Top 5 Favorite Queer Reads

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You might think that this list, like the one I published last week on books that would make good video games, would be easy to write. After all, I’m deeply gay myself (SURPRISE!) and hungrily consume queer literature at every opportunity. But this, actually, was quite difficult for me.

I’ve decided to limit this Top 5 to works that feature an explicitly queer protagonist. This decision cuts out many books and plays that read as queer to me when I was a teenager (including Waiting for Godot and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, two of my favorite plays). One of the great joys of being queer is the ability to find a pearl of the gay experience in otherwise heteronormative works. Seeing ourselves in a fabulous heiress, bickering same-sex roommates or the agonized narrative of the shunned outsider is a superpower that many queer people possess. But I don’t know if that necessarily makes the work queer. That just makes us queer, I think! 😀

I’ve also agonized quite a bit over the fact that all of the works I’ve chosen are by and mostly about queer white men. Look, I know I’m supposed to love James Baldwin’s work, but I just can’t get into Giovanni’s Room. I’ve read it twice but I wouldn’t call it a favorite. I’m also very aware that there are no queer lady narratives here. Rubyfruit Jungle is on my TBR list, as is Stone Butch Blues. To my shame, I keep buying trashy fantasy instead of these two queer classics. 

Well, enough excuses! As a gay white man, I guess it’s not shocking that I primarily search for narratives that speak to my personal experience. And let me be clear: as a gay boy growing up in Arkansas, reads that affirmed my existence were extremely difficult to find. Each was a lifeline to me and I’m proud to list them. Perhaps consider all of the above works Honorable Mentions. This, by the way, is a TFW – see bottom of the post for more information!

5. How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theater

Marc Acito is my Facebook friend and, when I was a freshman in college, he responded very sweetly to a fangirling message that I sent him. It meant a lot to me – it was the first time that I had corresponded with a gay author.

First of all, this book is funny. Deeply, truly hilarious. It’s like David Sedaris plus Catcher in the Rye set in New Jersey in the mid-80’s. The protagonist, Edward Zanni, is a fabulous and talented seventeen-year-old with penchants for mischief and belting into song. He’s talented and good-looking, but his father, early in the book, remarries and decides that he won’t pay for Edward to go to Julliard and study theatre. What follows is a string of attempts throughout his senior year to finagle his way into the college of his dreams.

Edward’s best friend, Paula, is fabulous and catty, and his crush, horse-hung former athlete Doug (who has decided we wants to be a Play Person, aka a theatre kid) is drawn realistically enough to inflame all the passions I had for a similar boy in my high school. Edward’s sexuality is mercurial and evolves throughout the narrative (you could make an argument that he’s bisexual, but he’s definitely queer). The rest of his friends (gorgeous Kelly, cosmopolitan Ziba, nerdy Natie) initially seem like simple stereotypes, but by the end of the book they are textured and complicated people.

This novel means a lot to me because I saw so very much of myself and my friends in it. It is a slice of queer life seen through the eyes of a very funny, deeply complicated narrator.

4. Magic’s Pawn

Anyone who reads fantasy knows that queer characters are, sadly, pretty rare in this genre. There are none in Lord of the Rings. None in Harry Potter (except Dumbledore, off the page). None in…well, the vast majority of fantasy books written in the last fifty years. Mercedes Lackey published this book (the first of a trilogy called Valdemar: The Last Herald-Mage) in 1989 and I can’t give her enough credit for sensitively portraying a kind of character that many fantasy authors, even today, shy away from.

Not only are there gay characters in this series, but the protagonist is one of them. And the story of his tragic, aching romance (tragic because of magic, not because of his queerness) is one that stuck with me for years. I mean really, who doesn’t want to read a book about gay boys, teen angst and stunning blue-eyed telepathic horses? It’s a queer teen’s dream come true.

On the downside, the melodrama in this book is pronounced (and sometimes trying) and the writing is not some of the absolute best that Lackey has produced. But as a young gay man, it meant more to me than I can say to read a trilogy that doesn’t ignore that fact that boys like me (effeminate, bad at sports, awkward, bitchy) exist. If I ever have a queer nephew or niece, I will definitely be gifting this series to them.

3. A Boy’s Own Story

Look, Edmund White is a national treasure. I mean it. His books are classics in gay literature and if homophobia wasn’t so alive and well, even in literary circles, these books would be classics, period. A Boy’s Own Story is the first of a three-part autobiographical trilogy that White wrote over fifteen years. All three are brilliant, searching narratives that blend engrossing detail and delicate poetry.

But this one, the first, is my favorite. White’s depiction of his father, a man he both loves and fears, is heartbreaking and honest. And the story of the protagonist’s flight from his cruel peers into the worlds of literature and art is one that rings true to most queer people (well, most outcasts, in general). What I love best, though, is White’s examination of shame and guilt in its many nefarious contexts. Most (all?) queer people deal with deep societal shame on a daily basis. It’s a hard thing to explain to someone who isn’t queer. But if they don’t get it after reading this book, they never will.

2. The Swimming Pool Library

My god, I love this book. I think a fell a little in love with Alan Hollinghurst while reading it. The Swimming Pool Library, published in 1988, tells the story of an unlikely friendship between two gay men. One is 25 and the other is over 80. They meet in a public lavatory in 1983 while both are looking for sex. When William saves Lord Nantwich’s life after the octogenarian collapses from cardiac arrest, an unlikely friendship develops.

This book is important to me because it tells stories about gay life before the HIV epidemic. Please don’t get me wrong. Those stories are important. They are powerful. In fact, my next pick is partially about them. But reading about queer men and women before AIDS ravaged our community is akin to returning to childhood innocence. This book is a banquet of beauty, sex and sophistication. I return to it anytime I’m feeling down and I recommend it to anyone who needs a mega-dose of chic underground gay fabulousness.

  1. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

This pick might be a little bit of a cheat. But the topic is “Top 5 Reads…” and you can read a play. 🙂 I first read Tony Kushner’s masterpiece over the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I was blown away by the sophisticated blend of diverse characters, including a gay Mormon and his (ex-)wife, a brilliant black drag queen and an estranged gay couple, one of which has HIV. Plus, you know, a series of angels. And, um, the notorious gay homophobe Roy Cohn. Obviously.

I could talk more about the sophisticated pacing of the dialogue or Kushner’s ability to bounce readers between tears of laughter and tears of grief or the brilliant inclusion of magic and religion, but I think it’s probably just best to let one of Kushner’s characters do the work for me. Belize is the black drag queen I mentioned earlier. He also happens to be a nurse, a wonderful friend, a radical and my favorite character. Louis is, well, a neurotic asshole who abandoned his boyfriend once he realized that his partner had AIDS.

Belize:

‘Real love isn’t ambivalent.’ I’d swear that’s a line from my favorite bestselling paperback novel, In Love with the Night Mysterious, except I don’t think you ever read it.

Pause.

Louis:

I never read it, no.

Belize:

You ought to. Instead of spending the rest of your life trying to get through Democracy in America. It’s about this white woman whose Daddy owns a plantation in the Deep South in the years before the Civil War–the American one–and her name is Margaret, and she’s in love with her Daddy’s number-one slave, and his name is Thaddeus, and she’s married but her white slave-owner husband had AIDS: Antebellum Insufficiently Developed Sexorgans. And there’s a lot of hot stuff going down when Margaret and Thaddeus can catch a spare torrid ten under the cotton-picking moon, and then of course the Yankees come, and they set the slaves free, and the slaves string up old Daddy, and so on. Historical fiction. Somewhere in there I recall Margaret and Thaddeus find the time to discuss the nature of love; her face is reflecting the flames of the burning plantation–you know, the way white people do–and his black face is dark in the night and she says to him, ‘Thaddeus, real love isn’t ever ambivalent.’

This bit is just the very tip of the iceberg, but I think it captures some  of the beauty and wit that infuses every second of Kushner’s play. If, perhaps, you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by your TBR list, you might check out the HBO miniseries, instead. It’s brilliantly performed (by the likes of Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson, no less) and captures the magic of the original incarnation.

-Mic

By the way:
T5W (Top 5 Wednesday) is a weekly book meme created by gingerreadslainey and hosted by Sam @ThoughtsOnTomes. You find out more about T5W and the weekly topics on the Goodreads group here.

Top 5 Books that Would Make Good Video Games

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Ahhh: all of those hours I’ve wasted staring open-mouthed at my TV screen and frantically mashing buttons are finally paying off! This list of books practically wrote itself. In fact, I am shocked that none of these books have been adapted into video games. In a world with games like SkyrimWitcher and Fallout, the sky really is the limit. And the introduction of interactive mobile games redefines what a simple algorithm can achieve. The future is now. Let’s play it!

Hyperion

5. Hyperion

Hyperion is a mind-bending and Hugo award-winning science fiction novel published in 1989 by Dan Simmons. It’s the first of the Hyperion Cantos series and, honestly, it’s so complex a masterwork that it is very difficult to summarize (especially without spoilers). Let’s just say this: there are seven pilgrims traveling to the world of Hyperion on the eve of the destruction of the known universe. Like Canterbury Tales, each pilgrim is given a chapter in which to relate his or her story and motivation for the pilgrimage. Each main character has a unique history, set of abilities and secret. Each fears the Shrike, the horrible god(?) covered in thorns who adorns the cover (read: an epic, epic final boss battle).

There are many reasons why this book would make a good video game. First, there are seven very different main characters to choose from, including a colonel with all the latest body armor and weapons, a hard-bitten female private detective and an immortal Catholic priest. A video game based on the book might allow the player to choose their character or switch protagonists between chapters, but I think I would most enjoy a tactical turn-based RPG that allows the player to control each of the main characters in the party. Even while reading this book for the first time, I was struck by the obvious tank, cleric and spy in the narrative.

But the main reasons I would want to play this game are the hauntingly beautiful worlds that each character inhabits and must travel through in order to reach the final stage of their journey. With today’s technology, the sea of grass featured on the cover, in which giant monsters prowl and chitter, would be stunning and horrifying. The various worlds of the protagonists could be huge, widely varied, full of sidequests and enthralling.

For the record, the SyFy channel is currently in the process of producing a miniseries based on Hyperion and its sequel, Return to Hyperion, but a huge, open-world video game would, in my opinion, be even better.

foundation trilogy

4. The Foundation Trilogy

This trilogy by Isaac Asimov is a classic of the science fiction genre (there are also sequels and prequels, but I haven’t read those, so I can’t speak to them). Epic in scale and heroic in imagination, these books chart hundreds of thousands of years of human civilization, leaping gracefully over decades and millennia to tell the story of Hari Seldon and the branch of mathematics that he created (psychohistory). By applying mathematics to the cosmos, Seldon finds that he can predict the future, though only on the largest of scales. He foresees the unavoidable fall of the Galactic Empire and a resulting 30,000 year dark age in which human beings all over the Milky Way suffer horribly and all our progress is undone. But he also foresees a way to minimize that dark age to just 1000 years. He creates The Foundation (a collection of artists and scientists) to preserve human history and knowledge. There’s a lot more to it, of course, but I don’t want to spoil any of the twists and turns (of which there are many).

I think that this series would make great inspiration material for an educational game (a la The Oregon Trail) that teaches math to middle school or early high school students. The themes of the work are complex (societal evolution and adaptation, historical hypothesis, individualism) and the plot is innovative enough to keep students interested. The game could function by doling out juicy plot twists only when students have successfully shown mastery of successive mathematical theorems and skills.

Hm. Maybe if this game had existed when I was younger I would not be so horribly, embarrassingly bad at math today.

Lies of Locke Lamora

3. The Lies of Locke Lamora

This series (The Gentlemen Bastards), of which three are currently available, is planned to be seven novels long before it’s finished. Scott Lynch is also planning a sequel series of another seven books. So: flavors of Edding’s Belgariad/Malorean series and Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Fantasy on the epic scale.

It’s strange, though, that Lies of Locke Lamora didn’t feel like the beginning of a series when I read it. It felt intimate. The story of Locke, an orphan turned master(?) thief in the island city of Camorr, is rich with personal detail but relatively limited in scope of characters and influence. That net is widened in books two and three, but there’s no large company of characters yet and Locke is still by far the most realized and fleshed-out character in the series. But the writing is witty and Locke is a seductive, interesting protagonist who fails almost as often as he succeeds (no Mary Sues here!).

Anyway, this would make a great Civilization-esque exploration game for mobile with lots of sea warfare and violence as well as a good dose of sex and plenty of snooty nobles. Would make my morning commute and search for booty (!) significantly more fun.

1984

2. 1984

I’m think most people read this in high school, if not more recently. The story of Winston Smith, a sad and downtrodden man hiding from his totalitarian government and attempting to find love and freedom in a world in which those concepts (and even the words) are being aggressively snuffed feels just as prescient today as it did when George Orwell first published the novel in 1949.

However, this classic could be given new and horrifying life by adapting the main ideas into an interactive mobile game in the same family as Pokemon Go (I would call it Big Brother). The player is a rebel who must reach certain landmarks in his or her city in order to catalog (photograph) them before the government destroys them. Along the way, he or she must avoid TVs, computers and traffic cams (telescreens through which Big Brother watches you), any government buildings (renamed Ministries of Peace, Love, Plenty and Truth) and randomly chosen other players who are suspected of being Thought Police. If you get too close to any of these obstacles, the game declares you caught and brainwashed and the landmark is “destroyed”.

In addition to the basic game mechanics, Big Brother might include literary and trivia mini-games, real-time news updates translated into Newspeak and a chat function so you can meet up with other rebels. It’s actually pretty horrifying how easily our world, with just a few cosmetic changes through our phones, overlaps with the dystopia in 1984. 

house of leaves
1. House of Leaves

They should make this game in five or six years, once virtual reality has improved. I cannot imagine a more horrifying book in be inside of. In fact, I’m now so deeply upset by my own idea that I am going to quickly publish this blog and then go take a bath and attempt to wash away some of my fear sweat. For more info on why I think House of Leaves would make such a terrifying virtual reality game, please check out the blog I published on 4/1/17 (“Top 5 Future Classics in Literature“).

Did I miss one or two or twenty books that would make fantastic video games? Which of these would you most like to play? Please don’t hesitate to comment below and let me know!

-Mic

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By the way:
T5W (Top 5 Wednesday) is a weekly book meme created by gingerreadslainey and hosted by Sam @ThoughtsOnTomes. You find out more about T5W and the weekly topics on the Goodreads group here

Top 5 Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books I Want to Read

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I have a confession to make: I have been spending all my time watching video game playthroughs and now I have multiple stacks of books to read. By multiple I mean like five or six. Large stacks. But I made an ambitious reading list for the next few months, so hopefully I’ll go from poser to a genius in that time. Here are five fantasy or science fiction books that I can’t wait to dive into. This is a T5W – more information at the bottom of the post!

dhalgren

5. Dhalgren
I started this book about two years ago but was interrupted halfway through by a move. Honestly, I wasn’t disappointed to take a break. I’ve heard it called the best science fiction book every written, but Dhalgren is also a weird, Joycean ride through a hellish cityscape on the back of a schizophrenic wanderer. It is very violent and very dark. Also often confusing. But there are gay characters (the protagonist himself is bisexual) and the darkly poetic language, though unsettling, is also hypnotic. Samuel R Delany successfully creates a strange magical world in which anything seems possible. I’m excited to finish this up ASAP.

 

Two years...

4. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

I bought this book a few months ago as my introduction to Salman Rushdie’s work. I know his name, of course, but haven’t read Midnight’s Children or The Satanic Verses. Maybe I should have just started with those but Two Years… is described as a blend of “history, mythology and a timeless love story” on the front leaf. Funny, that’s often how I describe myself.

Two Years… is about the various descendants of Dunia, a princess of the jinn (genies, which live in a world that coexists with our own) and her mortal lover. Strikes me as Heroes plus Fable (one of the characters is a graphic novelist) and it’s less than 300 pages long. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it and have a new favorite author soon!

 

A discovery of witches

3. A Discovery of Witches

Okay. I have to admit to you that I was initially interested in this book because the author shares a last name with Agatha Harkness, my favorite Fantastic Four hero (she’s a witch who tutored Franklin Richards and The Scarlet Witch). I mean, check out those eyebrows. How could I not love her?

Agatha Harkness

And A Discovery of Witches is, in fact, about a witch (just not Agatha). This is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy, but all of them are out already. This is important because what I’ve read of the first book makes me think this is a very bingeable series. It follows the story of Diana Bishop, an alchemical history professor and talented witch who accidentally calls for a very powerful book from the library stacks at Oxford. I haven’t gotten to the part that explains why only she could call this magical tome, but I assume that will be addressed at some point.

The world that Harkness has created is interesting because it is heavily peopled with witches, vampires and daemons (think genius-level, slightly mad creatives). And I do mean heavily. Diana feels pins and needles when other magical creatures look at her and at one point she practically has a panic attack in the library because there are so many magical creatures staring at her. That seems to be a little out of the ordinary in this world  (it all has something to do with the book she called, I think), but I’m intrigued by the idea of a world that is both the one we live in and a deeply magical one. Mythical beings would have to be very, very good at keeping secrets for that to be true, though. Anyway, this is another good summer read. I just hope it doesn’t get too Twilight-y.

 

authority     acceptance

2. Authority

and

1. Acceptance

These are the second and third books in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. I bought the first book, Annihilation, on a whim in BookPeople and was astonished by its creativity, eeriness and deft plotting. It was a hurtlingly quick read, often horrible and scary but blooming with unexpected moments of stark beauty.

This series feels like a blend of Cthulhu mythos, Brave New World and House of Leaves. In Annihilation, a team of four women (a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist and a surveyor) from the not-too-distant future journey into Area X, a dangerous and abandoned parcel of land that has been reclaimed by nature. Almost immediately they find an “underground tower” that’s not on the map and their team, which has been carefully constructed by the government, begins to implode. The story is told through the biologist’s field journal, but she an extremely unreliable narrator. As the story progresses, the chaos increases. We’re left wondering if this is a journal chronicling supernatural forces or one charting a descent into madness. Seriously good writing. Lots of poetry and genuine chills. I’ll be buying these two for the beach this summer.

What do you think? Have you read any of these? Please comment below or on Facebook and let me know about your upcoming fantasy and science fiction reads!

-Mic

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By the way:
T5W (Top 5 Wednesday) is a weekly book meme created by gingerreadslainey and hosted by Sam @ThoughtsOnTomes. You find out more about T5W and the weekly topics on the Goodreads group here

Top 5 Future Classics in Literature

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The world of tomorrow is here.
This is a T5W. More information below.
It’s late.

Top 5 works of literature that will be considered “classics” in 50 years.
Obviously skewed by my interests.
They’re what you might call legendary children.

Just give them time.

 

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5. The Wheel of Time 

This series spans 14 books and a prequel novel. Publication began with the Eye of the World in January 1990 and concluded with A Memory of Light, published January 2013. Over almost 23 years, 4.5 million words paint epic fantasy on a massive scale. The story of tragic Rand Al’Thor, The Dragon Reborn, and the machinations of the continent (!) around him is an intricate tapestry. There are many richly characterized women, some of who may be queer (depends on how you define a “pillow friend”).  All three protagonists are straight white men and there’s only one afterthought of a gay male character, but Jordan’s writing is otherwise sensitive and inquisitive. After the author’s death in September of 2007, the last three books were finished by Brandon Sanderson, who breathed new life into the works and finished The Wheel of Time according to Jordan’s copious notes.

This series is incredible and especially notable for its sheer bulk and scope. Reading them all is the fantasy version of reading War and Peace. Yes, it’s good. But it’s also a challenge and a test.

“Are you a real fantasy fan? Have you finished The Wheel of Time?”

It’ll be that kind of classic.

 

house of leaves

4. House of Leaves

People whisper about it at parties. Stutter over espressos about it. Their knuckles tremble and flex about it. It’s a work within a work within a work; House of Leaves. It’s about a family and about a hermit and about a drug addict who’s also a man and about a stripper named Bunny. Supposedly. It’s about a house that moves and grows, elongates madly down the space between atoms, becomes a labyrinth that should not be, a thing that is and can’t be but is still cold, cold. And it seems like there’s something in it.

House of Leaves is already a cult classic. Danielewski’s innovative use of typography and the tools of writing (footnotes, appendices, spacing, text size) to further the theme of the plot leads to a unique, intoxicating experience. You have to bend the book to read it. You have to search long pages of technical writing to find one asterisk that relates to a footnote that explains how she felt about him. But the main text you’re skimming is also connected to how she feels, maybe triangulated between a scientific theory and a scientific analogy. That sort of thing. It’s a powerful, affecting read.

As in: I was afraid, genuinely afraid, of the dark for two months while I read this book. I was afraid of the dark as a kid, but that’s because I was afraid there was some thing (a monster, a shark, my older brother) in it. When I read House of Leaves, I was 21. And I became afraid of the dark because of the very fact of its darkness. I became afraid that the two feet of carpet at the bottom of the stairs had actually disappeared and, instead of traveling on toward my bedroom, I would fall and fall forever. I would be swallowed up by the dark.

House of Leaves is number four because it will remain a cult classic with the weirdos and the horror freaks and the cool kids, the hipsters and the mad.

 

the magicians

3. The Magician’s Trilogy

Okay, I love this series. The characters still feel alive to me and I finished the last book years ago. But I should admit that this series included as a minor classic, important critically but perhaps not popularly. The Magicians is an important novel because it marks the taking back by an adult audience of childhood heroes. The Magicians is to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as The Batman movies (or even Deadpool) are to the Batman cartoons. They prove that fantasy and superhero stories are popular with adult audiences and that we’ll pay to see them, even if the kids can’t come. After all, about fifty years of us have been raised on them. These characters don’t have to be scrubbed quite so clean any longer. We’re too old to fully believe that.  They need to be chaotic, realistic, irreverent, violent. Adult heroes.

The TV version is doing well, by the way. Season two is good but it’s no Game of Thrones. And now the show has moved completely away from the plot of the books, which may be a good or a bad thing. 50 years from now, The Magicians could well be read by graduate level literature classes as indicative of a cultural current, a blip on the American zeitgeist. For more info on this series, listen to Episode 1 of Beauty and the Bitch!

 

name of the wind

2. The Name of the Wind

Please do yourself a favor by reading this book immediately. It’s incredible. Neil Gaiman has talked about how The Lord of the Rings begat the whole genre of fantasy. Before Tolkien published his masterwork, books that contained magic were just that – books with magic. It was only after his trilogy became a phenomenon that fantasy became a genre. Which was all well and good, until fantasy became enmeshed in the public eye with pulp novels, published frequently and with little regard for innovation and quality.

The Name of the Wind is a standout book because it’s not fantasy. It’s a novel with magic in it. And poetry, too. Well of course it’s technically fantasy. But I’m saying that it would be at home next to other coming-of-age classics like  Rabbit, RunCatcher in the Rye or David Edding’s The Belgariad. Patrick Rothfuss has an eye for detail and realism that makes even the most outlandish location or character come to life and feel real. There are deep currents and still waters, both.

Assuming that the third book…is published…eventually, and is well received, I believe The Kingkiller Chronicles will become classic fantasy, read in progression after Lord of the Rings and The Belgariad. They are the continuation by Rothfuss down a path toward completely humanizing heroes, showing their scabs and therefore peopling his scenes with emotionally accurate and heart-wrenching action.

 

east of eden

1. East of Eden

This last one (in fact, my #1), is a surprise, I know. For one thing, East of Eden is already a classic. About 50,000 copies are sold each year. For another thing, you probably thought, based on the picks above, that I was going to limit myself to fantasy. Well. I don’t just read fantasy. I read books with magic. And East of Eden has magic, but in the vein of Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides: ancestral magic and forces hidden underneath the surface. Biblical allusions and families out of myth interweave to add a similar magic/cursed glow to the Salinas Valley.

But I’m not here about East of Eden’s classic status. That’s a given. What I’m arguing is that East of Eden should be read more often and be more well-known than any other Steinbeck work. But because, I’m sure, of worries about dark sexuality and the whole demonic murderess that is Cathy Ames, I never even heard about East of Eden in school. Grapes of Wrath? Obviously. I think we read that in sixth or seventh grade. And watched the movie, too. Of Mice and Men I read twice, once in ninth grade English and once in eleventh grade drama.

Both of those are good. Great. Powerful. But East of Eden is Steinbeck’s magnum opus. It’s much longer than Grapes of Wrath but a quicker read. And it’s more than deep enough to power sustained discussion. Of course, it’s not specifically about an important historical event like Grapes of Wrath. And it’s not teeny and readable like Of Mice and Men. But it would be amazing summer reading between eleventh and twelfth grades. Or immediately before college.

And once you read the book, it’s time for the movie. It’s time for Jaaaames Deaaaaan. Did you say legendary? Did you say important? Did you say jawline of a generation?

I think we should trust young people more. Expect more of them. They’re capable of reading Steinbeck’s best work. It’s not fair to keep them in the waiting room with his shorter and earlier works until they graduate.

-Mic

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By the way:
T5W (Top 5 Wednesday) is a weekly book meme created by gingerreadslainey and hosted by Sam @ThoughtsOnTomes. You find out more about T5W and the weekly topics on the Goodreads group here.

Why Rupaul’s Drag Race is an Important Cultural Milestone

I get to visit many fandoms. It’s a privilege. Some people get stuck in one genre or one place, one rut or obsession or mistake and end up working at their hometown grocery store. I’m not saying that’s a bad life. The most important thing is that you’re happy. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be happy walking the same pavement every Tuesday for the rest of my life. I don’t know which lifestyle is better. I just know what I want: to go and see.

I grew up in fantasy fandoms, of course, and I still spend my weekends there. It’s a big country. Up near the northwest corner is my small cabin. It is surrounded by trees and near the water. The couches smell like smoke. I am somewhat established, too, at coffee shops in the theatre fandoms and in comics, in queer literature and in Greco-Roman classics (a small espresso shop full of armor and poetry). I have summered in various kinds of TV shows. But my favorite fandom, and the one in which I most passionately participate, belongs to Rupaul’s Drag Race. It’s my happy place.

I’ve been watching Drag Race since Season One, Episode 2 (“Girl Groups”, which ended with Tammi Brown’s first deeply absurd, completely deserved elimination). I was in the second semester of my junior year of college, studying daily for my qualifying examinations and directing a play. It was a weird and beautiful time. I was infatuated with no fewer than five men, had only performed in drag a dozen or so times, and was living in a tiny attic room in an early twentieth-century mansion called Anna Mann. I didn’t really have to shave yet. I was a baby.

I liked Rupaul at the time but didn’t worship her. And though I was familiar with some ball and pageant queens like Victoria Porkchop Parker, Pepper LaBeija, and Alyssa Edwards (and was, of course, obsessed with Divine), I considered myself a performance artist more than a queen. Or, perhaps more accurately, I considered myself a young and glamorous gay man who enjoyed being brave and flouting rules. For boys like me, who came of age in Arkansas in the early 2000’s, life could be lonely. I knew there were collections of queer people in the cities and along the coasts, but I wasn’t sure how to get to them. I knew I had too much style for any one gender, but I didn’t yet know how to express myself. I literally did not have the words. Drag Race changed everything. Which reminds me – someone should put this on a plaque:

Hey, hey, hey HEYYYY! Put cha lighter’s up! Ganja’s in the house, owwwwww! As you can tell from my accent I am from Dallas, Tex-ass! And it was not very easy growing up looking like this! Whether I was playing in my grandma’s clothes or putting on a show for my well-organized alphabetically-ordered beanie babies, I was guh guh guh GAY! OKKKK! But it wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I discovered Marijuana. I mean I like to smoke. Y’all I am just flying as high as your receding hairline! OK!

Marijuana really does help me calm down.

So y’all, I went to Valencia where they film the TV show “Weeds!” Now, y’all, it’s very dry, it’s almost kinda like your vagoina! Can I get an amen?!? Now y’all, I am a treehugger, because if it ain’t green? HUH! I’m not interested! OKCURRRRRRRR!

This insane “comedy routine” by Laganja Estranja sounds like random Dada drivel. I love it. I guess it shouldn’t really be a surprise – drag queens tend to be well versed in absurdism and existential despair. Wait, wait, wait: read this next series of quotes (Laganja and Adore) in the voices of Didi and Gogo from Beckett’s  Waiting for Godot.

Estragon:

I think I’m being me when I do things. (Vladimir listens, bent double.) And when I say things in a different voice I have never noticed that I’m not being myself. (Vladimir pulls a carrot out of his front pocket and begins to polish it.) That’s why I’m saying this is the first time that you all have brought this to me. (Vladimir takes a bite of the carrot, makes a face and spits it out.) Well. Go ahead and make that face. (Vladimir rummages in his pockets.) I am annoying. I am fake. (Vladimir pulls a turnip out of his pocket.) I’m not who I’m being. (Vladimir pulls a handful of stunted summer squash out of his pocket and exclaims happily.) 

Estragon:

(hysterically). I’m pretending to be somebody I’m not! (Vladimir jumps and drops all of his summer squash.

Vladimir:

(reproachfully). No, that’s what I did not want to make it. (Vladimir reaches across the summer squash for Estragon’s hand. Estragon jerks away and crosses to extreme right.)

Silence.

Estragon:

Well how am I supposed to feel in this moment? Vladimir begins to pick up the summer squash.

Vladimir:

(sadly.) I didn’t want to make it that everyone was attacking you. 

Estragon:

(suddenly furious.) I feel very attacked! (He crosses to Vladimir, knocks the squash out of his hands and begins to stomp on them.)

Each contestant on Drag Race (over 100 so far) is a unique artist. Each puts her process on display throughout the season. Most noticeably evolve.  Some are creative powerhouses who have overcome extreme personal challenges. And yes, some of them are tempermental, neurotic, shady or just straight up batshit crazy (I’m looking at you, PhiPhi). But because they’re all outsiders, all weird sensitive hurt little souls, they all have textured and interesting characters. Drag queens are absolutely made for reality television. If I don’t scream, snap and cry during an episode of Drag Race, I consider it to be sub-par. Frankly, I don’t hold any other television show to such a high bar.

So yes, Drag Race manages to be massively entertaining. It is also deeply real. It speaks to timely issues and the experience of an often maligned and abused community. Before drag queens were popular, you know, and beloved by roving bands of preteen girls, we were made invisible by even some of our queer siblings. Drag queens, gender nonconformists and transfolks have been essential in the fight for LGBTQ rights. But we are often relegated to the sidelines once all the hard work has been done for fear that we might offend or scare the heterosexual majority that decides if we get rights. This by far the most mainstream that drag queens have ever been. This is why I say Rupaul’s Drag Race is an important historical milestone. It symbolizes seats at the table of popular culture for weirdo gender nonconformists and it is a long time coming.

So is this the crest of the wave or the beginning of a dynasty? Either way, you’ll want to be able to bond with your queer granddaughter about it some day, I promise. Episode One of Season 9 of Rupaul’s Drag Race airs March 24 on VH1 (which will be much easier to find, I think, than LOGO). You can also buy the season on iTunes as long as you don’t mind not watching in real time (I think the episode airs the next day).

-Mic (aka Legs and Dairy)

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10 Facts I Learned From The New York Times Sunday Edition

I used to buy the New York Times every Sunday (and randomly throughout the week) when I stopped for coffee before work. When I moved to a different work location in late 2016, that habit fell away, mostly because I don’t pass by any coffee shops that sell the paper. But because of all this hubbub about fake news and because Trump keeps saying that the New York Times is “failing,” I decided to take out a Sunday subscription. This past Sunday, 2/19/17, was the first day I received the paper at my apartment and, though I have a lot of work to do, I could not resist diving into its heft and rustle.

Taking time to read the paper, especially paired with coffee and cigarettes, strikes me as a romantic act. It reminds me of my grandparents and of a time when the majority of people weren’t getting their daily updates from Facebook. It makes me think of wood smoke and leather and herringbone. And there’s something to be said for getting your news from professionals who make it their job to produce well-written and well-researched stories. There’s something to be said for the way it thumps down on my coffee table and for the way it unfurls its wings.

So, riding this wave of enthusiasm that I’m feeling for my new subscription, I thought I’d share with you ten facts that I learned from reading the International, National and Sports sections (yes, I even read the sports news). I still have a lot more to read, but at this point I’m just procrastinating. After all, this blog post is written. If you like this kind of post, by the way, let us know! Little known fact: this list of little known (to me) facts gets made regardless, in my journal, so it’s really very little trouble for me to type it up and send it out to you.

  1. In South Korea, which is technically still at war with North Korea, the conservative parties traditionally use Red-baiting as a vote-gathering tool. Recently, with the impeachment of conservative president Park Geun-hye, some of her supporters have begun decrying the “fake-news media,” whose coverage of her presidency partially led to her downfall.

It completely makes sense that fear of Communism would be a powerful force in South Korea but I guess I’ve never thought through the fact that it is a current and viable political tool there today. When I think of Red-baiting, I generally think of America in the 50s and of “The Crucible” and of villains like Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn, which all seems like it happened a very long time ago.

  1. Austerity measures in Greece have led to some individuals paying 70 percent of their gross income back to the government in taxes. Because of this, a very large black market has emerged (including for very mundane businesses like bakeries and hair salons). Anyone working on the black market, and therefore not forced to pay austerity taxes, can charge much less for comparable work. Which of course makes it much harder for companies and individuals following legitimate business paths to get business or pay their taxes.

Jesus – 70 percent of gross income? Austere, indeed.

  1. All NATO allies have promised to reach the goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense by 2024. Only five countries do so now. Trump has backtracked a bit on NATO – he says that he’s “a fan” but “they’re not paying their bills.”

Look, I hesitate to agree with Trump on anything (I mean really…I almost didn’t include this fact, but I think that would be dishonest), but I will admit that, if everyone wants defense, everyone should pay their part. I’m used to reading about America paying the lion’s share of…pretty much everything, but I didn’t realize the discrepancy, even in NATO, was so large.

  1. Mexico City is quickly and horrifyingly sinking into the ancient clay lake beds upon which the city is built (the term for this is “subsidence”). Some parts of the city are sinking at a rate of 9 inches per year, leading to sudden deep cracks and sinkholes that can claim lives. Climate change is exacerbating and intensifying this process. The Pentagon considers climate change to be a “threat multiplier” – where rainfall declines, “the risk of a low-level conflict escalating to a full-scale civil war approximately doubles the following year.” Climate change in Mexico City will likely lead to drought alternating with floods and to deadly heat waves (many of the poorer residents do not have air conditioning). These tensions are intensified by the large-scale development that has covered much of the volcanic soil in the area (volcanic soil is water-permeable and therefore allows rainfall to drain back into underground aquifers…unless you cover it in concrete). 20 percent (or more, depending on your source) of the residents of Mexico City already cannot count on water running from their tap each day.

I’ve heard about the Aztecs building their ancient city on floating baskets in the middle of a lake. I did not realize that this foundation was still having such a profound effect upon the architecture and upon the people that live in Mexico City. The plight of single parents in the city not being able to work because they have to wait on the water trucks to arrive is heartbreaking. I think it’s especially notable that, though Mexico City is nowhere near a coast, climate change will likely have disastrous effects. Simply put: no one is untouched by the changes we’ve wrought on our world.

  1. This is the “first urban century” in human history – the first time more people live in cities than don’t.

I love this fact because it mirrors so closely my own experience. It also leads me to think about the efficacy of the Electoral College in an age in which the constantly shrinking minority of rural residents have such an outsized effect upon the future of our country.

  1. In Bali, babies are considered to be reincarnations of deceased relatives, still close to the sacred realm from which they came. Because of this, their little feet are not allowed to touch the dirt for the first 105 (or 210, in some communities) days of their life.

All I can think of is the movie Baby Genuises, with which most of my family was obsessed for almost a full year. If you want to hear an interesting story, have my mom tell you about the weird prescience and uncanny wisdom I possessed as a child – maybe babies know more than we think they do. Also, what happened to all my prescience and wisdom, damnit?

  1. The drought is pretty much over in California due to one of the wettest winters in decades, but the effects of the drought are still obvious – more than 100 million trees have died in California since 2010.

I have nothing to say about this except tears and “FARRRROOOOOO” (which is me calling the Ents to war).

  1. A new restaurant dedicated to Rue McClanahan and “The Golden Girls” has opened up in Washington Heights in New York. They serve a cheesecake in honor of each of the four girls, custom beers, entrees and coffee blends inspired by the characters. As much a museum as a restaurant, it’s also home to the pumps Blanche wore in the pilot episode, mannequins draped in her gowns, hundreds of pictures and, underneath a sidewalk plaque at the entrance, some of Rue McClanahan’s ashes.

This sounds so fabulous – RuPaul, a huge “Golden Girls” fan, will definitely be making an appearance, if he hasn’t already. If any of our readers have attended, please comment below and let us know how it was! I’m extremely jealous.

  1. Norma McCorvey, the ‘Roe’ in ‘Roe vs. Wade’ has died at 69 years of age. After being an outspoken pro-choice activist, she became a born-again Christian and, later, a Roman Catholic. She then became an outspoken pro-life activist.

Jeez. I had no idea she lived such a tumultuous life. The flip-flopping she exhibited about abortion is indicative of the deeply confusing existential questions connected to the issue. Though I’ll judge you for many things, I won’t judge your opinion about abortion (though, for the record, I am pro-choice and pro-family planning). I’ve known too many wonderful, intelligent, socially-liberal people who disagree with me.

  1. For North American trophy hunters, the most expensive animal to hunt is the bighorn sheep. In 2013, a permit in Montana sold for $480,000.

Huh – who knew? I think that trophy hunting is gross, by the way. But I would never have imagined that the most sought-after animal in North America is…a sheep?

Just as a last thought: consider subscribing to a news source that you trust. Support legitimate reporting if you can. Trump has declared a war on facts and on the liberal media, so if you enjoy…facts…or the liberal media, now is another time to make your voice heard through support of organizations you value. Keep in mind, too, that virtually every paper offers an online-only subscription if you’re worried about that ole paper waste!

-Mic

Less Bitchy, More Bee-tchy

Darling, how do you feel about kiwis? Not the people or the birds. The fruit. They’re on sale this week at my local grocery store. I like to eat them whole – the weirdo hairy peel is my favorite part.

What about watermelons? It’ll be hot again soon here in Texas – attacking a ruby watermelon on a hot day, feeling the juice run down my chin and seeing how far I can spit the smooth black seeds is an essential memory of my childhood.

Are you a fan of berries? Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries? Snozzberries? I always buy them for smoothies and then just eat them by themselves. Sometimes I pour them into a bowl first, but usually not.

I’m over the whole pumpkin craze, but then, it’s a while before autumn hits. I bet that, by September, I’ll be craving all things pumpkin again (except Pumpkin Spice Lattes – I’m not that girl). One of the only impressive dishes I can make is a bread pudding in a roasted pumpkin. It always gets an appreciative “ooooh” at dinner parties.

And I’ll bet you enjoy at least one of the following: cherries, plums, peaches, zucchini, cucumbers, apples or mangoes. And if you live anywhere where tacos and guacamole are on the menu, you would grieve the end of avocados.
Look, this is not a food blog. I’m not really a foodie. But imagine all the recipes that contain these foods. Imagine what you could not make without them. Since I work at a natural cosmetics company, I’m struck by how many cosmetic products would be significantly less plumping, less brightening and all-around less effective without the benefit of these enzyme and vitamin-rich ingredients.

All of these fruits and vegetables have one thing in common: their main pollinator is bees. Many foods depend to some extent on insect pollinators, but the above examples are all intrinsically dependent upon them. If bees go extinct, all of these beautiful foods, packed with nutrients and brimming with flavor, will disappear from our produce aisles. We’ll be back to bread and cheese, boo. Medieval.

On September 30, 2016, seven species of Hawaiian bees were added to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list. This is the first time ever that any kind of bee has been added to the list. This doesn’t mean that all bees are now endangered. But it is a significant moment for the world’s food supply, 75% of which depends at least partially on pollination to flourish (including cotton, chocolate and, oh Jesus, COFFEE).

It isn’t just in Hawaii that bees are under threat. In February of 2016, a U.N.-sponsored report that drew on almost 3,000 scientific papers concluded that about 40% of the world’s invertebrate pollinator species (including bees and butterflies) are facing extinction. It’s not only chefs and gourmands who should be worried. These crops are big, big business: between $235 billion and $577 billion annual global value.

As is usually the case, the slow extinction of pollinator species is a complex problem. They are affected by changes in land use and intensive agricultural practices (aka monoculture farming in giant corporate fields), invasive species, diseases and pests, climate change and pesticide use.

The most widely used class of insecticides in both the United States and the world is one called neonicotinoids or neonics. These neuro-active insecticides are chemically similar to nicotine and, though they cause little toxicity in birds and mammals, they have been under increasing scrutiny since the 1990s for the effects that they have on bees and butterflies. Even low amounts of contact may impact bees’ ability to remember routes to and from food sources (aka pollination trails).

Neonicotinoid use has been linked in a range of studies to adverse ecological effects, including honey-bee colony collapse disorder (CCD).  Though neonics can poison bees, giving them convulsions, they more often confuse the bees so badly that they simply never return to the hive. Instead, they are doomed to wander until they finally die alone on the grass, separated from their colony and unable to feed their queen’s larvae or do any of the necessary tasks intrinsic to a healthy hive. Simply put, the use of these insecticides is toxic to bees and leads to their death and to the death of the hive, which will in time lead to the decline and loss of many of our favorite foods, flowers and herbs.

So, what can you do to help? First, buy organic whenever possible. Look, I know organic food is more expensive and sometimes hard to find. But foods treated with pesticides (and very likely with neonics, since they’re the world’s most popular class of insecticide) have very real effects on our environment. Little decisions sometimes lead to big changes. Support the big change away from neonicotinoids whenever you can. Raise your voice with your money, which is a form of communication that corporations and politicians understand.

Second, support organizations that are urging the EPA to ban neonics. My personal favorite is Environment Texas (www.environmenttexas.org), but there are various charities working toward this goal. And they’ve secured some very real results: several states have already taken action to limit the use of neonics, including Maryland and Minnesota. In 2013, the European Union restricted neonicotinoid use and a few non-EU counties followed suit. Change is happening – it’s not too late to reverse course.

Last, do some research on your own. There’s a lot to learn here but it’s not necessary to understand the chemical structure of these pesticides or to read every single paper that’s been published on them. It can be as simple as a google search. NPR, Mother Jones, the BBC and various other respected news organizations have reported widely on this topic (which, by the way, are the sources I used for this blog entry). Even the Wikipedia page on neonics is a good place to begin.

Good luck, and god save the bees.

-Mic

The Plunge (or: We did the damn thing.)

Then, that one time, where you walked hand in hand with your dear friend, all the way to the end of the plank.  Shuffling along, with your ragged breaths, sleeplessness hanging off your every eyelash- you walked together.  Trying to recount the hours spent and the stress accumulated over the last couple of months.  To be true, it was a lot more than you had anticipated.  Nevertheless, you hold tighter- knowing you are not alone- and you continue along.  The plank seems never ending- as if the very notion that you would come to the end is outrageous.  As you see it draw near, it somehow gets longer.  You’re in a fun house.  You are in a fun house and you will never get out.  Somehow new obstacles pop up along the way.  Wedges try to erupt between you and your friends, and your collective destination.  Persistence.  This is what you remember with every sigh that escapes your mouth.  You think of Sauron and his ever present eyeball- bloodshot, and searching.  Always looking for the one thing to bring relief to his quest; even he found some resolution.  You will too.  So.  You carry on.  Step by step, you carry on.

Then, all but suddenly, it’s here.  You stare out at it.  A lot more anticlimactic than you had imagined.  It’s simply an email that says “your content has been published, look for it in the next 48 hours.”  OH.  That’s it?  All of that effort and research and time and emotion and laughter and…..fear; that’s how it comes to fruition?

So.  You take that deep breath, hold a little tighter, smile, and you leap.  You leap right off the edge, into the unknown.  What’s next?  Who cares.  Below are the ever rocky seas of criticism, comment, failure, effort, and the rest of the unknown- but who the fuck cares?  You did it.

So proud to say, that as of today you can find our first two episodes online now!  Please subscribe in your podcast apps- rate us – and continue to follow our journey!

So. Much. Love.

-Morgan

 

Swamps of Sadness; Don’t Get Too Numb

Numb.

This is how I’ve been feeling lately. Not happy, you understand, but not unhappy either. My life right now is the equivalent of a month-long cold. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that I’ve literally had a month-long cold. I have become a constant sniffler, a man obsessed with tissues, a wispy whiner with a surprisingly deep and butch cough.

But this isn’t a hazy numbness. It’s a presence and I think there’s a callous forming, too. While my joints ache and my eyes water, my personal walls are actively growing taller. They are being reinforced and topped with broken glass. I can feel it happening. Just like the wall Trump is building, I am paying for them myself. There are only a few entryways left in these walls. I am eyeing them and fingering the keys.

I had a nightmare last night that I had overlooked a door in my hall and that I share my kitchen with a neighbor. It frightened me badly enough to wake me up and propel me out of bed at 6:30 in the morning on my day off. The night before, I had a nightmare about not being served at a local restaurant because I’m gay. That time I got up at 4:30, after three hours of sleep, and just started my day. I made a burger for breakfast. I talked to my cabinets.

Look, I am aware that this political moment will pass. Everything does. But there’s going to be a lot of bullshit before it does and seeing the enormity of that stretched out in front of me is hardly ennobling. Four years of grief and shame aren’t alleviated by a political turnaround. The fact that we’ve sunk so low and elected such a monstrous, vapid, selfish person to the presidency is not something I can forget. The loved ones who voted for him will always be marked as Trump Voters in my brain. It’s so sad I can hardly bear it.

I know about bearing things, about pushing worries down and clenching my fists and planning for a future that may or may not ever exist. I bet you do too, even if you didn’t grow up gay and closeted and afraid. We know numbness.

I hear the liberal left calling for a continued fire in my breast. I believe it will come back – February is always the hardest month of the year for me. Even though it’s warm outside here in Texas, there’s a little chill in my pocket. Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day is the most fake-ass tacky holiday of all. Probably not.

I hear the liberal podcasters trumpeting the small, small wins that the marches, rebellions and resistance have achieved. I am proud of my friends who are fighting. And I do believe that things will eventually improve. But there’s a lot of damage ahead of us still. Not only is the Orange Menace president, but his cabinet and his appointees are by turns ignorant, malicious and greedy. Not only will Trump get to appoint an appropriately hateful Supreme Court Justice, but Republicans have all the power in Congress.

Not only is the current regime prone to xenophobia, fear-mongering, shady backdoor dealings and stark, pure lies, but they’re here because Americans elected them. People I love voted for him. Talking through it doesn’t change it. It’s the moral equivalent of your parent coming out of the bathroom and the smell of their shit hitting you in the face. Except this was a shit they could have chosen not to take.

I guess what I’m trying to communicate via convoluted scatological metaphors is that, just when I thought I didn’t have any innocence left to lose, a little bit more flaked away. I don’t think the person being revealed is bad or ugly, but he’s certainly sadder. That outer coat sure was smooth and pretty and I’m going to miss it.

To end on a more optimistic note: all the money I’ve donated is still working for me, for Muslims, for women, for refugees, for immigrants, for LGBTQ people and for anyone imperiled by Trump’s towering idiocy and cruelty. I might not be feeling strong right now, but I don’t necessarily have to be – cash can do some of the heavy lifting. Plus, I got cute little cards from Environment Texas, from ACLU and from Planned Parenthood. I don’t know what I’m expected to do with these little cards, really. No point in carrying them around unless they begin leaping out of my wallet and enticing cute boys. But I like them. I guess those little membership cards are a concrete reminder that, even if I feel completely stuck and sad, something is happening somewhere.

I also, by the way, just downloaded Stash, an app that allows me to invest very small amounts of money from each paycheck in equality, green energy and…robots. That last one is less an ethical investment and more just a shrewd one. I can count eight tech gadgets from where I am sitting in my living room. I do not believe that any of these machines have developed a consciousness, but if they rise up, I hope they’ll remember that I invested in them.

Anyway, this blog post now sounds like a poetic advertisement for Stash. They are not a sponsor. I wish they were – such a great app. I’m just trying to say that, if you’re feeling numb right now and temporarily don’t feel up to standing on the front lines, consider focusing on living your best little life, making 5 AM breakfast burgers and using some of the resulting money you’ve saved to invest in hope for the future.

And if you too find yourself building up your personal barricades and laboriously closing all your gates, please remember where you left the keys. I think we’ll need them someday.

-Mic

Super Humans + the Heroics of Being

This week we are discussing The Flash– a super hero imbued with powers, giving him an opportunity to serve the greater good. Many find their selves thinking how neat it would be to have real life Super Heroes.  People who have our best interests at heart, who stand up for us, who make the world a better place.  People who make us laugh, and change our narrative and open our eyes to the infinite possibilities of our universe.   Well.  I’m here to tell you, they’re actually all around; you need only open your eyes to see them.

Women are real life super heroes.  We have all the markings for it.  We are oppressed, feared, beaten down, forced to rise up and show our powers in times of need.  We are fierce and loyal, but harbor an unrivaled softness.  We have an inclination towards Empathy that makes us protective of our Coven, but we have strength to rival Gods when we choose to access it.  We live intrinsically with the Cycles of Mother Moon, and embody Yin and Yang as we bear the ebbs and flows of life. We breed hearts and minds and spend our days nurturing them, so they may grow up and influence the race of Men and spread love and equality.  We are Mother.  We are power.  We are love.  We are woman- hear us roar!

Single parents are super heroes.  (I would know, I had one)  And not the typical one you see ; I had a father, put into a situation which he navigated expertly- through the rocky waters of poverty and wanting and growth and frustration.  Single parents make decisions on the fly, and put others first.  They are good at problem solving, and putting on a brave face, and standing up to the bullies.  They take the punches so we don’t have to, and they reassure us that our world is going to continue on another day, because they will stand at their watch. Their post will not be abandoned, as others have done before them.  They stand tall, and brush off the disdain we throw at them; the blame we place upon them.  They absorb it, and they never release it upon us.  They are too good for us, and we know it.; it takes time, but we learn in the end.  We will forever memorialize them in our hearts and minds as brave heroes who took the mantle when others would not, and helped us all prevail.  They pave the way, so we may have a brighter tomorrow.

The men and women of the armed forces and the police departments and the firefighters and ALL the civil servants:  they are all super heroes.  They lay down their lives, time, and relationships for us – to protect us in our hour of need.  They have taken a stand against their brothers and sisters on occasions when their brethren have needed reminding: We serve ALL people, regardless of skin color or history or future.  They have filibustered on our behalf, so that we may obtain services crucial to our body. They have marched against oppression to say we, as a people, deserve better.  They have  walked into the face of sand and bullets with a picture of their children in their pocket, because they made a promise to Us.  They have served their country and the greater good and often gotten lost along the way, but they have always tried again and again. They have stood in the face of anger, and hate and they will do it again tomorrow if asked.  They are larger than life, and they are beautiful for their sacrifice.

Our teaches are super heroes.  They spend their days molding our minds and imparting upon us world views to expand our horizons.  The good ones stick with you, and will continue to do so until time has ceased to turn.  They live on in our hearts, and they influenced our perception of good and bad.  They live on in our Minds as we continue to search those vast expanses, and fill it with information and opinions and the hunger we need to plant seeds that we can watch grow.  They touch our hearts, and we let them hold on.  They use knowledge as ammunition, and they do their best to arm us- to prepare us for what awaits us outside their doors.  They find the strength to let us go, and trust that we will grow.  They trust in is, and they teach us to trust in ourselves.

Friends are super heroes.  They wrap their arms around us, and we feel our roots dig deep into the ground and intertwine with one another.  Our branches grow upward sprouting futures and possibilities and they remain intertwined as we soak up sunshine and flourish.  They feed our souls and shape our perception of the world, and make us feel sane.   They blossom and cross pollinate and gift to us what they too have been given, and they catch our tears when they start to fall.  They reinforce our psyche with assurances and pep talks at the most apt time; they also take hold of our egos, and press deflate when necessary. Sometimes they turn into lovers and take our hearts in theirs and breathe vulnerability and love and challenge into our soul; they help plant seeds inside of us, that teach us to be a new kind of human; we hold hands with little ones and smile and laugh and see our reflections infinitely in their eyes.  Sometimes our friendships die, and in that passing we inhale and learn so much from where we have been.  As the leaves fall and all feels cold, we feel lost- but there is always Spring.  The dead trees can recover, and if fertilized properly- they begin regrowth.  Sprouts will always reappear, and multiply- awaiting mutual nourishment in the face of possibilities and outcomes far to great to number.  Friends open their ears and they absorb our words as if it were a good book.  They listen intently, and reply snarkily and offer guidance and penance and words to fuel our desires.  Their warmth can reach great distances, and they may offer sustenance from afar when required.  They are water; without water we wither and we forget how to cry and we become hollow.

Where do you see super heroes in your life?  They are presented to us in many forms. Will you seek heroes out this year?  Will you be mindful of what that constitutes?  Will you be open to the many contributions awaiting to fulfill your lives?  I recommend it.

This year I am focusing on letting Passion be my hero.  We spend far too much time disregarding the cardinal directions of our heart.  If we only listen better, we could see our paths laid out before us, infinitely.  I want to let passion turn the pages of the novels I read, dictate the shows I choose to watch, or the paths I choose to wander, or the institutions that I give my money to, or the people I spend my time with – and the way I spend my time in general.  I always love the phrasing of that- “Spending time”.  Time is the only currency we were ever gifted.  When we took our first breathe, our bank became limited.  There is only so much of it, and it is up to us to choose where it is “spent”.  I am challenging myself to be at peace with how I spend my time; be at peace with the career path I am on, and find value in it; be at peace with having no money in my bank, but spending every last bit of it to go on an adventure; be at peace with speaking up and making a stand, even if someone is displeased by the language or method; be at peace with any mistakes I make along the way; be at peace with my ever changing future.

I choose deep breaths, time well spent, and Passion.

Find your Heroes this year – and make them SUPER.

 

-Morgan