Beating the January Slump II

I know what you’re thinking. “Now that I’m out of jail, what do I do to continue beating back the freezing gloom of January?” Well, don’t worry. I have you covered. Here are four more activities that will hopefully keep you cozy during the unforgiving winter stretch..

Exercise Your Mind

Exercise is a great way to stay in shape, beat stress, and increase overall wellbeing. But what do you do if you don’t like the gym or can’t get to one near you? Fortunately, there’s an entire movie built around the concept of training in the natural environment. That movie is the 1985 classic Rocky IV. While your opponent may be running the track or using heavy-duty exercise equipment, you can run the wild trails of the forest, evade the KGB driving behind you, climb a rocky hillside, and shout your defiance to the open sky. Don’t be afraid to sling some rocks together in a net. Rigging the net up in a pulley system for some pull-downs provides a great way to exercise your core. Find or borrow a horse cart, and this can serve as a makeshift barbell. Ask some friends to sit in the cart while you workout in case you need more weight.

Get Lost in a Good Book

Reading is a great way to relax while also keeping the mind sharp and active. Books, poems, plays, and other forms of literature can be gateways to other worlds. There’s another movie built around this idea called The Never-Ending Story. Reading the book this movie was based on will prepare you in case you’re ever sucked into a bizarre universe with furry dragons, green-skinned hunters, and giant spiders. Just be careful not to draw the magic sword in anger, lest you accidentally strike down your green hunter friend. Then the only way home will be on the back of a big furry dragon.

Explore New Places

Going exploring has gone somewhat out of style, as the prevalence of smartphones and the Internet have removed much of the risk and mystery around physical travel. While you certainly shouldn’t trespass or enter unsafe environments, it can be rewarding to find a patch of uninterrupted forest or an unfamiliar neighborhood and just go wandering for a while. The best way to wander, I’ve found, is on foot, though some of the more cautious may prefer to travel by car. After all, you need a way to get yourself out of danger should you stray too far from the established paths. It’s always better to explore new places with a fellowship or with a guide. Lord of the Rings is a 2000s trilogy of films that provide some excellent suggestions for the would-be explorer. Personally, I’ve had as much fun exploring bike trails as the local library.

Have a Movie Night

Movie nights are a time-honored tradition among college kids. There’s nothing quite like cramming five or six of your closest friends on a six-foot square of carpet, crowding around a small television and watching some classic like Rocky IV or The Never-Ending Story. Lord of the Rings is another great choice for movie night, though it’s advised to use a copy of the expanded editions with the appendices. This bonus content, including documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage offer a wealth of information for both the movie buff and casual Tolkien fan alike. Heat up some popcorn, huddle close, and enjoy. 

Beating the January Slump

I am not a fan of January. It’s cold and wet and windy, and it just makes me want to stay inside, curled up in a ball, until April gets here. But alas. I have bills to pay. And so your humble blogger sits behind his desk, anxiously awaiting the return of the sun king from beyond the cosmos. Sorry, got a little wistful there. Anyway, whatever are we to do while we wait for spring? Aside form work and classes and lunch and whatnot? Here are some fun activities you can do alone or with friends to liven up this gloomy season.

1. Go Bowling

One of the best ways to blow of steam during the year’s worst month is to go out on the town. Find your neighborhood bowling alley and set yourself up for a good old game of nine-pins. Technically that’s an entirely different game, but I think you get my point. Bowling is a time-honored American tradition combining two things we as Americans love the most: Drinking and not moving very much. While you’re out and about, you may want to check out what those shadowy folks are talking about in the parking lot.

2. Make New Friends

Approach the strangers slowly, making sure to make no sudden movements. After all, it’s dark out. Say something normal in greeting like “Hi” or “How’s it going?” Slowly, they’ll turn to face you then turn back and continue their conversation, ignoring you. Don’t let that deter you. Just listen in and see what you can overhear. I’ve made some of my best friends just by inserting myself into a stranger’s conversation. It’s not creepy. One of them offers you something to eat. It’s in large plastic container and smells a bit like boiled chicken. Looking inside, you’ll probably see several small, pale bodies. Squirrels.

3. Experiment With Food

One of the best ways to grow and appreciate different cultures is to try some of that culture’s signature food. Trying new foods is always a fun activity, and this squirrel meat looks tasty. Chew on the legs a bit, that’s where the best meat is. The rest of the animal is just skin and bones, but you can try chewing on the tail a bit if you like. Don’t wrinkle your nose. Be polite. Doesn’t it taste a little like chicken? Or pork? Or some other animal we as a society have deemed it acceptable to consume?

4. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to help your neighbors and improve society, all while giving you the dopamine rush one only gets from altruism. Mmmm…Altruism. Thankfully, you won’t have to look for a nearby charity, as one of your new friends is need of assistance. It looks like he’s having trouble getting into his car. He has a coat hanger you can use to jimmy the lock. Go ahead help him out. Once you can feel as if something is clicking, that means you’ve sprung the lock. Open the door and climb over to the passenger seat, while your new friend rips something out from under the steering wheel. Smell the sparks as you realize he’s hotwiring the car. Uh oh. Looks like you’re in for one bumpy ride!

5. Explore New Places

Look out the window at all the cars whizzing by! You’re going pretty fast, and you don’t really recognize the buildings or road signs. That’s ok. Relax and smile. Take it easy. You’re on an adventure! A good, old-fashioned road-trip is just the ticket to beat those January blues. Your friend is a very good driver, especially considering he’s on the wrong side of the road. It’s starting to get bright out, but that isn’t sunshine. Those are police lights.

6. Engage Your Body

While your friend pulls over to talk with some friends in uniform, take this opportunity to go for a brisk run. Running on the sidewalk downtown or in a park can be an excellent way to get in shape and also releases endorphins. While you’re on your run, take a moment to admire the trees and the foliage around you. Sure, it’s a little dark, but under the moonlight, you can just make out the edges of plants and animals. Did you hear that? Something rustling in the undergrowth. Probably just a raccoon or maybe a stray cat. Cats are fun.

Remember to keep running no matter what. No one escapes January, but you can escape those gloomy feelings by following these simple steps and exploring new experiences. Don’t feel bad if things don’t quite turn out the way you expect. That’s just life. Sometimes our plans don’t turn out the way we’d like. That’s why it’s always important to be adaptable. On an unrelated note, does anyone know of a place I could lie low for a while? Maybe a friend’s house or apartment. Just for a couple days. Thank you for your help.

Holiday Update

Been feeling very unmotivated lately, which is bad because there is so much to do. Even with my book off at the editor, there’s more books to write, works to critique on Scribophile, podcasts to listen to, and so much more.

Playing with WordPress’s “new” block editor. I put “new” in quotation marks because as you and I know, I am slow to adopt fresh technology. I’ve never been a first adopter. Maybe it’s from being raised in a house full of antiques, but I just prefer old things. Old furniture. Old books. Old socks.

Even my fantasy novel is old-fashioned. I hope people don’t mind that. I’ve always been partial to old-fashioned things. That’s why Bubblegum-Man is written the way it is, filled to the brim with tropes and action. Just like old-fashioned comics. And don’t get me started on music.

There’s something about Christmastime (and I do mean Christmastime, as that’s the winter holiday I’ve most experience with) that brings out the nostalgia for old times. And I don’t mean the good old days, whatever those were. Things weren’t any “better” or “worse” when I was growing up than they are now. If anything, lots of people’s lives have improved since the 90s.

Christmas is almost here. More specifically, Christmas Eve. That’s when my mom cooks the feast of seven fishes, an Italian-American tradition. We eat pasta and fried fish, cold broccoli salad, and all kinds of other treats and goodies. It’s an evening filled with warmth, love, and joy, and it’s probably my favorite part of Christmas, aside from the presents. There’s nothing quite like getting or giving presents.

One of my other favorite things about Christmas is putting ornaments on the tree. There are certain ornaments we’ve collected over the years that just resonate with me. You know how you can look at an old house and imagine all the years of family joy, drama, and strife those walls contain? Well, when I look at certain ornaments, I feel a similar spark. Like there are thousands of years’ worth of stories wrapped up in them, buried, just waiting to be teased out.

I’ve never been able to. Maybe next year.

Your First Book Will Stink

And that’s ok. So does mine. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s no masterpiece. Totally normal. Everyone stinks their first time. That’s what gives us room to grow.

But that’s the hard part: Growing. See, you have to want to get better to be better. You have to do the work, put in the effort. Study and research. Don’t just throw around words like “shaman” in your fantasy novel if you’ve no idea what a shaman actually does. I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else.

Then there are sacrifices to be made. Writing every day is a sacrifice of time. You either get up early or stay up late. Those are your choices. Do you have to write every day? Of course not. But your craft will improve slower. How much time do you think you have?

I’m 35. Probably 5-10 years from really making it big. Then I’ll be 40. Maybe I’ll have 40 more years, maybe 60. But will I be lucid and healthy the whole time? Who knows? So maybe only 30 years of success. Is that ok? No. I’d much rather have more. But that’s not up to me.

My growth has been slow. Painfully slow. Some of that has to do with autism, some with bad habits, some with procrastination. That’s ok. I’m still growing.

It’s the growing that’s important. It’s the journey that really matters. I know that’s small consolation, especially if your journey is as painful or more than mine. But in the end, the journey is really all we have in this life.

Gah! That’s depressing.

What more can we do? Well, thankfully, we can still do what we can do. Our lives are our own. We can exercise our will and make what ripples we can in a sea of mediocrity. Find something solid to hang onto, some bit of clay we can mold and call our own.

Remember friends, it is not too late to seek a better world!

Tang of Fate: Autumn Excerpt

Happy Halloween, folks! In honor of the fall harvest (or Tiri-Zul, as it’s known in Tiranon), here’s a chilling excerpt from my wip, The Tang of Fate, an epic fantasy novel filled with gods, monsters, and mortals. Feedback always welcome. Please enjoy!

Today’s excerpt takes place in Travellers Forest, eastern Zargon.

Terrwyn’s dream about flying on a broomstick was interrupted when she felt something soft drift over her face. Scratching and sniffling, she popped open her eyes and glanced around. She saw Croli turning the knob on the door, edging it open. His cloak must have brushed against her as he moved. He didn’t seem to notice her. Terrwyn held her breath as he slipped out of the room. She heard his footsteps disappear down the long, dark hallway. She pursed her lips for a moment then sighed, deciding to follow.

Terrwyn crept out into the hallway, walking toe-heel, as she’d learned as a child to avoid waking her parents when she wanted to wander the cornfields at night. The hallway was nearly pitch-black. The only light came from a window at the far end and the faint glow of the hearth casting red light up the stairway to her right. The stairway creaked with almost every step she took. She gritted her teeth at every sound, straining to catch some hint she’d roused another soul in the dark. But no. She was alone in the dark. Alone, save for Croli, embarked on some midnight errand. He’d had his staff with him, so she’d buckled her sword. She didn’t know what danger he went to face, only that it must be dire indeed to justify him not bringing her along. As she entered the common room, she saw men and women sleeping beside the hearth, a few collapsed at their tables near drained mugs. She heard the sound of another door creaking and turned just in time to see the curve of Croli’s cloak flapping out the doorway.

The sleeping patrons seemed completely out, not a single snore among them, their bodies still as exhausted newborns. Tiptoeing around them, she made it to the door and snuck outside into the night. The steady buzz of crickets and the croak of frogs filled the air. The night was thick with humidity and almost too dark to see anything, despite the plethora of stars. She looked all around, but she could see no sign of Croli. Terrwyn began to regret following him out into the night. She started to wonder if she were just being paranoid. Just her luck, he was probably relieving himself on the side of the building.

She turned to the post where the horses were tied. Gill and Marius were both there, along with two others. Marius’s eyes were open, watching over the others. Terrwyn smiled. Then, just beyond the edge of the forest, she heard the sound of crunching leaves. She nearly jumped from the shock. Struggling to keep her breathing slow, she crouched down beside the doorframe. Just there was the saucer of milk left for the moon goddess, turned over in the night. The cookies were gone as well, the cloth wrapping torn open as if by some thrashing animal. From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw the faint glimmer of moonlight in the forest. But there was no moon in the sky. Slowly, she stood up and walked down the stairs. The grass crunched underfoot as she left the road for the forest’s edge. There. A glimmer of light just a few yards ahead. She crouched again, holding her arms in front of her to move the branches of the brush as she entered the forest.

All the wood was black as pitch, starlight scarce below the treetops. But the source of moonlight was growing brighter. Finally, it shined over her. She panicked, threw herself to the ground, hoping she could hide from the light. “It’s no use.” Croli’s voice. “I heard you on the stairwell. Come on, Terrwyn. You’re not fooling anyone.” Terrwyn felt her face flush. The soil clung to her jeans and shirt as she stood up to face Croli. He was just ahead, moonlight emanating from the crescent atop his staff. The light had softened now, and she could make out Croli’s face in its pale glow. He was smiling at her, eyes darting side to side as she approached him.

“You have your sword,” he whispered. “Good. They’re very close. Stay behind me.” Terrwyn didn’t have to ask who he meant. She struggled to keep up as Croli glided through the forest. While she had to step carefully around roots and stones, Croli seemed able to move effortlessly here in the darkness of the forest, his feet making no sound as he skipped over rock and branch and fallen log. Terrwyn could hear grasshoppers and crickets chirping in the night. Up ahead, she could hear the steady rush of the White River.

As they passed through the wood, over moss-eaten logs and under the black branches of trees, she began to hear something else, a distinct hissing sound that stopped her in her tracks. Croli stood just a short distance ahead of her. He turned and motioned for her to come closer. She did so and, following his lead, crouched low beside a massive hickory stump and peered through the thorny brush. Not seven feet from where they perched, a small campfire glowed in the night. A man in a black cloak sat with his back to Terrwyn and Croli, tall skeletal warriors flanking him. More approached from the dark beyond the fire, armed with clubs and nets, though a few wore swords at their waist.

“Now’s our chance,” Terrwyn whispered. “Let’s go!” She paid no attention to Croli as he raised his hand to grab at her. She crashed through the bramble, thorns scratching her arms and legs as she lunged for Hadeon. Her sword flashed in the firelight, as she made her swipe, but Hadeon vanished in a plume of smoke. The two nearest skelerai, their swords raised to attack, brought their blades down, and Terrwyn crouched beneath them, her sword up, guarding. The clang of metal on metal sounded through the forest as more skelerai joined the campfire’s glow, hissing and brandishing weapons. There were many, too many for her to count at once. They seemed to be taking their time. She could do nothing where she was, pinned down by her opponents’ blades.

Just then there was a burst of light from the forest. The skelerai turned toward the blaze, screeching terribly. Thunder clapped in the clear night sky as jagged lightning struck the earth, reducing the skelerai to ash and dust. Croli came plunging through the forest, his staff sending Terrwyn’s two opponents to the ground with a single swipe of his staff. Terrwyn rose, gasping, grateful to be alive. “Look out!” Croli hissed. Terrwyn turned to see one of the skelerai lunging for her with its sword. Terrwyn yelped and tumbled out of the way, then slashed at the creature’s sword-arm, slicing it at the elbow joint. The creature hissed and scrambled to its feet, reclaiming its sword from its severed limb. Croli was busy with the other skelerai, as Terrwyn engaged her one-armed aggressor.

With an ear-splitting hiss, the creature lunged forward, and Terrwyn sliced its other arm off then brought her sword up and stabbed the skelerai through the eye-socket. The creature kept coming, but it seemed unable to tell where she was. She ducked low and withdrew her blade, taking her enemy off-balance. She bounded up and sliced down through the skelerai’s spinal column, and the creature was still. Croli was still busy with his foe, but a gust of wind from the treetops shattered the creature’s sword, and it fled back into the forest.

The gust of wind had also scattered the coals of the fire, so that now the flames were starting to spread among the trees. Croli swore and raised his staff again. Clouds formed high above, and a soft rain fell, extinguishing the fire. He scowled at Terrwyn, shaking his head, and tromped off back the way he’d came. Terrwyn followed best she could, but the forest was now pitch-black. The clouds blocked the starlight, and Croli seemed unwilling to ignite his staff. “Croli!” Terrwyn called, stumbling over roots and rocks. “Croli! Help! I – I can’t find my way without light!” Her words seemed to have the intended effect, as she heard Croli’s hard footsteps soften then turn toward her. Soft moonlight soon shone over her, and she followed it all the way back to the inn. Croli sat on the stairs. He held his staff out in one hand, his forehead in the other. He was bent over himself. Terrwyn couldn’t tell if he was angry with her or just tired.

“Croli?” she whispered. When he didn’t answer, she stepped closer, kneeling beside him in the cold grass. “Croli? Are you ok?”

“No.” The silence between them was thick enough to chew. Then he broke it. “What the hell do you think you were doing?” he asked. His voice was calm, quiet, as if he were asking where the outhouse was or what was for dinner. “Those monsters could’ve killed you. They absolutely would have if I hadn’t been there. You acted recklessly and without thought.”

“Croli, I–” she tried to interject, but he looked up at her, and the fury in his eyes stopped her cold.

“No. You don’t get to talk. Do you have any idea what tonight cost? Do you know why I don’t just sling spells around, willy-nilly? Magic has a price, dear Terrwyn. Life for power. That’s the bargain. Every spell takes time off my lifespan. Granted, wizards tend to live longer than normal humans, but still. And now, because of your arrogance, your stupidity, I may have lost crucial time. Time that could mean the difference between victory and defeat! I wouldn’t expect a normal woman like you to understand. Simple farmers on the Kaian Plains. Zargonese bumpkins. You know nothing of magic, of its cost, of the horrors this world conceals.”

Now hear this!

Because Fantasy

Recently I held a poll on Twitter to determine the title for my fantasy novel. The Emerald Sword never really grabbed me, but I didn’t have any great ideas.

Then I wrote some words down from my main character’s perspective and I realized I had my title: The Tang of Fate

First I went to Twitter for confirmation. About ten people voted and as I figured, Tang of Fate won over Emerald Sword, Zamurrad, and Something Else.

It’s catchy, not quite as cliched, and it definitely helps that no one else appears to have used the title yet.

What’s it about? Glad you asked! Saucy female protagonist sees her family slain by evil sorcerer. On her way to stop badguy from turning everybody into skeletons, she makes friends with a wizard, a changeling, and a princess. And achieving her goal may doom the world with fire and ice.

I’ve always loved fantasy fiction, especially more grounded works like Dragonlance and David Gemmell’s Drenai Saga. I love Star Wars and comics of all types, as well as classics of genre and literary fiction.

After an adolescence spent following white dudes with swords around, I strive for greater diversity in my works, with POC and women as major characters I have relatively few LGBTQ characters, but the ones I have are written as people, not props. That goes for all my characters. (It’s not that hard. Bar is ridiculously low.)

Ten more things Tang of Fate will have:

Four things Tang of Fate will definitely not have:

  • Any mention of a balance between good and evil. The concept is atrocious.
  • Dwarves
  • Dull, over-troped writing
  • Songs about dish-washing

  • YMMV as to whether this be a bug or a feature.
  • Bad Writing Advice: Part 1 – The 4 (or 5) F’s

    I’ve come across something in my writing that’s helping me a lot, and I’d like to share it with you.  Now, as with most writing advice, this bit won’t appeal to everyone. Some are gonna think it’s dumb or too hard or not hard enough or whatever. That’s ok. Ready? Here we go.

    At the base of everyone’s brain exist the four F’s: Fighting, Feasting, Fleeing, and sweet, sweet lovin‘. These are down at the root, in the oldest part of our brain, the part we share with animals and worms and fish and stuff. Put at least one of the four F’s in any story you want to tell, and you got your audience by the amygdala. People love reading that stuff. They can’t stop themselves. Your story may still very well be absolute garbage, but people will keep reading it cuz it’s got those things our lizard brains crave!

    Now, don’t jam the Four F’s in there. They have to flow natural. Otherwise, it just stops being good or so-bad-it’s-good and just winds up bad.

    Allow me to illustrate.

    The video above is a trailer for the B-movie “Sharknado. This is not a good movie. The characters are boilerplate. The writing is cliched as heck. The story is predictable. This movie is bad.

    But it is entertaining. Why? Because it has all the four F’s.

    The people FLEE the rising waters.

    The people FIGHT the sharks.

    Image result for sharknado

    Yes, that is a man fighting a shark with a chainsaw. On dry land.

    A good portion of the film involves FEAST-ing on beer. (This one is a cop-out. I don’t care.)

    And this guy wants to MAKE SWEET, SWEET LOVE to Tara Reid.

    Image result for sharknado TARA reid

    Tara Reid on left. On right, guy who wants to make sweet, sweet love to her.

    And there you have it. Put the four F’s in your story. Sprinkle them in liberally, don’t overweight any one of the F’s, or your reader will get a tummy-ache. And remember, this trick will not fix any problems you may have crafting appealing characters, compelling story lines, or immersive settings. But it will guarantee your story will not be boring.

    The worst you’ll do is write Sharknado.

    And the world will always need Sharknado.

    EXPERT-LEVEL: There is a 5th F. It’s called FIGURING STUFF OUT. It is incredibly hard to do this well. It’s so hard to do this well, that if you have any doubts about being able to do it, just don’t.

    Figuring stuff out is what made Watchmen one of the greatest books of all time.

    Figuring stuff out is what drew millions of people to Lost in the mid-2000s.

    Figuring stuff out (a good mystery) is something only the greatest of writers are able to accomplish well. You can lead readers/viewers on for a long time, but the payoff has to matter (as Lost fans know all too well).

    Figuring stuff out is not a part of our lizard brain. Lizards don’t really care why or how stuff works. That’s an ape thing, a human thing. Figuring stuff out is how we got fire, the wheel, religion, philosophy, Rubik’s cubes, and Lady Gaga.

    So, yeah. There’s fighting, fleeing, feasting, making sweet, sweet love, and figuring stuff out.

    Oh, and funny…ness. Funniness. Humor.

    And…frankfurters? Maybe?

    Kids in Cages. I mean “Summer Camps.”

    If it was up to me, we’d let everybody in. The refugees, the asylum-seekers. Anyone who wants to come, let’em in. We can figure out who’s a criminal or infiltrator or Communist sympathizer after the fact.

    That would be my stance.

    And that is a terrible, stupid stance.

    Although it’s dumb as hell to go around saying, “We can’t let any Syrians in until we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that neither they, their children, nor anyone in their family line for the past 10,000 years has so much as sneered at the American flag” in the name of security, ignoring a humanitarian crisis half a world away, it’s equally dumb to let anyone who wants to come enter.

    And no, this is not code for “Don’t let the scary brown people in, but whites are alright.” No. Like I said before, I welcome all refugees with open arms. Asian, African, European, Latin American. I lift my light beside the golden door.

    We have to be a little realistic. This seems to be obvious.

    Equally obvious should be the fact that Trump totally just played us. Any time he starts a policy that people hate, he’s known ahead of time who was going to get pissed off. Then he waits, he hesitates, he wavers, and finally, he caves to pressures of his opponent and…gets exactly what he wanted in the first place.

    Every time.

    Ok, I don’t have a lot of evidence for this, but as Trump is a successful businessman and the tactic of asking for something you know the other guy is going to say no to so that you may “compromise” and get what you really want is not a new business strategy, it feels like a safe assumption to make.

    But that’s not what this is about.

    This is about what’s quickly turning into a humanitarian crisis the likes of which this continent has not seen since the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and mistreatment of Native Americans. (So, yesterday, basically.)

    People should obey the law. I think we can all agree on that. Laws, like rules, should be flexible enough to bend, and if a rule has to be broken for the good of all, it probably wasn’t a very good rule in the first place. Asylum seekers should seek to entry this country legally. Many do and are turned away on the border (Vox has an article on this phenomenon). Others choose to endure long waiting lists, during which time their lives are still endangered by drug cartels or ISIS or whoever.

    At least, that’s what I assume.

    See, the truth is, I have no idea what’s going on.

    I have some sources I rely on (BBC News, USA Today, the AJC, and yes, Fox News. CNN and MSNBC have even MORE commentary than the right-wing news station, and that’s saying something.) All of these sources have been and are called into question on a daily basis. What’s worse, even photographic evidence cannot be trusted. Hell, we can’t even agree on what color a white and gold dress is! (I went there.)

    Our news sources are biased. We never get the complete picture whether because the reporters have an agenda, are too lazy to research, or we just plain don’t have access to all the facts for national security reasons. We’re all operating on partial knowledge, and the scary thing is we’re so convinced our side is right we refuse to even listen to the other side.

    “But Obama and Clinton did the same stuff! Where was your outrage then, you millennial snowflake?”

    Well, like most millennials, I was in elementary school during Clinton’s presidency. As for Obama, the answer is simple. There was outrage. A lot of it. Maybe there weren’t any hashtags or Tumblr pages, but protests happened. People made phone calls. There were marches. Don’t you remember?

    Guys, I don’t have solutions. Is it wrong to separate parents from children? Yes. But it took me too long to come to that conclusion. I’m simply so used to government incompetence and cruelty for the sake of kindness that it doesn’t strike me as odd that our border security — like our criminal justice system and education system — cares more about making annual budget goals than actually helping the American people.

    We can’t be keeping kids and adults in separate detention centers. There’s no real reason for it. In fact, it would probably create more problems to separate every child from their guardian. That’s a great way to lose track of people, let me tell you. Now if the parent is a danger to the child, by all means. Do your thing, DFCS. But using the threat of taking someone’s child away to keep them from entering the country illegally feels a step beyond the pale.

    Compound that with the fact that it doesn’t really matter. Most parents would say, “At least my kid’s alive. I may never see them again, but at least the cartels won’t get them.” Heartless? Not really. Not if you’re desperate enough. And we cannot forget the desperation of these parents.

    Does that excuse breaking American law?

    Yes. No. I don’t know. Should I be sent to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed my sister’s kid?

    Shouldn’t these parents try to use legal means to seek asylum?

    Of course.

    But I ask you this, are you aware of the process of seeking asylum? Because I’m not. I have no idea. And I can’t promise you that if the cartels took over the eastern seaboard I wouldn’t try sneaking into Canada or California to get away from them. Would I stop to look at the Canadian embassy’s guidelines for it? Maybe. If I had internet access and could read French or English. If I could be certain I had several months to apply for asylum, call their agency to see where my paperwork went, apply again, get rerouted, etc.

    Let’s be clear. Government agencies are less efficient than Jar Jar Binks in an elocution contest. They are Byzantine structures that, like the Byzantines, collapse under their own weight with the mass of a dying star. I’ve been to my local social security office to apply for disability. I had to go down there because nobody over there answers the phone, and you will never speak to your caseworker or see the file they keep on you ever because reasons.

    And you seriously expect a truckload of borderline homeless Hondurans, people who climb through mounds of refuse to scavenge for food and discarded electronics to melt down for scrap metal to have the patience to sit through three hours (at minimum) of filling out forms, probably bribing public officials, and having to restart the process because government employees are the dumbest people on the planet? Oh, and the whole time they’re desperately hiding from the cartels and trying to keep their kids from joining one gang just to avoid getting killed by another gang.

    Am I wrong? Am I being ethnocentric? Is Central America not a terrible place to live? Isn’t that why they’re coming up here? Look, I’m not saying it ain’t beautiful. It is. But it ain’t south Georgia. And as we all know, south Georgia is freaking horrible if you’re not over 50 and a Daughter of the Confederacy.

    My point is, these people are in an impossible situation and deserve our sympathy. And maybe a little bending.

    Just the other day, President Trump issued an executive order reversing the zero-tolerance policy introduced in April which required the separation of parents from children. Why was the separation required? Because the new policy charged the adults with felonies, which would mean jail-time, pending a hearing, and the law at the time forbade holding kids and adults in the same facility. This makes a bit of sense, as adults are, by and large, complete bastards. Not all of us. And not all the time. Most of the time, in fact, we try to reach for the wondrous potential we know we have deep inside. But we generally prefer to be bastards when we think we can get away with it.

    Again, notice my wording at the end there. Notice the lack of sources? That’s because I am not a lawyer and I’m typing this at 10:30 at night and am too tired to read dry, overworked legal documents to figure all this shit out. Yet somehow we’re supposed to argue this on Facebook with Donna from HR and act appalled when she doesn’t recognize our immediate, armchair expertise? Who the hell do we think we are?

    For now, it seems we will be holding parents and children together indefinitely until such time as the hearings to determine who’s a legit refugee and who’s a dirty rotten moocher (Ayn Rand’s words, not mine) can be carried out. And I assume they’ll be using the same facilities with the tinfoil blankets, concrete walls painted with Orwellian images of past presidents, and of course, chain-link fences. Oh, joy.

    To sum up, the zero tolerance policy still remains. The families that were already broken up will most likely remain so for the foreseeable future, but no more will be divided.

    Just as planned.



    “Who are the Foo Fighters?”


    I heard one college girl say to the other, as I was coming down the stairs from the other direction. I work at a university here in Atlanta. Hearing that made me feel kinda old, to be honest.

    See, I’m an actual 90s kid. As in, one born in the 80s. I was — and still am — too young to appreciate Nirvana (though I admit to being in the minority of my cohort). I went to elementary and middle school through the 90s and attended high school and college in the early 2000s.

    This was a time before Youtube. Before instant streaming. But I don’t wanna talk about that. I wanna talk about “Everything Sucks.” Everything Sucks is a new show on Netflix about a group of kids going to high school in the 90s. It is a perfect encapsulation of my adolescence. Love, lust, hate, joy, depression. Everything is there. Even — sort of — grunge. Here’s the thing a lotta folks don’t understand: Grunge was for Generation X. That’s why the aesthetic is all over the movies of Kevin Smith, the movies of the 90s.

    How do you spot a 90s movie? All the long-haired dudes in flannel. But those were films for and about college-aged people in the 90s. People who went to elementary and middle school in the 80s. People who caught the first episodes of GI Joe and Transformers waaaaaaaaaaaay back when they first aired.

    My generation’s childhood introduction to Batman came via Michael Keaton and the amazing Bruce Timm and Adam West, not reading The Dark Knight Returns.And that’s what the writers of Everything Sucks seem to understand so well. It wasn’t just about grunge. Grunge was on the periphery. It’s what our older brothers/cousins were into, while we listened to Tupac and Britney Spears and watched Clarissa explain it all. Though honestly Tupac was a bit before my time too. He passed in the mid-90s, somewhere around 5th grade.

    Everything Sucks is set in the town of Boring, Oregon in the year 1996. A small American town. Racism is somewhat invisible here, much as I remember. But homophobia is still in its heyday. Matthew Shepard’s murder is still two years away. Columbine is three years away. The first season of the show has dealt with growing up in a single-parent home, the pain of suicide and divorce, and the isolation that comes from knowing you’re different from everybody else.

    This movie focuses a lot on the so-called outsiders. The drama geeks — actor and tech — that I spent a lot of my high school time hanging around. (I always felt they were way too cool for me, though I was sort of one of them. More on that later.)

    I see a lot of myself in two of the characters: McQuaid, the undiagnosed Aspie who can’t tell his crush is not actually interested in him, and Tyler, the eager, barely pubescent, chronic outsider who just wants to be accepted by the cool kids. Granted, Tyler’s a bit more demonstrative than I ever was around the opposite sex (though then again I did have this annoying habit of telling every pretty girl I knew that I thought she was pretty, as if that would somehow translate into a relationship?).

    Everything Sucks!.png

    Everything except this show…

    Anyway, awkwardness aside, I just can’t stop gushing about this show. I found so much that was relatable. Long bus rides full of excitement. Longer bus rides when everyone was sick and tired of being around each other. CHURCH CAMP. The unapproachable hottie who is actually way more normal than you think.* The gay kid who gets called a d–e in the first episode.

    Oh, did I forget to mention the casual homophobia? This show has very little of it, but it’s creeping in the background. It’s the dark undercurrent of the 90s. So many kids with feels they couldn’t express from fear. Shear fear of being mocked, teased, threatened, beaten. I witnessed some of this firsthand and heard about it secondhand from good friends who received death threats for being out while in college. For my part, I’m straight. My mother might be considered ahead of her time. She never let my brother and I use those words that got bandied about on the playground, in locker rooms, and just about everywhere else. You know the words. I censored one in the first paragraph.

    Why am I harping on this? Because one of the main characters is discovering her identity as an LGBT person. She’s not sure what her label is but she knows what — and who — she likes. So far, only three other members of the cast know. One is an ex-boyfriend she dated only to head off the teasing she was getting. One is the girl she likes who reciprocates her feelings. One is the boy with a crush on the girl she likes (see what I mean about ALL THE FEELS?).

    But her dad? He remains oblivious. He’s the principal. He seems like a nice guy. But I am still nervous to see how he will react when she comes out to him. In 1996. One year before Ellen comes out. Two years before Matthew Shephard. Three before Columbine. A little less than 20 years before the Supreme Court declares laws prohibiting gay marriage as being unconstitutional. Even in 2018, LGBT teens make up a disproportionate population of homeless, abused, and unemployed Americans.

    Don’t get me wrong. This show has its share of drama, but it is hilarious. There are moments in every episode when I roared with laughter. When Tyler bemoans his supposed friendless status yet can’t tell the conservative Christian girl Leslie totally wants him. When Luke has to come up with and simultaneously defend his movie pitch to the drama club on the fly. Banana slug.

    Everything Sucks!.png

    This freakin’ show…

    But despite all the humor, IT’s always there. In the background. Lurking in the shadows. The unspoken threat. That love which dare not speak its name.

    Oh yeah. Remember when I said I always thought the drama kids were way too cool for me? Well, my main reason for that is there were these guys in the drama club/classes who were always surrounded by beautiful girls. They were hilarious, always cracking jokes. I assumed they were the most popular kids at school. But there was one thing I always thought was a little odd. They all had the same accent. Not a Chicago or Savannah or New York accent, no. I’m talking about a more Nathan Lane way of speaking.

    Were they gay? I don’t know. As a rule, I’ve never gone around asking people if they’re gay. Even when my friends hang up calendars filled with half-naked firemen, I make no assumptions unless they tell me directly. But that’s not the point. The point is I never once saw a gay couple at my high school or in college or even on television (though LGBT couples were first starting to get representation in mainstream media around the mid-90s). Why not? Were they closeted? Were they ashamed?

    Were they afraid?

    As a practicing Catholic, I’m not quite liberal enough to be a full ally to the LGBT movement. Good example: I’ve been leaving off the “Q” whenever I’ve used that acronym. But I voted against the amendment to the Georgia constitution officially defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. I just couldn’t abide that. I still can’t. There are some things society and the government just isn’t allowed to do. Telling folks who they can marry is one of them.

    But this is the 90s. When just saying something like this would get you called “gay,” which was a social death sentence. When people thought every gay person had AIDS. When people thought gays were going around recruiting children into their “alternative lifestyle.”

    This is a personal issue for me. I have LGBT friends and family. I don’t agree with everything they believe. I don’t support everything they do.But I will always fight for them. For their right to exist as free and independent members of an accepting society built around love and justice.

    Anyway, we’ve gotten way off track, and I’ve yet to address the question burning in the hearts and minds of my younger readers. These are the Foo Fighters:

    Happy Easter, kids.

    *Yes, normal is a real thing. I’ll explain what I mean in next week’s post, probably.

    Saving the City!

    Super-proud of my hometown. You can read more about the 30,000 and Sunday’s March for Our Lives here.

    Definitely worth checking out!

    And of course, I’m not in favor of a total gun ban. That’d be stupid. But some surely some kind of legislative or cultural shift needs to happen? We’ve had something like 20 school shootings since January?

    Come on. Let’s do something.