Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Writing Challenge 2016 #22 - Balloons Reveal Character

NWC #22- "Balloons reveal character" DUE Nov 23rd at 8am

*Challenge- Use dramatic action to highlight a disability as a diversity- meaning the difference reveals a new ability.*

Example- A Deaf character noticing a visual detail in a characters' behavior that a hearing character did not. A low mobility character exposing dangerous structural flaws in a building. A low vision character hears a change in the air of the room that others miss.

*Bonus- if it's something you've experienced before.*
My Crohn's disease has made me overhear some conversations while in the bathroom... and once I accidentally pushed over an old British lady in the middle of a tight space while running to go deal with a problem and she dropped her purse and I tried to help her pick it up but had to keep running and chaos chaos chaos... that's not really a "skill" but it's an example of things happening due to different types of humans and abilities colliding.

*Secondary Challenge:  Use a meaningless inherently theatrical action and carry it into progression - only assigning meaning at the end.*  Blowing up balloons indefinitely until it pops.

Tip- keep it trite. Don't try to change the world here. Maybe there is the word Trump on a balloon. IDK think political cartoons.

Tip- state the opposite of what it clearly means in a winking sort of way

(I'm logging all these disability challenges we've been getting for a day when I better have my wits about me.  Today is not that day.  I got up at 3am to catch a train to a plane to get me home to the east coast for family Thanksgiving celebrations.  My brain is shot and I'm concerned I'll just sleep through the deadline tomorrow morning, so I better cobble something together right now.)


After a busy afternoon getting to know the two new dogs and a cat my mother and brother acquired since the last holidays, my brother was off to work, my mother had to attend a council meeting at church, and I'm left alone with the two dogs - dachshunds, weiner dogs - sleeping peacefully next to me on the sofa.  Butted up right against me so they can be assured I'm here with them, even when they're asleep.

The day after the election, a friend of mine posted something online that I thought was both beautiful and horrible.  She said she was looking over all the places in her house so she'd know the best locations to hide people.  As if we were slowly heading toward a 1930s Germany sort of situation, and she wanted to be ready to take in the 21st century version of the Frank family.

I just read an article on the potential pick for the Health and Human Services Secretary - a white Southern Republican who doesn't have much patience for civil rights of the LGBTQ community.  Because, of course.  I mean, the guy already chose for Vice President a man who wants to channel funding for AIDS treatment into conversion therapy to pray away the gay instead, so why should this Health Dept. appointment be a huge surprise, right?  Holding up the rainbow flag, though, that really made all the difference Mr. President-Elect.  Actions over hollow symbolic gestures, sir.

Do they not think we see them doing this?

Or do they just figure if they keep doing enough outrageous shit we'll just, what, get so tired of shouting and protesting and saying NO that we'll just give up?

Sorry, it's still my country, too.

Meanwhile, the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

I kind of envy them.

Another friend shared this today.  Also beautiful and horrible...

"Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder wrote: 'Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.'

Snyder's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (which includes former Secretaries of State), and consults on political situations around the globe. He says:

Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance.

Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given.

In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked.

You've already done this, haven't you?


Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom."

To which I think - Yikes.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"2. Defend an institution.

Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper.

Do not speak of "our institutions" unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf.

Institutions don't protect themselves.

They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning."

To which I think - I'm already a member of the ACLU.  Maybe that subscription to the New York Times isn't the luxury I once thought it was, but a necessity, and a bullwark against - well, God only knows what at this point.  It's not the big stuff that's going to do us in.  It's the little stuff chipping away at our freedoms, like a thousand tiny papercuts until we bleed out.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"3. Recall professional ethics.

When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important.

It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges."

To which I think, don't participate in your own oppression.  Don't do art that's safe and entertaining and reassuring.  Do art that's hopeful, but also angry and determined.  What that looks like, who the heck knows, but I've got to start somewhere.

Putting the writing I already have more aggressively out into the world is a start.  So I need to keep pushing.  Update the website.  Research and submit to as many opportunities as I can.  Write every day.  Don't let the muscles go weak from atrophy.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words.

Look out for the expansive use of "terrorism" and "extremism."

Be alive to the fatal notions of "exception" and "emergency."

Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary."

To which I think everyone is so busy trying to get me to just be generically afraid, of everything, they aren't offering any specifics about WHY?  You, my government officials, are who I'm afraid of.  I'm not going to be less afraid of you just because you insist I should be more afraid of someone else.  Give. Me. Facts.  Cut the bullshit or I'm never going to believe you.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.

When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power.

Think of the Reichstag fire.

The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book.

Don't fall for it."

To which I think, Jesus.


That's coming.

We've been lucky the last several times it's happened these past seven years, we had a deliberative, rational person at the helm.

Again, yikes.

Four years of holding our breath.

Probably not going to hold back the tide.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"6. Be kind to our language.

Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does.

Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying.

(Don't use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.)

What to read?

Perhaps "The Power of the Powerless" by Václav Havel,

1984 by George Orwell,

The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz,

The Rebel by Albert Camus,

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt,

or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev."

To which I think - OK, reading.  That I can do.

Language.  That's my thing.  That I can do.

Refusing to subsist on regurgitated phrasing from others.  Know what you're facing, what you're really facing, and how to name. it.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"7. Stand out.

Someone has to.

It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along.

It can feel strange to do or say something different.

But without that unease, there is no freedom.

And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow."

To which I think, well, being a gay man stubbornly refusing to write straight stories has been my thing up to now.  Might as well keep at it.  Despite the well-meaning family members who wonder if I wouldn't be more successful if I didn't write about gay characters all the time.  Despite the well-meaning but baffling gay directors who keep saying things like "Why does this character need to be gay?" (Is there a good reason you can give me that they shouldn't be?) or "When was the last time you wrote something without any gay characters in it?  You're good enough to write straight theater."

Good enough.


I'll stop writing gay stories when people stop saying stupid shit like that.

Of course there's more than just LGBTQ rights at stake here, but hey, it's a place to start.  This is the most powerful tool in my kit to start chipping away at the monolith.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"8. Believe in truth.

To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.

If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so.

If nothing is true, then all is spectacle.

The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights."

To which I think, again, the New York Times, as a starting place.

Keep your eyes open.  Keep informed.  Keep listening to others.

"You're entitled to your own opinion.  But you're not entitled to your own facts."

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"9. Investigate.

Figure things out for yourself.

Spend more time with long articles.

Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media.

Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you.

Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes."

To which I think, see previous note.


"Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you."

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"10. Practice corporeal politics.

Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen.

Get outside.

Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people.

Make new friends and march with them."

To which I think, a lot of my friends are already doing this.  I need to do this, too.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"11. Make eye contact and small talk.

This is not just polite.

It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust.

If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life."

To which I think, I'm not a slave to my phone like some people I know, but I could still do better.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"12. Take responsibility for the face of the world.

Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate.

Do not look away and do not get used to them.

Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so."

To which I think, eyes open.  Force the world to be a lighter rather than darker place.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"13. Hinder the one-party state.

The parties that took over states were once something else.

They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals.

Vote in local and state elections while you can."

To which I think, CHECK!  Doing this already.

Even early voted this time.

There's plenty of stuff out there to help you educate yourself, about ballot initiatives, people running for judge, people who want to sit on your school board.  Don't NOT vote.  Don't vote from ignorance.  Vote with your brain fully engaged.


And fight for everyone else to have the right to vote.

Voter suppression feeds the government that is afraid of its own people.

Starve the beast.

Vote, and make sure everyone else can, too.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can.

Pick a charity and set up autopay.

Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good."

To which I think, this is harder, but I can still do it on a small scale.

This time of year.  Every time I hear the homophobe red kettle bell ringers, I go back to my desk and donate something to

Planned Parenthood

Outfront Minnesota

American Civil Liberties Union

The Trevor Project

It Gets Better

Lamda Legal

Know the characters that are near and dear to you.

Give whenever the thought strikes you.

The bell ringers are great incentive.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"15. Establish a private life.

Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around.

Scrub your computer of malware.

Remember that email is skywriting.

Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less.

Have personal exchanges in person.

For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble.

Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you.

Try not to have too many hooks."

To which I think, OH, an actual PRIVATE life.  That the levers of government have trouble easily accessing.



Time to train some carrier pigeons?

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"16. Learn from others in other countries.

Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad.

The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend.

And no country is going to find a solution by itself.

Make sure you and your family have passports."

To which I think, wow.

Make sure you and your family have passports.


And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"17. Watch out for the paramilitaries.

When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh.

When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over."

To which I think, but the soldiers and the police are citizens, too, right?  I mean, yes, resist the strongman.  But I'd hate to think that here, in America, the military would ever side against the people.

But, of course, I'm a white dude.  Even gay, what do I really know about my own government working against me?

And, right now, DAPL.

Black Lives Matter.


And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"18. Be reflective if you must be armed.

If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you.

But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things.

Be ready to say no.

(If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)"

To which I think, wow.

Just... wow.

2017 here we come.

I have never held a gun.

I have never fired a gun.

My friend in Texas thinks that is among the weirdest things I have ever shared with him.

I should probably stay in touch...

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"19. Be as courageous as you can.

If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom."

To which I think, here we go.

Here. we. go.

And the dogs sleep peacefully beside me.

"20. Be a patriot.

The incoming president is not.

Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come.

They will need it."

To which I think, I made myself do this exercise so I would really read that piece.  Really read it.  Think about it.  Come up with some strategies.

Not just be overwhelmed by a sense of despair and impending doom.

I think of my goddaughter.

And the country I want to leave her.

She's got a passport.

Her family has already spent her formative years abroad.

She was bilingual for a while.

She will be again.

She's back in the states.

I want this country to be her home, too.

I'd like it if it could be the home she prefers to stay in.

But we have work to do.

She'll join us in that work.


Right now she's seven.

These dogs beside me are rescue dogs.

Lacey has one withered leg, but she bounds around on her three good legs like nobody's business.

Her father Radar was malnourished in his previous home.  Now they just learned they have to put him on a diet because he's eaten a little TOO well these past four months since they've had him here.

They are incredibly happy and friendly and loving.  Even after all they've been through.

Creating a home, a country, with a little more love and security.

That's all we want.  Right?

For everybody.

No exceptions.




There's a song by Little Steven that Jackson Browne covers which goes in part

"I am a patriot
And I love my country
Because my country is all I know.
I want to be with my family,
People who understand me,
I've got nowhere else to go.
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous

The dogs just woke up.




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