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Friday, November 13, 2015

Je Suis Paris

The object of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of the people, and to sow discord among our leaders. The objective is to cripple the populace and in turn, damage the economy, and the very culture.  In years past, it was the last chance weapon of the powerless, but has now devolved to become a tool of the unhinged. Today's technology serves to put catastrophic power into the hands of a few individuals. Whether they are building pressure cooker bombs, shooting crowds in movie theatres or bombing a government building, they have the same objective: to inflict maximum damage and to demoralize on a large scale. The only way to defeat the purpose of these faceless people is to not bow down to the fear they seek to sow.

In the winter of 2002, I got on a plane and flew to JFK with my dog Logan. We were going to the Westminster Kennel Club Dogshow. When I flew, the plane was nearly empty. When we landed, portions of the airport seemed abandoned. I remember that my mother was horrified that I'd take such a risk, and my friend Kazu just shook his head when I explained that I refused to be afraid.

Walking through Manhattan with my dog, I could see pain and despair in the eyes of New Yorkers. They made eye contact with strangers, and even the most strident store-keepers were subdued. More than one person took the opportunity to pet and cuddle Logan, who was a licensed therapy dog. At the show, one woman sat with him and melted into tears, her face buried in his neck. After a good, hard cry, she got up, wiped her eyes and left without a word. She was courageous in her grief. 
We visited Ground Zero, and in spite of the crowds filing in to pay their respects, the site was deafeningly silent.  It was one of the more powerful places I've ever been in my life.

I was raised in a Mormon family and there's been a lot of talk about this being the Last Days. I do not believe that. I do not believe in fate and I do not believe in living without hope. I do not believe in letting fear rule my life. After all, simply being born brings myriad hazards with it. Every time we take a step out our doors, we run all sorts of risks. And if we let fear have its way, they've won. 

We live in frightening times, and I don't know what the answers are. I do know that our world leaders are failing on a monumental basis. I know that a radical change will have to come over the world of the future. More violence? Hunting down and killing terrorist leaders? My initial thought was that its time to resurrect Madame Guillotine and Iron Masks. 

But no.
Perhaps we should be force feeding IS members anti-psychotic drugs and broadcast episodes of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood into their households. Heck, medical marijuana might be the answer. I don't know. I don't know. 

But look up at the image at the beginning of the article. She's the symbol of the French Revolution, which might have been one of the single most bloody, horrific episodes in history, but from that revolution, American revolutionaries drew inspiration.

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. 
When we needed them, the French were there for us.  Now we are there for them. This is not the time for fear. This is not the time for politics. In fact, I wish all the candidates and talking heads would just go crawl into their respective holes and shut their mouths. But they won't. They'll politicize the event and try to gain traction and sow fear in order to rise in the polls. Which in its way is a form of terrorism. But I digress.

Je Suis Paris.

I am Paris. And tonight, my heart aches 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

So Let's Talk Inspirational--The Great Alone Review

(Oh no, not another Lance Mackey post...)

There's been a lot of discussion about what makes a book or movie or song "Inspirational." To me, it has little to do with religion, but more with the uplifting nature of the work. I recently saw the award winning film The Great Alone, which is about the life of musher Lance Mackey. It's billed as a sports documentary, but is so, so much more.

This movie totally hits the mark for defining Inspirational. Lance was born to a legendary racing family in Alaska. After his parents split, he became mired in substance abuse by the age of nine. That's right...nine. He pulled himself from that hole, straightened out his life and decided to follow the family tradition of sled racing and eventually entered the Iditarod.

And then the cancer came.

The story of his life is inspirational. Lance entered the race again, while he was still being treated for throat cancer. He scratched when the contents of  his feeding tube kept freezing. Yes, he ran 500 miles of a thousand mile race while on a feeding tube.

Eventually, he went on to win the Iditarod. Then he won it again. And again. And again.
He also won the Yukon Quest 4 times, garnering awards for the excellent care of his animals and for having the most valuable team on the trail. He was given the title of "World's Toughest Athlete." Its unlikely that some of his accomplishments will ever be repeated.

He's battered, scarred and torn apart from the cancer and the subsequent treatment. He lost his salivary glands and eventually his teeth. His voice is gravelly. The bones in his jaw eroded. He had a finger amputated because of unrelenting nerve pain. His eyes are often reddened from the medical marijuana he uses to ease his pain. He can't use that when he races. But he still races.

He can't raise his arm over his head, because it might put enough stress on his jugular to tear the artery.

He has Reynaud's Syndrome, which causes his extremities to lose circulation and freeze easily.

And he's never given up. Never quit. When someone tells him he can't do something, Lance says, "Watch. This."
In all the years he's run those major races, he's never had a major corporate sponsor. He's funded by small businesses, friends and fans.

And the driving force in his life is the well being of his dogs. You wonder why I idolize this guy?
There's a reason that "Superman Wears Lance Mackey Pajamas."

This movie is what inspirational storytelling is all about. There's no mention of God or religion in this film, just a man, a second chance and a love of nature, mushing and his dogs. This is a man who's faced impossible challenges again and again, and prevailed. Lance is perfectly imperfect. He screws up, falls down and gets back on his feet. He knows the meaning of his life. How many of us can say the same?

The Great Alone is a tour de force directed by Greg Kohs. It's shot in a remote, hostile environment. The cinematography is exquisite. The soundtrack is gripping and ethereal. The story-telling is seamless. This is a story about a man, a race, his family and his dogs. In Lance's words: Watch this. 

The Great Alone is currently on the festival circuit, and will go into general release in 2016. See their  Facebook Page for screenings and guest appearances by Lance, his dog Amp and various guests. 

Official Trailer: The Great Alone

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Belindapendence: Be The Change You Want to See

All right, Belindapendence time. This is for authors. You may not like it.

Tough titties.

Stuff happens. People do things/say things/write things we don't like, so we all clutch our virtual pearls and write scathing comments and reviews, and then vent our spleen on Facebook.
So what did you actually accomplish other than to dump a shitload of negativity on the world?

Probably not much.

We all get tired of mansplaining. Of being belittled for daring to write science fiction without a cock to dip into the inkstand. Of authors who behave badly or use horrible judgement in what they write.

I'm not saying you shouldn't bitch and vent. Its just not necessary to belabor the issue and then abandon it for the next issue that pushes your button.

Did you know that being angry all the time is bad for your health?

Anyhow. Flip that anger. Work it. Use it. Make it productive. Then let it the fuck go and move on.

The RITAs are coming. We all know about the shocking event that transpired last year. Well, that was last year. Water under the Pultney Bridge. (Yes, I'm in Bath.)  Now take a moment to consider what you can do to prevent it from happening again.


If you have a great book that qualifies as inspirational...even if its not mainstream Christian, enter it. Yes, it might feel like a throw away, but it isn't. The existing judges need to be exposed to diversity. The genre needs to be redefined. Give them your gay, interracial Taoist love story.


If you enter a book you have to also serve as a judge, so when it comes time to pick and choose the genre you'll judge, say yes to all. And judge fairly.


Are you a PAN member? Go sign up to judge. They need you. Sign-ups happen on September 22. Volunteer to judge all categories. That book was preaching to the choir. We must make that choir much, much larger.

Make 2016 the year of action and diversity. Do something. Talk about books you love. Nominate them for Hugos or whatever is applicable. Judge. Vote. Be actively engaged in the process. When someone tiffs you off, (especially when its something as silly as a Go Fund Me campaign), shrug it off and move forward.

Declare your independence from the ugly, trolly side of our community, because we are a community. Lets try to make it better by acting and not reacting.