Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Maybe we don’t need to clap

On the TV, online, or through the radio, I see countless ad campaigns “celebrating our heroes”. You might be wondering why the phrase is in quotation marks. That has nothing to do with the merit of the work of our essential workers. I truly and deeply respect and appreciate the people putting themselves at risk during these chaotic times. And it’s not just doctors and medical personnel, but maintenance workers in hospitals and care facilities, the people who are still working in manufacturing plants, the farmers who are still picking our food, the health and sanity workers cleaning buildings and our streets, the trash collectors, and all the people who are too often overlooked. 

These people are amazing and deserve our respect and appreciation… but they also deserve our cooperation.

My problem with all these ad campaigns and the Blue Angels flybys and all the other shows of support is that they don’t support people at all. It’s like a hollow thank you, or standing up for the national anthem as a knee jerk reaction as if that makes you some kind of hero. These campaigns and the empty words behind them don’t change the fact that emergency pay will be or has been cut, that our medical workers are still underpaid, understaffed, and have a precarious shortage of PPE equipment in countless towns, cities, and states. 

But people still put a lot of stock in these campaigns and on applause. That’s because it feels good to feel as if you’re making a difference even when so little is given and so much  is taken for granted. On many occasions, medical personnel are greeted or sent to their homes with a round of applause for their work. The people applauding are people in the hospitals who are genuinely thankful because they see these people showing dedication the likes of which no social media influencer has an idea of.

They want to encourage these people because they can’t even begin to imagine the struggle that it is to get up every day to face the situation as it is, while sucking it up and turning a blind eye to so many people who want to fight for their right to a haircut, or massage, or some asinine “right”, like the right to not wear a face mask and practice social distancing. They suit up and come to work 12-14-16-18 hour workdays, caring for people whom they don’t know whether they’ll make it or not. Breaks are few and far between, scars are in place because of the protective gear they have to have to wear constantly and bodies and minds are being pushed beyond their limits in the most grueling experience any of them will ever live and experience. So people clap and cheer with love and thanks… but not every day is a win. Not every day has positive outcomes. Some days are the complete opposite. Somedays a patient doesn’t make it…. and sometimes several don't. And they have to keep going through the motions, bury down the pain, the anguish, the frustration, and all the feelings that only they know… and they come through the doors and hear the last thing they want to hear… clapping, cheering, and words of encouragement. I’ve read of several people who take different routes to avoid these shows of love and support because it’s too much. They didn’t win even if they are winners and heroes and the most important people in this country right now. 

Yet you turn on the TV and boom, "thank you heroes"… from companies who are forcing their employees to go into work, no matter what. From companies who have made record numbers in sales and are making the rich richer… but people NEED to come into work, extra pay is being cut, hazard pay has run out, health insurance is cut, protective gear is not guaranteed, and some people will be furloughed, because… you know, the times… 

Clapping, congratulating, and making ad campaigns to celebrate heroes while doing everything to make their life more complicated is as stupid as it sounds… so maybe we don’t need to clap. Maybe we need to stay home. Maybe we need to wear a face mask. Maybe we need to cooperate…. But that doesn’t seem to be the most patriotic thing to do for some people… so enjoy the ad campaigns and your $450,000 fly bys while people keep digging deeper than ever to show what being a patriot is really about.

These are rough times and although we have to find kindness and smiles wherever we can, it’s not a time to be selfish, ignorant, or childish. If one small sacrifice can save a life, why is it so hard for people to see that? Why must measures to ensure safety be considered forms of oppression? I honestly don’t know. Meanwhile, hospitals seem as if they’ll have to depend on Go Fund me campaigns and Kickstarter efforts because there’s no money for that. Think about that. There’s money for ad campaigns to celebrate these heroes but there’s no money to truly help them out. It’s almost like standing for a national anthem yet voting for people who continue to cut benefits for veterans and looking down on veterans who have hit hard times and are now homeless. If that sounds particularly harsh, then ask yourself why it feels that way and also ask yourself how it has to feel for doctors and medical personnel to give their all to do their part and see people throw a tantrum because they don’t want to wear a face mask and need a haircut. 

If the tone of this post seems heavy, it's because it is. Because I saw a lot of pictures and videos of people partying and taking zero precautions to ensure their safety and the safety of others as if we can regularly take a holiday from the pandemic. I do hope you’re staying safe and doing your part to keep others safe as well. It’s a time to see how we can help and be part of the greater good even if it means an individual inconvenience, though that's my opinion and since it's still a free country you can feel free to disagree. 

Peace, love, and maki rolls. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

To mask or not to mask, that is NOT the question…

Actually, that is NEVER the question. If you think about it, using a face mask and practicing social distancing are two of the most American and Christian things you can do right now… yet for some reason, people are protesting what are essentially health recommendations that are being followed around the world. As this is being written, more and more news updates are reporting spikes in COVID cases in states like Florida, Texas, and Georgia. Reopenings are postponed, bars will be reclosed, and we’re back to square 1… or maybe even square negative 1. It’s one thing to expect something… it’s another thing to see a worst case scenario play out. Mind you, that’s the US... many other countries have been able to flatten the curve and get proper results. Others are having or will have spikes soon because of their own mistakes, but in regards to being willfully reckless, the US is second to none.

So what’s the difference? Two things: leadership and cooperation, two things that are pretty misguided or full on absent lately. There are several dangerous tendencies picking up momentum and among them, it’s people who are completely against using face masks. Some say it violates their constitutional rights. Others say since they are not terrorists, they don’t need to use a face mask… as if there were a correlation. And the excuses and reasons pile on… all stoked by comments from the government that are plain irresponsible. People are now even laminating cards with a completely false statement stating they in fact are not required to use a face mask even going as far as forging government logos and inventing quotes of the American with Disabilities Act.

It’s hard not to get emotional writing this having spent the vast majority of time inside an apartment since March and doing my best to take all the necessary measures to ensure my safety as well as my wife’s and everyone else’s. When I go out, I use hand sanitizer/alcohol regularly, I wear a face mask, and I follow social distance guidelines. Do I wear a mask because I vote mostly democrat? No. Do I do wear a mask because my views are liberal? No. I wear a mask because I think of the health professionals who put their lives at risk every day. I wear a mask because there’s money for riot gear and Blue Angels flyovers to boost morale, but there’s no money for protective equipment for our healthcare professionals. I wear a mask because I know three people who have lost loved ones to COVID related complications. I wear a mask because a minor discomfort is a ridiculously small price to pay to minimize the risk for my fellow human. I wear a mask because I have family members with high risk conditions. I wear a mask because I’ve had the flu, I’ve had pneumonia, I have asthma, and I’m an at risk person for a condition that could wreak havoc on the respiratory system. 

How pride, nationalism, religion, or the constitution figure into why anyone would choose to NOT wear a mask is baffling. I’d say it’s frustrating, but I have the luxury to work from home and I don’t think I have the right to say it infuriates or frustrates because I don’t work in healthcare and am not an essential worker. I also don’t live in hospice and I’m not in the hospital. I don’t think I get to say I’m frustrated when healthcare professionals who have been stretched beyond the limit and broken by a broken system have to deal with the consequences of people who think it’s unconstitutional to wear a mask. Seeing people take a vacation from the pandemic for Memorial Day weekend was bad enough… having people justify their actions because well, if people can protest then who are they to comply with health recommendations takes it a step above.

On that point, let’s recognize the risk people put themselves for the protests against police brutality, but let’s also recognize how many people have used face masks and done their best to protest responsibly. I know it’s not everyone; I’m not saying it’s everyone, but I have enough people on my social media to see a decent number of people doing their best to protest while protecting their fellow human. Let’s also recognize that a protest against police brutality should in no way be used as a basis to justify someone’s “need” for a haircut or countless other things that aren’t necessary or remotely essential. 

The thing is that businesses are suffering and I get that people want to save their business… but what does it say when a business takes all the measures to protect their staff and customers and people waltz in without a mask, not caring about social distancing, and even failing to wash their hands? What does it say about people who mock others who do use face masks? What does it say about people when they purposely cough on other people just to make a point? What does it say when an establishment requires face masks to enter yet people say screw you, I have rights!

By the way, the washing of the hands comment comes from restaurant staff from several establishments who remark on patrons exhibiting this type of behavior. The comment about being mocked for wearing a mask comes from people I know who have been openly made fun of for wearing a face mask. And the coughing on other people? Well it's unfortunate how easy it is to find multiple examples of people doing this. 

Yet somehow, people continue thinking COVID is a hoax and that there’s a conspiracy. To make matters worse, top government officials compare the use of mask as an open show of dissent... that using a face mask is un-American. That using a face mask and practicing social distancing are not only overblown tendencies from the left, but that either behavior is worthy of scorn. This is happening because yet another topic has been politicized and it makes zero sense. How can anyone logically understand that people consider themselves patriotic or Christian by putting other people at risk. Emotions are running high as are frustration, tension, and panic… so why add to the negative? Why kick-off and act like a toddler throwing a tantrum, because that’s what it looks and sounds like. Religious beliefs, political stances, blind “patriotic” statements, and a whole lot of us versus them bullshit is being thrown around as a justification and a weak and baseless one at that because there is no logical argument to not use masks or practice social distancing. 

People call themselves American, Christian, and patriotic. Fine. Then how about they prove it? Too many people are currently batting .000 for the home team and things will get way worse before they get better until we work together and cooperate for the greater good. I normally try to end on a positive note, but in a post like this, it’d be sugar coating the situation. We are being invited to be our best and give our best and it's hard to understand why it’s so hard for some people to see that a face mask can save a life when it comes to a pandemic.

Where some see it as a sign of weakness, one could easily see it as a sign of solidarity. The questions are running: what will it take, how much will it cost, and how many people need to suffer or die before we decide to cooperate?

Friday, June 12, 2020

June 15th - A Day to Say Cheers

If you follow me on any social media platform or have known me for some time, you have probably seen me post pictures of beer, wine, cocktails, tea, coffee, cake, or all sorts of things while saying #CheersMamaEstrada in tribute to my mother. This is something I began doing at the suggestion of a good friend and something I’ll continue doing for as long as I live because I believe in the power of positivity and wishing others well and yes, this applies even to those that are no longer with us on this physical plane and even during the highly volatile times we’re going through.  

I’m writing because Monday June 15th, 2020 will be the one-year anniversary of Mom’s passing and to celebrate her life, I’ll be doing a couple of things. Activities for the day will include calling my brothers and close family friends, the second attempt at baking a tres-leches cake, cracking open a bottle of sauvignon blanc, and having all my books for free. A lot of people wrote me for Mother’s Day concerned that it would be a hard day and although it was hard, it was no harder than Monday through Sunday. That’s because I miss Mom every day. I talk to her. I write to her. And I love having Mrs. Fawn visit my stories and people also enjoy her company. It’s easy to miss her and it’s not something I’ll ever get over because there’s nothing to get over. When you get over something, that means you needed to get past it and leave it in the past. Mom is with me every day and I’m proud to carry her within as my brothers do and as do all the people who loved her so much.

June 15 could be an easy day to make sad, to lower the volume, to talk in a whisper, or be low-key… but that wasn’t Mom. Mom was a sweetheart and magnificent company. She shared her unique light and love and I do my best to carry my reflection of her love in the words I share, the songs I write, the silly things I post, and the jokes I crack. June 15 is a day to celebrate the magnificent life of a magnificent woman who loved freely and beautifully. One of her greatest wishes was that more people would read my books, so here’s your chance to help a boy make his Mother proud. Download my books, tell your friends, and toast to your angels as well. If you can share online with a #CheersMamaEstrada I’d appreciate it more than you know or if you want to post a pic of a glass of wine, sangria, margaritas, tea, water, coffee, or your preferred beverage because on more than one occasion, those posts lifted her spirits and helped her in rough days. She would always chuckle knowing people might be getting a buzz in her name and deep within me, I know she still enjoys it. If you have a family member or friend you want to toast to, go for it. If you have a tear, shed it, though also smile for the gift of having those special people in your life.

I’ve talked about emotional alchemy before, which is basically using what we feel and channeling that energy to create. June 15th is Mom’s first anniversary and I will do everything to make it a joyous occasion, though I always welcome company. Cheers to you and to your loved ones and here’s to our angels, may we always make them smile come rain or shine. 

Peace, love, and #CheersMamaEstrada

Thursday, June 4, 2020

If all lives matter, why do some matter more?

If ever there was a period in time where the general sentiment of a vast majority of a population embodies the phrase “Enough is enough”, this is the time and the US is the place although the world is also standing together to say Black Lives Matter. Make no mistake, we are living a moment of change. Global change at that. But change rarely comes easily. Unfortunately, some people refuse to see the problem for what it is and continue to regurgitate justifications going as far as using black-on-black violence and other convenient talking points as some sort of explanation for wanting to shut down people who have been saying for a long time that Black Lives Matter and are now screaming it. 

What I’ve noticed is that if there’s anyone who hates being called out on their racism it’s racist people. 

“But I’m friends with X or Y, how can you say I’m a racist? That’s offensive.” 
[Insert pouty face] 

Sound familiar? It should because most people have used it in some sort of context in the pursuit of justification and absolution. Notice how I said most people… I didn’t say white people. I said people so we can have that conversation at another time. But NOW is not the time to talk about that problemNow is the time to talk about the problem of racism. Unfortunately, I hear that answer I wrote above from a lot of people and it feels as if they say stuff like that just so their conscience is at ease and not much else. 

So for every Black Lives Matter chant, we can hear an All Lives Matter chant in return… which feels like hypocrisy at its most blatant. The U.S. of A. is a racist country and it was founded on genocide and racism. If that hurts your feelings or sounds wrong, by all means check your history books, it’s right there. I’m not saying everyone is racist but if there’s a country where racism is a problem, it’s here and I’ve experienced it in the flesh in at least 3 states. If All Lives Matter, then what about Native Americans? The most recent example of how little THESE lives matter is Standing Rock, with protests against oil pipelines that destroy Native American communities and have a massively negative impact on the environment for everyone. These demonstrations have been full of violence that has not been initiated by protesters. Military personnel were called in to use violence to shut down these protests and the commentary from some white people was concerning to put it lightly. Actually a lot of people rejoiced at the violent tactics used and I saw this with my own eyes, so hold off on commentary talking about news coverage. I saw and read feeds from people who relished the violence against people of color. Not bots. People. That’s one example from this population and you can also see the response and lack of aid during the pandemic. But All Lives Matter, right? Speaking about COVID-19, when the pandemic started and was referred to as the Wuhan/Chinese virus. Is it a coincidence that several Asian people were assaulted by people who thought it was logical to attack a person because of their descent as if attacking an Asian person would solve anything and not be an act of inhumanity, prejudice, and blind hate? Not to mention all the discrimination this group has suffered at the hands of this country. Don’t think this is true? Check about internment camps at the beginning of the 20th century for one of many examples. But hey, All Lives Matter, right? Then how about immigrants who are still being detained unjustly and families who have been broken and people who are being abused daily. People who have been targeted and been apprehended violently. But I forget… All Lives Matter. But if that’s true, then why does it feel as if Puerto Ricans are only good for the armed forces and photo opps but the Jones Act remains in effect to continue a stranglehold that’s lasted over a century? Actually, I saw several people saying PR didn’t deserve any aid after Hurricane Maria because the Island didn’t choose statehood so why should the states care. A convenient point of view when you only see what’s convenient and what doesn’t hurt. How about members of the LGBTQ+ communities? Do they matter? Because the treatment doesn’t feel anywhere near cozy and loving and it took the Stonewall riots to bring change. How about women? Whose rights continue to be trampled and regulated by men almost exclusively. What about Jewish and Muslim people who are consistently targeted and discriminated against because of their religious beliefs, even if it’s protected under the first amendment? All lives matter? Maybe, but not to everyone.

“But what does this have to do with Black people?” You might ask. Are you angry that I spoke of several races, religions, and even gender and failed to talk about Black people? Then try to imagine what it feels like to be Black in this country. I can’t say, because although I’m brown, I’m not Black and in the eyes of some people it makes me less of a target. I’ve gotten odd looks for speaking Spanish in public, but I have the luxury of speaking English with not much of an accent. I can switch and blend and not make someone uncomfortable just to avoid situations. I’ve done this before. Not someone I know. Me. It’s something I’ve done less and less because I have every right to speak Spanish wherever I want. Unfortunately, Black people do not have the option of this luxury because skin isn’t language and you can’t switch your skin color just so some people don’t see you as a threat. I am well aware that if I get pulled over, I might get a warning or a ticket, hell I might even face some sort of injustice, but because of how I look and sound, I have less to worry than Black people, and that isn’t OK. It’s far from OK. 

I look different enough to not be welcome in certain communities and I’m not na├»ve enough to think otherwise. I saw a KKK sign go up in Dahlonega, GA last year and white nationalist marches and rallies happened locally and in other states that did not meet much of a resistance. I saw the tiki torches and how it was down to company owners to take some sort of action against white people spewing white nationalist pride, doing Nazi hand salutes, and brandishing swastikas. I saw and see white people armed with automatic weapons and either going to protests and screaming in the face of officers or walking without a care in the world, because I’m not dumb enough to think that the 2nd amendment is defended equally for all races in this country. 

Then I hear something like, “I can’t condone violence or looting. Why couldn’t they be peaceful?” Last I checked, all peaceful protests or commentary from sports figures and artists have been met with the equivalent of “stay in your lane” and a big bowl of STFU. The NFL is now supporting Black Lives Matter? Now? What about Colin Kaepernick? And people will say he disrespected the troops AND the flag!!!! I’d say OK, that’s your opinion, but it’s not. It’s racist rhetoric and a spin given to silence someone protesting police brutality, which has always been his message. He did it peacefully and what did that get him? He did it peacefully and how many people listened before offering to stomp the ass of anyone who doesn’t stand for the flag? Meanwhile, more names get added to the list of high profile murders of people of color and all too frequently Black people. I say high profile murders because lord knows how many people of color of all races get killed and are subject to police brutality on a daily basis. 

Black lives have always and will always matter but people have to scream it to be heard. Then I see people saying that Martin Luther King was never violent… and it’s convenient to use MLK for your arguments and quote him after he was murdered. But a kind reminder: it wasn’t that long ago when black people had to drink water from another fountain, use different bathrooms, and ride in the back of busses… It was the status quo and it was within the law. It is also what some people probably refer to as “the good ole days.” Even now with everything that’s going on, I’ve seen young white kids mock George Floyd’s death uploading pictures with one kid kneeling on his friend’s neck… because hey, it’s just a joke, right?

It’s taken all these manifestations to push for charges to be raised against the 4 officers responsible for the death of George Floyd. Not only that, without action, they were already on their way to justify Floyd’s death due to underlying health conditions and looking for blood toxicology results to minimize any repercussions when it was a clear and blatant abuse of power against a Black man. It’s taken these protests to raise charges against the two men who pursued and ultimately murdered Ahmaud Arbery as well as the third person who filmed and shared the video evidence thinking it clearly showed that the two men who pursued Arbery were in the right. Do you think an investigation would have been opened for Breonna Taylor’s murder if not for these protests? Do you think it’s normal that it’s taken video of these events to push for outrage and have a chance for change? No guarantees… just a chance… the possibility for change because there are no guarantees.

And as for looters and rioters, it’s been captured that several instances of violence have been instigated by police officers and that some white nationalists have infiltrated crowds to break windows, set fires, and justify the use of force. Is it everyone? No. But look at the word looter and how it’s been used in this country before. If you want a specific example, look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina… white people were seen salvaging supplies to survive while black people were consistently seen looting. Is this statement true? Because that’s how it was covered. I’ve seen looters of all colors and even a police officer or at least someone in a police uniform looting yet the feeling of how the communication is shared is that people of color loot.

All of this is not even talking about how corporations are designed to keep people of color and women from higher positions in companies. All of this is not even grazing the surface of how living conditions, financial aid, healthcare, and the distribution of wealth is skewed in favor of white people, but heaven forbid there’s such a thing as white privilege. Even treatment with the pandemic is different… and yeah, that’s still going on, but we’ll talk about that later, because the topic we’re discussing now is racism against Black people.

People often say that justice is blind… unfortunately, justice is also white. If you see depictions of Lady Justice, most if not all times it’s from Roman Mythology’s Iustitia and her counterpart, Prudentia. Both white. If you switch to Greek mythology, Dike and Themis were also white. From a casual internet search, I had to go back to Egyptian mythology and read about Maat to find a deity of justice that wasn’t white. If you think this is just a coincidence, then that’s a great place to start. I don’t think it is, but that’s my opinion and it’s up for debate because although justice is supposedly blind, we are not. What isn’t up for debate is that racism is alive and well and we’re at a point where we’re being asked on what side we stand when it comes to racism. 

Say what you want and write what you need to write to justify and water down those feelings you have. Post whatever you want to post. But remember that in the end, actions and how you treat people say more about you and express what you truly feel. Do all lives matter? OK. Then how about we start with Black Lives and work our way from there.

Friday, May 29, 2020

-nother Poem


-nother black man took the blame
-nother black life down the drain
-nother white man goes scot free
Because it’s long since gone that “a”

It’s not a black man
It’s another
It’s not a hateful crime
It’s another
And another
And another

Peace didn’t work
Taking a knee didn’t work

Wasn’t convenient for their rhetoric
Bad for ratings
Worse for Murica

So now we’ve arrived at violence
And some people act surprised…

I’m not.

I’m sad
I’m worried
I’m disappointed
I’m scared

But not surprised

Destination violence
Please stand clear of the closing doors

Because although people insist on being ignorant
Violence is an easy thing to understand.
A language too many fools are fluent in.
But that’s where we’re at
Because if you use other means and aren’t understood
Because if you use other means and aren’t even listened
Then what else can you expect.

Whether it’s a knee or a noose
Another black man makes the news
Dead and dying
While communities are crying.

Remember the –nother brothers and sisters
The black, yellow, red, and brown
The statistics that matter less to some
Because all some people see are numbers
While all we see are names.

George, Ahmaud, Breonna, Trayvon…
How many more names?
How many less lives?
How many have we forgotten in the multitude?
How many blind eyes can people turn?
Before we accept the problem
Face the facts
And say it in black and white
Black with white
White with black
And everything around…

We are far from great
We are broken
But we can mend and heal
If we stop being blind
And see the problem for what it’s always been.

Black vs. white
White vs. black
Human vs. human

We can dream of peace,
But if nothing is ever done
Then violence is what we’ll live.

-nother is missing

You might think the title of this post has a typo or maybe “nother” is slang… but it’s neither. It’s referencing to how the news is covered in the US and how headlines and news outlets continuously forget the suffix nother. It’s not shooting… it’s another. It’s not a government official is caught in corruption… it’s another. And unfortunately it’s not a black person who has been unjustly killed… it’s another.

That the news is drastically unsettling shouldn’t come as a surprise in 2020. This year has gone out of its way to make things intense… but it’s not enough that we’re doing our best to negotiate uncertain and very turbulent waters during a pandemic, three black people have been murdered – not accidently killed, not mistakenly killed – but murdered and two of them on video in this year alone while a black woman was killed in her own apartment. That’s just 2020. If you look in the past 5 years, the cases have been there and people were robbed of their life because of some b.s. law that protects people clearly affected by deep roots of prejudice, because someone used excessive force, or because yet another gung-ho desperado who has way too many guns in their home decided that martial law was the route to go because ‘Murica. It's been 8 years since the murder of Trayvon Martin... and the murders that have occurred since then are deeply unsettling.

And let us dispense with pleasantries, ignorance, and political correctness. It took over two months for charges to be filed against Ahmaud Arbery’s killers. Now George Floyd has been unjustly and brutally killed, point blank, video taped from different angles, and still the murderer has not had charges filed against him (*updated finally in custody). Breonna Taylor was shot dead inside her apartment. They’re calling for the dismissal of these charges lord knows for what reason. 

That’s just 2020… actually that’s just a couple of months of this year. 

But All Lives Matter continues to trend… people come to defend murderers because they’re “god fearing men” or some other platitude catering to religious belief or any other paper thin excuse. It’s not measuring an act as heinous for its very nature but measuring if it’s vile or not depending on the circumstances and the color of the skin of the people involved… and saying otherwise is being ignorant. Absolutes rarely apply, but how many examples are needed to see a situation for what it is.

Charges against people of color are harsher than for white people. Sentences are harsher for people of color than for white people. And don’t look for exceptions to the rule, look at the average, look at the tendency, look at what happens more often than an exception. Police brutality against people of color and especially black people is out of control. This country is out of control and there are no blind eyes left to turn. There is no excuse left to give. That’s why people are repeating themselves. 

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

That’s the right to your privacy or the right to due process, something grossly lacking in all cases mentioned above. That’s the fourth amendment. And it’s not the fourth amendment for some people more than for others. It’s the fourth amendment. Period. It’s also the amendment that should protect people from the very racial profiling that’s at the core of so many issues in this country. 

The aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Abnery, and Breonna Taylor is that riots are occurring and if these surprise or offend you, then I’m not sure what it’ll take to show the problem point blank. If you still don’t get it, please let me know how many white men with automatic firearms were arrested in the stay-at-home protests we’ve seen lately. More importantly, explain to me why unarmed black men are killed during their arrest when they do not resist while white terrorist shooters are apprehended. If you still need it clearer, be aware that a black news reporter was arrested during one of those riots. Also note that a white man in riot gear was seen vandalizing, breaking windows, and starting fires in the riots. Yet we still don't accept the problem and insist we're Great. Sorry, but I disagree completely. Things are far from great and catchy slogans and fancy rhetoric won't change my opinion.

This blog is normally as chill as possible and as happy as possible in the search of something lighter and kinder to try to balance things out, to distract, to give some light during dark times… but silence is acceptance for too many people. You have to say outwardly that you have a problem with racism, that you have a problem with police brutality, that you have a problem with prejudice against people from the LGBTQ+ communities, that you have a problem with social inequality and countless other things. It’s not enough that a black man died… so we wait for another… and another… and another. 

Because it’s sad to say that I really wish I could say this is a tragedy… but I can’t… because it’s another.

Stay safe, be kind, and love all thy neighbors, not just the ones that think like you and look like you. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The benefits of reading yourself

An integral part of the writing process should be reading your work. I’m not saying read your work when you’re editing. I’m saying that if you’ve published traditionally or self-published, pick up one of your books and read yourself. Not like the author. Not like an editor, but as a genuine reader. 

Sit down with your book. Take it to the bathtub. Take it for a nature stroll and see what you think about your writing. I’ve done it before as part of my research for my urban fantasy series and am doing it again. Firstly, I read Only Human and now I’m on Shadow of a Human and it’s been quite an interesting experience and an enjoyable one at that. Since I’m the author I can bust my own chops for any mistake or perceived missed opportunity… though it’s been more often that I’ve actually surprised myself and that’s been a nice experience. 

It’s one thing to read something by someone else and be surprised but to know the plot, know where it’s going, and still manage to surprise yourself, it’s been quite the quirky trip for me. Lines of dialogue I had forgotten or tiny details that are the sort of thing that hit more in a second or third reading. Seeing that I was able to do that for myself, well, it’s pretty cool. 

Some people have asked me if I’ll be changing anything in my published books and beyond a typo here and there, I won’t be changing anything because that’s the story and as I’ve just said I’m happy with the story. I love the challenges and seeing how I addressed issues from Book 1 in Book 2 is also interesting. From my style to how I develop characters, I really think I grew a lot as a writer from one book to another. Is there room for improvement? Of course. There always is, but by reading honestly and looking at the story with prying, curious, and nitpicking eyes, I feel it makes me a better writer because this will be the only time where I can read a book and actually use ideas I get for the series. 

By the way, by also reading like a reader and not like a writer reading his work or an editor, I also see the mistakes I made and the things that could have been done better. Eight chapters into Shadow of a Human and I’m DEFINITELY better at pacing and keeping the reader engaged. I wanted to write something dark and complex for the Human Cycle and I’m fairly certain I did that. I also see how I connected things from Book 1 to Book 2 and I see how I set things up. I think language is tighter and more concise in Book 2 but I also think people enjoyed that Book 1 was easier to follow, which I get. Only Human also has more relatable types of scenes while Shadow has dark, weird, and challenging scenes, something that might turn some people off but that for me is extremely rewarding as I reread.

Also, unlike other series, I definitely think my books are best read in sequence to have the information fresh and not get lost because the connections can be tricky at times and very subtle before it becomes very apparent. Tributes in book 2 are also more obvious than in book 1 and again, this was intentional. Is it in part to bank on someone who is known? Nope. The tributes are clearer because the artists mean a lot to me. I also think the darkest parts of Shadow are far scarier than Only Human and that the emotional scenes are rawer and more intense. That’s something I truly think I improved on, emotions and pulling no punches when I wanted to capture rage, love, or sadness.

Do I think I can strike a better balance, of course… which is why it’s a good thing there’s a third book in the works. Anyways, if you have published yourself, add your books to your TBR and become a fan of yourself, but keep it honest. We’re not the end all authors of the world… but that doesn’t mean we can’t love what we read, especially when it’s something we wrote. 

Peace, love, and maki rolls.

Friday, May 15, 2020

There is only Ash

As we all cope with the new normal which isn’t very normal, a lot of people are dealing with different struggles. Mental, physical, and emotional health are all being put to the test and anyone who was navigating turbulent waters at the beginning of the year has hit a massive rip current thanks to the current situation and is now doing what is needed to keep their head above water. Although a lot of people have the benefit of navigating those challenges in a private setting, Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer do not have this luxury. 

Firstly, some people might say that whatever they’re going through was brought about by how each side handled their situation. That’s some high-horse talking if I ever heard it, yet it’s still out there and I do understand where someone could be coming from. That doesn't change the fact there there is an overabundance of people pulling no punches and using their situation and problems as fodder to get clicks, likes, retweets, or what have you. Unfortunately, there are also a LOT of people seriously stepping beyond boundaries, attacking on a personal level, and truly showing a side of humanity that is as distasteful as it gets. 

It’s not that I’m ignorant in regards to what social media and the Internet are capable of, it’s that I work hard to avoid toxicity and I do my best to put out stuff that hopefully makes people smile, chuckle, think, or get the idea to try and do something kind for someone else, because why not? It’s a very idealistic approach to social media and it does have lapses because some things just frustrate me to no end and I feel the need to either vent or share my opinion (as if it matters) if only so it doesn’t fester within… But I try to make sure that anything I share today is something I can respond to if questioned about in a year or twenty. That said, the entire dynamic of Amanda and Neil during this problematic time might be a compelling read for some, but it’s been fodder to offer some nasty comments that you can’t help but be taken aback by. People attacking Neil and Amanda directly, people punching down and kicking people when they’re down and it reminds me of what you often hear referred to as “the price of fame.” 

Some people might ask why Amanda shared X or Y post airing dirty laundry. A lot of people will continue to speculate as to what led to Neil leaving New Zealand and the sequence of events that led to what happened or what is happening now. Although I get why it’s so compelling a narrative, I don’t get how people can so casually throw damaging comments as if people don’t have feelings or with no consideration that there is also a child getting caught in the crossfire. 

If you take away the fame, it’s the same when there’s a divorce or a couple break up or whatever other personal situation people are going through that bleeds out into public. People chime in as if they have a say on the personal lives of others and as if they know what’s happening. I’ve always been of the mind that for the most part, other people’s business is not mine. For me, I know of Amanda and Neil for their art. When I learned they’d gotten married, I thought it was an interesting combination and when they had a kid I felt happy for them. But the extent of my interaction with either is severely limited to put it lightly. 

I am on Amanda Palmer’s Patreon, have enjoyed her work in the Dresden Dolls and as a solo artist and think she’s quirky, intense, genuine, passionate, extremely outspoken, and intense (said twice from what I perceive). My interaction with her is limited to an exchange of tweets last year where I chimed in on my opinion as an independent creator, Patreon, etc. She replied in detail, gave me her full attention for 5 minutes, and she kept on being the whirling dervish she is answering other people earnestly. I was thankful that she took the time to respond and not offer a boiler plate answer but an honest answer where it showed it came from the heart and not from pre-approved bullet points.

I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman ever since I came across the Sandman series and he’s the author whom I’ve read the most. I often mention him as an influence and as someone whom I respect for the work he’s done and how he’s done it. Think about it, is there any other author who has been as hands-on in adaptations of his work and who has gotten better results? When it comes to his work, be it in comics, writing, or movies, there is love and respect to the craft and the medium which is being explored. I can only hope to have the chance to do work of that caliber one day. As a human, I also respect the support he offers to the causes that mean a lot to him. The extent of my interaction with Neil is having him retweet when I put my first novel for free recently because of the difficulties he had with Net Galley. Thanks to that retweet, hundreds of people downloaded my book and I do hope they enjoyed it. Not sure if he was among the people who downloaded the book and that’s not the point. He often does acts of kindness because he felt inclined to do so and I followed that lead.

Neither Neil or Amanda had to even acknowledge me, yet they did in their own way and I appreciate that and their work. The accusations they have to face from time to time are definitely eye opening in regards to what was mentioned above, the so called “price of fame.” Getting into details would be beside the point though, because the point is that these are two people who are dealing with what they have to deal with and in the end, family is the most important thing. That’s because after the money, the art, and the fire, there is only Ash… and that’s what matters the most.

My best to Neil, Amanda, and their zombie-loving treasure.

Peace, love, maki rolls, and kindness