to be ‘trash’ hauled away from our homes, have the dirtiest of dirty movies streamed onto our computers, set our DVR to record every episode of American Idol and then burn them onto DVD to send them to our cousin in Finland. We never have to get lost again because our car tells us how to get where we’re going. The kids don’t have to be bored during the drive there because of they have the option of listening to music, playing GTA on the PlayStation, or watching Saw II on DVD. If we crash into a telephone pole while driving we don’t have to be troubled to find our cell phone to call for help because OnStar has our back.

I love convenience. I crave the latest technology like old women crave cats. The computer has allowed me to become a better writer. The laptop computer has made it convenient for me to become a better writer. But isn’t there something fundamentally wrong about all of it? I can’t be the only one who sees that no one ever seems to survive renewal.

As the folks over at Fark.com are fond of saying, “Sony unveils new 80” plasma television. Still no cure for cancer.” Last week my wife and I upgraded to a pair of swinging new cell phones. Not to be a downer, but I wonder how many people in the world died that day from lack of food or clean water or simple medical care. Forget the world—how many people go to bed hungry in our own country every night? Screw the country—how many of them are here in California.

Would the problem be solved if instead of buying new iPods and TiVos this year we poured a big chunk of our disposable income into caring for the poor? Solve, probably not. Help, probably. Will it ever happen, not in my lifetime, not a chance. People today are far too hung up over what the world owes them and what they’re convinced they deserve. Myself included. Besides, the starving people don’t live in my neighborhood. They’re on the television in commercials with that bearded fellow. I can change the channel and they’re gone. (By the way, after that bearded fellow films his commericals, does he go back to his house and eat Skippy peanut butter straight from the jar? Give what's left of his hamburger to his dog?)

I once had an argument with Archie Goodwin (while he was still alive) about a Batman Elsewhere story I had submitted. Do they still publish Elsewhere stories? We were talking about degrees of reality in comics. I brought up the old argument that there was no way that Superman should have taken on the persona of Clark Kent to work at the Daily Planet and sniff around Lois Lane. From day one he should have been using his powers to feed the hungry, damn rivers, build hospitals, research medical discoveries, sew up a hole in the ozone level, clean up the mess from oil spills, develop alternate forms of energy. I mean, how dare he go home at night to his modest apartment, put on his pajamas, and lay in his bed and pretend to sleep (after first thinking nasty thoughts about Lois and rubbing one off that results in yet another hole in ceiling. There’s simply no way he’s going to get his security deposit back). During his eight hours of pretend sleeping he could have built thirteen schools, created a pill that prevents heart attacks, plowed fields and planted crops and built irrigation systems for an entire starving country, and developed a cure for pink eye.

Archie Goodwin called me stupid. During all my years as a fanboy I had/have never heard a single bad thing said about Archie Goodwin. He was almost a saint and the bee’s knees. Everyone loved him and he always had a smile on his mustached face for everyone. Except me. He never seemed to like me. Maybe because he was small and I was big and fat. I was working on staff at DC at the time doing production work and checking printer’s films. It was no secret that I really wanted to write comics but I was never a pest. I did no pestering. Every couple of weeks when I was dropping off something to a particular editor I would chat them up and ask if they needed any fill-in issues or anything else written. Most of the editors and assistants were fairly affable. I guess they figured if they were editing books that required talent, that having talent offering them their services sort of came with the job. I got the cold shoulder from Archie the first couple of times and then stopped asking, until one day someone mentioned that Archie had made it known that he was interested in Batman Elsewhere pitches. I handed him several springboards and he expressed interest in one. I wrote up a proper pitch (which I’ll post here once I finally get all my floppy discs transferred over to CD) and he liked a lot of it, but then the conversation took a left turn and we got into the discussion I mentioned above.

I told Archie that Superman should be saving the world night and day and he called me stupid. I remember how hot my face got. It was like I’d been slapped. When I asked him why it was so stupid he said, “Because that would be boring and nobody would buy the comics.” I sensed that our story conference was done so I got up and stumbled back to my cubicle.

Wow. That happened over ten years ago but my face is still hot. A year or two later he passed away. Perhaps he was sick at the time. I’d walk through fire for my daughter but when my back hurts I sometimes yell at her.

Gosh, I’ve gone and forgotten my point. I think what I was circling around was that if we stopped buying DVDs and plasma screens and iPods and focused all our resources on caring for those who are in desperate need, our greedy little brains would explode. When slicing the cake we take the bigger of the two halves because we feel like we somehow deserve it. We eek through yellow traffic lights because we feel like we deserve to get through and not have to wait. We download music that we didn’t pay for because the musicians that made it have already gotten paid a ton of money for it and we’re really only ripping off the music companies and not the Black Eyed Peas specifically.

I don’t think we can save the world because we’re ultimately too greedy. I guess that’s sums it up.

How do I sleep at night, knowing that hundreds and thousands are starving to s slow death? Sometimes on my left side, but mostly on my back.

I’m a gonna go to hell when I die, I’m a gonna go to hell.

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