Soul Laid Bare

She is the sun on my skin and the breeze in my hair
She is nowhere to be found and absolutely everywhere
She is chaos incarnate with a divine flair
She is clothes backwards inside out and doesn’t care
She is the dance beat between the kick and the snare
She makes every mess and takes every dare
She terrifies me yet she’s a breath of fresh air
She’s my daughter and she is my soul laid bare


Of Elk and Maddening Times

Pick an animal. Any animal. You will surely find symbolism for that creature within the indigenous cultures native to the lands forming the wildlife’s natural habitats. From Africa to Europe to the Americas to South East Asia. As long as humans have interacted with the animal kingdom, we have looked to our furry, feathered, and scaled friends to derive meaning, provide sustenance, and deliver omens.

In recent years, I’ve grown fascinated with mythologies from around the world. I’ve studied the gods of ancient Egypt and the convoluted stories of Norse mythos. I’ve researched the religious pantheon of Greece, India, and Japan. I’ve delved into the mythological creatures of the Irish, Scottish, and British lore.

This intellectual quest is not a search for faith. I already have a core set of beliefs and am not looking to upgrade or replace. However, I’ve reached a phase in my life where I care more about why people believe what they believe than what they actually believe. The human mind intrigues me. While I am skeptical the appearance of a beast or a constellation can predict my future, I think it’s important to understand how cultures of our history interpreted the world around us and how it shaped their lives and folklore. From totems to spirit animals, creatures great and small had deep meaning to peoples of every continent.

Especially as I get my skin decorated with ink. This fall I will have a sloth added to my arm, with plans for a crow, mountain goat, jackalope, sasquatch, and the jörmungandr to be a part of my collection of tats as soon as possible. Yes, I realize three of those are mythical creatures, yet even the cryptids and beasts of myths are important in understanding why people do what they do. Because of my tattoo dreams, I have spent a significant amount of time studying the symbolism of these animals and more (bees, bunnies, sharks, hummingbirds, etc).

Which brings us to the elk. This grand species of the deer family once populated most of North America (with one subspecies stretching into Mexico), Northern Europe, and northern Asia which exposed elk to a wide variety of ancient cultures from the Pacific coast, to Scandinavia, into the northern islands of Japan. Unfortunately, elk went extinct in much their former lands, now remaining in the Cascade and Rocky Mountains of US and Canada, and the eastern regions where Russia, Mongolia, and China meet.

For Buddhists in eastern Asia, elk were seen as messengers and guided lost travelers away from peril. Seeing an elk in the wild would lead people to believe they were enlightened. They thought elk represented a search for truth, harmony with nature, and the ability to live peacefully without attachment.

The Celts saw nobility, pride, independence, strength, and endurance in elk. They believed elk guided heroes through danger and on secret quests. In Ireland, elk were omens of success if seen during the harvest season.

The Norse connected elk to Freyr, the god of peace, sunshine, and rain. For them, the animal represented peace, prosperity, and … um … reproductive potency.

Myths and legends about elk varied across America depending on the tribe. Most groups revered elk for their strength, stamina, and noble appearance. When hunted for sustenance, Native Americans used every part of the elk for food, clothing, shelter, and jewelry. The elk was essential to the Osage creation story. Lakota Sioux saw them as symbols of good fortune in hunting. It was a sacred animal for the Cherokee nation. In the Pacific Northwest there were legends of elk finding women captured by enemy tribes then leading them back home. Depending on the region, elk represented attributes like pride, independence, freedom, guidance, protection, success, triumph, survival, prosperity, and overcoming obstacles.

Knowing these things, imagine my delight seeing this herd after leaving the house earlier this week, on my way to set up my first DJ gig of 2024.

This last year has been difficult at our house. Outside forces have brought Annie and me closer together than ever before, yet our souls are wounded and our spirits are weary. We have shed a lot of tears and prayed with broken hearts. When confronted with a deluge of discouragement and tragedy, it would be nice to get a sign – something to remind us that everything is going to be OK.

Mythologies and folklore are something people invented. Yet they are real as a way we have handed down stories through generations from one to the next. In many ways, what is fact or fiction is irrelevant. These beliefs, traditions, and superstitions existed for a reason. Once you dig into the different stories, you begin to see a commonality between this culture and that culture, from one region to another. With elk, there are similarities connecting people separated by oceans and vast distances.

Nearly all ancient populations thought bull elks signified attributes like strength, confidence, and determination. They found qualities like protection, providence, and provision in cow elks. When they spotted a whole herd, most cultures interpreted it as a sign of community and the need to rely on those around you. There is a universal certainty an elk crossing your path was a suggestion to change course. In dreams, it was commonly believed elk represented fortitude, resilience, and overcoming trials.

Seeing a herd of animals won’t change the course of my life, even creatures as majestic as the elk. Still, the myths about elk are too consistent to be accidental. Folklore survives because it teaches us lessons about our people, our land, and our selves. If I am superstitious to think finding a herd of elk grazing in a field along the road is a sign from God that my community has my back, so be it. Nothing is harmed feeling a bit more confident and determined from the tales of my ancestors.


To Be President (Let’s Play a Game)

Presidential debates are a joke, right? It’s just two (sometimes three) candidates from opposing parties criticizing each other while competing in mental gymnastics to avoid answering questions placed by the moderator who lost control of the event before it even started. Or in the case of Donald Trump, debates are an opportunity to be creepy and follow your opponent around like some sort of menacing sexual predator.

I remember when the debates were actual debates. Some boring newscaster would ask the candidates what they would do about various issues facing Americans; then the wannabe presidents would provide a vague semblance of what they believe to be the best course of action. Their opponent would poke holes in those policy plans then the same question would be posed to the second candidate with the first hopeful to dismantle the opposing ideas.

Those days are gone. I don’t have any hope of such a format returning to American political discourse. However, I’m not thrilled about the current approach of letting all the monkeys fling poo at each other until the broadcast is terminated. Besides, we already know what positions the candidates support. We’re not learning anything new from the debates.

Many people have suggested adding an age limit for presidential qualifications but I have a better idea. Instead of an arbitrary number, what if we could use the debates to filter out those who are too old due to incompetence or mental decline? What if we created a method far more educational and entertaining than what we do now? At least it would be fun and informative for the average voter; I’m not sure how much the candidates would enjoy it. All nominees in the general election (3rd parties included) should compete in a series of game shows based on high school civics exams, citizenship tests for immigrants, and introductory level understandings of things like economics, law, and geography. Instead of pundits from various news networks hosting these competitive debates, they should be hosted by the comedians of late night television.

The first round should be a Jeopardy style game with trivia from high school civics classes. All clues will be read in the form of an answer. Contestants, ahem, I mean candidates should buzz in to answer with a question. Categories could include topics like Current World Leaders, Cabinet Positions, Constitutional Amendments, Checks and Balances, War on Drugs, and Immigration Policy.

Round Two: Hollywood Squares. Just like the classic game show, celebrities fill up a 3x3 tower of booths to help (or decidedly not help) the candidates as they take turns with questions taken straight from the test immigrants take to become citizens. When a would-be president answers a question correctly, they get an X or an O for a competitive game of tic-tac-toe.

Next up, round three is Hot Ones. Candidates are asked a series of questions about the functions of the government and various branches of the armed forces. If they answer correctly, nothing happens. If they get a question wrong, they have to eat a chicken wing covered hot sauce. Or meatless wing if they’re a vegetarian. The wings get spicier with each subsequent wrong answer. The more they get wrong, the hotter their wings get.

Where in the World are American Interests? fills up the fourth round with geography questions. In this Carmen Sandiego spoof, candidates are the gumshoes answering questions focused on the locations of our foreign allies, military assets, and global conflicts.

The fifth round features kids. In Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? each candidate is paired with an elementary student to answer basic questions about American history, ethics, business, money, and culture. If the candidate gets a question wrong while it is successfully answered by their fifth grade partner, the moderator will make jokes about the failing potential president’s educational degrees and professional accomplishments.

The final debate is a revamped Price Is Right. In this competition, those running for president will play a bunch of mini games to guess how much money it takes to live in America. The idea is to see which candidate is most aware of what American consumers pay for basic necessities of housing, transportation, utilities, education, food, clothing, health care, and electronics.

We don’t need to hear candidates spout their opinions about hot button issues because we know those will fall into ideological lines of their parties. It would be helpful to know if these potentially most powerful people in the world are smart enough to handle the basics of the presidency. Do they know what they’re talking about - even if you don’t agree with their biases?

Six rounds of game shows replacing debates. Attendance mandatory. Everything is scored so there can be definitive winners and losers. All facts, no opinions. Hosted and moderated by funny folks like Steven Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Amber Ruffin, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver. Losing doesn’t remove POTUS hopefuls from the ballot but (hopefully) sways voters to pick better Presidents. This plan even has the potential to create a smarter electorate. Perhaps the viewer will learn something about this country while learning about their favorite contestant. I mean candidate. Perhaps, with a better educated populace, we could avoid repeating the mistakes of our past.

Theoretically speaking of course. What do I know? I’m just a DJ and an author.


To Be President (On Paper)

The constitutional requirements for someone to become the President of the United States of American is embarrassingly sparse. Or at least, the qualifications to be eligible are few.

1. Must be at least 35 years old. Technically a 34 year old could campaign as long as they turn 35 before the inauguration.
2. Must be a natural born citizen of the USA. There’s been lots of arguments about what that means, and that’s a debate I do not wish to settle.
3. Must have been an American resident for at least 14 years. Suck it ex-pats.

That’s it. You gotta live here, be born here, and be 35 or older. With math and some rough estimations, that’s roughly 120 million Americans who are eligible to become president. Why don’t more people run? Well, from a humorist’s perspective, the only people who want to become president are the kinds of people who should never be president. Theory has it one must be pathologically narcissistic to run for president.

In reality though, money rules the USA. Only rich people can afford to run for president. That takes our estimated 120 million eligible natural born American residents over the age of 35 down to a list of 22 million millionaires. But 1% of millionaires are under 35, so some more calculations give us 21.7 million who meet the constitutional standards to be president and possess the capital to run for office.

Even money and meeting qualifications aren’t enough. You need to be accepted by a party and we all know there’s enough infighting in politics to exclude certain candidates from their own party’s primaries. Even if one is on the primary ballot, those candidates must appeal to the most extreme elements of their base to make it through to the general election. If we’ve learned anything from the 2016 and 2020 elections, overcrowded clown cars in the primaries tend to provide the worst possible candidates in the general election.

All things considered, from the wealth to the influence of the fringes - becoming president is not simple. However, I believe it’s too easy to qualify to be president. Being the right age, naturally born, and residing in America is not enough. Our guidelines should be a little more stringent. If I had it my way (which we all know I don’t) I would include a few more requirements for anyone to be eligible for the presidency.

1. Be a natural born citizen of the USA.
2. Reside in the USA for at least the previous 14 years.
3. Be 35 years of age or older.
4. Must have one election for either municipal, state, or federal position.
5. Cannot be the parent, child, spouse, or sibling of a previous President.
6. Can only run for President once unless running for reelection.

Just imagine how different our United States would be right now if we had these rules.

George W Bush would have never been President.
Hillary Clinton would not have been the DNC candidate in 2016.
Carly Fiorina would not have been in the GOP 2016 primary.
We wouldn’t have heard jokes about Low Energy Jeb.
Donald Trump would still be a reality TV star and polarizing celebrity instead of a former president facing multiple indictments.
Tom Steyer would not have been in the DNC 2020 primary.
There’d be no need for Chris Christie to withdraw from the 2024 race.
Vivek Ramaswamy would not have had a 2024 campaign to terminate.
Jill Stein would’t be currently running for the Green Party.
We would have had candidates of greater quality in the previous two and current elections.

How much better off would our nation be right now if the 2016 election was Marco Rubio or Ben Carson versus Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley? Where would we be if Pete Buttigieg or Andrew Yang won the nomination four years ago instead of Joe Biden.

Looking into the future, these three new requirements I propose would prevent Michelle Obama or Don Jr from running for president because they are the offspring of or married to a former president. Kamala Harris would be disqualified from running for President because she ran in 2020. As much as I like Cory Booker and John Kasich, neither of them would qualify to run for President because they were unsuccessful in their last attempts. No more Ron DeSantis or Beto O'Rourke or the national stage. We wouldn’t have any random rich dudes who got wealthy through pharmaceutical or tech startups decide they are smart enough to run the country. No more real estate moguls or CEOs who sold the SuperSonics to OKC thinking their wealth qualifies them to be the POTUS.

Theoretically speaking of course. What do I know? I’m just a dude who writes books and plays music for other people.


Scenes from a Movie We’ll Never See

We all know this castle right?
Image courtesy Disney

We have observed Tinker Bell flying over this structure for the better part of the last century. Soon, there’s a movie coming from the house of mouse the younger version of me thought would never happen.
Image courtesy movieweb.com

Humor me for a moment.

You’re sitting in a darkened theater and the Marvel fanfare begins. You’ve watched enough MCU movies to know what’s coming. Flashing comic book pages followed by reddened clips of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes framing the inside edges of letters comprising the words Marvel Studios. However, instead of Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans populating the studio title card, it’s all images of Deadpool doing inappropriate things from his first two movies.

Next up is the Disney branding. This is where the Magic Kingdom comes in. However, instead of the home fit for Cinderella, the castle we all know and love is constructed with katanas, pistols, grenades, rocket launchers, sais, and knives. The sky is red, the river black. Replacing the old ship, there’s a food truck selling chimichangas. Instead of the orchestral version of “When You Wish Upon a Star” as the fanfare, you have Flava Flav singing the lyrics in the same passionate and slightly off key voice like when he sang the National Anthem. With the last line “come to you” you hear the snikt sound of Wolverine’s claws, then a second snikt, followed by a slash.

When the Disney fanfare is done, the camera zooms into and through the castle doors as if it was attached to a drone flown by Wade Wilson. Once inside the castle, the camera turns 180° to replay a clip from 2018’s Deadpool 2 where Wolverine is about to fight the weird Deadpool from 2009’s X-Men Origins. Through Logan’s claws, you watch the crappy Deadpool get shot in the head by the cool Deadpool. Deadpool steps out and says “Hey, it’s me, don’t scratch.”
Image courtesy Fox Marvel/Disney

This is all straight from the post credits scene of Deadpool 2. As soon as Wade says “Don’t scratch,” you hear a record scratch and the frame freezes. Over the motionless action from the previous movie, the new Deadpool’s narration begins.

“Remember when this happened? Ever since then, shit got weird. How weird? Glad you asked.”

Suddenly, new footage starts in a room full of Deadpools from different universes. One is wearing a Santa hat, one is dressed like Gwenpool (voiced by Blake Lively), one is a cartoon, there’s a dinosaur, and a kid. With the exception of Gwenpool and the kid, all of them are played by Ryan Reynolds. This collection of Deadpool variants are arguing about which Deadpool is the real Deadpool. One of them cracks, screaming “there can be only one” and kills all of them except Gwenpool. He tells Gwenpool, “Bye hon, I’ll see you when I’m done with filming.”

Breaking the fourth wall, Deadpool looks at the camera and says “I told them I was the real Deadpool.” He pauses and cocks his head to the side then continues. “Wait, what if I’m not the real Deadpool.” Wade looks around and kicks a couple corpses to see if any other Deadpools are still alive then faces the camera again. “Oh well, too late now. The last Deadpool puts on a pair of Mickey Mouse ears and leaves the room while whistling the dwarfs’ tune from Snow White: “Whistle While You Work.”

Title card. DEADPOOL 3 fills the screen. The opening credits sequence features a gratuitous amount of Deadpool twerking with the soundtrack playing Ying Yang Twins’ song “Whistle While You Twurk.” Deadpool twerks with Chewbacca, She-Hulk, Zachary Levi dressed like Flynn Rider, the emotions from Inside Out, Quorra from Tron, Will Smith’s Genie, Woody and Buzz, Domino and Cable, Ernesto de la Cruz, Loki, Olaf, Gaston, Quasimodo, Sir Patrick Stewart, Salacious B. Crumb, and Ke Huy Quan reprising his role of Short Round but he’s wearing Indiana Jones’ hat.

I know the real movie won’t start like this but dang I’d love it if it did. There are a lot of scenes I want to see in Deadpool 3 which I know will never happen. Because I’m not a writer with Marvel Studios; I’m just a fan. But if I was one of Disney/Marvel’s screenwriters, here are a few other bits I’d include.

Peter Dinklage comes back as Bolivar Trask - the villain he played in 2014’s Days of Future Past. He’s lamenting how his sentinel project failed and wants to hire a mercenary to kill all the mutants. Deadpools shows up to take the job. After introductions, Deadpool tells Trask “You look like my friend Eitri. But you can’t be him, he was a giant.”

In another scene, Deadpool and Wolverine explore the X Mansion where they run into Bobby Drake, AKA Iceman played by Shawn Ashmore from Days of Future Past. When Iceman demonstrates his powers, Deadpool asks “Do you want to build a snowman?” Wolverine the grump answers “No.” Deadpool replies with singing “OK bye …”

Wolverine goes feral and destroys a building. Deadpool tells him “You’re stealing Wreck-It-Ralph’s job.”

Deadpool asks if Harrison Ford is going to show up throughout the movie. At one point, he asks “Which Ford are we going to see next? Han Solo, Doctor Jones, or the red hulk.” After knocking on a door, Calista Flockhart answers. Deadpool asks her if Harrison can come out and play. Flockhart says “He’s busy filming Air Force Two.”

If any of these scenes appear in the final version of Deadpool 3, I will be the giddiest fanboy in the theater. Reality is I’m not Professor X, Jean Grey, Emma Frost, Stryfe, or any other physic powered mutant so I can’t predict what jokes or songs or cameos will be in the real movie. I won’t riot if my wishes are unfulfilled. What I do want is bountiful Disney jokes. I want to hear jokes about the MCU’s inconsistent timeline and how the Netflix series were retconned to be cannon. I want to hear Deadpool criticize Marvel’s toxic fandom telling them to shut up when it comes to shows and movies featuring female superheroes. I want a rickroll. Even if I don’t get any of that, I just want the movie to be fun.

My version is not coming to theaters ever. But Disney’s version is set to be released in July and (if the rumors are true) the trailer will debut during the Super Bowl. Until then, we can only speculate what shenanigans the merc with a mouth will get into.
Image courtesy Marvel/Disney


My Grandmother, Eshet Chayil

Author and Christian influencer Rachel Held Evens often used the Hebrew phrase eshet chayil, translated to mean woman of valor. Taken from the 31st chapter of Proverbs: “eshet chayil who can find? She is worth more than rubies.” In Hebrew, the word chayil suggests bravery, courage, and strength. If one marries a woman of valor, she sets the tone of love and growth for everyone around her.

This term fascinated me from the first moment I learned it. I wanted to write about it but could not find a fitting way until Grandma Casey passed away the evening on January 3rd. She was a woman who embodied strength and courage. Looking at her, you would never expect it - she was eshet chayil in the most unlikely figures.

Why so unlikely? She should not have lived. Conceived in unfortunate circumstances, born with a defect that should have given her a premature life expectancy, and raised as an unwanted child, Lois Casey was a woman who defied all odds. To see her, you would never know she was winning in a life where the cards she was dealt were stacked against her. However, I didn’t know she was a woman of such valor until later in life.

My earliest memories were the weekly phone calls which served as our Saturday morning alarm clock. It was 8am in Yukon but 6am on the west coast. She would greet me and my brother with love and compassion then talk with my dad to stay current with the events of our lives. One summer, my brother and I spent part of our vacation staying at her house. She spoiled us, it was the first time I ever ate Fruity Pebbles. It was a cereal my parents would never buy for us but grandma believed kids deserved to eat fun food. This was the grandma I grew up with. Cheerful, good natured, caring, and a little rambunctious.

When I was a teenager, grandma revealed to us the truth of her birth and childhood, stories she had not told anyone. It was then we began to see the warrior spirit inside her petite frame, wrinkled skin, and gentle voice. She remained faithful to loving her husband, her kids and grandkids, her church, and her friends. She welcomed strangers and acted as their host as if she were entertaining Jesus. She took her role as a Christian seriously and devoted her life to being the voice and hands of God to anyone who needed it.

The disability she was born with should have stunted her life span, instead it only stunted her height, and it could not withhold the giant inside her. She prayed with unimaginable power. If she was going to pray for you, it was known she would be relentless in her appeals to God until she got an answer. She was a firecracker with the passion aflame in her eyes. The compassion she carried ignited her, directing everything she did. Grandma Casey was fierce in the lengths she went to demonstrate God’s love for everyone she encountered.

When Grandpa Casey passed, she could have enjoyed her latter years as a doting grandmother. Instead she became ordained and devoted her life to ministry. She became an inspiring beacon of light. She taught us to expect the unexpected, to see miracles in the most mundane and unlikely places.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known Grandma was praying for me. She prayed for my health and protection through the most devastating days of my life. She prayed for my success in the throws of defeat. She prayed that I would love others and be completely loved. No matter my circumstances, I knew the power of grandma’s prayers and the encouragement of her words were only a phone call away. Seven and a half years ago, I made such a phone call to return the favor.

When my wife and I first met, we didn’t want to publicize it. We wanted to take the time to get to know each other before we introduced our friends and family. We kept it secret for a few months, not mentioning the details of our dates on social media, and enjoying this period of newfound romance free from outside influences. Around this same time, Grandma’s health began to decline. My dad texted me one day to let me know she had been moved to hospice and would likely be with us for only a few more days.

Sitting that night in my church parking lot, I dialed her phone number and had a beautiful conversation with her. I also let her know I had found someone special. I broke my rules for grandma because I could not bear the thought of her leaving this world without knowing I was going to be OK. Grandma Casey was the first person on this planet to know I had fallen in love. I did so because she was a woman of valor. I knew that if she would be in prayer through her dying breath, she would include my future wife in her appeals before God.

Then, as often was the case with Grandma Casey, a miracle happened. Her health mended and life continued. She remained a warrior. She bravely approached the end of her life, giving time for my father, my aunt Iona, and my aunt Phyllis to visit and spend time at her side, sharing with them the unassailable joy and stubborn will God created deep in her soul.

Slowly, age took over. Her body and mind weakened. Yet her spirit persevered. In her final days, she continued to demonstrate courage and strength. She was ready to see Jesus face to face. She was ready to be reunited with her Harvey. She was ready to go home.

Today, and in the years to come, it is my hope for those who knew her to remember her as a warrior - brave and bold with a mischievous streak. I will forever know her as a Proverbs 31 lady, eshet chayil, a woman of valor.

She kept her head in all situations, endured hardship, and did the work of an evangelist. She fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Now she has been awarded a crown of righteousness. Today she stands in strength and glory, receiving the words “Well done Lois Casey, good and faithful servant. Welcome home.”


Of Gods and Reasons to Persevere

Norse mythology is unique, filled with gods who were powerful, clever, daring, but also a little weird. Actually… a lot of weird.

Other mythologies also had strong, brave, and intelligent gods. From India to Egypt to Greece, worshipers believed their dieties to be the most worthy of adoration because the gods would always be gods. There was no forever for the Norse gods though. The end of the gods was hardwired into the mythology.

Ragnarok was coming.
Their virtues didn’t matter.
Odin’s wisdom would not be enough to avoid it.
Thor’s strength would not be enough to stop it.
Frigg’s compassion would not be enough to prevent it.
Tyr’s bravery would not be enough to hold it back.
Heimdallr’s heightened senses would not be enough to protect the other gods from it.
Loki’s trickery would not be enough to change it.
Idunn’s youth would not be enough to delay it.
Forseti’s pursuit of peace and justice would not be enough to subdue it.
Ragnarok would be their demise.

There were no other alternatives. The Norse gods were destined to fall. They were imperfect and jealous of each other. They argued and held grudges. They won battles but also lost battles. Yet the Norse people honored them. They revered their doomed gods. They knew their gods would die and still remained devoted.

In our modern world, I don’t know how many of us would stay hopelessly loyal to a guaranteed lost cause.

Growing up in the Christian faith, I was raised to believe in a God who was omniscient, omnipotent, & omnipresent. Infinite knowledge, infinite power, and infinite presence. The God I was taught to worship was defined by love, compassion, justice, and mercy. This is the God of all gods, the one who spoke the world into existence, an unchanging being who would reign for eternity. Scripture assures the living God to be perfect and undefeated. However, scripture never promised perfection and success for mortals. We believe in a God who could intervene on our behalf, but the intervention is never a sure bet.

We are flawed and broken. Stubborn and impudent. Greedy and vengeful. Human nature is host to the whole spectrum of good and evil, vice and virtue, success and failure.
Norse peoples were promised gods who would fail. Christians are promised a God who would succeed. Meanwhile on earth, we are promised neither. Instead we are given a choice. Do we follow the bandwagon and hitch our hopes to the best chance of victory? Or do we follow what we believe to be right even if it ends in disaster? Success is never stipulated.
Authors with a completed manuscript are not guaranteed a book deal.
Scientists are not guaranteed their theories will be proven.
Painters are not guaranteed their master work will ever be sold.
Teachers are not guaranteed students who pay attention.
Students are not guaranteed good grades.
Police are not guaranteed they solve crimes.
Criminals are not guaranteed they will evade arrest.
Prosecutors are not guaranteed a favorable jury vote.
Politicians are not guaranteed an electoral win.

Your religious faith, political leanings, gender, financial status, ethnicity, sexuality, physical ability, and social standings could help or (depending on the situation) hinder your chances but none of it guarantees anything. Failure is always possible.

For a decade, I’ve been fighting a battle that often feels like an inevitable defeat. The way I’ve been treated, described, slandered, and maligned frequently casts me as the loser. It’s taken a serious toll on both my physical and mental health. Sometimes it seems the giant I face is too big to defeat and I’m fresh out of stones for my slingshot.

Yet I trudge onward. I remain devoted. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. Because the stakes are too severe for me to give up. If the Norse believed in Gods who were a bunch of losers, if first century Christians believed in a flawless God who could save them from persecution even if it never happened, I can hang on. If there is a chance of failure, no matter how probable, there is also a chance of victory.

My hope isn’t in a promised destruction nor is it in perfect divine holiness. My hope is in the possibility of that which is never promised. I hope to win but realize I could lose.


Marvel’s Christmas Spectacular featuring ….

Ever since Marvel Studios acquired the rights to all of 20th Century Fox’s properties, MCU fans have been speculating how the X-Men will be introduced. Are they new? Have they always been here? Are they from an alternate universe?

Sure, Namor and Kamala Khan are both officially mutants which supports the ‘always been here’ theory. Scenes from Multiverse of Madness and The Marvels both feature mutants in other universes supporting the theory of alternate realities. Finally, there’s always a possibility of them being something new, created through experiments with the super soldier serum or gamma radiation. Rumors also suggest mutants will be brought into the MCU’s sacred timeline in next year’s Deadpool 3. But I have a suggestion.

Looking at the history of MCU, there have been historical war stories (Captain America: The First Avenger), psychological thrillers (Iron Man 3), political spy action (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), heist movies (Ant-Man), psychedelic trips (Doctor Strange), Kung-fu tales (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), space opera (Guardians of the Galaxy), and a melodrama (The Eternals). You know what’s missing? A Christmas movie. While there was the Guardian’s Christmas special, and Hawkeye was set during the holiday season, there isn’t a legit theatrically released Yuletide film.

There is a way for Marvel Studios to introduce mutants and the X-Men in a Christmas movie and it all hinges on this guy.
Image courtesy Marvel Comics

Yes, Santa Claus. In the comics, Santa is an omega level mutant - quite possibly the most powerful of all mutantkind.
Images courtesy Marvel Comics

Just imagine the money to be made with a Santa centric movie becoming an official part of MCU cannon. What if it could tie in previous properties while setting up the future of Marvel’s cinematic universe? Here is what I propose.

Begin in 1840’s London with an older man named Kristof entering a cathedral on Christmas Eve. After confession, he picks up a large red sack and walks to the orphanage to donate gifts to the kids. There he plays with kids of Norwegian, Egyptian, and Greek origins. The kids ask why he does what he does. He says “it’s to honor the memory of Saint Nikolas.” The Norwegian kid says Kris has the wisdom of Odin. The Egyptian kid says he has the determination of Khonshu. And the Greek kid says he has the compassion of Sersi. Kris asks if those are their gods When the kids confirm, Kris says “If you believe in them, then I believe in them too.”

When he leaves the orphanage, he’s attacked by a dark elf, while other dark elves (from Thor 2) assault the orphanage in search of the portal to the hidden realm seeking the aether. Kris fights back but there are too many elves to take on alone. Inside the kids pray to their gods. Outside Odin (from Thor), and Sersi (from The Eternals), arrive along with Khonshu's current avatar (from Moon Knight). Together the four are able to defeat the elves.

Unfortunately, Kris is wounded and dying. The gods thank Kris for his efforts. He explains it was done to honor St Nikolas. Sersi says “I knew Nikolas” and wishes to transform Kris into an icon worthy of Nikolas’s deeds. She gives him her empathy for humanity and her skill to manipulate matter through touch. Odin gives him his wisdom and regenerative powers. Khonshu gives him his strength and the ability to control time and space.

Immediately his wounds heal and Kris feels younger. Sersi tells him he now has the power to bring joy to the whole world, not just the kids of one orphanage. Sersi says she can be found at the Tower Museum if Kris ever has questions. Odin leaves with his chariot pulled by the flying goats. Khonshu releases his avatar who has no clue how he got there. After they’re gone, Kris laughs about the goats and says “That gives me an idea.”

To start his new life, Kris transports himself to Norway to find some reindeer. With a touch, he gives them power to fly. He then transforms a tree into an ornate sleigh. This begins a montage of Kris delivering presents around the world.

One hundred years later, Kris goes by the name Santa. He lands with his reindeer in a Canadian logging camp and is caught by a man named Logan (the future Wolverine). When Logan shakes hands with Santa, Logan’s DNA is altered. Logan is unaware of the changes but Santa knows, it is the first time he’s used this power on another person. Santa tells Logan he might be needed some day.

In Harvard dorm room during the 1980’s, Santa is discovered by a wheelchair bound college kid named Charles Xavier whose DNA is rewritten. Santa gives Charles the same message delivered to Logan. On the same trip he also meets a high school kid named Hank McCoy in Dundee Illinois, and elementary kids named Scott Summers in Anchorage Alaska and Jean Grey in New York. He does the same thing to them as Charles.

In the 90s he finds a young Monica Rambeau (from Captain Marvel), a German child in Witzeldorf named Kurt Wagner, an African kid in Nairobi named Ororo, and a Russian kid in Siberia named Piotr Rasputin. In 2012, after the battle of Manhattan, he encounters teens across the USA: Kitty Pryde, Anna Marie, Alison Blaire, Remy LeBeau, and Jubilation Lee. Just before the blip, Santa travels to Tokyo Japan, the Scottish Highlands, Montreal Canada, and all over America where he meets Hisako Ichiki, Rahne Sinclair, Jean-Paul Beaubier, Emma Frost, siblings Paige and Sam Guthrie, Tyrone Johnson, Tandy Bowen, and Everett Thomas. Everyone who interacts with Santa gets their DNA changed and told they might be needed some day.

Then the blip happens and Santa is dusted. Five years later Santa returns with Ironman’s snap and finds a world devastated without Santa Claus. Instead an inter-dimensional creature named Krampus has taken his place. Rather than bringing gifts to children, Krampus terrifies them, even kidnapping and enslaving kids during Santa’s absence. Santa challenges Krampus but Krampus kicks Santa’s ass. Santa spends the next year finding his team of reindeer and building up his strength.

Santa also searches for the people he’s recruited over the last hundred years and discovers the multiple snaps from Infinity War and End Game activated latent powers given to them when he changed their DNA. He begs for their help. Most of them decline but others agree to fight Krampus and his army of Schnukies.

The final battle begins on Christmas Eve. Charles Xavier uses his psychic powers to influence Krampus. Scott Summers fires optic blasts from his eyes and takes out several Schnukies. Jean Grey fights with telekinesis. Hank McCoy is blue and hairy and attacks the Schnukies with brutality. Logan is feral and rips his enemies apart with claws protruding from his fists. Hisako projects armor, Jubilation creates fireworks with her hands, and Rahne turns into a wolf.

At the end of the fight, a victorious Santa manipulates time so he can begin his journey around the world to deliver presents before Christmas morning.

Realizing they are not alone in possessing mutant powers Charles (now a professor), Hank, Scott, and Jean agree to establish a school for mutants to learn how to control their powers. They invited Logan to work with them but he says he’s rather be alone. Christmas morning, Santa uses the power Sersi gave him to transform a plot of land into a mansion which would become Professor Xavier’s school for gifted children. Xavier offers the younger mutants a place to live and they all accept. Santa and the newly formed X-Men share a holiday meal together where they promise to seek and assist all other mutants.

The post credit scene returns to the 1840s. Kris is at a friend’s house for tea. He recounts his interactions with Odin, Sersi, and Khonshu. At the end he says “They were like three ghosts of Christmas.” His friend replies “A ghost of Christmas past, a ghost of Christmas present, and a ghost of Christmas future.” He adds “You gave me an idea for a wonderful story.” As Kris leaves, his friend calls him Kristof Kringle and Kris thanks Charles Dickens for his hospitality.

Dear Disney, I’m available to join your writing team. Please hire me.


On Special Interests

One common symptom of autism is having an oddly specific area of interest. It’s not just the “I like football” or “my favorite class at school is history” kind of thing that everyone experiences. Nor is it the general list of hobbies possessed by both neurotypical and neurodivergent people. The autistic special interest takes the normal curiosities and pleasures of fascination and entertainment then ferociously consumes every trivial aspect of that thing.

Everything in their world relates back to their special interest. Every conversation inevitably loops back to this thing because they know all there is to know about it. You might like that thing, but it is the most important thing to them. It borders obsession. Or as the National Autistic Society in the UK describes it: “intense and highly-focused interests.”

Let’s say you (a typically functional human) enjoys hiking. If you’re invited to go on a hike, you’ll probably say yes. You might even research a couple different trails to see which one is more popular or is easier to access. Then pretend we have a neurospicy individual who enjoys hiking because it is their special interest. They know how long it takes to drive to every trailhead. They know the length and elevation gain of each trail, how many times you’ll have to cross a stream and the sturdiness of the bridges at each crossing, and the varied vistas to see along the way. The normalized interest in hiking and the interest in hiking with autism are not the same thing.

As a late realized autistic, I’ve been reexamining my childhood through new lenses. Seeing myself as a kid with autism explains so many of my eccentricities and peculiar behavior. I was scripting before I even knew what scripting was. I had texture issues with clothes and food. I was sensory avoidant in almost everything except loud music and turbulent weather.

As for the special interests, I was sure I had them but couldn’t remember what they were. Perhaps my parents could tell you. At least I didn’t remember until recently.

Walking around with a colleague, we discussed how we remember the street names and business locations around downtown. I talked about the mental 3D map I’ve created like a holographic projection inside my cranium. This 3D map charts possible routes and detours between my current location in the space-time continuum and my destination. This is when it hit me. Maps were my special interest.
Image courtesy of Travel Safe

During my earliest memories, my dad sold windows and insulation from a small office in the Riverside neighborhood of Everett. His employer sent him to potential clients’ homes to measure the size of existing windows so he could provide accurate prices for replacements or sketch out the wall dimensions for quoting the cost of insulation.

He frequently had me ride shotgun with him. He believed dragging me to work with him a better option than leaving me home alone. We both benefitted. I helped him hold the tape measure in place and he taught me to navigate maps.

Not Apple Maps or Mapquest. Ever-present internet maps didn’t exist in 1983. He carried a spiral bound book showing the streets of Snohomish County, the kind that directed you to a different page when the road you travelled reached the edge of the current page. Eventually, he changed jobs and his sales territory grew. Soon the paper map collection grew to include Pierce, King, Skagit, and Island Counties. I continued to accompany him throughout my youth. Rand McNally books were sacred texts in the days before GPS navigation and I became a master navigator before I graduated elementary school.

I never grew out of this phase. When I started hiking and climbing in the 90s, I became obsessed with the 100 Hikes books published by The Mountaineers. In addition to text description of the trails and photos of Washington’s alpine wilds, there were trail maps detailing every switchback through wooded, meadow, and rocky terrain. As a student, geography was the first class I passed with an A. As a reader, maps at the beginning of books elevate the story for me. From Tolkien’s Middle Earth to Stephen King’s Under the Dome, to Justin Cronin’s The Passage: maps bring me into these fictional worlds.
Image courtesy of Stephen King and Scribner

As an adult, I’ll zoom in and out of various locations in Google Maps, virtually exploring locales I’ll probably never get to visit. My maps fascination helped me discover a swing in the middle of the jungle while we were in Waikiki. It’s my favorite tool when planning vacations, whether we’re doing a road trip to see family in Cheyenne, returning to my hometown of Marysville, or going to a place we’ve never been before. I used it to search for tattoo parlors in Norway, Costa Rica, and The Bahamas - the next big adventures we want to partake. I’ve used it to familiarize myself with the town of Paisley Scotland so I don’t get lost when I check visiting Paisley Abbey off my bucket list.

During those early 80s days of carefree kidhood, there were two other special interests that tied into my love of maps. My younger self was obsessed with drawing mazes. This predated my fondness for maps though. To keep me quiet during church services, my parents supplied me with a pad of graph paper and a writing stick; by the time the sermon was over, the whole page was filled with geometrical doodles, branching pathways, and only one true route from start to finish. When I began reading maps, it was like seeking a path through the maze, only through the real world. Mazes were maps of mystery and puzzles. Road maps also contained mysteries, but fewer dead ends.
Image courtesy of Outside Magazine

My other autistic special interest also stemmed from my dad’s time selling windows and insulation: architecture. I helped him measure so many homes I became enamored with the way they were designed. Floor plans are basically maps of buildings. I began creating house designs in grade school on the same graph paper I once used for mazes. A decade later I was taking architectural drafting classes at MPHS. Up through my senior year, I had ambitions of a career as an architect. Even now I’ll occasionally have the urge to sketch out a rough blueprint of my dream home - a dream that is constantly evolving.

Maps. Mazes. Masonry. Well, not masonry but the alliteration makes me happy. So my special interests are maps: geographical maps, fantasy maps, maps that are mazes, maps of buildings, maps like floor plans, and the mental maps existing only inside my head to help me navigate the world around me. It’s my autistic superpower.


Our Region In Flames

I thought about fire burning in your eyes. I thought about fire. - Blindside
Image Courtesy Thoma Casey

How can we dance when the world is turning? How do we sleep while our beds are burning? - Midnight Oil
Image courtesy Myk Crawford

We didn't start the fire. It was always burning, since the world's been turning. We didn't start the fire. No, we didn't light it but we tried to fight it. - Billy Joel
Image courtesy WADOT

Now I see fire inside the mountain, I see fire burning the trees, and I see fire howling souls. I see fire, blood in the trees, and I hope that you’ll remember me. - Ed Sheeran
Image courtesy Greg Halling

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend. - James Taylor
Image courtesy Tom Burgess

Death is on the top of her tongue and danger’s on the tip of her fingers. Streets are on fire tonight. - Lupe Fiasco
Image courtesy WADOT

Things we lost to the flames, things we’ll never see again. All that we’ve amassed sit before us shattered into ash. - Bastille
Image courtesy Zack Zappone

Liar, liar, the world's on fire. What you gonna do when it all burns down? - Dolly Parton
Image courtesy Erik Smith

We’ve built our confidence on wasteland. We’ve seen how the walls come down. Life burns. - Apocalyptica
Image courtesy Brian Jacob

Sleep now in the fire. - Rage Against the Machine
Image courtesy Colin Mulvany @ SR

There are three major fires burning around us. To our east, Ridge Creek above Hayden Lake has burned 4100 acres. North of us, Oregon Road in Elk has burned 10,000 acres. Finally, the Gray fire west of us in Medical Lake has also burned 10,000 acres. There are two known deaths and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed. The Spokane region is devistated and funds are being raised by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Giving Back Spokane, and No-Li Brewhouse. We also have family direclty impacted who had to evacuate including the grandparents in Medical Lake who host all of our holiday gatherings. If you think of us, please pray for rain.


Happiness is a Warm Idol

My evangelical upbringing might have overemphasized the value of being happy. By might be, I mean they definitely did overemphasize it. The simple message was reiterated from childhood Sunday School classes through Wednesday night youth group, summer camps and weekend retreats, college ministries and revival services. It rarely changed: just give your heart to Jesus and you’ll be happy.

Even as a kid, I knew this claim was bull shit. The idea that Christian conversion was the key to happiness ignores how bad things can happen to anyone regardless of their religious beliefs. My non-Christian friends found ways to be happy without Jesus. The Venn diagram of things my church taught me and things God never said is a near perfect circle with the tenet of happiness being the ultimate goal being dead center. It is not one of the Ten Commandments but they treated it as if it was law.

As an individual with a melancholic disposition, on the autism spectrum, battling lifelong struggles with depression and anxiety, I have never had a comfortable relationship with the evangelical elevation of happiness. I was taught (and frequently reminded) any expression of sadness or anger was a display of sin. This only exacerbated my mental health issues and threadbare self-esteem.

Biblical study revealed nothing to support this twisted gospel. It has no historical practice in Christian tradition prior to modern evangelicalism and it has zero scriptural support. Variations of the word happy only appear 10 times in the ESV Bible, but joyful and its variants show up more than 400 times. Joy is a concept I appreciate because joy and sorrow can coexist. Even in my darkest days, I can find ways to dance with joy. Happiness though, it takes effort.

Don’t get me wrong, I am able to be happy if I try hard enough. I can even fake being happy at times. However, happiness is not a natural state of being. To be happy requires an emotionally draining level of concentration. If I lose my focus, I might not look or sound happy, even if I am. It’s exhausting. Your legs will feel tired after spending three hours running on a treadmill. An intense basketball game will leave players wheezing and drenched with sweat. Even the most well trained athletes experience fatigue after completing an Ironman triathlon. In a similar way, I feel happiness fatigue after making the effort to appear happy for sustained periods of time.

Does that mean I’m a grumpy asshole? No. Well, sometimes. Does it mean I want to be a grumpy asshole? Absolutely not. At the same time, I don’t want to worship at the altar of happiness. I have no desire to drown in a sea of empty platitudes. I want the church to be honest with the reality that happiness is fleeting, that Christians do not have exclusive rights to happiness, that loving God does not shield anyone from broken hearts and wounded spirits.

Happiness is nice but it’s not a virtue. Happiness is not godliness. Happiness is not God. I’m not always happy, yet I can still find joy in my unhappiness.

With all this in consideration something different happened today. This morning, while walking into work, I felt genuinely happy without purpose or intention. No mental or emotional strain, no faking it or intense focus required. Just natural endorphins firing through the proper synapses the way it should in a neurotypical brain. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this sort of bliss. So I smiled and accepted it for what it was: I am happy.

At least for now. I will savor my unprovoked happy until it fades, but I won’t cling to it. It was never meant to last. While some have bestowed happiness with demigod status, I refuse to bow to false idols.


Uneducated Genius

My wife overheard our 14 year old’s half of a phone conversation with one of his friends. JJ was attempting to explain my level of nerdiness by saying “he writes school papers for fun.” While I’ve never thought of things from that perspective, it’s a fairly accurate depiction of my blogging. Each individual post could be an essay, some sort of self-imposed homework, as if I’ve been composing term papers over and over for nearly two decades.

The irony of my son’s description of me is how I was a terrible student. I was that kid who avoided homework but still managed to get high test scores. I was flunking daily work but an honor roll student in exams. My four attempts at post-secondary education were all hindered by a lack of money or a lack of time. If you complied all my credits together, I’d still be considered a college freshman.

Looking through my professional career it’s amazing how much I’ve accomplished without a bachelor’s degree, but it’s also easy to see how many opportunities I’ve missed for the same reason. I’ve had promotions given to less qualified people because they had college degrees. I’ve also been given responsibilities and job titles typically reserved for people who graduated with some sort of tech school or trade certification.

When I was in second grade, I scored high enough on IQ testing administered by my school to be considered one of the smartest kids in the district and entered an enhanced class for the future MENSA members of Marysville once a week. In fifth grade, I was falling behind in math, so they sent me into special education for an hour every day. Teachers didn’t know how to handle me. I was the first student in the history of the Marysville School District to be simultaneously enrolled in accelerated and remedial classes. At 18, I got my diploma with a GPA that placed me close to halfway between the worst and best students in my graduating class. As for college, it was the illogical logic of economics that broke me and ended my educational career.

I didn’t stop learning though. Even with no grades or deadlines compelling me, I still indulged in research. I educated myself as acts of entertainment and self preservation. I completed classes in Ancient Greek translation and comic book composition. I studied psychology, philosophy, religion, government, history, mythology, cryptozoology, geography, and a wide range of sciences from astronomy, to biochemistry, to quantum mechanics - all because I wanted to. I’ve read peer reviewed academic papers for fun. I’ve helped friends pass their college English and communication classes. My google history includes searches for the most flammable alcohols available in medieval times, the effects of sensory deprivation, string theory, a list of bodies found in peat bogs, and various other inquiries dooming me to an inevitable invitation to an NSA watchlist. I excel at both trivia and improv comedy. I’m a DJ, a farmer, and a licensed minister. I’ve even written a novel.

Sadly, the accumulation of my accomplishments mean absolutely nothing to corporate recruiters, hiring managers, and prospective employers. As for as they’re concerned, I’m the smartest idiot you’ll ever meet.

If you ever wondered what happened to gifted youngsters when they grew up, it’s me. I’m what happened to all of those brilliant young minds with unlimited potential. We grew up to be unremarkable middle aged burnouts with acute anxiety, undiagnosed ADHD, and prescriptions for depression and hypertension. We’ve forgotten our childhood dreams while encouraging our kids to aim for the stars. We never became better than this because we were constantly told we’re better than this. With countless possibilities in front of us, we ended up with none of the above. We’ve pondered the existence of an infinite number of universes where we became something incredible in all of them except this one. We’re not unhappy with the life we live, but it often seems the life we live is unhappy with us.

Autism has been a double edge sword for me. It is the reason I was a gifted child. It made me smarter than most, but it also made it difficult to keep up with my peers. It made me a bright young man who needed to apply myself more. It made me sociable while failing to understand social rules. It made me a polymath with such varied interests I could relate to almost anyone but also made me awkward with difficulties maintaining a conversation. It helped me know a little about everything but not everything about anything. I’ve learned enough about such a wide variety of different topics, I could easily complete a senior thesis in several fields of study. I am a jack of all majors but a masters degree of none.

This is who I am: a person who writes school stuff for fun. I am an uneducated genius. At least my teenaged son thinks I’m smart but in a nerdy way.

More to read:
My experience as a student
I was a peculiar kid
Dreams of another gifted child


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Writing a Novel

Hero was in love with the girl next door. Unfortunately, she was courtesan pledged to be married to a famous soldier who was on his way home from war to claim his new bride. Not all is hopeless for romance; Hero’s family has a slave named Pseudolus who will do anything to earn his freedom and he’s willing to lie or cheat to get it. Pseudolus sees this star-crossed lust as his chance to escape slavery.

The two boys hatch a plan. Pseudolus will help Hero get the girl of his dreams. In exchange, Hero will grant Pseudolus the freedom for which he yearns. The scheme is complicated and does not turn out the way they hoped. High jinks, and supposedly comedy ensue.

This is the gist of the 1966 movie, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” I was a kid the first time I watched it: junior high aged, perhaps younger. At the time, it was the weirdest film I had ever seen. My undeveloped brain struggled to follow the quick dialog and musical numbers. I failed to see the humor or purpose of the elements of slapstick and farce. I was unable to understand the satirical social commentary. I was soured by the 60s sounding score and the dated Romanesque costumes. “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is not a kids movie and I was far too young to enjoy it.
courtesy of UA/MGM

Now older and more appreciative of movie history I’ve grown into a connoisseur of a wider variety of film styles. I’m no longer appalled by the shenanigans of Pseudolus and Hero in their quests for freedom and love. Upon review, I’ve found myself relating to the slave Pseudolus. I’m not the liar and cheater like the movie character but I understand his motives. Playing matchmaker for Hero and Philia was his one opportunity to seize everything he ever wanted. He saw this as his one shot and was not going to miss his chance to blow because this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.

That makes sense to me.

Pseudolus was a slave to Hero’s parents and he wanted a new and better life. I’m also a slave to our modern world: a nine to five job, child support payments, a mortgage, grocery coupons, rebellious teenagers, and a limited budget. For nearly a dozen years I’ve felt like writing was the only available ticket to my new and better life. If my outlook was dismal, I would write my way out. I don’t have any star-crossed friends who want to be lovers in need of my help, but I did write a book. Sometimes it feels like my one shot, one opportunity. If I can’t turn my authorship into a career, there is no plan B. Like Eminem said, Success is my only mother(expletive) option.
courtesy of Universal Pictures

Like Pseudolus and his ill advised trip to the forum, a funny thing happened to me on the way to writing a novel. Several years ago, when blogging was still the next big thing, a friend of mine got a two book publishing contract with one of the big five. I was excited for her, along with our little blogging network. After the debut of her first novel, she started blogging less and eventually stopped updating her blog. It’s been over a decade since she’s posted anything on her blog. I understand why she did what she did so I’m not holding any grudges. At the same time, I swore I would not fall to the same fate when I wrote my first book. But here we are. Ever since I started working on “Kingdom of Odd,” my blogging output has dwindled.

Now is my time to hustle, edit and refine, and dive headfirst into the world of shameless self promotion. Keyboard fail me not this may be the only opportunity that I got.

More to read:

Me and that Eminem song
Why I write
My novel in process


Be Weird

Do you remember the first time you realized you were weird? I do.

It happened during the 1983/84 school year and I was four years old. My best friend in preschool was a kid named Marcus. While I thought I was friends with all of the kids in our class, Marcus was the only one who really treated me like I was his friend.

Show and tell was always a highlight - being able to see all the cool stuff other students brought. Their swag was always so much cooler than anything I had to share. Marcus proved it one week when he brought in the Millennium Falcon play-set. It was the big one that opened up and had space to stand action figures inside. It was so large he had to carry it with two hands.
photo courtesy Kenner

My mom and aunts took me to the theater for a Return of the Jedi showing the previous summer and I thought it was the best movie ever. I was obsessed with Wookiees, Ewoks, Sarlaccs, and Kowakian monkey-lizards (Salacious B. Crumb was my favorite character).

The most exciting Star Wars toy I owned was a speeder bike that exploded into four pieces when you pushed a button behind the seat. Then my best friend walked into our classroom with the most epic toy my young brain could have imagined. I was legitimately jealous. When it was his turn for show and tell that day, I spoke the word that Keanu popularized a decade and a half later. “Whoa.”

Was it really that awesome though? I thought so. And Marcus was proud of it. Unfortunatly, we were the only two students who had positive feelings about the Millennium Falcon. The other kids in our class were unimpressed. When our teachers asked if anyone had questions for Marcus, I was the only student to raise a hand. No one else cared. I watched Marcus deflate, his pride slowly evaporated.

These days, the same toy now sells for anywhere between $300 and $400. In hindsight, Marcus and I knew something about the magic of a galaxy from a long time ago and far far away. We were ahead of our time. Or rather, we were geeks out of place. Return of the Jedi might have been the most popular movie of 1983, but in our conservative evangelical ran preschool in our corner of suburbia, being a Star Wars fan made you a weirdo.

Marcus’ anticlimactic moment in the show and tell spotlight was the first time I realized I was weird. All our peers disapproved of his special interest except me. If he was weird for what he liked, then I was weird too.

Countless interactions with my church peers throughout my childhood and adolescence reconfirmed my oddities. I was the short kid, uncoordinated, and the last one picked in all of our competitive games. I was the theater geek, the quirky and socially awkward kid, the only one in church who read comic books. I was the lone fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I was never elected into the leadership team even though I was one of the few kids who showed up to every event, entered every talent show, played every puding-through-the-nose game, attended every camp and retreat, and participated in every work and witness trip. By the time I graduated high school my role of the outcast was clear, I would never be a part of that inner circle.

Marcus was still around, as weird as always. But he was at peace with his weirdness. He found a way to lean into it and embrace it. He knew the cool kids in our youth group would never accept him, and he didn’t care. He and I walked away with his preschool show and tell defeat with different lessons. He was determined to never let the opinions of our church peers bother him again, while I desperately and fruitlessly sought their approval. It would take me another two decades to find the happiness in weirdness Marcus developed as a teenager.

Grandpa Budd’s funeral was last week. I watched online as Grandpa’s friends and my family entered with a pizazz rarely observed at such somber events. Many wore red clown noses, track suits were abundant, a few people walked into the sanctuary on stilts, and nearly everyone wore bright colors. After the funeral, they held a party with calisthenics and dancing. In the atmosphere of grief and loss, the room was filled with joy and energy. That’s the way Grandpa desired it. He wanted his family to be as loud and as fun as he was.

This is the side of my family who treated me to my first movie theater experience to see Return of the Jedi. This is the side of the family who taught me to enjoy Batman, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and The Matrix - but also "normal" things like travel and volleyball. Grandpa was an athlete and educator with an irrepressible thirst for knowledge and a goofy sense of humor. He gave me my passion for continuous learning and my insatiable wanderlust. He also gifted our whole family the freedom to be weird. Or as my cousin Wendy said, “Thanks Grandpa for being a total weirdo and ensuring that your family followed suit.”
photo courtesy my cousin Wendy

My life has been so much better since I learned the skills my friend Marcus and my Grandpa Budd had already mastered. Weirdness is an asset. My family has always been weird and it took me far too long to appreciate it. I’ve always been weird and I wish I gave myself permission to enjoy it sooner.

Be weird. It’s a beautiful thing to embrace your weirdness. If I have one mission in life, it’s to live out my God-given weirdo personality to help others find joy and peace in their own weirdish ways. To help you live weird.

More to read:

Marcus and Black Hole Sun
Marcus and cold weather
Remebering Grandma Budd


Can’t Take You Seriously

When I was growing up, I was taught by parents, teachers, and pastors how honesty was one of the most worthy virtues a person can possess. You’re only as good as your word. Politically speaking, I was raised to believe Democrats were all liars but Republicans were honest. Then as a teenager, watching the news of Clinton’s affair was supposed to cement my belief in the fundamental dishonesty hardwired into the Democrat party.

As an adult, I know better. I now know there are more deceitful politicians than there are trustworthy politicians. Regardless of political party, people lie to get elected. Or, at best, they make promises they can’t keep. Once in office, they will manipulate facts to fit their agenda and take credit for achievements they originally opposed to make themselves look better. I have seen this happen time and time again, from Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and others.
If the last seven years have taught me anything, the bombardment of political lies (or as one once said … “alternative facts”), one party has turned dishonesty into an art form. The abundance of deceitfulness has become weighted heavier toward the party of so-called honesty. At this point, it’s out of control. To demonstrate what I mean, you should watch this. Actually, you only need to watch the first 29 seconds. The rest of it is biased punditry.

How do people like this get elected? How do her constituents take her seriously? How does anybody take her seriously? How am I supposed to trust the opinions of anyone who supports her? While I realize Marjorie Taylor Greene does not represent every conservative I know, she is influential within the GOP.

That said, let’s look at her claims from this very short statement.

1. When she was in 11th grade, Joe Biden made schools gun free zones. 2. A student brought guns to her school after her school was made a gun-free zone by Joe Biden. 3. There was no good guy with a gun to protect them and there should be armed personnel in schools to prevent stuff like this.

Great. Is there any truth to her statement?

In the fall of 1990, MTG was a junior at South Forsyth High School. On September 7th, a gunman entered the school with a pistol, shotgun, and a rifle. In other speeches, she’s said that this was one of the scariest days of her life which is understandable. There was a law passed in 1990 to make schools gun free zones so she seems to be talking about things that actually happened. But is she?

Who was the president when this happened? George HW Bush. Who signed the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 into law? George HW Bush. Who introduced the bill in the Senate? Senator Kohl, a democrat from Wisconsin. Was this a liberal attack on the second amendment? It passed the house with strong bipartisan support 313 to one and was signed by a conservative president. Did Joe Biden make it happen? Well, he was a senator at the time so it’s likely he voted in favor of it but that’s about the extent of his involvement.

There’s more though. The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 was signed into law on November 29th 1990 - almost three months after a gunman held students hostage at MTG’s school. Her school wasn’t a gun-free zone when the gunman entered her campus. If there weren’t any good guys with a gun present, that would have been due to her school district’s policies, not due to federal law.

There’s still more. How did the incident in her school end? No one was injured. No one was killed. Who stopped the bad guy with a gun? An unarmed good Guy. A teacher risked their own life, physically taking the rifle out of the gunman’s hands. Without the rifle, the handgun used to hold other students hostage and even then it wasn’t a good guy with a gun to end the crisis. The ordeal ended because the bad guy with a gun lacked stamina, he turned himself in after feeling dizzy.

Let’s re-examine her claims. 1. Joe Biden did not make schools gun free zones when MTG was in 11th grade. 2. There was a gun related incident at her school before schools were made gun-free zones, not after. 3. A good guy with a gun wasn’t needed to protect the other kids at her school.

In less than 20 second of talking, she spouted off a demonstrably false statement. Anyone with basic google search skills can look up the facts of her claim and realize the speech flowing from her mouth is a word salad of horse shit.

This is why I can’t take the GOP seriously. This is worse than the “all politicians lie” trope. If you’re going to make up your own facts, at least make it believable. If you’re going to be a lying liar who tells lies, pick a story that isn’t so easily disproven. The modern GOP has elevated dishonesty as if it’s some sort of virtue. MTG isn’t the only blatant liar in the Republican roster. It’s her and Lauren Boebert. And Matt Gaetz. And Ted Cruz. And George Santos. And Josh Hawley.

I’m a believer in having conservative voices in government. I think they help temper the wildest ideas of liberals in elected positions. But in the current state of American politics, I would gladly accept the worst of the DNC’s proposals over the constant barrage of deceit and grift that has permeated the GOP.

If there is to be any sanity in conservatism, they need to reject the charlatans who have become the spokespeople of the Republican Party. Until that happens, I can’t take you seriously.