Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pop Resolutions for 2010

I mentioned the other day that we still don’t have cable in the new house yet (come on, January 4th!) but there has been an upside to this state of affairs. Without 900 channels to draw us into a flipping stupor, my wife and I have been giving the DVD player a workout like it hasn’t seen in years. We finally finished watching the Firefly DVDs which were loaned to me, um, I’m gonna say two and a half years ago. (My friend Clutch has been waiting to borrow them from the original owners as well, so he should be happy to hear that we’re done.) We also watched the movie Extract, which my wife got me for Christmas since we managed to miss it in the theaters, despite generally wanting to support Mike Judge’s career however we can. And in the occasional downtime when my wife is at work, I’ve been watching bits and pieces of the Aristocrats. That joke never gets old.

Say it with a flourish!
Watching DVDs, thinking about getting cable, and unpacking a medium-size public library worth of books has all gotten me thinking about my pop culture consumption, which at this point in my life feels like something so massively time-consuming that I need an actual plan to stay on top of it. I think of it as a joyful obligation, as opposed to a joyless one. I actively want my life to include a lot of book reading and movie watching and music listening and so on, and I know that I’m happier when it does than when it doesn’t, and whether or not there’s work involved in including those elements does not affect the end result. Here, then, are some of my plans, expectations and hopes for a potentially pop-tastic 2010:

1. I will read 53 books. And by “books” I mean, you know, book-books, not comics or coffee table books or short novellas bound as paperbacks. Real books. Some people like to set goals for themselves to read 75 or 100 books in a year but despite my unchecked bibliophilia I am not one of those types. Not too long ago I was barely reading at all anymore, and then I started my mass-transit commuting and got back into the groove of constantly starting and quickly finishing new books. I can usually average a book a week and I am in fact on track to finish the book I’m currently reading tomorrow, which will make for exactly 52 in 2009. I’ll go with the modest ambition of reading one more book next year than I did last year.

2. I will buy more used books. Over the past couple years I’ve used my long-ass commute as justification for buying shiny new books pretty regularly, but the new year (in a new house) requires some curtailing of frivolous expenses, and retail-priced books fall into that category. There’s really no excuse for paying cover price for a book, anyway. Amazon has storefronts for about a squillion used booksellers, some of whom are unloading stuff for a penny (plus shipping). And there is a used book store right around the corner from our new house that will actually buy (or give store credit for) some old books that I’ve been meaning to unload anyway. So yeah, I expect to give my Borders Rewards card a bit of a rest.

3. I will find the local library. Because the only thing better than cheap books is reading them for free, right? Plus knowing where the library is is just something I like to have in my mental rolodex.

4. I will finish collecting Blackest Night and then seriously reassess buying monthly comics. I am enjoying the over-the-top are-you-kidding-me-ness of the current storyline in the Green Lantern comics (and various spin-offs) at the moment, including the immediacy of not waiting for the trade (although I am constantly way behind on the new releases) but the Blackest Night storyline has a definite end to come in early 2010, and I will use that as an opportunity to take a breather and decide if I’m really going to continue buying any comics in monthly format any more. I used to be a regular monthly reader of at least half a dozen titles at once, but whereas the geek-I-once-was would suffer through terrible runs on a favorite title just so I didn’t miss out when the pendulum swung the other me, the geek-I-am-now started dropping titles when they began to suck, and now only Green Lantern remains. I don’t expect a rapid descent in GL’s quality, but it’s hard to justify going to the comic book shop every Wednesday for one title (plus maybe one spin off) after the big crossover event ends. There really isn’t a local comic book shop near my new house anyway, so maybe it’s time to just wait for trades which I can buy at the mall or Amazon. Of course, to justify buying those brand new trades I’ll need some creative financing, which leads us to …

I should have known that something bought at CVS at the mall was not likely to be a can't miss investment.
5. I will sell a bunch of comics on eBay. I have an eBay account and a PayPal account, but I rarely use them, and have never sold anything online. I think it’s time to start culling my comic book collection (once I get it under my roof again). I don’t plan on liquidating the entire thing, because there are some old issues I’ve re-read several times and plan on re-re-reading to my boy some day. But the dross in which I have zero emotional investment, the stuff which seemed like a good idea at the time but now wouldn’t be worth re-reading if I were bed-ridden with no other entertainment options? Those can go. I don’t expect I’ll get rich from this, especially since I’m operating under sell-the-junk rules. I lived through the comic book speculator boom and I, too, had my fleeting dreams of making mad bank when I finally got around to selling New Warriors #1 from 1990, but I am well aware that that ship has sailed, if in fact it was ever more than vaporous wishfulness to begin with. What I’m hoping is to set up a nice little self-contained comics-based economy wherein I sell chunks of my collection that I won’t miss, get a little money deposited in my PayPal account, then turn around and use that money to buy comics trades and second-hand novels on Amazon. Meanwhile the money from my real job can pay my real bills. It should be an interesting experiment at the very least.

6. I will obtain either Series 1 of Star Blazers on DVD or Books 1 – 3 of Akira (or both). For whatever reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about pop culture imported from Japan, and these are two of my favorites. Yet my overall exposure to them is kind of weak. I loved watching episodes of Star Blazers on TV as a kid but I haven’t seen it since I was maybe 9 or 10 and I know I never saw the whole story. I didn’t see the movie version of Akira until college but I loved it with the kind of love that usually motivates me to track down the source material. Somehow, in this case, I never did, mainly because of confusion about translated editions and what was available or out of print, all of which I think I might have sorted out by now. Anyway, look for some massive, rambling posts about heroic round-eyes in the coming year.

7. I will go to the movie theater five times. I don’t go to the movies as often as I would like, and sometimes I say I never ever go to see films in the theater anymore, but that’s an exaggeration and I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t foresee weekly cinema excursions, but every once in a while I should make time for it. It may well go without saying that I already have the calendar marked for Iron Man 2. And as soon as there’s a wide release date, I’ll make room for this one, too:

Kinda like Van Helsing, 'cept hopefully without all the suck.
That is Solomon Kane, who is a badass pulp hero Puritan demon-hunter created by the man who brought us Conan the Barbarian. I am, to state the obvious, a fan. The actor with the grizzled, manly jawline and sensuous lips is James Purefoy, who played Marc Antony in HBO’s Rome, and thanks in no small part to gratuitous strigiling scenes, my wife is a big fan. Who am I to argue when such a perfect date movie comes to be?

8. I will watch 12 Netflix movies or cancel my account. I love the idea of Netflix but as a user I am terrible at it. Netflix holds up its end just fine, sending me new movies when I send old ones back, and billing me every single month whether I move through my formidable queue or not. Which, frequently, I do not. It would be glorious to live in an ideal world where I can pay for services I don’t actually use, simply because I enjoy the idea of the service, but this is not that world. So I’m giving myself one more year to get some bang for my buck or I will take my bucks back.

9. I will watch the DVDs I own but have never seen. This is arguably an even worse sin than the Netflix inattention. Generally I will only buy a DVD if I have already seen the movie/show in question and think it is well worth owning, or if I intend to watch it immediately. But sometimes people get me DVDs as gifts and I appreciate them tremendously but never manage to break through the shrinkwrapping and check out the contents. Having a DVD in your collection of a movie you’ve never seen is like having a book on your shelf that you’ve never read. It’s a bit of a sham, or at least that’s how it feels to a collector like me who maybe, perhaps, PERHAPS JUST MAYBE, takes things a little too seriously and overthinks them on occasion. At any rate, the shame must be erased. Which means I have to watch the Clone Wars CGI movie my sister got me a couple Christmases ago.

10. I will play through GH: Metallica. When we bought a Wii a couple years ago, my main motivation was to be able to play Guitar Hero in my own home. I freaking love that game. My wife got me fleecy Guitar Hero pajama pants for Christmas and that is probably the sweetest article of clothing I currently own. I desperately want to get hold of the Van Halen edition of the game, because that band and I go way back, but I can’t justify such an acquisition until I have at least played through the GH games I already own (see above). GH: Metallica is actually pretty hard even on the easy setting, thanks to the signature speed-metal shredding of Hetfield and Hammett. I tried it once after I got the game and haven’t braved it since.

I could keep going but I think 10 are enough for now. If I make a particularly massive dent in most or all of these by April, maybe I’ll officially record 10 more to shoot for.

I’m without interwebs for the next few days, so no new posts until Monday. Happy New Year!

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