My Ideal Bookshelf – Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

So far, the books from my Ideal Bookshelf are books I’ve read multiple times.

The Invasion, twice.

Marvel 1602, lost count.

Lord of the Flies, at least three times, possibly four.

The first time I attempted to read Lord of the Flies, I was in 5th grade and was reading it at my mom’s behest. I don’t really remember much about my impressions the first time reading it. I think it was a bit over my head for a 5th grade reading.

I am pretty sure I read it again, sometime in middle school, but alas, I cannot put my finger on exactly when. Mayhaps, in 8th grade?

My freshman year provided another opportunity to read it, as it was assigned reading along with The Pearl (which made me think I would always loathe Steinbeck, not the case) and Romeo and Juliet (which made me think I would always loathe Shakespeare, also, not the case).  Whether it was my disdain for the other two assigned readings (and how they were presented in class) or my finding Lord of the Flies to be a more mature version of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, I loved it.

A survival story, sans adults, but with a look at how society works and how society thinks.

A Hatchet with constant moose attacks where the good guy doesn’t walk away unscathed and may not even walk away at all.

Kind of like life.

My Ideal Bookshelf – Marvel 1602

Marvel 1602, Neil Gaiman

I’ve always enjoyed comic books and superheroes.

I spent many a childhood weekend morning watching the likes of the X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and others save the world again and again. I had a small stack of random back issues and my sole graphic novel, The Death of Superman, in my adolescent space-then-fishing room and would read and reread them over and over again.

I no longer have any of those back issues, having given them to my mom for various art projects over the years.

Much to the disappointment of others, I did not grow out of my comic book reading. Heck, I spent the weekend Robert Kirkman’s Invincible series, Jason Aaron’s incontinuity Star Wars run, and the wildly fun Greg Pak series, The Totally Awesome Hulk. Let’s just say that the Hoopla app and the Marvel Unlimited app make my little ol’ nerd heart happy.

While I did read a comic book issue here and there, I never considered myself a comic book reader. This shift occurred during the summer before my junior year of high school. On my first trip to New York City, a trip to see musicals and sightsee, one of the tour guides kept telling me about the Batman: Hush story arc. I eventually made my way to Midtown Comics and purchased the first volume and wanting to pick up a souvenir for my brother walked away with the first volume of Ultimate X-Men, an alternate Marvel Universe series, which reintroduced the origin of the X-Men in a modern day setting and bypassed decades of continuity.

Batman: Hush was good, well written by Jeph Loeb and fantastic art by Jim Lee, but I still wasn’t a comic addict, yet. After returning from New York City, I wanted to find the second volume for Hush, and I made my way to a Tulsa comic book shop. It’s there that I found my fix and Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602.

I’d settled in for the long haul of reading the Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man series, but it was not until I found Marvel 1602 that I truly became a comic book reader.

On the bus to a contest speech tournament, I was admonished for reading it and not reviewing my lines, but I couldn’t put it down.

It was a fun and clever.

It was an escape.

Of Flying

As a child

I dreamt I floated away

In a hot air balloon

Sunset hewn clouds passed me by

Until I could not see the ground

 

I floated endlessly

Past other worlds and lifetimes

Beyond everything

Floating into nothingness

 

I wonder why that is the only dream I remember

That and dreaming of flying

And flying

My Ideal Bookshelf – The Invasion

The Invasion (Animorphs, 1), K.A. Applegate

Prior to reading the Animorphs, my series reading consisted of The Hardy Boys and Hank the Cowdog. In 4th grade, I discovered the Animorphs series, much to the dismay of my grade school teacher. Dismay because as an author herself, she loathed that I was reading a book series that was not written by the author, instead by an army of ghost writers.

Years later, I would try to look back and see how far I went into the series, fairly certain it was book #32, The Separation, a storyline where a character in the story is more or less “cloned” after morphing into a starfish. All the plots of the books meld together in my memory, in a similar way that plots of individual comic books begin to be forgotten, only remembering overarching storylines. But in my research into the series, I was surprised to discover that very few books in the series were actually ghost written.

Of the entire series, I have only have ever reread The Invasion, which I reread during my first year of teaching after purchasing a copy at one of the Scholastic warehouse sales. It was just as fun as the first time I read it. Five kids come across a crashed alien spaceship, are given the ability to transform into animals, and find out about an evil plot to take over planet.

I mean, how much fun is that plot?

Young adult literature really seemed to take off once I got to college, following the rise of The Hunger Games and Twilight fandom. But, at the time I was in elementary, middle, and high school the selection of YA was pretty limited. Goosebumps was all the craze, but I never was drawn to the series, having only read Deep Trouble, a teen Jaws knockoff. Animorphs became my obsession, which would eventually lead me to more and more science fiction and fantasy, culminating with my high school reading teacher asking, “What are you trying to escape?”

That question both offended me and struck deeply, staying in the background of my mind nearly every time I picked up a new comic book or finished another fantasy novel. I eventually accepted what I had been trying to escape, and it wasn’t easy. But, by that time, my sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book fandom had been cemented. The Animorphs series was my gateway into the realms of Narnia, Westeros, the Two Rivers, and so much more.

Although, I do wonder if there was something more to my gateway of choice. Was I drawn to this series for its transformation storylines? Or, was it simply a fun comic book-esque series about the triumph of good vs. evil?

My Ideal Bookshelf, An Introduction

It must have been during my second year of teaching that I found the Tumblr, Writing Prompts. It used to be updated all of the time, and I used these prompts from there daily during my time teaching in Oklahoma City. Over the years, the frequency of new prompts added has certainly declined, but what do really expect after posting over eight hundred different writing prompts?

I would scroll through prompt after prompt to save for my classroom’s eventual use. And, although I cannot find the specific Ideal Bookshelf prompt, I am fairly certain it is from the one of the writing prompts on the Tumblr page, and it is one of the writing prompts that stuck with me. From prompts ranging from having to imagine a world without cars and “only horses” to beginning a prompt with the sentence frame, “I wish I could be six again so I could . . .”, it is the Ideal Bookshelf prompt that I routinely think back to, maintain my “shelf”, and update it as needed.  

The Ideal Bookshelf is this. It is a list of the books that have mattered to you. The books that have shaped you as a reader and thinker. They may not be the greatest books ever, but they are the books that have made a difference to you in some way. There’s an amazing website, where artist Jane Mount will paint a picture of the spines of your ideal bookshelf, which is where the Tumblr “borrowed” the idea for its prompt.  

To borrow the beginning of another prompt from the Tumblr, “David Dark says, ‘what we’re reading or listening to, or rather, what we are getting into lately is in some sense the most profound question we can ask each other.’” And, I, to some extent agree, because our interests tell stories.

High School drives with Green Day’s American Idiot used to project my brother from my car so he could free himself from the demonic music.

Childhood hours of playing the PC game, Pharaoh, and coming to terms with the human impact on the planet as the Egyptian city I planned took over the ostrich grazing grounds.

Refusing to yield my Easter gift, The Death of Superman comic book collection, to my older cousin who was horribly displeased with his Tiny Toons book.

  

Each book on my Ideal Bookshelf tells a story.

 

Ideal Bookshelf

https://www.idealbookshelf.com/

Writing Prompts

http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/

On Facebook, Now

Fast forward to now.

Why the return to the realm of social media?

Because in the gap between my last Facebook post with my original profile and the first post with my new profile, I only prowled around on Goodreads, a book rating and tracking social media service.

Why return?

Simple.

Because at the end of January, the 45th president began implementing his attacks on America by pushing forward with his administration’s Muslim ban.

That night as protesters stormed U.S. airports and news pundits stood flabbergasted that the president was trying to deliver on his promise for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.

It was chaos.

And, I cried.

I cried knowing that this was only the beginning, and what made it evens worse was knowing many of my family supported and voted for the 45th president.

This was a policy they, in casting their vote, wanted to see occur.

It was wrong.

And, that night, as chaos reigned across the country, I followed it all with a newly created Twitter account. I could follow it in real-time, no longer waiting for a news website to update a story.

I livestreamed CNN from my iPad and constantly refreshed my Twitter page obsessively.

Days before, I had felt hope walking the streets of downtown Albuquerque as part of the nationwide Women’s March. Thousands of people gathered together to protest against the xenophobia, racism, corruption, and so much else that the 45th president and his administration campaigned on and would soon begin to implement.

As I watched the ACLU lawyers begin their legal proceedings to put a halt to this biased attack, I felt hopeless again.

And, I knew that I had to do more.

When I returned to work on  Monday after the ACLU successfully blocked the ban, a coworker announced during the “what-are-you-thankful-for-minutes-of-sharing” that children she volunteered with asked to go to the airport to protest the ban after a local protest organized through Facebook and began at the Albuquerque airport.

I had missed this.

With no Facebook, I missed a chance to do something about something fundamentally wrong.

It wouldn’t happen again.

In the next month, I made a new Facebook profile.

I made a new Facebook profile because I wanted a blank slate, and I was fundamentally aware that my parents did not want any of my extended family or their friends to find out what they wanted kept back in the closet. A new account allowed me a chance to enter into a social network with people I hoped had my back.

I wrote my post “To Whom It May Concern” and sent it to my parents and brother.

Backlash.

I videoed a reading of that post and posted it to my new Facebook profile and to my Twitter feed.

Support.

And over the following months, I would be informed that my mom would not Facebook friend me because she did not want to “hurt” my sisters, and I would inform a family member that while I have a Facebook profile, it would probably be in their best interest not to friend me.

The impending storm of disgust, prejudice, and shock always thundering in the background.

And, so to now.

Now, when my mom posted pictures from her and her parents trip to visit me, I added a friendly comment to her post.

Now, when I think to a time on my high school yearbook staff, I refriended someone, who I had not spoken to in years.

Now, when a friend posts an article in support of the transgender military ban from a blatantly conservative website, blatantly conservative because its is literally called the Conservative Tribune, I commented back with my personal point of view and evidence to support it.

Now, when I go back and forth with this person, I have to decide when enough is enough because neither of us will come to a consensus on this.

I don’t understand her point of view.

The bottom lines is this.

It is discrimination.

It is wrong.

 

Things are only going to get worse before they get better, and with a presidential administration in perpetual chaos, Facebook is still there.

It is there to “like” a picture of the Sandia Mountains.

It is there to hope for social justice.

It is there to celebrate a friend trying the build-your-own sushi shack.

It is there to resist.

 

“Gaga Attacks Trump Trans Ban, Then Has Bad Encounter With Iraq Vet”

http://conservativetribune.com/gaga-attacks-trans-ban-iraq-vet/

 

“Here’s What Actual Trans Military Voices Have To Say About Trump’s Ban.”

http://www.upworthy.com/amp/heres-what-actual-trans-military-voices-have-to-say-about-trumps-ban

“Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly”

https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html

“Trump: I consulted the military about the transgender ban. Military: no, you didn’t.”

https://www.vox.com/world/2017/7/27/16051892/trump-transgender-ban-army-chief-staff

On Facebook, Then

On this blog, I have mentioned my, how should I put it, my tenuous relationship with social media, more specifically with Facebook.

There’s something about social media that is inherently intriguing.

Why post this?

Why not that?

Why “like” this post?

Why not that one?

I have only rejoined the Facebook world since last February, a little over six months. But, I had had an account before. I had a profile and friends on Facebook, but that profile of who I was is now lost into the nether regions of a dormant side of the web.

I found and still do find Facebook fascinating.

In college, when I had my original (non-trans) profile, I wrote two college papers about Facebook. One was for my Modern Monsters class, which I took my freshman year after I was exempt from taking basic college English when I passed on of my high school AP exams.

I honestly don’t remember which one I passed. I took both AP Language and AP Literature on the same day during my senior year of high school. I had wanted to take one during my junior year when I was in that specific AP class, but when I had expressed interest in taking the exam, no one took me seriously because so few people actually took the AP exams, which is why I ended up having to take both exams my senior year.

Concerning the Facebook paper I wrote for Modern Monsters, I honestly have little idea what it was about. Sometime around my sophomore or junior year of college, my college Dell crashed, and I lost a lot of my essays, pictures, and music I had collected over the years. Perhaps, the tagline for Dell computers should have been, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell . . . which is unlikely to survive through the entirety of your four year program . . . and also all the cool people will have Apple and you will instantly regret your decision to have a Dell the moment you step on campus . . .” Alas, that was not their marketing strategy, which is why I no longer have much of an idea of what that essay was about.

Here’s what I know. The class was about monsters in all of their forms. We read Frankenstein, studied the Holocaust, read about fast food culture and its impact with Fast Food Nation, and dived into the American counterculture of the 1970s and the rise of the horror film genre. The last topic of the class was about technology as a monster, and I chose to write about Facebook and walked away with a B in the class, a first in over four years. That B was fairly devastating, and I, for the first time ever, felt inadequate at school. I felt surrounded by people who were smarter than me, and it was clear to everyone that they were smarter than me.  

It was about as Twilight Zone-feeling as walking onto the campus and thinking I would quickly meet friends and have a picturesque Central Perk hangout spot as I worked my way through college in an amusing sitcom manner, but alas, I discovered my own naivete.

The second paper about Facebook was written for my autobiographical writing class and was entitled, “Nick’s Five Gnarly Facebook Rules,” which is a very cringeworthy title, not just because of the unpreferred “Nick” but also the use of the word “Gnarly”.

Not cool past self.

Not cool.

But also, reading back through it, I was reminded that the paper was just an excuse to write about asking my then girlfriend on a date via Facebook.

What’s worse, I began my essay with “Oy vey! Do you remember a time when technology didn’t dominate our measly little lives?”, which is about the lamest way to start an essay, but I did it anyway.

Look, I was in college, from a small town, I didn’t know any better.

But, I did my best to type out a written version of the old dial-up modem sound. This was the best I could come up with, “errrrrr-ba-duba-duba-duba-errrrrr-ba-dubba-dubba-dubba”. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

The rules I developed were as follows:

  1. Don’t Post Anything You Wouldn’t Want Your Mother to See.
  2. Avoid Excessive Foul Language and Poor Grammar.
  3. Know the Difference Between a Wall Post and a Message.
  4. Don’t Breakup with Someone Via Facebook.
  5. Never Ask Anyone Out on a Date Using Facebook.

Oy vey, this paper was rough. And, as I stated, this paper was pretty much a veiled to write about my then girlfriend.  

But, my tenure with Facebook would soon be coming to an abrupt end. I began my original Facebook profile in 2006 when I was first admitted to college, when only college students could have an account. It felt like such a privilege then. Something critical to achieve in the modern age. Then, as the website began to open up to high school students and more and more people began to join, it felt more and more like Facebook was creating a fictionalized mirror of the real world.

It felt fake and staged.

Where once I was eager to write a status update and post a new profile picture, I suddenly began to use it less and less, then rarely at all.

I left Facebook because I was just tired of it. I was.

But, there was another reason I left.

A reason I could never say out loud.

Sometime, most likely in 2013, Facebook announced that gender options beyond male and female would soon be available.

They were implemented in early 2014.

Facebook was becoming a mirror of the real world, only superficially so.

A version of yourself you wanted to be and show off to the world.

The mere knowledge that gender options on Facebook would soon be available made me deeply uncomfortable, and I deleted my first Facebook profile and pushed the thought of gender variations out of my mind.

I was hopeful these gender discomforts would vanish.

I was wrong.

 

Also, can I just point out how lame, again, how terrible that second Facebook paper was. I ended with a terrible allusion to a line from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, jesting that my five Facebook rules were more like guidelines.

Sometimes, I really don’t know how I made it through college.

a lie

you know

fantasy

science fiction

that kind of stuff

it’s all just escapism

there’s nothing real in it

there’s nothing of substance to it

so I ask you

what are you trying to escape

 

nothing,

I lie.

Valerian and the Series of a Thousand Disappointments

I had lofty goals for this evening.

I did.

With school around the corner, my classrooms still in a state of unreadiness, a book still needing to be read, and family arriving on the morrow, I just needed a mindless break for a good two hours and an episode or two of Star Trek: The Next Generation was just not going to cut it tonight.

My plan was to go see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets at the theater a hop, skip, and a jump from my place; finish doing a little tidying up in preparation for family arrival tomorrow, which involved cleaning, laundry, and, yes, ants . . . ; read for work, which I have been putting off; and do some blog writing.

All of these tasks would have been manageable. The theater is less than five minutes away when driving. I had just cleaned thoroughly for a friend’s going away party, and I was going to stop by the store to pick up some friendly ant-killing spray on the way to the movies. I’d motivate myself to read my work text by interspersing chapters of the book with back issues of Guardians of the Galaxy or an issue or two of the highly entertaining Rat Queens series.

And, finally, I would get down to some blog writing. I had several ideas already jotted down for potential posts, doing a third edition of “The Vagina Rocket Attempts to Summit a Mountain”, which this time would be about my actual trip up Pike’s Peak, or I considered writing about a particular dream I had had recently, which woke me in a cold and angry panic at 3:31 AM, a dream in which I told certain people exactly what I thought of them, and by certain people, I mean my father. But, I also had other ideas, non-jotted down ideas, that I was considering writing about. Family coming to visit being one of them, still not sure what to take my grandparents to and wondering how much I should de-rainbowtize my place. Some Facebook musings, centering on my Facebook stalking of my mom’s profile and seeing her posting/tagging of her recent visit to my brother’s and knowing I would not be receiving the same treatment on this weekend’s visit. And, one in which I just had some vague ideas for, but a pretty decent title, “It’s Easy to Hate Yourself When Your Father Believes You’re the Devil’s Puppet”.

Once I decided, for sure, to proceed with my evening plans, it began without a hitch. I stopped by the local store near the theater and picked up some environmentally friendly ant poison, which later when I sprayed it could not stop thinking about how it smelled like root beer. Heading to the theater, I tossed the aerosol can of poison into my car and hoped it wouldn’t explode while I was in the movies. Albuquerque sun can be miserably hot, but the evening was already cooling off. The Vagina Rocket was also safely shaded in a parking garage. I believed myself to be in the clear.

I purchased my ticket, stamped my parking ticket, and took my child-sized soda (a soda the size of a small child) into the theater, where I promptly posted a lackluster Facebook check-in to my wall.

The trailers before the film were unmemorable, for the most part.

Although, it might be interesting to see Kylo Ren in a redneck, NASCAR robbing role in the upcoming Logan Lucky. And, while it does not look good, I know I will still see Pitch Perfect 3 because aca-I-want-to, dammit!

I had skimmed through a few reviews for Valerian before deciding to go. Even though the reviews were very average, which is being kind, I was still hoping for something entertaining for two hours. Maybe not The 5th Element good, but hopefully at least a little enjoyable . . .

Unfortunately, I was finding that the reviews were right.

The movie was pretty to look at, but that was about it. In a weird sci-fi smash up of Star Trek ideals with Star Wars prequel visuals, mixed in with even worse acting/interest/chemistry than Anakin and Padme, the two leads in the movie seemed to be even more bored than I was annoyed at the movie’s focus of reinforcing gender stereotypes.

With only fifteen or so minutes left, I just wanted to see how the movie ended. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the screen went blank, the lights started flashing, and a recorded voice told the movie patrons to evacuate.

Like curious and mindless sheep, we circled around outside the theater to try to figure out what was going on. We huddled together as the fire truck arrived and were told to stand clear of the area, being forced to congregate at the Brazilian meat stick place.

After twenty minutes, it was clear that no one knew what was going on. The crowd speculated that someone pulled the alarm, but no one really knew for sure.

After another twenty minutes, the movie theater folks announced they would be letting people back in, issuing rainchecks, and the movie would pick up right where it left off.

After another ten minutes, I had my rain check in hand. But, we were still all outside the theater.

While waiting, I posted another Facebook update, and I began to think about all the things I had to get down the next day at work, which led me to think about all the things I needed to get done tonight.

I kept waiting.

I did want to see how the movie ended. Even though it was rife with gender stereotyping, was poorly plotted, and led by two lackluster leads, the movie still looked pretty. It still had some interesting moments.

It wasn’t too late for it to turn itself around, right?

It might end of a high note.

In the end, I decided my two hour diversion had turned into a three hour ordeal.

It wasn’t worth waiting around to catch the last act. Sure, it might look good, and it might be trying, but sometimes, effort and appearance can only hide the substance underneath for so long.

Sometimes, whatever you are waiting for isn’t worth the wait.

I slipped my rain check into my wallet and began to make my way to my car.

only ants

my doubts and hurt and core, an opened bag of campfire marshmallows

          small, puffy white clouds of saccharine self-loathing or hope

and, one by one,

          up the wall,

                    over the ceiling,

                              tiny black specks of six-legged politics, anger, hate

                                        slowly pierce through to revel in the sugared madness

the six-legged line, unending, continuous

          carrying away pieces, little by little

                    on repeat