Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Quick (Not Really) Book Review

I know in my last post I talked about doing my personal trip down Memory Lane, and I will get to that in the coming weeks.  But first I wanted to do a quick (not really) review of a book called Openly Straight, by Bill Konigsberg.  In this review I will also be expressing my opinions about homosexuality.  I hope that doesn’t become an issue.

Openly Straight follows Rafe, a high school junior who is openly gay.  Rafe’s parents are extremely supportive, his community accepts him, and he even starts to talk at other high schools about being gay.  But through all this he feels that the label of “Gay” is following him around.  So, in an attempt to shake the label, he transfers to an all-boys boarding school and becomes “openly straight” to try and live a “normal” life without his Gay label.  This of course leads to some consequences, especially when he falls for a straight friend.

The book is good.  What’s good about it is that it reads like any other Young Adult fiction.  It has a flawed, but likable main character, a love interest, conflict, motivation, and a resolution.  The only difference is that the protagonist is gay.  Strangely (or ingeniously) enough, this book has the same label on it that Rafe is trying to escape.  It’s about a GAY.  It’s DIFFERENT.  It’s making A POINT.  And it does a fairly good job of making its point, too.  On the one hand, we have Rafe’s love interest, who knows he is straight but is still confused by his feelings for Rafe.  This makes him almost a foil for Rafe.  The Gay boy who is trying very hard to appear straight falls for the straight guy who is trying very hard to remain straight.  The love interest’s (I’m refraining from using his name so as to avoid spoilers) inner conflict is almost a better representation of the struggle that a lot of young, questioning people go through.  It also subtly incorporates the concept of the Kinsey scale, putting the love interest somewhere on a spectrum of sexuality, rather than making him one thing or the other.  (Even “Bi” is a definite label that doesn’t allow any leeway or preference towards one sex over the other.)

Then there are Rafe’s parents, who are supportive of their Gay Son to a fault.  I capitalized those words because the parents were also part of the “labeling” problem that Rafe tries to escape in the book.  Instead of continuing to think of him as their son, they started to think of him as their Gay Son.  And I think this addresses a very poignant issue: Sometime in our history, we as a society decided that Homosexuality (as well as everything else included in the LGBT spectrum) was a Big Deal.  This left individuals and groups with the task of assigning either a positive or a negative to this Big Deal.  People had to decide whether they thought this was a Good or a Bad.  And, as I said earlier, there are problems with both.  Because both schools of thought serve to strengthen this idea that those in the LGBT community should be recognized as “Other.”  Am I saying that there shouldn’t be groups like PFLAG, or Gay Pride marches?  No.  But I am saying that even people with the best intentions can still actively isolate a community by saying “Oh yes, I have NO problem with THOSE people.”

What do I propose instead?  It’s hard to put into words.  Take a simple statement like, “Oh, I can’t do Thanksgiving at your house this year.  I’m going to my sister’s.  She and her husband invited the whole family.”  You know how no one ever responds to a statement like that by trying to slap the person?  People should react just as calmly if the word “husband” were switched with “wife.” We should stop thinking about Gay People and start thinking about people.  When someone says “My sister and her wife baked these orgasmic cookies,” no one should react with anything other than “Can I get the recipe?”  Why?  Because the sooner we start to accept that “the Gays” are just people whose sex lives should be no more or less interesting than anyone else’s, the sooner reality will reflect the change in our actions and thoughts.  The sooner everything will calm down and suddenly there will be less and less need to fight for “Gay rights.”

I shouldn’t say this, but Americans are just awful at learning from their mistakes.  Many, many decades ago, we decided Black people were less than human.  We fought a war over it, and now the majority of people realize that slavery was wrong.  We are still trying to apologize for it with things like Black History Month.  So we know it’s wrong.  Even more recently, Women had to fight to get the right to vote.  Women are still fighting for equal rights, but at least we’ve accepted that maybe they should be treated like equals, too.  Now we’re in the present day, and none of our past mistakes have served as learning experiences.  We are still trying to create Us and Them, still trying to select groups of people and make them Less Than.  When really I thought we were supposed to be better than that.  Land of the Free and all that?  Where exactly are the Free at this point?  How Free are we when we need to restrict other people’s freedoms just to feel that much more in control?  How Free are we when we cringe away from anything that seems Different?  We’re bound by our own prejudices and hatred.  It sounds cheesy; it’s also fucking true.  Stop thinking of LGBT and Gay and Straight and start thinking about People.  We’re all just people.

Anyway, it was a pretty good book.  You should read it if you have the time.

No comic today.

Word of the Day: Prurient (adj) – having, inclined to have, or characterized by lascivious or lustful thoughts, desires, etc.

This post is dedicated to George Takei, who’s just a really cool, inspiring dude.  We should all try to be George Takei when we grow up.

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Memory Avenue

I realized recently that I’ve been thinking a lot about old books I wrote/tried to write/wanted to write and how I could use my current know-how to maybe improve them or rework them.  Which led me to the idea of doing a kind of retrospective (for me) series of blog posts about some of my past works of fiction, what they’re about, and how I would/will change them to make them better.

All of this would be, as the title of this post suggests, a trip down Memory Lane.  But because there will be so many memories, I thought I’d pun or something.

But Memory Lane is not often a safe place for me to be.  Most of the places there are kind of sketchy and I know I don’t want to be there but they’re like bad restaurants that have really good free samples.  For instance, one Memory might say, “Hey, remember that time you went swimming at your sister’s friend’s pool?  And it was a lot of fun?”  And then I’d be like “Yeah!  I do remember that!”  And then I would enter all the way into that memory and remember that I also tried to push my sister’s friend’s big brother into the pool while he was preparing to take a dive, and it had absolutely no effect.  And I was so embarrassed that I remember it a decade and some change later.  (It was all because of an episode of Dexter’s Lab I watched, which just goes to show that children will try to imitate what they see on TV)

Imitating TV

My point in giving you this jumbled preamble is that the next few posts will be hard for me in a way.  Much like the memory shared above, the memories and truths about these books will be hard to share.  Because some of the things I wrote in my books could be embarrassing, but we have to learn from those things, so I will share them even if it means baring my soul to the whole Internet.

So the next post you see will be all about The Dreamcatchers, my first ever book.  Which I have written about before, so you might read some things you already know.  And obviously I will try to include as many pictures as I can, as well as a somewhat structured format.  We’ll see how it goes.  Overall I think I want to talk about: The Dreamcatchers, Leaves, and Familiar.  Maybe some others if I have the time and attention span.

Anyhoo, that wasn’t a real post, but you still get a Word of the Day and a comic.

Tune in next time for a look at The Dreamcatchers.

Word of the Day: Retrospective (adj) – Directed to the past; contemplative of past situations, events, etc.

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Sexism

Let’s talk about sexism, shall we?  Instead of cartoons today, I’m going to use commercials to illustrate my points.

As many people know, a lot of sexism is directed at women.  So much so, in fact, that when the idea of applying it to men even occurs, people tend to call it “reverse sexism.”  Which is not a real thing, but they’ve forgotten that “sexism” applies to any kind of negative, prejudicial treatment based on one’s sex.  And the term “sex” in this case refers to Male and Female.  (Note that “sex” is different from “gender.”  I can’t even write a blog post on the treatment of people of different genders because my brain will explode from all the emotions running through me.)

Now I can’t blame people for thinking “sexism” only applies to women.  After all, women were the ones who had to fight for the right to vote.  And women are the ones who are constantly characterized as the “mothers” in commercials who clean up after their kids, pets, and doofy husbands.  (Instead of referring you to one specific commercial, I’d like to refer you to Sarah Haskins, who once did a fantastically amusing segment called Target Women)

I would seriously recommend watching all of Target Women, since it’s a pretty amazing show.

But what I wanted to talk about today was not sexism towards Females.  I want to talk about sexism towards Males, because apparently there isn’t enough talk about that.  For starters, the above “Doofy Husbands” sketch is pretty good.  It shows sexism toward men and women alike.  But even that isn’t as bad as these (Please watch, no matter how painful):

Going backwards, I want to address Carl’s Jr. first.  (Known in some states as Hardee’s, for some reason)

Carl’s Jr. capitalizes on the phrase “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”  Carl’s Jr. insults both men and women equally, as can be seen in this commercial.  (The woman is characterized as the good cook, implying she would be cooking FOR her doofy boyfriend, as well as someone who likes “furry toilet seat covers” because…ew)  Yet somehow they still have customers.  But, again, I don’t want to talk about the sexism towards the “girlfriend” in this commercial.  I want to talk about “Without us, some guys would starve.”  Now, to be fair, it says “some guys” and not “all guys.”  Big whoop.  Carl’s Jr. is constantly portraying men as useless oafs who can’t do “feminine” things like cook (or even crack an egg!) and who need to prove their masculinity by eating huge, greasy, drippy things on buns.

Then there’s the new Dr. Pepper.  Where to start?

I talked earlier about the impossible, insulting standards the fashion industry sets for women.  But what about the standards set for men?  Men are constantly being challenged to prove their “manliness.”  In Carl’s Jr. commercials, as well as soda commercials, and numerous other ads.  Naturally diet soda was for women, so Dr. Pepper decided to come right out and say “Look men, this is who you should be!  Rugged, outdoorsy, manly.  This is how we relate to you.  With an unclean, ridiculous-looking stereotype that is somehow supposed to appeal to your inner man and make you drink diet soda which tastes no manlier than any other soda.”  (I haven’t tried it, but it isn’t hard to guess).

What is manly?  We’ve already discovered what ads think “womanly” is.  Despite the leaps and bounds women have made in the fight for equality, we are still portrayed as the wives and mothers who clean and do laundry and smile at the antics of their families.  And men?  Men don’t get it any better.  “Be manly” the ads say.  “Have a wife and children, never cry, eat tree bark, love meat, have muscles in places where there shouldn’t even be muscles.  And if you don’t do that, well you’re just not a man, are you?”  This is ridiculous.  Every time a commercial, or anyone really, challenges a man to be “manly,” they are being sexist.  Plain and simple.  Any time someone challenges a person or group to conform, it is deplorable.  Frankly, advertising companies should be ashamed.  But they’re not, because they have money.  I just think ads are a good litmus test for how far humanity really has progressed.  The day we stop seeing ads like those featured above is the day that maybe we have finally taken a step forward.  Oh and I’ll leave you with this one, just in case you weren’t angry enough at Dr. Pepper:

Have a comic!

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Word of the Day: Deplorable (adj) – 1. Causing or being a subject for grief or regret; lamentable.    2. Causing or being a subject for censure, reproach, or disapproval; wretched; very bad.

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