Fiction is My Playground

Fiction is the playground where authenticity can be developed.  Reading and writing fiction pushes a participant to go through the world as experienced by another.  Fiction can legitimately present the inner-world of characters, letting outsiders experience the turmoil of daily interactions. Authenticity is rooted in a deep understanding of the world and the place that one holds in it, which fiction safely allows to occur.

Toni Morrison, Armistead Maupin, Carson McCullers, and Caitlin R. Kieran brought readers into their and their characters’ worlds.  Each author presented the inner-life of a marginalized group; Morrison revealed the psychological scars of slavery on African-Americans; Maupin showed the normalcy of LGBTQ+ community; McCullers and Kiernan gave representation to mental illness’ isolating ability.

Fiction explores these identities to form connections to understand an increasingly diverse world.  Stories expose radically different cultures, not Americanized variations, where presupposed rules can’t be applied, and are unable to change the culture. Authors create narratives that demonstrates blanket-solutions can’t be applied to every problem and expected to work.  Instead, fiction demonstrates that solutions must be unique to problem and culture, requiring imagination in examine the setting’s effect on characters and interactions.


Sophie Hatter Defies Conventions

Howl's Moving Castle (Sophie Hatter Defies Convention)Sophie is liberated by the Witch of the Waste’s curse, as it removed her from her assigned “failure” role to finding her own agency; “It was odd.  As a girl, Sophie would have shriveled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving.  As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said.  She found that a great relief” (Jones 66).  The self-imposed title of “failure” is displayed by the Witch of the Waste’s spell on Sophie, the spell being Sophie’s primary obstacle to overcome, hoping to find meaning in her “failure.”

When Sophie is transformed into a crone her reaction is not typical of a fairy tale heroine, saying, “Don’t worry old thing…this is much more like you really are” (Jones 33), as she examined herself in the mirror.  When Sophie Hatter is transformed into a crone, bravely leaves Market Chirping regardless of advanced age, with more vitality as a crone than as an 18-year-old, the character instructs readers to question and resist social assumptions in the development of individual identity. Continue reading “Sophie Hatter Defies Conventions”

Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli)
Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli

Diana Wynne Jones’s adolescent novel Howl’s Moving Castle, is escapist literature, that demonstrates to readers not to accept the world as it is, seeing what could & might still be, rather than what was or must be.  The adolescent reader is assured that risk taking works out in the end when there is the ‘happily ever after’.  Jones’ happy-endings are successful because they are the logical conclusion for all the characters, given their fantastical adventures.  She writes in clear language, using characters’ actions to address characterization for her readers, assuring that they will have to get into the characters’ heads to understand motivations, which might not always be clear in the characters’ actions.

Howl’s Moving Castle is the story of female protagonist Sophie Hatter, who is skilled with a needle to make hats and dresses.  Unknowingly, Sophie is capable of magic, as she talks life into objects and convinces people to see things her way.  Born the eldest of three sisters, Sophie believes herself fated to an uninteresting future of running the family hat shop, after their father dies, and they learn the debt schooling the three sisters has put the family in.  To cover expenses, as Sophie’s step-mother can’t afford all three daughters to work in the shop, the two youngest daughters are sent out for apprenticeships.

The story begins with Sophie resigned to her dull fate: Working alone in the hat shop, Sophie’s younger sisters have left for their baking and witchcraft apprenticeships, while her step-mother spends the hat shop’s earnings.  That is until The Witch of the Waste enters the hat-shop, attracted by Sophie’s magical abilities & confuses her with one of Howl’s young lovers.  In jealousy and anger The Witch places a curse on Sophie that makes her into an old woman.  Sophie’s desire to break the spell and return to her rightful age brings her to the moving castle of Howl just above Market Chirping.  Being a crone, Sophie no longer fearing the rumors of Howl eating the hearts of young maidens.  Making herself useful as a cleaning lady, Sophie forces herself on the residents: fire demon Calcifer, apprentice Michael, and wizard Howl.  Sophie strikes a deal with Calcifer that if she can break the contract between Howl and himself, he will break The Witch of the Waste’s spell on Sophie.

Wonder Woman – The Amazon Princess: Queer Diplomat of DC Comics

Wonder Woman by Christopher Moeller
Wonder Woman by Christopher Moeller

Wonder Woman, Diana Prince, with her powerful abilities, centuries of training and experienced at handling threats that range from petty crime to threats that are of a magical or supernatural nature, Diana is capable of competing with nearly any hero or villain.  She’s concurrently the fiercest and most nurturing member of the Justice League, capable of making the hard decisions.  Wonder Woman’s hard-decision making is derived from her backstory and characterization.  In comic books and the DC Universe Wonder Woman’s nickname, The Amazon Princess, makes obvious the dichotomy inherent in the premiere super-heroine.  As an Amazonian she is a trained warrior, powerful, strong-willed, and does not back-down from a battle.  The princess aspect of the character places her in the political and diplomatic spheres, pursing peace without escalating conflicts.  In both worlds Wonder Woman is a leader, who, unlike Superman and Batman, understands the ramifications globally and locally of her actions.

In the DC Trinity Superman is the admiral inspiring heroes to be their best; Batman is the general making the plans other heroes follow; Wonder Woman is the soldier shoulder to shoulder with the other heroes in the battle.  Soldiers are the decisive faction in an army, and in an army of superheroes Wonder Woman is the hard-decision maker.   Where Superman and Batman hold tightly to the superhero code, do not kill, Wonder Woman comes at solutions with more ambiguity.  She is the decision maker who makes the difficult decisions, where killing is never completely off the table, such as when she kills Ares God of War by cleaving an axe through his skull (vol3, #33).  There is also the infamous neck snap of telepathic villain Maxwell Lord to save Superman and by extension the planet.  Maxwell Lord had taken control of Superman and used him to nearly kill Batman.  A brutal battle ensues, Wonder Woman defends herself by slicing Superman’s throat with her tiara, and uses the Lasso of Truth on Lord to demand to know how to end his mental control over Superman, which he revealed was to kill him; if put in jail he’d just escape, regain mental dominance of Superman, and begin again.  Seeing no other way to end the carnage an amoral Superman would cause, Wonder Woman snapped Maxwell Lord’s neck.  While Wonder Woman’s actions are defendable, saving her friends and the planet, her decisiveness put her at odds with other heroes who ardently stand-by the superhero code.

[To Continue Reading the Brief Essay Open PDF Below]

2017.05 Wonder Woman – The Amazon Princess: Queer Warrior Diplomat

A Political Discussion I Had Recently

ME: In today’s job market and society we have produced too many people with degrees that there is no longer a blue-collar work force, which is a factor in the shrinking middle class.

THEM: If the middle class and blue collar contingent disappears, who will be left to vote republican? Bible thumpers and assholes?

ME: Plenty of Bible thumpers and assholes vote Democrat. To believe that “the opposite” political party is made up of “deplorables” minimizes the needs of a large group of Americans – further pushing the polarized state of the country. Middle class and blue collar are often voting for, what can be loosely described, as “family values.” If you are attempting to refer to the large electoral college vote that Trump received, then it might be best to try and think “What has the country not done to support them?” The states that Trump won were “no collar” states, the miners and farmers, and those without college degrees and trade-skills, who – more than likely – saw a country that was increasingly looking beyond its borders and supporting foreign interests. Those that voter for Trump were more than likely attempting to vote for themselves, their families, and their neighbors, by voting for localized economic resurgence. What they saw was how others are getting more and more rights for very specific demographics, while their own was being maligned as “ignorant” or “racist,” which was largely probably not the case. Your statement also ignores recent NYT, LA Times, and Politico articles that are finding, in young America, a 2 party system no longer is viable. As well, there were the Bernie-die-hards that abstained from voting because Hillary wasn’t Bernie, which also cost her the election, and perhaps a more progressive government. Continue reading “A Political Discussion I Had Recently”

Wonder Woman as Queer

Wonder Woman by Nathan FoxWonder Woman is from Paradise Island, a single-sex island, where in the twenty-first century began canonical displays of romantic love towards one another.  Wonder Woman’s advocacy of queer eroticism, which began with her creation by William Marston in 1942 until Dr. Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent labeled Wonder Woman dangerous to young American girls by promoting lesbianism.  Fearing cancellation DC Comics’ writers and artists began suppressing Wonder Woman’s textual queer support, barely addressing her erotic history as subtext.  During this time Wonder Woman abandoned promoting equality between the sexes for earning Steve Trevor’s affections.  In the twenty-first century writers leaned-in to modern interpretations of Paradise Island, once again freeing Wonder Woman from heteronormativity, and regaining her role as an advocate of queerness.  Freedom from heteronormative expectations removes preconceived notions of “sex” and “gender” labels, allowing Wonder Woman to embody the idea of universal love.  Wonder Woman’s love for all extends to acceptance, such as in the 2016 (v3, #48), when she officiated over a same-sex wedding, legitimizing homosexuality as a mainstream.  Additionally, given Wonder Woman’s Amazon Princess role means that Hippolyta, queen-mother, would have performed officiations on Paradise Island, and given being royalty her participation would lend significance and validity to the ceremony.

Verve (5/01-5/05)

As spring comes around I stay indoors focused on myself with little regard for normalcy, primarily because it remains elusive for me.  While I do not regret the decisions that have led me to being more goal orientated, rather than relationship focused, I cannot help but see the stagnation that it causes.  I routinely struggle to have inspiration; I struggle with snot sleeping all weekend long; I struggle with wanting to do anything outdoors.  There is little that is of interest.  I am consistently bored by the options that are available.

Dating has not been much of a priority, or provided respite from the day to day life.  The men that I have spoken with, either through dating apps or through actual dates, begin a conversation rooted in getting blowjobs or attempting to score crystal meth.  I find it impossible to take much of the gay community seriously as they quest to party like it is 1970s, and remain duplicitous in behavior.  The majority of homosexual men are trapped in an adolescence of demanding respect, while simultaneously revealing that behavior does not warrant that respect.  As homosexual-men make uproars about beign perceived as complex and valid human beings, I see little in the everyday non-Luke Evans homosexuals that are worth holding up as exemplary; Neil Patrick Harris & Ellen DeGeneres can’t be the only face of Homosexual-America.

Conflicting Teacher Philosophies

Teachers Cant Be Erased (conflicting teaching philosophies)‎            I lost my passion for teaching because of the teacher I worked with, Lorela Graham, passive-aggressively pushed me out.  Lorela began by criticizing my clothes and hair, rather than help me build better lesson plans or practice performing the lessons before teaching them; she preferred me do her paperwork and grading.  I was given the upcoming week’s outline on Sundays, leaving 6 hours to personalize lessons for an entire week.  She “hazed” (her word) by having me out of the room following students to gather data on their behavior in an effort to remove them.  Lorela’s life problems (such as her son’s college suspension related to drugs) were taken out on me, erupting and swearing at me after school hours.

Lorela and I had different educational philosophies.  She did not believe in connecting student lives to curriculum, that students did not have agency and shouldn’t engage in dialogue with the teacher. She preferred comma placement over critical engagement, and avoided student imagination. Lorela was about results, through lessons that were easily duplicated yearly, which is little more than playing school.  The unresponsive teaching reinforced the status quo, and for a homogeneous student population that is a dangerous proposition because college becomes an uncontrollable culture-shock upon discovering not everyone has the same background, opportunities, and financial resources.

My conflicting philosophy was that connecting ELA to student lives creates global citizens capable of compassionately understanding human values, creative experiences, and skills in conflict resolution.  ELA analysis of language can be used to question the socially constructed self, giving students the ability to deconstruct attitudes towards culture/ethnic groups, and transform into democratic agents prepared for civic choices towards societal change.  Stories have the unique ability to present students with influences inspiring students to re-imagine the world from another cultural perspective and appreciate culture-originated solutions, to find unique solutions based on multiple perspectives.

Queerly Geek

Enigma            Peter Milligan’s The Enigma confronts society’s expectations about identity.  The Enigma, narrated in the first person, tells the story of 20-something Michael Smith. Smith meets Titus Bird, the writer of the superhero comic book The Enigma, the story of a man with omnipotent powers who adopts the identity of a superhero. Smith runs into the Enigma, who reveals that he is an emotionless being, unfamiliar with concepts of right and wrong.  Enigma take Smith on life changing adventure where Smith is challenged by how consciously he is aware of himself.  His experience with Enigma reveal a deeper understanding of his, and the reader’s, place in the world.

In a twist at the end the narrator is revealed to be a lizard, that had been gifted human consciousness by Enigma, and the lizard is attempting to explain its new awareness to other lizards.  The other lizards though are unable to comprehend the story they are being told because their own knowledge of self and the world is limited.  The lizard’s interaction with Enigma mirrors Smith’s, who too has been changed and grown from experiences with Enigma, and finds it difficult to explain to friends.

[To Read the Complete Personal Essay Click the PDF Below]

Queerly Geek


Kabuki (david Mack)            I first read David Mack’s Kabuki with the 1998 storyline, ‘Metamorphosis.’  A storyline where the titular character, an assassin, must escape an institution that reprograms secret agents to work in other organizations.  While escaping Kabuki is pursued by released inmates and former teammates.  Kabuki’s fights are battles against mainstream’s expectations, rejecting the limiting philosophies each inmate represents through their fighting style.  The story is a metaphor for Kabuki rejecting expectations and the role she was groomed for, itself an allegory for teenage rebellion.

Kabuki is weighed down by history and without an identity separate from role.  Her motivation comes from the scar on her face, a feature she views as making her less than, separating her from the group.  To compensate Kabuki perfects the skills of an assassin to impress her paternal grandfather, a general.  Kabuki repurposes her combat skills into dance to express herself in pursuit of a new identity against the routine status quo, reflecting the rebellious nature of a maligned subculture.  I saw how an identity can shatter expectations, particularly when the pursuit of that identity uses the previous life’s tools.  By escaping Kabuki rejects the world, and the role it has tragically giver her.