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As I mentioned a while ago, my mind is once again calm enough to allow me the enjoyment of reading fiction. In fact, I’ve read four novels in the past few weeks, which is about three more than I read in all of 2019.

Seriously. It was that bad.

The first books had been in my TBR pile for a while, but this latest one was a recent arrival, and it was a serious break from the “literary” works I’ve been reading. Written by Tim Lebbon, Generations is not only science fiction, but (gasp!) a television “tie-in” novel, the fourth novel set in the Firefly ‘verse.

The previous titles in this series, all written by a different author, were (to put it mildly) a tremendous disappointment. I reviewed the first two (here and here), but frankly, I didn’t see the point in bothering you with a review of the third one, so I read it and tossed it aside.

Seriously, they were that bad. (more…)

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In my house there are four boxes.

Four special boxes.

First, there is the God Box, a small cardboard box covered with embossed white paper. It contains the prayers my step-mother wrote to her deity during the last years of her life. It’s a difficult box to visit.

Then there is the Poem Box. It’s flat, the size of a billfold, and it contains the poems my father wrote after my stepmother died. It, too, is a difficult box, filled with despair and dark thoughts written in days’ early hours as he precessed from a broken future toward his own demise.

Recently, I received an incongruous box. A wooden half-moon with a clasp, japanned and decorated with 19th century-style chrysanthemums, it fits easily in two hands. It is from the estate of my recently deceased brother, and while it is totally not like him in style, its contents—pipes, Malian artifacts, a bracelet of broken silver—most definitely are. But, like the other boxes, visiting this one is also a sad journey.

The fourth box, though, is different. (more…)

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As I write this, we are all caught in this liminal condition, this “state between states,” as votes that have been cast continue to be counted. Regardless of which campaign is eventually judged the winner, though, there is a clear loser: America.

(more…)

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Today, I married my sister.

I’ve been to many weddings, a good few more than you, I’d wager. As a musician, I’ve been to scores, suffering through endless repetitions of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. As a groomsman, I’ve been to a handful, often a bit green in the gills, sweating vodka and swaying with my fellows in a shared hangover that hung around us like a fog. As a guest, there have been at least a dozen, some where I just sat and enjoyed the spectacle of hope, and others where I read remarks, made a toast, or simply helped with setup and tear-down. My sister and I were in a wedding before—my first—with me as groom and her as bridesmaid. (more…)

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For most of my life, if I was awake, I had a book in my hand.

Riding the bus, walking to school, in the quad between classes, lounging at home, I’d have a book open, thumb in the crease, my nose buried in its leaves. Novels, anthologies, treatises, memoirs, history, science, poetry.

Anything.

Everything.

I read it.

Then, about a dozen years ago, life went off the rails. Book deals dried up. Friends and family began to die (at least ten during this period). We fostered a young woman, giving her a place to live for a year. Work became a stress factory. The economy tanked, causing the Great Recession. Then along came Trump. And then this pandemic.

In response, my reading habits changed, radically. They became constrained, limited to news articles, political analyses, and works of non-fiction. Instead of a dog-eared book, I carried my tablet with its instant-on, 24×7 access to current events and a front-row seat to our increasingly divided society.

Even so, every now and again, I would return to my fiction books, the stacks of TBR novels that inhabit every room in this house. I tried, repeatedly, to read one of them, hungry for that immersive experience, that miraculous wash of words that would sweep away reality and bathe me in the light of a different sun.

But the miracle never came. I didn’t have the patience, lacked the power to focus., and was unable to drive away the here-and-now with worlds of what-if. Book after book I picked up, opened, began, and abandoned within a few days, the only evidence of my attempt, a bookmark left somewhere in the first thirty pages.

With all this as preamble, one might wonder why, during my recent time off, I decided yet again to pick up a novel and give it a try. I mean, there I was in the last month of the most turbulent election cycle of my sixty-plus years, with a pandemic raging beyond my door, a daily gush of political scandals and turmoil filling the airwaves, and everywhere people shouting and crying and grieving and protesting. Was it hope? Obstinacy? Desperation? Whatever compelled me, it was in this moment, amid this maelstrom of chaos, that I chose to try again, and opened up a 150-year-old book.

And I read it. Cover to cover, in record time.

And then . . . I picked up another book, and read it, too.

And now, here I am, wondering what to read next.

. . .

Do yourself a favor.

Turn off the television. Put down the phone. Leave the tablet in the other room.

Pick up a book. A real book. The one you’ve been meaning to read for so long.

Take a seat near the window, where the natural light will be over your shoulder. Settle in, book in hand.

Open it up. Stick your nose in it. Smell it. Feel the pebbled surface of the printed page, the tension of the spine.

Chapter One.

Read. 

I tell you, it’s like coming home.

k

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This damnable year has taught me two things, the most recent of which is.:

  • Vote shaming does not work.

A few times, now, I’ve attempted to convince non- and third-party-voters to cast a meaningful vote in this year’s election. In those posts, I have avoided anything that might be construed as bullying or “shaming.” I haven’t cast aspersions or indulged in ad hominem attacks. I haven’t in any way implied that Americans don’t have the right to disenfranchise themselves.

In discussions, I’ve striven to be firm but not belligerent, hoping persuasion would prove more effective than incivility. I’ve expressed my sincere understanding for each person’s reasons for eschewing both Dems and GOP, but have simultaneously pointed out that there are more important aspects at stake here than just one voter’s preference (or lack thereof) for a particular candidate. I’ve stressed that unity is our strength, and that e pluribus unum is even more true today, in our diverse and multicultural society, than it was in the much more homogenous 1776. I’ve argued that how we vote in this election will affect many people beyond ourselves.

And still, I’ve been accused of bullying and shaming. I’ve been told I have no right to judge. I’ve been unfriended, disinvited, and (I suspect) blocked.

Well, since my last post here on the topic, our current POTUS has moved to replace a liberal icon of the SCOTUS with an arch-conservative, has laid the groundwork for nationwide voter intimidation and nullification, and has found it impossible to utter the simple phrase, “I denounce white supremacy in all its forms.”

Despite this, I still refuse to engage in public shaming of those who have chosen to sit this one out and/or vote for a non-viable candidate.

That does not mean I won’t try to convince them, though.

Because this isn’t about me or about being “right.”

It isn’t about me. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about any one of us.

It’s about all of us.

It’s about my friend’s kid, who’s struggling with their gender identity and fears violence perpetrated by emboldened bigots. It’s about my neighbor whose furlough just turned into a layoff, and who’s worried that the ACA won’t be there for him and his family. It’s about my LGBTQ friends who are fearful of what the new SCOTUS will do (or undo) regarding their marriage. It’s about my friends up and down the West Coast, suffering under smoke and evacuation orders, and those on the East Coast buffeted by one hurricane after another. It’s about the parents I know, worried sick about their kids going to school during a pandemic, worried about when and if life will ever return to something reminiscent of what it was like just a year ago.

We all know friends in similar situations, fellow citizens who are negatively affected by this administration’s actions (or inactions). And we all know this election is a turning point. We can all see the two paths that lie ahead, clearly and starkly delineated. The difference before us is impossible to deny: two paths, two futures.

But which future? Which path?

This election decides, and it is our civic duty, our responsibility as citizens, to take it seriously. Sitting it out or voting for a candidate with zero chance of winning is a total abdication of that responsibility. It does not move the needle. It does not have an effect. It does not make a difference. And, judging from the strident, sometimes vitriolic, often knee-jerk responses I’ve received from third-party acolytes and non-voters, they know it, too.

But here’s the other lesson I’ve learned from 2020:

  • Things can always get worse.

And if we do not join together to fight the obvious threat, things will get worse.

Our nation, our democracy, our institutions, and our norms, need you.

k

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SQL for SCOTUS*

SELECT
     Intelligence,
     Knowledge_of_Law,
     Dignity,
     Determination AS GRIT,
     Strength      AS RESOLVE,
     Empathy,
     Insight
FROM
     SCOTUS_Requirements
INNER JOIN
     Virtues
LEFT JOIN
     Womens_Rights
LEFT JOIN
     Equal_Treatment
WHERE
    Moniker  = 'Notorious'
AND Initials = 'RGB';

 

 

 


*Yes, yes, I know this isn’t strict SQL.
Poetic license and all.

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