“The End Times” by Richard F. Yates

the end times (11 jun. 2019) by rfy

Well folks, it’s been a fun ride.

From December 2012 to June 2019, we posted more than SEVEN THOUSAND drawings, stories, jokes, poems, manifestos, photographs, insults, fake religious tracts, travel diaries, quips, and conceptual nonsense pieces to The Primitive Entertainment Workshop—but most of my co-conspirators (like Randy Long, Scott Sparks, Richard O’Brien, Josh Erdahl…) have moved on to greener pastures, leaving me as the sole content producer (plus or minus a remix by Mark Counts every now and then) for the site.

And now it’s time for me to cap the project and say goodnight…

It’s not easy to end something that’s been so much fun, but there are several reasons why I’ve decided to do this. One of the biggest is the fact that I’m at 99% capacity for the memory allotment again—and I just don’t have the energy to go back through all those posts and find the ones with images that I can compress to make more room. Another big reason is that, after six and a half years, I don’t think I’ve made a penny off this project! I SPENT a hundred bucks to have a “pro” account for a year, but even then, I couldn’t figure out a way to get any return on my investment, so I’m moving on to focus on projects that have a better payout. For example, I’ve already sold several crypto-art pieces through my MakersPlace store, I’ve made an average of $1.70 per post through my contributions to the Steem blockchain—although most of the posts only make a few cents, when one hits big I’ll get between $10 and $15 for a single book review, as opposed to this site where the exact same reviews get me ZERO dollars—and the physical art that I’ve been making and selling in my lawn has been a great source of income, too, so I’ve been doing a lot more of that lately! (Although, none of those things are working out well enough that I can quit my day-job and support myself entire through my creative efforts, it’s still nice when SOME compensation comes my way for all the hard work and dedication I put in. I actually had a stretch on The Primitive Entertainment Workshop where I posted for 664 days in a row, without missing a single day—and I still got nothing for it, economically speaking. I certainly got something from it in terms of self-esteem and in a body of work that I’m seriously proud of…but you just can’t eat pride, and I gotta eat!)

This isn’t to say that I’m disappointed with this site or that I feel like I wasted my time here. On the contrary, I think WE (as a group) created a massive, interesting, incredibly entertaining body of work with this project—which I can now sift through and start crafting books from based on particular ideological strains and trajectories! For one, I want to do a Snake book of just the posts where Richard O’Brien came up with some wild (usually offensive) slogan and I drew Snake acting that slogan out. Those were fun! I also need to compile Randy Long’s Further Adventures – Bigfoot into book form (he wants me to make a Complete Bigfoot Stories book that has both his original Bigfoot tale AND the Further Adventures under one cover. I’m cool with that.) Now that the project is DONE, I can start going through it, curating the highlights, and doing stuff with all this RAW MATERIAL! (I’ve already made a book out of the faux-art collective stuff!)

And don’t think that I’ve stopped working on new materials, either! I still post EVERY SINGLE DAY; I’ve just moved my primary operation to the Steem. If you want to keep up with my drawings and travel adventures and book reviews and freaky stories, go here:

https://steempeak.com/@richardfyates

If you aren’t on Steem, and don’t plan on joining, I usually post a link to my stories on Twitter, too. (I know some of you folks do the Twitter thing…) You can find me there as: @richardfyates

I still love writing and reading and drawing and making things and fabricating stories, and recounting my adventures out there in the PHYSICAL world. (Scary place.) In fact, in the next few days, I’m planning another book review (of a comic about some evil dairy products) and a “How-To” on cutting and folding a micro-zine, and I’ve also got several drawings that I’ve finished that just need some stories to go with them… So I’m still moving and shaking, I’m just dancing at a new club! (You’re welcome to join the Steem party, if you like, although it does take a few weeks, sometimes, if demand is high, to get approved for an account. Blockchain stuff is complex, and I can’t pretend to understand how it works, but I’m enjoying the experience, there, now that I’ve figured out the basics and started getting my “Steem Legs.” [Those are like sea legs, but without the getting sick over the side of a boat.])

Anyway, thanks to all the folks who have stuck with me for years and years, and thanks ESPECIALLY to the dozens of folks who have contributed art or words or inspiration over more than half-a-decade and seven THOUSAND posts!!! We did something pretty extraordinary here, and maybe people who find this content over the next few years (as long as the world doesn’t end, or WordPress doesn’t go bankrupt, or some similar disaster) will get a good laugh out of it! If that happens, it will all have been worth it!

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)

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“Read a Damn Book – 146: Show Your Work!”

Show Your Work! is by Austin Kleon, and this is one of the books I picked up when I was in Astoria, Oregon, a few weeks ago. (I’m sure you read THAT adventure, right?) Anyway, I read Kleon’s other book, Steal Like an Artist (2012), a few years ago and really enjoy it, so I assumed it was a safe bet that I’d like this one, too… Was I right???

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[This is a photograph that I took of the actual book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]

Austin Kleon – Show Your Work! (2014)

The short answer to the question, “Did I enjoy this book?”, is YES! I read it twice before writing this review—it’s a short book that I think normal folks could probably read, cover to cover, in an hour or two, although I, personally, read VERY slowly—and I definitely enjoyed what I read. For this book, Kleon deals with the problem of how a creative person can get the products of their labor into the minds (and in front of the eyes) of a potential audience. In other words, as Kleon says he is frequently asked, “How do I get noticed?” (p. 1). For new writers, artists, musicians—basically any creative type who wants to share their work with the world—this is THE big issue. You put your heart and soul into your work, expend blood and sweat and tears, shove every clichéd metaphor for “hard work” you can think of into your project, and when you’re done…it just sits there… What’s next?

Without spoiling the book by giving away all his secrets, Kleon does have some great advice in these pages, which he presents in ten chapters with titles like “You Don’t Have to be a Genius” and “Think Process, Not Product” and “Share Something Small Every Day” and “Learn to Take a Punch.” Some of this may seem like obvious platitudes—day one of the writers’ workshop type crap, but by collecting all of these element under one roof, Kleon has produced an excellent, inspirational, REALISTIC “how-to” for folks who may not be extremely wealthy or well connected or university educated or fabulously talented, but who still want to be creative and share their works with people who will appreciate them.

Without stealing too much of Kleon’s thunder, I want to look at just a couple of Kleon’s concepts, which I happen to agree with, to give potential readers a bit of a taste…

First, Kleon says we have to get over the idea of the lonely, tortured genius who crafts their paintings or dramatic plays or epic poems in isolation and then shares the products of their genius with the unsuspecting world. “The rest of us are left to stand around and gawk in awe at their achievements” (p. 9). But this whole concept is a false (or exceedingly rare) paradigm. Works of REAL genius take place in (or around) a community, where ideas can be thrown around, tested, debated. Look at punk or Dada or The Beatles, where rare innovations seem to appear in massive clusters, which then changed the way the WORLD looked at itself. The people involved in these groups weren’t lonely geniuses banging out solo conceptual models of the universe, these were impassioned individuals, each with their own influences and loves and styles, fighting with each other, competing with and reacting to each other’s ideas, building new techniques for creation, and taking their individual works to freaky new heights BECAUSE of the communities they were performing with (and sometimes AGAINST.)

Kleon borrows a term from Brian Eno, the idea of the “scenius,” to describe these communities of idea and action. Kleon then points out that the internet now provides a way for these types of communities to find each other and band together, even when separated by vast distances. “Blogs, social media sites, email groups, discussion boards, forums—they’re all the same thing: virtual scenes where people go to hang out and talk about the things they care about. […] Online, everyone—the artist and the curator, the master and the apprentice, the expert and the amateur—has the ability to contribute something” (p. 12). These virtual communities, where an artist or writer can find advice, share their work, get valuable feedback and critique, and feel less lonely, can be massively supportive and help folks progress in whatever media they may want to explore—and this is especially true for people who are geographically isolated and don’t have access to a local community that shares their interests. (Although he also says it IS important to meet up in the real world, or “Meat Space” (p. 142), from time to time.)

Another piece of advice that Kleon gives is for creative folks to share their influences! (I’m big believer in this one.) Not only does sharing your interests and influences give you a chance to GUSH for a bit, but it can also help others understand where YOU are coming from—give them insight into why you’ve made the creative choices that you’ve made. Sharing your inspirations can influence how others see your work, and it can help forge connections. As Kleon says, “When you share your taste and influences, have the guts to own all of it. Don’t give in to the pressure to self-edit too much. […] Being open and honest about what you like is the best way to connect with people who like those things, too” (p. 83). This goes hand in hand with the concept of a “scenius.” According to Jello Biafra, former lead singer of the Dead Kennedy’s, (as he explains in the 2004 documentary, Punk: Attitude), a lot of the original punks were the only Stooges or Velvet Underground fans in the small town where they grew up, who then all moved to bigger cities and found each other, and then formed bands—based on the LOVE they shared for the Stooges or VU! Sharing your interests can lead to connections, collaborations, meet-ups in Meat Space, the realization that you aren’t the only freak who likes these horrible things, and even further inspiration for yourself, as by analyzing what it is you love about your favorite things gives you the chance to add these elements to your own works! (You know, stealing like an artist!) If you share what you’re passionate about, other people, who are also fans of that THING, whatever it may be, can find you and you can love those things together!

And, one more quick Kleon quote that I quite liked, from the chapter, “You Want Hearts, Not Eyeballs”:

“Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you. […] If you want followers, be someone worth following” (p. 129).

I think that sentiment is fairly self-explanatory!

Overall, I really did enjoy this book. I’ve already read it twice, and I’m certain I’ll read it again. (Actually, reading this book makes me want to go back and read Kleon’s previous book, as well!) If you are an aspiring writer or painter or film-maker or poet or musician or creative type of any stripe, there are a LOT of solid suggestions in this book, both to help you get better at what you do AND which might help you feel good about being WHO YOU ARE! (You are what you eat, after all!) It’s a quick read, funny, has a ton of quotes and quips in it, and DOES make me want to get out there and DO THINGS (even more than I ALREADY want to go do things.) I would argue, for that last bit alone, the book is worth reading for just about anyone. A solid work, certainly worth the sticker price!

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)

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“Game Grumps Live @ The Paramount Theater, Seattle, WA, USA” by Richard F. Yates

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On Sunday, June 2nd, 2019, after a fun, little birthday dinner for my older daughter (Frankie) and her husband (her birthday was May 30th, his was the 31st), my younger daughter (Elise) and I split town and merged our automobile with the freeway traffic for a two-and-a-half-hour drive north to Seattle, Washington, to go see the Game Grumps LIVE!

(That opening sentence was long and clunky, but you can think of it as STAGE DIRECTIONS if you like… The THEATER OF LIFE!!! Right?)

Last August (2018), Elise and I went to Portland, Oregon, to see the famous YouTube personality, Jack Septiceye, on his “How Did We Get Here?” tour. Jack (his real name is Sean McLoughlin) put on a great show that was built around his journey from small town Irish kid, through several years of loneliness and depression, to his current level of success as a YouTube star. It was a funny, motivational show, and Ellie and I had such a good time that we decided we needed to go to more shows like that one.

Enter the Game Grumps. For those who don’t know these folks, they are Arin Hanson (voice actor, animator, and comedian) and Dan Avidan (singer, comedian), who have a popular YouTube channel on which they play video games and, in other segments like the “Ten Minute Power Hour,” they do crafts or play with old toys or board games and make goofy jokes. Hanson, Avidan, and another fellow (Ninja Brian) are also in a band together, called Starbomb, who have produced three CDs of novelty songs based primarily around video games. (In addition, Avidan and Ninja Brian [aka Brian Wecht, a retired physicist!!!] have a second, extremely popular band, called Ninja Sex Party—a group that I will eventually discuss in great detail, once we catch one of their live shows!)

For one of my Father’s Day gifts (my kids spoil me every year), Ellie got me the newest Starbomb CD, The Tryforce, SIGNED by the guys in the band, and that CD is what we listened to for the entire drive to the show.

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The drive—it was a Sunday evening (and not raining, which was nice)—wasn’t too bad. Traffic moved well enough (until we got to Tacoma, were traffic NEVER moves adequately), but we got to Seattle a solid twenty minutes before the doors opened, found a fairly inexpensive parking spot that was only about a block from the theater, and we found out where we were going almost instantly. Ellie, looking down the street, says, “There’s a bunch of nerds. That must be the line.” (This isn’t a direct quote, but it’s the exact MEANING of what she said.) (I remember saying something similar to my Uncle Randy, once—or he said it to me—while we were heading into a comic book convention in Portland, Oregon. One of us said, “Man! Look at all the nerds…” Then we looked at each other, then looked away and didn’t talk for a while…)

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This was our first time visiting The Paramount Theater, and the place looks FANTASTIC! According to the Seattle Theater Group website, the Paramount opened in 1928 and seats about 2,800 persons. It has a classic “old Hollywood” opulence, which I really liked—although I’m not certain how interested Elvis was in the building itself. She mostly wanted to get in the merch line as quickly as possible to make sure she got a signed poster before they sold out, but the line wound around the lobby and up a huge staircase onto the second floor. We stood in the line for a while, but when we realized the show was about to start—they did the “dim the lights” sign—before we even made it down the stairs, we gave up waiting in line and went back to our seats. Ellie DID eventually get her poster, which I photographed and put at the top of this post, so don’t worry about that—and I’m sure we’ll get a frame for the poster, pretty soon, so she can hang it in her bedroom alongside the Jack Septiceye show poster she got last summer!)

[Sorry about the quality of some of these photos. I used my phone to take these, and it doesn’t do well in low-light situations!]

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This show was quite different from that OTHER YouTuber’s show, and one of the main differences was the audience. The Jack Septiceye show had a LOT of kids at it, and I’m talking 14 or 15 years old down to maybe 8 or 10! (Despite the fact that Jack cusses like a sailor.) The Game Grumps, however, drew a much older crowd—at least at this particular show. There were a few littler kids, but I’m going to say that most of the crowd was in their twenties or older. (Despite the fact that Dan and Arin cuss like sailors… What is it with YouTuber’s and cussing???)

Another difference was in the format of the event. Instead of following a narrative, this show was MUCH looser, and a lot more like a sporting event. (SPOILERS, possibly??? If you’re planning to see the show on one of their other stops, then don’t pay too much attention to what I’m about to say for the next four paragraphs or so…)

The show started with a guy being picked out of the audience to play a game of Super Mario Brothers on the big screen over the stage…while he was wearing a blindfold…and while the audience shouted directions at the poor guy, trying to help him to jump at the right times and complete the level. This was pretty funny, and it took about ten minutes, and then the Grumps themselves came out onto the stage.

For the MAJORITY of this event, the Grumps played a four-person game of Mario Party on the big screen. Arin manned one character (Princess Peach, I believe), Dan another (Yoshi, if I’m not mistaken), and then the audience was split down the middle with one side playing Waluigi and the other playing Donkey Kong. Whenever there was a mini-game that required a player to manipulate a controller, the Grumps sent a henchman into the audience to pull a player from either side of the theater to come up on stage and represent their team.

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game grumps ellie pic[Elise took this picture with her phone. It was slightly better than most of the images that I got, but still suffered from low light and long distance… We weren’t very close to the stage…]

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The crowd seemed to dig the whole affair, really getting into the action and screaming and cheering and such (it was a LOUD event!), and Arin and Dan made jokes and poked fun at each other as the game played on and, eventually, one team was crowned the winner. (At the Seattle show, Waluigi eventually became the Grand Champion.) After the game was over, the Grumps took some questions from the audience (and Ellie snuck out to the merch booth and bought her signed poster!), and that was it!

The show was definitely funny, and the jokes and snark that anyone who enjoys the Game Grumps’ YouTube show would expect were certainly in full effect, but I think Ellie and I were a little bit bummed that there wasn’t more of the PERSONAL element that Jack Septiceye based his show around. We both had a good time and were happy that we went, but overall, the show didn’t quite have the gravitas that we’d hoped that it might. Still, I’m definitely excited to see Ninja Sex Party next time they come through Portland—if the show doesn’t sell out again before we can get tickets. (The Tenacious D show sold out almost instantly!!!) Elise also mentioned that she would like to see Markiplier, if he comes back through the area. And we are ALSO still thinking about going to PAX West (the Penny Arcade Expo, which is all about video games), although it looks like tickets are already selling out—or “badges” are, which I think is like a ticket—and they haven’t even announced who is going to be speaking at the panels or which bands are scheduled to play… (How are we supposed to know if it’s going to be worth the entry price if we don’t know who’s going to be there to entertain us???)

All things considered, I’m very glad we went to this show. It’s always fun to do things with my kids, and Ellie and I haven’t done THAT many things with just the two of us, so that was cool. I also thought the theater looked fantastic, and I wish we’d arrived early enough that we could have explored the place a little more thoroughly before we had to take our seats. The theater was also easy to find, only a few turns off the freeway, and the parking wasn’t too bad, especially for Seattle…

Plus, BONUS ROUND, Ellie and I had a great talk on the way home—with no t.v. or movies or anything like that to distract us, we just took the opportunity to really communicate, and I’m happy that we had that chance. And that’s what I’m talking about. When you DO THINGS with your family and friends, it’s not just the event or movie or concert or beach or theme park that you’re experiencing that’s important, it’s the QUALITY TIME that you’re spending with the important people in your life. THAT’s the best part of getting out and doing stuff.

Now that you’ve read about another one of my mini-adventures, it time for YOU to go out into the real world and do something interesting—or something LITTLE that you MAKE IT INTO SOMETHING INTERESTING by investing in it. Write about it, be conscious of every element of the trip or event, however simple or mundane it might seem to other folks, and in your retelling of the tale, MAKE IT LEGENDARY!

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)

[P.S. – It was upon returning from this trip to Seattle that my kids surprised me with the Asteroids machine for Father’s Day. (See THIS POST for the earlier details.) Apparently, after Ellie and I left town, Frankie and her husband, Alec, came back to my house with the big box that contained the machine and put it together. (Alec also helped hang a pot wrack for Mariah, which was nice!) When Ellie and I pulled back into town, she called Frank—or video chatted or some technology thing—and shared the shock on my face as I walked into the living room, which did NOT have an Asteroids machine in it when I left town…the shock on my face when I suddenly discovered that one of my most cherished childhood dreams had come true! Thanks again, Frankie, Alec, and Ellie—and Mariah for letting me keep such a big toy in the dining room!!! Yep… Definitely a lucky guy!!!]

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“Actual Shepard Fairey Piece???” (Photo and Words by Richard F. Yates)

Spotted this “Obey” work on Pine Street in Seattle, Washington, yesterday, while walking to The Paramount Theater with my younger daughter. I don’t know if it’s a REAL Shepard Fairey work or not, but it looks like it to me! (Although it might just be an Obey poster someone bought and taped to the wall…)

If it IS an actual Shepard Fairey piece, it’s pretty damn sad how many people have scribbled on it and stuck stickers all over the thing! However, I actually DO like the look overall, even with the “modifications…” The florescent pink on the lip area and the green on Andre’s forehead work for me, and the symmetrical placement of those weird “What is God?” stickers under the eyes and such is well balanced. I like it—unless it was an actual Shepard Fairey work, and then it’s just sad that it was defaced…

But does it MATTER, really, who put the piece up? Is the ART of the work—what makes it ART—in the visual impact of the piece (the Andre the Giant / Obey image WAS designed by Fairey), or does the value change, does it increase, based on who put the piece up??? (It’s the original vs forgery argument: if two paintings are virtually identical, why is one worth thousands of dollars while the other is worthless?) Artistic value, in an economic sense, depends on the STORY, the BIOGRAPHY of the creator, and the CONSENSUS of the culture…

But I’m poor. I’ll never own an autheticated Banksy or Shepard Fairey or Basquiat work—but I can still enjoy seeing the images…regardless of who puts them up… I honestly value these types of images for their aesthetic qualities. (The Andre image has those sad eyes, the bold and thick lines, and the stylized shadows that almost look like KISS make-up! Brilliant symplification and stylization…)

There was also a delightfully scrawled snake on a light post by an unknown, anonymous artist that I WISH I’d gotten a photo of, but the line Ellie and I were waiting in was moving too quickly for me to get my phone out and snap a picture before we passed the image by… Too bad. That was a good one!

Anyway, do you have any thoughts on the value of art as visual image vs biography of the artist and/or the price-tag associated with an individual work??? Leave a comment below (and I’ll be happy to argue about it with you…)

—Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool)

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“Empty Rhetoric Inc.” by Richard F. Yates

Millions of things happening all at once right now, and I want to talk about all of them, individually, but I only have about an hour of free time before I’m thrown back into the thick of it all—so here’s just a quick note…

Stuff’s coming!!! Woooo!!!

Now that I’ve got you all excited and tingly with antici————-pation, (anyone out there know THAT reference anymore?), I’m going to ditch out on you social media folks and venture back into the physical world. That’s my new thing… I’m trying to build these weird, crypto-mystical, virtual ties between the PHYSICAL WORLD and my ART-WRITING and this BLOGGY THING… It’s a risky operation requiring all my powers of science, psychology, magick, and comedy—–but I might have said too much already…

We mustn’t ruffle the Winged Serpent’s feathers, lest WE be ruffled in return. And on that deep and resonant note, I abdicate the microphone and dash back into the Great 3-D!!!

—Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool)

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“Leisure Beast” by Richard F. Yates

When the weather’s nice, Leisure Beast (that hunk’a hunk’a burnin’ fuzz) often grabs his favorite lawn chair, takes off his shirt, and plants himself in the sun to warm all that blue fur. (And don’t worry, his fuzziness is the equivalent of SPF 30—or thereabouts.)

Leisure Beast—he’s quite a monster!

[Ink on found cardboard with digital embellishments and color. 2019. By me, if it ain’t obvious…]

—Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool)

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“Read a Damn Book – 145: The Avengers – Marvel Masterworks Volume 1”

Considering Avengers – End Game has recently become one of the biggest grossing films of all time, it seemed appropriate to go back and look at where the mega-franchise all began. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise, but these two names (which we’ve perhaps mentioned once or twice) are once again the driving force behind the hype: Jack Kirby and Stan Lee…

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[This is a photograph that I took of the actual digital comic that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, and various others – The Avengers – Marvel Masterworks Volume 1 (2017)

Yep… Like the Fantastic Four and the X-Men and about 1,000 other well-known comic characters, The Avengers were created by the legendary team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. According to the short introduction to this collection, written by Stan Lee, the inspiration for this group was fan letters from rabid Marvel readers who seemed to really enjoy the cross-over issues of the various books that they were publishing in the early 1960s, so in 1963, Lee and Kirby took several of their most exciting characters and smashed them together in one book—and the rest is history (and, apparently, BOX OFFICE GOLD!)

Interestingly, the original Avengers line-up wasn’t quite what we saw in the first Avengers film, but it wasn’t a million miles off, either. That first film collected Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, and Hawkeye (although he isn’t ever called by that name in the movie, just “The Hawk,” once…), and Sgt. Fury (with no Howling Commandos), who for some reason isn’t really considered part of the “team,” even though he’s right there calling shots and pushing folks forward.

The first issue of the COMIC, however, in a story centered around Loki attempting to get revenge on Thor for having him exiled in Asgard to the “Isle of Silence,” the following characters come together to form The Avengers team: Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Ant Man (although he’s usually called Giant Man, from issue two and onward), and The Wasp (although her meek role, driven primarily by her romantic interest in most of the male characters she encounters, is a pale shadow of the ass-kicking Wasp character, played by Evangeline Lilly, in the Ant-Man and The Wasp film!) These may seem like familiar names, but some of the characters were portrayed VERY differently in the early days…

Thor, for instance, is actually just the alter-ego of the frail and “lame” (meaning he walks with a crutch) Dr. Don Blake, who has to tap his walking stick on the ground to become the mighty Thor! (It’s weird… Is it like a willing possession thing, where Dr. Blake is channeling the spirit of an ancient Norse deity? Or is it some freaky, multi-dimensional thing where one body replaces the other in that particular space-time continuum, but both are actual people in their respective dimensions??? It’s never explained very clearly…) Thor’s hammer is also very freaky in this collection, doing all kinds of magic things, like creating vortexes and changing the molecular structure of lava and channeling magnetic waves to lift an alien spaceship off the floor of the ocean!!! AND, if Thor’s hammer is removed from his hand for more than 60 seconds, he turns back into frail and useless Dr. Blake… (How a doctor can be useless is anyone’s guess, but that’s what we’re led to believe in this book.)

Another weird thing about these stories, and perhaps this isn’t so different from the films, almost every female character that The Avengers encounter (even The Wasp!) is obsessed with Thor, and they all want little more than for Thor to desire them in return! It’s pretty blatantly sexist, but all the female characters in these Lee / Kirby stories are CONSTANTLY OBSESSED with romance, and for the most part play either the femme fatale (like The Enchantress) or the damsel in distress (like The Wasp, who has to be saved at least every other issue). It’s awkward and uncomfortable—and one of the reasons that a character like The Valkyrie, from The Defenders books, was a huge step forward in the development of female characters in the Marvel Universe. She would sock any dude in the jaw who made a sexist comment or any cat-calls in her direction, often screaming, “Chauvinist pig!” or something similar as she knocked them on their ass! Great stuff.) So—female characters: not that well represented in this collection, by today’s standards.

Although Tony Stark is still a millionaire / playboy / weapons manufacturer, in the comics nobody knows he’s also Iron Man, not even Happy or Pepper Pots. Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne are still scientists—or scientist and love-interest, anyway—but they don’t seem to be married. Captain America, who is still frozen in ice when the comic series begins (we assume) is thawed out and joins the team in issue #4—although this Cap is primarily a neurotic who is obsessed with teenage boys and has violent outbursts because he is so haunted by the memory of his murdered sidekick, Bucky. (It’s kind of creepy, in my opinion, just how obsessed with Bucky he seems to be—and by the new side-kick he inherits from The Hulk, Rick Jones—but I don’t think this stuff was meant to be weird back in the 1960s…)

The most dramatically different character in these early stories is The Hulk. Not only does he look more like Frankenstein’s Monster than the character we know today, but he’s also clever and articulate. In the first issue, Loki decides that the best way to draw out his nemesis, Thor, is to frame the Hulk for some act of destruction, so that meek Dr. Don Blake will have to become Thor and stop the rampaging beast, and then Loki can trick Thor into coming to Asgard where Loki will beat him up—or something. (It seems like a weird plan to me, but it somehow works almost exactly the way Loki planned it to…) However, the Hulk, who supposedly has a gentle heart and is actually just misunderstood by the world, goes into hiding early in the book…by disguising himself as a “mechanical man” and joining a circus, where his feats of strength can be written off as just showbiz trickery.

Eventually, one of Ant Man’s ant spies, which he sends all across the U.S. looking for news that will help him find the Hulk (seriously), spots the “mechanical man” act at a circus, realizes that it’s probably the Hulk in disguise, and reports back to Pym. The not-yet-named Avengers, knowing how dangerous the Hulk can be, head off to the circus to capture him or try to talk to him or in some way subdue the Hulk and bring him back to New York with them, but the Hulk isn’t having any of it. In fact, when he realizes they aren’t going to leave him alone, he says this: (and, no, it’s not “Hulk smash!!!”):

“So! You refuse to stop?? / You intend to keep hounding me, do you? / All right, the masquerade’s over! I don’t care who knows who I am! Soon as I wipe this stupid make-up off, I’m gonna rip this place apart with my bare hands!” (page 12).

This is not fury unleashed—this is a man who was trying to live his life in peace but was constantly being tormented by annoying “do-gooders” who think they know what’s best for him, going so far as to ruin the career he’s started where he isn’t considered a freak or an outcast, but just part of the show. The Hulk has reached the breaking point, not out of blind fury but because he’s tired of being harassed! Towards the end of the first issue, after the whole plot is revealed to be Loki’s doing, Hulk says, “I’m sick of bein’ hunted and hounded! I’d rather be with you than against you! So, whether you like it or not, I’m joinin the… the… Hey! What are you callin’ yourselves?” Again, this is not rage and fury, it’s clearly reasoned decision making, and although I wouldn’t say this is exquisite linguistic gymnastics, it’s not “Hulk smash!” either… I wonder what happened? Over the years he’s become much less articulate and more simple-minded, BUT TECHNICALLY, Captain America has more angry outbursts and moments of uncontrolled fury in this collection of stories than the Hulk does!

Overall, beyond just being fascinating for the differences between the modern and historical Avengers, this collection is also a lot of fun. The stories are weird, in a GOOD way—in the sense that Lee and Kirby would come up with these over-the-top situations—plots with holes big enough to drive a semi through–and then play them through to the end, regardless of how bizarre or nonsensical the ideas may seem. For instance, the evil Dr. Zemo (not coincidentally, the man who murdered Bucky!!!) tries to take over the world by spraying adhesive foam on everything so that nobody can move. Or there’s one storyline where Zemo invents a new hero, Wonder Man, who is powerful enough to destroy the Avengers, and then has him JOIN the Avengers for a while—I guess so he can gain their trust, for some reason—instead of just having him kill them… Or that one story where an ancient wizard kidnaps Cap’s newest teenage sidekick, Rick Jones, and hides him in the Tower of London several centuries in the past… Or when the shape-changing evil-doer called the Space Phantom shows up and knows everything about the Avengers, even their secret identities, because he’s been watching them FROM SPACE! I guess that makes sense—the guy watching from space knows everything, but the people who work together and see each other every day DON’T know each other’s secrets… Sure! Why not?

Kirby’s artwork, as I’ve mentioned in numerous reviews, is always great fun, exaggerated and stylistically fantastic—and Stan Lee’s nonsensical writing is brilliantly entertaining, in that campy, kitschy sort of way. It’s all extremely overly dramatic, insane, and ridiculous—but enjoyable, if you’re into that kind of thing. After reading these first ten issues of The Avengers, could I imagine that this would some day become one of the biggest, most elaborate, most celebrated film franchises of all time? No. Not a chance. This is goofy, overblown melodrama—with rough edges, unlikely plot developments, and weird and strangely incompetent antagonists, who are nonetheless extremely colorful and interesting characters—but BLOCKBUSTER MATERIAL??? Not likely…

Of course, The Avengers had something like 50 years to develop (technically 49—as the first issue came out in 1963 and the first Avengers film was released in 2012), with a number of great writers taking a crack at the characters in the meantime (like Steve Englehart, Jim Shooter, Roger Stern, Roy Thomas, and John Byrne, and even a couple issues each by folks like Jim Starlin, Chris Claremont, and Harlan Ellison!) I read a lot of Avengers comics in the 1980s, along with books like New MutantsThe DefendersX-Men, and blah blah blah…pretty much whatever I could find in drug-stores and supermarkets when I had an extra 60 or 75 cents to spend, but I was never consistent enough buying ANY series that I could tell you how the whole story developed over time. This was especially true with a book, like The Avengers, which started publication a decade or more before I was born and whose back-issues went for hundreds or even thousands of dollars each—that’s when something like the Marvel Masterworks collections really come in handy! Now you can start this series from the beginning and, without selling your house to buy the individual issues, see how the story started, watch the characters grow, and follow the plot as it develops over a nice string of issues! And, in my opinion, that’s pretty cool. Plus, this stuff really is a lot of fun to read! (Did I mention that yet? Several times? Sorry—I’m old and forgetful!)

So, if you’re curious about the early years of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Marvel Masterworks collections (available in hardcover, paperback, and digital versions—although I’m not sure how “in print” any of these versions are right now… If you hit a comic shop or convention, I’m sure you’ll be able to find them) are a relatively affordable way to see how it all started! Okay, that’s enough of my blathering! Now go read a damn book!!!

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)

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“Arcade Adventure (25 May 2019)” by Richard F. Yates

ground kontrol 01 - (peg)

In the spirit of “Go! Have fun now! Gather ye rosebuds…,” my wife (Mariah), younger daughter (Elise), her boyfriend (Gabe), and I went on a grand adventure on Saturday (May 25th, 2019.) The original plan was to visit the Oregon Zoo, but when he heard that the weather wasn’t going to be too great (even us lifelong Pacific Northwest residents to LIKE hanging out in the rain—we do it, but we don’t really LIKE it…), we decided to swerve a bit and visit our favorite retro-arcade, instead: Ground Kontrol (on 5th and Couch, in Portland, Oregon, USA.)

We left Longview, Washington, (after stopping by Grandma Lucy’s house and giving her some brownies and visiting her and Uncle Randy for a few minutes), somewhere in the vicinity of noon. We made it to P-Town in about an hour and found a parking spot ($8.00 for the full day) less than a block from Powell’s City of Books (although we didn’t actually stop at the bookstore, this time. I’ve purchased a FEW books recently that I haven’t had a chance to read yet, so…)

Our first stop, after abandoning the automobile, was a place called Little Bitty Big Burger, where Ellie and I had burgs, and Mariah ordered a veggie burg. We also got three orders of fries, which we quickly discovered was FAR TOO MANY fries… (We still had about half-a-bag left when we gave up munching!) The food was good, not too expensive, and (best of all) the hallway heading towards the bathroom is a cool, trippy sight to behold!

ground kontrol 02

I have no idea WHY the hallway looks like this—I just enjoy it!

After we finished our food, (Gabe ate a few fries, for those who were worried… We stopped at a Taco Time on the way to grab some food for him, so don’t think we didn’t let him eat anything… We aren’t MONSTERS…ummm… Okay, we ARE monsters, TECHNICALLY, but we didn’t let him starve while we scarfed down our own grub… So just back off…before somebody gets hurt…) Anyway, after we finished our food, we hoofed it down Couch Street towards Ground Kontrol, which was maybe four or five blocks away. Not too far.

For those who have never been to this classic arcade, IT IS HUGE! It has two stories, multiple rooms full of games, a couple of bars, and visual delights GALORE! (I wrote a post about visiting Ground Kontrol for Elvis’s 21st birthday—maybe you read that already???) There was no cover charge to get in during the day, and most games cost between 25 cents and a buck per play. I think, in total, we spent less than ten dollars per person to play for HOURS!

The visuals are great. Stunning! They have a display as you first walk in where you can see the t-shirts and posters and other goodies that you can BUY…

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…and they have neon and L.E.D.s and cool, Tron-looking graphical touches EVERYWHERE! One of my favorite features is this huge wall, near the main bathrooms, that is somehow (through techno-magic, I imagine) itself a big display of moving 8-bit looking images. THE WHOLE WALL! I snapped just a few images; (it’s a busy area, so I couldn’t just stand there and take pictures all day, or I might have…)

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Like I said, the place is a virtual FEAST for the eyes…but then you also have to consider the GAMES!

Our group is particularly partial to pinball—and this place has a TON of pinball machines. Ellie and Gabe played a lot of the South Park table, and Mariah and I spent a couple of bucks each on the Pirates of the Caribbean machine, but I also played the Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Who, and Game of Thrones machines. (We never made it to the Lord of the Rings, which is another fantastic pinball table, on this trip—but there will be others!)

Personally, I wasn’t on my best form that day. I got second place scores on Robotron, Ms. Pac-Man, and Arkanoid. (I spent about 8 quarters trying to crack the #1 spot on Arkanoid, but I just wasn’t feeling it!!!) I did, however, get the high scores (DAILY high scores—not “All Time”) on Lady Bug, Joust, and Donkey Kong… Here’s my Donkey Kong score. (I usually put “DAD” as my initials.) It’s not a great score, but it was enough to crack to the #1 spot on that particular day!!!

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…until some HOT SHOT had to come along after I played and take over the #1 slot! (Notice the smart-ass “KID” initials in place of the “DAD,” which SHOULD have been at the top? Yes, it was Ellie who bumped me off the hill…) (The next two photos, including the one where she wants to show that my score has been dethroned, were taken by Elvis. The rest of the photos for this post were taken by me…)

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Gabe, when not playing South Park pinball, seemed to really enjoy The Simpson’s game!

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I think, overall, everybody had a really good time…and for a relatively small amount of cash! We got out of the house and got a tiny bit of exercise, (despite the HORRIBLE rain that was pouring down on us as we marched back up the hill to where we parked), and we spent some quality time just having fun as a family!

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It really is worth the effort to take the time to discovery what you enjoy—however nerdy or silly or seemingly unimportant that thing or activity might seem—and then do it every chance you get! If you like role playing games or board games, if you like dancing or camping or fishing or gardening or singing or feeding the pideons, then GO DO IT! (Although, you shouldn’t do anything that hurts other people or that might needlessly endanger your own life!!!) Personally, I like writing and drawing and painting and reading and listening to music and making things… So… I try to do those things every day! And make sure you spend time with your family and friends every day—don’t wait until it’s TOO LATE!

END OF LINE…

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)

[P.S. – If you’ve never seen the documentary, KING OF KONG, about a guy trying to get the world record high score on Donkey Kong, it’s a brilliantly entertaining, surprisingly moving film! Who could have imagined that video games could inspire so much DRAMA and INTRIGUE!!! A must watch!]

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“Rats!” by Mark Counts

In response to my “Drawing with My Phone” post, my friend, Mark Counts, drew this masterpiece! He wrote that this was “a paint program quickie…”

rats (25 may 2019) by mark counts

Whether this drawing was a “quickie” or not, I LOVE IT!!!

—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)

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“Don’t Stress” by Richard F. Yates

Don’t be like Mr. Blatzen! He has ulcers, high blood pressure, and an unpleasant disposition because he always worries about what COULD go wrong in the future, instead of enjoying those things that are going well right in front of his nose! (He doesn’t, technically, HAVE a nose, just nasal slits, but…)

Regardless of his circumstances, Mr. Blatzen isn’t “L.I.V.I.N.’!” You just gotta roll with it… Bad shit’s gonna happen—but if you spend all your time stressing, you miss the little things that are happening, right now, that are worth enjoying… (Damn… Yoda was right….)

—Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool)

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