#FridayReads: Read A Book Day 2018

Yesterday was National Read A Book Day.

Well, Kelly, you might ask, did you read a book?

Well, I might respond, is the sky blue? Is the grass green? Do humans need oxygen to survive? Are we still trapped in a hell dimension?

Which is to say, of course I read a book.

I’ll say a bit about the book I read, but first I want to draw your attention to two delightful essays on books by two fantastic authors. The first is this Twitter thread by Chuck Wendig (you might remember him from the whole gay Star Wars character thing right before The Force Awakens came out, and also that he gives zero fucks about your bigotry).


It’s a long thread, which you should read, but here is my favorite tweet:

Ah, yes. So true, Chuck. So true.

But on a more serious note, books are magical portals of escape! It’s like having a space ship in your pocket. Or a time machine. Or a jet. Or all of these things, and then some.

And more than that, books are vitally important repositories of knowledge, wisdom, and stories–you know, those things that we’ve been making up since the dawn of time? Those things that form our worldviews, our mythology, our religions? Those foundational elements of our very society and humanity?

Neil Gaiman, whose work I’m 100% confident saying saved my fucking life in high school, wrote an essay on the importance of books, libraries, and librarians. Artist Chris Riddell illustrated it, and you should read the whole thing, but I want to put the following image in a frame. Or get it tattooed on my arm. Something.

Words by Neil Gaiman. Pictures by Chris Riddell. Click through for the full essay.

The text in the image reads: Fiction is the lie that tells the truth. We all have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that society is huge and the individual is less than nothing. But the truth is, individuals are the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

I was a miserable teenager. Depressed. Self-harming. Not *quite* suicidal, but man did I think a lot about suicide. Multiple English teachers took me aside to have conversations because they were worried I was going to hurt myself. They were right to worry. Thankfully, I had books. Books saved me. Those teachers saved me. Libraries saved me.

Books are fucking important, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they probably voted for our dipshit fuck president and you should probably run very far away from them

So back to what I was reading on National Read A Book Day.

Yesterday, I finished a re-read of Batman: Hush, which could easily go on my list of ten most important comics. I don’t remember the exact issue I started buying Batman month-to-month, but it was somewhere in the late 500s, and the Hush storyline started with #608, so it came pretty early in my Batman issue reading life. I’d read lots of Batman trade paperbacks before, but this was the first (Batman) storyline I remember reading piece by piece each month.

Reading Hush now took me right back to being an awkward goth teenager, convinced I was in love with a boy who certainly didn’t feel the same way, writing bad poetry about death, and escaping it all by submersing myself in novels and comic books.* I was prepared for my memory to not live up to the reality, but actually Hush is a pretty damn solid Batman story. It’s got everything a good Batman tale should have: Batman/Catwoman romantic tension, action-packed fights, a mystery that keeps you guessing, and Alfred’s dry humor.

Even back then, my bedroom was set up around my books. I had a bunk bed with a futon on the bottom. I hooked up a clip on desk lamp to the top and had pillows and a blanket to make a proper reading fort. The bookshelves in my room were cheap Ikea things, the actual shelves bowed from the number of books stacked onto them. I kept sturdy bags in my car for the sole purpose of filling them with library books whenever I had an excuse to be near the library

I remember reading Hush on that futon, my latest haul from the comic shop in a paper bag next to me, the issue spread across my lap. Thirty-two pages never took me long to read, but when I finished Batman, I had Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman. And then Fables. And then Star Wars. And after I’d gone through my monthly comics binge, I had David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan Saga, and Tolkien, and the volumes of Sandman I checked out of the library over and over.

Clearly, the whole book thing stuck, because now I write them, and teach other people how to write them, and work in a bookstore, where I get to talk about books all day.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let’s talk about the NFL and Colin Kaepernick

I was in the middle of writing a post on body image and running, but I’ve seen too many Facebook posts about Nike, the NFL, and Colin Kaepernick, and truthfully, I’m spitting mad. But I’m not going to try to change anyone’s mind here. Instead, I have some questions for you. For those of you who feel that Kaepernick is disrespecting America, the flag, and our soldiers, yes, but also for those who find his protest admirable. Because if we’re going to talk about respect and justice, well, we need to actually talk about respect and justice.

So, did you boycott Nike in the 90s when the report on its use of sweatshops came out?

Did you boycott Nike after that because they never really improved their labor practices?

Did you boycott the NFL after owners willfully covered up and actively distorted science to hide the numerous, life-long, devastating complications from players receiving concussions? (See also the book League of Denial, which was also made into a documentary.)

Did you boycott the NFL after player after player was accused of murdering, beating, raping, and assaulting woman after woman after woman after woman, and some dogs for good measure?

Did you boycott the NFL after almost every single one of those men walked free?

Are you boycotting Nike and the NFL now because you disagree with Nike hiring an athlete who designed a peaceful protest of injustice in conversation with a Green Beret, who fought and risked his life for the country you claim to love so much? Are you certain there aren’t other reasons, maybe ones you aren’t comfortable facing?

Because if you answered “no” to the first five questions and “yes” to the sixth question, I have to ask you another, even more pressing set of questions.

You respect a flag, a symbol of a country, but where is your respect for women? For laborers in third world countries—working class people struggling to get by? Where is your respect for human life? For the right to pursue life, liberty, and justice for all? Do you show your respect for people and values the same way you show respect for a symbol? Why does THIS, a peaceful protest that harms no one, make you so angry, when all those other things didn’t?

And to those who are now applauding Nike/Kaepernick/the NFL, what about those first five questions? Are you a “yes” or a “no”? If you’re a “no,” why not? Why is Kaepernick’s protest against injustice praiseworthy, but the suffering and death of real people across decades doesn’t warrant a pass on those two brands, at the very least?

I’m not going to make any arguments here or tell you what to think. All I ask now is that you consider your answers to these questions, and examine the reasons behind them. I’m happy to discuss this further in the comments here, or elsewhere on the net. However, I will not tolerate any racism, sexism, disrespect to myself or other commenters or troll bullshit here or elsewhere.

For the record, I’ve never been a football fan. I’ve always thought it was stupid, and the more I learned about its violence and concussion issues, the more I grew to despise the NFL. My record with sweatshop clothing isn’t perfect—it’s damn hard to avoid—but I make an effort, and will and do pay more for ethically sourced clothing (and I also shop secondhand).

Finally, I leave you with this line from the musical Hamilton: If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?

Photo Friday: Urban wildlife in Spring Hill

One of my favorite things about the City of Pittsburgh is how much green space we have, especially up in the hillier neighborhoods. We have a resident herd of deer we see at least once a week while we’re out walking, a nesting pair of hawks that probably had some babies this year (they were guarding their nest something fierce!), at least a few species of snakes, and new this year, a ton of monarch butterflies!

Here are a few photos I’ve taken throughout the summer. They’re not the highest quality because I used my cell phone, but they give you an idea of the animal friends who live on the hill with us.

Three bucks.

Our three bucks. There’s a fourth baby buck hiding just out of frame.

 

monarch caterpillar on milkweed

A monarch caterpillar chomping away at the milkweed I planted last year. I saw a monarch flying around my yard a few days ago–maybe it was the same one! I have yet to snag a successful photo of a monarch butterfly, but I’ll keep trying. I’ve also seen some tiger swallowtails and a few smaller species hanging around.

 

a German shepherd with a big blue ball

It’s the rare German shepherd dog! Okay, so Jaina isn’t exactly wild life, but how could I not throw in a photo of her?

 

He’s pretty hard to make out, but this is what I believe to be a baby milk snake! We encountered him on a walk a few days ago. It was already dark, and his camouflage was in full effect, but we had the power of a flash light on our side. Milk snakes are great because they eat insects when they’re young and rodents when they are older. You can’t tell from this photo, but his markings were bright red.