In early 2009, I met a young woman named Mary. She worked at the Writing Center with me, and a mutual friend suggested she join our Dungeons and Dragons game. She was enthusiastic, if a bit odd. She asked if it was proper for her character to collect the eyelids of fallen enemies. I politely said she couldn’t do that, but she could have a tail.
A few months later, we started going out. She was everything I ever hoped to have. Mary was smart, insightful, and beautiful. She was headstrong, stubborn, and creative. The romance never wavered, and eventually we moved in together. In the holiday season of 2010, I asked her to be my wife. She was so happy, and had more than a few glasses of eggnog, so the rest of the night was spent in the bathroom as she puked up the beef burgundy we had for dinner. It’s the kind of story we like to tell when we, again, have a few drinks. It’s also one of the happiest nights of my life.
We grew closer.
A year ago, October 18, 2012, we had a common law marriage. We’ve been dying to have a proper celebration, something with masks and some horror, but time and money have been tight. This year, however, we both started good jobs. I’m teaching full time. We can get insurance. We can even make plans for a proper house in a year or so.
For our anniversary, we found out that Mary was going to give me the greatest gift of all.
Come April, she’s going to give me a baby.
It’s been a few weeks since we suspected, but on our one-year anniversary, we got final confirmation that everything looks good. Mother and baby look fine. I have a thousand questions and a million things I want to say to this child. But for right now, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Come what may, I know what I have to do now.
I’m going to be a father. I’m a writer, a teacher, a friend, and a son… and now I get to add “father” to that list.
I love you, Mary. And I love you too, Tyranacore/ Vader/ Athena/ Madeline/ Whatever We decide to Call You.
PS: Yes, the kid is going to be brought up on Seuss, Silverstein, and R. L. Stein. Do you even have to ask?
When I was younger, my parents told me I could be anything I wanted. From a very young age, I always liked telling stories. When I grew up, this changed slightly to a love of language and poetry. Did I know English when I moved to the United States? Somewhat. But I saw all the stories, movies, and books I was now exposed to and wanted to be a part of that, so I pushed myself to learn English and writing as best I could.
And now look at me. One of my editors is finished with Charcoal Streets and the other is on her way to give me the final corrections and suggestions. Last year, I wrote a gaming book that’s gotten great reviews. A few years before that, I ghostwrote a novel that has been sold and read all over the world.
But I wasn’t a natural talent or anything like that.
My wife likes to say that this sort of thing just comes naturally to me. The truth is that I worked hard at it. I had a passion for it, but I didn’t start off just writing down poetry. I had to work hard at it. Very hard. While I do think there is such a thing as natural aptitude, that isn’t the case with everyone who is good at something.
We all have obstacles in the way of our dreams, but there are ways around them. I learned many things from my grandfather, but one of the most important is that it’s never impossible to achieve a goal. Difficult? Yes. Tedious? Certainly.
Impossible? That man didn’t know the meaning of the word.
I try to live my life the same way, and whenever a student tells me the assignment or the lesson is too hard, I just smile and tell them the same thing.
It gets easier.
If you can’t understand a lesson in one way, try thinking of it another.
If you can’t lose weight with a diet, try more substantial change.
If you want to be more learned, read and research.
Are some of our goals easy? No. Hardly. But that doesn’t mean we should quit. Even now, despite my pride in the final draft of Charcoal Streets, for example, it’s already been pointed out to me that there are several sections that could be MUCH better. Once this was pointed out to me, I had to agree, although I cried on the inside.
All writers do that.
I’ll say it again… goals aren’t going anywhere. We just have to find different ways of getting there.
Who do I want to be? I want to be a great writer. So that’s I’m trying to do.
My dreams tend to be kind of weird, especially, when I’m stressed about work. Twice now, I’ve been working on something and wondered if I should really do it. The last time, Neil Gaiman, or rather a dream projection of him, told me to enjoy what I do.
Last night, the Red Hot Chili Peppers gave me some advice.
I’ve loved the Chili Peppers since I first heard the Californication album. In fact, their sound and general attitude have been a huge influence on my own writing. The dream, though, started off gray.
I walked down a street. It was full, and I’m more than sure it was in Laredo, too. Everything looked gray, not black and white, but certainly washed out. As I approached a bar on my right, someone pulled me and said, “Hey, are you going to come to watch the Chili Peppers?”
Since the Chili Peppers are one of my favorite bands, I of course rushed in. It was a small bar, too, maybe a dozen tables spread out over a long floor. The bar was surrounded with red Christmas lights and upbeat music. Anthony Kiedis was actually tending bar as Chad Smith talked with people at the tables and Flea served drinks. John Frusciante played the guitar on the stage, no song in particular, just strummed along with the music.
Everything seemed too surreal. I felt like I was in a dream, but didn’t realize I really was in a dream.
Kiedis served me a drink but declined one himself. Smith went behind the bar. The band never actually played throughout the entire dream, but it felt like I was getting to just know them.
Flea then said something strange.
“It’s hard to tell your story,” he said.
I thought about it. I thought about the book I’m just waiting to get back from my editors. I’m ready, just itching, to put the finishing touches on this thing, but I’m also nervous.
What if it doesn’t sell? What if it does? What if people hate it? What if they love it?
It’s enough to paralyze someone. Too afraid to keep going, too scared to even start.
Kiedis then said, “Who cares what they think? People will love it if they love it. It’s you. Just tell your story.”
And then I woke up.
Fear is a powerful emotion. It’s the first and last thing you can feel when trying to do something. I’m afraid right now. The trick is to not let that fear be the deciding factor in anything. I learned that part a long time ago. Emotions are powerful, but actions trump them every time. Acting in spite of fear destroys it. Showing your love grows it. Enduring pain lessens it.
All I have to do now is close my eyes, take a breath, and jump.
I had very mixed feelings four years ago when the Star trek reboot got underway. I didn’t want my beloved franchise ruined.
As it turns out, it’s been a fun romp.
I finally got to watch Star Trek Into Darkness earlier today and have a lot to say about it. Because of the nature of the movie, spoilers will be CLEARLY listed at the bottom of the review.
Set a few months after the last movie, this one starts with Kirk blatantly breaking the Prime Directive, Starfleet’s highest order of non-interference, and getting demoted for saving Spock in the process. Things go further south when a mysterious man named John Harrison orchestrates a bombing in London that kills forty-two people and takes out a secret Starfleet facility As it turns out, John Harrison is a Starfleet operative who’s gone rogue and has a plan for the Federation.
That’s when things get personal for Kirk after a second attack on Starfleet headquarters takes a personal toll on him.
And to say more than that would be to spoil the movie indeed.
The story was a character study of both Kirk and Spock, their motivations and how they approach life. Much like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan showed the effects of age, this one showed the consequences of Kirk’s youth and Spock’s too-human side. Kirk’s gung-ho attitude and youth, something many people felt made no sense at the end of the last movie, come back to bite him in the butt, and hard. It was refreshing, and then the movie proceeds to show Kirk going through the pain and challenges that will mold Kirk into the captain we all know.
The film also addressed the contemporary issue of drone strikes, war, and vengeance. One of the major plot points early in the film involves the Enterprise being tasked with launching long-range torpedoes at an inhabited world to try and take out Harrison. Surprisingly, Kirk of all people is fine with this given his emotional investment, but others are very much shocked and appalled at the idea of launching weapons of mass destruction at a populated location to get a single individual without a trial.
The action sequences in this one are brutal, too, possibly to go along with the darker themes. Expect broken bones, crushed heads, and a starship beat-down that’s downright painful to watch. They are, however, utterly bad-ass. I’m also glad Abrams decided to tone down the lens flare effects on this one. They would have given me a headache with the 3D.
As in the previous film, there are plenty of allusions for die-hard Trek fans to latch on to and giggle over, so keep an eye out for them.
Okay, so Cumberbatch is actually Khan, thawed out and used by Starfleet to help design new weapons. A lot of people guessed it might have been Khan from the very beginning, and I tried to avoid any of those articles enough to try and remain surprised.
However, despite Cumberbatch being genuinely creepy as the bad guy, it does raise the unfortunate implication that one of the most iconic characters in Star Trek was recast as a white man. Ricardo Molteban’s run as Khan in the original series is legendary. Even people who don’t know the franchise will probably recognize one of the most famous moments from Star Trek II where Shatner eats the scenery and most of the movie lot and yells Khan’s name. Khan was smart, charismatic, and most of all, dangerous. Rightfully so, many people are complaining that Khan’s new actor is a white Brit who seems to be saying that a man of color can’t be all these things, can’t be dangerous and smart…
However, I’m going to call crap on part of this. Not all of it. Just part it.
The character of Khan is a genetically-engineered superman. His full name denotes Indian and Chinese heritage, and yet he was played by a Mexican actor. Likewise, John Cho, who is Korean, was cast as the Japanese Hikaru Sulu. Zoe Saldana is Puerto Rican and Dominican and plays Uhura, who based on several sources is either Central or South African and was played by Nichelle Nichols, who was from Illinois. But I guess since they LOOK the part, there aren’t too many complaints.
Also, consider the times in which we live in today. Khan is a terrorist, a warlord who wishes to wipe out those he considers inferior. Now consider what would have happened if a brown man had been cast in the part, especially given the movie’s overt theme of terrorism. While it was a noble gesture in the 60’s to make the villain a non-white, the original draft of the episode “Space Seed” did have Khan as a Nordic superman that sounds similar to a superpowered Nazi.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I am disappointed that the film went with the decision to cast a white actor, it has its good and bad points. I’m all for going with a great actor as opposed to one that just looks the part. Either way, Cumberbatch did a great job.
And now, if you’re still interested, here’s the final trailer…
This… will not stand. I don’t care if the clip is a few years old. This is a crime.
If you have the stomach, check out the following clip.
In essence, the Fox hosts here are reporting on a study (actually a single professor just talking) on how Mister Roger’s message of “You’re special just the way you are” has created generations of lazy, self-interested little socialists and he’s also the reason American children don’t do well in school.
Fox going after Mister Rogers is another piece of evidence that shows the American Far Right has lost its collective mind in the last several years. Things like compassion and empathy have already been vilified on the Right, but to overtly say that a man like Fred Rogers is evil is a bit like saying the Dalai Lama eats puppies and can’t achieve climax without thinking of the Holocaust.
The Right has been hijacked by Randian “ethics” in that a person’s worth is tied to his or her bank account and how much he or she resembles the “superman” who cares not for morals but only self-interest. Modern American conservatism has been led down the path of the Tea Party, of might-makes-right, of thinking businesses are people and people can be shot simply for not being citizens. Mister Rogers’ message is a splash of cold water on those beliefs.
Charity? Sharing? Togetherness? These have no place on the American Right!
Mister Rogers is the closest thing this world has had to a physical saint in a long time. The man had a message of hope and peace that endures after his passing. He taught millions of children, myself included, that we are special. Every child, every person, is a unique individual.
Of course, there’s also a major difference between “You’re a special person,” and “You never have to try to achieve anything.” The second is a strawman by Fox. Mister Roger never implied anything like that. He never said you should get things just for asking. He said you should have a feeling of self-worth no matter what.
That means that I make my living through my knowledge of the writing process, my own writing, and my paycheck hinges on my ability to communicate through little symbols on paper.
Not everyone is a professional writer. And I know this.
Most of my students learn as much writing as is needed to write reports, essays, or applications. That’s fine. I do, however, expect them to try and learn basics like sentence structure and critical thinking skills. Over the years, I’ve had students who learned barely enough to do this. They complained, year after year, that writing was hard, but they never made the effort to change that.
Recently, though, I helped a new student.
While she’s an English Language Learner, she’s from South America, meaning she doesn’t have the tether other ELL students have by having Mexico so close. As such, she had to deal not only with a new language, but also with cultural adaptation. Her first essays months ago were choppy, barely-legible series of sentences. She wasn’t dumb. Far from it. She could speak well enough, though it took some translation to get her ideas across. As she continued to visit us, though, and as I tutored her a few more times, I noticed a definite improvement in her writing.
Her last session with me was her reflective essay on how she’s improved as a writer. It was actually a well-written essay and had a line that I’ll never forget.
“I still think of writing as climbing up a hill, but at least I get a great view when I finish.”
That right there is the sentiment I wish EVERY student held close.
The writing process, like I’ve written before, is HARD. I’m not sure many writers actually enjoy the process, but we all love the final product. It also highlights the kind of attitude I wish more people would foster.
Yes, the ride may be rough. Yes, you’re not going to have a blast pouring over notes. Yes, the headaches and lost free time suck.
But guess what? You’re better for it at the end. I hear so many students complaining about this or that being hard. They don’t have enough time. They have too much to study and it piles on later.
Wake up earlier. Learn to make quick meals. Make a schedule.
None of these things are particularly fun, but I’d rather have a little annoyance spread out over my day than one HUGE problem later. Good grades, or whatever the goal may be, don’t just arrive at your doorstep. They wait for you. I didn’t decide to wait to just meet some publisher who would give me a huge advance so I could sit and calmly write my book. I’m working part time and taking odd teaching jobs so I could write it as I saw fit. And that’s what she and other students have done. They’ve taken the initiative.
Few things in life get handed to you. The things you really want? You have to go after them yourself.
I’ve been away writing the final story and editing the manuscript for Charcoal Streets. This is my baby. It’s what I’ve worked for years to create. I’m a bit on edge and have devoted more time to it by neglecting the site and my other writing. I haven’t felt this nervous since I presented my thesis. I feel hyper-vigilant and tense.
This weekend, my family endured another tragedy.
Sometimes it feels like it’s all I do. I remember those who are gone. I look back and the future looks hazy, like a dream I’m trying to remember. Other things happened recently, but I really don’t want to go into them. Suffice to say, it ended with me on the floor, unable to move, and completely numb for the better part of a day.
I’m not a perfect person. I’m not a world-renowned writer. But I want to be. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that keeps me going.
Keep trying. Keep moving. Don’t ever stop.
They’re lessons I learned the hard way. I’ve seen what complacency does to people. I’ve seen what wallowing in the past can do for a psyche. It’s not pretty. I don’t want to live in the past, but at the same time, I want to honor it. I have keepsakes from my uncles, my grandfather, my aunts, friends I’ve lost… I keep them close, but I don’t want them to weigh me down.
It’s that balancing act that’s hardest around days like this.
How do you keep going when the past pulls you and even the thought of changing, of going another day, is enough to make your heart sink?
You just do.
Fear can be a healthy thing, but it should never rule you. Courage is acting in the face of fear. Being strong doesn’t mean not feeling. It means acting despite what you know are irrational, self-destructive feelings.
I’m not a perfect person, but I’m trying to be a better man. I’m not a world-renowned writer, but I’ve never stopped practicing my craft. I’m not even the world’s greatest husband, but I will never not love my wife and stop trying to be better for her.
The world doesn’t stop when bad things happen. We do. Whether or not we eventually catch up and keep moving is up to us. Maybe we’re not as strong as we should be, but we can fake it long enough to actually become as strong as we need to be.
After a long week of soul-searching, I’ve realized that I’ve made a terrible mistake. This entire website has been an exercise in futility and I’m going to pack it in.
I’ve realized that it truly is impossible to fight against the forces of conservatism and ignorance. They are just too strong. They have talk radio and major news outlets and they can scream really loudly. And that scares me. I don’t want people to think I’m a baby-killing pagan communist anymore.
To that end, I will do the only rational thing. I will shut up. For good.
This website will stand as a monument to my stupidity and hubris. How could I have thought for a second that I could make a difference?!
I should apologize to Glenn Beck for years of mocking him and thinking he was insane for thinking there was some vast conspiracy at work. There has to be. It makes perfect sense that he alone would have the vision to put together this web of lies that are ruling our lives.
I’d like to apologize to the American Right Wing. I know you guys just want to make sure others can’t worship or lives their lives as they see fit, so I think you should just go ahead and do that. It’s exhausting hearing you.