innocent_man: (dumb)
Man, it's been a month of weird, huh?

So, in case you don't know, there was this Kickstarter, in which Anita Sarkeesian was raising money to do a series of videos examining how women are portrayed in video games. This came on the heels of trailers for a new Hitman game and a new Lara Croft game, both of which are, let's say, problematic, misogynist, and violently sexualized (or sexually violent, take your pick).

Anita wound up getting rape threats, and a concerted effort from...well, assholes to get her project cancelled. It would up make her just shy of $160K, so the asshole brigade probably succeeded in doing nothing but getting her more money, but that's not the point.

Meanwhile, there's this guy name James Desborough. James writes, occasionally, for Mongoose and has written for Steve Jackson, and he does his own stuff through Post Mortem studios. I've never been a fan; PM does a lot of parodies of White Wolf properties, some of which are too British for me to get the joke and so which just aren't my taste. But he's also written for gems like the Slayers Guide to Female Gamers, which is meant as a joke, though I think the joke is, at best, tired and should be taken out and mercifully shot.

But then he published a blog post called "In Defence of Rape."

Now, what he was talking about in the post (spurred, partially, by the aforementioned Lara Croft trailer) is the use of sexual assault as a plot device. The point he thinks he's making is that sexual assault and rape, in and of themselves, shouldn't be off limits to writers. I agree with that, I suppose.

But the point is lost. It's lost amidst how fucking gleeful he is not just about using rape as a plot device, but over defending it. And that's what makes the whole thing creepy, not the larger point he's trying to make. The other thing is, he included the phrase "rape is fucking awesome as a plot device," though I swear the first time I look at the post the words "as a plot device" didn't appear in that sentence (I could be wrong about that).

So he posted linkbait. And then the shit started. A woman started a petition to ask Mongoose to refrain from hiring him again. The Internet exploded. The woman in question (who is a rape survivor herself) was getting rape threats faster than she could clear them from her inbox. Desborough said on Twitter that this was no big deal because those threats weren't "genuine." Then he and his wife started getting them.

Mongoose has apparently stated that they aren't going to hire him anymore, and weren't planning on it anyway (they didn't handle all of this well initially, but I don't have any real use for Mongoose anyway so I didn't pay much attention to that part).

Desborough posted on G+ complaining that all of this was triggering for his depression. I'm sure it is. I'm sure it sucks to get threats against you and yours. And I empathize. I wouldn't wish that one anyone. I do wish, though, that he would take the lesson - what you say matters. When you say hurtful things, that matters. You're not just taking the piss or whatever when you contribute to the overall level of misogyny in this industry. And it's not the same thing when it's directed at men, because as a man, all else equal, I do not have to fear sexual attention. At no point is a woman following me down a hallway or, indeed, sending me nasty email, going to truly make me feel threatened, and if a man was doing it, it wouldn't be the threat of rape rather than just straight-up violence that I would worry about.

(That's privilege, by the way. It's a real thing. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it isn't.)

The whole thing makes me sad. But then the folks who do this shit make it easier on me, because they misuse the word "censorship" and that just pisses me off, and then I don't have to feel sad anymore.

Look, if the government comes down and says, "No, you can't publish this book or say this thing on your blog, it's illegal," that's censorship. And sometimes that's even justified, I think, but that's a separate issue. If the greater masses of the Internet say, "Hey, you can say these things, but doing so makes you an asshole and we don't want to buy your shit anymore," that isn't censorship. That's physics. That's cause and effect. And mind you, a lot of people got on board with Desborough. They were fine with everything he wrote and wanted to buy his shit on the strength of his writing. That's cause and effect, too.

I think it's generational, in a way. Younger folks, maybe those who have grown up with the Internet, might think that what you say online doesn't count because it's not said directly to a person. To that I say: Pretend it is. Pretend that who you want to talk to or who you imagine you're talking to is sitting there, in front of you, listening to you say what you're typing. And imagine your mom's there, too, why not.

You own what you say. What you say, online, can have consequences. Saying nasty or hurtful things online, as in "real life" (as though online isn't real life), doesn't make you cool or edgy or more honest or genuine. It means that you are impaired in communication, specifically pragmatic language, because you haven't figured out how to talk with people and really communicate.

And yes, if you come across as a complete asshole, people might feel compelled not only to avoid spending their money on what you did, but to ask other people to do likewise. That's how this works.

Not censorship. Just physics.

More on related matters here.
innocent_man: (ptc)
So, what's new?

Well! Michelle has finished her MA. Now begins the long slow to getting herself a PhD (though you could argue that actually started when she started Case). But mostly I think she's just thrilled to be done with classwork for a short while.

The Kickstarter continues to kick ass. We've got the rest of the artwork back, and it's amazing (a new piece should be going in an update on the Kickstarter sometime soon, I hope). We've still got a few weeks, so I figure we should be able to hit $10K and do the curse the darkness companion, but honestly even if we ended today, we've done pretty damned well for ourselves.

In unrelated news, I had a job interview last week for my local school district. I really hope I get the position, and it's causing me a little bit of angst. I love my job. I love my kids. This district is driving me crazy. My caseload is too big, the bureaucracy is too stupid, and Ohio doesn't give a shit about poor people so they don't give a shit about the people who teach poor people's kids (that'd be me). I can afford to keep making what I make, for a little while. I cannot afford a pay cut, and that's what the district wants. I can't do it. I need to get somewhere that I'm not expected to make less every year, and it's bothering me, because I feel like I'm quitting on my kids. But it's an untenable situation, and I have my family to consider.


Anyway, something else. Umm. Oh, right, poo. See, here's the thing. I run this Clay-o-Rama game every year (most years) at Origins and/or GenCon. Clay-o-Rama is awesome; you make a monster out of Play-Doh and the monsters fight. I occasionally get a guy playing at Origins who wants to make a big piece of poo for his monster. And he's, like 40+. And there are kids playing. He should know better, but he apparently doesn't.

I'm not willing to just sign his ticket and tell him to piss off. I could, apparently, under Origins rules, since a GM can kick anyone out of a game for any reason (which I fully support). But I work with people who are emotionally stunted or behaviorally challenged, and the other thing is, I've never talked to him about it (last time because it just caught me off guard). This year, I'll make the rules clear up front - no scatological humor. And if he can't handle that, I'll excuse him (and anyone else that can't play by the rules), but I can't just jump directly to "go away."

Shit, when did I become patient?

Anyway, Promethean. )
innocent_man: (temperence)
Maurice Sendak passed away today. If you don't know, Sendak was an author and illustrator who gave us such amazing books as Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. To say that his work was influential to children and the field of children's literature is a massive understatement, and a topic my mother (a professor of early childhood education) could probably talk about with more authority. I'm going to talk about what his work meant to me.

I'm a speech-language pathologist, and I work with students in kindergarten through 8th grade in an inner city elementary school. I work with an incredibly diverse population, and some of my kids are readers with articulation problems, but most of them either don't read or don't read at their grade level. Very few come from homes with a lot of stimulating printed materials around, and very few come to me having read Where the Wild Things Are. I consider that a tragedy and I use it with my students during the first week of school.

Some of it is education and therapeutic. Readers can practice with words that they know and a few they probably don't ("terrible," "gnashed"). Non-readers get to listen to the story, follow it along, and answer questions about Max and his private boat and his journey to the place where the wild things are. One of my favorite moments in my job was reading the story with a kindergartener who, when he saw the picture of Max chasing his hapless pet with a fork, exclaimed, "He's gonna eat the dog!"

I know the book by heart (it's only 250 words or so). I've recited it to my children, in long nights or plane rides or while waiting for tables at restaurants or while helping them go to sleep. And I've occasionally thought, if it all crumbles and I have to care for them in a world devoid of the structure and comfort that we enjoy, I'll still have that story, word for word.

I think a lot of people from my end of the geek spectrum think this way - in the event of the apocalypse, what would we do or have or know? Trying to figure out what we would do in a given situation is a normal part of experiencing fiction, and between zombies, nuclear war and (ahem) RPGs about ideologues wiping out the world with shadow-monsters, the notion of dystopia comes up a lot. It's not that we want it to happen, I think, we're just interested in seeing it, us included, maybe as the hero.

Max didn't want to live with the Wild Things. He just wanted the rumpus, and then he went home, to the night of his very own room.

In the larger context of curse the darkness and properties like it, I think that this desire to let off steam in aggressive ways might be part of the appeal. I know that every child I've read Where the Wild Things Are to, ever, has relished the part where they get to snarl at me ("roared their terrible roars"), snap at me ("gnashed their terrible teeth"), make faces ("rolled their terrible eyes") and swipe at the air ("showed their terrible claws").

Kids don't need everything tied up in a bow, and they can certainly handle a little surreal - even out and out weird - in their books. Mr. Sendak understood that. He understood that kids get scared but sometimes seeing the monsters makes the scary easier to tolerate. He understood that kids pay attention.

If you have kids, maybe hit a bookstore or library today and pick up a copy of one of Sendak's books? Or if, like me, you know Where the Wild Things Are by heart, maybe recite it to someone you love. And make the faces. That's fun.
innocent_man: (Default)
Sensitivity in RPGs is a topic I'm well familiar with. I've written lots and lots of words for White Wolf, after all, and whether you believe them when they say "Games for Mature Minds" or not, there's no denying that you wouldn't run a game of, say, Demon: The Fallen or Vampire: The Requiem for the same group of people that you'd run, say, Mermaid Adventures.

My experience has been that a not-insignificant percentage of gamers have triggers, topics that they don't want to hear about in a gaming (or, sometimes, any) context because it's emotionally traumatic. Child abuse and rape are probably the most common ones, and if you look at the numbers, it's not surprising (I'll take a moment and say this to my fellow male gamers: Something like 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted. If there are four women in the room with you, odds are one of them has been sexually assaulted. Rape jokes aren't funny. They're not.). If I think I'm going to be running a game that will include horrific or violent elements, which is often, I usually ask if there are things I need to avoid.

And then there are subjects that aren't triggers, exactly, but can still cause discomfort and heightened emotional response. Just to differentiate them from triggers (and this distinction is entirely mine; if this sounds like I'm making this up as I go, it's because I am), let's call them "buttons."

Kids are a button for me. Including children in a horror game is uncomfortable to me, because I'm a dad and one of my recurring fears (the only one, really) is something bad happening to my kids. I'm going to guess that any parent reading this gets that. Hollywood knows this - you want to establish someone as the bad guy, you can show him being mean to a kid (or an animal) and boom, we know his role. This means that when kids do get hurt or killed in movies (Mimic and Sleepy Hollow leap to mind), we notice. It's out of the ordinary.

What about RPGs? I played in a game of My Life with Master a few years back at Origins, and the GM asked about triggers before we started. I said that I didn't want harm to come to kids, which is usually not something I specify, but see, in that game, you're the bad guys' minions. I can play a character who hunts down people who harm kids, and it's going to change the tone of the game for me, but I can do it and enjoy the game. If I'm the one who's doing the harm? It removes so much moral ambiguity for me that I can't really get into it.

So it's a button for me. I was never abused as a kid, and my experience with child abuse has been secondhand (remember, I work in an elementary school). In RPGs I've run, I've occasionally included abuse or neglect as a plot point, but I'm pretty clear on where the moral lines are drawn there. I don't mind pushing buttons, because it's almost like poking at a bruise. It hurts, but sometimes it's a good hurt.

Which brings us to curse the darkness. People die in this game. The system is not forgiving to PCs. You can play kids, but you don't get special consideration (either for or against) for doing so. And that means that if you're playing a kid, your character might die in play. Does that make for a compelling story, or is that just uncomfortable? I suppose it depends who's playing...but it's a button I don't mind poking, in the safe space of a game.

Here's a picture from the interior artwork of the book (photograph taken by Steve Karpinecz, digital manipulation by Sarah Petrie). The model is my daughter, Teagan. She's not really afraid (I don't believe in method acting, certainly not for kids), she's just really damned good at conveying emotion (wait'll you see the other shots with her).

This photo is one 10 in the book, and together they illustrate the example of play. That example goes to some uncomfortable places for both me and my wife (Michelle Lyons-McFarland, who's also my editor - her two sons are in the book, too), but at the end of the day, it's a button. I knew when I started working on this game that I wanted it to have the potential to push buttons. And looking at this photo, I think it will.

Teagan Hiding
Watch this space. Kickstarter coming soon.
innocent_man: (ctd1)
Last night I finished the writing on the first draft of curse the darkness. It's about 40,000 words, give or take, which is far from the longest single project I've ever written (that would be Keys to the Supernal Tarot, if you're interested), but in many ways one of the hardest. I'm used to having an existing framework to hang my words on, an already-created world that I'm just adding some color or some depth to, rather than making it all up. And I'm very glad my wife is going to edit for me, because if I missed something important she'll tell me.

But mostly, I'm glad the writing is done, some tweaks aside. Now for the really hard part - getting the photographs manipulated, the layout elements done, the layout completed and the business side of things handled. This is all new for me, and I'm nervous, but I'm also excited to finally put the Kickstarter up and hope that folks want to buy this game.

Today I went to a rally for marriage equality in Cleveland. Looking around, I saw people with lots of awesome signs. Some examples:

All You Need is Love

Lady Gaga

Pancakes & Zombies

No h8

As I listened to the speakers and I looked around, I thought of a page of photos I looked at back in April of 2010, which is here if you want to see it, that showed signs from Tea Party rallies. I saw those and I was appalled - not because of the mangling of the English language on the signs (though that was part of it), but because of the hate that these people were spewing. Seeing the photos today, some of them were indignant and some might even have been angry, but none of them were hateful. And that might be how you know you're on the right side - if you can approach the cause with righteousness but without hate.

I wrote curse the darkness because I needed some catharsis. I wrote it to get rid of my own hate, because hate is not constructive. I wrote it to remind me that, as appealing as saying things like "let's outlaw religion" or "let's just take all the fundies and dump them in Texas and build a fence" are, they aren't really helpful and they're just as divisive as the horrible things that said fundies say. I wrote it because I had a vision in my head of a world where someone used hate and violence to try to save the world, and it didn't work.

I don't hate, not even the hateful. It's hard to love them, mind, but I don't have a commandment to do that. What I do have is, I think, an ethical obligation to let the extent of my aggression be a simple no. No, I will not let you tell me what to think, feel or believe. No, I will not sit by and watch you strip rights from my daughter, my wife, my girlfriend, my mother and all of my female friends. No, I will not let you deny the basic rights of our society to my friends and acquaintances who are gay, or bisexual, or transgendered. No, I will not let you legislate your religious beliefs, because as valid as you might think they are, they cannot be the basis for our laws.

And no, I will never, ever tell you that you can't believe what you want, no matter how sad it makes me, no matter how much you hate. But I will gently encourage you to let go of the hate.

Anyway, today saw several hundred people, in downtown Cleveland, all light a candle. I'm really glad I was there.

(If you want to see more photos, they're here.)
innocent_man: (haveaheart)
So, you may have seen this floating around the Internet a bit. I've seen a couple of folks link to it on Facebook, f'rex, sometimes with the tag "for my friends who are Dads" or whatever.

I'm gonna kind of be a stick in the mud, here.

I don't find this shit funny. Not in the slightest. Now, before we get started here, you may feel free to say that when my daughter reaches dating age, I might change my tune. And that's possible. I suspect that there will be boys that Teagan will bring home when she's a teen that'll make me narrow my eyes a bit (it might even be true that Cael will bring home girls that will make me do likewise, and this is assuming that both of my kids are interested in the opposite sex, which I'm not really taking for granted, it's just that the versions of this meme I've seen are universally about boys dating one's daughter). But a lot of that is how we're hard-wired; of course I'm going to be protective of my daughter. Of course it'll squick me to think of her as having sexual desire, and of course I'll probably think she's too young when she does start dating.

But see, here's the thing. I started dating at approximately 14. I started having sex at 15. I got a girl pregnant at 16. The only one of these things that was really problematic was the last one, and that happened in large part because the messages that I got from the adults in my life regarding teen sex were variations of "Don't." That's not helpful. What I want for my kids is for them to be confident enough in themselves to make decisions about sex responsibly, and when they make mistakes regarding such relationships (because we all do) for there not to be permanent consequences.

That's tall order, I grant you. But threatening to shoot potential suitors is not going to help matter. Pretending that if I just say "Don't" loud enough, it won't happen is not going to help matters. Pretending that teenage girls are still six years old, under our control and unable to make decisions about their bodies is not helping matters. I might not be able to realize my goal, but I'm damned sure not going to short-circuit myself by being a sexist prick about it.

And that's really the crux of this - it's sexist. It's saying that I control another person's sexuality. And it's threatening someone that, presumably, my child cares about with physical harm. I don't like that. I don't find it funny. And I don't want my daughter or my daughter's someday-boyfriend (or girlfriend, FTM) to see me as someone to be feared and, therefore, avoided.

Points. )
innocent_man: (goblin)
I got this from [personal profile] nagaina. It's your basic leave a comment and I'll tell you shit I want you to blog about, but honestly I don't promise I will because I'm lazy like that. But hell, if you want interview questions, comment and I'll see what I can do. At least I'll give you one question.

1. Your favorite published project to date?

Ooh. Rokea has a spot in my heart because it was my first solo project. Keys to the Supernal Tarot, too, was one I enjoyed both because it was mine and because I got to write about Tarot in Awakening, which was fun. The Promethean books, Magnum Opus in particular, were awesome because they were so much in line with my own brand of humanism.

But I gotta go with Innocents. That was a real labor of love for me, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.

2. What do you like most about being a teacher?

The students, of course. I like being able to help people communicate. That's not something you see happen on any given day, but every once in a while, you notice that a kid is starting to get it. And then there's ongoing stuff like being a safe place for the kids that need it, which is awesome.

3. What do you dislike most about being a teacher?

It'd be tempting to say that the worst part is what my kids go through, and having to do things like go to CPS sit-downs with abusive parents and not, like, strangle them. But honestly, that shit happens everywhere and I'm just glad I can help when I can. No, I think what I hate about this job is the bureaucracy. It's having a bunch of idiots in Columbus who have never seen a classroom and have no idea what I really do set the rules for how I do my job. That's frustrating, but that's management.

4. What made you decide to embrace atheism?

Oddly phrased question, this. :) Atheism isn't a belief system. Sorry, but it isn't. I have a belief system, and it's probably best described as humanism. I probably always had bits of humanist in my philosophy and was trying to make them fit with a strong desire for magic to be real and for there to be some kind of divine order to the world. Because wouldn't that be cool?

But there isn't. And the more I learn about people and the way our brains work, the less sense that really makes. I didn't so much embrace atheism as stop kidding myself - there's no magic, no gods, no divinity and no purpose. And that's OK. That doesn't make life not worth living, that means we, as people, decide what life is worth. I choose to see life and precious and people as awesome and worthwhile. And it saddens me when they prove me wrong, but at least when that happens I don't have to make excuses for why, if there is a divine order, it includes such horrible things.

5. GenCon or Origins?

Oh, y'know. Either's good. :) I think I like Origins more, just because it's closer and it's all in one building. I like GenCon, but walking around Indy in August kind of sucks. Also it's much more expensive.

6. Best game you've ever run?

Ooh. Hard to say. I gotta say, though, my current Changeling game is pretty amazing. We're in the last story, and I'm hoping it goes a nice long time and provides some good closure and drama to the characters, 'cause they deserve it.

7. Favorite movie?

Not even remotely possible to say. In terms of rewatch value, emotional impact and just value as a movie, it might be Shawshank Redemption, but in terms of sheer quotability and rewatch value, Super Troopers is up there. You really need criteria to judge something like that.
innocent_man: (redwig)
Yesterday, Michelle and Sarah and I watched The Tree of Life, which is nominated for Best Picture, Best Editing and Best Directing. My reaction, in brief: WTF.

To let you know, the movie opens with bright light and whispered, existential questions. We then move into some footage of Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain as a married couple in the 50s in Texas, and then Sean Penn in modern day, and then back to the 50s, and then in space with life on Earth beginning, and then dinosaurs (no, seriously) and then back to Texas, and then their kids are tweens, and then a kid (not theirs) drowns, and then Sean Penn on a beach with lots of people from memories, and then the world ends.


No, actually, I get it. The movie is meant to be non-linear and have a lack of narrative, and I grok. I get that we're supposed to watch Pitt's character and his interaction with his sons as he grapples with wanting to be loving but also wanting to prepare them for the world, all the while dealing with his own issues, and how all of that affects his boy. I even get, kinda, how Sean Penn is looking back on all this (he's Brad Pitt's oldest son) and reflecting on the death of his brother (but we don't know which one) and how that's affecting him and his faith and everything. I get all that.

What I think, though, is that all the fruity editing and dinosaurs and space-footage did nothing for the movie except make it confusing. The story is simple, and that's fine. Iris was a simple story, told in traditional ways, and it was very moving. Ditto, say, Rabbit Hole. The Hours, less traditional, but still easy to follow. Ditto Blue Valentine. These are all human-condition drama. Oh, wait, couple more. In the Bedroom. 21 Grams. Some of these movies play with narrative and non-linear structure, but none of them get so downright pretentious about the story they're telling, and none of them inject fucking dinosaurs into the story for no apparent reason.

Meanwhile, the characters we're asked to care about never get names. They never say them. They rarely have dialog that matches what's happening onscreen. Nothing is ever really resolved, and just when a narrative thread starts, we cut to something fruity like the wife (Chastain) hovering in midair by a tree.

The movie is really, really pretty. The cinematography is beautiful, and it's not done with computers (not all of it, at least). But I feel about this movie kinda the way I do about Lost in Translation - it utterly fails to make me care about these people, because it jars me out of the story every few minutes. And it goes on forever.

I see a lot of positive reviews talking about how it's a moving experience. I don't think it is, it certainly wasn't for me. There's a lot of prayer in the movie, and there are references to the Book of Job. The story of Job moves me, but not in the way that a lot of people probably think it should. I hate the story of Job more than most other Biblical myths, because it showcases really well what an arrogant, jealous, evil jerk the god of the Bible is. And we see that, a little, in the movie, because what happens to Job is summed up (in a sermon) with a kind of, "Well, did you think misfortune wouldn't happen to you?" This ignores that "misfortune" is bad luck, and when an all-powerful being decides to fuck with you, deliberately, just to win a bet, that's not luck.

But I suspect the message we're going for here is something like "don't take it personally, because you're just one nano-nano-second in the scheme of things" or even the more prosaic "god moves in mysterious ways." To which I respond, great. Now, is there a way you could have put that across and made it entertaining to watch? Because the song about the universe at the end of Meaning of Life was a hell of lot more watchable.

If other folks have seen it and have good things to say, please, say them. Love to hear it.

Oh, and points. )
innocent_man: (cookbook)
Points today, 1/11. )

OK, there we go. Now, my thoughts on D&D5E.

I don't care.

No, not quite accurate. I do care insofar as a new edition of D&D will stir things up in the hobby, and that's always fun to watch (when it's not explicitly about guys defending rape jokes or racist card games or something equally uncomfortable). I don't care about the game itself because I don't play D&D and I have no desire to. This isn't (just) because fantasy isn't my cuppa joe, it's because D&D is, on its own steam, boring. It's a ruleset with a limp, Tolkein-cribbed fantasy setting barely hung on it...unless you buy at least one sourcebook. And even if you come up with an awesome setting and story, which my late friend Jonathan did some years back, it's still a system in which by killing orcs, you become a better bard (or whatever).

As I said when Gary Gygax died, even if grandad is a little loopy, none of us grandkids would be here without him, and so I respect D&D on those terms. But I don't want to play it, and I don't think releasing a new edition, with all the gamer-froth that will produce, will bring the hobby what it so crucially needs - new blood.

Now, WotC took a page from White Wolf here (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) and is crowdsourcing. So maybe that will help bring in new players...but I doubt it. I think instead it'll bring in edition warriors. I'm seeing it already on various fora and lists, and it's kind of saddening. The various voices of reason get shouted down or treated like party poopers, and it makes me a little nuts. This hobby needs to be cool for new people, and honestly I don't a math-heavy, bland RPG like D&D is how you do it. I think games like Faery's Tale (easy, appropriate for kids) and, hell, Dread (Jenga!) are going to be the ones to save us, if they hit a wide enough audience. But what do I know, I started with Marvel Super Heroes.

Oh, and: then there's this. This makes me uncomfortable, but I think it's because of the girl being the one having the "sexventure" game. In a more historically woman friendly comic, that wouldn't bother me, I think, but see earlier comment about apologia for rape jokes (which is, of course, not the same thing as apologizING for rape jokes).

Anyway, that's where I'm at on this. I'll be interested to see what D&D5e produces...but I'm glad curse the darkness will be out this year, not next year, at GenCon.
innocent_man: (drama)
I always enjoy this meme. This is the first line from the first entry of each month in 2011:

January: So this is 2011. Feels about the same.

February: Those are the ingredients. Freakin' camera didn't record the "before" picture. Again.

March: Because I'm don't have time to do anything else tonight!

April: Guess this would be Thursday night?

May: The Aristocats is a Disney cartoon with a pretty simple plot - old lady dotes on her cats, plans to leave them everything, and make her butler their ward.

June: ***** ******** is an incredible douchebag.[1]

July: The Scene: Cael is in the kitchen, nomming on an apple.

August: Texas, at least, has Internet. Here, have some more damn pictures.

September: Bolt is a Disney-but-not-Pixar animated movie about a dog (John Travolta) who is the unknowing star of a sci-fi TV show, in which he protects his little girl (Miley Cyrus) from the forces of the evil Dr. Calico.

October: OK, it's been a while since I did this sort of write-up, except for the two I bundled with game write-ups.

November: Bridget Jones' Diary is a rom-com based on the novel of the same name by Helen Fielding.

December: Casino Royale is, of course, the first in the "gritty reboot of James Bond" series.

Seems I'm doing movie reviews at the beginning of the month a lot. Hmm.

Anyway, 2011: In general, pretty good year for me personally, though the rest of the world seems gripped in turmoil. I try not to let that stress me, even though I'm not entirely apart from it - I work a state job in Ohio, and the governor of Ohio hates unions, teachers and anyone else who doesn't immediately line the pockets of the Koch brothers. The country seems poised to have things radically shift, and I find that I'm hoping for that, even if it means discomfort and chaos in the short term. Yes, we could slide back into the comfort and complacency of decades past, but really, that wouldn't help the people that need helping.

I find that I wish that, when I had more money and more disposable income, I had used it more wisely. I wish that I had saved some up, not gotten quite so far into debt, or, fuck it, donated more of it when I had more to give. I wish that, at 27, I had the perspective I have at 37 (but then, I'm sure I'll wish similar things at 47, so maybe that's OK).

But I'm happy. I have a home and fiancee and dogs and my kiddos. I have a job I love (and to which I need to devote some energy over break, because I have got to rejigger my schedule and see kids one-on-one more often), I'm still doing some freelancing, though not as much as in years past, and I'm working on curse the darkness, which should be ready for daylight by our target (GenCon).

Things are good for me. Yes, money's tight, and yes, I'm about 40 pounds overweight. But I'm going to lose 40 pounds by May 31st, so that'll be fine. In general, for me, 2011 was a good year. I know the world at large didn't have it easy, but I'm glad I was here to see it, and I'm hopeful that 2012 will be, if not idyllic, then interesting.

So, for 2011: More cooking, more gaming, more helping my kids grow and learn, more writing, more, more, more. I'm am greedy for life and its experiences, because this is all I or any of us gets.

[1]This was a locked entry, so a bit is redacted.
innocent_man: (Default)
I celebrated Samhain as a religious holiday for a lot of years, while I was still pagan (Wiccan, whatever, I wasn't particular about labels, though I have friends who are). Went into the woods, camped, made marshmallows, had ritual sex, communed with gods and spirits of the dead, and so on.

And y'know, I kind of miss it. Not because I think there was anything to it - I don't, and if I'm honest I kind of didn't, then. But I did and I still do think that taking the time to reflect on the "deaths", literal and metaphorical, of the previous year is worthwhile, be that people or pets who have died, or relationships or other things that have just gone out of one's life.

That in mind, I spend a little time today reflecting on my life since October of 2010. It seems like it's really flown by. I've had a few things come and go, but really my life has remained pretty stable. Yes, I'm now divorced, but that's mainly a formality. My marriage to Heather has been in its current form for the better part of two years now, and it wasn't really a marriage in the sense that either of us would have liked for some time before that.

I think that the death that weighs the most heavily on me is my father's. He died in February of 2009, and at the time I didn't really grieve. He was sick, and his death seemed like a relief in a lot of ways. As time has passed, I've had more distance and more of a chance to notice the hole that his absence has left in my life, and in Teagan's. I'm sorry that he never got to know Cael, and I'm really sorry that he never met Michelle or Sarah (both of whom I'm sure he would have loved, even if the whole poly thing might not have sat well with him).

I went and saw Friends With Benefits with Sarah some time back, and I wound up crying because the portrayal of Alzheimers (from Richard Jenkins) was so true to life and moving. And I find that there are certain movies, songs, or just conversations that make me think of Dad, and that saddens me, because, simply, I miss him. My mother doesn't help matters, insisting as she does that he's still present and watching over us and blah blah. I hate that, not just because it's nonsense but because she puts me in the position of having to explain to Teagan why it's nonsense. But fortunately Teagan is smart, and she gets it.

Anyway, like I said, I don't think that camping and sprinkling ashes (or whatever) is necessary or means anything in particular, but I do think that a little reflection on what's left your life is a decent idea. Contacting the dead is impossible. Coming to terms with death, literal or metaphorical, is not.
innocent_man: (shark)
And I still do it sometimes. I really, really shouldn't. On Facebook especially. I actually like Facebook; it lets me communicate with people I haven't seen in a long time and wouldn't otherwise bother to email and who don't blog. It's great for organizing events and getting the word out to people quickly. Of course, many people choose to use that for slacktivism, but that's nothing new, it used to be email forwarding.

But the problem with Facebook is that it lets you drunk dial the whole world. Everyone (I assume) has little snappy/snarky comments in their heads all day. Sometimes those comments are funny, but most often, if you said them aloud, they would make you look whiny, racist, privileged or stupid.

And Facebook (and Twitter, which I'm not on yet) allows - nay, encourages - you to share these thoughts with the world.

Now, there's an upside to this. It also means that you can share little moments of win with the world. For instance, I made hummus today. This isn't something I would normally blog about (I do blog about cooking, so I could, but normally I don't when I make sauces and dips and the like...dunno, would anyone like to hear the process?), but on FB I can post "I HAVE MADE HUMMUS" to the world. And it really is just like shouting into a room. It's shouting into a room full of people that you invited (or at least let in). And if you do that, you'd be better be prepared for someone to shout back.

For instance: If I shout "I HAVE MADE HUMMUS" into a crowded room, I am prepared for people to shout back things like "THAT'S AWESOME!" or "PLEASE GIVE ME SOME!" or "I WISH I COULD EAT HUMMUS BUT I AM ALLERGIC TO HUM!" or "HUMMUS SUCKS! BUT SALSA, NOW THAT ROCKS!" Those are all reasonable responses. Hummus is not, after all, a contentious topic.

But on the other hand, if I shout into a room crowded with nerds (which, let's face it, is what my FB is: nerds, teachers, and assorted FOAFs), "GREEN LANTERN WAS THE BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE EVAR!", I had better be prepared for the shitstorm. (For the record, it wasn't, though I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.) And this is even truer if you're talking about topics that are actually hot-buttons. A short list of those topics includes: Parenting, religion, politics, race relations, drugs, child abuse and whether the serial comma is as necessary as [ profile] raving_liberal seems to think.

If you shout something about one of those topics into the ether, I might well shout back. I have opinions about most of them. About some things, I think I'm right. In most cases, I'm prepared to be swayed, if you can give me a reason or some new data. At the very least, I'm interested in hearing someone else's perspective. And that means if you're going to say something, have a fucking perspective. Don't spout "common knowledge." It's usually bullshit. People are wrong about everything. I find out every day that I thought something that is, in fact, wrong. Don't spout news talking points. Use the news as a starting point, but if you're really going to get invested, check your facts. Don't just spout what stand-comedians say, and you pound the table like Fry on the planet Tri-Sol and say, "Oh, yeah! He's right!"

Yes, crying babies on planes can be annoying. Yes, that can make everyone in earshot tense. But you know what? Suck it up. I won't ask people without children (or, more appropriate, people who don't like kids) to have any empathy for the child or for the parent, both of whom would like the crying to stop just as much as you, because clearly you're not interested in doing that because it's All About You. But I will remind you that if you're on a fucking plane, you have enough money to fly. And you are, as Louis CK says, sitting on a chair in the sky. Pretty cool. Maybe you should put on the headphones and be glad that your Eustachian tubes are mature enough that when the pressure changes, they don't hurt like that (because it hurts, sweet jeebus, never fly with a head cold, you get the same effect).

Yes, occasionally people who belong to RACE do BAD THING. Yes, you may have seen such behavior more than once from people of a given race. Your n size is still too small to draw a conclusion, and in any case, there may be cultural factors at work that you don't understand. And if that statement sounds like bullshit to you, if you find yourself ready to scoff or make a duckface at it, then check your god damn privilege, because it's showing.

OK. This is me, shouting into the ether. If you feel like shouting back, feel free, here or on FB, because I'm linking there, too.
innocent_man: (smirnoff)
"And what do you believe in," the parish priest asked Amanda sternly.

Amanda looked up from the beetle shell upon which she was painting a miniature scene in watercolors. "I believe in birth, copulation and death," she answered. "Although copulation embodies the other two, and death is only a form of borning. At any rate, I was born nineteen years ago. Someday I shall die. Today, I think I'll copulate."

And indeed she did.

- Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction
innocent_man: (Default)
Why. The. Hell. Am. I. Awake.

Anyway. I have an assload of writing to do today, and this much little sleep just means it's going to be hard. But I can't sleep anymore, so why try.

So, before writing, I shall post a little about current events and then do the game-write up from yesterday.

Current events? By now you probably know about the dude in Oslo that set off a bomb in the city, then took advantage of the confusion to go to a youth camp on an island dressed as a cop and shoot 80 people dead, many of them teenagers. And then he turned himself in, probably because hey, there's no death penalty. His lawyer said he wanted a revolution, and now he has the world's ear, which is probably what he wanted.

Meanwhile, in Texas, a guy flips out at a birthday party at a roller rink and shoots 5 people dead, then kills himself. Police don't really know what happened there, yet.

And in England, Amy Winehouse was found dead yesterday. As of now, there's no official word on what killed her, but no one is going to be surprised if it turns out to be drug-related.

I don't have any particular thoughts on any of this. I have lived long enough to see comparable tragedies, and while I still feel and grieve for the people affected, what truly makes me sad is the responses I see. And it's not just people making "Rehab" jokes (hell, we did it yesterday at the game, though I don't post mine on Facebook, because a) it makes me look like a jerk and b) EVERYONE MADE THAT JOKE THE SECOND THEY HEARD SHE DIED). What bothers me is the implication I keep seeing that because Winehouse died on the same day at the massacre in Norway, that somehow invalidates the tragedy of her death or makes it somehow less newsworthy.

I'm not a huge fan of the American media, but the death of a celebrity gets coverage. Obviously, what happened in Norway is, too, and also should be reported. Both should. It's not an either/or. Both deserve attention, maybe in differing amounts, but that's on you (and seriously, it's not like you can't choose what news you see - unless you're still getting it from TV, which is also a choice).

For my part, if I find Winehouse's death easier to talk about or think about, it's because I understand addiction more easily than I understand mass murder. I get what drives someone in a high-stress job, with the pressures that celebrity brings, to self-destruct more than I understand what drives someone angry with his government (which I get) to flat-out murder children (which I don't). That doesn't mean I think one tragedy is greater than another, because I think that's a false notion, I think that both need to be analyzed on their own scales, and we can do that. Compassion, as [ profile] oakthorne pointed out on FB, is not a finite resource.

Anyway. Misspent Youth! )

Ham steaks, broccoli, wonton wrappers, yams, chard, portabella mushrooms.

Six ingredients! Madness! This is the veggie-heavy basket my Misspent Youth players gave me. What would you do? )

And then the other night:

Grouper, sun-dried tomato, parsley root, eggplant, Mexican Coke.

"Mexican" insofar as it has real sugar rather than HFCS. So? )
innocent_man: (suicide)
American Beauty is a drama-ish movie that won a bunch of Oscars in 1999. It was, in fact, the first Oscar telecast I watched, and American Beauty was one of the few nominees I saw that year (well, actually I'd seen all of the Best Picture Noms).

Anyway, it's a movie that's come to reflect a lot of my own personal philosophy on life, and it's interesting to watch it with other people and see how they react. Michelle, f'rex, sees it as somewhat nihilistic. I don't; quite the opposite. I see it as a reminder that it's very easy to get lost in the stress of life - when you want for nothing, you take everything for granted. The characters' basic needs are all fulfilled, and so they become miserable.

I don't think, though, that they make each other miserable. Everyone in the movie has his/her own issues, and some of them take those issues out on others (OK, most of them do). But at the end of the day, Carolyn is obsessed with her job because it's how she defines herself. Jane is lost in her teenage years with no good guidance around her. Frank is, well, if not gay than pretty darned not-straight, and horrified by what he is (he also beats his son, which kinda nudges him toward irredeemable). Lester is, of course, used to suffering in silence to the point that he swings too far the other way and becomes utterly self-absorbed. And so on.

But what I really like about the movie, aside from the plastic bag metaphor, which I'll get to in a sec, is that each of the characters at least starts on the road to redemption. A few don't do more than glance that way, but at the end of the movie (right before Lester gets shot), you get the sense that Lester feels better knowing his daughter is happy and in love. Carolyn is going to confront Lester, and maybe that'll be good, because maybe she'll be honest and straightforward rather than hiding behind bitchy sarcasm. Ricky is free of his parents' utterly fucked up house, and Jane has the courage to follow him and start really living her life (huge mistake? Yes, maybe, but the kind that at least isn't boring).

Plastic bag metaphor: It's not really about the bag. Ricky sees that bag as the face of God, not because of what it literally is (it's a bag, dude), but because of what he sees in it. He feels unafraid because he thinks there's a divine force looking out for him. In that way, he's on his own journey, and I think the reason that we never get to see him really falter is because he's kind of meant to be the guru in the movie (there is not, of course, a divine force looking out for us, but Alan Ball might think otherwise, so whatever). But the point is: He sees beauty everywhere because he is unafraid to see it. He is unafraid of people because he controls how they make him feel. And he is confident because he knows what it is to lose his freedom ("they drugged me up and left me there for two years," remember).

I don't believe that there's a benevolent force looking out for people, unless it be people. People are hateful, unpleasant creatures, sometimes. But sometimes they surprise you, and I choose to place my emphasis on the good that people do for each other, because I think that seeing only the ugliness (or seeing even mostly the ugliness) would be horribly depressing. There's beauty in the world, and horror, and you can't let either side get too heavy in your heart. I think both notions are present in the film.

And then, of course, there's the film's parting shot: You don't get this now, but someday the Reaper comes calling, and when he does and you have a second to reflect, what might that second hold?

I suspect, if Lester Burnham is right, it holds the moments that we did not hold onto jealousy, but let become part of us.

My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium, but every time I watch this movie I'm surprised at how watchable it really is. It's paced pretty well for a drama.

Next in list: An American Werewolf in London
innocent_man: (Default)
I like the word "pipes." If you know me, you know I geek out about words and phonology, and some words just trip different responses for me. "Pigs," for instance, makes me giggle. Actual pigs, do, too, but mostly just the word "pig" makes me go tee-hee. Also "waffles."

(Cue Jeff from Coupling saying "Buttocks! Thighs!" Anyway.)

"Pipes" kind of trips my "fuckit, let's fight" switch. Like, "hit them with a pipe." It just seems absurd. Pipes aren't really good weapons, they're heavy and unwieldy, but I wouldn't want to get hit with one. A pipe seems like what you grab if there's nothing better to hand or if you want to make a point in a clumsy manner.

Anyway, there are certain phrases that folks can say that make me want to grab a pipe. Some of these aren't very rational, and I know that. Some of them betray my own biases, and I know that, too. "I don't like children," for instance, makes me grab a pipe. How the fuck can you "not like" children? You know that makes you dead inside, right? That's a step below "not liking" people (which doesn't make me reach for a pipe, but does make me think, "You're in your mid 20s, right? Yeah, it'll pass.").

There are some good reasons for not liking people, but most people who say it don't have them. They say it because they worked retail or food service and saw people being entitled. Which sucks, it's true, but the fact is that we tend to extend ourselves excuses that we don't give to other people anyway.

But again, people can suck, and so if you don't like them generally, OK, whatever. That sucks, because people are awesome as often as they're not, and I'm a glass-is-half-full kind of guy, but whatever works for ya. But not liking kids as a general rule? Baffles me. And what's more, makes me think I shouldn't trust you. I have kids. If you don't like them, you might hurt them. Where's my pipe.

Anyway, I'm rambling. And I'm done rambling, and am now going to talk about my Changeling game, so you're welcome, if you're not a player in said game, to clicky. )
innocent_man: (teagansephi)
Time flies. Six years ago today, at roughly this hour, I was trying to get some sleep. My wife was in the hospital, doing likewise (I had to go home and let Sephi out). Teagan, not quite seven hours old, was in NICU.

I've talked to parents who felt a profound sense of their own mortality when their children were born. I've felt that feeling since my kids were born, once or twice, but no more frequently or with more intensity than before. What I did feel when Teagan was born was amazement, humility, and love. And when she was born, tiny and helpless, I made a vow (that I would later repeat for Cael) that I would love and protect her, that I would teach her and nurture her, and that while I would not give her more knowledge than she could handle, I would never lie to her.

Man, that last one is hard. It's hard to avoid telling Teagan that Netflix just isn't working when she's got her heart set on watching something from there rather than one of her own movies. It's hard to avoid buying into the fun of the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. It's hard that I have to tell her that her grandfather is gone. Not waiting for her in heaven, not hanging around the house, not in a better place, just gone.

Tell you what, though: I gave Teagan the Lego test a few months back. We were driving by the cemetery and, as usual, she started talking about death. I asked her: If you make a house out of Legos, and then take it apart and put the Legos back in the box, where is the house? And she answered correctly: Nowhere. (Yes, I stole that from xkcd, and I'd link it if I had time to find it. EDIT: here. Thanks, [ profile] anivair!) Teagan's smart, and she's intuitive.

I've kept my vow to Teagan. It's hard sometimes. I get frustrated and angry like anyone, and she's six, and she gets whiny and needy and defiant sometimes and all those other things that kids get. But I think about the kids I see. I think about the kids that are disabled, that are born of parents who are addicts or broken or angry all the time. I cannot forgive what some of them do, but I can be thankful for what I have, for the growth that I've made and the wisdom I've accrued.

I came very, very close to suicide last year. The reasons aren't important (and here's the funny thing about depression - in retrospect it doesn't seem that bad. At the time, it's never seemed worse). My therapist told me something I should have known: Children of suicides are far more likely to become suicides.

I know my children are in for pain and fear and heartache. That's how life works. I remember being a teenager, and I have no rose-colored glasses about the subject. It sucked. I remember being a child, and I remember feeling afraid and alone. I cannot save my kids from the demons in their own heads, but maybe, just maybe, I can foster enough of an atmosphere of trust and love that when they hurt, they will seek me out and know that I will do anything within my power to protect them, to help them stand up, and to help them find their centers.

I won't break my children. I worked with a little girl yesterday who'd been broken. Or rather, I think the process is ongoing. I helped her with her homework - which she could do, she was just either unwilling or overwhelmed - but it was pretty obvious to me that what she needed was a safe space, if only for a while. She's not one of my students (not yet, anyway), just someone who needed someone to have her back.

Tonight, I'm taking Teagan to the movies and to dinner and to get a Build-a-Bear for being a trooper at the dentist (three freaking times. Little cavities, but I'll tell ya, I have a pretty good instinct to sock anyone who comes at her with a needle, even if it's for her own good. Damn Daddy alarm).

So wish her a happy birthday, if you would, so I can read it to her later. :)
innocent_man: (sun)
OK, now having had some sleep and some coffee, I'm ready to post about yesterday.

We drove 589 miles yesterday. We didn't start this trek until after noon, and didn't really get seriously on the road until almost 2PM. That said, it is perhaps not surprising that we didn't get where we were going until 2AM, though part of that was because we lost an hour to time zone attrition.

That said, I have to say, in much the same way that driving the coast road from Seattle to San Francisco was, while a long drive, awesome, driving through Montana was amazing. See, in Ohio, we have large tracts of land, but it's all covered in corn most of the time, and it just doesn't feel vast. Montana is vast in a way that the word "vast" doesn't entirely prepare you for. When I said that the sky doesn't fit into your eyes, that's exactly what I meant. Glancing from one side of the car to the other, you can kind of get a sense of the scope, but it's honestly like nothing I've ever seen before. The prairies, the sky, the immensity of it all is humbling and simply beautiful. And no, I don't have a heck of lot in the way of pictures, because my camera is designed for snapping quick pics of people, not the vast splendor of the American west.

Fitting, then, that the first real stop we made was a reminder that this kind of splendor was purchased in lives and culture, and of beauty that is gone or fading and will never come again.

Let me back up. We'll start with the purple cow.

Michelle and I left Billings, drove a ways, and wound up in Harden, MT. We were looking for someplace to eat, and the food signs as we exited the highway included McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and the Purple Cow. Given the choice, I never go to chain restaurants, especially while traveling, so that was easy.

Plus the actually have a purple cow.

One lunch later, we were back on the road, and we stopped by the Little Big Horn battlefield.

A brief aside here: There's a song by Eric Bogle called "The Green Fields of France," about WWI, that I really love. And one of the lines is, "Did they really believe, when they answered the call/Did they really believe that this war would end war?"

One of the reasons I structure curse the darkness the way I have is that only when one side has something that the other side cannot hope to match are you going to "win" a war, and even then it's only "winning" in the sense that "if I'm the last one standing, I have won." So the Natives "won" Little Big Horn, sure. But they didn't have the time, tech, and sheer asshole tenacity that the whites did. And walking around the battlefield and seeing the markers - here a US solider fell, here a Cheyenne warrior fell - you're struck with the utter senselessness of it all. I have been to Holocaust museums and felt the same thing, not just that "war is wrong," but just that it doesn't actually get you anywhere.

Well, it gets you here.

Michelle grew up in Oklahoma, and she's much closer by proximity to Native cultures than I am. I pretty much just know what I've seen in movies and heard in half-remembered Sociology courses, and what it generally cooks down to is: These folks are dying out because, if we haven't actually killed them, we've given them untenable choices.

Anyway, I have no desire to turn this into a total downer, so here's a picture of the sky.

See? Vast.

Once again, we were warned of rattlesnakes...

...and once again, I didn't see any. We did see the monuments, both for Native and US dead. It struck me that the Native monument actually told something of a story, while the US monument was just a big block of stone with names on it. I'll leave it to you to suss out what that says.

Some text for the memorial:

Yes, Custer was buried at West Point. Because he was a hero or something. Anyway, I did get a lovely picture of Michelle being windswept:

And of the aforementioned death-site markers:

And then we got back on the road, and headed off through Montana. We were off of 90 East here, taking a smaller highway across Montana and then part of Wyoming, just to stay efficient. This had the result of taking us through "towns" that were basically a burned-out building and a sign, something else you don't see in Ohio. Some of these towns were inhabited, however, but by who or what, I'll let you judge.

We eventually crossed into South Dakota, and considered Mount Rushmore, but we had reservations in Billings (more than 200 miles away) and we couldn't cancel them. We stopped in Rapid City for dinner, and damn, but I wish we could have stayed there. They have a nifty street fair every Thursday, we were told:

And their streets are paved with presidents. Really. Here's Michelle cozying up to Jefferson.

Presidents get all the chicks.

Dude. His hands are huge.

I also took a picture of their nifty firehouse-cum-restaurant.

And the other thing we found, which wasn't entirely expected, was Last Chance Games, which held not only an impressive wall of games from RPGs to board games to everything else, but also people making Mage characters.

My people!

I miss gaming. Anyway, we had dinner at an awesome little Italian place, and waved goodbye to Jimmy Carter:

Seriously, doesn't he look like he's waving to someone who's pretending not to see him? Reagan, maybe.

And got on the road, to drive 200 miles or so to Billings, where we crashed for the night. And now were are in Billings, about to go to the Corn Palace, but that'll be tonight's post, when we have another 500 or so miles under our belts.

Oh, one more pic from Rapid City:

This was a Native sculpture, the plaque reading "We are all family."

Food for thought, if you're hungry.
innocent_man: (cthulhu)
I'm running Trail of Cthulhu again, at the request of [ profile] hellgirl5, who just wanted more tentacles in her life.

If you don't know (perhaps because you didn't read the character I made for the game), one of the bits in Trail is "Sources of Stability." These are people that one's character knows that help him/her stay sane (or rather, stay stable, since Sanity is another stat entirely). I find it interesting that the last time I ran this game, most of the players chose spouses and children for their characters, and this time, only one of the players did. I have no idea what that indicates, beyond just a different focus for characters in the game.

But it did get me thinking about the notion of other people as sources of stability. I like people. Moreover, I think it's a point of, dare I say, almost spiritual correctness to like other people, or at the very least to be well-disposed towards them. One of the irritating stereotypes about atheists that I run into periodically is that we're grumpy, nihilistic or misanthropic. None of that is true in my case. I mean, I'm nihilistic in a kind of purist sense, insofar as I don't believe in intrinsic meaning to life, the universe and everything, but I believe very heavily that we can invest life etc. with enough meaning to make it all very worthwhile. And I've never particularly understood someone claiming to be Christian, where one of the core tenets of the faith is "Love your neighbor as yourself" (and don't give me that "I hate myself so I have everyone" bullshit; you know perfectly well what Josh meant) then turning around and expressing strong dislike for the whole of humanity.

Yes, humanity does awful things. Believe me, I know that as well as anyone. But if you're going to be a person of faith, if the ideal is of higher consequence than the immediate reality (or do I have this "faith" thing wrong again? Please, feel free to correct me), then shouldn't a love and respect for humanity be present regardless of all those horrible things? Shouldn't the instances of beauty, selflessness, love and courage outweigh the greed, violence and entitlement? More rejoicing for the one lamb who is saved than the millions served with mint jelly (again, I might be screwing that up. Oh, hell, it's Luke 15:7, in case you missed it).

Tonight, I took Cael up to bed and sat in his room with him, snuggled up to my chest, him staring off into the dark, his little baby heartbeat getting slow and restful as he got drowsy. It struck me, as I was holding him and rocking, that I was very close to state of no-mind there. I was nowhere else but in that moment, and I had no stress at all - nothing related to work, relationships, or life in general was in my mind. Only the gentle weight on my chest, and his little breaths, and the dark room.


Now, the game. )
innocent_man: (bi)
Stick with me. I don't like to just report links with no context, so consider a few key points in my life.

Spring 1995 or so (if I'm screwing up the year, too bad; I honestly don't remember right now): A friend of mine tells me that a local production of Godspell needs another male cast member. I call the director, show up to a cast meeting, sing for him, and he says, "sure, sounds good." The cast, I note, has five women and (now) five men. Of the five men, one is straight. Three are gay, and I'm the swing, as it were. The musical director is a young man named Matthew Cox, who has beautiful blue eyes and a singing voice that makes me melt. We go on to become lovers, and to write a musical together. He is the closest thing I will have to a romantic relationship with a man for more than a decade.

In the end, though, I decide that my romantic interests are better served in relationships with women. I go on to date a couple of other women before meeting Heather two years later (again, if my recollection of the year is right).

Incidentally, Matt Cox was murdered last December by two of his students, who alleged that he made advances on them. But this isn't about him. Or maybe it is, in a kind of indirect way.

Consider the path of my life, if I had chosen to remain with Matt. Obviously, things would have worked out very differently for me. I can't say that they would have been better, because I'm amazingly, soberingly satisfied with my life as things stand, but all I can say is the old Zen "how could things be other than they are?" (by which I mean, there's no use playing "what if" games because change one thing, change everything anyway). But let's make a few assumptions.

Let's assume that Matt and I had made a life together. Let's assume that we adopted children, that we lived somewhere that was friendly to two men doing so. Let's assume that, while on vacation with our children somewhere else, I had a massive stroke and lay dying.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, the same thing happens, only the spouse with me is Heather.

In one universe, Heather, apprised of my wishes should I slip into a vegetative state, is allowed to stand with me, to hold my hand, to tell our children that I'm not coming back and let them say goodbye. She, as my wife, as the person I have chosen to be my life partner, is allowed to make those decisions. I never know the difference, obviously, but she, perhaps, can take some consolation from the fact that my wishes were carried out, and can find some closure knowing that, for instance, my organs might be put to good use.

In the other universe, the one in which I chose to stay with Matt...the fates are little more grim. He isn't allowed to see me. He is not allowed to make those decisions. I die, and he doesn't get to say his goodbyes, nor do our children. The disposition of my body is left to my next of kin, despite the fact that I have signed Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will documents naming him as the decision-maker in this instance.

And when he sues the social worker and the doctors who callously denied him that closure, those precious final moments, a judge dismisses the suit. The reason is plain: As two men married to one another, we are second-class citizens. We are not worthy of the same consideration that straight couples get. We are not married, despite our love and our proclamations of that love.

Now, read the real story.

The barrier separating these universes is paper-thin. There but for the vagaries of my 21-year-old heart would I have gone (we have to take the children, the vacation and the stroke as read, obviously). My point in all of this is that I'm not straight, but I'm close enough for the straight world not to care unless I'm actually kissing a guy in broad daylight. I'm lawfully married, I have biological children and no court in the land can invalidate what I have (not under present laws, anyway, though if you're able to take something a little more lighthearted, I invite you to watch this).

"Equal rights" isn't just something that people who aren't straight, white, Christians should worry about. If "they" (whoever "they" is; just assume, from your perspective, that it's "not you") don't have the same rights you do, both you and "they" are being cheated. And along with "equal rights" goes the same language. I know the power of semantics - I'm a writer and an SLP, it goes with the territory. And we, as a society, cannot say that we're for equal rights out one side of our mouth and out the other say "this side gets marriage, this side gets civil unions."

Fuck "civil unions." Fuck Prop 8 and anything like it. Fuck any religion or any version of religion that doesn't like it. What happened to Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn and their children is unconscionable.

If you've read this far, thanks.


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January 2013

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