Written by Josh Breidbart

A Silly Question

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/07/20/07202017-back-to-earth/

Does anyone else struggle with the question “What would make you happy”?

It’s a silly question – as if one thing or event or action can unlock happiness’ door. But we all ask it anyway, and I’m no exception. Overall, I’m not happy most of the time – I’m too busy being dissatisfied. I can’t run as fast as I want. I can’t do everything that needs to be done. I try to remind myself of all the good versus obsessing over and trying to fix what is bad. But happiness only appears in these ephemeral beats. These periods I do not expect. And they’re gone the moment I realize they’re there.

The thing is, a lot of what used to make me happy is now less potent. Favorite video games or TV shows are the obvious things to point to. But certain meals, certain people, and certain choices now plague me versus the pride they provided before.

Instead, I find myself angry more than anything else. I’ve noticed a rise in righteous anger in general recently, which could explain why DBZ finally got a revival; righteous anger establishes a sense of control and order. That you’re right to be angry about how your people are treated, or how your government treats you. Happiness has taken a backseat to the search for sanity, which must be achieved at any cost. And sometimes that means screaming until your hair turns blue.

A lot of this blog has been screaming into the ether. Complaining about comic book movies, as if that makes the universe correct. And yet it establishes a camaraderie with like-minded people, letting them know they’re not alone. There’s a flicker of happiness in that idea; that the world’s crazy. Not you. A lot of why I write these is in search of that camaraderie, giving the comic a voice beyond the story itself.

The story does have a voice. A voice that feels like it’s faltering, begging its audience and characters to push forward. To believe that on the horizon, somewhere… there is happiness.

So I’ll continue to search for other forms of happiness, and part of that will be ending these blogs, at least for now. It’s been nice to write these and share my thoughts with you, but the truth is, writing them no longer makes me as happy as it once did. I’ll still be writing Unlife, which will be beginning chapter 8 shortly.

Maybe I’ll come back after a substantial recharge, having found that what I was looking for was here all along. Maybe I’ll find it somewhere else, and this will be my last blog post. Maybe I’ll still be searching long after Unlife concludes.

But like James and company, I believe we all owe it to ourselves to keep looking.

*Volumes Currently Not for Sale

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/07/18/07182017-when-you-arent-alone/

Next to my desk are 6 print books of Unlife. Creating these books for sale can be super difficult and time consuming, but I made them without the intent of distribution, which is why you won’t find them for sale on this site. Instead they sit here as a convenient way to loan the story out to people who want to read beyond the restriction of a computer screen. The format is probably preferable, as this comic was not written to be enjoyed one day at a time, but binged chapter by chapter (but I don’t need to tell long-time readers that). But my point in all this is that so long as I have worked in this school, I have not shared these books once.

The simple explanation is that Unlife is not what you’d call a kids’ story. But plenty of the faculty probably fall into Unlife’s target demographic (whatever that may be). And the books sit here, next to Fenix Gear and Division, gathering dust. What’s the point of them being here if I can’t share them?

I guess because I like to have them near me.

Like hanging a diploma on your wall, the books are physical proof of achievement. I don’t think I’ve ever really read anyone’s diploma on the wall. And in the same way, the people who work here don’t need to read my comic to understand what I’ve been doing. It’s not like I wrote it for them. I wrote it for me, I guess, because it was a challenge I wanted to take on.

Zack approached me about Unlife as we finished up on Fenix Gear, calling it the story he always wanted to tell but could never find the voice for. I agreed to be that voice because the metaphor inherent in the concept and the potential I saw were captivating. And in the time since, I have taken the material we first discussed and grown it into something. I couldn’t have told you a DBZ/Dark Souls chapter was in the cards when we started, or that characters like Mica or Karrie would eventually appear to represent other aspects of James’ Unlife adventure.

And when I started, I didn’t intend it to be a big staple of my life. It was a side project that grew into something else. A big part of that was having fans comment on the website, having people respond to my work. It was a thrill that I was no longer screaming into the dark, and that someone was responding back (even when the response was “I don’t get it”). It’s not that any specific comment or commenter made the difference. If I had to boil it down, it was the affirmation that what I was doing wasn’t just going into a drawer or being ignored. It was being seen, acknowledged, and responded to, which made continuing the work feel important. It felt like taking that next step in the creative process that I had been unable to breach since starting. Even today, Unlife is my most successful project in terms of being made.

And it’s the longest one too. Most of what I wrote were pilots and first issues, never spanning long enough to see towards a conclusion. And with Unlife’s fast approaching, I look at the full set of work and…

It looks so small.

In book form, especially; I’ve been working on this for what will soon be 6 years, and I can fit all of it into my backpack. So tiny, and yet so much of my time and life and writing energy over the better part of the last decade has been devoted to this. How can something so big to me be so small?

But when I open the pages and I see how dense these tiny books are, watching the unfolding lives of all these characters birthed into existence by Zack and me, watching them suffer and overcome and discover their own paths –  it doesn’t matter who else sees them or tells me how much they did or didn’t like it. I have that proof of my work and it feels…

It feels like I did something with my (un)life.

Wonder Woman – A Wonder

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/07/11/07112017-thats-why-pools-use-the-buddy-system/

I’m conflicted about Wonder Woman. I left the movie feeling like I’d missed out on something. But perhaps this is what others have been missing out on for years, and now I’m getting a taste of what that’s like. My TL;DR review of the film is that it’s a solid B/B+, well made and well acted, and its faults (none of them significant) are more revealing of problems with the genre than with this individual film. But because of Wonder Woman’s arc in this particular movie, there’s one place where hitting the superhero movie beat really does put this story at a unique disadvantage: the part where the hero kills the villain in the final battle.

This trend in superhero movies has always rubbed me the wrong way. We’re always assured that the villains in these movies are being killed “heroically”, as if that somehow makes it better, like superheroes and murder have always gone hand in hand. I think back to the original Spider-Man trilogy: there was a poetic irony in the Goblin stabbing himself, or Doctor Octopus dying to destroy the thing he spent the whole film making. The hero-kills-villain trend got worse around Batman Begins, in which Batman smirks that doesn’t have to kill Ra’s al Guhl, but also doesn’t have to save him – effectively killing him by leaving him in a situation he can’t survive. And now we’ve arrived at the point where destroying your enemies is the logical and heroic thing to do, whether it’s snapping your nemesis’ neck with your bare hands or holding hands with your bestest friends and calling the villain a bitch before blowing him up. Just one more trend in the genre, so while Wonder Woman hits the very same beat, it’s far from unique.

And yet, I think the problem is more glaring here because the concept of “heroically killing” your enemy is so antithetical to Diana’s journey. Her arc was refreshingly different; The whole adventure set into motion by her naive plan to save the world by killing the bad guy. But over the course of the film, she discovers that real life is more nuanced. The fact that her point of view expands to encompass all of this and then her original, black-and-white plan is what works after all – this undercuts what made Wonder Woman unique and great. That sense of hope, the daring and bravery to fight for what is right no matter how flawed the people you’re fighting for.

Also, I loved The Matrix too, but let’s chill out on the bullet time, okay? It’s been almost 20 years.

But these are nitpicks, and pale in comparison to the impact the movie has had. My wife left the film crying. She’s never really cared for the superhero genre; this was the first one that got her not just emotionally invested, but to a point of catharsis. As if she always wanted this, but never knew it. In the lead up to this movie, anyone who I asked to describe it to me had difficulty explaining WHY it was good, rather than just blanket praise. And after seeing it, I understand. Looking at the individual elements of the movie don’t explain the importance of Wonder Woman as a whole. I hate to say it, but the whole thing reminds me of the Fearless Girl. You can look at and dissect the different elements of its origin, why this was considered a “risk”, and even how it changes the definition of superhero films around it. And yet, none of that compares to the little girl who wants her picture next to it. To the inspiration it has given to women and girls, to the point that they’re willing to fight for it. Both the Fearless Girl and Wonder Woman are products, as are all superhero films, and yet they mean so much more than that.

Wonder Woman has always served more as an icon than as a story in my view point. The character, as a character, never resonated with me. And yet, my feelings aside, that does not change what Wonder Woman means to others, the impact it has created immediately. And I hope…

I am fatigued by superhero movies. I’ve been at the all you can eat buffet for too long. I didn’t realize some people were still locked out, starving for that thing it used to give me.

Wonder.

Leading By Example

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/07/06/07062017-eventually/

Leading by example is often more effective than leading by fiat. More than that, it’s a lasting kind of leadership – the difference between getting what you want now and being guaranteed it in the future. Which hasn’t stopped me from engaging in the latter far more than I should. And I’m not alone in that.

If there’s one thing that’s kept me relatively sane under the current administration, it’s not listening to what people say. It’s mostly ass-covering, complaints, and crowd pleasing. It is a way to rationalize a point of view, no matter how reasonable or unreasonable. Accusations of weakness, bias, corruption, blah blah blah. Blame, blame, blame. And as a result, led by each other’s example, we turn to blame in our own lives: attacking someone else for our lack of success, versus actively searching for a solution.

So I try only to respond to actions. Not what people say they’ll do or hope to do, but what gets done. It’s what’s driven me to write stories and learn new things, challenging myself with goals instead of hopes. I think we all would prefer some omnipotent force stepping in, making life easier, making all our dreams come true, but the truth is that life is struggle. And how you respond to that struggle goes beyond yourself.

The concept always makes me think of my wife (and Unlife’s editor), Jena. As I’ve previously mentioned, Jena is a vegan. She does this for ethical reasons; she reasons that since she can make this difference, she should. And she’s had to weather some awkward storms and countless questions as a result of this choice, but she’s stood her ground, and never once in our five years of marriage has she tried to convert me or anyone else. Instead, she moves forward on a slow march.

And it is truly slow. The unfortunate truth is the whole world won’t just become vegan overnight, even if flawless meat and cheese substitutes were magicked into existence tomorrow. Entire industries would push back against the threat to their businesses, farms, and jobs. And if you think people reacted strongly to the thought of losing their guns, just try and take their steaks and cheeseburgers. It wouldn’t even matter if a synthetic option tasted better or was healthier, or even, deep down, struck most people as the right thing to do. Change is slow, and takes the bravery of people who lead by example.

And when you lead by example, you may start off tripping and falling, no one there to catch you. But one day you find that someone else is there to back you up. People who weren’t asked, but followed of their own accord. And it’s that way with my wife. Since meeting her, I have seen many people, from vegetarians to hardcore meat eaters, find their own moral strength. And to me, that’s what real leadership is. Inspiration through example.

And, for what it’s worth, if I can give our current political climate any sort of credit, it has inspired me to get more active in my community and lead by my own example. I just hope I’m not following too far behind.

Buzzed

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/07/04/07042017-protect-yourself/

I just paid $6.25 for a coffee so I could write this. $6.25. It’s price tags like these that expose coffee shops for what they have become: millennial bars. Though what’s actually on sale and the “buzz” it gives you differs, it is ultimately a similar experience.

I was never one to treat the consumption of coffee as a big deal. Though I appreciate a tasty coffee as much as the next person, I never considered it something to explore too deeply. It wasn’t until later that the ritual took form – writing scripts in a coffee shop.

I didn’t really start using the outside world as a creative escape until Fenix Gear, which I wrote curled up in a booth at Panera Bread. Yeah, no joke, my first “coffee shop” wasn’t even a coffee shop – just a location with functional coffee, reliable wifi, an easily accessible bathroom. When I moved to the city and started writing more in earnest, I would follow Jena to work and set up in 30 Rockefeller Plaza’s requisite Starbucks. It was there that I first started writing these blogs, the opening salvo to each day.

It wasn’t until LA that I was captivated by a “real” coffee shop. You know the ones I mean, with stacks of pastries and $10 kale salads and more styles of coffee than you knew existed. I became a regular at Romancing the Bean in Burbank, where the cold brew is served over delicious coffee ice cubes so it stayed at full strength for hours as I chiseled away at another draft of Unlife. And yes, the coffee was good, but what really kept me going back was the function of writing. The coffee only provided a delicious reward for working (but don’t get me wrong; I didn’t mind taking the bribe).

The truth is, it was never about the coffee – it was the atmosphere. The coffee shop is a place where I can be both out and at the same time, alone. With my enormous headphones on, no one bothers me, and the words flow from my fingertips like coffee into my cup (a delicious dirty chai, which I’ve now mostly finished, meaning I’ll need to change locations soon). I actually don’t have music playing, and my headphones don’t have any fancy noise cancelling apparatus. But they do what I need them to: damp the sounds of the world as I get amped up. It lets me… hear my own thoughts more clearly, I suppose.

And I can take my laptop and headphones to select bars and achieve the same purpose a coffee shop serves. I will admit, the energy is different; alcohol allows greater freedom of expression, while coffee encourages tighter focus (when they aren’t blasting Tori Amos or whatever this is). And for a similar service, I suppose it’s only natural to expect a similar cost. I miss my two dollar iced coffee’s, but it’s hard to deny the potency of this ritual.

I just wish it wasn’t so fucking expensive.

The Death of Dokkan – The Overture

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/06/29/06292017-what-being-a-zombie-is/

Just about everything regarding Dragon Ball FighterZ has me all excited, but there is one detail in particular that has me at the edge of my seat. (Yes, we’re still talking about this game. You were warned.)

I won’t say I condone piracy, but when my high school friends experimented with it, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I was happy to accept the fringe benefits. I distinctly recall one of them wanting to show me a Dreamcast fighter he had tried to rip called Guilty Gear X. I had heard good things and was excited to try it. We loaded the pirated disc into the Dreamcast – and got only the game’s soundtrack, set against a blank screen. My friend, disappointed, was about to throw the disc out, but I was hooked. I took it home with me that night, and Daisuke Ishiwatari’s incredible soundtrack came with me wherever I went from then on out. I eventually did buy the game when it came to PS2, but it never equaled the play time that it soundtrack got.

I had never heard anything like it before. The music was engaging, but not too obtrusive, as most good game soundtracks tend to be. The hard rock anthems, both exciting and encouraging of focused, intense battle, crystallized everything I felt watching anime and playing games. I eventually wore out that first CD before purchasing an official release, several times over. And this love endured, even when Guilty Gear went on a long hiatus. The special edition copy of Arc’s follow-up fighting game, BlazBlue, only earned a purchase because of its inclusion of a soundtrack, which was just as magnificent as its predecessors. In a way, it’s the most expensive rock album I’ve ever purchased. And when Guilty Gear Xrd finally came out, its soundtrack once more found its way into my permanent playlist.

Which brings me, finally, to Dragon Ball FighterZ. Beyond the fact that the game looks amazing and appears to play like a wet dream, the Guilty Gear-esque music is the thing that most excited me when I saw the trailer. And sure enough, the soundtrack was composed by Arc’s people. There has been no official word on the composer of the game’s soundtrack, but I am of course praying it is Daisuke Ishiwatari, Yoshihiro Kusano, or one of the other talented composers that made Guilty Gear and BlazBlue so special. I have Googled this every day since the game’s release, yielding very scarce details on the soundtrack (which implies that it’s not finalized yet). However, I am drooling over the fact that a producer noted that the soundtrack would take notes from memorable songs of the previous series. The possibility of a Guilty Gear style remix of Spirit vs. Spirit has me unreasonably excited for a song that I hardly understand the lyrics to.

The thing is, DBZ has NEVER had this kind of music, in any of its iterations. But it’s how it always felt to me. The sounds of Guilty Gear were always the ones that best captured the world of DBZ to me. And until now, that’s just been my own feeling. I’ve talking in the past about my love of Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack without having played the game, and maybe Guilty Gear started for me the same way; removed from the context of the game, these hardcore anthems spoke to my soul. To righteous fury in pursuit of victory, clashing with emotion beyond the literal lyrics of the piece. And to be teased that it’s coming to Dragon Ball Z…

I’ve already started making space on my iPhone for all the tracks.

The Death of Dokkan – A Prelude

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/06/27/06272017-please-im-hungry/

So, that Dragon Ball FighterZ game looks fucking sick, right?

I wrote two entries about this, and it took all my self-restraint not to write ten more. That’s how much I have to say about this game. But if you’ve seen the trailer, you already know how good it looks, and if you know any of Arc’s previous games, you’ll understand that this is in capable hands. So let’s move on and talk (obsess) about the 10 seconds of gameplay that told me this will be the best Dragon Ball Z game ever made. Actually, 8 seconds. Take a look at 2:35-2:43.

In this sequence, Frieza creates a Double Death Saucer and throws it at Gohan. The attack misses its target and returns to hit Frieza instead, dealing him damage and knocking him to the ground. When Gohan moves to capitalize, Frieza launches a sneak attack special from the ground, surprising him. The whole thing plays out a lot like a real DBZ event, doesn’t it… ?

Now, in your typical fighting game, fireball attacks aren’t unfamiliar, and some even return after the fact. Even a special that punishes from the ground is not new. So why is it that this piece of gameplay convinced me that this is the Dragon Ball Z game I always wanted?

Past Dragon Ball Z games have been, at best, cosmetic. What I mean is that they LOOK like the show, more or less, with enormous character rosters and each character’s signature move… but every time, not only is the gameplay itself lacking, but it plays unlike the combat depicted in Dragon Ball Z. Every character performs standard moves identically, and there’s no real difference between selecting any character, other than the fact that they LOOK like the character you like. Hell, you even perform the super moves the exact same way for each character. Compare that to BlazBlue, where each fighter has a specialty skill and all their existing moves are built to promote that key difference. That kind of attention to detail creates a more engaging fighter that goes beyond fan service, which is why BlazBlue inspires countless tournaments and matches to this day. No Dragon Ball Z game has ever even come close to that because it’s always been more important for the game to “look” right, rather than feel right. Frieza isn’t the bad guy because of a few malicious lines of dialogue; it’s because he fights like a fucking cheater, changing the rules on you by transforming, or begging for mercy as a way to land a sneak attack.

And to me, finally seeing these character attributes and fighting styles woven into into the core gameplay mechanics is what sets Dragon Ball FighterZ apart from the rest. The idea that Freiza has a returning fireball that can hurt him is an incredible creative decision that mixes the lore into the gameplay, strengthening the feel that this is truly a Dragon Ball Z game. Not one that just looks like what I’ve seen on TV, but one that embraces this ridiculous and wonderful world at a deeper level and lets me in by making it playable.

I’ve seen a lot of articles of how the posing of the characters feels ripped right from the manga, and the look of the game is undeniably perfect. But just as exciting is that this may finally be the one that plays right. Maybe I’ll get into the beta and find out for sure myself before it’s out. But even if I don’t, seeing Freiza fall to his own cheap move was all I needed to assure me that this game truly was the one I’ve been waiting for.

PS: Also, because I have nowhere else to put this, these are the characters on my wishlist to be announced. I tried to avoid duplicates and consider who would have fun gameplay potential. I’ll update this list as they confirm.

1.    Future Trunks (CONFIRMED)
2.    Piccolo (CONFIRMED)
3.    Tien
4.    Broly
5.    Android 18
6.    Android 17
7.    Captain Ginyu (with the rest of the Ginyu Force as his moveset, ala Captain Commando)
8.    Gotenks
9.    Krillen (CONFIRMED)
10.    Mr. Satan
11.    Kid Buu
12.    Beerus
13.    Hit (DLC?)

Legion – A Review

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/06/22/06222017-run-away/

Legion. I fucking loved this show. It’s one of the best live action X-Men adaptations ever. I need to get into spoilers to really explore this, but the TL;DR is that it works so well and truly feels like the X-Men because it owns its weirdness. It follows beats similar to those in the other Marvel shows, but it’s so much more original than any other property they’ve plastered their name on. Go for the X-Men, stay for Aubrey Plaza. But I do want to get specific, so here’s your warning. Spoilers here on out.

Legion is about David Haller, a schizophrenic who is actually a mutant with psychic abilities that he doesn’t understand and can’t control. His powers, as well as those of the others in the cast, operate as a metaphor, creating a fantasy in which mental disabilities (hearing voices, living in the past, self-isolation, gender dysmorphia) are either powers they possess or villains for them to overcome. It’s clever, in the same way Jessica Jones and Luke Cage applied these power fantasies towards rape and racism respectively, but the creative construction and dedication to weirdness is what really sets this one apart.

Showrunner Noah Hawley (of the Fargo TV series fame) deserves a lot of credit for pushing the show to be this strange, through stylized, unexpected depictions and quirky storytelling. And that’s what makes it such a perfect X-Men show. You see, what the movies seem to forget is that X-Men is weird. Plots focused on fighting robots in outer space AND having the right to vote will lend any story a very odd tone. The other movies always tried to take the premise too seriously, or make it too campy, never striking the right balance. But X-Men is not goofy or dramatic. It’s weird. It has both drama and camp. It takes its wackiness seriously, but never forgets that it is wacky – or that it has a point to make.

A great example of this is the dual character Kerry and Cary, two (or one) of the mutants co-starring in this. Cary is a seemingly ordinary man, at least for a scientist, but living “inside” him is Kerry, an ass-kicking superhero. They are both one person and two, best friends and a part of each other. This mutant power gives Cary/Kerry the ability to exist in two worlds, the warrior out in the field as the scholar handles the science behind the scenes. Their sibling-like relationship is sweet and charming, and one of my favorite weirdnesses in the series. But there’s one I like even more…

Live-action Marvel villains have been hit and miss. Sometimes the tension between the comic book expectation and physical reality is too much to overcome – although at other times, getting around that exact challenge produces the best results. The villains with more than one screen appearance to flesh them out have fared better: Loki, Kingpin, and Kilgrave stand out as the best of a mixed bag. But in my opinion, none of them can hold a candle to Lenny Busker, played by the amazing Aubrey Plaza. An embodiment of the disease living with David all his life, Plaza gives a fantastic performance that perfectly encapsulates what she is: a drug David keeps succumbing to, no matter how powerful he gets. She is both weakness and power. And she owns it.

Dan Stevens, the lead, did a fine job with the material given to him. However, David as a person never really clicked for me; so many of his memories were fractured or outright false that I couldn’t get a read on who he was, other than a troubled person. The conclusion, in which he’s suddenly “cured” and has more or less become a god, no restrictions, made me feel uneasy. Was this the message of the show, or just the lead being lulled into a false sense of security to set up the conflict for Season 2? He obviously pays for his hubris later, but it’s hard to understand the future of this series. See, I always found super heroes to be most effective as metaphors for deeper things (like mental illness), rather than meatheads in search of the most powerful villain to punch. And by the season’s end, David’s sickness is “cured” (or has moved on to another victim). Since real mental disabilities don’t really work like that, it’s hard to understand how they plan to reconcile the core concept into the action. Or maybe his mother will be Lilandra and next season will see David in space. This is a Noah Hawley show…

Overall, there’s a lot to love about Legion. From premise to performance and execution, the show is packed with nuance and style. It’s engaging and constantly enjoyable, and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who’s ever liked the X-Men. Because it’s just so goddamn weird.

A Moving Blog Post

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/06/15/06152017-bearer-of-the-curse/

Since 2012, I have lived in 4 different apartments, and every time the moving process conspires to be the absolute worst. Especially the last one, during which we combined a cross country move with landing a job (my wife), working remotely (me), and finding a place all in less than a week. No small task, and one of the most exhausting ones of our life. We vowed that the next place would be found in advance, and the process would be handled at a slower, more convenient place. It’s worked for blogs and for Unlife. Why wouldn’t it work here?

In the end, we nearly killed ourselves, and in a dramatic climax we signed a lease for… another apartment in our building.

It’s hard not to feel a sense of disappointment at all of this. The apartment itself is fine, and the new location in the building actually relieves almost everything that was a dealbreaker in the current place. But to endure 3 months of stress, only to have it end like this, makes the whole process feel like it was for nothing. If we didn’t work so hard in advance, I honestly don’t think we would have moved into the place above our own. Instead, by the time it became an option, we were too exhausted to try something else.

And now here we are, finally on the other side of this stressful, heart-wrenching journey that caused far more pain than it was worth. In an attempt to relieve the stress, I submerged myself in a soothing pool of video games, creative writing proving to be too taxing at the end of each long day. I tried to save those efforts for the weekend instead, but most of those ended up dedicated to the move, and after a while I could feel my writing skills atrophy a tad. I’ll get back in shape, but it’s always hard to backslide and then have to fight just to get back to where you were.

When I was a freelancer, everyone asked why I couldn’t just write my passion projects when I got home from a normal 9-5 job. But have you ever tried? It’s exhausting. Not impossible, mind you; these blogs have served as a lifeline to creativity, but the rest of my time has been consumed by familial obligations and moving mayhem. I have lost my edge, especially with storytelling. I feel like writing has begun to resemble moving; I’m too burnt out to care at the moment. I just want it to be done. I want to stop having to try so hard. I want to just drown in that pool of video games because it’s so much easier than trying and risking more heartbreak.

And the weird thing is, when I wrote full time, I dreamed of gaining recognition for my craft, but received very little. Now, with my writing time much more limited, I’ve never been so inundated with “good job”s and people praising my talent. Between Unlife and my job, I get a lot of support. And somehow, that makes me even sadder, because all this advanced work, it doesn’t feel like I got ahead. Instead, it can feel that it was a waste of my time that wasn’t worth it.

But now that the move is (almost) over, it’s time to recommit to writing – time to get out of the pool, and take my next step forward.

Privilege is Having the Ability to Fail

Originally posted at http://unlifecomic.com/2017/06/13/06132017-dont-want-to-hurt-you/

I think I’m gonna drop facebook temporarily again, mostly because of my lunch. See, every day, at about 12/12:30, I have to make this choice that used to be “What am I having” but has evolved into “What am I prepared to do to myself”. Due to the area I live in, there’s a stark contrast between two types of establishments to eat at: the ones that are more affordable, but wreck my digestive system, or the ones that are more expensive but leave me feeling human.

And there is a privilege that comes with that choice.

Someone once told me “Privilege is having the ability to fail,” and to be honest, I do possess the that wiggle room. There’s no way to make that default situation in my life less unfair, but since becoming an adult, I have tried to be conscious of when my own privilege clouds my viewpoint. Though I like to think that my intent is consistently positive, my own entitlement can sometimes be off-putting even when it’s not what I would think of as directed at anyone. For example: I can deal calmly with things that would be catastrophic for some, like an unexpected expense or a disagreement with a supervisor, because they just aren’t catastrophic to me. And I know there are people for whom my ability to shake it off is both infuriating and crushing, like throwing away a banquet in front of a starving person. But can the only way to offset that really be to simply… not talk? Is that the solution? I may not deserve to have so much more than others, but am I not allowed to interact or be a part of the conversation? Do I belong less?

When I have doubts over whether I’m in the right, I’ve usually reflected on “the ideal world”: in an ideal world, would this fly? Obviously, everyone has a different definition of an ideal world, but in mine, every viewpoint has a place at the table. This of course gets tricky, and there are some obvious limitations. But it’s the best litmus test I’ve come up with.

The problem is, though we are working towards it, we do not currently live in an “ideal world”.

Thanks to my current work environment, where the conversation is an almost daily fixture, I have taken to talking about race more openly. In that setting, I’m always offered a seat at the table; though my skin is pale, I am Jewish, and thus only provisionally white. I say provisionally because white people who don’t like other ethnicities generally have Jews somewhere on their suspect list. In talking about this at work, I feel accepted and trusted. If I’m wrong or out of line (which happens), I’m corrected and educated. Perhaps that’s the benefits of having those conversations at a school.

The real world is less forgiving of such missteps. Having gotten overly comfortable in my bubble at work, and believing I was only speaking to a friend, I volunteered an opinion on Facebook. I didn’t mean to offend, but given the subject and the state of the world right now, my assumptive commentary on the world according to Josh was less appreciated than ever. True, this was on Facebook, the home of rational debate, but I’d be lying if I said the experience didn’t get to me. I felt… unwelcome to share an opinion on a public post. I don’t mind being corrected, but it hit a nerve, being yelled at for not knowing better. I truthfully have no beef with anyone; I wanted to just talk about what I’ve seen. Experienced. Why are my experiences invalid? Why am I not at this table too?

But maybe that’s the illusion that is the essence of privilege: that false sense that you can belong everywhere and can be entitled to behave as such when in fact… you can’t. And I think about how I have a choice where to eat while some people don’t. So until we get into that ideal world, maybe I’ll talk less and listen more…