Fear and Loathing

It’s amazing how the GOP (along with its propaganda wing, Fox News) is always so eager to throw out the Constitution and let the government treat criminals as enemy combatants who can be tried in secret and tortured for information…but talk about passing gun laws that they see as a threat to the Second Amendment and it’s “NOOOO!! THE CONSTITUTION IS SACRED!! WE NEED TO HAVE UNFETTERED ACCESS TO GUNS IN CASE THE GOVERNMENT EVER BECOMES A TOTALITARIAN POLICE STATE THAT IMPRISONS AND TORTURES CITIZENS WITHOUT JUST CAUSE!!”

I try to imagine their ideal society and it makes my brain hurt. A lot.

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Graturday 5

This has been a pretty ragged week. I was in a car accident on Tuesday, which not only threw off my writing mojo (I obviously haven’t blogged at all this week, but I also haven’t worked on any poetry or fiction) but will potentially do some heavy damage to my bank account. It’s looking like my car is¬†totaled, which is something I really didn’t need right now. So it’s more important than ever for me to focus on the good and be thankful for what I have.

1. I’m grateful that none of the three vehicles involved in the accident had any passengers, just drivers. The chance for injury would have been much greater with more people involved.

2. I’m grateful that none of the drivers were seriously injured. No ambulances were needed, all three drivers were able to drive away from the scene of the accident (even if not all of the cars could), and all I’ve had since the accident was a very mild concussion (pressure headache and a couple instances of minor dizziness) that faded after a couple of days.

3. I’m grateful that everyone I’ve had to deal with regarding the accident–the two company that got my car from the scene of the accident, all of the State Farm reps I’ve dealt with, and the mechanic at the body shop where my car was towed to–have been friendly, funny, compassionate, and helpful.

All in all, this situation could have been much worse than it turned out. Phew!

Graturday 4

Feeling kind of down today, so finding three things I’m grateful for is going to kind of a stretch, but here goes…

1. I’m grateful for the TV show Doctor Who and all of the people who have had a hand in creating it. The stories and characters and mad imagination of the show have inspired me for a long, long time, and have led me to think about my own ethics, morals, and behaviors.

2. I’ m grateful for my friend Robin, whose birthday was yesterday, and my friend Jenna, whose birthday is Monday. Both have been very, very good friends to me and understand a lot of what goes on in my head, reassuring me that I’m making more progress in life than I may think I am. Happy Birthdays to you two!

3. I’m grateful for my overall health. Yes, I’m out of shape. Yes, my cholesterol is too high. Yes, I get too many headaches. Yes, I have brain chemistry issues. But for the most part, I’m pretty healthy, and I’m very thankful for that.

War and Peace

Bombs exploded in Boston today. (More bombs were found and taken care of before they could go off, thankfully.) An eight-year-old boy was killed. When something like this happens, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, depression, and anger. It’s all too easy to forget about all the days when something like this doesn’t happen. And it’s tragically easy to fall into a cycle of responding to violence with more violence. Or violent rhetoric, at the very least.

But here’s what I think. The solution to events like this, and to patterns of violence and terror, is not more guns or more bombs. We need less talk of violence and revenge, less talk of killing to defend our loved ones, not more. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association recently said, ¬†“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” And that’s just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Bullies need to be stood up to, but if you think you can stop violence with more violence–or even the threat of violence–you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. If bravery means fighting with guns, knives, and bombs, than I’m proud to be a coward rather than a killer. If it’s naive to think we can defeat violence with nonviolence, than I’m happy to be naive.

What we need is more creativity, more compassion, more intelligence. It would be twee to suggest that we can solve all of the violence in the world with hugs and songs, and I certainly don’t believe that. But it’s bloody foolish to think you can solve violent problems with warfare. I’ll place my bets on tolerance, compassion, mercy, humor, and passive resistance. I’ll take my lessons from Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, and Charlie Chaplin. I truly do believe that there is more good, more love, more peace, more construction in humanity than there is evil, hatred, violence, destruction. As Patton Oswalt wrote today, “We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.”

Priorities

Things I think are more important than military build-up, war, and invasion:

  • Keeping the poor housed and fed.
  • Providing affordable/free medical care for all citizens.
  • Making sure all public schools are well-funded and teachers are paid well.
  • Helping unemployed people find new jobs and get training the might need for new careers.
  • Making sure important government agencies that ensure the welfare of our citizens–like OSHA and the EPA–are well-funded.
  • Shoring up our infrastructure of roads, bridges, etc.
  • Building high-speed rail networks across the country.
  • Developing renewable energy resources to replace coal and oil.
  • Developing new technologies and building vehicles for space exploration.

Yes, defending our nation is important. And yes, wars are sometimes necessary. But the last war that was actually necessary ended 68 years ago. I think we spend too much on weapons and far, far too much on unnecessary wars and invasions. We should be spending more on peaceful technologies and social welfare that benefits all of our citizens.

Graturday 3

Three things I’m grateful for today:

1. I’m grateful for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. They’re not a cure-all any more than insulin is a cure-all for diabetes, but they definitely make my life better, making it easier to deal with anxiety and depression issues.

2. I’m grateful for my companion, Berkie. She’s working really hard in her school program, with the grades and academic honors to show for it, but it means she doesn’t always have the time and energy to easily deal with housework and a companion with anxiety and depression, but we still make it work, we haven’t destroyed our house, we still have fun together.

3. I’m grateful that I got to meet Wil Wheaton last weekend. I’ve been reading his blog for over 10 years, so I feel as if I know him quite well (although I really don’t), and he’s been a huge inspiration to me in terms of making my life more like how I want it to be. He was very, very nice and generous when we met at Planet Comicon, handling my hyper-nervous, hyper-excited, I-haven’t-had-any-Xanax-today, fanboy babbling like the pro he is. And he said my name sounded familiar (we’ve exchanged a handful of emails and tweets over the years), which damn near made me faint. I’m so thankful I get to live in a world where our technology allows me to interact with someone like him.

Under the Influence

Erin Morgenstern wrote a blog post the other day on how her writing isn’t just influenced by other writing, but by a varied array of sources. This really hit home with me because for a long time, I felt a little weird that my poetry and prose wasn’t entirely influenced by other poetry and prose. In fact, my writing is often influenced more by things other than writing.

Music has always been important to me, and my writing is very influenced by musicians and bands that I love. Sometimes it’s the lyrics, the way words are put together or repeated. Sometimes it’s the structure of a song, influencing the structure of a poem or story.. Sometimes it’s the way the music is sparse or how it becomes a wall of sound. Sometimes it’s the idea behind the music, the way an artist or group of artists take bits from different forms of music and put them together into something amazing. When I was a freshman at the University of Iowa, I told a fellow student and poet that my poetry was at least as influenced and informed by my favorite postpunk music as it was poems. He said that was terrible. I just shrugged. (A little over 10 years ago, my poetry–and the way I performed it–also became heavily influenced by stand-up comedy and vaudeville, as well as the Beats.)

Later in college, I started regularly reading Art in America and other art magazines. Reading about different painters, printmakers, sculptors, photographers, collagists and mixed media artists was very inspiring to me in my prose and poetry. The images they came up with, the way they worked, the ideas they were trying to convey influenced the stories and poems I came up with. And thanks to Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and a girlfriend majoring in Art History, I became very, very influenced by Dada and Surrealist poetry, painting, collage, and performance. Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces tied in punk, Dada, and Situationist ideas for me, further influencing my writing. (This all also influenced my academic work, which not all of my professors appreciated.)

I’ve been a monstrous consumer of TV shows and movies all of my life, and these clearly influence my prose and poetry. Same goes for comics. Sometimes, an idea for a story will sit in my head with an imaginary cover that looks like a movie poster or a Golden Age comic book. I often think of plotlines in terms of TV show seasons or serialized comic books. I’ve also become more and more influenced by video games, which probably started with Myst. Lately, the plot threads and high-level imagination of Wizard101 and Pirate101 have been very inspirational to me. I’m influenced by the visual design, the world building, and the story lines. I also think about the fun of game play and ponder how that can be infused in the writing and reading of short stories and novels. And I tend to approach the world- and character-building of fiction in the same way I approach it when playing tabletop role-playing games.

I’m leaving many more influences out. Honestly, it would take many blog posts to really go into all of my influences, and I’m probably not entirely aware of all of them. Who knows all the magic and madness that lurks in the minds of writers?

Reality and art seep into us in a colorful variety of ways, from a colorful variety of sources. To say that the art we create and the influences in our lives come from only one kind of source is severely limiting. And anyone who says it is almost certainly lying. Or incredibly un-self-aware. I think the best art is a collage of stolen ideas, images, sounds, sensations, memories. Get excited by things, copy them, mix and mash them up, and share what you make with others. Is there any other way to do it?