A Writing Entry – Cat Napping

This was published in September 2011 in Pagan Edge for the theme of balance. This one is actually somewhat based in real-life, in that I often feel work takes precedent over everything else in my life. I also, I come from a family of cat people and currently share space with two black cats. No, I’m not superstitious, although after a period of quite bad luck, a friend of mine pointed out to me that I constantly had a black cat crossing my path. I had to concede he had a point, but the bad luck passed and I am still fond of black cats.

Cat Napping

Michael laid on his couch thoroughly annoyed with himself. He had a huge project due in a week and now he had come down with some kind of flu bug. He’d gone to work Monday and Tuesday despite feeling like death warmed over. Every single one of his co-workers told him he looked awful and he should stay home, but he had to finish his project. He just couldn’t make the drive today and it annoyed him. He checked his company cell phone constantly for his email.
“Get down, Boots,” he snapped.
The black cat with white feet hopped off his lap and washed a paw.
He set the phone down. No email. Then he sneezed several times.
Boots crouched down behind the footstool.
The medicine was starting to make Michael feel sleepy and slow. He found himself watching Boots as the cat crouched down, wiggled his tail, and fixed his green eyes on Saddles, a mostly white cat with a distinctive black spot that had given him his name. Saddles was heading into the kitchen to get some food. Then Saddles seemed to catch the movement of Boots’ tail and he stopped and stared directly at the smaller cat.
“He can see you, you stupid cat,” Michael said to Boots, who of course didn’t pay attention.
Boots charged Saddles, then abruptly came up short and dashed into the kitchen. That was apparently the signal to play, and Saddles chased after him.
Michael reflected he hadn’t been home much as he watched his cats romp through the apartment. Now Boots was chasing Saddles through the kitchen. He winced as heard small pellets bounce off the tile and realized one of the cats had slid into the food bowl and tipped it “You two stop that!” he yelled. The cats paid no attention to him. He sighed and returned to checking his email.
Boots bounded into his lap, off the back of the couch, and continued for another round.
He let out an “oof” and a string of curse words. “Stop it!” he yelled again.
In half an hour, the cats calmed down. Saddles leapt on the foot of the couch and hunkered down between Michael’s feet for a nap. In a few minutes, Boots hopped up and laid down next to the bigger cat. He yawned and put his head down.
“Don’t do that,” Michael said, yawning in return. “Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean I can afford to slack off.”
The cats started to purr. It was a relaxing sound.
Michael sneezed several times.
The cats at the foot of the couch hadn’t moved.
“I wish I could sleep like that,” he said. “Completely relaxed and not a care in the world. You don’t have some sort of flu. You don’t have a huge project due in a week that you aren’t working on.”
Saddles sighed contentedly and Boots started to snore.
Michael smiled. “Maybe I could learn from you guys,” he thought. He yawned again, feeling quite drowsy. “I’ve let work take over my life instead of finding a balance. I’m too sick to go into the office, so even if I do get an email, there’s not a lot I can do about it. Maybe I can just pretend I don’t have a care in the world. Maybe I can sleep like a cat,” he thought. He reached down and turned off his cell phone, adjusted the pillow behind his head, and tried to relax. Very soon, his own snores mingled with those of Boots.

Fifteen-minute TV Series – Sailor Moon S

Are you sad you have to wait another week for the introduction of the totally  awesome (and my favorite) Sailor Mars?  Me too.  So I present to you the next  series of the classic Sailor Moon anime, using again the subtitled versions rather  than the dubbed.  This is absolutely my favorite series.  I can’t quite articulate why this is my favorite, but it is.  And the Outer Senshi’s transformation music is my favorite too.  Also, this will be last one for a bit because I really, really disliked “Super S” and it’s going to take discipline to go back to that one.  But “S” is awesome!

Hikawa Shrine:
[[Rei experiences a terrible vision of the end of the world; it will be destroyed  by silence and only three stars and the Messiah can save the world]]

Usagi – Wow, Rei, you seem really down today.  What’s up?

Rei – Oh, bad dreams.  It’s nothing; I’m sure it’s nothing.

Daimon – Guess what!  I want your pure heart crystal!

Others – What the hell is going on?

[[The new monster of the day attacks Rei and the others are not strong enough to  help; in fact, Usagi's transformation brooch is broken, which un-transforms her!   To Rei's credit, she holds out a long time before the monster draws out a  sparkling crystal, which seems to be soon-fatal wound]]

Others – Noooooo!!!

[[vague energy smashes into the monster; the crystal flies away and the monster is  destroyed; two silohuettes that are obviously sailor senshi appear to examine the  crystal and then send it back to the others, who are crying over Rei; she revives  once the crystal is put back in her body]]

Rei – Oh, so I was wrong.  I mean right.  Yeah, I’ve been having prophetic dreams  of the end of the world.  So much for peace.

Mysterious man in a lab coat and glasses – Bwahahahahahaha!!!

Tokyo:
Mamoru – I’m sorry your brooch is broken.  I’m sure we’ll be able to fix it.

Usagi – I hope so too, especially if there are any more of those monsters around.

[[There is, and it attacks]]

Usagi – Dang it.

[[The other four fight it as best they can, but they are outmatched and the daimon  takes the crystal and is wounded by the mysterious senshi, who toss the crystal  back but do not finish off the monster]]

Tuxedo Kamen – Usagi, get out of here!  We’ll protect the innocent victim of the  day!  Don’t stay and get hurt!

Usagi – I’m not leaving!  I’ll figure out a way to help somehow!  [[And by the  power of their miracle romance, the brooch changes, she gets a new transformation  sequence, a new weapon, and a new attack!]]  Yay, love!  But who are those  mysterious senshi?  Luna, Artemis?

Luna/Artemis – We’ll do some research.

Tokyo, the Arcade:
Minako – I am awesome at this game!

Mysterious “boy” – I’m better.  Want to race?

Minako – Absolutely!  [[Minako gets smoked]]  But-but-but…well, we should maybe  get together…

Mysterious girl – Haruka, are you showing off again?

Haruka – Yeah, I know better, Michiru.  We’ve got to go.  Keep trying!

Minako – Okay, so he’s got a girlfriend.  No problem!

Usagi – Minako!  Honestly.  And this is coming from me!

Minako – What?

[[Usagi and Minako stalk Haruka and Michiru to a repair shop, and the daimon  targets the mechanic next; Usagi and Minako transform and go after it]]

Sailor Moon – Hey!  Hey stop it!  I am still so bad at this sometimes!

[[The daimon is stopped by the sudden appearance of the two mysterious senshi]]

Daimon/Sailor Moon/Sailor Venus – Who are you?

Mysterious senshi who looks exactly like Haruka – Sailor Uranus!

Mysterious senshi who looks exactly like Michiru – Sailor Neptune!

Sailor Moon/Sailor Venus – What?!?!  More senshi?!

Sailor Uranus – Give us the crystal!

Daimon – Um, no?

[[Sailors Uranus and Neptune blast the living @#$% out of the monster and take the  crystal]]

Sailor Moon – Hey, what are you doing?  We need to give that back so the guy  doesn’t die!

Sailor Uranus – You know nothing!

Sailor Neptune – It doesn’t have a talisman anyway.  Let it go.

[[Sailor Uranus huffily tosses the crystal back while Sailor Moon is left to  finish off the monster]]

Sailor Venus – That was rude.  What talismans?  What are they talking about?  Oh,  and what happened to Haruka?  I hope he’s not hurt!

[[they reconvene at the arcade to discuss their adventures]]

Luna – I kind of remember something about other senshi that protect the solar  system from threats from the outside…

Ami – Are there any more?

Artemis – Let’s see – Mercury, Venus, Earth’s Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus,  Neptune, Pluto… that’s all the planets accounted for, right?  Eight total  planets before Pluto got demoted to “dwarf planet.” Yep, that should be the lot.

Usagi – They were really powerful, but rude and didn’t want to help us at all.

Minako – And I lost track of that gorgeous boy Haruka.

Haruka – Did someone say my name?

Rei/Makoto – Where’s a gorgeous boy?  I just see this girl in a guy’s school  uniform.

Minako – Um… that’s the boy.

Haruka – You’re silly.  I never said I was a boy.  Come on, Michiru.

Michiru – ‘Bye, girls.

Usagi – So if Haruka is a girl, is Michiru still her girlfriend?

Rei – Not if you believe the American dub.  But I think the animation is really  quite clear; they are totally together.

[[And so Uranus and Neptune are standoff-ish at best but the gang does make  friends with Haruka and Michiru, who are just one year older and attend the  private Mugen Academy; Haruka and Michiru seem to have more information on what's  going on and are determined to get the talismans even if the owner of the heart  crystal dies; it also seems Neptune has psychic powers as well]]

Naru – Usagi!

Usagi – Naru!  Wow, so you’re in this series.  And dating Umino?  Okay, that’s  cool

Naru – Yeah, I just hope I’m not here to have my energy drained again.

Daimon – Not exactly!  [[daimon attacks Naru and Umino]]

Usagi – Oh for crying out loud!  [[transforms and defeats monster]]

Haruka – Michiru, I think that Makoto girl might be targeted next.  I’m going to  follow her.

Michiru – And then what?

Haruka – Let the Daimon take her pure heart crystal to see if it’s a talisman, of  course.

Michiru – That is cold.

Haruka – Yeah, but you’re not actually objecting to this plan, so what does that  say about you?

Michiru – Fair point.

[[Luckily Makoto does not have a talisman and Sailor Uranus decides to help Sailor  Moon defeat the monster although Makoto realizes that Sailor Uranus just let her  get attacked and thus has beef with her and rightfully so]]

Ami – First Rei, then Makoto.  Oh, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.  [[and sure  enough, she's attacked too]]

Minako – Well, clearly I’m next, right?  I mean, my heart is as pure as everyone  else’s, right?

Kaolinite – Yeah, no, I was thinking of the genius girl Michiru instead.

[[But first Haruka and Usagi end up stuck together dealing with other problems]]

Usagi (thinking) – Wow, being held by Haruka as she tries to protect me is just  like being held by a man.  Except for the breasts in my face.  Yeah, those are  definitely lady-parts.

[[Haruka does successful protect Usagi, and they split up and transform, only to  re-unite and get chained together so comic hijinks can ensue!]]

Sailor Moon – I don’t know much about what’s going on, but I know if you don’t  return those pure heart crystals to their owners, then those owners will die.

Sailor Uranus – It doesn’t matter!  We need the talismans to save the world.   We’re talking about sacrificing three lives to save everyone!

Sailor Moon – I believe we can save everyone if we work together and no one will  have to be sacrificed!

Sailor Uranus – You’re a stupid little girl.  What would you know about saving the  world and not sacrificing anyone to do it, huh?

Sailor Moon – Actually, quite a bit.  And where the hell were you guys when me and  my friends were doing all that, huh?

Sailor Uranus – Let’s just focus on saving Michiru.

[[they do and Sailor Moon is even more determined than before to somehow befriend  Sailors Uranus and Neptune]]

Minako – So it’s time to try to steal my pure heart crystal, right?  Right?

Kaolinite – Um, no, actually, I was thinking of that Usagi girl.  Oh, hey, and  she’s apparently Sailor Moon.  I will just steal the transformation brooch.   Learning her identity will surely not end with my untimely death.

Mamoru – Happy birthday, now that you told me when it is, Usagi.  I got you these  fancy fairytale shoes.

Usagi – Yay, I’m fifteen now.  That’s totally cool, right?  Oooo, so shiny.

[[And so cursed!  A daimon pops out to try to take Usagi's pure heart crystal, and  it is the shiniest, sparkliest, brightest one so far]]

Sailor Uranus – That is the shiniest, sparkliest, brightest crystal so far.  How  can it not have a talisman in it?

[[But it doesn't, and Kaorinite kidnaps Tuxedo Kamen, so there's a final showdown  that ends when Usagi gets her compact back and Kaorinite is destroyed]]

Usagi – So what next?

Chibiusa (who now appears to be eight years old) – Hi everyone!

Usagi – What are you doing here?

Chibiusa – Mom sent me back to train to be a sailor senshi and make friends!  I  can even transform now and have an attack, see?

Usagi – Yeah, that’s great.

Tokyo, Later:
Setsuna – Small Lady, don’t tell anyone you saw me here in the past.

Chibiusa – Um, okay.  So we’re not friends?

Setsuna – We are, but I believe the queen wanted you to make friends your own age.

Chibiusa – Oh, okay.  That shouldn’t be too hard.

Minako – Seriously, doesn’t anyone want my pure heart crystal?

Prof. Tomoe (mysterious man in lab coat and glasses, possessed leader of the Death  Busters {although I actually like ‘Heart Snatchers’ better}) – Well, you did kill  off my main minion you know.  Where I am going to find more disposable bad guys?   Oh, right, the Witches 5.  That should last for a little while.  Eudial, you’re  on.

Eudial – Excellent!  Alright, so which main character hasn’t been threatened yet?

Minako – Ooo, me!  Me!

Eudial – Rock on.

Tokyo, Later Still:
[[So Minako's finally attacked but in a twist runs off with her own pure heart  crystal which leaves Usagi and Co. and Haruka and Michiru to run after her]]

Makoto – What do we do?  We can’t save Minako if we don’t transform, and we can’t  transform if Haruka and Michiru are here!

Usagi – We transform anyway.  We’ve got to save Minako!  [[they do so]]

Haruka – What do we do?  We can’t get that crystal if we don’t transform, and we  can’t transform if Usagi and Co. are here!

Michiru – We transform anyway.  You know we need that crystal!  [[they do so]]

Sailor Moon – …  So, this is awkward…

Daimon – I am so @#$%ed.

[[it is and in case there was any lingering doubt as to anyone's identities, even  Minako manages to transform]]

Sailor Moon – I’m sure we can be friends…

[[Sailors Uranus and Neptune take off in a huff]]

Witches 5 HQ:
Eudial – I know!  I’ll just use a computer program to figure out who has the  talismans.  I’m a genius.

Mimete – You’re a loser and you’ll fail.

Eudial – Shut up!  Hey, I’ve got two hits.  I don’t even need a Daimon!  I built  this gun to remove pure heart crystals.  Watch and learn, loser!

[[Eudial lures Haruka and Michiru to some random island with a chapel with a  rabbit-stained glass window {this is less than obvious foreshadowing as to the  identify of the Messiah Sailors Uranus and Neptune are looking for} to take their  pure heart crystals; they transform to try to save themselves; it doesn't work;  Sailor Neptune ends up taking a shot for Sailor Uranus and losing her crystal,  which turns into the Deep Aqua Mirror; also, it is important to note that Eudial  has just learned all their identities...]]

Sailor Moon – We’ll save you!  Er, somehow!  Why won’t this mirror go back?  Go  back, mirror, or Michiru will die!

Sailor Uranus – No, it’s fine.  We talked a lot about sacrifice, and now it comes  to this.  I’m a lot of things, but I’m no hypocrite. [[fires Eudial's gun at  herself; her crystal turns into the Space Sword]]  Give the Holy Grail to the  Messiah who can save us all from the silence.  [[seems to die]]

Eudial – Alright, that’s two talismans down and one to go.  And I got an awesome  flamethrower to finish you off while I find the remaining talisman holder.   [[Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Chibi Moon save them from death by fire and they tear  off in pursuit]]  Yep, should be easy to find that last talisman holder.

Setsuan – She’s right here.  [[Transforms into Sailor Pluto; takes the Orb off the top of the Garnet Rod  and through the power of being awesome extracts the pure heart crystals from the  talismans, returns them to Sailors Uranus and Neptune, which revives them, and the  three talismans create the Holy Grail]]

Eudial – Dibs!

Sailor Moon – No way!  [[she wins the fight to get the Grail and transforms into  Super Sailor Moon and casually tosses Eudial out of a window without half-trying or needing her new finishing move]]

Sailor Uranus – Is she the Messiah who will save everyone?  [[Super Sailor Moon  faints and loses the transformation]] Clearly not.  We need to find the real  Messiah.  [[They let her keep the Grail anyway...for reasons...]]

Eudial – I’ll be back!  [[no, no she won't since Mimete cut her brakes; now I  guess they're down to Witches 4]]

Chibiusa – I thought making friends would be easy.  Hey, a hat!  Is this yours,  frail mystery girl?

Frail Mystery Girl (she’s about 12) – Yes.  My name is Hotaru.

Chibiusa – I’m Chibiusa!  Let’s be friends.  Where do you go to school?

Hotaru – The Mugen Academy, but the kids think I’m weird.

Chibiusa – Luckily I have a very high threshold for weird.  I think this is the  beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Outer Senshi – So, Tuxedo Kamen, we can’t team up with the Inner Senshi because  they’re too weak to save the world.

Tuxedo Kamen – And that’s it?

Outer Senshi – Pretty much.  Individually, we are way stronger.  [[they are,  actually, including Sailor Pluto's attack]]

Tuxedo Kamen – And where the hell were you the last two times they saved the whole  danged world?

Outer Senshi – Sorry, we can’t hear you through our contempt of the obviously weak  Inner Senshi.

Professor Tomoe’s House:
Prof. Tomoe – Mistress, how do I wake you up fully?

Mistress 9 – I need more pure heart crystals.

[[Chibiusa reluctantly takes Usagi to meet her new friend]]

Usagi – GAH!  The maid looks exactly like Kaolinite!  But she was killed!

Prof. Tomoe – I don’t know what you’re talking about.  This is my assistant,  Kaori.

Usagi – Okay, well, this is weird as all get out.  But she doesn’t seem to  remember being dead, so I guess it’s okay…maybe…

[[No, no it's not; Prof. Tomoe has a new way to make more powerful daimons and  Hotaru's house is as creepy as all get out; Hotaru doesn't like Kaori and she's  obviously got a lot of issues...  Later episodes show that Hotaru is quite  powerful even if she doesn't seem to know what's going on; Chibiusa tries to get  her out of her shell]]

Planetarium:
Chibiusa – Planetariums are fun, and nice and quiet for you, Hotaru.

Hotaru – It’s so nice the way you try to protect me.

[[Unfortunately, there's a daimon at the planetarium and poor Hotaru ends up in  the way; the sign of Saturn appears on her forehead and she single-handedly  destroys the *upgraded* diamon]]

Sailor Mercury – Saturn!  Oh, good grief, how could we have missed the planet  Saturn!

Outer Senshi – Kill her!  [[they attempt to do so, but Super Sailor Moon saves  her]]

Super Sailor Moon – What the hell?  She’s clearly one of us!

Sailor Uranus – She’s the Sailor of Silence, Ruin, and Rebirth.  She’s the  planet-killer!  She’s even more dangerous than the Mistress of Silence.  She’ll  destroy everything!

Super Sailor Moon – She’s a nice girl and I’m not going to let you hurt her!

Outer Senshi – Oh, okay, that’s a totally convincing argument apparently.  At  least for now.  If she starts to awaken as Sailor Saturn again, we’re going to  kill her.

[[the situation devolves rapidly as Mimete is destroyed and replaced by Telulu, who is very  quickly replaced by Viluy, who is immediately replaced by Cyprine & Ptilol (well, Sailor Mercury uses Shabon Spray again), and the  senshi figure out all the weirdness is centered on the Mugen Academy (which is why  Haruka and Michiru joined in the first place); Chibiusa is abducted by Kaorinite  and her pure heart crystal awakens Mistress 9 and she fully possess Hotaru's body;  Chibiusa is rescued, kind of, and kept alive, somehow, by Mamoru while Mistress 9  puts up a giant energy shield around the Academy that is slowly growing]]

Sailor Jupiter – What do we do now?  My Jupiter lock-pick can’t crack it!

[[And Sailor Moon is abducted since she has the Holy Grail]]

Sailor Mars – Damn it!  Well, we have to hold back the destruction of everything  and have faith Sailor Moon is the true Messiah!  [[they do so]]

Sailor Uranus – Forget that!  We’ll fly into the star-shaped hole on top with a  helicopter!

Prof. Tomoe (still possessed) – Forget that! [[fires a missile to blow up the  helicopter]]

Sailor Neptune – Wait, why aren’t we dead?

Sailor Pluto – I’ve stopped time so you can escape the blast.

Sailor Uranus – Are you allowed to do that?

Sailor Pluto – No, absolutely not, but I am, so you better get going and win this  thing.

[[they head inside, free Prof. Tomoe from his possession, and Sailor Moon allows  them to get captured]]

Sailor Neptune – Do something!

Sailor Moon – Okay, how about I hand over the Holy Grail to Mistress 9 to save  your lives?

Sailor Uranus – That is not what we had in mind.  Did you miss the part where we  made it clear we are ready to die for this cause?

Sailor Moon – I’ll save everyone, somehow.

Prof. Tomoe – Hotaru, I’m so sorry I did this to you!  I just wanted to save your  life!  [[this seems to break Mistress 9's hold on Hotaru's body]]

Sailor Neptune – Will you just kill her already?

Sailor Moon – I will save everyone!

Mistress 9 – I just need the Holy Grail to heal.  This is in no way a trick.   [[Sailor Moon hands over the Holy Grail]]  That was totally a trick.  Thanks  muchly.  Now I can summon Pharoh 90 to destroy everything!  [[does so; this at  least explains the star-shaped hole in the shield]]  So what now?  You’d need a  heart crystal of a purity to surpass the Holy Grail if you want to do something.

Sailor Uranus – Thanks for nothing, you idiot!

[[Pharoh 90 decides it doesn't need Mistress 9 anymore and tries to destroy her;  Sailor Moon takes the blast for Mistress 9 and Prof. Tomoe; the other Inner Seshi  are overwhelmed]]

Sailor Moon – Ouch.

[[Prof. Tomoe's love for Hotaru and her love for Chibiusa cause Hotaru to regain  control of her body]]

Sailor Uranus – You’e awakened Sailor Saturn!  This is not better!

Sailor Saturn – No, it’s fine.  [[she saves Chibiusa]]  Thank you for protecting  my body long enough for me to awaken.  You can’t destroy Pharoh 90 without the  Grail, but I can, even though it will kill me. [[takes her Silence Glaive and  jumps into the evil to destroy it]]

Sailor Moon – Nooooo!!  I won’t lose anyone!  I will save her!!  [[and with a  little help from all the other senshi, including the Outers, she uses her own pure  heart crystal to transform into Super Sailor Moon and save Sailor Saturn, whom she  rescues as a tiny baby]]

Luna – It occurs to me there’s a reason she’s called the Sailor of Rebirth, among  other titles.

Sailor Uranus – Just because you saved the world and no one died, we still don’t  believe you’re worthy to be our queen, so you have to fight us.

Sailor Moon – What, seriously?  Fine.  [[she wins]]

Sailor Neptune – You have our loyalty.  We’re heading into the sunset now to  protect the solar system from more outside invaders.

Chibiusa – And I’m going back to the future for a little while to think about what  I’ve learned.

Prof. Tomoe – And I’m an amnesaic who only remembers I have a baby daughter, so  I’m going to raise her the best I can.

-up next, ugh, my least favorite series by far…-

A Writing Entry – Through a Lens Darkly

This was published in Pagan Edge in November of 2012.  The theme for the month was “redefinition,” or “redefining oneself.”  There were a lot of ways to interpret that theme, and this is what I came up with.  This is something a bit close to me because I sometimes I felt like I couldn’t define who I was, or sometimes was afraid to do so.  What if I defined myself as a writer, only to find out I wasn’t very good at it?  My definition of self is still changing, although I hope without catastrophe.

Through a Lens Darkly

Ranya sat down at the desk and faced a familiar woman.  “Well, here I am.”
“Here you are,” said the other woman.  “Where is here?”
“Rock-bottom,” Ranya sighed.  “I failed the Bar exam.  I broke up with Justin.  The wedding’s off and Mom and Dad are out about two-thousand bucks in deposits and I’m out about a thousand.  No one understands why we called it off.  I was laid off from work, so I have to move back in with my parents until I figure out what to do.  I’m in my mid-twenties and right back where I was when I was a teenager.”
“Yeah, that’s bad,” the other woman agreed.  “How did that happen?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?  If you don’t know, who does?”
Ranya stared angrily at the other woman for a minute.  Then she sighed.  “You’re right.  I ought to know.  I got here because I thought it was what I was supposed to do.  I was supposed to go to college and get into law school and become a lawyer.  I was supposed to get married and settle down and have kids.”
“Why were you supposed to do all that?”
“Because that’s who I am.  I’m the overachiever.  I was going to have a high-powered career and be the super-mom with the family.  I’m the responsible one.  I don’t fail.  I don’t fail at tests and I don’t fail in life,” Ranya answered miserably.
“So you never did what you wanted, but only what you were supposed to do, because that’s who you are?” the other woman asked.  “But if that’s who you are, why wasn’t this what you wanted?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ranya,” the other woman said sternly, “if you don’t know, then no one knows.  Who are you?”
“The responsible one,” she answered.
“No, that’s how your parents define you.”
“The overachiever.”
“No, that’s how your family defines you.”
“The big sister.”
“No, Ranya,” the other woman said patiently.  “That’s how your brother defines you.”
“The ex-fiancee.”
“That’s how Justin defines you.  Don’t you know who you are?  How do you define yourself?  Can you define yourself without using the labels others give you?”
Ranya looked down at her lap.  “I-I’m not sure,” she said hesitantly.  “Maybe I really am back to being a teenager; trying to figure out who I am and what I want.  I think I’m too old for this,” she said, looking back up.
“No one is too old to realize they’re on the wrong path.  It takes courage to admit it and more courage to try to find the right path.  Maybe staying with your parents isn’t ideal, but at least you have a place to go while you figure that out,” said the other woman.  “It won’t be easy.  It won’t be fun.  But it’s necessary, and you know it.”
Ranya nodded.  “You’re right.  Maybe it’s good my life fell apart.  It’d be worse if I married a man I shouldn’t have or gotten stuck at a job I hated but felt guilty leaving.  I’ll get through this.  Maybe I won’t figure out the right path right away, but at least I know what’s the wrong path for me.  Now, I’d better get back to packing.  Thanks for listening,” she said to the familiar woman.  Then she picked up the mirror from the desk she’d been sitting at and packed it into a box.

A Comic Book Entry – Passing the Torch

Before the rant, I’d just like to say Weird Al continues to be awesome, and has  rescued a very catchy melody from a very creepy/gross song with “Word Crimes.”  Go  see his videos.  It’s Mandatory Fun!

Okay, on with the rant.

A famous general once said, “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”  This  is true of comic book characters as well (generally speaking).  For the  long-established big two companies, one of the biggest problems with continuity is  that popular characters don’t really die (at least not for long).  This leads to  rather crowded universes with a whole lot of main characters vying for top billing  (hence, why Wolverine started appearing on the covers of comics he wasn’t,  technically speaking, actually in).  Attempting to change this status quo is very  hard.  After all, there is money to be made in marketing the biggest/most popular  characters as much as possible.  And as soon as anything changes, there is a huge  backlash of, “It changed, now it sucks,” from the fanbase.  Such is the burden of  legacy.

DC Comics has been slightly more successful, I feel, at retiring older characters  to make way for newer characters.  In particular, the Flash and Green Lantern, and  to a lesser extent, Batman and Green Arrow.  While there are a lot of problems  with teen sidekicks, in theory the idea of Batman and Green Arrow training their  replacements makes a lot of sense (even if Ollie never actually did it).   Pre-Nu52, the mantle of the Flash had gone through three separate characters (Jay  Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West) and Impulse (Bart Allen) was probably going  to be the Flash of the future.  Green Lantern rings had gone to Alan Scott, Hal  Jordan, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardener (who thought that was a good idea again), and  John Stewart.  Granted, while the most popular of those two mantles did not  actually stay dead, the way was cleared for newer characters (and in the case of  the Blue Beetle, Ted Kord stayed dead).  I will also grant that Wally West and  Kyle Rayner had a hard, uphill battle for the hearts of the fans, but they did  eventually win.  So, before the universe was rebooted, notable heroes such as the  Flash, Green Lantern, Blue Beetle, Atom, and Batman, who all started out straight  white guys, passed the torch to, well, more white guys, but also a black Green  Lantern, a Hispanic Blue Beetle, and an Asian Atom.  The universe was inching its  way towards greater diversity and had a decent mechanism to do so.

Marvel Comics to me always had more problems passing the torch of the flagship  characters to new characters.  It’s odd too because the X-men in particular seems  like a great vehicle for introducing new characters and passing on the legacy.   But this seems to have been thwarted back in the ’70s when Chris Claremont made a  sincere and almost successful attempt at writing the first class of X-men out of  the book in favor of his own team.  It’s not as though Marvel necessarily has more  immortal characters.  Sure, Thor is and Captain America virtually is so, but Iron  Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Henry Pym certainly are not.  Nick Fury wasn’t supposed  to be.  Marvel did make an effort to shake things up a bit when they launched the  Ultimate UniverseA lot of changes were generally confusing to me, but a couple  worked out well.  Nick Fury was introduced as a person of color (specifically  Samuel L. Jackson) and eventually Spider-man, that flagship of flagships, passed  from Peter Parker to Miles Morales, who was also a PoC.  And yes, there was a lot  of uproar over that.  But Marvel has been trying to market some new characters a  bit more than before (Ms. Marvel is a good example, Avengers Academy which  culminated in “Avengers Arena” is a bad example).  Marvel is also making an effort  to place Carol Danvers (currently Captain Marvel) as their foremost female solo  superhero but it has not been an easy road at all (poor Carol…).

And in this turbulent time of declining comic book sales (but for Marvel a very  profitable movie machine), what is to be done?  DC’s answer was to hit the reset  button (as they do) and make everything fresh and new by going back to the dark  and edgy ’90s.  Seriously.  Oh, sure all the Green Lanterns stayed around, but  it’s clear Hal’s the main man, but Bruce Wayne is Batman again, and Wally West and  Ryan Choi seemed to have disappeared into the ether.  And Jaime Reyes as the Blue  Beetle?  Cancelled after what, six issues?  Static Shock?  Same deal.  The  Wildstorm characters?  Never imported, gone, or unrecognizable (by and large).   Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown?  Joined Wally and Ryan in the abyss,  apparently.  Is DC allergic to money?  Do the people who run DC comics know that  women and people of color have money, and may be willing to spend it on comic  books?  Based on their numerous and ongoing poor decisions, I can’t help but  wonder if they are actively trying to repulse anyone who doesn’t fit their target  demographic.

So what is my point?  Well, in other news Marvel is planning major shake-ups in  the mainstream 616 universe that will result in more diversity of characters.  For  instance, the new Thor is going to be a woman and the new Captain America will be  Sam Wilson (formerly Falcon).  And I hear something’s going to happen to Tony  Stark and Iron Man will get a new squishy human center.  At first I thought, “What  a blatant and contrived attempt to market to a wider audience.”  And initially I  didn’t like it (I too fall victim to that kneejerk, “they changed it; now it  sucks,” mentality occasionally).  But then I thought, “well, why not?  If the  company had made an effort to diversify sooner, then this move wouldn’t come  across as so heavy-handed and cynical.”  And given how DC has whitewashed its  stable of characters, I can definitely see some marketing executive saying at a  meeting, “Women and PoCs have money too; maybe we can make some characters they  would relate to and buy the comics for.”  Clearly this is  revolutionary  thought…  Also, this may help expand some options in the movie-verse, so the  opportunity for profit is pretty high.

Upon further reflection, I am okay with this blatant and profit-driven  contrivance, assuming the stories are written well.  A bad example would be the  writer that decided Sam Wilson clearly had a secret past as a pimp because he’s  black so of course.  A good example would be the transition from Peter Parker to  Miles Morales.  I also hope the writers don’t fall back on laziness and make all  the old characters villains thus freeing the torch to be passed.  Basically, if  the writers actually bother to write a story, then this could work.  Is this an  ideal way to diversify the universe?  Hell, no.  But better late than never, even if  the reasons are almost surely purely profit-driven.  So I will proceed with  caution but I will hope for the best.

A Writing Entry – Earthly Delight

So this short story was published in July 2012’s edition of Pagan Edge and the theme was food.  I have hinted at various fights with foliage in previous entries and some of that foliage is indeed of the edible variety.  I’m more than a little food-centric sometimes and I’m indulging in attempting to grow some edible plants, so this is a topic close to my heart (albeit perhaps closer to my stomach).  I don’t quite take the view presented in the story, but that’s why it’s a story.  In real life, I have found out that bug spray is less a deterrent and more of a seasoning (my left elbow is particularly delicious).  That’s funny enough for Twitter or Tumblr if I had those, but not for a 600 word story.

Earthly Delight -

Carol was working hard in her garden, as usual, when she heard her friend Kal come through the back door.
“Every time I see you these days you’re up to your knees in dirt,” Kal said.
“Gardening is hard work,” Carol replied, standing up and dusting off her pants.  “It’s not just about having fresh veggies either.”
“Then what’s it all about?” Kal asked, trailing Carol to another part of her garden.  “You’ve got more garden these days than lawn.”
“I found this has brought me closer to my gods,” she said, pulling out some weeds.
“Really?  How so?”
“Well, I never really appreciated how much of the ancient religions, what we know of them anyway, were dedicated to food.”
“Beltane is a fertility festival.  It’s obvious,” Kal said.
“I know that, but I didn’t really appreciate it until I started trying to grow my own food.  I really started to understand why people were so concerned with the coming of spring and the rites of fertility.  To me, it’s a hobby, but to them, it was their livelihood.”
“I never thought about it like that.”
“There are so many gods of food and seasons and wine,” Carol said, gathering up some fresh herbs.  “And of course the other side of planting is harvest, which was probably even more important to the ancient people.  At Samhein, that’s why you give an offering to the gods, to thank them for a good harvest and ask for their blessings for the following year.”
“I know that part,” Kal replied a touch irritably.
“Yes, but I think it means more to me now that I have this garden.  I know how much work goes into making my food grow and I’ve been saying a lot more prayers than I used too.”  She examined a plant critically.  “And the rabbits still get into my lettuces.”
Kal chuckled.
“This garden has really been a learning experience.  I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but it works for me,” Carol said.
“I think I understand your obsession better, but I think it’s not for me.  I am, however, happy to help you eat the fruits of your labors,” Kal replied with a smile.
Carol laughed.  “That’s fine by me.”

A Writing Entry – Narrative Choices: Paradise Island

This actually ties in a lot with previous parts of this string of random musings, so they are handily linked for you to review if you so desire.  I can wait.  But if you don’t have time, briefly – artists often think (not maliciously), “I don’t understand it, therefore it doesn’t exist and/or matter.

Utopia is most commonly expressed in the fiction I have read as a philosophical ideal.  Rarely, very rarely, have I ever seen an effort to truly depict a utopian society.  In fact, nearly all stories I can think of that featured a utopian society either ended with:
a)  that society being crushed/conquered/destroyed by a clearly non-utopian society
b) the revelation that the utopian society wasn’t a true utopia at all but had a dark underside that allowed for the pretense of a perfect, equal society.

Once upon a time in Greek lore, the Amazons were an isolationist race of women who were such dedicated warriors that in some accounts they cut off their right breasts in order to be able to better draw back a bow.  Depending on the myth, they either visited neighboring tribes to become pregnant or kept a few slaves for procreation.  Baby boys were either sent back to their fathers, killed, or left in the wilderness.  Baby girls were raised to become the next generation of Amazons.

It is also a difficult task to for writers to create a society different from the one they grew up in, or were exposed to in the media.  I know; I struggle with this myself which may be why I don’t venture into sci-fi.  Our world, while not entirely a crapsack world, is far from a utopia.  So attempting to create such a society even in fiction requires a significant effort on the part of the writer’s imagination.  So what?  I grew up in a capitalist society, so I would have difficulty writing a functioning communist society.  But difficulty should not be a barrier to even trying to write something different even if our own limitations can lead to unfortunate implications.

Once upon a time (the 1940s), a middle-aged white male psychiatrist drew on Greek myth to create a role-model superhero for little girls.  And in this new mythology, Wonder Woman was created from clay on an island of immortal women called Amazons, who worshipped the Greek gods.  The island was called Themyscira, or Paradise Island.  It was, and was meant to be, a utopia.

Where does this leave Paradise Island?  I’ve presented the two accounts of the Amazons, one from history (although assuredly biased because all history is written by the victors), and one from the mind of Wonder Woman’s creator.  Paradise Island is the only utopia I can think of that exist(ed) in mainstream fiction.  Paradise Island was the home of Wonder Woman and shaped her morals and personality.  I have a theory that part of the difficulty some writers have with the character of Wonder Woman is in fact Paradise Island; i.e., they don’t understand a utopia, therefore it doesn’t exist/matter.  Artists, writers, everyone understands dystopia.  In fact, such a cynical and jaded society are we that we understand many different types of dystopia (post-pandemic, post-gasoline shortage, post-robot uprising, post-nuclear devastation, post-astroid impact, Detroit, etc.).  But a utopia?  That couldn’t exist.

That is NOT the point.  Pretty much no superhero in the vast stables of the Big Two (not to mention the dozens and dozens of independents) could actually exist (physics just does not work that way).

The writers don’t understand a utopia; they don’t understand how it could come about and continue to exist.  So the idea of Paradise Island, and therefore the character of Wonder Woman, is misinterpreted in generally two ways:
a) Her society is perfect so she must be disdainful and condescending of all other societies.
b) Her society is perfect and has no men so she must be disdainful of all men, as they are clearly the obstacle to achieving utopia.

The idea of a compassionate warrior just boggles the mind of some writers.  The idea that there could indeed be a society that has managed to endure for centuries in peace is almost beyond comprehension.  Granted, a true utopia doesn’t offer a lot of dramatic possibilities, but as a background of a character, it seems like a narratively manageable concept to me.  And it has been managed, with perhaps differing levels of success, for seven DECADES.

Once upon a time, (statistically probable) middle-aged, white males got together to revamp the origins of their characters.  And in the new mythology, the Amazons were an isolationist race of women warriors who kidnapped sailors to become pregnant and then killed the sailors and drowned the baby boys until Hesphestus took pity on the boys so the Amazons traded them into slavery for weapons because clearly history just wasn’t dark and edgy enough.  Wonder Woman is an illegitimate daughter of Zeus.

I.e., “I don’t understand utopia, therefore it doesn’t exist/matter.”

In a post-9/11 world, the point of disbelief for the DCnU creative team wasn’t that Batman statistically can’t have all that money and training (and also should have been put in to therapy stat), or that Superman is an alien orphan from another planet who is super-strong, super-fast, and can fly and shoot laser beams out of his eyes, that aliens created totally not-magical rings that allow the wearer to create solid green light constructs, or that a person can get doused in chemicals and run so fast they can travel through time (I mean, more so than humans ordinarily do), but that Paradise Island is really, actually, truly a utopia.

The loss of Paradise Island is clearly not due to a lack of imagination.  I posit the loss of Paradise Island is a result of an insular world-view that just doesn’t understand anything outside of itself, and based on DC’s other obviously bad decisions with the New 52, a world-view that dosen’t want to understand anything outside of itself.  I’d also like to point out this issue is not limited to Paradise Island and Wonder Woman; I understand utopia is in fact a difficult concept to grapple with.  I have some slight sympathy for writers, but then again, that’s why they are paid professionals, right?  To cope with these kinds of narratively tricky concepts.  I can imagine a better world and write a better world and I’m not a paid professional (not yet anyway).

I’m sorry Paradise Island, and by extension Wonder Woman, have been sacrificed by this destructive lack of vision and self-adsorption.

A Writing Entry – House to Home

This short story was published in “Pagan Edge” in March of 2012.  The theme for the month was house and home, so I took that probably a bit literally in this story.  What can I say?  Sometimes my Muse is like that.

House to Home:

Nicholas and Sophie turned the key in the door to their new home.
“This is it,” Nick said gladly. “Our first home, and with good luck, the home we’ll raise a family in.”
The house still smelled of the cleaning chemicals used by the previous residents.
“I’m glad we have time to make the place our own before we have to move in all our stuff,” said Sophie. “Some things are just easier when the place is empty.”
“You take care of the cleansing. I’ll head out to get the paint and some supplies,” he said.
“Sounds like a plan.” Sophie went to the car and pulled out a box of supplies.
Nick first checked the paint swatches in the rooms to make sure they worked with the lighting, and then took the car and headed out.
First, Sophie walked around the property to get a feel for the boundary and for the types of plants that were in her yard. She’d done this when they’d been looking at the house, but now she took her time to really learn what was around. Next, she walked around the house to get a feel for it as well. She stopped in each room and tried to concentrate on the feeling she got. The house had been built over fifty years ago, and had only been owned by two families since it had been built. While she concentrated, she could almost feel the passage of time as two generations raised families in the house.
She pulled out some of her supplies and lit a smudge stick made of sage. She performed a cleansing ceremony in the house to rid it of negative influences. The house didn’t have much of that to begin with or they wouldn’t have bought it, but the cleansing ceremony was a good idea.
When she finished, she pulled out more ordinary supplies and started laying out plastic sheeting and taping up the light fixtures to prepare for painting.
Nick returned with the paint and some rollers. “It smells good in here.”
“It should.”
Preparing the house took a little time. As they painted a room, they cast spells of protection and blessing on the house, using the act of painting as a focus. There was a lot to paint, they had to have the chimney serviced, and of course they still had to move in all of their stuff.
At the end of moving day, Sophie took a small offering of food outside and set it out for the local land wights. When she came in, Nick had lit a small fire.
“Isn’t it a bit warm for a fire?” she asked.
“Maybe so, but I thought it would be nice to give an offering to Hestia on our first official night in our new house.”
“That’s a great idea.”
They performed a ceremony to Hestia to ask for her blessings upon the house. When the offering was consumed by the fire, the fire slowly burnt down and flickered out.
“That was a great idea,” Sophie said. “The house felt like a good house before or we wouldn’t have bought it, but now it really feels like our house.”
“No, now it feels like our home,” Nick said with a smile.
“You’re right,” Sophie said. “It’s our home now.”

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