My Ideal Bookshelf – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore

It’s always nice finding an author that you can dive into almost any book of theirs and enjoy. Throughout my reading journeys, I have found several of these authors.

In middle school, it was Gary Paulsen, on journeys into into the wilderness to survive in isolation.

In high school, it was Robert A. Heinlein, on journeys into space to rethink the human condition.

These authors would be followed by others: Jasper Fforde, Jon Krakauer, Rick Riordan, Brandon Sanderson, and David Sedaris, to name a few.

And, during my college years, one of those authors was Christopher Moore.

With an insane and inane sense of humor, Christopher Moore’s novels take on everything from the Grim Reaper to Santa Claus to vampires to Shakespeare and pretty much everything in between, including the story of Jesus H. Christ.

Lamb follows Biff, Christ’s childhood pal, as a host of angels commission the inept and misguided Biff to write the untold story of Christ, essentially filling in the years that the good book leaves out. While a hilarious parody in its own right, chronicling debaucherous sex, drug use, and other Bible-worthy shenanigans, Biff’s story relates the shift from the teachings of the Old Testament to the teachings of Christ as he discovers the beliefs of “eastern” religions.

The story is filled with ridiculous magics and other supernatural forces of fiction. And as I read through this highly entertaining fictional account of a religion’s savior, my last shreds agnostic beliefs drifted away on the wings of angels, which according to the world of Night Vale are all named Erica.

My nonreligious convictions have always been a sore spot with living in Oklahoma, surrounded by the devout. When I had tried to express my thoughts, I was told I would grow out of it. Or, I was met with shock that I didn’t believe.

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My Ideal Bookshelf – The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

I don’t really know what to say about this book.

Or, rather, I don’t know how to say what I want to say about this book.

I keep trying to write about why I read it and why it made it to this list, but my thoughts on it never seem to do it justice.

Like Stranger in a Strange Land, I read this one out of an attempt to read the best of science fiction and fantasy by diving through the Hugo and Nebula award winning novels.

My quest ended with The Left Hand of Darkness.

I picked up Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers because I had read Have Space Suit – Will Travel in middle school.

On appreciating these two award winning books, I definitely preferred Stranger to Starship. I could never get into Starship and viewed the movie adaptation as a much less pleasant experience than the book.

Being fifty/fifty on my Hugo and Nebula appreciation/enjoyment mission, I moved onto The Left Hand of Darkness.

At least, I think I did.

I think this was the order.

The two by Heinlein, followed by Ursula K. Le Guin, but maybe, I have the order wrong. Maybe, Darkness came before Stranger.

Or, maybe, it doesn’t matter.

Order and continuity usually matters.

But, does it here?

I picked up The Left Hand of Darkness because I had read through and enjoyed the world of Earthsea in middle school.

And, here is where my memory of of this novel becomes fuzzy and skewed. Because, I remember sitting on a chair at a university, waiting for my mom’s class to finish. But, when was this on the timeline of my childhood? Where exactly was I? When was I?

But, I remember reading about an alien world allowing genderless humans to shift into and out of male and female characteristics.

I remember discomfort and unease.

I remember trying to forget it.

But, I remember.

And, I ended my Hugo and Nebula personal reading challenge quest.

And, in ending that quest, another, unbeknownst to me then, began.

My Ideal Bookshelf – The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

School literature textbooks are packed with stories about all kinds of adventures and civil rights issues and other interesting tidbits. Yet, very few of the excerpts in a literature textbook ever led me to seek out more content from the author.

To my recollection, I can only think of three authors’ works.

Ray Bradbury.

Ursula K. Le Guin.

And, Norton Juster.

In middle school, our class read “All Summer in a Day”, a text that I would later teach both in Oklahoma and in New Mexico. A fantastic read, but it was not the story that led me to seek out more of his work. That story is one whose title escapes me. I believe it was a story set on Mars, and it dealt with time and a robbery. Even searching through Google, I am unable to find the name, but my interest in wanting to reread the story led me to picking up The Martian Chronicles, an excellent bundle of science fiction yarns, but one that ultimately lacked the story I had been searching for. And, thus, my quest continues.

Another read in middle school, this one by Ursula K. Le Guin, would lead me to seek out further adventures of within the watery wizarding world of Earthsea. While, again, the exact title of the short story from the textbook escapes me, it told a story of Earthsea’s protagonist and the power of one’s true name. A Wizard of Earthsea was barely nudged off my ideal bookshelf by other epic fantasies and another of Le Guin’s tales, The Left Hand of Darkness.

I can place the time period of reading a textbook excerpt from Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth in either my 4th or 5th grade year. I think I read about the adventures of Milo during my 4th grade year, but I am uncertain. And, googling seems to suggest that the excerpt may have been included in a 5th grade textbook. Regardless, I remember picking up the book and enjoying it soon after reading the excerpt in class. But, I soon forgot about the book. I never thought back to it. That is until it was time to fill my classroom library, and I picked up a copy at a Scholastic Warehouse sale.

I reread it.

And, it was like being reacquainted with an old friend.

Poem Version of What I Want to Write

Your Facebook posts are really beginning to piss me off.

I mean seriously.

First, you don’t even follow sports and the NFL protests bother you?

Aside from the fact that your white privilege is showing (again),

Why do you even care?

Why is that the thing that upsets you?

I don’t get it.

Because, the 21st transperson has been murdered so far this year,

And, yet, you say nothing.

How dare you rage at the NFL protest.

Men and women have fought and died for their right to protest.

For their right to take a knee,

For the police brutality,

For the racism inherent in a broken system,

For the lives lost due to hate,

For the injustice.

 

And second, you are retweeting organizations who support him,

Who are actively trying to take health care from children,

Who are trying to make it so that a restaurant can turn me away,

Who are going to stand by and let the gun violence carnage continue.

Some of those people you retweet, believe I am “Satan’s plan”,

Simply for me being me.

And you retweet their thoughts, mocking transpeople, mocking me.

And, it just sucks.

And, it hurts because I thought you had my back.

I thought I could count on you.

 

And, third, when you text me,

Text me and pretend that everything is alright,

Like everything is okay,

I can promise you, it is not.

Fear and Loathing on Twitter, Part 2: The Hypocrisies of the Old Party

Well, now with those opening Twitter thoughts out of the way, it’s time to cruz on over to talk about porn.

Here’s the thing.

I am not going to bash Ted Cruz for liking porn on Twitter.

But, really, who watches porn on Twitter?

Before Cruz’s “like”, I didn’t even know there was porn on Twitter.

Now, unfortunately, I know two things I didn’t need to know, 1) there is porn on Twitter and 2) someone with access to Ted Cruz’s Twitter account “liked” it.

Perhaps sometime I will delve into my views of Republicans, in general, but for now, let’s just stick with Senator Cruz.

Because, I have very specific feelings regarding this individual.

Days before I came out to my family, I disappointed my father by refusing to attend a Ted Cruz for President rally being held nearby.

I had no intention of attending this rally. There was not a single platform of his that I agreed with, and I feared that if Cruz verbally attacked LGBT people, as he was wont to do, it was unlikely that I would have been able to control myself. But aside from that, I did not want to be associated with attending a Ted Cruz rally, and I found it deeply distressing that my father was so excited to be on the Ted train.

I slept in on the morning of the rally. When I did get out of bed, I found that information regarding the rally had been slid under my door. This act would prompt me to spend the next hour or so browsing the internet to remind myself of all the hateful rhetoric the senator had spread and to better understand his platform.

I remember only feeling a mix of sadness and disappointment.

There’s a lot of that those days leading up to and after that I wish I wrote down more of in the immediate aftermath of those days. Because even though I wrote a lot of notes about those days then, I still find myself forgetting some of the nuances to my memories.

When my brother, grandfather, and father return from the Ted Cruz Rally, my brother comments about how surprised he is that my grandfather was not as much of a diehard supporter as he had thought. But, I can’t remember when that conversation took place or where.

When on Christmas night, out on the porch, my grandfather and father and uncle begin to joke about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition. I abruptly leave my whiskey sour behind, fight back tears, and slide down the wall to the floor as my ex-fiancée texts words of encouragement that it won’t be as bad as I am afraid it will. But, I can’t remember how the conversation on the patio started or what happened after I left the bathroom.

But, I can tell that I am not ready to write about all of that, my coming out and the family sit down that followed, not yet, because just drifting into nearby memories has almost completely soured my day and evening.

Yet, those memories only grapple at the surface of Ted Cruz, a staunch supporter of the hate group, the Family Research Council and about as bad as it gets when it comes to LGBT rights and equality.

And, now, to his porn “like”.

With a reminder that Ted Cruz has fought against the sale of sex toys and believes solely in the Biblical laws of marriage and masturbation, whatever that means, that Ted Cruz “liked” porn.

Which to me, is about as hypocritical as being told all your life about the vileness of pornography, only to find that parent’s porn stash.

That’s how I equate it.

As hypocritical as the many Republican politicians with anti-LGBT agendas that as truth comes to the surface only reveals their own homosexuality.

And, here’s the thing, if you “like” a post on accident, you simply “unlike” and go about your merry way.

And, porn does not just show up on your Twitter feed for no reason.

It was searched for.

That is how Twitter works.

So, I have to ask.

Why can’t politicians just be honest?

Why can’t people just tell the truth?

It ain’t easy.

But, it is freeing.

And, being honest about yourself to others, reveals as many truths about them as it does about you.

 

2016: Republican Facts – Ted Cruz: Not a Fan of Pride Parades

https://www.hrc.org/2016RepublicanFacts/ted-cruz

Southern Poverty Law Center on The Family Research Council

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/family-research-council

Ted Cruz Talks About Twitter Porn Incident And Sex Toys

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ted-cruz-twitter-porn-sex-toys_us_59b9dbcfe4b02da0e13f1d59?utm_hp_ref=ted-cruz

19 Republican Politicians Brought Down By Big Gay Sex Scandals

http://www.newnownext.com/19-republican-politicians-brought-down-by-big-gay-sex-scandals/12/2016/

Fear and Loathing on Twitter, Part 1: He Retweeted What?!? . . . Forget 140 Characters, I Need At Least Two Posts To Cover This

As I scrolled through Twitter, a new tweet from the Human Rights Campaign popped up to state, “Derricka Banner, a transgender woman, was killed Tuesday morning, marking the 20th trans person murdered this year.”

I closed out of app.

It’s posts like these, realities like these, that make staying aware of what is going on difficult.

The more petitions and surveys and emails I send out to support a cause or sound an alarm, the more emails I receive asking me to support another cause and sound another alarm.

It’s exhausting, but I also feel like it is not enough.

Because, while some view it is as perfectly acceptable to discriminate, as of August, thirty-three LGBT people have been murdered in the United States, a number, that when excluding the Pulse Night Club terrorist attack, has already broken the record setting twenty-eight hate-fueled LGBT homicides of 2016.

It is because of facts and realities like this that I feel obligated to stay aware.

One avenue of information continues to be Twitter.

But, it is still relatively new for me.

I signed onto this platform as 45 implemented his, now highly litigated, Muslim ban, which would prove to be only the beginning of 45’s reign as the modern and unabashed white supremacist in chief. As the hours after the implementation of the ban seemed to prompt protest after protest, Twitter was the quickest way to follow what was going on.

It provided immediate updates to the degradations of our Constitution and rule of law. It was heartbreaking, but I couldn’t look away. Fortunately, a friend would drag me away from real world horrors to play a game of Ticket to Ride and a meal of eggplant parmesan.

But, that entry into Twitter opened up a world, in which I never knew existed.

It can be a hateful place, full of bigotry and racism and xenophobia and other nomenclatures found in a bag of deplorables.

But, it can also be an amazing place, filled with hope and cleverness and art and people unafraid to stand up for what is right. I have come across the kindness of strangers, and I found one of my favorite prints through Twitter, which I find it so amazingly cool that I could find a French artist through Twitter and order her print.

If you like nerdy and cool art, she is worth checking out. I love my Women’s March print. I began following her on Twitter after I came across her reaction to 45’s Muslim ban, which featured Muslim-American teen superhero, Ms. Marvel, crying on her bed as an illustrated Trump screams through the TV in the shadow of a Captain Marvel and an Avengers poster. It is an image that I think about often and is heartbreaking every time that I do.

I had originally planned to just write about Ted Cruz’s hardcore porn “like”, but alas, after 45 retweeted a gif of him golfing and hitting Hillary Clinton in the back of the head, well, I feel as if a blog post about Twitter would not be complete without at least referencing it.

So, to 45 and his post, I just want to say, “thank you”. Thank you for proving once again that you are unfit to serve in the office in which you hold. Thank you for every time you spread lies, hate, misogyny, and encourage violence you prove how much of a terrible and immoral individual you are. And, thank you for continuing to prove the kind of person you are because as your base weakens and Republicans continue to prove themselves spineless, you and your Twitter help to reveal the lack of humanity and morality of you and each and every one of your supporters.

So, thank you.

 

HRC Mourns Derricka Banner, a Transgender Woman Murdered in Charlotte

http://www.hrc.org/blog/hrc-mourns-derricka-banner-a-transgender-woman-murdered-in-charlotte

This Report Says More LGBT People Were Killed So Far in 2017 Than In All Of 2016

https://www.buzzfeed.com/nidhiprakash/lgbt-deaths-mid-2017?utm_term=.ckqd9BkaPl#.beMLXmGKQP

Maryne. Art

http://society6.com/maryne

@MaryneeLahaye Tweet, “I can’t even find something to say. #Muslim Ban

https://mobile.twitter.com/maryneelahaye/status/825458968424230914

Trump retweets GIF of him hitting Clinton with a golf ball

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/17/politics/trump-tweet-clinton/index.html

People Who Wear Crazy Socks

I woke up a morning this week to find a new post on my Facebook wall. Tagged by a friend, it was a short video stating, “People Who Wear Crazy Socks Are More Brilliant and Successful”.

In it, the video goes on to say how very few people choose to wear unusual socks and how people see funky sock wearers as “more brilliant, creative, and successful” and how these sock wearers are not trying to fit in.

I’d like to say that I started wearing crazy socks for these reasons.

But, I’ve known a few who wear funky socks. It never seemed that out of the norm.

And, I rarely, if ever, feel brilliant, creative, and successful. I feel helpless to make things better and the unsuccess grows in an exponential weight.

And, I tried to fit in for a long time. I tried to ignore and hide what makes me different in a sea of the same.

But, I failed.

Yet, there is a reason behind my penchant for funky sock wearing.

It is because in the midst of being told I am corrupted by society and being told that I need to respect my family and being told that it is like I had died and being told my sickness was the work of the demons and the devils, I was also told to just try wearing some funky socks.

In their own way, each of those comments stung as painfully, and they remain etched in my memory.

As much as I wish I could, I cannot unhear them.

I cannot unfeel them.

I cannot forget them.

And, so, I wear funky socks.

Spoiler alert, still trans.

My Ideal Bookshelf – The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, 1), Robert Jordan

In high school, I found my genre of choice when it comes to reading, fantasy, but not just fantasy, epic fantasy. For my middle school years, I had focused on Accelerated Reader to take home top prizes, like an air hockey table or, the finally replaced, sleeping bag.

Looking back now, I can’t seem to remember which series I launched into first, but it was during my high school years that I devoured the likes of A Song of Ice and Fire, Sword of Truth, and The Wheel of Time.

All three books were discovered via recommendations.

A Game of Thrones, the first of A Song of Ice and Fire, was recommended by my former teacher, who was an author herself and had managed to get its author to attend a local science fiction and fantasy convention, the now defunct Conestoga. Having no idea of the future cultural impact of A Game of Thrones, I wish I could remember the conversation I had with George R.R. Martin, but alas, it was 2005. I never would have foreseen the books being made into Tits with a Chance of Dragons, er, I mean, Game of Thrones. Whether the book was recommended because of her horror that I was reading Terry Goodkind or she was simply plugging the con’s guest of honor’s book, I couldn’t say, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first three books in the series and would soon become accustomed to the long, long (and, at times, disappointing) wait as authors refused to finish books at my demands.

A Wizard’s First Rule, authored by Terry Goodkind and which has already been written about on a previous entry, was recommended by an older cousin, the one who introduced me to anime, which could very well explain a lot . . . Anyway, the first of the Sword of Truth series was great, but as a whole, the series was very hit or miss, and due to an unexpected continuation, still unfinished. So while fun and escapism, it is not the series I have come back to or the one that led me to my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson.

That epic fantasy series would be The Wheel of Time, and the book that started it all, being The Eye of the World. Recommended by the former high school librarian turned FBI analyst, it was a series first read throughout my high school years. I would be ready to drive the Silver Fox to Borders to pick up the next book in the series, which would lead my mom to go retrieve my early Christmas present from her closet. I read three of the series in the car on the way to Colorado to go skiing with my dad and stepmom and found more time to read during that trip after coming down with the flu, cutting my skiing short. I read Lord of Chaos, book six during, either, my freshman or junior year because I distinctly remember drawing the map of the series’s world as an assignment, assigned by the teacher and parent of my junior year’s date for prom, the one who, likely due to karma, went home with her mom midway through prom. I remember Crossroads of Twilight, book ten, being my first hardcover purchase of the series.

My second read through of the series would be after the author’s death and the announcement that Brandon Sanderson would be completing Jordan’s fourteen volume magnum opus. I spent a lot of time rereading the series on European trains. During my college summer abroad at Oxford, I would shove the thick books into the pockets of my khaki shorts I’d worn since middle school and explore history. Long lost digital photos of long lost acquaintances snapping a picture of me lost in the series as the train rattled to Florence.

My third read through of the series began with twenty-five minute commutes from a duplex in Norman, OK to my school in Oklahoma City. Read by two extremely talented individuals who would later go on to bring auditory life to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive series. I would refinish book fourteen in mid-August of 2015, months before, through my own actions, my life changed forever. For a lot of reasons, I think of those commutes often. Very often.

I think on this series often and where I was when I was reading it and who I was when I was reading it.

My Worst Childhood Fear Realized

It finally happened.

And, I guess in a way it was bound to happen.

In a small studio apartment, I alternated between pacing and making myself another drink. On the counter, a flourless dark chocolate cake sat, accompanied by freshly made salsa and quinoa salad. My nerves were not helped when my friend commented if I was worried that no one else would show up.

In an uncomfortable wooden chair, I sat checking my phone. My mom and I had arrived early at the restaurant, waiting for my friends to join me. I brought up TwoDots and lost in a quick game before darkening the screen. My nerves were not helped when my mom asked if I was worried that no one would show up.

I often wonder where this anxiety comes from. This fear of putting yourself out there and being met with no response. But, it is a fear that grew over time.

Growing up, my brother and I had one requirement for our birthday parties. One year would be a family party. The next year would be a friend party.

Without a doubt, my favorite was the one where we rented out a roller skating rink and would spend hours and hours rolling in circles as I would proudly play my brand new Beatles CD. A friend party.

But somewhere in my past, a fear arose. A fear that I might invite people to a party, and no one would show up. Or, worse, I would have no one to invite.

The fear took over after the turn of the century, as 2000 would be my last friend party of my childhood.

Looking back at it now, it was one of those what-were-you-thinking moments because when birthday paintball was over, instead of hanging out with my friends as my mom dropped them back off at their homes, I opted to go see Charlie’s Angels in theaters with my brother and stepmom.

Why did I do that?

Did guilt of ditching my friends for a Hollywood remake of a 1970s tv series guide my middle school isolation?

Or, did I sit by myself and wander alone during recess for different reasons?

Because, it would take participating in contest speech during high school to finally make a new friend or two.

My senior year of high school I would try again for a friend party, but my penchant for making friends who were a year or two older, meant that my invite list was few and far between. Yet, even then, two individuals showed up to watch my birthday movie marathoning, Crash and Life as a House. While I have not spoken with either of these individuals in over ten years, I will be forever grateful that I didn’t spend my birthday friend party as a party of one.

So, through self-imposed isolationism and luck or kindness, I escaped grade school never having to experience my worst childhood fear: either having no one to invite or having no one show up.

(And, is this truly the worst fear imaginable for a child? Certainly not. But, having so much family around, I knew I would always be safe because I, at least I thought, that they would always be there.)

It was the latter part of that fear I thought about as I paced the lobby of Meow Wolf.

It was hard not to think about that, but that was a pleasant thought compared to the clash between murderous Neo-Nazis and anti-Nazi protesters in the streets of Charlottesville. My petty childhood fears were and still are small potatoes next to an unprecedented rise and resurgence of hate in America.

It was meant to be a last hurrah before the school year. It was meant to be a chance for team building and staff culture.

Yet, alas, best laid plans of mice and men and all that jazz.

As I wandered through the psychedelic landscape of time and space within the world of Meow Wolf, I knew my fears of then and now were, at least slightly, unfounded.

Alone, I enjoyed the House of Eternal Return on my own terms.

That evening, as I returned to Albuquerque from Santa Fe, my focus shifted. I walked to a friend’s, would not shut up about and forced a friend to listen to an episode of “Conversations with People Who Hate Me”, and demonstrated my family-inherited mad tabletop croquet skills.

While comparisons can be drawn and fears can fester, in this case, having realized a slight variation on a theme from my worst childhood fear, that particular fear seemed to simply cease to be.

To Consider It

Sure.

I would consider it.

But, I need one thing first.

Okay, it is more like two things.

I need you to tell me how you feel about him.

And, I need you to tell me what you feel about the statement.

Tell me, how you felt when he called Mexicans rapist.

Tell me, how it is okay to brag about grabbing women “by the pussy”.

Tell me, how you feel when he lies again and again.

Tell me.

Tell me, your opinion on Adam and Eve.

Tell me, your opinion of “a homosexual or transgender self-conception”.

Tell me, what you believe.

Tell me.

And, I will consider it.

Because, the next time I see you,

I want to know exactly, precisely the person you are.