Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
seen @ Landmark Loews Jersey Theater, Jersey City, NJ

And now, five things I might do if I inherited $20 million, after paying off bills and taking care of my family, of course:

1. Travel. Duh. I was hanging out with Andi recently and at one point she was describing some more aspects of her trip to Spain to take part in the Camino walk and she said that it's not all that expensive. The more I think about it, the more appealing it sounds to me, and I think I'd like to give it a try someday, though in this particular case, time might be harder to acquire than money. Not sure. Still, this is but one of several places around the world I'd go to - and then, there are also places here in the USA I'd like to visit, such as Austin, Texas (maybe during South by Southwest?).

2. I've had this semi-serious daydream deep, deep, DEEP in the back of my mind for a few years about maybe starting a publishing company - not just for my comics work, but for my friends, too. I first began making comics way back in 1993, and I've met hundreds of other creators, both amateur and professional. For a long time, when I was a regular on the convention circuit, there were a handful of self-published creators whom I always hung out with and maintained close friendships with - talented cartoonists, all, and prolific in terms of their body of work. 

If I had my own publishing company - doesn't have to be anything fancy, either - I just think it would be awesome if I could make books collecting all my pals' work and get them into mainstream bookstores, in addition to the comics shops. It would require clever marketing and strong distribution, so I'd need some help on that score, but with $20 million it probably wouldn't be too hard, especially if I had some cool indie bookstores to support me.

3. I'd make a large donation to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

4. I'd move back to Columbus and buy a house there. Theoretically, I'd want someplace close to the downtown, and there are a couple of neighborhoods on the east side of town that appeal to me. I would get around by bike again (maybe a folding bike this time), so I wouldn't wanna be too far away from everything. Actually, there are a couple of other cities I'd like to live in as well besides Columbus; the point is more GETTING OUT OF NEW YORK rather than moving to Such-and-Such a place.

5. No matter where I lived, though, be it NYC or someplace else, I'd take an old neighborhood movie theater, renovate it, and turn it into a revival house like Film Forum, one deeply connected to the community. It would be outfitted for digital, but I'd insist on 35mm film wherever possible. I'd have the capacity for it, at the very least. I've gone into more detail about this little dream here.

There's simply no way I could be as selfless as Longfellow Deeds in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and maybe that's a failing of mine. Sure, I'd do things with my money that would benefit other people - notably my family and friends - but enacting deep, profound social change? I dunno. I tend to subscribe to the credo, "Think globally, act locally." If the small-scale things I do lead to bigger changes, great, but it's the small things that I find easier to manage. Deeds, like many a Frank Capra character, seems too good to be true, but Capra presents this story in such a persuasive manner, as if to say, "Look fellas, it really isn't that hard to be nicer to each other. Here's how." (Capra and the Occupy Wall Street movement would've had much in common, methinks.)

And of course, to Deeds' way of thinking, he doesn't see what he's doing as anything particularly grand; his behavior is simply a result of his small-town upbringing. Yes, I know that that's how we all should strive to be more like, but - I'm sorry - it's hard to imagine, especially when it seems like humanity has, if anything, gotten stupider since Capra's time. Jean Arthur's reporter character is TMZ and Perez Hilton and the New York Post and the National Enquirer in 2013 terms, and if Deeds was around today, he'd probably still be made fun of in much the same way, though I'm sure he'd have his defenders too (Deeds the movie tends to paint the entire media with the same brush).

Ultimately, I think the effort towards becoming better people counts more than the goal itself. We're not perfect and we don't live in a perfect world, and because of that, any effort to live selflessly is going to be a difficult one. (I'm sure you're all thrilled to see me reference Star Trek yet again, but there's a quote from Deep Space Nine that's relevant here: "It's easy to be a saint in paradise.") Look at the way Deeds silently suffers when his competency is called into question. Some people can deal with that better than others. I know I'm no paragon, not by a long shot, and some days it's damn hard to see the humanity in others. Still, I do what I can, when I can. No promises...

...especially when you're surrounded by idiots. I saw Deeds on St. Patrick's weekend, and though the actual holiday was on Sunday, there were plenty of revelers in both Manhattan and Jersey City acting like fools. I swear to you I saw one guy pissing on Sixth Avenue, in plain sight, in the midst of a snowfall. I was tempted to turn around and go home right then and there.

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