Heathen

It’s pride month and I want to talk about comics.

To do this, I want to talk about a book that tells an excellent story while still embracing queer content.

Heathen is just such a book. It is written and drawn by Natasha Alterici. This is her creator owned title which she funded on Kickstarter back in 2015. She has done work on Gotham Academy and Grayson. She is also a member of the LGBT community.

Heathen is a reimagining of Brynhild legend from Norse Mythology.

Alterici does an excellent job of getting someone unfamiliar with Norse Mythology caught up on the story. Our heroine, Aydis, tells the story to her horse as she begins her journey. As she winds the tale up, she shares how long the story has passed down through her clan and laments that Brynhild has been waiting to be free for a very long time. The exposition feels very much like a story that a skald would tell over a fire to enthrall a mead hall. The art that supports the story is evocative. It has a rough hewn quality that feels like a gritty dream.

The core point of the myth is that Brynhild is rescued by a brave warrior whom she is then required to marry by the decree of Odin. Aydis has taken it upon herself to free Brynhild from her captivity and the consequences be damned. Aydis, you see, has nothing left to lose. Her village thinks her dead as she was condemned to death when she was caught kissing another woman and did not deny that she did this of her own free will.

I love this book!

It hits on all the things I love and want. We have mythology remade. I am familiar with the Brynhild story as well as the variations on the theme that can be found in Wagnerian operas. Alterici takes the story and blends in a modern sensibility with social justice themes. Her wild concoction is exhilarating. She gives us a book with a queer hero that is not afraid to be who they are and this makes my heart skip a beat. And in the process, gives us a modern Norse Myth where the hero is a woman to boot. It has been long overdo and the power of the story is amplified by this choice.

The art is gorgeous as well. It has a deep scratchy feel with rough hewn edges. It has a warmth and authenticity that adds to the story being told. In particular, I like how Alterici’s style makes the brief combat with a bull in issue one is handled. The action is quick and fluid without anything feeling blurry or hard to follow. The detail is never lost in the flow of the conflict.

Heathen by Natasha Alterici is a book that needs to be on your pull list. Great story, excellent art, queer content, A strong Heroine,socially aware themes, and mythology remixed. What’s not to love!

It is currently on issue four so it will not be difficult to get caught up.

Four bear paws out of four.

I bearly recommend it!

Monsters

There is a meme going around the internets.

It is simple yet funny. It is a few lines of text that made me laugh and then made me think. It sunk it’s fangs into my mind and would not let go.

It opens with a line of people calling LGBTQ+ people monsters. It follows this with a statement from us that this is fine. We then go about gathering up the cryptids.

It plays to the crowds with humor and intelligence but found little traction. It, like us, is transgressive and plays with a cultural icon and bends it in a fashion that people aren’t used to seeing.

The use of monster is correct. Take a trip back to Beowulf and you can see what it means to be a monster. Grendel lives outside of society, literally outside of Heorot. Grendel is excluded from society and all the the things that this provides. We are also outside of society. We behave in a fashion that defies the expected and we are treated just like Grendel. We are not given the same rights as the other members of society and are tolerated at the best or killed at the worst.

What’s a monster to do? When you are exiled to the dark and must survive on your own. The need for connection and the need to feel powerful get all mixed up. Thus, Grendel lashes out and wreaks havoc on society. Hrothgar and his soldiers are at a loss and unable to defend against a thing which they have excluded from the mead hall. They have reveled in their ignorance and lack the ability to understand what they face.

The Hero, the walker between worlds, must defend the people from that which has been deemed an outsider. It is with guile and force that the hero steps outside the hall and deals with the monster. The hero is the one that strides between worlds and is welcome in none.

This meme struck a chord. Instead of being the hero, we embrace being that which does not fit in. We take up the narrative and do not allow the idea of being a monster isolate us from those that are excluded. We find the other monsters and gather them up. We create a place where they are welcome and can be a part of something. It may not be perfect but it provides a family.

The hero, just like in Beowulf, is blind just like the crowd. He sees the monster as unfeeling and uncaring. Nothing more than a thing to be killed. He misses the point that Grendel has a mother and that they loved each other. His arrogance leaves more people dead in Heorot as he blinds himself to the idea that the monsters are just like the people in the hall. They want to fit in, be loved, and exist.

This fits well with the current trend of elevating monsters. There are those that hate the Twilight books and movies, as well as the Underworld movies. But they do a thing that people miss. They show you monsters that the humans want to be. They show you monsters that just try to get by while still being monsters. The allure of being both within the group and free to be who you are is highlighted in these simple pieces of fiction. There are those that want to step outside of the constraints that have been placed around them and take up the mantle of monster. They see the families that the monsters have created and feel the authenticity and that is to be had from embracing who you truly are.

On a personal level, the idea of the monster has always held an appeal for me. I’ve mentioned many time my love of mythology and the gods. I’ve always loved the monsters that followed in the shadows of the gods and found their tales to be fascinating. As I aged, my love of werewolves and all lycanthropes came to mirror both my fear of being found out and the deep seated need to shed the disguise and leave the closet and be myself.  Back before MMO’s there were text based games called MUDS. You created characters and ran around slaying dragons and fighting other players. I was an avid MUDer. There was a mud that allowed you play a lycanthrope character. You could define what type as well. Bear’s were just coming onto the scene and I had discovered them on BBSs, newsgroups, AOL chat rooms. So, I created a werebear and it felt so good. I enjoyed the game for some time with this character until one day I received a message in game basically stating that the person knew my friends and wondered if they knew I was gay. Panic and terror ended that character and ended exploration for some time on my part. It didn’t end the idea of the monster and transformation though.

We are embracing the idea of the monster a little late. We take back language in order to regain power but this is different. The cultural cache of the monster runs deep. It occurs throughout all societies and provides a mirror by which a society views what they are and what they can be. The monster is what allows a society to define its heroes and how it treats these self same heroes.

Accepting the monster as a part of society is where the stories differ across cultures. Here in the west, we see them as something to be driven out and destroyed. This, in turn, defines the hero as something that stands outside of society as well. The hero is also a destroyer. They are to be lauded for keeping the things outside the walls at bay but should be viewed with caution as they too, are destroyers. When the idea of the monster is accepted as a necessary part of the society, it redefines the hero as well. When we embrace the idea of the monster we show them that what they have isn’t special or new. It is something that we can create through force of will and not the prerogative of those deemed appropriate. This in turn allows the hero to be a full part of society as well. They are accepted and embraced instead of being kept at arms length.

Transformative.

So, takes some time this pride season to think about monsters. Watch the Babadook and be open to the allegory within. We have been called monsters for a long time and our process of accepting ourselves reflects this. This doesn’t strip us of our humanity but gives us the power to show others what it means to be truly human.

Thoughts From A Run: Masks

It’s been awhile.

I haven’t posted in a few weeks and I haven’t done a thoughts from a run post in awhile either.

Time to remedy this.

I have not been running much lately. I have not made time for it. I have kept myself busy with other things and vacation. I miss it though. It allows me to both to clear my head as well and push through some odd problems while the distance stretches before me. Having not kept up with it, my speed and stamina have waned and I set myself a goal this run of covering at least four miles and running for as many miles as possible before I started to walk.

I was pleased to get three miles before I had to slow down and catch my breath.

A thought rattled around in my head while I was running and fell into place part way through.

It was a thought about masks.

Now, I am a person that the idea of a mask has taken up some important headspace. I have worn a metaphorical mask for almost my entire life. It started when I was young, as I had to undergo many surgeries as a child to address several birth defects. My earliest memories are of trying to school my emotions to deal with the terror of operating and recovery room. As I grew older, I knew that I did not fit in as I stood out for how I looked and being out so often for surgeries. I also realized that I did not fit in as I grew older in that I was gay.

So, with imperfect knowledge, I began crafting a mask that would allow me to function. I would hone this mask over many years. It was as I entered into my thirties that the mask would start to become a burden. It would slip, fall, and break and I would have to quickly pick up the pieces. Never realizing that by holding onto it so tight that I was making it impossible to hold for amount of time that I would need it.

There were points where I would sit down and literally write about this mask that I had created and debate it’s value. I knew that the effort of keeping it up and maintaining it was pushing me to the edge. I just didn’t know how to step away from it.

When I came out, I let the old, busted mask drop by the wayside. It was not an easy thing to do but it felt liberating. I was able to at least share a bit of myself without the anxiety of being discovered. I did not relinquish a metaphorical mask all together as I am nothing if not a creature of habit. I instead began working on new ones and instead of thinking one would do, I shuffled through them like a kid in a candy store.

The idea of actual masks has arisen recently. It was both a shock to discover that it was an intriguing to me as well as something that stirred up old memories. So, I shied away from it. It took some time to become comfortable with the idea of literal masks as something that would be interesting to try out. There was that fear hanging around in the background though that this was just another way of hiding.

It was while running that things fell into place. One of the things that gets associated with masks is the idea of anonymity. It is seen in the superheroes masks in comic books and even better illustrated in the book V for Vendetta. It was while thinking about the idea of anonymity that it struck me that that for these characters, the mask was not them hiding. The mask was who they were, those other identities were where they retreated to be anonymous. The mask allowed them to be their most authentic self and allowed them to strive to be the best version of themselves.

With that, the world tilted and I am better for the change of perspective.

The thing is, that we all wear the metaphorical masks. We put them on every day when we go to work or out to meet someone new. We do it without ever thinking about masks and the energy it takes to make them and maintain them.

Take some time to think about the masks you wear every day. Does it allow you to be authentic and strive to be the best version of yourself. Is there a mask out there that will?

Maybe it’s time to look.

Emotional Spectrum: Black Lantern

The Blackest Night falls from the skies,
The darkness grows as all light dies,
We crave your hearts and your demise,
By my black hand, the dead shall rise!

~Black Lantern mantra~

Start with the scariest subject first.

Let us begin with a brief explanation of the Black Lantern. It originates with the story line done by Geoff Johns entitled Blackest Night. In this story arc, there is a prophecy of a war of the light. The emotional spectrum will break out from just the green and yellow lantern and spread across the universe. This will signal the arrival of the darkest night. What this is, the guardians do not know but strive to prevent.

The Blackest Night is the rise of the Black Lanterns which represent death. The rings search out the dead and resurrect them to spread death and despair throughout the universe. This is all orchestrated by the demon, Neron. He grew tired of the heroes of the universe constantly cheating death and created an army to correct this mistake. His army was spearheaded by Blackhand, the Nihilist of the DC Universe.

Johns was tapping into both comic tropes and Freudian psychology with this story. Freud and several of his adherents posited that there was both a life force and death force that drove human behavior. These two competing drives combined with the components of the psyche to fuel a person’s striving in one direction or another. Johns also tapped into the idea of the returning hero making it the motivation behind Nero’s unleashing of the black rings upon the universe.

The problem with the Black Lantern as a starting point is that the subject of self-harm, suicide, suicidal ideation, and self-destructive behavior are taboo subjects. To discuss them opens one up to ridicule and stigma. This is inappropriate and leaves people that may be on the edge in this arena with nowhere to turn. This exacerbates the problem. The issues that are contributing to these thoughts and feelings push people from the grey that is the world to where things are cast in stark blacks and whites. They no longer see a way of reaching out of the black and getting to some state of calm or lessening of pain.

I am one person, and I can not change the way of the world. What I can do is stand up say that it is okay to talk about these things and be role model for people who may be struggling with these issues as well as those that love them by sharing my story.

Way back in 2012, I talked about my own self-loathing, poor body image, and all encompassing loneliness. These things were very much rooted in my past. I had been born with many birth defects which required surgeries up until I was 21 to fully correct. This built up within me this self concept of being a mistake and something less than human. It would take years to realize that layered within that was the additional self hatred of being gay. In 2012, I took that step to admit to myself and then later to others I was gay. It then allowed me to begin working on those deep seated issues of feeling flawed and unlovable.

This process of reconstruction is never ending. The ideas about yourself that a person builds up over the year have inertia on their side. The effort to move them can seem herculean. When the work begins, you quickly realize that you are going to run out of energy long before you are at something you are going to call acceptable. For me recently, this was in February. I lost sight of a lot of things during this month.

I had been pushing pretty hard on getting outside of my comfort zone. I am a shy person and not very good at this meeting people thing either. I had begun going out to Bear Dinners here in my home town. In addition, I had been lucky to make friends at these events and was invited to parties and other gatherings.

It was super great and I was non-stop pushing forward on things for me that had been fallow for such a long time.

This is where the forgetting begins.

I mentioned I am shy but I am also an introvert. It takes immense energy for me to do these things. I was bound and determined that I wasn’t going to stop. It was as if a desperate drive had taken over. This was what I wanted and if I stopped now I would lose all progress.

Life is Nintendo hard you know.

This progress was not without failures and struggles. Actually, there were lots of both as I had few skills in the relationship building arena outside of clinical ones. So every three steps forward were accompanied with one or two back. I would attempt to retreat and to recover and feel that fear of loneliness and loss and hop right back in without having recovered.

February turned into the perfect storm.

I did several big things that I had not done and the failures were spectacular and public. These combined with other life events to push me near the black. To steal from Taken, I have a particular set of skills. Even when in crisis, I am assessing both myself and others. I was concerned with the point that I had reached and took action. I was quiet about it as that fear of stigma for asking for help. I didn’t tell anyone in meat space what was going on. I just made sure to keep people with me that cared.

People want to believe it is easy not to slip into these self-destructive patterns. It is a convenient fiction that we tell our self so that we feel better. The thing is that it is very easy to slip into the this space, more so for those of us in the LGBT community. Not only do we face discrimination and hatred from without, we have to some degree incorporated this loathing into ourselves and it just intensifies these feelings.

Knowing it is okay to talk about this stuff is a small step. This small step could keep someone from picking up that black ring when the white one seems so far away.

Take time to check on your friends and loved ones. You may not notice that they have slipped into the black, but that kindness may be the lifeline that pulls them back.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline  1-800-273-8255

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I had heard about the new King Arthur movie a few months back. I knew I would be seeing it in the theater regardless of how good it actually appeared.

I am a fan of the King Arthur legend. It went hand in hand with my dive into mythology when I was in grade school. I remember reading the translation of Le’ Morte D’Arthur and being lost in the grandeur of the story. I also remember watching Excalibur way before I should have and loving every minute. Seeing a new interpretation of this beloved favorite is something I always look forward too.

In addition to being a story of King Arthur, this movie had two other things that made me want to see it. I am a fan of Guy Ritchie . I love the aesthetic he brings to a movie. It will not be conventional and will be full of frenetic energy that captures the attention. I looked forward to seeing his interpretation of the legend. Then their is Charlie Hunnam. OMG! Those eyes and that presence. I had to see him as King Arthur.

Spoiler Warnings On!

This is not your standard King Arthur Legend. Mages, including Merlin, stand apart from humans and have lived in peace with the humans until the rise of Mordred. He rises up against the humans and begins to assault the shinning city of Camelot. He assaults the city with magical fire and giant elephants of great destructive power. His assault seems unstoppable as the city walls are breached and her soldiers are disintegrated. Uther Pendragon, ably played by Eric Bana, suits up and draws Excalibur and runs head-long at the elephant carrying Mordred.

In true action hero style, Uther scales the giant elephant and climbs into the howdah to confront Mordred. In a quintessential slow motion fight, we get to watch as magic and an artifact clash. Where this is never shown in previous movies, Excalibur is shown to be the artifact that it is touted to be as it shrugs off the assault of Mordred and allowing the forces of darkness to be routed.

It is with the clean up from the attempted coup that the true shadow over Camelot is revealed. Vortigern begins purging the land of mages. In secret, he strikes deals with dark forces and undertakes regicide. It is Uther’s final battle that seals the fate of a young Arthur. He is placed in a boat as his father strives to keep his son from facing the same fate as he. It is Arthur’s fate to be taken in by the ladies of a house of ill repute. We get to watch as he learns to survive the mean streets of Londinium and create his own shadow kingdom right under the nose of the false king.

I will admit that I love this movie. It gives me everything I want from a King Arthur Movie.

First, I love the new take on Arthur. Instead of being the son of a lesser night we are given a Arthur that had to learn to survive abuse at the hands of those stronger than him. We get to see this in the montage of him growing up. Instead of it creating a monster, it solidifies the core of chivalry in a very different manner. Instead of courtly love, it makes it about caring for those that you care about and doing all you can to protect them. This speaks to me.

I like that instead of Merlin, we have a female mage. Astrid Berges-Frisby does an excellent job of playing the enigmatic grey eminence that dances around answers and yet still needs Arthur to embrace whom he is. She brings a different energy to the part that was refreshing. I also liked that the take on the mages was much more elemental and druidic than presented in some of the previous movies.

The thing that was by far my favorite thing of this movie is Excalibur. In most every telling of this tale, it is a magical sword that determines to whom the crown will fall. Beyond that, it is just a piece of metal with a bit of provenance. Here, Excalibur is a mother fucking Artifact. Notice I used a capital A there. The sword when in use displays runes of power which is a trope, but I fucking love it. When Uther faces Mordred and Excalibur lights up displaying the runes lining the blade, I wanted to cheer. There is a scene where Arthur is cornered in the dojo in Londinium. His friends and supporters are about to be slaughtered by the King’s men. Arthur Steels himself and puts both hands on the hilt of the storm. He then becomes the eye of the storm that descends upon his enemies and devastates them. He then collapses as he is unable to fully handle the power that he holds.

It gets better! In greek mythological fashion, he has to undertake a katabasis! To wield Excalibur, He has to let go of the things that are holding him back. He must travel into the shadow lands and see that which he doesn’t want to see. He has to see the death of his father. See the nightmare that haunts his dreams ever night and causes him to shy from the touch of Excalibur.

To top it off, the design of the villain in the final fight is a wonderful homage to Frazzetta’s Slayer. So good!

King Arthur: Legend of the sword delivers everything I want from a King Arthur Movie. It has action, magic, intrigue, and drama. It presents a different view on Arthur that is a refreshing perspective. The acting is solid and the casting does a bit better to give a little more diversity to the legend. I love Djimon Hounsou as Bedivere. It qualifies for me as an excellent gamer movie. If you like table top RPGs, you will enjoy King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Three bear paws out of four. I bearly recommend this movie!

Emotional Spectrum

It has been a long time since I’ve written about myself.

I was looking back at one of my old blogs and realized that It was way back in 2012 when I was just beginning the process of coming out that I had stopped writing about me.

I had used as framework for my musings, The Emotional Spectrum.

For those not in the know, I am referring to the different Lantern Rings from DC Comics. It started with the Green Lantern which represented willpower. As the storyline progressed other colors on the rainbow were added. It started with Yellow and fear and later Violet representing love. It was leading up to Darkest Night that the spectrum expanded to include all the colors of the rainbow as well as white and black.

I will freely admit that it is a simplistic approach to emotions and yet it resonates with me. The idea that emotions can be weaponized and harnessed for good or ill is both literal and figurative. You can see in everyday interactions how emotions are manipulated by others to gain advantage and leverage against others. The stories that are possible within this idea are also limitless.

Which always leaves me a bit disappointed in DC and it’s handling of the Emotional Spectrum as they take no risks and tend to leave everything in the hands of the old tried and true without tapping the depths that can be found in this idea.

so, I will put fingers to keyboard and talk a bit about where I am today and what I am doing to push forward. It will be centered around each of the Lantern Rings and I will not shy away from the Black or the Red.

If you would like to see my first crack at it, you can find it here. Start at the Emotional Spectrum and work your way up.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I was very excited for the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. The first movie had done such an excellent job of introducing us to these characters and to the Marvel Cinematic Universe cosmic setting. It had the right blend of comedy, action, and character beats that it was within my top five of Marvel movies.

My high level thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 are that I really enjoyed the movie but it had some flaws. None of these flaws are enough for me to say not to see this movie in the theater, but did make me pause and think about it afterwards.

Spoiler Warnings On!

There are lots of things to like about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.

We are once again given a space opera. The action is big, loud, and gorgeous. There is no reference to a hive of scum and villainy but there is a chase scene through an asteroid belt. The effects are wonderful as always. In particular, I liked the design choices in how Ego told his story to Peter and the rest of the crew. It took an intimate moment between father and son and made it creepy and distancing.

Volume 2 does not disappoint on the character beats either. Each member of the team had been given backgrounds in the first movie that had many loose ends. These are pieces of the puzzle that help flesh out the movie as well as being one of my favorite things in comics. Volume 2 takes the time to find these threads and explore them so that we get a better understanding of the Guardians themselves. one of my favorites is Yondu. It is a consistent story point that Yondu makes such a big deal of being hard on Peter and yet never doing any of the horrible things that he said he would do. This thread leads to a poignant moment between Yondu and Rocket as things look bleak. We also get to revisit the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. Though the idea of child soldiers is dropped, we do get to see what life was like from the perspective of the less successful of Thanos’ daughters.

These character beats highlight the underlying theme of family. In the first movie, we get to watch as this group of misfits come together to form their own family in the end. In volume 2, we get to watch as this idea is explored a bit more in depth. The same interplay between Rocket and Peter can be seen on display. But instead of letting the sharp sarcastic barbs fly fast and furious, there are consequences. The movie takes the time to illustrate that once you care for someone that those barbs you toss about without thinking take on a much greater power. Peter’s playful quip about Trash Pandas becomes a dagger with out thought and the damage is much harder to repair.

The flaws are neither glaring nor numerous. They are just enough to take me out of the movie and wonder why these choices were made.

I will admit that I love baby Groot. He is adorable. But, did we need so much of him? He dominates the opening credit scene as he dances around and we get glimpses of the action in the background. It is a unique way of showing us the action but it felt like a waste of time as Groot himself never takes part in the battle. In addition, Groot is used as a sledge hammer to drive home the the theme of family in this film. The guardians are immersed in a powerful conversation. Throughout the conversation Groot is passed around and cradled by each member in turn.

Ego was…disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kurt Russell as the living planet. He did an excellent job as a manipulative yet uncaring cosmic being. I just had hopped that he would have been allowed to be the living planet as opposed to being made a celestial. This is a deep cut for me but the celestials in the marvel universe are sort of the creator race. Their powers are vast and unfathomable. I had hoped that Marvel had learned from the first movie in this series that they could just go with the craziness that is the cosmic marvel universe and run. The audience had accepted a talking racoon and a plant. A living planet that was tired of being alone would have fit in just fine.

The initial plot that starts the movie is very thin. We get to watch as the team guards batteries from an interdimensional beast. This seems very low rent for a team that has successfully defeated Ronan the Accuser. It further thins as this empire is willing to throw all its resources against the Guardians even after a good portion of their fleet is destroyed by a single creature without a ship. There is no pause to contemplate that this might be a poor life decision and that whatever those people have stumbled into might better be left undisturbed.

The last bit that bugged me was Yondu. We learn that Yondu broke the Ravager code in regards to children and that he was allowed to continue to wear the colors but was not given any of the support that this would normally entail. We learn as the story unfolds the true horror of what Yondu has done appears. In the end, The Ravagers end up giving Yondu what he hoped for but there is no reason for this. Rocket admits that he broadcast the last moments between Peter and Yondu. This is enough to give Yondu a personal redemption but does nothing to explain why the Ravagers would now consider him a member of the group once again.

Overall, Marvel has still done a good job with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. It gives me more space opera that I enjoy as well as character moments that provide a connection for me with a movie. A little less baby Groot and a little more on in regards to plot would have made this an excellent movie.

Three bear paws out of four. Well worth watching on the big screen to enjoy space opera in it’s natural habitat.

Bear Brotherhood

Community.

Belonging.

Fitting in.

All of these things are the siren song of the geek.

Before I came out, I spent time on the internet perusing the different communities and was very happy when I discovered Bears. Here was a group that originated in the IT sector before it was even a big thing. They were of the same body type as me and seemed to have a large amount of members that enjoyed geeky things like I did.

The more reading I did, the more the idea of Bear Brotherhood kept cropping up. this was the idea that this community was open and accepting of all those that called it home. This community would provide a place that provide a welcome to those who did not fit what, at the time, was the standard of gay male beauty.  Everyone wants to feel accepted and that they have a place where they fit in. This is an important concept with incredible power.

The idea of Bear Brotherhood makes sense. It paints the bear community as empathic and accepting and is used as a means of bringing people together. Having a community that, on the face of it, is accepting of all members and provides a safe place for people to come together and find acceptance is admirable. When this happens, we bears will experience a connection with other bears that is enriching both on an emotional and physical level.

This concept is made manifest in the bear community both online and in events such as Bear Runs, Bear Dinners, Movie Bear groups, and any of the myriad bear gatherings that exist across the face of the planet. Each is designed to reach out to members of the Bear community based on a range of commonalities. They exist to encourage and enhance Bear Brotherhood.

It is in this expression that the power of Bear Brotherhood is experienced in it’s myriad forms. The things that people either forget or gloss over is that the expression of an ideal is always mitigated by the group dynamic as well as the desires of the more powerful personalities present. You organize a get together where the objective is for bears to come together around a central theme and feel comfortable. If the majority of the people who show up are there to find someone to hook up with, the idea of Bear Brotherhood is an elusive beast to capture.

Notice, I did not say absent.

If you are an outgoing or popular bear, you will be able to find this type of connection even at events where the group dynamic is about hooking up. It is the shy and less popular bears that will have a much harder time in this environment. They have came to meet new people and feel accepted. Where they came expecting to feel welcome and accepted, they end up facing the same feeling they would get if they went to a bar. They will attempt to make conversation and the frustration and fear will build as the absence of community is quickly felt.

This idea of community is also utilized in a manipulative fashion. The aforementioned hijacked event for the purpose of hooking up is just one. If you’ve attended a bear event that has a charitable aspect to it, then you’ve seen the manipulative aspect in full force. These events tend to have cute volunteers whose job it is to go around and sell raffle tickets or some other means of generating revenue for said charity. There are those that are straight forward and tell you they are collecting for charity. There are also those who leverage that sense of community and create that feeling of belonging in order to get the money flowing.  I am not saying this is wrong as it is a standard sales tactic. It is just problematic as those shy bears whom have shown up to feel like they are part of something will come into this interaction with a very different perspective and are at the minimum going to feel let down when they realize their perceptions and reality do not mesh.

I know that I am coming across a bit harsh on the idea of Bear Brotherhood and community. I am pointing out the flaws and leaving off that feeling of that one does get when that connection happens. I am a firm believer in the ideal of Bear Brotherhood. It is important that we make all bears feel welcome and like they belong. We live in a world where we aren’t accepted and there are those that constantly strive to not only marginalize us but to even destroy us. That we have a strong, supportive community is something that does matter. I think that is why it is important to take a look at the community that we participate in and have created with a critical eye. By doing this, we can create a better place for us.

It doesn’t take much effort to take a good community and make it great. If you look at yourself and those around you and ask a simple question, “What am I missing?” Then you take that step back and you might notice that person sitting at the edge of the group that has felt the vibe not being conducive to just having conversation. You might notice that person treading water at the deep end of the pool at a bear run and wander over and ask, ” How is your run going so far?” It is a platitude, but small steps are needed to complete any long journey.

So do me a favor bears. Keep believing in the idea of Bear Brotherhood. But, always take the time to step back and look at the community or event you are at. Look at it critically and see where it might be failing someone. When you see this flaw, step and do something about it. If we don’t create and support a community that lifts up all of us, who will?

By the light of the stars alone

This is the perfect spot.

This park, though in the heart of suburbia, was designed to take in the sunset framed over a dogleg in the river.  Two majestic oaks, hundreds of years old have been pruned and prodded to create a natural proscenium arch. It sets the stage for an act that is unbeatable this time of year, a summer sunset.

The sunset paints the sky with a shades of red, orange, and yellow. The heat lingering on the earth as the great burning eye descends behind the horizon to abdicate the sky to those lesser lights.

The sunset is gorgeous and yet is not what draws me to this park each month. It is these lesser lights that will soon grace the dome of the heavens that draws me to this place at this time each month.

The light begins to fade first. The streetlights begin to buzz and slowly awaken. The lightening bugs, as if to protest the dying of the light, begin winking their lascivious lights into the night. The night blooming flowers strewn along the fences that line the edge of the park near the river’s edge begin to yawn and stretch their petals.

The colors begin to fade from the sky as the inky darkness rises to claim the night from the iron fist of sol invictus. The sounds of the insects and birds change their tenor. The sweet songbirds that graced the day time skies are snuggled down in their nests. The night birds take wings and their somber coos and hoots fill the void of the night. The crickets chirp as they begin their nightly rounds and the moths flutter to the points of light that create their own tiny globes out of the void.

I sit on my bench. The sounds and sights of the twilight wash over me. The heat of the day is the last to surrender to the night. It clings to every inch of the park like a lost lover that will never see their paramour again. This last caress must be savored and stored away against the despair of lonely nights to come.

Twilight.

A time of transition.

A time of change.

This is why I come to this place at this time each month.

I come to remember that I am not trapped. I am not a slave. Watching the fading of the light and the people wending their way through the park as the night embraces the earth. I hear all the noises that permeate the park. From the lap of the river at the parks edge to the giggle of the teenagers fumbling in the bushes. The scents of the are carried to my on summer’s zephyr breeze. The sweet scent of evening primrose, and Jasmine. The acrid smell of exhaust and rotting trash. All of these crowd my consciousness to let me know that the darkness draws nigh and that I should be afraid.

I shiver as full night takes hold. The lessons that have been beaten into cry out for me to run home and lock myself indoors. The night brings nothing but sorrow and pain. The darkness harbors malicious intent that it wields with frightful abandon.

Flee!

Run!

Hide!

I breathe.

Four beats in, four beats out.

Repeat.

Mother night wraps her arms about me as full dark claims the land.

The twinkling of stars and the street lamps the only illumination.

The baleful eye of sol’s sister does not grace the vault of the sky this evening.

With her absence, I am free!

The last red haze that tinged my consciousness slides away. The buzz of anger and rage fades away on the sounds of a night hunting bird. The tension in my body slowly drains into the bench and down to the earth’s waiting arms.

They say to cower away from the night, to shun the darkness. The darkness devours your intellect and humanity leaving nothing but a husk. They never change and never risk the darkness to see what life might be like if risks are taken. They call me freak and abomination because I risk the night.

I know the secret though.

Night is not the jailer nor the prison. It is but the vehicle by which this rage is driven. Selene, with her silver chains, enslaves us. Drives the beast to rage.

The secret is to witness this twilight, this time each month. Be washed in the inky blackness of a night with out the moon and drink in the light of the stars. Step out without fear of the night and embrace the silent songs of the stars as they lift up one’s mind out of the pain of the nights too come.

I have taken the risk and been richly reward. This night, this perfect night belongs to me.

I breathe.

Four beats in, four beats out.

I change and their is no pain.

I change and their is no rage.

There is only me and the beast as one.

Tonight I run by the light of the stars alone.

I run and nothing has to die for me to stop.

And for a little while, the stars alone set me free.

 

Comics Issues

If you’ve read some of my posts, you will know that I enjoy reading comic books. I look forward to new comic book day and seeing what has shown up in my pull list and what interesting titles may be lurking on the shelves at my local comic shop.

The thing is, I am a reader of comics, not a collector. This presents me with several issues which I ponder at length. These issues all fall neatly into the larger consideration of digital versus hard copy.

Digital makes the most sense when viewed from the logical perspective.

First there is the storage issue. As I am not a collector, I do not have long boxes to keep my comics in. I do not bag and board my comics either. I pick them up from my local shop and read them. After being read, they sit in a pile in my home getting in the way. Digital comics would eliminate this problem completely. I would be able to store the comics I bought in the cloud and have nothing cluttering up my house.

Next there is the convenience factor. On new comic book day, I could get out of bed and tap on my iPad and have my comics that I get each week purchased in a matter of a few minutes. Even if I am unable to do it within the comixology App, the website is pretty intuitive and makes the purchase simple and easy. There isn’t the worry of getting to the shop before it closes.

Finally, there is the guided view that comes with most items purchased online. The digital version of a book allows you to follow the story in a different manner. As the name implies, it guides the the from image to image in a fashion much different than what I normally do when reading a comic. It provides a different perspective on the issue which is enjoyable.

Despite all this, I still buy the physical copies of the comics I read.

One of the biggest reasons I do this is to support local shops. It sounds altruistic but it isn’t. In my area, finding people that liked comics, games, and other nerdy things was not easy. The fastest way to find those that shared similar hobbies was going to my local comic book store. I would be able to get my comics, find the newest roleplaying game, and talk about all of these things with other people at the store. I want this type of environment to be around for future generations that are into comics. So, will support a local comic shop that I believe in with my money and my time.

As much as the digital versions of comics are more convenient, I enjoy both the physical artifact of a comic book as well as just browsing the shelves to see what else might be interesting. There are hardback collections of titles that I enjoy that are gorgeous. I may see a picture of them online, but picking them up in the store and appreciating their sheer beauty is something altogether different. I have also recently been to the comic book store with friends. Walking around with them as they pick up their books and having them make suggestions of books for me to try was moving for me. It took an experience that has normally been solitary and made it all the better.

I also like having someone to talk to about what I am buying at the time of purchase. I have found out about titles that I have enjoyed being cancelled from my local comic shop. I have also been given recommendations of titles that are similar to what I normally buy that have turned into some of my favorite books at the moment. The computer does this but I have yet to have any luck with the algorithm actually picking anything that I enjoy. It’s funny. I am a shy person but I enjoy the human interaction around the things that I enjoy. Talking to the people at my local comic shop makes my day even when I might not be up to full on interactions.

Finally, despite always having a pile of books that I have read, I don’t mind. Like i said, I am not a collector. I will take the pile to my game night or to a friend’s house and let them go through the books that I have and take what they like. I let them see if there is anything that I enjoy that they might like and give it a try. It makes it easier for them to get into this hobby I enjoy and I spread a bit of joy when I do this.

How do you buy your comics?

Why do you chose to buy them in that fashion?

Share your answers in the comments.