On Perception & Interpretation

If you subscribe to any of the popular social media sites, then you probably have seen some discussion, analysis, or debate about one, if not all, of the following pieces of media; Mad Max: Fury Road, the latest Game of Thrones episode, or the Bad Blood music video.

Basically, the main disagreement has revolved around feminist, or anti-feminist, depictions in these pieces of media and entertainment. I am not going to get into that debate because, frankly, I have nothing to really add as individuals who study and are entrenched in feminist discourse have much better points to make than I. However, I find the entire ongoing debate interesting.because it demonstrates the dissidence and various perceptions people have over ideology and interpretations of media.

This is one of the main reasons why I always have a slight smirk when people ask me to justify why I studied English, Literature, Media, and Communication in school. It’s due to shit like this. A single film or song or television show or art piece or etc. has so many different audience responses that universally have almost nothing to do with the actual piece of media that is being discussed. For the most part, the people arguing already have a point they are trying to make and are simply using the movie to boost their original position.

Now, this is not to imply that either group is wrong or right; merely that, like so many aspects of culture and life, interpretation is up to the observer. And the result of that observation and interpretation says more about the witness than the thing being observed. Their decisions and observations are influenced and formed by their background. A lot of people, for some reason, don’t seem to take that into account when analyzing and discussing media.

So, keep having discussion, debates, and conversations about media through every possible lens. Why? Because doing so shows the legitimacy of media and entertainment and, more importantly, legitimate criticism improves art. It seems counter productive, but it is the truth. The only way to improve, to get truly better, is for your mistakes, your errors, your faults to be exposed. Then, and only then, can any artist really make their work better.

Or at least that is what I hope.

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For Fire

Fire is life. Without it, we are nothing. We need the fire in our lives.

It gives us warmth during the night and shelters us to welcome the great fire in the sky. It provides light so that we may see what waits for us in the dark and aids in completing our tasks regardless of the hour.

Fire also harms and kills and burns. It destroys what it comes in contact with, so that it may grow stronger and continue on. It is the nature of fire. To consume.

There are those who fire has chosen. Those few who have a raging inferno within their souls. They burn from deep inside. It is a sight to behold. To see what these Children of the Flame can do. Some dance. Some paint. Some fight. Others kill and harm. But they are never boring.

She, of the fire kissed hair, has a blaze inside of her. You see it in her eyes and her smile. You hear it in her laugh. You feel it emanating from her; the warmth, the heat, the fire.

I feel her flame when she lies next to me as she slumbers. I feel her heat when I taste her lips. I see her spark as she dances and moves. She is constantly in motion. Even when she sleeps, her body wants to continue to move, to live.

I know that her flame feeds off of me. I sense myself diminishing in her presence. I yearn for her touch when she is not around more and more with each passing day.

Soon will come the time when I am but a shell of my old self. Her flame will have engulfed me, destroyed me, and leave nothing but ash and dust.

And I will happily walk into her fire to be consumed for the last sensation of being with her.

El Ojo (The Eye)

I meant to publish this on Friday the 13th but for some reason posted a more romantic short story instead. Let’s just pretend I somehow magically swapped these two, okay?

Superstition was for the weak minded and gullible. I had always believed that. Belief in anything without the vaguest hint of testable proof was insulting. How could anyone consider faith without evidence? The very notion baffled me. It probably didn’t help that my own family fell heavily under that category.

My father was a deacon at his church. My mother could be found helping out along with him or alone five afternoons a week if not more. My sister was not as intense as them, but she was easily on her way to approaching their level of commitment to the invisible man in the sky. My abuelita is the oddest. She combines her zealous adherence to Christian faith with an unencumbered belief in practices and ideologies of her past. You would think any reasonable person would find a discord with this, but my grandmother would not be swayed.

She would still have a red string ready at any birth announcement she happened to hear. There was an egg in her hand within seconds to repel any evil that had come upon you. Her purse was filled with just the right item to aid in the prevention of harm after a prayer had been said over someone. My abuelita was nothing if not consistent in her inconsistency.

I disagreed with my family’s beliefs but never absconded them for having faith. I was just not the same as them. The world had a system and structure that though majestic and wondrous was still ordered and understandable if one was willing to look and learn. The mysteries of the universe are simply unanswered questions that demand attention.

While most of my family would roll their eyes when such topics of conversation came up over a meal, my abuelita would instead stare at me with intense worry and concern. She truly believed that my dismissive attitude would result in some catastrophic event or supernatural force wrecking havoc on my life. I loved her too much to not listen to her even if I wasn’t really paying attention. I knew that her silly old wives tales were nothing more than imagination. Even so, there were a few times when her unwavering belief made me question my own perception, not enough to change but still enough.

It was after such a conversation over a family dinner when I went out for drinks with a few old college friends. It was a pretty uneventful night. Todd got a bit too drunk and had to be carried by Kim and myself. Jamal would stand by and laugh at Todd’s misfortune even though he was a lightweight himself. The night’s level of sobriety got progressively worse as the night continued on, but thankfully there were no major issues or problems. We carried on until Todd got to stupid drunk levels and started harassing people in the bar. Needless to say, we were all strongly encouraged to vacate the premises. Todd, of course, would not be deterred from his mission of being an ass. He just shifted his focus from bar patrons to the random homeless vagrants scattered on the streets and alleys. I didn’t want to have to fill out police reports or worry about frivolous lawsuits, plus who knew if any of the people Todd was talking to had a weapon, so I desperately tried to calm him down and move away from the cluster of tattered clothes and people. The smell was quite unpleasant as well.

I thought I had successfully removed Todd without incident. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky. One individual was not too pleased with Todd’s behavior and had just enough bravery to attempt a response.

“Que esta haciendo ese muchacho?” Great, of course she would speak Spanish. I would have to play the intermediary.

“Esta bien. No mas esta un poco borracho. No queremos ningun problema.” I smiled as a last attempt to appease the ratty woman. She looked me up and down and extended an open palm. I could not believe that this woman had the gall to ask for a handout after interrogating us. My response held back none of the annoyance I felt.

“Puta loca. ¿Piensas que te voy a dar dinero? No manches.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the woman before me. My friends responded in kind. The homeless woman did not. She merely stared at me almost like she was looking at something inside of me. She brought her index finger to her eye and then pointed it at me. Afterward, she kissed her thumb and signed the cross. I had no clue what she was attempting to do. We stared at her in confusion. Once she was finished with her random ritual, she turned around and walked away. No one moved for a minute or so. It was sort of like seeing a deer in nature. You kind of had to take a minute to recompose yourself. Thankfully, Todd started laughing at the ridiculousness of our situation, and we all soon joined in.

It was mean, perhaps, but ultimately a harmless event. We forgot about it the very next day as our attempts at relieving the detrimental effects of our hangovers were unsuccessful. I parted ways with my drunken friends after filling our stomachs with a stream of biscuits, eggs, meats, and gravy. I could not have known that that would be the last time we would all be together.

***

As per usual on the weekend, I ended up visiting my abuelita on Sunday. I would no longer step into a church with my family, but post service meals were never going to be missed. My father and uncles argued over which country had the superior style of futbol. The Brazilian World Cup team of the 1990’s had the most votes though a few outliers held fast that Argentina was more deserving of the title. No one at the table over the age of 30 would ever argue for a European country.

The afternoon seemed to be going smoothly. Everyone was eating heartily and laughing and avoiding any controversial topics of discussion. The only odd thing was that my grandmother kept staring at me, intently. It was unnerving to say the least. She never dropped her gaze from me countenance. At times, I felt like I should just leave without a word, but I couldn’t bring myself to move. Finally, sensing my desperation, she came to speak to me.

“Mijo, se que no me crees ni me entiendes, pero alguien te puso el ojo. Es muy fuerte y no creo que vas a poder escapar. Te amo y voy a orar por ti para que estes bien cuando pases.” She clasped my hand tightly as she spoke. Tears were welling up in the corner of her eyes. I understood about every other word she said, but instantly recognized it as more superstitious nonsense. Still, we were having a nice moment, so I just smiled, patted her shoulder, and responded, “Si, abuelita. Gracias y te quiero mucho.” Her stern expression barely lifted but she seemed resolved to what I had said.

The next day is when I heard about Todd’s accident. His girlfriend, or at least the girl he was with, spread the news like wildfire through Facebook and Twitter. She swore her first account testimony was completely true if not a little weird. He had drowned in his bath tub. Todd had never been suicidal and had big plans for his future at his uncle’s law firm. Hell, he had even bought tickets for a trip in Belize to celebrate his upcoming job. Yet, I was seeing pictures and reports across my screens of his apparent suicide. Though, according to the police Todd’s death was odd since there did not seem to be any drugs in his system to render him unconscious and there appeared to be small hand impressions on his chest as though someone was keeping him underwater. Of course, there was no other evidence of foul play to be found.

I could not wrap my head around the loss of a friend. I tried to go about my day with some sense of normalcy, but that was soon upended when I received a phone call from Kim about Jamal. Jamal had gone missing since our hangout last week, and Kim was starting to get nervous. He wouldn’t respond to any phone calls, texts, emails, or tweets. Phone calls and texts were one thing, but Jamal lived for the validation of social media attention. Kim was right to be anxious as I would later come to learn that Jamal in a supposed drug induced state of hysteria had gone into the woods and succumbed to the ravages of nature. His death would be reported as the result of dehydration, hunger, and a vicious animal attack all within the span of 48 hours disregarding that there are no vicious or large animals in the area.

I began to freak out. Every rational bone in my body was telling me that these were all unfortunate, freak occurrences and not the work of non-existent supernatural forces. I knew this to be true, but it did not stop me from driving straight home, opening the dusty bible I kept on my bookshelf for appearances, and grasping at the prayer beads my grandmother had given me in one of her desperate attempts to save my soul. I sat down on the floor in the middle of my apartment, lit a few of the “holy” candles my extended family had gotten in the habit of gifting me, and began to silently pray to whoever would listen.

***

I have been in my apartment for the last 3 days. I have not heard from Kim since yesterday as he shouted into my phone that he thought someone was following me before cutting off. My family has not bothered to try to reach me for some reason and none of them are answering my calls or text. Not even my abuelita.

I am writing all this down so that someone can know that if I die it was not by my hand. I don’t know what’s going on or why this is happening, but I know something is coming for my death.

There is a strange smell in the air. Slightly putrid and overbearing.

I am trying to come up with any possible solutions to save myself, but it is getting harder and harder to breathe and think. It is like my brain is slowly suffocating in this small apartment. The lights no longer work properly. I need more light.

Maybe staring into the flame of a candle will help me focus. Kills two birds with one stone. Wonder what that smell is though…

The Bus Ride

I love riding the bus. I prefer the control and freedom of my own car, but there is some mystical quality to being solely a passenger bound to other’s choices.

My bus is special. I have been on other buses, but they do no compare to mine. My bus is quiet. Not eerie, dead silence. Instead, it is the right decibel of chatter between patrons within the umbrella of calm for other things to occur.

There are the standard cast of characters on my bus. In the morning are the students with earplugs pushed deep into their heads trying their damnedest to cram the lessons they should have reviewed last night on the half hour commute. With them come the conscientious and frugal businessmen using the clout of environmental concern to avoid moving their vehicles and having to fill the ever emptying tanks with new blood.

Midday brings about the rush of famished individuals from all walks of life hoping that this time around the bus will be on time to all stops so they can actually enjoy their meal without being rushed. They rarely get their wish. Afternoon, is not too different from midday. The students and businessmen return to their homes to rejuvenate for the same journey the next day.

Night is when things become more interesting. The eclectics and night-owls, and vampires come out during the night ride. People with the offbeat professions and passions going all over the city, sometimes with no clear plans. I have seen passengers leave wearing colorful feathers and boas and horns and return with simple garments of shirts and pants and dresses during the night ride. I have no idea what they did or where they went. They seemed happy enough.

I love the bus and all its mysteries. Mostly though I love sitting across from her, the freckled girl with a new book every week, sometimes every day. You hardly notice the world around you. In fact, the only time I ever saw you lift your gaze from the pages of your book was when that man dressed as a ballerina and a crown sang an aria in the middle of the bus. People were about to complain until they heard his voice. Then they just clapped. You smiled.

We have yet to speak. I don’t know your name or if you have ever even noticed me. Oddly enough, you have inadvertently given me some great book recommendations. You have great tastes. So many times I have wanted to try to talk to you. To ask you about your book or just strike up a conversation. But I don’t. And I probably never will.

Would it be sort of creepy to do so? Most likely, but that is not what stops me. You, stranger reading a book, are an idea right now. The moment I speak to you, you become a person. You could be an incredible person. An astounding individual with so much to offer. You could even be my person. However, I have to admit that I need the idea more than the person. I am not ready for a person because I am still working on being one myself and moving past an idea.

For now, freckled girl reading a book, I will have to be satisfied with the idea and hope of one day being able and ready to meet the person. Until then, you are the reason why I love the bus ride.

On Relationships in Fiction

So, the title may be a little misleading since the focus of this post is more on romantic relationships than all types of unions. Not to suggest that romantic relationships take some sort of precedence over others, but honestly that would be a natural assumption to make based on the media and fiction we produce and consume.

Seriously, so much of the media we engage with has a romantic quest/plot device/narrative as either the key focus or at the very least one of the major subplots. Personally, I don’t really have a problem with this simply because I do genuinely believe that romantic relationships are an important aspect of people’s lives. Would I prefer there to be a better represented balance of other types of relationships like platonic, friendly, etc.? Yeah, particularly because those are just as significant and for most people they will be more common in scope and number. As well, I would love to see more deviation from the standard couple representation of two pretty white heterosexual people getting it on. And to be fair, there has been some better showings in media, but that can always be improved.

However, my major gripe with romantic relationships in fiction and media is the focus on the lead up. Honestly, most relationships seen in media show everything but the actual relationship. Think about your favorite romantic comedies or dramas. The stories about couples in those tend to be about them meeting and the friction they overcome to start dating, but the actual relationship is hardly ever shown. And those few examples that do have relationships past the “dating/courting phase” (this looks weird, but appropriate?) usually are filled with over the top drama and insane problems that are barely normal for the fictional universe created in the show/film/web series/etc.

Now, obviously part of this is the need to entertain audiences with exciting and dramatic stories. Even so, why do writers/artists/creators have such a seemingly difficult time with romantic relationships past the initial phase? Do they just see couples as boring or uninteresting writing material? If so, why? Are audiences just uninterested in seeing functional couples on television?

I don’t have an answer to this and I don’t think I am alone in seeing this theme across media. Hopefully, some of you might have some thoughts that you would like to share in the comments below.

(One last thought: surprisingly, the most healthy and functional relationships of all types tend to be on half hour comedies. Really. Take a look at Scrubs. Had all types of working relationships with ups and downs without ever getting boring or too ridiculous)

A Father’s Love

Not sure it competes with Bryan or Stru but a ‘horror’ story nonetheless, I think. Enjoy and leave some criticism!

I can perfectly recall my daughter’s beautiful, blue eyes staring up at me as I held her as a babe.

There has never been a more blissful moment in my entire life which is why I still felt so much love as she plunged the knife deep into my chest.

Magic in the Ink

Everyone is special. Everyone has a power in them.

These were the thoughts that rattled around in my head as the needle pierced my skin. I had experienced the ritual involved in marking my flesh that pain and discomfort were distant memories. The process had become more meditative than aesthetic; something that I needed to do.

“We’re almost finished,” said Ink. I am fairly certain he has a real name, maybe even a legitimate business in another life. However, in this world of shadows I only knew him as his moniker. This was the way things were done: the way we survived.

Tattoo artists, as they liked to call themselves, littered the surrounding area. Of the few that took on clients like myself, Ink was the best and could be counted on to keep his mouth shut.

“Alright, done. Take a look.”

The eye on my rib cage was a thing of exquisite beauty; a deep blue iris that seemed to stare into infinity. Ink’s work was flawless as always. It stung as I caressed my newly acquired mark.

“It’s perfect.”

“Of course, it is. I may not have your skills, but I am a master of my craft,” Ink responded as he put away his tools. “I assume you have a new request already in the works.”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” I pulled out the small box held within my coat. “It has two small vials. More than enough to mix with your ink.”

Ink removed one of the vials and held the vial up to the ceiling bulbs. Even after leaving the body, blood held a dark crimson color that turned a bright red when exposed to a light.

“So am I going to get this one’s name?”

“No names. You don’t need to know to create your work.”

“True, but I do need something.”

“He was a musician. Good with his hands. I am sure that is enough to inspire considering what you managed with last time.”

“Hey, what is more appropriate for someone who spent her life looking at the stars than a well-designed eye?”

“Fair enough. Delivery?”

“Give me two weeks to make the arrangements. I’m sure a man of your talents will have something new by then.”

“Two weeks. I’ll be here.”

I exited Ink’s shop to let him work. The night’s bitter wind ran a chill down my spine. My new eye still heated my side. I could feel her eyes seeping into my body. The moon and stars shined brighter than they ever had before or perhaps I could simply perceive their magnificence easier with my new sight.  My phone rang while I was admiring the night sky.

“New job? Send me the details and it will be done.”  I hung up and waited for my next instructions to come through. Another job presented another opportunity.

Everyone is special. Everyone has a power in them. And I will have their gifts.