Tag Archives: mature

Gray Hairs, Getting Older, And (Evolving) Perspectives

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I’m not a young man anymore. I’ve long since accepted that. It took me a while, but it was necessary. You can’t think, act, and conduct yourself as a young person forever. Neither the human body nor the flow of time works that way.

However, as we get older, our perspectives and outlook changes. I know mine has since I was a teenager. Given how miserable I was, I kind of had to. I expect it to continue changing as I get older. I don’t know what or how much that change will entail, but I know it’s coming.

Very recently, I already saw some of those signs. About a month ago, I finally had my annual physical, which is something I encourage everyone to do, regardless of their age. A part of getting older is understanding that youth won’t keep you healthy anymore. You have to be proactive. You have to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

For the most part, I’ve put in the work. I try hard to say in shape as best I can, especially after I was so unhealthy in my youth. I won’t say I’m in perfect health. My annual physical did raise some issues, some of which have less to do with my exercise routine and more to do with my family history of illness. However, it’s what happened shortly afterwards that really stood out.

I noticed a notable increase in gray hairs.

I won’t say this freaked me out, but it was a bit jarring. I understand I’m not young anymore. Getting gray hair is an unavoidable part of getting older. I’ve seen it happen with my father, my uncles, and pretty much every older male friend. It was bound to happen to me at some point. I just didn’t expect to notice until after I turned 40.

Now, some of that might be a result of how stressful last year was. Other parts of it might have to do with a series of other big changes in my family that are too numerous to list. Whatever the cause, it’s getting more noticeable. You might not see it from afar, but trust me. I can see it every morning when I look in a bathroom mirror.

At some point, others will see it too. I won’t be able to hide my age. Nobody will ever mistake me for a guy in his 20s anymore. Honestly, I’m fine with that. The guy I was in my 20s was still a work-in-progress. That progress is far from complete, but I’m much further along now compared to where I was 10 years ago.

In that sense, gray hair almost seems like a marker of sorts. It’s a sign of how far I’ve gone in life and how strenuous it has been. I don’t doubt that I’ve had it easier than some and harder than others, but I’ve endured and learned every step of the way.

I haven’t gone as far as I could’ve. Hindsight has a tendency to reveal all the missed opportunities and avoidable mistakes we’ve made. In that respect, graying hair reminds us that we don’t have unlimited time. Moving forward, every second becomes a bit more precious. Past mistakes become bigger in some ways and smaller than others.

I’m at a point in my life where I still have the time and energy to succeed in new ways. I still want to become a successful writer. I still want to meet a beautiful woman who I can spend the rest of my life with. I still want to experience new things and cherish the activities I’ve come to love.

I just have to do those things with the knowledge that I’m not young anymore. Youthful energy will not carry me as it once did. Achieving what I hope to achieve will still take effort. However, what I lack in youthful energy, I make up for with experience, wisdom, and perspective.

The more I notice these gray hairs, the more incentive I have to keep enduring. That’s my perspective and I hope others in my position come to share it.

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Swing Volume 2: Evolution Of A (Uniquely Sexy) Romance

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Every relationship is different. How they come together and how they stay together varies from couple to couple. Some work perfectly fine a traditional, monogamous setup. You marry one person and that’s who you make love to, till death do you part. There’s nothing wrong with that and plenty of great love stories can be told from it.

However, that approach doesn’t work for everyone and there’s nothing wrong with that, either. It’s just more challenging to tell a non-monogamous love story without it becoming overly pornographic. That didn’t stop Matt Hawkins and Jenni Cheung, with help from artist Linda Sejic, from telling a genuine, compelling love story about non-monogamy in “Swing: Volume 1.”

When I reviewed this graphic novel last year, I highlighted how it perfectly balanced the romance with the sex appeal. The first part of the story was about how its two protagonists, Cathy Chang and Dan Lincoln, fell in love. Then, after settling into married life, complete with two kids and decent careers, they sought to recapture that passionate spark that helped bring them together.

It culminated with them navigating the colorful world of open relationships. At the same time, it laid the foundation for a deeper romantic journey in a future sequel. Having waited anxiously for over a year, I can safely say that “Swing: Volume 2” was worth the patience. This book doesn’t just continue Dan and Cathy’s journey. It takes the sexiness and romance to new heights.

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The story picks up where the first book left off. Dan and Cathy got their first state of the non-monogamous lifestyle and they liked it. That’s made abundantly clear through Yishan Li and Linda Sejic’s art in first several pages. However, that’s not the end of their romantic journey. It’s just another step in the process.

Now that Dan and Cathy are in this sexy new world, their next challenge is successfully navigating it. Having a few threesomes is fun, but the swinging world of non-monogamy is much bigger. It’s also a world that requires Dan and Cathy to confront certain aspects of their relationship that they’ve never had to deal with before.

While Dan admits that he’d been with multiple women, Cathy has only been intimate with one man. She lived a more sheltered life, which was nicely established in the first book. The second book builds on that, showing that there are parts of her sexuality that she hasn’t explored. That desire to explore this world is what helps drive the plot and the drama in “Swing: Volume 2.”

A taste of that drama.

Yes, there is drama. It’s not all fun sexy time all the time. While those times are certainly present, Hawkins and Cheung make this exploration feel genuine and believable. From how Cathay and Dan establish a set of rules to how they struggle to find compatible partners, the various details of the story come off as something that can happen in the real world.

There are triumphs and setbacks. Some of those setbacks make for the funniest moments of the story. Like any relationship, an open relationship takes a great deal of work. Dan and Cathy find that out the hard way on more than one occasion. That only makes the fruits of their labor satisfying, both in terms of plot and sex appeal.

Compared to the first book, “Swing: Volume 2” has a lot more sex appeal and I’m not just referring to Li and Sejic’s graphic, yet tasteful depictions. There are plenty of scenes that involve exposed body parts, intimate love scenes, and overt innuendo that anyone’s inner 13-year-old will recognize. However, it never comes off as crude or gratuitous.

The overall tone of “Swing: Volume 2” is very much in keeping with the sex positive themes of its predecessor. It also does something important with those themes. As the story unfolds, we see how Cathy and Dan’s relationship evolves. Before, they were just a typical married couple looking to spice things up. Now, their relationship has gained greater complexity and, most importantly, it’s better because of it.

Both characters get an opportunity to narrate parts of the story. We get insights into their thoughts and feelings, revealing how they each approach this new facet of their relationship. Dan shows his share of insecurities, at times. Cathy’s reservations also crop up, as well. There are times she feels things that she doesn’t express and that causes some tension.

They make an effort to establish rules and boundaries. Many of them feel like concepts that actual couples who have navigated the world of open relationships would exercise. When the rules work, Dan and Cathy’s relationship benefits. When they don’t, even when it’s not intentional, it causes problems.

The problems never get overblown, but they don’t get brushed aside either. If “Swing: Volume 2” has an overarching theme, it’s that the world of open relationships is difficult. It’s not for everyone. It’s not the kind of thing that’ll fix a trouble relationship, either. Dan and Cathy make very clear that they love each other. Venturing into an open relationship wasn’t meant to fix that. It was meant to make their lives more exciting.

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Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll say that Hawkins and Cheung once again succeed in making all these dramatic elements work. There’s never a point where “Swing: Volume 2” feels too focused on sex or too focused on romance. It seamlessly blends the two together so that they complement one another, as any good love story should.

There is romance.

There is eroticism.

There is personal growth for both these characters.

Along the way, you don’t just find yourself rooting for them or their relationship. You can’t help but be curious to see where this journey takes them. Like real relationships, there’s no endgame or culmination in mind. This isn’t that type of story. The lives of Dan and Cathy stay firmly grounded in a realistic setting. That’s part of what makes it so impactful, as a story.

That’s not to say that “Swing: Volume 2” is without flaws. There are parts of the story that feel a bit truncated. A few dramatic moments don’t come off as intense as they’re set out to be. There are also other characters that don’t get fleshed out as much, despite them showing potential in the first volume.

It doesn’t stop the overall story from fitting together seamlessly. The story effectively builds on the foundation that the first one established while ramping up the passion along the way. It’s compelling, heartfelt, and sexy. Between the mature themes and the beautiful artwork, “Swing: Volume 2” stands out as a fitting slice-of-life style comic in a sea of superheroes and spectacles.

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If I had to score “Swing: Volume 2,” I’d give it a solid 8 out of 10. If you’re looking for something different, mature, and even a little risqué, then this book will check all the right boxes and then some. I’m not saying it’ll give all monogamous couples second thoughts, but it’ll give more than a few some interesting ideas.

To purchase “Swing: Volume 2,” please do so through Comixology, Amazon, or your local comic shop.

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Filed under comic book reviews, Marriage and Relationships, polyamory, romance

Animation: A Possible Solution For Erotica/Romance Movies?

This is a follow-up to a post I did a couple of days ago on the future of erotica/romance in movies. It’s an issue that I find myself contemplating more and more with the success, financially speaking, of the “50 Shades of Grey” movies. Since it’s an issue that may end up affecting the industry I work in, namely that of erotica/romance, it’s one in which I’ll keep a close eye on in the coming years.

I’ve already laid out the unique challenges facing erotica/romance in cinema. Even with the success of “50 Shades of Grey,” those challenges are pretty daunting. We’re still a long way away from a sexy erotica romance movie getting as much hype as a “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. Given how that movie has the sex appeal of Chris Pratt going for it, it’s not  affair fight to say the least.

Fair or not, the obstacles for erotica/romance are still pretty daunting. Between its association with the porn industry and a society that is still horrified of the idea of women being excessively sexual, it really does seem as though this genre on which I’ve chosen to build my writing career has a long way to go.

At the moment, there is a sizable, but not exceedingly large gap to overcome. On one side, you have mature stories with erotic themes like “50 Shades of Grey” and “Showgirls.” On the other, you have porn and the poorly-acted skin flicks that only air after midnight on Cinemax.

Bridging this gap, telling a serious story in a movie with a non-gratuitous amount of sex, is the key. As the success of “Die Hard” and all its assorted rip-offs can attest, it only takes one solid movie to kick-start a new trend.

In giving this issue some serious, sexy thought, which I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at on this blog, I think there might be one avenue that erotica/romance can take. It would help circumvent some of the biggest obstacles that I laid out before and complement other emerging trends as well. It could even completely reinvent the way movies, sexy or otherwise, are told.

What is this sexy solution, you ask? Well, it already exists in a major way, but it’s due for a major leap forward. It’s this:

That, my friends, is high-quality animation from the video game, “Destiny: The Taken King.” Take a moment to admire it. Then, think back to how animation used to be. If you’re with me to this point, you’ve already made the overtly-sexy connections.

This may be the key. This may be the secret weapon with which to shatter the seemingly-impenetrable walls that keep erotica/romance relegated to midnight skin-flicks on Cinemax. Animation, namely the high-quality kind that companies like Pixar and Bungie pay top notch for, could be the key to making erotica/romance work.

On paper, it makes perfect sense. With animation, you overcome one of the biggest obstacles in producing a quality movie, namely finding actors and actresses that can both emote the necessary passion and not shrivel, literally and figuratively, when they have to get naked and make love on demand.

Animated characters don’t complain about mood, chemistry, or how their trailers are painted. They don’t age. They don’t get fat. They can look as beautiful or as ugly as a director wants them to be. They are, by default, the perfect medium for bringing a character to life. A number have already become quite iconic.

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Now this isn’t a wholly radical idea. In fact, it’s already an established industry in a magical land called Japan. There’s an entire genre of animated porn called anime porn. This brand of porn utilizes themes and stories so outlandish, so extreme, and so disturbing that even the worst moments in “Game of Thrones” cannot compare. Look up something called “Futanari” for proof. Be warned though, you won’t be able to unsee it.

Radical or not, Japanese anime has the same problem that our softcore skin flicks on Cinemax have here in the United States. The stories are flat. The acting and dialog is atrocious. The main point of these movies is to titillate and not enchant.

Pretty much every male character in an anime porn acts a certain way, just like every bleach-blond, big-breasted woman in a softcore porn acts a certain way. There’s no real depth. It’s just basic, bland, and blunt.

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That may be a product of sticking to a winning formula. Japanese anime porn has been around for decades, has an established fan base, and isn’t going to risk that fan base by doing something different. That’s just how an established industry works.

That said, it does prove that there’s a market for mature, animated content. We’re already seeing major studios attempting to tap that market beyond the usual “Simpsons” and “Family Guy” demographics.

In the past few years, new cartoons with mature things like “Archer” and “Bojack Horseman” have found a major audience. Even among younger audiences, shows like “Samurai Jack” reveal that there is a market for a more mature cartoon.

The timing of this growing market couldn’t be better because as this audience is growing, technology in graphics and animation is improving. Moreover, video game companies and developers are using those improvements to tell better stories. Some of these stories are every bit as engaging, dramatic, and emotional as movies. I know this personally, as I’ve freely admitted that the end of Final Fantasy X and Mass Effect got me choked up.

Major video game makers are already exploring deeper, more mature stories that don’t just rly on killing zombies or shooting aliens. Games like “Heavy Rain” utilize mature themes, a rich story, and intimate moments. Having played the game, I can say that this definitely strikes plenty of chords, including the sexy kind.

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So there’s a growing market for mature cartoons. The technology for graphics in animation is also improving and being refined through the $5.2 billion video game industry. What’s the hold up then? Why aren’t we seeing an animated “50 Shades of Grey” movie that isn’t limited to Jamie Dornan’s acting abilities?

As is often the case in the entertainment industry, it all comes down to money. That’s the simplest and most complete explanation. It’s safe to assume that if every major movie studio could replace every actor and actress with a 3D animated model, they’d do it in a heartbeat, thereby ensuring that they never have to work with Shia LeBeouf or Lindsey Lohan again.

The reason they can’t do that is because, as much as animation has improved, it’s still expensive. Toy Story 3, the current gold standard for animated movies, cost $200 million to make. For TV, the average cost of a half-hour animated show is about half-a-million and the cost of a top-quality show like “The Simpsons” is about $2 million.

For comparison sake, entire movies like “Boyhood” and “Whiplash” cost less than $5 million. Animation is also more labor-intensive, which requires a great deal of outsourcing, something the cast of a typical sitcom doesn’t have to worry about.

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As it stands right now, animation is not a preferable option for making movies, TV shows, or erotica/romance. It’s costly, labor-intensive, and affiliated with too many talking animals. However, that may be changing in a major way very soon.

This is where I try to channel my inner psychic and see a bit into the future. Granted, I’m about as much a psychic as I am a starting point guard for the Golden State Warriors. Don’t assume I know more than someone working at Starbucks, but at least trust me when I say I do try to see the forest from the trees and make connections where I see them.

While the cost of animation is going up, advances in computing power and AI are growing as well. Most are content to let AI’s run their schedule or make annoying telemarketing calls, but they can’t make are, right? That’s intrinsically human, right?

I’m sorry to say that our future robot overlords are catching up faster than you think. Back in 2014, the University of Spain created, Iamus, a program that creates its own melodies. Not to be left out, Google followed suit with a program of their own in 2016.

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That’s all well and good, even if it sucks for the future Taylor Swifts of the world. That doesn’t mean robots can draw, right? Humans still have that on the machines, don’t they?

Again, our future robot overlords are catching up faster than you think or feel comfortable accepting. In 2016, Google created another AI called “Quick Draw,” which can recognize simple doodles. A number of robots have even been able to produce their own artwork.

Granted, these works of art are a long way away from being Picasso or Elvis Presley. It’s a start though and, as our recent history with technology has shown, the pace of that technology will only accelerate. Given how slow and clumsy we humans are, it’s only a matter of time before they’re a billion times better at it than we are.

On top of that, the technology for computers to read our minds is emerging as well. This too is in the very early stages of development, but there’s a lot of money in technology, art, and doing things a billion times better. If a computer can make a movie like “Frozen” a billion times faster and a billion times cheaper, you can assume Disney will be all over it like Homer Simpson in a donut factory.

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This has huge implications for every art-based industry in the world, but what does this mean for animation and erotica/romance? Well, most importantly, it means at some point the cost of animation is going to come down.

Eventually, a future version of Google’s drawing software will be so advanced that it can do the job of 100 animators 100 times faster and a million times cheaper. That means movies like “Toy Story 3” no longer cost $200 million. They could cost only a couple million. That means episodes of shows like “The Simpsons” can cost less than a used car.

This opens up countless possibilities for new stories to be told, which don’t have to rely on the bloated budgets or corporate backings of major studios. Since AI is also developing to a level where it can mimic voices, it means that even the cost of voice actors will go down or be replaced altogether.

It won’t happen all at once. There won’t come a day when entire animation studios go out of business or new studios pop up overnight. These types of technology trends take time to develop. They never happen all at once. Cell phones took 40 years to get to where they are now. Modern TV took over a half-century. Expect this kind of technology to take a few decades at the very least.

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However, there’s a lot of money to be made. The rising cost of producing movies is creating a strong incentive to find an easier, cheaper way to create a similar product, minus all the zeroes at the end of the price tag. When there’s that much incentive, then economics usually makes it an inevitability.

That means the first real erotica/romance movie may not be the same live-action piece we saw with “50 Shades of Grey.” It may very well take the form of colorful, sexy animated feature that doesn’t require self-conscious actors or actresses to use body doubles. Maybe one of my own novels will one day take that form. I hope I live long enough to see it.

Again, that day will not be tomorrow. However, this may be the future of erotica/romance. In that sense, Jessica Rabbit may be less a cartoon sex icon and more a prophet. If so, she may go down in history as the sexiest prophet of all time.

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