I should have words to talk about the Nazi riots and terrorist acts in Charlottesville, Virginia like all my other friends, but I don’t. I don’t, not because I’m immune to the goings on (definitely not as a person of color) or because I don’t care about it (I do of course) or even because I’m inundated by too many negative news about racism (who isn’t these days?). I don’t because the day of the events in Charlottesville, I was sheltered by events at the Boston ComicCon.

While antifa groups were clashing with Nazi Klansmen, my daughter and I were trying to figure out how to go to two separate events simultaneously. When a car plowed into peaceful counterprotesters killing Heather Hayer and wounding 19 others, we were listening to Jim Cummings (voice of Winnie the Pooh) talk about his encounter with Mel Blanc. While friends were posting our “President’s” lack of concern/concern over the events, Sophia was talking to people easily about their love for particular anime. Where people were trying to reclaim their “greatness” in being white, we were watching female Aquamen, Black Batmem, and a few Rocky Horror Frank-n-Futters all wandering the expo center looking for Pop vinyl figures and T-shirts. I even ran into the comic artist Buzz, who is a friend from high school, and he gave my daughter an autographed copy of his Best of Art book. It was a perfect environment for my daughter to learn what was good in the world: love of art, music, culture, fun, games, costumes, and appreciation for the art and passion of others.

Yes it was a horrible day for our country, but my daughter and I, and all those others at the con were sheltered from almost all of it for a while. I say sheltered because I know geek culture isn’t immune to problems of race, misogyny, anti-LGBTQ sentiments, and other such problems (e.g GamerGate, diversity in movies/comics and the backlash, etc). But within geek culture the tendency is towards acceptance and openness that is sorely lacking in society in general. And yes we have our Nazi-Geek-Gatekeepers as well to contend with, and we hate them, too, but they are often more annoying than dangerous (also they are often in worse physical shape than most, so they are easy to fight or flee as the situation calls for). For the most part it is great to see groups from all races, ethnicities, countries, genders, sexual orientations come together around art and culture in a way that is positive and caring.

I am not trying to make light of what happened in Charlottesville and other such places, but I offer a way to counter those responsible. They are the cloistered and closed-minded that feel they are losing their society when it is actually growing around them. Education and experience of the new and unknown will always grow our sensibilities and empathy. And I don’t mean that the art of comic books or the culture of science fiction will save us, but consider this: societies are always defined by their art, music, and cultural similarities. Such is the same with geek culture. As such, it is art and culture that binds us together in large swaths of people and open-mindedness that will carry that hope into the future, and this is what will sustain us and our souls. It is when we nurture that fascination to discover new art and stories that expand our understanding of the world that we grow as people, thus growing as a community. This is what I see BLM, LGBTQ, women, antifas, and all marginalized groups fighting for: to grow the community to include—not exclude—everyone. We should always stand against racism and fascism in all its forms; but we must be open to culture to know what we are fighting for.

Redux

August 7, 2017

I hate feeling stuck, especially with writing, but that’s where I am. I’m taking an older project that was supposed to be a web series and adapting for a stage play. The first act is done, but I’m stuck at Act 2, Scene 1, and it’s driving me nuts. I knew how I wanted the act to end and I got it there, and I know where the rest of the play is supposed to go, but where I a now is unsure. I don’t know where I am and how to move forward (story of my life, I guess). Part of it is I’m used to stopping and starting on a dime, moving on from the end point. Not this time. I’m going back to what I wrote and read it from the beginning, plus rereading my character bios just so I can get reacquainted with the material and get where to go. I don’t like it, but it’s necessary.

Some of the blog writing is helping me climb out of this writing rut. Plus there are a couple of inspired prompts that got some creative juices flowing again. It’s been a while and I am apparently much rustier than I thought. I need to rework some muscles and stretch out after a long absence.

Marquee Humor

August 6, 2017

This was up at the Apple Cinema Theater in Cambridge, MA about a month or so back:

Wonder Woman
Captain Underpants

Help me out on this one. Is this a) Microagression/Misogyny, b) Bad Publicity, or c) Porn Movie Title?

Summer Fun

August 5, 2017

Yes, I’m really lost these days and not enjoying a lot of what my life is like today. But I can’t keep writing the same blog over and over again thinking it will do me any good. It helps to get it out, but that’s what therapy is for. I’ll probably blog about stuff like this again because, for better or worse, it is a part of my life I have to deal with. However, right now I feel like I’m dwelling on it too much, so for something different.

Sophia finished her summer Arabic Intensive last week. In late spring, she told e she didn’t want to go to the same camp as she did last year because she didn’t like all the activities she was doing (I think mostly the active physical stuff). That surprised me because she seemed to like it at the time and she said she had fun. Now I was suddenly scrounging for another place for her to go to for part of the summer. I told her we’d try to find something she’d have fun doing; the next day she brought me the application for the Arabic intensive. It’s si-days a week over almost all of July learning to read, write, and speak Arabic. I asked is this really your idea of having fun for the summer, and she said yes. So she signed up, she was accepted, and, the Tuesday after graduating middle school, started digging into Arabic.

Despite being quiet all the time about anything and everything, I always asked how she was doing in the sessions. She’d simply say fine and hop on her computer. If I pressed her for details, she was kind of vague about answers. So I let it go and it became a routine for July. The last Saturday session before the intensive ended, she burst into the house carrying three different plastic shopping bags, and yelled “I bought fruit!” The weekend before was their big field trip to the Islamic Center in Roxbury—which I was hoping to hear more about, but no such luck—but that Saturday they went to the farmer’s market is Haymarket in downtown Boston, which had a lot or Arabic and Middle Eastern sellers. They were given a dollar to spend on whatever, and buy and talk to the sellers in Arabic (I gave her allowance that morning so she was able to buy a lot). When she got home she couldn’t stop talking about buying fruit, talking in Arabic, telling me about different character usage in words, and a whole host of other things about the Arabic language that I didn’t understand at all, but she went on for about 45 minutes nonstop. It clicked with me about the farmer’s market because the marketplace is customary in Arabic and Islamic countries, so it made sense that they expose her to some of that directly—though she couldn’t haggle with these sellers as is fairly customary in Arabic markets. We talked about that too and she was pretty much on air the whole time.

The intensive was pretty good for her. She gets some language credit for high school, but she will be taking Japanese when she gets to Boston Latin Academy in the fall. Needless to say she had the right way for her to enjoy the summer.

Things in my life seem to be slipping away. Things that were at the core of my identity, things I could look to and say “this is who I am,” are becoming lost to me over the years. I had creative life goals to work for; now making it through the day is the only goal I hope to achieve. I was a nice guy for so long that it was evident; these days even saying “I’m a nice guy” rings false to my ears. I feel bitter and empty, and it’s showing more and more. I’ve been on a slow downward spiral for close to a decade, even with some financial stability I feel lost. Even though I’ve hit bottom, every time I start to climb out of it, falling back makes the hole deeper.

What’s hardest is I’ve shut a lot of people out. I don’t talk to anyone on the phone anymore, except my parents. Facebook comments to friends are common, but not always updating my status is not so much and vague.Trying to bridge that gap is a major challenge for me. I’ve abandonned them, but I’ve twisted it in my head so they’ve abandonned me. Since reaching out has never been my strongest point, I wind up stuck and alone.

My blog posts are non-existent as of late, I know that. I barely write anymore. I have so much unfinished work at various stages and they are laying dormant. And much like reaching out, it’s not that I’ve lost a gift as that I’ve abandonned those gifts. Instead of the passion I felt to start writing a project, I feel ashamed to try and start where I left off.

Things are a jumble in my hear. It’s all an endless void of suck. Thoughts and emotions get mixed up and I’m lost. I feel bad not that I’m letting myself down, but that I’m letting everyone else down. I always put myself last, so it’s okay, even though it’s not. I’m not in complete despair but, I can recognize the look and details of it as it appears closer. I knew it before sometime ago so I know what it looks like. A blog post won’t flip everything around, but it’s something.

Poem: Saliva

May 1, 2017

As Chuck D. once said, “I don’t freestyle much/but I write ’em like such.” A poem I wrote a while back about the written and spoken word. I read it at church for a poetry service on Sunday.

SALIVA

I wish I could spit.
I wish I could throw
Verses and verbs
Masses of words
Heavy hitting or honey soaked
Making their way from
Throat to mind
In slow trickles or flash floods
Cleansing thoughts
Eroding emotions
Clearing sediment and sentiment
Caught in its wake
Polishing rough ideas
Into smooth, oblong and rounded
Philosophies.
I wish I could flow
A constant stream of
Running tributes and tributaries
Interconnecting rapids
And rapid fire monologues
Faster and faster
In waves of crashing consonants
Constantly streaming sentences
Flowing down streams of consciousness
Flooding the banks and barriers
And other internal censors
As a torrential downpour of ideas
Runs into the sea.
I wish off the top of my head
I could spew forth
Rhymes like Vesuvius
Stopping people and cities
Dead in their tracks
Or smack like Krakatoa
A pop heard ’round the world
Making my presence known
Metaphors harden when
They hit the water
Bedrock expanding outwards
From the sound of my voice.
But I don’t spit.
My words sink slowly
Into the sheet
Filling in the veins of
Pierced wounds on a page
Fangs put to parchment
Ink of mixed blood and venom
Deadly to the glance
Waiting to strike
And with a touch
Seeps into the skin
Disrupts the system
Coursing through your mind
One word at a time.

Dear M,

Hi. I know it’s been a while since we’ve talked/texted/emailed/communicated at all, and I wanted to apologize for that. Actually I want to apologize for a lot of things, the biggest is being a lousy friend. That didn’t start immediately after we broke up, but soon enough.

I know we weren’t together for all that long, but the break up stunned me. Even after talking to death about it–how you weren’t ready for a relationship, how we both wanted different things, how we were better of as friends–it’s not something I wanted. But if I pushed harder I’d lose you as a friend. So I talked myself into staying a friend even though I wanted to be more. But even that was, to be brutally honest, cynical on my part, because somewhere in the back of my mind (the reptilian part I pretend I don’t have), I was hoping you’d “change your mind” and take me back. There was a flicker of hope that kept me going and kept up a “friendship.”

I think I was angry that you got over thing so quickly and I was stuck. You lived your life, and I couldn’t go forward. You got married, had kids, look even better now than you did 15 years ago, and I only grew bitter. That wasn’t your fault, but I resented you like it was. Still, to be your “friend” meant ignoring my feelings; so I did and blamed you for it. I became the jerk I was trying not to be.

That changed recently. I was driving a delivery when a song I never heard before came on the indie station. It was “If I Loved You” by Delta Rae. Great song and the final chorus got me bad:

“But I don’t love you much as I want to
I don’t love you, no it would be a lie
And you deserve love, you’re better than a good day
And you’ll find it but just not in my eyes
‘Cause it ain’t here love…”

It’s simple, powerful and everything you were saying to me 15 years ago but I didn’t want to hear.  It finally sunk in and yeah I get it. I was angry for stupid reasons fueled only by my own ego, and held you responsible for nothing that you did. I’m sorry I’ve been such an asshole and sullen and resentful and not considering your feelings. You deserve better that my attitude and I’m truly sorry for that.

I hope you can forgive me for all this, but (I finally realize) that is your decision.

David

It’s hard to say which I’ve been losing more of: my courage to write or my will to write. I can’t say it’s a lack of ideas, although writer’s block doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of ideas. In all my life, I’ve never been unable to generate ideas; my head is constantly filled with them. While overload of ideas might be a problem, I’m not sure that the case with me at this time. Thinking it over, I’ve narrowed it down to lack of courage and lack of willpower. They are subtle, but there are differences.

Courage is easier to define. It’s having the balls not just to write whatever comes to mind, damn the critics—both inner and outer—but also the balls to do it regularly. It’s not the same courage that it takes to put on a uniform, pick up a gun, and fight for your country; it’s the courage to put thoughts to paper or posts to prevent countries from going to war. That and every bit of sentiment and emotion from there on down. Willpower is the practice itself. It’s the daily effort to stare down a blank page or screen until your eyes bleed or you start writing, whichever comes first. The more often you do it the easier it gets and the more reflexive it becomes.

Mine has always been a struggle between courage and will. There are days I have the time and abililty to write, but my inner voices have me silenced. Other days I know exactly what to say, but get swamped, exhausted, distracted, or all three at once. The end result is the same: months without any writing output and occasionally forced to produce on a deadline. And all that while writing becomes fearful, less instinctive, and less productive.

It’s not effortless to write this, but it’s not easy. This isn’t what I should be writing now, but it’s what I can put out now. I’ve been underusing muscles, not only in the gym, but in my mind. My knees are bothering me, but that can be healed with rest and physical therapy. My stagnation is bothering, but the only way to fix that is to write a little bit at a time. Hopefully I can heal myself, body and mind, eventually.

The scars of the 2016 presidential election will take a while to feel less tender and fade; right now they still hurt. During the summer, there was a lot of animosity on both sides leading up to the general, as well as a lot of backlash to anyone who wanted to vote third party. Or at least for anyone not one of the major two party candidates. Social media of all types was not a friendly place for a good 6 months. You post one meme or a photo and suddenly the comments become the Delta House food fight via the Algonquin Round Table. One meme I posted I actually didn’t get a lot of flack for, but it helped me talk to my now 14 year old daughter about the election.

This was one of those Harry Potter based memes saying “this is what our election is like” and displaying two of the Potter world characters. Usually it was Dolores Umbridge as a stand in for Clinton, and Voldemort for Trump; however this time it was Umbridge and Gilderoy Lockhart. I thought it was cute, but I knew my daughter would love it. She’s read all the Potter books and she can explain all the differences between the books and the movies to me (I never got into the books, but I like the movies). I showed the meme to here and broke out laughing, even more so than me.

“That’s so perfect,” she said. “Lockhart is kind of a blowhard who only thinks of himself, so that’s perfect for Trump.” Then she looked at me a bit quizically, and asked “How Clinton is like Umbridge again?”

I had to think about this for a minute. I know that Umbridge is hated in the Potterverse for good reason, and there are enough parallels to Clinton to make it awkward for me to watch “Order of the Phoenix” any time it came on. Translating what I knew about Clinton to the Potterverse is ticky, but I knew enough to try and explain it via the films.

“Remember how Umbridge was completely unwavering in her belief in what she was doing was right, even though the students and us viewers knew she was completely wrong? Well that’s how she’s like Clinton. They are very forceful advocates of what they think is right, even when it is wrong, and even to the point of being unable to admit it’s wrong.” She totally understood that when I explained it.

The main attack by Hillary supporters about why us progressives don’t support Hillary was sexism. Unfortunately this ignores the fact that many of us were hoping for a Elizabeth Warren run and after Bernie bowed out, many switched to Jill Stein. My issues wit Hillary Clinton, while often about political leanings (third-way democrats have always been far too conservative for my sensibilities), have always been policy based. Using Umbridge to explain Clinton makes it easier to explain. Hillary has always been a smart and fierce advocate for what she believes and champions, which is good if she’s on the right side of an issue; but when she is on the wrong side of an issue—like the Iraq war, the toppling of Libya’s government, the various trade agreements including the TPP, and not speaking out on behalf of activists like Black Lives Matter or the DAPL water protectors—she is a tough opponent, a great asset to the opposition, and makes the activist’s job twice as hard. And much like how Umbridge can do it with a smile makes that all the more frustrating.

Earlier in the year, a friend of mine wrote two very heartfelt essays about her daughter and Hillary Clinton. One was how she wanted her daughter to hear the words “Madam President” and now was the time; the other was a plead asking how can she explain to her daughter what would it mean for her if Trump won the presidency. I don’t have an answer for her daughter except offering up what I told my daughter at different times in the year. I told my daughter I wouldn’t be voting for Hillary, even after Bernie Sanders lost the primaries, because as much as it is important to have a woman in the office of President, it is equally important to have a woman who has the history to back up her own convictions, and is on the right side of an issue more often than not. Yes I voted for Jill Stein in 2016. I am not ashamed of that vote, but I am sorry more people didn’t follow that example. And no, I’m not the reason Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump: I’m not one of the 46% or voters who left the presidential candidate blank; they cost the election for her. I am almost 48, work part-time, am still using food stamps to survive with my daughter, and the only thing I have to leave her if ever I should go are my values. That’s the only thing I currency I have in my life to fall back on and I’ll be damned if I can’t give that to my only child. If I give up my values I have nothing else. I’m sure I will feel the wrath of friends and trolls alike for this, but I will vote my values whenever given that choice.

When Trump won in the late morning hours of the day after the election, I told my daughter that no we won’t need to move to Canada, we’ll be fine and we’ll do our best to fight. Oddly, I still take comfort in words Dumbledore said at the end of another movie—“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”: “There will be a time when we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” I know I chose right for both me and my daughter.

Gifts to the Stranger

December 1, 2016

Sorry. I didn’t realize “Giving Tuesday” had become an actual thing. Maybe it’s because it’s tacked onto the end of a long weekend—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday—of hyped consumerism run amok in different forms that it gets lost. Strangely that seems to be the only way to attract attention to philanthropy; we should always be giving of ourselves. But that’s a rant for a different blog. This one’s about Christmas giving.

A few years ago, I was near rock bottom. I had no money, some part-time work, some unemployment checks, was spending all the rest of my time looking for work, while still being a weekend father, and fending off attacks from my daughter’s mom to make this Christmas bigger and better than the last one as it has to be every year and expects me to pay for it all. At the time, I used to make slide productions of my daughter over the previous year in photographs set to music. But with all that was happening, I had no energy, time, or working equipment to do it. What I did was this: I wrote everyone to say that I had no money for myself much less for gifts to buy and/or mail to everyone, and because I couldn’t give anything I wanted nothing in return. Instead I took a page from my friend Reverend Hank Peirce (who got it from another minister) and asked my friends to please donate some money to their choice of a number of worthy causes (e.g. Doctors Without Borders, ACLU, Oxfam, etc). They could do it in my name or their own, but they should give to help others as more befitting the season. Do something nice instead of scrounging for perfect gifts.

This year I have a better part-time job, am a full time single father, have a decent cushion of funds (barring any serious emergencies) and am less panicked about the holiday. However with the way this year has gone and how events are turning out that are beyond our control, there are many who feel as scared as I was then (if for different reasons). So this year, I’m reaching back to that time to do something good. The gift I will be giving out are donations to charitable organizations—here and abroad—that help make life safer and possible for those who need it. I ask that if you wish to give a gift to me, donate to one of the groups listed below. It can be as little or as much as you want, but give to help others.

I was very proud of Sophia when she asked, quite sincerely, “it it’s Jesus’ birthday, why are we getting gifts?” It showed me that a lot of what I taught her had sunk in. With that in mind, remember that this season is about generosity to others and sharing with those in need. There are a lot of needy people out there, but the people generous spirit outnumber the needy. So give freely and make this a great holiday for you and yours, as well as the stranger whomever they are.

Click the name to go to their website:

ACLU

Standing Rock Sioux/NoDAPL

Southern Poverty Law Center

Planned Parenthood

Doctors Without Borders

Black and Pink

Heifer International

Oxfam

Amnesty International