Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Honey Boudreaux - Fool Me Once

I don’t normally read YA books, mainly because I’m not ‘Y’ or much of an ‘A’ unless it stands for something else. Case in point, I tried to read Twilight once, and my eyes fell so far back into my head I spent six days in a hospital.

Thus, it was with great trepidation that I began reading Honey Boudreaux’s Fool Me Once. How does one read and review a book within a genre I have a slight bias against? This is why I’m not a regular Amazon reviewer. My tastes are too specific. I could never review a country album. Instant one star! A YA novel? You don’t want me reviewing that if you know what’s good for you.

Yet I started reading Fool Me Once. Challenge your predetermined ideas, I told myself. Listen to that country song! Start a conversation with a Swedish person! Confront your prejudices!

And then do you know what happened? You’d better not, or I’ll report you for spying on me and my family!

I thoroughly enjoyed it! This novel by a first time YA writer is a damn page turner. I don’t even have time to read these days, but I was looking for time and excuses to slip back into this story.

Sixteen-year-olds Tristan and Shelby dream about the future, but not of happy things like robots or flying cars. They dream about people dying and, hopefully, in real life, with the right amount of planning, they can then prevent these deaths from occurring. After saving a couple of lives and effectively cheating said death, the real guy, Death himself, comes after them. They then fight Death together after realizing that the person they’ve been seeing in their dreams for years is each other.

What Fool Me Once is is an amazing thrill ride because Death, the ultimate villain, won’t leave the kids alone: at school, at the bus stop, at the pizza place. Death is always there, and he’s pissed because the teens have already beaten, or fooled, him once. If they can fool him again, Death takes a permanent holiday as far as Tristan and Shelby are concerned. But if he succeeds this time, it’s curtains for these Dreamers, who, by the way, just might be falling for each other.

And you root for the kiddos all the way because, as George W. Bush once said, "Fool me once, shame can't get fooled again." 

So go read Honey Boudreaux's Fool Me Once, for there are sure to be more great things coming from her.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gay Marriage Essay from the Externalist

This is an essay about gay marriage that I had published on the Externalist web site a few years ago. It’s not there anymore, and I like the essay. Thus, I wanted to post it here.

I’m married to a lovely woman. Her name in Amy and she’s beautiful and I love her. We have a son named Alex and we are very happy.

Right now you’re probably screaming at me, “Who cares? Shut up about your dumb married life!”

And you’re right, dear angry, vocal reader. What a stupid way to begin an essay. But if I replaced all the feminine words in that first paragraph with masculine ones - maybe named my wife “Bob” - the majority of you would care. And care very strongly if polls and voting results have been accurate.

For some reason it matters to us who it is who’s getting hitched at weddings we’re not even invited to. As a nation we’ve always thought negatively about homosexuals. Now we’ve successfully disguised our intolerance with the phony claim of protecting and defending marriage, and by conjuring up an imaginary slippery slope in which we’ve convinced ourselves that same-sex marriage will eventually lead to a man marrying God only knows what kind of creature.

States across the U.S. have actually voted to ban same-sex marriage and to come up with a definition of the word. The best defense against gay marriage is apparently to make our laws dictionaries. Soon we’ll have laws defining a bevy of other English words and voting will become one big vocabulary test. Eventually, “I before E except after C” will be a law.

Never has everyone been so worried about the definition of a word. Not since the infamous and tragic “A fork is a fork and a spoon is a spoon! Down with the spork!” riots of 1912 has a word been so cradled to the death. Nothing gets people into a tizzy like a same-sex couple at the alter, not even the idea that we’ll all be eating dirt in a few months.

But here’s the thing about words. They can have several meanings. For example, to me decaffeinated coffee isn’t even coffee. It’s nonsense, like non-alcoholic beer. Still many people drink decaf. There are even those who slurp something called “iced coffee.”

Tell a waitress you want a cup of coffee and she’ll ask, “Regular or decaf?” There’s no reason you couldn’t request a marriage from a Justice of the Peace and have him ask, “Regular or same sex?”

Or think of a hot new item called Baconaise. In the definition of mayonnaise, bacon has never entered into the equation. Why aren’t people protesting this silly product? Condiments mean a hell of a lot more to me than a stranger’s marriage. Someone needs to defend mayonnaise from pork products.

If we successfully changed the definitions of the words “gay,” “queer,” and “faggot,” from the old days of “happy,” “weird,” and “a bunch of sticks,” we came do the same for a word like marriage.

Defining marriage is allegedly all in the name of defending it. Marriage only seems to need defending when the gays want a piece of the action. I won’t go into the hack bit about the divorce rate and the “Welcome to my world!” things we Who-gives-a-shit married hetero men spout, but think about it: We’re voting on people’s lives. Imagine you’re up for your dream job, but before you can be hired, your entire state gets to vote on whether you get the gig.

Don‘t get me wrong. The idea of voting for or against whether people can marry is a fantastic one. I think every engagement, hetero or homosexual, should be voted on. It would be a blast voting no on 500 different proposals. Take your dress and your princess dreams and hit the bricks, sister! This is a democracy! I’m voting for you to be sad for at least another year!

Wouldn't you dig that? You go to the ballot questions and there’s a whole list of engagements to vote on:

"No, I hate this guy. Won't vote for him...God, she's ugly. No on them...Oh, look, it's me and Susan. I'll vote no. She'll never find out..."

Hell, imagine the ads! Every couple would produce one:

"Bill and Susan are good, God-fearing people who eat healthy and pay their taxes..."

Or, your enemies could produce attack ads:

"Bill and Susan live together in sin, and it could be in your neighborhood. Bill and Susan slaughter neighborhood pets and keep a crawl space in their house where they molest and torture girl scouts and paperboys. Vote no on Bill and Susan."

I would vote no for everyone. Tear down the entire wedding racket and their hiking the prices of everything up threefold.

Voting no on gay marriage, in addition to bravely defending the hetero kind like a superhero, saves us from the mythical “slippery slope,” where such a notion could lead to incest, bestiality, and all the other things people associate with homosexuality. This says a lot about what people think of homosexuals that they equate that lifestyle with nailing a dog or your sister.

This will never happen! In what country, on what planet, has this ever happened? Maybe it’s happened once or twice as a goof, but not in the numbers that homosexuals would like to be married. No slope is that slippery. Bestiality is illegal. When they make gay sex illegal, then you’ll have an argument.

The crafty homosexual, who presumably lives to lure our children into a world of sin and degradation, might indeed be so deliciously evil that he or she could actually get an animal to sign a marriage license and say "I do." And, who knows? Maybe that will eventually lead to leprechauns and unicorns wanting to marry your children. But I, for one, merely see allowing two consenting adult human beings to marry leading to more work for bad wedding singers and male strippers. And that’s just good for the economy.

You want what’s good for the economy, don’t you?

Do you hate America?

And why does the slope not slip the other way? If we tell certain members of society they can’t be married, then where does it end? Do we then say a hetero goth couple can’t be married because they’re too gloomy and a child shouldn’t be brought up in that household? Do we ban poor people from marrying? Fat people? Little people? We could ban all sorts of groups from walking down the aisle just in the name of protecting the children.

When people argue over lowering the drinking age back to 18, no one ever says, “If we do that, soon infants and puppy dogs will be drinking too.” Before Roe v. Wade did anyone ask whether legal abortions would lead to the legalization of murdering the living?

The grand compromise to the gay marriage debate is civil unions, the old “separate but equal” strategy that has worked so well in the past. The civil union idea sounds like the fake, condescending compromise your parents would make with you when you were five. You want a pony, but your parents can’t afford one. So they take you to the slow-moving mechanical horsey in front of Kmart and say, “How’s that pony?”

Then you cry and scream, “It’s not a pony! I want a pony like all the hetero kids at school have!”

Civil unions are the “Marriage Lite” that we’ll throw at the silly homosexuals in hopes that it will appease them and make them all go away to Provincetown or San Francisco and watch drag queen productions of The Golden Girls, and just leave us straight folks and our kids alone.

Why not just hand every same-sex couple a giant pink document with little rainbows and caricatures of Liberace and Paul Lynde on it that says, in big girlie letters, “MARRIED,” with the quotation marks in case normal people might think it’s a serious certificate?

When the slippery slope argument is exhausted, many turn to the idea that marriage is for procreation. But when did intent on procreating become a prerequisite for marriage? Do you have to prove that you intend to have kids in order to get married now? When you go to get your marriage license are you forced to impregnate your future wife right there in front of everyone? What about elderly and infertile couples? By that I mean can they be married, not should they have sexual intercourse in front of large groups of people. Either way, I say YES!

Some homosexual couples want to adopt. Others just want to be fabulous and sing karaoke versions of “It‘s Raining Men.” What’s the difference? Someone will have to raise all those unwanted babies when Roe v. Wade is overturned, and it won’t be me. I’m busy making my own children out of papier-mâché and Maruchan instant noodles.

Then we get to the Biblical arguments. I don’t want to attack the Bible’s stance against homosexual anything, like so many cleverer-than-thou lefties do with their examples of eating shrimp and growing crops and Jesus riding a dinosaur. It’s very en vogue to make fun of the Bible these days. So I don’t want to leap on any bandwagon and go on a stupid Richard Dawkins-like rant. But sure, the Bible says homosexuals should be put to death.

To stay with the marriage motif, so (according to the Bible) should any woman who cannot prove she’s a virgin when she is married. Yikes! That would make for some interesting ceremonies. I mean, would she have to prove it just to the priest or JOP, or would everyone from the best man to the limo driver have to be in on it?

And, once she’s proven to be the sullied gal that she is, I’m picturing a Kill Bill style death. One in which the entire wedding party pays for the blushing bride’s fornication. Or, I’m thinking, at the very least, non-virgins should be denied access to marriage, or re-marriage. One and done, slut. Have a nice life. No second marriage for you, and you can’t have the special at Red Lobster.

Can we stop defending marriage, as if when gays are allowed into the mix our own marriages will suddenly disappear like Marty McFly’s siblings from the photo in Back to the Future? The gay police will not come to your home and force you into your own same-sex marriage. Although I think that would be hilarious. I’d take on a gay lover for the team just to see it happen to the rest of you uppity heteros.

The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 made as much sense as the Defense of Water Fountains Act of 1963. I don’t want to be one of those hemorrhaging hearts who compares gay marriage with slavery and the Civil Rights movement, but there are degrees of comparisons. Seinfeld and Saved by the Bell were both television sitcoms. Just vastly different ones. The Beatles were a band. So was Men Without Hats.

There. Seinfeld and the Beatles were like slavery. Saved by the Bell and Men Without Hats were like gay marriage. By this I don’t mean slavery was fantastic or pure genius or anything like that. Nor do I mean gay marriage sucks like Screech and “The Safety Dance” do. I just mean slavery and gay marriage are on vastly different levels of civil rights issues.

Anyway, the Defense of Marriage Act was Clinton’s baby. So it’s not just Republicans being the jerks here. There are more Democrats in favor of abortion than there are for letting two men say some vows. Kill all the unwanted fetuses you’d like. They’ll probably grow up to be homosexuals and want to get married.

The point is that things change. Everything in your life, whether it directly affects you or has extremely little to do with you, changes. Vinyl records led to CDS which led to iPods. Your dog used to be able to defecate anywhere he pleased. Now you have to pick it up. You used to be able to smoke anywhere you wanted. All of these will affect you way more than the sexual make-up of two unknowns professing their love for each other.

So maybe someday homosexuals will be greeted into the wonderfully successful world of marriage, and not just in the tiny, blue Northeastern states, or the one corn fed, hayseed state.

Maybe, after all the rice is thrown and the sound of empty cans clanging against the pavement fills the air, we will all watch as the car those cans are tied to drives off. And on the back of the car it’ll say “Just Married.”

That’s all. Just married.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cover Art for Puppet Shows

The Unpublishables presents to you the cover art for the epic short story collection Puppet Shows, coming November 22, 2012 from Writers AMuse Publishing.

Artwork by Amy Frissore

Sunday, September 9, 2012

DeeJay Arens - "The View From a Rusty Train Car"

I was thinking about something the other day. Never 
has my family screamed at me or shunned me because 
of who I dated. Plus, I've never been harassed or 
taken a punch because of who I kissed or held hands 
with. Not only that, but when I got married, I did 
so in the pinko commie state of Massachusetts; 
however, I could have gotten married in whatever part 
of the country I wanted. It's truly amazing.
Wait. No, it isn't amazing. That's how it's 
supposed to be. 

I read DeeJay Arens' debut novel The View From a 
Rusty Train Car from Writers AMuse Me Publishing 
in three days on breaks during a conference in 
San Francisco, of all places. I could hardly put 
it down. While also being touching and well-written, 
this book reminds us that all of these things I 
mentioned earlier should not be taken for granted. 
It's a story of two men in love, and the consequences 
of that love.
In a time of angry pro and anti Chick-Fil-A 
arguments, Arens presents a normal love story. 
Well, it should be a normal love story; it's 
really anything but. Not because of the same-sex 
nature of the love, but rather the reaction to it. 
It's a tale that everyone - whether strongly for 
gay marriage, decidedly against it, or somewhere 
in between - should read. 

It is a love story. Not a rant, as it could be. 
And if you think the things that happen in it 
are far-fetched, do some Googling. For that, 
other than the writing itself, is the amazing 
thing about Arens' novel. It all happens. We'll 
all be ashamed of it one day, but it happens. 
But to Arens' credit, the numerous antagonists 
are never presented as hateful bigots, but rather 
- as they often are in real life - childish thugs, 
disapproving family members, or the overly-religious.
There's been a lot said and written about gay rights 
over the years. I've chimed in via essays and stories 
myself. Do yourself a favor, especially if you're more 
likely to be in opposition, and read The View From a 
Rusty Train Car. If it doesn't get you thinking, I 
don't know what will.