Why I’m going to see Ender’s Game

July 9th, 2013

First, it seems important to say it out loud what’s true: I’m gay and Orson Scott Card is a homophobe. He and I are both on record with sufficient information to back this up, so I don’t have any reason to clarify that further here.  The other fact is that I plan to see Ender’s Game (the upcoming movie), despite the fact that my attendance will directly support the income of a guy who thinks I’m a genetic aberration. Yep, that’s all true and while I am mildly conflicted about this, it’s not enough to keep me out of the theater.

Artists, Art and the Audience

I believe that art exists in two realities…that of the artist who created it and that of the audience who consumes it. I don’t believe that the two perceptions need to match, nor do I think that either the artist or the audience is responsible for the other’s conception of the piece of art.

I’m a writer of poetry and I frequently share that poetry with audiences on a microphone. There are times when someone will speak to me about my work after a performance and some of those times she or he will express a reaction to my work that is completely different than what I intended. To some degree this is in the evolution of the poem will cause me to further edit the piece to see if I can bring my own interpretation forward. But in many cases, I’m fine letting that person’s experience be different than my intention.

Because the audience will always experience the poem (or in Card’s case, the book) through their own experiences, prejudices and preferences. And I believe that – good or bad – what’s created between the audience and the art belongs to the audience, not to the artist.

What I mean by all this is that Ender’s Game moved me in the way that many fantasy and sci-fi books move me. I read the book as an adult, but was easily able to access the memories of a childhood where it often felt like I took on more responsibility than was appropriate for a kid. What I found in Ender, and what I think lots of people found in Ender, was a kid who wanted mostly to be loved by his family, but who, in the extreme circumstances of his life, was required to take a different path.

Specifically, what I remember most from Ender’s Game is how the circumstances and other characters (which is to say, Card’s writing) maneuvered Ender consistently into situations where he found no choice other than to take increasingly aggressive action. He is advanced past his siblings and sent to Battle School, inciting the dangerous anger of his creepy older brother; he is advanced past his peers in Battle School, inciting brutal attacks from other young soldiers. In this latter example, Ender’s only way out of the conflict is to meet the attacks with even greater brutality. That he knows and uses this level of brutality is horribly painful to him and leads eventually to his choice to simply stop participating in Battle School…before he is manipulated and maneuvered back into the thick of it.

Why I Love Fantasy and Sci-Fi and Storytelling in General

I’ve been reading Fantasy and Science Fiction books since I was old enough to read. There is no question in my mind that the characters from these stories were, in many ways, more real to child-Greg than many live people were because I identified so closely with them.

This, of course, is what elevates mediocre art to great art but it’s also a reflection of how the audience will find themselves based on what they’re looking for (and why some stories work for some people and not for others).  I’m willing to be led quite far by a decent storyteller, which is why I’m so disappointed when a writer (or filmmaker) pushes their agenda so hard that it becomes visible through the story. This was my major problem with His Dark Materials (Pullman, 1995). The author is an enthusiastic atheist which is fine, but in the books I felt that he bludgeoned me, his audience, about atheism when it didn’t serve the story. I did go see The Golden Compass (made from the first book of Pullman’s series), but found it as uninspired as I had expected.

Some criticism of Stephanie Myers’ Twilight Saga (2005) has been that she was pushing a no-sex-before-marriage agenda. I read all those books and that agenda didn’t occur to me (remember…I will go a LONG way with a storyteller…I’m not a critical reader in that sense), but I can see in retrospect how that could be true. So the difference I find between Pullman and Myers is that Pullman’s agenda was NOT in service of the story and I believe that Myers’ agenda WAS in service of the story (as wacky as it was). I don’t know enough about either of these authors to know their intent, so the only way I have of making this judgment is through my own reaction to their writing. (I don’t think either is particularly brilliant or particularly dim, but both series, especially Myers’, certainly captured a lot of people’s attention for a time)

All this is to say that in reading Card’s Ender series, I was never aware of an agenda being sold to me. There are those who have – and will – find messages of homoerotism (young battle soldiers running around naked) and accuse Card of being closeted gay. Stranger things have happened. There are those who will find messages of homophobia (wiping out “the buggers”, as in buggery) and that is also possible as a motivation from Card. But for me, the reader, even since knowing that Card thinks I’m a genetic aberration, I don’t get any of those messages.

The soldiers running around naked to me illustrated only that they were children and nakedness just means way less to pre-pubescent children than it does to adults. The “buggers” were way more convincing as large alien insects that are a primal fear among humans, than as some deeply hidden metaphor about anal intercourse. But as I said…I stick faithfully with a storyteller to see what she or he has for me, rather than examine the writing critically. Perhaps it’s a blind spot, but it’s why I read and watch stories.

Speaker For The Dead

In addition to all of that, I have to mention the second book in the Ender series: Speaker For The Dead. This is my favorite book of the series and the one I come back to again and again. In Speaker, Card has his brilliantly conceived characters wrestle with the idea of who gets to be “human” and who is “the other” that must be avoided or annihilated. While this seems like the perfect chance to push an agenda of who gets to live and who has to die, Card instead shows how everyone (the buggers, the piggies, and even a virus) is “people” and that we’re better off for how we work together than for how we try to wipe out people different from us.

As a writer, I’m constitutionally unable to write anything except my own story so I find myself unable to reconcile what Card writes with what he says about gay people. But, with a glimpse into my own view of the advancement of gay rights, I’ve decided that his homophobia may be a blind spot in worldview that otherwise mirrors my own. I also believe that the sexual nuances that get trotted out in gay rights issues often make it hard for some people NOT to get all creeped out. There is Victorian prudery at work here, indicative of greater societal issues around sex than I’m willing to explore here, but the bottom line is that I generally believe that folks are coming around, even if it will take more time than they have available on the planet (which may be the case in Card’s situation).  But my inability to reconcile what he’s written in Speaker with what he’s said about gay people gives me hope.

Because I Love It

But seriously, the real reason I will go see Ender’s Game is that the story moved me and continues to move me. If the film has the same commitment to the story that Card did in the book, then child-Greg will again find solace and connection in a character who must bear the unbearable in a way that is dramatically beyond what I had to bear as a child, but still creates a connection which, just like it’s supposed to do, will make me feel even more connected to the world.

 

 

C25K Day 2

June 28th, 2010

OK, so if half the battle if showing up, I’m definitely a winner today! Wait. That doesn’t make sense because as of this writing, not only did I show up, but I completed day 2!

Structured basically like Day 1…90 seconds walking, 60 seconds running…or something like that, with a 5 minute walk at the beginning and the end for warm-up / cool-down.

This workout totally wins for setting me up for success. I wasn’t really sore after day 1 and here after day 2, I felt like I could have done more but was glad for the slow ramp-up.

Sunny day which was nice, and I went down 9th Ave about 15 blocks before the handy voice told me I was halfway and should turn around.

This was 3 days after day 1…I think day 3 will be in two days (so, Wed).

C25K Day 1

June 25th, 2010

So many folks seem to be having success with this “Couch to 5K” approach to running and I hate to be that guy who constantly seems to be searching for what will work.

Here I am. That guy.

Data points that compel me:
1. “I’m on week 8 and I’ve lost 15 pounds!”
2. In my own dreams I don’t fly; I run. Effortlessly and tirelessly, I run like other people fly: for transportation and some joy.
3. “A year ago I started walking with friends and after this program I’m on my second half marathon.” (do two halves make a whole?)

So I started and it was, it must be said, easy. Walk/run/walk/run/etc. for 31 minutes. Throughout I had some minor knee pain…you know, in that knee that lacks the cushioning benefit of soft tissue? But I’m deciding that it’s due to that knee being asked to step up and fend off infirmity with the rest of the joints.

In an un-related note, I’m also 5 days vegan as of today (if I finish today). Not related except in the global sense of working to find something that works.

Over-analyzing aside I can say: C25K Day 1 is done.

How to be a Personal Trainer for the over 40 set

September 8th, 2009

Just came from the gym. Summer’s ending, time to get focused and working with a trainer keeps me focused. Checkbook in hand, I show up and ask for Gary.

Of course. Of course Gary doesn’t work there anymore, because this particular Gold’s Gym powers through employees like they are ratty towels. First there was John who I liked, so obviously he quit. Then there was Brandon who was so busy watching spandex-clad beauties in the gym that I feared for my safety, then he was fired. So I got sent to Michael, who was amazing and skilled…it’s sad to me that my commitment to working out and my time with Michael didn’t coincide but never mind…he left, too. Then Lyle who was cute as hell, but his attendance was sporadic at best until he just disappeared. Then Steve, who is most memorable because he was my trainer while the gym was being “remodeled” (which amounted to new paint and rubber floors that are now coming up), so Steve and I worked out in the parking lot until Steve was fired. After Steve was Cory which was when it occurred to me that a commitment on my part was more likely to get results, so I saw Cory a lot. Of course, Cory was fired and I was handed to Gary. I got spoiled because Gary was around for a year or so before I arrived just today and was told that he was also gone. Of course.

So I got a dose of ‘tude about my lack of commitment to the gym from another in a long string of Fitness Managers, and I make an appointment with a twenty-something trainer on Thursday. Based solely on my extensive experience with the Personal Training Revolving Door at North Seattle Gold’s Gym, I thought I would jot down some guidelines for personal trainers (*note: I refer to men training men here since that’s my experience, but probably it applies in all gender combinations and some age combinations as well.)

Customer Service – This is basic and I won’t spend much time on it. Remember that your client is also your customer. He can spend his money somewhere else if he isn’t getting what he wants. Piss him off, shame him or hurt him and he will.

Foreign Territory – Despite the fact that you work and play in the gym and likely know each different machine and free weight by it’s given name, your new client doesn’t. Machines seem safe because out-of-shape guys like him are on the machines and also because the machines usually have an instruction card on how to use them. Free weights are scary because all the big buff guys are over there and there are  no instruction cards. Don’t assume that your client knows his way around the equipment or free weights and remember that the gym is a scary place for LOTS of people, so familiarity with the equipment as well as the customs and social expectations will make him feel comfortable.

Lose the ‘tude – The fact that you have beautifully defined lats may be a source of pride and dominance in whatever pack you run in socially, but while you were refining your squat technique your client was getting his degree, or raising his children, or writing poetry, or loving his partner, or some other equally vital life experience. If you have the slightest eye-rolling impulse at hearing that your client doesn’t come to the gym at least 4 times a week I recommend you get really good at hiding that reaction. I also hope that someday you get audited by the IRS and need a pencil-necked geek with a pocket protector to keep your ass out of jail.

20’s and 40’s – I don’t give a crap how many pamphlets you read about bodies beyond their 40’s; assume that until you have one you don’t know a damned thing about them. They do not move or recover like they did in their 20’s and no amount of cajoling, ordering, shaming or gentle encouragement is going to change that. If your client is contorted into a position that makes his face all red and puffy, expect that somewhere in his mind the voice that craves ice cream at inopportune times is asking “Really?! We’re PAYING for this?!” and don’t expect to see him again.

Motivation – Take one fewer nutrition class and one more class on adult learning so you can learn how adults prefer to learn and how they are motivated. Hint: shame is NOT a motivator despite what is apparently taught to middle-school PE teachers and Personal Trainers across America. The more he is asked to do exercises that he cannot complete, the more he will associate the gym with a sense of failure and he will stop coming. Work with him on exercises and workouts that he can easily accomplish in the beginning so he will learn to associate going to the gym with a feeling of success. You’ll be shocked at how willing your client is to work out if he finds that it feeds his confidence as well as his muscles.

Goals – Stop asking what his freaking goals are. You KNOW what his goal is…it’s to get his ass into the freaking gym on a frequency somewhere between never and lifestyle choice. Work with him on techniques to motivate him to COME to the gym. Look around the gym at the number of people in the room compared to the number of people who pay for memberships. Where do you think all those other people are, stuck in traffic? Hell no, they’re at the Cheesecake Factory because it provides instant gratification and you don’t. If your opening line is asking what his goals are he’ll make up some bullshit about flexibility or strength or some such thing because he’s not willing to go all submissive and whimper that he just wants to have some muscles that are visible without benefit of an MRI.

Nutrition – Let go of the fantasy that you’re going to create change in the way he exercises AND the way he eats. Your recommendation (seriously, this is not made up) of boiled chicken breast and broccoli for two meals a day and a protein shake for the third meal of the day is as unreal as the idea that you will EVER understand the power that food has over some people.

No Pain no Gain  If your view is so limited that you can’t conceive that the 43 year old man who hasn’t worked out in 6 months might need a lighter workout than the one you do 4 times a week, you’ll never see him again. He’ll wake up the next day a little stiff  but proud of himself for starting his workout schedule again.  The day after that he won’t be able to lower himself onto the damned toilet seat without a death grip on the window sill because none of his muscles work anymore. A week later when he’s finally able to walk without wincing, the LAST thing he’ll do is want to come back for more abuse. Refer to the previous point about motivation.

For some reason this seems to elude nearly every trainer I’ve worked with and many that I’ve simply viewed from afar. I hate going to the gym.

Random 2008 pictures

December 22nd, 2008

waor-loop-058.jpg My new board…2 falls, 1 poem and still going.

patio-3-sm.jpg The new patio

waor-loop-051.jpg loud mouth

 waor-loop-018.jpg Roller Derby Halloween. We were hot.

 waor-loop-032.jpg New firepit on the new patio

wineandchocsm.jpg Wine and chocolate tasting

 waor-loop-006.jpg Fly fishing the Snohomish River

snow-car.jpg Snowed in

Orcas 08

December 22nd, 2008

img_3821.JPGJan, Jeff, Patty, Jarl, Sue and I hit the island yet again this past summer. We’re so cool.

img_3816.JPG Every night…just like this. Wine in hand.

 img_3822.JPG Every morning, I look THIS pretty

 img_3826.JPG Jarl and Sue

img_1049.JPG Some of us at the WA coast a few years ago

Adventure Based Counseling

December 22nd, 2008

Great hiking to Rachel Lake in the Cascades. Steep hike, but worth it at the end. This is about 2/3 of the way up.

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Trip To The Beach

December 22nd, 2008

Yay for cold weather and oceans! Another great trip to the Sandpiper in Pacific Beach, WA.

random-024.jpg Feet

random-019.jpgDan

random-018.jpgMe, flying a kite

EUMR – Day 5

November 3rd, 2008

Good morning Cannon Beach! Who doesn’t like getting up and seeing the ocean!? Aaaah.  They let me take my breakfast back to my room because the view from the room was MUCH better than from the little dining room.

All along, I had heard that rain was likely to start on Thursday, so here I am Thursday morning on borrowed time. I hate riding in the rain, but was willing to chance it. It’s cloudy this morning, but doesn’t feel rainy, so I’m feeling lucky.

I ride north, to Tillamook (famous for cheese, but I don’t stop at the cheese factory…I have to have some boundaries), then on to Astoria. Fewer beautiful ocean views at this point and those I did see were gray from the clouds.

I cross the Columbia River at Astoria on what (at the time) seems like the highest bridge I’ve ever been on…and I’ve been on a lot of bridges. The Columbia is just crazily huge here…the bridge starts really high, then speeds along closer to the water for what must be a mile or more. Then voila’…I’m in Washington! It feels just like home, but I’m still some ways from home.

Just across the river, I get to Cape Disappointment (I’m not mad…just disappointed) and there is the ubiquitous lighthouse, so I stop. A beach shot as I walk to the lighthouse.

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I took about 5 pictures of the lighthouse, trying to get the light. I did, but it’s not terribly obvious.  So here’s the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

And then it rained. 

Overall, I was really lucky. I got very little rain on me except what fell as I walked back to the bike from the lighthouse, but the roads were VERY wet for more than a hundred miles at that point from Ilwaco, WA to Olympia. From Ilwaco, I rode for what seemed like forever in a flat, river-delta-looking wilderness. I wouldn’t have thought anything like that was in Washington. Here’s the Willapa Wilderness preserve. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

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At this point, it was breezy, I was getting more rain and the roads were wet, wet, wet. So I hunkered down for the next 150 miles or so and just rode to get home. The roads dried out by the time I got on the interstate in Olympia, but I was ready to get home at that point.

Pulled in around 4ish on Thursday afternoon, I think. The Epic Unemployment Motorcycle Ride was fantastic.

EUMR – Day 4

November 3rd, 2008

Waking up in lovely Florence, OR the air freshener they used to clean at the Lighthouse Inn has me nearly gagging, so I head out. I had seen an espresso place on my walk last night, so headed there. The Americano was so good, I stood outside by the Siuslaw River and drank it, then promptly went back in for another. Good start to the day.

Back on the bike, today was all about the Oregon coast. Based on mileage, I should have been to Astoria by lunchtime, but there was MUCH to see. Many stops for pictures and appreciation. Within mere minutes on the road, I came across the World’s Largest Sea Cave which was the home to hundreds of sea lions! Well apparently, like much of central Oregon, the sea lions were out running seal-errands or something because the World’s Largest Sea Cave was pretty deserted. There was one quite seal sleeping in a corner, but it was too dark to photograph. Frankly, it may have been a sack of gravel for all I could tell. But I dutifully took totally dark photos of it (not shared…really, there’s nothing to see). Here’s the sea cave, though. It was pretty neato. I took an elevator down about 200 ft from the parking lot to the cave.

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From the parking lot of the World’s Largest Sea Cave, I got this great look at the Heceta Lighthouse. They say it’s the most photographed lighthouse in the state (country?) which seems a little extreme, but it was a nice lighthouse.

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I didn’t plan a lighthouse theme, but they seem like something that should be photographed on a trip like this, so there are a few more coming. But first…a bridge. I don’t know what bridge this is, but it was cool, so warranted a picture. That bridge is 101 and it had an exit that brought me under the bridge and to a beach. So after taking the picture, I crossed the bridge.

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So at this point it’s pretty much amazing view after amazing view. Great road, not much traffic and beautiful sun and ocean for miles. I stopped for lunch in a town called Yachats (Ya-hats’) which was right where the Yachats River came into the ocean. I took this picture from the table where I had breakfast.

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More great views, some more bridges and some lighthouses I didn’t take pictures of…this was an amazing day or riding. I recommend doing this on a weekday off season, it was SO easy. As the day wore on, it was apparent that I wasn’t going to make Astoria without unpleasant hurrying and I still wanted to stop and see Cannon Beach, which I had heard a lot about, but not ever seen.  So, unemployment be damned, I decided that I would stop in Cannon Beach for the night and furthermore, I would look for a hotel RIGHT on the beach. It seemed important so I went with it.

I stayed at the Stephanie Inn and the sliding glass doors of my room opened right up onto a bit of grass, then sand, then the Pacific. It was worth every penny. Here is the hotel from the beach. My room was on the far left end, on the first floor.

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Here’s the view from my sliding door. Those rocks are Cannon Beach signature rocks, if there is such a thing. They seem to appear in every picture I’ve ever seen…I guess that’s how you tell that it’s Cannon Beach.

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Here’s the rock somewhat closer. I spent a good bit of my time at Cannon Beach walking on the beach and when not doing that, just looking at the water.

Cannon Beach

Brrr….yes, it’s as cold as you probably imagine, but I don’t care. I am one with the Pacific.

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Good night from the Stephanie Inn in Cannon Beach, OR. I can’t wait to come back here and NOT just because of the wine and cheese social in the afternoon, or because of the nightcap social (I had a port) in the evening.

Tomorrow is drive-home day.