When a Name Hurts And the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Sport teams with Indian namesIts football season!  And like the changing color of the leaves its time for a certain topic to pop up again for discussion in the Washington DC Metro area.  Should the Redskins change their name? For years the answer was a resounding no from all Redskin fans and non fans alike.  But now the tide is changing….finally.  And more and more people as well as institutions are calling on the Washington Redskin organization and Dan Snyder to change the name of the team.

Sports Illustrated’s ‘MMQB’ site apparently won’t use the Redskins name any more.  Nor will  Slate Magazine (owned by The Washington Post Company), the online publication  USA Today’s Christine BrennanGrantland. They join the Piscataway and Oneida Nations, Mike Wise of The Washington Post, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, 12 members of Congress andKKK cartoon about the Redskins name a growing number of the nation’s population who find using a racial slur as a team name not only hurtful but repulsive.

Those old and racially insensitive rejoinders that hold that it’s an honor for Native Americans to be used as a title for a sports team and that “its not meant to be a slur” are not listening to the very people the name is denigrating.  They are not listening to the fans who agree or the many who have written and implored Dan Snyder to do the right thing and change the name.  No, it appears the all mighty buck is in charge as well as Dan Snyder.

The NFL and Dan Snyder say it would cost the team (meaning both of them) millions, maybe tens of millions in revenue to change the name.  Loss of copyright, loss of the proceeds in sales of Redskin memorabilia, and anything else they can imprint the name and logo on.  Plus in their eyes, other teams have names that are similar and they haven’t changed them.  What? Are they 5 years old?  Thats normally the age that uses that sort of excuse. I know they are talking about the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks, the Golden State Warriors and many, many more.  And guess what, those teams need to change their names too.

screaming football fanPicture for a minute all those mascots dressed as Native Americans, those cartoon logos that scream of another era, and the painted, feathered, tomahawk chopping fans that attend each game and appear on so many sports screens, sports extras shows and vids.  I am even talking about our beloved elderly Chief Zee, who first attended his first Washington game in 1978 and has been a semi official mascot ever since.   Now lets switch over and try to see it from the point of view of a Native American.  You  know, those indigenous peoples whose land we took, tribes we slaughtered, language and cultures we suppressed and who are still trying in every court in the nation to regain not only their heritage but the respect and recognition that should have always been theirs.  Pretty ugly, isn’t it.  Downright shameful, no matter how you look at it.

Hard to believe we are still arguing about this.  How do you justify the pain and hurt that is caused when a slur is treated as something acceptable?  InIndian Disrespected the past, it was the N word.  Now everyone knows that it is never acceptable to use or suffer the consequences (loss of sponsors, jobs, income, see Paula Dean and others).   The F word is rapidly going the same way, a fact that is long overdue as is LGBTQ rights.  The R word is just as offensive, although some people are still hiding in the past.  Just on the fact alone that Native Americans find this term, this word, not only racially offensive but disparaging and derogatory should make it (and other similar names) disappear from sports teams everywhere.  And although its origin and usage is in dispute*, the fact that most people now perceive it to be a racial slur should make its usage taboo.

What is it going to take for these owners and teams to make a change?  A Supreme Court decision?  Considering the amount of lawsuits in play that could happen.  But I would like to think it will be because the people spoke with their wallets.  So, NFL, MLB, NHL, the Redskins and Dan Snyder, you are standing your ground and won’t switch?  OK, then we won’t pay to go to your games.  We won’t pay to watch your games on Pay For View.  We won’t buy tickets, or team memorabilia.   Those expensive team logo clothes? Nuh uh. Those beer mugs and team flags for the cars?  Pass on them too.

This isn’t about RGIII.  I really hope his knee is fine and his career is long.  It’s not about Mike Shanahan and his team.  They are OK too.  Even that troll (in my opinion) of an owner, no it is about him, no question.  It’s about doing the right thing, no matter the cost.  So that’s why I will be waiting until the The Washington Whitiesname is changed to support a Washington team.  It could be the Washington Lobbyists or the Washington Scribes.  The Washington Lawmakers or the Washington Federals.  I kind of like that last one, it has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?  Certainly the Washington Capitals and the Washington Nationals didn’t seem to have a problem finding an appropriate name.  And if you want to look to a role model, look no further than to the departed and deeply missed Abe Pollin who decided he couldn’t live with owning a team named the Bullets with kids and adults dying every year by the gun.  So he renamed them the Wizards and went forward without missing a step, now that’s a responsible owner.

So I am sticking to the Washington Caps, and the Nats and maybe even the Ravens.  Who knows?  The only thing for certain, is that I won’t be rooting for a certain Washington football team.  No more red and gold for me.  They probably don’t care.  I am only a small voice but the number is growing.  Oh, to hear a multitude sing……

*Language Log: The Origin of RedskinAre You Ready For Some Controversy? The History Of ‘Redskin …

Team Caps with offensive names

Now for the  week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Sept 16:     Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by L.E. Harner

Tuesday, Sept. 17:    The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft

Wed., Sept. 18:          Superpowered Love: Reentry Burn by Katey Hawthorne

Thurs., Sept. 19:         Black Dog by Cat Grant

Friday, Sept. 20:         Crucify by L.E. Harner

Sat., Sept. 21:              Accidental Alpha by Poppy Dennison

It’s All In How You Word It – Scattered Thoughts Sunday Ramblings

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So there I was reading The Washington Post a little over a week ago (yes the paper version) where the article by Michael Dirda bemoaning the new words allowed into the Oxford Online Dictionary stopped me cold.  Most of the new words approved had their origin in the succinct and abbreviated word stylings of the text message (or msg to be correct). Most of us will recognize them as the spellings prevalent among the younger generation, meaning not mine.  I have to admit my first inclination was to agree with Mr. Dirda.  I was definitely channeling my inner Andy Rooney (I fear a google coming) when I thought of “lol”, “srsly”, “squee” or “twerk” or “vom” as the new norm when communicating with others.  Oh, to squee when first I hear the sounds of spring!  Not quite the same is it?

And twerk brings up the image of Miley Cyrus that invaded my media for an interminable amount of time.  Really?  That made me feel so old.  There’s jorts and selfie (something I have not done as yet, perhaps I should put it on my bucket list).  Space tourism, street food, and blondie, well I thought those were already present in the dictionary. There is FOMO and MOOC, but as I live in the DC Metro area, acronyms are a way of life. Think DOD, FBI, NSA, CIA, well I think you are getting the picture, right? What are two more? Plus I love SNAFU, an oldie but goodie.  Am I wrong here? And the new word omnishambles is positively brilliant.  I will have to find ways to use that one in the future.  And it’s that word’s inclusion that started to bring me out of my “snarkfest”.

You see, I love words.  I love them separately, I love them strung together in passages so lyrical that you weep or so audaciously humorous that your sides hurt for hours.  I love their beauty in poems with ring with passion or flow with a quiet serenity that leaves you gasping in awe.  I love them in songs that won’t get out of my head and in stories that keep me awake and away from my bed. So many wonderful words that it takes volumes to make note of them all.

Take a moment and think of some of your favorite words.  Serendipity or even better serendipitous is one of mine.  Just say it.  Doesn’t it sound whimsical?  There is lush, and shimmering, salubrious and evanescent. And loquacious, another beloved of mine.  How could any of those be replaced? Then there is snark, crabby, and malignant, to say nothing of drab.  Drab. Even vocalizing it is, well, drab!  And kind of sad.   And if there are so many beautiful words that sing to us, there are also those ugliest by definition and sound.  What comes to mind and mouth when saying phlegm or pus?  Or scab, discharge or moist?  Can fetid, curdle, or vomits be far behind?  Does vom even come close to replacing those?  I think not.   Even the ever present LOL falls far short of the emotional texture of “laughing uncontrollably”, “gales of laughter” or “giggling until you puke”.

But just when I am at my most irascible, three words pop into my head. “The frumious Bandersnatch”.  Ah, here is Lewis Carroll coming to save me from further  cantankerous musings.  All I have to do is recite The Jabberwocky, that amazing and magical piece of nonsense that never fails to make me grin.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

That’s the opening stanza of The Jabberwocky.  I am sure there are those of you out there now saying “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!”  It makes me want to grab up a branch and march about a tree  or through the woods, chanting as I go.  Or if Lewis Carroll isn’t your thing, perhaps it is Dr. Suess and his rhymes?  Could we have slithy toves if we don’t allow new words?  Shouldn’t a language be allowed to change with its people and times?

For me the answer is yes, as along as we don’t leave the old behind.  New words to light the way and the old ones to pave the way to our past.  Both are necessary to who we are and how we think.  I would no more give up my “vorpal blade” or “tulgey wood” than I would the new shiny omnishambles. Just a small plea.  When we are texting, slicing away letters for the sake of brevity, spare a thought or maybe two for those words we cannot live or should not live without.  For myself, the world would be a far smaller place without tatterdemalion.  I love that word.  If it is a new one for you, please go past the Wikipedia for a definition for it has its origin in the 1600’s. A most useful word to go along with dandy.

I have included several links below, including that of The Washington Post article that started it all.  I now close my first Sunday Ramblings, my coffee and paper still call.  What words can you not live without?  Scattered Words wants to know.

100 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

The Ugliest Words in English | ALTA Language Services

The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Oxford Dictionaries adds ‘twerk,’ ‘FOMO,’ ‘selfie,’ and other words that make me vom” by Michael Dirda of The Washington Post

Its Official, Area 51 Exists! Plus The Week Ahead in Reviews

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alien efaniroswell_e0 wavingIts official,  The government has finally stated that Area 51 exists after all!  The Washington Post reported yesterday that after all these years of speculation and wild reports, Area 51 is a real place.  What a stunning piece of stating the obvious!  Now the government isn’t admitting that those buildings are full of  aliens or spaceships of any kind.  Nope, just saying that hey, those really were the droids you were looking for inside those miles of barbed wire, high security fencing and soldiers.  No one fake Area 51 signknows what prompted this admission after all these years of denial but it is sure to make those believers of UFO’s, conspiracy theorists, and other diehard visionaries of the unknown to press for more information,  a fuller disclosure of exactly what is contained within those buildings the government has hidden away for such a long time.

I hope it’s aliens or spaceships or something wonderful.  Wouldn’t it be great for all those movies from Independence Day to 51 to be right?  Can the X Files Mulder and Scully be finally allowed that the truth really is out there? Can you imagine the pressure to finally let people inside the gates of that most hallowed UFO ground?  I would love to be there just to people watch.  It would be fantastic!

Of course, there is also a more serious downside to this article too.  That of the soldiers and workers stationed  within Area 51 who have been reporting for years that the place has made them ill, most of them tragically so.  And all the while they have been getting sick, they have  also been unable to tell Green alien perplexedpeople where they worked or what they were working on.  Still can’t.  What happens to them?  Government is not addressing that matter either.

I have to admit part of me never wants to see those gates opened to the public.  I love the mystery of it, the imaginations that have been set loose over the years by just the thought of the enigma that Area 51 represents.  I fear the actuality is far more mundane…like weapons from the Cold War or something similar.   I want there always to exist something unknown, something to pull us in, make us think or dream or even fear.  Something that pulls us out of ourselves and into the bigger picture.  Is that so bad?tiny alien

For now the question is moot.  The government has no intension of saying anything further about the matter.  While Area 51 finally exists (duh), as far as the government is concerned that’s it.  Just a sign, folks, ignore the men with the guns beside it.  These are not the droids you are looking for.  Well, you know what they say…..once the alien is out of the spaceship, its hard to cram them back in.  Just ask Orson Wells…..

Now on to the week ahead in reviews.  It is quite the mixed bag.  I am starting the week off with a book that by all accounts should be a must read for all writing classes and workshops as an example of how not to write a story.  From schizophrenic writing styles (more than one actually in one book) to awful characterizations, dialog that makes one cringe and an ending that just stops, well it has it all, just not in a good way.  Read the review just for the excerpts. Remarkable actually when I think about it. Then I am starting on the second group of stories from the Pulp Friction authors, this time Lee Brazil and the Chances Are series,  They are really good, I think you will love them.  I am also working on another mini rant, this time called The Case of the Missing Aha Moment.  I hope to have that one for you by Saturday.  If not, it will slide into next week and I will substitute a review on Saturday instead.

Monday,  Aug. 19:                 Aching For It by Stanley Bennett Clay

Tuesday, Aug. 20:                  Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Wednesday, Aug. 21:           Second Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Thursday, Aug. 22:                Subtle Innuendos by Z. Allora

Friday, Aug. 23:                      Burden by Annmarie McKenna

Saturday, Aug. 24:                The Case of the Missing Aha Moment – a Scattered Thoughts mini rant on writing postponed

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings

Whose Side Are You On Anyway? Thoughts on The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black

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As you all know I loved The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black but I realized that some readers would take issue with the fact that Gabriel Sanchez was married with children while he still continued to see the General on the down low as it were.  I could hear the questions forming in little balloons over my head.  How do you have an honorable man who, at least in one part of his life, act less than honorably?  What about his family?  Well, one of the reasons I loved this story is that, like real life, the relationships between John and Gabriel (and Martha) were messy and complicated.  Gabriel wanted a family during a time when being outwardly gay would have made that an impossibility. So Gabriel got married, something that tore John up.  But Gabriel intended to be a good and faithful husband to Martha. He cared, even loved her, then the reality of what he did to them all by marrying her set in with shattering consequences.

For the last week, The Washington Post printed letters from the children of two gay men from the same era, each married a woman and had a family. For one man, it drove him to despair and bitterness with a family that functioned not at all (“My Father’s Gay Marriage, The Washington Post, 4/5/2013).  For the other, the father came out after years in a loving marriage but unable to deny his true sexuality any longer (“My Loving Gay Dad”, The Washington Post, 4/10/2013).  In total contrast, his wife accepted him and his sexuality, so did his children.  What a difference between those two marriages.  Gabriel and Martha’s falls somewhere in between.  I know that many gay men married, hoping that the marriage would change their sexuality or help them deny who they really were.  Some still do.  And others, like Gabriel, realize that who they love and who they are should not be buried in a closet or be seen as a burden to be carried alone.  Think of former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, now happily living with his partner, and others now coming out of the closet ,then think about the era they grew up in.  Such different times than the one we live in today.

Another element of Sarah Black’s story that I appreciated is that Martha Sanchez is not a one-dimensional “bitch”, a characterization I have seen in other books and not just the m/m genre.  She is a real woman, whose marriage has fallen apart and her life completely in turmoil.  She hurts and reacts to that pain by wanting Gabriel to hurt as much as she does, so realistically is Martha portrayed that you do feel for her.  It is inferred that their marriage was in trouble for some time (something she mentioned to her son). As it is when most marriages fail, it takes two people to contribute to that collapse. This part of the story felt painful because in real life, it hurts and the people involved react because of the way they are feeling now and their expectations upon entering the marriage.

So when I read that Sarah Black wrote a post called “Whose Side Are You On Anyway” about Martha Sanchez, I knew I wanted to repost it here, and have done so with her approval.  I know that for some people, they never want to see cheating in their stories (oh the blogs I have read about that) and for others, it is not a problem as long as it works within the story.  I think here it absolutely works within the story.   Let me know what you think.

 Whose Side Are You On Anyway by Sarah Black

I nearly stopped writing The General and the Horse-Lord about halfway through. The problem? Martha. She was sitting in the car with the general, and she was telling him what she had done to try and ruin his life. And I was like, you go, girl! You want a baseball bat? I’ll tell you where Gabriel has his pickup truck parked.

I was totally on her side. I thought she was being a little too restrained in her revenge, because, I mean, these guys had cheated on her! They had been cheating since before she was married! She deserved some revenge.

But wait a minute, the guys, they’re the heroes, right? How can the ex-wife possible become a Valkyrie in the middle of the story? So I stopped to think about it all.

When you’re writing the rough draft, you do it intuitively, what I call ‘doing it like Kerouac.’ Just let the words flow like a river. Then when you start to revise, you think about things like motivation, behavior. Why does he do that? What am I really trying to say? Once you can be clear about what your point is, you can revise to hone the point.

So I’m trying to think, why was I so totally on Martha’s side? Well, I’m a woman, of course. There is no woman in the world who wouldn’t look at this situation and hand Martha a baseball bat. The fact that she is very self-contained and proud meant she did it a different way.

But John and Gabriel, they had been in love for years before Martha ever entered the picture. They would have made a life together, and it wasn’t Martha who kept them apart. In a different world, they would have made different choices. When basic human rights are kept from people, they’re not the only ones harmed. The harm flows down over all the people they love, the people they know, even just the people who stand as witnesses.

We’re all harmed when human rights are denied. In this story, John and Gabriel were not the only people hurt. They tried in their own ways to contain the pain, but it flows down, over Martha, over the kids, over Kim, who watched this growing up. I decided all I could do is write the story and not take anyone’s side. Martha, I totally feel it. I am going to find you a wonderful guy to fall in love with, I promise you, somebody who deserves a woman as smart and strong as you are. Just be patient.

(And in response to a question from a reader about the marriage between Martha and Gabriel):

I guess what I didn’t write clearly enough was that we don’t really know what happened in Gabriel and Martha’s marriage. The POV character was John and he always stayed away from it. And two people don’t divorce after twenty years of marriage and two kids and it’s all just one issue or one person to blame- to my mind, writing this story, they were two people who tried to make a marriage and failed, and the fact that Gabriel was in love with John during that time, and seeing him, was not the reason the marriage failed. It was the reason Gabriel stopped trying, but if they had been happily married, they wouldn’t have been fighting for a year before the divorce, as Juan told Kim. We don’t know what happened to their marriage, because neither one of them was the POV character. We only know what John sees.

The point of honor I can’t back away from is I feel like I want my characters to tell the truth. I’m 52. I’ve seen a lot of marriages fail. And it is never easy and it’s never just one person’s fault. And I wrote this story with what I saw as characters being truthful, even knowing I would get hammered for it. These characters, Martha and the kids, they are still Gabriel’s family. It’s not like they’re going to dissapear and the guys can dance off into the sunset. Consequences of our actions roll on down like water, and Gabriel will be dealing with the fallout for the rest of his life. His fictional life, I mean!

I know we would all like our heros to have guilt free loves that are HEA, free of too much angst and turmoil.  Those stories are lovely to read and make everyone feel good.  But there is plenty of room for love stories where the path to HEA or even HFN is gritty, complicated and oh so human.  People get hurt, lives get shattered and to takes time for all involved to heal and move on if possible.  I love those too, perhaps even more so because they are realistic and well, grown up.

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black fits into my second category here and I appreciate it because of the realistic choices the men make throughout their lives.  Not ones we would have necessarily wanted them to make, but ones that they felt were the ones they (and others) felt like they had to make at that time.  The choices made by the men in the story and in the Letters to the Editor at The Washington Post are ones that are made less frequently now as more states legalize gay marriage and gay adoptions.  Society’s views are changing, albeit more slowly than we would wish.  Still Stonewall wasn’t that long ago, something we tend to forget in our disapproval over gays/lesbians cheating outside their straight marriages. The change in human and civil rights has occurred in a short amount of time and stories like these bring that back front and center as well as put a human face to a very real state of mind from the past.

The General and the Horse-Lord by Sarah Black – read my review here.

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Two Worthy Subjects, Gays in Professional Sports and Racially Insensitive Names: Mike Wise, Sports Columnist for The Washington Post

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My book review of Metal Heart is delayed so I leave you with Mike Wise of The Washington Post.  Several of his last two columns are worth reading for more than just sports.  One deals with the racially insensitive name of the local football team known here as the ‘Skins and the other about out gays in professional sports.  The topics are overdue for discussion and both subjects still have a long way to go before general acceptance is wide spread. Both are worth reading.  Here they are, take a look for yourself:

Redskins Name Goes Before the Federal Trade Board….