A friend of mine was kind enough to give me a birthday present Friday night (despite knowing I'm not participating in any kind of event-based gift exchanging anymore) of Powers, Vol. 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? I read it in one setting late last night after going to bed and was thisclose to getting out of bed to compose a review of it. I can tell you I liked it and that I was stunned by how much supplemental material was included in the collection, but beyond that I just don't have it in me right now to give it a proper review. My friend and I went to dinner, and on a whim I indulged and had a Budweiser. For the most part I've given up drinking altogether since it became obvious that my stupid Crohn's-infested guts dislike alcohol but it just sounded good. I can report that it didn't kill me. Normally, the whole thing would demand a blog post on its own. As it is, I feel like I've given it too much attention as "an aside" here.
My wife was out of town this past weekend and part of me kept thinking about Tim Allen's criminally overlooked memoir, I'm Not Really Here. He composed it while his wife was away, sharing insights into his past and then-present, and it's one of the few things I've read that sincerely amazed me. His discussion about western science and eastern mysticism alone was fascinating. Scholarly? Not really. But I could tell the guy was honestly interested in the topic and that made it compelling reading. I had briefly entertained the notion of trying such a task myself this weekend but alas that didn't happen.
It occurred to me recently that in movies and TV shows, we're taught that our lives are often defined by unanticipated moments; that choices we make can lead to great adventures or horrifying tragedies or that we can be bit by radioactive spiders and get super powers. You know what isn't shown? All the moments that come and go with nary a consequence. Stories by definition require conflict, and what happens when there simply isn't any to be found?
There are four antagonists in storytelling. Oneself, another person, nature and God. What if you're at peace with yourself and God, nature is calm and no one is giving you any grief? There's no conflict, ergo there's no story. You become a character without a story. It seems bizarre to reduce an actual human being to a story-less character, but that's what I fear I've become of late. How messed up is it that it's somehow a bad thing to not have conflict? (And doesn't this qualify as having conflict with myself and/or God somehow, thus negating the whole contemplation?)
I got to thinking about Larry Talbot, the character Lon Chaney, Jr. played in The Wolf Man and subsequent Universal features in the 1940s. Larry turned into the Wolf Man on nights with a full moon, thereby establishing his conflict. The lunar cycle of those movies was hyper-fast, because he'd turn into the Wolf Man and go out preying on people with ridiculous regularity. But what else was there to show us? Twenty-nine days of Larry living a mundane, regular life? Who wanted to see Larry go grocery shopping or dining with neighbors? The only thing about Larry that was considered worth our attention--and really, all we wanted to see out of the poor guy--was that he would "wolf out" (to borrow an expression) and go murder some folks. No one cared about Larry Talbot; they just wanted to see the Wolf Man do his thing.
We're all Larrys, though. Our Wolf Man moments are few and far between. Many a time we realize that our Wolf Man moments came in our youth. Maybe it's because we stop being impetuous and daring with age; after all, in a world where the wrong Facebook status can cost you your job, who wants to be caught doing something that someone, somewhere, some day might find unseemly? Maybe it's because we long for that kind of disregard for our own behavior and we magnify just how adventuresome we really were. (Seriously, was using a slingshot to shoot grapes at a road sign really that outrageous?) Then comes the epiphany that we're actually wanting to be the Wolf Man. We want to transform into a bloodthirsty monster, destroy human beings and wake up as though we'd survived an epic bender. After all, what else is there in Larry Talbot's life?