Last Monday was your birthday. On Wednesday, we celebrated with our family. And on Saturday, we threw you a big party. You're now six years old and this last week has been all about you.

How you like carrot cake far more than a typical kindergartner.
How you're excited to participate in simple household chores.
How you sing when your favorite Jojo song starts to play.
How you squeal at the sight of the dogs after being gone at school all day.
How you jump when you're happy.
How you exude joy even in sickness.
How balloons can fill you with wonder.

Every day with you is a gift. You see the world from a peculiar perspective where there is always reason to laugh or dance or speak gibberish. You have a superpower - the ability to bend this universe to your imagination where anything is possible.

There is a light in your eyes that refuses to be dimmed. A song in your soul that will not be silenced. A bounce in your step that cannot be discouraged. We hope to teach you how to navigate the complexities of existence, to lead and guide you through your childhood to a fruitful life. However, watching you has shown me how much we have to learn from you.

So shine bright. Dance and laugh and play and be wild. Happy birthday, Joylyn. May your sixth year be the greatest yet.


Hip-Hop & Me Part 2: I Love Rap Music

As a 19 year old kid working in a record store, I selected a Master P album from our display racks and started reading out loud through the track listings. After each title, my friend Jeff and I would take turns making a joke about the song. When I got to the song 'I Miss My Homies,' Jeff shouted across the store, "Then you shouldn’t have shot him!" We thought of it as light hearted humor at the expense of our homophobic coworker who also happened to be Master P's biggest fan. We mocked an entire genre for cheap laughs without understanding anything about the music or culture.

I quit the record store job early in 1999 and by June I was contemplating if Seattle had any purpose in my future. In August, I moved away from my folks and relocated to the Boise area. I got a job stocking merchandise for Old Navy, unloading the delivery trucks and folding stacks of clothing to be displayed for customers to peruse in the morning. After the store was closed, we would turn the radio up for the graveyard crew - most frequently tuned to an urban music station. Jay-Z, Ludacris, and Outkast were huge at the time - their songs played often while we stacked jeans and t-shirts into neat piles to be toppled and torn asunder by the time we returned for our next shift.

But it wasn't their music that helped me fully celebrate rap music. Instead, it was a sextet of albums which turned me into a real rap fan - four of them released from the same label. Common's Like Water for Chocolate, Mars Ill's Raw Material, Tunnel Rats' Tunnel Vision, MG The Visionary's Transparemcee, Sup The Chemist's Dust, and Dilated Peoples’ Expansion Team. These six records challenged the way I thought about rap songs, hip-hop culture, music composition, racial reconciliation, and the disparities between urban black communities and the world in which I was raised.

As I got older, I related more and more to hip-hop. The circumstances of my life exposed me to tragedies and people and environments I had never seen while growing up in Marysville, Washington. I saw the effects of poverty, drug abuse, broken homes, and racism. Gradually, rap made more and more sense. When they talked about struggle, I knew what it was like. When they talked about justice, I looked from their perspective. All those elements of hip-hop I previously despised took on new meanings.

Finally, I understood all of it. For many rap artists, their talk of violence and criminal activity was an explanation of their situation and not a justification of their actions. They were telling listeners about the challenges they faced. They were not glorifying their flaws, they were looking for a way out. They were describing the world around them. The objectionable lyrics focused on the lives they had, not the lives they wanted.

I could relate. Even white boys from the suburbs can comprehend when life doesn't turn out the way you dreamed.

These days, my youngest son wants to be a rapper when he grows up. Either that or a professional athlete. Maybe a police officer if his first two options don't work out. I carefully filter his musical options; I’d rather steer JJ away from destructive voices and curate instead a collection of superior aptitudes, attitudes, and messages. There are some awful rappers out there and always will be, yet there are many more talented artists out there trying to change the culture. JJ and I will geek-out over some of his favorites: Lecrae, Social Club Misfits, Canon, KB, Derek Minor, Tedashii, and NF. Today, I'm more encouraged by the state of hip-hop than ever before.

If you see me bobbin my head, there’s a good chance I’m listening to Propaganda. Or Chance the Rapper. Maybe Sho Baraka, Talib Kweli, Pigeon John, or Kendrick Lamar. I’m not just listening to their music, I’m hearing their perspectives. And I’m learning. Because of these artists, I can return to the hook of the very first rap song that got me hooked. I love rap music. I always have and I always will. Come listen with me. Maybe you’ll love it too.


Hip-Hop & Me Part 1: Can I Kick It?

Dad was raised in Kansas and Mom grew up in Wyoming. Collectively, their childhoods were surrounded by corn fields and cattle ranches. Their westward migration brought our family to Seattle where Aaron and I spent our youth in a small, predominantly white suburb 45 minutes north of the city. We attended a conservative Christian church that prohibited dancing and looked at pop culture with disdain.

My parent's vinyl collection contained albums from ABBA, Keith Green, Simon & Garfunkel, Amy Grant, The Carpenters, and Chicago. Sunday mornings, before church, we listened to Seattle's Christian music station, or as I called it: the Sandi Patty station. During the week, Mom's radio was permanently tuned to oldies, but Dad flipped between sports radio where we'd listen to Dave Niehaus announce Mariners games on KJR or the lite rock station which played through the hits of artists like Phil Collins, Peter Cetera, and Richard Marx. Dad occasionally listened to classic rock and one of his favorite stories to tell was about a time he set the song 'Wipeout' on several consecutive replays through a jukebox at the local diner before leaving the building.

Aaron had different tastes in music. He was a huge Stryper fan in the 80s; as he got older, his music preferences got heavier. My brother also introduced me to what became some of my favorite musicians. Poor Old Lu, Guardian, Five Iron Frenzy, MxPx, and The Swirling Eddies.

When the grunge scene exploded, I was in seventh grade - the perfect age to be drawn to the sonic playground and angsty lyrics of bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Stone Temple Pilots. Many of my friends started bands wanting to be the next Nirvana and I buried myself in alternative music. If it isn’t already apparent, allow me to be blunt: my musical roots are about as white as it gets.

My parents were not overly restrictive. We were never the "Christian music only" kind of family like many of my churched peers. While they permitted us to listen to anything, there were artists they actively discouraged: Michael Jackson, Mötley Crüe, Tupac Shakur, Van Halen, Smashing Pumpkins. Stylistically though, there is only one genre my dad made known would never be approved: rap. For the most part, that didn't bother me. Aaron was a metal head and I was a grunge baby. For a long time, my dad's anti-rap bias was never challenged because we never tried.

Until I was in the youth group at church.

The evangelical culture of the early 90s insisted there should be an appropriate Christian substitute for any form of popular music. If you liked Bon Jovi, the church would recommend Petra. If you like New Kids on the Block, the church would recommend Audio Adrenaline. If you like rap music - anything from De La Soul and Arrested Development to NWA and Snoop Dogg, CCM marketing had one group it would suggest: DC Talk.

In 1992, DC Talk released a music video compilation called Rap, Rock, & Soul which featured all the singles from their first two albums. One of our youth group leaders played the videos at a Sunday night event; it was my first real (ish) introduction to hip-hop. The song that stood out the most was 'I Luv Rap Music.' Even today, I still get the chorus stuck in my head with little provocation: "I love rap music, I always have and I always will. There ain't no other kind of music in the world that makes me feel quite as chill." The music intrigued me but I still had a hard time shirking my dad's attitudes about rap.

When Wu Tang Clan and Public Enemy started getting popular with my peers, I eschewed it. Dad taught me rap music was bad, and these two groups seemed to exhibit everything my dad said was wrong with the genre. Aaron dug into hip-hop before I did. He stuck within the Christian subgenre and shared the albums he bought. He played records from ETW, S.F.C., Gospel Gangstaz, and T-Bone. I liked the music but felt guilty about listening.

Something in me believed Dad would not approve even though the artists were all Christians. I overcame that fear because of DC Talk. Aaron took me to see them live when they were on tour with Michael W Smith. When I bought their 1992 album Free At Last, it had already been out for a couple years. As a band, their music had shifted to a more pop-rock sound but TobyMac still rapped in every song. I finally had a rap album I was brave enough to play around my dad. He told me he didn't like all the rapping but he thought it was good music.

By the time I started my sophomore year of high school, I still loved grunge music and started getting into the punk scene. However, there was only one radio station allowed on the bus ride to school and our driver avoided alternative rock. The station she selected played the same two songs every morning: Sheryl Crow's 'All I Wanna Do' and Seal's 'Kiss From a Rose.' In my junior year, the two songs played each morning were TLC's 'Waterfalls' and Coolio's 'Gangsta's Paradise.' The Coolio song is the first rap song from outside Christian culture that I embraced. 23 years later I can still recite the lyrics like an educated fool with money on my mind.

Even then, I didn't consider myself a real rap fan. The biggest musical influences in my life were Billy Corgan, Steve Taylor, and Tim Taber - all singers, songwriters, and producers. I was still bothered by the subject matter and vulgar language of hip-hop hits. I was flirting, but not quite in love.

In 1998, I got a job at a record store. One of my coworkers loved rap music. He was also homophobic. My other coworkers and I mocked him relentlessly for both. I used to criticize him when he didn't ask his customers to say "Uhh," a reference to his favorite rapper, Master P, whose biggest hit was a song called 'Make'Em Say Uhh!'

My attitudes about music began to change while working at that store and my coworkers love for hip-hop began to rub off on me. I bought two rap albums during this time; the first was Wyclef Jean's The Carnival, the other was Hello Nasty by Beastie Boys. I was hooked and started listening to more hip-hop. Still, rap was only a mild fascination, but I wasn't a fan. I enjoyed the music but didn't understand the culture.


a word

For the last five years, I’ve selected a word to be my theme for the years. It was either an addition to or a replacement for New Year’s resolutions, because (if we’re all serious) resolutions rarely last. Instead, a thematic word serving as a filter for all you say, think, and do throughout the year is practical, motivating, and achievable.

However, I have a dilemma. I don’t have a word for 2019. At least, not yet. It’s been on my mind for the past few weeks and nothing seems to fit. My mind is an empty canvas. Or a blank page. All I need is a word. A good one. The right one. (note: this is where my fiancée would call me a perfectionist.)

2014 was the first time I selected a word for the year. My word was INTENTIONAL. I wanted to do everything on purpose, to be intentional in all my actions. I never wanted to do anything on accident or because it was easy or convenient.

In 2015, I chose the word HEALING. At the time, I was in desperate need of some healing. Newly divorced, struggling with my physical and emotional health. Trying to redefine my identity and learning how to parent on my own. I spent the year looking for healing and I found it in abundance.

My word for 2016 was BETTER. Long time readers might remember a post I wrote about it. I just wanted to be better. A better man, a better dad, a better friend. And, should I ever fall in love again, I wanted to be a better partner. I also wanted a better life. This was the year I met Annie, so I’d say my hopes for the year came true.

2017’s word was a repeat. I kept BETTER, using it as my theme for the second consecutive year.

Last year, my word was blend. I knew that Annie and I would be intentionally blending our families in 2018. I proposed in January and she said yes. We spent the year on farm projects and home remodeling, creating space for our kids and animals. New family traditions have been formed and we have stayed up many nights dreaming and planning for our future together.

Now, 2019 has arrived and I am in need of a new word. What word will guide me through next December 31? What will be my theme? It’s gonna be … I don’t know. I got nothing. For the next couple weeks, I’m going to be scouring the internet, searching for a word, something meaningful to be my cognitive north star. If you have any worthy ideas, let me know.


You need it to get it: this writer’s struggle

For most struggling artists, the biggest dream they could dream is to make money doing what they love. Most of us yearn to turn our creative work into some form of income. The photographer who longs to book a celebrity session. The sculptor who wants to be hired for a commissioned piece of art. The painter who envisions their own creation as a mural along a busy street. The actress waiting for her big break The author who hopes to have their manuscript published.

Accomplishing any goal requires hustle and baby steps. Breakthrough artists are rare and overnight successes are rarer. Just like any other industry, creative pursuits require practice. Mastery is the result of years of trial, error, failure, rejection, and disappointment.

Some accomplishments are too complex to phrase in simple terms, especially when you have yet to reach them. Such admission is humbling for a writer like me - a person who regularly manipulates syntax and vocabulary to tell stories and communicate ideas. I am not immune to the challenges other artists face. Right now, my biggest hurdle is finding the one person who is willing to take a risk on me.

Eighteen years ago, Common released one of my all time favorite rap albums: Like Water for Chocolate. About halfway through, Mos Def joins Common for a track ‘The Questions.’ Lyrically, the two rappers trade back and forth, asking each other thought provoking questions and responding - usually something like “I don’t know you tell me.” The song is quirky and funky. Now, after nearly two decades, my current plight brings me back to one of Mos Def’s questions:
"Why do I need I.D. to get I.D.? If I had I.D. I wouldn't need I.D."
This one line is one of those odd truths about modern life. It doesn’t make sense but we accept it because that’s just the way it is. You need it to get it.

Which brings me back to today. As a struggling artist, an unpublished writer looking to transform my hustle into a career, I realize the I.D. Mos Def questioned could be replaced by other items.

I’m looking for opportunities to increase my income and it’s not an easy task. I have a steady day job - it’s not glamorous but I’m good at it. It pays the bills and provides medical benefits. My boss trusts me and there’s a couple hundred employees that rely on me. I don’t want to replace my income, just add to it. Between my skill set and lack of fancy degrees, writing is the most practical and logical method of earning more money. Considering the limited time I have outside my office, freelancing seems to be my only option. However, finding a paying gig is harder than you’d imagine.

Publishers looking for freelancers only want to hire writers with previous freelancing experience.

I could rewrite Mos Def’s lyrical musing: why do I need experience to get experience? If I had experience I wouldn’t need experience.

The J Jonah Jamesons of the world tend to ignore new faces. Whether they control the budgets and hiring decisions for websites, magazines, newspapers, or ad agencies, they want writers with proven track records. They would rather poach from a competitor than gamble on an underdog. This is a scary world for up and coming writers looking for their first step into professional bylines. Publishers want a sure bet. They don’t want talented writers, they want profitable writers. If you want to demonstrate your profitably, you must already be profitable.

Which is why you need experience to get experience.
You need publishing credits to get publishing credits.
You need a freelancing gig to get a freelancing gig.
You need name recognition to get name recognition.
You need a fan base to get a fan base.
You need an income to get an income.
You need I.D. to get I.D.

I do have a small army of fans: a few friends and family members who read everything I write. Their compliments motivate and encourage. However, I’m not a fan of nepotism and none of them work in print, web, or broadcast media. Their kind words are appreciated but don’t translate into dollar bills. If interpersonal encomium had monetary value, I’d be wealthy.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers for this phase in my creative journey. This isn’t a testimonial. This isn’t an “I can do it you can too” exhortation. Rather, it’s a call for solidarity. A beacon of hope - if you’re there, I am too.

You are not alone.


Casting the Fantastic Four (Part 2)

Sue and Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm make up the core team of the Fantastic Four. However, they don’t exist alone. They have friends, lovers, employees, and associates that fill their universe. Victor Von Doom is their archnemesis, the antagonist they battle most often. Yet he isn’t the only villain to spar with the Fantastic Four. If Marvel’s first Fantastic Four movie is a success, there is a wealth of supporting characters and bad guys who will populate their storylines. I have some ideas of who could fill these roles. I’d also accept a paycheck from Disney if they choose to adopt any of my suggestions.

image courtesy Marvel Comics

Alicia Masters is a blind artist and Thing’s love interest. Hollywood has a long history of using able bodied people to fill roles of disabled characters. With the visually impaired, sometimes it works (Charlie Cox’ Daredevil) and sometimes it doesn’t (Ben Affleck’s Daredevil). However, blind characters would be far more genuine if portrayed by legally blind actors. Give this role to Lachi. She’s made a career as a singer/songwriter who has worked with artists like Styles P and Snoop Dogg. And she’s legally blind. Her only acting credits are a pair of music videos, so this could be her big break.

Johnny’s best friend, Wyatt Wingfoot doesn’t have any superpowers, yet he’s frequently saved the team from dire circumstances. He’s athletic, skilled in marksmanship and physical combat. Wyatt is also Native American, and America’s indigenous population don’t often see their people positively portrayed in popular culture. Marvel has an opportunity to create a hero for native people and they could use someone who is young, hungry, and talented – someone like Forrest Goodluck. He was brilliant in his film debut as Hawk in The Revenant and he could turn this minor character into a fan favorite.

Franklin Storm is Sue and Johnny’s dad, a former surgeon, widower, and alcoholic who struggles with feelings of guilt. Bruce Willis plays the same variation of the same character over and over, from Die Hard to Unbreakable to Death Wish; the elder Storm is another variant of that grizzled old man. It also gives him the opportunity to return to the tough and sympathetic fatherly role like he had in Armageddon.

Sue and Reed Richards are married with children. The older offspring, Franklin Richards, possesses psionic powers and the ability manipulate and rearrange the molecular structure of matter. The younger, Valeria Richards, can create forcefields like her mom and is super smart like her dad. And she is a time traveler. Finn Wolfhard of It and Stranger Things would add some youthful mischief as Franklin while demonstrating what it’s like to be the kid of famous heroes. Cailey Fleming, who recently joined the cast of The Walking Dead, could be a great addition as the youngest member of the Richards family. She also has a preexisting relationship with Disney, having appeared as the young version of Rey in The Force Awakens.

Inside the Baxter Building, the Fantastic Four have a receptionist named Roberta. However, they didn’t hire this employee from a temp agency or dig though dozens of resumes to find the perfect candidate. Instead, they built one. Roberta is a robot connected to the building’s network with artificial intelligence able to access all security systems. From the waist up, she looks completely human, but she has no legs and is confined to the reception desk. Due to her robotic construction, her humanoid half is incredibly strong. I’d cast another Revenant alum: Grace Dove. She can provide the polite sweetness of a receptionist while demonstrating the super human strength of a robot.

There is another robot in the Baxter Building – Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics, also known as H.E.R.B.I.E. Herbie was built by Mr. Fantastic to help locate Galactus and is most often around as a comedic sidekick or a companion for Valeria and Franklin. Since an actor wouldn’t appear on screen, you need someone with a funny voice who is used to working in a sound booth. Enter Lucky Yates, who is mostly known as the voice of Dr. Krieger in Archer. He’s hilarious and is a regular in the Atlanta comedy scene.

Speaking of Galactus, the cosmic entity and eater of planets is one of the greatest enemies to battle the Fantastic Four. Not only does Galactus prove to be a formidable foe for the Four, he’s also one of the greatest threats in Marvel Comics. Bringing him into the MCU would be a force uniting the Fantastic Four with other heroes. Galactus would be the most difficult character to translate to the big screen as he’s the living embodiment of the cosmos, a being of immense size with an appearance that is perceived differently based on a person’s race and religion. Galactus harnesses the Power Cosmic which grants him godlike abilities: telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, and transmutation. He can project energy, alter his size, create forcefields and portals, manipulate memories and emotions, and give a fraction of his powers to lesser beings who serve as his herald. He survives by feeding off the energy of planets, often draining life on extraterrestrial worlds to extinction. If anyone in the Marvel universe can cause mass-scale destruction, it’s Galactus. An epic character deserves an epic voice, one like Patrick Warburton. His amazing vocals have been found in a multitude of shows and movies like The Tick, Open Season, Family Guy, The Venture Bros, and The Emperor’s New Groove.

The current herald of Galactus is Silver Surfer. Originally named Norrin Radd, he was an astronomer on an alien planet. When Galactus came to devour his world, Radd made a deal to protect his home, his family, and his lover. Radd bargained for their protection in exchange for his service. Galacus transformed Radd into the Surfer and spared his planet. Radd originally intended to lead Galactus to uninhabited planets but Galactus manipulated him into searching for life, eventually leading them to Earth. With the help of the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer rediscovered his compassion and humanity. For the betrayal, Galactus confined the Surfer to Earth in exile. For this role, you need someone able to portray deep emotional strain, doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, someone like Rami Malek. Malek portrayed this moral ambiguity with skill in Mr Robot and would bring the same intensity into Silver Surfer. He recently filled some big shoes as Freddie Mercury with precision in Bohemian Rhapsody. The MCU needs Malek.

The Kree/Skrull war is a major event in Marvel comics and set to be central to the plot of the upcoming Captain Marvel. The Fantastic Four also found themselves in conflict with the shapeshifting alien Skrulls, especially a spy named Lyja. The Kree/Skrull war would be a great way to introduce the Fantstic Four with Lyja impersonating Alicia Masters to infiltrate the Baxter Building. While she has been an enemy of the Four, she’s also been an ally - developing romantic feelings for Johnny Storm, and helping to defeat Doctor Doom. To play the part of the warrior alien spy, I’d select Constance Wu who is most well known for her role in Fresh of the Boat. She’s tough, witty, and probably smarter than you. (She’s definitely smarter than me.) She’d be great in a morally conflicted role who is sometimes villainous and sometimes heroic.

Between this group of supporting friends and foes, along with my picks for the main cast, I think we’d have – for the first time ever – a great Fantastic Four movie.

image courtesy Marvel Comics


Casting the Fantastic Four (Part 1)

With the deal between Fox and Disney complete, all Marvel properties once belonging to 21st Century Fox are now eligible to appear in the MCU. Possibilities seem endless. With this merger, we could possibly see the wedding of Storm and Black Panther or crossover events like House of M and Secret Wars on the big screen. Who knows, maybe we could get a Marvel Zombies movie.

Casting for Fox’s comic book characters have been inconsistent. Some were perfect like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Others were not as great like Kelsey Grammer as Beast. The X-Men movies have ranged from abysmal to amazing while the Deadpool movies are comedy gold. However, there is one group of heroes they never got right: each new Fantastic Four movie Fox released was somehow worse than the previous iteration. With the Fox/Disney merger, perhaps Marvel’s first family will finally receive cinematic justice.

image courtsy of Marvel Comics

While fans speculate about how the next Avengers movie will unfold, I hope Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel Studios are contemplating how to incorporate the Four into the existing universe. John Krasinski recently expressed interest in the role of Reed Richards, AKA Mr. Fantastic, the super-genius scientist with elastic limbs. Screen Rant published some fan art of how Krasinski could appear in costume and it looks like the ideal casting choice. After seeing his stellar performance in A Quiet Place earlier this year, I’m a fan. I wouldn’t object if Disney handed him the director’s job either.

image courtesy of Screen Rant

Before Disney announces official plans to integrate the Fantastic Four and X-Men into the MCU, there are a few stars I’d like to see appear in a Marvel movie. If I was a casting Director at Marvel Studios, here is who I would select to join Krasinski in the MCU’s Fantastic Four.

Sue Storm is the emotional center of the team and the wife of Reed Richards. She uses the name Invisible Woman because her ability to manipulate light waves allows her to render herself invisible. The balance between tenderness and strength to keep the team functioning can be found in Reese Witherspoon. From Legally Blonde to Wild, Witherspoon has proven the ability to be funny and tough while maintaining Sue Storm’s nurturing side.

Johnny Storm is the arrogant, attention seeking, and temper prone hero known as Human Torch. Justin Timberlake fits the egocentric and impetuous character. Timberlake and Johnny Storm share another quality, both are (or were) heartthrobs for teen girls. Johnny is Sue Storm’s younger brother; Timberlake and Witherspoon look like they could be related, so we have a perfect match for the on-screen siblings.

Reed’s best friend, Ben Grimm had the worst luck when the Fantastic Four was exposed to the cosmic radiation that gave them powers. While the other three still looked normal, Grimm was bestowed a monstrous appearance and a body made of rock. Known as Thing, he has super-strength but is self-conscious about his image. He’s got a heart of gold, optimistic, and frequently jokes around. He also enjoys a fight. Throw 50 Cent into a motion capture suit and he’ll embody the tough guy with a sensitive side.

Doctor Doom is the Fantastic Four’s main nemesis. Reed Richards’ rival is a technopathic scientist who dabbles in magic and wears strength augmenting armor. Zachary Quinto could portray the Latverian ruler with a delicate balance between charm and menace. Quinto’s best performances were as villains in TV shows like Heroes and American Horror Story. As we’ve learned through Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther, the best villains are the ones who make us understand and relate to their motives, even if misguided. Quinto has the depth to give the Fantastic Four a bad guy audiences love and hate all at the same time.

When Marvel introduces the Fantastic Four into the MCU, they need to be added as characters preexisting inside the universe. The Richards family could purchase Avengers Tower and convert it into the Baxter Building. Stories could be set in the past to explain what they were doing during previous events like the Battle of New York or Thanos’ snap. Whatever happens, we’ve had enough origin stories, we don’t need another.


The names that almost were

This is Jemma. She's the newest resident at Heartsong Meadow. And she is one of the reasons I've been a bit busy this past month. That's because she is my horse.

She's an older quarter horse, mellow, just my speed. However, horse ownership includes some extra responsibilities beyond the typical feeding and grooming. I have to spend time working her and bonding with her. As of this last weekend, I also started riding lessons; if we're honest, she's better trained than I am.

When we brought her home, she needed a new name. Blinded by Rainbow just wasn't gonna work around here. Her name needed to be strong and (because it's me) completely geeky. In one of my private groups, several guys suggested the name Epona for reasons.

There are four other names we almost gave her. Nebula - an interstellar dust cloud and the adopted sister of Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. Gallifrey - The Doctor's home planet in Doctor Who. Valkyrie - the keepers of life and death in battle from Norse mythology and one of the female warriors in Marvel's Thor comics. Aurora - the technical name for the northern lights and a member of Alpha Flight in Marvel comics. None of these names felt right though.

We eventually decided on Jemma, named after Dr Jemma Simmons from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - the genius biochemist and a researcher for S.H.I.E.L.D.'s science division. Jemma is one of the smartest characters in the TV show and now Jemma is one of the smartest animals on our farm. Which is good, because I need a brilliant horse. According to our trainer, I ride like a sack of potatoes.


Wait, what? (a Thanksgiving post)

As I sat down today, the eve of Thanksgiving, I realized something. I haven't posted anything since the end of October. Wait, what? This month has flown by and we've been a little busy. Pictured below is a clear example of me not being busy.

All joking aside, the last few weeks have been an onslaught of activity. Changes at my day job have ensured I never lack a task in need of doing. New animals on the farm equal extra work at home. And we're doing a remodel project. Wait, what? This geek has been learning construction methods as we add two bedrooms so the kids can all have their own space.

What does that mean for The Faithful Geek? Well, not much other than the crickets chirping in cyberspace. It means I've been hustling from the moment my morning alarm blares until I crawl back into bed. It means I haven't had as much time for reading or writing - and what I have written hasn't been published. It's coming though. My hiatus isn't permanent and I have something fun planned, a return to my nerdy calling. Until then, enjoy your Turkey Day.

Wait, what? Don't worry, that's Uno and she is not Thanksgiving dinner. She's still running around Heartsong Meadow like she owns the place. Besides, I prefer eating ham.


This is how we Halloween

On Friday night, the last night we have all of the kids together until Halloween, we had a spooky family night. It began with dinner: toxic mac'n'cheese with cryptic ham-steaks.

The cheese even stained the kids' tongues green.

For dessert: dirt and worms.

Then it was pumpkin carving time. While I was in charge of the big knife, the kids did all of their own carving - except for Joylyn who had a little help.

If you ask me, they did a great job with their jack-o'-lanterns.

Finally, those who were old enough to stay up late watched a scary movie.

Annie and I had so much fun setting up this special night for the kids. We are already making plans for next year.


We Need a Hero

Some of the greatest stories told by humanity have featured corrupt rulers defeated by simple, humble, and righteous people. We've made heroes of figures who speak truth to power. We crave those tales where good triumphs - especially when the odds are never in their favor. When the abusive nature of despots thrives in the real world, we long for reminders that evil's reign is only temporary.

True stories of moral victors find a treasured place in history, like the band of rebels who rejected the tyranny of King George and the British Empire. Names like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton are American icons, the honorable heroes who won the war against corrupt foreign rulers.

Biblical tradition speaks of Moses, who delivered the nation of Israel from the corruption of Pharaoh’s Egypt. Queen Esther outwitted the corrupt Grand Vizier Haman. Jesus often spoke against the depravity and hypocrisy found among the religious elites, legal scholars, and government officials of first century Palestine. When it came to corruption, chasing people with whips and flipping tables were acceptable options for Jesus.

El Greco's 'Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple

In Greek mythology, Nemesis was the goddess of retribution, the avenger of crime whose wrath focused on those guilty of hubris. She, along with Aidos the goddess of modesty and respect were the final good spirits on earth before the corruption of the age of mankind.

Legends of King Arthur tell of the king overcoming Morganna, a powerful sorceress corrupted by evil. Elsewhere in English folklore, Robin Hood is the hero who subverted the illegitimate king, Prince John, and his henchman the Sheriff of Nottingham. And Shakespeare wrote a play about a Danish prince seeking revenge against his uncle the king for murdering his father.

The advent of cinema continued this tradition. Dorothy saved the land of Oz from the corrupt Wicked Witch. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Empire was controlled by the corrupted Emperor Palpatine and his enforcer, Darth Vader until they were defeated by a farm boy, an old wizard, a princess, a smuggler, a Wookie, and a pair of quirky robots. Every Mission: Impossible movie finds Ethan Hunt exposing the corrupt government that betrayed him. A young LAPD officer survived a day with the corrupting influence of a dirty cop named Alonzo Harris in Training Day. And Captain America stood his ground after discovering S.H.I.E.L.D. had been corrupted by sleeper agents of Hydra.

image courtesy of Marvel Studios

When storytellers, novelists, and filmmakers need a villain, they mirror the lives of politicians, law enforcement officers, corporate CEOs, and religious leaders whose lust for power, wealth, and control have led them down darkened paths. Art imitates life.

We long for these heroes. We idolize them. Lionize them. Honor and respect them. And we desperately need them again. We need people who will stand in humility and do the right thing. We need righteous people who will rise and fight against modern tyranny. And you can be that hero.

Election Day approaches. The current president is the most corrupt president to occupy the White House during my lifetime. He has defiled the office. He has abandoned every concept of decency and the decorum expected of a world leader. He is vulgar, reprehensible, dishonest, impetuous, and morally bankrupt. His arrogance is limitless. He is a fear-mongering con-artist. He is adored by white supremacists. And he has somehow wooed the evangelical community while acting completely adversarial to the basic tenets of their faith.

I won't tell you that November 6th might be the last free and fair election or that we're about to witness the death of democracy. I don't believe those statements are true, and those who espouse them have sunk to the same level of scare tactics the president employs. I’m not clairvoyant so can't tell you what will happen after the election. However, I can tell you what is happening right here, right now. We have a president that is using the office to enrich his family. We have a president that is alienating American allies while befriending cruel, murderous, and inhumane dictators. We have a president that is fully indifferent to the rule of law, who blatantly lies, whose disregard for facts only grows more brazen the longer he is in office. We have a president who gathered the most incompetent set of fools to serve on his cabinet, who have in turn indulged in their own corruptions. Finally, we have a Congress who refuses to do a damn thing about it.

This is where you come in. This is your bitten by a radioactive spider moment. This is when you become the hero America deserves. Your vote is your superpower. We have the opportunity to get rid of the gutless Congress and replace them with civil servants who will stand up against the corruption of the Trump administration. When you fill out the ballot, vote for the candidate Trump doesn't want to win. Vote for the candidate most likely to inspire a Trumpian Twitter meltdown. Vote for the candidate with a spine. Vote for the candidate who believes in human dignity. Maybe then, we can actually make America great.