RIP Stan Lee

Many people have said all the things about this guy, better than I could. But there’s one aspect to Stan I haven’t seen mentioned explicitly yet, and want to get my take out there.

What always amazed me about Stan was how many amazing, sympathetic characters he created in collaboration with other creatives. I often think about how many more of his creations I identify with than other worldbuilders. (Even more than Le Guin, and that is really saying something.) I mean, sure, when I was very young and watching superhero media, I loved Wonder Woman more than any other icon. But she was aspirational. I actually identified more with the Hulk, because the Hulk was always messing things up for Bruce Banner, even though Banner tried really hard to keep things together.

Yeah. As a kid, that really hit home.

Jean Grey/Phoenix and Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch were similar. I identified with them because even though they had a lot more power than nearly anyone else, they also didn’t have the best control of it. Shit could blow up, sometimes despite their best efforts. As a kid with poor hand-eye coordination and not great fine motor control, in a family who had both in spades, that was kind of a balm. Knowing that sometimes, even people who are super can fuck things up.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brought these characters (and more) to me, and gave me a context to understand myself in a different way. Kirby was gone before I really had gotten my arms around my fandom, but Lee? I got to see him as separate from the comics, and for that I’m grateful.

Thanks for everything, Stan.

The Length and Depth of Grief

One of the (many) things that annoys me about how we teach children about life is how rarely we talk to them about the different ways in which grief, as in you’ve lost someone grief, represents in different people. We don’t talk about how to deal with it and how to help others with it.

This has become a tough time of the year for me because Oct 26th is not only the day I finally realized I had to let Amelia go. It’s also the birthday of a beloved relative who is sorely missed. It’s additionally the birthday of someone I knew in college who passed almost 10 yrs ago, and while I don’t grieve him, many of my dearest college friends do.

So yeah, my brain plays tricks on me as we come up on this day, and I don’t really have good ways to deal with those tricks. Like making me forget about the date and then dumping something on me like the dream I had two days ago, in which I “discovered” I had forgotten Amelia for months underneath a bed in my parents’ house, but she was still alive. Just typing that sentence out brings back the horror and despair I felt in the dream. (I’ll spare folk any further description.) Or like when I’m having a particular beer and I think “Oh I should text Nicole and J— oh no.”

It feels WEIRD to say “I’m crying because in my dream however long ago I was a terrible companion to an animal who’s been dead for four years.” Or to explain to whomever I’m with at the bar “No, it’s nothing you said, I just thought….”  There’s no good scientific framework for it, either – I look up shit like this study and so far, nothing offers more clarity.

On the other side of it, I don’t have good things to say to my wonderful friends. “I’m sorry for your loss?” Well, I KNEW him, so that comes across as insincere. Offering support and presence? I am most emphatically NOT the person they want to go to if they want to talk about him. And if someone were to say either of those things to me concerning Amelia, I would honestly feel like a fool. There’s only one person – besides Jon – who could offer that to me and have that feel like a support.

But I’m me. And other people are different. The length and depth of their individual grief does not show up like mine. The differences are as varied as each of our specific relationships.

Because there is no way to know, all we have are stock responses to offer each other, and self-dismissive ways to deal with that moment when we’re plunged, unexpectedly, into the crevasse the loved one’s absence has created.

If you are grieving alone because of poor responses from others or, hell, if you’re simply trying to be a brave face? Please know some folks understand how long it can take, and that you never truly get over it.

RIP Ursula K. Le Guin

I’m shaken. Tearing up. I thought she had more time.

Thank you, wonderful soul, for Arha/Tenar:

“A dark hand had let go its lifelong hold upon her heart. But she did not feel joy, as she had in the mountains. She put her head down in her arms and cried, and her cheeks were salt and wet. She cried for the waste of her years in bondage to a useless evil. She wept in pain, because she was free.”

Thank you, wonderful soul, for Therru/Tehanu:

“I think,” Tehanu said in her soft, strange voice, “that I when I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn’t do. All that I might have been and couldn’t be. All the choices I didn’t make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven’t been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I lived, the breath I breathed.”

I will miss the books you never wrote.

The Person Who Made “Rebel Princess” A Thing

Black and white photo of Carrie Fisher, with wide smile and long unbound brunette hair, in snowy Norway, wearing a winter jacket and wooly knitted gloves

(B&W photo of Fisher in winter jacket and wool gloves, hands clasped in front of her and a wide smile on her face, hair unbound. CC License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Tom Simpson/randar on Flickr)

 

I’ll be honest:

I’ve known for a long time I loved Carrie Fisher, but I didn’t know I LOOOVED Carrie Fisher.

I remember being all about Luke when, at the tender age of 7, I first saw “Star Wars” (what is now referred to as A New Hope). It wasn’t so much about him being called the hero – I loved the goofy, awkward farm boy becoming important, becoming someone who was needed by the world. In contrast, Leia starts off the movie already royalty, already in a position of power, and already incredibly self-possessed (and able to withstand torture) at the age of 19.

I envied her. But I didn’t identify with her. I was clutzy, boyish, whiny, and I couldn’t rescue myself out of the nightmare I was living at the time. She was a princess, AND she was a rebel, AND she rescued herself (twice!) AND she led a group of righteous fighters against what was arguably the biggest threat in their universe.

I didn’t feel I even had the right to identify with her. I couldn’t even identify with Disney princesses who never rebelled – how could I identify with a military leader?

Then, in Blues Brothers, she was an ex-girlfriend who dared to hunt down the man who betrayed her and literally blow shit up to get him out of her head. That brought her much closer to the type of person I thought I was. Strange? Sure, but I was a pretty angry kid, and this was something I understood.

I remember Under the Rainbow being simultaneously strange and forgettable. I remember her small role in Hannah and her Sisters being dwarfed by the fact that the movie seemed almost tailor-made for me, during a time when I had a furious hate-on for Woody Allen.

Then, I adored her writing for a few years. Postcards from the Edge hit a soft spot I have, and while I have not had the book for a number of years, I remember at the time reading it more clandestinely than I ever did for Judy Blume’s Forever.

A few years later I remember loving her role in When Harry Met Sally with unreserved glee – going from “You’re right, you’re right,” the immediate chemistry between Marie and Jess, and the “Tell me I’ll never have to be out there again.” But I did notice she seemed to have aged a decade in those few years.

And then, to my media-glazed eyes, it seemed like she disappeared from the major movie scene. I didn’t recognize her in Soapdish, Scream 3 and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and I was shocked at how she looked during her brief turn in Wonderland. I also somehow missed her many more memoirs. I’m not sure how, but somehow I was oblivious to the fact that she was writing tons.

Therefore, when I saw the poster for the show of Wishful Drinking, I was happily surprised. Ooh! She’s still there! The sense of unrepentant honesty, the originality, the ability to open her life and heart for others was a delight, and while I only read snippets in passing, I was always impressed by her ability to do that while her family was still living.

Again, I envied her. And still didn’t feel like I had a right to identify with her.

Once the new movies were announced and her participation was guaranteed, it was with great delight I watched her take her royal ass and rebel against Hollywood the way she did. Of course, she has been doing it all along, but being back in the Star Wars spotlight really put her power into focus:

Being a rebel princess isn’t just about fighting fascism. It’s about fighting for what is right and being able to be your own, whole self.

I envied her, as always. But I also empathized with the amount of struggle and pain it all came with.

That struggle and pain, finally, was what I identified with.

Side note: What’s interesting is that between 1995 and 2005 I was also having a LOT of rebellion dreams. Being a participant in a rebellion, fighting helmeted jackboots, being a leader in a military organization, being depended upon for crucial intelligence. While some of the dreams were tough, most of them were amazing to experience.

Until today, I never realized it’s because of her I could even have those dreams. I may not have ever identified with her, but somewhere in me she planted the seed –

You can be a rebel and a princess. It might mean something different for me and for you than it did for her, but the two things can live together.

Love you, Ms. Fisher.

No Title Can Convey the Grief

What a horrible week.

CW: Dallas, rage, etc.

<3

.

5 officers dead in Dallas. 7 more wounded. This is the worst loss for law enforcement since 9/11.

I don’t know all their names yet, so I can’t speak them.

But I can say that while I understand the rage of Mr. Micah Johnson, Army veteran (and honestly white folks I know you do too, even if you pretend not to), that does not excuse his actions. The same way nothing excuses the actions of the officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (and Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and TOO many beautiful human beings taken from us).

It’s even more devastating when I read that the people who were protesting – POC who are members of protest groups like Mothers Against Police Brutality – report that the Dallas police force were working hard to regain the trust of the black community there. That the police were being good to the protestors.

… yeah, I got nothing. I’m off to cry for a good long time.

Why the FUCK Does This Keep Happening? What is WRONG With Us, White People?

CW: Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, police brutality, really seriously gross murder details, talking about white people (and acknowledging I’m one)

<3

Are you ready? *deep breath, squares shoulders*

.

So I didn’t read or see any details about Mr. Sterling until after 3-something pm my time yesterday, because I fucked up something at work and was paying attention to fixing that fuckup.

(Side note: What LUXURY that is. That’s privilege, folks. That someone can be brutally murdered within a certain community and no one is texting me to cry about it, no one is sending me DMs to express their pain and outrage… I could easily have made it through the entire day without more than a cursory awareness of what occurred.)

And then I saw it. The photos were bad enough, but the videos? Father of five. Looking at the cops with complete incomprehension on his face. Thrown across a car and onto the asphalt by these cops, one of whom knelt on his neck and screamed in his face before taking out his gun and pressing it against him.

I fought not to throw up, even before I heard the shots.

I can hear the coming justifications now – criminal, selling illegally, he had a gun, he didn’t get on the ground freaking fast enough, he fought. According to the convenience store owner, Mr. Sterling didn’t do a damn thing wrong before the cops started yelling. And I defy ANYONE who isn’t a martial arts expert to not struggle when someone is kneeling on your NECK.

Anil Dash spoke truth to ignorance here:

It’s nothing more than white supremacy to think that somehow, this man on the street, someone respected by the people around him for *pulling himself up* after his criminal past, is more deserving of this treatment than Travis Kalanick, who comes from solid upper middle class roots, who has disclaimed any and all responsibility for the assaults that have been perpetrated by his employees (consultants or no) while breaking multiple laws in his effort to “disrupt” the industry.

And then this morning.  HOLY CRAP. I can’t EVEN fathom what the fuck happened there.

HE WAS IN THE CAR. He was INFORMING THE OFFICER HE HAD A CONCEAL AND CARRY PERMIT.

And bam.

This officer freaked the hell out because a law-abiding black man had a gun, because the ONLY thing he could imagine, after asking a man for his license and registration, was that he was going for that gun. I simply cannot FATHOM that there was any reasonable, logical reason for an officer to then shoot this man in front of his girlfriend and a 4 year old who was sitting in the back seat.

WHY ARE WE SO AFRAID? White people, WHY? Black people are NOT perpetrating violent crimes against us at ANY rate half as close as we perpetrate on ourselves. (Yeah, you talk about black on black crime – lemme talk about white on white crime sometime. Psh.) And yknow, we even might deserve what we’re actually afraid of, but it *isn’t happening* and we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and why this gut-level reaction is happening.

Because these are people. And they’re good people. And it is completely insufficient to say that they’re one-off reactions because we KNOW that isn’t true. Good people are being murdered – yes, murdered – and we are writing it off.

Stop looking at what you yourself would do (or think you would do) to people of color, white people. Start looking at what far too many specific assholes do publicly, and then recognize that for everyone who does something publicly, there are *five more* who will do something horrible to a POC’s face that we never see, and then look at what those numbers look like as a statistic about us.

Stop defending yourself. Start defending LIVES.

Because anyone who dares say All Lives Matter? I dare you to start ACTING like it.

OK, Now I’m Pissed Off

CW: Ranting about responses to the Orlando tragedy.

You’re warned. <3 <3

*sigh* Y’know, I was horrified yet numb, before.

I was churning inside but I was calm on the surface, before.

But days of seeing all the media, and the content of that media, has set me off.

And so I pass along a wholehearted FUCK YOU to the wide range of assholes out there, inadvertent or otherwise.

Fuck you to ANYONE who tries to say this isn’t a hate crime against the LGBT community. It is. It’s a direct attack against my beloved community. If a foreign terrorist organization REALLY wanted to strike fear into the hearts of all Americans, they would NOT specifically hit a subculture that is among the most reviled in the country. Fucking stop already with that minimizing bullshit.

Fuck you to those awful people on social media saying explicitly that this isn’t so bad because the victims were gay. Fucking stop already and grow a fucking heart.

Fuck you, Mr. Trump, for turning this tragedy into Twitter fuel for your disgusting Islamophobic campaign. You should have fucking stopped ages ago.

Fuck you, the vast majority of American Republican lawmakers, for being too chickenshit to include anything about the victims being LGBT in your chickenshit “prayers.” If you were truly devout you’d love all your siblings on this earth. So fucking stop already – we see through it.

Fuck you, Marco Rubio, for being the one Republican who mentioned sexual orientation in your “sympathies”… and making it a “We stand by Americans even if you’re gay” qualification. Fucking STOP already.

And this isn’t as bad, but still: Fuck you to those of you who think that it can ONLY be a hate crime or ONLY be an act of terrorism, and not both. It is time to start treating mass attacks on people who are covered by hate crime legislation as terrorism. Because that’s most often what it is – according to the definition as laid out by the US Code of Federal Regulations, terrorism is “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (emphasis mine.) That shooter meant to frighten gay people back into the closet, which is both a political and a social objective. Fuck off if you can’t understand this.

Fuck you, to everyone in Congress who voted against the Maloney Amendment, making it STILL okay to for federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees, despite President Obama’s executive order. Great thing to have as part of your fucking “prayers.”

Even fuck you, Bernie Sanders! Dammit, even though I’ve loved you, fuck you for saying initially “we do not know whether this was an act of terrorism, a terrible hate crime against gay people or the act of a very sick person.” You are supposed to be the politician with insight and vision. Why couldn’t you see it was going to be all three? Why are you falling into the same trap everyone else is?

….

And now I’m off to cry.