Friday, June 10, 2016

Being Uncomfortable is Necessary

I’ve been thinking a lot about something that a lot of guys like me don’t like to think about.  We like to think that we’re good guys, that we do the right things, that we support the right people and that we are helping our communities.  We’re often right – we are all of those things. We stand up for what is right.  We support those who need our help.  We give to charity, or help out with our time. We’re doing the best we can, right?  So why do we need to think about that thing that the “crazy feminists” and #BlackLivesMatter advocates want to force us into considering, that wacky thing they call “privilege”?

Until just a few years ago, I hadn’t really given it much thought.  I mean, intellectually I knew that I had won the genetic/citizenship/orientation/education lottery.  I’m an able bodied, cis-gendered, straight, educated white male.  If people were choosing the characteristics that would make their lives easier, they couldn’t have chosen a better combination.  And I got it all just by being me. I’m one lucky son of a bitch.

Then along comes rapist Brock Turner.  Convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in an alley.  And he gets a sentence of six months in a county jail because, in the words of the judge, prison might have “a severe impact on him.” The media outcry in response to this has been astronomical and heartwarming.  People are coming out of the woodwork to protest that this slap on the wrist is not appropriate, and that it underlines the white mans’ privilege that so deeply underscores our mindset.  I was upset too, until I did some digging today at the suggestion of my partner.  And then I lost my mind.  See, I was just upset because this seemed to be yet another example of sexual assault against women not being taken seriously enough by the judicial systems that are supposed to protect us all equally.  But it is even worse than that. 

Let me introduce you to Brian Banks. At only 16 he was accused of rape, and ultimately convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.  And he didn’t do it.  But he was black.

Then there is Corey Batey. Unlike Mr. Banks, Batey did do it.  He was accused, convicted and sentenced.  Just like Turner.  And just like Turner Batey was a star athlete at a major US university and his victim was intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness.  Unlike Turner, Batey was sentenced to 15-25 years in prison.  Same crime, same circumstances.  Turner is white.  Batey is black.

Let’s not even get into how long you can get away with being a serial rapist if you are a police officer and you chose poor black women as your targets. Sure, when you finally get caught you go to prison for life, but how long did it take for someone to come forward?  Why were these poor black women afraid to seek help?

The answer is in the question.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016


The last time all y’all (see, I am becoming a Nova Scotian) came by to chat, I was lamenting the fact that I hadn’t been able to convert my two jedi in training over to the dark side completely.  While they loved video games, superheroes and general geekiness, I hadn’t been able to get them to try a sit down role-playing game with me.  That is no longer a bar to their conversion!

When my fantastic partner and I were in Fredericton to watch the amazing spoken word artist / storyteller / poet / shaman / inspiration Shayne Koyzcan (and that’s a whole other story – that man is awe inspiring) we stopped into a little store called The Geek Chic Boutique. Yeah, the name alone was enough to bring me in, and their selection was interesting enough that childlike squees fluttered about the store faster than I could contain them. We passed over the Star Wars t-shirts, the mad scientist kits, Minecraft figures, Pokemon plushies (which were adorable) and the assorted coffee mugs, Doctor Who equipment and Deadpool wallets, because we found a little game called Adventure Maximus. It was designed by a gamer who wanted to find a way to play with his kids too – to bring them into the fold as it were.  So I could relate, in a big way.

Reading over the rules when we got it open, I was a bit dubious at first, and the kids were confused when we started, but once they got rolling, we had a blast. The padawan gloried over the chance to become Kronk, a hulking minotaur thug with a bad attitude and a penchant for fried pork.  The youngling was pleased as punch to pretend to be a scaled dragonkin priest, breathing fire and smiting his enemies (and allies) with equal zeal.  Even their mother joined in, with her morose goblin warrior.

We’ve had a tonne of fun playing this streamlined and very easy to understand game.  It’s whimsical enough to appeal to the seven year old youngling, interesting enough to keep his ten year old brother entertained, and simple enough that you can play through a whole adventure in an hour or two.  They fight, they dance, they loot, they laugh.  And they let me be the Adventure Master.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Lead and They Might Follow

Until you have uttered the phrase “take that out of your mouth” one hundred times, until you have memorized (and hum in your sleep) the theme song from at least three children’s shows and until you realize you are watching Sponge Bob Squarepants with no children in the room, you will not really understand what I’m talking about here… I hope you read on anyway.

Being a father is the single most rewarding, demanding, painful, thankless, seemingly hopeless and awesome task I have ever undertaken.  My two little Jedi have consistently challenged me, driven me to new heights of frustration (“Stop hitting your brother with dirty underwear!!!”), enraged me to the point where “dad needs some alone time” (as noted by the Padawan last night, and reminded me of the awe that the world once inspired in me. I can’t remember being as excited as my boys are about the new discoveries they make, about the new things they learn – though I am sure I once was.  What I can remember, and it’s easy because it happens daily, is how excited I get watching them have fun, watching them become young men.  Those moments of sheer joy are when our ‘parental batteries’ recharge, oftentimes to overflowing – like Iron Man hit with Thor’s lightning.

Which brings me to my point – my boys are geeks.  They denied it last night when we were discussing it at the dinner table, but when asked to name blasters from Star Wars, they were able to identify several by model number, and held opinions on which one is best for which type of battle.  When questioned about Minecraft, they can go on for hours about the types of buildings they can make, how to use redstone and how to best defeat the deadly creepers. They let me join them in this geekery (though I earned my geek card decades ago) and I revel in the fact that they are so proud of it, and are so happy when I join in – the Youngling was telling all his classmates about how he and I joined together to “defeat an Enderman with only stone swords!” His classmates were suitably impressed.

Both continue to profess their desire to become engineers, the elder to build robots which he can use to take over the world and cleanse it of the humans causing all the problems (the dark side is strong in this one) and the younger to build cars and planes that fly and don’t cause pollution (which he admittedly copied from his brother) or maybe a doctor (possibly one that moonlights as an exotic dancer… yeah, he’s complicated).  We live in a time where their desires to be professional YouTubers (another stated goal for both of them) may actually be a career option. In each of them, their love of technology is helping to guide them on their respective paths.

Both are learning to love reading, with the Padawan leaning toward robots and science fiction graphic novels, and the Youngling digging deep into spooky ‘Goosebumps’ books and stories about haunted houses. I keep hoping they will share my passion for high fantasy, and while both love the Hobbit movies (to my chagrin – damn you Peter Jackson!!!) and the Harry Potter movies, neither is interested in the real treat that is a high fantasy novel… but I wait patiently for them.

When asked if he would like to play a roleplaying game with me last night, the Padawan declined – it didn’t sound like fun to him.  I was saddened a bit, the final indoctrination into my geek realm can’t happen until he rolls some polyhedral dice and knows the agony of the critical failure and the ecstasy of rolling a natural twenty.  I want to share that passion with him, but it seems I will have to wait a bit longer yet. 

Above all I’m glad that ‘geek’ no longer has negative connotations, or at least not as negative as they once were.  Where an interest or passion for computers, science fiction or fantasy used to be a one way ticket to social pariah status, it can now be a badge of honor.  And my Jedi in training are many kinds of geeks: video game geeks, technology geeks, superhero geeks, Nerf geeks, Roughrider football geeks, judo geeks and Star Wars geeks.  They are my geeks.