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#lovewins is a victory but . . .

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According to Mother Nature, my last post was a couple of weeks before summer officially began. Now we’re a week in. That’s right. I haven’t been keeping up on my weekly blog. There is one reason. Though the summer season didn’t begin until June 21st, my summer break began about a month before that and, frankly, I’ve had better things to do. I finished edits on a novel that will be out soon, I taught (am teaching) two online classes through UNO, I’ve hung out with family and friends, attended the first annual O Comic Con, gone on a couple of trips, taken several photographs recounting my journeys here, and vegged on MadMen (and tweeted about it here), enjoyed some Third Rock From the Sunand stared in rapt wonder at various ridiculous movies on Netflix. So far, Zombeavers is my favorite. So, you know, for me, it’s been pretty chill.

Things haven’t been quite as peaceful in the rest of America though, right? Damn, it’s exciting!

We are living in a time of change, folks. I know the discerning reader understands that all times are times of change, but c’est la vie. A few days ago, on the morning of Friday June 26th, the United States Supreme Court declared gay marriage legal throughout the land. This is what we call a win, right? At least I do. And I’m happy the United States of America has finally joined a good chunk of the world in choosing equality over hate. Honestly, we should have been first. I’m not here to complain though. This is a victory for progression toward a more advanced collective state and since I consider myself an amateur futurist, I am happy. Nay, folks, I am ecstatic.

But I’m also cautious. Sure, those of us who ponder the past, observe the present, and predict the future (usually incorrectly) have had some recent victories. The aforementioned legalization of gay marriage is one. The fact that the governor of South Carolina called for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the State House building is also an absolute good. I mean, even in pop culture, people are starting to see the future for what it is: open. For instance, Marvel Comics’ current version of The Mighty Thor is a woman, Captain America is an African-American (if this one is really a shock, I highly recommend you go out and find the graphic novel Truth: Red, White, & Black right now–it’ll blow your mind), Spider-Man is Latino/African-American, and finally Ms. Marvel is a Muslim Pakistani-American (also the child of immigrants). These last four examples may seem minor to you but I believe they are evidence that our society is changing. They say art imitates life just as much as life imitates art (or at least the ones in the know do). If that is the case, the United States of America has come a long way and the future looks bright.

But let’s be real here for a moment. As a nation, we haven’t come that far.

I mean, Loving v. Virgina was almost 50 years ago and people are screaming that what the Supreme Court just did is unconstitutional. I think those people screaming don’t fully understand the Supreme Court’s job. That’s a problem. What’s that? You don’t know about the Loving v. Virginia case! Well, if you didn’t follow the link, here is the quick version: In 1967 the Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional for states to have anti-miscegenation laws (which were laws that stated people of color and white people couldn’t get legally married). Isn’t it strange that nearly half a century later, the Supreme Court is making an almost identical decision about a different group of people who want to wed? Isn’t it also strange that the Court’s decision in 1967 didn’t absolutely destroy the fabric of our society and/or the sanctity of marriage OR bring about the end of our freedoms as we know them?

Oh wait.

Anyway.

You know what is strange in the 21st century though? The number of people who have suffered because of backward beliefs prevalent in our society. You know how many it is? That’s how many. And what, exactly, was the impetus to get Governor Haley to propose the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina State House? Hmmm . . . I can’t quite remember . . . . Wait. It was this mass murder. And oh yeah, the accused killer is reported to have said something awful to the people he gunned down in a church, right? In case you haven’t heard, it apparently went like this: “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go.” So you know . . . things aren’t perfect, are they? But that’s not all.

I mean, don’t even get me started on the unhealthy healthcare system (though I must admit, the Affordable Care Act seems to be helping lots of people in those states where it has been implemented as it was supposed to be implemented). Then there is still that ridiculous war on drugs. Though that, as well, seems to be changing. Oh man, and prisons and schools in this country, what the hell? I can’t forget the general underlying sexism popping off everywhere (though, again, it is getting better). Pollution, poverty, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor are also . . . problematic stateside. And how could I forget Super PACs and everything wrong there? Incidentally, Super PACs were legalized by another Supreme Court decision and while I disagree with it, I do understand it isn’t bringing about the end of civilization as we know it. When you really think about it though, couldn’t Super PACs be more harmful to our democracy than marriage?

Anyway.

All I’m saying is let us not rest on our laurels at these victories, as small or large as they may be. Yes, let’s attend weddings (and divorces, ZING!) that wouldn’t have been possible a week ago. Let’s enjoy a broad spectrum of beliefs, religions, people, and nationalities in this country. Let’s look to the past and realize what we should be proud of and what . . . you know . . . not so much. Let’s have entertainment that reflects the vast diversity present today in the United States. Let’s relax. Let’s be nice. Let’s have fun, drink and be merry.

But let’s not forget we still have a long way to go.

Summertime Songs

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I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “Stueve, it’s not summer yet. It’s only June 8th. We have, like two more weeks, man!”

Technically you’re right. But I have to tell you, for me, it’s been summertime for 16 days now. That said, I felt it was time for me to share with the world my awesome, amazing, fantastic summertime playlist. I know, I know, we really don’t need another one, right? I mean, people with far more authority than me have made their own. But whatever. I like music, like, a lot.

In fact, as I went through edits on my forthcoming zombie novel, I noticed  that music plays a significant part in the narrative. It got me to thinking that pretty much every novel-length project I write has some association with music. In The ABCs of Dinkology books it’s pretty obvious. I include unofficial playlists for every chapter. I’m beating my readers over the head with the importance of music to my protagonist. With other projects though, it isn’t quite as obvious. But, like I said, after having gone through edits on my forthcoming novel for what feels like the billionth time (such is the nature of the writing process) I noticed songs popping up again and again. At one point my protagonist contemplates purchasing a boat and sailing around the ocean and thoughts of “Cheeseburger in Paradise” dance through his head. In another section, he walks into a strip club that is playing The Doors’ “Alabama Song.” There are little things like that sprinkled throughout.

So you could say music is important to me. So is summertime. So I made a mix of songs that remind me of summertime. Some of them are obvious–they literally have the word “summertime” in their titles. Others, not so much. Trust me though, when I say they make me feel all summary.

Anyway.

With no further ado, here is my Summertime Mix:

  1. “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry 
  2. “Schools Out” by Alice Cooper 
  3. “Summertime” by Will Smith 
  4. “Summer Nights” by Olivia Newton John and John Travolta 
  5. “Summer” by Scott Bradlee and Post Modern Jukebox 
  6. “summertime sadness” by Mikal Khill (featuring Adam WarRock and Chockeules) 
  7. “California Girls” by The Beach Boys 
  8. “I Get Around” by The Beach Boys 
  9. “Sloop John B” by The Beach Boys 
  10. “Jenny and the Summer Day” by The Avett Brothers 
  11. “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago 
  12. “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters 
  13. Gravity Falls” by Adam WarRock 
  14. “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett 
  15. “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” by Jimmy Buffett 
  16. “Stole the Show” by Kygo (featuring Parson James) 
  17. “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful 
  18. “California Gurls” by Katy Perry (featuring Snoop Dogg) 
  19. “Sunny Afternoon” by Jimmy Buffett 
  20. “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) by Meatloaf 
  21. “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones 
  22. “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh 
  23. “Island in the Sun” by Weezer 
  24. “Fireflies” by Owl City 
  25. “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding 
  26. “Steal My Sunshine” by Len 

Anniversary

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On June 4th, 2015 I will have been married for 14 years. In honor of that, I’m sharing a poem I wrote for my wife many moons and seasons ago. If I’m remembering correctly, it was sometime shortly after we eloped to Las Vegas and before she turned 21. It was my senior year of college. 

Yes, we were that young . . . . The poem reflects that. It’s an innocent and simple understanding of romantic love that has found its way into one of my forthcoming novels. Some may think it naive, that romantic love–because it was built upon the back of a patriarchal system of oppression and control–isn’t what so many of us romantics believe it to be. I, on the other hand, like to think the poem–and romantic love–is strong in its innocence and simplicity. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time a thing was created that ended up being far more than it was intended to be.

Anyway.

I believe when one understands romantic love like I do, the sentiments put forth in this poem are stronger than you might think upon a first reading. Then again, one should probably never analyze his own writing.

Now I’m just rambling, so here it is:

love

Memorial

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The origin of Memorial Day is a bit . . . controversial. Don’t believe me? Take a look at snopes.com. That place is usually pretty solid with the answers. It’s kind of what Snopes does.

Anyway.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. May those who paid the ultimate price in service of their country be remembered. In fact, may all loved ones be remembered. Why not, right? A day to remember all of our fallen friends and family isn’t a bad thing, is it? I mean, does it really matter how or where they died to offer up a day of remembrance? My grandma visits her parents and husband today–none of them died in a war. I don’t see anything wrong with her taking flowers to their graves today, do you?

Me? I don’t. I don’t have a lot of military family members. I’ve also been lucky enough to have not lost many loved ones. Of the ones I have lost, I remember them my own ways on my own days and frankly it’s between them and me.

It’s whatever.

That said, I find it odd wishing people a ‘happy’ Memorial Day. Maybe, to a certain extent, there can be some happiness around remembering your children, spouses, parents, friends, and other family members and acquaintances who died serving their country. I guess when I think of those around me who have died I can smile at the good times we had. In fact I do, remembering the way my friend Nathan called me “Stu-Stu-Stuevio” like he was singing that Phil Collins song “Sussudio.” I laugh, occasionally, when I think of the student I lost a few years ago in a car accident. His sly comments in class were always entertaining. He was a good kid who possessed just the right amount of smartass and intelligence to make me fond of him.

*le sigh*

Still, considering what Memorial Day is for on a national scale, I can’t completely commit to a ‘happy’ one in that regard, you know? Instead, what I do–what my family does–every year is spend Memorial Day at Adventureland. It isn’t important. It isn’t noble. It isn’t altruistic, heroic, or anything even remotely close to anything like that.

It is, however, memorial.

Yearbook, Take Four

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This year marks the fourth time I’ve been a yearbook adviser, the sixth time I’ve been a video yearbook adviser, the third time I’ve been a website adviser (thethunderbeat.org natch), and the second time I’ve been a literary magazine adviser. I also teach and write and live my life a bit . . . .

Anyway.

Today my video yearbook and yearbook staffs distributed this year’s edition, Vol. #38 for those keeping track. And it is no lie to say this year’s creations are the best I’ve advised on (not that the others are crap, I’m just saying, this stuff has come together quite nicely this time around). Here’s a pic:

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 4.36.26 PM

We’re using this cool app called Aurasma this year too. Don’t know what that is? Don’t know how to use it? Here is a tutorial! Yeah. It’s whatever.

Anyway.

I work hard on these productions, all of them. But I don’t work nearly as hard as the students. They put in far more hours than many of their peers. They dedicate themselves to their work far more intensely than many of their peers. They show more heart and depth and determination than many adults I’ve met. At the end of the year it pays off in their work. They do the best they can with the time they are given.

I must use my meager platform to say I am proud of them.

May the Fourth be With You

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I know I said I was going to write about Stan Lee this week, but seeing as it is a bit of a holiday in my culture, I figured I’d write about Star Wars instead. Ah, the freedom of running your own blog with few followers . . . . It’s . . . awesome?

Anyway.

I’m a nerdy guy. I’m sure you’ve picked up on that by now.

I imagine science can figure out why some guys are into football and others are into comic books and others still are into all of it. I’m not science though and I’m also not one to question who I am. I am, on the other hand, one to revel in it.

So I have a lot of Star Wars memories . . . .

A lot.

A drive-in showing of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is the first thing that pops into my head. It was the second film that night. I couldn’t tell you what the first one was. I’m sure it sucked though. What’s odd is though I remember this movie first, I know I saw A New Hope before it because I wasn’t confused at all . . . . Memory is a strange thing . . . .

I remember seeing Star Wars: Return of the Jedi when I was five with my uncle Barry who was 13. I ate so much popcorn when we went that I spent the night puking in my grandma’s downstairs bathroom. I can still hear her shrieking at Barry something along the lines of “How much popcorn did you let him eat?”

I didn’t even care.

That’s how awesome that movie is.

I can fast forward to the premier of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceSeveral of my friends, my dad, and I all went to the opening show. I can remember standing in line, heart beating quickly as I anticipated what was to come. My brother-in-law was late because of his job. He drove like 100 mph over the interstate to make it. He didn’t even miss a trailer. He must have been channeling Anakin Skywalker’s Midi-chlorians or something (he can fly a pod racer really fast).

Then there was the all but ignored masterpiece, Fanboyswhich says everything all of us nerds wanted to say about Episode I but couldn’t quite articulate. It’s so brilliant I kind of want to cry whenever I think about it (I may cry a little bit every time I watch it though you’ll never know).

Watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars with my kids has been nothing short of amazing.

Then, of course, the trailer for the newest movie came along and every other memory of the films I’ve had since I was a little boy vanished because I became that little boy again, waiting with the eager anticipation only a child should have.

Christmas can’t come soon enough.

In the meantime, May the Fourth be With You.

Sci-fi/Fantasy: It’s Legit, for Real

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I’m teaching this science fiction/fantasy writing class this summer. Right now I am in the process of creating a sort of guide for students to understand the various forms of science fiction/fantasy. Here is the cover and the first page:

specficinfobook2

Clearly, it’s a rough draft but pay attention to the blurb on the bottom of the cover. It says volumes about my philosophy on writing without saying too much.

I’m thinking next week I’ll write about one of my biggest writing heroes . . . Stan Lee. But don’t quote me on that because you never know what sort of whim I might have . . . .

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