Archive for May 2017

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?