Carv's Thinky Blog I'm an author with a focus on satirical sci-fi and agnostic commentary.

23Nov/160

Here’s Why It Hurts

I address this to those in my circle of friends and family who voted for Donald Trump. If you haven't already unfollowed or unfriended me on social media, then at least I must be trying your patience. For Pete's sake, the election was two weeks ago! It's just politics! Get over it, am I right? Well, unfortunately, no. It isn't that simple this time. If your vote for Mitt Romney resulted in a win, I doubt you and I would have nearly as many issues. If your vote for John McCain yielded a McCain-Palin administration, I'd have done everything in my power to keep John McCain alive and well, but my Facebook photo would not be a rebellion symbol with a safety pin through it. I'd let it go—for the most part. I would.

But it's important to me that you understand this is absolutely, categorically different. What happened here is much worse, and you were one of many who helped light the match. Look, I'm not asking you to read this just so you'll feel guilty. You should, I think, but that's neither here nor there because it isn't my job to fine-tune your conscience. I'm asking you, for just a few minutes, to put yourself in my shoes. Forget my liberal friends. Buncha kombucha-sucking, tree-tonguing, Trader Joe's shoppers, am I right? Spoiler alert: I am right. But they're also Americans like you, folks struggling to raise their kids and pay their bills and get some enjoyment out of life, the best they know how. They fill jobs you don't want, like processing L&I claims so injured workers get checks in a timely fashion. They wear jeans, at least on laundry day, and ask their kids not to go postal when your kids call them horrible names. ("Libtard?" Really? Is that a word you feel good about?)

But seriously, forget liberal activists. They're not your people; they're mine. But so are you, so let's just talk about me and my wife and family instead.

I'm Mexican-American on my dad's side, which means I have Mexican-American family members. I've been told I don't fit your stereotype of Mexicans, so you may think I don't count as a Mexican-American. But trust me, if you met some of my cousins and aunts, you'd agree they qualify. Their ancestors were legal immigrants from Mexico. When Donald Trump literally began his campaign by saying most Mexican immigrants were rapists, that amused you and horrified me. When Trump said the federal judge overseeing his fraud case couldn't be trusted, solely because he was Mexican-American, I was already finished with "giving Trump a chance." I knew immediately that when he said he wanted to make America great, at least part of what he meant was minimizing my family's place and success in this country. He meant we didn't belong, that this country would be better if we'd just go away.

You may not hate Mexicans. You may think that means you're not racist against Mexicans. But you seem to agree we can't be trusted, and guess what? That does make you racist. I know you don't like reading that, because you know racists are bad people and you're not a bad person so how could you be racist? Well, it's the same way I can be a good person and still be a grouchy snob sometimes. It's simple human imperfection. We aren't living "Good/Evil" switches stuck in just one position. We have ranges of ethics, you and I. That's why it's so important that we look at ourselves honestly. I need to acknowledge my reflexive distrust of people with southern accents, and you need to acknowledge you weren't crazy about the notion of a mixed-race president. Because that's racist. You can justify it by saying you also distrusted this or that policy decision or statement, but let's be honest: it was mostly the fact that he was browner than you feel comfortable around. He didn't look like your mental picture of a president. And that is racist, racist, racist, and you need to deal with that. I can't make you deal with it. You need to process that for yourself.

My Mexican-American ancestors passed through Mexico on their way from northern Spain. They were Sephardim, which means they were Jews on the run. I'm ethnically Jewish on my father's side. Donald Trump has openly courted the white nationalist movement, which believes Jews aren't fully human. Trump's chief strategist and senior advisor, Steve Bannon, was the executive chair of Breitbart News. That's important because this summer, Bannon himself called Breitbart "the platform for the alt-right," a softer name for the white nationalist movement. That movement, by the way, includes neo-Nazis. Yes, actual neo-Nazis—or, as some dub them, "skinheads in suits." They insult the press in German and give heil-Hitler salutes. I'm not kidding. You probably haven't seen this, because your social media feeds are more conservative than mine, but you should pay attention to actual video of that happening in a government office. It's a red flag to end all red flags, because it's a red flag with a swastika on it. Yes, this really is happening, here in America, NOW. The time to prevent it has already passed. This is already a national emergency.

Incidentally, I myself am in the press. I'm the managing editor of a multiplatform arts publication. So when Trump pulls news reporters into a room, off the record, as he did two nights ago, and berates them at length for telling the truth, I need you to understand this is unprecedented in modern American history. The president-elect doesn't get to scream at and threaten the media. The news media exist, in part, to make presidents nervous, not to flatter them like toadying flunkies.

My wife Amanda is my best friend. I'm a mama's boy and a proud feminist. So when Donald Trump says horrible things about women and how they look, it disgusts me. Fine, you're no fan of Rosie O'Donnell. I get it. But what do you think he'd say about you, if you're a woman, or the women you love? Trump said plainly that he enjoys walking up to women he barely knows, even married women, and kissing them and grabbing them in ways they didn't ask to receive. Then he walked over to a married woman he barely knows, only months after his own marriage to Melania, and did exactly that. It wasn't just talk; he came right out and did it. That was sexual molestation, and we have very good reason to believe he does it all the time. Now you've rewarded him for that. You've said it's okay for our president-elect to harass women, and frankly, that makes me violently angry...yes, at him, but sometimes at you, too. It's not okay. You can't say to me or even yourself that he really didn't do that, because he did it on camera. It's not your job (nor mine) to decide reality. Reality happens, and then we must deal with it. The way you dealt with this reality is to spit in the face of women you care about, and I'm not okay with that.

You'll notice I haven't said anything about Trump's qualifications to be president. He has none. Being rich is not a qualifying credential, though it is the fastest way to buy ads and gain media attention to get there. Mr. Trump is a flat-out con artist. In fact, now that he's settled out of court for $25 million in the Trump University case, I can accurately call him a fraud. He conned you. He defrauded you. He has no idea how to fix your problems. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Donald Trump does not give two shits about you. He told a restaurant full of rich Manhattanites at the 21 Club their taxes would go down, but experts agree yours will not. He has no idea how to bring jobs back to the Rust Belt. His stated plans are all "trust me, believe me"—all sizzle, no steak. He told you he'd lock Hillary up for, you know, something, but now he says he won't. He told you he'd dismantle the ACA, now he says there's no guarantee and by the way, it won't happen overnight. Overturn Roe v. Wade? Enh, we'll see. He's a bullshit artist. Longtime readers of my blog know I don't often swear here, but I can't think of any clearer way of saying it: Donald Trump is completely, 100% full of shit. And you bought it. Doesn't that make you embarrassed? It should. But that's okay, because embarrassment can turn into righteous indignation and we need you to feel that right now.

I haven't mentioned the distinct possibility that Russian hackers altered voting in Trump's favor in three swing states, thereby tipping the electoral college. I haven't mentioned Hillary won the popular vote by (as of this morning) two million votes, earning more votes than any presidential candidate in history other than Obama in 2008. I haven't mentioned the pernicious campaign of lies and character assassination that made even liberals reluctant to vote for Trump's opponent. I haven't mentioned the CIA carefully timing false announcements about Hillary's email. I certainly can't prove Trump raped a 13-year-old girl, but I can tell you he's friends with a guy who was found guilty of running a child-sex-slavery ring for rich, Manhattanite friends. If Donald Trump is a Christian, then I'm a Rebel X-wing pilot. If he's a humanitarian, I'm Grace Jones.

I feel grief about this, and I'm hardly alone. My doctor tells me much of Olympia is on antidepressants right now. This isn't just depression, a condition I'm used to, it's a sadness that won't go away. I find it difficult to think about anything but the election and the very real possibility you voted for an aspiring fuehrer. It's affecting my work, my sleep, my health, and yes, my feelings about you. And even as I think about that in the self-judgmental, cynical light of day, it makes perfect sense that I would feel that way. You voted for the antithesis of every one of my values. You voted for a guy whose vice-president abhors my gay friends. You voted for a guy who won't accept the idea that presidents should avoid conflicts of interest. You voted for a guy who's been following the Hitler playbook, emboldening American terrorists and meeting every definition of a fascist. Should I really overlook that? Should I really shrug off what you've expressed with that vote about my family, friends and beloved wife, let alone what you've expressed about me? Am I really supposed to think our friendship should be bigger than that, when you've effectively told me you don't consider me a friend?

To be honest, I've given up hope I can reason with you. I can't persuade you by thinking, so instead I must talk about how we feel. You obviously feel I can't be trusted. You feel my wife is fair game for a sexual predator. You feel LGBTQ people should be ostracized. You feel people of color aren't as deserving as white people. Last week I visited a mosque, and when I looked into the eyes of the men, women and children who worship your shared God there, I saw real terror. You helped cause that. And I do want to meet you in the middle and talk about how we might continue Obama's crusade for jobs (you're probably unaware of this, but unemployment is actually quite low right now), but I can't do that until you admit there's a problem that needs fixing. And in order to do that, I need to make you see how you contributed to that problem. You were scared, you were played by a guy I've come to realize is a media genius, and it made you gullible. You have to join the fight on our side now. You have to push back against white nationalism and "post-facts" propaganda and mistreatment of women and minority groups. You have to cite legitimate sources when you post things on the Internet. You have to get smarter about how to recognize illegitimate sources. You need to put what's right and kind ahead of party loyalty or your identity politics. Be a grown-up, okay? Be a good person. Put your arm around the shoulder of someone who's scared and upset and ask how you can help. Understand we're not just whiny sore losers. We've been hurt to our very guts by the feelings you've expressed about us, and we can't somehow make you not have done that. All we can ask now is that you roll up your sleeves and help us limit the damage you helped cause.

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Filed under: Politics No Comments
9Sep/160

Two Quick Links

Words, Words, Words: Science Fiction

Before I write anything else, I want to thank everyone who came out to hear me read from Mr. Klein's Wild Ride this week in Lacey, Olympia and Tacoma. If you bought a book, double thanks. Let me know what you think of it. In fact, please let everyone know, especially if you enjoyed it. Go to my Amazon page via the links in the post below and leave a critique. Authors say this all the time, but we say it because it's true: reviews from readers like you matter. If someone looks for my book and finds few or zero reader responses, it de-legitimizes both me and the book. So even if you don't like it--and I'm pretty sure you will--post a review. It shows the book is getting some action. And it may just talk someone else into buying it!

Now, then. In addition to writing novels and being the managing editor of Oly Arts, I also still write for the Weekly Volcano. This week's cover article is a preview of 10 shows planned for this theatre season that I think you're most likely to enjoy:

"Top 10 Shows Not to Miss"

And here's an essay about why you should attend a show I curated, called Words, Words, Words: Science Fiction. It's a benefit for Theater Artists Olympia that collects beloved tales of the fantastic from 1897 to the present. I chose half; our stellar cast chose the rest. You're gonna love it. And if you buy one of my books while you're there, I'll donate two bucks to the Midnight Sun Performance Space. Everybody wins!

"Futures Past and Present"

I hope to see you out there in the stars!

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6Sep/160

Mr. Klein’s Wild Ride Hits Shelves TODAY!

Mr. Klein's Wild Ride cover

Woohoo! At long last, you can hold a copy of Mr. Klein's Wild Ride in your hot hands TODAY! If you live outside the South Sound, it's available on Amazon in print here and electronically for Kindle here. Either way, it's a mere $12, a hell of a lot cheaper than tickets to a high-end theme park like, say, Bliss Panerotic.

If you do live near me, you can come see me in person tonight at 7 at Olympia's Browsers Bookshop, 107 Capitol Way N, where I'll read an abridged version of Chapter 1 followed by a related short story, "Retreat." I'll read the same pieces Thursday at 7 in Tacoma, thanks to King's Books at 218 St. Helens Ave. I'll sign books and answer questions from listeners at both events.

I sold a handful of advance copies last night at Creative Colloquy Olympia, and I've already started doing interviews about the book, so I have some idea what I'll be asked this week. Here's a mini-FAQ to get the conversation rolling:

Q: Why did you use a pen name for this book?

A: Books with sex in them sell better when they're written by women. That's the most relevant answer. But I also wanted to shield my wife, my family and myself from folks who would judge the book's subject matter harshly. It didn't seem fair to my in-laws, for example, to drag them into the conversation. So last summer when the first e-book edition was released, I did my best to con people into thinking Lynn Savage was a real person and I was just her sometime writing partner. But of course Lynn is me, and my in-laws have gotten so used to my nonsense by now that I don't think this will rattle them much.

Q: Will your family read the book?

For the most part, no, and I suspect we're all happier that way.

Q: Can you give me any sex tips?

I can, but mostly they center around communication and body comfort.

Q: Admit it, you're a swinger, right?

I'll tell you I'm open-minded, but otherwise my marital secrets are staying that way. It's only fair to my wife.

Q: Yeah, but really, though, you two are freaks, I bet.

It's interesting to me that when I wrote about Oklahoma religion in Lightfall, no one assumed I was a Freewill Baptist. If I wrote a spy thriller, no one would think I walk around with a garrote in my pocket. But when I wrote about sex, everyone assumed it was an autobiography. The sex had by Gary and Summer Klein in this book is about fictional characters, not me. This isn't the Penthouse letters column.

Q: Why isn't there a real theme park for swingers?

Because swingers tend not to have billions of dollars.

Q: If I tell you I'm a swinger, is that gonna get weird?

No. When I told people I was writing a book about an adult theme park, folks in "the lifestyle" came out to me by the dozens. That is not an exaggeration. I found myself with a mountain of anecdotal research material, most of it fascinating.

Q: Do you really believe people will have sex with robots someday?

You and I probably won't, but yes, I think that will happen. It kind of does now. In fact I believe the day will come in my lifetime when a person seeks to marry an artificial intelligence, ambulatory or otherwise.

Q: Will you sign my book?

If I see you in person, absolutely. The nature of the book might even make that inscription rather special. But if you live anywhere away from western Washington, I'm afraid I probably won't. It costs more for me to ship you a book than I can profit by selling it. These things add up. Also, my publisher can't spring for an out-of-state book tour, so my friends around the country are out of luck. I would, however, happily accept gifts of plane tickets and couch stays if you're really that excited about it.

Q: Is this book erotica?

That's a subjective question, but my gut response is no. I have no intention of being coy. My feeling is if you plan to write about sex, your book had better be sexy. So yes, when it came to the sex scenes--of which there are several--I was trying to turn readers on. (I'm told by male and female readers I succeeded.) I don't fade to black at the moment of truth, nor do I suddenly get all dainty about my language. But the overall intent of the book is not to titillate. It's to incite conversations about sex, a taboo topic in most cultures including ours, and to ask whether monogamy deserves to be the prevailing marital arrangement in the 21st century. Also, I try pretty hard to make readers laugh.

Q: Shame on you for even talking about this.

No. Flatly, no. I feel no shame whatsoever. I expected to, kind of, but I don't. Sex is great. Most of us enjoy it very much. It's terrific to share your body and time and care and joy and passion with someone whose company you enjoy. Rape is awful; pornography is a mixed bag of awful and helpful. Erotica is often badly written but usually harmless, if not helpful. Sex itself is phenomenal. Even the Bible thinks so, at least from the Song of Solomon's perspective. If your religious culture and/or upbringing have made you ashamed of your body and sexual appetite, I can sympathize, but otherwise that isn't my concern. I don't have to be party to other people's hang-ups. I can share my voice--and, behind the scenes, the voices of people I've loved for years--to share the message that sexuality is a core element of what it means to be, and love being, a grown-up human person. Your body, male, female or indeterminate, is your personal property to use, display and share as you see fit. Your childhood pastor does not get a say in that. I get no say in that. If you want to stay celibate and live in a burlap sack, have a blast. I do not. Neither of us is inherently wrong. I do not believe sex, married or otherwise, is a sin. I don't believe sin is even a thing. I believe unkindness is a thing, as are dishonesty, betrayal, cruelty, and a lot of other traits and behaviors that exist within sexuality. But do you honestly believe God gives a care what consenting adults do with their crinkly bits? If He did, then why make them so much fun? Now that human beings have invented contraception and STI preventatives, I believe the real sexual fun park exists all around us.

And this, my friends, is just one tiny phrase in the grand tale of why Carv will never, ever run for public office.

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31Aug/160

We Ride! (UPDATED 8/31)

Mr. Klein's Wild Ride

--UPDATED WITH NEW APPEARANCES!--

Friends, I've been telling you I have big news, and I have big news. The good people at Mud Flat Press are publishing a brand-new print edition of Lynn Savage's sexy 2015 novel Mr. Klein's Wild Ride. The official publication date is Tuesday, Sept. 6! At 7 that night, I'll appear at Browsers Bookshop in a downtown Olympia debut event called "A Wild Ride With Christian Carvajal." Hey, some titles just write themselves.

If you aren't an acquaintance or family member who'd be embarrassed by unrepentant sex talk, I sure hope to see you there! The event itself is free. The novel is a trade paperback, so we're able to keep its cost at a low, LOW $12. I'd love to sign a copy for you! And while you're there, pick up a tall stack of reading at the amazingly refurbished Browsers Bookshop.

If you can't be there, perhaps you can make it to King's Books in Tacoma two nights later! That event also starts at 7, and of course I'll be reading and signing there as well.

If you simply can't wait that long, you can catch a shorter reading at Creative Colloquy Olympia on Monday, Sept. 5, at 6:30 p.m. in Lacey. "CC Oly" is a terrific monthly event no matter who's reading, one it's been my pleasure to host in months past.

You can also just order the book directly from Amazon, and it'll be in your sweaty palms a few short days later. Because it's already for sale there! Same goes for the Kindle edition!

I mean, come on. How exciting is this?

We'll really be kicking out the jams at the "Creative Colloquy After Dark" segment of Creative Colloquy Crawl on Oct. 5, and I bet I have more to say about that down the road.

Here's the official book description from Mud Flat Press:

Mr. Klein’s Wild Ride is the tale of Gary Klein, a marketing guru who accepts the job of brand manager for a sexy new theme park...at which point his life and his marriage spin into chaos. His tragicomic downfall culminates at Bliss Panerotic, a paradise for lovers and a feast for the senses. It's an island playground for couples whose lust for adventure knows no bounds. Mr. Klein's Wild Ride is a satire that calls to mind Jurassic Park and Exit to Eden, yet merges its own cutting-edge technology with polyamorous sexuality.

Are you ready to walk on the wild side?

Preview Mr. Klein's Wild Ride by clicking HERE!

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9Aug/160

Paradise Lost

Mr. Klein's Wild Ride

--by Lynn Savage

Not since the RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage has a luxury product rollout gone so tragically wrong. Seventeen people were killed in Bliss Panerotic's opening-weekend disaster last year, with hundreds more injured. Some claimed it was God's vengeance against a flesh pit of sexual decadence. Around the world, millions of swingers and polyamorists quietly go about their business as they have for most of a century, living it up in their nonconformist lives with nary a lightning bolt from heaven in sight. Yet it's hard not to see the Bliss Panerotic adult theme park as a target when reminded of news graphics like the one shown below.

GNN quake graphic, June 13, 2015

GNN quake graphic, June 13, 2015

 

The devastation, of course, was unforgettable.

Commissary pavilion near the Grand Entry in Zone 2

Commissary pavilion near the Grand Entry in Zone 2

 

Sanasana hotel, northern lawn

Sanasana hotel, northern lawn

 

From the Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2015

From the Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2015

 

I'm using this space to remind you of all that sadness, but I want you to know that Mr. Klein's Wild Ride isn't the story of a tragedy. It's the story of a dream, a dream deferred perhaps, but a wonderful dream all the same. It's the enriching dream of sexual enjoyment, boundless and saved from puritanical repression. It's the dream of a woman who declared of Bliss Panerotic, "It’s not empowerment, it’s the presumption of power. The taking of power. It’s me owning my power." It's the dream of a man who reminded us all to get naked and see what happens. Above all, it was the dream of thousands of park visitors, who swarmed to a rocky island off the coast of California in pursuit of their bliss. My book is a tribute to the freedom they envisioned.

Early mockup of the Bliss Panerotic park map, provided by Gary Klein

Early mockup of the Bliss Panerotic park map, provided by Gary Klein

 

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4Aug/160

Bliss!

Hi, folks! Lynn Savage here. It's appropriate that my book, Mr. Klein's Wild Ride, should be reintroduced on Carv's Thinky Blog, as it was Carv who first got me interested in its subject. He wrote an article called "Pilgrims in Pornland" for Western Zeitgeist, a pop culture journal for which I contribute a love/sexuality column. His primary source for that article was Gary Klein, an L.A. marketing guru who served as brand manager for Bliss Panerotic. Bliss, of course, was the controversial amusement park that opened and closed so spectacularly on Catalina Island in 2015. It promoted itself as a getaway for swingers, honeymooners, and other couples and singles interested in expanding their sexual boundaries in a safe, modern resort environment. A flyer for the park appears below.

 blissflyer

Of course, the project was plagued with shaky publicity from the start, but Klein did much to dispel the concerns of investors and potential visitors. The Realms of Eros multi-user computer game created in support of the park is still selling in the millions of copies. Klein can hardly be blamed for the project's downfall--but when you think (or tell a joke) about Bliss Panerotic, his may well be the first name that comes to your mind. Carv introduced me to Gary this last year, and I communicated with both men frequently through the final stages of park construction. While I was unable to attend the grand opening, it was the expense of a trip to southern California rather than any controversy that scared me away. In retrospect, of course, that was fortunate, but so was my access to Gary. He's an interesting fella who has much to say about the Bliss Panerotic debacle, what the resort aspired to be, and what it means in the context of modern relationships.

So, you may ask, is my book, taken straight from a year of interviews with Gary, sexually frank? You bet your naughty bits it is. Will it turn you on? I sure hope so. Will it inspire you to think about sex, love and marriage in the twenty-first century? I believe it will. Some of you had the chance to read the e-book last year, but now things are heating up again! Watch this space for more details!

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1Aug/160

Reintroducing Lynn Savage

lynnsavageheadshot

As I did last summer, I'm sharing ownership of this page with my good friend Lynn Savage. Her book, Mr. Klein's Wild Ride, is an insider's look at the recent Bliss Panerotic disaster. Bliss, you'll recall, was the controversial adult theme park on Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles. Her source's take on how that park was conceived, and on what it might've been, is almost as fascinating as the story of its ultimate downfall. Oh...and it's pretty darn steamy, too.

Author Alec Clayton (Visual Liberties) puts it this way: "Forget Fifty Shades of Grey. Mr. Klein's Wild Ride is libertine sex in primary colors." A sassy, erotic beach read, it's scheduled for its first print edition in 2016. Watch for further details and sneak peeks here!

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14Jul/160

The Grand Debut of OLY ARTS

It had been a tough spring. The world was in complete chaos. Closer to home, I was underemployed, and I failed to land three different teaching jobs I wanted very much. My wife was beginning to worry I'd morph into one of those guys who sits around the house paying video games and dozing through one TV series after another on Netflix. It turns out I work pretty hard when I'm unemployed, so I had numerous irons in the fire, but the disappointment and depression were weighing on me heavily.

That was when my friend Ned Hayes discovered he had a smash hit with his third published novel, The Eagle Tree, which you should buy the second you finish reading this. Some guys would buy a sports car or summer home; not Ned Hayes. He's actually holding down a day job that pays him just fine, so instead, he's put his newfound lucre into a longstanding dream project. A generous patron of South Sound theatre, Ned resolved to publish a periodical called OLY ARTS. This magazine would focus exclusively on art and culture in Olympia: especially theatre, but with serious excursions into music, visual arts and special events. To that end, he aimed his debut issue at an annual downtown tradition here, Capital Lakefair, which tightened his print date to Wednesday, July 13.

Ned first mentioned this project to me about two months ago. His idea was I would act as Managing Editor while he continued to work for [global tech giant, redacted]. Essentially, my job was to serve as copy editor and point man for a writing and distribution staff. There was still one big hurdle: advertising. We had to sell some and fast. To that end, Ned resolved to create a 12-page dummy edition, the "spring 2016" issue, to show potential advertisers as an example of the thing we were about to create. Would I be willing to craft that dummy issue in InDesign, subject to Ned's direction, and have it finished in two weeks? Uhhhhhm...sure. I mean, I'd never worked with InDesign, but how hard could it be? I signed my contract on May 18.

I learned the essentials of InDesign over the weekend while looking for past articles I could use as presentable lorem ipsum. (That's a phrase I learned on this project. It means filler copy.) Ned and I turned that "spring issue" around in record time, and if you didn't look at it with your glasses on, it looked like a no-foolin' magazine.

olyartsspringdummycover

Meanwhile, Ned was setting up the infrastructure for our new website, OlyArts.com. I was mocking up fake ads and the basics of our summer edition. Ned hired a real designer, Dorothy Wong, and a staff of writers and distributors. I now have the privilege of assembling the work of some of the best arts writers in town, including Guy Bergstrom, Alec Clayton, Jennifer Crain, Molly Gilmore and Kelli Samson. I wrote tons of content myself for our website and calendar, only to rewrite the whole mess a week later when we learned we needed a more robust calendar plugin. Have you visited our website? It's freakin' huge. Ned and our ad rep, Rick Pearlstein, landed upscale advertisers. I learned the basics of MailChimp and Sprout Social to create a weekly newsletter and post regular social media updates. Ned hired people to write our mobile app for Android and iOS, available soon.

Long story short, we've produced TWO magazines, a massive website with an active arts calendar, a thriving social media presence, most of two mobile apps, and T-shirts for Pete's sake in two months, plus gathered a staff of seven great writers and seven extroverted distributors, all in two months. I've worked like crazy on this thing. I won't lie; it has my fingerprints all over it. But what amazed me throughout is the amount of time, effort and expertise Ned put into this project, not to mention startup capital, all while holding down a big-boy job and raising two great kids. That job, by the way, moved to Portland this summer, so he's been driving back and forth to another state three times a week. I had the opportunity to drive to our printer with him yesterday and watched him use his truck as a mobile office. To be honest, I assumed he benefited from some fancy [global tech giant, redacted] setup that allowed him to do his job vocally while his eyes were on the road. Not so much! Ned does it all on his everyday cell phone and, I suspect, 5-Hour ENERGY Shots.

I still write for the Weekly Volcano, by the way. OLY ARTS covers Olympia only, we don't do reviews, and it's all separate content, so there's no conflict of interest. But for the most part, I spend my days now as a quarterly magazine editor. Some days it's fun. Some days it's...less fun. Some days it's stressful, especially when the mistakes I'm frantically struggling to correct were my mistakes. That happens often. I can tell you without fear of exaggeration there hasn't been a day in the last two months when I haven't learned something major, often something I should've known before accepting the job. This will make me a better writer, editor, manager and friend to the Oly cultural scene. It feels to give back. I was a good critic, I think, but isn't a job that I miss.

The summer edition, our grand debut, is available now. Find our T-shirted street team at Music in the Park, Capital Lakefair and its associated parade, and a number of other events over the next three months. Meanwhile, I'm already planning our fall edition. OLY ARTS is here to stay.

OLY ARTS, Issue No. 1, Summer 2016

OLY ARTS, Issue No. 1, Summer 2016

Now, how cool and classy is that?

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21Jun/160

The Orlando Project

When Seven Ways to Get There closed in late May, I figured I was done with theatre for at least a few months. Then the Orlando massacre happened...

...and I just erased a political screed I wrote here, because this isn't about that. This is better, and more to the point. This is about a wonderful way you can help. We can't negate the grief caused by 49 deaths and a renewed threat of danger to our gay and transgendered friends. What we can do is raise money, money for Equality Institute Florida and the Rainbow Center of Tacoma. So we will. That money's earmarked for survivors of the massacre, and they can use it. Having five or six bullets dug out of you tends to run up a hospital b--nope, sorry, still not going there. Please forgive me. That particular line of rage doesn't need to be your problem today.

Instead, your only problem right now is reserving time this Sunday to drive to Tacoma and watch a staged reading of The Laramie Project, created by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project, and directed by Rachel Fitzgerald. It's at 7:30 p.m., June 26, in Tacoma Little Theatre at 210 North I St. The reading is free, but donations will be encouraged and collected. Some of the best actors in this region pleaded to be in the show on extremely short notice. I was lucky enough to wangle my way in at the very last minute. I have 14 lines...and I promise they mean more to me than some of my leads. One doesn't spend 40 years in the theatre without making dozens of gay and transgendered friends. These are my people, my family. What happens to them happens to me. I hope you feel the same.

This is a one-time event. I'm doing it, not to help raise money alone, but to spend time being human with my theatre community in the wake of a tragedy that jolted us all. I don't imagine there'll be a dry eye in the house Sunday night, but some events deserve crying. So please come. Let's be human together. Any empty seat that night in TLT will break my heart.

[More info on OLYARTS.com]

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11May/165

Mistaken Identity

When I was a teenager, I had an experience that most of you haven't. I realized over the course of a few years that everybody who loved me was wrong about pretty much everything.

I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. I was taught the tenets of that religion, along with its view of history and science, along with abstinence from politics, along with a distrustful view of humanity, by people who cared about me deeply. Those people weren't deliberately filling me with b.s. They thought they were telling me the truth. When Witnesses come knocking on your door, thereby annoying you in the middle of a college football game, they think they're potentially saving your life. I know because I thought so. I didn't want to "go in service." I felt I had to...for you. And no matter how passionate an argument I could muster at the time from my encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, I was wrong. So was Mom. So was Dad. So were most of my authority figures.

So think about that. Put yourself in my shoes. Imagine learning everything you believe, everything you stand for, is a fraud. Perpetrated by whom, you ask? I don't know. I've often wondered about that. I suspect even the Witnesses' Governing Body in Brooklyn thinks it's telling its flock the whole truth. Maybe the fraud is in our own minds. We believe what sounds good to us, regardless of logic or evidence to the contrary. Are your beliefs so different?

The thing is, that experience changed me. It made me skeptical of concepts that sound too good to be true. Now I can't watch a single TV commercial without picking away at its promises.

Most of you have never dealt with this moment, at least not to the degree that I have. So for you, identity is everything, and by that I mean the identity you were given by Mommy and Daddy and the community in which you were raised. If your father was a Baptist, you're probably a Baptist. If your uncles were Democrats, you're probably a Democrat. If you're a Star Wars or Seahawks fan, your kids will probably wear those T-shirts before they learn half a dozen words. You've changed, sure, but only in superficial ways. And that's okay, generally speaking. It's good to be part of a community. It's good to know where you came from, to start your life armed with a preinstalled template.

Except here's the thing: sometimes the people who love us make mistakes. And sometimes, and this happens more often than we realize, the truth moves away from what it used to be. As a culture, we learn things. People my age can look back and see a time when racism and homophobia were ubiquitous on a level that makes most millennials queasy. It's not that we were awful people. It's that we just didn't know any better. I myself am a reformed homophobe, and I'm so glad I saw the light before most Oklahomans. But we didn't own magical Palantiri to help us see into the future--nor do you. The day may come, for example, when group or short-contract marriages are the norm, and our progeny will look back and wonder why we Generation X-ers were so keen to marry for life. They'll wonder how you could ever have bought tickets to SeaWorld or eaten the flesh of a mammal. Who knows? We aren't prophets, you and I, and always in motion is the future.

My grandmother was a staunch Democrat till the day she died. Y'know what, though? The Democratic Party she signed on for wasn't the Democratic Party of the 21st century. The Democratic brand in the mid-'60s included racist doctrines you and I now consider appalling. But my grandma, who, let's face it, came from a deeply racist Oklahoma tradition, never switched her party allegiance. She considered her party membership a key element of her identity as a person--regardless of what it meant from year to year.

So why am I writing about this now?

Each of us has a feeling of identity, a core group of ideas and values we consider our "self." Once we have it, we don't think about it often. An identity thief steals our Social Security and credit card information, but he never actually steals our identity. That stays with us like childhood inoculation scars. I'll give you a personal example. Right around the time I left the Witnesses, theatre became a huge part of my life. Three decades later, it's an aspect of who I am in my own mind. If you ask me, I'm a writer who acts and directs and loves his wife and Star Wars and a core group of family and friends. That's not all I am, obviously, but it covers about 80%. You could banish me to a faraway prison and if I escaped in five years, I would still be all those things. Did the uninspiring Star Wars prequels dent my fandom? Not one bit. Does my wife's snoring make me love her any less? Don't be silly. If I go two years without having a great time on stage, does it keep me from auditioning? Well, I've been through spells like that, and apparently not.

Should it? Therein lies the rub. I don't know the answer to that question. Some years I ask myself that question very pointedly. When I do, my mind yells back at me: Carv, if you aren't a theatre person, then what the hell are you? Who are you? Why are you even important? And that's a debilitating thought. It can sweep away reason. It can make us do and say things other people may look at and rightly evaluate as foolish and/or insane.

I'll give you another example. For most Americans, the Bible is a book of peace and the Koran is a book of bloodshed. That's just something we, you'll pardon the expression, take on faith. Now, I freely admit I don't know jack about the Koran, but I do know the Bible. And if you can look at the books of Deuteronomy (2:34, 3:6, 7:2, I could go on) or Joshua (6:21, 10:40...) and not see that Yahweh is a god who favors genocide as a method of acquiring preferable real estate, then you own one liberal translation. Read Hosea 13:16 and tell me Yahweh is a god of love, forgiveness and compassion. Tell me he's a god who loves life. Read Exodus chapters 21 and 22 and tell me he's a god who loves women. Because I can promise you this: if you had never read the Bible or had any emotional attachment to it prior to adulthood, and I asked you to sit down and read the Bible cover to cover, you'd be outraged that anyone could revere it an ethical guide. I mean, sure, there are great verses, too. I bet you know some of them by heart. But they don't paint a representative picture of the so-called Good Book as a whole. This is a book in which Yahweh told us ten moral rules were so important we could treat them as the sum of all moral behavior. And did "slavery is wrong" make the list? How 'bout "races who look unlike you are still people?" Or "stop beating your kids?" Nope. "Sex slavery is wrong?" Huh-uh. Know what did make the list? "No more sculpture." This is also a moral guide that frequently reminds you to throw rocks at your gay friends until they fall over dead. It's a book that claims Yahweh decided to kill us all, first one at a time, then with a global flood, then concocted a plan to make it stop--which, for some reason, required him to kill his own son. Oh, and by the way, death hasn't stopped. It's been two thousand years and counting, and earthquakes are still dumping church roofs on babies. But what a wonderful plan!

Now, I tell you all this knowing most of you will find ways to rationalize it away. And you'll do that, not because it makes any sense, frankly, but because Christianity is a part of who you are. It's a part of your identity. And very likely, it will be for the rest of your life. You might change churches or stop going altogether, you might accept the scientific fact of evolution, you might campaign for gay rights, but you'll go to your grave thinking this world would be a better place if more people just followed the Bible. Not read it cover to cover with a clear mind, of course--don't be silly. Simply followed it, meaning the verses we already know and like. We're about identity here, not homework!

I've never been shy about talking about religion, sex and politics--the socially awkward trinity we've been told to avoid in conversation. Screw that. I know what the weather looks like. I'm not here to belabor the obvious. That stuff bores me. But when I talked about these things, for years I went about it all wrong. I presented my arguments rationally, like we were in court and I was trying to send your most cherished ideas to logic jail. I'll be honest, I still try that sometimes. I can't help myself. If it annoys you, I apologize. If this essay has already gotten on your nerves, mea culpa. But I do try to learn from my mistakes, and I've realized in recent months that a lot of what you believe, you believe because it's part of who you are. It's part of your identity. If I tell you the Bible is a collection of short books written over hundreds of years by people who had no concept of physical or sociological reality and knew less about God or morality than any of us, I'm also telling you that your parents lied to you. I'm telling you that when you played cowboys and Indians when you were a kid, the Indians should actually have been the good guys. I'm telling you Jesus isn't coming to save you from the big D. I'm telling you neither "real men" nor "real women" have a divinely approved set of characteristics, which means you're not necessarily a "real" man or woman. I'm telling you Grandpa was a dummy about how nonwhites and women should be treated. I'm telling you Granny taught you methods of cooking guaranteed to make you fat. I'm telling you all those things, those vital contributing factors to your identity, those people who loved you and took care of you when you were sick and brought you nice things on Christmas, were all chock full of crap. And since that's clearly an awful thing to tell any human being, I must be wrong so all of them can be right--and so you can be right. It's vitally important that you and your loved ones be right about everything. Right? Because if someone else is right--especially a mean son of cultists like me--then what the hell is left for you to be?

My point is, I have to be careful when framing my arguments about these topics that I don't disrespect your identity and background. Because the truth is I value those things. I appreciate the countless hours my own mother spent teaching me how to be a better Witness. I thank my father for the snarky sense of humor he bequeathed upon me, though it often gets both of us in trouble--including with each other. I'm thankful to every teacher who taught me "all right" is a word and "alright" isn't, despite the fact that both are now okay in most dictionaries. I love the elder who changed my life by responding to one of my myriad pesky questions with the sincere claim, "Sometimes it's best not to speculate"--because that's the moment I realized it was absolutely necessary for human beings to speculate. Those moments built me. They're my own identity. And no matter how far I roam from McAlester and Crowder, Oklahoma, they'll be down there in my cellular nuclei, defining how I approach the world and my responsibilities to it.

We have come to a time in American history when the Republican Party, an organization that ostensibly represents a full half of our electorate, is in catastrophic disarray. That's a fact. I say it, not to gloat, but to find a way forward. And it's not just the Trump thing. We're also reaching the end of a period in which several Republican governors had the opportunity to follow the Republican platform to the letter in their states. Thus, we've been able to see, once and for all, whether those ideas pan out--and they don't. Those states are now bankrupt. Their educational systems are falling apart. As one of my Republican friends said of Oklahoma's political debacle, "We are basically in budget cut Hell out here," adding, "Thanks for my $30 per year tax cut and my kids' tears."

I'm not saying Democrats are better people. In no way am I saying we progressives have all the answers and ha ha ha, in your face. I'm saying good people had idealistic notions of how to run a government, but those turned out to be wrong. It'd be easy for us to go down in flames with those ideas because we can't admit our identities were flawed. It'd be easy to think, "I can see things are collapsing around my ears, and my kids don't have classroom supplies and the rest of the country is rolling its eyes at us, but I intend to stay loyal to Republican ideas and legislators because those are Republican ideas and I'm a Republican like my daddy before me and if I'm not a Republican, then who the hell am I?"--at which point there's a smell of fried circuitry in our brains and our vision gets blurry and we have to lie down for a while.

As we speak, the sole Republican candidate for president is a reality TV clown, a living parody of billionaire boobism. Working people feel shafted by the system, as well they should; but they've responded by rallying behind a vulgar tycoon whose tag line is, literally, "You're fired." They long for a return to Christian fundamentalism, yet they've voted for a non-churchgoer who said "Two Corinthians" at a Bible college. Donald Trump has never held political office, never served in the military, never learned how to compromise in a divided system, and never did anything for anyone but himself. He claims to be a uniter but called Megyn Kelly a "bimbo." I know the vast majority of Republicans see through his fools' gold facade. I know they do. But many will still vote for him--because there's an R by his name, and R's vote for R's, and that's just how these things are, because identity. I mean, what are they supposed to do, vote for a D? Stay home on R Day? Are you kidding?

My friends, identity can be a wonderful thing, but it is currently making us very, very stupid.

We fight tooth and nail against reasonable restrictions against guns, because we're gun people and you not-gun people shouldn't be attacking our identity as gun people. I mean, sure, some kids die in a school shooting each week, but I don't see myself as a bad person so somehow my complicity in that doesn't matter.

We refuse to admit gay people are people because we're straight people and it's part of our identity as straight people to look down on gay people. I mean, we say we love the sinner and hate the sin, but actually we refuse to acknowledge that being gay shouldn't be a sin because we're Bible people and we Bible people think gay people are sinners and if we're wrong about that, well, let's just not even go there.

We deny evolution because science people are nerd people and they're mean to us, I mean they act so superior, just because they studied anthropology and we didn't. And quit reminding us we were half-awake in science class, nerds! We're Bible people and who asked all you knowing-stuff people anyway!

We take an all-or-nothing stance on abortion because the way we feel about abortion was fed to us by people who love us, and this is babies and femininity and motherhood we're talking about so you know we can't be swayed by emotion or paranoia.

Folks, we have to take a good hard look at our issues of identity. It's long past time. Just because you were told some things in childhood by people who love you doesn't mean those good people were right about every single thing. And even if they had been, the world changes. We learn things. There's no good way now, for example, to argue climate change is a hoax. There's no world in which it's okay for Donald Trump to call Mexicans rapists and then claim he loves Mexicans because he ordered a taco salad. There's no way he wasn't screwing with us when he referred to 9/11 as "7-Eleven" in New York. That is not a mistake people make, especially adults who speak English and live and work in Manhattan. Trump is playing us for fools, and he's winning. There's no way the Republican Party can be said to represent everyday working people. You want to talk about Democrats? Fine, let's do that. I also think we picked the wrong candidate. And y'know why we did that? Because we couldn't expand our identity to include democratic socialism fast enough to take Sanders seriously. We went with the establishment candidate, because that candidate looked more like a D and we're D people and that's just what D people do.

Well, I for one am through feeling chained to my identity. I can grow. I can learn. And so can you. In fact it seems to me that cutting loose from what Mommy and Daddy told us with loving smiles on their faces is the only way any of us can move forward. The key to making America great isn't making it what it was. That country was only great to a select few. We make America great by making it inclusive and receptive and progressive and reasonable and above all, optimistic--not fearful. Let's be better than we have been. Let's be better than our parents and grandparents were. Let's build new and richer identities together. Can we do that? Can we please just try harder to do that?

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