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Existence is conflict.

In science, this is called survival of the fittest - and accepting it is supposed to be one of those innocence-shattering realizations that jolt you into maturity. But for whatever reason, the first time I recall being informed that I was, down to my very cells, at constant war with everything else for food, water, air, shelter, etc; my reaction was "well, yeah ... what was I supposed to think was going on?"

Sure, you don't have to let it turn you into a myopic sociopath (or an internet movie critic), and there can be allegiances as small as a relationship or as big as a civilization; but eventually we all live out our lives Versus The World. Existence is conflict.

Maybe it's not the healthiest outlook, but it's mine, and if nothing else I credit it with saving my behind a few times and helping me keep what I see as a realistic outlook on happiness: Namely, that it's a fleeting thing, and that you must take joy, pleasure, etc. where you can when you can, because it's probably coming at something else's expense and thus won't last.

For example: As a young kid one summer, I enjoyed playing on what had been a sandy vacant lot near my grandparents' house. Well, that lot existed because someone was eventually going to build a house, and when they did my makeshift playground was gone. Too bad.

What does this have to do with anything?

Well, as I mentioned a few months ago, the first decade of the 21st Century has been a damn fine time to be a nerd at the movies. The rise of geek auteurs like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith in the late-90s kickstarted a mass-geeking of Hollywood that culminated in superheroes and hobbits displacing buddy cops and beefcakes as the keystones of the American Blockbuster. And it's been fun. I've enjoyed it. It's made me happy. There was a moment, two years ago, where I could actually choose between going to see a really good movie about Batman, a really good movie about Iron Man or a really good movie about The Incredible Hulk. If Young Bob knew he had that future to look forward to ...

Thing is, no matter how deep a niche geek culture cleaves into the landscape, I know it can't stay that good for very long. Like that vacant lot, most of this is probably temporary - hell, some of it is an accident.

Case in point: Barring some catastrophe, two years from now I'm getting an Avengers movie - the capstone to an ambitious project by Marvel Studios to create a shared-universe film series. It's something I've wanted to see as long as I've been a nerd - i.e. as long as I've been able to form conscious thought. But I'm not under any illusions that I'm getting this because the public suddenly shares my desire for a superhero team-up vehicle. No, I'm getting my Avengers movie largely because the public currently has a hearty appetite for Robert Downey Jr. trading witty banter with his co-stars while dressed like a robot. Soon enough, they won't anymore - they'll tire of it, or (more likely) the whole enterprise will get too "out there" for them to wrap their heads around, and there'll be a backlash.

And it won't be the only one.

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