0

We’re Back!

Hello and welcome to the new Optimist’s Umbrella, the official blog of comic book writer and fantasy novelist William Brust. Some of you may remember the old Optimist’s Umbrella. I decided to go back to the old name. No regrets.

My writing has previously appeared in Atom Jack Magazine (now defunct), Asinine Poetry, and Lorelei Signal.

You can check out what I’m doing on Twitter @theconq19 and @10000ce.

This blog will be updating weekly, barring any unforeseen responsibilities, awkward dates, or gremlin attacks.

0

A Good Friday

So, I was out shopping this evening, and I decided to stop at J. Buffalo Wings for some fried fish and chips. It’s Good Friday, so no meat today. As a practicing Catholic, I’m also supposed to fast. Fasting in the U.S. today means having one full meal and two smaller meals which can’t add up to a full meal. Of course, for me, that usually means having just one slice of pizza with my soda and cookies and free refill on soda/chips and whatnot.

In short, I’m a terrible…faster? Is that the word? I dunno, whatever. I suck at fasting.

So, I’m feeling bad for myself as I walk from the Kroger up to the Walgreens. I start to think, “Hey, maybe I’ll watch Passion of the Christ tonight! That’s what other Christians watch to make themselves feel holier.”

Then I think, “Nah, I’ll listen to Dark Side of the Moon, instead. I’m pretty sure Roger Waters was moved by the Spirit when composing those tunes.”

So, I’m listening to Breathe, and I get to the point where the rabbit has to dig his hole, catch the sun. And of course, you know what happens when his work is done. Time to dig another one.

And that got me thinking. We work so much. We are so busy. Not just with trying to continue our existence on this globe and striving toward goals of love, art, and fortune, but also with trying to improve ourselves and our families and friends.

But in the end, there’s always another hole to dig.

And just then, as I crested the hill where Walgreens sits like a lonely outpost on the ramparts of reality, I saw this in front of me:

2015-04-03 19.59.09

And then I turned and saw this behind me:

2015-04-03 19.59.17

And I realized that, for all my pride and ambition, I will never create anything so beautiful as all that. If you’re a Christian like me, you may see in this a sign from the Creator, a reminder that, at the end of the day, we should rejoice in our failures, for they only confirm our need for a Redeemer.

Yes, I’m imperfect. Yes, I’m sinful. We all are. God knows it. We are called to perfection, yes, but we are not expected to reach it without God’s help. We are not God.

Even if you’re not Christian, you may come to much the same conclusion: That in the end, after all the human race has accomplished, all its been through, we’re still squatting in the dirt, moving pebbles around and calling them planets.

We’re just not that big a deal, folks. And that’s ok.

Anyway, as I finish up here, I’ll leave you with some more holy words from the last track of Pink Floyd’s greatest album ever:

See you on Sunday, kids.

0

Quick Update: Novel

No longer trying so hard to be provocative. No longer taking shortcuts. Revisions should be done by June 1.

Some notes:

  • Calin is back as the protagonist.
  • He’s not as whiny.
  • He’s not a white guy.
  • Terrwyn is back to being a pale, red-haired thief with a snark-streak.
  • Croli is still awesome.
  • Asder/Aremana, Dragonrider is now Aedren, Knight of Zargon.
  • Ayesha Khan, immortal empress of lost Edinniae, now leads the knights in secret.
  • The seeker finds something that had been lost.
  • What the seeker found is not what he sought.

I may start commissioning some art in the near future. If for no other reason than art is fun.

Bubblegum-Man will being updating again in May. Hopefully.

In the meantime, here’s Robocop on a unicorn:

robocorn

0

Stop the Presses: Another White Guy Has an Opinion

So, let’s talk about Brown and Garner for a moment. Just a moment because this whole thing has been covered and recovered, and the last thing anybody needs is another rant by some random white dude, no matter the side.

Why am I making this racial? Because it is, at least under the surface.

It’s entirely reasonable to suspect that Darren Wilson was justified in his use of a firearm. The grand jury decided not to indict based on contradictory witness statements and the evidence presented in the autopsy (which was kind of weird on its own, but that’s another story).

It’s entirely reasonable to suspect that the offers responsible for subduing and ultimately killing Eric Garner were acting in accord with the way they were trained.

It’s entirely reasonable to assume that, all things being equal, the same events would have transpired if Garner and Brown had been white. It’s reasonable. It may not be true, but it’s reasonable.

And herein lies the problem: I’m a white guy. I can listen to and accept the arguments that the police’s actions were justified because I have the privilege of not being accosted by the police every time I go outside my door. It’s possible that my privilege biases me in the same way that a lack of privilege biased at least some of the rioters/protesters/looters/what-have-you out in Ferguson.

Were the police justified in their submission of Eric Garner?

Was Darren Wilson justified in shooting Michael Brown?

These are important questions, but there are other questions that are more important.

Why do some folks seem to divide along racial or class lines when this issue comes up?

Why might more African Americans feel justified in protesting the actions of the police?

Why does tension exist between African Americans and police of all races?

But perhaps most importantly, why is it so difficult for either side to admit the other has a point?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have the answers. Neither do you. That’s the point. Too many people think they have the answer, but they haven’t bothered with any of the questions.

1

Welcome to Battleworld!

Warning: Today’s post uses a lot of comic book geek fan-speak. There will be very little definitions given. Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times and step away from the doors.

I’ve fallen away from Marvel since DC’s reboot. There’s just been so many good books in the New 52 (shut up). That said, I’m super-excited for Marvel’s upcoming Secret Wars!

Back in the 80s, Marvel released a cross-over event called “Secret Wars” that featured dozens of heroes and villains going at it on an alien planet put together by the cosmic being known as The Beyonder. It was pretty rad.

Flash forward 30 years, and the Marvel Universe is falling apart. Universes are colliding, and there’s nothing our heroes can do to stop them. Enter Battleworld: A new world made up of all the alternate realities Marvel has shown us over the years. Check out this map to see what I mean.

Even though I haven’t been buying much Marvel recently, I’ve been reading the summaries of the events on Wikipedia. That, combined with this random dude I met at a Barnes and Noble who caught me up on the last 3 years of Avengers comics, has enabled me to remain somewhat ahead of the curve when it comes to the beautiful, dizzying continuity snarl that is Marvel comics.

So now, I can’t wait to see what happens when the Age of Apocalypse must contend with the Age of Ultron! When the Maestro must face the Captain Britain Corps, and only the Xandarians on the Wall can keep the hordes of Marvel Zombies at bay.

At the very least, I at last have an excuse to post this picture of all my Marvel action figures just beating the ever-lovin’ snot out of each other:

Secret Wars

Click to enlarge. If your computer CAN HANDLE THE AWESOME!!!

Can you spot the miniature Moloid figure I got along with an old FF Mole Man figure I eventually gave away for being practically useless? Or the Doc Ock Mini-Mate whose tentacles I ripped out and tossed because reasons? Or Waldo?

Only kidding. I don’t have a Waldo. He’s one of the figures I don’t have…

I sure got a lot of toys…

Maybe this is why I’m single at 30?

Ah, well. Wheeeeeeee!!!

0

Response to a Christian Article

Here we go again. Time for everyone’s favorite type of post: The type that responds to a different post on a separate blog. (Yay!)

I have a friend who loves posting Catholic or Christian blog entries on Facebook, usually having to do with relationships. So now, here I am. Responding to one.

Just like last time, I’ll wait for you to review the original before proceeding.

We good? Excellent.

As a young man with autism, I’ve often felt excluded, left out, isolated, and alone. Sometimes those feelings were justified. Other times they were only symptoms of underlying anxiety and insecurity. It’s tempting to think a relationship might fix that. For years, I thought that it might. Of course, I know it won’t. It can’t. It’s not fair to expect a mortal relationship to affect my neurological condition. Even God hasn’t fixed that.

Jugement_dernier

Not yet, anyway…

In the meantime, I pray for healing and hope that one day I’ll feel comfortable enough in my own skin to be able to keep my anxiety to a manageable level. It’s not going away. Jesus isn’t going to cure my anxiety or my autism. It’d require a complete reformatting and rewiring of my brain, and I think He’s honestly busy with other stuff.

I’ve never been in a relationship. Barely even been kissed. That doesn’t bother me. Life isn’t a competition or a race, no matter how many cultural elements try to convince me otherwise. I think having a relationship might be a good experience. It seems like a fundamental part of the human condition. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll still be ok. I guess the point I’m making is that I agree with this article, and I also understand how easy it is to fall into the “you complete me” trap. If only someone else could solve all our problems. The best God does is give us the strength to solve things ourselves, or at least work on them.

Still, being single since the days I knew what “single” even meant can be difficult. Especially during those three weeks in winter. You know the ones. We’re in them now. The weeks between Jan. 2 and Feb. 21. Those are the gloomiest, saddest, most gut-wrenching weeks of the year. I’d like to blame Valentine’s Day, but I honestly can’t. I think if I lived in Florida or the Caribbean, I wouldn’t mind those weeks as much. But I live in Georgia, where the rains and the wind keep streaming down from the heavens, and the sun is covered in a veil of gray for days and days. Being single can be tough. Ah, well. I’m a Jedi, like my father before me. Jedi are born tough.

Someday I’ll meet somebody and we’ll get married and have lots of adventures. Or maybe I won’t. I just hope I can get to a place where I can be happy with either outcome. At least for those three weeks in winter when my singleness irks me the most.

0

Notes on Sticky Superheroes and Reversible Diaries

Hey, y’all. Sorry I haven’t had time to upload issue 2 of Bubblegum-Man yet. Will continue to update this space as regularly as I can, but grad school is soaking up about 85% of my time. That only leaves about 10% for sleep and 5% for watching Arrow, playing flash games, eating pasta, and general messing around.

Lately I’ve been feeling down. Normal, mid-January to mid-February blues. I’ll be back to my rosy self once we’re past President’s Day.

Anyway, rather than bore you with my problems, I thought I’d share with you a neat trick I’ve come up with to let out my negative emotions while simultaneously reinforcing positive thought patterns.

I call it a Reversible Diary. (Or “Reversible Journal,” if you’re more of a Doug Funnie fan.)

Basically, one side of the journal is labeled “Book of Lies.” Every time my mind gets stuffed full of insecurity, guilt, shame, self-doubt, self-loathing, or any other type of worthless emotion, I pour it in there. I write down all the lies I’ve believed about myself.

Then I flip the book upside down and open it from the other side. That side is the “Book of Truth.” Inside are Bible verses proclaiming God’s love for his children and all sorts of other spoken, written, reasoned, and observed proofs of my own worth as a human being.

As you begin to fill the book, try to make it so that the truths outnumber the lies. Most people have the same lies. Things like “I’m not good enough.” “I’m not smart enough.” “My ears are funny-shaped.”

But there are as many truths as there are people, though there are some eternal truths which resonate for all. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Anyway, at some point, it’s possible for your Books of Lies and Truth to meet in the middle. When that happens, go ahead and write over the lies with truth. You can white out the lies, if you prefer. Tear them out. Burn them. Whatever. They’re lies. Who cares what you do with them?

Now at this point, it’s important not to pay too much attention to any of the lies you put down in the past. Just write them down and forget them. They’re lies, so why would you want to study them? Their purpose is to mislead. We write them down to imprison them, to call them what they are, to take away their power.

But we must reread the truths. As many times as we can. The Truth is liberation. The Truth is empowerment. The Truth is Love and Grace and Hope and all that other stuff that can give you a toothache if you’re not careful.

In heaven, there are no toothaches.

0

Account Closed: Why LinkedIn Doesn’t Work (for me)

Today, I deleted my LinkedIn account. I rarely used it, and when I did, I received little benefit. Oh, I had plenty of contacts. Folks outside and inside my field. Folks looking for work. Folks gainfully employed. Folks who don’t return emails or phone calls.

My big problem with networking when trying to find employment is I wind up meeting a bunch of other unemployed people. To meet the Gatekeepers, you have to go out and find them. Meetup and local trade associations and other professional groups let you meet folks face to face. Once you’ve done that, you check with them to see what needs of theirs you can fill. That’s how it works.

LinkedIn doesn’t. Not for me.

For me, Facebook and Meetup are where it’s at because Facebook and Meetup allow for personal communication. The best you can hope for on LinkedIn is to apply for a position to a company that doesn’t provide an address, phone number, or even (sometimes) a name.

Wheeee…

Don’t fall for it.

0

Torture is Evil.

How is this a discussion we are having in 2014 in the United States of America?

Torture is evil.

This entire debate is stupid, and we’re stupid for having it.

Torture is evil.

I don’t care if you think it works.

I don’t care if you think they deserve it.

Torture is evil.

If you think torture is good, please let me know who you are so I can never talk to you again. Cuz you’re clearly a Nazi. Or a communist. Or a Communazi. This is no longer a debate. This is a matter of truth.

“But William, what abo–”

Let me stop you right there. There is no “what about.” Torture is unjustifiable. Even against our worst enemies. Especially against our worst enemies.

Torture is evil, and I am ashamed of some of my countrymen for even considering its merits.

0

Season’s Greetings!

Some people treat “happy holidays” like a message from the Devil himself, and I have no idea why.

The phrase “season’s greetings” is far clunkier and ambiguous. Are you greeting the season? Are you greeting me with seasonings? Why are you throwing garlic at people, what’s wrong with you? You should never throw garlic at anyone except vampires, and sometimes that’s not a very good idea even then. 

Pictured: Garlic, not for throwing.

Pictured: Garlic, not for throwing.

Anyway, I’ve never been offended by saying or hearing “happy holidays.” And I certainly don’t mind saying it to folks when I don’t know whether they’re Christian or not. Some folks don’t celebrate Christmas, after all. Even among those who do, the period from December 1 to January 1 contains multiple “holy days” and days of celebration as well.

December 8, for example, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when Catholics honor the Virgin Mother by attending mass and praising the Lord.

Sure, I’ve always found Kwanza (Dec. 26 – Jan. 1 this year) a bit odd, but if folks want another excuse to light candles, who am I to judge?

Plus, there’s Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. This year, it happened in October, but my Indian neighbors used to keep their lights up for months after. I think it might be a 2 week celebration? Anyway, it’s a commemoration of that time Prince Rama fought the demon-king Ravana. You can catch an artist’s interpretation of the battle below:

My Jewish friends will be celebrating Hanukkah soon. So, if someone wants to wish me Happy Channukah, I wouldn’t mind that, either. Really, we’re in a season of celebration. Why get mad over words that mean, in essence, “have a nice time drinking wine and eating fatty foods?” Besides, then I get to say “Happy Xanuka” back to them, and we can have fun saying/spelling one of the funnest words to say/spell in any language.

December 24 is Christmas Eve! That time of year when Italians like myself gather around a plate piled high with spaghetti and eat 5 or 7 types of fried fish until  we ‘splode. Don’t have to take my word for it:

God, I miss John Pinette. RIP, good sir.

Anyway, if folks want to wish me “Merry Christmas,” I’m cool with that. And if folks want to wish me “Happy Christmas,” I’ll be cool with that too, and I promise not to make any awkward comments about the Doctor or Vicar of Dibley or even mention your accent at all, probably.

Finally, January 31 is New Year’s Eve, a secular holiday celebrated by anyone who uses a Gregorian calendar in their everyday life.

(And yes, for those of you Super-Catholics/Latinos, the holiday season extends all the way to January 8. Sadly, we don’t celebrate Three Kings’ Day much in America. I blame the Protestants.)

So, as you can hopefully see, “Happy Holidays” isn’t just an inoffensive salutation, it’s technically accurate. We’ll all be celebrating at least two holidays this year, since most atheists I know do something for both Christmas and New Year’s. Probably something involving excessive amounts of chocolate or wine or chocolate wine.

I hope they invite me.

So, happy holidays, folks. And if you still feel offended by someone hoping you enjoy a 30 day period of almost non-stop celebration, maybe you should see a doctor about that unsightly sprig of holly protruding from your bottom?