Beautiful Fantasy: Spartan Justice for All

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Where do I begin? Did I love the movie “300”? Yes. Was it based in reality? Somewhat. Here and there. Just put a little Wite-out on the ugly parts and blow up the good parts by 1,000.

Well, it’s kinda like how, over time, certain people and/or events become…let’s say…changed from what actually happened or who they actually were, and all of this becomes viewed, in time, through a distorted lens that’s only telling part of the story. Yeah, yeah, history is written by the victors. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Examples? No problem. Two that stand out in my mind are the Rhodes Scholarship and Margaret Sanger. When one thinks of a Rhodes Scholar and the associated scholarship, one generally conjures up benign brainiacs, geeks and nerds of Mensa or Jeopardy! qualifications, whose brains are bigger, synapses fire faster, or maybe are simply gifted in the retention of trivia and facts.

The scholarship, however, is named after British mining magnate and South African politician Cecil John Rhodes, the founder of the De Beers diamond firm, a corporation which enjoyed a global  monopoly for many generations of exploiting/raping natural South African resources while treating its workers as much, much, much less than human. As the creator of the 1913 Natives Land Act, Rhodes’ brainchild would limit the areas of the country that black Africans were allowed (less than 10%) and this, along with altering voting laws, helped pave the road for apartheid.

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In the meantime, Planned Parenthood is still going strong today. I don’t think the average person even knows about Margaret Sanger when they think of Planned Parenthood. I know I didn’t. But when you hear about the “founder” of Planned Parenthood, you’re probably inclined to think, “Oh, what a forward-thinking lady. What a maverick!” since she was engaging in the struggle for women’s rights back in the ‘20s.

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A couple of years ago, Ms. Sanger was named one of Time magazine’s “20 Most Influential Americans of All Time.” But considering what the founder of Planned Parenthood contributed to the eugenics movement, it gives one pause, does it not?  Eugenics?! you say.

Yes. Eugenics!

In 1939 Sanger wrote in a letter to Clarence Gable: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”Woman, Morality, and Birth Control. New York: New York Publishing Company, 1922. Page 12.

It was nice of her to lend a caveat to her ultimate goal which was, most likely, not to exterminate blacks, but to definitely keep them from having more than an acceptable amount of babies, whatever that number may have been, as was evidenced in a video recently unearthed from 1947 of the intrepid defender of all womankind—ahem—I mean defender of most of—some of—the appropriate women—of Ms. Sanger demanding no more babies for 10 years in developing countries.

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So back to “300.”  Back to Sparta.

No one more than I loves the expression on Gerard Butler’s face as he’s proclaiming, “This is Sparta!”

But what’s the low-down on Sparta behind the cinematic majesty?

Well, it’s common knowledge these days that the Spartans were slave-owners, dominating who were probably the original inhabitants of Laconia (the area surrounding the Spartan capital). Although this population, called helots, greatly outnumbered the Spartans, an iron heel was kept firmly ground on their collective neck to keep them down.

Spartans, during their early training, did not have to go out into the snow and kill giant wolves as much as they were required to perform the equivalent of today’s gang drive-by in order to gain warrior status within the ranks. So instead of the lyrical representation of the half-naked boy facing down a wild animal, a more realistic scene in “300” would have been a testosterone-crazed 13-year-old shadowing an unarmed helot on his or her way to market in a rite known as the Crypteia, jumping said clueless person, and probably slitting their throat on the spot.

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Portrayed as a freedom-loving culture in the movie and in popular media today, what they actually only valued was their own freedom. Certainly not that of the helots.

And let’s take a look at Ephialtes, who betrays the Greeks by disclosing the location of a secret goat path to the Persians. Ephialtes is changed from a local Malian of sound body into a Spartan outcast, outrageously disfigured and later outrageously vengeful toward Leonidas and the warriors. Aside from the fact that Ephialtes was the leader of radical democrats in Athens and whose reforms prepared the way for the final development of Athenian democracy, his character is demoted to monster-like proportions in both body and mind, along with the general representation of the Persians as twisted creatures, malformed and debauched, offering up an endless supply of gigantic stampeding beasts and horrific ogres to do their fighting for them.

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Oh, well. It made for good drama in the movie.

At the end, in history, the Spartans knew they were gonna die. And they stayed. Graciously, they volunteered their own slaves. I can just see the Spartan warrior going, “Yes, and Thesius will remain behind also,” while Thesius does a double-take and drops the cape he was trying to mend in the dull light of a bloody sunset.

In the end, Spartan bravery isn’t in question. It looks like they had that in spades. But the circumstances that allow such a society to live and thrive, on one level at least, contaminate everything else that happens afterwards, don’t they?

Like the questionable “honor” of being dubbed a Rhodes Scholar.

Like the much, much less than egalitarian principles of an overly esteemed Margaret Sanger.

Like the founding of the United States with a constitution stating that “all men are created equal” except…it was really only men. And really only a certain type of man. And look where we are today due to that ignoble beginning…

It’s nicer to stick with fantasy sometimes. So for now I’ll sink back into the glory of “300” with its chiseled stomachs and call for honor, swirling with empathy and altruism for all the innocents and worthy of the world. Truly a beautiful idea. Really a wonderful, captivating fantasy.

 

 

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FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN

Thank you to Jen, Kourtney, Amal and Jenn and Swirl Nation for featuring me in their  multiracial individual interview! Their website is unique and fascinating, in my opinion, drawing opinions and observations and relevant information from a cornucopia of multiracial folk with interesting and varied backgrounds. Visit them here!

http://www.swirlnationblog.com/

WHAT MIX ARE YOU?

White: Austrian; Mediterranean: Greek. Creole black; some Native American (not sure which tribe) and white (not sure from where).

WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

Burbank, California

IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?

Much more diverse than it used to be. Burbank is where Johnny Carson had his show and Bette Davis used to live. That old-school Hollywood population has dwindled, making way for many other types.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?

I was born in San Francisco and grew up in Oakland until I was around 5. Oakland was definitely more diverse than the San Fernando Valley where we moved to when I was 6. The new neighborhood was not diverse in the least. I think it was 95% white. My family was the only black family living there. I say black because although I’m mixed, I was adopted into a black family. That’s why the information I have about my Creole black half is spotty. Most of the kids in the L.A. neighborhood were nice, but my brother and I did not really fit in.

 

HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?

I will have double answers in some of these, due to my adoption. My adoptive parents, who are black, met in San Francisco when they were teenagers, through mutual friends. My biological parents met at Berkeley while they were going to school.

 

WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?

The initial obstacle lay with my biological parents. Apart from their youth, I think the other primary reason I was given up for adoption was because I was mixed race and my biological mother didn’t receive the support from her family that she otherwise would have received.

 

HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?

I fit into my adoptive extended family seamlessly, because although they’re black, they’re also very mixed. It wouldn’t have mattered if they weren’t mixed or didn’t look mixed, like my parents; I was fully accepted and loved as if I were their blood.

 

DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?

Since my adoptive family was black, what I remember most was we ate lots of soul food: greens and grits and black-eyed peas, and jambalaya, etc. I don’t remember any particular traditions or cultural events taking place.

When I met my biological mother, she introduced me to Greek food, which I had never had before. Her father was Greek and her mother was Austrian.

 

WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?

No foreign languages were spoken.

 

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?

Since food is the most vivid memory, I have to say I enjoyed that the most. I remember a lot of smooth jazz and the blues playing during parties, so that’s a very fond memory. There were no overt religious beliefs that I can recall, although my adoptive father is a strict Catholic. Nobody in the extended family seemed to be very religious. But then again, they were all on my mother’s side from San Francisco, and my father was from Boston. It seems like the San Fran folks were all sort of Avant-garde while Dad’s Boston side were more God-fearing!

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN via Swirl Nation Blog

WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS? 

My brother and I had a set of books as children concerning various historical figures like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King. My mother took us to see plays like A Chorus Line and Raisin In the Sun equally. I don’t remember her doing anything special to *teach* me about white people. Maybe she thought we were already surrounded by white people (in our neighborhood) had white friends, went to school with white people, and learned about mostly white people in history and other school topics already. So *being white* and what it meant to be white wasn’t a mystery.

 

DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?

Race did come up fairly often because my brother and I were often in settings where we were the only ones of our kind; he was a black kid at a Catholic school, and I was a mixed kid at the same school. Kids used to call him Oreo. Later when my hair grew longer, kids said I had “witch hair.” My parents’ overall message was that people were just people but that some people looked at skin color more than others. We were supposed to “ignore the ignorant.” But, of course, it wasn’t always easy to do. My mother thought that, in the future, when everyone “looked like me” racism would be greatly diminished.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN via Swirl Nation Blog

DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?

This is a funny question for me, because I started out from childhood through my 20s saying I was black. That’s who had raised me, and that’s who I identified with. I distinctly remember being in first grade, in the Catholic school where they called my brother an Oreo, and somehow another girl and I started talking about my grandmother, and I recall proudly saying, “My grandmother is from Africa.” My grandmother wasn’t from Africa, not directly, at least, but I said it almost as if daring the girl to refute it somehow. By the time I was through my 20s, I had gotten so many confused looks and was so sick of explaining myself, I started saying I was “half black.” I realized years later that I was saying “half black,” and not “half white,” too, because of buried resentment against my white biological mother who gave me away. Nowadays I just say I’m mixed race.

 

DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?

When I was dating, the last thing I looked at was race. I’ve gone out with every color under the sun. My husband (who is very *private* and didn’t want any pictures of him included, unfortunately) is Latino. His parents are from the Dominican Republic. His skin tone is much darker than mine. In fact, when I first met him, I thought he was black. But I knew he was mixed with something. I just had no idea what.

 

WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?

Being mixed to me simply means that two people whose DNA manifested in them in different ways got together and had a child. It makes it harder for people to put a label on me, but it also causes confusion. But in the end it makes me feel very connected to the world, having DNA that comes from so many different places. I think most people who have been in America for a long time are mixed, even if it isn’t readily apparent, or they don’t know it. It’s too bad that they don’t know it, or accept it, because our country would be a very different place.

 

DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?

I’ve had a few mixed friends, two of whom were a half-Filipina woman and a half-Japanese man. The interesting difference between them was the half-Filipina woman was happy with who she was and how the world saw her. The half-Japanese man identified with being viewed as a minority and acknowledged the oppression and alienation that so readily can come from that. Maybe it had to do with the woman being female and pretty and not having the same concerns as an ethnic male. Ethnic women aren’t under the same pressures as ethnic men in our society. But I do think it’s a form of denial if an ethnic person believes they are completely free from those pressures.

 

ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?

I feel like people who haven’t lived on a day-to-day basis under the kind of stress that comes with being constantly judged and often treated a certain way by appearance alone usually respond with denial, rationalizations, and out-right misdirected anger. That constant, repeated response annoys me to no end, but I know it comes largely out of a lack of real, goal-oriented, educated discussion. There are old hurts and long-held angers on both sides. I also am wounded by black women who make contemptuous faces at either me or my husband when we’re out together, obviously concluding that either I’m white or my husband only likes like-skinned women.  The irony in this position is that my husband was not accepted at all by the black community he grew up in in East New York. In fact, girls that were attracted to him, upon discovering that he was Latino, would then reject him. Often kids would chant, “Rice and beans, rice and beans,” in order to get under his skin. So the black women who appear to be annoyed at what they see as a cliché of a black man with a white woman are annoyed with an illusion, because he’s not even what they traditionally go for. But all of it’s an illusion, anyway. Holding on to the same old thoughts, feelings, and ideas have gotten us nowhere and will continue to get us nowhere.

 

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?

Like I said above, my mother thought that if everyone got mixed enough and it was harder to stick labels on folks that racism would diminish greatly. But I’ve had discussions with people who believe the “paper bag rule” will just come into effect. So as the population gets more and more mixed, the new level of undesired status will become “anyone who’s darker than a paper bag” and on like that. So I’m not sure what the answer is, as long as a certain trend of thought continues. The trend has to be destroyed so that healing can begin. I guess my dream is for people to start thinking out of the box where race is concerned. Staying in the box is keeping us all prisoner.

FEATURED MULTIRACIAL INDIVIDUAL: MEET STACEY E. BRYAN via Swirl Nation Blog

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?

I’m very passionate about this topic, as you can see. I’m a writer, and I’ve addressed this issue sporadically, but probably not enough, and not in a really big way. I actually just had a book come out in June. It’s a paranormal comedy called Day for Night, and although I’m proud of it for what it is, part of me wishes I’d written the next “Invisible Man,” or something equally as weighty. However, even though it’s a comedy involving aliens and vampires, my main character, Rae, is a mixed woman (who’s also facing ageism and never says her age out loud, something I’ve adopted in real life for the time being) and I do talk about race here and there throughout the novel.

Well, the story takes place in Los Angeles, so it would be impossible not to mention race relations! I’m hopeful for the future, though. I do believe people would rather get along than war against one another. I do believe mutual understanding and compassion will come. But it’ll take time and, I think, some creativity.


You can follow Stacey on her Facebook Author Page / Goodreads / Website / Twitter

 

 

Sci-Fi or Terrifying Prophecy?

“Demolition Man” from the early ‘90s wasn’t just an action adventure/ sci-fi comedy starring Stallone, Snipes and Bullock. It was an oracle in movie form, a prophetic finger pointing toward certain roads we were traipsing down which, in retrospect, we did end up traversing: enthusiastically, merrily, and blindly, in my opinion.

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The more benign predictions included Tablets, instructional videos (like YouTube), self-driving cars, GPS. Well, as benign as technology can be, considering the more we depend on machines for our everyday existence, the more our self-reliance, patience, and even empathy shrinks in direct relational contrast.

Maybe fostering that change in temperament and diminished thought processes has contributed to the slow takeover of the more malevolent predictions of Demolition Man, namely these things, as spelled out by Sandra Bullock’s character in one scene:

“Ah, smoking is not good for you, and it’s been deemed that anything not good for you is bad; hence, illegal. Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat…Bad language, chocolate, gasoline, uneducational toys and anything spicy. Abortion is also illegal, but then again so is pregnancy if you don’t have a license.”

When I was living in Brooklyn in the early ‘90s, I first heard the phrase parents were implementing with their kids: “Use your words.” There was a story about a child having a tantrum, and in the midst of it, grabbed his mother’s hand and bit down on her finger so hard, he drew blood. Her only response to the over-the-top, hostile and violent behavior of her child was to bend down, look into his eyes and say, “Use your words.”

Today if your child bites down on your finger hard enough to draw blood and you have the normal reaction of screaming, jerking your finger out of his mouth, then whirling him around and spanking him….you could actually be arrested for “child abuse.” That is, if an armchair conservative with Tea Party sensibilities and an unshakeable disbelief in evolution is quick enough to pull out their cell phone and, drawing on a ‘50s-style McCarthyistic sense of righteousness, call the police.

In “Demolition Man”, Stallone is reawakened into a futuristic L.A. which has been reformed and renovated into a Disney-like crime-free utopia, similar to the “faux” Times Square Giuliani created during his tenure in New York, along with the “gentrification” of many other neighborhoods and areas, which actually means, of course, that he pushed as many low income and/or ethnic people out as possible, and then spray-painted glitter over graffiti and century-old bricks, paving the way for Starbucks and Sephora to take center stage.

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At one point during the movie, Sandra Bullock and Benjamin Bratt start singing the Armour Hotdogs song because jingles are part of the popular entertainment. Their child-like behavior was a prophetic shoe-in for the eternal adolescence that people in general seemed to be mired in today. Nothing else can explain the popularity of the Kardashians, Snooki, The Housewives, Survivor, or the myriad other reality TV shows featuring full-grown adults talking about nothing, doing nothing, and behaving as if they’re 20 years old. Behavior which has become fully accepted! It’s not like 45 is the new 35. 45 is the new 18. And I think it all stems from those kids in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, who only got a “firm talking to” after they had chewed one of their parents’ fingers off!

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With intelligence rapidly plummeting and maturity being delayed for decades, it’s no wonder the Nanny State has blossomed into a full-fledged oligarchy starring the well-known and nameless corporations that direct every inch of our reality. If you think that the helmet laws and seatbelt laws and the tax on cigarettes and now sugary drinks are rules and regulations meant to help you, please take a moment to think again.

Nobody cares about you. Nobody cares if you smoke or get fat or fly through the windshield of your car when you smash into a tree. It’s an oligarchy. An oligarchy that cares about business, and what bigger business is there than insurance companies? Insurance companies  definitely do not want to pay for your rehabilitation after you crack your skull open on a motorcycle because you weren’t wearing a helmet. They do not want to pay for surgery and/or medication after a lifetime of junk food consumption and obesity issues.

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It definitely looks like Demolition Man was cued into something, like the guy that wrote Future Shock, Alvin Toffler, was the co-writer or something. Like maybe they had been there when the kid bit down on his mother’s finger until it bled and watched in amazement as she talked to him in a calm voice instead of a normal reaction of smacking him hard on his rear and screaming into his face, “DON’T YOU EVER DO THAT TO MOMMY AGAIN!”

Because I think if that had happened, the normal thing, and not this new, scary, Big Brother nee Nanny State, we-are-sheep-tell-us-what-to-do-keep-making-mindless-entertainment-tell-us-what-to-eat-make-smoking-illegal-although-booze-and-cars-and-fracking-aren’t-and-let’s-not-even-get-into-cops-murdering-unarmed-black-men-and-arrested-minorities-to-keep-the-privitazation-of-prisons-alive society never would have happened.

And “Demolition Man” would have remained a charming, tongue-in-cheek sci-fi adventure instead of a template for what was to come. And the reality we are living in now.

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Where Thunder Goes When It Dies

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One of the best days of my life when I was a kid was the day I discovered Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Reading that story was like gorging yourself at a buffet, except you could keep eating and eating and never get full, and the words and rhythms and sentences each tasted different, smelled different, felt different.

Ray Bradbury made a big impression on me, opening that fascinating door into writing and ideas. How did people come up with these stories? How did these people–writers–concoct this five-course meal made of vowels and syllables that often left you more sated than actual food?

 

Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it…How men envy and often hate these warm clocks, these wives, who know they will live forever.

 

I’m not sure what I was thinking at 11 or 12 years old reading about “the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity.” But I knew something was happening; I was slipping, sliding down a hill with no beginning or end, just a continuous falling sensation, plummeting into a world of ideas and images, sometimes crystal clear, sometimes just out of reach of understanding.

And what about turning normal, everyday insomnia into a thing of poetic beauty:

Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning, there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three A.M.! Doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out. The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s burned dry.

I loved the metaphors and stream of consciousness musings:

Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?

And deep feelings that had only gently brushed past but had yet to penetrate expressed so succinctly:

Somewhere in him, a shadow turned mournfully over. You had to run with a night like this so the sadness could not hurt.

 

I can only hope, somewhere in my life, I can construct one sentence as beautiful as Ray Bradbury’s or approach the poetry of his writing.

As I got older I realized how much he had touched me, insinuating some invisible code into my memory that punched back through in moments when I needed it most. But I wonder about that road he wandered, how far down it he went, how far away from it I still am.

I want to wander that road, too, hear what he heard, hold it in my hand, transform it into something billowing softly across the road, a story like a gauzy curtain tossed by a warm wind, a sentence that holds the shadow at bay, a rhythm that reveals in every aching breath and clenching woe where thunder goes when it dies.

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The Silence Where the Voice Was

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A weird thing happened today. I thought, “I should call mom and tell her about that.” And then I remembered, “Oh, yeah. Can’t do that.” She left the world at the start of 2012.

I guess it’s actually not that odd. People probably go through that all the time after a loved one passes on. It’s like experiencing “phantom limb” but with a person who’s gone instead of a missing leg or arm.

My mother wasn’t young. She was 83. Her actual passing, while not tragic, still surfed along on the tail end of a tragic situation which I won’t go into today.

There’s always more to say and there’s never enough time. We stopped speaking for a year, at one point, but then got together again to resolve our issues. I feel lucky. Many people never do.

But there’s always more to say. And there’s never enough time.

There’s always more memories you want to share, more laughs you want to have, and you can’t because there’s a new silence that stretches out where their voice used to be and there’s a dim ache that never gets worse but never quite goes away either.

I wrote this poem for my mom ten years ago. Recently I found it, framed, in the bookcase in her’s and Dad’s bedroom.

 

Poem to my mother

 

used to wish for better communication

but realize what we have will do

am grateful beyond words

for the life you’ve helped me achieve

used to wish we understood one another better

but figure no one can know anyone’s heart

completely

could wish for a different mother and you

could wish for a different daughter

but we are what we are

and we’ve come this far

 

 

can’t imagine your sacrifices

hope the regrets are minimal

thank you for making them

can’t hope to repay you

but will keep trying as long as I can

can’t say thank you and hope that

that’s enough

but will keep saying it as long as

you’re around

 

 

thank you for understanding

thank you for not understanding

thank you for your anger

thank you for your forgiveness

thank you for your worry

thank you for my childhood

thank you for holding on

thank you for letting go

thank you for doing your best

thank you for being my mother

 

I think she would be happy about my book coming out, too, even though it wasn’t the romances she thought I should be writing. It’s on a promo sale for a few days for 99 cents! She would love that too. She loved a good deal.

 

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The Unseeming Connection Between Horror and Poetry

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When a story starts out, “You know he’s the one who made your beloved niece disappear,” how could you not want to keep reading?

The first line of The Button Bin in Mike Allen’s collection of horror stories, “Unseaming,” is enough to raise the hair on your arms and the back of your neck. Allen, already well known as an editor and writer of speculative poetry, delivered “Unseaming” several years ago in all its luscious, spine-tingling dread and horror. I had no idea it existed until a member of my writer’s group mentioned it.

I want you to do something right now.

Just imagine standing in front of a window.

Then a brick appears in your hand.

What happens now?

You throw the brick through the window.

Glass shatters, showering you with glittering shards.

Now you step forward, your tennis shoes crunching on the random scattered pieces.

And what do you do now?

You press up close to the ragged, gaping hole where the brick went through.

You put your hand out and begin to lower it directly down toward a distinctly jagged piece jutting at a crazy angle out into the open air, aiming it closer and closer to that tender, sensitive point between your thumb and forefinger….

That, in my opinion, is what it’s like to read “Unseaming.”

 

If the elegant, serrated, melodic writing isn’t enough, then maybe the bizarre, mind-bending tales, often with an unexpected twist, will do the trick.

For example, enter the mind of a grieving woman:

Soon she heard nothing else. An absence of music, an opposite of laughter, as if a throat sculpted pure mourning, emitted waves that drained away power and life as they washed over whatever they touched.

If horror can be born somehow of lyricism, Mike Allen accomplishes that. And expect nightmares of all types: real and self-made. In one story, a hiker witnesses this:

The monster ascended the far side of the gully on legs like arched lighting, climbing into the murk at heart-wrenching speed.

I don’t know about you, but whose knees wouldn’t buckle just at the thought of seeing something like that? And then the other type of monstrosity declares this in the bookend of the collection:

To you I am a shriveled lump, but I speak with pride when I tell you that I’m a self-made monster, a Mandelbrot set, a Koch curve, a Menger sponge, and inside I have no boundaries.

It’s not so easy to find a book of horror, in my opinion, that opines the state of heightened primordial sociopathy approaching omnipotence in such deliberate language peppered with an alarming and passionate undertone.

As an added point of intrigue, his second collection of horror, “The Spider Tapestries,” came out just a few months ago, March of this year.

Enjoy these stories.

But be careful with that brick and the glass.

Don’t cut yourself….too deep.

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Annalisa Crawford Outwits a Maniac

I’m happy to have Annalisa on my website today! We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I sort of tossed a coin and wrote to Annalisa a year ago through the Vagabondage website because she appeared approachable…plus, I was drawn to the cover of That Sadie Thing.

She’s been a rock in the surging tides of my first-time publication experiences. So…thank you, Annalisa, and now on to the fun part.

You. I. Us. is a collection of vignettes, small scenes which hint at the story beneath.

Annalisa has taken that idea to another level, because she asked 15 bloggers to ask her one question each, creating small insights into her life and writing. Today I asked her how would she survive stranded on a deserted island with a challenging personality.

 

Hi Stacey, wow, you totally win for the most challenging question. You gave me a list of some particularly interesting characters, and I choose to be shipwrecked with Moriarty (if choose is the right word, in this instance!)

I’d like to say I’d be a match for him, that we’d sit around out-smarting each other until help arrived. But actually, I think I’d probably just try to find a waterfall—it’s a deserted island, after all, it’s bound to have one—and lure him to his death.

If that didn’t work, I’d get him to teach me how to play chess (I think he’d be rather good at that), and I’d teach him the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody!

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I think the waterfall did him in, Annalisa, so put your chess pieces away. Thanks for coming over, and congratulations on your new release!

 

You. I. Us.

Publication date: June 10, 2016
Genre: Short Stories (Single Author)

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Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository // Kobo // iBooks // Nook

 

In You. I. Us., Annalisa Crawford captures everyday people during  poignant defining moments in their lives: An artist puts his heart into his latest sketch, an elderly couple endures scrutiny by a fellow diner, an ex-student attempts to make amends with a girl she bullied at school, a teenager holds vigil at his friend’s hospital bedside, long distance lovers promise complete devotion, a broken-hearted widow stares into the sea from the edge of a cliff where her husband died, a grieving son contacts the only person he can rely on in a moment of crisis, a group of middle-aged friends inspire each other to live remarkable lives.

Day after day, we make the same choices. But after reading You. I. Us., you’ll ask yourself, “What if we didn’t?”

 

About the author

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Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, a dog and a cat. Annalisa writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories. She has been winning competitions and publishing short stories in small press journals for many years, and is the author of Cat & The Dreamer and Our Beautiful Child.

Visit her online at: www.annalisacrawford.com

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Arcanaland: It’s All About the Gleip!

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Check out Wyborn Senna’s latest offering: Arcanaland: Far From Shandesto

I’ve always wondered what would happen if I went under a sofa somewhere and ended up in a different plane of existence! Arcanaland: Far From Shandesto is a crazy ride into a different world where the rules are always changing and you never know what to expect.

I loved the Arthurian legends, Hawiian myths, spells and magic and pretzel clam chowder. At first I felt sorry for the kids that ended up there, but then later it seemed like they were getting into the adventure. They have to find certain objects in order to be able to find their way home eventually, like the pieces of a puzzle, one at a time, and during this journey, they are pulled sideways and up and down into many other journeys and many frightening situations..

Anyone who loves different worlds full of magic and characters you’ve never seen before, mysteries and unexpected adventures will enjoy this read. Fun, fun fun, and exciting too!
And get used to the philosophy, “It’s all about the gleip.” Because It IS all about the gleip!

Unidentified Flying Myths?

They’re out there. You just don’t wanna believe it!

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John Fowles’ “A  Maggot,” circa 1985, a truly bizarre and fascinating tale revolving around one of the most unlikely subjects possible for historical the setting of the 1700s,  slowly pushes open an eerily creaking door on the controversial world of UFOs.

Though Fowles denies that “A Maggot” is historical, it does nevertheless take place during a precise historical timeframe of May 1736 to February 1737.

An article in www.nytimes.com stated:

A maggot in this sense is a whim, or a work based on a whim, and Mr. Fowles’ whim is often to tease…In ”A Maggot” the hypothesis seems to be that readers will tolerate more teasing, and more indeterminacy as to plot and character, than is usually expected of them.

Who except John Fowles of “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” would combine a story taking place in the 18th century with the much-maligned and ridiculed subject of UFOs? It was fascinating to see the counterbalance between what at first appeared to be normal travelers plodding along and then the subtly unraveling mystery they all carried with them; the shared, unspoken secret, the verboten knowledge. In the opening pages, Mr. Fowles’ lyrical language floats us, dream-like, into the story:

The woman raises her hands and pushes back the hood of her cloak, then loosens the white linen band she has swathed round the lower part of her face. She is young, hardly more than a girl, pale-faced, with dark hair bound severely back beneath a flat-crowned chip, or willow-shaving, hat…She is evidently a servant, a maid.

Unfastening the top of her cloak, and likewise undoing the kissing-ribbons, she goes beside the track a little ahead and stoops where some sweet-violets are still in flower on a bank. Her companion stares at her crouched back, the small movements of her hands, the left one picking, ruffling the heart-shaped green leaves to reveal the hidden flowers, the right one holding the small sprig of deep mauve heads she has found. He stares as if he does not comprehend why she should do this.

Beginning at the actual end of their travels, the final afternoon concluding a mysterious four-day journey, the novel then progresses with more twists and turns: a few days later, one character is found hanged in the woods, another goes missing, and the hirelings have vanished. Later, testimony from witnesses under the scrutiny of an investigator slowly begin to unravel the labyrinthine tale, ultimately unveiling truths, half-truths, or outright distortions of the truth that are almost beyond comprehension and definitely bigger than the 18th century world of historical England.

My fascination with the story lies with Mr. Fowles’ treatment of perception: how, exactly, someone from those long ago times would perceive something like a UFO, any beings associated with it, and how would they then be able to translate the experience and explain it to anyone else, if it came to that? The mind would have no context, no experience, with such a situation, and it would be next to impossible to define in any exact terms what had actually transpired.

It’s so interesting to think about things like this: do other beings exist? And if so, why do they hang around us? Would they really have any good reason to do so, being so far advanced? Surely it couldn’t be simply for altruistic reasons; isn’t that a lot of effort put into something and basically getting nothing back? So I tend to think, if they are out there, that they come around for a specific purpose. I don’t know what, but I feel like it maybe probably isn’t that great for us. But what do I know? What does John Fowles know? It’s all just really speculation at this point…..right?

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It’s Deja vu All Over Again!

If imitation is sincerely the best form of flattery, then moviemakers are often the kings of…let’s call it echoing. Borrowing. Being…*wink* heavily influenced.

 

BATTLE ROYALE VS. THE HUNGER GAMES

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Teacher Kitano: “Life is a game. So fight for survival and see if you’re worth it.”

Effie Trinket: “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.”

When we were talking about the Hunger Games at work once, a coworker remarked that at least they were trying to do something different. Which is a valid comment. Without knowing that it was done already. Essentially. Based on a novel by Koushun Takami in 1999.

Count the similar elements:

Dystopian future Kids periodically rounded up, dropped on an island, made to fight one another until only one is left.

Supposed to be for military research for the *betterment* of society somehow but is discovered to actually be a means of terrorizing the population to quell discontent and subsequent uprisings.

The evil puppet masters are unveiled, and the oppressive fascism is finally brought to an end.

Hunger Games added its own flair, like the outlandish costumes, expanded characters and reasoning behind the government, whimsical terminology like tracker jacks and jabberjays and, of course,  Katniss, but…the main idea had already been born long before.

 

IT THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE VS. ALIEN

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Eric Royce: It has to kill us or starve, and we’ve got to kill it or die.

Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

 

I’m sure many people know that Alien has more than a few similarities to It the Terror From Beyond Space.

In an interview from cinemascope.com:  When asked why he didn’t go after the producers of Alien, Jerome Bixby told an interviewer that he would then have to admit he was ripping off The Thing.

There’s a whole roster of similarities between what I wrote and the new film. They’re both about a small group of people trapped aboard a spacecraft with an inimical creature out to get them and which, in fact, knocks them off one by one. No problem there; that’s a pretty general plot outline. In both stories the creatures use the ship’s air ducts. In both stories they are held off with gas and electricity. And at the end of both stories, they’re dispatched by suffocation, by evacuating the creatures from the ship and depriving them of air.

He goes on to say, “In all honesty, my story was also derivative. Essentially what I did was take Howard Hawks’ The Thing and play it aboard a spaceship. But I didn’t copy the storyline; I used the film ‒ a masterpiece in the genre ‒ as inspiration for my story. The Hawks film has long been a model for SF writers.

 

THE TEMPEST VS. FORBIDDEN PLANET

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 Prospero: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

Commander John Adams:  We’re all part monsters in our subconscious, so we have laws and religion!

I guess movie aficionados already are aware of this, but I was fairly shocked to learn that Forbidden Planet apparently was based on The Tempest by Shakespeare. I would never suspect a filmmaker of going that far back to plumb the depths of literary riches in order to echo, borrow, or be heavily influenced…*wink*. But according to an article on stackexchange.com, this evidence was presented to us:

It’s my understanding that Morbius, the scientist in Forbidden Planet who is alone save for his daughter, is a reflection of Prospero, the anti-hero of Shakespeare’s play who is likewise living alone on an island with his daughter. Both Morbius and Prospero seek to control the elements, and thus the world around them, through ‘magic’ – in Morbius’ case, an advanced alien technology.

In both versions of the story a group of young men (sailors swept in by the tempest of the title, a space crew on a routine mission) enter this supposed utopia, only to cause upheaval and eventual destruction when the leader of said groups falls in love with Morbius/Prospero’s daughter. One other factor that surely reveals the origins of Forbidden Planet’s storyline is the inclusion in both versions of a cook for comic relief, this character being a drunken buffoon in both versions.

I love it! A nice take on a super-old classic. Thank you Fred Wilcox. Thank you, Shakespeare!

 

KRULL VS. LEGEND

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Princess Lyssa: Power is fleeting; love is eternal.

Jon Anderson: Holy lightning strikes all that’s evil/ teaching us to love for goodness sake

 

Lastly, I just saw Krull again for the first time in probably 20 years. The funny thing about this comparison is Krull and Legend are contemporaries of one another, instead of 20 years or more between them. Krull came out in 1983 with Legend closely following in 1985. And although Krull was definitely modeled in the tradition of Star Wars, aiming for that “In a galaxy far away” feeling, the early Tom Cruise of Legend did not harken back, in my mind at least, to Luke Skywalker the way Colwyn of Krull did.

In both stories, evil has descended upon the land, which is not Earth. Both young men undertake a perilous journey to save their beloved from the clutches of darkness. Both travel with a band of merry and/or raucous and/or obnoxious men/thieves/otherworldly beings, the difference being that in Krull hardly anyone survives, but I believe almost everyone makes it to the end in Legend.

The most interesting thing about Krull were the fantastic sets and set pieces. They were extravagant and impressive to the point where they almost didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story which was mostly tongue in cheek and rough around the edges. Legend appears to follow directly in Krull’s wake since it was built entirely on a sound stage and the sets are expansive and fantastic.

So Krull has the Beast screwing things up for everyone and Legend has the Lord of Darkness taking over, and while the fight between good and evil is universal and the basis of almost any story on earth, the most similar aspects between the films (besides the quest to save the young innocent) appeared in other small and subtle ways: a special ensemble set aside for the captured girl to wear; a shot of her running down a hallway in slow motion with her filmy clothes trailing behind her.

Krull was a lot of fun and visually impressive in its art direction. But nothing will ever compare, for me, to Tim Curry as Darkness saying things like,

“Oh, Mother Night! Fold your dark arms about me. Protect me in your black embrace. I sit alone, an impotent exile, whilst this form, this presence, returns to torment me!”

His anguish and angst was so palpable and over-the-top, delivered in a powerful bass undertone, it was like eating a delicious ice cream cone while simultaneously running for your life. A weird nexus of sensation.

I’m so happy for all the stories: original, borrowed from, done over, bent, reformed, or otherwise. And especially the ones that were heavily influenced by someone or something else.

*wink*