Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Out of the Fray

I spent the last week at war.

In the wee hours, late last week, I awoke to email alerts regarding my personal Facebook account. It had been disabled.

My first thought was that one of my more political posts had rubbed someone the wrong way and they’d reported me, but as I investigated, I learned that, no, someone had gained access to my account and had done something that violated Community Standards.

I’d been hacked.

I tried to recover control, but Facebook’s algorithms denied me and summarily deactivated my account. This also deactivated the “author” page I ran on Facebook, where I echo posts from here. As far as Facebook was concerned, I was a non-entity. Continue Reading »

Noah’s Take

When Jon Stewart announced his retirement from “The Daily Show,” I was very disappointed. Jon’s penchant for incisive and relevant analysis wrapped in wit and snark would be a hard mantle to take on. When he announced that Trevor Noah would take the helm in his stead, I was downright unhappy. Noah (I felt) was too young, too green, to fill that spot. The show would founder with this “kid” at the helm.

Noah quickly proved my preconceptions to be unfounded. Though he did bring a more youthful spirit to the show, he also brought a depth of understanding and a global sense of humanity that, albeit different than Stewart’s style and substance, was also an enhancement in many ways. Since those first years, Noah has only improved, and has emerged (in my opinion, at any rate) as a clear-minded observer of American society who is well worth listening to.

That said, when someone suggested I should read his autobiography, I again returned to my prejudice. “Autobiography? He’s just a kid! What could he possibly have to say?”

Silly, silly me.

Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born a Crime, focuses on his childhood, growing up in South Africa, dealing with apartheid and the effects of that heinous system’s downfall. Told with humor and candor, he shows us, through his experiences, what apartheid intended, what it accomplished, and what it left behind.

Most of us who remember a world with apartheid know that it was definitely a bad thing, a truly evil social construct designed to subjugate a majority population by a tyrannical minority. Likewise, we remember the boycotts, the riots, and the eventual jubilation when that social system was finally dismantled and cast onto the ash-heap. Like Nazism, apartheid was racial and ethnic hatred codified into law on a national level, and we do well to hold them both in similar regard.

But what did I really know about living under it? What did I really know about apartheid’s mechanisms of pressure, or about the myriad tiny rebellions performed by regular folk (of all colors) who lived there?

Nothing, really. Really. Nothing.

This book helped me with that, from Noah’s tales of his mother’s religiosity and recklessness, his father’s legally enforced distance, and the complicated interactions of the government’s often arbitrary assignments of racial class. Through these, Noah illuminates both the absurdity of the system itself and the lasting damage apartheid left in its wake.

More importantly, though, is that in this book, in its stories of an openly and unabashedly racist society, we can see magnified versions of what is currently convulsing America. Our government, our institutions, our law enforcement, and more all carry elements of what was writ large in South Africa’s apartheid, and when you see what the end-state was under that regime, it’s not difficult to see America’s slavery and Jim Crow laws nestled comfortably within it.

However—and I fear I’ve buried the lede here—this book is not a heavy treatise or polemic. Rather, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read filled with unique characters, passion, rebellion, high-jinks, bittersweet romance, danger, growth, wit, and pranks, all told by a self-described “naughty rascal” who, because he really didn’t fit into any of apartheid’s established classes, was able to flit between them, being part of all and part of none, simultaneously insider and outsider both.

Trevor Noah is young, by my benchmarks, but he is not green, and he has a lot to say. I, for one, look forward to reading about the next chapters of his life, and expect I will learn as much about him, about the world, about America, and about myself, as I did with Born a Crime.

k

It’s been a tough week for us all, one way or another, and one reason is that it is now obvious that all this . . . [gestures to everything] . . . is not going to end any time soon. In addition, I took my own advice and spent much of the week listening and learning from diverse voices. I’ve been rethinking and reevaluating many long-standing notions of society and America. You might have been doing likewise, and like me, you may have found it both depressing and exhausting.

But this post isn’t about any of that.

This post is about how I’ve been taking a moment here and there to brighten these dark days with a really, really bad book.

After sharing what I previously described as “the worst piece of professionally published fiction I have ever read,” a friend loaned me a book he felt was even worse.

And boy-oh-boy was he right.

It’s a self-published work, so my stance on “Man-Gods From Beyond the Stars” remains unchanged, but while “self-published” is by no means a synonym for “crap,”—I’ve self-published a few works, myself—there is a lot of the latter contained within the former. A whole lot.

And this book, well, it is utter crap.

And it is also absolutely adorable.

Seriously, it’s just adorable. From the mistake in the dedication straight through to the formatting error on the last line, it is chock-a-block with typos, malaprops, misused homophones, and errors of grammar and punctuation. Stylistically, it’s a hot mess. Unwieldy character names abound, used in every line of dialogue and the attached, adverbially enhanced avoidance of the word “said” (e.g., “Not to worry, Gondranth. I’m a trained professional,” stated Ik’nolt greedily). It has (dis)continuity issues that make you flinch and wonder if you’ve just had a minor stroke. And there is So. Much. Telling.

But here’s the thing: it’s just so earnest, so fervent, and so . . . enthusiastic . . . that it’s impossible not to cock your head to the side and say, “Awwww, how sweet.”

I won’t mention the author or title or even the genre here, because my point is not to humiliate the pen that created this trashy treasure. This book is an obvious labor of love, a gift to friends and family, and the author isn’t trying to be famous or “strike it rich” as a bestselling novelist, and isn’t complaining about the heartlessness of the publishing industry. This author just wanted to write a book, an homage to their favorite genre, and share it with others, and I will not make them feel bad about that.

I haven’t, and I won’t read the book in its entirety—frankly, I’m not sure that’s possible—but when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by [again, gestures to everything], I will pick it up, open it to a random page, and chuckle at such fervid prose so inexpertly crafted.

We should all be that passionate about something. I’m glad this author found their dream and congratulate them on achieving the goal.

k

I grew up in the ’60s, in a very middle-class, very white enclave in Marin County, California. And I mean very white. Exceedingly white. Like, “I can count on one hand the number of black kids in my senior class and still have my thumb available to hitch a ride”, white. Everywhere I looked it was white, white, white.

My folks, bless ’em, were were what today we’d call “allies” in the Civil Rights movement. They worked phone banks, volunteered at organizations, and such. They tried to counter the incredible whiteness of our community and educate my siblings and me about the broader world. They socialized with black families, all us kids playing together. They talked to us about race issues. They tried to instill in us a sense of “color-blindness,” so we wouldn’t treat people of color differently than we would white folks. Seeing everyone as an equal, as a default, that was their goal.

I believe they were successful in that. All of us, my siblings and I, have endeavored to treat all people equally, and to disregard race, religion, disability, gender, orientation, or anything other than “the content of their character” when dealing with other people.

But it isn’t enough. Continue Reading »

It’s been a rubbish couple of days, forming what I hope is the nadir of my week off work (but still in Q, so the baseline is pretty low to start with). I’ve tried my usual chirrup-y modes—working in the garden, trying a new game, binge-watching a good show—and none of it has been able to dent my foul, black mood.

But . . .

I’m not going to bother y’all with that. Chances are, you’re dealing with something similar or, more likely, something more difficult than what I’m going through, so instead, I’m going to step into my WayBack machine and attempt to capture a day when something went really poorly and yet I felt great. Continue Reading »

Back in January, we received a small monetary bonus, so I decided, Hey, what the hell, I’m gonna try one of these new-fangled VR gaming headsets.

Being a wearer of spectacles, though, I had concerns. There was a chance they simply wouldn’t work for me, so I tried one at the mall, watched YouTube videos, read many reviews, browsed the forums, and carefully parsed return policies. Weighing pros and cons, I made a decision and bought one. It was on backorder, but I wasn’t in a hurry.

That was in January.

Then the world fell down, and I forgot all about it. Continue Reading »

As a youth, I was not “into” comic books. The reason for this was two-fold.

First, the nearest store that had a rack of comic books was a two-mile walk from my house. Now, a two-mile walk wasn’t unusual for me—I spent all summer and many school-day afternoons with friends up in the hills, trekking miles from our suburban homes—and a gaggle of us would frequently walk or ride our bikes down to that store, but once there, the primary reason came into play: as a kid, I was never given an allowance. Continue Reading »

%d bloggers like this: