Monthly Archives: October 2013

News of the Week: Sadonic Edition II

The story of Coy Mathis isn’t current news. However, the story seems to have resurged with multiple shares in social media the last few days, no doubt due to this Rolling Stones article: About a Girl. For those who haven’t heard, Coy Mathis is a six-year-old biologically male child who is transgendered. Because the parents of said child fought for Coy’s use of the girls’ bathroom and won, Coy has become a poster child for the LBGT civil rights movement.

Activists are still celebrating this win, but something in me cringes and wonders if they’re celebrating a little too soon. You see, it seems very convenient to diagnose an unsuspecting child and use her as a mascot. In fact, it smacks of manipulation from some source, which is why I delved a little more deeply than I might have into this story once it resurfaced. From just a cursory look at the family, it appears that this isn’t the first time they’ve had a lot of media exposure. And Coy is, by no means, the only interesting child in the family. Before Coy became legally female, she was considered to be the one neuro-typical child in the family. The other children are autistic, and one is mentally handicapped after having suffered from meningitis at four months. No, scratch that. The mentally handicapped child either had meningitis or RSV. And the parents went on a media crusade, asking for donations for this special needs child. These parents, especially the mother, have been in the media for a long time, looking for sympathy and donations.

I could be circumspect about this, but I don’t care to be. Coy’s mother has all the signs of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and, frankly, it doesn’t surprise me that people are willing to use a suspect case as a champion cry. Am I making a great leap in diagnosing a personality disorder, when I have no medical degrees? I’m not making a diagnosis; I’m making a guess. I don’t like to see children used by adults. That’s why this story makes me sad. If Coy chooses to express herself through outwardly feminine trappings, far be it for me to stop her from doing so. But this child does not need to be a poster child for adult crusades.

As far as what Coy won–the right to use the girls’ restroom–the typical response is applause at the decision. “Gender is not defined by your plumbing!” people cry, meaning of course, that gender is a concept of the mind. I’ll tell you what IS defined by plumbing: bathrooms. Aside from the obvious, bathrooms are designed for the physical realities of anatomy. That’s why boys’ bathrooms have urinals, and girls’ have special trash receptacles and coin-op machines. In all this talk about gender as a mental rather than a physical concept, did we forget that bathrooms are designed for the physical side of things?

Also, may I ask why a biological boy is, by gender, a girl because he [sorry, she] plays with Barbies and prefers pink? Is it out of fashion to claim that gender is primarily nurture and not nature? Irene Pollack must be old-school, I presume. There seems to be a dichotomy between physical sex and concepts of masculinity and femininity in the mind and/or spirit. Does anybody else think this sounds like a modern day version of scientific gnosticism?

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News of the Week: Sadonic Edition

No, that isn’t a misspelling. Usually, my News of the Week posts are inspired by absurd news articles, which turn on my sardonic streak. This post was inspired by sad news clips, which also filter through my sardonic brain, hence “sadonic”. Oh, and, obviously, I haven’t closed up shop yet. I’m still thinking about it. Deeply. Staring at the wall. Ruminating.

First this one: Judge rules controversial Texas abortion law unconstitutional. This time, it wasn’t the article itself. It was the comments section, as expected as it was, that left me even more jaded and disgusted than before. It was the numerous people who cried, “If you’re a man, you’re not allowed to have an opinion!” Sure, the usual, “It’s my body; my choice!” cry implies that a man isn’t allowed to have an opinion on the subject, but the shear effrontery of boldly speaking what they’ve always meant was not a little off-putting.

Doesn’t anybody else see what a raw deal this is for men? Do I have to spell it out for you? This is so simplistic it makes the head swim. Women know we’re not talking about “her” body when we discuss that clump of cells. That clump of cells is its entirely own body, which is composed of both the mother’s genetic information, as well as the father’s. She wouldn’t have that clump of cells in her body without the help of male sperm. So, essentially, we’re talking about three bodies: one has the potential to have a voice, but doesn’t at this time; one is denied any voice at all; the third is the ruling party that makes all decisions for the other two.

Men are being denied a basic, fundamental, human right. It is almost inconceivable (pun not intended). Sure, I get it: you might claim that the human race in America continues to reproduce quite well, thank you, since women have had the power of choice. More or less, that’s true (less, these days). But what about all those unheard voices? What about those who have been silenced, marginalized? Who will speak for the men who have had their basic human right of reproductive choice denied to them? If you laugh at my rhetoric–if you find this the least bit amusing–maybe make light of how the menfolk weren’t complaining during intercourse (neither were you, presumably)–you need to sober up and make a noble attempt at empathy. A lack of empathy for others is an established trait of psychopaths and narcissists. Men and women are in this struggle called life together. Men couldn’t make it without women, and vice versa. It’s high time we acknowledged this truth.

Unfortunately, that’s all I can manage right now. I hope to return tomorrow to complete my News of the Week.

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To Close Up Shop…Or Not?

photo courtesy of Joel, who literally got himself stuck in the mud.

Photo courtesy of Joel, who literally got himself stuck in the mud.

I’ve stopped blogging in the past. In fact, I went off social media almost completely for several months two years ago, during which time I reassessed my life. This is different, though. I’m not in reassessment mode so much as I’m in a frame of mind that has no patience for being stuck in a rut. I’m not depressed, not feeling down–I haven’t even sunk into my usual nihilist cave. On the contrary, I’m hopeful and positive. Because of that, I want to spend my time accomplishing valuable tasks.

Why don’t I consider this valuable? In approximately five years of blogging, my stats haven’t changed. They’ve gone down cyclically (in a down-turn right now), but my reach has never improved. Aside from a few people, I’m writing for myself, just as I was doing when I began. The few people change over the years, and that is all. I don’t need to write for myself on the internet. If I wanted to–which I don’t–I could write my long, obscure drivel in a journal. But no, I no longer want to waste my time. I would rather be the person who runs alongside or even splashes directly in the winding river than the one whose tires are spinning in the mud on the bank.

What could I do if I didn’t blog? I could play my accordion. I could have a beauty shop date with one of my daughters. I could do a lot of thing I’m not doing. As astonishing as it sounds, I’m in the mood to set myself free. It would be a big step to take, though, because of the blood sweat and tears I’ve poured into this site over the years. It’s so hard to let go. That is, by the way, why I self-published Anna and the Dragon. I couldn’t let go, even though my life was changing directions and nary an agent or editor had shown interest in it. I couldn’t let go.

I want to let go, but I don’t know how.

In any case, I haven’t made up my mind yet. It has occurred to me that I could up the excitement factor by making video blogs or switching entirely to Memoirs of a Nineties Coffee Girl. My memoirs have the highest average readership. I’m going to think about this and will report back to my handful of readers in a few days.

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No One Like You

One night he was there, the next gone. He appeared as the most substantial ghost whose spirit ever haunted an old dwelling. Tonight, his presence crashed into me like an eighteen-wheeler without brakes. After scraping myself off the floor, I tried to ignore him. He would have none of that.

I was scared to death of him, and eye rolls, I’m afraid, would have sent him into devastation mode. And so I gently mocked him, instead: “How are you, Your Honor, Julius Caesar?” This was a small salute to a ghost man who was no petty dictator.

“Don’t go there. I won’t have my feelings restrained.”

His voice irritated my already hyper sensitive auditory channels. It was, to put it mildly, like thunder. I tugged at my earlobes. “Will you please whisper?” I suggested. “What do you want me to do this time?”

“Leave this house for the night.”

“That’s all? If I didn’t already know it’s never just leaving the house, I’d go out for a pleasant evening stroll.”

With as much nonchalance as I could muster, I fell into my easy chair, swiveled it into recline mode, and reached for my Kindle. I had about thirty new books awaiting me. Thirty books would take a while. With as little strength as he could muster, he upended the chair, tossing me on my face.

I rose, somewhat shakily and stung, but otherwise fine. “Leave me alone, Caesar! You aren’t in control around here. You have me confused with some nitwit compliant type.”

He faced off with me, his large hand ready to swipe me down again. Before it could, I turned my back to him. The kitchen’s call was, at that moment, louder than his brooding anger. I was hungry, and I was pretty sure there was a juicy rare steak with my name on it. Or it would be juicy and rare after I lightly grilled it on either side. Add a side of steamed broccoli dressed with vinegar and oil, and I would have a happy at-home meal. I uncorked a bottle of chianti and poured a healthy six ounces into my favorite Ball jar.

Before I could drain it, let alone imbibe one drop, the jar flew past me and crashed into the wall. I gritted my teeth. Now, not only would six ounces of pleasant wine go to waste, but I would have to clean up the trails of red cascading down the wall.

“What the hell?”

“I told you to leave the house!”

“I’m hungry. Why can’t I eat first?”

His voice took on what I imagined to be a wolf growl. “You know why.”

“I’m afraid I don’t. Look, Dictator. I’m merely renting this place. You were already here, and I’m not part of whatever issues your spirit has with the world. So can you go pick on somebody else? If this goes on, I’m going to move out, and I don’t want to do that because it’s not that easy to come up with first, last, and a deposit.”

I slipped past his chilly, yet solid figure. I shuddered. He must have been a piece of work in life–he had the bulk figure of a fighter, but lacked the idiot, cow-eyed gaze of a man who had his head regularly pummeled.

“If you don’t let me eat, I’m just going to go to bed. I’ve been working all day, and I’m tired.”

I knew from experience I couldn’t avoid him. As I already said, I was scared to death of him. This was just my cat and mouse game, in which I attempted to avoid his injunctions as long as possible. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and massaged anti-aging cream into my skin. I inspected my reflected, mirror face for wrinkles. Why was I not surprised at the annoying snap of the mirror cracking?

His face overlaid mine in the mirror. He was such a hard ass. Why wouldn’t he leave me alone? I clawed at my own face as if I could peel his face away from mine. He was wrecking my shape and complexion. His jaw was wide, his nose large and nostrils flared; his hair was a wild mass of dark curls. My own pale face with narrow jaw and delicate cheekbones was lost behind his visage–I was hidden. Momentarily he moved to the side, and our faces were side by side. Despite our differences, we both wore stubbornly set grimaces.

He hovered his face over mine again, and I swatted at him. He sidestepped, pulled his face behind mine, then forward, then back. His face spun around mine, over mine, until I couldn’t take it any longer. He knew this. He knew this moment would come. I bashed the already cracked mirror with my fist; I bashed it again and again until it was a splintered mess, the pieces sagging toward the sink.

I turned and fled. I slammed the front door open and shut without stopping for a jacket. With his force inside me, I catapulted into the chilly night air and pelted down one street and then another. I ran and ran, my lungs like ice, my legs aching, my feet in my pinched office flats cramping and straining. I tossed off the shoes and only had a fleeting thought of wasting yet another pair. Since the Dictator had taken over, I’d shopped for the cheap Payless variety.

Shoes didn’t matter, anyway. Nothing mattered but my Caesar’s directives. Somewhere out there, there was a child in mortal danger, and nobody could save this child but me.

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A Foray Into Archetypes

I had started a series on archetypes some time ago, but with my attention shifting every hour or so lately, I never finished it. However, I finished a book last night that had my spot-that-archetype adrenaline going. The book is called Dead Vault, and its author is Daniel Eness. Eness is a somewhat obscure author, who does no marketing, but publishes book after book after book. I find this a curious work pattern and wonder how it’s working out for him. While I could have simply asked him, my curiosity couldn’t be sated without actually reading one of his books. Being forthright is, apparently, for outside-the-computer people, and not internet identities. In Dead Vault, the protagonist, Arc, makes light of his carefully constructed obscurity–although I’m not interested in connecting this character with the author, it seems the author, too, has a carefully-constructed obscurity. Don’t worry; my blog will hardly be the place where the obscurity is broken. I opted to purchase Dead Vault because it’s a recent publication. I didn’t bother with the description, just clicked to buy and opened on the Kindle.

What I read turned out to be the kind of horror/gothic novel that other, less obscure authors are attempting to write and not quite reaching. Eness’s archetypes are spot on, from the wise old woman, to the dead “divine child”, to the ambiguous shadow character. Of course, there’s an anima, as well, and she’s perfectly done. She’s a young woman from Iceland with an elfin appearance. She doesn’t play the hero, rescuing Arc from his shadow. Rather, she’s helpful and encouraging, allowing Arc to solve his own problems. In this case, the problem is an elderly woman, a teacher Arc deeply reveres from childhood, who has gone missing. Yes, although I discuss archetypes in books, I don’t mean to imply a lack of plot. But the plot takes the character on a psychological journey as well as a physical journey. For example, when Arc must go underground (there is, in fact, a vault), he enters one layer of subterranean territory, and then delves to a lower level. In one, he discovers the dead child; in a deeper level, he meets the wise old woman (I’m intentionally being vague to avoid spoilers). When he returns to the aboveground world, he goes through two “birthing” processes, in which he must crawl out of tight spaces.

This book works because the author is smart. He holds back from explaining the evil. He allows for ambiguity. In short, the author is an artist, and authors of the gothic must rise to that level. Otherwise, the evil becomes banal–usually explained away as a schizophrenic, misunderstood criminal who was traumatized in childhood. Eness’s restraint is exemplary and the book, therefore, has the desired emotional impact, as well as necessary believability. As for emotional impact, in one of the “birthing” scenes, Arc is wedged very tightly in a cave. As a spelunker in my youth, this scene physically recalled old claustrophobic fears and made my toes curls. On a psychological level, though, it made me panic, even brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes, I feel trapped, as if I can’t transition into a new life phase, as if I can’t free myself from the tight space where I’m currently wedged.

If I had to rate this short book by level of connection, I would give it five stars. Nevertheless, it suffers from a lack of overall editing, and for that I would give it three stars. Aside from the typos, there are a number of awkward phrases. An epilogue is a good way to wrap up some of the details, but, in this case, it needs to be shorter. The emotional impact is greatest at the natural end, and drawing it out too long destroys this. What any author of deeper fiction wants is the reader to feel immobilized by his work, at least for a few moments. This book almost had me at that level, until the epilogue destroyed it. Blend the good with the bad, and I give this book four stars.

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