Monthly Archives: June 2016

Sonnet #1

The memory of muscles lasts as deep as flesh
My body remembers sliding home through sand
Childhood hours in practice for the war
In bedrooms, phantom soldiers, goblin kings
As boys we practiced hard for glorious things
Old muscles know, and they remember more
The way to throw a football like a man

My fingers try to hold wheat stalks and thresh
To grind the grain in stones, to pick when ripe
To watch the sky and know when rains will come
My instincts ought to know to live and scratch
But no, just call a taxi, feel naked with no watch

Body remembers centurion’s glorious call to Rome
Alone and grown, a dream unbattle, fresh

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Villains Make No Sense

One of the great lies of the illegal drug trade is that engaging in the activity can lead to financial rewards. In fact, minimum wage would be a step up from the wages of an average drug dealer. It is much easier to make a living legally than to make a living illegally.

I recently watched the first Michael Bey Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and it was not a great film. It was terrible, in fact, in the way a big budget, glossy nostalgia CGI spectacle is inevitably terrible. Only occasionally did the film so much as rise, very briefly, to a near-mediocrity that quickly collapsed upon any momentary thought to the course of events on screen. The most glaring, in my mind, moment of total failure came from the motivation of one of the villains. He simply made no sense. Supposedly, he was a brilliant scientist and businessman, head of a powerful corporation and a leader in lucrative biotech. The company owned buildings in Manhattan – no small feat for anyone in that market. He owned a very flash mansion in upstate New York, in the Catskills, with beautiful views of the mountainside. What use, then, villainy? He already has everything. The wicked demon pulling his strings behind the flash, a.k.a. Shredder, offers some promise of wealth beyond wildest imaginings after constructing an apocalyptic bio-attack on New York City. Isn’t it easier just to engage in hostile takeovers of other companies, and gut them for parts? Isn’t it easier to kick all the wealth currently earned into an Index fund and let the stable world generate all the revenue an evil asshole needs to punch his manservants for a lifetime? What use all the extra wealth? His motivation made no sense. He sought power, but he had it. He sought wealth, but he had it. Shredder’s free-floating evil menace makes no sense, either. What use do immortal samurai of doom have for destroying whole cities? One would imagine a low-profile and careful reinvestment of dividends would be more useful to securing a lasting future than engaging in swordfights with rogue turtles.

Villains make no sense.

Austin Powers spoofed this, of course, when Dr. Evil asked for one million dollars. World leaders, laughing, asked if he took a check. Then a billion, still no biggie. Let me just call our secretary…

Money is not a useful tool for a powerful overlord, when they already have money. Power, I could believe, for a while, but to what purpose? What is the reason that Vladimir Putin maintains such tight control over his fascist state? He sees himself as a patriot, the true leader of the people, and the proper one. He sees himself as a man of honor. Vanity is his motivation. Fear that his people and way of life will stumble, perhaps. Money is just a bonus on the side. It isn’t even the point. In fact, one can easily imagine the man staring at a black ceiling at night, eyes wide open, wondering what the hell he is doing, what it was all for, and how much longer he can keep fooling everyone into believing he is their rightful leader.

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The Role of the Creator

There is nothing more stupid and useless than another blog post somewhere in the noise of the million machine march towards justice after the needless and devastating attack in Orlando that left so many fine young men and women wounded or dead. There is little doubt,  at this point, that the attack specifically targeted a popular gay nightclub. It is hard for  straight person to understand the importance of the gay bar or gay club to the community. In a world where unwanted advances can lead to countless unspeakable consequences, the gay bar is a place where people who live in masks can break free, speak openly about what their hearts want, and who their hearts want. It is a rite of passage. Some of the parents of the dead young men did not know their sons were gay or bi until the news came that their son was killed for their gender identity and orientation.

So, there’s very little to say about this horrific tragedy. Legiaslators ought to do something, but after Newtown, it is hard to imagine the gridlock breaking for a sinners and sodomites when the innocents were gunned down mercilessly and nothing was done. How much blood is enough? Whose blood must be spilled before the change comes?

I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I only want to know what I can do to end the hate. I can vote in a red state, but there’s very little to vote on here except more guns, so good guys with guns can put bullets in the air in a crowded club, where light and dark and shadow flood the room, and no one knows who the bad guy is, except there’s guns and more guns. So vote, but expect nothing to come from it. The children who died in Connecticut screaming and afraid were a price we were willing to have paid.

As creators of media, literary and movie scripts and songs and comic strips, we have the power to build up hope against the hate that comes with guns and lynching ropes. We can speak about the joy that comes for our nation’s sons when they step out without fear into a room full of people who are like them, queer. There is so much joy in this world when we’re together, so don’t forget to write the queer and the transgender. Write them as kings and heroes and strong, young men. Place them in every future and call them out as friends. We as creators can stamp out hate through representation of people who are great, and don’t hate. No cannon fodder, or pathos-rich slaughter, make sure the characters are people, everyday sort of sons and daughters. The power of the pen is the voice in the mind, the language of dreams and aspirations. As creators, we must do better to teach the world not to hate who is different. We must write so the world can learn.

Goddamn, Orlando, it’s hard to think about anything when that’s what happened.

Stay safe, out there. Be kind. Don’t die.

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Suburban Cults of Wealth and Christianity

One thing that everyone ought to know by now about the suburbs is that they are generally quite lonely for grown-ups, and children. Insulation against all the dangers of the city pushes up against one of the harsh realities of rural life: one must drive a long distance to do anything fun, or to be part of any sort of scene or event. One does not casually drive forty minutes across town on a whim, generally. One most likely spends the evening at home with family, if there is family, watching the internet/television, cleaning and eating and far away from others. The neighbors rarely become so close that they are welcome inside the garage, much less the house. In the three years I have lived here, I can count on one hand the number of times my neighbors have walked into my living room. It isn’t a plot or a scheme or anything, just that the suburbs is not a communal experience for most people. We bowl alone.

The two activities that seem to unite the community are lawn maintenance to keep up appearances, and religious services of some sort. I do attend services when I feel the urge, and consider my practice a private matter. But, that’s not really the kind of religion that is popular around me. The kind of religion I experience, even in the stoic and elder faiths, tends towards the revival. The church is considered one’s “church home” and an important part of social and civic life. Children are normalized there, and taught right from wrong among their peers. The community prays together towards an afterlife that is hopefully as idyllic as the perfect hedges and long-blooming crepe myrtles.

The specific style of church that seems most prevalent in the community is the kind of church that does not shame the wealthy, and gets all up in people’s business, as the saying goes, and seems to resemble the sort of religion that takes over a life, demanding a total change of self and ideology that surrenders control of the inner life and parts of the outer life over to a communal identity that curtails the traditional bonds of family, creates hard edges around the community of the church, where those that are outside of it are eternally outside, and bless your heart and we’ll pray for you.

The connection between the hard religious right wing and the loneliness of our suburbs seems important, to me. The loneliness of the community drives us into churches, seeking fellowship and hope and a sense of purpose. We are told what to believe, and there is no opposing viewpoints in the room or in the neighborhood to stand contrary, most of the time.  The city has created a region ripe for exploitation and called it an ideal for everyone, with huge rooms, and expansive lawns, all spread out. Loneliness sets in. Religion fills the gap, and a particular kind of religion that draws lines around the houses, the community, the ones who fit in to that world of wealth and hard work and home and lawn maintenance.

Now the district maps are drawn, and these communities that are set apart and united in their apartness become a single congressman. A majority is built out of gerrymanders, all crawling over the communities that are ripe for the religious right wing to rise.

End the suburbs, save America? Probably nothing that drastic. But, the disease that leads to so much evangelical right wing hate is probably loneliness, and the burbs are the place where loneliness thrives. If we can just find a way so people won’t be so lonely, and so driven to be a powerful tribe against the loneliness and the fear of death…

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