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Work

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I make it a priority to avoid doing too much with my high school teaching job during the month of June and very little those first couple of weeks of July. I won’t apologize for the weeks away from work I have every summer. I also won’t defend it by claiming I spend all the time stressing about the upcoming year, learning new ways to teach, and generally ignoring every other aspect of my life in order to make myself a better teacher. I don’t.

As I mentioned last week, I’m a lot of bad things, folks, but I’m not a liar.

Now that June is over though and July is creeping to a close, I have to turn my eye toward Bellevue West High and begin preparation. It is not something I’m fond of doing. In fact, I look at it as a necessary evil. I see some of my colleagues start happily prepping for the upcoming school year in February. Some of them are even excited, talking about what they’ve learned and what they will teach and all sorts of in-service bullshit jargon that literally is so painful to listen to it makes my body start shutting down. Luckily for me I feel the shut down process begin and get away as fast as I can! Then there are the other teachers who shrug at the thought of preparation because they’re too busy madly dashing from website to co-workers’ classrooms in search of lesson plans. High quality teaching there, folks, let me tell you. Perhaps if they would do less shrugging and more preparing they wouldn’t be in a panicked mess throughout most of the school year . . . .

Anyway.

I probably have more in common with the latter in that my dislike of prep work. On the other hand, I’m a lot like the former in that I understand its importance. So don’t bother me folks. For, as I finish binge watching Third Rock from the Sun, look fondly toward the release of my next novel, and eek out every bit of relaxation time I can from the last few weeks of summer break, I will also be preparing and planning and making ready because I don’t want to metaphorically freeze to death like that grasshopper from that fable.

Liars and Deceivers

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No.

I’m not writing about politicians.

Zing! Hey-Ho!

I’m writing about fiction writers. I’m not going to build up to it, folks. Here it is: writers are liars and deceivers. That’s right. We’re bad, bad people.

giphy

We make a living (in some cases, just barely) by lying to our readers. Our stories can be fantastical with dragons and zombies. They can be representations of everyday life and tumultuous events like divorce or death. They can be funny. They can be sad. They can be scary. They can be somber. The one thing they all have in common though is that they are all lies. 

Also, even those of us who tell true stories, such as memoirists, lie to a certain degree. Here is one of my only pieces of published non-fiction. It is about my son’s birth and it is . . . not 100% true. Yes, he was born dead with a congenital heart defect. Yes, there were several moments of intense worry as I watched doctors and nurses try to revive him. And finally yes they succeeded and I did believe in “magic, real magic,” as I say in the little tale. There is, however, imagery in that story that did not take place during the actual event. There are snippets of dialogue that are built on the backs of half-dazed memories and shocked, willful forgetfulness. So, to those keeping track, to those stern guardians of nobility, those puritanical guardians of the actual truth, this story–though true to my mind–might be considered a lie. 

Such is life.

But what I do with that lie is tell my truth. I tell my truth of the experience. I tell my truth of the emotions. I tell my truth of the most painful and happy day of my life. And I am specific, for specificity in writing leads to universality in understanding. I do the same thing in my novels The ABCs of Dinkology: Life and The ABCs of Dinkology: Time In-Between. Sure, those stories are completely made up, but in them I get at a specific truth. I ponder what it might be like for a young man struggling with his sexuality at the turn of the century. I ask how a kid with an already fragile psyche would cope with his father’s terminal illness. I wonder what it would be like to live through some rough, rough times (truth be told, I do take many aspects of my life to answer these questions I ask). Hopefully, there is something universal about that. 

It’s simple really. There are times when writers, such as myself, have to lie to get at that universal truth. That is what good writing does and I will not apologize for being a liar and deceiver for that simply means I’m a good writer.

Also, you know, I promised myself I would do my best to post weekly for the rest of summer and I failed. So this is kind of me defending myself against myself . . . . I’m not sure if it worked.

Anyway.

Presence

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I don’t have a lot to write about this week, but I swore I would maintain this weekly blog (at least for a spell). So even though I’m exhausted from last week’s travels, grading, and writing I decided to write something. I think this is something a writer should always do though. Don’t you? I mean, decide to write despite the fact that it feels impossible.

But I’m also uninspired. This blog started because an editor told me I needed an internet presence. She told me it didn’t have to be about anything. She told me it could be about everything. She told me to “just write my thoughts.” And I’ve done that.

But lately it feels like I’m running out of anything and everything. With this blog . . . I’m on ‘E’ and thinking about turning it into a vlog.  Talk about presence, right? I mean, my pretty face isn’t on the internet enough yet, is it?

#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.

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